Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bending over backwards

I have had the opportunity over the past six months to participate in a workplace literacy research project. A dozen of us literacy practitioners were asked to provide literacy and numeracy training to employees at various pilot sites, and to gather information about what worked and what did not.

This week we gathered together at the completion of the project to discuss what happened. Each of us was asked to speak for five minutes on a particular aspect of our project which the project managers had identified, from our final written reports, as worthy of further exploration in the group setting. My topic was flexibility.

I talked about flexibility being a desirable attribute in some circumstances and undesirable in others. For example, flexibility of thought is a good thing when attempting to deal with the unexpected, or in coping with change, but it's not good in relation to adherence to safety procedures. A cricket bat would not function at all if it was constructed of the same type of rubber as floor mats in cars. Sometimes rigidity is crucial to effectiveness and positive outcomes. Other times it is a hindrance.

In the case of the company I worked with, it was necessary for me to be flexible with the training schedule because it had to be changed on a weekly basis due to the unavailability of participants. My flexibility was limited though because I was only available one and half hours, two days per week. The company's flexibility was limited by the fact that they needed to serve their customers first, and attend training second.In the end, training was suspended because the frequent interruptions to, and forced rescheduling of the training caused us to believe that we were wasting our time. The level of flexibility shown, whilst initially helping the advancement of the project, ultimately resulted in early termination of the training.

We have to be flexible in life and in how we deal with people but extremes should be avoided at all costs. We all have to determine how flexible we are willing to be. How far are we willing to bend before we break? How far are we able to bend before we break? Do we want to bend at all? If we are thin rubber cricket bats we won't break but neither will we be of any use. At some point our flexibility stops being useful and becomes unhelpful, or worse destructive. I talked about car floor mats, and some people believe that bending over backwards for everyone indicates weakness. People who are that "flexible" may be labelled doormats. On the other hand, people who don't go out of their way to help others, who don't inconvenience themselves, may be criticized for being selfish.

A line has to be drawn somewhere between flexibility and rigidity. The fact that everyone draws this line in a different place on the spectrum is the reason why we have conflict.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twilight EyesTwilight Eyes by Dean Koontz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The good, the bad and the ugly. Good: engaging narrative, good action sequences and characterizations. Bad: I was groaning over historical bits and Koontz trying too hard to place the events of the novel in a particular point in history. It didn't seem necessary to me. Social commentary and recitations of lists of artist and songs from the era. Boring. Really bad: the sex scenes were comical but I'm not sure they were supposed to be. eg. silky streams of semen unfurling...arrgghh! Ugly: Hyperbole in hyperdrive describing the inconceivably gross physical appearance of the goblins and the depth of their evil. Too much. Overall I still enjoyed it but silky streams of semen unfurling...arrgghh!!

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween Horror

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. The Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped, and the deceased would come back to life and wreak havoc by causing sickness or destroying crops. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of 'souling' where poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

Early migrants from Europe carried the Halloween festival to America where it was elevated to a whole new ball park, made into an art form and a massive money spinner. The celebration of the macabre, the dark side of life or death, even for skeptics, is big business now. And it's great fun too. It is one of the great American holidays and is an entrenched part of American culture. Every television show that has ever been made has featured a Halloween special. From The Simpsons to Supernatural, the ghosts and ghouls, the jack o lantern, costume wearing, and trick or treating are woven into the fabric of the modern pysche. And let's not forget the multitude of slasher and horror movies which have been inspired by Halloween, including the classic series of films which featured the deranged Jason violently murdering people on October 31.

Naturally, Australians who slavishly follow United States pop culture trends, have embraced Halloween. Why, I do not know. I know why businesses push it. They see dollar signs. Halloween has been added to the crowd of marketing gimmicks, like Valentine's Day which is another crock. Here's a day to do this, and to do this, you need to buy this and that. Hand over your money. Hand over your brain. Let's follow the corpulent zombies, dance with the witches and join with the damned as hell breaks loose over our land. Happy Halloween! Bah Humbug!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rulers of the Commonwealth

Fifty four independent countries belong to the illustrious intergovernmental organisation known as the Commonwealth of Nations. It is not a political union, but an organisation through which member nations with diverse political, social and economic systems, treat each other as equals even though they are plainly not. Via various government agencies the member states seek to promote democracy, human rights, individual liberty, rule of law, free trade and world peace. There are 2.1 million people who are citizens of Commonwealth nations and just over half of them live in India.

