Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Wreath

Every year, I get out the Advent Wreath, re-glue the fallen off pine cones and bells, straighten up or replace the candles, pin in the wayward chunks of polystyrene and plastic holly leaves, and gingerly place it on the table.  Always in the hope it will look reasonably presentable as every Sunday one of the candles is lit for the four weeks of Advent until all are alight the Sunday before the great feast of Christmas.

This year, the NZ Catholic Bishops have suggested we stop phaffing (not their word!) about with pine cones and holly on our Advent wreaths, and make something more in keeping with our identity as New Zealanders.  They suggested we leave the green and red to those in the Northern Hemisphere and make ours blue - to signify the sea across which we all came, whether by waka or Boeing - and with four white candles to represent the stars of the Southern Cross.  Traditionally the candles are purple, signifying penance, and as purple was the most expensive dye (hence its use in royal robes) there was a sense of  'sacrifice' or 'offering' in the tradition.
I have to admit being surprised and impressed at this independence from our spiritual leaders!

I embraced this idea wholeheartedly and searched through all the likely - and some unlikely - shops for an Advent wreath frame, but polystyrene seemed the only option, and as it no longer does it for me I improvised.  An unused plant pot saucer has been given a new career, and while technically not a 'wreath' without the hole in the centre, it is not going to fall apart from one Advent to the next AND the centre provides the perfect space for a paua shell, so appropriate to the new design.

So here is the new family Advent wreath.
The candles each have a red star, as the stars of the Southern Cross are depicted on our flag.  They are wreathed in ribbon of sea/paua colour, and the paler evening star on the outward face is numbered in the language of our country, Maori, counting up to Christmas.  Maybe the next lot of candles will be a little taller and slimmer.

I took it along to the annual ecumenical service for the blessing of Advent Wreaths (not without some forethought and a touch of apprehension as I was aware most of the wreaths would be traditional, and mine was not!) and although it wasn't the only one in the new Catholic style, it was the only one with a Santa Claus on it!  But I wanted it blessed, I wanted the blessing to come into my home and be present through the wreath as we gather during Advent and for Christmas.

The extras on my wreath are decorations my adult children have given me over the years.  Some have come from foreign countries as they had their wonderful overseas experiences, some are local.  There is the angel, symbolising the bearer of the Christmas news and our own Guardian Angels.  The dove of peace, which I pray we share and show each other especially as our families gather at this time.  The pohutukawa flower, the NZ Christmas tree, which up and down the country, and especially along our coastlines, breaks into glorious red celebration at Christmas.  And there is Santa Claus.  Because gift giving and bringing joy to others is an integral part of what Christmas is for us.  And the three wise men didn't come empty handed, so Jesus' own Christmas story includes gift giving.  It possibly needs some representation of food, as the preparation, planning, and sharing of food is a very big part of our family celebrations.  But inspiration for that is still to come!

So there it is.  Our new tradition.  And this Sunday, the first candle will be lit.
Advent blessings to you!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

One thing leads to another......

Took the new car for a run down to Te Aute today, (about 20 mins each way).  Would've gone further, (although I wasn't planning to go at all) except the Christmas cake was in the oven with an hour to go when the AA man left.

Yesterday when I put the recycling out at the kerb, I had just finished a text conversation with Daughter #1, and was about to head to work.  At lunch time I fossicked through my handbag, but my cellphone wasn't there.
Little frissons of alarm.
Where had I last seen it?
In my hand when putting out the recycling.
Holy Heck.
Surely I'll find it on the kitchen bench when I get home.  Won't  I?
Well, no.  I didn't.
One of my nearest and dearest works for a recycling firm and I have heard numerous stories of fully functioning cellphones found in the kerbside collection.
Oh joy.  Mine was going to add to the number.  It was all of three weeks old, and I hadn't even got round to putting on a SIM or screen PIN code.
I rang it from the landline, fully expecting to hear it in the bedroom, bathroom, anywhere really.   And then I thought that if it's ringing and the recycling guys hear it and locate it they will find they can ring anywhere in the world, it will be charged to my account with a potential for mega debt to me and should I ring my provider and cancel it or alert them or was it too early and might it not still turn up? Tried ringing it again, this time out in the garage by the recycling boxes, yes!  There it is!  From the car!  Joy of joys!  Rang off before the voicemail kicked in, I mean let's not spend any money on this now I know where it is!
Into the car....  where?  Dark.... No visible phone...interior lights!  Excellent and many interior lights, phone found between seat and door.  Praise The Lord!
And today intending to whip to the shops to get a few sewing supplies for a Christmas project, well what a surprise to find all the interior lights in the car on!  And a flat battery.
AA man cometh, car started, what a good opportunity to give the car a run.

