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30 December 2015

Two Thousand and Fifteen

Because 'tis the season to write lists of things.

In December I remember
Everything that’s been;
Listed tersely and diversely,
Here’s my two-zero-fifteen:














15 December 2015

The Twelve Days of Poxmas

Because we have a vaccine now. 

Some parents think holding "pox parties" to deliberately infect other people's kids with chicken pox - a usually mild but very uncomfortable disease with long-term complications - is preferable to having a quick jab. Perhaps they think the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease (it isn't). Perhaps they think it'll all be over in a week or so (it won't). Perhaps they think nobody ever dies from chicken pox (they do). Perhaps they don't think. 

Anyway, Pox Party Parents: this little festive jingle is for you and your poor kids. 

On the first day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
A flatlining E-C-G.

On the second day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the third day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the fourth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the fifth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the sixth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the seventh day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the eighth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Febrile convulsions
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the ninth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Nausea and shingles
Febrile convulsions
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the tenth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Encephalitis
Nausea and shingles
Febrile convulsions
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Bloodstained sheets from scratching
Encephalitis
Nausea and shingles
Febrile convulsions
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Mum’s friend gave to me,
Viral pneumonia
Bloodstained sheets from scratching
Encephalitis
Nausea and shingles
Febrile convulsions
Weeping pus-filled blisters
Bleeding disorders
Neur-al-gia
Permanent scars
Mouth ulcers
Sore, crusty eyes
And a flatlining E-C-G.

16 August 2015

Scat.

Because poos ain’t poos.

Sooner or later, every Facebook discussion turns to shit. Yesterday, my friend Jo, who is a nurse quite familiar with the workings of the bowel, practically dared me to write a pome about the brown stuff. I so seldom get the chance to take up a dare these days, so I thought I would re-invent The Bristol Stool Chart in rhyming ploplets. 
You know. 
For shits and giggles. 




One is separate rock-hard lumps, and very hard to pass.
Two’s a lumpy sausage shape, a strain upon one's arse.
Three is like a chocolate bar, but cracked (not hard or knobby).
Four is smooth and serpentine, an easy-going jobbie.
Five consists of clear-cut blobs that don’t require a push.
Six has fluffy edges, ill-defined and boggy mush.
Seven’s got no shape at all; a watery suspension.
If you’re not doing threes or fours, your tummy needs attention.


Illustration by Jo Thornely (a completely different Jo)

23 March 2015

Good government starts today.

Because we need to start a conversation about "good" and "today".


On Monday 9 February, Prime Minister Tony Abbott faced the media after emerging mildly victorious from a spill motion and announced: 

"Good government starts today."

But, like with everything the Prime Minister says, there has been some confusion. Given that, during the six weeks since his claim he's sidelined indigenous Australians, patronised Irish Australians, attempted to destroy the reputation of the Australian Human Rights Commission, brushed off allegations of physical and sexual abuse in our offshore detention centres and eaten a raw onion as if it was a sane thing to do, I think we need a little clarification about what constitutes "good government" and "today".

I asked the Prime Minister to come up with his own explanation in no more than six rhyming quatrains, and he was remarkably obliging: 

Good government starts today. Hooray!
My standards won’t fall beneath
The era of steam or the Pot regime.
(But first let me clean my teeth.)

Good government starts at half-past nine!
I promise I’ll try to be
Much less of an arse to the working class.
(Once I’ve had this cup of tea.)

Good government starts right after lunch!
Our policies shan’t be feared.
I’ll do what I ought with the Moss report.
(As soon as the plates are cleared.)

Good government starts this afternoon!
I’m certainly going to do
A much better job for the native mob.
(Beginning at ten past two.)

Good government starts at dinner time!
I’ll show nothing but remorse
For all of the brawls and the captain’s calls.
(Right after the seventh course.)

Good government starts at beddy-byes!
There’ll be no more pain or sorrow.
That’s a firm guarantee from my team and me:
Good government starts tomorrow.

11 March 2015

Lifestyle Choices

Because some choices are more difficult than "which tie will I wear today?"

It's becoming increasingly clear that the only way our Prime Minister Tony Abbott can avoid saying ridiculously ill-informed things is to shut his privileged gob altogether. The latest morsel of mindlessness he dumped on the Australian population he clearly loathes was this: 

"What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have."


What does he mean by "lifestyle choices"? He's not talking about overseas holidays, wearing cycling gear to the office or buying a European town car. He's talking about infrastructure, support and schooling in remote indigenous communities. 

