xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

My shaggy blog story.

                                     My Shaggy Blog Story.

Of course my daughters owe their beautiful looks to me. I married their beautiful mother, Lesley.            
This picture was taken at Hillarys Marina in 2017.
On Fathers’ Day, 2012, my three beautiful daughters, Jane, Sarah and Emily presented me with an iPad. It was suggested that maybe I could use it to start writing a Blog.

The next day Jane set up my Blogsite. She even provided a name for it, The Font of Noelage.      Quite catchy, I think. If you are reading this blog I expect that you know what a blog is. If you do not, then read on and all will be revealed, eventually.

Fathers’ Day, 2012 must have been Sunday September 1st , because I wrote my first blog, “The Lost Childhood Generation” on September 3rd. Since then I have written 155 blog stories, including this one. That is an average of 1.83 stories each month. I started with a flourish, writing 9 stories in that first September and 25 in the four months up to December, 2012.

I kept up a pretty good pace for a few years but only managed 11 stories in 2015. My output that year was reduced as I had a quadruple heart  by-pass in January which slowed my output for a while.

Some of my blog stories appeared in The West Australian, The Australian, The Western  Teacher, The WA Primary Principals' quarterly magazine,WORDS and 50 Something, the National Seniors magazine.

One of my stories, A Teacher's 2020 Vision, was first printed in Inside Cover in TheWeekend West Australian and then subsequently in the British Columbia Teachers' Newsletter and even in French in a Swiss education magazine. After I received my copy of this Swiss magzine I showed it to a French teacher at Churchlands High School. He read the French and English versions of my story and told me, "It read much better in French." But, of course!

                       YEARLY TOTALS
(4 mths)

In December 2016, Lesley and I downsized to the Ocean Reef Country Club and in September, 2017, I began publishing a monthly community newsletter. This accounts for the reduced output in 2018 and 2019.

Since September 3rd, 2012, up to today, my blogsite has been visited 227,564 times, an average of 2675 visits per month.  I think blog visits are actually called hits.                                                           227,564 hits seems quite a good number and makes me sad that I do not get a dollar for each visit or hit. Although the number appears to be quite pleasing, there is an anomaly which I will come to shortly.

My blog has been visited by people in Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA, Ireland, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Vietnam, Hong Kong, South Africa, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Thailand. I have also had 2345 visitors to About Noel, which is linked to the home page of my blog.

My ten most popular blog stories( highest number of hits) since September, 2012 are:                                                                                                   
1.NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming. 2/6/13. 160,430 hits                                   2.The Recitation 1/6/2013. 3167 hits                                                                                                      3.Merit pay for dentists  6/01.2013. 1519 hits                                                                                     4.Cristopher Pyne: A disruptive nuisance in education 11/01/2014. 989 hits.                                    5.The Denis Belliveau Story. 26/8/2014. 896 hits                                                                                  6.Jungle training for a graduate teacher  24/3/2013. 768hits
7.The Lost Childhood Generation. 3/9/2012.  456 hits                                                                          8.Too Much, Too Soon. 19/02/2016 398 hits                                                                                           9.Millions of federal dollars for testing year ones.  18/9/2017. 368 hits                                               10.The sport of Eagles bashing . 4/7/2013. 365 hits.

The BIG anomaly is the 160, 430 hits for NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming.         I cannot explain it except to say I think that particular story, somehow or other, attracted automated and spam responses. Some of the comments received were stilted and many were absolute gibberish.

So my grand total of 227, 564 hits is not so grand after all. Still, NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming is an interesting story. I thank my late friend, Sean Walsh, for making me aware of the remarkable Professor Deming.

 If The Recitation has achieved  3167 hits so far, I believe the NAPLAN and Professor Deming story would have scored around 5000 genuine hits, which makes an amended total at about 72 000 hits on my blogsite since September, 2012. That is an average of about 850 a month. I’m happy with that.

So far this month my blog has had 423 visits. Yesterday, September 21 it had 78. Today, September 22 is quiet at present, only  21 visits…but half the world is still asleep so that number should rise in the next 12 hours.

According to the 2011 Macquarie Dictionary, a Blog is a record of items found on the internet, edited and published on a website with comments and links (to other articles or websites. NB).                The 1981 Macquarie Dictionary does not mention the word Blog at all. Neither does the Pocket Macquarie, published in 1982. Hardly surprising, as the internet was in its embryonic stages in the 1980s and large numbers of people did not start using the internet until the mid 1990s. Macquarie explains that the word BLOG is a derivative of WEB LOG. If you say it fast a few times you will understand why.

