Friday, May 30, 2014

it’s not working

Tony Abbott keeps telling young people and other benefit recipients to get a job. If they have to, he says, they should move to where jobs are available.

Nowhere in the constitution does it say the government is responsible for creating jobs, but as parties and their campaigns are all about the economy, job creation, subsidising corporations and more, there is an implied contract for governments to act in a way that will create jobs.

Why creating jobs is a Federal responsibility:

Wikipedia describes the process by which the federal government, during WWII, took control of and centralised income tax collection [and, indirectly, the power to create jobs].

Prior to 1942, consistent with the concurrent power in s51(ii), the states collected income tax. The Commonwealth also levied tax. However, in 1942 the Commonwealth attempted to gain a monopoly on income taxes by passing the Income Tax Act 1942 and the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. The first act purported to impose Commonwealth income tax. The latter act said Commonwealth funding would be provided to the States only if they imposed no income tax. This latter act was premised on Section 96 of the Australian Constitution Act.

How taxes collected are shared amongst states is covered by Section 96 of the Australian Constitution :
… the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit…

Section 96 was originally designed [at federation] to explain how the Commonwealth should distribute surpluses from other money [NOT income tax] collected. Like many parts of the constitution, Section 96 became a loophole used to centralise power in a way that was never intended.
Designed to govern a world where camel, horse or ship were the main forms of transport, and communication was reliant on the postal and telegraph system, our constitution now gives the federal government enormous power over policy decisions, but still "says" states are responsible for primary and secondary education. Secondary education, of course, includes the TAFE system [which now offers some bachelor degrees.]

State governments are financially at the mercy of the federal government. I hold the federal government’s constant interference [thru section 96] in state affairs to blame for a great deal of this mess. While people - real humans - struggle, the federal and state governments both duck responsibility by blaming each other.

The federal government has the power and an obligation to help create jobs, but doesn't give a damn.

Why people are sometimes unemployed for extended periods:

Tony Abbott not only rabbits on about young people [and others] getting a job, but he insists if there are no jobs where people live, people should move.

- He ignores the fact that there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available - anywhere.

- He ignores the fact that de-regulation of the economy has increased the casualisation of labour, which does not provide any guarantee of a regular income on which one can base a household budget.

- He ignores the fact that full-time work has been replaced by part-time work – again, not necessarily a liveable amount. If someone hops from job to job trying to get better, more reliable work, it just makes them appear unstable or unreliable to potential employers.

What governments are really doing about creating jobs:

Unsurprisingly, most of the announcements governments make about how many jobs they have created are jobs relating to building and infrastructure. They are inherently temporary, and limited in the range of jobs and training opportunities they offer. Companies taking on these contracts are, in the main, simply moving current employees from a completed job to one that is about to commence. One might argue they do not actually create jobs.

Unsurprisingly, governments are as happy to move jobs offshore as private enterprise is, or to award contracts to overseas companies. They not only fail to create jobs, but actively reduce the number of Australian jobs through their policy decisions.

Job-seeking support is sub-contracted to organisations of the type that made Therese Rein a multi-millionaire – a brilliant example of the benefits of privatisation [not]. There is a $100 training cap in these organisations for short term unemployed – but how many food handling certificates does one person need? 

Why moving to find a job is a big ask:

Australia’s population density – even in densely populated areas – is so low we have dug ourselves into a black hole. This worsens every time decisions are made that ignore public transport requirements, making cars increasingly essential to people movement. Our culture and our governments increasingly limit the free movement of the business resource called “people”.

On $400 or $500 dollars a fortnight who can afford to fly interstate on the off chance they might succeed at a job interview? Who can afford thousands of dollars to get the qualifications required to change industries as technology or job requirements change? What should people live on while studying if they have a family and a mortgage to support?

In an economy almost totally reliant on people striving for home ownership it’s both absurd and obscene to suggest people should move in order to get a job.

A lot of people have mortgages and are rational enough to know the financial penalties of moving far exceed the financial rewards of working somewhere else [assuming jobs are available somewhere else].
Stamp duties payable on house purchases are enormously punitive.

For those who do not already have a mortgage, it is exceedingly difficult to find rental accommodation, which is exactly what youngsters must do if they leave home to follow work.  Rental accommodation is in short supply; [Negative gearing in the housing market / sales to overseas residents must go.] The costs of renting are prohibitive, and someone without a stable income and work history simply can’t compete with other applicants. Catch 22; if you already have a job it's easier to move, but if you don't have a job moving is almost impossible.

