Thursday, October 31, 2013

Almost the end of another week

It's been a strange kind of day.  Not the day I was planning to have.  But okay in the end.  Here's a grab-bag of stuff from today:

* I discovered I had been defrosting my freezer for the last day or so without knowing it.  Sigh.  The plug had been knocked out some time unknown.  Thankfully, I didn't lose too much as it is a small upright freezer and it was shopping day today anyway.  But it did mean a block of cleaning up I hadn't planned on.  My freezer is now frost-free, very clean and beautifully empty organized.

* The Jehovah's Witnesses were door knocking our area today.  On Halloween.  Maybe they were hoping for candy?

* My friend Erin works in Kyrgyzstan.  Her blog post today wrecked me. So much suffering in the world.

* Before The Freezer Incident, I was planning to write a review of The Ministry of a Messy House.  It's a job for another day now.  But I will say that after finishing it on Saturday, I went and ordered three more copies to share and give to friends.  It's that good.

* Only two kids have rung the doorbell so far.  I still have a lot of lolly bags left and the light is fading.

*  We are doing three lots of "having people over" on the weekend.  Hoping we won't be too exhausted to face the working week.

* On Wednesday I have my first Legal Studies class.  Incidentally, I have only one girl in my class.  I need to get in touch with my blokey side somehow.  And one student has a parent who is in the police force.  I'd better know my stuff.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Messy house

Very excited that the postman delivered my hot-off-the-press copy of the Ministry of a Messy House today.  Looking forward to reading it and being encouraged that serving others is not an act perfection but ministry of grace.  I got my copy from the bookdepository.

The Ministry of a Messy House: Grace in Place of Guilt

Inside Amazon

Amazon uses 'chaotic storage' to stock, locate and ship their quizillions of products.  Check it out here.  It's possible that my children are already on to this superior business model.  I see evidence of them using intuitively in their bedroom randomness organization.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's all in the eyes

How easily can you read people's expressions?  Take the New York Times quiz.  I got 34 out of 36 so you better not come looking reflective around me and thinking you can hide your true self.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Random thoughts

Being a series of this week's not-profound thoughts (well, some of them).

1. I have come to realise that I have been in deep denial about the state of my sneakers.  The holes in the fabric on the top are becoming big enough to see the colour of my socks.  I must face reality.  But I can't bear to start again.  These sneakers are comfortable.

2. I have no heels to wear to the Valedictory Dinner next week.  The serious troubles of teaching Year 12.  I must go forth soon and find heels to match my dress.  They will not be comfortable.

3. I have found out I will be a Legal Eagle next year.  That is, I am teaching Year 11 Legal Studies.  I shall have to devote time in the summer holidays to improving my knowledge in this subject so that I might be suitably useful to my students.  I have begun drafting a list of must dos.
   1. Re-watch as many episodes of Rumpole as I can.  Undoubtedly, he is the legal mind to which to aspire.  I have fond memories watching Rumpole on the ABC with my dad when I was in high school (after which we would sometimes flick over to the black and white samuri film on SBS and make up our own subtitles).
   2. The Castle.  So that I can say, "It's the vibe of the thing" with proper emphasis if I get a tricky question in class.

Any other suggestions for my list?
4. We think we need to upgrade from a keyboard to a piano.  Do we buy a digital piano or invest in an acoustic?  What if our darling child suddenly quits piano in two years time?  Is a cheaper second-hand acoustic worth it or would it be better to buy a digital for that same price?  What do you reckon?
5.  Funny cat video.  Language warning however.  The internet and cats were made for each other.
6. Also made for each other were the internet and those of us who are indecisive.  So do you think I should get a slow-cooker?  It might help things run more smoothly with my increased teaching load next year.  Or would I use it a couple of times and then keep it at the back of my pots cupboard as a memorial to my lost enthusiasm?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gratitude is not contingent

'Well, it's not been a great day, but at least I'm not starving and living in a cardboard shack.'

