Archive for September, 2008

h1

India Revisited

30 September 2008

On my way to England, I stopped for 3 days in Bombay.  I’ve spent two month-long holidays in India – one in the late 70’s and one in 2001.  It doesn’t change much and I love it.

This time was probably the first I’ve watched any Indian TV.  You can learn a lot about a country from their television. 

1.   To become a TV presenter in India you have to be about as white as I am.

2.   Even when terrorist attacks are taking place all over the country, and thousands of people are losing their homes because of flooding,  the top item on the news will be about cricket and the arrival of the Aussie team in Bombay. 

3.   The Indian TV equivalent of Big Brother is “Bigg Boss”.   I presume that they’re probably not that familiar with Orwell, but I’ve no idea why the double ‘g’.

Next stop Finland.  But I’m writing this with limited time from a public library somewhere in Buckinghamshire.   Will write again soon

h1

“Our elections are free — it’s in the results where eventually we pay” – Bill Stern

20 September 2008

Last Saturday I did something I’ve never done before – I voted in an election in Australia (New South Wales council elections). 

Some of you out of the country may not know that in Australia voting is compulsory for all citizens (and I became a citizen in May).  Well, that’s not quite true.  Turning up at the polling station and having your name crossed off the list is the compulsory bit.  If you want to leave the ballot paper blank or write obscenities on it, that’s your affair.

I think Australia is  the only democracy in the world where this is the case  –  and I’m sure I can rely on someone to correct me on that if I’m wrong!.  I’ve mixed views on this but my gut reaction is that I don’t really want to be governed by people who were elected by citizens who have no interest, no knowledge and are just going to stick a pin in a piece of paper to save themselves a fine.

However, my real gripe is with the system.  I’ve been a proponent of Proportional Representation for a long time but why do the Aussies have to make it so complicated?  I won’t explain the system to you, mainly because I don’t think I could and am still getting my head around it.  But about 10% of all votes are classed as ‘informal’ (ie invalid) and those that are left blank or have rude words on them only make up a small proportion.  The others are invalidated because they weren’t completed properly. 

I heard David say to an Electoral Officer at the polling station “I think I’m a reasonably intelligent person but I don’t really understand what I’m supposed to do here”.  I took the alternative and spent about 10 minutes reading the instructions (David doesn’t ‘do’ written instructions very well). 

And because it’s complicated, it takes days or weeks to get the results.  The basic count was done after the polls closed, at the polling stations.  Then the papers go to the Electoral Commission where all the distribution of votes takes place.  This won’t take place on my Ward’s papers until Monday (ie 10 days after the election).  So there’s none of the excitement of election night that we get in England.  On the night of the Federal Election here in November, it looked very likely that Maxine McKew had won the seat, but it was THREE WEEKS before it was confirmed.    

And the Senate elections are world beaters in the art of complication.  You can read the instructions here (and then explain them to me, please).  The Senate voting form can contain 100 or more names and is a long scroll.  If you vote “below the line” (don’t ask!), you have to put all the names in order of preference, and if you make a mistake (ie put the number 86 twice) your vote is invalidated. 

This all makes for totally different elections from the ones I’m used to.  The main thrust of English election campaigns is to identify your voters and make sure they vote, so there’s a mad scramble about 2 hours before the polls close to knock on doors of known supporters, run a shuttle service to the polling station and even babysit if necessary.  And unless numerous recounts are necessary and you can face sitting up half the night, you’ll have the results by breakfast.  Here the focus is at the polling station.  You know the voters are going to turn up – you just have to make sure they vote for YOU.   So to get in to vote, you have to negotiate your way through all the people thrusting pieces of paper into your hands.

This system or the UK system?  Whatever system you use to elect them, it doesn’t really make them any less crappy.  There are few Members of Parliament, here or in the UK (or in the USA for that matter),  I’d put in charge of running a tombola, never mind the country.  I found a great quote from Jay Leno,  “If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates”.

But for the next 4 weeks I’m going to try not to think about politics, here, there or anywhere.  I’m flying to India, which I think is the largest democracy in the world, for 3 days and on to London (with 24 hours in Helsinki).  Three weeks in England then a couple of days in Tokyo on the return trip.  A holiday.  Can’t wait.

h1

When Virtual Becomes Reality

15 September 2008

When I first started this blog, I didn’t realise that it would make me new friends.  I thought that maybe if anyone read it, I may have more acquaintances – and that’s not to be sniffed at.  But real friends? Via the internet?  I thought it unlikely and, if the truth be known, perhaps a little sad.

But I HAVE made friends – real friends. 

We’ll start with Emily, who came to me from Mary-Helen’s blog I think.  She’s English,  was living in Birmingham  and planning a 12 month trip to Sydney.  We corresponded;  I liked her.  Everyone likes her.  And we’ll all miss her dreadfully when she goes back to England at the beginning of next year (but perhaps she’d let me visit when I’m on my annual trips over there?).  She’s fun and kind and all the things that you would want in a friend.

Then there’s Petunia, who lives in Delaware.  I think Sticks and String sent her to Pompom (I know she’s very impressed that I know David Reidy!).  She’s the wonderful woman who sent me a selection of Knitpicks lace yarns because “well, it would be like having chocolate cake in the house and not sharing it”!  Who wouldn’t love that?  We’re both going to at long last install Skype so we should be able to chat occasionally. She’s on holiday this week and I’m going away for a month next week so on Saturday I decided to phone her before she went away and we spoke for the first time.  Another fun and kind woman.

