Do Fish Dream ?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Perfect Sister

Many of you may share my image of the "perfect sister". She understands you intuitively because she had the same parents and shared your childhood. She laughed and cried with you through all your early adventures: family outings and holidays, summers at the beach, shopping expeditions, getting through school, experiments with haircuts and makeup, surviving first loves and losses.

She accepts and supports you even when she would choose a different path. Although you started out as big or the little sister, you evolved into equal friends. She never complains that your parents gave you more and that's why your life turned out better. She is always there for you in moments of crisis, knowing what you need without being told.

She can listen to you without offering advice when you just want a sympathetic ear. She was your ally in childhood who helped you deal with your parents, and later, she was your partner in coping with their illnesses. She gives you what no one else in the world can give you – a lasting connection to your childhood and family. Your sister shares your memories of all the important people and events in your life even after everyone else is gone. She's the one person you have for your entire life.

Some women are actually blessed with that perfect sister, and they can't imagine life without her. But for me, the reality doesn't live up to the ideal. I don't have anything in common with my adult sisters. In fact, as sad and harsh as this may seem, I would pick neither for a friend. I'm not sure why, but we keep experiencing upsetting conflicts and disappointments. I guess I struggle with why my sister relationships don't match my expectations or the "cultural ideal" - but in reality I know that it is my expectations that are the problem.

For some reason, I keep expecting that my sisters and I will have the kind of relationship that would do Pollyanna proud - the kind of relationship that I suggested above. But the reality is that whilst my two younger sisters are very close, I am the odd one out. They phone each other and visit each other regularly and have a close relationship. And this makes me jealous. It makes me sad. I feel excluded. Now, you would think that at my age (44 next month), I would be well and truly over this kind of nonsense, but it hurts ... it really hurts. I understand that I have taken a completely different life path to them both, and I have fundamentally different life philosophies, ideals, values and beliefs. So, yes that sets us apart. As does the fact that geography separates me from them - they live in the same state, whereas I live in a different part of the country and have done so for most of the 27 years since I left home.

But, for some reason instead of accepting that those differences set us apart and accepting that we will never have the close relationship that I crave, I have booked a ticket and a hire car and will be travelling to visit with them next weekend. No doubt there will be "issues" - snide remarks, sideways looks, strongly voiced opinions on my parenting and career choices, whispered conversations just out of earshot - and I will end up in tears and wonder why I keep putting myself in this situation time after time, expecting different results.

I know I need to accept that which I cannot change - and I can in a lot of other areas in my life - but I'm really struggling with this one.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Be A Voice for Tibet

China’s leaders are determined to use the Beijing Olympics to build international esteem. Six months out from the opening ceremony they are facing the prospect of widespread condemnation over their human rights and environmental record. But there is still time for China to save itself the embarrassment. Constructive steps towards the resolution of the Tibet issue would be a good start.

In Australia, with a recent change in government and the Dalai Lama on his way to Sydney in June, there are new opportunities for us to play a role in reinvigorating the China-Tibet dialogue.

A few people have questioned why I am so passionate about this situation; here are a few facts that I hope speak for themselves:

A Brutal Occupation:

For centuries Tibet, a high altitude plateau between China and India, remained remote from the rest of the world with a widely dispersed population of nomads, farmers, monks and traders. Tibet had its own national flag, its own currency, a distinct culture and religion, and controlled its own affairs. In 1949, following the foundation of the Chinese Communist state, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet and soon overpowered its poorly equipped army and guerrilla resistance.

China’s actions in Tibet over the past 50 years have created a climate of fear that still continues today - torture and imprisonment for peaceful protest, and economic plans that discriminate against Tibetans, threatening their unique identity. The PLA maintains a strong presence in Tibet and China’s military control is expected to increase with the 2006 opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Human Rights Abuses:

Human rights conditions in Tibet remain dismal. The Chinese government continues to violate the basic human rights of Tibetans as provided by both the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China’s own constitution. These include the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Despite China’s assurance to the International Olympic Committee that the awarding of the Olympics to Beijing would bring about improvements in human rights, there is now robust evidence that the human rights situation in Tibet is deteriorating. In 2007, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported a three-fold increase in arbitrary arrests and detention since 2006.

