Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

We did object to being classed with murderers. But she said we didn’t. On silencing the voice of “the other.”

June 24, 2019

On 19/05/2017, in the Western Australian Sunday Times, Miranda Devine claimed that “Liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters (aka Catholics) didn’t take umbrage at being told to repent to avoid hell.”  This was part of her claim that a sports star was unfairly targeted by pro-gay-rights activists, and wrongly sacked from a major sports team for breach of contract, by making an offensive post.

The post was by Israel Folau, as shown:

The post which started the brouhaha.

Like the supporters of homosexuals’ rights, many of those interested in free exercise of religious and non-religious beliefs did object to Israel Folau’s post. I suspect that the media simply ignored their complaints.  My letter to the Sunday Times was ignored.

I objected to his post publicly and in writing because I know children have been bullied by others raised in this belief, a bullying pattern which is a sign of the deeper problem: his post silences the voices of the non-fundamentalist-of-this-sect and of homosexuals, by classing them with murderers and thieves. Their opinions are then discounted or ignored because of this – to the point where, in the USA, it is impossible for an atheist to be considered for President.  It is significant that Hindus, Roman Catholics and others are included in” “idolaters” in the Pentecostal approach – so much so that fundamentalist schools have refused to employ Catholic staff, saying “You’re not Christian.”

We live in a society where it is assumed that a person who commits serious crimes is more likely to be an atheist than religious (despite the statistics showing otherwise – perhaps because it takes moral courage to be publicly atheist, while many churchgoers are hiding unbelief) and where majority cultural groups assume minorities are likely to be criminal. In such a society it is vital that role models do not silence the voices of those who do not follow their religion – that they accept that others have the right to their beliefs, that no religion can be absolutely certain it has all the Truth, and that “My father’s house has many mansions.”

I note that he did not post an opinion supporting death for those who all who curse their parents, the stoning of female adulterers, or animal sacrifice in church. If he will not support these fundamental biblical injunctions, he should restrict his posts to mentions of the Good Samaritan : a member of a despised religious group, yet used as the model for neighbourly behaviour. Israel should be more neighbourly.


Come to the party? I want to start the Best Evidence Party.

May 8, 2019

After spending 3 hours researching the parties vying for positions in the Oz elections, I find we need another party.  I want to start it.


Because in the Senate vote, a valid vote must nominate at least 6 parties (above the line vote) or 12 individuals.  There is a huge list of parties, but in my State there are only 5 parties for which I could consider voting – and that is only because I include the far left to balance out the media support for the far right, and also include special interest parties with limited ranges of policies.

Few parties base any of their policies on best advice from the majority of acknowledged international experts – and that’s not a uniquely Australian problem:  I remember hearing of a senior USA economist being happy because he got their government to shift from something like the 17th worst option to the 14th.  Most of those that claim they have based policies on evidence rely on cherry-picked, biased reviews of serious research, seriously flawed research, accumulated anecdotes, their memories of what they learned in high school, or their imaginations. This annoys me.

The vast majority of minor parties show policies which are swayed more by the mass media than by serious study of the complexity of global environmental, trade, economic, and legal systems.  Their policies are usually based more on the religion and customs of their upbringing rather than on serious study of the wide range of predictable cultural and interpersonal differences which make up the range of our citizens’ needs.  This annoys me.

It is time for a party where the overarching policy is “to weigh all proposed legislation in the balance of the best available evidence.”

I feel that a small range of formal policies is better: explaining the approach is better than arguing details of cases, when every scientist knows that we must shift our understanding when further evidence conflicts with what we thought was the case.

