Archive for March 2011
I’ve been watching the tragedy unfolding in Japan and wondering how they’re coping, also how they’re going to cope in the future. I’ve also been wondering about the future of the world, they’ve been cooling the nuclear reactor down with water and this has a habit of spreading so anything nasty that’s been picked up is currently being spread throughout various parts of the world. We’ve seen reports of the radiation being found in a number of countries. There are probably going to be birth defects coming out of this and I don’t need to point to the birth defects that arose out of Chernobyl as evidence.
The people going in to deal with the nuclear reactors are heroes. Their names should go down in history and everyone in every single country should know them. They should be used as positive examples as they have shown us what one should do in a crisis.
There are numerous post apocalyptic books around and chief among them is one written by John Wyndham called The Chrysalids which details the journey of some children who have skills that are not recognised as true breed and they are ostracised for them. Australians will know of Mad Max which starred Mel Gibson, there was a book written from the screenplay. I’m told The Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski is a good example of post apocalyptic writing. The story gunning for a tinkerman by Jason Fisher in Aurealis #44 is excellent and the author says he’s looking into a sequel, I can’t wait!
These stories I’ve highlighted are only a handful of the many around and I believe we’re going to find out just how accurate they are. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 gave us a sneak preview. I think it’s time the world looked at nuclear power to see how it really affects the world and whether it’s worth while. The side effects should something go wrong are pretty catastrophic and have long lasting consequences, can the Earth really survive something of this nature?
I was reading this story about funding cuts and problems with libraries and it got me thinking about how important libraries really are.
If you’re a big reader or you have a small home or even a small income then you can’t possibly buy all the books you want. If you want to branch out with your reading or have read all the books you can find by that author or in that genre then you need somewhere to go to get recommendations. If you’re young and need encouragement with reading you need somewhere to go for help. If you just want to hang out around books and the bookshops have all thrown you out cos you hang around and don’t buy. If you need somewhere to do your homework or you just need computer access you need somewhere to go. Libraries can and often do fulfill all those functions and more. They used to be just somewhere to go to borrow a book, do some homework and maybe get recommendations but now they’re so much more and they have so much potential. I see them as one of the backbones of society.
It is incredibly important that libraries around the world are given enough funding and get the right staff to ensure they continue. Ideally every library should have a copy of every single book ever written but that’s just a pipe dream as I know there just isn’t the room in every library and also the foundations wouldn’t cope with the weight.
Just digressing here. I can’t find the reference to it right now but I heard of a library which was rebuilt from the ground up. It looked absolutely fabulous and the opening ceremony probably reflected that fabulousness. There was one thing they forgot to take into account before beginning to build and that was the weight of the books. Last I heard the whole building was sinking by one inch every year due to the weight of the books.
Last night I decided I’d actually follow the instructions to upgrade the software on my mobile phone, the process included a backup and restore of all software and settings. I followed the instructions I’d already followed a number of times before and got nowhere. I asked for technical help from another member of the household and was given enough to get me several steps further on. Then I followed the next step which was to plug the phone back into the computer…I got the blue screen of death. The computer went through all it’s processes, I plugged in the mobile phone again and continued. On and on and on went the processes. At the start it did warn me it would take half an hour, two hours later I was finally finished. I couldn’t do anything useful during that time as I needed to keep an eye on it so as to move it to the next process. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read…I definitely couldn’t go to bed at a reasonable hour.
I was planning on writing an article for publishing today but I couldn’t concentrate for long enough to do that. I have a copy of ASIM I was going to scribble a few words about and call it a review. I have homework to do, it’s not much but I still need to concentrate on it. I have some paperwork to look at for the op shop, but that wasn’t going to happen last night.
It feels like a waste of time.
When I was young I was one of the few people of my age group to admit to enjoying reading. It’s still a stigma to enjoy reading but not as much and it’s much easier to find people of your own age to share books with due to the internet.
The internet is wonderful, I really don’t know how I would survive without it. As I write I’m having a conversation with a friend on Twitter about short stories. She’s in Australia so it’s only a little stretch but I’ve also had conversations about books with friends in countries such as USA, Canada and Britain. While Twitter is great for that it’s not so good for having sustained conversations over several days or weeks. What you need for that is websites. I favour Good Reads for adults and I’ve just found Everloop for tweens. Seeing as I don’t have tweens any more I haven’t signed up for it but it looks pretty good. I don’t know where it’s based but I’m fairly sure it’d be great for tweens all around the world. You can sign in as a parent and supervise your tween.