Religious Persecution:

Tibetan Buddhism has been fundamental to Tibetan culture for over one thousand years, shaping the very fabric of traditional Tibetan society. It is implicated in everything from environmental management and education to social cohesion and national identity.

Systematic repression of Tibetan culture along with forced “patriotic re-education” continues to take a heavy toll on the people and environment of Tibet. Despite a growth in international support for the Dalai Lama and Tibet, the Chinese government has intensified it’s attacks on him. Tibetans including, high-ranking Lamas, are commonly forced to publicly denounce the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetans wanted to celebrate the awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama in October 2007. However, even simple cultural gestures, such as the burning of incense and whitewashing of monastery walls, were swiftly halted and prohibited by local police. The Drepung Monastery in Lhasa was surrounded by armed troops and road blocks set up to prevent news of events from spreading. Under Chinese rule, the education made available in Tibet actively suppresses Tibetan religious and linguistic identity.

According to a 2008 report, the Chinese authorities in Tibet are making life difficult for Tibetans who are not fluent in Mandarin by passing laws to minimise teaching of Tibetan in schools and by replacing Tibetan language with Chinese language in many spheres of public life. As a result, many Tibetans send their children on the dangerous journey across the Himalayas to study at Tibetan schools in India.

Environmental Concerns:

With an average elevation of 14,000 feet, the Tibetan Plateau is the highest and largest mountain plateau on earth. Towering above the vast Eurasian landmass, Tibet is the source of major rivers feeding India, China, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. Exploitative and unsustainable development policies, coupled with escalating impacts from climate change, are exacting an alarming toll on this fragile and environmentally strategic region.

Under Chinese rule, traditional nomadic pastoralism has been replaced by intensive industrial agriculture unsuited to the arid conditions of the Tibetan Plateau. Over-grazing, soil erosion and the steady drying-out of the plateau due to climate change are turning the vast rangelands of Tibet to desert. These trends are destroying Tibet’s traditional rural economy and reducing the productivity of one of the world’s most important rangelands.

With this once remote and inaccessible region now linked to China’s rail network, extraction of copper, gold, iron, chromite and other minerals required to keep China’s burgeoning economy afloat is accelerating, bringing with it a myriad of new environmental challenges. New large-scale infrastructure projects and a ten-fold increase in visitor numbers over the last decade are placing further strains on Tibet’s environment and culture.

Economic & Social Development:

While China’s central government has spent billions of Yuan on new infrastructure in Tibet, urban-centric investment strategies, focussed on integrating Tibet into the Chinese economy, have in many instances reduced the wellbeing and prospects of Tibetans.

Coercive displacement of nomadic communities from areas designated for industrial agriculture is driving more and more Tibetans to the cities. Unable to speak Mandarin and lacking familiarity with Chinese work culture, they are unable to gain employment in new growth industries such as tourism.

With the completion of the Beijing-Lhasa railway, a new wave of skilled economic migrants, lured by high wages, is further reducing employment prospects for Tibetans. Education initiatives for “closing the gap” between Tibetans and Han Chinese are grossly insufficient. Official figures up to 2005 do not show any improvement in education levels, with 45% of Tibetans still illiterate and only 11.5%having the benefit of secondary education. These combined trends have entrenched a pattern of “ethnically exclusionary growth” in Tibet, resulting in by far the widest rich-poor divide of anywhere in China. While there are many winners among foreign investors and Han Chinese, Tibetans are being progressively marginalised.

Quite simply, there has never been a more important time to be campaigning for Tibet.

China's Perfect Zero

Click here to view an animated short film revealing why China needs more than great athletes to win gold: China's Perfect Zero

Friday, April 18, 2008

Intenational Council of Manlaws presents.....

