Saturday, November 24, 2007

Valediction


It was daughter number one's valedictory dinner last night and she was one of 145 kids graduating from her High School. Some of them I have known since kindergarten and it amazes me how quickly they grow up. I spent three weeks with most of them on a trip to Central Australia in 2005 and had a terrific time with a great bunch of kids.

Sitting there watching them all last night I was reminded again of my own school years and thought about the sense of excitement on that journey into adulthood that was about to begin. Today, many of them will vote in our Federal Election for the first time, most have already gotten their driver's licences during the year and it is now legal for them to drink.

I suspect that most don't consider that last night is probably the last time many of them will see each other. There will of course be those who will be lifelong friends, some may well become friends in the next months and years, some will marry, others will head off overseas. There will be success stories and probably some sad failures, there will even likely be some who will not be around at all in the next ten years let alone reach middle or old age.

I remember son number 2's Grade 6 graduation and a young kid who stood grinning at the door of the reception center handing out programs and ushering people to seats. Within a month he had suffocated when a sand cave collapsed on him while playing at a beach on his family holiday. But that day of the graduation he was happy and full of life, with dreams and ambitions, and good friends who would share that time with him. No different to any of the kids I saw last night.

So for the graduating class there are no fears, nor beliefs that the salad days will ever end. Sure they've had the weight of a tough year lifted with the end of exams and they are all looking forward to what the future brings and there will dounbtless be days of disappointment ahead for some. I trust for most though that life will unfold in ways that suit them. And who can really ask for any more.

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I won't be around for the next week. I'm off to Tasmania tomorrow morning and will be doing a bit of bushwalking at Cradle Mountain for the next few days, before heading down to the south of the Island where I'll be visiting some of the places that my great-great-Grandparents, four of whom were Irish convicts, were assigned to work out their sentences. Stay well my friends and I'll be back in a weeks time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I don't get...rat's milk

There are reports in newspapers around the world today on odd Vegan Heather Mills call for people to cull cows and start drinking rats milk. Now at the risk of offending some people the term "odd Vegan" is probably tautological. Is this woman insane? How many rats would you need to get enough milk for a cup of tea.

According to a Press release by Viva Mills was saying that we are the only mammal to continue drinking milk after we are weaned and that drinking rat milk makes as much logical sense as drinking cows milk. And why is she saying that - because she and her cohorts reckon that cows are contributing as much as 18% to the worlds build up of green house gases.

I reckon you probably need the mass of 10,000 rats to make one cow and that the collective farts of 10,000 rats is probably equivalent to that of one cow. Therefore the suggestion is a spurious one ;)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

That old divan

I have bought a new Canon scanner with which I am scanning in a lot of old negatives and colour slides. I know I've touched before on how viewing old photographs can trigger powerful memories. Some of the events I've looked at again were buried deep in the recesses of my mind and I hadn't thought about either the people in them or the places and times they describe in a very long time.

We weren't poor but our home was modest. Timber floors, when that was a sign of lack of money rather than a trendy fashion statement like it appears to be today, venetian blinds, and the only thing we had to sit on in the loungeroom was an old divan.

That piece of furniture saw all my childhod illnesses - mumps, measles, german measles and chicken pox. It even saw the days when my sisters or I faked illness in order to get out of school. And it was the place of choice for those Sunday nights in front of the TV watching Disneyland. It was there when we woke to find Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny had come. It saw the block fences around zoos and farms and the villages of lego and the fort full of my cowboys and indians, and my sisters games with their Barbie Dolls.

It was there when the log rolled out of the fireplace on a still night and burnt slowly through the floor of the house. It rested the weary bones of my four grandparents and accepted the jumps of young kids for years. At some time in the late sixties or early seventies, probably not long after that photo was taken, it was replaced by a three piece vinyl lounge suite, which as the years wore on also collected the creases of my family's life until it too passed to someone else.

I know that some of you who read here like a writing challenge so my request of you is that you find a photo of an old piece of furniture and tell us it's story - I'll update this post with the links of anyone who cares to participate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I don't get...breast feeding 7 year olds


A new report has said that Australian mothers are breast feeding their children up to the age of 7 years old. It stated that some of the 107 women who took part in the study are feeding up to a dozen times a day and one of them was feeding three children at once. Now I think the latter meant that in any one day three of her kids were feeding rather than she had three tits. But you know what, I don't get it!

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Image from Cartoonstock.com

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who peers from faded photographs?


