thief of time

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Observations on a Train Trip

I had to take a trip into the city today by train and I noticed a couple of totally unrelated things.

I know I’m definitely showing my age, but has anyone noticed an increase in the number of older men who take the fashionably unshaven look to mean that they have permission to skip shaving for a few days? 

I’m not that fond of the fashion in any case, unless the fellow has been in the backwoods for awhile, or on holiday and can’t be bothered, but on older men it just looks truly off, probably because they’re old enough to know better.

Secondly, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being in traffic and looking across at a car and seeing the inhabitant doing something we’d truly prefer not to have seen.

What is it with a well-dressed, conservative businessman sitting across the aisle from you, engrossed in his briefcase, and doing exactly the same thing?  I know some people think there’s some sort of barrier of invisibility when they’re in the car, but are there individuals who think they have that same barrier in public transport?

I’ll say one thing, it makes me think that the custom of shaking hands in our culture is one that we might be better advised to exchange for a polite bow.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Getting Sorted Out

Sometimes it’s great not having to be on the go all the time.  It doesn’t happen very often anymore, but because I didn’t have to go to work and was stuck at home for the morning all by myself, I managed the whole housewifely thing today. 

I did a load of wash, baked a loaf of bread (cheated and used the bread machine), made a caramel pudding for tonight’s dinner, made a jam roll just for the heck of it and topped it all off by doing sustained ironing, which doesn’t get done by me very often any more, as my husband will testify.  Never mind.  I believe in promoting male independence.  Men shouldn’t have to depend on someone else to do something they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves.  It makes them better, stronger people.

Anyways, I mentioned to my daughter that I’d gotten half way down the ironing basket for once when she went into the laundry, hauled out the basket and ruthlessly and egregiously culled the clothing remaining.  Some of it was poor, hapless summer clothing that it would be senseless ironing at this time of the year, but other things, I have to admit may have seen better days, or I don’t often wear because I don’t quite care for them but hate the thoughts of tossing out.  Other things, she threw out because she said they were revolting and shouldn’t see the light of day. 

I just know I’m going to regret this fiercely.  For the next six to eight months, I'll be looking haplessly about for some of the bright, happy shirts that I used to wear, but I just won’t be able to locate for some reason or the other.  I’ll be wondering—now was that one that got the toss, or has it just gone missing, the way things do at times in this household.

I wonder what it’s like to be organised?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Body Image

It’s great how our perspectives change as we get older.
Now, I’m a bit of a hoarder, which is an understatement, and recently I was going through some clothing that I wore when I was a teen or in my 20’s and I realised that I could wear them quite easily and occasionally did so.  I could also mention I’m not terribly fashion conscious, but that’s probably obvious. I’m also just average in weight—waiting for the dreaded middle age spread to hit me, as I realise it’s just around the corner.
All of a sudden, I experienced a mental shift.  While I had never considered myself fat when I was younger, exactly, I had always seen myself as being a bit on the large side.  I suppose being taller than most of the girls in my class and a bit raw boned and having to buy larger clothes to make sure they were long enough in the arm or leg length added to my perception.  (I don’t have the problem with length any more—designers actually make clothes that fit us slightly longer types.)
I knew that I could still fit into these things quite well and that some of them were actually a bit large on me, as indeed they must have been when I was younger. 
That was when I understood that I mustn’t have been as chunky as I had thought I was in my younger years and it made me feel very odd for a while.  It’s strange that it took me this long to realise it. 
It’s funny--you go through life thinking of yourself one way and then all of a sudden you understand that you’ve been slightly askew all those years.
On the other hand, I wonder what impression I have of myself at the present time that I’ll only have to deconstruct twenty years down the line.  Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’ve been granted a clear view, does it? 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Getting it Right

I read a bit of a biography on Mark Latham, our newish Labour leader, in the paper today—not today’s paper, because that would mean I’d actually had time to keep up-to-date with the news-- but the Monday paper, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the quality of some of the article.

Quite frankly, if you have to resort to quotes from a former neighbour who declines to be identified, you really have to question why the quote should be admitted to the article at all. How much credence can you give someone who’s remembering the child and his place in the family in relation to the others from thirty odd years ago?