I started using the Internet in February 1995 and, as already stated, commenced my Blog in September 2012. I am very far from being what Macquarie calls a Blogebrity, a blogger whose blog attracts great attention and interest. However, I do frequent the Blogosphere, which is a place that bloggers inhabit and I operate in a Blogspace, which is a public website where blogs may be viewed.

As it turned out I do not use my iPad for writing  my Blog. I use my iPad for a great many things but not for writing blogs. I create my blog stories on my old stream driven, throw through ball valve clutch,  computer.

I am pleased that the very first story I wrote, The Lost Childhood Generation, is still in the Top Ten. But you will notice most of the Top Ten were written in 2012-14. Of course, this means they have had time to attract readers. The most recent blog in the top ten is Millions of Federal Dollars for Testing Year Ones, which was written in 2017. Hopefully some of the more recent blogs will eventually build up their numbers.

I enjoy writing my Blog but I do have one regret, I thought I would get a lot more comments to some of my stories. I have had some very nice comments from friends and complete strangers but most blogs, apart from the sainted NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming, which I had to put a comment blocker on, go  unremarked. That could be because they are quite unremarkable, however, even then, you would think someone would get some pleasure in telling me so.

What are my favourite blogs? Well, naturally, I like them all. I think NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming is worthy of being at Number One. The Recitation at Number Two is very pleasing to me because it is really a short story and a little different from my usual blogs.

So far I have written 27 blogs about Education, 22 about Politics and 19 about sports. The rest have generally been about the intriguing variety of Life; music, wine drinking, coffee drinking, show business, travel,  fitness fads and the fun and sadness of human frailty and foibles.                                                                                                                                                            

My favourites at the present time are listed below.

MY FAVOURITESat the moment.

      1.How Gough whitlam lead me to the principalship. 6/9/2012 149 hits.                                             2.The misleading power of PISA . 12/9/2012. 159                                                                             3.Ian Fleming has a lot to answer for. 22/9/2012 131hits.                                                                    4.Education reform or teacher bashing. 15/3/2013. 86 hits.                                                                 5.My School versus Your School. 17/4/2013. 212 hits.                                                                         6.A teacher's 2020 vision of the future. . 5/2/2014. 112 hits.                                                                 7.Malice in Blunderland. 7/2/2014. 87 hits.                                                                                            8.It's the poor wot gets the blame!  18/11/2014. 257 hits.                                                                      9.Don Bradman, me...and Stephanie. 6/3/2017. 181 hits.                                                                    10.Hear the barrackers' a'shouting. . 18/6/2019. 10 hits.

The list could change in a month or so. I am pleased to place Hear the Barrackers a’Shouting on this list, as it was only written three months ago. I must admit it contains a modified excerpt from my book, LEON, A backward glance at boyhood, which I wrote in 1995.

Not sure why, but so far only 12 people have visited this "Barrackers" story. Once upon a time people could provide their e-mail address and become a follower of my blog. At one time I had about 30 followers. They would receive a copy of my blog as soon as it was published.

But something went wrong. The system changed. Now, I only have one follower. I think his nmae is Robinson Crusoe. I really thought that more and more people would be attracted to my turgid prose, one sided and heavily biased political views, corny puns and convoluted humour.

Oh, well to each his own. Or, perhaps I should say “To each his, her, lesbian, gay, bi, trans and whatever they think of next.

Anyway, I'll post this blog and await your comments.


Thursday, 15 August 2019

Is pizza topping itself?.

A couple of years ago I wrote about my sea trip on SS Homeric across the Atlantic from Southampton to Montreal. An Homeric Odyssey . It was wonderful trip for many reasons. One particular reason, as I pointed out in my story, was that while on board I met one of the great loves of my life. Each night, with my friends, Tony Jones  and Mike Maher I would visit the on-board night club, The Taverna. This place was packed with fun loving young North Americans returning home after a summer vacation in Europe or the UK. 

Each night at about 11-00pm a couple of stewards would come into the Taverna carrying large trays stacked with rectangular slices of pizza. I had never tasted pizza before, but it was love at first bite. Ah, yes. Of all the night clubs in all the world it walked into my life…Pizza!

