Monday, 30 September 2013

Talk about pop music - what's it all about?

In one of the offices where I work, there is a radio tuned to commercial radio and it is on all the time. Without this, the space would be deathly quiet and the only sound would be me, talking on the telephone. I quite like working in an environment with a level of noise, so it doesn't bother me.

In the last few days, it has been quieter than usual. In this quietness the music becomes even more prominent. I noticed it when some singer was pleading to please be allowed to see inside, you're beautiful.  That's how I heard the lyric.  The lyrics are actually "would you let me see beneath your beautiful?"

With the realisation that I was imagining a  non-existent apostrophe, came an even larger realisation about just how ridiculous this song is.  What - or where - exactly, is my "beautiful"?  Do I even have one? How do I find it? What will happen if I do?

I spoke one of my thoughts aloud (if that guy asked to see my beneath beautiful, I'd punch him on the nose) and that led to the silence being broken by a lively discussion about the commercial radio playlist. 

"I wish that girl who's on fire would just burn!"

"I'm sick of Rhianna!"

"And they always play Adele."

"There's a fire burning in my heart...even Adele is burning!"

"That guy will be back wanting to see my beautiful in a couple of hours. I don't think I even want to see his!"

"Do boys even have one?"

I started thinking about the winning formula for current commercial success: angst, whining, some connection to incendiary devices, dodgy metaphors and bad grammar. At the risk of being accused of being a 19th Century grammarian, apostrophes matter!  (As opposed to apostrophe's matter, which is a completely different proposition.)

So my answer to the question dominating the airwaves is "please state your request clearly and avoid the use of metaphor!"

Would you let someone see beneath your beautiful? Can you draw me a diagram?  What songs are driving you nuts at the moment?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Quitting sugar - FAQ

Yesterday's post about the impact of a year without sugar raised some questions amongst readers.  I'm happy to answer them all.

Lots of people wanted to know about the affect, apart from the lab results.  I've dropped a dress size.  I don't have cravings. My appetite is more stable. I eat less. My skin is clear.

I've really noticed the 3pm sugar run that people in the office have. There's a line to the biscuit tin, the chocolate box and the lolly jar. It's so great to be free from that kind of slavery.

The other question I received was about whether I eat fruit. The answer is: "rarely". I now eat fruit when I'm at an event and the only other food on offer is sugar laden cakes and biscuits. I will also choose the fruit carefully and pick high fibre or berries, ie avoid watermelon and dates and choose the pineapple, pear (skin on) or banana. I never have juice. Juicing the fruit turns it into almost pure fructose when the the fibre is removed. I also avoid dried fruit because the fructose becomes concentrated.

Some of you also wanted to know about my porridge. Breakfast was actually the meal that I had to change the most.  I used to be a yoghurt, fruit and muesli girl. That had to go. I discovered Vita Brits, just with milk. As my palate adjusted I discovered a natural sweetness in many foods that I would not have previously identified as being sweet. Porridge is my new favourite breakfast during the week. Oats are also recommended for lowering cholesterol. I buy rolled spelt and mix it with rolled oats, cook it on the stove top with some added chia seeds and then serve with milk and a sprinkle of seeds and cinnamon. You can sprinkle the chia seeds on top instead of cooking them in if you prefer. This is a long way from brown sugar and maple syrup that I used to love.

If the supermarket has other rolled grains available I buy them and mix them in too.  I cook two thirds of a cup of grains with twice the amount of water and find the stirring at the stove with my myrtle spurtle a quiet moment of morning meditation. This keeps me going until lunchtime. Ground cinnamon is an easy ingredient to sprinkle over if you need a little sweetening. With time, I've discovered that there is a natural sweetness in the oats and it's not needed. I haven't gone down the Scottish path of adding salt.

Anything else you'd like to know? Just ask me.  Thanks for your interest.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Quitting sugar - it paid off!

