Fractional pants

‘The weather is warm,’ Damjan said gleefully. ‘I’ll wear my three-quarter pants.’

‘You know, in Chinese they’re called seven-tenths pants,’ I said.

‘Seven-tenths? Seventy per cent?’ Damjan looked astonished. ‘What do we call them?’

‘Three-quarters,’ I reminded him. ‘Seventy-five per cent.’

Damjan started laughing. ‘Why are they shorter in China?’

‘They’re poorer, I guess,’ was the obvious response.

Climate rally

On September 21, Damjan and I joined 30,000 people (supposedly) at the climate rally in front of the State Library of Victoria. The rally was part of a series around the world in the lead up to an important climate change conference in New York.

Ben and Jerry's: If it's melted, it's ruined

Ben & Jerry’s was the only corporation that I saw at the rally. I like their sign, ‘If it’s melted, it’s ruined.’ True for ice cream, true for Antarctica.

Next major extinction? Pollies

There’s that photo showing the Coalition ministers-to-be. They look like they wanted to be taken seriously, don’t they.

Homemade sign

Handwritten homemade signs are still being made.

Climate action is on my agenda

And here’s me. Climate action is on my agenda. When we left the rally, Damjan walked around the city holding this sign. We got a lot of people smiling at us and saying, ‘Good on you!’ Not surprising for the one electorate in Australia that voted in a Greens MP. Oh, there was one guy who said, ‘Tony Abbott is great!’ We thought he might not have read our sign properly.

Breastmilk experiments

A while back, we noticed that Mia didn’t want to drink bottles of breastmilk that I had painstakingly prepared. At first, we thought it was because she didn’t like drinking from bottles. We changed the bottle teat. We tried when she was less tired. Sometimes she would drink it, sometimes she wouldn’t.

Finally we tasted the milk ourselves. Freshly expressed breastmilk was mild and sweet. The milk that we had thawed from the freezer was horrible.

I felt awful. We had been trying to force horrible tasting milk into Mia’s mouth!

So, we ditched the ‘liquid gold’. I had no qualms about it. It’s hard work to build up a stash of breastmilk but there was no way I was going to feed it to Mia.

My stash of frozen breastmilk

My stash of frozen breastmilk

Liquid gold melting away in the sink

Liquid gold melting away in the sink

Why did this happen? Somewhere between expressing, freezing, storing and thawing, the taste of the milk changes.

I read around the topic on the internet. Some women’s breastmilk has too much lipase (an enzyme), which means that breastmilk starts changing in flavour within a few hours of storage. This is not what happens to my milk. Mia is happy to drink milk that has been refrigerated for a few days.

Another theory that sounded promising is to do with the way frozen breastmilk is stored in the freezer. The freezer has a defrost cycle, so if milk is stored on the ‘floor’ of the freezer, it might defrost and refreeze a little each time the freezer does a cycle.

To test this, we made three samples of milk. One was refrigerated. Another was stored on the floor of the freezer. The other was stored on the freezer shelf. After three days of storage, I also expressed a fresh milk sample to add to the experiment.

Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days

Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days

It was a single-blind taste test. I knew which sample was which and Damjan did not. Here are his notes.

Tasting notes from breastmilk trial

Tasting notes from breastmilk trial

It turned out that thawed breastmilk tastes like coconut! Also, all samples were drinkable and close to indistinguishable.

Our next theory was that it was the age of the breastmilk that mattered, rather than the storage method. So for two weeks, every second or third night, I made a breastmilk sample and froze it.

Last week, we got to do another blind taste test.

Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?

Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?

Alas (or hooray?), all samples were equally drinkable. The age of the milks did not seem to relate to how strong the flavour was. Damjan wasn’t able to rank them by age.

So we haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it.

At least we know that we can freeze milk for at least two weeks. In fact, on Monday, we sent Mia to childcare with a bottle of thawed 16-day old milk and she drank all of it.

Who is more disabled?

When I was almost eight months pregnant, I went to Brisbane for a training course. On the way back, I took the Skybus back to the city.

I had been sitting in the ‘special needs’ section of the bus for about five minutes, waiting for the bus to leave the terminal, when a Skybus official got on the bus and said to me, ‘You’ll have to move, we have a person in a wheelchair that needs this space.’

I leapt up to change seats. It took two seconds for the man’s expression to change. ‘Oh no! You’re pregnant!’

I mumbled reassurance. I think a person in a wheelchair is more disabled than a healthy pregnant woman.

Racial profiling

Five of us plus Mia arrived at our favourite Vietnamese restaurant. We were a bigger group than usual so the waiter seated us upstairs, where there are round banquet tables.

