Public Health Systems Are The Best

emergency-sign-at-hospital

We have had an … interesting week. In the grand scheme of things, it is fairly mild and moderate compared to others. And my ability to say that sentence comes with a fairly healthy dose of gratitude.

EG Sinister had emergency surgery earlier this week. Without going into all the details, he had severe pain on Monday night and it was not calming on its own.

Like most parents, we considered our options:

  1. Panadol and sleep on it
  2. Dial-a-Doctor (or whatever it is called) where a GP comes to your house after hours without cost because it’s covered by Medicare and our awesome public health system
  3. Take him to the hospital, about 7mins drive from our house, which is a public hospital and no cost for us to attend the Emergency Ward.

 

Considering the level of pain he was in, we took option 3. That’s right–we had options and we could choose one at our convenience with only Sinister’s health in our mind. That is a huge privilege not shared with many around the world.

When Sinister and I arrived at the hospital, he was helped by a security guard and nurse into the Waiting Room. He was seen to by a triage nurse and then brought to the Paediatrics ward, all within a 20-minutes.

As the pain increased, he was quickly attended to, first by a doctor and then by a specialist who organised emergency surgery. They arranged surgery within an hour of the specialist’s consultation, around 1am.

hospital-trolley-for-patients

The good news is Sinister was out and moved to the Children’s Ward by 4am the same morning. Once again, at no expense to us and without delay.

Now, I want to add a bit here: We have private hospital cover as well. However, in an emergency, we go to the closest emergency ward available (our local public hospital). If any of us are admitted to the hospital, the public system will pay for our excess and then claim the rest back from the private health insurance provider. We are still contributing towards the public health system, the insurance company still receives its excess, we receive the immediate care required and have no out of pocket costs.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would be against public health systems? I am more than happy for my taxes to contribute to a universal health care, especially for our less fortunate. Hell, I have been that less fortunate person earlier in my life and the difference between private and public is huge.

Flashback: When I was around 20-years-old, I had a severe asthma attack at work. It started off slowly, at which point a colleague took me to the GP next door to see if we could prevent it from worsening. No such luck and the GP called the ambulance.

ventolin

What I didn’t know at the time (since I was trying to breathe and stuff) was the GP had given the ambulance drivers instructions to take me to St Andrew’s Hospital, a private hospital, for observation. In doing so, they drove past the public hospital. Subsequently, I was charged $350 for turning up in an ambulance and receiving a chest x-ray. Even the ambulance driver commented, an x-ray is not necessary–she needs oxygen and observation.

Imagine having to face this every time you were ill. Every time you feel your chest tighten or the second dose of Ventolin isn’t working, you freak out at the cost of receiving the urgent care you need to survive. In Australia, it sounds insane. But we are pretty lucky compared to others.

medicare

Our health system is not perfect. We can have weeks to wait for a GP appointment. I know some people who have 6-12mths waiting for specialist appointments for their weak hearts or kidney stones. But generally speaking, you can drive right up to the door of any public hospital and know there are a bunch of nurses and doctors who are eager to do their best to help you. I have visited our hospital often enough to know we have a large number of nurses and doctors who want to help.

And that’s important to note: Our public health system is brilliant but it is held up on the shoulders of all the hard-working staff at the hospital. They are human, like the rest of us, but we place heavy expectations on them to perform miracles. Often they do; sometimes they don’t. Either way, they deserve as much appreciation as the system which allows us to access them.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a working public health system, make sure you take the time to thank the staff who provide it. For those who either do not have or do not support universal healthcare, I would be really interested to hear your reasons why.

Oh, and Sinister: He is absolutely fine. He is recovering really well, taking a few days off from school and resting as much as he can. He now has a new pain benchmark and a new respect for the solid advice he has been given for a speedy recovery.

view-from-hospital-sydney

View from the hospital bed. 

EG Dad and I are also recovering well, finally catching up on sleep and not stressing over every sound made by the spawnlings.

Parenting, right? At least we’re doing it within driving distance of a public hospital.

Total Lunar Eclipse: 31 January 2018

Lunar-Eclipse-2017-Title

Remember the last Lunar Eclipse visible in Australia? Last year, in 2017, just before the Solar Eclipse that sent everyone in the United States crazy (or at least a little crazier than usual)?