The days when it was easy to find a place to board, or to find short term accommodation in a hostel or boarding house are long gone. Over-regulation has destroyed many of these things we could once rely on if we needed to relocate. Caravan park cabins are incredibly expensive, even for long term tenants.

Interestingly, a best selling American "pursuit of happiness" book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, blurts on about going without now in order to have more later. Just one of the things the author Robert Kiyosaki did to get started on his way to riches was to live in his car for about a year. Try doing that in Australia without being punished.
[BTW Robert Kiyosaki filed for bankruptcy in 2012].

At this point it would be reasonable to ask if 457 workers are able to relocate to find work, why can't Australians?

In many cases, 457 workers [the ones who are not exploited]
- have family contacts and can thus find/ afford accommodation; or

- have reasonable accommodation arranged by desperate employers 

One dollar earned here is worth a lot more in a third world country than it is in Australia.
An Australian stuck with enormous mortgage or rent obligations,  has to support a family living here, paying Australian prices.


To paraphrase a cliché, one person’s problems might be cause for concern, but the plight of thousands becomes a mere statistic. Perhaps it should be mandatory for governments to refer to “people” as “human beings”.


457 visas

457 visas have become a rather big issue. In some cases it would be fair to say there are jobs Australians simply won’t [or would prefer not to] do. Our bad. Or, in many instances, they are jobs we simply can't do. 

A 457 worker often makes enormous emotional sacrifices in terms of leaving family to come here, and might also incur a huge debt getting started. Incurring this debt usually requires two conditions:
  • ·         the first is the certainty that the debt can be paid off by working here [not always the case],and
  • ·         the second is the availability of a loan [not always the case either in Australia or in another country].
On balance, are 457 workers doing Australians out of a job?

Anecdotes are not necessarily proof of anything but sometimes they are all I have to go on. 
A disproportionate number of people writing to The Hun complain 457 workers are replacing Australians who have incurred enormous debts to get a Nursing Degree.

This is actually true to some extent, which begs the question of why?

Qualifications and 457 workers

Australian Universities and TAFES are increasingly reliant on fees to survive. Some managers/ educators will give anyone a pass rather than lose the fees. Would we rather be treated  in a hospital by a non-resident who knows what they are doing or an Australian who is “qualified” but utterly clueless?
It's the employers, not the education system, who ultimately assess a student's knowledge and capabilities.

Not all employers are seeking to exploit cheap and compliant labour. Certainly, hospital managements have a duty of care to their patients.
It's not unknown for hospitals to short-list applicants and find that none of those they interview are up to scratch.

On the employment of locally qualified nurses in particular

Some time ago, TO was sent an end-of-second-year nursing student for a practical placement. The young lady was an Australian citizen, and devoutly Muslim.
Every assumption she had started with about nursing made the possibility of her becoming a nurse improbable.
Who, amongst her educators, should have recognised this, and how did she get so far into a degree before someone addressed the issue?
Either the quality of education [about sterile conditions etc] this lass had received thus far was lacking, or someone was very focused on fees and didn't give a damn about the student. [More anecdotes about this issue available on request.]

This lass assumed she could work on a female only ward. Wards in Australia are all mixed gender.
She assumed she could wear a hijab, complete with attractive tassels while nursing – after all, we have laws against discrimination. [TO adjusted her hours to accommodate prayer times, but had to insist the hijab and long sleeves disappear during work hours.]

TO was able to address the student’s problem by quietly discussing the expectations of  her parents and Imam. TO discussed precocious puberty and the fact that a children’s hospital would not necessarily be “safer” than a hospital which dealt with adults. She discussed the ways in which [good] nurses respect the rights of patients to maintain their dignity and modesty – and that this can be a two-way street.

Miraculously, TO was also able to place the student with a Muslim preceptor on a mixed ward, and the preceptor was able to discuss the student's religious concerns in an informed way.

Before she finished her placement, the young lady had actually relaxed her expectations enough to remove a catheter from an adult male.
Full marks to her, and her parents, for being adaptable. It was also a good thing she was actually intelligent enough to know and apply what she had been taught.

No, she wasn’t a 457 worker, but she might have been replaced by one had she not received help addressing her expectations.