I would suggest that its policies would include things like

  • Have the National Broadcaster allocate time to disagreeing speakers, documentaries, etc, on topics where expert evidence is available in proportion to the depth of evidence on their side.  If only one in a hundred internationally accredited experts agree with a view, it should get a hundredth of the time, not equal time.
  • Our Members of Parliament will not promise to reflect the opinions of the electorate.  They will promise to do their best to weigh the evidence, including details not generally known in the electorate, and to consider advice from the wisest advisors available.  This will be the basis of their voting in Parliament.
  • Where research is cited concerning a view we are asked to support, our party will consider advice from experts including experts in the mathematics of statistical analysis:  in a “scientific” culture where a peer-reviewed publication includes a claim that we should see a correlation of 0.1 as “significant”, peer-reviewed publication does not equal depth of evidence.
  • Where reliable evidence is not available, our party would give weight to ideas of responsibilities which have been seen in the best societies and many religions.  Ideas such as: the responsibility of the government to take action to ensure reasonable quality of life for the citizens (Not necessarily paid employment: should the education system be for “a job” or “to learn what you need to be able to learn what you need to have a good life”?); the responsibility of the  top 20% to support the disadvantaged; the responsibility of each to contribute to the well-being of all others in the population; and our responsibility to limit our consumption as required to ensure the chance for following generations to have a reasonable quality of life (We might agree that non-renewable resources should be recycled as far as possible, for example, and argue that one-off or mining profits must not be spent on recurrent expenditure or tax cuts.)

Its focus would not be science, but its approach would often be scientific.  Its considerations would include the long-term consequences of actions, thinking in terms of hundreds of years.  It would attract people who might also consider the Pirate Party or the Science Party, but want a different (or smaller) range of policies.

In Australia, an official “Party” needs 500 voters who are not members of another political party, and a written Constitution.

Would you like to join this party?  Would you like to help draft its constitution?



Why is it so hard to get a good tradie?

September 29, 2017

Letter to a roofing company, after quoted $495 to fix leaking flume and $3003 to fix badly-designed clear-roofed enclosed patio / sunroom area
Thank you for the quote.

I have delayed responding because I wished to consider my response.

As the property (a family home temporarily a rental) has several problems, and I wanted to get urgent ones sorted and budget for the others, I asked for someone to inspect the property to estimate both for the items you quoted and for other work – including things of which I might not be aware.

I was told that the inspection might be on the following week’s Thursday or Friday, and that I would be called so I could be there. Late in the next week I was doing a minor repair there, and one of the tenants told me that workmen had been “seeing to the roof” on the Monday – no card had been left, so I was unsure what had happened. I called your office, and was told that a quote had been sent (I check my spam, and had not seen it. I ran a search over our email in case it was in deleted or junk, and it was not.) I was sent a copy of the quote and was told that I had been called on the Monday but not responded – I did not remember a missed call, but had I had 2 from the same number I would have remembered. There was no text or voice message. In any case, it would not have been convenient for me to attend that day.

Your office put me in touch with the tradesman, whose manner left me feeling both that he was certain that I was silly and that he was unwilling to consider that I needed to be present for the quote process “as I had been quite detailed about what I needed.” As one of the details was that I wanted to talk about work needed later, this was irritating; as one of the items I wanted to talk about for the quote was whether there should be sarking with the tiles, and as another was to find out exactly what changes would be recommended to the back room’s roof and gutters, I was beyond doing more than politely ending the conversation. I cannot agree to $3003 for work without a detailed explanation of the proposed changes and the reasons for them.

I have had a tiler visit, who said that the rear room and the longer-term items were better discussed with a business dealing in more roof plumbing and reroofing, but for $80 changed the way the leaking flume was collared and flashed – and lowered its hood, so that rain could no longer blow in sideways. Since then, there has been no water ingress in the room beneath. What happens with the next pounding storm remains to be seen.

I understand that the difficult weather will have put your company into a stressful period, and so have delayed responding – giving time for your work and my temper to calm a little. If you are interested in trying again to quote on the longer term problems, on changes (if any) the flume area might need to make it permanently watertight, on stopping another leak found the weekend before your inspection, and can provide a more detailed description of the proposed changes to the back room roof and gutters, I am interested in considering your itemised quote.

Life in my head: weather warnings

August 29, 2016

On the State weather forecast tonight they had a high wind warning for the North and a sheep graziers warning for the South. (No apostrophe.)

Scary things, graziers, good to know to dodge them.  A change from cats and dogs.

A quote that got me wondering – and where I went from there.