And then there’s Jejune, who lives in Canberra.  I’m not sure how she got into my blog circle but I’m so glad she did.   I think we share the same values, I’ve always enjoyed our correspondence and I really wanted to meet her.  This weekend, I got my chance as we went to Canberra for the weekend for a party.  So Jejune organised lunch on Sunday with a few knitting friends in the restaurant at Old Parliament House.  I was very tired (I hadn’t quite recovered from dancing till 2 in the morning) but it was wonderful. and I wasn’t disappointed.  Another fun and kind woman.  There seems to be a pattern here. 

Apart from the sheer pleasure of making 3 terrific friends I also find it very reassuring that my judgment is so good.  No disappointments when I finally met (or in the case of Petunia, spoke to) people I’d known only in a virtual world.  I was spot on with all of them. 

Lovely people to know.

 

h1

And The Prize Goes To . . . . .

12 September 2008

Judith!

She’s my sister and you may remember I wouldn’t let her participate in the previous Prize Draw I had on my blog.  I thought you’d all accuse me of fixing it.

But this time, she didn’t know that a competition was being held.  Nobody did, except me of course. And it would be cruel to deny her.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I’d give a small gift to the person who posted the 500th comment on my blog.  And overnight on Thursday, Judith did it. 

I’ve always known that even if nobody else was reading my ramblings, Judith was.  So she gets the prize.

I’ll be seeing her in a couple of weeks (the first time for a year) so I’ll give her the prize then.

Thank you, Judith.  And here’s to the next 500.

 

 

h1

Knitting Errata

11 September 2008

At our knitting group last weekend, we were talking about the extraordinary number of mistakes that can be found in commercially published patterns, as we watched Jenny re-writing a pattern so that it bore some resemblance to the photograph.  The pattern was Calvert by Norah Gaughan – not a designer to be sniffed at.  One of the problems was that the front has a panel of feature stitches, 9 pattern repeats wide but the written instructions would produce only a 7 pattern repeat wide panel.

My first attempt at knitting a pattern from Victorian Lace Today was a complete disaster.  After 4 rows, my stitch count was completely wrong.  I thought I was being stupid.  I tried again, and again, and again.  I then worked out the maths and realised that it wasn’t ME – it was the pattern.  I’ve always assumed that the patterns would be correct.  Some of my knitting friends expressed surprise that I’d started to knit from a pattern without checking the internet for possible errata.  And yes, the pattern was wrong (there are 3 pages of errors listed for this book) – it wasn’t me after all.

I don’t remember this being a problem until relatively recently.  In my youth, I had a temporary job typing knitting patterns for a large wool manufacturer.  The designer wrote the pattern and knitted the garment.  I typed up the instructions which were then sent out to a number of knitters so that every size would be knitted from the pattern as written.  I’ve just discovered that it isn’t always the norm for a magazine to test knit at all.  They just take the garment and the pattern from the designer and publish it.  In effect, we’ve all become test knitters.  When we let them know where they’ve gone wrong, they publish all the corrections.

I don’t knit very often from patterns, so I can only blame myself for any errors.  But when I do, I expect to just follow the instructions and get a garment that looks like the photograph.  And, on the subject of photographs, it’s often nearly impossible to tell what the garment should look like anyway.  Going back to Calvert, you wouldn’t know until you get the pattern that the back isn’t just straight stocking stitch.  Both the photos are of the front only. 

New knitters must get very despondent when they’ve followed the instructions to the letter and ended up with a different looking garment, or just given up in frustration thinking they’re too thick to understand the pattern.   

Technorati Tags: ,

h1

Innocents Abroad (well, in the UK)

10 September 2008

Mary-Helen reminded me recently of a fund-raising campaign that Innocents, a drinks company in the UK, ran last year.  They persuaded people to knit miniature hats for the drinks bottles and for every hat knitted they donated 50p (just over an AU Dollar) to a charity for the elderly.  I’ve just noticed that they’re running this again this year. 

I’m all for helping the elderly, or anyone else who needs help, but is this really the way to do it?  I know the 50 pences add up (to 200,000 pounds I think last year) but I think it’s really an enormous waste of time and skills for a knitter and is a massive marketing campaign for the company. 

Knitting is an excellent skill to have to help people in need.  There are always people in the world (or in your town or street) who need clothing.  Just a hat can keep someone warm/help their self-esteem/cheer them up. 

And that’s worth more than 50p of anyone’s money.   

Technorati Tags:

h1

I Can’t Get A Handle On This Charge

7 September 2008

Later this month I’m spending 3 days in India.  According to the Indian High Commissioner’s website, I need a visa, which costs $38.

So I filled out the forms and trotted along to get one.

“That will be $56”, said the young woman behind the counter.  “Oh”, says I.  “I thought it was $38”  “Yes, it’s $38 for the visa and $18 for the handling charge.  And there’s a surcharge if you’re paying by credit or debit card”.

I paid in cash.

Why don’t they just say it costs $56?  The handling charge is mandatory – I can’t issue my own visa.

Will I soon be told that my $3 coffee from the cafe has a 50c handling charge?  Or to take my money and wrap that blouse I’d like to buy I’ll have to pay an extra $10?

It’s madness.