Remember how it was at 3am?

There was nothing partial about my dislike for waking up at that ridiculous hour. *ugh*

Clearly, someone heard my complaint and has acted accordingly: Australia is being graced with a Full Lunar Eclipse next Wednesday, 31 January 2018, starting at the far more respectable time of 9.30pm (Sydney time… Because that’s where I am and that’s all that matters).

So What Is a Lunar Eclipse?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow. The Moon does not have its own light source; that big pizza pie in the sky is reflecting light from the Sun on to the Earth. So when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are all aligned, it means the Moon will pass into the shadow of the Earth. This also means a lunar eclipse only happens during a full moon. Waxing and Waning Moons occur due to the odd-angle the Moon sits relative to the Earth and the Sun.

explanation of solar lunar eclipse diagram

Image based on explanation from EG Nefarious

Some cultures used to refer to a total lunar eclipse as a blood moon. When the direct sunlight is completely blocked, the only other light seen is refracted through Earth’s shadow. This light looks red because of the ‘rayleigh scattering‘ – that’s the scattering of light by particles. XKCD explains it much better than I could.

Not to be mistaken with a ‘blood moon’ from Zelda: Breath of the Wild, resulting in the resurrection of thousands of Trump-ettes, eagerly waiting to return to their attacks of ignorance and hate.

 

Where Can I See the Lunar Eclipse?

The good news about Lunar Eclipses is they tend to be visible by larger sections of the planet than Solar Eclipses. On 31 January 2018, the lunar eclipse should be visible partially throughout the US, Canada, Central America, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern and Central Europe. For the full-blown total lunar eclipse, pull up a seat in Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, and East Asia. Check your local visibility times through any number of websites; I like Time and Date because they have neat visuals.

 

Is This the Same As a Solar Eclipse?

No, more like the complete opposite. The solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, plunging the world into darkness!! Well, again… an exaggeration but the effect is far more dramatic. You won’t need special glasses for a lunar eclipse; it is totally safe to see—so long as you’re not driving a car, or lying down in the middle of a road, or similar activities. A solar eclipse is also a lot shorter than a lunar eclipse and limited to a smaller viewing area of the world. I also talked about eclipses around the Solar Eclipse of 2017.

 

So, if the spawnlings are still wired and awake at 9.45pm next Wednesday due to the first week back at school, you may want to consider checking the start of the lunar eclipse. Of course, now that it is at a decent hour, if I’m not on the social media you will find me asleep on the couch.

 

Santa is Dead. Spread the Word.

myth of santa claus and St Nicholas

Every year, the spawnlings are asked, “Have you been good for Santa?”

Sometimes, they answer with a polite “We don’t believe in Santa but we like to exchange gifts with loved ones during the Summer Solstice.”

Other times, I can see they really are too tired to explain it so they settle for “We don’t believe in Santa”. That usually passes the accusatory glare to me, and I’m okay with that.

This year, we have a new winner for best response:

“No. Santa’s dead.”

Courtesy of the four-year-old fascinated with old people and how they die.

We don’t do Santa in our family

Yep, I’m a cold-heartless bitch who is depriving our spawnlings of the most sacred magic of childhood… Believing in a man who visits your bedroom, while you’re sleeping, after stalking you all year long. To top it off, he is the Master of Extortion by holding your gifts ransom dependent on subjective levels of behavioural management.

Or at least that’s how the 11-year-old tells it.

In our home, we don’t celebrate Christmas. We don’t do Santa. We don’t decorate a tree. And for the love of all things cool, calm, and collected—we do not do the big roast dinner. Why? I’m Pagan. EG Dad is an Atheist. And the weather outside our Lair is a balmy 36 degrees Celsius with 90% humidity and a storm threatening to dump all of three raindrops on my freshly-washed laundry.

Instead, we celebrate the Summer Solstice.

