Friday, 31 March 2006

home sweet home

When P and I moved back to Canberra, we thought that we were going to have a terrible time trying to find somewhere to live. You see, we moved back right when all the public service graduates were starting and just before all of the universities started for the year (not to mention ADFA and Defence generally) and every opening that we attended was packed. We would go to see a pretty ordinary (and over priced) two bedroom apartment and there would be another 40 people crowding in to see the place with us (and haggling to get their applications in for it). It was a little scary. I had visions of us ending up in a shoe box paying a fortune in rent, or having to move way out of town - forcing us to get a car (which neither of us wanted).

To cut a very long story short, I was wrong. I am not sure what happened to all of the hoards of people searching for accommodation, but we actually ended up getting the very first place that we applied for, and it has been working out really well.

The next hurdle, of course, was the whole unpacking thing.



This is not something that I enjoy. I have moved far too many times in my life and seem to enjoy it less each time I do it (a bit like flying, really). When we got into our new apartment, we had boxes of crap everywhere and it seemed like we were never going to get settled in. To give you some idea, this is what it looked like:











*(The view was the consolation at the time)

However, last weekend I think that we really turned the corner into 'essentially settled in'. At P's insistence, we pulled everything out of the cupboards and actually organised it. We filed all our documents, and created a spreadsheet on our expenses. We started (and almost finished) gluing the lights from Bangkok together, and we are very close to actually getting something up on the walls. In short, I think that we are now unpacked and must, therefore, never leave.

So, I introduce you to our new (and permanent, until we actually purchase our own) home:

















Have a lovely weekend!

Does this sound fair to you?

Why do the media and State governments constantly equate the Commonwealth government with Canberra? We didn't even vote for them!

The thing that reminded me of this constant annoyance was the NSW government's latest television advertising campaign:
Does this sound fair to you?

Nearly $3 Billion of GST paid by
NSW taxpayers to Canberra
never comes back
In response, I could not help shouting at the television:
It goes to the Federal government, not Canberra.
The stupid thing about these ads is that they go on to elaborate on how this money is then spent in Queensland. Now, if the money was really going to Canberra I doubt that it would end up in Queensland (unless we re-elected Kate Carnell and she decided to buy grass from there again).

The RiotACT today found another example of this ridiculous equation, and this one is even more silly:
Canberra may step in on same-sex law
This headline is, of course, referring to the federal government's intervention in the ACT civil unions legislation. For goodness sake, Canberra is the one trying to promote the law and it is the Commonwealth government that is threatening to "step in on" it. I don't think the headline made this situation particularly clear.

Couldn't they say "Capital Hill" or "The Commonwealth/federal government" or "the Howard government" or "Howard" or "Kirribilli House" or "Ruddock"?

Why must Canberrans be implicated in the actions of this government?

OK, rant over.

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Thursday, 30 March 2006

Speaking of human rights

The long homophobic arm of Howard's federal government may be reaching out into the ACT to destroy any chance that same sex couples might be granted equal rights under our laws. Apparently, Philip Ruddock is threatening to block John Stanhope's proposed civil union laws for gay and lesbian couples unless changes are made to the bill. You see, Howard is adament that same sex couple not be granted the same rights as heterosexuals and, unfortunately, has the right under the Constitution to dictate his views to the ACT government.

I think that John Stanhope's response is a good one:
Mr Ruddock needs to be asked what is his real concern about the ACT legislation. What is his real concern about my commitment to remove discrimination and to show respect to same-sex relationships and one has to pose the question is whether or not the real reason is that there is no place in John Howard's Australia for homosexuals.
I think that he has basically got it in one.

If it makes him feel any better, there is also no place for:
  • single mothers,
  • people with disabilities,
  • the unemployed,
  • indigenous australians,
  • asylum seekers,
  • unionised workers,
  • latte drinkers, or
  • university students
(to name just a few).

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Work Choices - the human rights attack we had to have?

I have quite mixed feelings about the Howard governments new Work Choices legislation. On the one hand, I am really depressed that we have these kinds of laws being implemented in Australia and that while they were being debated in parliament, the Australian people essentially rolled over. I look at the french reaction to the First Job Contract laws and can't help feeling that people in this country are really lacking a sense of solidarity and activism.

