Archive for November, 2007

MiniRant

November 30, 2007

It’s what we do to the Earth

Eat it
Beat it
Heat it

OK, MiniRant mode off.

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Gone

November 28, 2007

Two ‘gone’ things to think about this week.

John Howard.
Lost his seat after a long battle. It was Australia’s most dysfunctional election to date with both major parties seeming to be on the same side. Some people will miss Howard, some will wonder what’s missing but not be able to put their finger on it, and some will spend lots of time harassing the ears of others on how they won’t miss him at all. For many years Howard managed to lie to the people of Australia and get away with it when so many other politicians were scuppered on their own words. I think people grew weary somewhere along the way.

Bernie Banton.
Lost his life after a long battle. It was a war fought on two fronts – his own failing health and his relentless pursuit of the James Hardie Corporation. Bernie became one of Australia’s famous faces over the years. His determination to see proper compensation from JH caused them to skip the country and set up overseas. Bernie’s brother was one of JH’s victims a few years ago, as were most of the men with whom he worked in the asbestos industry. A state funeral will honour him for the integrity that he forced upon a corporation which fought him every step of the way.

Voting

November 24, 2007

Today us Aussies are voting. It’s compulsory over here, voting. Millions of us are getting out there and having our say. It’s a federal election, so the outcome might be a change of Prime Minister. Many people see that as a foregone conclusion.

Voting closes in about two minutes, 6pm local time, and then the counting starts.

It’s a funny thing, democracy. We vote these people into office and hope they will do as we want them to do. For their part, the politicians make all sorts of promises to get us to vote for them. Then they forget all about us and follow the party line. A few years later and the next election comes along and it’s all on again.

There’s something very dysfunctional about all this. There’s this community of people out there who are so bereft of self-esteem that they need to advertise their need for it nationally in the hope that people will fill in little form letters to tell them how much they like them.

Well, today, that’s what we are doing. Signing over the country to a bunch of people who don’t much like themselves. Any wonder something inside my mind wants to say something about used car salesmen.

Presents

November 24, 2007

Our anniversary I mentioned a few days ago. Remember the pineapple?

So there we are at breakfast, almost. I’m the breakfast getter in our place. My wife does not do mornings. It’s true, she’s even got the tee shirt.

I fill the kettle, plug it in, set up the teapot, open the cupboard to get the muesli, she wanders into the kitchen.

“I’ve got this,” she says and reaches into a shopping bag and brings out a pineapple. For somebody who does not do mornings, this is pretty good.

We laugh. We cut the pineapple. We eat it for breakfast as if we are Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
(Except younger.)
(And better looking – both of us.)
(And with a more functional family.)
(And … OK, it doesn’t really matter …

We exchange presents. She opens my gift to her and starts laughing – it’s a funny present. “I almost bought this for you!” she says. I suppose I kind of bought it for myself anyway.

I get to work late. “Let them guess,” I say to myself.

Typos

November 23, 2007

Don’t you just hate them? Last night I found two in a manuscript I have recently submitted to a publisher.

One was ‘thought’ instead of ‘though’ – easy to see what happened there. The other was three words in the wrong order – the dyslexia kind of thing. I have read through this manuscript a million times and haven’t found them. I’m starting to think they are deliberately inserted by aliens.

Consider this. A bunch of aliens are watching some archeologists at work. They look at each other with those big oval shaped eyes and a bit of thought transference passes between them. They get into their space-pod and land on earth, let’s say several thousand years ago, and start giving the primitive locals a bit of a head start.

A bit of alien technology enters the tribal sphere, such as flint arrowheads instead of bone. Nah, tell you what. They give them metal arrowheads. Teflon coated stainless steel arrowheads. Or titanium, that’d do it. That multi-coloured titanium you get from heating it with a blowtorch. That’s what they give them, colourful titanium arrow heads. Then these aliens, they get back into their space-pod and scoot back to Alpha Centauri.

So now we’ve got one tribe with the high-tech stuff. The tribe over the hill can’t handle it any more and are all killed in battle. The titanium tribe gets their land. Without the enemy in the next valley the men get a bit lazy. They don’t go to war. They mooch around doing nothing. The women kick them out of the house. “Go fishing or something,” they yell at them. The men go off to drink beer and wait for somebody to invent football and television.

The women find these lovely coloured things. “Oh, look,” says Mrs Ogg, “these two match each other.” She threads wire through two arrowheads and uses them as ear rings. There are just enough arrowheads to go around, two for each women. One for each ear. It is as if the aliens had counted them already.

Fast forward several thousand years. The archeologists are digging up a stone-age burial site in a secluded valley. Suddenly one of them straightens up and calls for the others, “Hey, come and look at this!” He’s uncovered an arrowhead. It’s metal.

“What the heck is that doing in there?” they all ask. Nobody answers. Nobody answers because they don’t know.