I do think life must have been simpler in a less technological age, but I have no desire to go back and test that.

Oh and the cake looks great, and the car does 6.3litres to 100km on a bit of a road trip.  Can't wait to take her further!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Welcome Summer!

Summer's here!
After an autumn/winter that has gone on since about April 2011, all the signs are that finally Hawkes Bay is welcoming summer.

A whole week of sun that has required hats, sunblock, and keeping out of in early afternoons.

Too early to predict harvests, based on my own garden, but last summer the beans were less than plentiful and the corn certainly not a great success.  Both had good plants but poor yields.  This year I'm  planning on luxuriant surpluses!

But the telltale sign that we have Finally Arrived at Summer was the need last night to get out of bed and swap the winter duvet for the summer one, and then sleep with only a sheet on anyway.  Hawkes Bay summers.  We can't wait for them, and then the nights are too humid to sleep easily anyway!  Last night I was reminded of that, and it's been so long, even THAT seemed welcome!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gay Marriage, Civil Unions, The Church and Equality

Today, the NZ Parliament begins the debate on Louisa Wall's Bill to legalise Gay Marriage.

Eight years ago, amidst a great deal more controversy than there appears to be now, the NZ government signed into law the Civil Union Act, under which two consenting adults, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, could enter into a legal contract similar to (but not the same as) marriage.  It was a step so far, seen as too far by some and not going far enough by others.  But at the time, it was certainly a move towards treating all citizens equally in the matter of "joining together two people who love each other for better or for worse until death us do part".

I have been  saddened by some of the comments surrounding this next step - allowing consenting adults, whatever their sexual orientation, to enter into marriage.  The most common is "they've got their Civil Union, what more do they want?!"  which was perfectly answered by Nadine Chalmers-Ross on Breakfast this morning, when she said:
“One of the difficulties I have with Bob McCroskie’s [National Director of Family First] argument against same sex marriage is when he says “Oh but same-sex couples have their civil unions” it’s a bit like people in apartheid South Africa saying ‘black people have their own bars so why let them into ours?’. You can’t argue that this is not about equality, because it is.”

As with anything that makes a social change,  there are complications in the ripples.

I belong to a traditional, conservative Christian Church, quite unafraid to speak aloud its protestation at civil and moral matters which it finds abhorrent.  It is an organisation with a strong social justice identity and focus, based on the tenet that each person is sacred and dignified.  There are no conditions to that tenet - regardless of race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, age, abilities, wealth and anything else you can think of, each person is sacred and valuable.  It also holds unreservedly that the homosexual act is deviant behaviour.

I also belong to a society which is working to recognise and repair the injustices of treating people in different ways based on their race, abilities and gender. 

Not for the first time, my church and my society are entering a no-compromise head-to-head battle.

It would be na├»ve to think that the State could legislate for equality in this issue and that the churches could set their own rules as to who they marry.  A church, which while accepting and embracing the individual homosexual person sees any homosexual act as completely unacceptable, is not going to be able, in all conscience, to accept its ministers performing marriage ceremonies between gay couples.  And a gay couple who wanted to be married in the church to which they belong would have a right to take a case of discrimination when they were denied this.  I don't think the church could win a legal challenge in this matter.  And yet it would be equally iniquitous to compel the church to perform such a ceremony.

Maybe it is time to separate church and state.
If ministers of religion could not agree to perform marriage ceremonies in accordance with all sections of the law - presuming here that the right to marry is afforded to all sane, assenting adults - then maybe ministers of religion should not be licenced to actually perform marriages.

I believe that in some European countries (why does Italy spring to mind?), a couple wanting to marry applies for a licence, just like in NZ, and then is married by a registrar.  If they so wish, they can then have a religious ceremony, in which their marriage is blessed in their church and before God.  They can chose to have the civil ceremony fairly privately and the church celebration surrounded by all their loved ones if they wish.

The question of whether we should deny any of our adult citizens the right to marry should not be countered by "what sexual orientation are they?"  any more than it should be by "what colour are they?" or "what religion are they?" before an answer can be given.  If the sticking point of gay marriage is that the churches can't accept it, then maybe they have given their own answer, and they should be blessing marriages, not performing them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


In recent years I've become aware of a world wide trend of blaming the people born after the Second World War for all the ills of society. Apparently Baby Boomers are responsible for the fiscal, environmental and moral decay of the world!
More than anything else, the repetition of this viewpoint makes me realise that the world has turned and there is yet another generation who now feels in control, or at the very least, that they should be.

