Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Unintended Consequence of the Growing Obsession with Privacy

Over the last couple of years, what I think is a disturbing trend is emerging.  We (by which I mean the collective we) seem to have become ultra obsessed with privacy.

I understand that some things are private and nobody else's business, I get it, honestly.  You know there's a "but" coming don't you?

Once upon a time communities were like villages, everyone knew their neighbours by name, kids played in the street until it got dark.  My mum used to tell me I had to come home when the street lights came on.  You knew that Mrs Fipps at No. 22 liked a tipple and that trying to have a chat with her after 3pm was a pointless exercise because she was way too hammered by then to string two words together, let alone carry on a conversation.  But before lunch time she was charming and funny and nobody gossiped about her.

You knew enough to say "little Billy, I know your mother doesn't want you doing that so stop this instant or I will tell her what you are up to".  As a general rule this would put the fear of god in little Billy who would promptly cease and desist whatever undesirable thing he was doing.

The advent of the Global Village seems to have been the beginning of the end for the Local Village.  Suddenly we became obsessed with privacy.  Laws were passed.  In my job I often have new clients come in, provide me vague information about some insurance policy they used to have but don't know if they still do.  Try ringing the company and asking simply if policy XYZ is still in place.  They will tell you they can't confirm it or not because of the Privacy Act.  Which is actually garbage, the Act does not prevent disclosure of non-specific information but corporations are so utterly terrified of potential litigation that they have taken the letter of the law to places it was never intended to go.

The loss of local community and Privacy Act gone mad is not what saddens me the most.  What makes me incredibly sad is that my children and all generations that come afterwards are losing a priceless link to their own histories.  Have you ever gone through all your old photos?  Laughed at your hair or clothing, wondering what you were thinking and saying that the 60's/70's/80's has a lot to answer for?

My parents took photos of their kids as we participated in sporting activities, musical and theatre events or simply built sand castles on the beach or played on the swings at the park.  These photos are priceless records not only of our own personal history but also provide "archaeological" links to the past for generations yet to come.  Wander in to any historical society and the biggest part of their collection is old photographs.  They are a snapshot of time and place. They ARE history.

Recently my sister attended her grandchild's first dance recital and as extremely proud grandparents are want to do, took her camera so she could take photos.  Not only to show her friends and other family members who didn't attend but also to keep as mementos of that time. You see my sister and I scrapbook, we passionately believe that it is important to document our personal histories so for us these events are essential photography occasions.  She was told in no uncertain terms that photographs were forbidden for "privacy" reasons. 

My eldest daughter recently played in and won a basketball grand final and myself and some of the parents were taking photos.  Each of us was focused on taking pictures of our own children (I know my zoom was on because I was determined to catch a picture of my daughter scoring, so if you could see anything else other than other sets of hands I would be amazed).  We were asked to stop taking pictures for "privacy" reasons.

For goodness sakes, I am not all that fussed about the random person in the background of a photo and have no desire to delve in to their private lives (chances are I don't even know their names), I just want to take photographs of my children so that when they are older they have something to show their grand kids whilst they talk about what life was like when they were young and the things they accomplished in their lifetimes.

My parents have passed away and the only link I now have to my childhood other than my own memories (which will fade as I get older) are the photographs they took.  This is my history.  Please don't rob my children of the same right.  Lets get a sense of perspective on things and stop being so uptight about every little thing...before it's too late.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11 - Ten Years On

Here in Australia, today is the 10th anniversary of the day the world as we knew it changed. Forever.

I will never, ever forget the moment those haunting images first assaulted my mind and challenged my sense of reality. 

My eldest daughter was just 7 months old at the time and was fast asleep in her cot and I was curled up in bed reading a book, when the telephone rang.  It was sufficiently late at night (almost 11pm) that a chill went through me as I heard the phone...nobody calls that late unless there has been some sort of tragegy.  Little did I realise the scale of the tragedy and that the horror was only just beginning.

I answered the phone with a sense of dread.  It was my big sister telling me to turn on the television, that something unbelievable had happened, a plane had flown in to one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.  You see, at that time very little was know or yet released to the world's media about what was actually happening.  I turned on the TV and held the phone in one hand, the remote control in the other.  It was on every channel.  Smoke billowing out of the side of the tower in an ugly black plume.