October 14, 2014

The quote:

I decided to track down the source of an often quoted bit of “Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert:
When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
 “Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien.”
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
but in French Wikipedia it says
Pierre Pierrard explique que cette phrase a été mise dans la bouche de Louis Veuillot par Montalembert sous la forme « Quand les libéraux sont au pouvoir, nous leur demandons la liberté, parce que c’est leur principe, et, quand nous sommes au pouvoir, nous la leur refusons, parce que c’est le nôtre.»  et citée le 3 juin 1876 à l’Assemblée nationale par Jules Ferry.  Elle a depuis, sous des formes changeantes, été constamment r.épétée bien que dès le 6 juin suivant Veuillot eût protesté et affirmé que cette phrase n’était pas de lui.
– that is, he probably didn’t say it.  But people in 1876 thought it was worth having him say it.

 Where I went from there

 Many countries have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

the term “refugees” applies to any person who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should  follow their beliefs.  Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this.   Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance,  it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents.  Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else.   Some go further still, and wish to kill  even those who hold to  a  different interpretation of their holy books while  following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.

Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?)  I avoid going to certain countries because  I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely.  I worry about their spread.  Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,

 I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following: 

We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief,  and to recognition of all human rights.

The extreme case

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others.    If their group generally  say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they  must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply.  If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge.   If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.

The moderate case – or is it?

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be  denied refugee status.  If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.

The interaction of this with overseas oppression

Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow.  Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.

If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs,  that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers.  The attempted invasion  is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter.  If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.

And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid.  I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe.   (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.


A teacher’s personal viewpoint: not Aboriginal, not Migrant, not standard White Australian.

February 23, 2014

As a seventh-generation non-Aboriginal Australian, I have no attachment to other lands.  I have deep fondness for the land, air, sea and skies of my part of Australia.  However, I have no ritual or family ties to any place, unlike many Aboriginals.[1]  I n this essay I raise aspects of my life parallel to the experiences of many Aboriginals; it is important to remember that some Aboriginals experience far more extreme versions of these and other difficult  situations.

A. Disadvantages: commonalities with many Aboriginals [2]

My parents both suffered chronic illness, with my Father’s PTSD and alcohol abuse giving a background of violence at times of family stress – such as major exams.  My father smoked and drank heavily, but the family treated this as damage caused by his war-time experiences.  A difference in this area was that alcohol was treated by my parents as a useful social drug if not abused, and I was taught to recognise the early physical signs of its effects on me so that I could keep control.  Intoxication of any sort was seen as unwise, but understandable when you knew the background; tobacco was a simple addiction and to be avoided.

We lived on the Service Pension in a State Housing Commission fibro house, with wood stove, wood copper (no washing machine fittings), livingroom fire and chip bath-heater.  We had a second-hand black-and-white TV while my schoolmates had colour, second hand (old-style) school uniforms, and often ended the pay fortnight with meals of pasta, cheese, garlic and herbs.

My family in the State was my sibs, my parents, and a grandmother; we could not afford interstate telephone calls or travel.  None of our cultural group who lived nearby was willing to acknowledge us.  This aspect of my life was very different from the family approach and mobility common in Aboriginal kinship groups[3].  I still feel uncomfortable at large gatherings of my husband’s family.

My home language, lack of religion, preferred media use, and topics of conversation were so different from my classmates that, after Year 2, I was ostracised at best and bullied at worst.  I endured in misery until, in Year 10, I used superior force on my prime tormentor.  This ended the bullying.[4]

Academically, I struggled in Years 1 and 2, being poor at the valued activities.  In later years my terrible fine and gross motor coordination was less of an issue than in early primary, though I was bullied in part  for being bad at art, and at neat writing and illustrations in my written work, and sports. Most winters I was sick, sometimes hospitalised, and missed about half of the winter term.  From Year 3 my teachers mostly let me do my own things quietly, if I did not disrupt the class.  Many of my classmates were children of working men (never “working class”), were expected to get a job at 14, and distrusted those who finished high-school.

One of my sibs died before he was 18; another before he was 50, two years after his wife died.  Another was a marginal alcoholic, and is now living a health-care-card existence on his investments and savings.

I experienced unspoken prejudice as an adult in an “equal opportunity” workplace.  For example,   I found that behaviours accepted in men were described as aggressive in women, and experienced the classic committee interaction:

Problem introduced

Men speak

Woman speaks, suggesting a different approach

Men nod, and then speak again as if woman had said nothing

Man says rephrased version of what woman said, and it is treated as a good new idea.

