Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Gracious Editorial

Isn’t it fantastic when a person or entity – be it a corporation or a nation – acknowledges past wrongs, not with any attempt to mitigate their actions, nor even with embarrassing episodes of self-flagellation, but with a true sense of regret and with an obvious desire to expiate those past actions and move towards a more harmonious and peaceful future?  It does give us cause to have hope for mankind in the face of all the negativity we encounter every day on our television screens or in the press.

On the weekend there was a snippet in my local newspaper, an excerpt from an overseas newspaper, and I want to reproduce it here (hoping that acknowledging the source absolves me from any copyright issues): 

Jakarta Post
April 18

“Congratulations to the people of Timor Leste for their success in holding peaceful democratic elections. It is a rare feat that a newly independent nation, which counts among the world’s poorest, could go through the democratic process of selecting its leaders with little violence. Indonesia has a big stake in the evolution of a democratic and peaceful Timor Leste. Indonesia must do everything it can to help it become prosperous. Both countries have removed barriers that could have prevented them from working together by forming the Truth and Friendship Commission to resolve contentious issues from Indonesia’s brutal occupation. The real test for Timor Leste’s democracy will come after UN peacekeeping forces withdraw. Indonesia must be ready to support the people of Timor Leste then. As its giant neighbour, we owe it to them.”

Note: Timor Leste is what we know as East Timor.

For those of you not familiar with the background to this story, a bit of Googling will give you an idea of the tragedy that befell East Timor post-colonialism, of the thousands – most estimates say in the hundreds of thousands, as many as a third of the population – of lives brutally cut short during the Indonesian occupation, of the subjugation and suppression of those happy island people. There are many books which examine what happened to the people of East Timor. It is now the time for healing, though, and so those books must be read not just looking at the past with horror but with a view to the future with hope and optimism.

For myself, I congratulate the Jakarta Post for this article.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Yes, Yes, Yes!

I had in mind to post yesterday - but I didn't,

I then had every good intention of scribbling
some scintillating little bit today. However,
all that has gone out of the

Why is this?  Well, this morning I turned on my television and saw what for me must be the most fun, most delightful, most chuckle-inducing  thing to do in the lead-up to the London Olympics - an INFLATABLE STONEHENGE.  It's true, honestly.  Check it out at :

Don't you wish you could be there.  I hope my friend at
The Bear Essentials can find his way down to it and have a bounce for we antipodeans.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Story Continues

Where was I when it was sleepy time last night? Oh, yes, the introduction of the electronic typewriter.

Who can forget the first time they were seated before an electronic typewriter such as the Canon Wordstar? No longer were there moving carriages, and no longer was even liquid paper required - so long as you checked what you were typing as you went along - and the world changed again for office workers. Above the keyboard there was a small screen on which were displayed whatever you had typed. It really was like "white man's magic". I think that I wasn't unique in typing, typing, typing all sorts of unnecessary correspondence and memos just to see those letters fly across that little screen. And guess what: if one of them was incorrect, you could just backspace and make the necessary amendments. Incredible!

The day came, of course, when I looked with envy from my Canon typewriter to the ultimate piece of equipment - the Wang word processor. Huge, ugly, and oh so desirable, it sat on a desk in the middle of the office, jealously guarded by the whiz-bang typist who had attended a training course to know how to use it. Mass production of correspondence, of mortgage documents, of wills, of title deeds, had arrived. Those of us sitting pert and pretty at desks outside the doors of our bosses' offices would look with envy at Miss Wang-User but still feel a teeny bit smug that she was just a typist whereas we were secretaries. Of course, our envy won out as we were given more and more mundane letters to prepare and all the really meaty, exciting stuff was whipped over to be produced on that omnipresent processor.

How lovely that its demise came quite soon and before we even knew it - subtly like the extra kilos that creep on over the years - we found ourselves sitting at desks adorned with computer monitors, our knees nudging those large, black boxes containing endless information and possibilities. We somehow slipped into using our Macs or PCs as if we had been born to it, referring to those thick, glossy manuals as we needed or finding solutions through consultations over the coffee machine. In time, of course, they even crept out of the office and into our homes, demanding their own space. We found ourselves having to purchase stationary along with our weekly groceries. Ink cartridges, reams of copy paper, mousepads, all became part of our normal shopping.