Summer Solstice

Solstice (Summer or Winter) is an astronomical phenomenon. It is science. It is set in the stars. There is no messing around with whether it really happened because it simply does. Every year. It can’t be manipulated, delayed, or even cancelled—no matter how frustrating my kids may be after only one week of school holidays. Five more to go…

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. It derives from the words sol (being our Sun), and stasis (being stationary). In astronomy, the Solstice is calculated for the moment the Sun appears stationary, or ‘rests’ a little longer in one position in the sky. In December 2017, we celebrated it last Friday 22 December.

We are not the only people in the world who celebrate the Solstice but we are still in the minority. So much so, when we are asked if the spawnlings believe in Santa, I always pause to consider if it would be easier to just say no and not spend the time explaining why.

Do You Believe in Santa Claus?

Truth is: We have told the spawnlings about Santa. We have told them the full story (as accurate as you can be based on a legend from hundreds of years ago).

Santa is based on jolly ol’ Saint Nicholas, a Greek monk who was very generous with gifts to help out less-fortunate people. Originally, the tradition was to give gifts to the bones of St Nick, kept in a Basilica in Bari, Italy. It was Martin Luther who suggested changing the focus to children; a rather successful albeit slightly political attempt at enticing children and families to Christianity rather than making it about Saint-worshipping.

When we tell this story to our spawnlings, we point out how old the legend is.  We point out how strong the legend is. Most importantly, we point out how wonderful the legend is, whether or not it is true. The ‘spirit’ of St Nicholas is about sharing our fortune with others. We give gifts, we share with others, and we think more about what we can give rather than what we receive.

The Lessons of St Nicholas

There are two benefits from this honest lesson: First, the spawnlings learn the real magic of Santa Claus. The spirit of Santa is so strong, it can be shared amongst many people all around the world. Every Santa you see in a shopping center is another person reminding us about giving and sharing with others. Santa may be dead but he made enough of an impact to inspire copycats everywhere. After all, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

The second benefit is even more important: it has taught our spawnlings gratitude for every single gift they receive. They do not wake up in the morning and expect Santa to have left a present for them. Instead, they understand the love behind every gift they receive. They know the true person giving the gift and thus are able to understand the thought behind the gift. In return, the spawnlings place far more consideration in their own gifts. They ensure every gift means something and is not simply “stuff”.

Santa is Personal

Everyone has their own interpretation of what Santa Claus means to them. We ‘get’ that. And we respect that. The only rule we have is “DO NOT RUIN IT FOR OTHERS!!” Rest your panties, minions. We have made it very clear to our spawnlings they do NOT tell this to other kids. We are not responsible for other kids and their parenting but I will also not be responsible for revealing the betrayal between another parent and child.

Not everyone believes in Santa. I have met some who are utterly repulsed by the idea, and to them, I say “Okay. You do YOU.” The thing is, you never know where someone stands on the issue, and no-one should be reprimanded for asking.

Thus how we ended up in our situation today. Our spawnlings are absolutely fine with their understanding of Santa. They are not afraid of your questions. You simply need to prepare yourself for the answer.

Santa is dead. Spread the word.

Happy Holidays for all your festivities at this time of year.

Edit: Just found this pic which suits Zaltu perfectly

Wonder Woman is spirit of Santa

Star Trek Discovery: Born Afraid

Star Trek Discovery - Saru 01

Last night, Evil Genius Dad and I caught up on Star Trek: Discovery with episode 8, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”. Now, I don’t understand the hate some people have for ST:DSC. I am really enjoying it. Both EG Dad and I feel it has the same spirit as previous Star Trek series, from the view of capturing the curiousity of exploration AND its ability to elicit discussion. Sure, it’s a little darker and honest—much in the same vein as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a VERY underrated Star Trek series.

Last night was another one of those conversation starters. The thing is, it’s never just one conversation. We end up talking a lot; sometimes afterwards, sometimes during. EG Dad and I really are the worst people to watch anything with. Good thing we have each other.

Episode 8 is split over a few stories, one of them focused on three characters visiting the planet Pahvo. Burnham, Tyler, and Saru find a sentient life-force of some shape, manner, or form, who seems to communicate with Saru. If you want a full re-cap, my colleague Jules over at GeekDad has a pretty good run down. I’m not summarising it here, nor am I giving spoilers. Instead, I have an example of how ST:DSC is keeping the magic of relevance that is so inherent in the Star Trek franchise.