"You say you should have died instead of me. But during my time on earth, people died instead of me, too. It happens every day. When lightning strikes a minute after you are gone, or an airplane crashes that you might have been on. When your colleague falls ill and you do not. We think such things are random. But there is a balance to it all. One withers, another grows. Birth and death are part of a whole..."
- from The Five People You Meet in Heaven - by Mitch Albom

I have started a Facebook group for my old secondary School, Burwood High, and have spent a bit of time scanning and uploading old photos to the website. And continuing the theme of Absent Friends in a recent post to this blog, I got to thinking about the people I met through school and where they may be now. It struck me how many have actually passed away - good friends some, others passing acquaintances but all gone too young. I suppose as we age then we will know more people who do die young, and as we age and reach yet another milestone that age also seems young.

I'm 50 now, well past the 14 that David Green saw when crushed by a Gravestone at Maldon cemetery in around 1972; also beyond the 18 seen by Spiros Tamaris and Brett Evans when car accidents took them in the mid-1970's; a few decades beyond those of Peter Jones who died of cancer in his early 20's not long after graduating as a doctor in the early 80's, and now 11 years past the age of my good mate Fog who died of a stroke aged 39 in 1997.

There have been others - Ian Black sadly taken suddenly in 2005 a few short months before our 30th Graduation anniversary reunion - still more who I have heard have gone but which I cannot confirm because I have not seen nor heard from them in years. Where is Peter Marsh and Meredith White? Who else of the images who peer from those old faded photos have passed from this world and what were the final chapters in their stories?

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As a P.S. who can pick me out in the photo?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another belated Musical Monday; U2 - Wave of Sorrow


U2 are releasing a remastered version of the Joshua Tree, in my opinion one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and on it will be several previously unreleased songs, including this one, Wave of Sorrow. Check out the video of Bono discussing the song below then visit U2's Facebook page to comment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I had a telemarketer hang up on me

I know it's normally the other way around but I suppose I was being a bit of a smartarse. Let me say firstly that I am sympathetic to telemarketers, I had a business once that relied heavily upon converting telephone calls to sales, so I know it's not an easy job. But this bloke rubbed me the wrong way.

I often get pestered by people who call the office and bluff my staff into putting them through to me. This usually happens if they actually ask for me by name and that's not hard to find given it's plastered all over our website. I'm not sure where this bloke got my name from but he was put through and then started to give me the spiel.

You know the one. It often begins by mentioning a charity and in this case it was the Australian Red Cross. Maybe if that organisation has media monitors they'll check out this blog and perhaps learn a bit of a lesson. This bloke wanted to put in a lolly machine and a portion of the funds raised through this vending machine would go to the Red Cross.

"What portion?" I asked.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Well, you just said a portion, how much of the portion goes to the Red Cross and who gets the other bit?"

"It's a partnership between the Red Cross and ....vending machine company," he explained.

"OK," I said, "how much of the money collected goes to the Red Cross and how much to the vending machine company?"

"I don't have those figures but the man who installs the machine can tell you when he comes out."

"Not much good sending someone out here to install a machine that I don't want, if you can't tell me what percentage of the money raised goes to the Red Cross - is it 80%, 50%, 5% - how much?"

"We've raised over $150,000 for the Red Cross with these machines"

"That's admirable," I replied, "but you may actually have collected $20million and only given them a very small percentage."

That was when he hung up on me.

So a word of warning to telemarketers, make sure you anticipate all the questions and have all of the facts at your finger tips. If you can't do that, at least have the courtesy to offer some excuse about having to find out the answer and offer to get back to the person asking. You can then hang up gracefully and mark the number never to be called again.

And a word of advice to the Red Cross - if you're going to allow people to use your name like this at least tell them to be upfront with all of the facts.

Now if you think I may have been a bit harsh on the poor bloke then have a listen to this one.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Movember at Knox


I'm not sure whether this is a worldwide thing or just something Australian, but over here we are celebrating the month of November by growing moustaches. In my case at the moment I have a very white beard which in the true spirit will be trimmed down to a Mo in the next few days.

Movember has a serious aspect to it because it is about promoting prostate cancer awareness and male depression awareness. If anyone cares to sponsor the group you an do so by visiting here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I don't get...

A Canberra school, Stromlo High School, has supposedly allowed a 16 year old girl, Tara Lewis, to have cigarette breaks because her doctor says she is addicted to nicotine. Given it is illegal to supply cigarettes to children under the age of 18 I can only say WTF are they thinking? I don't get that the school allows it, I don't get that the mother allows it and presumably encourages it. And I don't get how is the school going to explain this one in Health Education classes?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

To Absent Friends


When I started blogging I really had little idea about the blogging "community". I didn't know that you could make friends online in this manner, nor did I understand that I would come to care about the people I've met and value the interaction I have with them.

