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Another page in the bad parenting diaries

Daughter #2 goes to see a friend of the same age.
Friend rings her up and tells her proudly that her parents now let her walk alone to the station.
Five kilometres.
In a safe North Shore suburb.
During the daytime.
So my daughter goes there and stays for dinner.
Her friend's dad asks: What did you do in the holidays?
And my daughter says: well, my sister, who is 20, and I went backpacking together in Peru and Bolivia...

Resources? What resources?

I'm going to share with you one of the most beautiful pictures I have encountered in the news recently, maybe all year, and maybe this decade.

But before I do that, I want to have a little rant at those over-zealous parents bleating about "resources" as excuse to lavish thousands and thousands of dollars on their child's education. A number of years ago, when choice of secondary school was an issue, fellow parents would visit school open days. One such parent raved to me about a local expensive private school, where the newly-renovated computer lab had nice little lights and all classes had smartboards.

Excuse my French but what the fuck?
Cute little lights? Smartboards? Looks cool, but requires a lot of maintenance and training. The school needs extra staff to look after this stuff. And an extra power board to keep up with the power use of such devices, and the extra airconditioning needed to get rid of the heat produced by those devices... never mind that half the teachers don't know how to use them (and, in our experience, don't use them).
And seriously, what can be done with smartboards that can't be done with an old-fashioned people-powered variety that requires NO power plug? In most subjects at least?

What is is with all this lavishing freaking redundancy and stuff that matters not one iota to the kids in the class?

OK, here is my picture, in which you can see what matters most in education, when all, and I mean ALL, luxuries are stripped away

Hint: he has a beard.

That's right, a dedicated teacher.

Some parents need to get over themselves and learn the meaning of "essential".


The triumph of parenting

You buy a 17yo and a 19yo a ticket to Quito, Ecuador, return from La Paz, Bolivia.

They are gone for 6 weeks. Their credit card gets skimmed, but they solve it from where they are. They travel to the Galapagos Islands, Lima, Machu Piccu. They cope with cold, shitty food and sleazy men. They learn Spanish. They find their own way back and make all their bazillion connecting flights.

Oh, and as a bonus, by the time they're back, they're 20 and 18.

And they haven't even forgotten how to make lasagna.

Sale and not a bad problem to have

Yes, before the first story is out yet, I can announce that I have made yet another sale to Analog, for the story Geospermia, or the "pandas on Mars" story some of you may remember me talking about.

With my recent sale to Giganotosaurus, this brings my number of sales this year to three, out of five submissions, which brings me to the following problem: I have no short fiction left that I'm reasonably sure will sell anywhere major. Yeah, I have a bit of chicken feed, stories that are too cute or fluffy to sell, or that have been around the traps for yonks. I'll keep periodically submitting these in the hope that they'll stick somewhere, but there are no major, meaty stories left. I've barely written any short fiction for about a year.

About kids and schools and stuff

If you follow this blog, you will probably know that I am a Bad Mother. There are a whole slew of things that I am supposed to obsess about that I don't.

One of those things is schooling and my kids' ambitions. It's not that I don't care, but that I have a deep belief that true ambition can be seeded, guided, but never forced. At its very root, it has to come from the child.

So we come to the subject of my son. In year two or three, he sat a GAT test. I didn't know about this, and only heard that he'd been put in the GATS group from hearing about his daily activities. I certainly didn't ask for it. He was happy, and there was no need to move him. He sat the Selective test in year six, and I suspect him of deliberately flunking it. He did not want to go to cramming schools. Fair enough.

Fast forward to high school. He gets really good marks in all the science subjects, and never does any homework, but his real interest is music. I could do the evil mother thing and rage about his not-done homework, but he'd probably end up hating school, and hating me, and we have a low-conflict household here. Peace, and a private place for him to feel safe and chill out is more important to me than not-done homework, at least at this stage in his schooling. He spent a lot of his spare time writing a piece of music for the school concert band, and the teacher thought it was so good that it will be played at their tour to the US at the end of the year. The ultimate approval came from his co-students who have to play the piece.

The school does a lot with music (if you're in Australia, the names Liam Burrows and Darren Percival will mean something to you), but it's mostly popular music and a lot of jazz. My son hates jazz. He loves classical music, of which there is little done at school.

So he applied to go to the Conservatorium High School. When I said this to another mother, her first reaction was: but aren't you worried about marks? (Apparently, the school's average HSC score is not that hot).

I've spent a while thinking about it, but came to the conclusion: No. Actually, I don't give a flying fuck.