 B. Advantages

1. Education

Both my parents were extremely bright – each of my parents had, they said, been the Dux of their State.  Both sides of the family put great value on education, sociological awareness, and the precise use of formal English in expression of complex and subtle arguments.  My father was a registered GP, despite being too ill to practise, but had woodworking skills.  We learned to make and mend, and to grow vegetables, and had immediate health care with medical explanations of the disease when we were ill.  The combination of practical labour with theoretical science underpinning was a common experience in our home.  Dental treatment was free and timely, as the State dental system was well funded at that time.

My home language being formal English, I took to serious reading quite naturally.  The complex conversations between my elder sibs and my parents, and the serious programs I heard on the radio, made the school’s “difficult” texts boringly easy by contrast; after Year 2 I would finish non-art classwork before the teacher had finished explaining it to the others.   The literate humour of my family and of the BBC rebroadcast on the ABC made my wordplay entertaining to some teachers, so they let me write creatively.  The science around the house meant that high-school science was partly familiar to me from the start, so again I shot ahead.

Being socially isolated, often ill, and poor, I had time to read;  having good examples of books all over my home I found my friends in the authors – of several races and religions – who helped me escape.  I added to them the gentle and witty people I met in the other media.  The community of thought was, for me, much what the extended family is to others.  In a sense, to paraphrase Robert Tonkinson[5] on the Martu, I self-identify as an intellectual first and an Australian second, if at all.  (Our culture was, like the Martu, at heart in conflict with the mainstream, but it was so in a socially valued way, and fit well with education and bureaucracy).

From this basis, reading of new findings or of history came to be as much fun to me as family gossip is to my husband’s relatives.  This gave me the extreme advantage of finding University studies more play than work.

2. Tolerance

The “Understandable considering” approach underpinned my parents’ thinking: they had wide historical and social knowledge, were angered by racism since they were teenagers, and practised courteous disagreement with a wide range of sadly ignorant and smug neighbours.

This awareness did not mean they gave in:  my parents socialised with Aboriginals when the Aboriginals did not feel it left them at risk of trouble; my father was one of the veterans who marched in the Moratorium rallies, wearing his RSL pin and medals; and my mother (who had been offended at being “not allowed to” dance with Aboriginal men for fear they would be beaten up) agreed strongly with the Civil Rights and the Womens Liberation movements, and brought me up to be sure of my worth as a person.

This approach fed into my sib’s choice to leave paid employment for a quiet and sufficient life, with time and energy to volunteer with community organisations, more personal value in his activities, and less stress leading to less desire to drink:  considering the wider history and circumstances removed the assumption that paid employment is the only value to life.  We also had met a wide enough range of wise people to value formal education less than deep understandings.

A side effect of this was my having a deep interest in the changing situations of Australia’s indigenous peoples, and a deep anger at the way the society in general (through Governments) was handling its responsibilities.

3. Access to social support by the State.

Despite our situation, we were at no risk of removal from the family.

I remember being given pencils, pads, and other things needed for classroom work, and prompt free treatment at the Dental Hospital.  I also remember the luxury of real milk each day at  Primary school, being in charge of my own Commonwealth Scholarship money in High School,  and being paid the away-from-home rate (unreasonable to live at home) as an Undergraduate in the fee-free days of the late 1970s.

These are things mostly lacking now – I was born in an unusual period.

I also relied on supporting Parents’ Benefit as a deserted spouse, and used subsidised council childcare while I sought employment and had a low-paid job.  Having experience in budgeting, I coped when clerical errors cancelled my payments for a month; with the language of bureaucracy, I easily claimed the arrears.  When I was employed, I found out how to get the subsidised housing loan and started buying my own place.  All these things were easier because of my background knowledge of language and socially acceptable behaviours in dealing with bureaucracies.

4. Race.

Being of pale, freckled, red-haired type, and with the “educated Australian” sociolect, I was given the benefit of the doubt in many situations.  There were down sides:  some  less educated people assumed I was English,  many people assumed I had no knowledge of poverty  –  thinking I was not going to restaurants because I was “a snob”, or that I had no understanding of their struggle to meet bills –  and non-whites assumed that I was a “standard” white person.

