Archive for August, 2008

Winning the Water Rates

August 30, 2008

We just got our council water rates bill. Didn’t want one. Didn’t ask for one. Just got one.

It’s got a graph of how our usage in the last few months stacks up against the same time last year and the city average. We moved into this house a few months ago, so the last year figure was for the previous owners. Young couple with a baby. Wouldn’t use much water, you’d reckon. Not so, apparently.

We are ahead by miles on both. We use two thirds of the previous people, and only half the city average.

Looks like it’s longer showers coming up.

The Sign of The Don

August 29, 2008

The Don, Don Bradman, was the world’s greatest cricketer. The Don would have been 100 years old this week. And I’ve blogged recently about coaching my son’s cricket team so I guess it’s still on my mind.

And also still on my mind is the non-signing of autographs by two Olympic swimmers, yesterday’s blog. The news reports of that event give two reasons for not signing. First was commercial interest. And second was that some Olympic memorabilia signed by these gold medalists would have significant financial value at auction.

Consider that for a moment. A swimmer wins a gold medal, signs a program from Beijing, and the owner of the program auctions it and gets $1,000. Free. Just like that. What a wonderful world we live in.

But the sponsor people, the money people, they don’t like that idea. And they stop it from happening. I suppose they want that $1,000 auction sale to be on one of their tee-shirts instead.

The Don was not like that. He was famous for giving away his signature. People could write to him and ask for his signature and he would send them a letter in return. Don Bradman signatures abound. He knew people would either keep it or sell it. But he was generous with himself and he signed anyway.

In about 100 years I wonder if people will remember the birthday of those two gold medal swimmers. I suppose I should put their names here. You know, just in case.


Being Above Average

August 28, 2008

It’s good to be above average in something. Isn’t it? After all, isn’t the whole Olympic thing about being above average? OK, a long way above average, but it’s only a matter of degree.

Well, I’ve figured out I’m above average. In lots of ways.

I have more than the average number of fingers and toes. I have more than the average number of hands and feet, of ears and eyebrows, of elbows and knees. I am above average in so many areas I am above averagely astounded by it.

Consider all those butchers who have lopped off a finger. That kid I used to know who’d done the same thing with an axe to one of his toes. TV presenter Adam Hills with his empty shoe. So many people have contributed to the lowering of the average number of fingers and toes, of legs and arms.

It would take some fancy statistics to work out the average number of fingers per person on the planet, but it’s not impossible to get a close-enough figure. And here’s me with my full quota of body parts, proving me to be just a little above average.

Stands to reason then that the Olympic gold medallists are so far above average. Well, until today in Australia.

Two Olympic swimmers, Stephanie Rice and Eamon Sullivan, proved the opposite today. In a public welcome at a shopping centre they refused to sign anything that was not from the racks of their clothing sponsor, Davenport. The sponsorship deals prevents them from engaging in commercial conflict, we are told. A lot of people queued for nothing and left upset and angry.

We might blame the Davenport people. Or we might blame the legal people. Or we might blame the people who signed the contract, the Olympic gold swimmers. It’s a shared event this one, a mixed medley gold. All share the glory, and all share its antithesis.

In a week or so we will see the next Olympic Games, the Paralympics. The games will be peopled by those who are a bit more average than I am in body parts, but far above average in so many other aspects.

I guess it shows that we are all a bit above average in some things, and regrettably below average in other things. The skill of being real, of being a fully human person, is to make sure we have a good handle on what those things are. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the Paralympians will prove to be a little more above average than some of their able-bodied counterparts on that score.

The Peaceful Dove

August 27, 2008

We’ve got them. Peaceful doves. We’ve got them nesting in the garden. Two pairs in two trees. To be more accurate they are not in our garden but over our back fence. But we claim them as our own, to the extent that anyone can claim a wild bird.

They’re not peaceful, you know. They are fiercely protective of their nest, wonderfully fiercely. They perch there on the roof guttering above their nests and keep watch. They attack and attack and attack until any other bird goes looking elsewhere for territory or for a nesting materials or for food or simply for company.

I’d been wondering what happened to the kookaburras. Perhaps they’ve been ‘peaced off’.

I’m Glad All That’s Over

August 26, 2008

Or should that be – I’m Glad That’s All Over?

The Olympics, I mean. But you knew that.

I don’t mind the sport. That’s why I watch in the first place. And I’ve blogged a bit about my thoughts on the commentators. But I keep the mute button close by. And there’s cycling commentator Phil Ligget who is master of his craft and I’ve never had a problem listening to him. So even the commentators are not all idiots.

