Saturday, February 28, 2009

Prayer Updates and Lent

From my 'Prayers Ascending' on the right. Thank you for your prayers.

1.The news is that the fears of fire flareups created by weather conditions yesterday in Victoria did not eventuate and at the moment no towns are under threat. Weather conditions seem to be cooling as Autumn approaches so hopefully the remaining fires can soon be brought under complete control and we can all breathe easy until next fire season. Of course those who have lost their homes and possessions need continued prayers as they commence to rebuild their lives and those who lost family and friends will always be in need of prayer.

2. I am having house renovations done which have prevented me attending my usual activities but I have heard that the kidney transplant for Jill was successful and both sisters are staying with their Mother, Kathleen, while they recuperate and Jill needs daily visits to the hospital for a month.

3. Archdeacon Kelvin Wright who is vicar of the parish in Dunedin where I hope to worship has completed the program of radiotherapy. He advises that he will receive the results to see how successful it all was on March 25. Meanwhile he is planning a moving retreat in two months involving monasteries in Italy, Taize in Switzerland and Camino in Spain. Pray that it might be a time of Thanksgiving and refreshment.

4. Now prayers for an elderly lady Leana who lives in the same Unit (Apartment) Block as my sister. My sister has always had an ability to assist elderly people. She devoted a lot of time, first to her mother-in-law, then to an Aunt by marriage. This was followed by many years of care for our mother which was constant in the last 6-12 months of her life. She has kept an eye on and assisted a number of elderly ladies in her block.

Leana is a lady probably around 90 who has been ill recently and my sister often assists her with shopping, medications and doctor visits. This should not be necessary as she has a son who is retired and 2 granddaughters. They are financially quite comfortable. Her son comes and takes her shopping once a week but sits in the car reading while his mother shops.
An email from my sister last week relates the situation.
On Thurs afternoon I phoned Leana - she said she was going to hospital and would I go with her but she didn't have any details. I tried to catch Dr Williams but it was quite late by then, anyway Fri morning Dr Williams phoned Leana to say she had arranged for her to see a specialist at the Medical Centre so I took her there - the Dr then said she should have a CT scan at the hospital so back we went late that afternoon. The family had arranged for a lady to come and shower her on the Sat morning so I phoned about Noon - phone was engaged. Went shopping and phoned again when I got back. Phone engaged - left it until later in the afternoon and phone still engaged so I thought something may be wrong with phone and went down to check. I rang the bell several times and then thought I heard a faint voice so went in (luckily I had a key) she was lying on the floor in one of the bedrooms. She had fallen in the kitchen on Fri night apparently crawled into that room but somehow or other must have knocked the phone off the hook near the kitchen. I phoned the ambulance as I didn't want to move her, didn't even like to give her water. Luckily nothing was broken and they got her up but she wouldn't go to hospital. I phoned her son and asked him to get one of his daughters to come over. Anyway both the daughters came and one stayed the night. Her son spent most of the day with her Sunday and they had a nurse stay overnight. She was due to go back to the doctor for the results of the CT scan but the nurse said she was just too weak. So I am now waiting for the doctor to ring me to find out what happens next. Tried to contact her son (he phoned me this morning) but he said he was attending seminars all this week!!!!! I'm getting too old for all this now.

Now we learn Leanna has Ovarian cancer and is deteriorating rapidly so my sister had rather forceful words with her son and he has given up some of his seminars.

After my Father died, way back in 1974, my sister rang my mother every morning and I rang every evening. If one of us was away, the other rang twice a day. In 1999 we moved Mum to live next door to my sister but, by then, the habit was established and I still rang every evening. At times it was a nuisance but now I miss the calls.

Finally Lent.
Having grown up in Evangelical churches, Lent has never been important. Some younger priests in Sydney today do not even know what Lent is about.
We did have fish on Ash Wednesday growing up and Mum made pancakes the night before but I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service and was always bemused at the dirty foreheads in the many years I taught in Catholic schools. My current church does have an Ash Wednesday service but I could not go all the way to the city with workmen in the house. I had fish for dinner (but that was just an adjustment as I always have fish on Tuesday night so just swapped nights). I forgot and made a ham sandwich for lunch.
Do not know what I could give up for Lent and do not see much point in it. Perhaps I could give up my pieces of dark chocolate each night but that is suppose to be healthy for me (at least that is what I believe).
My birthday always falls in Lent.
Hopefully I will learn from reading other blogs. On the other hand, Holy Week has always been important to me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Calamity Jane

To continue with my amateur musical career. In the 2nd half of 1987 we put on Calamity Jane.

