Monday, May 24, 2010

An absolutely ordinary rainbow

It wasn't the first poem I read, and loved, and felt. But I still recall with perfect clarity the tingle of wonder invoked when I, at the age of fourteen or so, read Les Murray's An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow.

There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

Two plain sentences. Using simple words that a child could read and understand, Les Murray opened a door in the world. This one line, at the end of the first stanza of the poem, is the heart and soul of it. It encompasses all the meaning that is supported and explained in the rest of the 45-odd lines.

It's a poem about Sydney, about being Australian and being human. It describes a singular man, and every person. It's about living and loving, lachrymating and laughing all at the same time. Thirty years after I first read it, that line still gives me goosebumps.

I write this now, because I heard Les reading some of his new poems on the weekend, at the Sydney Writers' Festival. He's still got it:

They explode the mansions of Malibu
because to be eucalypts
they have to shower sometimes in hell.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The importance of good spelling

I'm still blogging at Kingdom of the Blind with my friend Adam, but I couldn't resist sharing this photo with you.

We were excited when we heard that Crust Pizza were moving in to the empty shop next door. Then we saw what the builders had spray-painted on the window:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Temporarily blogging elsewhere...

For the next two months I am embarking on an amazing artist-in-residence project for an organisation called Culture at Work. I will be blogging daily at the following blog: Kingdom of the Blind. Please feel free to drop by and comment.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Part 10 of 10: the Nelly Zhang bag is complete!

The Nelly Zhang flea market shopping bag is complete. I have to confess that it looks completely different from the original I imagined when I read Michelle de Kretser's description in The Lost Dog. Some of the changes were made because, when I bought the materials and started working with them, they seemed to lend themselves to particular shapes and forms.

The handle changed at the last minute, for practical reasons, but I am extremely pleased with this gorgeous bone buckle I found at the marvellous King Street emporium All Buttons Great and Small. I think the little eyelets I stitched are neat, too.

Now I'm off to the flea market (not at Camberwell, unfortunately. Perhaps Glebe markets this Sunday?)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nearly the Nelly bag, part 9

Here is the Nelly Zhang bag, stitched together with the lining ready to be attached.

And here is the almost-finished bag, lined and ready. The only thing remaining is to find a buckle for the strap, to make it adjustable. That wasn't in my original plan, but I think it needs the option of being worn over the shoulder, as well as tucked into the elbow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wikipedia, busted

One of our family's favourite TV shows at the moment is How to Look Good Naked. Ms ND and I like Gok's no-nonsense fashion and beauty advice, and who can say why His Majesty and the Dude want to look at women in their underwear...

So, having been influenced by the Gokster, when I decided to purchase a new bra yesterday I thought I would check that I am buying the correct size by measuring my bust and starting from scratch. One reason for this was that, although I have quite happily and comfortably worn size 16C bras for years, when I needed a halterneck bra for the Fire Brigade ball last year I allowed myself to be talked into a 14D. And, although I love what the bra does to my bangers (to use a Gokism), by the end of the day my rib cage feels constricted and slightly bruised. I didn't want to make that mistake again.

So, I dutifully measured my band size (underneath the breasts) and my bust size (around the breasts) and entered the measurements into an online bra size calculator. Imagine my shock when it told me that I should be wearing a size 22AA!

I had always thought that the cup size was roughly the difference between the two measurements in inches, with one inch for A, two for B, three for C and so on. (As it turns out, this is, loosely, correct.) With four inches difference between the two measurements, I thought that would indicate a C or D cup, not a double A! As for the size 22 part...

So I went to Wikipedia to check how bra sizes are determined. The table they use is as follows:

Cup size
(UK and
Cup size
(rest of Europe,
Canada and US)
Difference between bust size
and band size (inches)
Difference (cm)
AA AA Less than one inch 10–12 cm
A A 1 inch 12–14 cm
B B 2 inches 14–16 cm
C C 3 inches 16–18 cm
D D 4 inches 18–20 cm
DD DD or E 5 inches 20–22 cm
E DDD or F 6 inches 22–24 cm
F G 7 inches 24–26 cm
FF H 8 inches 26–28 cm
G I 9 inches 28–30 cm
GG J 10 inches 30–32 cm
H K 11 inches 32–34 cm
HH L 12 inches 34–36 cm
J M 13 inches 36–38 cm
JJ N 14 inches 38–40 cm
K NN 15 inches 40–50 cm

It's easy to see where the problem lies. The metric conversions are way off, and apparently every online bra-size calculator has used the Wikipedia data to set up their algorithm. (I have put in a request for it to be corrected.)

Just for fun, when I went into the bra store I picked up a 22B bra (the closest I could get: I don't think they even make bras in 22AA -- I have cellulite lumps bigger than those breasts would be). I tried it on, but my breasts just dropped out through the gap between the bra band and my body.

Guess what size bra I bought? 16C. Plus ca change...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doctor who?

In today's SMH Heckler we have yet another medical professional (well, he claims to be a doctor, but doesn't give his area of specialisation) stating that hospital birth is safer than homebirth. He states this without equivocation, despite the fact that there are many studies that have shown that, in planned homebirths for healthy mothers and babies, homebirth is at least as safe as hospital birth. Not to mention that those who choose it almost always report that it's a much more pleasant experience than hospital birth.