At the risk of offending the entire sisterhood out there :), I would like to present The International Council of Manlaws 30 Rules for Blokes......if you don't at least smile at a few of these, your sense of humour chip is seriously AWOL !

The International Council of Manlaws, Ltd.

1. Under no circumstances may two men share an umbrella.

2. It is OK for a man to cry ONLY under the following circumstances:

(a) When a heroic dog dies to save its master.
(b) The moment Angelina Jolie starts unbuttoning her Blouse.
(c) After wrecking your boss's car.
(d) When she is using her teeth.

3. Any Man who brings a camera to a buck's night may be legally killed and eaten by his buddies.

4. Unless he murdered someone in your family, you must bail a friend out of jail within 12 hours.

5. If you've known a bloke for more than 24 hours, his sister is off limits forever unless you actually marry her.

6. Moaning about the brand of free beer in a mate's fridge is forbidden. However complain at will if the temperature is unsuitable.

7. No man shall ever be required to buy a birthday present for another man.

8. On a road trip, the strongest bladder determines pit stops, not the weakest.

9. When stumbling upon other blokes watching a sporting event, you may ask the score of the game in progress, but you may never ask who's playing.

10. You may flatulate in front of a woman only after you have brought her to climax. If you trap her head under the covers for the purpose of flatulent entertainment, she's officially your girlfriend.

11. It is permissible to drink a fruity alcohol drink only when you're sunning on a tropical beach ... And it's delivered by a topless model and only when it's free.

12. Only in situations of moral and/or physical peril are you allowed to kick another guy in the nuts.

13. Unless you're in prison, never fight naked.

14. Friends don't let friends wear Speedos. Ever. Issue closed.

15. If a man's fly is down, that's his problem, you didn't see anything.

16. Women who claim they "love to watch sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to drink as much as the other sports watchers.

17. A man in the company of a hot, suggestively dressed woman must remain sober enough to fight.

18. Never hesitate to reach for the last beer or the last slice of pizza, but not both, that's just greedy.

19. If you compliment a guy on his six-pack, you'd better be talking about his choice of beer.

20. Never join your girlfriend or wife in discussing a mate of yours, except if she's withholding sex pending your response.

21. Phrases that may NOT be uttered to another man while lifting weights:

A) Yeah, Baby, Push it!
B) C'mon, give me one more! Harder!
C) Another set and we can hit the showers!

22. Never talk to a man in a bathroom unless you are on equal footing (i.e ., both urinating, both waiting in line, etc.). For all other situations, an almost imperceptible nod is all the conversation you need.

23. Never allow a telephone conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her. Keep a stopwatch by the phone. Hang up if necessary.

24. The morning after you and a girl who was formerly "just a friend" have carnal, drunken monkey sex, the fact that you're feeling weird and guilty is no reason for you not to nail each other again before the discussion occurs about what a big mistake it was.

25. It is acceptable for you to drive her car. It is not acceptable for her to drive yours.

26. Thou shalt not buy a car in the colours of brown, pink, lime green, orange or sky blue.

27. The girl who replies to the question "What do you want for Christmas?" with "If you loved me, you'd know what I want!" gets an Xbox. End of story.

28. There is no reason for blokes to watch Ice Skating or Men's Gymnastics. Ever.

29. We've all heard about people having guts or balls. But do you really know the difference between them? In an effort to keep you informed, the definition of each is listed below:

"GUTS" is arriving home late after a night out with The guys, being assaulted by your wife with a broom, And having the guts to say, "are you still cleaning or are you flying somewhere?"

"BALLS" is coming home late after a night out with the guys smelling of perfume and beer, lipstick on your collar, slapping your wife on the arse and having the balls to say, "You're next!"

We hope this clears up any confusion,

The International Council of Manlaws, Ltd

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Amazingly Simple Home Remedies

Sometimes kids you have just have to smile despite yourself :)

1. If you are choking on an ice cube, simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat. Presto !! The blockage will instantly remove itself.

2. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold the vegetables while you chop.