Some suggestions for creating employment and reducing welfare payments:

1. give the states enough money /conditional grants to address the backlog of people waiting for "elective" surgery. Four years waiting for a hip replacement is four years on benefits.

2. demand the states / tertiary institutions lift their game

3. Look more closely at the flow-on effects of ignoring health care and poor education systems;

  • Those unemployed after incurring HELP debts are not putting money back into the system
  • Sick people do not pay taxes
  • Job support providers are wasting money, trying to funnel people into markets where no decent jobs exist - many people would improve their job prospects if bridging courses were available to upgrade their skills. Instead, many are enrolling in bachelor courses and incurring HELP debts they'll never be able to repay - because no support is offered for private training such as Microsoft upgrades, or using dedicated software packages commonly used by potential employers, [e.g. payroll, warehouse management]
  • Some courses are not keeping pace with change - IT people, for example, find their skills obsolete before they graduate
  • Temporary employer-subsidies create temporary jobs


An enormous number of parliamentarians have either lost touch with, or never been acquainted with, the reality of the human beings they claim to lead.

The demonisation of the unemployed is a cheap, vicious way to duck responsibility for creating jobs, and/or improving the education system.

P.S. : Tony Abbott is a winker.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

and now for toaday’s news

Let it be known that sometimes, just sometimes, fruitcake brings timely news on time. Yes, friends, here’s a news item dated 27th May 2014!
No less than seven cane toads managed to hitch a ride from Kununurra to Perth*. 

Photo: Perth Now News

Most of us know the cane toad as bufo marinus, but don’t say that if you Wants to be a Millionaire: the cane toad is now officially rhinella marina.
Briefly, these little – the largest recorded specimen weighed 2.65 kg (5.84 lb) and measured 38 cm (15 in) from snout to vent – buggers are taking over Australia. 

Australian distribution of the cane toad

We imported some in 1935 from Hawaii to fight a grub that was destroying our sugar grain crops. Naturally, they were useless because the beetle producing the grubs likes to sit high up on the cane where even cane toads could not reach them.

In 1988 Mark Lewis made a doco called Cane Toads: An Unnatural History which quickly developed a cult following. If you’ve nothing better to do with 50 minutes, you can watch it starting here.

I had missed the cult doco first time around but now realise the best thing about it, I’m embarrassed to admit, is the cast – oh, and there are a few amusing digs at Joh** as well. Then there’s the bit where… oh, you would probably have to see it yourself to really appreciate it.

The toad is native to areas shown in blue on the map above, while red marks show places they have been introduced; nowhere as “successfully” as Australia - if you were to ask a toad.
There had never been any reason for Australia’s native fauna to adapt to the toad and its toxin, so the beastie is wreaking enormous devastation on our wildlife and ecosystems.

If you can’t beat them, love them… right? Why not visit the cane toad races at Kununurra with Our favourite Australian travel reporter, the intrepid Red Nomad Oz?

Wikipedia tells us the toad can be useful for lots of things, including
… pregnancy testing, as pets, for laboratory research, and the production of leather goods.

*For visitors: To get some idea of the distance from Kununurra to Perth, when you look at the Australian distribution map above, just remember Mainland Australia is only a smidgin smaller than the lower 48 states of the U.S.

**Joh Bjelke Petersen was Premier of the state of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. To many people NOT living in the north-eastern Australian state of Queensland, he was an ultra-conservative, corrupt, racist weirdo – always good for a laugh [if you are white] . Because of his policies and style, Queensland was long known as “the deep north”.
His predictable answer to any difficult question was “Oh, well, by golly, don’t you worry about that!”

In his other life, Joh was also a peanut farmer. When a political storm raged about a poison known as 245T, some wit wrote that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about… “Joh’s been spraying his nuts with 245T for years, and there’s obviously nothing wrong with him…”

Monday, May 26, 2014

woe, woe and thrice woe

'Tis said if we wish to converse without tension, we must avoid three topics: sex, politics and religion. Sometimes I wonder if these topics are not, like the Holy Trinity itself, three in one.
Yesterday I got to chatting with friends about the God part, and the Catholic Church.

In the early years of my extremely Catholic education I was warned that God sees everything we do. It might explain the idea of nuns being extremely modest when they take a bath. My own early reaction was that if God is really watching when I go to the toilet, I should be nervously constipated for the rest of my life.