I remember saying to my the hell do you accidently hit a building that enormous?  You can hardly claim not to have seen it or know it was there.  The next thought of course was, oh God, there were probably people working in those offices, what happened to them?  A million thoughts swirled around in my head in the blink of an eye.  Who was flying that plane and what happened, surely the pilot had a heart attack, stoke, some sort of something that rendered him or her unable to control the plane?  (At that point it was still being reported that it was a small plane and our assumption was that it was single occupant).

Then, horror of horrors we watched as another plane approached the second tower.  I think I said to my sister "here comes another plane and if it isn't careful it will collide with the building too".  As that second plane impacted the building, disappearing inside of it, I remember actually jumping like you do when you hear an unexpected loud noise.  Then the tears began as the realisation dawned that this and obviously the first was no accident, that people had done this deliberately.  Whilst my mind reluctantly accepted the what, I simply could not get my head around the why.

At some point I ended the call with my sister but I still do not remember actually doing it, I may have just hung up on her or her on me.  I sat and watched the horror unfold.  The one image out of all those awful images on that day that will stay with me forever and still now makes me feel sick to my stomach is the sight of people willingly flinging themselves out of the Towers, knowing full well that they are leaping to their deaths.  How bad must it have been inside those buildings that this was best option?  Human desire to survive is strong yet these people had no other option but to embrace certain death.

As our evening turned to early morning we watched, across the nation as those towers came down, seeming to fall in on themselves and then tumble in a huge cloud of dust and debris. 12 seconds that seemed to go on forever.  We all knew that there were thousands of people still inside, we all had watched as police and emergency services personnel tore inside and knew they were never coming out again.  I never thought it possible to grieve so much for people I didn't know but in hindsight I was also grieving for a nation, for the world and innocence lost forever.

By this time we knew that these were not light aircraft, that they were passenger planes full of people going about their lives, in a very wrong place at the very worst time.

More and more images and stories bombarded our minds and hearts, the Pentagon and the fourth plane which slammed in to the ground, short of its target and instinct told me that in this case, brave men and women had managed to somehow fight back, sacrificing themselves to prevent even further loss of innocent life.  What must it have been like, knowing your life was about to end and there was nothing you could do to prevent it?   Making those calls to loved ones, saying goodbye?

There is more I would like to say, about the backlash against muslims everywhere, how the media is perpetuating the hate and mistrust but that is for another entry.  Today is for the men, women and children who died this day 10 years ago and for the families, friends and loved-ones left behind.

Rest in peace and may we all work to achieve peace on earth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This Easter break I have seen it all when it comes to human nature.  From the very good to the very bad.  I am going to stick with just one example however as this one has a bit of everything.

On the Thursday before Good Friday, on a relatively male dominated forum I frequent (no I am not trawling for men, although for single ladies, this is really not a bad idea!), a fellow that I have never met posted something that had many of us worried and all of us angry at some of the low-life acts that humans can perpetrate on each other.

This bloke, whom I shall call Steve for the sake of the exercise (not his real name – or at least I don’t think it is!) has recently set up his own business and as anyone who has done this knows, in the beginning you struggle to find your market and get repeat business.  Needless to say he’s been doing it tough financially.  Steve also has a chronic illness and suffers with depression.  His much loved mum also passed away on Good Friday so, even though not technically the anniversary of her death, the day is still forever a sad one.

To top off what has been a less than stellar start to his new career, the vehicle he absolutely must have to carry out his new profession died and needs a new engine.  He found a secondhand one online (it’s a difficult to find one apparently) and the seller wanted a rather large deposit before he was prepared to ship it interstate.  Steve scrimped and saved until he had enough for the deposit and duly passed on the money and he also paid for and booked a spot on a road-train to bring the engine to him.  The seller never got the engine to the scheduled collection and has not returned Steve’s many calls, messages and emails.

