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Thursday, December 25th, 2014
10:58 pm - Yule
Not a bad Yuletide this year, especially compared with last year's debacle. Was even invited back into the family fold, after last year's deliberate Casting Out of the Woman Damned. After a frantic morning of gift wrapping and cook 'n' stash, I had Christmas lunch at my parents' place (with both Bs and Pilgrim in tow, plus brother and partner) and then took off for a reboot of last year's bushwalk with the Fuzz and his girlfriend, which involved duck feeding, a couple of laps of a balmy river pool, and a return down the same path on which I collapsed last year, which I survived this year with nary a flashback. Took a detour around my suburb on the way home to admire local Christmas lights, which I approve of wholeheartedly. A good day's work, I feel.

Ahhh, Christmas lights. Excellent things. Part of me would love to deck the walls in lighting jolly, but it's a part I suppress out of a mix of laziness and financial prudence. I'm not sure what level of financial slack I'd need in the system to sink a few hundred a year into festive lights and the electricity to run them, but I don't see myself reaching it any time soon, if ever. Am glad other people do, though. Honestly, it's a community service! There should be awards, I say.

Merriment to all.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2014
6:37 am - Novel release!
Denizens of LJ! (I do love the word 'denizens'. Wonderfully seedy ring about it)

I'm interrupting my usual neglect of this blog to announce that my debut novel is finally out! Exciting times. My publishing contract is "digital-first", which means that the book is available as an ebook only on release, print-on-demand if it sells over 500 copies, and will be printed if it sells over 2000 copies.

At this point, I'm casting aside any Rowlingesque delusions and latching onto 500 as my goal, so that I can get my hands on a physical copy and live out my teenage fantasies of signing books at my launch. That long-rehearsed signature, on my title page at last! (OK, so I did publish a non-fiction book in 2007, which I've been signing and selling at my workshops, but non-fiction is Not The Same). No launch planned this stage, aside from a minor outing tonight, as a pre-Christmas release, excellent though it may be for sales, is dire when it comes to expecting anyone to be free to attend a non-Christmas function. Early next year, I say. Early next year.

Things I'm a teensy bit twitchy aboutCollapse )

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Thursday, November 20th, 2014
7:50 pm - Clokey dokey
Yeah, been totally slack this Clovember. I blame the novel. BUT! As of about an hour an a half ago, I can't blame it any more, because the final edits are now IN. O' course, this means I'm now meant to be getting onto the promotion bandwagon, but for the moment I'm buggered, and am posting some outfits instead.

CloCollapse )

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Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
10:42 am - Clovember the fifth
Novel emailed through to publisher! Phew. Tricky business, that last edit. My editor said the edits were mostly minor, with major changes only required for the last two chapters of Part I, BUT once you make significant changes to the end of Part I, the ramifications echo all the way through Parts II-IV, and everything needs to be tweaked to fit. Also, some of the supposedly minor edits required stripping chapters down to a skeleton and then rebuilding them. Honestly, it was like unpicking a patchwork, and having to trim, rotate, add to and replace half the pieces and then stitch it back together into a seamless whole. Continuity nightmare! When I got to the end around 1pm yesterday, I really wanted to skim the lot and make sure I'd lined all the edits up, but the Pilgrim arrived with the boys, so I just sent it through. The publisher reassured me that they and I will get to do one more pass of edits, so hopefully I'll be able to fix any holes.

To clo. Didn't take a photo of yesterday's outfit, which I liked enough to reprise some time this month for you to persue. For today, I'm wearing a black flared T-shirt with green fern print, which I bought at a market from a woman who sources ethical garments and screenprints them herself, like the good lefty intelligentsia type (intelligentsian?) I pretend to be (at least when not buying dirt cheap clothing from Asian sweatshops, which I do far more often). Alas, this T-shirt doesn't work very well over skinny jeans, which is how I intended to wear it; it falls to the widest part of my hips and makes them look quite odd and lumpen. May have it altered to a more traditional snug T-shirt shape at some point, but for the moment I'm wearing it over a mid-wash denim pencil skirt, which I think works better. Looks a bit bottom-heavy in the picture, but I think that's just the angle.

Flat knee-high black boots over bare legs under that, in what I've learned is a southern Australian way of wearing them. People in colder climes have been known to hint that this looks wrong to them, because everyone knows boots are for winter, and why would you wear them when it's not cold enough to need to? Me, I like boots with skirt or dress and bare legs. A great compromise that flatters the leg and lets them be bare yet warm enough for in-between weather like today's. I also have on silver earrings with a square green glass dangle on them, which you can't really see. I took a photo of them, but it didn't upload. Feh.