It's been almost a year since I quit sugar.  I did it at the suggestion of my doctor when my blood results showed an elevation in liver enzymes and cholesterol going in the wrong direction.  That day, I read Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar and I started immediately.  I viewed food with sugar as not being food.

So today, I want to tell you a good news story.  I received my latest blood results today and I can tell you that I've never been so excited.

Those liver enzyme markers were back to normal.  All the cholesterol and fat markers are back where they should be. Everything is looking great!

Here's the interesting thing - all I have done is cut out sugar (fructose).  I eat a balanced diet but you should know: I eat cheese; I use butter; I eat red meat, sometimes with the fat on. I eat the skin on chicken. I do not eat fructose. I also eat multi grain porridge (oats, spelt, barley etc) sprinkled with chia seeds.

This is what all the books say will happen.  The science around fructose is that the body processes it into fat through the liver and causes issues with cholesterol, appetite regulation and so on.

I was a bit nervous as I waited for my doctor to explain the results.  I really hoped that the early struggle and now my mindset had paid off with positive health results.  It did!

What's your view on sugar? When my doctor asked me that a year ago my answer was, "I love it!"

Monday, 23 September 2013

Taking stock

Spring seems like a good time to take stock and I've been inspired by this list over at Meet me at Mike's.

Making : Socks
Cooking : silverbeet, feta and lentils
Drinking : tea with milk, no sugar
Reading: The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Wanting: my knee to heel - NOW.
Looking: in my yarn stash
Playing: Bach on the piano
Wasting: nothing
Fixing: other people's mistakes
Deciding: on surgery
Wishing: I didn't have to
Enjoying: being able to dry sheets and towels on the clothesline
Waiting: for nothing.
Liking: my life
Wondering: if it will all be okay
Loving: my friends
Pondering: creativity
Considering: tax
Watching: Season 4 of Justified.
Hoping: client bookings will pick up soon
Marvelling: at how fast the year is going
Needing: friends
Smelling: Magnolia perfume
Wearing: pink
Following: the saga of the Australian Labor Party leadership
Noticing: grey hairs
Knowing: more will appear 
Thinking: about why a particular person drives me up the wall
Feeling: that I should not let her drive me up the wall.
Admiring: Ella Fitzgerald's vocal quality
Buying: John Mayer's latest album, Paradise Valley
Getting: ready
Bookmarking: catch up TV for the new season of Survivor.
Opening: up
Giggling: frequently.
Feeling: blessed.

How are things with you?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Leaping into the unknown - in front of other people.

Sitting in my second jazz vocal masterclass, my teacher had just presented the three songs that three students would sing.  I knew one of the songs pretty well and the other two were new to me.  One of them had a chart but no lead sheet, so I was learning the song completely by ear and feel.  After hearing the teacher sing, the three students in her "team" were to go on stage and sing the three songs and based on how they sounded, a song would choose us.

"Who would like to go first?"

I leaped up without hesitation.  One of the other women in the group commented on how she loves the fact that I never hesitate and always just dive in.  "How do you do that?" she asked me.

It was easy to answer and something I now don't even think of.  It's the improvisation rule of "say yes" and fits with my personal motto of "start where you are, use what you have and do what you can".  With this mindset I am liberated from the pressure of perfection and fear of failure.  I'm learning new songs so there are bound to be mistakes!

I started with the song that I knew least and that had no lead sheet.  I was finding my way in the dark, but that was okay.  Then I sang through the song I had never heard, but at least had music to read.  Lastly I sang the song I knew best.  I knew that I would be unlikely to choose that song to work on, so decided to seize the moment and give a performance of the song.  It was beautiful to be accompanied gorgeously on the piano by Bob Sedergreen, shed inhibitions and really commit to the song.  There were moments when I had goosebumps and I could feel the energy of the "audience" (my fellow classmates) really feeling the song with me.  I received an appreciative round of applause and loved having the opportunity to sing "The Man I Love" by George Gershwin.

