28 July 2014

Idul Fitri

Like most Westerners, I don't know much about Islam. Unlike many, I don't think what I see on the nightly news or read in the paper qualifies me to claim that I know a lot. From the media I gain a very biased view, regardless of which brand of Islam we're talking about. Unlike a lot of my cultural compatriots, I have lived side-by-side with Moslem families, I have attended school with Moslem students, I have shared in their celebrations, including Idul Fitri.

Idul Fitri is the Indonesian (and possibly the Malay) spelling of the name of the feast that ends Ramadan. Ramadan is the Moslem holy month of fasting. Like Christmas in the Christian tradition, Idul Fitri is celebrated with a mix common themes and unique traditions throughout the world.

In Indonesia, where I experienced Idul Fitri, one of the common traditions is for individuals to greet each other with the phrase "mohon maaf lahir dan batin", which literally means "Please forgive (me) outwardly and internally". I was told it was a request for forgiveness for the intentional and unintentional hurts of the past year.

One of the things I appreciate about Ambon, where I lived, is that it is not only the Moslems who offer this phrase on Idul Fitri. Others who are not Moslem will offer Idul Fitri greetings to their Moslem friends, including this request for forgiveness.

I know some may roll their eyes and say, "Oh, it's just phrase. It doesn't mean anything." blah-blah-blah. Maybe, maybe not. The individuals I know offer it with a sincere heart that genuinely seeks to let go of the past and move forward.Wouldn't it be nice if just once in a while we could all put aside our religious and philosophical differences, ask for forgiveness of real and perceived hurts, and move on?

26 July 2014

Game Playing

There's a game being played in our family. The others set it up, leave for the day, and I play it by myself. I'm not really enjoying it, so I'm not sure who is enjoying it. The game is called, "Hide mum's espresso cup." This is how it works.

If mum hasn't washed her cup, the game cannot be played unless someone does some washing up. If mum has washed her cup, the game may proceed. The object of the game is to send mum on a merry chase for her cup. It is very simple - for those setting it up - simply put the cup in a different place every day. I think I'm winning; I think the number of I'm-not-sure-where-to-put-this-I'll-put-it-here hiding places is running out.

In increasing order of innovation and decreasing order of logic, so far I have:
1. On the coffee machine
2. Next to the coffee machine, with the coffee
3. In the cupboard with all the other coffee cups
4. On the shelf with all the tea supplies (not near the coffee machine)
5. In the cupboard with all the glasses (a different cupboard to the one with the coffee cups)
6. In the cupboard with all the small baking ware - the ramekins, pots and measuring jugs

And my personal favourite to date
7. Under a larger cup or glass on the dish drainer.

You may think that it's a pretty boring game - easy to win - but remember, this is my coffee cup. Until I find my coffee cup I cannot make coffee, which means I haven't drunk any coffee.

17 July 2014

To give ... or not to give

I'm really writing this post as a personal message. I guess that seems counter-intuitive; blogs are hardly personal. I want to share information with an individual, but I want to give them some space - only because I'm not sure if they need that or not. So, writing an impersonal blog seemed like a way to do that. As part of that 'giving space' idea, I've not named people, just used an initial. It's highly unlikely that anyone, who isn't 'someone', is likely to know exactly who I'm referring to.

In 2011, a friend of ours, who had struggled with mental illness for a long time, decided life really was just too hard. I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to live in that grey space of constant despair, and to finally drop into the darkest of dark where hope doesn't penetrate.

We weren't exceptionally close friends. G (the friend) and K (his wife) had worked with hubby on a night-shift job. I'm guessing on night-shift you probably get to know people a bit better than in a 9-5 office job. I know my guard comes down when I'm tired and I can get a bit silly if I'm trying to stay awake. But that was hubby's journey with them, rather than mine.

I introduced K to the concept of quilting. I didn't really teach her anything. I lent her a book and talked to her, but obviously it inspired her to try. The quilts she made from that meagre introduction were a part of my journey to enjoy the art of quilt making; to not be so bound by the 'rules' and what "real quilters" might think. The quilts weren't technically brilliant and would have been slammed by judges at any quilt show, but they were art; they were personal expression; and they inspired me. There's a lot of freedom in that.

Because of that connection, when G died, I decided to make K a quilt. She mentioned considering travelling, so I wanted to keep it travel friendly. I'm not renowned for fast quilt making (I can, I just rarely do). It was nearly two years before I finished the quilt, even though it was reasonably simple. Life has a habit of taking unexpected turns, and by the time the quilt was finished, K had a new man in her life and she was happy again, and I wondered whether the quilt I'd made was appropriate. So, it's sat on my shelf and I've pondered what to do with it. It's quite personal; it's not something I could give to anyone else.

The answer was so simple I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, and this post is part of the answer. If I can show K the quilt, without me being involved, she can decide if she would like it OR if she would like to give to another of G's friends, who might appreciate it. I'm hoping that by doing it this way, that veneer of politeness (which is all lovely and everything) might be avoided, and honest decisions can be made. I don't want K to take the quilt just because I'm standing right there and she feels she has to. Although I made it for her, I really made as a memory of G, and she feels it would be more appropriate to pass it on to someone else, I'm happy with that.