CloCollapse )

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Monday, November 3rd, 2014
8:34 am - Clovember the third
OK, OK, I'm showing willing here on the Clovember front. Today's Novel Deadline Day outfit includes a skirt I'm on the fence about, so I figure I might as well flutter it at LJ and see which side witnesses fall on. It caught my eye in one of those cheap Asian import shops a month or so ago, and even then I couldn't decide whether it was a a lovely watery paisley maxi-skirt in pretty jewel colours or a misbegotten ode to a 1970s bedspread in 1980s hues. It's the white in the pattern that bothers me, I think. Still, I tried it on, and it fit perfectly, not only at the waist but in length, and that's so rare, I decided it was a SIGN, called it lovely, watery etc. to myself, and bought it.

This is the second time I've worn it and I'm still not sure whether this was wise. Am wearing it here with navy pumps (the Australian term "court shoes" for these is pretty much dead) and a navy T-shirt intended for a ten-year-old child which somehow works for me as a cropped 3/4 sleeve top to wear over a skirt. Grimy hair scraped into ponytail, hoop earrings with fake pearl beads on them that I like and wear a lot. Still craving navy, clearly...

CloCollapse )

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Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
8:14 pm - No Clo (Wri Mo?)
After last year's dedication to the Clovember cause, I fear my contributions this year may be slight. I'm knee-deep in overdue pre-publication edits, and am not wearing anything even slightly interesting. Yesterday I had a craving for navy, of all colours, and the only remotely notable thing I had on was oversized curly silver earrings. Today it's jeans and jumper while I hunch at the keyboard, frantically revising and rearranging. The editor wanted a major rewrite of the last two chapters of Part I, and while I've done those (in consultation with policemen, doctors and university lawbrokers), I now need to recalibrate nine or ten scenes in Part II to match up with the new version of events. And that's before I even get to the other big overhaul at the end of Part III, with which I was greatly helped by my fine writerly crew the Pendragons (whose name I'm delighted to say was my doing).

EUCH.

Still. The original deadline was last Thursday, but I called in advance to tell them my October just didn't let that happen. No later than Monday was my promise, and while the task looks vast from here I think I'll just manage that. Though I mightn't if I spend too much time on LJ, might I? Best get back to it. Last I heard the release date is going to be the eleventh of December.

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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
10:59 pm - Mohawk
The part in my hair has sprouted a wispy little mohawk of regrowth. It's hard to measure, but on average it seems to be 6-8cm long. Assuming that my hair grows about 15cm per year (which is Dr Google's most common estimate), this would suggest that my well-being has stabilised enough over the last 5-6 months to redirect some energy into my follicles. A fine thing. I hadn't especially noticed how much my hair had been thinning during my Nightmare Years (I'd noticed how much my *body* was thinning, but clothing makes that a lot more obvious), but one of the staff at the Korean salon where I've been having my hair cut lately pointed it out a couple of months ago in tones of horror, followed by observing that I did, however, have a lot of "baby hair" coming through.

As an aside, what *is* it with hairdressers and loudly proclaiming the failings of your hair while cutting it? Is it mostly the desire to sell you expensive products to fix these failings, or is there more at play here? Some sort of detachment of the hair from its grower which drives them to harangue their customers to look after it, the way a vet might harangue someone to feed their pet better? Slightly annoying. Especially when the expensive green tea scalp-stimulating products she recommended (in the manner of pressing blood pressure tablets on someone at imminent risk of stroke) were the expensive products I'd actually bought from the salon several months earlier and had been using anyway. Grf. My hair does do well on their expensiveness, mind you, so it's possible that she's onto something.

Anyway. Four to six months takes me back to the first couple of months of this year, in which two significant stress-reducing events did, in fact, occur. One was the decision to cease to contact anyone and everyone whose response to me when in crisis mode made me feel worse rather than better (I won't go into the other one at this point). Doing this lowered my stress levels so much I've done a serious review of the company I've been keeping. Why, exactly, have I been hanging onto people whose emotional language and core values clash so violently with mine?

A dehumanising analogyCollapse )

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Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
8:47 am - Gemini Clo-ver
My, but we're having an unseasonably warm May. Bit disturbing, really. I've read the projections for global warming and even at their most conservative they're horrifying reading. Still, given how little I can do about it at this point, I figure I might as well enjoy the side-effects. I've started swimming in the sea again (have decided that my minimum temperature for doing this is 20 degrees, and Melbourne has been unusually obliging in this regard - usually things are cooling down a lot more by May), and have been relishing gadding about bare-legged once more.

My legs are safely encased in fabric today, but given the unseasonably balmy climes I decided to break out the white jeans. I've always secretly loved white jeans, impractical though they are, and this outfit has been so long in the plotting that I figured I might as well post it for Clayvember.

White with brightCollapse )

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Saturday, May 17th, 2014
9:18 pm - Publication offer!
Cor! My literary agent emailed me about an hour ago to tell me that someone at Momentum (digital arm of Pan Macmillan) loved my Rapunzel novel, and will publish it if I'm happy to go with "digital-first" publishing.