What I’m glad about is the end of the public display of how some nations treat their children, taking them from their parents and pressure-cooking them into sporting heroes for the sake of nationalism. The doctrine that the state owns the children of its citizens is quite wide spread. Pressure-cooking is alive and well.

But pressure-cooking people never really works. In any endeavour. The success it brings is limited in scope and comes at a high cost. Consider what was traded for each Olympic gold medal. What personal sacrifice was made, and by whom? And for what? And who has first decided that sacrifice will be made?

Time was, a winner was a winner. We knew that. We remember Herb Elliot and Roger Bannister running the four minute mile. We knew them as individuals. We applauded them as individuals. These days, it’s the country who competes. The Olympic winner is the nation not the athlete. We ride piggyback on the ability of one in a million, or one in a billion. We’ve become hitchhikers.

I loved the moment last week when a gold medal winner was asked how Olympic gold stacked up against all his other victories in national and local competitions. His said competing in his club events was as much fun as the Olympics. He was in it for the sport, for the doing of it, for the pure and simple engagement of himself and others doing what they loved most.

The commentator doing the interview couldn’t quite handle that. The answer got the better of his cliche-ridden thinking. The commentator wanted a bit of nationalism, a bit of jingoism, a bit of shared glory. He wanted to feel that he had a part in the victory. The commentator wanted to think that by putting his particular brand of pressure on the athlete he could own some of the real estate. He was a closet pressure-cooker, that commentator. He differed only in scale from the political and social planners who take a four year old child from her family and put her through a twelve year regime of instruction with the single aim of Olympic gold.

And I, for one, and glad it’s all over.

The Closing Ceremony

August 25, 2008

Oh dear, am I really going to do this? Please, somebody stop me.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse.

All Those White Blood Cells

August 21, 2008

Watching a body show on TV a week ago and the presenter was showing how rapidly white blood cells are manufactured when the body is under stress. She was trussed into a belaying harness, her hands tied together, and then belayed from the ceiling of a multi-gallery concert hall. I don’t know how far she dropped before the belayer stopped her a few metres above the floor, but she was pretty pasty looking when they got to her.

They’d taken blood samples just before the drop, and more within seconds of the drop. The second sample showed an order of magnitude increase in white blood cells. The difference was so dramatic that it was difficult to take it in. Her body was under so much stress that somewhere inside her system knew there was damage coming up, and that means infection, and that requires white blood cells. It was done in less than ten seconds.

OK, now let’s go to the Women’s Water Polo bronze medal playoff in Beijing. It’s Australia against Hungary. Score is 7-7. Two periods of extra time take the score to 9-9. Now it requires a shootout, best of five in singles throws for each team.

Australia throws first, Hungary deflects. Hungary throws, Australia deflects. Australia throws, Hungary deflects. Hungary throws and scores. And that is when something really happened. My heat starts pumping harder. My breathing stops. My skin goes sweaty. Life is not so comfortable for me. I am under threat. You know what this means? It means in ten seconds I am going to have millions of more white blood cells pumping around my body.

Who would have guessed that watching women play water polo could be so good for your health?

Oh yeah, Australia went on to win the shootout by one shot. Bronze medal to us.

I’m feeling better now.

Trying To Explain Cricket

August 20, 2008

Two blogs today.

I have just blogged about coaching my son’s cricket team. Trouble is, so few people in this world understand cricket. You have to be British, or Australian, or Indian, or Pakistani, or South African, or New Zealander, and that’s about it really.

So for the rest of the world’s citizenry who is going to flood into my last blog and not understand the jargon of the ‘over’, the ‘crease’, the ‘clicker’. or anything else, my advice is google. Or yahoo. Or wikipedia. Doesn’t matter in the end. Cricket can be like that.

It All Adds Up In The End

August 20, 2008

When my son was in primary school I was coach of his cricket team. There were two fathers prepared to do it, the other guy was a detective. These boys had the Rector from the local church and a copper as coaches. The combination gave great opportunity to those with a sense of humour.

But one of the funniest things was the boy’s reaction to my inability to count up to six. I can do it for most things, like quietly putting six cans of baked beans into the shopping trolley to ‘help’ my wife when she’s shopping. Put six sheep in front of me and I’m OK with that. Or six anythings that need counting. But get me to stand as umpire in a cricket game and count six balls to the over and my dyslexic brain can’t do it.

“Use the clicker, Mr Miller”, the boys would say.

“I am using it. But I forget if I’ve clicked it for each ball or not.”