That's not gratitude.  It might be something you are glad about, and it might seem like a positive thought, but it's not gratitude.  Gratitude is not based on looking outward to other circumstances, but rather gives thanks for what is already right in front of you.

When I am thankful that 'at least I'm not starving' or 'at least I'm both my legs are working' or 'at least I don't have cancer' what I am unintentionally saying is that I am happy because I have not suffered those things.  Gratitude is something different.  It's being happy for what you do have, not being happy that you've avoided something you don't like.  Gratitude is not contingent upon things going my way.  It doesn't look sideways to see if others have it better or worse than me.  It simply looks at what God is already doing, right now, in whatever circumstance I am in.

There's a world of difference between my children saying, "I am thankful that you've cooked us this meal and I appreciate it," and my child saying, "Well, at least it's not fish, that would be even worse!"  Yet, we sometimes give thanks unwittingly in just such a manner.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's a trap - the fake house

In the UK, they've got a clever police scheme going where they set up fake houses to catch burglars.  See here.  My question is, how neat do they make these apartments?  Surely without residents, the uncanny tidiness would be a give-away.  Or do they decorate the house and then have someone do a last walk-through and muss it up just enough to look real?  That could possibly be the perfect job for my natural skill-set.  There's a bonus in the comments section where someone suggests that if they set the house up like a fully-fledged IKEA store, the burglar would be forced to wander around forever and never get out anyway....

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I was wrong about 'boat people'

A couple of years ago, if you asked me about 'boat people' I would have told you that I thought it was unfair for them to get here illegally and take the place of those people waiting so long in camps who don't have the means to get here first.  I'm not against refugees.  In fact, I want Australia to do more.  I thought 'boat people' were dodgy queue-jumpers who were possible security-risks.

Then I learnt a few things.

1. The 'boat people' are not illegal immigrants.  The UN Convention on refugees, which Australia has signed up to, allows anyone who needs refuge to cross a border to seek asylum.  Since the horrors of the second world war, we have agreed, at least on paper, that when people flee their homeland for reasons that would classify them as "refugees", they are free to come across our border by whatever means necessary to reach safety, even without paperwork of any kind.  They are legal asylum seekers provided they meet the UN criteria.

2.  There is no queue.  Our intake of refugees does not run on a 'queue' system.

3.  The UN definition of a refugee is not means tested.  Having the means to pay to get yourself out of a country does not mean you are any safer in that country than someone without funds. 

4. Offshore processing is ridiculously expensive.  Currently budget forecasts indicated that our current policy will cost $2.3 billion (yes, that's billion not million) over the next four years and that figure is rising fast.  The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees' regional spokesman, Richard Towle, pointed out that UNHCR's budget for this year is $3.7 billion and with that money they will care for 25 million globally.  In other words, after screening people for security reasons, it would be much cheaper (as well as much, much more humane) to bring refugees into the Australian community.  In May this year, Martin Bowles, the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, stated that processing asylum seekers in Australia costs 20% of the amount required to process someone offshore.

5. And finally I met a few refugees.  Nothing kills a stereotype like sharing a meal together.  Honestly, if I was in a situation where my whole family and their future was in danger, I would use every asset at my disposal to try to get them to safety.  Wouldn't you?

And so I came to the conclusion, that I was wrong about 'boat people'.  And in fact I've never met a 'boat person'.  I have only met people who came by boat.

Of course, I don't want to see people forced to make a perilous crossing in a leaky boat to get here.  I want to see an end to people drowning at sea.  I want to see an end to the boats because the boats are not safe.  But I think we have to find a better way to stop the boasts than by applying extraordinarily punitive measures to extremely vulnerable people.  And we're Australians.  We should be able to do better than this.

If you have time, watch this video 'Ishmael'.  It looks at the situation that a certain group of asylum seekers - those who arrived in Australia by boat after August 2012 but before 1 July 2013 - now find themselves in due to the politics surrounding the previous government and the inflammatory rhetoric leading up the election.  We've recently become friends with a family who fall into this special category and the stress of living with the restrictive conditions placed upon them is truly heartbreaking to watch.  Have mercy!