Another notion, perhaps originally designed to convince medieval believers that it doesn’t matter how crap life on earth might be, concerned the promise of heaven.

The more we suffer in this life the better our position in the afterlife. We might, the good sisters explained in age-appropriate simplistic terms, imagine our own personal guardian angel sitting on our right shoulder recording ticks and crosses in an exercise book every time we are good or bad.
Each tick for a good act is a brick that can be used to build a decent home in advance of our arrival at the Pearly Gates, while too many sins might mean you could end up in a heavenly dump like this:

In my early years I would have killed to live in a relatively [to me] luxurious prolestacker. Bugger waiting for the next life. 

The just-you-wait idea was not some British propaganda encouraging the Irish to accept being treated like shit in this life; 

it came from God himself [via some pope, of course. Probably some power hungry corrupt bastard but infallible pope, of course].

What British propaganda did suggest is that the Irish were a stupid race - a notion contradicted by this image:

Belief and therefore Prayer were a struggle for me. One of my favourite [if sacrilegious] turns at a party is to recite this [in a suitable dramatic and pleading tone, of course]:

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy towards us and, after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of they womb, Jesus.


It is a nonsense, really, to try and separate culture from religion. Some of the most popular and best selling Irish stories in recent times, like Angela’s Ashes, have been full of misery. They are not stories about god’s admonition to wait for the afterlife; they are stories reflecting the reality that Ireland was a third world country – full of desperately dysfunctional people, before the country was accepted into the EU.

Does this miserable level of poverty explain the drunkenness and domestic violence?
I have a theory that the whole of the country [religion and culture combined] is populated by people with a bipolar disorder.
I’m not sure I believe bipolar disorders are biologically genetic, but think they are the transgenerational result of the brain’s plasticity – the way individuals program themselves to cope with the shit that is/was almost invariably a part of any poor childhood in Ireland. It’s self-programming for survival that lends itself to alcoholism, rage, and a victim mentality.

Italy on the hand is a “Catholic” country, and one which still has pockets of extreme poverty. Yet it has produced beautiful, life affirming films like The Tree of Wooden Clogs, and Life is Beautiful. The Italian mix of culture and religion is a far cry from the Irish Catholicism passed on to me.


Having been indoctrinated enough with the miserable attitudes of Irish Catholicism, I’ve learned the last thing I need to read is another Angela’s Ashes, and the last thing I need to hear is more about the disgusting theft and abuse of children supported by what is now loosely termed the Magdalene Laundry system. [To which I might add Rome is welcome to Cardinal Pell because nobody here seems to want him at all.]

Nonetheless, one shares one’s life with others and sometimes watches films like Philomena. The book written by Martin Sixmith focuses primarily on the life of Philomena Lee’s stolen child, Anthony. The movie Philomena, on the other hand, focuses on Philomena’s search for her son, and what a pack of C-bombs the Irish nuns/ Church were. The key theme of the movie seems to be forgiven-ness.
It’s an ask.

For some reason that escapes me, pilgrimages are still a core component of the Irish tourist industry. Shrines are everywhere, but one of the greatest drawcards for locals and visitors alike is the challenge of dragging oneself 764 metres (2,507 ft) up the mountain that is Croagh Patrick.

Nearly 200 years ago this might have made sense:

Today, I fail to see the point at all.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

the sound of silence

Andrew Bolt
amongst other things, a Holocaust Denier

Waleed Aly

Currently, Andrew Bolt* is criticising Waleed Aly , not for defending Islam but for failing to hold Islam responsible for every crime ever carried out in the name of Allah. This is about as logical as blaming the Pope for the Snake Handling traditions of Appalachian Pentecostals.

No disrespect intended, but Ruby’s comment at 20-22 seconds in cracks me up every time I hear it:

Like Christians, Muslims are a diverse bunch. How can we turn to one single person/group in Australia for for a view that will be representative of the whole Muslim community? Why should we expect we can?

If an issue directly affects one branch of Christianity, e.g. the Catholic Church, the media traditionally go to a spokesperson for that Church for comments, thus providing consumers with balanced reporting. When George Pell, amongst others, said that talk of paedophiles in the Catholic church was nonsense, the theory is we had a better chance of assessing the truth because he had been asked to comment. [Rather than bore you with details, I’ll leave you to add to the list of ir-responsible denominations] – but I digress:

What I’m simply trying to say is that it is a very long time since I read/heard a line like “The Hun contacted a spokesperson for the Islamic community, but he/she declined to comment”.