Still a bit stunned. My agent only confirmed that she'd sent it to three publishers five days ago, and I didn't expect news for at least a month. Have emailed sundry Sources of Wisdom, and the consensus from those non-stunned sources (including one source with intimate knowledge of the publisher in question)(waves at ladyknight1512) was GO FOR IT. Erm. Er. OK?

The digital business does mean no advance, o' course, but frankly, as a total unknown my chances of getting more than a minimum advance are probably negligible anyway. It also means no physical copies initially, *but* if it does well they may produce hard copies eventually (which is a nice thought, however much Digital Is The Future). Of more concern to me is the promotion aspect, which I'm reliably told is now as much the writer's job as the publisher's. Gah. I might have to throw in the towel and join Twitter, which I've thus far avoided because the last thing I need is to spend MORE TIME ONLINE.

Still! Published novel! Published with big international publisher, no less! (I was also invited to write a non-fiction book a few weeks ago, but pah, non-fiction. Doesn't count, not on the heart level, which is the level that matters most). Finally. My six year old self was getting Most Upset with me over how negligently I've treated her life ambitions...

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Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
8:30 am - Clayvember clo
Feh. I wasn't planning to join in this Clovember in May business half my flist seems to be doing, but when it comes to clo, I'm all too easily swayed. Besides, I was pleased with today's outfit, and I figured I might as well share my pleasure. As it were.

CloCollapse )

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Sunday, May 4th, 2014
9:46 pm - A breakfast of cannibals?
Salad for breakfast. I've officially spilled over the edge into Health Freak Territory. Still, given the ongoing and dire levels of stress in my life, I figure I might as well be scrupulous about my physical health. And seeing I can't do much about the limited and/or interrupted sleep on 50% of the nights when small children are in the house (which is 3-4 nights a week, at present), I'm doing what I can with exercise and diet. The weather has been so wet and chilly of late even I've thrown in the sea-swimming towel, but I'm managing 45 minutes a day of brisk walking or loungeroom dancing to amusing pop (if I don't manage to cram in a walk before nightfall) and levels of fruit and vegetable consumption that would impress the cast of Watership Down. The muscles of my neck and shoulders are still more knotted than a macrame class, but on balance I'm definitely feeling healthier.

I've never been a fan of your standard Anglo breakfast offerings anyway. Cereal. Toast. I don't hate these things, but frankly, I don't get hungry until 10am, and they're just not enough to inspire me, especially since I discovered that my complexion, prone to acne since I turned 13, improves drastically when I limit my consumption of gluten* (or wheat, perhaps). I do like a breakfast fry-up (bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, the works), and dessert-style breakfast (pancakes, waffles, etc.), but those are too much effort to make and too heavy to have all the time. Or eat before 10am, for that matter.

So yes, it's breakfast salad for me, these days. Not the pile-of-leaves-with-token-tomato sort of salad, but a hearty one with protein and cooked starchy vegetables in with the leaves. Salade niçoise, which I love and seem to be able to eat almost daily without tiring of it. Roast vegetable salad with feta, which I did love, but have discovered I get sick of quite quickly. Bean salad. A roasted corn and spring onion creation I pinched and adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. Light enough to stomach early in the day, so healthy and vegetable-ridden that I can sally forth knowing that even if my next two meals are fish and chips and pizza I've done my nourishment duty by my body.

I'm actually enjoying it. Cor. Next thing you know I'll be buying organic quinoa.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Dietary fads and ideas fascinate me. Sure, it pays to add a pinch of Let's Not Swallow Too Many Dippy Hippy Theories, but it also pays to remember that chronic conditions with no fully understood cause or cure (allergies, back pain, ongoing issues with the gut, skin, etc.) are not Western medicine's forte. There's interesting research on gut flora going on which may eventually shed light on such things, but that will probably take *decades* to filter through to everyday medical practice. In the meantime, I'm happy to dabble in a little n=1** research on my own gut. When I was pregnant with B2 and besieged by acne, as I was in my first pregnancy, I read of a PhD project where the student discovered that cutting out gluten drastically improved acne in teenagers, and decided to give this a try. Within three gluten-free days, every pimple had vanished from my face. Incredible. Coincidence? Placebo effect? Possibly, but I did a little n=1 time series on myself and found that the acne returned when I ate gluten again and disappeared again when I went off it. Doesn't mean it'll work the same way for everyone, o' course, but it worked for me.

**n=1 means "sample size of one subject". I dimly remember doing something in third year Psychology about the power of the n=1 study.

