Monday, December 21, 2009

Visit to the USA

October/November saw MrLaurie and I take off on a grand adventure, travelling to New York, Washington DC, San Francisico, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The whole tale would take quite some doing, so here are just a couple of highlights:

Unexpected things:
1) I completely loved what I saw of the USA. It was way way down my list of places to visit, but I'm so glad I went.
2) Not withstanding the above, I was shocked that I was bored witless in Washington DC. How is that even possible for a politics nerd like me? Must have been the rain and the boring hotel in a boring bit of town. The Washington monument was pretty cool though.
3) LA was actually kind of awesome. Santa Monica in particular was brilliant.
4) LA had useable public transport. Huh.
5) Las Vegas was a strange bizarro world where you can drink on the street at noon and seem quite restrained, as unlike many, at least you didn't start at 9am. It is also where pole dancing is a public event. In trucks. On the main street.
6) San Francisico is utterly beautiful and amazing, but oh my gosh, the people must have calves of steel to handle those hills.
7) Baseball is actually kind of interesting. American football remains a slow mess of a game.
8) The cutest halloween costume was a little kid in a bumblebee outfit, following her mum around the supermarket. The weirdest was a girl at the party we went to, who went as 'Octomum', and proceeded to give birth to eight small dolls every half an hour.
9) The most irritating part of New York was the uber-wealthy part where there were no cute shops, and lots of nannies pushing small children wearing shoes more expensive than I will ever own. The best part was a tie between the Blue Note jazz club and the Trailer Park bar in Chelsea.

Geeky highlights:
1) Dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. T-Rex! Stegosauras! Triceratops! Eeei!
2) MoMA. Van Gogh, Cezanne, my school books coming to life.
3) The actual return module from Apollo 11.

'Place' highlights:
1) Looking over the Golden Gate Bridge from high on the cliff on a gorgeous sunshiny day, with the sailboats bobbing about the harbour.
2) Standing on top of the Empire State Building on a clear cool night after 27 hours of travel. Wow.
3) Sitting on Santa Monica pier drinking margaritas and just contemplating the gorgeous wide beach.

*sigh* I want to go back!

Blog paranoia. Sod it.

Okay, so I abandoned the little blog just as it found a reader or two.

The thing is, I got self concious.

I started freaking out about people reading my inner thoughts, and linking it back to me, as MsLaurie is hardly the most impressive bit of pseudonym. Not only have I been using it for years (I have a very stable online identity, which all of a sudden I'm not so sure about), and for some reason, MrLaurie, who blogs in real-name territory, insists upon linking.

Not to mention, writers block and being utterly convinced that I had nothing of import to say!

So I've been feeling a bit exposed. Also, what really gets me ranting about politics is health, and as I work in that area, I don't feel like I can rant in a public space about it!

Hence, a bit of a blog abandonment.

Strategies I've considered to re-vamp:
1) Abandon the blog entirely, start a new one not quite so MsLaurie linked.
2) Stop blogging (but how unfun, and I do so love reading other people's blogs, it feels greedy not to share back)
3) Suck it up and move on.

Assessment? I'm sucking it up.

So! I hereby annouce a return to blogging, at least semi-regularly. Although given my new misgivings, I suspect it will be less big-P political than I originally imagined.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tram Tales. Woohoo!

To the tune of 'Duck Tales', of course. I did love Duck Tales.

Last night - sudden showers in the bright sunshine. Crazy dark clouds above with the sun coming in at the horizon line. Amazing.

This morning - Turns out that a fancy-looking fifty cent piece with the corners sort curved off isn't much use in the ticket machine. On the upside, this did mean that I had a perfectly legitimate reason for not getting buying a ticket - and a spare $3 to buy an emergency coffee!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Good Wife

Late last year, I married MrLaurie. Up until about six weeks before the wedding, we had not lived together (a complicated and multi-state long distance relationship. Virgin Blue made an absolute fortune off us).

And from the moment we moved in together, for some reason, although we had both been very independent until that point, I found myself immediately wanting to be a ‘Good Wife’.

In three and a half years of living alone I had not once planned meals a week ahead, or managed to drag myself to a farmers market for vegetables. I had certainly not looked up recipes online and written shopping lists (my shopping style trended more towards moseying around the supermarket where inspiration took me).