I actually got to sing a line early in the first number "The Dead Wood Stage" About 2 minutes in my line was "Hi Ya Calam, What'ja bring us today?"
Although our leading lady was not Doris Day and our coach wasn't going anywhere, it was truly a stagecoach.

I had a lot of costume changes for a bit part player. Later I came in covered in blood, having been shot by Injuns.

Then I was a stage door Johnny accompanying the song "It's Harry I'm planning to marry." I had a different coloured moustache to fool the audience :-)

and later I became a member of the cavalry.

I still have that jacket which I bought at a 2nd hand clothing store although I think it was the wrong colour but what would an Aussie audience know.

As a baritone I loved "The Black Hills of Dakota" It is the only song I have sung where the baritones in the chorus get to sing the tune.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You go girls - but don't expect things to change

Great article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jane Richards.
While it is applied to Roman Catholicism, it is also true of some Anglo-catholic dioceses and their unholy union with the evango-fundies running Sydney Diocese.

St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican 2002: we paused in front of the strangely compelling body of a dead pope in a glass coffin when we heard it: shuffle shuffle squeak, shuffle shuffle squeak. From across a vast chamber they headed towards us - a dozen or so priests walking single file through the bowels of the cavernous church on their way to some meeting, some ceremony. The shuffle? The sound their gorgeous robes made as they billowed around their ankles. The squeak? It emanated from a tea trolley pushed with a lot of effort by a bent-up old nun bringing up the rear.

Typical, I huffed. Catholicism in a nutshell. The sight of that nun seemed to sum up how nuns were treated by a church that could not run without them. The nuns did the hard slog and the priests got all the glory - this was so drummed into the Catholic girls I went to school with that it was treated as fact. The sun rose in the east and the priests got the good cake at afternoon tea. The message to nuns from the church seemed to be: by all means push those tea trolleys, nurse those lepers and teach those brats - just don't go thinking you will ever be able to say Mass.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Summer Movies

Today seems to be a good day to discuss the movies I have seen over the summer.

Before I retired, I would be lucky to see more than 3 or 4 movies a year, usually in the school holidays. I rarely watch a movie on TV, I usually fall asleep. With a few notable exceptions I can never remember actor's names.

However on retirement I became a club member for a small yearly charge at a theatre in the city which gives me cheap movies and every 5th one free so am now attending much more. This theatre does tend to show more foreign movies, but that does not worry me.

My opinions are likely to be very different from most people. I have shown the rating I put on my IMDB site as soon as I came home.
I have seen a lot of the ones being nominated for the Oscars in a few hours time. 'The Reader' only commenced here last week but is on my to see list despite some controversy in the papers. Seeing the shorts of 'The Wrestler' did not encourage me to see it and 'Dark Knight' is not my type of movie although I do hope Heath Ledger wins for sentimental reasons. However although I thought he was marvellous in Brokeback Mountain I did not enjoy the other two movies I saw with him acting. This, however, was due to the movie, not his acting.


Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis) 7
This was very funny although would have been funnier if I had understood enough French as many of the jokes were based on the accent of the region and did not translate very well.

The Duchess 8
I am a sucker for English costume dramas. The story kept me involved and both Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes acted well.

Brideshead Revisited 8
I loved this on TV years ago. I did not feel the movie was as good but the years may have coloured my memories.

Lemon Tree (Etz Limon) 8
This is in Hebrew and Arabic. I saw Hiam Abbass in The Visitor and I enjoyed both that movie and her acting. Her role in Lemon Tree did not disappoint. In both films she is involved in a potential love affair that cannot continue and she portrays the emotions very well. A very thought provoking movie about the situation in Israel and its effects on ordinary people.