In truth, most journalists do turn to Waleed Aly for a moderate Islamic viewpoint – but usually only when a story relates to terrorism.

Rita Panahi is a Hun columnist, slightly to the left of Andrew Bolt. Like Bolt, she happily resorts to the “silence is deafening” mantra when something arouses her indignation.

She opines:
“THE violent student protests around the country have highlighted not just the entitled mentality of those protesting but also the duplicitous hypocrisy of the feminist movement.”… […blah blah blah deafening…]

Excuse me, but did I miss something? Feminists are responsible for this?
Personally, I think a lot of protestors underestimate [or are ignorant of] the power of non-violent non-cooperation, and their behaviour simply proves they are downright rude arseholes. But their behaviour does not automatically make them feminists.

As for the sound of silence generally, the only way I’ve ever been able to get anything published in the Hun is to pay for a funeral notice – and this is way more consultation than I get from any other branches of the media. 

*For more juicy detail of the latest Bolt/Aly clash, see Raf Epstein’s reply

a topp idea

“Would you like to go and see the Topp Twins?” asked TO.
“Errrm…” sez I, “If you’d like to go…”
“Haven’t you ever seen them?!” TO was incredulous.

The Topp Twins – two identical lesbian twins from New Zealand - have been performing around the traps for more than 36 years. Their highly successful TV series ran in NZ for 3 series, and they’ve won a swag of awards.
I’d never seen them before because, to be honest, I was over the whole “lesbian” entertainment thing decades ago and found images like this even more off-putting than the lesbian tag:

If I had to nominate two types of music I struggle to tolerate, I would have to say “country”, and “western”. But, even matches made in heaven sometimes require compromise and the Topp Twins sounded more appealing than the alternative - a night of “Sing-a-long to the Sound of Music”.

The twins are polished comics and polished musicians. Yodelling is not easy but, by gum, Linda has got what it takes. Better yet, Linda played a mean harmonica which she demonstrated during a fantastic blues number.

They appeared as several different characters during the show, and worked the crowd brilliantly. For the first time in my life I didn’t cringe when it was audience participation time, but happily stood up and joined in. Funny is one thing – fun is quite another altogether and the twins do it well.

As “Camp Leader” and “Camp Mother” they set a few audience members busy making rum-balls which they then shared around.
“Where are you from?”. When people gave answers like Hong Kong or Southern California, they were expertly thrown a rum ball. When someone finally said Australia they “threw” them a rum-ball Trevor Chappell style.

For overseas guests:
The "great underarm bowling incident of 1981" was a shameful day for Australian Sport. Instead of bowling overarm as cricketers normally do, they resorted to this to defeat New Zealand:

Yep, the Topp Twins are political animals. Although they shared some lesbian jokes it wasn’t a lesbian show at all.

Tony Abbott
Australia's Prime Minister and Minister for Women

Another great Australian sport is hanging shit on the way Kiwis [i.e. New Zealanders] love to strangle vowels; their efforts to say our Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a speedo wearing winker were well received.

TO’s suggestion for our day out was indeed a Topp one.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

nausea inducing

Call me a bitch, please. Like, as if I would feel bad being bitchy about this creep - such fun!

Brynne has kept custody of the apartment. [shock horror]

Edelsten, last I heard,  was suing some bimbo who conned him out of money after he got together with her through a USian dating site. Now he is filing for bankruptcy in the US.

Doesn't the bald patch on the back of his head look suspiciously like "bed-head"?

The nuns used to warn me that men are only after one thing... In Geoffrey's case, surely that should be two things? He should just buy a couple of implants and keep them on his bedside table; it would have to be cheaper than legal fees for pre-nups, legal fees for website bimbos, divorce settlements etc.

WTF was Edelsten doing at Tom Hafey's funeral anyway? This 'man' would go to the opening of a fridge to get seen. I'd say Grecko would go to the opening of an envelope, but would she even know what an envelope is?

These two - people, I mean, not  implants - are just proof positive that celebrity for celebrity's sake is  a bizarre phenomenon. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

the book thief

In 1939 Nazi Germany, Liesel Meninger is sent to Molching to live with a foster family.

