Last year (how odd to say that now) one of my partners (Scott) and I landscaped the back yard (finally) and built a vegetable garden from raised garden beds. We’re situated on an old flood plain, so our soil is clay – which although full of nutrients, isn’t the best soil for growing vegetables in necessarily, so is great for going squelch, squelch, squelch in when wet – so we covered that which doesn’t have raised garden beds with mulch to avoid tracking more mud into the house.
I joined Diggers, a gardening group which gives free seeds to members twice a year, and who specialise in heirloom seeds and plant varieties to ensure diversity in foodstock. I also joined because I love the idea of growing things that seem odd like Purple Dragon carrots, or striped eggplants.
I have learnt a whole lot of things while gardening and I want to share them so that when it comes to setting up the gardens next year, I don’t forget the lessons – and hey you might enjoy it too.
Ok, so I didn’t end up finishing my post exactly how I hoped, because I left out stuff, so here is the stuff I left out (because I was sleeeepy).
My girlfriend’s reaction to slaters was more along the lines of “ew, gross” than “ARGH, take it away, take it away”. That said, she grew up in an environment where gardens were enjoyed but not something she had to tend, so the likelihood of her coming across garden critters such as slaters was much reduced than my childhood – where we gardened whether we wanted to or not. I think that the fact that my household considers slaters to be cute is a socialised thing. We learnt that they’re harmless and fun to play with (they roll into little balls). My girlfriend has had no such exposure and it’s a small chitinous thing with lots of legs, which does sound gross. This is a nice supporting argument for e.smith’s post about likes, dislikes, attractions, and revulsion not being innate.
The second bit that was in my head when I first started thinking about this post, was the narrator’s commentary in Jeff Wayne’s musical of War of the Worlds. I don’t like the narrator actually… he’s condescending, rude, and acts superior to everyone else in the story, he’s almost unemotional, which given his world is being taken over by massive tripod aliens with laser beams is ludicrous. In both HG Well’s version of War of the Worlds, and in the musical (which is from the same work), the people of the village are curious about the capsule that has fallen from the sky, and initially fear that a man is trapped inside. Eventually the capsule starts to open:
Next morning, a crowd gathered on the Common, hypnotized by the unscrewing of the cylinder. Two feet of shining screw projected when, suddenly, the lid fell off! Two luminous disc-like eyes appeared above the rim. A huge, rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly, glistening like wet leather. Its lipless mouth quivered and slavered, and snake-like tentacles writhed as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated. A few young men crept closer to the pit. A tall funnel rose, then an invisible ray of heat leapt from man to man and there was a bright glare, as each was instantly turned to fire. Every tree and bush became a mass of flames at the touch of this savage, unearthly Heat Ray. People clawed their way off the Common, and I ran too. I felt I was being toyed with, that when I was on the very verge of safety, this mysterious death would leap after me and strike me down. At last I reached Maybury Hill and in the dim coolness of my home I wrote an account for my newspaper before I sank into a restless, haunted sleep. I awoke to alien sounds of hammering from the pit, and hurried to the railway station to buy the paper. Around me, the daily routine of life – working, eating, sleeping – was continuing serenely as it had for countless years. (from Jeff Wayne’s musical – emphasis added)
So in this story people were curious, so curious they approached the strange object to see what would happen. When an otherworldly creature came out of the craft, they crept closer again to look. Only when they were threatened and some killed, did the crowd scatter, but not too far… they resumed their daily activities, despite the fact that several of them had been killed with a laser like device, which to me isn’t even remotely plausible, but in HG Well’s view of the world at that time, it may well have been. And perhaps it is still now, perhaps if aliens did turn up tomorrow a percentage of the population would continue on as normal, failing to see a threat until it is in their faces (or they are dead), I do know some incredibly oblivious people after all.
So yes… when the aliens eventually arrive, I’ll go and hide until I have proof they’re safe, my husbands will want to watch and see what happens, and there will no doubt be some people saying, “Flying saucers? Bah… I have things to do.”
