26 March 2014

Things I won't work with

I found this series of hilarious chemistry blog posts by a chemist called Derek Lowe. His series is titled "Things I won't work with" and it covers compounds that are too hideously stinky or volatile to consider sharing a lab with - everything from "simple little things like, say, fluorine azide and going up to all kinds of ridiculous, gibbering, nitrogen-stuffed detonation bait." It's worth a read, even if you don't understand chemistry because he is a brilliant writer. Highlights include:

- "Hexanitro? Say what? I'd call for all the chemists who've ever worked with a hexanitro compound to raise their hands, but that might be assuming too much about the limb-to-chemist ratio."

- “You can isolate [titanium tetraazide], it seems, as long as you handle it properly. It turns out that brutal treatments like, say, touching it with a spatula, or cooling down a vial of it in liquid nitrogen - you know, rough handling - make it detonate violently. I think that staring hard at it is OK, though.”

- “The safety literature is just full of alarming stories about old lab benches that had had perchlorates soaked into them years before and exploded when someone banged on them. They're a common component of solid rocket fuels and fireworks, as you'd figure.”

- “This, folks, is the bracingly direct route to preparing dioxygen difluoride, often referred to in the literature by its evocative formula of FOOF … FOOF is only stable at low temperatures; you'll never get close to [room temperature] with the stuff without it tearing itself to pieces.”

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with/

12 March 2014

In Ten Years

In ten years, I will say, "It was really hard ten years ago, but it's okay now."

In ten years, I will say that Buzz's school journey was a difficult one.  He always seemed to be such a bright child, eager to learn and happy to help his teachers and his peers.  But I'll say that ten years ago, he was misunderstood, particularly in one of his favourite places: school.  He was criticised for his daydreaminess, his good qualities were overlooked, his imperfections were made into mountains and clearly, it was his mother's parenting that was to blame.  In ten years I will look back and say that he was just a little boy who hummed to himself while doing his maths and got in trouble for it.  Who lost concentration during tasks both at home and at school, and was redirected at home but made an example of at school.  Who read widely but made lots of spelling errors, leading to miserable marks.  Who could solve complex mathematical problems but who couldn't tell you what three times seven was, again leading to miserable marks.  In ten years I will look back on all the sleepelss nights I spent crying into boxes of tissues as I wept for the intelligent little boy whose self-image as a learner was brought so low by the exacting expectations that he would be the perfectly smooth, round peg fitting in the perfectly smooth, round academic hole.  I will look back and remember how terribly hard it was.

In ten years, I will say that Jessie's life journey was a hard one.  Being the perfectly smooth, round peg in the perfectly smooth, round academic hole, she was adulated, praised and built up to expect that she would never have to put effort in to achieve success, and when effort was inevitably required, how she raged against the injustice of it all.  I'll remember how receiving praise and honour at school caused her to expect it in every area of her life, and how bitterly disappointed she was to realise that her brothers disagreed and fought with her, and her parents corrected her and didn't allow her to show a bad attitude when corrected.  I'll remember how the bitter fights between siblings became impossible to referee because they all had such a perfect cover story, each one conflicting with the other siblings' stories until my mind was whirling and confused, trying to sort out who did what to whom over the cacophony in my house which I couldn't stop because I couldn't make myself heard.  In ten years I will look back and remember how terribly hard it was.

In ten years, I will say that Woody's fighting and screaming drove me up the wall.  I will remember how the quiet meek little baby turned into an angry dervish, whose main motivation was to avoid being dominated by his two older siblings with their strong personalities.  I will remember how, in order to establish himself as an individual who was not to be squashed, he used his voice as a weapon to shock and awe.  And I will remember how every single parenting trick in the book was inadequate against his desire to stamp his authority on the world using nothing but anger and decibels.  In ten years I will shake my head and remember how awfully hard and loud it was.

In ten years, I will say that Rex was pleasant and self-directed most of the time, but when things really mattered (e.g., when I was helping two children do their separate homework activities in that 15-minute window when they were sitting, books open, thinking about the work, and intellectually engaged, or when I was having a critical conversation with another child at the perfect "teachable moment", or when I was enjoying the only five-minute period of the day when I could actually talk with my husband, or when I was negotiating the difficult intersection in rainy weather in a fogged-up car full of sweaty, chattering bodies) - when it really mattered, he moaned, screamed, complained or he grabbed onto my legs and asked to be picked up, put down, picked up, and to be taken over to the light switch so he could switch it on and off and on and off.  And I'll remember how I did it all on a total of two and a half hours sleep which was snatched in three separate intervals the night before in between Rex waking up and crying because it was dark/he was lonely/he'd lost his toy iguana/it was nicer in the womb and he wanted to go back. I'll remember that, and how I could never find the words to really explain how revoltingly hard it was.