HT for the clip St. Eutychus

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Killing Hitler

Killing Hitler: The Third Reich and the Plots Against the Fuhrer

Killing Hitler is a look at some of the significant plots to assassinate Hitler.  Each plot, or group of plots, is dealt with in a chapter. While they overlap and move backward and forward in time, the chapters are essentially sequential so that as the book goes on you move chronologically towards Hitler's end. It's not an easy read: lots of background information and troop numbers surround the more compelling details about the individual plots.  But it is an interesting vantage point from which to look at the progress of the second world war. No, Bonhoeffer does not get a mention.  It's made me determined to get hold of Metaxas' book and read that before too long.

So it's a book that would appeal to those who like a fair bit of detail in their war history.  The most interesting part was actually my own reactions as I read the book.  Obviously, I knew in advance that none of the plots succeed.  And yet each time I felt my hope rising as they made their plans and I had to keep reminding myself that I already knew it would not work.

Another odd thing was that I was sitting there, reading a book, and willing someone dead.  That was very odd.  And that was part of the same dilemma that each individual assassin faced.  When, if ever, is it right to assassinate someone?  I admired some of the assassins more than others depending on their motives. You can't help but wonder how many lives could have been saved if one of those assassinations had succeeded.  And yet what are the criteria that must be met before you believe someone should be killed?

Finally, it helped me to understand a bit more about how much the people of Europe suffered during that war: death, brutality, starvation, the total destruction of normal life and the long-term implications of living after the war when almost all of the infrastructure needed had been destroyed.  There was horror - true horror - on a scale impossible to grasp from where I'm sitting distanced by both time and geography.  Many people were therefore forced to flee as refugees, across borders, without paperwork or visas, to save their lives.  Some of them would have had to pay very shady characters to do so.  The needs of these refugees for asylum informed the development of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The reality is we often only understand the horror of these situations, and therefore the very real dangers people are fleeing from, after a significant regime change and the passing of some time.  I wonder how history will reflect on the refugees around the world in 2013 and the reactions of the nations to whom they applied for shelter.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Postmodernism - why we can't say nothin' no more

Can we please start talking about truth as if it still exists?  Great clip below.  Sounds like some of my students.


It's not long until Halloween comes around again.  An uncelebrated holiday in Australia when I was a kid, this tradition is definitely making itself felt in our local shopping centre and each year we have a few kids coming to our door in scary costumes.  This year we'll have some serious bags of lollies and a few of The Good Book Company's Halloween tracts.  It's not too late to order tracts yourself - just make sure you are on the UK site not the Australian site as they are not available here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doggy do-do

Dog ownership tip #1 - get one of these.  Makes my life much more civilised and uses up my plastic grocery bags.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things I'll miss about teaching Year 12s

1. Trying to explain world history to people who think 1990 was a long time ago.
2. Being called 'Miss'.
3. Trying to keep them on track while enjoying their wonderfully divergent stories.
4. Watching their ever-changing hairstyles.
5. The excitement of seeing them understand something for themselves that you didn't actually teach them.
6. Hearing them singing old retro songs that they find hilarious (not so retro to me).
7. Forcing my brain to grapple with Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Weil, Descartes, Armstrong, Popper, Kuhn and Hume all in the space of 10 months.
8. Discussing what courses they might do next year and which uni would be best.
9. Watching them improve.
10. Being amazed that such competent, compelling individuals would still bother to ask my opinion on anything.

And (drumroll please....)

11. The student who came into my class and said, with fabulous randomness, "Hey, Miss, do you know the show 'Charles in Charge?" and then sang the theme song with me. Crazy.

Oh, I'm going miss those guys.