Australia the Movie 8
This was knocked by the critics yet everyone I have asked enjoyed it. It was probably overhyped. It was by no means the greatest movie ever made and perhaps should have had a different title. Parts were cliched and the history was iffy. (The Japanese bombed Darwin but no Japanese troops landed on Australian soil even offshore islands). However I can watch Hugh Jackman for ever :-) and although Nicole Kidman has her off movies, I thought she played the part very well. Brandon Walters is a great find and I hope he goes well. It was disappointing that it did not do well in the States. I came out feeling very proud of my country.

I have loved you for a long time (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) 9
This movie hit me right between the eyes. To say much would give it all away but it is one of the most powerful and emotional films I have ever seen. I can only remember 'Brokeback Mountain ' affecting me the same way and that was because it personally impacted on me. This story had no relevance to my life but still had me sobbing my heart out. Kristin Scott Thomas does an excellent job. Although in French, I highly recommend it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 8
Also affected me emotionally although I do not know why as the storyline is ridiculous. The acting by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson were all excellent and I was blown away by the makeup and special effects to age Brad Pitt.
Enjoyed seeing some views of New Orleans.

Frost/Nixon 7
More great acting by Frank Langella although Michael Sheen annoyed me but perhaps that was the idea. I do not know how true it was to history as that period of history passed me by because I was travelling by Kombi in Europe and had little access to TV and English news. I found it interesting if not gripping.

Doubt 9
What can you say about Meryl Streep. Having recently seen her in Mamma Mia which I only mildly enjoyed (only gave it 3 but probably on reflection that was harsh) but no fault of hers, her acting range is tremendous. Phillip Hoffman was also very good and Amy Adams also excellent. The story left me a bit up in the air which I found unsatisfactory but apparently that was the intention.

Milk 9
Another excellent film and taught me much more about Harvey Milk. I am old enough to remember the assassination although being pre-internet, news was not so immediate and it was before my first visit to the States. Sean Penn was excellent. Apparently there are some problems with the historical reality but I am not in a position to comment.

Valkyrie 6
The only movie this summer which was not at my club membership theatre and not my choice. A friend whom I had not seen for several years asked me to go with him as his wife was not interested. He had read the book and knew my interest in all things German. It was just okay, hardly gripping and I never think much of Tom Cruise. I enjoyed lunch and chatting with my friend, I could have given the movie a miss.

Slumdog Millionaire 4
I realise this will be controversial. I had no intention of seeing it but other people told me how good it was. However I nearly walked out in one of the earliest scenes. My one viewing of the TV program (Australian version) turned me off it for life. I have been to India (1974) and experienced the poverty and have no wish to go there again although the Taj Mahal was beautiful. I actually laughed at the scene where he was misleading the tourists. The soundtrack was excruciatingly loud and I avoid any violent film. I guess the acting was good although I read the child stars were exploited. However the storyline was difficult to follow, the ending was obvious and I felt it a waste of my time. My sister wisely did not want to see it and her husband, who was keen to see it, went alone and apparently also did not like it. I know we are in the minority.

I have now seen:
The Reader 7
I think Kate Winslett definitely deserved her award. Ralph Fiennes gives me the creeps. The movie was very slow to begin, I am not turned on by long heterosexual sex scenes :-), but improved. While I can understand some criticism that it made audiences sympathetic to a Nazi war criminal (the talent of Kate), I think that mature thinking audiences should be able to consider many aspects.
I have been to Dachau and spent a traumatic day at Auschwitz. I have no sympathy whatever for the perpetrators of such terrible crimes but we need to consider their motives. Portraying them as inhuman beasts makes it too easy for us to believe that we would never go there. I have friends who migrated from Germany as children at the end of the war. Their parents were certainly not working in the SS but they were involved in the war on the side of Germany. How much did they know? How much did they pretend not to know? It is not something for me to discuss with my friends whose parents have now died.
I have a great love and admiration for German culture but it must be tempered by the knowledge of how National Socialism was allowed to flourish. Can we say that, given similar circumstances, the British, American or Australian people would have reacted differently?
Certainly a thought provoking movie.

Travels South

As mentioned previously, I travelled with my sister to our National Capital, Canberra then across to the South Coast of NSW.

