Thursday, 26 August 2010

what's next

Welcome democracy, welcome chaos.

I've been nothing short of a political junkie in the weeks leading to the election but now that 'it' is all over it seems the trip has only just begun. Like a lot of people I expected the Labor Party to win. Not by much, but to win. Basically it seemed like despite my various dissatisfactions with the government, it was inconceivable that most people could choose him.

I was raised in this political system, and despite the historical blips of splinter parties, minor parties, single issue parties and independents, it is and has always been a two horse race. A few senators, a couple of members of the lower house have never been, nor even implied, an alternative to the binary choices of Liberal and Labor. And like most people in this country I was raised in one of those two camps, and like the vast majority of Australians when forced to choose, I would elect to remain in my family tradition.

As the numbers started to come in on Saturday night I was stunned. And then I got cross. I felt cross with the people who let their frustrations with the government result in voting for a party who represent so many of the things I just can't sign up to, things they didn't want to sign up to just a few years ago. I'm cross that the 'issues' that dominated the campaign are at the heart of it pretty marginal to what makes or breaks good government, and that the really important stuff pretty much remained under the carpet.

But I felt even crosser, so much crosser, that the simple reality of the two party race seems to elude so many voters. One poll that was cited claimed that 25% of voters who had moved to the Coalition (or who shifted away from Labor, I'm not sure which) did so as a protest against the government but based on the belief that Labor would still win. In other words they voted for someone they didn't support to try and tell the party they do support that they were unhappy. I just can't get past how self defeating this is. The idea that you can vote in such a way as to say none of the above (even if in a two horse race you know exactly who you would back) denies the reality that someone has to mind the store.

I am not one who subscribes to the notion that the two major parties are peas in a pod. There are real and important differences between them, however much we may feel Labor has shifted to the right or the Liberal party has abandoned it's roots. Their failure to agree on super profit taxes or GP clinics in hospitals or computers in classrooms or broadband infrastructure are not insignificant. But politics only goes so far in writing the government's to do list. The biggest part of the agenda is taken up with stuff that's beyond politics, doing the best you can with the available knowledge, using measures and decision making tools that are largely accepted as the best for the most.

As someone who works in government, as distinct from politics, it can be very frustrating to feel that the everyday work of democracy (that would be running the country, paying the bills, employing the people who deliver the services, building the roads, assessing your tax return and so on) is held up, made inefficient and unnecessarily laboured by political shenanigans. The rights people have in a democratic country to make determinations about what should be done, and how, are often confused with the job of actually doing it. The importance of exercising your democratic voice to shape your community looms larger than the expertise to make good decisions.

How funding models for hospitals should work, or whether we should buy more ambulances or kidney dialysis machines, or whether we should have safe injecting rooms or if we should have a national high school curriculum or if teachers should get performance pay and if so how much and who should get it are all things any of us might have a view on. But do any of us know as much about any of these things as the people who have spent their lives investigating those questions? How do we balance the role of widespread engagement with policy issues and the need for the people who know the most about it to just get on with it?

And on Sunday morning I felt very much like quite a few people were saying, you know what? I would rather those decision just didn't get made than for them to be made by people who I don't think do a good enough job. And I'll be honest in saying I felt angry that so many who understand so little about what it takes to make this whole song and dance number work were blowing off the work of so many doing things that are invisible to most people. Yeah, I'm pissed off with Julia and the faceless men from the Right so heck, let's see what happens when we just shut it all down.

It's Thursday now and I don't feel quite the same way. I was lucky enough to catch the panel interview with 4 of the key non major party players at the Press Club on Wednesday and along with conversations with some of my more erudite friends I am thinking about it a little differently. What I found most interesting is that as well as challenging exactly which issues should be holding the floor, the very notion of two party binary opposition has been challenged. I was heartened to see that perhaps there was some scope for shifting the paradigm, because this is one of those moments when the fundamental differences between people can't be controlled with a party whip. Somewhere, somehow, these people are going to have to find some way to negotiate and move through disagreement, and not all of that will be hidden behind the caucus door.

And in case you think I'm going all third way I'll say straight off I don't see this as the death knell of the party system or the event horizon for honest or transparent of real politics. Despite welcoming a little debate and a more open access to the decision making process, at the heart of it government is too big, and too complex to be carried out in the sun. Managing diversity of opinion is a time consuming process, and no matter how healthy debate and engagement is, it has to be selective in what it chooses to give airtime to. At least a good portion of the time, people have to agree to let stuff go and only fight for the stuff they really care about. If you pull this right along the spectrum you reach the tight party organisation the independents so object to, you drag it up the other end and every issue that anyone cares about gets fought through like wrestling cats.

And let us not gloss over the fact that a very small number of people who represent a very small number of people will be holding a degree of power over the agenda that is highly undemocratic. Much of what's being said about genuine power sharing and honest deal brokering is a lot of bull, because 3 blokes in suits are calling the shots and making it all too clear that they won't be supporting anything that's not in the interests of their own constituents (regardless of how many other members will have to do just that in order to keep the alliances strong).