They dig a bit more through the grave and find another. There is one on each side of the skull.

“They’re ear rings,” somebody says. “Even got little loops of wire.”

“Looks like titanium.”

“Titanium? Can’t be.”

“My teenage daughter wears ear rings like that,” says one. The others look at him. His eyes widen a little, just a touch defensive. “She couldn’t have put them in there, she’s at home doing her homework.” It sounds a bit lame but it’s the truth.

They all stand looking at the titanium arrowheads. Nobody speaks for a long time.

The aliens can see them on their intergalactic Skype-Screen. The aliens have no sense of humour, they are interested in science for science’s sake.

And that is where typos come from.

32

November 21, 2007

Wedding

Thirty two years of history. And herstory. 21/Nov/1975

Beaujolais

November 20, 2007

We lived in England for a few years, living in the city of Exeter. 1985-89. What a great time. The Devon countryside is one of the world’s delights, especially the village of Kenn where you will find a pub called The Ley Arms. Built in 1190 AD, it was a popular haunt for us.

Our son was still a youngster so we preferred lunch there, gently soaking up the centuries until we had to pick him up from school. It quickly became our favourite wedding anniversary lunch spot.

November 21st turns out to be the day of the Beaujolais Run. No, we’d never heard of it either, until the pub owner came round with bottle and glasses and gave everyone in the place a free glass of red.

It turns out that on this day the French wineries of Beaujolais start selling their new vintage. And somebody decided it would be a good day for a race. A race to get the first cases of Beaujolais home to their local pub in Britain. The Ley Arms got their stuff rushed in by Porsche or helicopter or something, arriving half-way through lunch. So we made a habit of it.

We’ve been drinking Beaujolais for our wedding anniversary ever since. Until this year. This year we have just finished the Beaujolais, the evening before. Tomorrow we are having this.

toogoolah

It’s a newish local winery. I’ve been driving past the place for a year or so, until last weekend. I got off the bike and tried out their stuff. Very nice.

Here in Australia a galah is a native parrot. Grey wings and tail and bright pink elsewhere. They’re everywhere, and very noisy. To call somebody a galah is to suggest he’s a bit of a fool. I can handle that.

The label is too good to pass up for a wedding anniversary wine.

And hey, it’s no more foolish than rushing wine from the south of France to the south of England between breakfast and lunchtime.

Happy anniversary to us.

Pineapples

November 20, 2007

Bit of a hurried post here. I’ve just listened to the morning news and before going to work I have to get this distraction out of my head.

I’m a bit aware of wedding anniversaries at the moment. My wife and I celebrate 32 years tomorrow. My wife is a saint to be able to put up with me. But I knew that 32 years ago.

Back to this morning’s news. It was of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrating 60 years. Good on them, I say. She’s the first British monarch to reach such a long lasting marriage. That’s because her predecessors were married to men like Henry 8th, I suppose.

OK, back, again, to the news report. They listed some of the things the royal couple got for wedding presents back in 1947, the years of post-war rationing. Among the presents was that of the Queensland Government. That’s not where the queen lives, Queensland, it’s a state of Australia.

Apparently the official gift from the Qld government was 500 tins of pineapple. I don’t know about you, folks, but I reckon that is one very unusual wedding present.

So as the news finished I said to my wife, “Do you want me to give you a tin of pineapple tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? What’s tomorrow?”
I looked to see if she was awake. She was. Then she woke up.
“Oh, tomorrow. Is it our anniversary tomorrow? Is today the 20th? I’ve lost track of the days.”

So there you have it. Rack up one point for the male of the species to remember the day ahead of his wife.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest I’d better get going to work. Nobody ever forgets the day there. The guys I work among in the prison know their release dates and how many days to go no matter how far off.

I can see the conversations coming up already. “Thirty two years? You don’t even get that for murder.”

With pineapples you get either the rough end or the sweetness.

That’s life for you.

3,500

November 20, 2007

That’s where it starts. The noise I mean. 3,500 rpm and the motor is just getting to where it likes it. And when the bike likes it, I like it. The revs increase and so does the bike’s love of life. So, naturally, does mine. When Suzuki started putting 1,000 cc engines in motorbikes, the earth moved.

Somebody once had a mad idea. More than a hundred years ago probably. “Let’s take this two wheel contraption,” he said, “and also this internal combustion engine gadget, and we’ll put them together. Y’never know, it might turn out to be something.”

Whoever said that deserves something. He deserves to ride around on a modern bike for which 3,500 rpm is just the beginning instead of the end of mechanical sustainability.

Anyway, getting back to the noise thing. My bike was born in 1981 and back then the noise limit was 100 decibels. It’s still allowed 100 of those noisy little critters while new bikes are only allowed 80. I’m a law-abiding citizen so I run within the law. 98. That’s what mine does. 98 decibels at 4,500 rpm, which is half max revs and where the law measures it.