When Corin Dann was financial reporter for and then host of Breakfast (TVNZ One) he regularly made comments to the effect that Baby Boomers were about to bankrupt the country by living on after the age of retirement and collecting the pension. I often wondered what his parents thought about these comments, and his highly respected colleague Peter Wiliams, himself a Baby Boomer. But the interesting point is that Corin thought it perfectly acceptable to stigmatise an entire section of the population in this way. There is certainly an issue with people now living longer, and many of them being able to work beyond the age of 65, and the impact that has on financial projections, but there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of saying and dealing with this.

We all do it. We talk about Gen Y and Gen X and they talk about Baby Boomers. There's a sort of generational thing where anyone older than about 50 is deemed to be over the hill and have opinions and experience of no value to those much younger, and the reverse is also true - those with knowledge and the experience of decades can be guilty of thinking that younger people's opinions are without substance and foundation.

I watched the movie "The Way" in which a father goes to France to collect the body of his son who has died undertaking a pilgrimage, and ends up walking it in his place. One of the other characters in the movie is a younger woman who never calls him anything but Boomer, because of his age. And it left me almost despairing for those of the generation who think that they are the only ones with the right to the planet and its resources.

Every generation makes mistakes. But many of the benefits and social norms enjoyed now are as a result of the work and effort of the Baby Boomers.
When the Boomers were teenagers and in their twenties, if there was a pregnancy out of marriage, there was not only no Domestic Purposes Benefit to support mother and child, but it was the height of shame to the whole family. There were quick weddings and early babies, and much, much worse, there were forced adoptions. Today it seems amazing that parents had the power they did to keep a girl in the house until she could be sent away to aunty's to have the baby which was immediately whisked away and never spoken of again. Yes dear young people, it was the Baby Boomers who had this done to them, who would not let this be done to their children, who said "to hell with what people think" and despite the sharp intakes of breath by their own parents and extended families, loved and looked after their daughters and their babies. It's so normal now, but the reality of parental power was enormous in the 50s and 60s.

Those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives have a right to retire and collect the National Superannuation to enable them to live out their old age with dignity, just as those who are ill or disabled should feel valued by their community. A society whose members only think of how that money would be much better spent on themselves misses the point of society and community.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Here have some money, that'll fix it

So once upon a time, in this little country in the South Pacific, the people voted for politicians who decided that should an accident occur causing injury, then payment would be made for rehabilitation and loss of function from a fund set up for the purpose.  Employers would pay into this fund, the amount would be set depending on the risk of injury in their industry, and everyone would live happily ever after.  They called this the Accident Compensation Corporation.

There were some difficult cases - burglars who were injured in the middle of a crime for instance, people who shot themselves, drunk drivers who smashed themselves (and often others) up, that sort of thing - but the fund covered everyone.

No longer did doctors need to fear being sued - no one got sued for harming anyone any more.  The Medical Council of course still had power to censure errant doctors, but those who were injured, or the bereaved of the deceased, were all paid out of the fund, and life went on.

Some people, whose injuries were very personal and included mental injury, had their files handled by the Sensitive Claims Unit.  Confidentiality was paramount.  These claims might involve circumstances of rape, of incest,  of mutilation.  Sensitive stuff indeed.

Then one day, someone at ACC made a mistake.  An email was sent to a completely unsuspecting person, who happened to be a client of ACC, and attached to that email was a database of 6,748 other clients of ACC.  The data included their names and details of their injuries.  Included in these 6,748 clients were about 250 clients whose cases were being handled by the Sensitive Claims Unit.

The media had a field day!  Allegations and finger pointing, truths, half-truths and non-truths made their way daily into the TV news and front pages of the newspapers.  Records of meetings were produced, the shakey truth began to emerge, and then ACC decided to fix it.

Yes, ACC knew what fixes everything.
If they accepted a claim, and paid money, (which began to happen less and less frequently) then the client went and got professional medical help, and everyone was happy.
If they declined a claim, because the claimant was, say, over 60, (so therefore it would be a fair bet that there was some physical deterioration due to aging) on the grounds of normal deterioration (even when it was pretty clear to everyone else that the injury was caused by the accident concerned), they knew that withholding the money required for physio and medical attention caused more pain.  Or if they declined a claim because there was a delay filling in the forms, they were soon made aware that non-payment caused stress, anxiety and a longer recovery time.