We left early on Monday in order to arrive in time for the opening of the National Gallery of Art. Our purpose was to see the Degas exhibition with works from major Degas collections, including Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Musée des Beaux Arts, Pau, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. I found it a little disappointing.
This is probably because I prefer landscapes and gardens à la Monet rather than horses and women in the bath.
We enjoyed the dance class paintings and actually preferred the sculptures especially the finale "The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years" whose face is wonderfully expressive. I did not enjoy the many monotypes and lithographs.

However it was good to see so many of his works in one place and so learn about him and his works in a way not possible when you see a painting here and there. We visited both the Getty Museum and the Musée d’Orsay in 2007 but do not especially remember the Degas amongst the many paintings viewed.

After a few hours there we went across to the newly opened National Portrait Gallery. This was only opened last November allowing more space for paintings and photographs which were housed in the Old Parliament House. I had visited that site but there is now much more on display. I resisted throwing things at the portrait of our late departed but unlamented Prime Minister Howard.
I look forward to returning and studying some areas in more detail. There are so many photos and paintings of important people in our history. I have chosen that of Justice Michael Kirby who is my hero and now recently retired High Court Judge.

The next day we travelled down the Mountain to the Bega Valley and the towns of Candelo, Kameruka and Wyndham where our mother spent her earliest years.

At both Candelo and the Anglican Church on the Kameruka estate we found our uncle's name on the war memorials. We visited his grave on the Somme in 2007.

The Holy Trinity Church at Kameruka has been beautifully maintained although it would be rarely used these days. Our mother would have worshipped there as a little girl.

We had less success in finding records of our ancestors in the cemeteries and at the Bega Pioneers Museum. They were probably too poor to afford gravestones and as I mentioned before, our grandfather was born out of wedlock. However we now have some possible leads.

That night was spent at Pambula Beach. As it is located next to a National Park there are kangaroos roaming the area. Although some overseas people think that kangaroos are found in the cities of Australia, I can assure you most of us find it unusual to see kangaroos or wallabies in the wild. I have had an occasional visitor to my garden but it is rare.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Australia - tragedy and humour

Everyone has heard about the bushfires, now 208 dead including a fireman who had travelled to Victoria from Canberra to volunteer and help and was killed by a falling tree.
We have also had extensive flooding in three states and two shark attacks here in Sydney which has left one navy diver without a hand and a leg. The politics has continued as normal, thankfully the damage this week has been to the Opposition which means no tears from this one eyed blogger.
However this comment by Rick Feneley in the Sydney Morning Herald says it all.

It must have been even more eye-opening for first-time visitors to Australia, who've had a baptism of fire, flood, sharks and, if they could bear to watch, backstabbing politics. Surely the most treacherous place on earth, this sodden, sunburnt country.

But if visitors looked again they would have discovered, too, a big-hearted nation that responds to its grief with astonishing generosity; a can-do, soldier-on country whose people can cry with candour but who temper their mourning with good humour and even comic relief.

Steve Nash is one of 10 volunteers with the Kinglake Country Fire Authority whose own homes burnt down while they were out saving others'. When he found his still-burning house, what did he do? He took the clothes off the line.

"They were untouched," he said. "We've still got some underwear and socks. If I'd known it was going to come through I would have done a bigger load of washing."

Visitors should understand that this is the quintessence of our humour. Understated. Stoic. Matter-of-fact. Downright funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Probably our most famous poem by Dorothea Mackellar is 'My Country'.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brief Holiday

I want to visit the Degas Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra.
Last year I visited the Turner to Monet Exhibition in one day which involved 7 hours driving.
This year I have decided to stay overnight and then go across to the South Coast where my mother lived as a child. We have been researching our ancestors which has become rather involved as we have recently discovered my Grandfather was born out of wedlock. (A terrible disgrace in the 1850's). We know his mother's name but on the birth certificate the father is shown as unknown. There is a father shown on his marriage certificate but was he the father or an adopted father? I could not find my grandfather's birth certificate until an expert in the area suggested searching by the mother's name. This proved him to be 3 years younger than the age we all thought (and recently placed on a gravestone which we had made finally, 60 years after his death).