The trouble with the clicker was that I could forget as fast as I clicked. After all, I was checking the bowler’s foot to make sure he didn’t cross the bowler’s crease. I was keeping my eye on the stumps and the batsman’s pads to see if he was bowled out. I was checking those two boys out there who seemed to have drifted from their fielding positions and into a conversation about girls instead of keeping their attention on the game. I was probably thinking of whether I’d put six cans of baked beans in the trolley or only five. Who knows what my brain was doing apart from trying to keep count?

Then there was the score sheet. If you have never seen a cricket score sheet I suggest you do a bit of googling. But be warned, you will need a PhD in mathematics or process engineering or cosmic hyperology in order to understand it. There are little boxes littered all over the page and every box is crying out for a number. “Fill me, fill me,” they cry like puppies in a pet shop window.

The boys were not allowed to fill in the score sheet. That had to be done by the umpire. After all, there’s an accountability issue here that we took very seriously in the cricket comp in that town. Only an adult could be trusted with all those boxes and all those numbers. Even an adult with the number crunching ability of a cricket bat.

We got through it. The boys would stand in a circle behind me.”Put a 2 in that box, Mr Miller!” they would yell. “Put a 1 in that box! Put a 6 in that box!” I liked those sixes, it meant that the boys were having a great game. Schoolboy cricket is made up of sixes. Sixes hit, sixes missed or sixes imagined. Six is the magic number to a boy in a cricket hat.

The result of that clicker and all those boxes was that we had some fun playing cricket. We won about as many games as we lost. The boys had somebody who cared what they were doing on Thursday morning before school and Saturday morning on the pitch. And I found new ways of trying to explain to a bunch of growing boys why adults are not quite as functional as they think we should be.

At Last, Moet

August 18, 2008

Things have got a bit heavy around here in the last week. Life can do that to you sometimes. Trouble is, deciding how to respond can be a puzzle.

Some people respond to heavy issues with heaviness. Heavy emotion, heavy heart, heavy load to carry.

Other people decide a different path. That’s what we decided to do. Part of the decision was the Moet.

So, into the wine store with a fullish wallet, and out with an empty one. Oh yeah, and a bottle of Moet & Chandon.

Tomorrow it’s all surgeon and scalpel. Moet & Chandon is not for the faint of heart.

One in Five

August 16, 2008

The Chinese Olympic thing has got me thinking. They reckon one in five people on the planet is Chinese, and that’s very significant for me as I was the middle one of five children.

I have two elder brothers, Craig and Peter, and two younger sisters, Jane and Meilin Chan.

Yeah, I reckon it must be Peter.

It’s about Whales

August 15, 2008

Just a nice story that I was reading in a waiting room boating magazine.

First, perhaps I should give a gold medal to the waiting room that had a boating magazine in the first place. It’s a bit of a cosmic anomaly, considering that every other waiting room in the cosmos only has women’s mags filled with photos of how fat film stars are in daily life. So there you are, Mr Anonymous Waiting Room, take a gold medal.

And now to the story. It’s about whales. And about a sailing race in the Whitsunday Passage.

Above the waterline a bunch of sailors try to concentrate on things like windshifts and windward legs. Below the water line one mother whale frolics with her calf, and another mother whale gives birth. Who could concentrate on the race with that happening beside the boat?

Call for Full

August 14, 2008

Bit of writer’s jargon there. This morning I had a publisher request the full manuscript of my YA novel. Any writers out there will know that this is the big ask, and something that does not come often.

Is this the beginning of the end?

And the winner is…

August 13, 2008

I’ve heard a football commentator call “a head-high tackle to the solar-plexus”. But that was in the 1970s and we’ve come a long way since then.

And I’ve recently read a guy quoting his father’s opinion, “The Cadillac is the Rolls Royce of motor cars.”

But I reckon an Olympic swimming commentator scooped the pool with this one. “OK, the gloves are off, she’s tackled her opponents head on in a runaway victory and left them all floundering.”

Fair enough, he had one aqautic reference in there. But the rest is a masterpiece of fabrication. Somebody is paying this guy to say things like this. What a wonderful world we live in.

Every Point Counts

August 12, 2008

You know the trouble with the Olympics? It’s that we get bombarded by sports commentators. There is no more inane group of people on the planet. There orta be a law…

I’ve just watched Michael Phelps winning his next gold medal. The sports commentators comment? “Michael Phelps is the Tiger Woods of swimming.”

So I changed channels. Call it survival.

The other channel was showing the badminton, Korea vs Indonesia, mixed doubles. After one very fast play the commentator scored another win for inanity by putting on her most profound tone of voice and saying, “Every point counts”.

Where do they get them from?