The problem was that at some point over the years, they had stopped seeing their clients as people whom they were set up to help, and instead viewed them only as economic drains on the fund, whose duty it had become to protect.

So they knew how to fix the stress and pain of those clients whose sensitive claims' confidentiality had been breached.

They offered them money.
Not a lot of money apparently.  It's said to be in the "low hundreds".
But hey, money fixes everything doesn't it.
That'll solve it!
That'll make it go away!
That'll make them live happily ever after!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Just bought an iPad, love it!!!

And pondered the changes in 30 years of computing!
My first one was a Sinclair ZX81, which I acquired when my BIL upgraded.  This was such fun, but compared to my iPad......  well this WAS 30 years ago!  You had to write code to get it to do anything, and it used your TV screen as its monitor.  It had a stunning memory of 16K, but was a great way to learn to understand computer code!

Windows 2.0.png
Screenshot of Windows 2.0
Not sure what came next.  It was big, - from memory it was an IBM - it took 5½" floppy disks, it played games which seemed pretty up there - Digger comes to mind, Pacman, Space Invaders - and again I think there was a fair bit of code knowledge required to get it to operate.  But with everything running on DOS of course, well there was wasn't there.

Oh and Word!  I remember Windows 2.0, and  Word 5 white text on a blue screen!   Very basic!
Word 5

But it could do some very cool things. 
Oh the memories!  Windows 286!  386! DOS prompts!  The difference between forward slash and back slash!

The first time I discovered Mail Merge I think I fell in love!  Not sure which version - sometime in the 1990s. How clever was that!  And Excel.  Wow.  There was a programme!  I spent a fair bit of time finding out how to get these programmes to do their utmost - I read the manuals (yes, really!  And they were GIANT books too!) and spent untold hours on the computers, just doing stuff.

And now here we are.
A computer that fits into my handbag, that I can surf the net on while snuggled up in bed!!

When the young chap looked at me with a "old lady.  Won't have a clue" look and reminded the iPad salesman that their shop provided an hour intensive one on one training on the iPad for only $99.99, I smiled politely (as old ladies do) and thanked him.  Should have said "sonny, I was writing code for these things before you were born!"

And if I've confused my 81 with a different version or my 2.0 with the 2.1, well, put it down to the monumental degree of change there's been in this field in my last 30 years!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Music and Memories

Last night on the car radio there were the Byrds with "Wasn't born to follow".  Brought back memories of late 60s, "Easy Rider" that I saw with the boyfriend of the time.   Been listening to Andrew Bird ("Armchair Apocrypha") and the Avett Bros ("Emotionalism") lately, and there's something very reminiscent of the very early 1970s about them - my early 70s anyway -  and together with the Byrds I was whisked back more than 40 years.

A group of us young things from the accountants' office we worked at, took off one Friday after work to someone's holiday home in Taupo - at the time it was about 3 hours' driving time, over mountainous roads.  We went in Lou's Mini, and stopped on the way, at BayView for fish and chips before getting into the real driving.  Not a good thing to do, scoff f&c before squeezing into the back of a two door Mini to travel the Taupo Road!  Especially for one such as me, prone to travel sickness....  But we rocked along to Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Rod Stewart, Badfinger, Rolling Stones and other unremembered cassettes that were the favourite of someone there!

We had a ball in Taupo - hot pools (it was winter - probably about this time of year), music of course, drink and socialising,  and just hanging out and enjoying the break.   The Avett Bros reminds me very much of an unidentified LP we listened too around that time, and over that weekend.  I have no idea who that band was, but such is the power of music that after listening to the Avett Bros a few times over the last week and then hearing the Byrds, I was instantly transported back.

I don't think anything is as efficient or powerful in time travel as music!  Maybe NASA could do some work around it...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Intarsia and me

image title
"Digger Jacket" by Sam Godden

Spiderman Jacket - front
Intarsia is a style of knitting, usually to create pictures or multi-colour patterns, and in which each different colour (as in the Digger Jacket shown here) uses its own thread.  In other words, the threads are not carried across the back as in Fair Isle knitting.  I have done a fair amount of intarsia over the years, and with grandchildren, have made a couple in recent times.  This is a Spiderman zip up jacket made for James, and I'm now working on this Digger Jacket for Timothy.