[I'd like to state at the very beginning of this post that I am having a small whine. I, unlike Queenslanders who have been affected by the floods, have a roof over my head and haven't lost family, friends, belongings, pets, or my house. If you want to donate to the Queensland flood relief fund go here]
For the past few days, I haven’t been living in Melbourne, well I have, I’ve been living back in the tropics. The warm nights and warm days, with very high humidity have put me in mind of my time on Christmas Island versus living in Melbourne. My tiles are covered in condensation, meaning we have towels all over the place, my carpet is damp (and smells of wet sheep or carpet depending on your point of view) and the humidity level inside the house are currently at 98% (only slightly below being immersed in water (this is a joke)).
My back garden (have I mentioned that we’re situated on clay soil?) has taken as much water in as it can, and has flooded into the garage, so for an hour after I returned from the gym we bailed out the back yard, moved stuff that shouldn’t get wet in the garage higher, tried to seal the garage against further inundation, swept excess water from the garage, and then bought cat litter for the poor kittens who don’t want to go to the toilet in a lake.
This La Niña, although successfully having broke the drought for much of Australia, has been incredibly destructive. My parents have had their property flooded twice, and this time they’ve evacuated because the reservoir upstream from them is above capacity and the Government is concerned about downstream residents. I’m wondering how many of us want the drought back.
I’m Australian, and consequently value real-estate quite a lot (housing is in short supply and consequently rather expensive). I’m also, I guess, an intellectual, and value knowledge and books quite a lot too. So when I see photos, like these of Detroit, I am unable to comprehend why there is so much derelict property lying around (not to mention books, and police files). I do understand that Detroit is in the process of being abandoned and that there are many (apparently) insurmountable social issues, as well as being part of the rust belt’s decline, but I am staggered by the decay and abandonment of the property in these photos. Every time I see photos of abandoned real-estate in the US (without good reason like it being riddled with asbestos or unsafe to live in), I wonder how a nation can have such a glut of what is/was perfectly serviceable property that could be turned into residences or something else useful.
A photo of a library in disrepair. Books line shelves or are on the ground, light filters through a dirty window and the paint is peeling from the ceiling
Photos from police dossiers litter the floor of a police office. Filing cabinets have their draws left open and the paint on a secure room door peels
This photo (above) disturbs me for the wanton privacy breach. Because the people represented in the photos here clearly don’t deserve any privacy.
A ransacked desk is in the foreground with draws pulled open and a box of what appears to be brightly coloured Children's Books spilled onto the floor. The paint in the wide but brightly lit room is peeling and books remain on the shelves on the far walls
2010 has been a really tough year for people I love and care about, and for me (but to a lesser extent). I don’t know many people who’ve had a great year, there seems to be an unfortunate coincidence in my social circle of unhappy people, broken relationships, job stress, relationship stress, study stress, health stress and money stress. If I was asked to nominate the worst years in my life, this year would rank in the top 5 of crap years (which makes me instantly think over the other 4 crap years – how depressing).
So instead, I’m going to focus on the good things – because even though there were some hard, dark and miserable moments this year, there were also some really fantastic moments. This post is inspired by a conversation I had on Christmas Day with a friend I don’t talk to nearly often enough, who related to me his three best moments of 2010 in order to change focus from the negatives of the year to the positives. I’d like to share with you my (at least) three most positive moments of 2010, moments that were life-changing, heartening or just plain awesome (I know, I set the bar low don’t I?).
One: James and I recently spent a weekend away in Bright. Everything was perfect (all things considered). We hiked, we ate great food, we saw many beautiful things, we took many photos, we had a spa, we relaxed together, we bought cheese from a cheese factory and we had a great time. Given the time and money pressures both James and I had in 2010, it was absolutely amazing to be able to get away for a weekend and relax.
Rebecca grins at the camera with her hands on her hips and a hat shading her eyes
James is strong and holds up the rock
Two: I got a job. This doesn’t necessarily seem like an amazing thing, but I got a job that I thought I was only just qualified for, for a company that is ahead of its time. It was really affirming to be told, consistently, that I have everything that this company wants and needs, despite not feeling that myself. I do feel a little like I’ve joined an elite unit of … something, but on the other hand I’m being paid well to do a job in a field that I’ve just graduated from, and I’m going to get all the on-the-job training I need as well any formal training… and the future opportunities are very bright indeed.
Here is my company and one of the biggest reasons I’m very proud to work here already.