Image courtesy Microsoft Clipart
But the changes, the advances, have just kept coming, equipment being obsolete almost before it's time to change the ink. As radiograms gave way to transistors, and transistors gave way to Walkmans, and Walkmans gave way to MP3 players, so too the computer so that now, we sit at tables, desks, breakfast bars, poolside tables, and tap, tap, tap away on our laptops. We board an aircraft, turn on our Dell, or Acer, or Toshiba, and watch a movie of our own choice; we put on our headphones and listen to one of thousands of songs stored in the internal memory; we read a book downloaded from Amazon; we order a pair of boots from Ebay. We have learnt to type on flat keyboards - how does that sit with RSI, one wonders - and to move around a screen with the tiniest of movements of something which sits in the palm of our hand or by moving our fingers over a touchplate.

The people who first flew in aircraft were considered so brave; those who ventured out in early motor vehicles were considered so game; those who moved from the Remington to the iPad receive no credit for embracing new technologies, but, oh my, the changes have been huge and the journey indeed exciting.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Hello world

Image courtesy Microsoft Clipart
How strange to suddenly be the owner, the possessor, of a "blog". I feel I have at last arrived at some point of acceptance in the 21st century. My very own "web log" on which I can post thoughts, poems, short pieces of prose, photographs, travel logs, household tips - in fact, anything which comes to mind. How frightfully marvellous!  I wonder if this feeling is akin to that experienced by the first person who ever picked up a quill pen to jot down some thoughts, or perhaps by those who were first employed to use a printing press.

Goodness me, I'm one of those people who actually remembers the term "rhoneo", where, on a typewriter - listen, children, it's an ancient piece of office equipment, and if you Google it you will find out what it was and how it was used - you typed up things called stencils, actually cutting the letters into long sheets of paper. Those stencils were then placed on a machine called a Gestetner (I know, I know, it sounds like the bad guy in the William Tell legends), and then ink - always messy - was applied, and you rolled, rolled, rolled, the machine until it printed out copies of what you had typed up on the stencil. The copies produced were usually pretty bad, and frequently bits were missed completely if you hadn't hit the keys hard enough to actually punch the shape of the letter into the paper, but they were sufficient for the lower expectations of those days. That was not the time of administrative miracles, although it must be said it was the time of administrative efficiency.

In due course, I moved from the world of Imperial, Remington and Royal typewriters up to the wonderful electrics, such as the much-loved Adler machines. Was there ever such a superb typewriter, ever one with such responsive, jaunty keys? No, I think not. My oh my, what an advance. Instead of constantly having to take your right hand off the keyboard to move a large metal lever which pushed the "carriage" back to the left hand side ready for the next line of type, you actually pressed a  button on the keyboard which said "Carriage return". Wow!!!  Incredible!!! Would wonders ever cease, we all wondered. And with electric typewriters came something else which was fantastic: liquid paper. Now, I know this will seem crazy, but prior to the invention of liquid paper - and ask me some time about the lady who invented it - we had to rely on something called typewriter rubbers. Yes, it looked for all the world like a pencil, but instead of lead (or graphite), it had white eraser rubber running down the middle, and you would sharpen it just the way you sharpen a pencil. At the opposite end was a little brush of quite hard bristles. The idea was that if you made a mistake with your typing, you gently, carefully so as not to push right through the paper, "rubbed out" your error, then you brushed away all the little icky bits with the bristles, and you then typed in the correct letters. Well, liquid paper did away with such a procedure, and it, together with those electric typewiters, changed the world for we secretaries.

Oh, goosebump time now - the electronic typewriter. Goodness me, I think this is simply too much excitement for one night, and so I think I'll close off this, my first ever blog, and pick up the story tomorrow, so please don't miss it - it's living history.