Interest in the Commonwealth of Nations peaks every four years when the organisation's most visible activity occurs. The Commonwealth Games are seen as the poor relation to the Olympics, and achievements by athletes at the games are considered by many to be less noteworthy because the Games do not feature all the best athletes in the world competing. Significant absences include Europe, America and of course, the soon to be economic ruler of the globe: China. There is less competition, fewer events and less interest which leads to the cyclical debate about the relevance of the Games. This discussion was brought into sharp focus in Delhi recently due to overblown concerns about possible terrorism, and inadequate or incomplete facilities.

Personally, my only gripe with the Commonwealth games is that because Channel Ten hosted the television coverage in Australia, I missed out on two weeks of Neighbours. Otherwise, it was great, especially because Australia is plainly the ruler of the Commonwealth in relation to sport. We kicked butt in Delhi. It was Australia first in the medal tally and daylight second. There was very little equality on show at these games. It was the Masters of the Commonwealth universe crushing the feeble minions from the rest of the nations. We didn't win everything but only because we didn't compete in everything. We must have let the others win so as to not humiliate them. Although we like to win, we also show great sportsmanship: wrestlers throwing fridges out of windows, boxers mooning judges, and cyclists flipping the bird to them.

We have no competition in sport, no equal (in the mighty Commonwealth of Nations - please don't talk about the cricket), our economy is the strongest, and our political system is superior. The biggest scandal in politics is the Federal Opposition Leader claiming the Prime Minster was playing dirty because she invited him to visit our soldiers in Afghanistan with her. We champion free trade and are the epitome of flourishing democracy. If countries had middle names, Australia's would be peace.

With all this is mind, I propose that, following the expiration of our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth (may she live long and prosper,) Australia not only become a republic but also the ruler of the Commonwealth. According to the London Declaration, the head of the Commonwealth of Nations is a symbolic position which does not have to filled by England's ruling monarch. Try this on for size then, President Kevin Rudd, Lord of the Commonwealth. (I foresee Julia Gillard remaining Prime Minister by the way, otherwise she could do the job.)

We'll see all you loser Commonwealth nations in Glasgow in 2014.Go Australia!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Need for God

There are numerous misconceptions about Christianity which are held to with religious fervour by members of society. One popular view sees Christianity as a set of restrictive rules and regulations presided over by a cosmic killjoy. In another, a person says they are a Christian because they try to do what is right, and not hurt people. Both of these views should be completely rejected as false by Christians.

Recently I heard a new and interesting theory on what constitutes religion. This young lady, a lapsed Roman Catholic, said to me she believed she was religious, or even Christian in her case, because she sinned and religion depends on sin. She reasoned that if she was not committing any sin, she would have no need to confess and therefore no need of religion.

I told her that I believe religion is based on need and to suit my purpose here, I am referring to both good and bad religion (Jesus talked quite clearly about both). Men have always looked to something or someone bigger and more powerful than themselves for answers, for meaning and direction in their lives. Honest men have always felt and still do feel, overwhelmed at times by the the enormity and complexity of the world around them, and the various problems which have faced them.

Only when a person hits rock bottom, when everything else they have is stripped of value, when they feel lost and realize their desperate need for salvation, will they look up and see their Saviour: Jesus Christ.

I'm not telling you that you have to become a Christian, even though I would like you to, but I am asking you to accept the facts about Christianity. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Christianity is about God's plan to fix this messed up world which is full of broken people. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. Christianity is about God reaching out to us and saving us from our pride fuelled self destruction. Christianity is all about Jesus Christ and everyone needs a saviour.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Split Ministries

It started with the Rudd Labour government separating the climate change portfolio from the environment and giving it its own minister. This was obviously done to broadcast the importance the government placed upon climate change. The recently re-elected, albeit barely elected, Gillard Labor Government scrapped the Education portfolio and installed a Minister for School Education,Early Childhood and Youth (Peter Garrett) and another minster for tertiary education and skills (Chris Evans).In the spirit of the Labour government's division of ministerial portfolios, I would like to suggest the following.

Foreign Affairs should be divided into two separate portfolios: one for countries we like and one for countries we don't like. Immigration could be split between illegal immigrants/asylum seekers and legal immigrants. And there should definitely be a distinct ministry for the greatest game of all: cricket. One minister for all the other sports and one minister whose sole responsibility is to look after the interests of our national game.

Lastly, I would like to propose a brand new portfolio to oversee our politicians, and make sure they do their jobs instead of spouting negative and nonconstructive rubbish.