My third blogging Leap Year


Although later on I added some offline entries back to late 1999, my “blog” – then called a diary – actually began with this entry:

29 April, 2000: 6:07AM

"M offered to pay for private hospital! My life changed absolutely when he came into it. I hope the delay hearing about his citizenship application does not indicate a problem. It shouldn’t. But there will undoubtedly be more about M as this journal grows." QUOTE FROM MY JOURNAL Christmas Eve  1996.
* * *
M finally got his Australian citizenship in 1997. The process had begun in 1991. I had my hernia operation around Anzac Day 1997 at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (an excellent public hospital) after a six month wait as it was elective surgery; hence M’s offer 4-5 months earlier. I had meantime found another use for bicycle shorts, though I don’t recommend them as underwear in a Sydney summer. I saw Mardi Gras 1997 on TV in emergency at Prince Alfred where I was waiting to have the hernia pushed back into place, having for once failed to do so myself, only to be told by a cheerful nurse after the deed was done that it was just as well she’d succeeded as they couldn’t have admitted me anyway because they had no beds.
* * *
I don’t usually perform lucubrations on my Brother at this hour. There, that will have them running for their dictionaries; and I’m only using my Brother because it saves powering up the PC; I just have to keep my eye out for the sticky "w"– the w key on the Brother is a bit erratic.
And I’m only performing lucubrations because I’ve just finished Hell Week (as the Quitnetters call it), having made a determination that this cigarette quit will hold. I did run from July 1998 to just on New Year 1999 almost ciggieless, and for a couple of extended periods in 1999 and 2000. I suppose I have in total smoked over the last year half of what I would have. However, I now know I cannot be a moderate smoker, so it has to stop. My advice to anyone out there: if you don’t, don’t start! It’s an evil drug really. I, poor fool, started in my 30s, as an alternative, I think, to strangling children: teachers may know what I mean.
Anyway, Hell Week is when your sleep patterns are disturbed and you are likely to have vivid dreams. I woke at 5.00 am after a rather well-produced and well-scripted dream involving my late grandfather, Betsy B. and her children (an in-joke: sorry), a gas bath heater (which exploded), and a house called Ninglun’s Home. It’s only when I give up smoking that I learn what a weird imagination I have!
* * *
So yes, I am thinking of M. Right now he would be thinking of whether the Karakoram Highway will open when it should in two days time so he can proceed back to Shanghai via Xinjiang.
A word about our relationship, because quite frankly it will be interesting (to say the least) when he comes back after 12 months travel. Don’t get the impression he is my exclusive "property": he isn’t, nor should he be. After all, he didn’t leave Mainland China for some other form of servitude! It did take me a while to get my head around this.
In the first year (1990-1991) we were pretty passionate (well, for me anyway!). Meantime the odd person thought (or on some occasions said) I was being used. "He’s just after your money" was not right, as I didn’t have any. Indeed on one embarrassing occasion in 1990 I had to borrow from him to help pay for a meal we had–as he never ceases to remember, casting it back up at me among other of my faults when the occasion arises. "He’ll get his permanent residence and you’ll never see him again" said a woman who had actually lived in China and seemed to have learned only to dislike the Chinese. Well, that didn’t turn out to be true. He got his permanent residence in 1995; he paid for my postgrad course in 1998.
* * *
The rules we are conditioned to (which are essentially heterosexual) don’t entirely apply to gay relationships. This can be liberating, but can also lead to deep existential anxieties. "If it feels good, do it" is on the other hand far too shallow. Too many gay men (especially young ones?) fall victim to mindless hedonism, and it can be (not always, though) dehumanising. As I write this I am painfully aware of how hard it is to generalise, and how presumptuous it is even to try! Yet I hate predatory relationships with a passion. Life is too short, and other lives are too precious, for that. I hasten to add that there are plenty of heterosexual predatory relationships, many of them called "marriages".
* * *
I’m thinking on these lines too because I recently had occasion to have a heart-to-heart with someone just setting out. We all have to learn for ourselves, of course, and we all make mistakes and have painful experiences. In some ways I don’t envy the young. But on the other hand there is just as much chance that experience will prove joyous and fulfilling, and the young by definition have a longer time-span to look forward to. (DO stay safe! Too many young have died young. Don’t believe that crap about living hard, dying young, and leaving a beautiful corpse. ‘The grave’s a fine and private place/ But none I think do there embrace.’ A somewhat ironic allusion to Marvell, really!)
How to avoid a predator? Never do anything you’re not comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about what you are comfortable with. If the other person does not respond sympathetically they’re probably not worth knowing (even if they are rich!). Walk away. No-one should force you or cajole you to do anything. A good relationship, friendship, or whatever, is not conditional.
On the other hand, one of the joys I have found since coming out is being able to relate across ages and cultures much more freely than would otherwise have been the case. I have learned so much from people from all sorts of backgrounds, and I hope have sometimes given something in return. And, not to appear too solemn, had some good times!
So if you are young, be open, learn what you can, but don’t allow yourself to lose yourself–if you know what I mean.
WOW: What a lucubration– and now the sun is well up and it’s time to put on my new patch.

