Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And then there is the matter of your schooling

The Melbourne thing. School scrambles start at 1, that is, if parents want to have options at 12.

This is an intractibly difficult question for us. Beloved and I both had lousy experiences of school, and I struggle with the impression nearly all of them are big old industrial institutions peddling mediocrity while lining up the next generation of worker bees.

We both prefer the idea of public. Neither of us has many good memories of our experiences at the tail end of school where we were bundled off to toffhouses. And there is the ideological ideal of giving all kids a similar basis to start off in life.

But education for its own sake is not prized in Australia and we simply don't trust providence to ensure our nearest school will give Bear a good grounding in literature, music and art, the sciences and history. In fact it appears optional for primary schools to even offer another language.

Beloved got sent to boarding school in part because music wasn't properly taught at her public school. At my cheapo catholic school history was poor, while the arts generally were all but non-existent. And uniqueness was never prized, always hammered back into place.

The toff schools weren't much better, especially not on the last point. And then there was the childish nastiness they inculcated, whether by subtle intent or effect- too many brats, too many parents who couldn't care if the entire world died tomorrow as long as they have a beemer.

So nothing's ideal, and therefore everything's on the table to be considered on its merits. The problem being that if we want to have options, she has to go on the lists now, or it will all be a moot point if come year 7 we look around and see that our nearest public school has no decent arts program, teaches no languages and has a resident gang sporting faux-hawks infecting the front entrance.

So she'll probably end up on a couple of lists, and we'll keep a hopeful eye on the local public, and time will tell...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama to Clinton to Obama- settling on the world's candidate

So she won West Virginia, her call to the angry white man met with a response from thousands of duelling banjos. A step forward for team Hillary, but a plus for the Republicans if Obama ends up the final Democratic candidate.

I started out wanting Obama to win. Then I fell across towards Clinton after my readings led me to the impression that she may have better capacity to lead development of effective policy, and is at heart a genuine social liberal.

Race and gender almost balance for me, I want the best candidate. Although for striking symbolism I think a black male leading a largely-white western democracy has far less precedents.

But I don't like where Clinton has gone. I think it's clear she's played the harder ball against the person in this process. But worse, by doing so much damage to Obama amongst the equivalent of Australia's 'Howard battlers' (but less educated and better armed) she may have left a poison pill with her party.

This is to a fair extent a consequence of the primary system, and having 2 very strong candidates staying, if not neck-and-neck, at least neck-and-shoulder. But so much more rides on the outcome of the real election than individual career aspirations.

Others are saying this already, but I have a further concern.

We, the rest of the world, are desperately waiting for a different US foreign policy to unfold. And I'm not convinced Clinton will deliver, even if she comes good on the domestic front.

We don't want palpably ill-conceived invasions like the one she supported in Iraq. We don't want the US contemplating genocide as it tussles with Iran. We do need a US that offers wise counsel to its close ally Israel, as opposed to the chirpy backing Clinton gave their last venture into Lebanon. We need some notional adherence to international law from the country that co-wrote most of it.

We don't want more of the same. I don't know how much of her chest-beating is rhetoric, but I am genuinely concerned that more of the same is what she'll give us.

Of the 3 contenders, only Obama has actively demonstrated a commitment to do things differently.

He's the world candidate, and once again he's got this irrelevant alien in his corner. Sorry Hillary, respect you a lot, but I think it's time to do a deal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Take my baby bonus and spend it on something useful

We don't need it. Sure we'll take it if you throw it, who wouldn't, but we won't vote against you if you confine it to those who are truly struggling. Or better yet, scrap it entirely, and pump it into the services we all need.

I didn't realise what they meant by child care crisis until we had Bear. There is a child care crisis. It's actually sheer places, not just publicly-funded places, but all places. Some people can't get a place, full-stop. Battlers need it so they can get back to work. Isolated parents need it so they get respite and their kids socialise. Professionals also need it, the posh need it, in short, a win-win.

Then there's schools, transport, urban renewal, safety. In short, fixing this country so it's worth growing up in. Better, not worse, in 10 years' time.

See, it doesn't take a celebrity love-in to generate some policy ideas...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Groundhog day in unFairfield

When you think you really might win an auction, and buy a house, you can't help but imagine your life there. We came back, we saw, we imagined, then we were conquered.

In Fairfield, but an unorthodox layout and busy street were the reasons cited for the low price (in Fairfield this means anything under $700K). We picked over it and saw in the study a 3rd bedroom, in the high fence a buffer against the street, and in the layout enough usable spaces to accomodate a Bear and 2 exotic felines. Apparently we weren't alone.

The silence on this blog has matched a silence on the house front. I've been living the family life, getting by, ignoring the bigger projects and ignoring a misery that longer-term readers know kept us frustrated for months back around the time of Bear's birth. But house prices have been floundering on paper, with some bargains going in the suburbs to our immediate north, so we thought "why not us"?

Why not indeed? Why not us to win the lottery while we're at it?

I've bid at auctions before and not felt all that stressed. It's true. But this time was different, with the build-up, the real sense that we might get it, after such a hiatus from the market, and the imaginings: walking Bear to childcare rather than a 20 minute round trip, exploring the real bush parklands just 15 minutes away, coffee in the delectable local strip, the spot in the garage where I'd set up a bench and bag and become fit again, the corner of the large yard where Bear could have a cubbee house...

There were too many people. The auction we'd watched earlier that day had rocketed beyond the boundaries of fiscal reason. The omens were bad, and we were once again flumoxed.

$20,000 beyond our outer limit, the deal was closed for some sleazy looking professional bidder.

We drove around in a daze for a while. Watched Bear in a park, saying little. Went home. Sat. Slept.

Sunday was a better day.