When I was at Aussie Con 4 last year I attended a session that talked about the importance the internet can have with helping your child to read and helping you find people for your child to talk to about reading. They talked about websites such as these and how it helps your child make friends with like interests all over the world. My youngest was talking on the internet this morning with a friend, she had a smile on her face and at times was laughing. Friends help and sometimes you need to make them where you can, even if they’re on the other side of the world.
It’s well known that children need to see the parent reading in order to be more interested in reading. I’m not being categorical here and saying it will absolutely make them read as my parents always read and my oldest sister rarely picks up a book, the rest of us read but she never did.
This article bears out the theory. I agree it is a British newspaper article but I’m sure things are no different anywhere around the world.
You know, there are some people who are thinking outside the square. I’ve read about ebooks since I was yay high as they’ve been mentioned in science fiction for ages. I thought it was really thinking outside the square to build ebook readers but the people in Holland take the cake. They ignore ebook readers and instead have flipped the book around, instead of turning the pages from right to left they’ve turned it around and you only have to flip them. You can see a picture on the Guardian website.
This is such a fun topic. We had it fairly recently with J K Rowling being sued for plagiarism, here is the latest on that one, the man making the claim has been asked to pay an enormous sum of money before the court will actually hear the claim. This makes me wonder if they think he won’t win.
The latest claim is with E. Nesbit’s Railway Children. It has apparently had quite a number of passages lifted from a book called The House by the Railway by Ada J. Graves. You can read more details here. I enjoyed reading the comments with this story.
I’ve been told that there are very few original stories and that every modern story is a take on some previous story which makes it hard to actually have an original story. Does this mean we should pay royalties to the families of the people who wrote the original stories even if they were first written hundreds of years ago? I’m not actually making a suggestion here, I’m only positing the question. In the case of The Railway Children the books were published in 1906, a time when there was a lot of ‘borrowing’ from other people’s stories and in some cases it was known about by the original author as they’d actually asked permission but in others it wasn’t.
If we did have to pay the descendents of the person who wrote the original story that could create all sorts of problems. There’s one story that springs to mind. Beowulf was written between the 8th and 11th centuries and has been rewritten a number of times in the last 100 years. The one I know the best is Dragon Slayer: The Story of Beowulf by Rosemary Sutcliffe. The story was also made into a movie in 2007. How would we identify the descendents of those authors and pay them royalities? Maybe we should just choose the first person to rewrite it in modern times and pay them royalties? Just imagine the worldwide furore emanating from that court case…I’d suggest the only people to win there would be the lawyers.
I just loved this book. It’s not the type of book I would normally pick up but I had seen the movie…it had Johnny Depp so it was one of those ‘must see’ movies and in this case it followed that I had to read the book. There are differences between the book and movie, I think they stand on their own.
Vianne Rocher arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church. Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his village. Vianne has skills with chocolate we can only dream of, Father Reynaud is fasting for Lent, they both have people skills but they exercise them in very different ways. Vianne tries to help the person, help them improve and get them out of any bad situation or to bring them together, Father Reynaud only wants to maintain the status quo. When Travellers come to stay for a while there is bound to be problems between the two of them.
The characters are beautifully drawn. I won’t say I fell in love with each of them but I did fall in love with the writing. Through his eyes, Father Reynaud is a very nasty person, always seeing the worst in people. His description of the Travellers boats is quite the opposite to Vianne’s. Father Reynaud lingers on the worst parts of their boats.
A wretched thing, green-painted but peeling miserably, a tin chimney spouting black and noxious fumes, a corrugated roof, like the roofs of the cardboard shacks on Marseille’s bidonvilles.
While Vianne looked at the tidiness of the area.
I was struck by the absence of litter, the care with which every scrap of waste had been placed in the steel drums for burning.
All of the characters are drawn with such care that even had I not seen the movie I would have been able to see them all in my minds eye perfectly. Harris’ language is very poetic and she has just the right amount of description…not too much and not too little. We are lead very carefully through many of the villager’s lives and shown just what the problems are, Vianne helps them resolve some of these problems. We see Father Reynaud feeling the resolutions Vianne provides as more problems and in order to help he makes his fasting for Lent more and more severe while he tries to ‘combat’ all of this from the pulpit.
Father Reynaud also had some problems with his childhood and we are given dribs and drabs of hints throughout the book as he talks to a man who is in a coma. We finally see who this man is and why he is talking to him, we eventually see what his problems were. Father Reynaud combines all of this with his current problems and make his fasting even more severe. I can’t help wondering how much of his antipathy for strangers is caused by the lack of food.
