Category Archives: Things that make me go "hmmmm"

‘What are they feeling?’ game

The Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions in the UK has a rather fun little game on their website. What are they feeling? presents you with historical images that you’re asked to interpret in terms of the emotion that is being conveyed.  I did fairly well on the human figures, but very poorly with the animal images. Just as well I’m not a vet.

You can find it at The Emotions Lab website.

They have a good collection of audios and videos on the site, too.

Eyeless at the Gallery


I went to the National Gallery of Victoria a couple of weeks ago for their Italian Masterpieces exhibition and  I SAW THE PAINTINGS. “Why the capital letters, bold type and red letters?” you might ask.

Because there was a large group of schoolgirls from one of Melbourne’s more prominent private schools who didn’t see a single painting.  Instead, they were clustered in the middle of the exhibition room in small circles, their heads bent over their Ipads and their backs to the paintings.  I’m not sure what the assignment was, but they were all typing something onto what looked like a notecard on their screen.   Occasionally one or two looked at the written panel beside the painting.  At no time did I see a girl turn around,  look at a painting, step back to view from a distance, move forward to view close up, nudge a friend and point something out or interact in any way with anything other than her Ipad.

Their attendance at the gallery, in the presence of such beauty and treasure, was completely unnecessary.  They may as well have stood in their own schoolyard.

I don’t know what the instructional design principles  were of that assignment, but it failed in every regard.

By the way, the exhibition closes next weekend. Well worth seeing. Leave your Ipad at home.

Two Pops and The Kid

For months now there’s been an advertisement in Saturday’s papers for a SMSF seminar featuring Max Walsh and Daryl Dixon from Dixon Advisory.  It’s always caught my eye: that nice young woman and those two, friendly twinkly old blokes who look a lot like my father.  Youth and experience….that’s what we want!


But yesterday- What’s happened??? Where’s she gone? Now we have a nice young man instead.  The Pops seem just as chuffed though.


Oh no!  Where’s the ‘youth’ gone after just one day? Now we only have experience….


I open next week’s paper with trepidation.

A photo in the paper

There was a striking photograph in yesterday’s ‘Sunday Life’. It’s a double page spread as you open the magazine,  showing a smiling, short-haired, blonde topless woman sitting on a chair, with her daughter in a ballet tutu playing on the floor beside her. The woman has had a double mastectomy.

It’s a breath-catching image. At first I felt guilty even looking at it, and turned the page quickly with an ‘Oh! as if I’d disturbed her, and seen something that I shouldn’t. Then I turned back the page and looked more closely. I’ve never seen a double mastectomy before. It’s confronting, but became less so the longer I looked.  You see her smile more clearly than anything else.

The caption reads:

This is what matters to Lisa Wilkinson. Lisa took this photo of Marina and her daughter Sydney to capture the beauty and incredible strength of women. Visit to upload your own image and shine a light on what matters to you.

I really don’t know what to think.  It’s a beautiful image: stark, positive and you sense that Marina is in charge of the situation.  But I wish it wasn’t produced as part of some advertising campaign by a camera company.

What is the camera company’s purpose in paying for  this campaign?  (quite apart from the licensing and ownership questions that arise from the photos produced by participants). Would a photograph of someone with a colostomy bag have had the same effect from an advertising point of view?  It probably would have on me as a viewer- that instant flash of feeling like an intruder, followed by an almost guilty sense of curiosity – but would the camera company so ready to embrace it?

I’m trying to imagine the conversation around the board table when planning this campaign. I suspect that this blog post is exactly the reaction they were hoping for.  That (and not the photograph itself)  makes me uncomfortable.

Hot, wot?

We Melburnians can think of little else but the weather at the moment as we are enduring a hot spell of four consecutive days with temperatures over 40 degrees. But then again, we’re always a bit weather-obsessed, as our temperatures often fluctuate wildly.  In summer,  over two or three days we build up to a hot (usually mid-low thirties) day, then have a cool change that plunges us back to 20 degrees before gradually building up to the mid-thirties again.

Now, as many of you will know, I am very fond of my newspaper. A friend asked me recently “what makes you get out of bed?” and my answer then and now is “getting the paper”. I am distraught when it’s late: going out every five minutes, checking under all the plants in my increasingly bushy cottage garden, checking again…and again…and again. Even when I already know most of what appears in it through the internet or BBC World Radio overnight, I still like opening up new pages and reading the paper cover to cover. It takes hours on the weekend (and yes, I am very tempted by Morry’s Schwartz’s  forthcoming Saturday Paper as well)!

