Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The big (and I do mean BIG) project

Righto, folks, it's time to explain why I've been so slack on the posting front of late. I've been leading a double life. That's right. While you've been here, patiently waiting for me to come home by dinner time, I've been off cavorting with another blog.
About having babies. 
Which we'll be doing in June.
If you want to check out how we got ourselves into this situation, head over to The Pretzel Project.
To avoid all mention of babies, waistlines, IVF, and the ridiculous nature of Nature, then maybe just stay here. I'll try to keep it clean for you all.
x T.
Is it just me, or does this person look dubious about proceedings?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Fires, floods and the end of the 'typical' Aussie summer

It seems every year or two, Australian weather stories dominate the news over here in Canada. Phrases like "once in 100 year event" have lost all meaning as massive fires quickly follow other infernos, and now another flood is swamping Queensland. 
The people at home are showing a startling resilience in the face of all this, creating "mud armies" to help each other face the onslaught. Creeks have become rivers, towns that have just recovered from the 2011 floods are setting new flood records - again - and in the north, Bundaberg is forcing people to evacuate from waters strong enough to uproot trees. 
It's crazy, especially coming on the back of ferocious bushfires that affected most of the nation just weeks ago. It's enough to make one feel guilty for planting oneself in oh-so-protected southern Ontario, where the only dangers seem to be black ice and the occasional tornado. 
Overall the rivers and inundated coastlines won't grossly impact the lives of all that many people. But it's got to be a strange and startling time. (Not to mention wet. So bloody wet!) 
But the most sobering aspect is the new normalcy that is developing. Massive storms. Near-monsoonal rains. Fires and soaring temps. The occasional is now the common, while the rare becomes an all-too-familiar face. 
What lies ahead? That's what really must have people scared right now. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Inventing new levels of crazy Down Under

When I visited my delightful homeland in 2007, the powers-that-be in south-east Queensland were busy inventing new levels of water restrictions. The region of 2+ million people only had a couple of months of fresh wet stuff left, so the four-level water restrictions suddenly received a level 5. No baths. No outdoor water use, especially car washing. 2-minute showers. It was a kid's dreamland. As the drought wore on, there were murmurings of creating a level 6, but torrential rain came and flooded everything. (Handy!)

Then they updated the fire danger billboards that dot the countryside. Gone is the level 'none'. Instead, they start at 'moderate' and work their way up.  
Now, the entire country is inventing new levels of heat alert. Forget the traditional get-the-F-out blood red of the old-school heat maps. Now they've added vibrant purple and neon pink to the mix. Which kind of does say 'get-the-F-out', but with extra pizzazz. 

Image: Australian Bureau of Meteorology
In case you were wondering, no, this isn't standard practice. When I was a kid, 37°C was an outlandish and rare high. Now my friends are sweltering through 40+° almost every summer, and it's triggering firestorms with startling regularity. (Although, to be fair, firestorms ain't nothing new Down Under.)

The bitter, sweltering irony is that the two nations that have apparently given most credence to climate-change-deniers are the U.S.A. and, you guessed it, Australia. Despite the fact that we're inventing new extremes on the fly for decades-old weather alerts, some people are still having a hard time coming round to the idea that all of that mining and deforestation and air-con and reliance on automobiles and other stupid, wasteful stuff is negatively impacting humans' ability to simply survive on that big, dry island. Reckon these new extremes might just help poke a hole in that delusion, though. Either that, or the hold-outs will just get more stubborn. 

So here's an idea: Don't just warn about weather extremes, Australia. Warn about stupidity extremes too! You can even use the same colour scheme to do it: Just gather up all the climate-change-deniers, mining advocates, car-loving air-con freaks and the rest, and clothe them all in vibrant purple and neon pink. If rational citizens can't beat tone environmental curse, at least they can get some help avoiding the other.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Help! Our handyman has gone postal

We are facing a strange challenge at Casa Journaliste. Our handyman has gone nuts.

While we're both fairly handy people, our eagerness to take on big projects is hampered by the obvious softness of our keypad-trained hands. So we have The Guy who comes in to do the big lifting, leaving us the wussy jobs like sanding and painting. But lately, we've been having a few issues with The Guy. Relatively minor things, so we were willing to look beyond them.

This morning, though, a pool of brownish water was plopping onto the kitchen floor. Looking up, drops were forming in the door frame. The kitchen wall was clear, so I walked into the dining room, and found a wall clogged with water bubbles. Downstairs was even worse. Turns out that when The Guy was putting up crown molding, he nailed right into the plumbing we had done two years ago. Sigh.

Quick call to The Guy, and he's over here ripping out the crown molding, cutting open the wall, and then dashing out to fetch a stopgap fix. Quick call to our plumber, and he's warning us to not settle with a stopgap, and will be over later today to repair it properly.

We're staying pretty quiet while all this is going on, but our displeasure was quite evident. The Guy then drops a rant about doing work for our extended family, and how one member has been badmouthing him and he's never going to work for this family again. Hmmm. We back away slowly making placating sounds.

When The Guy tells us he'll come back to finish the plaster Friday, and will sand Saturday, I tell him it's a no-go. We're having a pre-Christmas party that day. Fair enough, yeah? He looks at me in incomprehension, then starts staring off into the distance, his head nodding as he tries to figure all this out. Husband asks if the job could perhaps be started today. The Guy says the ceiling plaster is still wet. The Husband says "Oh, okay, I didn't know how long it took to dry." And The Guy storms out! Just like that. SOOOO weird. 