Sure, they're just words. And yes, it costs money to provide basic infrastructure to remote communities. And ok, life would be simpler if everyone just moved to the city and got a job. Whether you happen to think funding aboriginal communities is a waste of money or not, basing your argument on the premise of choice seems idiotic, even for a Prime Minister who has turned Being An Idiot into a form of public art. 



If you choose to have your parents send you off to private school,
And you choose to be born rich and white and straight;
If you choose to manufacture copper wire or fossil fuel,
Then we’ll spend our money on you, ‘cause you’re great.

But

If you choose to live in shelters, outback towns or on Nauru,
Or you choose to come by boat or break a bone;
If you choose to lose your grant and join the unemployment queue,
Then you’re going to have to make it on your own.

Sure

You use vouchers for your groceries and your clothes are second-hand,
And your bruises speak much louder than your voice,
And your lack of reading makes the dole forms hard to understand,
But our hands are tied – you’ve clearly made your choice.

  

01 March 2015

Old Wives' Tales

Because scaring the bejesus out of children can be fun.


Jonathon got a strabismus for Christmas;
He pulled a face once and the wind changed its tack.
Eleanor’s Mum’s out of action, in traction
Since Eleanor carelessly stepped on a crack.
Beelzebub’s stolen the soul of young Olaf
‘Cause nobody blessed him right after a sneeze.
Stephanie went out exploring, ignoring
The cold, and returned with a deadly disease.
Libby has square shapes for eyes; no surprise though –
She spent half her days watching kids’ TV shows.
Tom’s nostrils aren’t where he kept ‘em; his septum
Caved in when he wouldn’t stop picking his nose.
Tales such as these may seem flimsy, pure whimsy,
But what if they’re true? Should you just pass them by?
Writing them off as mere fancy is chancy,
So do what you’re told, or you’ll probably die.





Note: I must credit The Digital Cuttlefish once again for this verse form. It's almost impossible to steal something from a cuttlefish. 

13 February 2015

Predictions

Because hurt feelings can't stop an epidemic.

Let's have a little look at how science works. 

1. Scientists observe something happening, and form a hypothesis about why. 

2. Scientists test the hypothesis by trying to make the same thing happen under controlled conditions.

3. If the same thing happens again and again and again while testing the hypothesis, scientists can make predictions about it happening in the future. 

4. If the predictions come true, the scientists are happy and the world has a tasty new morsel of knowledge. 


Now, let's apply this to something real, like, say.... a vaccine. 

1. Scientists observe that, when a high enough proportion of a population is vaccinated against measles, the disease virtually disappears from that population. Maybe the measles vaccine helps prevent measles?

2. Scientists test the hypothesis by measuring the incidence of measles in populations with a high percentage of vaccinated people compared to populations with a low percentage of vaccinated people.

3. Again and again, scientists find that, in highly vaccinated populations, measles outbreaks are small and rare, and in populations with low measles vaccination, lots of people get measles. They predict that in the future, when the percentage of vaccinated people drops below a certain amount, measles outbreaks will occur.

4. Late last year, a person infected with measles visited Disneyland in California - an area with a reasonably high proportion of vaccine refusers - and infected other people with measles. Quite soon after that, lots of people got the measles


Something else scientists could have predicted: The usual suspects of vaccine denialism began bending all the available information about the Disneyland outbreak to fit their pre-conceived idea that unvaccinated people have nothing to do with outbreaks of disease, and that relating an outbreak of disease to unvaccinated people is UNCOOL and HURTS PEOPLE'S FEELINGS. 

I totally understand that the feelings of people who go to great lengths to deny the effectiveness of vaccines might be hurting. And I totally don't give a rat's arse. If loads and loads and loads of studies have found that measles outbreaks occur more often in unvaccinated populations, and you continue to deny that the current US measles outbreak has anything to do with unvaccinated people, there's not much I can do to help you. If you're cranky because science disagrees with you, tough. If you're out of sorts because diseases don't comply to your special view of the world, too bad. If the well-supported theory of herd immunity gives you a frowny face, cry me a frikkin' river. 

But cheer up a little bit, because I wrote you a pome.



You can’t bring a cat to a dog fight
To watch it get mauled
And then act all appalled
At the dogs disobeying your rules.

You can’t throw a fridge down a staircase
And protest when it breaks
Because gravity makes
No exceptions for self-absorbed fools.

You can’t stick your hand in a blender
Then demand some redress
For the blood-spattered mess
‘Cause you liked how it was at the start.

You can’t help your kids catch the measles
By refusing a vax
In the face of all facts
But deny that you played any part.

When scientists make a prediction
Like the tides of the seas
Or the spread of disease
They’ve seen it again and again.

But your pox-ridden family is special!
And although their afflictions
Comply with predictions
YOU’RE RIGHT, and you’re going to complain.