When I was living in Toronto in the early 1960s, I fell into the habit of eating pizza almost every Friday night. I usually ordered tomato and pepperoni. The  pizza  shop I frequented on Eglington Avenue consisted of a counter behind which were a bank of four pizza ovens.  Between the counter and the oven were two young, muscular Italian men who delighted in flinging the pizza bases high overhead to get the right thickness before placing them on a bench to add the fillings. In those days there were just few choices. I usually ordered tomato and pepperoni. There was also an Hawaiian Pizza, which had pineapple and small slices of ham for a topping. There was also and a margherita pizza which had tomato, basil and parmesan cheese sprinkled over it.

I returned to Perth in November 1964. I love Perth, but in 1965 it was a completely pizza free zone.   I found myself craving for a pizza. My friend, Murray Paddick, who had shared an apartment and many a pizza with me in Toronto, also had that pizza craving. One evening we did a cafĂ© crawl along William Street,  in what at that time in the 1960s was called “Little Italy”. It is now known as Northbridge.

Murray and I were convinced that somewhere in Perth’s Little Italy we would find a delicious pizza, just like the ones we used to know and love in Toronto. Not so! None of the cafes we entered served pizza. Of course in those days there were really no take-away food stores. You could take away a pie, pasty or sandwich, maybe even a hot dog, but if you wanted any other food you needed to sit at a table and eat it. There were a few hamburger vans dotted around the city but nothing resembling the happy pizza joints like Shakeys Bar that we had frequented in the USA and Canada. That night in Little Italy we finally tried a  little Italian grocery store that also sold pies, hot dogs, milkshakes and lollies. We asked for a pizza. The young chap behind the counter was busily shaking his head when a little old lady, presumably his Nonna, looked up from her seat behind the counter.

“Pizza, si. Pizza, si.”, she said as she hurried down a dark hallway leading from the rear of the store. About a minute later she returned with small half eaten homemade pizza on a plate. Obviously, she made pizzas for family meals but did not sell them over the counter. As suave and sophisticated travellers, Murray and I both said, “Grazie, grazie, Senora”, but declined the lady’s kind offer to eat a piece of her half-eaten pizza.

We left the shop and retired to a nearby bar where we cogitated on the problem of living in a pizza free Perth. After returning from Canada, a few months earlier, we were now  engaged in full time teaching, but we held dreams of becoming rich by means of some clever entrepreneurial scheme. Before long we agreed that Perth need a North American style Pizzerias, preferably with a couple of young, muscular Italians in tee shirts who tossed twirling pizza bases high in the air with the panache of a Spanish bullfighter dancing around 1000-kilogram bulls. Or a Shakeys, where the  jazz music is jivey, the young folks are jivey, the beer flows freely and the pizzas are delicious.

Well, over the next few  weeks we continued to think about our vast chain of pizzerias extending across our great continent. We particularly thought about how we could acquire the money to buy a shop in the right location, fit it out and equip it with very expensive pizza ovens, other food and accessories, including the two muscular Italians and a five piece jazz band in bright waist coats and straw hats.

By mid-1965, while Murray and I  were still thinking about our massive, if embryonic,  pizza empire, some smart aleck rich bloke opened Perth’s very first Pizza Hut right next to the Metro Drive in in Scarborough Beach Road.

Though dreams of pizza derived riches were dashed I still loved my pizza and became a very good customer of Pizza Hut. Before long, quite a few pizza places sprung up in Perth. Now, just about everybody sells pizza. However, the pizzas they are selling are a sorry reflection of the beautiful, tasty pizza I fell in love with on the SS Homeric. 

There is historic evidence that soldiers in the 10th century often ate a meal of some vegetables on top of a piece of flat bread. However, it is generally agreed that the first pizza, Italian for pie, was developed in and around Naples in the late 19th century. It became one of the most popular foods in the world. The original Neapolitan pizza consisted of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olives and meat, usually pepperoni. Mozzarella is cheese from the milk of water buffalo which are plentiful in southern Italy. 

The first pizza variation was named after the Italian Princess Margherita. The probably improbable apocryphal story is that she liked it above all other pizzas because it contained the colours of the Italian flag; red tomatoes, green chives and white mozzarella cheese. Neapolitan pizza quickly became popular all over the world…except in Australia. The strange thing is that pizza is filled with fat, salt and lots and lots of calories which are frowned on by some. The even stranger thing is that Italians, who love their pizza, have very low levels of heart disease.