The other two singers in my team had their turn at the songs and it was immediately clear who should sing which song.  I have come out with the song I struggled with most, but really enjoyed the humour.  It's an old song called "Hard Hearted Hannah (the vamp of Savannah)".  A few people said that I should sing the Gershwin because it sounded great.  It sounded great partly because I already knew it.  What would be the point of starting out with something already known and spending a term working with that and missing the chance to discover something new.

Fear is the antidote to leaping in.  I'm so glad that it's been overtaken by my willingness to say "yes" and the mindset that creates.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

My favourite gig OR why I was being paid to lie in bed and wear pyjamas.

"I can't believe that you don't have a brain injury!" Ordinarily these words might be an insult or cause for concern; today they were the best compliment I received all day. Today I was being a simulated patient in a ward with three others and a mannequin.

The patient had fallen off a ladder and now had a brain injury. Such a simple thing and suddenly this woman is confronting a completely changed life. Her walking, eating and cognitive function is affected. After my recent mishaps (the bag falling on my head and my knee injury) I have new perspective on the fragility of being okay and fully functioning in the world.

Be careful on ladders!

This week I've been working with different groups of students across the full spectrum of healthcare. Saturday and Sunday was the gynaecologists and obstetricians; Monday and Tuesday it was mental health nursing; Wednesday I was working with orthoptics students; today was nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, nursing and medicine and tomorrow, international medical graduates. It's such a privilege working with these students as they develop their skills and identity within their chosen field. Mostly they are excellent - really interested in people and ready to help; occasionally I notice that they've already lost their empathy.  I think it's because they focus on skills and knowledge and forget there's a person at the centre of it.

Yesterday was the first time I've worked with orthoptists. They come with a lot of equipment and have spent their time practising their technical and clinical skills on each other.  I noticed that many of them didn't explain what they were going to do before they approached the simulated patient. They would just lean over and peel the simulated patient's eyelids back and wonder why there was  a reaction. The were great with equipment and not so great with the people. I asked if any of them had ever suffered the complaint that the simulated patient had (double vision).  None of them had. I asked if they had considered what it would be like to have double vision. None of them had. I asked them who drove to university that day. Sadly most of them had. I asked them how they would have made their way to university if they had double vision. They started to think about life from the patient's perspective. Here was the "ah-ha" moment.

A few of the nursing students today had already developed what I call "nurse tone". There's a particular brand of condescension - talking overly loudly, slowly and using terms like "we" when they mean "you". I really hate that.

Working as a simulated patient has made me a better real patient. Talking to my GP the other day about a referral to a specialist, she asked me what kind of doctor I wanted. "A good one" was my response. She asked me if I was okay with someone who is very direct. Initially I said yes, but then I pictured myself in conversation about my particular issue with a very direct person. I realised exactly what I wanted AND what I didn't want: "I want to be a person, not a [insert body part here]." My GP selected a different doctor for referral.

I'm not sure I would have had the awareness of being a body part, or an illness before working as a simulated patient.  Many times I turn up to play a role and am not referred to by my own name, let alone my character's name.  Instead we gather to cries of "Lungs in here!", "Cancer in room three!" and "Depression follow me to the basement!". So the rot has started to set in as administrators and educators strip the person from the situation and turn us all into cases.

I push back, not moving until I'm referred to by one of my names. I correct people who say they've been happy to "use me" as a simulated patient, suggesting instead, it's a been a pleasure to work with them.

It's wonderful that health care education now gives students the opportunity to work with simulated patients as a proxy for real patients.

Spending the afternoon lying in bed, wearing pyjamas and talking to enthusiastic young people is a gig I love!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

ETA on public transport? Five and a half hours early.

Public transport gets me where I need to go, when I need to go, most of the time.  On Sunday I bumped right up against its limitations and instead of paying $3.50 for all day travel on Saturday and Sunday I had to drive my car.

I worked all weekend and had to be ready to start at 8am on Sunday morning, just near the MCG.  As usual, I used the Public Transport Victoria Journey Planner to search for my best transport options and said that I needed to arrive by 8am.