However, I also think that Australians have been complacent up until now because, by and large, we have been lucky enough to have fairly good human rights protection with very little in the way of formal protection or social activism (during the last 20 years or so) and people have forgotten (or never known) that they need to be eternally vigilant in order to protect their rights. In some ways, I think (or at least hope) that these new laws will be the wake up call that people need, and that they might start to understand that the government is not going to look after the interests of us 'little people' (as against big business) unless we absolutely demand that they do. The Howard government has gotten away with more and more over the last decade, and it has done this in such an incremental way that many people have not yet realised what it is that we have lost.

My hope is that Work Choices will be the act that unveils all of this erosion of human rights in Australia and that galvanises public opinion around the need to defend our rights - and the need to defend the rights of others. Even just in the last few days (since Work Choices became law), people have been rediscovering a sense of solidarity and realising how important our labour rights are, and how important Unions are in helping us to defend those rights.

My big reservation, however, is a lingering doubt about this hope. What if people do not react to this new attack on their rights? What if people, by and large, just accept these changes and vote Howard back in at the next election? If I was depressed after the Tampa incident and the government's re-election, I can't imagine how depressing such a result would be this time.

I think that I will just have to be optimistic at this stage. Anything else is just too hard to contemplate.

Update, from the Age (courtersy of Pavlov's Cat):

EIGHT long-term employees — all union members and several receiving WorkCover payments — were sacked yesterday from a multinational cable company [Triangle Cables] in Port Melbourne using the Federal Government's new workplace laws.

[...]

The National Union of Workers said the sacked workers were among those who signed a petition in 2004 asking the company for a union-negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement, which was rejected.

Workers who signed letters resigning from the union on January 10 were not sacked.

Like the sacked Boral worker in Canberra, one of the workers was also on work cover payments and on light duties after being injured at work. That is what shocks me the most. Now companies can get rid of people that are forced onto light duties because of injuries sustained while they were at work. Surely it is these very people to whom those companies owe the most responsibility? It has really become acceptable to prey on the most vulnerable, hasn't it?

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Thursday, 23 March 2006

Eleventh Carnival of Feminists

Well its that time again; time for the latest Carnival. Lost Clown over at Angry for a Reason has done a fantastic job of putting together the 11th Carnival of Feminists, do check it out. I will have to restrain myself from reading all of the posts for the moment in order to get anything done today, but here are a few that caught my eye:

FrankenGirl has done a wonderful spoof of that dreadful Oscars song with "It's Hard Out Here for a Feminist".

Uma March from How the Other Half Lives has written an extremely informative post on Pregnancy in India:
India alone accounts for over twenty per cent of all maternal and child deaths in the world every year. Of the 30 million women in India who experience pregnancy annually, some 136,000 women die of pregnancy or childbirth-related complications every year. [...] That is, one woman dies every five minutes from a pregnancy-related causes.

Natalie at Philobiblon asks "Is 'Red' America destroying itself by removing its women's autonomy?", and explores the economic impact of encouraging women to marry early.

Finally, (for now) Clare at The Ninth Wave writes about the need to end the in-fighting within the feminist movement in "Sorry Ladies, but this isn't working".

The next Carnival will be at Written Word on the 5th of April. Ragnell has now posted her call for submissions:
Requirements: Any posts written to address a woman's place in the world from a feminist point of view are welcome. The optional and arbitary catergories for this issue will be Influences, Inpirations, Culture Reversal and Other. Deadline is April 3rd and I'll be accepting posts made after the last deadline of March 20th.

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Ecological Footprint

Because I missed World Water Day yesterday, I thought that I would suggest this quiz today. How many planets would we need if everyone lived like you?

On a good year, I would need one, but once I start flying all over the planet I really build up my impact. The question is, should I just stay in Australia, or does this mean that I should move somewhere a little more centrally located?

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Wednesday, 22 March 2006

intense admiration/envy

This post by Ampersand Duck made me all envious. Is her artwork not beautiful?