While there is something to be said for USian detective stories, what people usually think of as “novels” are not really my cappuccino. The Book Thief was a rare but wonderful exception; so exceptional, in fact, that I was surprised to learn it was written by an Australian.

When a film is made from a novel, I prefer to read the novel first. Seeing a movie before reading the novel can kill the imagination - when we read the novel later all we can picture from descriptions is what the movie maker imagined.
The Book Thief is a masterful piece of writing I devoured gluttonously, before re-reading it to fully appreciate the writing style.
Seeing the movie is stage three in the order of events, when for me the fun is looking at how the book has been adapted, what has been omitted, and whether or not what I thought the novel was saying has been faithfully represented.

Markus Zusak not only respects the principle of “show, don’t tell”, one interesting way he does this is by turning nouns and verbs on their head:
Every night, Liesel would nightmare.
A bathrobe answered the door.
Arms and elbows fought for room.
When he doesn’t “show” Markus often includes a little observation in the direct telling:
On the ration cards of Germany there was no listing for punishment, but everyone had to take their turn.

Someone suggested to me recently that what happened in the book was all covered in the movie. I doubted it and, dare I say it, I was right.
Cramming a decent novel into roughly 90 minutes of film is a challenge. Some sub-plots have to be dropped, which can reduce 3 dimensional characters into 2 or even 1 dimensional props. It was a bit sad that this happened to the Burgermeister’s Wife. It even happened, to some extent, to Max, one of the central characters in the story.

In the movie, much of the story is about one family rebelling against the insanity of Nazi Germany: It makes Hans and Rosa Hubermann, along with Liesel, appear heroic in a David and Goliath sort of way – something movies must often do to establish and maintain any kind of momentum. In real life, however, when a whole bunch of people are Davids together, no one person appears quite so heroic.
Zusak’s novel, with the luxury of as much space and time as needed, not only showed that there are more heroes in a community than we might otherwise believe, but that everyone has their own unique way of being a hero. It's this sense of balance, of not taking sides and of shifting away from stereotypes that doesn't quite come across in the movie.

Markus Zusak has said, about writing The Book Thief;
When I was growing up in suburban Sydney, I was told stories of cities on fire and Jews being marched to concentration camps. Both my parents grew up in Europe during World War II, and although they were extremely young at the time, in hindsight, they were able to understand many things.
Two stories my mother told me about growing up in Munich always stuck with me. One was about a burning sky when the city was bombed. The other was about a boy being whipped on the street for giving a starving Jewish man a piece of bread. The man sank to his knees and thanked the boy, but the bread was stripped away and both the taker of the bread and the giver were punished.
This showed me that there was another side to Nazi Germany, and it was a side I wanted to write about.

The direction of the movie was at times clever and imaginative. It was well cast, with Nico Liersch doing a brilliant job of playing Rudy. The ending was faithful to the novel but in a very schmaltzy, clunky way. 

The uniting theme of the novel is about the unique and different significance a book theft might have for any number of different people. There are one or two hints about this significance in the movie but, in the end, it is just a story about a girl who steals books. 

It's not the sort of movie I would enjoy watching over and over.

for every cloud...

“The” garage sale is over. Two weeks digging crap out of the shed, hours “setting up”, then hours unsetting up.

Mr Nice next door decided to make the most of the traffic, and put half a dozen items out for sale. Told us he was just nipping out to put on his quaddies, but Mrs Nice knew prices. “How much is the guitar?”, a prospect enquired over the fence. “Shop, Mrs Jackson” we screamed back across the fence. Mrs Nice sold No 1 daughter’s old bass guitar and amp for $50. Uh oh, it was supposed to be $100 for the bass plus $100 for the amp. No 1 will not be pleased when she returns from her holiday in Thailand.

The end result on our side of the fence was a reduction of 1% in the volume of crap but, as Mr Nice observed “at least you made enough to hire a skip – a better profit than I made…”

Oh, people are a strange mix. The ones what arrive with a big bag and proceed to lift as much crap as they can without paying. The ones who keep a firm grip on a 40 cent book while trying to beat the price down to 20c. The ones who say “Oh, a dollar is not enough, I’ll give you two!” The bulldozers, who tear the original packaging on every single item still in its original packing but never actually buy anything.

Then there is another type – the real hoarder… the crap they have collected after doing the rounds of sales would not make their car look out of place in an episode of Extreme Hoarders.

