Posts Tagged ‘University’

A southerly is a coming.

January 5, 2019

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Moscow University.

With the unrelenting heat finally ending with a solid promise by BOM ( Bureau of Meteorology) that the temperature is set to drop by  ten degrees over the next hour or so. It is early yet, but a southerly change is coming! We have been mainly inside during the last few hot days, spend reading or on the internet. I discovered a book picked blind-folded out of our book shelves. It is ‘Fathers and Sons’ by Ivan Turgenev. отцы и сыновья иван тургенев

It is large brown coloured hard cover bound and published by Foreign Languages Publishing House Moscow, and even has coloured plates of the different characters pasted in between the pages. A beautiful book to look at even without reading the words. But talking about Moscow. Moscow’s university is so big, that even if one spent just one day in each room, your life would not be long enough to have lived in each room. The statistics are staggering.

Many years ago I visited Moscow and St Petersburg. I wrote about it in ‘Frank Story’. Here is ‘n extract from the visit to the Hermitage Museum.

“It was the next day, when we were all ready to be bundled into the bus, with Natasha our guide, and remarkably, also the two Queensland girls who came to Russia to ‘shop and drop with two enormous bags’, to do the visit of all visits, namely, ‘The Winter Palace and The Hermitage’. It seems inconceivable enough to have gone through life without having experienced those two icons, but to have visited Russia and not to have done so, an unconscionable offence. The so affable and unrelenting larrikin of our Aussie Moscow librarian took yet another turn and this time serious. He became seriously ill, out of breath and appeared to have a heart attack. Within a few minutes an ambulance arrived and he was taken to hospital. He, sadly, would miss out on his Hermitage experience, which he had told me, he had never visited during his stint at the Moscow library. We, after this short delay were whisked away and soon arrived at the Hermitage Museum. Much to our surprise we were led past a queue at least a kilometre long and invited through the gates within a couple of minutes of our arrival. Was communism with its heart supposedly embedded in the welfare of its proletariat already slipping that fast, to now give preference to rich foreign cashed-up capitalist tourists?

The Hermitage Museum with The Winter Palace defies anything that I had seen so far, even the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Not just the buildings but the space in front of it. The sense of what space can add to buildings is nowhere as clear as that of the Red Square in Moscow and the huge square in front of The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. So, by the time you reach the front of the buildings you are already in awe of whatever there might be inside. I suppose, this is also when you approach Sydney’s Opera House when viewed from the expanse of the Harbour.  The Hermitage Museum houses over 3.000.000 pieces dating from the Stone Age to the 20th century and presents the development of the world of culture and art throughout that period. You cannot possibly do justice in spending a few tourists’ hours but, alas, that is all we had time for.”

But let me finish with a beautiful poem;

Those Shadows.
Here’s a Song;

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree;
Be the green grass above
with showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

( Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 )

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Thomas’ university entrance score.

December 14, 2018
photo Thomas without tablet

without tablet (de)vice

The magic of the internet showed up again when our grandson, Thomas, managed to receive his HSC scores through the manipulation of his iPhone. The magic isn’t so remarkable while within range of civilisation, but in the middle of Sulawesi jungle? Mind you, once tourism rolls in, the www’s follows. We have both been able to ‘message’ each other which, as I have been told, is different from texting. I can never get my head around all that technical stuff. It is a penalty I am glad to pay. You won’t see the likes of us, old fogeys, heads bend over iPhones in one hand and cappuccino in the other, while crossing the street with giant semi-trailers roaring past, missing us by mere inches.

Thomas worked very hard. He is not a practical boy with two left hands unable to clean up or acknowledge a laundry basket even remotely. He used to visit us when things got too much back at home. His teenage years weren’t spared and as his grandparents we used to counsel him assiduously with pearls of wisdom coming from his mother more than me.  I still get admonished for not putting the butter back in the fridge in its predetermined space. I have watched Thomas doing the dishes at our place and had to smile at his awkwardness. I actually had to restrain myself in not encouraging his clumsiness. He put plates and cups standing up and would at times just walk away. He is somewhat of a dreamer and easily distracted by his own thoughts, whatever they might be. Thoughts are the stuff of life, and to be encouraged even if it doesn’t fit in with domestic chores or logic. Of course, our daughter does get fed up with her son’s chaotic habits and domestic clutter. Not that she is all that organised. Perhaps the reason of her annoyance! Thomas got his mother’s genes.