So I don't think I'm finished with this, not by a long shot. I see the future and it's full of murky water and perfect conditions for breeding all kinds of hazardous bacteria. But whatever happens, I'll be watching with interest.

Monday, 23 August 2010

first reactions

I sat down and started a long and rambling, sometimes angry post on Sunday morning. A perfectly reasonable way to greet the dawning of political chaos after our woeful election results.

But the truth is I'm not really clear on what I want to say and haven't really had the time to fully contemplate it and I think it is important enough for me to uncharacteristically wait a bit.

But in the mean time I have to share that the Ingenue jumper (photos to follow) has had its first wearing and is deemed a success. It is not perfect - basically it is a bit too big. All my instincts about those big underarm cast ons should have been followed. If I'd lost 8 or 10 stitches there the jumper would be pretty much a perfect fit. I also overblocked the neck as well as cast off the hem and cuffs too loosely, but these things can be fixed and even without doing so it is an eminently wearable garment and the fabric is perfection in its super snuggly soft warmth.

I also cast on for the Alexandria cowl (pattern from Morris and Sons) because with all the election excitement and sadness I couldn't concentrate on counting the stitches in the skew socks. So I've abandoned project monogamy and will no doubt start feeling all anxious very soon.

I also made a cowl on the machine as part of my sampling yarns and stitches on the new machine kick. It's totally working for me.

And another thing. I read this post over on Sew Green and it was enough to get me off my butt and finally satisfy my curiosity about home made deodorant. I was skeptical. I have a sufficiently big issue with body odour to have tried and abandoned each and every alternative to aluminium based anti-perspirants I have ever come across. Some I found moderately effective and every now and then I return to using a deodorant crystal, and even though the stuff that's bad for me doesn't even do as good a job as I would like I always come back to it.

But can I say, this stuff actually works. It works on me BETTER than the stuff that's bad for you. I have had D do the sniff test to supplement my own observations and even after hard gardening work involving sweat and warm clothes and sleeping all night we are both in absolute agreement that it clearly does the job better than the other stuff. And I am absolutely gobsmacked. I don't get why or how, but it is cheaper, involves less waste, is completely non toxic and all of that pales into insignificance next to the real issue which is effectiveness.I will say the application is not as convenient as a roll on and adds an extra 10 or seconds to my morning routine, but maybe I can work out a better system for that...

To share the joy of this discovery I am going to make up a couple of sample pots and give them away. If you are keen to try it and are prepared to report back with your results and observations, leave a comment here by Wednesday night aussie time (25th) and I'll pick a few people out.

edited to add:
I should have specified this is a giveaway for aussies only - I figure it kind of defeats the purpose of being green if I then fly stuff halfway round the world when this product is super cheap and easy to make yourself! Please feel free to comment, but only put your hand up for the giveaway if you are a local, thanks.

edited yet again to say:
I have heard very good things about this recipe for shaving gel. Just saying.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


The Mitts are done.

The Ingenue is blocking.

The man's father's day skew socks are past the toe.

The first project from my very own knit machine is finished and blocking (a football scarf for Wil) though I still feel like I am underwater and upside down and everyone is talking in a foreign language.

Several bargain packages snaffled from Rav destash pages have winged their way to me and I have a few skeins of totally fondleworthy yarn to dream about.

While the thought of knitting this does not thrill me I definitely want to own it, so I am contemplating if I could perhaps do it on the machine (pattern on Ravelry).

Planning for craft camp is in full swing and includes interstate visitors and airport runs and cooking and catching up with a truly excellent mate I haven't seen in YEARS, though at this stage I have not planned a single concrete craft project.

Planning is also underway for what promises to be a very full on two week stint hosting our adopted Thai family and their (as yet unmet by us) little boy next month.

The work, family and personal diaries have all been updated synchronised for the first time in, well, ever and I can tell you the rest of the year is a right off.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

new do, new you

Very happy with a new do.
I've often bemoaned the lack of a steady when it comes to hair dressers, but I think I may have found one (I think a few other people feel the same way).

Cake for birthday girl.
Love the icing paste in a tube with skinny writing nozzle that I bought in a fit of laziness.

And the knitting machine is here,
but not yet functioning. Both the machine and myself need some assistance. Right now it just sits on my layout table and taunts me.

Oh and the Ingenue jumper is not the disaster it felt like a week ago. I have indeed got the sleeves done in a most satisfactory manner, and after ripped back the bottom 15 or so cm, broke the yarn and joined in a different skein I am terribly optimistic. While blocking will have to do its voodoo on the underarms, cast off edges and neck shaping, even in its unblocked form it seems to be pretty wearable.

And in preparation for this year's ritual father's day socks, D picked out an actual pattern last night. He had requested and I had totally intended to knit skew for him, but a new sock book does mess with my head and get me thinking all kinds of crazy things. Even knitting 8ply socks. I know! If only I could find an appropriate yarn...anyone?

edited to add:
The knitting machine is now working! It required the predicted replacement of the sponge bar (new lingo!!), which thanks to the ever attentive and prepared Christine was an absolute snap. I am so so appreciative! But there was also, as equally predicted, a hefty amount of user error. I'm up and running now, though still feeling very incompetent. Watch this space for hilarious tales of stupidity.