Many, many years ago, when I was young and took others as they came, I knew someone who was very outgoing and decided in her opinions and not shy about sharing them with you. I would listen to her detailed analyses of friends and family and their relationships, and would accept what she said about them, admiring how she could always see under the surface, no matter how these people liked to present themselves. Even if I didn’t know her hapless examples at all, or only slightly, I would soon know enough about them to form an impression of what they were like, so vivid were the descriptions she’d give of them.

One day she told me that she knew how I felt about a couple of people we both knew and I immediately felt a bit taken aback, because I’d been very careful not to say much about either one of them and I felt ashamed that she’d been able to read me so easily. She then proceeded to outline my feelings, but she had them exactly opposite to the true state of affairs and I was quite surprised, because I’d taken her as the fount of all knowledge for some time.

At that point, the first little niggle of a doubt about her omniscience was introduced and since then, I’m still pretty naive and usually try to accept people as they present until they prove otherwise, but I do take what most people tell me with a big grain of salt and I’m afraid I take what I read in the papers with an even bigger grain.

PS The usual disclaimers about being politically uninvolved in either party go without saying (though I guess I’ve just said it).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Missing you

Being a single parent is probably not the most ideal way to live if you can do otherwise, so having to do without your spouse for a short period of time really makes you appreciate them. They can do a lot of the important things, like take the garbage down, investigate strange noises, and listen to you as you sound off about work or kids.
My husband was away on business this week and flew back home tonight. Now having him quietly snoring on the lounge across the room, it's like he was never away. It looks like it must have been a tough week. I know it was for me!
But I ask you, what's the good of having him home if he's going to drop off in the living room like this? I may be forced to do the same in self defense, because I know I have more staying power and that he'll have to wake up much sooner than me, stumble off to bed and do his duty, which is warm the nuptial bed. After all, winter in Sydney requires a fair bit of staying power and it’s not as if we have central heating, so if he thinks I’m going to leave this nice heated living room by myself, he has another think coming.
Love you, honey, honest!

Monday, July 05, 2004

PDA's, My Secret Addiction

When my son got his first job, he used most of his earnings to buy a computer of his own, as ours was definitely showing its age and was likely to hang at the drop of a hat, or be out of use for some time until my husband was able to perform the requisite incantations to bring it back on line again. It seemed like a very practical use for his wages and one I heartily agreed with.

Following that, he expressed what I thought was a very strange desire--to get a hand-held computer. Why, I couldn’t understand, as he had a decent desktop computer of his own (certainly far better than our poor aging one), but seeing as how it was his money and he assured me it would be very useful for school (ha—pull the other one) I reluctantly agreed to the purchase.

Actually, I thought he might be taking after his granddad who was (and actually still is) very interested in gadgets of all sorts. You just feel a kind of pitying superiority to these poor obsessed people.

Some time later, following an article in the Herald, I became rather interested in getting an e-book reader and carrying any number of books and reference materials around close to hand. I started doing a bit of research into it and discovered that a handheld computer would actually perform this activity quite well on its own, plus perform a number of other jobs on the side—jobs that I didn’t really think I’d particularly need as I kept forgetting to check in my diary as it was and only kept a rough mental log book of expenses or “to do’s”, relying on a hit-and-miss memory to perform most of these tasks. Nonetheless, it seemed to make more sense to spend the money on something that had the potential to perform other tasks, whether I wanted them or not, just so it would justify (vaguely) the money spent.

Since I wanted it mostly for reading, I ended up with a Zire 71 as it was just out, not the most expensive, and had a fantastic screen, with 16 MB of RAM and the capacity for carrying any amount of extra memory around on an SD card. I found myself getting all kinds of reading material, both free and purchased, and started to get hooked on keeping track of my daily doings and expenses, etc., becoming semi-organised, for the first time in my life. I found web pages I didn't have time to read and converted them with my iSiloX and read them later on when I had the chance. Now,I can even start a blog if I’m out on the road and get hit by an idea I want to get an early start on.