In ten years, there will be different challenges.  But I suspect that today's tears, anxieties, frustrations and sleepless nights will have paved the way for everything to be okay.  I think that in ten years time, Buzz will have taught himself to tame his imagination and discipline himself to sit and work.  And because of that, he will have risen and shone.  I bet he's done well at school, music, sport and also in his personal and spiritual life.  I bet it's all okay.

In ten years, I'm sure that Jessie will have harnessed her natural abilities and learned that if she puts in effort, she will conquer anything she sets her mind to.  I suspect that her current career wishes of being (1) a teacher, (2) a baby photographer and (3) a dolphin trainer may have refined somewhat, but whatever she decides to do with her life, she will do it with grace and humility, along with the competence that comes naturally for her.

In ten years, I think Woody will be mellow and cool.  He will have done well at school due to a combination of natural ability and no fear of hard work.  He may even be a peacemaker, as his natural personality shines through.  And in ten years' time, Rex will be able to use words to express himself and exist in a different cubic meterage to me without moaning.  I'm sure he will be all other sorts of nice things too.

In ten years, I don't think people will look at me and wonder where I went wrong, and I don't think I'll try to change my parenting to please them any more, either.  I think people will see I was doing the best I could at the time, and I wasn't doing it all wrong in the first place.  I think people will finally see that bringing four strong and very different children from infancy to competent and productive adulthood is a process, not a matter of telling them on Monday how to be perfect, and having a perfect child starting on Tuesday.

I think it's all going to be okay.

In ten years.

06 March 2014

Blog Post

I was thinking to myself, "Hey, how about I write a blog post?" Then I thought, "Nah." Then I made myself a coffee.

04 January 2014

Life Hacks?

I've read a few posts around the internet recently that list a number of "life hacks" - great ideas that perhaps we hadn't thought of and that would make life a lot easier.

Some of them are great, and I would certainly consider doing them myself.  Here are six that I thought were good:

Especially awesome if thieves don't rattle your lotion bottles.
And really - why would they?


That last bit doesn't fool me.  But yes, good idea.

I'd do this if I ever started eating bagels.

And, presumably, actually unsubscribe from each sender.
But I liked the filtering term.  Clever.

Cat, baby, same thing ...

Already tried this one.
Too much water and it's like a rock that won't melt.
Not enough and it's not actually cold.
Which is a minimum standard in an ice pack, I find.


Some of these lists contain things I already do, like these:
Basic geometry of bread coverage

Have been doing this for years.

Usually when I put my bag on the floor at a restaurant.

I'm sure there's a law against this.
There's a law against everything.
But I do it.
Some life hacks are things that I believe I'm doing a little better already, maybe you disagree:
A rolled-up towel is softer, but whaddoIknow?

5c, 10c and 20c coins work pretty well, but whaddoIknow?
And if you ruin your iPad charger plug, that'll cost you a lot more
than ruining a 5 cent coin!
"Tired of ruining hanger after hanger in the pursuit of an easy
chip-packet-closing idea?  Try a clothes peg instead!!"
That's like a life hack ... for this life hack!

And then there are the life hacks that make you look at the computer screen with your head on one side and say, "Whyyyy???  Whyy would you even do that?"

Sorry - maybe you have done these.  Maybe you think they're great.  Maybe you submitted them to Buzzfeed in the first place?  Clearly, I'm still learning how the world works.

Here are some examples that have exploded my mind:

Wait - what?  It could prevent you from "loosing" (sic) a lot more than that!
Consciousness, dignity, you name it!  Drink spiking does happen, so
we're often warned never to leave our drinks unattended at all!
(Only I do, because I don't go to bars, and my kids don't tend to
spike my drinks much.  The worst that happens is my coffee gets cold.)

I thought this was crazy.  But I'll try to remember it for the next time
I have a "hard-to-reach candle."  Then I'll be bustin' out the spaghetti.

Look at this poor guy.  He knows you don't trust him.
It's a fact that 70% of the things you lend will not come back to you.
But by doing this, you're likely to lose 90% of your friends too.

Seriously?

Except the one problem that you get
when your shoe and cup fall over together.

Not sure about your hanging space, but it's the real estate below the hanger hook
that's in high demand.  The hooks aren't exactly squeezing each other out.
It's the bulk of my 7 winter coats that's the problem.