Yes, that was the record for non-smoking until the past year!


The nearest I can get is my Sydney Boys High Communities Column for Fortnight ending March 6, 2004: Term One, Weeks 5 and 6.

bugs0aFebruary 22: The first day of the first month of the Islamic year 4124 CE. February 25: Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of Lent. Ash symbolizes sorrow for wrong doings and foreheads of churchgoers are marked with the shape of the cross with ashes as a sign of penitence. March 6: Holi — This festival of colour celebrates Spring, where people play with liquid and powdered colours, light bonfires and blow horns. (Hindu and Sikh) March 7: Purim — Purim is known as the Feast of Lots, which celebrates the deliverance of Jews in Persia from the machinations of Haman. Jews dress in costume and give gifts of food to each other. Learn more with this PDF file Multicultural Calendar from the Australian Department of Immigration.

 bugs0a Before long I should have some facts and figures about Sydney Boys High 2004. With a handful of exceptions, Year Seven have been surveyed and tested. I have spoken, I think, to all the relevant new students in Year Eleven, and just have a few more in other years to find out about. It would appear Year Seven is about the same in terms of languages backgrounds other than English as Year Seven 2003: about 80%. Two classes are 100% LBOTE, or near enough to. (I am allowing for a small number of absent students in hedging that.) The mix, however, is a little different. Please remember that "language background other than English" extends to anyone in the family (including grandparents) who speak in a language other than English. On the other hand, we do have a sizeable group who have been in Australia for less than three years: I think "a few weeks" is the upper limit! Some of those have come from countries where they spoke English, such as New Zealand or various African countries, even though their parents may have been born in a non-English-speaking country.

Perhaps some of these students have a bit more insight into the HSC Area Study "Journeys" than the rest of us. Mind you, I guess we all are on some kind of journey or another, and as an English teacher I have been making Imaginative Journeys all my life!


On the actual 29 February I posted Here is some truth about Obama’s religious position and More on the Blogger Meetup. That referred to this – and it is incredible that this is four years ago!

After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.

Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)

Back to the blogger meet: it was great to put a face to Panther at last. James O’Brien I knew instantly, though I had never met him before, and I discovered why The Other Andrew is so called.

Someone whose travels eclipse M’s trips in duration, if not quite in exotic destinations but he comes very close, is this person:


I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. So far we’ve travelled around much of UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland; done a load of family-tree research; a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path, and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Most recently we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, and 3 months in Scotland.

I also discovered what the wonderful header on Dancing About Architecture is all about.

Check here to learn more about what this meet was and who was there. I imagine a relevant post might appear before long too. Topics as various as knitting, historical reenactments, and Number 96 — that site was especially referred to — were being talked about as I, noticing that it was getting dark out, decided I had to set off home, which I did via an excellent Chinese noodle shop in King Street.

Newtown at night is, I have to say, far more interesting and far more pleasant these days than Oxford Street.

Neil — DQ

That is Doctor of Quitology.

The highest Degree in the science of Quitology; conferred upon a QuitNet member who has reached One Year smoke-free.

Yes this time one year ago – or the day after to be quite accurate – I informed you:

Where I am right now…

Wollongong Hospital after a small heart attack… I’ll be here a little while yet.

My last cigarette was on 28 February 2011 while waiting for the ambulance.

365 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes and 53 seconds smoke free.

18268 cigarettes not smoked.

$11,680.00  saved.

Even my reading has been infected by Jules and Kev!

So I am reading The Jesus Man by Christos Tsiolkas and there’s all that wanking and that death by self-castration – and guess what I inevitably think of!