Anyway my sister has asked to come with me which means, instead of my throwing a few things in a bag and setting off, we have a major production with her driving. My car is not at all comfortable and she has an automatic which I hate.
Sorry will not be reading for a few days.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bushfire - Update and Thoughts

The death toll still stands at 181 but is expected to go higher. Our newspaper today lists 25 names of missing persons. This more than doubles the numbers killed by bushfires in Victoria over the past century
The number of homes and buildings destroyed has passed 1,800 and 7,000 are homeless.
We have had cool conditions here (it has been showers for a week and almost continuous rain for the last 24 hours) and it is hard to imagine it was near 40'C last Saturday and struggling to reach 20'C today. However, while it is cooler in Victoria, they have had only a little rain and temperatures are beginning to rise again. Half the fires are still burning.

The news on TV and in the newspapers continues and I am beginning to avoid it as I wonder when news turns into voyeurism.

The loss of 50 lives in the plane crash in Buffalo, USA shows that death and sadness continues.

If you have not read Maithri at The Soaring Impulse describing life in Swaziland and particularly one woman caring for orphaned grandchildren who lost her home to fire, please do so. It often concerns me that we are easily distressed and moved to donate by tragedies close to home yet carry on our daily lives with only a brief thought now and then of the daily tragedy occurring in countries of the developing world.

The donations to the Red Cross Appeal have passed $100 million.
My thoughts are always conflicted here. Of course those who have lost family members or are injured need support and anyone who has lost all their possessions needs temporary help. However we always hear of people who, while apparently comfortable, have no insurance. One man owned 7 holiday cabins and they were not insured. This appals me.

I am not sure about Victoria but in NSW, I am able to fully insure my house at no extra cost despite being located in a fire prone bush area which has been burnt out twice in the past 35 years. Those who live in flood prone areas are not so lucky.
The great loss to me would be of personal photos, memories and tokens which no money can replace.

However I am moved by the flood victims in Queensland (while the Southern state has burnt, over half of Queensland has been flooded) who gave most and for some all of their government relief cheque to the fire victims appeal.

One arsonist has been charged and moved to a prison out of the area for his own safety. Such people are obviously mentally ill but must be incarcerated for the sake of the community.

The inevitable discussions are occurring, some heatedly.

The advice in Australia has always been to either leave early or, if capable, stay and defend your house. Usually a fire front moves quickly over the house and if you are physically able, properly dressed, have a place to retreat as the front passes and sufficent resources, you can save your house which typically burns after the front has passed.
As related, I stayed in 2002, although I was very nervous. Thankfully there was plenty of help and the front was moving slowly.

This time there were unusually severe circumstances. Temperatures were breaking all records, winds were ferocious and a fire storm erupted. Many people died by deciding to leave in their cars at the last moment which has always been advised as being the very worst decision. Whether they would have survived by staying in their homes will never be known, many didn't. Those who did, describe unbelievable conditions.

The other debate has been on the lack of clearing and hazard reduction. I am in the middle on this discussion. I was happy to see the bushfire brigade burn my lower property about 15 years ago and would be happy to see them do so again, now that 7 years have passed since the fire. I paid $1100 to have one fairly small section manually cleared just over a year ago and must work on another section myself. However I also love the bush and could never imagine living again in a completely built up area.

As a Geography teacher I began teaching my classes about possible climate change in the early 80's. It was just a theory then but I become exasperated with the doubters today. All temperature records were broken in the Southern states last weekend, not by just half a degree but by 2 or 3 degrees. Queensland's floods are equalling if not breaking records. Both situations are forecast by climate change models.

Finally a good news story.

Dogs' miraculous survival lifts spirits in Alexandra

Briefly, a couple were not at home but rang their neighbours to save their dogs locked in their house. The neighbours were unable to do so. The lady began to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown and was about to be admitted to a mental hospital when news came through that the dogs and the house had been saved.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And Jesus Wept

God preserve us from these people.

Pastor's abortion dream inflames bushfire tragedy

Danny Nalliah ... says he had a dream.

The Catch the Fire Ministries has tried to blame the bushfires disaster on laws decriminalising abortion in Victoria.