This is “The Bad” part of this story.  Someone, for whatever reason, stole money from/defrauded another person without a care in the world for the impact their actions would have on the poor victim of their selfish act.  This is what saddens me about what is becoming an all-too-frequent occurrence.  When did so many people become devoid of a conscience?  How did we fail at what I consider a necessity in basic human decency?  When did this selfishness creep in?

Anyway the act of this low-life was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it would appear has pushed Steve to the edge as, reading between the lines of his post, he is now struggling to find reasons to not end his life and the only thing that has kept him here are the thought of his kids.

So many of the forum regulars, me included, posted words of encouragement and support to Steve but you got a sense of everyone wanting to do more.  I will admit I tossed and turned a bit that night wondering what I could do to help and hoping Steve hadn’t done anything stupid.

The next morning I found a personal message from another forum member commenting on what I had said and also saying he wished he could do something to get Steve back his money. From there stemmed the idea of an ANZAC Day “Whip Round” of the virtual hat.  Some 100 personal messages later and here comes “The Good” which has gone some way to restoring my faith in humanity.

Some of the people on that forum know me personally but the vast majority do not, although I have been there over 5 years now.  Without batting an eyelid or showing any concern about having no real idea who I was, every single person we contacted has dug deep for a mate.  Not only did we manage to get enough to recoup Steve’s lost dollars, but with my husband’s contacts in the motor vehicle industry, we will be able to buy Steve a brand new motor as well.

This is the true Aussie spirit.  The spirit of ANZAC and mateship.

Lest we forget!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Little Government who Apparently Couldn't

Ever since Joolia stuck a knife in Kevvie’s back  in that “bloodless coup” we have had a government in limbo.  I despaired at the thought of it but vowed to give them a chance to show what they were made of, to see what vision and forward thinking they were going to put on display to dazzle the masses.

I am still waiting and sadly, now they have a great deal of ground to make up to redeem themselves in my eyes.

Between Kevin oh-seven (really?!?) and the tenuous reign of Queen Jools so much has made us all shake our heads and proclaim….well I didn’t vote for them!  Actually that’s exactly what this country did to itself.  So tired of the coalition years (lead by a man who seemed to be stuck firmly in 1952) and not greatly enamoured by the alternatives we ended up with a dead heat.  The nation held it’s collective breath, scratched its’ head and wondered what the hell happens now?

I know I am going to upset some with this entry.  That some will disagree with me a little or a lot.  Politics can be such a touchy subject, one that you are almost reluctant to discuss in public for fear of the inevitable verbal stoushes that can result.   We have been given the government we deserve.  We couldn’t decide and far too many people decided to cast a “donkey” rather than make an actual choice.  Maybe those votes, if cast correctly would have resulted in a clear winner, one way or the other.

Instead, for weeks we had no clear winner whilst backroom deals went on between the two major parties and the handful of independents who essentially held the country to ransom. 

We have a puppet regime, aren’t we lucky?  We may very well be about to see a government crumble before our eyes if ONE MAN does not get his way.  Yes folks a single person holds this country and its right to a stable government in the palm of his agenda-driven hands.

What agenda?  How much each and every one of us can choose to spend using a poker machine.  Sounds silly that it’s all come down to that doesn’t it?

Do I gamble?  Rarely.
Do I play the pokies?  It’s been about 2 years since I last did I think.
Do I have a problem with gambling?  No
Do I know someone who’s life has been ruined by gambling?  Yes.  Twice.

So you may well ask what my problem is, gambling can ruin lives.  Well yes it can if not done responsibly.  Therein lies my issue.  I do not need, nor do I want some other party telling me on what I can choose to spend my hard-earned and how much of it I can choose to spend.  It’s my money.  I earned it and you already got your cut when you took my taxes out now back away!

Yet again the majority has it’s actions dictated to because of the irresponsible minority.

Why stop there?  What else can they give us pointless rules and regulations for?

Lets see….drinking ruins lives so lets have some system where you need to give a DNA sample to buy a bottle of wine.  I’m sorry Mrs Curvey, the computer says you have reached your yearly allowance.  Come back again in 11 months.

Cars can ruin lives.  How annoying would it be if half way to work one day the new government controlled car suddenly comes to a stop because you’ve travelled your weekly quota of kilometres (bet you regret that trip to the secluded little B&B for a nice weekend away now don’t you?).