When Thomas was small around 5 or 6 years of age he used to wander around our farm’ paddock just reading. Helvi used to do the same when she was young, she told me.  His younger brother raced around the house on his bike which Thomas had difficulty mastering. He thought that by pushing the handlebars this would somehow propel the bike forward. It wasn’t till I took the trouble explaining the mechanics of pedalling with his feet activating  a chain for a wheel to turn that he finally got going on his bike. While his younger brother plays and watches sport, including soccer at 3am in the morning, Thomas could not get quick enough away from any sporting activity. It is amazing how the two grandsons are so different. You should see how organized his younger brother is. His room always spotless!

Thomas was over the moon and so were his mother and us. He scored 93 out of a top score of 99. For a complicated reason the top score is not 100.  The world of further study is now open. He tells us he might want to get a job for a years or so, save up, and see more of the world. His mum would have been happy with a score of 75 or so. You can just imagine her joy. (And ours) All credit to him though, he worked so hard.

 

 

Is the end Nigh for Real Estate and Education?

September 19, 2017

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The news that the clearance rates at Real Estate auctions in the major Australian cities are dropping might well be welcomed by many. All bubbles burst and why not in housing? What should be of greater concern is that our education system keeps on failing our children. Language and numeracy results are lagging badly behind most developed nations.

Eminent educational expert keep on popping up on our TV screens  urging yet more tests. They go to American or UK  educational institutions trying to get inspiration in devising plots that will make a difference to the way we educate our young. At the same time our Government is twisting and turning in making permanent citizenship harder to obtain by devising English language tests for migrants and extending  years of waiting. We should really test our politicians instead of our school children or migrants.

Australia has this conundrum of many professional positions being unable to get filled by our own (badly) educated, and rely on Syrians , Iraqis, Indian, and many other well educated foreign professional experts to fill those positions. We often get experts on so many fields appearing on our TV with foreign accents. There are a dearth of highly professional positions that can only get filled by trying to attract overseas educated people. It seems the Government’s contempt for lack of migrant’s language skills ought to be sheeted home to themselves. It is embarrassing watching our deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce painfully searching for the words to express himself. Take out the verb ‘ensuring’ from our Prime Minister (A mere lawyer) and he too would have trouble getting his message across. Talk about painting the kettle black! Do your own English testing in Canberra!

 

Please, take the time and read this link which shows how education works:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/

“There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.”

I don’t think that the apocalyptical predictions associated with ‘the end is nigh’ will eventuate but,  isn’t it about time we do things better?

 

 

Australia before the arrival of garlic.

July 8, 2017
IMG_0920 the potato bake

The long lost Leek for potato-bake

Many upright and still standing older burgers of Australia  cast the occasional nostalgic look back to the Australia of the yesteryears.  They were uncomplicated years, and we stood up for Queen and country. One had the school assembly with the accompanying waving of flag and wafting through most schools was the sacred banana sandwich with at most a slice of Devon as close to Continental compromise,’  as  allowable under the White Australia policy. Till the seventies, all thing British were strictly adhered to. We were more English than the English and all enjoyed Yorkshire Pudding at Christmas and pulled crackers on New Year’s Eve.

https://www.google.com.au/#q=the+white+australia+policy+definition&spf=1499498124507

If I remember right it were the arrival of boats from Southern Europe in the fifties that spelt the beginning of the end of this peaceful Australia. True, we were already accustomed to the many from the Magyar background which Australia tolerated reasonably well, especially when they were found to be rather deft hands in Real Estate and building fancy Continental Restaurants.  In Sydney’s Double Bay one could already in those early nineteen-fifty years enjoy a real percolated coffee and with some calm discretion even order a goulash or some other European  dish. I remember an upright frumpy matron from outer suburbia of Wahroonga getting up calling for the headwaiter while pointing to the plate of steaming goulash demanding in a shrill voice to know why on earth it was so hard to put ‘ good clean AUSTRALIAN food on the table.

The Hungarians came from persecutions not that that prevented many Austrians and other  migrants from Slavic bordering countries claiming the same, even though some might well have held some rather dubious posts in the former Wehrmacht but at least they were white and that is what mattered above all else to Australia during those turbulently difficult  but yet yawningly placid years.