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Friday, February 14th, 2014
11:10 pm - Of visibility and vocab
Visibility has been less than 5km all week. It's like someone covered the city with a giant white bowl. Or pasted cut-out pictures of trees and buildings on a greying sheet of paper. Everything's tinged with smoke. Eucalyptus trees burn like pine trees, and the forests around Melbourne are covered in them. My grandparents came within inches of losing their house in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. The hydrangeas along the back wall were singed; if they'd drawn the blinds over the back windows the whole place would have gone. We visited Macedon a month after the fires, and the line of old shops where my grandfather used to take me were a crumbling plain of ash. I found a silver puddle turned solid in the charcoal, which was probably the remains of a motorbike.

I've been swimming in the sea just about every day. It's close by, and these days I can organise child-free windows with relative ease. I use sunscreen, and try to avoid peak UV, but my skin is still slowly turning browner. I tan beautifully: legacy of my Eurasian heritage. Not that the Chinese side approve of such things. The last time I saw my Chinese grandmother (she died a few years ago), she shook her head in emphatically when she saw me. I was visiting Penang on the way home from China, and my limbs and face were tanned. We had no common language, but my uncle translated her admonishing cries of "You shouldn't get so dark - you look like a Malay!" from Hokkien. Ah, Malaysia, haven of interracial harmony.

The visit was an interesting exercise in how little language you need to have a workable conversation. I probably know 30 words or less in Hokkien, but they're key words, pronouns, common nouns and verbs, basic constructions. When no-one was available to translate, she spoke in Hokkien and I spoke in Mandarin, and we both understood enough to get by. These days the smaller Chinese dialects are being quashed in Singapore and Malaysia. You haven't been allowed to broadcast or publish in them for years, and they're no longer taught anywhere. The Chinese people there under 30 or so all speak Mandarin instead, with whatever smattering of dialect they're picked up from their parents. In a generation's time, they'll be just about dead. Cantonese will hang on longest, because of Hong Kong, but from all accounts since Hong Kong returned to China, the Chinese government have been angling to replace it with Mandarin. When I visited Hong Kong last, I noted that the trilingual announcements on the subway, once ordered Cantonese, English, Mandarin, had changed to Cantonese, Mandarin, English. Give it another decade, and Mandarin will no doubt take the lead.

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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
5:59 pm - On the floor of my private beach
My new place has a private beach! Well, OK, it's not private as such, but it *is* a mere ten minutes' walk from my house (closer than many a seaside holiday house I've visited) and obscure enough that only locals tend to know about and/or visit it, and then only when it's hot. Before last week's heatwave, I'd practically never seen another person there. It was quite a shock to turn up and find twenty or so people scattered about. Usually I can have it to myself.

There are reasons why it's not better known and patronised, of course. It's not what you'd call an accessible swimming beach with sandy recreation area. It's half a kilometre from the nearest road down a rough, narrow path through dry grass that turns off the bike path that runs along the coast. During high tide there's barely any beach at all, just pockets of sand between black rocks and ankle-deep water. During low tide there's a beach of damp, gritty sand, through which tiny crabs erupt at dusk. Quite creepy, the first time I saw it. The entire beach was suddenly pocked with squirming little holes and scuttling with spidery creatures with carapaces, like some horror movie parody of the land bubbling with animals in 'The Magician's Nephew'.

The 'Magician's Nephew' references don't end there, either.

If you make your way to the water, you find yourself in calf-deep sea that runs between the water's edge and an underwater continent of rocks and waving dark seaweed. I roamed the entire coast of this continent, and found only pockets of water deep enough for swimming. To swim any distance, you need to paddle over the continent to the coldwater reef beyond. On hot days you get snorkellers out there, exploring the underwater seascape. It's not brightly coloured, like a tropical reef, but it does have strange and diverse plants and creatures, just in shades of brown and green. A sepia-toned mini Great Barrier. This amazed me when I snorkelled there myself once, six or seven years ago. I never knew such things existed. I no longer have access to a snorkel, but in a reef this shallow even a pair of goggles does the trick. I donned some last week and paddled over the weed in water warmed to the temperature of leftover bathwater by five straight days of heat.

On a still day, it looks like someone threw a bag of mixed garden refuse in the Narnian sea when Aslan's song was still ringing. Potato peelings. Fragments of dried Christmas tree. Bright green tissues. Handfuls of cream-coloured thread. All of these seem to have taken root in the sea bed's rocks and sand, leaving the other end to flutter and wave in the passing currents. Among these skim sepia versions of fish from warmer waters. Box-shaped fish the colour of milky coffee striped with lines of chocolate. Caramel-coloured manta rays. Craggy cream flatheads with two eyes on one side. The tiny, lethal piles of tentacles that herald the blue-ringed octopus. Sea urchins like pom-poms made of black needles. I swam and stared and swam, steering to and fro around barnacled underwater cliffs that scrape unwary knees, plunging down when I stumbled on a pocket of colder water the way you relish warm pockets when the sea and you are cold.