Unfortunately, since our fateful meeting aboard the good ship, SS Homeric, in August 1962, my beloved pizza suffered at the hands of those who think you can never have too much of a good thing. Proving that too much of a good thing can be a very, very bad thing. Now there are hundreds of varieties of pizza…not all of them good.

First, they started putting anchovies on pizza, along with the mozzarella, olives, chives and sprinkled parmesan. Then they added mushrooms, pieces of chicken, pieces of sausage, pieces a beefsteak and pieces of almost ever food known to man.

Gourmet pizza appeared. My beloved Pizza started coming along to parties covered in eggplant, artichokes, caramelized onions, roasted pumpkin, zucchini, rocket, spinach and roasted capsicums.
It became so bad that in 1994 staunch guardians of traditional  Neapolitan pizza formed the Associazone Verace Pizza Neapolitan which presumably is Italian for the Real Neapolitan Pizza Association. Its aims are to promote traditional Neapolitan pizza without multitudinous and exotic toppings.

On July 28, Ron Graham, writing in The Australian newspaper said that  a Canberra restaurant fusing pizza and sushi had gone bankrupt. Thus proving that there is a God! It seems that three months after it opened, the fused Sushi Pizza restaurant ran out of money and closed its doors. Ron Graham reported that the owners did not blame their fused concoction for the closure. They blamed the cold weather, customers preferring to eat at home and Uber Eats.

The Reno Gazette of August 4 tells us The Las Vegas Pizzeria has Grasshopper Pizza. Really! Las Vegas is for gamblers, but would you want to gamble your intestinal integrity  on a pizza topping of baked goat cheese, caramelised onions, chorizo and a few healthy sprinkles of grasshoppers. Those who lived to tell the tale said the grasshoppers tasted like chewing on pork rind. Give me real pork rind any day.

John Gibson, writing online for NARCITY on August 8, said that a pizza place in Boston is selling Pizza Poutine. Poutine Rappe is a potato-based Acadian dish favoured by French Canadians, especially in in New Brunswick. Now Poutine Rappe, the traditional Acadian poutine involved thoroughly boiled potatoes, which are shredded and infused with pate or duck fat. French Canadians, especially the Acadians in the Canadian Maritime provinces just love it and eat is especially on important occasions and festivals. For everybody else I would suggest it is a dish best served to somebody else.

A variation of Poutine Rappe is  a fast food type poutine consisting of French fries, cheese curd and gravy. This French fries version of poutine apparently became a favourite take away meal in Quebec province in the 1950s and is now also found in the New England states of the USA. That Boston pizzeria serves that poutine topping with melted mozzarella, sliced pepperoni, and a side dish of pizza gravy. As of August 14 the shop is still trading.

I shudder at the thought of what future pizza fusion gastronomical monstrosities are head of us. Brocholi and porridge or maybe rhubarb and custard? Nothing would surprise me.  

I suppose multi topped pizza is here to stay but I am a loyal person. I met my truly loved, traditional Neapolitan pizza, on board the SS Homeric 57 years ago this month. I order her before all others.                    

 I proudly march with the boys and girls of the Real Neapolitan Pizza Association. And you can't top that.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Volunteering is good for you.

I have been  happily retired now for nearly eighteen years. However, in a previous life I was a teacher. For 28 years I was  a school principal. They were all very happy days.

Schools get government funding to help them operate effectively. However, really good schools thrive on strong parent and community support. A school needs enthusiastic volunteers to help create a place whose friendly atmosphere and positive outcomes pleases parents; a school children are happy and proud to attend and teachers enjoy working in.

When I started teaching in the late 1950s there were very few parents in or around schools. Just about all children walked or rode their bikes to school or were bused in from rural areas. The school newsletter was published once a term, if at all. Not all schools had secretaries. Principals in the late 1950s and early 1960s may or may not have typed out a note or newsletter to inform parents of P&C meetings, sports carnivals and the like.Sometimes children wrote their own notes to take home explaining of an upcoming event.