Damjan looked around and said, ‘I think there are more Aussies here today.’

Dad replied, ‘No, this is normal. They always put the white people upstairs.’

‘Really? Why?’

‘Because white people eat slowly. They put them here to avoid clogging up the busy tables downstairs.’

Adult conversation

Every night, Damjan and I go through Mia’s bedtime routine: feed, bath, read a book, sing a lullaby, and into bed by 7:30pm.

Then it’s time for adult conversation, which is a real treat for me after a whole day of ‘Un gah gah’ and ‘A boo’.

Here are the demand and supply curves that Damjan and I drew one night, when we were trying to work out how is it that a regulated minimum wage does not lead to unemployment. Damjan argued that the mechanisms for this effect could probably be shown with conventional demand and supply curves. I wasn’t so sure.

Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees

Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees

Car share schemes in Melbourne

Damjan and I have lived the inner city car-free lifestyle for a while now. We wondered if would be possible to continue without a car once Mia arrived.

It’s been five months now and I think the answer is yes. Public transport and walking still gets us almost everywhere we need to in a normal week. Beyond that, car share gets us to the beach, friends in regional towns, Ikea and Bunnings.

We had been thinking about joining a car share scheme for a while and Mia’s impending birth finally brought it to the top of our ‘to do’ list. Being the analytical people that we are, it would not surprise you that we put together a spreadsheet of all the car share options in Melbourne (11 plans from three companies). The spreadsheet allowed us to work out the most cost effective plan for our lifestyle.

The three companies in Melbourne (Flexicar, GreenShareCar and GoGet) have different fee structures (e.g. hourly charges, distance charges, toll administration, insurance). It’s quite tricky to line them up side-by-side unless you have a spreadsheet… which you now can do, my readers, because here is a link to our handiwork.

Australian car share cost comparison

Australian car share cost comparison

Our spreadsheet lets you put in scenarios for car use so that you can see which of Melbourne’s 11 car share plans is best for you.

We worked out that we might spend around $1,000 per year. Which is bloody good, considering how much the insurance and registration would be just to own a car for occasional use. Even better, instead of an underused car sitting in our car space, we’re renting the space out and the rent covers all our public transport.

Head over to Damjan’s site for his write up of the spreadsheet.

This blog is 10 years old

My first blog post was on June 8, 2004. This is my 1,059th post. I am amazed that this has been going for 10 years.

In the first few years, I wrote every second day or so. Last year, I posted only 15 times. I enjoy blogging as much as ever and am making the effort to write more often. I’ve learned that the more I write, the more ideas I have for posts. Blogging breeds blogging.

When I started my blog, I worried that I would stop writing my diary. Actually what happened was that the blog took the place of long emails to friends.

I am embarrassed by my posts from the first year or so. It took me that long to work out what I was doing with the blog. Like most public internet diarists of the time, I tried to be zany and spent too much time on things that mattered to me and not to my audience. At least I can accurately reflect on how I’ve matured over the last decade. If I ever become famous, though, I am doomed by this blog.

This blog has had five makeovers. In June 2004, I started using a service called mblog, which was shut down in October 2004. Vera rescued my writings from her Temporary Internet Files.

Joanium's Soapbox in 2004

Joanium’s Soapbox (2004). I used to like how clean this looked. How times have changed. There is so much STUFF on this page.

I looked into what other blogging services were around and moved to Blogger before Google bought it. Blogger looked after me from October 2004 to January 2009. This was when I introduced the coconut icon. Back then, my blog was anonymous (no surnames). The coconut was a hint at my surname (Ko Ko nut) and possibly my zaniness. Hilarious.

I might have been violating copyright on that coconut image for the past five years. Perhaps it’s time for me to pay up… if I can work out where the image comes from.

Coconut Joan on Blogger

Coconut Joan on Blogger. I kept the orange highlights from my mblog and introduced the coconut.

I think I was procrastinating in January 2009 when a web hosting deal sucked me into buying  my domain name and a two year hosting plan. This was the end of my anonymity and when I started using WordPress.

I have used three themes over this time. They’ve all been blue and white and have become increasingly minimal, following wider design trends on the web.

First WordPress site, January 2009 to January 2013

First WordPress design, January 2009 to January 2013

Second WordPress design, January 2013 to June 2014

Second WordPress design, January 2013 to June 2014. This refresh involved the radical elimination of sidebar cruft and the move to a serif body font. I like serifs, I’m old fashioned that way.

Third WordPress design, June 2014

Third WordPress design, June 2014. Now with no sidebars and friendly to tiny mobile phone screens. Totally on trend with a big fat serif body font.

Thank you Internet Wayback Machine. I did not have the foresight to save these screenshots.