Tuesday, June 29, 2010

my son, the vegetarian

My seven-year-old son and I were cuddled up together on the couch watching a David Attenborough documentary when it happened. Perhaps it was the sight of the bloodied face of a polar bear tucking into his seal steak, or the sight of smaller mammals struggling to find food for their hungry babies.

Whatever the catalyst, it had undoubtedly been mounting for some months, when in an uncharacteristic murmur he sighed, “Mum, I don’t want to eat animals anymore.” Continue reading.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia Gillard: What's in a name?

Today Australia not only has its first female Prime Minister, but the first 'Julia' to assume primary political status anywhere in the world.

Until now, Julias have played second fiddle in the political orchestra. Julius Caesar had two sisters called Julia. Julia Tyler(1820-89) was the second wife of US President Tyler. Julia Carson was the second African American woman elected to Congress from Indiana.

And yet Julias have topped the ranks in other arenas.

Julia Child television chef and author.

Julia Morgan is the most important female architect in history.

Julia Farr established the Home for the Incurables in 1878 in South Australia.

Julia Ward Howe - wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Mother's Day Proclamation (1870)

Julia Roberts
is one of the first actors to earn $20 million dollars a picture, and one of the few older women to maintain a professional presence despite Hollywood's preference for younger female actors.

The traditional meaning of the name Julia is given as "soft haired and youthful". If her namesakes are any indicator, Julia Gillard's Prime Ministership can be expected to include reform, creative problem solving and dogged persistence in the face of great adversity. Such attributes can certainly be seen in her political contribution so far.

Talk continues about the under-representation of women in leadership positions in Australia, and particularly a study that suggests women are being set up to fail. The study reports that leadership responsibility is frequently given to women when companies are already in dire straits. With a Federal Election looming, one wonders if history is being repeated in the federal arena today.

You may also be interested in Tony Abbot and the Swivel Chair as well as Australian Story: She Who Waits
More Famous Julias

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Giving Soccer a Makeover.

Soccer is such an unsatisfying spectacle that players apparently need to fake injury to create any sort of drama. How can such a monotonous sport which frequently provides no result, be so popular? I just don't get it.

While Australian Rules footballers play out a game with broken ribs, bruised pancreas, and broken noses, soccer is unlikely to garner any credibility in this country, in its current form. This is not to say that playing with such injuries is desirable, or even admirable. What it does do is make a laughing stock of those soccer players continually faking serious injury, often being stretchered from the ground only to jump to their feet once over the boundary line.

To this end, I have composed some suggested changes for consideration. Until then my local running track provides ample opportunty to observe people running around in circles to no avail for 90 minutes. I'll see you down there.

1. Make the goals bigger.
2. Lose the off-side rule.
3. Allow contact - bumping players directly contesting the ball.
4. Penalise posers with a red card.
5. Replace the oh-so-spheric ball with an oval shaped one.
6. Make the play more open with 9 a side.
7. Extra time for all games to ensure an actual result (please!)
8. Those stretchered off must have the following game off.
9. Referees to be red-carded for getting sucked in more than three times a game.
10. Allow players to leap on each other's shoulder to head the ball.

Watch soccer players faking injury

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Please use "SH" only when required.

Forget Swine Flu, "SH" affliction, also known as SHVIRUS" is spreading like a rash through Australian speech. Once the domain of sporting media commentators and heros, "SHVIRUS" can now be heard amongst young Australians, television chefs and even federal politicians.

So what is the SHVIRUS, and how do people catch it?
Put simply it is caught by individuals with an apparent inability to pronounce "STR" effectively. This means words like Australia become Aushtralia. As someone with a slight lisp, I recognise that the "SH" can cover up my impediment. However, the pay off is that I appear lazy and, worse, that I risk association with spin-bowler Shane Warne (one of the serial offenders).

Not only is SHVIRUS affecting phonetic spelling in Australia classrooms, but unionists risk being mistaken for bird enthusiasts as they propose a "shtrike'( a word closely resembling shrike which refers to any of the numerous predacious birds of the family Laniidae of Eurasia or Africa with a strong hooked and toothed bill[Macquarie].

It is, I believe, only a matter of time before those with "SH" affliction drop the T altogether, so that stress becomes "shress", strong becomes shrong, and struggle morphs into a nonchalant "shruggle". Drop both T and R, and straw becomes sure, street becomes sheet and struth becomes shuth. And where would we be then!

So let us rally ye language lovers. Rally against the demise of three-letter-blends. Rise up against those seeking to disguise speech impediments through mispronounciation. The time is now, the cause is just, the likelihood of success - impossible.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tongue Aerobics Prescribed for a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep Apnoea sufferers may be able to alleviate their condition by undertaking 30 minutes of daily tongue exercises, according to a recent US study.

What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat block off the upper airway. Breathing stops for between a few seconds and one minute until the brain registers the drop in oxygen and the sleeper wakes, typically snorting or gasping, and resumes sleep almost immediately.

In severe cases this cycle of apnoeas and broken sleep can be repeated hundreds of times each night, yet most sufferers are unaware they have the condition, and wake feeling tired and in need of further sleep.