It gave me four options and the best option had me arriving in plenty of 2:34am after a journey involving a train, two buses and two periods of walking and a total travel time of 1 hour and 12 minutes!  I wasn't sure what I would do with the spare five and a half hours before start time, I looked at the next arrival time.  That had me arriving late at 8:07am (assuming it was running without delay) and took 1 hour and 22 minutes after travelling on a bus, two trains and three intervals on foot.

I decided to drive instead.  The journey took me less than twenty minutes and I parked on the street for free.  I had always wondered why people chose to drive to attend church when they are right next door to tram lines and railway stations.  Now I now.

If I didn't have a car or wasn't in a position to drive I suppose I would have to take a taxi or plead forgiveness for being a little late and prepare for the epic journey.  I suppose cycling is another potential option.  I can't comment on this as I'm not familiar with travel times or methods for cycling, but I would require facilities at my workplace to enable me to change, store the bike on so on.

I don't expect that public transport options on a Sunday morning are going to be as available as they are during a weekday peak, but with changes to work patterns and lifestyles, this serious lack of public transport must be problematic for many people.  Even if I wanted to arrive at the same destination by 9am, my best travel option requires me to be on a train at 7:58am and I arrive 33 minutes early.  The option before that is the one that delivers me at 8:07am and the later option would see me arrive at 9:11am and take 33 minutes, station to station.

Melbourne is a great city.  Indeed we're the world's most livable city.  What must the public transport be like in other cities?  And now we are further condemned to languish with a new federal government which stated prior to the election that they would not be funding urban rail.  They're all about roads.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Overheard - I wonder who this woman was.

I don't know who she was talking to.  I do know it was a woman I could occasionally hear on the other end of the phone call.  The young woman sitting on the tram was apologising and acknowledging her mistakes repeatedly - in a really loud voice.

There was a story about a Serbian woman whose husband had died. His car was now to be transferred into the daughter's name. The girl on the phone had incorrectly advised that they needed to have a roadworthy inspection completed. She'd given this advice in a letter she had written. She admitted that when she looked over the letter again, the key paragraph was unintelligible - she didn't even know what it meant.

This young woman had owned her mistake to anyone who would listen.  (And everyone else in the train carriage - she had a very loud voice.)  Someone called Rob was going to be really angry and she wasn't sure what else she could have done.

She told the woman on the other end of the phone: "I make mistakes.  I do.  I do make mistakes.  I know that I do.  Everyone needs to know this."

Then:  "I don't know who to ask for help.  I've been teaching myself.  I have been.  But clearly I don't know everything that I need to teach myself."

And: "Maybe I shouldn't just write letters and send them out.  Maybe I need to write it and then read it again before I send them.  Maybe I should even wait until the next day to read them before I send them out.  I keep making these mistakes."

The young woman had her back to me so I couldn't see her facial expression.  She sounded sincere, but she also sounded like she was signing her execution warrant.  I couldn't tell how old she was either.

"Clearly the problem hasn't just gone away because now the son is coming in with his mother on Friday!"  She sounded alarmed.

I wondered where this woman worked - a law firm? a government department?  She is either not very smart, but very sincere, or very inexperienced and unsupported in her work place.  The fact that she's prepared to say "I made a mistake" is in her favour, but I wondered at her ability to correct mistakes and avoid making the same ones again.  Has she perhaps mistakenly decided that honesty is all that's needed and application to avoid mistakes in the first place is secondary.

I wondered about the Serbian family being put through unnecessary bureaucratic processes and expense.

I wondered about the need to discuss all of this at the top of her lungs on a busy train.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Checking in - what are they typing?

I've often wondered what hotel, airline and rental car check-in staff are typing when I'm checking in.  While I rarely deal with airline check in staff these days (I've usually checked in online), this week I've checked in to two different hotels in two different cities and rented a car.