Technically, I'm swimming for exercise, and my private beach isn't really the place for it. There's nowhere close to shore where you can swim in a straight line for more than 20 or 30 metres, and going further out strikes me as unwise in such an isolated spot. Five minutes' drive away there's a popular swimming beach, where there are always people around, even on cold mornings, and you can swim five hundred metres and back. Still, now that I've sampled my local piece of coast, I feel a perverse sense of loyalty. This evening I'll head down to the public beach first, and power my way across the bay. After that, though, I think I might just sneak down to the little beach closer to home.

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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
11:21 pm - Meme a little meme of H
H is for HOT, which Melbourne has been in spades (not to mention diamonds, hearts and clubs) for the last three days. Tomorrow the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting FORTY-FOUR DEGREES CELSIUS (111F), God help us. With forty-two degrees on Friday before the heatwave breaks. Fortunately, I'm now within reach of sea breezes, and the house is currently quite bearable. But FORTY-FOUR DEGREES. After almost a month and a half of very cool, low-key summer. Is madness.

Anyway. widgetfox sprung a meme on my Friends page, and in the spirit of keeping things light I volunteered. I asked for a letter, she gave me H, and I now have following questions to answer.

Something I hate: Horror movies. Can't bear 'em. I'm not a particularly fearful person, and am pretty light on in the phobia department (OK with spiders and snakes, not bad on heights so long as they're *secure* heights, do get claustrophobic, but the space has to be too small for me to lift my head... spelunking, aieeee no thanks), but by God I cannot deal with horror movies, especially those with evil hauntings and demon possession and all those In The Mind things that stick and stick in my head and won't go away.

Something I love: Halva. Not the gelatinous stuff, the type that like a crumbly ground sesame cake (a sort of sweet tahini sandcastle), especially if it's fresh, coated with nuts and laced with chocolate. Phwaw. I have a local Lebanese grocer that sells all manner of obscure imported goods (aronia herbal infusion from Czech Republic, anyone?) that often sells this cheaply. I didn't realise how cheaply until I discovered another dealer in Highpoint Shopping Centre and the price was about five times what I pay at the Lebanese grocer...

Somewhere I have been: Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, which is a very lovely city indeed. The last time I went to visit the Megamix, she took me to this excellent offbeat museum called MONA, which was built on the takings of a gambling syndicate set up by a local brilliant eccentric and his team of gamblers with Aspergers (for whom card-counting is very easy and accurate). I didn't get to see much, as I was toting an increasingly grumpy B2 with me, but I definitely intend to return.

Somewhere I would like to go: Hanoi. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, as I do cultural diversity management and am supposed to be all about Cultural Enrichment and all intaLECKchool like, but one of the big attractions of Vietnam for me is its proliferation of beautiful Asian fabrics and cheap, fast, high-quality tailors. So many people I've known have come back from Vietnam with beautiful, beautiful tailor-made garments, and I want IN. You can seriously bring them any garment or even picture of a garment that you love and get them to recreate it in a fabric of your choice. Am speechless just thinking of such glory (and yes, I do have a stash of almost-dead garments I've kept just in case). I've long said if I'm ever rolling about in riches I would give Chanel and Louboutin the finger, source my own fabrics or oversee getting fabrics designed, come up with my own clothing designs and have my garments made to measure by my own personal tailor. In Vietnam, I could just about live this dream already!

Someone I know: Helen. I've known many Helens in my time, but I seldom seem to have more than one at a time in my orbit. My Hellenic History started badly, with a truly Horrendous Helen in primary school who bullied me in very nasty fashion for years and a teacher who terrified everyone and would these days get DONE for verbal abuse (and probably physical - I have memories of her yanking a boy across the classroom by his ear). After that came a lull, only to have a Helen re-emerge in the form of dilettantiquity, who did an excellent job of the artwork for my first album, then faded from LJ. These days, the Helen I have most contact with is another LJ contact, the lovely glitzfrau (waves).

Best movie: Gad, I really struggled with this one, even with Wikipedia's list of H movies in front of me. Quite liked "Harold and Maude", "Hotel Rwanda" and "Heathers", but best seems too strong a word. I've seen all the Harry Potter movies, and would probably nominate Azkaban as the best of them without feeling compelled to list is as my Best Movie Starting With H. Gah. Pass. Too hard basket.

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Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
11:30 pm - On the power of light green
I like light green. It's the colour of all things fresh and new and growing. I went out of my way (literally: I drove 45min to the Coburg warehouse and its wider range of upholstery swatches) to have light spring green couches made, and defaulted to light green for my laundry basket, Tupperware and diaries (one personal, one business). The diaries aren't spring green, but mint, a colour less botanical, but more cool and clear. My paper personal diary was almost abandoned during the heyday of LJ, but I'm slowly easing back to having something in paper that can be dug out at will. This one is overlaid with a pattern of blue and white flowers on branches, and was purchased from the very lovely Jodini (what I call her, not her actual name), who is the one person I definitely intend to stay in touch with from the second mothers' group. Then there's the business diary, on which I want to muse here.