We are gently lead through Vianne’s childhood. Although she was greatly loved by her mother we see how they drifted through life, moved from place to place and country to country always on the move. There is one little hint as to why that might be and it opens up lots of questions.
I really can’t recommend this book enough. There are adult themes but they’re not in your face, as with the rest of the book they’re mostly fairly gently presented. I’d definitely recommend it for young adults.
I’m not going to go through all the ins and outs of Education in Victoria, Australia as I’m not up-to-date with most of it. As I’m currently studying a year 12 subject this year and have two children who have completed school in the last few years I feel I do have some experience.
You can start your child at school when they are four and a half so long as they are five by the cut-off date that year. This cut-off date is 30th April. Some parents agonise over whether their child will be able to cope with school and some parents don’t worry about agonising they just keep their child back until the following year. It does mean there is a vast difference in age as they can range from four and a half to six years of age at the beginning of the year. This first year is called Prep.
Some students will have spent some time in child care and some will have spent up to two years in kindergarten. The teachers expect they will recognise their name when they see it, be able to recognise some colours, numbers (I think up to 20), be able to take themselves to the toilet, be able to work/play nicely and be able to follow instructions. They were not expected to be able to read when my kids started school, I’d taught my eldest to read a large number of words while she was at kindergarten but she didn’t quite understand what she was doing and what it was about until she’d been in prep for three weeks.
Following prep is years one through to six. This is where they learn the foundation stones of their education; maths, science, english and also learn to be more independent and to work together in groups. Depending on the school they may or may not have homework at some of those levels. The end of year six is the end of primary school and most often they will then move to a different school for years seven to twelve. Secondary school is the business end of education, I’m sure some will disagree with me but this is where is it really gets serious. Years seven and eight is spent consolidating and expanding the skills they’ve learnt at primary school. Years nine and ten are when they start looking at other subjects and choose their pathway to university. Years 11 and 12 are called VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) and helps the student to university. Students choose the subjects they’re going to study for these years in year 10 and in year 12 will make choices of which university courses they wish to attend. Years 11 and 12 are very busy years, there are exams at mid year and end of year for some subjects and there are some school based assessments periodically during the year, these are called SACs or School Assessed Coursework which are basically exams or essays held during class time but under exam conditions. At the end of the year you’ll get a score made up of an aggregate of the scores you’ve got from your exams and your SACs, this is called the ENTER or Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank and is used to select about half of the students for university courses.
VCE is made up of two years: Years 11 and 12. There are four units to every subject. Units 1 and 2 are considered year 11 units while units 3 and 4 are considered year 12 units. It is possible to study units 3 and 4 in year 11, some students will even fit in one or two 1 and 2 units in year 10. Units 1 and 3 are studied in semester one while units 2 and 4 are second semester units. Some subjects are needed for university entry and some aren’t. It’s possible to get into a biology based course in university without having done any biology in VCE. English is mandatory for many courses.
VCE is administered by an external body called VCAT (Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre). They administer the application process for university entrance as well as calculating the ENTER score (their website tells me it’s now called ATAR, but the Education Website still calls it ENTER).
University is where you finally study the course you want to study and some courses are extremely competitive so your final score at the end of year 12 needs to be fairly high. It’s possible to change your course once you’re in university so long as you meet the criteria and a lot of people do make the change after their first year.
There is a fairly standard school curriculum which must be followed throughout Victoria, but it varies in how the school and teachers present it. School is compulsory for all people until they reach 16, at that stage it becomes voluntary, a lot of students will elect to stay in the school system. While education is compulsory until the age of sixteen there is a vast number of different types of educational facilities you can choose from. I won’t go into details but the break down is fairly roughly as follows: state school (receives public funding although you will need to pay some fees, buy school uniform, buy books and pay for excursions), private school (receives some public funding, you will need to pay exhorbitant fees, buy school uniform, buy books, pay for excursions), home schooling (no public funding, no school uniform, parent pays for and teaches everything unless they can outsource it – there is a wealth of resources and backing from other home school families to help with this). The private schools can include schools such as Rudolf Steiner facilities.
Not every student is capable, or able to, attend university and there are other pathways to further study. I’m not terribly familiar with them but they do include apprenticeships and non-university courses which can be excellent. Some of these include TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and I know people who have used this pathway to a very successful career.
There you have it, school as seen by me. I’m sure there are errors and I’m hoping people will comment and correct me.