3,500 is the point at which the bike opens its throat and starts to roar. And that roar keeps building until by the time it hits the red zone at 9,000rpm it is loving it.

I’m learning to be a believer in brain wave meditation. You know the stuff. There are alpha waves and beta waves and theta waves and they all do different stuff, depending on whether we are awake or asleep at the time. These days people induce certain brain wave cycles as a stimulus to achieve the meditative state for relaxing after stress or letting go of bad thought patterns. Low hertz sounds that oscillate between left and right headphones (it’s called wobbling) is how they do it. Sounds simple? Don’t you believe it, Grasshopper. This is the stuff of one hand clapping.

Well I’ve got this theory. Get yourself a motorcycle. Make it a biggish one where the exhaust noise is going to be rather deep. Low hertz, that’s what you’re after. Now put on a short fat exhaust system. This means a loud one. You have to hear this baby working for it to do you good. Make sure the bike comes from an era when noise was good. 1981 is a good place to start.

Now go riding. Get that motor revving. It all starts at 3,500 rpm.

Can’t you just feel that meditative state descending on you? A few hours of riding the back roads and making that baby sing, a few hours of brain wave exhaust notes oscillating through my mind, and I can feel myself becoming as calm as a Zen master.

Ask me the meaning of life, the ultimate secret of existence, the riddle of the universe.
My answer will be 3,500.

Cheat

November 19, 2007

I have just discovered that I can change the date of a blog entry. So having just written the post titled UNA, I got back into it and changed the date from the 19th to the 17th. This is only two days later than the previous post, instead of the 4 days it actually took to get moving. And this one dated the 19th is two days apart as well.

This makes me look like a more regular, systematic, self-disciplined, really onto it, blogger. I love that.

This post you are reading, however, has its real date still attached.

Unless I decide to change it.

And you’ll never know.

Hahahahaha, world domination is mine……… !!!

I love this stuff.

Anyway, it’s about time I wrote something so I can put ‘sex’ into the tags again. My hit rate is falling lately.

UNA

November 17, 2007

I got an email today. OK, OK, I know that you’ll all want one, but life dishes out emails to the lucky ones.

This email – its subject line reads IDPWD
‘Nothing wrong with that,’ I hear you say.
But it reminds me of something.

Cuppla weeks ago I was doing some training for my work. Facilitator training, so I can train somebody else to do what they pay me for. Got to love that. The stuff was presented by an organisation called AICA. The program is called LMP. And there is a lot to be learned in LMP.

For a start there is understanding NSDs. And how they must be changed to PSDs. NSDs start with SLEs, they get processed in our FoO, and the goal of the program is that they end in SMARTs. We achieve the goal by a process of charting ISTFARs.

I really hope you are getting this. Probably not. It’s a bit like me being the only one to get an email. Never mind. Life does that to people. GOI.

All this reminds me of when I attended the UoW which was a detached campus of UNSW. I can’t remember what class it was, or what the assignment was about. But I can remember the tutor marking it quite simply with, UNA.

I had to go and ask him what it meant.
His reply? Use No Abreviations.

Royalties

November 15, 2007

Sometimes it takes longer to get into prison. It’s where I work and I do it every day, so I should know by now. I’ve been doing it for nine years now. Getting into prison, I mean. I just knock on the gate and I’m in. It’s not like that for everybody.

Maybe I should post a pic of the gate, it’s very impressive. Built in 1896, the gate is of yellow striated sandstone and very ornate. It’s got a lion’s head up there. The lion is holding a big brass key in his mouth. It’s a symbol of Royalty, that lion. The story is that if any inmate can get the key from the lion’s mouth he gets a pardon from the Queen. Pity the lion is on the outside of the gate.

This morning I am waiting to get in. There is some delay inside and other staff members arrive. One of the clinic nurses says to me, “I’m enjoying reading your book.”
“Really?” I say. “Which one?”
“The Insiders one. Short stories. With the red cover.”
“Oh, yeah. Glad you like it. Where did you get it from?” A few places around town stock it and I like the idea that they are moving them out.
“Down at the methadone centre. I work there some days.”
“What was it doing down there?” I’m a bit sideways at this point.
“Somebody must have left it there,” she says. “It was in the staff room.”

A thought runs quickly through my mind. I take an inner look to check it. “That means no royalties.” The thought is quick to appear. “Must work on that one day,” I say to myself. I get back to the conversation.

“And where are you up to?” I ask.
“I’m sitting in the café with Alice,” she says. A big smile crosses her face.

Another thought, just as quick. “Fantastic. She’s identified with the character. Wants to be there.”

“That was a fun story to write,” I say. “I hope you like where it takes you when all the stuff about coffee turns to what happens with the absinthe.”