I discovered the perfect business diary brand about ten years ago. It was durable, made of soft genuine leather that survived my brutal treatment, came in a different cheery colour each year, had perforated tear-off corners for each day as a way of tracking where you were in the year (great idea, that), and a treasure trove of the sort of maps, measurements and random information you get in expensive business diaries. I bought one three years running and I was PLEASED. Then, of course, they discontinued it.

GAAAAH.

These days, I've taken to buying my business diaries from Kikki K (http://www.kikki-k.com/diaries-calendars ... still can't remember how to do a hot link). They don't have nearly as much in the way of useful information and features, but they're chic, durable and colourful. I bought this year's mint version (the pink was pretty but a tad lacking in serious business cachet) a month or two ago. Like many such diaries, it had a strip of glossy paper looped around the front cover. I slipped this off and was about to toss it in the recycling when I noticed something that stopped me. On the strip, in mint capitals on white, was a phrase.See for yourself. Note that to get the phrase legible I had to tweak the photo until the cover looked blue, but it is in fact mint.Collapse )

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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
5:28 pm - Belated response to Glitzfrau
Would you ever live somewhere that wasn't Australia?

Hmmm. Tricky. I'd like to think of myself as an adventurous, international type who'd respond with an enthusiastic YES! to this question, but under my current personal circumstances, a time when it will be possible to consider living in another country is so remote that I think the only legitimate answer is no. Further elaborationCollapse )

I suppose there's also the matter of how to define "live". I could see myself living in another country* for a while (up to a year or two?), but I don't see myself settling permanently elsewhere. I like Australia. There are things I don't like about it, but on balance it's a lovely place to live. The standard of living is high, the spread of wealth is still one of the most equitable in the Anglosphere (though less and less so, especially now the right wingers are in power), it's multicultural, with all the diversity of people and food that involves, and for all the sniffy posh English types who declare Australia to have NO culture and the suspicious liberal US types who are convinced Australia is a monstrous bastion of racism/sexism/homophobia/etc., neither is really the case. Or at least, no more so than the demographics who are similarly cultureless and socially regressive in both of these countries. Artistic and intellectual pursuits can be pursued at a range of brow levels in Australia, if that's what you want (the options are much broader if you live in one of the big cities, of course, but that's not limited to Australia). There's a thriving lefty intelligentsia. There are laws against discrimination based on race, sex, sexuality and so forth. There's a functioning public health system which has saved my bacon more than once without ever demanding to know if I had health insurance or putting me in lifelong debt. These are GOOD THINGS.

The geographic isolation of Australia does pose limits on things like international travel and international visitors. I periodically envy European types who can flit overseas to interesting climes without vast expenditure of time and money, and are far less daunting and expensive for international guests. That said, I've travelled overseas a *lot* to date, and always planned to shift to intranational travel post-children. Australia doesn't have the centuries of constructed human history you get in Europe (indigenous Australians have been around thousands of years, of course, but they were nomadic), but it's big and has an amazing range of landscapes and environments and lifestyles. At some point I plan to go on a horse-riding tour of the Australian Alps. I want to see the wildflowers bloom in Western Australia early one spring, then sneak north from them to the Ningaloo Reef and the Pilbara. While the kids are too little to bring along or leave behind for long, I'd happily settle for exploring the coast and forests of eastern Victoria, which I've never been to. Australia makes a great natural history destination, and I feel the time has come to make good my faithless enthusiasm for travelling outside it rather than within it.

Ech, I seem to have gone into a bit of an aimless patriotic ramble here. Is that an OK answer, Glitz?

*I did love Japan, for example. Could definitely live there for a year or so. Liked Geneva and Montreal, too, and a stint at either of those would get my French back into shape, which would be fun. Not generally keen on the tropics, a bit wussy for a long stay outside First World conditions (seven months in China took a major toll on my health!), had a great time in South Africa, but it's dangerous place and I don't know that I'm game to go back. Having children does make you cautious about putting yourself at risk!

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Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
9:27 am - Belated response to Splodgenoodles
What political issue would get you on the streets in protest, even at risk of arrest?

There are many political issues I feel strongly about, but I don't know that any would move me to take to the streets and risk arrest. I could be moved to take part in a peaceful march, at a pinch, but it would be as a show of solidarity and social bonding (because if I went, it would be because I'd been invited to do so by a friend, probably the tawnyone, who is far more Gryffindorish than I about such things), not because I thought it was likely to be effective activism.