I have been plotting and scheming about practicing some bookbinding all weekend - after having left all of my early attempts on hold for over two years. This post gave me lots of inspiration. Now I just need some more time and some more materials...

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Lists - books to read

I am a list person. I write lists of things to do, things to pack, things I want to do before 5 or 10 years pass by, countries I want to travel to, jobs I'd like to take on, skills to learn, etc. Today, I have an overwhelming urge to write a list of books that I want to read. These are mainly books that I have been meaning to read for so long that I almost feel as though I have read them and then get all embarrassed when I realise that I haven't.

- Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
- Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky (this one can wait until after I finish my thesis)
- Master and Margarita - Mihail Bulgakov
- Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (I did read this, but really I was too young to understand it properly and should read it again)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
- To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
- War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (this one can also wait until after I finish my thesis)

New to the list (and newly acquired):
- The Great War for Civilization - Robert Fisk
* Possession - A.S. Byatt

Any other suggestions?

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Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Long weekend in Sydney

P. and I got home last night after spending the long weekend (Canberra Day) in Sydney. I actually went up early, on Thursday morning, to do some PhD stuff first.

I met my supervisor on Thursday afternoon and had a good meeting. She managed to give me heaps of feedback - what to change, what to keep, what to update, etc... without ever being negative about it. An amazing skill really, when there are some people who can manage to tell you what they like and still make you feel as though they are criticising you.

Friday was a very surreal day. I felt as though I was living someone else's life and couldn't even work out what I thought of it. I attended a seminar and masterclass on 'reviewing the reviewers' at the University of Sydney. To start with, I have only really been to the University of Sydney before in order to use their climbing wall at night (and once to start the Walk Against Want), so the campus was very unfamiliar. Added to this was the fact that I had assumed (for reasons I cannot justify) that this was a seminar and class about submitting articles to peer reviewed journals, when it was actually about writing reviews on books for newspapers and magazines.



So I arrived over an hour early by mistake (had the time wrong too) and wandered around an unfamililar campus trying to find a decent coffee. Then I spend the whole day in a room full of people that I didn't know, learning about something that I had never attempted to do (until being asked to for this course) and had never actually paid any attention to until 5 days earlier when I realised what the course was actually about.

There was a lot of discussion about the importance of literature and Australian literature in particular, about the role of the reviewer, and about finding new talent. It was all very interesting in a detached kind of way, but I felt quite odd being present for it. It really seemed as though I should have been reading about it instead. It just wasn't my scene. The final thing that made the day feel even more surreal is that I found out that I did actually know one person in the room in a manner of speaking - one of the presenters, in fact. She was familiar to me online, as a blogger and commenter and knew who I was too. As I said, it was an odd day.

Our weekend was far more familiar and normal. We were cat sitting at my Dad and step-Mother's place and spent plenty of time hanging out with the munchkin cat. We went across to Newtown to browse in second hand bookshops and see a film at Dendy. We met some friends for brunch at Bodhi and spent an entire afternoon in Books Kinokuniya browsing their books and taking down the ISBNs of those that we wanted to order somewhere cheaper. I found a discounted book on craft elsewhere and bought it (more on that issue later). And, we had lunch at the ever delicious and friendly Cafe Mint on Crown Street before getting the bus home. It was so nice, but I was also glad to get back to Canberra. So I think that we have found a good balance.

Finally, this morning I went into the Bike Shed and got my new bike fitted before bringing it home! Now I finally have some transport (other than the bus) and something to play with on the weekends etc... Very exciting!


Wednesday, 15 March 2006

South Dakota

"Rape and incest are horrible crimes, but why punish the innocent child?"
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, commenting on the new South Dakota anti-abortion law

Yep, far preferable to force a woman or young girl to carry the rapist's child to term. Clearly the life of a one-day-old zygote is more valuable than her mental health or trauma.

AARGH!!!!

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Friday, 10 March 2006

NGOs condemn exclusive 'Group of 6 meeting'

The trade ministers of the G6 (Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, Japan and the US) are about to commence a three day meeting in London in order to 'hammer out a deal' in ongoing WTO negotiations.