About the Study
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine last year, found patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), who performed 30 minutes of oral exercises each day, reduced the condition’s severity by 39% over a three month period.

The study’s authors said while the “most effective treatment” in severe OSAS cases is widely considered to be continuous positive airway pressure, its successful application for moderately affected patients produced “variable results”.

The Exercises
So-called oropharyngeal exercises involving the tongue, soft palate and facial muscles, reduced neck circumference and daytime sleepiness, and decreased snoring frequency and intensity, when compared to those in the control group undertaking deep breathing sessions.

Why does sleep apnoea matter?
The Alfred Sleep Disorders and Ventilatory Failure Service identifies obstructive sleep apnoea as a “very dangerous” medical condition which can lead to behavioural disorders, depression, intellectual deterioration, lost libido and “increased incidence of car accidents, work accidents and sick days”.

The Australian Lung Foundation describes sleep apnoea as potentially “life-threatening. It is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. All these conditions occur more frequently in people with OSA.”

Around 5% of Australians are estimated to have obstructive sleep apnoea, with men three times more likely to be effected than women, and approximately one in four men over 30 experiencing the disorder. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause in child sufferers.

Other ways to combat sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is currently relieved by weight loss and reduced alcohol consumption in mild cases, to wearing a CPAP mask or a mouthguard to bed, or undertaking upper airway surgery.

Oropharyngeal exercises are unlikely to be adopted by sleep disorder practitioners in the short term, as the study is only the first randomised control study of its kind.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

the fence

The fence is falling over.

I can see it from the car. It pouts like a protruding lower lip, as if any moment it will be overcome, and collapse onto the grass.

Around the site of bending the treated pine is tinged green, weakened by relentless moisture. I wonder if it has played host to ivy, and whether its removal marks the final straw.

Once we cut some ivy from our side fence, and woke next morning to find it prostrate on the ground, with our neighbour standing over it. She was none too pleased with our rigourous pruning, and refused to pay her portion for a new one.

This one is putting up greater resistence.

Children swarm into the park for the weekend, reinvigorated by the school bell. The limping fence invites their attention, daring them to lean upon its imperfection, to peer at the contents of the yard beyond.

But not today.

The weekend summons forcefully, and they do not consider its plight. Come Monday, when freedom seems a world away, their attention may be tweaked. A challenge set.

Perhaps by then a hefty rain shower will have settled the matter.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

after 9am

After 9am change creeps in at the edges.

Until now there has been no colour here. No flamboyance or daring. The people wear black and grey, ties and heels. The only exception is the fluro green shirts of the hard hats on 'smoko'. Yet their conformity is similarly inscribed by colour.

After 9 o'clock there is a gap.

In walks a checked shirt with rolled-up sleeves and beige corduroy trousers. He is prominent beside his companion in non-descript pale blue shirt and tie.

Soon after a red jacket strides in.

A sky blue umbrella.

A fitted cardigan with spotted collar and cuffs.

And there, an open-necked shirt strides past, swinging a supermarket-bag-lunch beside him.

A brown zipped-up knit is closely followed by yellow tie, who mocks the dress-code by an overstated bowler hat. This young Rumpole twirls an oversized umbrella as if a walking cane.

A solid African man in a serious suit has chosen a lolly-pink tie and carries an umbrella in pastel purple.

After 9am a breath of fresh air blows through a city office.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tony Abbott and the Swivel Chair

Tony Abbott sits by the despatch box, head bowed and shoulders hunched. I am seated in the public gallery where I observe the conniptions of Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives. It is a spectacle of some gravity. I have come for theatre, and I am not disappointed, except where Abbott is concerned.

From my vantage point Tony Abbott appears small. Insecure even. Not once, in the space of two hours, do I see Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition, turn to face the members of the house. Not once does he elicit the support of oppostion ranks or the public gallery as he speaks, either by gesture or glance. Not once do I see this man acknowledge his back bench. It is true that he engages with his immediate colleagues in private consultation on a few occasions, and yet he seems out-of-the-loop. Disconnected somehow. Diminished.

In contrast Joe Hockey looms large. He sits on the edge of his seat, grasping every opportunity to object. He paces, he glowers, he talks animatedly with his allies, he jokes. He is the one our eyes are drawn to. He makes the play.

There is a good reason why the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have swivel chairs. They are, after all, for swivelling. 360 degrees. Tony Abbott could trade his in for A-Great-Big-New-Swivel-Chair-with-a-90-Degree-Capacity. If his body language is any guide, he is more focussed on the press gallery than his colleagues or public visitors. But Abbott would do well to swivel around once in awhile, not least to cover his own back.

And perhaps he is right to focus on the press. For on the television news that evening, Abbott is afforded far greater influence over proceedings that I observed that afternoon. His few minutes speaking over the despatch box, have rendered him more coverage than any other protaganist.

I expected Tony Abbott to be a street fighter. Aggressive, involved and out-there. But he wasn't. Not on the day I was there. I saw a man who said his piece and sat down, who received generous coverage, and then flailed about in his own wake.

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