Yes, the ALP and Jules and Kev…

And the eBook I am working through is Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy – where this guy called Kev takes Jules out in a rowing boat on an isolated lake and…

Well, you know the rest…

To paraphrase Bill Hayden many years ago, even a drover’s dog could win for the Libs come the next election, whatever happens today — whether Bruce Hawker or Jules and the No Faces gets up.

I recommend the books.

So now we know

Jules has the support of a clear majority in the Labor Caucus.

That ought to settle the matter, but we’ll see I guess. People do forget that we do not — thank God! – operate in a US style presidential system and consequently to not vote directly for the country’s leader. We do vote for the local candidate who embodies more of the policies than not that we would like to see operating in the country, and that usually (but not always) means picking one party or another. The party that sweeps or scrapes in overall then forms the government and the leader of that party – however chosen – then leads the country.

Thus Julia Gillard is at present the legitimate head of government in Australia.

Goodbye, Kevin. Goodbye Bruce Hawker!

Had the 2010 election led — as it well may have — to a hung Parliament with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister we equally would have had, under OUR system, no say in the choice of leader. If I had the choice, as a matter of interest, Malcolm Turnbull would have had the guernsey.

Next day

Peter Costello is not far wrong, in my opinion.

Those ministers who came out for Rudd were largely the ones who had been demoted by Gillard and bore her a grudge: Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Robert McClelland. The only person of significance to declare for Rudd was a weepy Anthony Albanese (why is it that Labor strongmen resort to tears on occasions like this?) and ”Albo” had been the numbers man on the last occasion. He was not a convert to the "new" Kevin. He was the last man standing with the "old" Kevin.

The most damning thing for Rudd was that apart from those mentioned above, and the honourable exception of Martin Ferguson, the whole of the cabinet was against him. His support was least among those who knew him best. Sometimes the closer you get to a person, the more you admire them. And sometimes you don’t! Rudd was stronger with the public because they were too far away to see behind the cheesy and slightly nerdy public persona. Those of us who have mixed with him in the parliamentary forum know the other Kevin as well.

This time the Gillard forces were determined to shine the spotlight on that other Kevin. They were led by Wayne Swan, someone who has known Rudd from high school. He described Rudd as "dysfunctional" with a "demeaning attitude to other people". He accused him of "sabotaging" policy announcements and leaving the government in a "mess". Swan told us that Rudd put "his own self-interest ahead of the … country"…

None of this would have surprised those who had followed Rudd’s career in Queensland, where his treatment of fellow public servants earned him the moniker "Doctor Death". The amazing thing was that it had been so well hidden. Every time a question arose about Rudd’s integrity in the lead-up to the 2007 election – for example, over his dealings with Brian Burke or his account of his night in a New York strip club – it was laughed off. The press were happy to ignore it because they wanted a change of government. And no two people did more to cover up for Rudd than Gillard and Swan…

A must read: Schools We Can Envy by Diane Ravitch

Given the recent developments here and the trend over the past several years – see So the Gonski Report on education funding has now been published most recently – the recent article by Diane Ravitch in The New York Review of Books is a real must. Ravitch is the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2010) and The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (New York: Knopf, 2003).

The main mechanism of school reform today is to identify teachers who can raise their students’ test scores every year. If the scores go up, reformers assume, then the students will enroll in college and poverty will eventually disappear. This will happen, the reformers believe, if there is a “great teacher” in every classroom and if more schools are handed over to private managers, even for-profit corporations.

The reformers don’t care that standardized tests are prone to measurement error, sampling error, and other statistical errors.1 They don’t seem to care that experts like Robert L. Linn at the University of Colorado, Linda Darling-Hammond at Stanford, and Helen F. Ladd at Duke, as well as a commission of the National Research Council, have warned about misuse of standardized tests to hold individual teachers accountable with rewards or sanctions. Nor do they see the absurdity of gauging the quality of a teacher by the results of a multiple-choice test given to students on one day of the year.

Testing can provide useful information, showing students and teachers what is and is not being learned, and scores can be used to diagnose learning problems. But bad things happen when tests become too consequential for students, teachers, and schools, such as narrowing the curriculum only to what is tested or cheating or lowering standards to inflate scores. In response to the federal and state pressure to raise test scores, school districts across the nation have been reducing the time available for the arts, physical education, history, civics, and other nontested subjects. This will not improve education and is certain to damage its quality.