Star Trek Discovery - Saru 02

My focus is on Saru, a character of the species Kelpians. His species have been hunted for generations, becoming a product of their evolutionary growth as prey. As a species, they are constantly in a state of hypervigilance.

“We are born afraid, we Kelpians. It’s how we survive.” – Saru, ST:DSC (ep8)

At first, there is a really easy way to compare Saru’s situation to our real world. There are thousands… no, millions of refugees in the same situation. There are children born in war-torn countries who have never known what it is like to NOT be in a war zone. There are third-generations now living in refugee camps, with children developing the same evolutionary patterns of hypervigilance as displayed with Saru (not with a heightened sense, but definitely with the same awareness and stress levels). What Saru is experiencing is not unknown in our world. But it is slowly being ignored. Partly because it is too easy for our Western ‘all-consuming’ society to see it once on the TV, sigh with an “oh, that’s awful” and then move on to the next media highlight.

AHMAD2

Taken from Magnus Wennman’s photo essay, “Where the children sleep”. This is Ahmad, 7yo. He is one of the too many children, sleeping on the streets at Hungary’s closed border. They were forced to flee their home, and now know even sleep is not a free zone. Follow the link to see more of the essay and learn how you can help. – http://darbarnensover.aftonbladet.se/chapter/english-version/

I get it. Sometimes the global problems can be a bit much for us to deal with it. We can feel overwhelmed with this horrible news and be uncomfortable with the feelings of inadequacy from not knowing what to do. I GET it. I feel the same way. Not everything is geeky in our Lair. We still want to take over the world because it seems like the only way to learn how to FIX this.

But Saru is not just about the refugee crisis. ST:DSC is not just about war zones and military conditioning. In fact, when Saru explained how he was born afraid, I didn’t even compare it with war.

It made me think of a situation I had seen earlier the same day, in my very own street.

I was walking with Zaltu to pick up Sinister and Nefarious from school. In a short distance up the hill, I could see a couple walking towards us, holding hands. The only thought to cross my mind was, “I need to move over so we can all fit on the footpath.”

About a minute later, as we were about to cross paths, I noticed one of the couple abruptly let go and throw down the other’s hand. And this action filled me with sadness.

The couple were two men.

The look on one man’s face was a little fearful like he was nervous or afraid of what *I* might say or do because he was holding hands with a man.

There was nothing I could say or do, without making everyone feel even more uncomfortable. What I wanted to do was tap them on the shoulder and say, “If you want to hold hands, do it. I have no issue. It shouldn’t matter if I did. Love is love.”

It hit me when I was watching Saru, how this must feel in a relationship.

Imagine having your relationship, every relationship, born in fear. Imagine the beautiful, ‘new love’ high you feel with a fresh relationship…but it is tempered with the born-fear of not being able to share your love with the world. Imagine feeling that EVERY TIME you start a new relationship.

Imagine that hypervigilance with an everyday activity like starting a relationship.

This is why I love Star Trek.

Because the characters, the stories, the whole damn franchise, is presented in a way where anything is relatable. Everything is a conversation starter. There is always something that triggers my thinking on issues in my every day.

I want to see more. I want to see more social commentary. I want to see more discussion about the dark side of wartimes, even in Utopian settings like Star Trek. I want to see more of Saru, overcoming his genetic preconditions (or at least learning how to use them better).

I especially want to see more ST:DSC to encourage me to look at my immediate world in a new way. I have a lot of respect for a show able to provoke my thoughts on how to make it a better place.

That’s my Star Trek.

Star Trek Discovery - title

 

PAX Aust 2017: Refuel

PAX is huge. Not just as a global convention, but in Melbourne it takes up every corner of the Convention Centre. A three-day-pass feels essential to be able to see everything.

That level of “walking” takes some serious refuelling. And you don’t want to gorge yourself on any convention-centre-collection. You are in The Zone; The Geeky-Gaming Zone. Respect the zone.

Melbourne has an amazing array of food options. Downstairs from my accomodation is a 24-hour pizza shop that tastes a LOT better than I expected. Two blocks up is a beautiful health store with a plethora of muesli choices for breakfast. But none of these really feed my geeky mood. So I went a-hunting!!