So, on with the photos.
G changed his name by deed poll to a Japanese name. I searched for it online and finally found the characters (I hope). The bottom section uses Japanese fabrics. He was also keen on sci-fi (introduced the Girl to HHGTTG), hence the night sky and stars.

The stripes are to fade into the night sky from the 'land' section.

What is difficult to see here are the green characters against the grass and bamboo tree background.

This is officially my first attempt at curved piecing. I like to think that's a nod to K, and that journey of discovery and freedom in art.

The shooting star represents his final journey, and his impact on people while he was here.

More stars

Not sure if it's obvious, but there is a shamrock, representing G's birth name.

02 July 2014

Banking Rant

I usually keep my blog for creative posts, but I've decided to become a ranter, at least briefly.

I just logged into my Citibank online banking for the first time in months. What a hugely frustrating experience. The site used to work fine, but it seems the tinkering boffins have been in and "improved it" (which seems to be programmer speak for "made unworkable"). If engineers live by the "don't fix what ain't broke" rule, IT boffins seem to live by "if it works fine, complicate it".

The issue I have:
1. I log in. I need a username (which is not my account name, so it's not recorded on any official bits of paper that someone could steal). I need a password, which I created myself. I now also need to wait for the bank to send a four digit code to my mobile. Since that's been implemented I have received my code within a few minutes, but I just know that one day I won't. It won't necessarily be the bank's issue, it might the teleco. It won't really matter to me who's at fault; the result will be the same.

2. Against my cash account I have a message, "Your card needs to be activated". There's a hyperlink, "Activate now". I click the hyperlink, thinking, "Wow, this is an improvement to having to ring up, push dozens of codes into the phone, and then wait for an operator." But, wait! It's all a hoax. When I click the hyperlink, I get a list of my cards. I have two cards - a cash account and a credit card. The list only has one card - for my cash account - and that card is listed as "activated". If I wish to activate the new card they sent me, it would seem I'm going to have to use the phone system after all.

3. I'm trying to balance my books for end of financial year. I hate financials and I'll admit I'm approaching this task with a lot of grace to start with. On the old system, there was an option on the main menu, "download activity". Clicking the button took you to a new page with all the download options. It took me a good 5 minutes to find a small pale hyperlink on the specific account page. Clicking it opens a floating window.
First option (the only one showing in the window) is to select a date range. In the "from" calendar I scroll back as far as it will let me. At some point, the dates grey-out and I can't select them. In the "to" I choose today.
When I press go, I'm informed that there are more options. Oh, yeah, look at that. There's a pale, skinny, scroll bar to the side. Even the option to download the activity is in a specific account's window, I have to choose the account I want. Finally, I've found all the options, but it still doesn't work. According to the error message I get, "the date range you have chosen is not available for this account". No indication of what date range is available - the dates I've chosen are still clickable on the calendar.
In the end, I give up. I keep clicking "show more activity" at the bottom of my transaction list. When I run out, I highlight the whole lot on the screen and copy and paste it into Excel.

4. I thought perhaps I should download all my available statements. They come through by email, but it's on the other computer and (silly me) I thought it would faster to download them again, rather than find them on the other machine.
I go to the 'view statements' page. It lists three accounts. I have had a third account in the past, but only had two accounts for several years. Oddly enough the account names are not the account name - they're all my name (in various forms). No indication which account they relate to, so I have no option but to click each one. Two of them return an error, telling me there're no statements to download. I download all the available statements for the third one - no idea which one it is until I open the files.

5. In fairness, I decide to send my rant to the bank. Here is one improvement - the message system used to be limited to about 300 or 500 characters, which is barely enough to get started. They still haven't fixed the issue of "special characters". Is there anything more galling to an editor than to be told you can't use apostrophes, because they're "special" characters? PUH-LEASE!

I don't use the online banking very often, but it is the only way I can access my account. There is only one branch, in the CBD. I'm thinking it's time to change banks. What a nuisance.

01 July 2014

Girl's Bedroom Update (an old renovation)

Someone was posting about the issues they were having updating their daughter's bedroom. I'm putting these photos up mainly so I can hyperlink to them. This renovation was in 2007. Since then the Girl has moved into the master bedroom, taking the shelves with her, and most of the wall in these photos with the shelves on it doesn't exist any more. We took the middle section out to open it up to the lounge room and create a sitting room/library.
The room when we started. Our whole house was painted this not-quite-white colour. Blurgh grey. I'm really not sure why you would.

This was the first room we tried this colour scheme in. It was based on the curtains. Wish I could get more of the same fabric. The shelving system is tracks and brackets. The tracks are all equidistant apart; shelves can be used anywhere on the wall. The "Rebekah" desk has now been replaced (in her new room) with a full length sheet of melamine.

One chuffed girl.

At this point in life, the Girl hated dresses. The shelf in the far corner has a rod screwed underneath it, providing all the hanging space that she required.

And moved back in.

We replaced this bed with a 3/4-loft bed when she changed room. The space underneath provides more storage area, and a reading nook.