3. Avoid arguments with the females about lifting the toilet seat - use the sink.

4. For high blood pressure sufferers, simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure on your veins. Remember to use a timer.

5. A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you'll be afraid to cough.

7. You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn't, use the duct tape.

8. Remember - everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

9. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Beijing Olympics ... A Catalyst for Real Change or a just another major Sporting Event ?

Although given my current work situation, I am not as active as I would like to be, I am a member of the Australian Tibet Council (ATC) The ATC works to promote the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people. ATC is an independent, non-profit Australian organisation funded solely by members and supporters.

ATC undertakes a range of campaigns and advocacy work including promoting support for negotiations between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government to reach a just resolution to the Tibet situation; promotion of religious and cultural freedom and human rights, particularly in the case of Tibetan political prisoners; and the protection of the Tibetan environment and the prevention of the inappropriate exploitation of Tibetan resources.

The Chinese government continues to violate the basic human rights of Tibetans as provided by both the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China’s own constitution. These include the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Despite China’s assurance to the International Olympic Committee that the awarding of the Olympics to Beijing would bring about improvements in human rights, there is now robust evidence that the human rights situation in Tibet is deteriorating. In 2007, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported a three-fold increase in arbitrary arrests and detention since 2006.

In September 2006, Western mountaineers witnessed an unprovoked attack by Chinese border patrols on a group of 75 unarmed Tibetans fleeing Tibet for Nepal which resulted in the death of 17 year old nun Kelsang Namtso. In late 2007, Runggye Adak, a 52-year-old nomad, was sentenced to eight years in prison for simply calling publicly for the return of the Dalai Lama during the popular Lithang horse festival in Eastern Tibet.

China promised increased media freedoms ahead of the Beijing Olympics. However, major media watchdogs, including Reporters Without Borders and the World Association of Newspapers, have reported increased restrictions on foreign media, intimidation of journalists and heightened internet censorship.

I don't want to undermine the Olympic Games, nor does the ATC, but given the spotlight of the world media is currently on China, there has never been a better time for the rest of the free world to put pressure on the Chinese government to end their human rights abuses. If you are interested, and share our concerns, please click on this link and make your voice heard by signing the petition - make these Olympic Games more than about sport; make it a catalyst for change.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pay It Forward

I've taken this straight from the Blog of the Divine Ms MG; it sounded like so much fun I decided I wanted to play too. The rules of this fabulous game are set out below:

The rule for Pay It Forward -The first three people to join the challenge on my blog will receive a gift handmade by me. I will have 30 days to make and send your gift. You must then do a post on your blog inviting 3 people to join your Pay It Forward and receive a handmade gift from you. Sounds easy enough right. The first three people who leave a comment saying they want to join will receive something made by me.

Now folks, don't get toooo excited - I'm not one for 'making things', so you can expect the unexpected :) But, the first three people to leave a comment here will receive something personal that I have "made" myself (and no Tex, you can't play and get dinner made for you tonight - family are specifically precluded from entry :)

Okay people, get on board ... I will happily post the items overseas .... this is going to be fun.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's Not Fashionable but.....

....I am absolutely passionate about my AFL footy. I have followed the Essendon Bombers AFL Football Team for 40 years and there is nothing (ok, very little) more I love than sitting in the stands of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) watching my Bombers beating an opposition team (especially if that team happens to be Collingwood, which incidentally is Tex's team !) or if I can't be there to watch the action live, I will sit in front of the TV and watch the game. While I would prefer to watch my team, it doesn't even have to be them - I will sit and watch any AFL teams play (although I must admit I do struggle to watch interstate teams ie. those not from my home state of Victoria) !

Boys, if you are not an Aussie Rules fan, get on board ! It is a game of consummate skill, characterised by athleticism and high marking:

....and a bit of biff:

Girls, even if you cannot stand sport, there is something here for you too:

Bomber Boys in surf:

and the gorgeous Matty Lloyd:

I guess my fanaticism was borne out of being the eldest of three daughters of a sports-mad father who did not have any sons. So, I became the tom-boy of the family, getting footballs, cricket sets and blundstone boots while my sisters got barbie dolls. I'm much more feminine these days, but still love my footy in the Winter and cricket in the summer.