Dinner: 8Bit

Geek burgers for PAX

231 Swanson Street, Melbourne

This is a corner-store burger joint, with all the atmosphere of quaint burger joint and the bonus points for geeky references.

Geek burgers for pax
Every burger is gaming related. It’s PAX-paradise!! The prices are a little daunting at first but these burgers are high value. I ordered the 1Up mushroom (with added bacon), with a side of sweet potato chips and a Nutella milkshake. It filled me from early dinner right through to late breakfast the next morning.

Geek burger for pax in Melbourne

Dessert: Nitro Lab

188 Bourke Street, Melbourne


Around the corner from 8Bit, Nitro Lab is located on Bourke Street. A small store front with street-side seating, the real highlight comes from watching them make it.

They use liquid nitrogen to chill the ice cream!!

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
They have a very friendly selection from the menu: gluten-free, dairy-free, and chocolate-free… Wait. Why would you even DO that?!?

The added charm comes from the syringe of sauce you can add. A syringe! This place was made for me!! I ordered the passionfruit cheesecake with chocolate syringe.

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
It was soooooooo good. I am fighting the urge to go back.

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
Let me know of other geeky haunts around Melbourne, or your local geek-meet. We all need to refuel for these events.

BTW: my PAX Highlights will be over on GeekMom in a week or so. Stay tuned for updates!

Tram travel around Melbourne for PAX

Essential tram travel around Melbourne: The EG Mum Special

Cooperative Influenza

We have a rule in this family.

(*Well, to be honest… I have a rule and a 50/50 chance of it being obeyed*)

“Thou shall have one and only one parent sick at any given time. One shall be the number thou shalt have and the number of sick parents will be one. Two shalt thou NOT have. Two is right out.”

I’ll give Evil Genius Inc full credit—we have only had one parent sick at any time over the last month. For almost two weeks, it was me.

And to be fair, it was the spawnlings who ganged up on me. Usually, two kids out of three sick at home at the same time, with late nights played out in a twisted sense of tandem-comforting needs. So I pulled out the only arsenal I have to stop them from attacking me: Cooperative Tabletop Games.

Worked like a charm.

Cooperative Influenza Title

Family Friendly Cooperative Games

When spawnlings are sick, the competitive drive sharpens to the point of snarkiness. A little snark is okay (I consider it healthy) but a lot of snark when you are already really sick… Well, that’s just mean.

Cooperative games are so much better for sick kids. By ‘cooperative games’, I mean the tabletop games where you play with other people and gang-up on the ‘Game’ and not the parents. There is usually a common goal to achieve as a team, and The Game will create a bunch of problems to prevent you.

Cooperative games come in a range of styles and age-groups. Here’s our Top Three:

 

Orchard (Haba) – 3-6yo

Orchard is a go-to favourite for Zaltu (who just turned 4yo last week), and a happy choice for the older two. It’s not their favourite but they will often suggest playing it with Zaltu and keep her entertained for a solid half-hour or so.

Orchard 02

The Aim of the Game is: to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven steals it all. Each player takes a turn rolling the single six-sided die; there are four colours representing the fruit, plus a picture of a basket and a raven. If the die lands on a colour, you collect a piece of fruit: green/apple; yellow/pear; blue/plum; red/cherry. If it lands on a basket, you collect any two of your choice.

If it lands on the Raven, you have to place a piece of the Raven puzzle in the middle of the board. Everyone is working together to collect all the fruit as a team BEFORE the Raven puzzle is completed.

I also reviewed this game in a bit more detail over at GeekMom. The game is beautiful in its simplicity and intuitive for younger spawnlings. The physical make of the game is equally beautiful with wooden carved pieces for the fruit in the trees, lots of bright bold colours, and cute baskets for collection. It packs away easily, a particularly attractive feature when playing with young spawnlings.

Orchard 01.jpg

The best part is how willing the older two are to play. Orchard is a fairly quick game to play, so they are willing to set up a game or two with Zaltu before we head over to their preferred choice.