Spiderman - back view
I'm doing both fronts and the back all on the one needle, so there'll be no sideseams, and at the moment it looks like this:
This is the inside or wrong side view but I'm very pleased with the way my little plastic bags have worked out!  For intarsia, one needs separate thread for each change of colour, as the colour isn't carried across the work.  Tangling is very easy!  This time, I have wound each separate yarn around my finger, leaving the "tail" which will be pulled from the inside of the tube of yarn, and slipping each into its own zip lock bag.  It's working well!
One of the key things with intarsia is to keep the tension even - easier to say than to achieve when one is juggling 30 different threads!  And it helps if you DON'T have a playful kitten (or an inquisitive toddler) around while you're working at it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cross Country

This was going to be a post about intarsia, but my darling granddaughter Penny has just won her school age group Cross Country, which has stirred up all manner of things, so here I go getting said things out!

I am delighted beyond measure that my grandchildren appear to be natural runners!  Not all of them are running or even walking yet, but those that are do it with great joy!  My children weren't at all bad at sport either.  They didn't inherit that from me.
When I was at school, just as today, everyone had to run the cross country.  Training involved, just as today, circuits of the fields.  On the day of the race, some parents turned up, not as many as today - but that was the nature of how things were back in the day - and stood on the sideline egging on their children.  And, unfortunately, in an era when it was ok to tell children they were hopeless or give them a clip around the ear and tell them they should try harder when in fact they weren't and they couldn't, it was also ok for some of said sideline parents to laugh at the kids who were so far behind the rest of the pack that they were hardly worth standing around for, waiting until they finished, unless it was for the value of a good laugh.  That DOESN'T happen today.  I was fortunate that my parents were never on the sideline, so there was never a rehashing of it over the dinner table.
I have two slightly less horrible memories of cross country - the only time I didn't come dead last (poor Angela was having a really off day!!), and the time I had been lapped by the field TWICE, but came in a lap early, as if I'd only been lapped once.  No one seemed to notice or care, and I felt it was quite brave of me to cut out that last lap saving me from another agonising circuit by myself.

What did such public humiliation teach me?  Certainly not to "try harder"!  I was busting a gut out there desperate, desperate not to be last - and so far last - again.  At High School I became very practiced at writing notes excusing me from running - or hurdles - hurdles!  What malevolence decreed that all school kids should be able to leap hurdles!  With my big feet, no training in technique and inability to get up any sort of speed, I was destined to fall at every one! - and signing them as from my mother.  Did the teachers ever know Mum hadn't written them?  Or were they so relieved I was sitting out that they didn't care?!  If it taught me anything, it was compassion for the kids who really, really can't do something that it's expected the whole class will do.  And it taught me - but not till later - to say "no.  I won't be doing this."

One of my heroes is a lad I knew some years ago, who, at the time I knew him (Y6-8 of primary schooling) didn't ever run in the cross country.  Unlike other kids who were "sick" on the day (why didn't I do that?!) he turned up and was most helpful in the organising, but had a note from his mother (actually written by his mother!) saying he would not be running.  He was perfectly unashamed of not taking part.  He had other gifts and in his family it was okay to have things you couldn't do, and the focus was rather on the things you did well.  One lunchtime he was in the library, and I said to him "J, run over to the office and collect the box they have there for me."  And he didn't move.  Stood looking at me with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical grin, and said "ME Mrs G?  Me RUN?  How about I walk quickly?!"
At College this boy won national recognition for his management of a sports team, which led on to international opportunities.    The things he did well, he did very well, and his family felt he had no need of humiliation to become a better person.  I heartily agree with this philosophy.

Many years after I left school, I was having physio following knee surgery, and the physio was suggesting exercises for my rehab.  "You don't run I hope, do you?" he asked.  I assured him I didn't and he showed me how my lower leg met my knee at an angle that meant I had never been intended to run.  He explained that running could result in permanent damage and said I should never have run.   Oh if only this man had written the notes to my teachers all those years earlier!

I love how the schools have adopted Jump Jam as part of Physical Education.  And cycling.  There will always be kids who love to run, and absolutely they should have every chance to.  But why inflict cross country on kids who have proved over many years that this is absolutely not for them?   Bring in yoga and dance and make sure everyone takes part in something, and leave the running to the runners!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Knitting - Part II

So here's the little tea cosy as mentioned in the last post, and here's today's project which I am SO pleased with!  A needle case.  I've wanted one for ages, but it was just a matter of getting desperate enough to spend a couple of hours making one.  It was motivated by needing a certain size double ended needles, not having them, going shopping for them, not finding them, and then unearthing a set (which had to be put through the gauge to find out what size they were) which made me very pleased I hadn't invested in another set.  So it was obviously time to organise my gear!
The top of the fabric folds over the tops of the needles to keep them in place before rolling, but opens out flat for ease of use.  And all my needles SORTED!  Such a joy!  I'm a bit of a pedant at heart, but have done a good job of working on letting go of the unnecessary stuff, sometimes to my own frustration!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The knitting bug bites again..