While Tony Blair claims that there is a need for a "bold and ambitious" trade settlement, and that "[t]he potential benefits of a dynamic and ambitious round are there not just for the developing countries and those countries that are most developed, but also for the poorest countries in the world," NGOs are sceptical.

Blair also claims tht the world is facing a "huge moment of decision."

This is a moment in which it is essential that we show the leadership necessary to break through the obstacles and have that ambitious round. The result of an ambitious round would be felt in greater prosperity, more jobs and greater social justice.

You certainly have to wonder which Outcomes Documents Tony Blair has been looking at. The only ambitions that might be fulfilled in this round of exclusive trade talks will be those of the global north in opening up the markets of the South with as little reciprication as possible (ie, business as usual). I can buy the greater prosperity and job, for the North at least, but greater social justice? Well that is just a ridiculous and insulting claim. I think that the following quotes nicely sum up my main concerns:

These secret invite-only talks are an attempt to stitch up a deal between the big players which can be presented to the rest of the world as a fait accompli. This is undemocratic and entirely excludes the world's poorest countries.

Peter Hardstaff, head of policy for World Development Movement

This meeting is an illegitimate attempt by a handful of powerful trading nations to stitch up a deal for the WTO. The EU and US have done nothing to cut their farm subsidies in these talks, yet they are pressing harder and harder to force open the services and industrial sectors of developing countries. Any such deal would be a disaster for the world's poorest nations. The only way out now is to abandon the talks altogether.

John Hilary, director of campaigns and policy for War on Want
(which is organising a demonstration outside the London talks)


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Abu Ghraib closing, but occupation continues

So the US have finally announced that they will be closing the Abu Ghraib prison in the next three months, but will simply be transfering the 4,500 prisoners to another prison and continuing with their occupation Iraq (along with the UK and us). To support this continued occupation, the Bush administration will be asking the US congress for an additional £53bn or US$92bn. Oddly enough, this is almost the same as the $100bn per year that would be required for the world to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Glad to see that we all have our priorities straight.

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Robert Fisk

We went along to the ANU last night to hear Robert Fisk talk about his new book The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East. It was certainly worth it.

The talk was held in one of the biggest lecture theatres at ANU, but it was still ridiculously full. People were sitting on every bit of available carpet, standing along the walls, crowded the doorways and being sent away by the time 8pm rolled around (scheduled starting time). The fact that it was free probably helped numbers considerably, but I also think that the Middle East is an area of the world that people are really keen to understand better and that the average person in Canberra is generally fairly political.

Fisk talked about the frightening similarities between the British invasion of Cairo and then Iraq in 1920 - the same reasons were cited, the same claims of expecting to be greeted with flower as "liberators" were heard, the same loss of control to 'insurgents'... The cycle of history repeats itself. It would appear that we never learn.

He talked about the Serbian slaughter of Bosnian Muslims - showing a clip from a film he made in 1993. In the film, he returns to a mosque that he visited only one year earlier to drink coffee with the Iman and his family. The mosque and the Iman's cottage have been destroyed, the Iman and his family are gone, leaving behind their personal belongings and photos (smashed on the floor). Near the end of the clip, Fisk stands in the ruins of the mosque and contemplates the message that he, as a foreign correspondent, should be sending out to the West. His only thought is "Watch out. Something explosive is going to happen." The date of the clip was 11 September.

Then Fisk talked about Palestine, about the immorality of the deal that Europe made in 1948, when they decided to persecute one group of people (the Palestinians) in order to compensate for the persecution of another (the Jews). He talked about the grave human rights abuses that took place against the Palestinian people in order to create the State of Israel, and those that continue to this day, particularly in the Occupied Territories. Then he covered the issue of the media and its unwillingness (particularly in the US) to report the truth about the region. The Occupied Territories have become the 'disputed territories', the Isolation Wall a 'security fence' - striping the Palestinian struggle of its logic and reason.