My social network has shown me the underlying racism I do not experience.  Two examples:  (1) unlike me, my husband (also “white”) has experienced abuse and police harassment based on the assumption that he is Aboriginal.  (2) A brother was charged (case dismissed) for refusing to give details of a street conversation with Aboriginals to two men who told the group to “move along” and then detained him.  (He was lucky they had not bothered to show him their police identification.)

5. Knowledge of History.

With geological and species-length views of time, wide reading on many times and cultures,  of mythologies and science fiction stories, and forty years of taking an anthropological perspective on my own society,  I have a view of the present which is hard to explain to those more bound to this time and place.  I could not have developed this without my family’s background, or without the time to read.  I think this is an advantage, though it does mean I have to restrict my conversation in many social situations.

In formal study of Anthropology and in my simple learning from curiosity I have found a wide range of descriptions of “Aboriginality” and “Aboriginal Beliefs”;  my general assumption is that every human I meet is a new individual, and I must try to find what meetings of minds are possible for the new person.  I also begin with the awareness that the Aboriginals I meet may be deeply angry with the whole of mainstream society, and if so I do not take their anger as a attack on my individual person – though I may be wary of a physical attack in some times and places.

In the shorter (my lifetime) view of history, I have seen the basic assumptions about Aboriginals change:  a family which once joked about “opening car doors into Abos” recently [6] had a member say “Their Mum tries to bring them up straight, pity their Dad’s White trash!” in speaking of a family with an Aboriginal mother.  They are even becoming aware of the range of experiences and beliefs in the Aboriginal population.


My background is a mixture of being an outsider and yet having socially valued qualities;  lower SES environment paralleling the risk factors many Aboriginals suffer, as listed in our lectures, and  yet upper SES educational background.  My personal belief is that I can learn, make, or mend almost anything, and that all humans can change; without my family’s cultural background I might have despaired and lost all confidence, even with my racial advantages.  I cannot assume how others will feel and act in their own, very personal, situations.

Although I have little knowledge (by my standards) of  local Aboriginal beliefs, I have personal and theoretical knowledge of the experiences of exclusion and power differentials, prejudice and challenges to personal pride, dysfunctional family and deep poverty, and the value of academic success.  I have watched the development of the current situation of multiple divisions within Australian society and, while unable to prevent it, do wish to help others reach beyond the boundaries our history has raised.

My personal beliefs will shape my performance, even if I choose to accept an employers’ requirement that I act against them, because I know that I am not a gifted actor – my expression will show something of what I think.  I hope that my understanding and acceptance of individual differences will help me become an empowering teacher- or, at least, to make my classroom a safe place for children in times of trouble.

[1] EDUC8429 lectures (various lecturers) Semester 1, 2010; Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal (various issues).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] I still laugh when people say that violence never solves anything – tell that to the Carthaginians!

[5] Tonkinson, 2006

[6] I accept that many people do not agree that the month just past is already history.  Nevertheless, I do see it as history.


 Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal (various issues). Retrieved from

EDUC8429 lectures (various lecturers) University of Western Australia, Semester 1, 2010.

Tonkinson, R. (2006) ‘Difference’ and ‘autonomy’ then and now: four decades of change in a western desert society.  Wentworth Lecture.  Retrieved 20.04.2010 from

Western Australian gardening: not so easy.

February 23, 2014

I recently saw an online exchange where a US correspondent thought a Perth writer was being a wooss for grumbling about a maximum temperature of 40 degrees.  After all, their maximum was under 32, frozen lakes and all.

The Perth writer informed them that much of the world uses Centigrade, and that 40 here is 104 there.

So much for being in a “temperate” zone.  I still resent the misleading books that said that strawberry, chamomile, and thyme like full sun.

But temperature is not the main thing that triggered this entry.  We have enthusiastic pests, and they make things – well – different from the images in magazines’ garden pages.

Consider growing figs:

We have Mediterranean fruit fly and vinegar fly,  which turn nine-tenths of figs more than two-thirds ripe into acid-bottomed disappointments.    Also, we want to protect them from the rainbow lorikeets- a destructive pest species of bird from the Eastern States, which some careless fool released here and which are here destroying more than they eat.   Still, even though it would get rid of the lorikeets, we don’t want to use strong poisons.  Result?  A four-metre-plus high net bag for the tree, with 1mm mesh size (25 * 25 per inch) as recommended for exclusion of vinegar fly.   (Thanks to Kawase, S. and K. Uchino, 2005. Effect of Mesh Size on Drosophila Suzukii Adults Passing Through the Mesh.  AnnualReport of the Kanto Tosan Plant Protection Society, 52, 99-101.)