Forbidden Island (GameWright) – 10yo+

We originally had this game on the iPad—and then the iPad died. *insert sad panda face* It was a brilliant cooperative game to play during our campervan travels around New Zealand a couple of years ago. This and our digital copy of Ticket to Ride have both been sorely missed.

And then EG Dad scored a hard copy of Forbidden Island and the spawnlings rejoiced!! Seriously, this game is so popular with Sinister and Nefarious, they were reading the blurb of the game early today…instead of comics. They have already planned out this coming weekend with gameplay time.

Forbidden Island 01

The Aim of the Game is: to escape the island with your treasures and ALL members of the team before the waters rise up and swallow the island whole. Once again you are a team, each player having a specific role with specific skills. You might be the pilot, who can transport players all over the island AND off the island when you complete your goals. You might be the diver (Sinister’s favourite), allowing you to move through flooded channels around the island. You might be the engineer, able to save more areas of the island. No matter who you are, you are all working together.

Each player’s turn is followed by The Game’s Turn. That’s right, minions: The Game draws cards and floods various areas of the Island while you are taking turns to explore. The game ends when your team collects all the treasures and escapes, win…or the Island floods, lose.

This is a genuine cooperative game where you have to communicate with the team and work together when planning out your next move. If you run off ahead without your teammates, you will miss the opportunity to capture the treasure or miss the rescue helicopter. This game rewards those who can communicate with others. That’s why it works so well when you’re sick: it forces everyone to slow down and make time for every member of the group.

The age recommendation for this is 10yo but Nefarious has been playing with little guidance since he was 6yo. If you have spawnlings who can read, who can talk through ideas, and who genuinely want to give it a go working with the rest of the family then this game will be fine for you.

Pandemic (Z-Man Games) – 8yo+

Interestingly enough, Pandemic comes with a lower age recommendation and yet I would put it slightly higher on the complexity. Nefarious and Sinister have been playing this with us for a few years, and often require a little guidance. If I were to make suggestions on age: I would be fine with the spawnlings taking Pandemic to school for the Year 5 classes and above; Forbidden Island possibly year 3 or year 4.

Pandemic is really the perfect game for playing when you’re sick. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take a whole continent down on this influenza trip with you. It is also a great lesson for teaching the spawnlings how easy it is for a virus (like influenza) to travel around the world. They have a healthy new respect for the World Health Organisation and vaccinations.

Pandemic 01

The Aim of the Game is: to spread your team across the world to treat and cure diseases. Like Forbidden Island, each player has a separate role with their own unique skills aiding the team. As you meet up, you can exchange cards to discover cures and set up treatment/research centres. If your team can cure all four diseases, you win! However, once again The Game is out to stop you. For each player’s turn, The Game also has a turn, spreading infections and outbreaks across any country.

It’s a real shock to the mind as you watch the ‘virus tokens’ slowly build up across the board and then suddenly burst into an epidemic. At one point, I was tempted to simply pour a bottle of Panadol all over ‘The World’ and walk away, like some bad-ass pseudo-pharmacist pretending to stop the spread of disease (and really just hoping that sucker will disappear during my next nap).

If it sounds a little similar to Forbidden Island, then you may recognise the same game designer Matt Leacock. He is a game-guru when it comes to designing cooperative games. The difference between Forbidden Island and Pandemic is in the mechanics of the player movements. You are still limited to where you can go and subsequently how much you can do, however, Pandemic has clearer paths to plan with. There is also a greater sense of “big picture” with Pandemic, while Forbidden Island has a more isolated story-line to it. I know of some parents who also use Pandemic as a geography learning-tool. I can definitely see how that works.

 

The good news is we have survived the Evil Genius Influenza of 2017. The better news is we maintained our sanity and camaraderie, with the help of some nifty tabletop games. All three age groups entertained equally and without electronics and bloodshed—if that’s not an EG Parenting win, I don’t know what is!

Orchard was provided to me for review purposes, both here and on GeekMom. Forbidden Island and Pandemic are our own copies. All games can be purchased through Good Games, both online and in-store. I do not receive any financial benefit or sponsoring from Good Games for this article, though I will not deny that my local store knows me by name and credit card number…