The gate opens and an escort truck drives out. It’s full of inmates, insiders themselves, going elsewhere. None of them can see the lion above the gate. Or the key. Perhaps some of them think about it. Probably not.

Royalty. Royalties. Some people don’t get it.

Skin

November 13, 2007

I’m sitting here waiting. Not that it’s doing much good at this time of night. After dinner on a quiet Tuesday is not the time when a publisher is going to call and offer a contract on my novel. I know there’s more waiting to be done. It helps to have thick skin.

An editor friend ran through the early ms. She sent it back filled with scribbles and attached pages of notes. It was daunting to see her thoroughness but it sure did improve the novel. She emailed me to see how I was getting on, hoping that I hadn’t got discouraged. It’s a skin thing, writing.

Then I met one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors who thought the work had merit and deserved some mentoring. This wonderful experience meant very significant work. Chopping and changing wasn’t easy. But hey, I can take it.

Lots of reading by the mentor and lots of writing by me and it was pronounced ready for submission. I sent it off to a publisher. Also entered a competition.

The query came back with a polite negative. They read the synopsis but didn’t call for the ms. It didn’t fit their profile. I survived it. Their politeness helped.

Then the competition result was announced. I’d been longlisted! Translated, I didn’t get anywhere. They sent the judges’ tally sheets and things got really interesting. The novel had been judged on the first 1,000 words, that’s it. The judges agreed that certain elements were missing from what they had read. All I had to do was move those bits to the early part of the work. Sounds easy? After all, it’s only a skin thing.

I sent the new beginning to my editor friend and the mentor. Got good responses. So I queried another publisher and they asked for the ms. And that is where I’m up to. Waiting. Sitting in my skin and waiting.

Back when I sent off my first short stories to a publisher I got the reply, “Three of these we would publish straight off, the others need work.” I got a little morose, and bit discouraged, I got angry even. I sulked a bit and went all quiet inside. It did me no good. Then I woke up. “Hey, they want three, that’s pretty good for a first time ever submission.” So I worked on the others, asked the editor’s opinion of their poor showing, took his advice, re-wrote some, discarded others, wrote some new ones. The result was a book in print.

I respect that editor. He published a book of shorts a year later and won one of Australia’s significant literary prizes. $15,000, how’s that sound? I’m glad I took his advice.

This writing lark has got its moments. I love it when the ideas come and the words flow and the universe seems to constellate around my keyboard. It makes even my skin seem more alive when that happens. But there are other times when a thicker skin is needed. Comes with the territory.

Sex

November 12, 2007

Coz I’m a bloke, that’s why, so it had to come up sooner or later. Let’s get it over with quickly, shall we?

Question:
What part of a man’s body expands up to four times with stimulation?
That boy in the back row, yes you, keep a lid on it.
Answer:
The pupils of the eyes.

Question:
What is the body’s largest sex organ?
OK you guys, keep it under control. Being fifteen won’t last forever, so you’d better get some practice for when it all ends.
Answer:
The brain.

There you go, sex talk over. Seems we haven’t quite got it together on this topic after all. All this fuss over such a little thing. Sorry to get a bit personal here. But the evidence is that it is really a little thing. Why else would I be getting all those emails about making it bigger?

What I want to know is how they found out. And so many of them. It’s not as if I’ve been advertising or anything. What, you’ve been getting those emails too? Well it’s good to know I’m not the only deficient one on the planet.

Our world sure does make the most of the sex thing. Especially the world of advertising. Oh yeah, and the world of spam. Who ever thinks of spam and sex in the one sentence? That’s what I want to know.

So then, let’s think about it. One part of the world is filling our in-box with stuff that says our sex thing’s too small. The rest of the world thinks that sex is the biggest thing that we’ve got going. If the truth is out there, what the heck is it?

When I was fifteen I could have answered this quite easily. Then when my son was fifteen I could have asked him. But I’m older these days. Funny, isn’t it? You get to be a sexegenarian and suddenly you’re past it.

Christopher

November 11, 2007

We are sitting on the light rail going into Darling Harbour in Sydney. The conductor comes along to get our fare. His name badge says ‘Christopher’. He has a chunky build, a bit of his parents’ Greek accent, a friendly smile.

I pay for our tickets and say, “How’d the baby boy sleep last night?”
Christopher has no idea who we are. My wife and I are visiting Sydney for a few days, that’s all. Consider it a scientific experiment.
“He was awake until midnight,” says Christopher. “I hardly got any sleep.”
“Hope he settles down soon,” I say.
“Thanks,” he says. He loves talking about the baby. He moves away to take more fares.

I wonder if, sometime through the day, he will wonder who those strangers were who asked about his new baby son.

There’s something magical about being around a new Dad. Everything moves to the background to make room for the baby, and even total strangers are welcome to ask such a question for the sake of speaking about the miracle of life.