It is very different today. These days, one of the major tasks of a principal is to promote the school. Newsletters now generally come out weekly and are often delivered by e-mail or SMS. The school may also have a Webpage and a Facebook page to promote the school’s ethos, upcoming events and achievements.                                                                                        

Parents are now encouraged to volunteer their help at school sports, swimming carnivals, graduation dinners, school musicals, debates, public speaking, assemblies, assisting teachers with small group activities, final assemblies, excursions, camps, environmental programmes and so on. The proviso being that parents are given specific roles to perform, otherwise, some parents may embark on empire building activities that are counterproductive.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I became a Level 3 principal in 1975, by which time every school had a full or part time secretary. Over the years, from time to time, I would drop a couple of stories into the weekly newsletter telling parents that volunteering was good for them. Some of them believed me. In the early days of the school year I would often insert the following message (which I found in an old poetry book, written by ANON, my favourie poet), to emphasise the need for volunteer parents

THE DEATH OF SOMEONE ELSE: We were all saddened this week to learn of the death of one of our community’s most valuable members …Someone Else.                                                                                                                                                  Someone’s passing leaves a great void that will be difficult to fill. Else had been with us for many years.                                                                                                                                                   
For every one of those years, Someone Else did far more than the normal person’s share of the work. Whenever leadership was needed, Someone Else was asked for inspiration, as well as results. Someone Else would willingly work with any group needing assistance.         
Whenever there was a job to do, a group to coach, a meeting to attend, a hole to dig, a hall to clean, chairs to stack, cakes to make or raffle tickets to sell, one name was on everyone’s lips.  They would all say, “Someone Else will do it,”                                                                              
It was common knowledge that Someone Else was the hardest worker in our community.  If ever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.                                                                                                                       
Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human; but a person can only do so much. If the truth be known, we all expected just too much of Someone Else.                                                                                                                                                   
 Now, Someone Else is gone. We wonder what we are going to do. Someone Else left us a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it?                                                   
Who is going to do the things that Someone Else always did.                                                               Remember, from now on, we cannot rely on Someone Else to do the job.                                                                                                                                                                    Sadly, Someone Else is dead!                                                                                                                                                                            
Having put out the message that if we always have to rely on someone else to do things then not a lot will happen, I then tried to convince parents that by helping their children and the school, they would actually improve their own wellbeing. In fact, by asking them to help I was doing them a favour. Again, not everyone believed me.                                                                                                             

Yet, there is a great deal of research evidence showing that volunteering leads to better health and that volunteers  do receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.                                                                                                                                             

Volunteering often leads to what is referred to as a “Helper’s high”. This high leads to increased trust in others as well as increased social participation. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life, compared to those who do not volunteer.                                                                                                       

The research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health; that volunteers receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities. Why should Someone Else enjoy all these benefits when you can, too?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
As usual, Sir Winston Churchill, had a neat expression for it, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.                                                                                                                                                   
The University of Sydney published a research paper in May 2017, stating that volunteering brings at least 7 benefits. 1. It opens the door to personal satisfaction. 2. It makes you feel happier. 3. It makes you feel healthier. 4. It gives you a ‘Helpers’ High’. 5. It gives you a sense of belonging. 6. You catch “feel-good’ emotions. 7. You can embrace your passions…to do what you enjoy and are good at.                                                                            

It does not have to be a REALLY BIG thing that you do for others.                                                                                                                                                   
I recall a research experiment I heard about when I was studying a course of Educational Psychology at the University of WA, way back in the late 1960s. Of course, after all these years, I cannot recall all of the details, but the gist of the research story I remember well.

A group of educational psychologists from a famous a Ivy League University in the United States focused on two university Fraternity Houses situated on the same campus and whose student residents were studying similar course.                                                                                                                         
At the commencement of the academic year, the researchers tested all of these Frat House students for anxiety, stress levels and feelings of self- worth. Fraternity Houses are like our Australian residential colleges, usually with two students sharing a room.                                                                                                                                               
At the end of the testing period, the researchers gave the students in one Fraternity House (A) a task to perform. The students in the other Fraternity House (B) were asked to just carry on as per usual.                                                                                                                                   

Eight months later, the researchers returned and again tested all students for stress, anxiety and self-esteem. The results were interesting. The House B students generally showed increased stress level as the university year had progressed. On the other hand, House A students, who had the special activity to perform, showed significantly reduced stress and anxiety levels and enhanced feeling of well-being and self-esteem.                                                                                                                                                              
What was the activity that these House A students were asked to perform that had so obviously improved their happiness and wellbeing? What was it that they did that made them all feel so good about themselves?                                                                                        

They were each asked to do their roommate’s laundry!                                                                                                                                                               
Yes, doing something, anything, for others can improve your health, happiness and well-being.                                                                                                                                                          
When next you send out a call for volunteers, let people know that, by inviting them to help out, you are doing them a favour.                                                                                                                     

Some of them may believe you. It will certainly do them good.