Effectiveness is the crux of the matter for me. Maybe once upon a time the street protest could strongarm governments and other powerful bodies into changing their decisions, but my slacktivist feeling is that those days are long past. How many tens of thousands of people marched against Australia joining the War On Terror again? Didn't make any difference, did it? I'm a pragmatist. Getting myself arrested for a form of protest that wasn't going to achieve what I wanted anyway strikes me as profoundly pointless and stressful exercise. I'm more useful to the world out of jail and finding smarter avenues of protest, if protest is the game.

I do give plenty of the usual pinko causes at least my lip support. Gay marriage (seriously, people, the objections to this are just STUPID. Can we get over them and pass this bill already?). Protecting the environment (the degree to which people let personal-scale socio-financial concerns trump planet-scale long-term ECO-HORROR is deeply, deeply disturbing). Distributing resources in a less grossly unfair manner (which covers just about everything, come to think of it). Not torturing desperate refugees to court the votes of racist rednecks. That sort of thing.

In terms of Doing Something About It, though, I've picked cultural diversity as my speciality, and in my way, I *am* an effective activist in that field. I'm in the business of educating people about cultural differences and giving them the skills to handle them, with underlying theme of defusing racism and prejudice, neutralising the shameless milking of international student fees to prop up universities, and suchlike.

You do have to pick a cause to fight for. These days, when I get badgered by self-righteous 19 year olds trying to get me to donate to their cause, I remind myself (and them, on occasion) that the world is full of worthy causes, and I'm under no obligation to dilute my efforts and try to fight for their as well as mine. Singularity of purpose and believing that everyone in the world should pursue your favourite cause is one of the luxuries of being young and idealistic with few serious personal responsibilities. Which is probably why those rare individuals who *don't* abandon The Cause at 23, who go on to fight and make a difference on a societal level are so often so neglectful and remiss to their partners and families (or don't have these). We need people prepared to put principles above people (The Greater Good, eh Dumbledore?), but they're not always easy to be close to.

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Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
10:03 pm - Answer to lnhammer
lnhammer: Your thoughts on sheep, please?

Sheep get a bad rap, culturally. All the stereotypes are about them being stupid creatures who mindlessly follow the flock and have no thoughts more interesting than cud and crud. How does the cheery gambolling lamb image dwindle so fast into witless wool-wearer? Lambs seem to get more credit for having minds of their own. Perhaps the ones who don't knuckle down to the flock mentality quickly fall prey to foxes or something. Natural selection.

Sheep also feature prominently in Australia's international image. Sheep-shagging jokes and the like. All part and parcel of the bizarre but persistent image of Australia as beaches of perpetual sun and surf around the edges and sheep station hicksville everywhere else. Yeah, sheep do outnumber people here, I'm told, but suburbanites vastly, *vastly* outnumber Salt Of The Earth sheep-shearing country folk. The vast majority of Australians lay eyes on a sheep only on the rare occasions when they venture beyond the vast suburban wastelands onto a highway between towns that passes through pasture. Terribly unromantic stuff. In the manner of a small nation with pretences to being a large, significant one, Australians pass the (jum)buck to New Zealand and direct their sheep jokes there.

Wool garments are stupidly expensive in Australia, despite us being the world's biggest wool producer (I think: can't be bothered to check). This wouldn't have bothered me in the days of itchy jumperdom, but these days wool seems to have lifted its texture game. I hardly ever find woollen garments itchy against my skin any more. What's up with that? Have they found some new way to process the stuff which renders it itch-free, or are they breeding sheep with itch-free wool, or what? I'm glad of whatever it is, because wool *is* warm, and merino makes a great underlayer in winter. Speaking of merino, what's going on there? The fabric seemed to appear out of nowhere some time in the last ten years. I'm all for thin, non-itchy woolen garments that drape like T-shirt cotton, but I do wonder how it was developed. I presume the name refers to the breed of sheep the wool comes from, but otherwise I can only assume that it's wool like any other, just spun to a fine enough thread that it's soft to touch.

When I see a picture of a huge, fleecy merino ram (which happens often enough, as various companies use one as their mascot), I can't help but twinge a little. The selective breeding which has created a sheep that grows so magnificent and commercially useful a fleece has also rendered the beasts dependent on their human masters. Left to their own shearing- and shed-free devices, merino sheep grow so massive a fleece they die of heat exhaustion come warm weather. I've never heard of a feral sheep (having said that, some phantom memory says there was a sheep at large a few years ago... am I imagining this?), and maybe that's why. Domestication: a hazardous business.

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Friday, December 13th, 2013
6:54 pm - Answers to questions from sun__king
Ha - it seems that photos of children and clothing are even less inspiring than I feared! Never mind. It's easy to assume on LJ that no commentary means no interest or no readers, but it ain't necessarily so. Am now slightly embarrassed about posting quite so many stashed clo pix, but them's the breaks.