It were really the Italians and Greeks with their Garlic importations that changed the previous benevolent mood in Australia away from mother England and all things British. The first garlic clove was introduced by Luigi- Parresone of Palermo who started a fruit shop in Sydney’s Oxford Street. It was Oct the 30th, 1957, on a sunny afternoon, when garlic for sale was first spotted by an irate true blue Australian just coming out of the cinema which was adjacent to this fruit shop. This man had already loudly complained when the first of some cinema goers refused to stand up while the strains of ‘God save the Queen,’ were being hammered out on the Hammond Organ at the beginning of the film which was An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr. This refusal, together with the garlic proved too much to this upstanding Aussie.

It was later claimed that garlic and the Euro influenced refusal to stand up for the Queen that accurately predicted an ominous decline in our much beloved Anglo culture. This odoriferous garlic soon permeated throughout much of the good country of Australia and even reached Broken-Hill as early as 1959. It was said to have been introduced by Croatian migrants from The Snowy Mountains Scheme that drifted to the outback; first to Mount Isa and then to Broken Hill. They were difficult years and the police had to be called when battles broke out between  pro- and anti garlic mobs in King Street, Newtown. Brick were thrown, shops burnt and universities with professors seething with discontent..

Today, Garlic is totally accepted into the Australian cuisine and as much liked as the much beloved brown coconut encrusted Lamington cake during those earlier times. Indeed, we now enjoy food from all corners of the world. Vive le difference is now our catchcry.

The banana and Devon sandwich pervasively permeated primary schools remain a curious remnant from the past,

as was the final jettisoning of the White Australia Policy.

 

More words and more sex.

March 11, 2015
My parents first home in Australia

My parents first home in Australia

With luck most of my mornings are born with some positive thoughts that turn into a melancholic potpourri as the day progresses. Of course, with Milo the incorrigible JR Terrier on his special pillow next to me on the floor, makes for positivity no matter what nightmares one survived in those previous hours. It was hoped that with getting old, a kind of dull soothing numbness would give a deserved relief to being on a razor’s edge grappling with pasts that have gone. Not that there are many things that I ought to have regrets about but reflections still nag and refuse to lie down.

One of those is never having studied and gained a university degree. I am still overawed by anyone that has a degree, even if just a bachelor one. As for a PhD, I restrain myself not to shake hands or curtsy, offer to shoe-shine a PhD owner. It doesn’t matter when people tell me, all this glorifying of academia is grossly overrated and I should be satisfied with what I achieved. I married an academic, with a cum laude as well, but at times feel rotten, taking the credit as if somehow I was sitting next to Helvi during her studies at the Jyvaskyla university in Finland. It was so long ago. She did not speak much English and my Finnish consisted of one word ‘rakkaani’. We stumbled by in German, but love’s language is often simple, that one word Finnish poem sufficed, still does.

I read in Saturday’s paper a large full page ad from the University of New England. It exhorted the public to take up degrees in all sorts of studies. I went through all the options. How would it feel to hold a degree in Rural Science or bachelor of Criminology, Master of business? I could have studied medicine and spend years doing colonoscopies or alternatively, been a renowned dentist, looking at patients from the other end. A good lawyer; soothing warring couples in Family Court, while wearing a wig kept overnight in an Arnott’s biscuit tin. I could be walking through Law courts with a roped blue duffel bag slung (casually) over my shoulder and coughing significantly while passing an attractive , just minutes before walking out of chambers with her mint fresh decree nisi, fascinating divorcee.

We all know that men think about sex nineteen times a day and not as previously thought every seven seconds or so. It is also claimed that they think about food about the same number of times. In any case, in sex-thinking at least, it is twice as much common in men as it is in women. I think it explains a lot. When taken in consideration that most man also wake up daily with an erection, (or ‘boner’ in American English) it is surprising men get to do anything at all. How did they manage to become doctor, statistician or admiral?