I would often go weeks without doing laundry (benefit of having too many clothes), and my cleaning was scrappy. I’ve always been the sort to do a panicked rush around when people were coming over, and tend to feel that a place is not home if there are not five pairs of shoes sitting in the middle of the lounge room floor.

But since getting married, I somehow care about the groceries. I’m planning menus. Days in advance! I care whether we’ve had the same meal more than once in a week!

I’m worrying about laundry – for some crazy reason I care that his collars are stained, and somehow decide that I need to fix this immediately. So I’m scrubbing in the ‘made into a paste’ napisan early on a Saturday morning. This is ridiculous - who even sees the inside of the collars of his workshirts?

I’ve started planning dinner parties. And worrying about his health (has he made a doctor’s appointment? No? Should I make it for him? – Talk about infantilising). I’m caring about how often he calls his mother (for some reason apparently I think this reflects on me!). I’ve started buying Christmas and birthday gifts for his family ‘from both of us’, where last year I would have firmly declared this was his problem. I’ve even sewn on his buttons, rather than taking the time to teach him, which I’d previously insisted was the only way it was happening.

Admittedly, its not all one way – MrLaurie does tend to clean up the kitchen after I’ve destroyed it through cooking. And he does put loads of washing on much more often than I do (although his attempts to hang the washing afterwards are… artistic). And we have sensibly agreed that we are both terrible at mopping and vacuuming, so we’ve hired a cleaner. (I never knew floors could shine that way!)

I just don’t quite know why it is that I find myself wanting to be A Good Wife. Capitalised. Fifties-style.

What is it about the gender relations that I’ve picked up so comprehensively that I want to prove that I have traditional house-wifely skills? Why after years of simply assuming that he must enjoy my company due to wit and smarts (not demonstrated to date on this blog, but I would like to assure any readers that it really is there, somewhere) have I suddenly moved towards trying to impress with how much I can be like our respective Grandmothers?

Clearly, the patriarchy has some seductive charms. But I’m going to have to do some serious conquering of this trend before we even start to contemplate little ones running about, or I’ll be straight back to 1956.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Late winter turning into spring

Finally some pretty flowers for the little blog:


After months of a little tiny garden all grey and brown, with the only colour the bright green of the persistent weeds, its lovely to have some flowers.
I especially love the hellebore - its so delicate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

stargazer: 14th down under feminists carnival

I is smug. One of my (very few) posts was featured in the stargazer: 14th down under feminists carnival!


Have you read The Happiness Project blog? It gives tips and discussions about how to be happy. And that ‘happy’ is not being happy-happy joy-joy all the time, but being contented, and doing what feels right, and good, and positive for yourself.

One of the tools it suggests to help you choose what is right for yourself if to have a set of commandments to guide your personal philosophy. Generally, twelve commandments are involved, but so far, I’ve only got six.

1. Be MsLaurie
The famous ‘fantasy of being thin’ post on Shapely Prose first codified some thoughts I’d already had in this area (interestingly, my ‘wish’ plans never had to do with being slim, just ‘more fun/outgoing/cool’), and The Happiness Project helped me set it out further.

I’m a middle-class, white person in a first world country. I can do pretty much whatever I want, within reason. But it doesn’t really mean I can do anything, because I don’t LIKE everything, and I don’t WANT to like everything. I don’t like snow (its cold and wet). I don’t want to climb mountains (traumatic memories of hallucinations climbing Mount Oberon before dawn). I don’t really care much for staying out past three am and drinking to the point where the next day is a write off (too many examples).

But I can choose to be me. I love being a girl guide leader, even though its unfashionable. I love spending hours planning and making cards in elaborate designs, even though most of them get looked at once and put in a drawer. I like going to fancy little bars and sipping overpriced cocktails. I like to wear bright red shoes. I like to be me, even when that is unfashionable, and a bit conservative, and some people might think its boring. So what? I don’t need to please anyone else, I just need to please me.

2. Recognise ghosts
My second commandment is to know that, like everyone, there are some things in the past which messed me up a bit. ‘Recognise ghosts’ means to acknowledge the baggage, know its there (don’t try and suppress things), but to try not to let it mess up the future.

3. Act for pleasure, not reward
I’m a bit of a ‘look look I did something clever! Look at meeeee!’ person sometimes (probably why I’m writing a blog, hey?!). While I’ve decided this is a valid impulse, I need to be sure that I’m choosing to do things that make me happy, not just to garner praise or respect.