When I settle down every morning to read the paper, I always read the death notices.  I always read the Odd Spot.  And I always read the weather pages.  I look at the international weather reports and I mentally transport myself to each of the places I’ve been and try to imagine them under the current weather conditions.  I look at Kenya because my boy’s there, where there is either “increasing sunshine” or “showers”; I look at Paris and think of myself sitting on a bench at Versailles; I look at London and think of myself standing opposite the Tower of London; I look at New York and think of Central Park; I look at Toronto and think of the streetcar running past our college at the University;  I look at Wellington and think of standing at the harbourside; I look at Christchurch and I grieve for its cathedral in the city square.  I have all these pictures in my mind like a series of mental postcards and I riffle through them in my imagination, superimposing that day’s weather report onto them.

Then there are those weather graphs for our own weather in Melbourne for that day. Every day I sigh and say “I don’t GET this graph”.  I know that they’re working on probabilities and scales. I’m certain that there’s some mathematical and scientific rationale to this display that my very unmathematical brain cannot understand, and has no interest in trying to do (so explaining it to me in words of one syllable probably won’t help.)

Here’s one for a pleasant summer’s day, (Saturday Jan 11)  with little variation between the minimum and maximum.



My first problem is that even though the prediction shows 19 – 25, the graph  shows a high of 24 (the highest part of the graph) and a low of 20.  In every graphic, every day, the temperatures shown never match what is predicted on the left hand side of the page.



But here we are on Monday Jan 13 where the temperature more than doubles- from 14 to 35 degrees (or as the graph depicts, from 15 to 33). Here’s my second problem- wouldn’t you think that this graph with a vast range between minimum and maximum would look very different from the day where the temperature barely moves?

And here we are for today (Friday Jan 17) , when there’s a sharp cool change predicted tonight (alleluia!)



To be sure, it does show a dip between 6.oo p.m. and 9.00 p.m. but it doesn’t reflect the prediction that the temperature will fall 10 degrees within an hour.  It shows a high of 41 at 3.00 pm but doesn’t indicate when it’s going to go even higher to reach 44 (and believe me, once you’re over 40, the single degrees DO matter!)

Moreover, the rain predictions confuse me. Here’s a graph from Tuesday 14th where the temperature almost doubled (which is not immediately obvious) with rain forecast in the evening with a 70% likelihood of between 10-20 mm.



Yet if you compare the appearance of the rain prediction for the January 14th graph with today’s ( Graph 3 January 17th), it looks as if we’re due to get more rain today, yet it’s a 60% likelihood of between  1-5 mm.  If it’s only 1 mm, then it barely counts.

While I do appreciate information about the predicted time of a cool change (so that you know whether to take a cardi or not), I am bemused, confused and amused by these graphs every single morning. Gives me something to get out of bed and grumble about every day.

P.S. I wrote about the last heatwave in 2009 here, with a backward glance toward early-Melbourne commentaries on the weather.

Can women apply?

I can’t quite believe that I’ve seen this.


Can women apply or only young men with sexy five o’clock shadows? The St Vincent’s Medical Education webpage is no better.

Hell, why not go back to the ‘Men’s’ and ‘Womens’ Positions Vacant columns and be done with it?

Toy time!


Well, well- the toy catalogues are here.  It must be mid-winter.

I’ve noticed that the toy catalogues always appear in the middle of the year, harking back no doubt to an earlier time when we actually saved for things. I remember that the newsagent in Upper Heidelberg Road Ivanhoe used to have a big toy sale in the middle of the year and ‘the mothers’ would line up along the footpath, waiting for the shop to open.  Presents would be put on layby and would be wrapped in brown paper and stored above the shelves, up near the roof with the surname written on the parcel with texta.  All the second half of the year they would sit there.  You could see the names from child-height below, and wonder if there was something there for you.  A win-win situation, you’d have to say: a present could be bought on sale and paid off gradually with no tricky Santa-hiding problems, then whip along on Christmas Eve and pick it up!

So is there any such thing as lay-by any more?  I see that the K-Mart catalogue has a sticker on the front that tries to make the absence of a service a virtue:


No need for Layby! Low prices every day!

On the other hand, ToysRUs do still have layby, but there’s a catch!


They’ll waive the $7.50 layby set up fee but the 10% deposit and $2.90 monthly fee still apply- and there’s more conditions to see in store! So- set-up fee, monthly fee on top of the repayments- hope it’s a good special!  I do note that it’s ‘lay-buy’ (with an emphasis on the transaction) rather than ‘lay-by’ (with an emphasis on the storage location).

But of course we don’t wait for things these days, do we?  If you want it, buy it! I’m sometimes saddened by those ‘Nothing to pay until 2016!’ advertisements when I think that whatever was purchased in such haste will probably be shabby and thrown out by 2016 when the repayments start.

