Thursday, 23 May 2013

Alcohol. Enshrine it in Territory life! but only in pubs - not parks!

At the Australian Hotels Association award night on May 22, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said said  the NT's drinking culture was a "core social value", The ABC reported on May 23 that Giles said "'having a coldie' in a pub should be 'enshrined' as part of Territory life."

Alcohol indeed is a disturbingly  central part of life for many Territorians. The NT has the second-highest alcohol consumption rate in the world, and the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in Australia.

Alcohol is a serious public health issue, and should be treated as such. International evidence consistently shows that the most effective policy approach to alcohol-related harm involves taking on the powerful liquor lobby: introducing price controls, limiting  take-away opening hours and licensing.

But the NT government has recently taken retrograde steps that will instead punish people who have alcohol addictions, effectively criminalising drinking by allowing police to ban people from drinking for three months at a time.

The new policy, announced on May 10 (and outlined in last week's Green Left) has been roundly condemned by health and Aboriginal justice experts.

So has the CLP done an about  face on how it views alcohol consumption in the NT? Is it a problem, or a fundamental human right?

The answer may lie in the different drinking patterns and places of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Because of complex historical and cultural factors, Aboriginal people in  the NT are more likely to drink outside, such as in parks or on the beach. than in hotels.

So, while a "coldie in a pub" might be an important part of NT life, according to the CLP, its tough-on-crime, clean-up-the-streets approach to alcohol means Aboriginal people will overwhelmingly be targeted by its harsh new measures.

In case there  was doubt about where the CLP stands in the debate about alcohol supply measures, the ABC reported that Giles told the awards night "the Government would do its best to support the liquor industry".

Saturday, 11 May 2013

On the perils of writing a glossary

So this year I have landed a contract doing a technical writing job, about which I was rather excited.

We are in the home stretch now, as we get ready to print, and I spent three days this week writing the glossary.

I've never really thought about glossary writers before, although I was involved in writing a dictionary once and found it definitely appealed to my OCD tendencies.

But now, after my experience this week, I would like to talk to someone who writes glossaries for a living. I want to ask: how do you stay sane? What OHS policies do you have in place? Can you still spell?

Here's how my three days went.

I was initially pretty excited about the glossary, being quite a lover of lexicography. "An excuse to read dictionary definitions", I thought happily to myself. "And get paid for it!"

I decided I needed a system. I already had the words that needed to be in the glossary. I read a few "how to write a glossary" articles. My sense of excitement increased. It dawned on me that I would need to read numerous definitions of the same word in multiple dictionaries, to make comparisons and then craft my own Plain English summary. "Wacko", I thought. "I usually do that for fun, and people think I'm crazy. Now it's my job!"

I selected the different dictionaries I would use, a variety of online  free dictionaries, dictionaries I subscribe to and the good hardcopy book variety.

And I began. And I loved it!

For the first afternoon.

By the second day, I was having trouble differentiating between nouns and adjectives.

Oh, and you know that thing you get when you've been looking at a word for so long it starts to appear kind of weird, like it must be spelt wrong?

At the end of the second day of glossary writing, Pete seemed to sense it would be good for me to get out of the house. I went to aqua aerobics. It was the most exciting thing I'd ever done. There was  the horizon! Movement! People! Wet water splashing around in a wet fashion! I laughed a lot in that aqua class, much to the concern of my fellow splashers.

Day three. I was beginning to waver. Each time I made a glossary entry, I'd first been checking to see the context in which  it was used in the document - verb or noun, for example. By day three I was getting a lot better at re-writing sections of the book using plainer English, to avoid having to make a new entry in the glossary.

I started to be  personally offended when one of the dictionaries -- the one I'd decided was my favourite -- let me down. (Yes, that's right, it was letting me down. After we'd been through so much together.)

I took a break at noon to go to a refugee rights  rally. Someone handed me a letter from a detained Tamil man, asking me if I would read it to the gathered crowd.

I looked down at the bit of paper. It had words on it. So many words. They didn't, it didn't .... I couldn't... "No", I said. "I'm sorry. I feel a bit sick. Can someone else do it? It's not even alphabetical order."

After the rally I came home to crank through another letter.  I was up to "m" when I'd gone to the rally. By "p", this is how it looked:

a discount or amount of money that is returned or given back after something has been paid for. For example, if you have to buy a uniform for work, you might get some of the money you spent back as a tax rebate
this word must die


this word can go to hell


yeah right

soccer? ole ole ole?

I remembered a book I read a while back called Reading the OED, about a man who - yes, that's right. The whole thing. How did you guess? I remembered finding it entertaining reading  about what it did to his health and sanity.

When Pete got home at six, something happened. I guess I had a slightly wild glint in my eye. Or maybe he'd been there longer than I realised and overheard my end of  the heated conversation with the Merriam-Webster. Whatever. He was clearly concerned. And that was before I looked up at him and started to giggle hysterically, while also sobbing, and gesticulating towards the dictionaries.

I decided it was knock off time.

It only took me a few hours to recover, which bodes well for next week when I crank through s-z. Or so I thought. Tonight I'm wondering if perhaps the whole experience has enhanced my OCD tendencies somewhat...

We recently moved house, and today I bought one of those things you hang in the shower to keep soap, shampoo etc in.

When I was having a shower tonight, I realised that- unless you are very careful about how you arrange said soap, shampoo etc - it hangs at an ugly angle. I spent a fair bit of time working out the best way  to make it all hang nicely (don't worry- when I realised this was going to take some time, I turned off the water so as not to waste).

When I realised what I was doing, I laughed at myself. Well, giggled, actually. Rather hysterically, crouched in the shower stall. And thought about looking up the word "balance" in the Macquarie and Collins...