On arrival at the hotel in Sydney the other night, I was very tired.  The drive had taken longer than usual because of road works and Sydney drivers.  It was 8:35pm and I also needed some food.  I didn't get to my room until 9pm.  Why?  Because the guy was TYPING.  What? Surely he wasn't updating his facebook status.  Perhaps he was tweeting or writing a chapter in his novel.  While he was typing, he was grimacing. Was he struggling with syntax? Parsing a sentence or two? Quickly jotting down the next line of dialogue in his award winning screenplay?

I asked him if there was a problem.  He said there wasn't.  He continued to type.  After further typing and grimacing, he left the desk and loped over to a man sitting at a desk opposite where we were standing.  That guy started typing too.  After what seemed an interminable amount of time, my artist in residence, loped back and did some more typing.  

I changed tack and asked if everything was okay.  He said it was. I started to shuffle impatiently as he added a line or two to his sonnet. Then he handed me my keys and announced that I had been upgraded to a suite. I was relieved that I hadn't had my cranky pants on. Twenty-five minutes it had taken!

Fire plume over the Stadium, taken from the 12th floor balcony
 of my hotel in Olympic Park.
Picture copyright divacultura 2013
The suite had everything except a butler and a friend to share it with.  The spa was heaven sent after the physio had prescribed soaking in a bath for my knee.  There was room to sleep, room to work, room to cook (well heat stuff in the microwave), room to relax and room to swim laps in the enormous spa. There was a balcony to step out onto and view the fires in western Sydney.

As I stepped out onto the balcony, a sticker on the door caught my eye.  It warned me that "for my own safety" the door would close and lock behind me.  I gripped the door and didn't step too far out.  I imagined what would happen if I was trapped on the balcony with no mobile phone.  It would be hours before I was found.  It would be the cleaners in the morning.

That would give typing man something to write home about.  It would be a story for his blog that's for sure.

The morning after the fires, from the same spot.
Picture copyright divacultura 2013

Monday, 9 September 2013

Quintessential Melbourne afternoon - at the footy!

Yesterday I went to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to savour my first experience of attending a live AFL finals match.  My team, the Richmond Tigers had made it to the finals for the first time since 2001 and were playing Carlton.  The Tigers fans were out in force, highly visible in the distinctive yellow and black.

My first challenge was getting to my seat.  With my injured knee, this was quite a feat.  We took the lift to level four and showed our tickets to a man.  He looked at them and shook his head.

The ticket
Picture copyright divacultura 2013
"Oh well.  Now.  That's quite a long way up.  Yes it is. You'll have to just keep on going.  And be very careful on those steps.  I can't get up them myself. Very hard. Good luck." He spoke in a monotone, eyes darting.  I was afraid.

I have a dicky knee and I'm afraid of heights. I'm still recovering from the George Michael concert where I was seated right up the top of Etihad Stadium.

In case you need help working it up, row FF is 32 rows up and the only way to get there is the climb the stairs which are almost like a ladder.  I went slowly.  Going up stairs is actually almost back to normal; going down is harder. The sherpa we had booked hadn't turned up and my oxygen tank wouldn't fit in my handbag.

We reached our seats without mishap and this is what we saw.  We were a long way up which meant we could see the whole game, but had to look at the screen to admire the players' deltoids.

MCG crowd - over 96,000 fans attended
Picture copyright divacultura 2013

Across the other side - that's the suburb of Richmond in the background.
Picture copyright divacultura 2013
Now that I was in my seat, I was not going to leave until it was home time.

Work in progress - trying the beanie on to get the right amount of "slouch".
 I didn't wear it with the needles in!
Picture copyright divacultura 2013

The atmosphere was incredible and I was relieved that I had put the effort into finishing my beanie and made some yellow and black pom poms over my breakfast. Beanies don't really suit me, but as my friend pointed out, that's not really why you wear them.

Plaits and pom poms...go Tigers!
Picture copyright divacultura 2013

We had a devoted Tigers fan sitting behind us.  I can't for the life of me work out why he isn't the Richmond coach.  He certainly had a view about everything and said it loudly enough for the team to hear.  Even during the first half where we were playing well he was plaintive in his cries for the team to "Help him", "Man up" and play "hard ball".  Not much time would pass between "well done" and "oh, you idiot!"  Although as we moved into the second half and Richmond seemed to give up, "oh, you idiot!" seemed like an appropriate statement.

