Thursday, March 31, 2011

What? Again?

I don't know anyone who's been called up for the jury pool and I thought I'd done my bit way back in... 2006? So, when I saw a letter from the Sheriff's Office, I had to think back to whether I'd done something nefarious (love that word: ne-fare-ious).

Nope. Damn it, nothing criminal at all to warrant a summons, but an alert that I'd been added to the jury pool - for a year. Again. Am I lucky or wot?

The first time was an attempted murder case - and I was all set to do my civic duty (and pay attention to the finer details of how a legal case is presented, you know, for research purposes) - but we were discharged after three days due to a witness opening his big trap about a previous incident. Me, I'd already condemned the accused purely on the police evidence already presented. Oh... wait. I was supposed to withhold judgement until the defence had finished? Well, the accused was convicted a year later, so the defence must have been weak.

Anyway. I'm interested in how the process works, as well as studying all involved - including fellow jurors who, at the time, seemed quite... listless and uninterested in the proceedings, unwilling to create much of a discussion in the jurors' room. But I chatted away, explaining my thoughts on the case and lo, interest increased.

I wondered, though, whether they were trying to think of ways to be excused - isn't that what most people do? Sure, it's an interruption to your own life, but it's not just about doing your duty as a citizen, it's a fascinating insight into the legal system a lot of the population don't see, or try to avoid because it's inconvenient.

I'm rather excited about being a juror again and I solemnly vow to study the evidence before me, without fear or favour, and reach a verdict I believe is true.

And then file the experience away for future use...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three lights out

Over the past week, we've lost three leading lights:

Film legend, Elizabeth Taylor. Liz won two Oscars and was named as the American Film Institute's number seven on the list of Female Film Legends. Her career spanned more than fifty years and she starred in films that were truly epic: Giant (1956), Cleopatra (1960), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), and so many more. As an actress, she brought glamour to screen, as a private person, she worked diligently on social issues, like AIDS/HIV and transcended the scandals that surrounded her. She leaves behind a portfolio of impressive, timeless work.

Diana Wynne-Jones, author of Howl's Moving Castle which was made into a gorgeously rendered animated film by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Her fantasy works have influenced many of today's writers, including the brilliant Neil Gaiman. She will be missed.

Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic congresswoman and the first woman vice-presidential candidate. She was a staunch supporter of women's rights and broke through many gender-based barriers and stands as an icon for those rights.

These three women all blazed their way through life and work with determination and enthusiasm for their chosen trades, regardless of hardships. We can all learn something from their lives and careers, and, if nothing else, never forget what they achieved, nor the influence they've had on generations of people.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out with old, in with the new

Monday morning and there's finally the chill of Winter in the air. The humidity of Summer has been swept away with the rain and I'm feeling like I'm getting on top of things. Who knew a two-storey house could hold so much crap? (Family, don't answer that!)

And while I'm gleeful at the slow slide towards cold nights and fresh days, I seem to have misplaced my Winter woollies; I put them away before the shifting of stuff and can't quite recall where I put them...

Seems like a good opportunity to buy new.

Speaking of new, we have a new State Government. Australians are notorious for voting out governments they feel have been in for too long - I don't think it has anything to do with political leanings, just that it's time to give the other side a go. Sixteen years is a long time to have one party ruling.

The tragedy is that former Premier Kristina Keneally was sacrificed by the Labor powerbrokers - the third time a woman has been handed the poisoned chalice of power. Carmen Lawrence of Western Australia and Joan Kirner of Victoria were both given the leadership when there was no hope of their party winning another term. During Keneally's fifteen-month tenure, at least twenty state members decided to retire or not contest this election; a clear signal they thought the seats unwinnable - or rats leaving a sinking ship (the cowards).

NSW Labor politics has become known for using the halls of power for their own purposes rather than for the people and has tainted even the Federal Government. The backlash against the Left became apparent very early on but not even the pundits could have predicted just what a landslide win the Coalition would achieve.

Will it make a difference? I hope so. I'm tired of Sydney-centric politics, of the country being abandoned and infrastructure left to run down. Hopefully, the new conservative government will be different and be proactive in solving the mess that is New South Wales. If not, then we'll have to wait for the Left to get it's house in order and have another change of government.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour

Tonight, at 8.30 pm, we're turning off our lights in support of Earth Hour.

It all began in 2007, in Sydney, with more than two million people switching off lights and lighting up candles. Businesses also got involved. Since then, Earth Hour has gone from a local event to a global one with 128 countries joining in during 2010.

Started by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour seeks to bring attention to climate change and our role in it, but their over-arching mission is to 'build a future where people live in harmony with nature'. (A noble, but ultimately impossible goal, unless repressive population control is introduced on a global scale.)

When we turn off the lights tonight, we won't be thinking about climate change, but an hour's worth of lighting we won't be paying for. (Reading by candlelight is hell on the eyes.)

I think Earth Hour still has a new and shiny sheen to it. An hour by candlelight instead of electricity also has a romanticism. Sixty minutes is long enough for people to know they've 'done their bit', but not so long as to be irritating. And while the website urges people to keep the lights off for longer, their call comes across as vaguely Luddite-ish.

But my question is this: candles emit smoke from the burning wax, if everyone in the world returned to the days of candles, what effect is this having on the environment?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I'm sitting here with Abraham Lincoln's quote running through my head: "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

There are so many things I could comment on, given the current geo-political maelstrom that's going on around the world, or Mother Nature being pissed as, but a lot of blogs that I read aren't stepping into that minefield and nor will I.

Given that, there's not a lot going on. I continue to get the house in order - once the strained muscles ease - and continue research into the historical book I'm working on for the local museum. Real life has put fiction on the back-burner, much to my annoyance - oh, that and the printer running out of ink; again.