Contrary to what Doctor Borton believes, just because I support homebirth as a choice doesn't mean that I believe the "Natural is Good" canard.* I do believe, however, in leaving well alone. Medicalising a normal (not "natural") bodily function such as birth is like using plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons: it's a choice, it's not compulsory (but when it's necessary, it's wonderful).

Years ago I saw a dermatologist about a rash that had been appearing off and on at the back of my knees. The doctor labelled it shaving rash, and when I tried to explain that it had first appeared in winter, when I hadn't shaved my legs for several months, she snapped, "I'm the doctor!" I sought a second opinion from a doctor without a god complex, who correctly diagnosed the rash, which had by then appeared on the inside of my forearms as well.

It's that kind of "I'm the doctor, you have to do what I say" attitude, as displayed by Doctor Borton, that makes me want to avoid the whole breed as much as possible. I agree with him on one point: medical science has made birth safer. It's easy to identify most health problems and potential delivery problems during the pregnancy, meaning that the correct choices can be made for delivery and perinatal care. But medical science has not made birth completely safe--babies and mothers die in hospitals too--so why insist that healthy people go there for an uncomplicated delivery?

* I like Tim Minchin's line: Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? Medicine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nelly bag, part 8

It's been a while since I picked up the needle to work on my daisy shopping bag, inspired by Nelly Zhang's in The Lost Dog.

Last night I worked the greenery at last, deciding on fishbone stitch, a version of fly stitch also known as closed fly stitch. Now the embroidery is completed and I'm ready to sew the bag together.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How do you say it?

My sister gave me a copy of a book called Origins of the Specious for my birthday last year. It's a book debunking etymological myths such as the one about "posh" standing for "port out, starboard home" and other common misconceptions, so it's right up my pedantic alley.

One section discusses the pronunciation of "schism". Apparently some Americans say "SIZ-em", which is an early modern English pronunciation, from before everyone in England started saying "SKIZ-em". This reminded my of another pronunciation question that I have never been able to settle to my satisfaction:

How do you say "schedule"?

My dad taught me to say "SKED-ule", like school, scheme, schism (!), schizophrenia, schooner, scherzo, etcetera. But one of my favourite English TV presenters, Kevin McCloud, is always worrying about whether Grand Designs homebuilders will meet their "SHED-ule"s, and the dictionary accepts both pronunciations.

I looked at a list of sch- words to see if there was a pattern, and it seems to me that most of the words with Greek and Latin origins are pronounced "SK", and the sch- is generally followed by a vowel. Whereas words of Germanic origin (schmaltz, schnapps, schadenfreude, schist, etcetera) are pronounced "SH" and often have another consonant following the sch-.

So how do YOU say schedule?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Selfish b****d

The following letter appeared in today's newspaper:

Climate? Who cares

I just realised that the important issue isn't whether or not global warming is happening, it is whether or not I care. I don't have any children and once I'm dead I doubt I will notice any change in the Earth's climate. I want the highest quality I can have while I'm here and I'm not willing to sacrifice it to be fashionable.

Christopher Pocock Mascot

He's quite happy to f**k up the planet for everyone else's children, but when he's ill or in a nursing home, I hope it's my children who say to him, "sorry that I don't want to look after you, but don't worry, I doubt you will notice once you're dead".

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The high price of domestic violence

I cheered when I read this article about a woman who sued her violent husband for damages. It's not that I think $200,000 (less court costs) makes up for the abuse she suffered, it's the principle of the thing. I hope that more women do it.

I know abused women who have found the Family Court ineffective, because it is in the difficult position of taking one person's word against another's and (especially if there are children in the case) having very little in the way of teeth to enforce breaches of its orders. But a civil case, where you could lose lots of money, your livelihood, and face bankruptcy or even gaol for non-compliance, is a whole different kettle of fish.

There are probably many social and economic reasons why this precedent won't lead to a raft of similar cases, but I wish it would. I think a hit to the hip-pocket nerve would turn out to be quite effective in curbing domestic violence. If you knew that hitting your wife could very well cost you a year's wages, or your beloved V8 street machine, wouldn't you think twice before you threw a punch?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

On the origin of meaning

Does evolution by natural selection rob life of a sense of purpose, as many have feared? I suggest that, on the contrary, Darwin has made it possible to understand how purpose, like life, builds from small beginnings, from the ground up.
Brian Boyd, in the Afterword to On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Monday, January 04, 2010

Internet insecurity

Today I received an email that appeared to be from, with the subject line Cyber-safety and internet service provider filtering [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]. I was immediately suspicious that this was a spam email, because:

1. The main message content was in an attachment to the email (which I did not open).
2. The only email address given was a "no-reply" address.
3. The email was not addressed to me personally, nor was there any indication why I had received it. For example, I have recently signed some petitions to the government about internet filtering, but this email did not say, "You are receiving this email because you signed a petition about internet filtering" or some other such explanation.

This does not improve my trust in the government's plans for internet filtering, not one little bit. Either they have somehow had their email hijacked by a spammer, or they are spamming me! You would think that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy would know how to send an email securely....