(The video is subtitled, if a transcript is required let me know and I’ll find/create one).
[EDIT: I've just found this FANTASTIC timeline of IBM diversity, including when the first non-white people were hired, when women were hired, when disabled people were hired, the scholarships and other activities that IBM has undertaken with disadvantaged communities, etc. It makes great reading]
Three: Taking my “family” to Alice Springs to see where I grew up and what my country is. I’m deeply attached to Alice Springs and travelling around there is going to my spiritual home. I like seeing what’s changed and what is the same, measuring the years I’ve been away by what is different and minimising them again by what has remained. It’s now a regular pilgrimage for me, and will be for a long time. Being able to show off my home and the places which are special to me, to people I love, was fantastic. Yes the weather wasn’t great, and the accommodation could have been nicer, but it was great to spend a week with everyone while playing tour guide.
Mount Gillen and clouds
Simpsons Gap cloud kissed
Spiny wattle with water droplets
My other moments worth mentioning include finally completing and graduating with a Degree (Yay!) and being a refuge for a dear friend when needed. So, what were your best moments of 2010?
I moved to Fawkner (in Melbourne) about a year ago, and I love my neighbourhood. I love it’s diversity, multi-faith options (including the option of none at all), the shops, the parks, the friendliness. I love all of this, and I have especially love living in the area with the least crowded train line, which is also the least violent and racist train line that I have lived on for a while.
Until last night.
A thug, his friend and his friend’s girlfriend got on the train near Coburg. As he walked through the carriage he commented loudly that the train “smelt like immigrants” (whatever that means). He stopped and stood in the door way with his friends and continued talking loudly. He again proclaimed that he never knew that something could smell like immigrants until now, while his friend mimed violent acts to his girlfriend. The third time he opened his mouth to proclaim how everything smelt of immigrants, I said, “Hey! Shut the fuck up”. He did, and the girl turned and looked at me. The thug dropped his voice and got off at the next station with his friends.
Initially I was shocked that someone would say such a thing, especially on this train line, where (up until now) everything has been cool, calm and collected. The second time I was outraged and wondering if I should actually say anything to him to get him to shut up. The third time, I acted… and then immediately went into “Oh fuck!!!!” territory on the inside. Thankfully I can rely on two things, I’m female and less likely to attract violence (though my partner with me may have), and I can look really scary when I’m annoyed.
I acted because I want the train line I’m on to be safe for me (not a migrant) and everyone else (migrant or not). I acted because uneducated bigots who think that they have the right to spew hatred really annoy me. I acted because no one else was (a failing of mine).
I’m not on Facebook. I think this is an important thing to spell out, because so many people are it’s assumed that I am (almost everyone else I know is on Facebook). I have reasons for not being on Facebook which I’m happy to spell out in this post and to anyone who asks why (which is far less than perhaps should in my opinion).
When I first came across Facebook, it was 2007 and my then boyfriend joined because he was being paid a lot of money by a firm to create an app for Facebook. At that time he told me that Facebook was a waste of time and collected data on people. My husband and friends joined Facebook and I sat on the outside and looked in. From time to time I’d borrow various people’s Facebook accounts from time to time and look up people I’d actually like to reconnect with, often failing to find them. And I didn’t sign up.
My brother-in-law investigates Facebook privacy for fun and has written many detailed articles covering privacy issues on Facebook (all here) and that also did not endear me to use the networking tool any time soon. My husband encourages me to go on and make a false persona to network with people, which to me defeats the purpose, but I really don’t want to give Facebook Inc any of my personal data (real or imagined).
Facebook is also another time sink, and as it is I struggle to find time to do all the things I want to do. Do I want to play this game from my stack of shame, read my RSS feed, chat with friends, spend time with partners or write posts on my blog? I struggle to get the things done that I want done, let alone adding new things to the pile (thank the flying spaghetti monster I’ve actually finished my degree).
I suppose one of my biggest reasons for not being on Facebook is because I like being different and a rebel. So, on principle, Facebook is not different and rebellious – though it may have had it’s foundations that way.
So yes, if you want to invite me to that cool event that you’re hosting, and you’ve invited all your Facebook friends, have a think about those of us who are not on Facebook and email us an invite too.