I'm slowly adjusting to the new rhythm of the house following my mother's illness. New schedules, medical appointments, travel, etc. have, temporarily, put the kybosh on things I used to do. Of course, she says with a smug aside, the new 42 inch television isn't helping. Who doesn't want to see Matt Damon, or Hugh Jackman on a bigger screen, or enjoy the fabulousness of LOTR EE up close and personal?

Yes, I suppose it is work avoidance and I should be focused on work, but I think I'm over the squee-ing and the "ah, crap, look how much stuff I still have to do". Stuff gets done in it's own time. And now, it's time to get on with it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not toasting St. P.

St Patrick's Day... Woo hoo... not.

I don't think a Christian fundamentalist's deliberate destruction of a sovereign nation's religion should be celebrated, especially the religion kept the peace for thousands of years.

Yet, in today's climate, fundamentalists - from a number of religions - still seek to suppress and crush anyone not adhering to their own brand of 'religion'. In a psychological sense these fundamentalists would be described as cultish, not religious, for their constant refining of their interpretations of what is written in sacred texts. But anyone who suggests such a thing is threatened with death for heresy, for daring to question a leaders devout words.

Yeah... no.

A deserving religion demands it be questioned and supply truthful answers; a worthy religion is felt in the heart and resonates. A true religion isn't about whether its' god is the only true god, but about faith to oneself, god and the universe that surrounds us. And a good religion doesn't inflict itself on others, nor does it forceably convert, destroy other religions or seek to subjugate people.

But then, what are the chances the boys from South Park are right and the answer is... the Mormons...?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tribalism wins

Well, the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket: civil war, regimes falling in the Middle East; earthquakes around the Pacific Rim; cyclones and massive flooding here...

I think Mother Nature is the more pissed at the world.

The troubles with the Middle East have been ongoing for centuries, all down to tribalism, religious animosity and the elevated value of oil within their borders.

Mankind is instinctively territorial; he wants what's his and will defend it any way he can and with those of a like mind. But if someone next door has something he sees and better, he might just want it enough to take it through force. He has to be strong enough to keep it and so determines a strategy to demonise whom he decides is an 'enemy'. Propaganda. Not just the most effective tool of the twentieth century.

Go back in history to any war you care to name, and you'll find the troops on either side believe what their commanders tell them - until they have a meaningful discussion with the enemy. The Romans were determined to spread and oppressed the people of invaded lands until they saw the value of Pax Romana. The barons who defeated King John and forced him to sign the Magna Carta did so by telling the people what a bad dude he was, all the while maintaining their own feudalistic control over their own lands. Cromwell was determined to crush the Monarchy and explained why the royal house was so bad for the public. The list goes on.

Now add religion.

Christianised Romans hunted down and killed anyone worshipping pagan Gods - men, women and children. Catholics versus Protestants throughout the Middle Ages, and now, radicalised Moslems versus... well, everyone else who don't believe in their extremism; Sunnis versus Shi'ite within Islam. Worse in history, religious differences have been responsible for the most heinous torture of people. Extremists only grow more extreme, not less, and to maintain their power, they will manipulate any ancient text of their religion to 'prove' their veracity.

Why should one god be better than another? It goes back to tribalism: what you've got is better than the neighbours... or else. It goes back to power, the control of the population.

And then there's the oil. The value of an item used to be in what others would offer to pay; now, it is what those who control the item, demand. When it is within the borders of countries in turmoil, supply becomes a problem. The situation is made worse when acknowledged oil reserves are ignored.

It would be easy to see a global conspiracy, of oligarchs plotting to achieve their own nefarious agenda of world-wide oppression. Of fanatic religious groups determined to die for the creation of an extremist bloc, ready to take on everyone else in the pursuit global domination. But... tribalism, the protection of what's yours, be it family, property or the tribe and killing your enemies to keep it.

Even if defeated, a tribe will integrate the invaders culture, manipulate and develop the worthwhile aspects and call it their own; it's how Britain came into being following the Roman invasion.

At least with Mother Nature, she'll kill you by accident, not design.

And while this is a bit of a rant about what's happening in the real world, I've already read books with this type of world-building - complex, interesting, believable. I've read books with the weather as a character.

So while the current geo-political situation appears to spiralling out of control and Mother Nature is doing her best to vent her spleen, be aware of what's going on in the world, and plot accordingly.

I've donated to a number of charities to help those in need: in Queensland, in New Zealand and in Japan; if you find yourself with some spare change, donate to the charity of your choice and help those whom Mother Nature has kicked.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upside down home styling

The parent is home and adjusting to her new environment; and I'm adjusting to the new configuration of the house. I still have things to put away, but the parent's comfort comes first.

Living in a two storey house never seemed a problem before, but now... it is fraught with issues, a lot of them to do with safety. It's not going to change, no matter how much I'd like to move to a single storey house.

My mother grew up in a two storey house and for years, we lived in a single. On my Dad's retirement, she was determined to live as she'd grown up - with damned stairs. For me, it's reversed. I like everything on one level.

It's been a massive adjustment all around, but with the help of family, we've created a fabulous space for her - she calls it her 'flat' (she's English and proud of it).

Now comes the hard part: stopping her from falling back into bad habits...

Monday, March 07, 2011


Well, it's been a while since I posted, but my attention has been elsewhere.

The parent comes out of hospital tomorrow and we have been busting our butts to make the house more 'walker' friendly by shifting furniture and removing obstacles. We've created a nice haven on the ground floor where she'll be more comfortable.

There are still some issues to resolve, but nothing major; all it takes is compromise and a little extra effort.

Hopefully, by next week, I'll be able to get back to a near-normal schedule. I have work waiting for me that really needs to be caught up on.