The Pentecostal church's leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with "a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb".

Mr Nalliah referred to 2 Chronicles 7:14 to vouch for his assertion that God could withdraw his protection from a nation. "The Bible is very clear," he said. "If you walk out of God's protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy."

However to lighten our thoughts a little I post the following:

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bushfire History

To the right is the view from my windows across the valleys and hills of bush.
I love the view but it can be threatening.
I live on the southern side of the ridge and most fires come with hot winds from the north west. I have done some research.

Australia's previous worst fires were in 1983, when blazes killed 75 people and razed more than 3,000 homes in Victoria and South Australia states during "Ash Wednesday."
Seventy-one died and 650 buildings were destroyed in 1939's "Black Friday" fires in Victoria and 13 died in NSW on the same day.
Other fires with major loss of life were:
60 in Victoria in 1926,
20 in Victoria in 1942,
51 in Victoria in 1943,
10 in Victoria in 1952,
4 in NSW (Blue Mountains) in 1957,
33 in Victoria in 1962,
62 in Tasmania in 1967,
14 in NSW (mainly the Blue Mountains) in 1968,
23 in Victoria in 1969,
5 in NSW in 1979,
5 in Victoria in 1985,
4 in Canberra in 2003,
9 in South Australia in 2005

So you can see, although I live in a highly bushfire prone area, the great tragedies have been in the Southern states.

My house was built about 1975 and the fire passed over it in December 1977 when 79 buildings were destroyed and 3 were killed.
I bought the house in January 1982 and had my first experience in November that year when we were told to prepare for fire. However the fire was contained to the north of the mountain villages.
A similar event occurred in January 1994 and I joined neighbours in preparing our homes but again it stayed to the north and we watched it move along the ridge. Sadly it did impact and destroy homes further east.

The big one for me was in January 2002.
On Christmas Eve, I had to detour to avoid fire as I drove down the Mountains to the home of my mother and sister. Christmas day was terribly hot and we learnt that there had been large fires in the lower mountains with many buildings lost. On Boxing Day, I took my mother to my place and passed the fires in the lower mountains and again some homes were lost. I thought we were safe. However the following day (December 27), I received notice that a fire had been started by lightning to the south-west and I was to expect it to impact on my home in a few days.

My sister and brother-in-law drove up to take my mother back along with some of my most portable valuables. I spent the next week madly clearing the land around my house and watching the smoke approach from the south and had a clear view of helicopters firebombing. By the evening of January 3, fire could clearly be seen leaping up on the next ridge and many people had evacuated.
At 5am on January 4, fire was coming up the slope to my house and I prepared for the worst. It had been on January 4, 20 years earlier that I had first moved into my house.

Then fire engines arrived in all our driveways. The fire fighters are looking at the approaching fire on the right.
I was told to put my little hose away and I actually took photos. After a few hours my garden looked the worst for wear but with blackened bush all around, I could finally get some rest. It rained the next day.

I took a photo of a helicopter water bombing over my backyard.

As I get older I really do not want to go through that again. I was lucky in that I had plenty of time to prepare although that was not good for the nerves. People this weekend seemed to have literally minutes as the fire rushed down upon them, for many too late.

I have just had the following email from my sister which brought so much back.

I can't seem to take it all in - reading the paper this morning I couldn't help crying (what have I got to cry about - nothing). I still remember the morning I was talking to you and you suddenly said "I've got to go" and then we had to wait to hear what happened. How thankful we were to all those fire fighters. Dear Lord I hope all those who died went quickly - everyone is so brave.

I remember ringing her at 5 in the morning and saying "It is coming, please pray"

(Bushfire latest

Death toll from Victorian bushfires rises to 209)

Australia's worst bushfire disaster

I ask for your prayers for those who have died, those who are injured, those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost their homes and all they possess.

Nothing but rubble ... more than 500 homes were lost at Kinglake.

The death toll from horrific bushfires across Victoria this weekend has reached 128, surpassing the number of people who perished in the 1983 Ash Wednesday blazes.

More than 750 homes have been lost in what is being described as 'Hell on Earth'.


Bushfire latest

Death toll from Victorian bushfires rises to 209

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Where can I rent a child? UPDATED

Sadly the funny side has gone.