Finally, Fisk finished with a quote from an Israel journalist who shared with him her version of the role of a good journalist. She said that journalists should be there to hold governments to account; that there will always be wars and those in power will always behave badly, and that journalists must be there to document the truth and tell it to the world. When he asked her why she held this view she told the story of her mother, a Jewish woman in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. She was taken to a concentration camp in Germany during the war, and when she and the other women with her were herded off the train they had to walk, in their rags, through a wealthy German neighbourhood. It was just after breakfast time and the women in the neighbourhood who were still wiping up the dishes, came out onto the front porches and silently watched them walk past. Her mother (who survived the war) could not stand it, she could not stand those people who simply watch from the sidelines.

Fisk closed with the request that we did not do this now - that we do not simply watch from the sidelines.

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Thursday, 9 March 2006

Read when feeling strong, but do read

Kate, at Moment to Moment, linked to this post by Flea in relation to Blog Against Sexism Day. When I clicked on the link, I didn't know what I was in for. It made me cry.

But, when you are feeling strong, do read it. I salute her courage for writing it.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Happy International Women's Day

I hope that everyone had/has a lovely day. I am feeling guilty because I had been intending to take part in Blog Against Sexism Day today, but am just feeling really uninspired about what to write.

Instead, I thought that I would provide you with a few links to people who have been more inspired and inspiring than myself.

First up, we have the Tenth Carnival of Feminists, hosted by indianwriting, featuring quite a number of posts on Abortion, which seems to have become a bigger issue again recently.

[NB The Eleventh Carnival of Feminists will be hosted by Angry for a Reason, who is particularly interested in posts about "Radical Feminism OR International Feminism"]

Next up we have Sour Duck, who presents us with the lyrics to Dubstar song "Just a girl, she said". Then Tamakazura from amateurverbs has written a post on good girls and bad girls, and Chantel has written about discrimination in her work place. Other contributors include Dlogs and Quaker Agitator.

The posts are still rolling in, since people from other time zones are only part way through the 8th at the moment. [The technocratic tag is blog against sexism.] Some that are definitely worth checking up on would include Twisty from I Blame the Patriarchy, and the women at Mind the Gap. Twisty's post yesterday on the continued imbalance between men and women's reproductive rights is already really worth a read.

Update: Here are the links to the (Trying) to Blog Against Sexism post at Mind the Gap - a list of things they hate about sexism (which appeals to me, since I am always finding something to be outraged about), and Twisty's over at I Blame the Patriarchy, which includes yet another thing to be outraged about:
Not in Armenia, though. They cancelled International Women’s Day, and replaced it on March 7 with—I shit you not— “Day of Motherhood and Beauty.”
That, and the fact that Bush is continuing to claim that the invasion of Afghanistan was all about protecting the rights of Afghani women.

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Beyond Howard hating

Over at Larvatus Prodeo I posted a brief rant about a rather stupid SMH article by Gerard Henderson about "Howard-haters" being "their own worst enemies". I won't go on about the pathetic detail in the article, since it has already been given more than enough time elsewhere. My main concern here is an issue that came up during subsequent discussion.

One of my main objections to the article was the assumption that if you do not like the policies of the Howard government, then you must be primarily concerned with getting the ALP into office. My objection to this assumption was grounded in the simple fact that I am strongly opposed to many of the Howard government's policies and I am often depressed and horrified by the impact that they have on Australia, but I am really not particularly concerned with getting the ALP into office.

I feel this way for many reasons, including the following:
  • I also disagree with many of the policies of the Opposition (not as many as Howard's, but still many);
  • I think that the ALP is disorganised and ineffectual and have no burning desire to see that rewarded;
  • I am not a Beazley fan, he is far too fond of war toys, showed utter spinelessness on the Tampa issue, and plays the National Security fear card just as cynically as Howard does;
  • During federal elections, I have always lived in very safe ALP seats; and (particularly)
  • Many of my main political concerns go beyond the domestic realm.
However, despite this, I have still reacted with tears after every election since 1997, so I am clearly concerned about Howard getting re-elected over and over again. My frustration with this is that I feel sometimes as though people with my opinions have been left with very limited options - live with the status quo (horrible as it may be) or support the ALP (lame as it may be). I realise that there are other alternatives, other avenues for changing political agendas here and internationally, other ways of having a positive impact on society and the world. It is just that those alternative impacts don't feel very tangible on election night, or when the government is able to ram through its frightening new IR legislation.