The ones that turn up at all hours, two or three days beforehand, trying to find the gold before anyone else does. [Someone did suggest, today, that the trick is to give the name of the street but not the house number in the ad. Duly noted.]

After stall fees, I once made a $2 profit selling "stuff" at the Preston Market. While living in Camberwell for a while, however, I was able to make a living for 6 months from the market there – my lounge room/ temporary warehouse looked like a tornado had ripped through it, but at least the venture paid for rent and food.
Franger seems to offer the people watcher in me something, but it brings out the “I hate mean, scabby people” side of me as well. I was not alone in this - at one point I thought Mr Nice was about to smash an acoustic guitar to pieces in front of someone who was determined not to leave until his offer of $2 was accepted.

Where might PC keyboards and mouses and power cords or old phone chargers go?
4 tonnes of reject stainless steel surgical instruments – once used by TO when teaching TAFE classes about sterilisation procedures?

Op shops are, quite reasonably, picky about what they will help us recycle. I refuse to give good junk to the Salvos or Vinnies because, in my experience, they refuse to give any stock to someone who obviously needs it. Paid staff and volunteers pick the eyes out of stuff before it is put out for sale, and are unafraid to brag about it.

I’m thinking we’ll separate stuff into 2 piles as we continue clearing out the shed… 1 pile of stuff the RSPCA could use, and a 2nd pile for a skip. Working for 2c an hour has flies on it [take note, Smokin’ Joe!].

Any other preferred charity suggestions? [Apart from my good self, that is...]

Most councils have annual hard-rubbish collections.
I like to see stuff recycled by fossickers, but hate it when they
throw stuff around and leave an untidy mess.
[Fossicking thru' hard rubbish is illegal.]

It's amazing how much one can fit into a skip.
I suspect there would be an extra volume charge for this lot.

Friday, May 16, 2014

only for the truly compulsive reader

Over the past few months I've learned something about 

Prescription medications

The pain medication Tramadol Hydrochloride reacts negatively with SSRI anti-depressants, and causes nausea. Although I don’t take SSRIs, I did feel incredibly seedy when I used Tramadol for the heel pain, but suspect the cause of the seediness was just the combination of Tramadol and radiation therapy. If I ever use Tramadol again I will take it in conjunction with an anti-nausea agent.

From day one after the foot surgery I tried to use less and then much less oxycontin or endone than were prescribed, a) because I live in terror of addiction to anything over and above chocolate and b) pain levels were gradually diminishing.

Every time I visit a new practitioner, I am required to dutifully complete a form listing all my current medications. Beyond surgeons checking that people are not taking blood thinners, it seems there is a limited benefit from the exercise.

I guess the reality is that a specialist is a specialist is a specialist. Bone surgeons know bone surgery, breast surgeons know breast surgery etc. This does not make them pharmacists.
A few years ago I had some major bowel surgery, and TO says that when she came to visit one day, I was talking to the wardrobe in my room. Fortunately, she took a peep at my hospital charts and was able to identify the problem and alert staff. Heaven help those without a TO to advocate for them.

I now know not to touch opioid painkillers again. The shoulder surgeon I have lined up discussed the medication problem with me and will be talking to the anaesthetist before surgery. Bone man also discussed the effects of cortisone, so I took myself off to see the “head” honcho, and I think I have things covered now.

Nutty as a Fruitcake

The few of these opioid tablets I did take were still enough to make me hypo-manic with mixed moods. A few more doses after that and my Jekyll-ine persona gave way to Ms Hyde – every person chez fruitcake deserves a purple heart.

It’s taken weeks for me to “come down” [at least partway]. Every time Ms Hyde appears, Dr Jacqueline is full of remorse and shame and takes to curling into a foetal ball and sobbing – only marginally less pleasant for others than when I am simply uncontrollably obnoxious and feral.

After a few years of being quite stable, and being the person I’ve conned our dogs into thinking I am, the crash has added to the more “acceptable” medical issues. Years ago I accepted that each subsequent crash is worse than the crash before, and it’s very draining [for everyone].

I could go on, but this is not the proper forum. Just wanted to make a comment on issues arising from surgical prescriptions.


A. Fruitcake

I’ve now had procedures and surgeries enough to single-handedly break both the LaTrobe Health Insurance Fund and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. If you are unhappy with changes to these in the new federal budget, please feel free to blame me.