It is feared more than 40 people have died as ferocious bushfires sweep across much of country Victoria and New South Wales.

Fourteen deaths have so far been confirmed in Victoria and more than 100 properties lost, as swamped fire crews battle dozens of blazes.

The cool change which promised to bring relief to struggling crews has instead brought changing winds, turning fires from extremely dangerous to deadly.

The deterioration in conditions has forced many crews to abandon fighting fire fronts and focus on protecting properties.

Please put the people who have lost homes and even more, those who have died or lost loved ones in your prayers and pray for those of us with yet another day of these conditions although there are no fires near my home at the moment.

ORIGINAL POST : Temperatures are forecast to reach 42' C (107' F) today and 45'C (113'F) tomorrow. They were 41'C (106'F) yesterday. I spent yesterday afternoon in the shopping mall with a friend and the airconditioning was obviously struggling. Up at my place, which thankfully is a few degrees cooler, I had the fan going in the bedroom all night. I do not remember doing that before.
We are only allowed to hose our gardens on Wednesday and Sunday before 10 and after 4. Sprinklers are forbidden but they have announced a relaxation of the sprinkler ban to allow children to cool themselves by playing under them this weekend only. All I need is a child to stand besides my most vulnerable bushes.

Seriously this is the longest and hottest heatwave since 1939 and in some places since records began in the 1880's. The elderly are most at risk (and little children). Bushfire brigades are on maximum alert.
A cool change is expected here on Sunday night and we are told this will be a complete breakdown of the heat producing conditions not just a brief respite as we have had once or twice over the past two weeks. I can hardly wait.

I do wish I had pushed myself a bit more and moved to Dunedin already where summer temperatures are usually in the low 20's C (70'sF) although even they expect a heatwave of 32'c (90'F) tomorrow but I could cope with that for just one day.

This morning when I went out the front of the house to pick up the newspaper, the sun was just peaking over the horizon and I said "Go away Sun".

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Pleasant Rendezvous

I had the distinct pleasure today of meeting Alcibiades face to face along with the youngest ducknoodle who is about to celebrate his first birthday in a few weeks. We spent nearly 3 hours chatting, first over coffee then a walk in our city gardens on a very hot day, followed by some more refreshments. Finally a walk past the Opera House to the cinema where I was to meet my sister and see 'Milk'.

It was great to be able to discuss face to face and get to know one another. The internet is a wonderful technology to connect those of like mind around the world but actually being able to meet is much better.

Stimulating the Economy

Our Government has just proposed its second stimulus package of 42 billion dollars.
The first stimulus package of 10.4 billion dollars was announced last October. It went to pensioners, seniors and carers, to those receiving family assistance (3.9 million children) and those who are first time home purchasers. I was a little miffed as I was 6 months too young to receive the seniors handout.
There is now evidence the economy was stimulated as retail sales rose over 3% in December. I know friends who saved most of their money (about $1,200 each) while knowing at least one elderly lady who bought much needed white goods. There were jokes about the money going into pokies and liquor stores but I guess even these stimulate the economy. Except for the first home buyers (until June 30), this money has now all been distributed.

This second package provides $12.7 billion in one-off bonus payments of up to $950 each for low and middle income earners. (I think I will be included as I put in a tax return last year although I did not end up paying any tax).
$14.7 billion to be invested in school infrastructure and maintenance (About time).
$6.6 billion to increase the national stock of public and community housing by about 20,000.
$3.9 billion to provide free insulation to 2.7 million homes and solar hot water rebates (my home already has both of these).
$890 million to fix regional roads and blackspots, to install railway boom gates and for regional and local government infrastructure.
$2.7 billion small and general business tax break to provide deductions for some equipment purchases

The downside is that the budget will be thrown into a massive deficit but as an economist I know this is what must happen to prevent or reduce a recession. (Australia is not yet in recession but it is a likelihood).

Now the Opposition has opposed the package saying it is too much and irresponsible and our children will be paying for it. It passed the lower house at 5 am this morning but will be delayed in the Senate as the cross-benches (Green and 2 others) have the balance of power.