The thing is that they also don't feel very tangible when someone like George W. Bush is elected as President of the USA and this is something that I will never have any impact over. I guess, at the end of the day, it is a matter of adjusting to our own power limitations, rather than feeling forced into supporting a political party simply because they are better than the other alternative on offer.

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Sunday, 5 March 2006

Oops, we helped ruin the planet


This story in the Guardian was refreshing. It turns out that Tony Wheeler and Mark Ellingham, founders of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides respectively, have developed a climate change conscience.

All new editions of both guides will contain a "climate change" section that will advise travellers on what they can do to off set the emissions generated by their flights.

The sections will implore travellers to "fly less and stay longer" and seem like a fairly reasonable and not overly invasive way to get travellers to start thinking about the impact excessive flying has on the environment.

The issue of climate change, while being resolutely ignored or mildy pandered to by our government (and many others) is slowly becoming more visible throughout society.

Not to be left behind, British Airways, has also announced a plan to allow passengers to offset their carbon emissions on any given flight by making a donation to Climate Care, a British organisation that implements climate friendly projects all over the world.

Climate Friendly, an Australian organisation working toward a more, well, climate friendly society has loads of simple tips and tricks, including carbon offsetting, to help people reduce their everyday impact on the environment.

UNEP, along with Greenpeace, WWF and the Netherlands Ministry of Spatial Planning, Housing and the Environment, launched the international climate symbol (above) late last year, in order to give "a common focus to communication about causes and solutions of climate change." You can download the symbol here.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Back on the (high) horse

I know I've been quiet for a while. The whole new full-time job thing
has been taking some getting used to, but when I saw this I had to get
on my high horse.

What a great idea! Let's take a (mostly) decentralised, freely
accessible (for a price), open sourced information network and create
differential levels of speed and access depending on socio-economic
status and willingness to pay.

That's bound to close the digital divide. Good thinking big business.
Good thinking.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Howard celebrates a decade as PM

10 years

Tens years of cuts to education and health. Tens of years of lying and manipulation. Ten years of increased polarisation. Ten years of demonising asylum seekers, single mothers, and welfare recipients. Tens of attacking worker's rights. Ten years of sucking up to the US. Tens years of rolling back human rights.

As someone pointed out recently, this means that people of my generation have never voted in a federal election in which Howard didn't win. In fact, for ten years I have actually voted in every election in which he did win.

Why? Why? Why?

The worst part is that I am so unimpressed with the ALP at the moment that my only emotion should they win the next election would be relief that it was not the Coalition. Hence why I have gone and joined the Greens. I realise that they are in no position (numbers-wise etc. to actually run the country), but at least I actually agree with their policies.

Today is not my favourite day of the year.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

One sided?

According the Guardian there is a growing campaign in Hollywood to disqualify the film, Paradise Now, from the Academy Awards because it gives a sympathetic portrayal of a suicide bomber and 'takes as given' the fact that Israel is the evil aggressor.

Now, today it has been announced that the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, is being postponed in New York, out of concern that by presenting this work of art in the 'current political climate', the producers "would be seen as [...] taking a stand in a political conflict, that [they] didn't want to take."

Alan Rickman, the British director, denounced this decision yesterday as "censorship born out of fear." Despite the fact that it is not being censored by the government, I would have to agree. It seems that there is an increasing trend towards not only shouting one perspective from the treetops, with enormous mega-phones, but also actively silencing those people who are seeking to showcase other points of view.

Both of these works of art are merely trying to humanise the Palestinian people and to enable others to better understand their perspective. Neither of them demands that people therefore demonise Israel or even takes sides in the dispute, and yet they are still considered to be threatening by a fairly powerful lobby group in the US.

This is a quote from the play, exerted from one of Rachel Corrie's emails:
I look forward to seeing more and more people willing to resist the direction the world is moving in, a direction where our personal experiences are irrelevant, that we are defective, that our communities are not important, that we are powerless, that our future is determined, and that the highest level of humanity is expressed through what we choose to buy at the mall.
It seems to me that, at the moment, the personal experiences of some people, along with their communities, are considered to be more than just irrelevant. They are being silenced for being far too threatening.

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