4. Direct frustration appropriately
Poor MrLaurie regularly cops me dealing inappropriately with frustration. Either he gets the bad mood I can’t properly show at work, or I get annoyed and yell when he doesn’t understand intuitively what I want done.

So I’m trying to direct my frustration appropriately – instead of just going “grah!” when he doesn’t chop things the way I want them chopped for the pasta sauce, I’m trying to either let it go (if its close enough), or say “I know this is crazy, but I’d prefer you to do it like THIS”, and show him. In other words, basic courtesy, and not expecting him to read my mind. Also, showing him has the helpful side effect of not allowing us to fall into the trap of ‘he can’t do it right/she never likes what I do so why bother’, which ends up with me doing all of the cooking. Sod that.

5. Be excited locally
For a wedding gift, we were given a fantastic digital camera, which I used like crazy on our honeymoon. And when we were in Darwin. And Sydney. And anywhere ‘else’. I can see the beauty and interest in everyday things elsewhere, but I hardly notice things locally. Which is silly, because here is my life, and where I want to be. And it’s a lovely city, and there is beauty all around.

So I’m trying to make a conscious choice to be excited about things locally. Today, for example there is a gorgeous blue sky. In Melbourne in winter! Amazing!

6. Fit items to life
This final one is a bit mundane. But its an important revelation to me. I should buy/make/acquire items which fit the way I live my life, not what I think my life should be (tied into ‘Be MsLaurie’). So I recently gave up on trying to fit my shoes into the bottom of the cupboard, or line them up neatly under the bed, and realised that what I was actually doing naturally was to just piff them under the bed (or in that direction).

So I bought some fantastic shallow clear boxes that fit under the bed, which I can slide out easily, and just piff the shoes into the boxes. Neater (which although not a core value of mine, it is handy to not trip over shoes when getting up to go to the loo), and lets me still just toss them in. Fit the item to my life, rather than change the behaviour. Much better.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pinkification... so that its about THAT baby?

I never liked pink. Even when I deep in my barbie phase as a kid, I didn’t like the pink of all her accessories. I’d go out of my way to find alternative items to furnish my barbie’s lives with (for the record, my fantastic Mum managed to get me teeny little cane furniture for my barbies. Hey, it was the eighties, cane was cool).

My bedroom as an infant and toddler was pale blue – it had been painted before I was born, not because a boy was expected, but because my parents thought it was cool and restful for a baby. Indeed, back in the early eighties, you couldn’t (or perhaps just didn’t… I wasn’t there to know, really) find out the sex of the baby (well, not unless serious genetic issues were in play).

In the last few months, friends have started to have babies of their own. And without fail, they are learning the sex of the baby as early as possible – I understand that, they want to know as much about the little person soon to be in their lives as they can.

I wonder, though, if knowing whether the baby is a boy or girl – and knowing only that really – for several months before they arrive is perhaps driving the seemingly relentless march of pinkification/blueifying of clothing, furniture, and accessories of baby boys and girls? If in the rush to do something in those months of waiting for the baby to arrive, people somehow feel the need to try and connect with the unknown, through identifying clearly that their things were chosen specifically for that child, not a child?

A friends’ little girl was born in January. Being somewhat crafty, I had made the baby a little sundress, in pale lime cotton with a purple, yellow and white daisy print all over it. I decided that the dress might not be enough (what if bub was a bit cold and didn’t want just little straps?), and tried to buy a teeny (size 000) t-shirt, in purple or yellow to go underneath it.

But there were no tshirts in purple or yellow in size 000, not at Target, not at children’s Cotton On, not at Kmart (oh yes, I am classy – on the other hand, how long will a child wear size 000? Not long enough to splash out I say). I had to settle for plain white. If I’d wanted pink, I could have had twenty different styles.

Interestingly, my friend was thrilled at the gift – not only was (most of it) handmade, but it was the only clothing they’d received so far that wasn’t pink.

I guess the question is – did everyone buy pink because they knew a girl was on the way, and wanted to buy for that baby not a baby, or did they all buy pink because that was all that was available? Chickens and eggs… or rather, pinks and blues.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cossie’s quit – finally.