CAN'T find kindling - CAN find Doritos.
This is a problem?  Okay then.  Consider me educated.

This one said to use empty TicTac containers to take spices when camping.
The same collection of life hacks also suggested eating Starburst lollies roasted
over the fire, and something called "canned cinnabuns."
And yet we're creating cuisine involving cardamom and garam masala while camping?
Please.

So this was funny.  I thought that this life hack ...

... would suggest that this one was pretty much Not To Be Done.

But again, whaddoIknow?  What do you think?  Clever life hacks?  Or the silly product of a brainstorming session gone wrong?  Too many pictures on one blog post?  Is staying up past midnight to write blog posts (given that I will be up again at 6:00am) just a little bit pointless?  I'd love to hear your opinions.

03 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Hel-LO all you wonderful people!  All three of you!  I hope you had a scintillating Christmas and a beautiful New Year!  Apparently one of my resolutions is to use flamboyant, lesser-used adjectives in 2014, and so far, my writing is turning out quite odd.

I check in here at Killing A Fly every now and then to see if anything new has popped up here, but it never has and so I assume it never will unless I have something to do with it.  This is depressing, as I don't want to have anything to do with it for the many reasons which I have typed out and will now delete because they're boring.  It's basically a description of my technical incompetence.

Rex is growing up quickly and is now nearly 18 months old.  He recently had a horrible haircut which distressed me so much.  The poor hairdresser did well enough, given Rex's behaviour.  She demonstrated amazing skill in not taking an ear off, Rex was so badly behaved.  I don't blame her at all, but I did feel terrible for the poor little boy, with his short, uneven, choppy fringe and long shaggy hair over the ears.  I did a bit of a tidy-up and it looks much better.  (Above is Rex with his long hair, which did look quite awesome.)

Rex mostly walks now, after spending months trying to decide if walking or crawling suited him better.    He wanders around the house quietly calling "Mem-meh" which means he needs me, or "Dedd-deh" meaning he will go to Mr de Elba and then decide he needs me.


Woody is four and a half, and getting pretty cool.  He loves maps, particularly the weather map, or "Wevver-nap" as he calls it.  He loves getting the weather radar on my iPad and telling me if it looks rainy or not.  He wants to be a Wevver Man when he grows up, which sounds pretty appropriate to me, so go for it, I say.  Here he is watching the recent cyclone as it crossed the Western Australian coast.

Woody is currently struggling with having his older siblings around all the time.  Having them around at all, in fact.  He's doing a lot of yelling and shouting, and we're pulling out all stops to try to discourage him from flaring up all the time.  But he remains my best helper when I'm hanging out washing or folding clothes.  The little champion.

We discovered Jessie (7 next Easter) had a fear of seagulls during our beach holiday in early December.  We were eating fish and chips at the beach (pictured), and the seagulls were coming up asking for food, as they do.  But instead of swatting them away or throwing food so they went further from her, Jessie just cried and claimed they look "vicious." She became very upset when Woody and Buzz threw leftover fish and chips close by, causing an angry squabble of seagulls to come closer and display their viciousness, so Mr de Elba thought he'd make her feel better, maybe even laugh, by getting the boys back later on.

Buzz and Woody finished eating and moved down towards the water's edge to play while Jessie stayed up at the tables with us, too terrified of the seagulls to move.  Mr de Elba took some leftover fish and threw it down towards where the boys were.  Not much.  And there weren't many seagulls.  Until he threw it.

What had previously been about 15-20 seagulls squabbling over the boys' chips in a really-not-all-that-vicious way had become a mega-flock of about 60 angry seagulls who darted en masse towards the leftover fish, shrieking at each other in what I can only describe as a "vicious" manner.  The boys who both love animals (and birds in particular) lost their minds, and ran around screaming for a bit.  Once they saw the seagulls were after the fish and not them, they laughed and returned to watch the birds feeding, but for one embarrassing minute, it appeared to the casual observer (of which there were a few) that a father had incited a flock of angry birds to peck his terrified sons to death.

And it only happened in the first place because Jessie had seemed inconsolable because of the proximity of about 10 seagulls.  We decided that parenthood is so easy and we're so good at it.

Buzz is 9 next Easter, and he just loved our day at Australia Zoo.  He's into swimming, cricket and riding his bike, and a hundred other things which make my head spin.  He's a clever little cookie but he needs something different next year for school so we're going to try somewhere new.  I alternate from being very confident it's a great move to being quietly worried about a good many things.  But he is confident and resilient, and I need to give it all to God and trust that things will work out.