It worked.  We were surprised, the improvement on quantity as well as quality was impressive.

I have been growing sweet potatoes  – a true sweet potato, with degrees of purple inside and with edible leaves.  I had had a few salads, but was carefull to leave plenty to help it grow.  When the patch was over one square metre and climbing my baby date palm, I thought that the patch had developed well enough for me to take some roots –

DSCF4156 DSCF4160 DSCF4158

After removing the damaged bits, not enough left to bother with.

I had given up on growing  large carrots and potatoes in that area  because something eats 0.8 cm (0.3 inch) holes through them.  It seems that the denizens of our soil like sweet potato even more.     I suspect African Black Beetles, and they are not easy to control without rather nasty chemicals.

Which leaves the question of how the organic  farmers do it…  well, my root vegetables now grow in pots carefully separated from the local soil.  They can’t walk in, but the blighters do fly, so I may have to do repotting if they get in.   Or put them under the fig, or the apple and quince (they are  next for the net, as our fruit fly damage the fruit even though the maggots don’t survive long.   Seriously, brown lines from the bite-dimple to the core, and sometimes fungal infection follows.)

My task now is to find beetle-resistant crops – or grow the sweet potato more as a green than a root vegetable:  it survives where lettuce  and pak choy wither.

Say what? Beyond jargon to brain pain

April 16, 2013

For the record:  I have university qualifications, starting my studies  in Medicine and ending with qualifications in Anthropology, Linguistics, Psychology, and Education.  Postgraduate included.  I can handle jargon from Anthropology to Zoology.

So I was impressed when a Literacy Education Theory article strained my brain.   I think it is worth examining, to see what took it beyond the usual run of jargon.  (As usual, I prefer not to name names when I find writing worth negative comment.)


To start with, my background awareness, summarized well by the OED:

Definition of semantics (noun)

[usually treated as singular]

  • the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.
  • the meaning of a word, phrase, or text

Definition of reflexive (adjective)

  • Grammar denoting a pronoun that refers back to the subject of the clause in which it is used, e.g. myself, themselves.
  • (of a verb or clause) having a reflexive pronoun as its object (e.g. wash oneself).
  • Logic (of a relation) always holding between a term and itself.
  • (of a method or theory in the social sciences) taking account of itself or of the effect of the personality or presence of the researcher on what is being investigated.
  • (of an action) performed as a reflex, without conscious thought:at concerts like this one standing ovations have become reflexive
Definition of morphogenesis  (from Greek morphē ‘form’ + genesis beginning)(noun)  [mass noun]

  • Biology the origin and development of morphological characteristics.(i.e. physical structures)
  • Geology the formation of landforms or other structures.


morphogenetic  (adjective)

morphogenic (adjective)

(Please note the idea that the form being begun is considered to be pretty much unchanging, except by metamorphosis.)

The Text

The article was talking about teachers’ decision-making, and various things in the context of decisions which affected the final decision.

It referred to teachers’ “reflexive decisions”, meaning (I inferred, eventually) decisions made after careful consideration of a range of personal and external influences.  What most of us would call “considered decisions”.

It referred to “morphogenetic”,  defined in the article as meaning “transformative”.  This usage  confused me, as the term one would expect is “transformative” or -from metamorphosis “a change of form, a transformation” – metamorphic.

A major author in the references (this was a peer-review journal, so they drop in many references) was M. Archer.  This was the source of the jargon, I think, as ve was cited as using the root “morpho” to indicate that “society has no pre-set form or preferred state.”

This led me to wonder why  experts in literacy education would willingly use jargon which a literate reader finds both confusing and etymologically unsound.  Surely one would check that one’s proposed jargon did not clash with well-recognised usage from other fields?

Wondering still, I read on… “The relationship between writing, school instruction, and language cannot be underestimated.”  I deduced, from context, that an old-style editor would have corrected it to “should not”   or   “must not”.

Finally, I came to a diagram:

where would you put the arrows?