Today’s big news is of course that Peter Costello has – finally – quit politics. While I’m not generally inclined toward his side of politics, being more your latte leftie, (apparently. Although I prefer flat whites), I think his leaving is good for political discourse in this country. Finally, finally we can stop the too-ing and fro-ing about whether or not Turnbull will be challenged, and the constant ‘oh but Costello would totally whip the Government if only he were in charge’ polling questions. Maybe we can actually have some discussion about policies, rather than silly gossip now? *sigh* I’m sure its just too much to ask…

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just finished reading...

Brunelleschi's Dome. Its a short, enthralling story about architecture, design, and competition to construct the top of the Duomo, during the renaissance in Florence, Italy.

When MrLaurie and I were recently in Europe, one of our most challenging activities was climbing to the top of the Duomo - it is huge. Huge. Even more amazingly though, the dome part was built without internal scaffolding, and with amazing innovations in crane-type machines to move the massive pieces of marble into place.

(view from the top of Duomo - its a long, long way down) (image credit moi)

I don't usually read books on architecture... but a few years ago, I decided to 'just buy' books that caught my eye, and not to think about whether or not it fitted into my ideas of 'good books'. So after several years of confining myself to purchasing only lit-er-a-ture dahling, I expanded my reading, and my bookcase. So now I have biographies, and histories, and strange little items - a book on using physics to understand crowds (and other things...) - Critical Mass. I also have a book on IVF and the history of assisted reproductive technologies, and a history of prohibition in the US.

Reading in this way has expanded my interests, and knowledge... and my ability to be a pain at trivia nights :)


When putting a little desciption of this wee blog, I included flowers. To date? No flowers!

So here's a cute litle picture of waterlillies for the internet, taken on a recent trip north to Kakadu.

Just gorgeous.

Image credit - moi.
Grey skies gathering.
City blocks disappearing into the mists.
Winter gently encroaches.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

tram views

Daily, I pass by the East Melbourne day procedure facility. That anodyne name somewhat undersells its primary purpose - its an abortion clinic.

Every morning as I pass by on the tram - long before the clinic itself is actually open - I observe the small group of people who wait outside the gates, armed with three dimensional posters showing fetal development, pamphlets, and scowls.

The group is small - the recent law change in Victoria showed that while there is a group of people deeply against abortion, the majority see it as a necessary evil at least, and certainly a private matter not to be interferred with. Most Victorians were glad to have abortion out of the criminal code.

Usually, the group consists of about four people. Sometimes only one, sometimes as many as seven. Yesterday, I noticed a different composition to the group - they were mainly women. Almost always the group is made up of elderly men, in about their sixties or seventies - probably retired, and with time to hang around and bother perfect strangers about their life choices.

What is the point of this ponder? I don't really know... perhaps the fact that it is mainly older men trying to police young women's choices. Perhaps the fact that the group is so small compared to what I see of the situation in America. Perhaps just the fact that the group is even there, and so persistently. It is just so odd to me.

Surely, if you're really against abortion, you should be spending your time lobbying the government to increase the single parent's pension? Making childcare affordable, and accessible? Looking at contraception access, so that unwanted pregnancies happen less?

It seems to me that if you truly believe abortion is murder - which I do not, but semantics - if you do, surely you should be trying to make both not getting unexpectedly pregnant less common, and - once a woman is pregnant - making the choice to keep the pregnancy easier, by creating the social environment which is supportive, rather than shaming?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Things driving me crazy today:
* The Monash freeway - will they EVER finish the roadworks?
* The non-delivery of my dining table chairs
* Telstra and their definition of 'service'.
That is all.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I wonder why they filed it there?

Perusing the shelves at Borders the other day, I noticed a couple of unusual choices in where books were stored. I happened upon the 'gender studies' shelves, and noticed that amongst your classic uni-class friendly tomes were two biographies/autobiographies I already owned.

One of them was The School of St Jude - which is about an Australian woman who has set up a school in Tanzania. Another one was The Hospital by the River, which is about two doctors, Catherine and Reg Hamlin, who established a fistula hospital in Ethiopia.

Now, yes, both of these books have strong women (a little religiously motivated for my taste, but hey, that's who they are)... but why on earth are their stories in 'gender studies'? Why not just in straight biographies? I didn't see any biographies that were exclusively of men in the gender studies area... Is it because these women were working in education and health? But why then not in the education or health areas?

Its a puzzle.