It should also be said that without a specialised and portable knitting machine table, use of the machine is greatly limited since it's clamped to the table in the workroom rather than in the nice warm room with the TV. But I intend to work hard at gaining at least a pretense of competence before the upcoming craft camp so I can share the super speedy knitting love. Wil is very excited, this means he will be scoring a footy scarf (which seems only fair since he's learned the whole team song. I'm shocked. Shocked and appalled.)

I will also clear up the sock yarn search issue, realising as I did that I had been remarkably unclear in the original post. The pictured sock I intended to knit for the big D is not an 8ply pattern, but a 4 or 5 ply pattern. But it is some freaky squishy cotton and elastic nylon yarn that gauges like a 4 or 5 ply but produces socks somewhat thicker. All of which made me very nervous about the appropriateness of the stashed yarns I intended to choose from and the whole fathers day is nearly here and this is about to turn into a nightmare saga ring the project was sounding out.

So. I'm returning to plan A and will cast on for skew tonight as soon as I wind off the yarn I dyed and dried yesterday. But I will continue to search for 8ply for one of several other interesting patterns in the book (perhaps some patonyle?), and perhaps one day find the actual yarn used in the pattern (anyone seen it?) and knit them as they were intended.

I am also within sight of the end of the Ingenue. The pooling has been completely dispelled and there's only another 6cm of the bottom of the band to go, the neck to sew down, a few ends to be woven in and then it will be time to block. And the commuter mitts will definitely be finished tonight on the tram as there's only a half a dozen or so rows on the thumb to go. So I will happily be returning to project monogamy (my preferred state) until the socks are done. Luckily with craft camp looming there should be plenty of the other crafty artifacts to contemplate soon.

Oh and the cake at Amy's party was a big hit. One (very polite) kid said it was "the best cake I've had in my whole eight years". And that was after he'd eaten it! Full marks for him, I can tell you. The whole eight year old birthday party thing though is not really an experience I'd be keen to repeat. The kids go absolutely mental in packs (even before they are loading up on sugar and saturated fats) and seem remarkably resistant to behavioural modification cues. I was kind of astonished. A feeling compounded by the behaviour of some parents. Next year it will be a friend or two for an afternoon matinee at the movies or something similar.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


She's eight.


She's lovely.
And funny and complicated and sweet.

And I love her like oxygen. Like water and sun and music and the maple syrup on my pancakes and the parmesan on my pasta and the milk in my tea and the fresh sheets on my bed.       

Saturday, 7 August 2010

the pool

A very very small happy birthday mouse for someone growing up fast.
mini marisol
Marisol is a lovely pattern - though it would all have been much easier had I used the recommended 10ply yarn instead of this super fluffy angora 4 ply, conveniently knitted with toothpicks. But the resulting tiny creature is cuteness beyond compare. (all the details via the above link to Ravelry)

The mitts progress.
That's 1 down and 1 to go. Some cashmere sock yarn too lovely for socks from the knittery and a simple pattern (details here).

I pulled out the dye pot for a luxury yarn swap I'm in. The theme is indigo and I have to say I was super happy with this lot. It's my favourite Kiama from Yarn Workshop, a 50-50 silk merino that is a delight to knit and dyes really nicely. I am very, very happy I put enough in the pot for me too! Another ishbel perhaps?

Still woollen, but sewn this time.

Another lovely hat pattern from the hat and bag queen. Super fast and easy, I didn't bother to line or elasticise the band, I made 3! This one in a chunky boiled wool knit, scraps left over from a jacket of mine and vest of Amy's.

And an update on the troublesome Ingenue jumper (details here), and a spot of education in the problem of pooling. So when you knit with hand dyed variegated yarns you have to deal with two problems. Firstly there is an inevitable variation between skeins. The most common and effective way of dealing with this is to knit with two skeins at once, switching between them every 1 or 2 rows. In the general mix the skein by skein difference tends to get lost.
The second problem is what's generally called pooling. See how up top the different shades of grey are all broken up and speckling? By mid way through the body of the jumper there is a distinct dark and light diagonal banding, which isn't great but bearable, but by the time you get to the bottom there are big clumps of colour and it's hideous. It's very very obvious when I'm wearing it and there's nothing for it but to rip back. I should be able to fix it with a bit of yarn breaking and joining and by keeping a careful watch. But it has also been a good learning experience for me, that when knitting something big and with areas of different sizes (say sleeves versus body) you need the colour variations to be very small and as irregular as possible. Live and learn.

Now if I could just find that lovely piece of wool I had all prepared I'd be able to get on with my first attempt at artistic fabric dyeing...

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

sewing to the world

I'm very tempted myself, but have you seen this? Tessuti has expended their annual Tessuti Awards competition and you could win a trip to New York.


And it's not even like there's only one chance - there's two trips up for grabs and a third prize of a $500 Tessuti voucher!

That's fully sick (as the young people say, or used to say before they became slightly less young...)

Registration closes on September 7 for both categories - that's the Little Black Dress, or the Frock up in Colour - so if you sew frocks of any hue here's a great chance to put your stuff out there for all to see and admire.