Some say it will be spent irresponsibly and some will be saved rather than spent.

The Opposition when in Government did maintain good banking regulation which has helped us now. However instead of spending money on schools and other infrastructure it continually gave tax cuts (which is what it proposes now) to improve its image. The bulk of these tax cuts ended up with high income earners and led to irresponsible spending and debts which is part of the problem now. It had very little interest in developing for the future and no interest in fighting climate change.

And guess the occupation of the Leader of the Opposition before he entered parliament. A merchant banker. Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Prayer request for a dear friend

Kathleen, a widow in her 70's, has two daughters. One, Jill, has a mental disability and although in her 40's is still dependent on her mother. Jill also has diabetes. Last year Jill suffered from kidney disease and is now on dialysis several days per week. Kathleen's other daughter has offered to donate her kidney to Jill and the operation will be on February 11.

Please pray for both sisters that the operation will be successful and for Kathleen who is naturally feeling very fragile as the day of the operation approaches.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

For the Bible tells me so (Viewing)

Yesterday I attended with my sister and watched this video at my church. It was followed by about an hour and a half discussion. The room was packed.
For the information of any Australians linking, the DVD is available at JB Hifi. As most will know there are problems for us buying DVDs from Amazon due to zoning.

I was most emotional at the suicide of one girl. I believe the movie from the book 'Prayer for Bobby', which I own, has recently been shown on US Television. This was another case of a mother learning too late the terrible result of parental rejection of gay people. As with Bobby the mother is now active in fighting the negativity of much so-called Christian teaching.

The other emotional moment for me was seeing for the first time the actual consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. Oh to have been there. As a young man, my dreams of a career as a priest in the Anglican Church were shattered as I realised my homosexuality could not be cured. For me to have lived to see an openly gay man made a bishop in a church within the Anglican Communion is akin to what many black people are feeling as they see Obama become president.

This led to the only negative statement in the following discussion as one man thought the creation of a gay man as a leader in the church had provoked the possible schism. He was quickly told that the fundamentalists did not need any provoking.

The discussion was led by our Diocesan Reader, Michael Horsburgh, who opened by stating he was not impartial and had been given the DVD by Bishop Gene Robinson when he and his partner Mark had stayed in Michael's home on their visit to Sydney in 2007. When one of the priests from another parish stated he found it difficult to preach on sexuality, Michael said he had no problem. Something for which I am eternally grateful.

Michael asked that anything said during the discussion should not be repeated outside. He knows I am gay and is perhaps aware of others. However no-one made any personal statements. I am a very nervous speaker and am always afraid of becoming emotional in such settings.

Really it was a case of preaching to the converted. Perhaps some of those who said nothing may have been affected. Most spoke of Christ's example of caring for the outcast of society. There was general laughter when one person in the movie asked if the fundamentalists were closing their bank accounts and giving all their money to the poor.

Certainly much of the film does not apply to Australia. We are not a country where the church plays much of a role in politics. Less than 20% of the population claim to attend church at least monthly. However the churches which are growing are the pentcostal mega churches. There has been only a very small vocal opposition to abortion law reform and over 65% favour it. In a recent poll 71% were in favour of equal rights for same sex partnerships as for de facto heterosexual partnerships (now achieved) and 57% supported same sex marriage.

Yet, while less overt, there is certainly homophobia. My sister had to make up a story for her husband as to the subject of the meeting. Despite having known his brother-in-law is gay for nearly 30 years and having a close friend who is obviously gay (although he is blind to this fact) he will not listen to any discussion. A typical older man who believes all he was taught at a Catholic school in the 40's and 50's and will never change.

So while it is a great film, sadly I doubt that it will reach the people who should see it.
I pray that there may be some people who are dealing with gay members in their family and are able to learn more from a viewing.

Michael told us that each time he has spoken in favour of homosexuals in the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney (always rejected), people have come up to him and thanked him for his stand and told him of gay members of their family.

Sadly most are unwilling to make a stand as they are so cowed by the Jensenists. And one of these Jensen priests in a recent blog discussion could not understand why I am so angry at the Diocese.
If their evil preaching of hate leads to just one suicide (and I am sure there are many), the blood be on them.