Because a mark belongs to him, not the school. Because any of the science subjects he might be interested in aside from music don't require high scores to get into Uni. Because he had an IQ test and let's just say that "above average" is the understatement of the year, and he's more than smart enough to do whatever he wants if he sets his mind to it. Because double music/something else degrees are not uncommon.

Because if he really wants it, there is a way into everything. Because his decidedly un-academic sister, an good-but-average student throughout her school life, has found her mojo and will qualify for medicine (which is the course that requires ridiculously high marks).

What matters to me is passion. What matters to me is that the interest comes from within and is his own. He can only do one major career-related thing with his life at any one time. Let it be something he wants to do, other than something I want him to do.

A conversation at our house

Daughter #2 who is doing her final exams this year: If I don't get into Arts/Law then I could study Economics, Politics, basically all the subjects I wanted to do in the other degree.
[some discussion ensues over results needed to get into the course]
Daughter #1 who is at uni studying physiotherapy: you know you could do a degree in surfing?
Daughter #2: yeah, but what would you do with it?
Me: I guess design surf boards?
Daughter #2: yech
Daughter #1: I like the winetasting course
Daughter #2: yeah
Daughter #1: but you don't like wine
(never mind she's too young to be allowed to drink it)
Me: You could do vitriculture, growing grapes for making wine
Daughter #2: that'd be pretty boring
Daughter #1: Economics and politics isn't???

ah, yes... uhm

So, I have a large population of people who are nominally muslim, mixed in with a whole lot of other beliefs and superstitions.

Muslims pray five times a day and the times are set very precisely. They have to do with the rising and the setting of the sun.


What if there is no sun, or it doesn't set, like when you're orbiting it in a space ship?

What solution would they come up with?


(never mind the Mecca thing on a rotating space station *scratches head*)


I always feel so guilty this time of year.

You see, it's the time of the parent-teacher interviews at school, and I haven't been to any of those all that much. TBH, I think I went last year.

It's not that I'm busy, but...

You get five minutes with a teacher, in which the teacher spends half the time remembering who your child is, and the other half saying "Everything is OK", which I already knew, because my children tell me their marks. If ever I have concerns I contact the school. I'm easy. I think I've done this once or twice, when I felt there was an issue.

I also go to other things at school, like the music nights, music department meetings and art shows, and plays and stuff like that.

I know my kids are doing OK.

My daughter is finishing school this year. My son may go to a different school next year (for reasons that have nothing to do with the current school). They're fine and I'm not worried.

IMO the five-minute parent-teacher interview afternoon is one of the greatest wastes of time, both for me and the teacher. I much rather they'd spend it on kids who need it.

But why do you always feel so guilty over stuff like this?

Finishing stuff

So, this year turns out to be about finishing stuff from the graveyard that is my HD.

First, I did the trilogy (on Amazon etc.)
Then, I turned a story into a novella (submitted to some place that shall not be mentioned)
Then I finished a short story (submitted to a magazine that shall not be mentioned)
Next, I re-worked another story (already published) into a novella (waiting for cover artist to do his bit)
And now, I've discovered a 27K chunk of a novel with outlines and notes that should not be too hard to finish. My previous problem with it was that the story didn't feel big enough for a full doorstopper, but guess what? With ebooks, who gives a flying horseshoe?

Then, Watcher's Web is doing very well at Amazon at the moment, and people have asked me is there going to be a sequel (wow, fanmail!), and yes, actually, there is. But it will be written from a different POV, and the POV I had planned didn't really suit the YA-ish feel of the new Watcher's Web. But I now have a new character! So, no doubt I can pick & choose some scenes of the roughly two million words (yeah, joking, but not too much) I have in various versions of this story. It's a good story, and it isn't doing anyone a favour by living on my HD.

Do I have any more stuff to finish?

*rummages on HD*

little things and big things

After I finished the trilogy, I dealt with two shorter works that needed some editing and re-submitting. Now I find myself staring at a blank screen. Not quite true, but what should I work on next?

I looked at an early draft for a novel. That novel is probably the next novel I'll work on, but it needs some logic worked out. The most important question I need to answer is: what happened on Mars? See, the character has been treated to forget, but he retains a vague memory of something, but whatever happened becomes increasingly important in the story, so he needs to know. Problem is, I'd like to know as well, because I don't. I'm getting closer, but I'm not there yet.

So I will probably first deal with another novella-length work for kids. It's been sitting on my hard drive for about two years, in need of an edit according to theme, but otherwise reasonably complete. I think I know what the theme is, so I should probably complete this before moving onto the big fuzzy novel.