No nation in the world has eliminated poverty by firing teachers or by handing its public schools over to private managers; nor does research support either strategy.2 But these inconvenient facts do not reduce the reformers’ zeal…

More: follow my schools tag. See also my education tag on Floating Life (2005 to December 2009). Look especially at my 2008 post Memo to Julie Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

6. Take note of my late Aunt Beth. She was an Infants teacher of many years standing, and in her time a pioneer of such literacy initiatives as the Hallidayan “Breakthrough to Literacy”. In the last conversation I had with her on the subject – and in fact The Rabbit was present and may recall this – she said, in relation to the way her grandchild was being taught, that it would be a good idea if we stopped all this testing and measuring and got back to teaching… There may well be a clue there for your education revolution.

See also One and a half cheers for Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and More for Kevin and Julia to chew on….

Back to Diane Ravitch:

Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.”GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.

In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition. I will consider the Teach for America organization—the subject of Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History—in comparison to the Finnish model in a second article.

The series of transformations here…

… and to a lesser extent on the photoblog may of course merely be a way of channelling the seething frustration I feel with the barnyard in Canberra, where the soap opera’s climax is predicted for Monday next – or is that more correctly anticlimax.

A bit like politics, I suppose, I have been seeking resolutions to a number of contradictory features on this blog. I wanted to preserve the rather extraordinary number of feeds on the side, or down below in some cases, because they replace the Google Reader I once had open to all. Or they try to replace it, with some reinforcement on Facebook for those who can read me there. They also keep me alerted to what is going on on my selected sites.

There is also a list of what I regard as good commentaries on climate change – something Kevin Rudd was pretty much right about at least until the 2010 election. To be fair to him he really did try at Copenhagen, but who exactly caused the double backflip with sauce and fries is still mired in controversy. I think they all panicked – and I still blame the Greens personally for being so bloody-minded in their own way. Anyway, whatever the pollies do or don’t do, and whatever paid and unpaid advocates of so-called skepticism say on the matter, the effects of our exploitation of the planet just keep on racking up. You can at least get some reliable information from the sites in the side bar.

Another issue has been picture size. Getting a combo that displays them fully without distortion has been a desideratum all along. The current template does that. So did the one I tested yesterday, but I think the one I am now using – and yes variations on it have been here before – is much more readable.

Finally there is download time. This is not the fastest, but it’s not too bad.

Oh and the background at the moment is based on a capture from a 1950s documentary I told you about in Oz Day Surry Hills nostalgia. It’s the Sydney Boys High corridor outside the current English staffroom, then the library, in the mid 1950s.

I’m over all this, perhaps especially over K Rudd

It’s not that I an in love with Julia, or happy about the way Rudd was knifed. But I suspect David Marr is on the money here:

No Kevin. This isn’t a breakdown in civility. Your colleagues are at last telling us why you were sacked. And here the political is inescapably personal: you couldn’t run the place. The result was, as Julia Gillard said yesterday and every newspaper and television station has been repeating since, ”chaos and paralysis”.

It still beggars belief that Labor leaders – with or without faces – were unable to pull Rudd into line. They deposed him and decided the government would take the rap. We weren’t told it was Rudd but the Labor government that had lost its way.

Whether this was kindness or funk, the voters were left without a narrative; Gillard was left without legitimacy; and Rudd, with his depthless self-belief, was left to portray himself as a martyr and to campaign for his resurrection…

Had Gillard said then, ”I did everything I could to salvage the situation … to try to get the government functioning”, we would have liked her more and doubted her less. The narrative would have been about rescue not sabotage. The euphemisms she used to shield Rudd left her cruelly exposed.

Had she spoken the truth, she wouldn’t have broken any news. For months before his execution the media had been reporting Rudd’s dysfunctional dealings with ministers, the relegation of his cabinet, and the ceaseless difficulty of getting the man to sign anything.

[Yesterday Gillard]  admitted the man’s brilliance as a campaigner and his appeal to the people – she might have added that both were undiminished – and finally explained he was toppled because he couldn’t govern.

She has rarely been so eloquent, so much a leader and, yes, so angry.

Whether her candour will save her is another question. It’s a bit late in the day to be finally coming clean about the defenestration of Kevin in 2010.

There is something decidedly odd about Kevin Rudd, looking back over the past few years.

See also Michele Grattan and Eva Cox.