As the loss became inevitable, emotions started to show.  Tiny tigers decked out in their gear were inconsolable.  The strains of "We are the navy blue" was an assault on the ears when all I wanted was "Oh we're from Tiger land!"  One row in front of me a full grown man with red hair cut into one of those strange faux hawk/mullet styles and wearing a daffodil yellow onesie started to cry.  I don't know if it was the result of the game or the realisation about what he was wearing and that he wearing it outside the house that warranted such emotion.

As I slowly made my way to the bottom again, the suggestions about "next year" were already being heard.

Oh we're from Tiger land! Tiger girls waiting to get inside the 'G
Picture copyright divacultura 2013
Until next year!

Were you there?  How was your afternoon?

Friday, 6 September 2013

My favourite things - this week

1. You may remember meeting Rose Wintergreen right here on divacultura.  Rose crowd-funded her album and I was very happy, willing and privileged to be able to contribute.  My favourite moment of week was reading about the release of her single, Feet in the Sand. You can read more and listen over on her blog.  What do you think?  I LOVE it!  If you like it too, pass it on!

2. This morning I set aside time to write a first draft of a book chapter that I'm collaborating with several other people on.  I'd had a few false starts in actually putting words down, but the ideas had been whirling around in my head for a while. I knew it was just a case of having a block of time and no distractions.  I put Bach's cello suites played by Yo-Yo Ma on the stereo and pretty soon I had exceeded the word requirement. I know that it's a first draft and now the task of editing and blending with my collaborators has to occur, but it is always thrilling to see ideas come to life on the screen/page. There's the additional excitement of discovering new insights as fresh connections are made.

3. I managed to get tickets for Sunday's AFL final match between my team, Richmond, and Carlton. Technically my friend got the tickets and they came with the news that we would need to hire a sherpa, take oxygen and leave now to get to our seats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in time to watch the match.  I don't care!  I'm so excited.  Richmond hasn't played in the finals since 2001 and I've never been to a finals match at the MCG.  I figure you just have to do it!  As a consequence of actually going to the footy, I have had to put a hold on my lack of love for the colour yellow.  Richmond's colours are yellow and black and I just can't go without sporting my team colours.  I managed to snag the last ball of yarn in the perfect shade of yellow and figure I can knit a yellow and black beanie in time for Sunday's match.

4. My physio's declaration that it is possible for my knee to fully recover was definitely a good moment..  This made me very happy after struggling to zip my boots this morning.  (The angles were all wrong.)  Apparently my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) has been stretched so far that it hasn't sprung back.  It's like an elastic band that has stretched too far.  Despite this, my physio is confident that with exercise and treatment it will regain its elasticity.  (My physio contributed another favourite moment when we were discussing the soreness in my left arm which had probably resulted from the fall that injured my knee.  The muscle I've hurt is called the "supraspinatus".  I heard her tell me I'd hurt my "super bananas". I felt lucky.  Imagine if it was my ordinary bananas!)

5.Waiting on platform 9 at Flinders Street Station today, I watched people on platform 10 running for the train.  Human beings move in some mysterious way:. the squat woman, struggling with several bags, her body engaged in multi-directional undulation; the neat Asian man wearing a backpack shuffling, Cliff Young style - not very fast but certainly tidy;  the confidence of the long-legged lunge of a besuited, bespectacled, bebearded man;  the weirdly stiff-legged gait of the man in too-skinny jeans; the small pointless steps of the woman in stilettos running for her life to catch that train; the hopeful striving of the wannabe medalist, slowing and slumping as hope fades that he can make it before the doors shut.

What was your favourite thing this week?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

When public transport doesn't connect

A friend told me a tale today.  This is a tale of missed opportunity.  Perhaps it is also a tale of mean spirits.