Apparently putting your wheelie bin out and forgetting to bring it back in immediately can ruin lives too because we recently got a letter from our local council advising us that the bins had to be removed from the nature strip within 24 hours of collection or we face a fine.  Seeing as our bin day is Friday, there goes any chance of a long weekend away without arranging a bin-sitter (what’s the going rate for that? Is a box of Cadbury Roses too cheap?)

We can’t prune our trees without a permit.  Yet when we didn’t we copped a fine via the local council for having a tree too close to the power lines.  Well we TRIED to get permission to remove it but you wouldn’t let us!!!

Once upon a time the council hard waste collection used to be the ultimate community recycle program.  You put your junk on the nature strip on Saturday and by Monday morning two-thirds of it was gone.  You had also replaced your junk with great junk from other people’s nature strips.   Not allowed to do that any more either unless you want to be fined.  Isn’t recycling a good thing?? (As an aside that reminds me of the story of the bloke who put an old sofa bed on his nature strip feeling sure someone would want it, a week later it was still there so he went out and put a sign on it “For Sale - $25.  It was gone within the hour).

Mark Webber accused Victoria of becoming the Nanny State.  Guess what Mark, I don’t think it’s just Victoria anymore because the way we are heading on a federal level we shall soon have to change our motto to the Nanny Country.

And to our quasi government.  I put you on notice - you have a long and ever-growing list of disasters and fiscal mismanagement since Labour replaced Liberal 4 years ago.

The insulation debacle that ended up costing lives, homes and millions of dollars and has not helped our environment one bit.

The education revolution - my kids are still waiting for the computers you promised.  Three shiny new school halls near me cannot be used because of poor design and planning consultation with the CFA.  How much money was thrown at that scheme we may never really know.

The mining super profits tax - you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money telling us why we needed it and yet it has been put in a storage room somewhere in Canberra with all the other policies that never saw the light of day once they got a government elected.

Lets add to it the new tax for disaster relief.  Wish you’d said something earlier before I tapped out my bank account making donations!  Half our state is still under water 3 months later by the way, but we shall probably see two parts of bugger all of the funds raised which will inevitably be mismanaged and handed out willy nilly to shonky service providers like it was with the insulation program.

Now you want to cut funding to medical research.  That just about takes the cake.  This country leads the world in medical research and nothing good can come from this.  Our best and brightest stars of medical science will be forced overseas.  People will continue to suffer disease and misery for longer than may be necessary, countless thousands (or more) may die waiting for the slow wheels of under funded research to find a cure or a better treatment.

Give me a government that does not just think short term, that actually has a vision and a plan for the future of all Australians, not one that panders to the agenda of one man who only one small part of our country actually voted for.   Give me a government who has a little put away for a really rainy (and windy) day because they haven’t wasted the budget surplus they inherited on disastrous, poorly managed “schemes”

Give US a government that can govern.  Get rid of the preferential system of voting and lets have a straight forward they-with-the-most-votes-wins.  Nobody can claim that isn’t fair.  Nobody needs to worry about who they may be inadvertently voting for because they really don’t understand how the preference thing works.

Give me strength!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Curvey’s World Discovery Tour