Long story short: Bought a tent - set up the tent - Mr de Elba, Buzz and Woody spent a night in the tent - Jessie distraught because she wasn't allowed because she was sick - the next night all three big kids were allowed to sleep outside but Mr de Elba was staying up late tidying the study soooo .... I decided I should take one for the team and have my turn.  Above is a little bit of the chaos that occurred before baby Rex was sent to bed, and below ...


... is the chaos that occurred after Bullseye came by saying, "Pleeease may I come in your tennnnt?" and I just said "Yeahsurefinerightwhateverknockyourselfout" before I'd really thought it through.  I sent her out soon after that, to stand guard and kill any snakes.  Not that we've ever had one in the yard, but I have quite a phobia of them, and felt more comfortable with Bullseye outside, not just because when she was inside, she was sitting on my arm.

Okay, one more:
My dear friend has two new dogs.  This is the back end of one of them.  Don't they come in amazing shapes, dogs?

01 November 2013

Contacting Clancy

I've been on a bit of an Australian Bush Poetry binge recently.  (I haven't been on a similar blog-writing binge, but you knew that already.)  It started with a poem I wrote as a competition entry but there was more in the tank after I'd finished, so I kept on writing.

Do you remember Banjo Paterson's poem Clancy of the Overflow?  It starts with the writer sending a letter to Clancy's last known address but receiving a return letter that Clancy has gone droving in Queensland and couldn't be contacted.  That inspired me to write this parody about trying to contact Clancy in a digital age and coming up dry.



Contacting Clancy


I had written him an email which I’d filled with gripping detail,
Then I took my list of Contacts and I searched it through and through.
The address I had looked decent, but it wasn’t awful recent:
I had clancy-o@lachlan, then dot-com then dot-au.


As soon as I had sent it and had settled back, contented,
My inbox notified me of immediate reply.
‘Twas an automated message that confirmed my dismal presage:
“Clancy’s taken leave of absence, gone to Queensland, FYI.”


So I check his Linked-In profile, and in classic Clancy O-style
He has many email contacts but I dunno where they’re from.
So which one of these addresses is his current? My best guess is
I should try the first one: clancy-o@overflow.com.


And although it’s quite a long shot that he’d find a wireless hotspot
I could try his Hotmail, Bigpond or his DrovingLife-dot-co.
Any case, with bush as backdrop, I can’t see him on his laptop
‘Cause he’s jolly hard to contact, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.



- Ukulele Jutsum © 2013.

10 October 2013

Fifty Books!

Initially when I saw the ABC Local Radio's competition to win 50 books by localising literature, I didn't think I had an entry.  The idea was to take a classic piece of literature and localise it - make it about Queensland.



I thought the examples they gave were pretty good, but I didn't have any ideas for localising the title of a classic.  However once it was pointed out to me that you could write a poem, I knew what I had to do.

There's a great Australian Bush Poem by Banjo Paterson that many Aussies would know called "The Man From Ironbark" which was begging to be parodied.  It's about a bloke from the bush who comes to the big smoke and gets a new style - a beard shave that goes horribly wrong.  Upping the ante, my protagonist went one further.

To my massive shock and surprise, the ABC didn't disqualify me on the grounds of "Anatomical Terms Some Of Our Listeners Won't Have Heard," and I won the 50 books!

Here is a frightening example of my accent, for the enjoyment of Heather.  I did broaden it a little for the bush poetry, but probably not enough.  I still sounded like a city girl instead of a rugged bush balladeer.




THE MAN FROM CHARLEVILLE 
with deepest apologies to A.B. "Banjo" Paterson,
the good people of Charleville, Qld, Aust.,
and tattoo artists everywhere.


There was a bloke from Charleville who struck Toowoomba town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
Searching for a “look” he could display back home with pride,
A haircut or a beard shave, some look he’d never tried.
He’d heard the man from Ironbark had had a shave and cut,
But knew he had to move quite quick, before the shops were shut.


He hit Grand Central, Margaret Street and Cliffo’s for good luck,
He didn’t like his chances of a haircut for a buck.
One salon said they’d shave his head and one suggested foils,
A ritzy salon tried to sell him mousses, sprays and oils.
Despairing that he’d ever find a look to fit the bill,
He thought he’d ask his Facebook friends, our man from Charleville.