The Guy is in the middle of some fairly hefty issues - marriage breakdown, big fight that ended with police charges, mandatory anger management course, etc - so we're more concerned for him than for the house (although the house damage is a major pain in the arse). But seriously, dude. Calm the f. down and just do your job properly. We're not asking for brain surgery here. Just smooth walls, and maybe a paintable ceiling before Christmas.

Are we asking too much? Are all handymen vaguely off-kilter like this, or are we just special?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The bloggers lament

It is a truth both real and blue
that I have had so much to do
this little blog has sat neglected
as I - busy, busy - went and defected
to spend my days a'chasing moolah
instead of noting down the hooplah.

But while bereft, 'tis not forgotten!

I know my URL. I remember my log-on.
Rusty though the site may be
it has not (yet) forsaken me.

What has kept me from these pages?
Blogging, news and corporate wages.
That's not all though. Nowhere near.
I still find time to volunteer:
I'm helping bring arts to the peeps,
and writing reports 'bout Open Streets.

And on top of that, I've stopped drinking.

(I know! Best let the shock sink in.)
No beer, no wine, no whiskey or cider.
Lord help me - I don't miss it either.

My to-do list remains pages deep

so I won't make promises I can't keep.
I may get waylaid. Things might go quiet.
I could go nuts on this booze-free diet.
But, dear blog, know one more fact:
Just like Arnie, I'll be back.



Thursday, 11 October 2012

Julia Gillard is right: Australia is a sexist land

What do you call an Australian man who respects women? A Canadian.
For hundreds, if not thousands, of expat Aussie women living it up overseas, the leading reason to stay away is simple. Aussie men.
Not necessarily individual men, mind you. I have plenty of wonderful, understanding, giving male friends of Australian extraction, but there is an inherent blokeyness to Australian culture that is bringing the country down.
Until both women and men rail against it – as Prime MinisterJulia Gillard so beautifully did this week – it will persist, mutate and grow like a fungus under the fingernails of Australian society: not entirely disabling, but certainly not attractive.
It’s hard to see when you’re close to it. As a woman working in Queensland newsrooms, covering police cases, court trials, State politics and more, I couldn’t tell why I was always ill at ease.
It didn’t stop me from succeeding, but it did stop me from wanting to play ball (particularly the 4pm male-dominated cricket matches across my desk as I worked to hit deadline, producing more copy than the better-paid men sporting it up around me). The few women in leadership roles were blokey too. It seemed they had to be.
This disquiet also stretched into my personal life. I dated the typical Aussie menu of surfers, doctors, musicians and whatnot, and when it came to the crunch, it usually became clear that these fun and caring men had no idea how to support a partner in ways other than financial.
So I ditched it all and booked a flight to Canada intending to stay for a year. Within weeks of starting work at a national newspaper, though, I knew my return flight would go unused.
Men are fun and caring here, too, but they have a distinct differentiator: They respect women. Not because they are told to, not because of a strident women’s rights lobby, but because respect of other people is the default position. 
Things aren’t perfect in Canada, for sure. Gender divides still remain and equality is a goal, not a reality. (And Canadians could learn a thing or two from us Aussies about open friendliness and deadpan sarcasm, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.)
But with policies like shared parental leave, gay marriage and more, all people are treated equally whether they are male, female, gay, straight, immigrants or no.
And just as importantly, the speech Ms. Gillard made this week would never have come about in Canada: Any politician making the kind of comments quoted as coming from Mr. Abbott would have been turfed out of politics straight away.
Whenever I bump into a fellow female expat, we chat about careers, partners, life opportunity, and laugh about the madness of choosing a Canuck winter over Aussie beaches.
Then there is a pause, and a little conspiratorially, one of us will then say something along the lines of: “And then there’s the men.”
The young Aussie making lattes at the café down the street from me is qualified in marketing, but said she’d rather be in Canada making coffee than “fetching water” for the men in the industry back home. She hopes to break into the Canadian marketing ranks soon.
My super-successful friend in television keeps being lured back to Canada with promotions because they love her work so much. Here, she’s in charge of a major national television program. When she briefly moved back to Australia (between promotions), she was picking up day-work as a TV reporter.
The tirade, which made headlines here in Canada and has won Ms. Gillard countless fans among those who’d likely never heard of her before, was the telling of a bitter truth.
Australia is a boys’ club, and until both women and men start demanding equal respect, change will not come.
The fact that the Australian media is treating this speech as theatre instead of asking “Does she have a point?” is perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of this whole episode.
Contrary to what the Australian media is reporting, this speech doesn’t send a bad message around the world. It serves as a clarion for the people of Australia to stop putting up with sexism and misogyny in all its forms.
It’s time for the women and men of Australia to step up, and stop accepting the treatment that has for so long been dished out. Until they do, nothing will change.
And after that, the country can tackle the other bastion of Australian misogyny – in which Ms. Gillard is as bad as the rest – and legalize gay marriage.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Which is worse?

The fact that I only just realised the undies I've owned for eight years have an emblem woven into the fabric, or the fact that I've owned the same pair of undies for eight years?

(Surely I'm not the only one with such longevity in their underthings?)