Ever stood back and taken stock of your life? 
If you’re anything like me, then not really. Maybe a bit here and a bit there but nothing that is going to induce some sort of life-altering epiphany.
I wonder why we don’t.  Are we too scared of what we will discover if we have a long, hard look at ourselves? Are we too busy? Too apathetic? Or is it simply that we are content with our lot in life and who we are?
If anyone can work that one out can you let me in on it please?
So in the spirit of “making time for self” that I vowed to have a crack at, I am beginning a journey of self-discovery (sorry for the use of the reality-show-inspired “J” word).  Now I am pretty sure that unless I discover myself to be completely shallow, this may take a while.  That’s OK though, I’m not in any particular hurry.
But where do you begin?
It’s like standing on a road that branches off in many different directions and trying to decide which one to follow.  Do you take the road most travelled (but wouldn’t that indicate that you’ve probably been that way before and there is nothing new to see?).  How about the road that looks like it’s full of pitfalls and potholes...perhaps a little bit of remedial roadworks-for-the-soul will be required to reach the end of that one but does that make it any less a deserving route?
So here I stand, wondering which road to take. Just put one foot in front of the other...come on you can’t stand here forever, move.  Yep, ah-hum, sure. I’m on it..... Aaannnyyy minute now.
OK let’s not rush in to things here.  Why am I doing this? What is it I am trying to achieve and why do I feel like Marco Polo of the psyche, heading off to discover a brave new world or something equally as exciting (terrifying)?
Simple. I want to be the best I can be my children, for my husband, for my friends. For myself. I want to stop existing and start living.
Our lives can so easily get away from us.  Our time taken up by every day existing and minutiae that before we know it we’ve lost our way. 
In the morning I get up and go through the motions of preparing for the day (thankyou coffee), get my children ready for school with the inevitable time spent looking for lost books, misplaced school shoes, wayward lunch boxes.  Darl have you seen my keys (why don’t men use handbags?).  In to the car, race to school, battle the traffic to work, struggle to get through the morning’s work, throw down some lunch, try to get through the afternoon’s work, rush back for afterschool care pick up, try and rustle up a dinner that is nutritious and yet will still be eaten by everyone when nobody seems to like the same things as anyone else.  Nag them to shower. Remind them to do their homework. Prepare lunches for tomorrow. Prepare clothes for tomorrow. Find out what all your friends are up to on Facebook/Twitter, because they all seem to have more interesting lives and a little bit of vicarious living can make you feel better about things right.  Ah nuts, forgot to feed the cat.  OMG look at the time, have get up and do it all again tomorrow. Tumble in to bed exhausted.
Slow down! I want to stop racing through everything.  I want to work out what I can do differently so I am making time for the things that really matter.  I want to make sure I have as much time as possible.  Ah-ha!  I think I just picked the road.  My health, lifestyle and spirituality.
As much as I still feel like I am 20 years old I have to be honest. I am officially middle aged.  I am not getting any younger and I am so far from treating my body like a temple that it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along and calls my temple derelict and slaps a “condemned” sign on it. 
I eat too much, I smoke, I probably drink more than I should, I don’t get enough exercise (hell I don’t get any exercise), my knees are knackered, I am going grey, have wrinkles and old lady hands.
I also feel like I have a purpose that at the moment I just can’t quite put my finger on...I can almost see it, like a sprite flitting from tree to tree in the woods but never showing itself clearly enough to identify.  I catch a momentary glimpse out of the corner of my eye and then it’s gone.
So, I’m off. Not sure where to but I am certain it will be anything but dull and I can’t promise that I won’t want to come running home to my comfortable routine.  I enjoy  company, so anyone who wants to join me is more than welcome. Don’t forget to pack your sense of humour, I'll bring the wine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On life, family and friends