My friend relies on public transport to go everywhere. My friend can get around on the trains easily enough, but relies on a bus service to connect to the train service. The problem with that last sentence is evident in the phrase: "relies on a bus service to connect to the train service". It does connect. As long as you're not picky about arriving everywhere 40 minutes early or 40 minutes late.

My friend was to meet me at Flinders Street this morning 7:45am. I received a text message at 7:22am to say she had already arrived. We live on the same train line, so I wondered why she wasn't on the same train as me, leaving at 7:26am. It was the buses!

My friend told me that the last bus of an evening leaves the station at 9:00pm. The station where she most regularly travels to and from (Yarraville) has a level crossing. Commuters disembarking an outbound train are left on one side of that crossing. The buses leave from the other side of that crossing. When a train is at the station, the boom gates on the crossing come down so everyone has to wait until the train has left the station before they can walk across to the buses. Imagine the heart break as 9:00pm approaches, but a late train has meant arrival at the station almost right on that time. You're stuck on the opposite side of the tracks, the bus driver can see that a train has just come in and that the boom gates are down and chooses to drive off before the gates go up and people can get to the bus!

Situations like this are one of the reasons that people don't like to travel by public transport.  Situations like this can be fixed by planning the services to connect better and ensuring that drivers are instructed to wait for the boom gates to go up after a train has arrived before leaving.

So because of where my friend lives - about 10 minutes drive from where I live - she had to leave home at 6:45am for a 7:45am meeting in the city.  I left home at 7:15am, walked to the station and was ready to catch a 7:26am train which delivered me to Flinders Street at 7:40am - less than half an hour, while she had almost that amount of time to wait.

This is not the public transport system that one expects in the world's most livable city! But I guess it's what happens when you privatise the systems and they're all run by different people.

Do you catch public transport?  If not, what stops you?  What do you like about it?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Today's serving has 6 priorities, 5 pillars, no boats and no substance.

Finally, I've received a copy of the Liberal party's "six key priorities", one of which is a "5-Pillar economy".  Still nothing from Labor or the Greens in my letterbox.

I'm trying to be objective as I read it.  It looks good.  It looks expensive.  There are no claims about it being printed on recycled paper or being environmentally friendly. I've never voted Liberal in my life, so objectivity is tricky.

The claim to build a "more diverse" 5-Pillar economy by building on the stuff we already do seems thin.

The pledge to save me money - "Carbon Tax gone" - seems crazy.  Has everyone forgotten the steadily increasing electricity bills that were coming in long before the carbon tax was introduce?.  What's even more interesting is the absence of any mention of their Direct Action plan to combat climate change.  Clearly this is of no consequence to the Liberals.  (How are all the farmers going to run viable farms if climate change isn't addressed, I wonder?)  It's also worth remembering that we have a price on carbon as part of a carbon trading scheme.  This is different from a carbon tax.

Point 3 is about ending the waste and debt.  This is hilarious in light of the enormously over the top Paid Parental Leave scheme.  And the loss of income from the abolition of the carbon tax.

Point 4 is about better roads and services and is accompanied by a logo of a train track!  Tony Abbott is on record saying that he won't fund urban rail, instead preferring to fund more roads.   There is not a single mention of public transport in the entire document - another clue about their attitude to climate change.

"Stop the boats" waits until point 5 with the new tag line "stronger borders".  In the following pages of the leaflet there are statements of costs under Labor but no mention of the boat buy back scheme announced last month.  What was that about ending waste?

My preferred policy position on refugees and asylum seekers is "drain the moats".

Finally the sixth priority is they'll create two million new jobs. There is absolutely no information about how this will done.

Apart from the absence of climate change and public transport, the other glaring omission is industrial relations.  I do not trust that elements of the dreadful, punitive, mean and unfair Work Choices legislation will not be introduced by an Abbott government.