He did a status update: “I’m hitting the big smoke –
Can you suggest a change of style for this poor outback bloke?”
One friend suggested piercings.  He thought he’d look a clown
With bling in tongue or nipple (or p’rhaps one further down?)
Another friend said, “Tattoos, mate! Let’s do an online poll!
Where should Charlie get his tat?  Can’t wait to see this!  LOL!”


Now this idea, it grew on him.  He thought he would do well
To check out “Innervision,” “Inked Up” and “Hot As Hell.”
He didn’t know the style of tat, nor settled on location,
He thought of searching Pinterest for artistic inspiration.
But first thing’s first: sustaining ale, for pain he sorely hated.
Not noticing how much he’d drunk, became inebriated.


He staggered in.  “Now ink me up, I'll knock ‘em dead, I will.
I'll go and do Toowoomba toff back home in Charleville."
He settled on a nice half-sleeve of Navajo design,
And lay upon a couch beside a stunning girl sublime.
They traded nervous grimaces and passed the time of day.
“You had a drink?”  “My word, I have.  It’s my first tat today.”


Bewildered by his task, the artist’s brow grew fierce and black.
“I’ve never known a country bloke to do his lower back.
I guess we’ve got the signatures we legally require, but
This bloomin’ yokel’s gonna think his arse is set on fire.”
The artist checked designs with both but due to all the drink,
A grunt was all reply he got.  He started with the ink.


By now you will have realized what luck our bloke had copped -
It seems the tattoo art of the hapless two were swapped!
The artist raised his hand as he paused before attack,
Then pressed the tattoo needle on our victim's lower back.
He fetched a wild up-country yell: his face an ashen white, shouting
“Murder! Bloody murder! They’ve set me arse alight!”


But when he’d sobered up he was quite glad the job was done,
For soon he grew quite proud of that fine tramp stamp on his bum.
And though a dolphin he’d reject if he’d been thinking clearer,
He showed it off on Instagram with selfies in the mirror.
And whether he's believed or no, I’ll say this in goodwill:
Tramp stamps now are all the go way up in Charleville.


-       Ukulele Jutsum © 2013.

21 July 2013

Zeffwee's Bwains

This is Zeffwee. Well, I think it's supposed to be Jeffrey but it certainly sounds like Zeffwee when Woody says it.  And this isn't Woody, it's Rex, sorry that's confusing.

Zeffwee is very old, possibly originally belonging to my brother, Wee Bro.  His forehead has been mended many times but keeps coming open.  Woody occasionally finds a quiet moment to sit with Zeffwee and fondly "pull his bwains out."  Lucky Zeffwee.

This is the worst game you've never heard of.  The mother is vaguely aware of the sounds of her offspring riding bikes and scooters on the driveway, and then comes the sickening sounds of bikes and scooters forcefully falling to the ground.  She looks around to see her offspring lying in a horribly mangled, twisted heap, apparently having had a major crash and all fallen over.  Just when the mother's finger is hovering over the zero ready to dial 000, the children all gleefully jump back up onto their bikes and scooters and repeat the whole process.  It takes a while for the lower-intelligence mothers to learn not to be fooled by this again and again.

I would like to apologise for all the guests who have visited us over the last month and been treated to the seven signs in the toilet, all bearing the same recommendation.  I never remember to remove the signs before guests come over, I'm only reminded they're there when a guest either laughs from the direction of the toilet, or comes out sheepishly saying, "You'll be pleased to know that I flushed."  The signs are down now.  It seems that when they're up for longer than a day, they cease to work.  It's maddening to see a child casually walk past seven signs urging him/her to flush and saunter off without flushing.  And anyway, it's time for my next project: seven bright yellow signs saying, "For the love of all that is good, WASH YOUR HANDS!"

Here is a little boy on his first birthday.  All he needed was a few new clothes and books, and some tiny cupcakes called "Angel Babycakes"which was cute.

Jessie's hair is extremely thick and it's getting very difficult to brush.  I said to her once, "If you don't let me brush it, we won't be able to get the knots out and you'll ... you'll ... you'll have to get it shaved off or something."  She then went away to write her usual passive-aggressive note about life, only it was more sad than aggressive.  "Dear mother I don't want my hair to be shaved off or else I'll be so disappointed!  Because I will burst with tears and I'm doing it right now.  Love from ... etc."  And a little picture of a girl with extremely long thick hair bursting with tears.

Well I couldn't leave it like that, could I?  To make it a true representation, I did this and let her discover it for herself.  It seemed that nothing was noticed until ...

...her usual game of Hangman now had a new punishment for not guessing the target word in the appropriate number of guesses:

The player who doesn't guess the word in time gets their head shaved.  Cool!