The weather didn't really get to summer this year, and now we're definitely in autumn, with daylight saving back in (or off - never quite sure - but the mornings are slightly lighter and the evenings fall earlier).  And so for me, a bit of a seasonal knitter, it's that time again.  I'm working on my first pair of knitted socks for about 30 years, and then I think I'll make a tea cosy.

I have a morning ritual of breakfast on a tray, with a lovely cloth, a beautiful bone china serviette ring for my serviette, and a lovely little blue china pot of green tea.  A tea cosy would have to be aesthetically pleasing to me in the morning, and fit in with my tray decor!!
So off to Ravelry for ideas and Oh my goodness!  Such artistry!  Such panache!  One can dress one's teapot as a cow,  with elegant flowers or as this absolutely stunning nun!  There are pirate tea cosies with skull and crossbones, chickens, rabbits and any number of striped and patterned ones.  There's a 1966 one very similar to my first knitting project, a teacosy of violet and primrose, which combination I didn't like at all, but Mum had got the wool at a sale..... Christmas pudding, Union Jack - and that's just in the first dozen or so!

I'm conscious that mine will need frequent washing, so some of these elegant and intricate ones just would end up stained and sad at my place.  No decisions yet, but it won't be an art work!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Librarianship a dying occupation?

For the first time, I fear for the future of Librarians.
I've long been aware of the pressure on school libraries - particularly in the UK - to close, and thus release "resources" (read "money") for IT.. Check out this article on The Times Higher Education website (formerly the Times Higher Education Supplement), which Wikipedia tells me is UK's leading higher education publication.  And yes, I know there's something wrong with a Librarian writing on the decline of Librarians, using Wikipedia as an authoritative source.

Many, many UK primary school libraries have closed, and the books relegated to an untended corner or even cupboard so the room can be used for other things, and the money that was spent on books and library staff wages can be spent elsewhere - usually on IT.  Here in NZ Cambridge College tried it some years ago, turning their library into a cafe, but the outcry meant the project was short lived and the library returned.

In general, libraries have always been abreast of trends and up with the play.  You can download the latest book to your eReader from most NZ libraries, and you don't even need to leave your home to do it.  But it is not this that is the problem for school libraries.

At the moment most School Librarians in NZ are investigating eBook possibilities for their libraries, and networking with each other about all aspects of this.  Many of them own eReaders themselves.  Do we buy eReaders and lend them out?  They aren't robust enough to cope with some of the "activity" that school bags are part of.  Do we become a BYOD  (bring your own device) library, and if so, what about the majority of our students who won't have a device or if they do, won't be allowed (primary school) to bring it to school?  And what if they do, and it gets lost, stolen or broken?
Becoming an eBook lending library is quite different from owning a device and purchasing or borrowing an eBook for your own use.  To be a lender of eBooks a library has to pay a fee to a bookseller for the rights to their ePlatform, which will host and facilitate the lending of eBooks to library patrons.  There goes $1000.  Then the library has to purchase the eBooks.  Some are out of copyright and are free.  Most that school children want to read are not.  And not a whole lot cheaper than buying the paper copy.  Each eBook the library purchases, can, as with a paper copy, only be on loan to one borrower at a time.  Borrowers have to wait their turn, as with a paper copy, or the library can purchase multiple eBooks of the same title.  Each time the eBook is downloaded to a device, there is another fee.  I would like to think this is a copyright fee that goes to the author, but I'm fairly sure that it isn't.  Libraries have long escaped paying copyright on loans (ergo, so have borrowers) and I fear that the 24c per download fee may stay with the booksellers.  A school library can pay one annual download fee of $750 instead of the per-item amount, so already the cost to the library is more than many schools can afford for new books each year in these difficult times.  So do we still buy new books?  Paper copy real books?  Well yes of course.  Most of the titles our kids want to read aren't available as eBooks, and while you can curl up with a Kindle anywhere (except not if it's a library book you're hoping to read on it - Amazon and Libraries are as yet not singing from the same song eBook) there's still something delicious about a Real Book that is quite aesthetically different from a device.

