Monthly Archives: March 2009

Hard waste redux

Long time readers may recall that I wrote about our city council’s annual hard waste collection last year. Hard waste collection time has rolled around again, and as happened last year, the verges are full of people’s junk, and the roads are being patrolled by second hand goods retailers, and bargain hunters, all looking for treasure.

We have had a grand throwout, getting rid of all sorts of plastic junk and broken appliances. We put our hard waste out on Friday, and by this morning, very little was left. But I am a little astonished by what people have picked up out of our pile of rubbish. Did it not occur to the person who took the grey plastic watering can that it might have been thrown out because it has a huge, unpluggable leak? As for the computer screen, it has an eye-straining waver, and the microwave oven simply no longer works. I hope that whoever took these items has the skill to repair them.

Some things we threw out because we had grown out of them. I hope someone with a small lawn is able to sharpen and use the old-fashioned push reel lawn mower. We used it quite successfully for nearly a year, but it was always a stop-gap solution for us, until we got a motor mower. Our children have long since grown out of the last stroller we had cluttering up the shed, and they don’t use the clam shell paddling pools any more, but some other family may find them useful.

We’ve done quite well out of our neighbours’ leavings ourselves. For some inexplicable reason (conjunction of planets, pattern in the tea leaves, malicious intervention of the FSM, whatever) we had just run out of ring binders. Fortunately, someone a few streets over was clearing out their office, and we were able to pick up eight or so good quality folders. One of them was labelled, “Thesis.” Unknown donor of ring binders, I hope you completed your thesis successfully.

Other people take the annual hard waste collection as a signal to put out their prunings and choppings from their gardens, so that their neighbours can use them as firewood. We’ve collected quite a store for the winter – thank you!


But you may recall this chair. Mr Strange Land bore it home in triumph last year, for (the then) Miss Nine, who wanted a chair to curl up in with a book. I was dubious – too big, too beige. But they were both keen, and I thought that we could make it work, with a brightly coloured throw. Nevertheless, I wondered, “How long before it ends up in the hard waste collection again?”

I have an answer for that question now. As it turns out, exactly one year.

Miss Ten decided to dispose of it, so Mr Strange Land bore it back down the street, and deposited it outside the same house that we had collected it from last year. It must have been quite a surreal moment for the people who put it out in the first place. “That damned chair! It’s come back.”

It only stayed there overnight, as far as we know. When we looked down the street the next day, it had disappeared again. Someone thought it looked useful.

But will it appear again next year? I shall keep you posted.

Friday Feminist – Joan McGregor

Cross posted

The determination of consent requires consideration of both the internal and external features of the choice situation. Failures of consent occur because of external features: the person was coerced or defrauded into the choice by the person ‘asking’ for consent. The background circumstances themselves also can be coercive if the person is desperate and the proposer uses that desperation to their advantage. Alternatively, there can be failures of consent because of internal constraints on the consentor, that she was drunk, on drugs, insane, too young, and so on. Focusing merely on the words that were said or not said as evidence means that one can fail to pick out the background conditions within which the individual is making the ‘choice,’ or fail to notice crucial features about the consentor’s ability to give consent, or fail to account for the actions or words of the proposer and their effects on the consent-giver. Consent is vitiated by external factors such as coercion and fraud and also by internal factors that incapacitate a person. The fact that a victim was drunk or high on drugs should naturally lead to the conclusion that she was not consenting, as she was incapable of voluntary consent. Showing that the woman was incapacitated should establish the element of the actus reus ‘without consent.’ Consent is the vehicle through which individuals autonomously direct major parts of their lives; poor choices, or choices with fail to conform to a person’s good, often result when choosing without one’s full faculties. Hence consent granted at those times should not be held as legitimate. It should be noted that normally we do not let others exploit an incapacitated person and take advantage of their condition.

Joan McGregor, Is it rape?, 2005

More to come next week…

I should really save this for Good Friday

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Come the raw prawn

Many years ago, when we first got married, Mr Strange Land suggested that perhaps he and I could play some chess. But because he was so much better than me, he would spot me a rook or a bishop.

I refused. And we never played chess. More than that, I have hardly ever touched a chess board since.

(He is actually far better than me. At chess, that is. But I would far rather lose honestly, than win only because the rules were tilted in my favour.)

These days, I’m learning all those chess skills again. Not because Mr Strange Land and I are playing (chess), but because I’m spending about 40 minutes each week in my younger daughters’ classroom, teaching the children to play chess. I have the two necessary attributes for teaching the game: I am not in paid employment (much) so I have some spare time; and I know the moves. I’ve found the tutorials at Chess Corner invaluable; thank goodness for teh interwebs.

I’ve put a bit of effort into thinking about how to teach the children, who are aged about six or seven. I’ve found that I can supervise about four games at a time, so I usually have eight children working with me each week, while the other children in the class are reading, or doing construction activities, or playing other games. I match an absolute beginner with a child who already knows a bit, and show them how to set up the board, and then I start them on a pawn game. Once they have gotten the hang of moving pawns, I start introducing the fighting pieces, and I ask the child who already knows how to play to be a teacher, and to help the learner. So far, this is working quite well, and by now, most of the children in the class are familiar with the moves that the pieces can make. My next step will be to get them to think about what-if scenarios: “What will happen to my queen if I move it to this square?”

They are very enthusiastic, and some of them get right into the spirit of the battle. Others of them take the battle off board, squabbling about whether they should be allowed to take moves back, or make two moves at once, or move their bishop from a black square to a white one. I’ve made up a series of cards explaining the permitted moves to enable them to resolve disputes in my absence (the class teacher is not familiar with chess, so she can’t help out there), and I’ve taught them that invaluable phrase, “J’adoube.” A few of them know the rule about being able to turn pawns into any other piece if they reach the backline, but I had to work hard to persuade one lad that it’s best to choose a queen, no matter how pretty the knights look.

Later on, I will start teaching them some of the simple ways of setting up checkmate, and I will introduce the complexities of en passant and castling. In the meantime, I’m finding it all great fun, and most weeks I head off from the lesson feeling very cheerful. An hour or so later I’m faced with a room full of university students in an Ethics tutorial – I wish I could infect them with the children’s enthusiasm.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most so far? Tom shouting with glee this morning, “I’ve got all his prawns!”


The lovely Mr Williams, of Back in 15 fame, who has been diligently reporting the Women’s Cricket World Cup, has some free tickets for the final to give away. Sydneysiders, go and talk nicely to him – e-mail: siesta at internode dot on dot net, and be able to pick up the tickets from the city on Friday afternoon. Especially Kiwis living in Sydney. Our team has a great chance of being in the final.

For Australians reading this post – New Zealanders support two teams: New Zealand, and any team playing Australia.