To the questions from sun__king, whose questions I was due to answer, erm, some days ago. Sorry about that. Can't remember what distracted me on the assigned day (Tuesday), but I had a horror bout of food poisoning on top of a complete nasal blockage cold on Wednesday morning (half a day in hospital on a drip type food poisoning, which is especially grim when you have completely stoppered nostrils), and that kind of threw me off balance for a couple of days. Am back on board. See here his questions:

Where would you take a 'Melbourne newbie' to show off your city (say, something to look at, something to climb up and somewhere to eat...)?

Before I answer, let me add some questions of my own for sun__king, starting with, er, hello! I note that you've Friended me on LJ, but other than that and what I've scanned of your profile and entries, your question was my first concrete evidence of your presence. Welcome, but unexpected evidence. Are you up for introducing yourself and how you came to manifest in welcome but unexpected fashion??

Now. A 'Melbourne newbie', eh? It would depend very much on what type of newbie it was, but if they were coming to stay around These Here Parts (south-western bayside suburbs), I would take them down to the coast three blocks south of my house and out along the boardwalk to the edge of the coldwater reef. Not what you'd call a major tourist attraction, but lovely. Mangroves and silvery sea plants and birds. We could clamber back over the rocks and walk along the sea afterwards. Last weekend I took the Vibrant One to do just that. I'd then take them a couple of suburbs away to climb up Federation Steps (opened by Julia Gillard before she became PM) to the sculpture, from where there is an impressive view over Port Phillip Bay to the city centre. As for eating, if their tastes were reasonably similar to mine, I'd drive them to Footscray and take them to have dumplings and skewers and spicy cucumber salad at the northern Chinese cafe there. Or, for something closer to home, the Thai cafe a few blocks away or even my local pizza place, recently changed to much better hands, which are baking fluffy crust gourmet pizzas with lists of impenetrable Italian ingredients as we speak.

If the aim was more Generic Melbourne Tourism, there are far more obvious destinations. I could take them up the Rialto (until not too long ago the tallest building in town, though I think it's since been superseded) for city views, then take the Circle Tram to the Docklands for Middle Eastern or Cambodian food (restaurants die fast there, as the urban planner who designed the district seriously overestimated the number of monied restaurant patrons willing to pay $10 to park in a windtunnel full of designer apartments) and stroll past all the cheery surreal sculptures to my favourite, the Blowhole (hopefully on a windy day, so its twirly goodness will be on offer). Or, if said newbie shared my taste for ironic juxtaposition, walk up the Moonee Creek trail from the Docklands, which winds under bridges until you reach this wonderful Urban Decay Meets Miro scene around Flemington, where the freeway sculpture (diagonal columns in primary colours - one big yellow one, lots of thinner red ones - plus giant cheese grater through which pour cars) intersects with the underside of the freeway bridge, which looks like a space station, all against a backdrop of city skyscrapers with a murky stormwater drain full of ducks at your feet. I love that sort of thing. When I lived in West Brunswick I went there and photographed it often.

So, sun__king, I see you hail from Wellington (nice city, that - visited it last March). Are you asking advisedly, because you plan on heading to Melbourne some time soon??

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1:02 am - B2 turns 2! (plus some clo)
Technically it's the day after B2's birthday now, it being 12:21am, but hey, in my book it's still spiritually yesterday until daylight. He's a charmer, my little B2, and I mean that genuinely, not sarcastically. Such a cheery, feisty little chap. For the first few weeks after he was born I thought dominant genes had reasserted themselves and landed me a dark-haired child this time, but over the next few months his locks faded from dark to red to a sort of gingery blond, which until a few months ago was so fluffy and buoyant it stuck up in the air like a dandelion wheel. Is madness. Of the four grandparents, one is Chinese (black hair genes all the way), two have (or had) loose dark curls, and one, just one, is (or was) platinum blonde. How both my sons managed to dodge around all that darkness to come out blond is beyond me. At least B2's eyes are the same colour as mine (hazel): B1's look set to stay green.

B1 alternates between territorial/bullying and doting with his little brother. After snubbing me altogether in the hospital for producing a rival, he came rushing up the morning after I brought B2 home crying "Hold 'im! Hold 'im! Hold baby brother!" which was an endearing surprise. I got B1 to sit in the middle of the bed and laid B2's head in his lap, and there were coos of "Awwww. Baby brother!" These days, B2 is rapidly catching up to him in size (he's chunkier in build and considerably taller and more talkative than B1 was at two). There are scary moments when B1 decides to Assert His Elder Brotherly Authority and does things like yell at him or pull him off/away from things (all the scarier because as well as the potential for injury, he's presumably imitating his parents' disciplinary tactics!), but on the whole the little lads get on well.

Here, have a photo of B2 on his birthday Cut because pictures of children on LJ are a non-universal tasteCollapse )

Clo aren't a universal taste either, but seeing I've been taking a few pictures of my outfits, I'll slip you some of those as well. Lots of post Clovember cloCollapse )

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