It's fair enough to like or not to like the leaders of the parties, but I think it's really important to remember that they are just one person in the context of a whole party that forms government. As we've seen in recent times, there's no guarantee that the leader you vote for is the leader you get for the duration.  My hope is that people take an interest, read information and dig deeper to think about the claims being made by anyone seeking election.

A friend of mine suggested to me that we should remove personality from politics and vote purely on policy.  I don't think that's realistic.  Politics is about people as much as it's about policy and personality does matter; but it's not the only thing.

Since yesterday's post, I've been directed to a couple of handy sites to assist with the arduous task of voting in the Senate.  Below the Line provides a breakdown of how the preferences flow when you vote above the line.  (Thanks Mousicles.)

If you're not happy, Cluey Voter helps you create your very own how to vote card based on your views of the squillion parties and candidates standing.  Even if you don't decide to vote below the line, the process of thinking about each party is worthwhile.  (Thanks to Lynne for that tip.)

And if you're curious to see the propaganda being distributed in your electorate visit the Election Leaflets site.  You can upload the stuff you've collected.  They also have a "this is not an election leaflet" leaflet.

Are you still paying attention to the election?  Are you undecided?  If you're overseas, is the Australian election even on your radar?

Monday, 2 September 2013

What your letterbox reveals about politics.

My letterbox at home is not where I receive my mail.  For that I have a post office box.  I do have a "no junk mail" sticker on there, but was unsurprised to open the letterbox this afternoon and find various pieces of political propaganda, election related information, an ad for some local cleaners and an invitation to join a gym.

Of the political propaganda one comes from Family First (a how to vote card with no policy information), one from Palmer United Party (a one page 7 point policy statement) and one from the Liberal party.  This one is interesting because it does not mention the Liberal party at all.  It's a slag off against Labor.  The only way I know it's from the Liberal party is that it is authorised by "D. Mantach".  I had to google that to discover that he's Liberal party director.  Sneaky.

So based on the information I've received, PUP is by far, the most helpful.  But I won't be voting for a big kid who has lots of money and makes no sense.  And the negativity of the Liberal campaign is very unappealing.  Maybe that's why they didn't overtly put their name to it.

Family First's how to vote instruction is scant on detail.  I've gone hunting to find how they are preferencing in the Senate election.  This is really hard to do.  For any party.  People who receive postal votes have told me that the Senate's ballot paper is as long as the kitchen table.  I don't like voting above the line without understanding the way the parties have organised their preferences, but the thought of voting below the line fills me with trepidation.

The real information is from the Australian Electoral Commission giving information about voting requirements.  It's easy to identify the real stuff from the guff because the real stuff is wrapped in plastic.  They explain how to complete the ballot paper.  You can even practise voting on their website.

A quick visit to the AEC website reveals the list of registered political parties.  Well that's an eye opener.  There's a party for everything it seems.  How about the Stop CSG Party, the Pirate Party, the Smoker's Rights Party (their website is all about asking for money...maybe they could donate the price of a pack of ciggies)?  The best name must go to the Coke in the Bubblers party.  They have a nice looking website, some appealing headline positions, but no substance.  According to their website, they're still looking for candidates!  Um, someone should tell them the election is on Saturday.

It must be tricky if you're undecided, but I think undecided voters are generally also the politically disengaged.  I've completed the Vote Compass and received the same result as last time.  It's an interesting exercise in thinking about the various policy issues and how you stack up when compared to the various policies of the major parties.  Why not head over and see what you discover?

There's a referendum on with this election too.  It's about whether local government should be recognised in the constitution.  I've received nothing about this and don't really know why it's a good or a bad idea.  If I can't find out something easily before Saturday, I'll be conservative and stick with the status quo.

The Greens and the Australia Labor Party are absent from my letterbox.   I live in a safe Labor seat, but that's no reason to ignore me.  Or maybe they are the only parties to respect my request for "no junk mail".

I'm off to fall asleep in front of a political interview now.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Two things for a Sunday night.

Two things to do:

Watch this and marvel at the creative capacity of human beings:

And go see the film "Frances Ha".

I'm so glad I'm not 27 any more!