This raised more questions :  Would the “reflexive action” box be better outside the oval?  Could there be influence arrows from objective to subjective (considering Social Constructivist theory) and from the action box to internal and external headings?  Why do I always have to see things as being more complicated than proposed theoretical descriptions?  If this is the standard of those who educate teachers,  … Why does my brain hurt?

Oh, right.


Yes, I am a pedant.  Yes, I find semantic distinctions important.  Yes, I believe that jargon should be carefully crafted.

I believe that the increasing percentage of people using Engish as a second language calls for  more precise use of English:   people like me can translate poor writing,  but others rely on the correct semantics being there so that their support systems (such as the OED) can provide meanings the readers do not have as personal knowledge.

One reason to join the union

March 6, 2013

Received from a State branch of a teachers’ union, by email:


Important information all fixed term teachers need to act upon as soon as possible

Your contract of appointment may have the wrong termination date and/or salary.

Termination dates

Your union has discovered that the contract of appointment template in the portal for use by IPS school principals is incorrect and we have requested the Department also check the template used by non-IPS schools, as we believe it is likely to also be incorrect.

In recent discussions, the Department have admitted that the information is incorrect.

The template wrongly instructs Principals how to determine the termination date of a fixed term contract. It wrongly advises that the termination date is the ‘close of business date’. This would incorrectly make the last day of term under the contract the termination date.

Short term (or ‘fixed term’) contracts should follow the rules below:

1.         If the contract is for the whole term (say term one in 2013 ), the end of the contract should NOT be the last day of term, but SHOULD BE the last day of the school  holidays proceeding the last term worked (e.g. for term one only appointments, the appropriate end date is not 19th April, but 3th May).

2.        If the contract is for the whole year, the end date of the contract should NOT be 20TH December 2013, but the 31 January 2014.

We have informed the Department that in our view the responsibility for the incorrect dates on fixed term contracts is the Departments as they failed to provide sufficient guidance to Administrators. The information is also not consistent with Industrial Relations Advice Number 14 of 2012 and the long-term practice of paying our members continuously during the holidays proceeding each term worked.

Why does this matter?

If your school has given you the wrong end date, it will affect how your contract is dealt with at its end.  You will be paid your leave as a lump sum at the end of term, and will not have school holidays form part of your service (further negative consequences will be, more upfront tax, less sick leave, slower long service leave accrual, more breaks in service and a later annual pay increment).

Salary Rates

You should also check to make sure that your fixed term appointment provides the correct salary as the these rates are also incorrect. This is more likely to be an issue for new employees as the contract template also contains the wrong starting salary pay scale and cites the wrong industrial agreement governing current wages (the template cites the old 2008 agreement although we have updated wages and conditions in the 2011 agreement – the difference is starting salary is over $6000 per year!). As a result, we have concerns that some employees may be being underpaid.

What should you do?

1.        Check your contract’s end date and salary rate (salary rates are contained in Schedule A of the Agreement – members should refer to what is commonly referred to as the ‘little red book’ containing your union negotiated wages and conditions).

2.        If your contract is wrong, let your Principal and Shared Services at the Department know. Ask to have the date and/or salary corrected, and a new contract issued with any underpayment rectified.

3.        If you have done this, and do not get a new contract and/or any back pay owing to you, contact Member Assist on 9210 6060 (metro) or 1800 106 683 (country) for further help from your union. This service is not available to non-members. If necessary, we will be collating member names and seeking to rectify issues directly with the Department.

4.        You may also like to remind any non-member colleagues why it is important to join their Union. More members equals more industrial strength. Simple as that!

Entertaining – but is it real? (Why I love the internet)

February 22, 2013

Entertaining – but is it real?  This image was doing the geek facebook links:

ship shipping

Thanks to tineye and the net, the ship (Blue Marlin) and some of its other cargoes can be seen at .   Other sites confirm that it has carried other ships, including submarines and the ISS Cole.

The image is:

Thanks to Google Translate, I can say it carries

22 barges, each of which weighs in at 3 thousand tons

It is real.

It is, truly,  a ship shipping ship shipping shipping ships.

And, oh my, it is immense: it is hard for one’s  mind to grasp the vast scale of its design.

Just knowing it is there, and  that it is a ship shipping ship shipping shipping ships, improves my day.