Radiation therapy is over.
As my risk of breast cancer recurring now is about the same as the risk of women in the general population getting breast cancer for the first time, I’ve decided to forego the 5 years of Tamoxifen. I got off lightly, for some reason.

Despite the cancer, I have not experienced one of those Pauline Conversions, Epiphanies or whatever people like to call them. Having flirted [like a wallflower] with cancer and survived [god that sounds dramatic] I’m not sure I have any more idea of why we are on this earth or what I ought to do while here than I did before. 

My right heel is almost back to normal [without the Achilles pain-yay!]. Just some occasionally whining from scar tissue. [Still wearing those dreadful pressure stockings].

The sad news is that what I thought was a “sprain” in my right shoulder as a result of falling from my crutches is actually a complete tear of one of the tendons, so more surgery ahead – it’s dashed inconvenient not being able to reach with the right arm when the left arm is itchy.

B. Auntie

Poor Aunty has spent about 75% of the time between Christmas and now in hospital, what with one thing and another. Between the three of us we have spent so much time in hospital as visitors/patients we saved a bundle with our coffee loyalty card. But, even in the worst possible settings, there is often something to smile at.

At last, Auntie's [second] new pacemaker is ticking away nicely. She gets a bit stronger every day.


JJ is chugging along with her Div 2 nursing course. She has passed the Occupational English test that will qualify her to do a Div 1 bridging course, but has decided for now to keep on with the Div 2 course. She's making the most of the chance to become familiar with the expensive equipment our hospitals have, or to learn the local names for various medications.

When JJ first arrived, TO shared a story about the international student who was on a placement in a cardiac wing. "I have pain", cried a patient. While the student rushed off to fetch a pan, her mentor dealt with the heart attack. 
Vowel sounds can be tricky for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Recently JJ came home from her part-time nursing home job, laughing because one of her fellow workers went to the kitchen and said a resident did not get her prawns. "Why would we give people prawns for breakfast?" asked the chef. JJ guessed there was a vowel problem, and was able to work out the resident really wanted prunes.

Well…. it’s only a matter of time before she has her driving licence. 

Go JJ!

D. The wonderful TO.

What can you say about someone who has spent her entire life caring for others but, this year, found a little too much happening a little too close to home? [Between the lines… she learned that not being able to control everything can be stressful].
The good news is that she has finally got a teaching contract that matches her own preferred timeframe for easing into retirement this year.

Next: Let the downsizing begin!

Most lists of really truly extreme sources of stress include moving house. This house is TO’s baby, and the thought of having to move after 30 or so years is really stressful for her. 

I shall soon have to apologise for every rude joke I’ve ever made about TO’s hoarding. She is being brave and ruthless beyond my wildest expectations, but I won't assume it isn't stressing her.

Stage one of the downsizing process is decluttering. I've allowed 18 months for this on the project management plan.

If something is not wanted or can’t be kept and absolutely must go, then what we think it is “worth” is irrelevant. And if something is a nice reminder of a person or event from the past but will take up too much room… we take a photo of it as a souvenir before letting go. 
[I’m sure I saw the photo idea in someone else’s blog. Thanks, whoever you are.]

TO still has her dad’s shaving mug, brush and razor – it’s the sort of thing that is very personal but will not take up too much room in a bathroom. [Well, it is bigger than my grandmother's sugar bowl, but not much.]

We are having a garage sale on Saturday– preparation for which began in earnest with a giant book cull last week. Multiplying the number of books culled [so far] by the average new book price of $20 has been a sobering exercise. 
Our list of must-haves when we down size, which started with ITEM 1: “within scooter distance of shops”, has now been altered slightly to read “within scooter distance of shops and library”.

I could go on about downsizing, but for now the key idea is that this has been horrendously stressful for my FBF, who has not been too well herself.

E. Mr Bin Guardin’

Things have been a tad quiet on the home front side, since he was booked for parking on the wrong side of the road - and copping a second fine for parking over his driveway when he complained about the first fine.

Last But By No Means Least: My Friends

A big thank you, blogland friends, for all your get well wishes.

I’ve had the energy to do sod all for, oh, about 60 years, but the last few months I’ve done less than my usual nothing. It might take me a while, but I hope to eventually catch up on what you’ve been doing or pondering upon, where you have been, what you see when you look through a lens, and what you did when you went to New Guinea to teach.

Keep well :)