As a growing roseate cheeked school boy totally taken in by sprouting first pubic hairs, my greatest fear was being called in front of class while suffering an un-abating relentless case of tumescence (boner in US). I used to feverishly conjure up about being rope- bound on a tram track being run over. I was too young still relating that to the opposite sex. That came later. I kept thinking pensively that ‘this’ has to finally go somewhere. It just has to. It can’t be for nothing. My mind was inquiring and curious. I remember pushing it against a door lock. But, one glorious day, I happen to look at a women’s magazine ( my mother’s). (Oh, I know, there is a lot there), and stared at an advertisement for a girdle. It rose magnificently again and all fell into place. The puzzle was solved. Even so, miraculously, I weaned myself away from girdles and moved over to gir(d)ls. It took some time though. I could so easily have ended up sleeping with underwear with buttons under my pillow.

Of all the possibilities that came after Rotterdam, my parents migrating away from home and culture did play a role. I worked and earned in the New Country, did alright, but no degree.

In Praise of Sex and Moscow State University

March 23, 2012

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Years ago, a movie about sex education was shown in a George Street cinema. It might have been during the mid or late fifties or so. The movie could only be seen by strictly segregated audiences. Women were on even, men (as always), on uneven days.

I was still young but mustardy keen about sex, very curious about finally viewing female genitalia. The ticket prices were more than usual. Sex, even the educational type, was exploited already then. The queues were long, but I finally got in. The ticket seller a male and so were all the ushers. Not a woman in sight.

The Hammond organ rose majestically from the bowels of the cinema, while large pink curtains slid open soundlessly. A stirring rendition of ‘God save the Queen’ was oozed out of the organ. We all stood up in Royal reverence and lustful expectation.

There was a short introduction by a lanky Liberace-like man dressed in a sparkling white suit, warning us all not to get over excited. Please, all stay calm throughout the entire film, he advised with stern authority. We would finally be shown the act of human re-production in all its black and white glory, he enthused. Far out!

Apart from the sighing of hundreds of young men with penises semi expectant, you could hear a pin drop. Not as much as a rustling chips packet.

The film finally started and with lots of diagrams and arrows there appeared shot after shot a plethora of ovum and sperm. Nothing actually moved. It was rather disconcerting when after some ovum and sperm finally getting together; a real live woman was shown to wheel a baby around in a pram. Not a twitch of anything sexual or erotic, in fact the opposite. No genital let alone genitalia.The disappointment was palpable.

The crowd was getting restless. A trickle made for the exit, soon followed by a torrent. Then, and I have never forgotten this, a very miffed young man shouted at the back of the cinema in a rasping strong Aussie accent…” has anyone cracked a fat yet?”  I still laugh in the sweet memory of it.

In those days, sex was totally kept subterranean and one was lucky to have seen a girl’s nude knee. Girls were kept at arm’s length. The mothers gave daughters sex information based on; if anything moves on the boy, no matter where or how, move away and come home immediately, darn a sock or boil some Brussel sprouts.

Haven’t things moved forward since? Just type in V A G I N A on the computer and one is greeted by 32.900.000 responses in one ninth of a second, compliments via Google. While the issues surrounding sex were cloaked in secrecy and mystery at earlier times, not anymore now. We certainly don’t need queue up in George Street cinema anymore. At the same time I wonder if the pendulum hasn’t swung the other way a bit too far. I mean, 32.900.000 times too far.

It all reminds me of standing in front of Moscow’s university, apparently one of the largest in world. Our lovely Russian guide Natasha informed us, that even if we got to a hundred years old, our lives would not be long enough living in a different room at that university every week.

The Lomonosov Moscow State University enrolls over 40.000 students annually with another 4000 foreign students. Its library alone has over 9.000.000 books with 2.000.000 in foreign languages. More than 6000 professors and lecturers are employed plus scores of researchers…

http://www.msu.ru/en/

Now, they are impressive numbers that surely matter more than the 32.900.000 vagina Google entrees .You would have thought that the world’s interest in sexual matters would now have subsided, calmed down a bit and shifted away to more pressing needs.

While the interest in the female genitalia continues unabated, it’s a different kettle of fish with penises. Amazingly, there are only 9.440.000 penis entrees on the internet. What do we make of that? Are we men not good enough? Are there some design flaws or the aesthetics unappetizing? We men need to feel secure and strong, you know.

Perhaps, it all comes down to choice. Our lives will not only be long enough to traverse through all of Moscow’s university rooms, neither do we have time to peruse all those vagina or penis entries. One thing is for sure. I would rather traverse through any university than trawl the net for genitalia. They are all so boringly uniform and the same. It’s just something with hair on it. Surely, there has to be more to life.