With all of this new stuff hitting our school libraries, wouldn't you think this would be just the time that Real Qualified Know-What-They're-Doing Librarians would be worth their weight in books?  Doesn't seem to be the case.  I went to a School Librarians' Network meeting on Tuesday.  Present were about 30 or so librarians from local schools, both Primary and Secondary.   In the Primary group, the librarians (unfortunately here I use the term loosely) were of three types -
  1. a whole host of new people who each introduced themselves as a "librarian" having no training or experience in any library, and each was hired to replace a qualified, experienced Librarian
  2. teachers with Library Responsibility - they are paid generally One Management Unit (about $2500) per year to oversee the library.  They are teachers.  They generally spend little time in the library.
  3. Librarians, generally with over 20 years' experience.  Qualified Librarians, who are passionate about kids and know the difference between great kid-grabbing books and the rest, who advocate for literacy and the library, who listen to kids excited about a book they've read or are reading, who listen to kids who hate reading and try to find them something appealing, and who as they resign or retire, as being replaced with cheap labour.
I was gutted.  For the first time in my life I thought that next time a child tells me they want to be a Librarian, I would sadly hope they find a career more likely to still exist by the time they leave school.  Usually I enthusiastically tell them how cool it is to actually be given money and HAVE to BUY BOOKS with it!  And then, to HAVE to READ the books so that I can recommend them to the right kids!  Coolest job in the world!

The guts of the problem is the underfunding of schools.  There isn't enough money to run a modern school, and the reason modern schools need so much more money than they used to, is, quite frankly, the enormous amount needed by IT.  The number of computers, the interactive white boards, the video cameras, sound gear etc, the programmes and their annual licence fees, and then the very regular replacement of computers, interactive white boards, video cameras  etc etc with even more expensive ones that can do more, faster and better, but whose life seems to be ever shorter - therein lies the problem.  And school libraries are struggling not to be collateral damage.  Every now and then an article pointing out the problem appears - this one is a year old but sadly, accurate and typical - but the problem just gets worse.

And so Librarians are, I fear, a dying breed.  Society will be the worse for it, and unqualified, untrained, and inexperienced people will be paid basic minimum wage and expected to be all that the Real Life Librarian they replaced was. And children will never know what a Librarian really is.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Should a Profoundly Deaf Member of Parliament be required to pay for their own translation service?

It's an interesting point. Mojo Mathers was elected to NZ Parliament as a List MP for the Green Party, after the counting of Special Votes gave the Greens an extra member. Mojo is profoundly deaf and although the Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, has apparently been most helpful in researching the technology that will enable Mojo to take part in the cut and thrust of The House, he is steadfastly refusing to have Parliamentary Services fund the $30,000 for secretarial services. He has suggested that because The Greens put forward a candidate with a disability, they should fund any extra help she needs. He has also suggested that as she doesn't represent an electorate (being a List MP, not an Electorate MP), the money for secretarial services to do her job in the electorate could be used for this. Or that other MPs could donate some of their electorate budget to this cause. And other MPs, from other parties, have offered to do this. For the Greens though, this is a principle that needs to be dealt with correctly and from the top. From Dr Smith in fact.
I like Dr Smith's handling of the barnyard squabbling in the Debating Chamber. But his comments on this matter reek of arrogance and condescension.

Dr Smith has missed the point. Or several of them.

Every member of Parliament has the right - the goes-without-saying, give-me-a-break, not-even-worth-arguing-about right to take part in the debates of Parliament.

Deaf people have the right to represent us in Parliament. Any person does, as long as they don't have a disability that affects their ability to understand the issues they will be dealing with. And that's "understand" not "hear".

Mojo represents not just one electorate, but all the people who voted for The Greens, including me, including those with disabilities, and including those without. Mojo most particularly represents those NZers who have a disability. I'm sure she'll be getting a mountain of mail and influx of emails from other profoundly deaf people, and the parents of profoundly deaf children, who will be all saying the same thing - we know what you're dealing with here, because it's like that for us as well.

Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Greens, said that she herself can take part in debates in Parliament in Te Reo Maori, which is then translated for the benefit of the non-Te Reo speakers in the House. She doesn't have to pay for this translation, nor do the non-speakers. But apparently if you are deaf, the rules are different. NZ Sign Language is one of the three official languages in NZ - the other two are English and Te Reo Maori. Officially, then, we as a community embrace and support our deaf members.

Dr Lockwood Speaker of the House Smith said on Close Up, on TV1, that had Mojo Mathers been disabled and required a wheelchair, well then of course Parliamentary Services would pay. There would need to be physical alterations to the House. But the service required by Ms Mathers is only for Ms Mathers. Which would indicate that the physical alteration of the House for wheelchair access is somehow not only for the person in the wheelchair.....?