This week has been one of reflection upon life, death, love and laughter.  It has been one where I have realised that to be able look back upon one’s life and say you have truly lived you have to ensure you live each day as if it was your last.
That does not mean that every day you have to get up and jump out of a plane with nothing but a flimsy piece of fabric strapped to your back or party until you puke.
So what does it mean to make the most of every day?
To get to the answer I had to take a quiet moment to identify what were the most important things to me in my life. I think this list is a work in progress rather than a set-and-forget arrangement.
Obviously top of my list, as a mother, are my children.  They are my world, my favourite reason to smile and the source of a feeling of love so strong it is almost tangible.  My husband is right up there with them, even with his faults (and none of us is perfect) he is a good man and I am grateful that he chose me. He can still make me laugh until it hurts. He even takes it good naturedly when I hack in to his Facebook and post status updates that make him look like a sop....whatta guy.
My focus this week has turned to friends.  I am unbelievably blessed to have so many.  They are scattered all over this beautiful country of ours and all over the world as well.  My friends make me want to be a better person, in fact I am a better person just by being the recipient of their gift of friendship.
We stood together this week to say goodbye to one of us.  We weren’t all in the same room, we weren’t all in the same state, nor the same country but we stood united in our grief, together across the world.  What an amazing bond.  As I stood there trying to say a few words about our Kylie, and doing a very wobbly job of it, I could feel you all there with me, helping me, helping each other.  Our bond actually strengthened and we all knew it, sensed it.
Friends don’t care if you don’t look immaculate all the time, friends don’t care if your house is a mess, friends allow you to be you, warts and all.
Friends are always there when you need them, no matter what. When you feel you can’t go on, they carry you until you can do it for yourself again.
So getting back to how you live each day to the maximum for me, comes down to these simple things:
1.       Hug your family and tell them how much you love them. Often.
2.       Make an effort every day to be in contact with your friends so they know you love them and appreciate them.  You can’t always drop in for a cuppa because of time or distance but email, social network, text, Skype, call. Something, anything. There really is no excuse with all this technology available to us. Even if you just hit “like” on something they say on Facebook, they know you were thinking of them in that moment.
3.       Make time for yourself (the most difficult it would seem).  Allow yourself some time each day, no matter how little to just be YOU. The person your family and friends actually like. Put aside the myriad of roles we have for a moment and just be.
4.       Laugh and do it every chance you get.  It releases those feel good endorphins!
5.       Stop procrastinating. Put aside the excuses, the fear, the laziness, whatever reason you have for not doing or saying something you really want to and just take that step. Nobody ever moved forward by standing still
Happy Australia Day!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

They walk amongst us

Some people have heard this story but it is one of those moments in my life where I laughed so hard I wished I had paid those post-partum pelvic floor exercises a little more attention.
I used to have an assistant.  Let’s call her Barbie for the sake of this exercise (names have been changed to protect the stupid).  She was beautiful to look at but if someone had given her half a brain, it would have been lonely.
She has been the source of many of those moments that render you speechless because nobody can be that stupid. Can they? 
You know those moments.  Silence descends and it is almost like you can hear the sound of crickets chirping, you blink a few times as if trying to decide if you have entered an alternate reality and then you double over laughing, tears streaming down your cheeks, your stomach and face ache and you simply cannot articulate anything that sounds even vaguely like English.
This one however was my absolute favourite.
Barbie:     I will be late in to work tomorrow I need to take my car to Mazda.
Me:           What’s wrong with it?
Barbie:     My tyres need air
Me:           Excuse me, what did you say? (I must have misheard, surely)
Barbie:     Need air in my tyres
Me:           How much do they charge for that at Mazda? (Can you imagine how much those mechanics laugh when she leaves?)
Barbie:     It’s really cheap, only $40
Me:           Ten bucks a tyre!!! (In hindsight, I should have offered to do it for her for $30).  You know you can do it yourself right?
Barbie:     OMG can you! How? Where?
Me:        *Blink, Blink*  At the service station. 
I then made the very grave mistake of trying to explain the process to her.  My frustration levels are skyrocketing and I am trying so very hard to stifle the urge to pick up the nearest chair and slap her with it.
Barbie:     Huh? I don’t get it? (x 10)
Me:           Grab your keys; we’re going for a drive.
So off we go up the road to the service station (gas station for those playing overseas), I drove because I really didn’t want to try and explain to her what the air pump looked like and we only had 15 minutes left of our lunch break.  I park, take off those itty bitty black screw caps from one of the tyre valves push on the nozzle and away she rips.  Meanwhile Barbie is looking so amazed you’d think she just discovered a cache of diamonds hidden down the back of my shirt.
Me:           OK now you do the others.
25 minutes later (did I mention we only had 15 minutes of our lunch break left at the start of this exercise?) she finishes and starts to head towards the doors to the service station with her handbag (and yes it really was a Prada).
Me:           Where are you going? We need to get back to the office.
Barbie:     I’m going to pay
Me:           What for?
Barbie:     The air
Cue the crickets again. 
*blink* *blinkety blink blink*
I had to restrain myself so I didn’t slap her in the back of the head (NCIS Gibbs-style). Then -bwahhaaaahaaaahaaaa.  I had to hold myself up with her car because I was struggling to stand straight from laughing.  I could not move and was unable to get in the car.  We simply had to wait for me to compose myself.
We ended up having a 2 hour lunch break that day.