I was actually very pleased with my purchase and quite satisfied, until I discovered the perils of shopping at Palm Gear. It starts off in small doses—you read about some vital piece of software that everyone recommends trying and buying, so you do and you find that, yes, it is better than the supplied software, or it supplements it, or it’s just plain fun.

Books are no problem—you get your E-book Reader and then just download all your books to the card, where the reader accesses them. It’s all the other stuff that little by little, inch by inch, starts eating into your supplied 16 MBs, until all of a sudden you realise that you’ve eaten up most of it and only have 4 more to go. That’s when you get very, very choosy.

Then, you read about something like Agendus, and you get serious Tungsten 3 envy. The top of the range T3 starts off with 64 MB’s of memory, at admittedly a bigger price, but not that much bigger. But there’s no reason to get rid of a perfectly good, useable Palm, just because you’ve become obsessed with adding tempting software, so you’re stuck. It’s a pain having to be practical.

So, it looks like the gadget obsession didn’t jump one generation after all—it was just lurking in the background ready to attack at my most vulnerable point—love of reading.

Besides which, there seem to be all kinds of rumours about the upcoming Tungsten 4 with even more serious advantages, so I’m just going to have to try and control myself and keep note of any software I can get when I buy a PDA with more RAM.

Though, of course, I still won’t be able to get this software for quite some time if I’m paying off a new Palm, because I won’t be able to afford it. Guess I’d better hope the Zire lasts while I put lots of money away for its replacement—even if I won’t be able to afford anything until they bring out the T6.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Lending Books

I have come to the conclusion that it should be against the law to lend books in civilised society. It’s such a personal choice that people should realise it’s as presumptuous as giving friends perfume without finding out their preferences.

I read. It’s what I do. It’s one of my principal pleasures in life and has been ever since I was a child. It used to be that I would read anything, simply because it was in print and I was print starved. It wasn’t that we didn’t have books at home, because we did, but there weren’t many of them. It also wasn’t that we didn’t have a public library, because we did and I was allowed to go once a week and get one book. Borrowers could take out three books at a time, but my parents had this very strange idea that if they allowed me to borrow three, I would do nothing but spend my week reading these books. Instead of that, I would spend my time reading and rereading the one book that I had out and then go back to the books we had at home, over and over again. I would hate to think the number of times I read the children’s classics like Alice in Wonderland or Huckleberry Finn. Then I headed on to my father’s old high school texts.

So, as you can see, reading is definitely not a problem. Time is, however, and in my old age, I’ve become rather more particular about what I read. I now have almost complete access to all the books I want and if offered a book by someone, unless it’s one I’m particularly interested in, I can usually say with complete honesty that I have so many books to read at home that I just wouldn’t be able to fit it in.

Unfortunately, people occasionally catch you on the hop and you’re delivered a fait accompli by such an extremely nice person who thinks they’re giving you a real treat, that there’s nothing you can do but say ”thanks” and make the best of it.

So you take the book home and look at the cover and think, surely it can’t be as bad as it looks. Then you start it and think “Yes, that’s why they put these particular covers on these books--to warn people away.” So, you struggle through the first chapter and set it aside for another day, thinking it might not be too bad if you just take it in small doses. Then, all of a sudden you spot it on your shelf and realise you haven’t read it for a week and a half and it’s coming up to the time when a hopeful lender will be expecting their book back with perhaps a little discussion of the plot and characters.

So, you struggle heroically through another batch of pages and for some reason your usual rather speedy reading seems to be mired in sludge as your eyes get heavier and heavier and before you know it, you’re out like a light and no further ahead. Now the finishing of this book looms over you like an assignment due and you keep putting it off realising that there will be a reckoning, but hopefully sometime in the Never-Never.

Remember everyone, please ask someone if they would like to borrow your book and give them the chance to decline gracefully. After all, everyone has different tastes and I’m sure lots of people would find my choices equally appalling. Also, if you give a book as a present, just accept the fact that your friend has it to read when they get around to it and that life being as busy as it is, it may be quite some time before that happens, so don’t keep asking them if they’ve had a chance to read it yet.

Unless of course, it’s we're talking about your child, in which case all the previous instructions are null and void.