Books for boys

I've listed before some of the best read-aloud books we've read so far with our kids.  I thought I'd suggest two that have been winners for our boys in particular.  No doubt, they'd be enjoyed by a lot of girls too.  If you have a strong independent reader, they could read these on their own.  But where's the fun in that?  Read 'em aloud!  Then you can enjoy them too.
Fintan Fedora: The World's Worst Explorer

Fintan Fedora: The World's Worst Explorer - Clive Goddard

A really fun read.  Very humorous and the main character is fantastically lovable.  A highly accident-prone 14 year-old goes on a quest to the Amazon rainforest to find a mysterious and supremely valuable fruit.  Lots of slapstick humour that keeps boys hooked but with a strong plot and a better standard of writing than you find in some of the other "boys humour" books.

How to Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon - Cressida Cowell

The books in this series are very witty and the characters become larger than life and (in our house) family friends.  Cressida Cowell creates a Viking world with dragons, warring tribes and treacherous enemies.  The hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, is the chief's son and is burdened with trying to live up to his dad's expectations, avoid the local bullies and complete his training to become a fully-fledged member of the tribe.  Lots of lessons about standing up for your friends, sacrificing yourself for others and not judging others too quickly. Don't be put off by the fact that this series has been made into a film.  The books are completely different (and much better) even though some of the same characters are featured.  There is a bit of toilet humour in this lot but it's not overwhelming.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crab migration

Thanks, Gary, for the link to this interesting clip on the crab migration on Christmas Island.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

In work we trust

I lost my job about a month ago.

That's being rather melodramatic really.  What actually happened is that I found out the student subject selection numbers for next year were not sufficient for my subject to run again.  And seeing as I'm currently employed just to teach Year 12 Philosophy, I don't have a job if the subject doesn't run.  In fact, I only have about five classes left with the current students until they go on exam study leave.  Usually, that would mean I would begin an 'early start' program with next year's students but as there isn't going to be a class, I'll be floating relief for the rest of the year.

Believe me, I have moped a fair bit over this.  It came at the same time as I was finishing up marking and reports and while I was being audited in order to renew my teaching registration ("Surprise!  You are one of the lucky few who have been randomly selected to provide proof of your teaching and pd for the last five years!").  It was a heavy couple of weeks.

But I'm feeling bright and snappy again now.  I will have at least one day a fortnight's work next year and I'll pick up whatever relief teaching they offer me and that should keep me busy enough.

However, the whole thing stirred up a mountain of questions for me about family and work.  In the mix was the opportunity to apply for a job that would take me up to four days a week work.  Was it the right time to work so many days?  Should I wait and see what else was offered?  What if nothing else was offered?  How much work is too much?

And that stirred up a second round of perhaps more fundamental questions.  What if I don't work?  Or don't work at my chosen career?  How important to how I see myself is work? When I first left work to stay home, it was all exciting and a new adventure.  Years in, and although I am still very glad to be caring for my family, the gloss has well and truly worn off.  Paid employment then looms tantalizing on the horizon.  Not so much the money but the "value" that comes with it.  You are seen differently when you work.  And it's hard not to buy into that.

So if I don't work, what does that mean?  Is what I do outside of work valuable?  I have had to struggle with that all over again.

And in the middle of all of this, I watched this clip from the Harvard Business Review (because where else would you turn to find out how to measure your work?) with Clay Christensen.  He also has a longer TED talk on the same subject.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's school holidays

And like me you might be simultaneously basking in the wonder that is not having a tight schedule and drowning in the mayhem that is small beings suddenly home and demanding entertainment and a ridiculous amount of food or else.  Or maybe that's just my house.

Anyhow, tempers do invariably become frayed when living in more-than-usually-close quarters especially as 'experiments' and 'craft projects' and all manner of craziness involving liquids, carpets, pets, food, rocks or all of the above seem to be the order of the day.  Add in squealing and occasional sibling-baiting and it's a real party.

So today I re-read an old favourite article: Masking anger as justice.  I need reminding of this fairly often.  You might enjoy it too if you are the all-day boss of some little or not-so-little ones at present.