It all seems a long way from gazing at a brown-paper parcel on the toyshop shelf. And of course, perhaps there’s no thought of Christmas at all- perhaps it’s just toys for the sake of toys.


Ever since the Black Saturday fires some years back, 774ABC radio is the designated emergency ratio station for Melbourne.  As a result, if there’s fire, flood, funny smells- then 774ABC goes onto ’emergency’ footing with frequent warnings and advice interspersed with its normal programs (unless of course it’s a REAL emergency, at which time usual programming is suspended).

There was a fire at a recycling centre in suburban Melbourne this morning, and this triggered  774ABC emergency warnings right in the midst of “Making Christmas Gifts with Craft”- quite a surreal juxtaposition!  I was interested that at the end of the warning about toxic smoke, keeping your windows shut, turning off the airconditioner and staying inside etc, there was advice to call Nurse- On-Call if you had any concerns.

Nurse-on-Call is a telephone service that provides 24 hour a day advice from a registered nurse. I’ve never used it.  From what I have heard from people who have used it, they’re normally told to go to hospital.  This may reflect the demographic of my sample- i.e. old codgers primed for heart attacks, and perhaps it’s different when people ring with a baby or young child.  But I can’t help thinking that in these litigious times, it would be unwise to advise to “just wait and see”.

Perhaps in a situation like this though, when people are wanting reassurance as much as anything else, there might be a role for nurse-on-call as a way of deflecting unnecessary panic.  But it did make me wonder about the statistics on Nurse-on-Call: is my perception that they always advise ‘go to hospital’ valid? Has it saved hospital visits or increased them?  I did actually go to the Dept. of Health webpage where they had their annual report, but it would have taken 8 minutes to download and I thought…..nah.

On to The Conversation website and blow me down….there’s a report on telephone medical advice lines. In a Medical Journal of Australia article, researchers looked at the difference in  ‘appropriate referrals’ from GPs, a telephone medical advice line, and self-referral.  I’m a bit disconcerted by their definition of ‘appropriate referral’ which ranged from  admission to hospital, referral in an inpatient or outpatient clinic, transfer to another hospital, performance of radiological or laboratory investigations- or death in the Emergency Department. (I’m hearing echoes of Monty Python’s ‘I told you I was sick!”)  As might be expected, GPs scored the highest in ‘appropriate referrals’ but interestingly telephone-line and self-referrals were ranked much the same- in fact, the self-referrals scored slightly higher.

Moreover, the study found that people when do receive advice to seek medical advice in a non-Emergency Department (so there goes my theory),  50% of people ignored the advice and turned up anyway. The conclusion of the study? The MJA editorialized:

It is not clear that, if offered an informed choice, the community would choose to pay for telephone advice that makes little difference to their behaviour over other health service priorities. In relation to whether an ED visit is required, it appears that a phone call will not answer the question.

Does this ring a bell?

In a brave attempt to ward off dementia, I have taken to doing the daily quiz in The Age each day.  I’m rather disconcerted that I seem to hover around the 13-16 point score and that too many times I find that I do know the answer but just can’t quite recall it.

This morning, however, I was quite confident that I knew the answer to the question “The letters JKL appear on which number of a modern telephone?” I do recall that as a child, our telephone number was JL7117, later changing to 45 7117. (That was before they added a nine after the 5 to make it 4597117; then later again 94597117!)  My maiden name was ‘Lumley’, and I felt rather  proud of the fact that my phone number had my initials at the start of it.  But hold on- that’s two numbers (4 and 5) and yet the question suggested that both these letters appeared on one number.  And sure enough, looking at the phone on the wall of my kitchen this morning- there they were under 5.

Had they changed it perhaps? Or was I not only not remembering, but remembering incorrectly?? But  no- thanks to Lord Wiki, I was right! Until the 1960s, the first one or two digits of each telephone number were alphabetical, and each letter represented a distinct number. Thus

  • A = 1;
  • B = 2;
  • F = 3;
  • J = 4;
  • L = 5;
  • M = 6;
  • U = 7;
  • W = 8;
  • X = 9;
  • Y = 0

My phone number was, indeed, JL 7117.  And here’s a picture of the old dial, with the numbers and letters clearly shown.

Phew! Not completely doolally yet.


Something to think about…

If the great leading article of a creed be a contradiction of the intellect, or understanding, or reason, then the whole religious system must be supported by contradiction and absurdities… if a nation’s faith be superstitious and irrational, and they sincerely believe it, then all the laws and customs and institutions will, in some degree, be tinged with irrationality

Rev. Maxwell Davidson, January 30 1853 at the first Unitarian service held in the Mechanics Institute, Melbourne.