Parliament is unfortunately hammering in the benchmark of how deaf people are treated in the community. Is is because it's an invisible disability? No white stick and guide dog? No wheel chair or crutches?
Dr Smith has the opportunity to up the ante for all of us. He has the opportunity to say how much New Zealanders care about all members of our society, and that Parliament will pave the way and show the example for all to follow.
Unfortunately I'm afraid that's exactly what he is doing.

He is wrong and he's being steadfast about it. I hope that he's man enough to change his mind and recommend to Parliamentary Services that Mojo's secretarial support staff be funded from their budget. And that is my hope, not just because it's the fair and decent thing to do, but because he has the opportunity here to extend to all the deaf in our communities an expression of acceptance and inclusion by so doing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thoughts in a cemetery

Yesterday I spent about an hour wandering around our city cemetery.  I go there fairly often, but rarely spend so much time, but my car was getting new horseshoes nearby and I had several hours to fill in.

It's a curious thing, the cemetery.  Ours is in sections - the Old Part, with the big marble and concrete memorials; the Newer Lawn Cemetery; the lovely Rose Garden where those cremated are commemorated by plaques; the bright but depressing still-born and infant garden, and the Returned Services lawn cemetery.  There is a big white cross denoting the graves of Marist Priests, and a white marble memorial for the Sisters of St Joseph.  It's a peaceful place, on the edge of the city.

They are all there.  Every name you can think of, and a few you never would.  Isaac, Cornelius, Mary, Hezekiah, Constance, Albert, Sione, Shirley, Barbara, Catherine, Raymond, and one with Chinese (?) characters which spoke of a person far from home.  They died stillborn, a few hours, some years, young adults, right up to 104 years.  There could be older, I didn't look at them all.  The oldest tomb I saw was 1894, the newest had a mourning party and hearse gathered while I was there.  I didn't see any with occupations listed, and only a few had cause of death.  "Airplane accident".   "Childbirth".
Most of them were, no doubt, good people.  But there would be the odd bad - even evil - person, because in the end, whoever we are, we all die.

It seems strange to think that we will all end up there, and no matter who we've been, or what we've done, we'll be recorded by a tomb, a plaque.  Many of the old stones were illegible.  Some had been recently upgraded - maybe as a result of a family reunion?  I visited my friend Clare, and of course Jim, and found Dad's (after all these years, his is still never quite where I think it's going to be - 3rd row?  2nd? they DO all look alike in the RSA lawn part!).    I found a recently buried family friend in the old part, a new marker squeezed (so it seemed) between two very old tombs.  Had he bought his plot 60 years ago?  Or have the Council decided that there are some graves purchased so long ago that the owner has obviously been buried somewhere else and is now reselling them?
A cortege arrived at the crematorium, so I moved to another section.  It's probably a place where there's activity most days.

And it makes me wonder why I worry about so many small things.  No doubt many of those people there did too.  In the end, what really matters?  The plaques and monuments don't tell the story.  How many of those people struggled financially?  How many lived with illness?  With sadness at the death of a child or of someone they loved whom they thought would have lived much longer?   With disappointment at the choices made by a loved family member?

The only things that really matter are the memories left in the hearts of family and friends.  The remembrances that will be handed down and talked about when those they knew get together.

But it's good to wander in a cemetery on a lovely sunny day, and read the inscriptions and wonder about the people.  It's an extension of our community, it's part of us.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cherry Bowl

This morning a man came up my drive, and presented me with a beautiful wooden bowl.  Not the sort of thing that happens every day, in fact I'd go so far to say that it's never happened before and is unlikely to again.  A sort of once in a lifetime event really.

Four years ago, I had an ornamental cherry tree chopped down, and someone (and for the life of me I have no idea who - maybe the person who chopped it?  who was......??!) suggested that if I didn't want the timber, they knew of a man who did woodturning who would appreciate it.

The tree was an ugly thing in the winter, having been pruned so that it had no branches except at the top, but in the summer it was a glorious umbrella. 

Daughter #1's pre-wedding photos taken under it, show it at the far left.

It had a lovely big straight trunk, and apparently the woodturner, George was delighted with it.

Today he brought me a bowl he'd made from it, and there is something inestimably special about having a beautiful bowl made from a tree that used to grow in one's own garden.

Thank you George, and may 2012 be a prosperous and happy year for you!