Fortunately, I live in a home with other footy fanatics - Tex loves his Magpies and my son plays AFL and follows his Sydney Swans with equal fervour :)

I bloody love footy season !!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Quick Word On....."The Talk"

Every child at some point should be made to endure "The Talk": those few carefully chosen sentences we use to explain to our offspring where they came from and what brand of absurdity is happening to their developing bodies. Modern parenting commentators like to suggest that The Talk, done carefully and honestly, can in fact prove a rewarding experience for parent and child. This is so not true. The Talk will go badly for you, just as it did for countless thousands before you.

You will not bond with your child, nor will you impart anything greater than mutual embarrassment and disgust. Not only will you be forced to describe an activity that, minus dimmed lighting and a 'come hither' expression, must sound an awful lot like a fairly misguided game of "Twister"; you will also leave your children with little doubt that you engaged in this bizarre ritual on at least one occasion in the past.

Far preferable to The Talk, is the "Here, Read This" method of sexual education, in which a sufficiently ambiguous cartoon picture is worth a thousand words. This approach lets just enough information fall through the cracks so that no teenager could possibly approach sex with any sense of confidence or haste.

This was certainly the rationale favoured by my parents' generation. Not wanting to stumble over terms that sound like obscure casserole ingredients, mums like mine instead handed over Where Did I Come From ?and instructed us to go forth and read.

There is nothing wrong with this approach. Although I did initially fear it was my parents' way of telling me I was adopted, I quickly came to realise that this was in fact the evidence I needed to prove that they had once liked each other.

Whatever your chosen medium, whatever your timing and whichever pathetic excuse you choose to introduce this unnaturally earnest trans-generational conversation to your offspring, simply remember that it pays to approach The Talk much like The Act itself: minimal build-up, ambiguous penetration, zero follow-up and fleeting satisfaction. Any questions ??

(image from: thecreatorspalette)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Minority Rule - Yeah !

Okay, this is going to be a little melodramatic, a teeensy bit tongue in cheek, and a heck of a lot emotive. But seriously kids, I'm fed up....sick and freaking tired of those who prize rules and legislation above all else and who place limits on others and refuse to give them a voice. I'm angry that those people hide behind empty meaningless words which they do not understand - like morals, social standards, ethics, social behaviour and political correctness. Those same people who have the gall to intimidate others in the name of rank or social structure, or 'righteousness' - a timeless word that belongs to everyone. It's too bad it does not unite with 'tolerance' and dance with 'individuality' and blend with 'acceptability' and stay away from 'justice' - an obscure word that has legitimacy to the one who applies it, and no useful function to the one to whom it is being applied.

The majority-rule society has produced heartache and intolerance; when all throughout this time, members of the minority have made an impact. For better or for worse, it is the daring few who have shaped this so called majority-rule society. Inventors, pioneers, radicals and visionaries have ventured from the lonely and costly camp of 'minority' only to be obstructed by majority-rule concepts that tolerate inferiority, hinder progress, harbour injustice, and pose limits within the status quo.

What is sad and insulting is that the majority basks in benefits and riches that were originally afforded by individuals who sacrificed their sanity, their freedom and their life. I am fed up with and frustrated by the inefficiency, inaccuracy, inconsistency and untruth I witness every day within bureaucracies.

I acknowledge that nothing is ever final, that possibilities are endless, that life is never simple, that a rolling stone does gather moss, that a watched kettle does boil and that those who cry last, cry the most. And most of all, I know I have the potential to stretch boundaries; the creativity to break new ground; the vision to shape new futures; the determination to realise my dreams; and the courage to break out of this majority rule typecast. And, damned if I'm not going to try - even if it means I'll have to infuriate the establishment along the way .... Let's kick some majority arse fellow minority-rulers :)