But there does seem to be a type of evolution that occurs with personal blogs, and I make a clear distinction here between those who do blog personally as opposed to those who do it in an effort to make money. I make no real judgement on the latter, but I must admit that those who constantly sign up friends in the various communities [like blogcatalog and mybloglog] simply so they can send out bulk emails to people, do tend to grate on me. There's one bloke who has taken to commenting lately who simply says on each post that he has a new post as well. That sort of thing won't encourage me to visit him unless he begins to make a genuine effort and contribution to the discussion. I guess I'll put up with that for a little while, maybe he's new and hasn't worked out the etiquette yet. You know who you are! But back to the evolution question.

People who discover blogging seem in some cases to throw themselves headlong into it, posting everyday, trying to keep their blog live so people keep coming back. At some stage, perhaps after a few months, the number of posts taper off and the pressure to continually post eases off. And that's OK for those of us who are loyal readers, we understand the time constraints that impose themselves and how other things in life begin to re-assert themselves. But what happens when people disappear?

After almost daily contact, where do those who delete their blogs, or simply stop posting go? Do they just get busy, or lose the desire? I like to think that maybe blogging has served it's purpose, that the community created and interacted with was able to fill a void, maybe offer advice that was worthwhile, so that those people can move forward in their lives with a little more confidence than they once had, or at least with some extra knowledge that will serve them in good stead.

But for you absent friends who have disappeared how can we your friends thank you for being part of our lives for a little while when we can no longer contact you? Maybe one day when you return to blogging and maybe end up doing a search on your own name, or look at places that have linked to you, you'll find this post, and perhaps check in and let us know how you've been getting on.

To the following absent friends, some of whom have disappeared, others of whom have been silent for a few weeks, I thank you and wish you well. I hope one day you'll all be back.

Epi from Analysing It
Seiche
Amber from Random Magus
Goldy from Goldyworld
Wolfgang from Gazing into the Abyss
Anne from The Rest of Me
W for Wonder this one's been hijacked

Image from Emsource

Monday, November 5, 2007

Musical Monday - Jackson Browne, Farther On

I have always loved Jackson Browne's music and still rate a concert he gave here in Melbourne around 1979 as the best I have ever seen. The opening verse of this song says -

In my early years I hid my tears
And passed my days alone
Adrift on an ocean of loneliness
My dreams like nets were thrown
To catch the love that Id heard of
In books and films and songs
Now theres a world of illusion and fantasy
In the place where the real world belongs

You can view the full lyrics here, but in the meantime just enjoy the music.

Thought for the Day 3


I have been reading Michael Palin's Himalaya and he writes in one part about meeting the Dalai Lama. In that section he gives a bit of background to the China Tibet issue and says that the Dalai Lama fled Tibet fearing for his life.

Why would someone who has been reincarnated countless times and who believes he will be again, fear for his life?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The heart of the onion

I have written before about the nature of blogging and whether or not it would have been better to have been an anonymous blogger rather than one who was easy to find. There have been people critical of what I write and those who question my motivations. I've been told by some that I blog to make myself seem like a good guy, but no matter that I deny it, there seems to be a belief that I have some hidden agenda, or that I am somehow trying to be manipulative.

So what is the issue with the blog. Why is it so confronting? Is it the fact that in writing and exposing myself the way I have in the writing, that the people who know me are seeing an aspect they haven’t seen before? Does it feel to them that they are reading the words of a person they thought they knew but didn’t? This blog is about how I feel, how I am coping with the issues relating to the people around me. I suppose that there may well be that feeling of reading about an alien for the people who know me, simply because I have not outwardly talked about feelings or expressed frailties and human qualities before.

It is confronting for me too to think that so few, if any, people really knew me. Someone said to me recently that in expressing my foibles and talking about my mistakes that it is almost like a confession in the religious sense, and that those of you who comment are almost like the priests who take the confessions. That in offering me support it is like having the confession accepted and that it appears that the support is leaving me to walk away without the guilt and avoiding the consequences of my mistakes.

I actually don’t think that is the case but I am prepared to say that the person who writes this blog is perhaps different to the public persona. It’s not a deliberate deception, probably not even a conscious one, if it is a deception at all.

I also had someone ask me about the readers of the blog, and in particular about those of you who comment. And I said that many of you also have fragilities that you reveal on your blogs but that are not necessarily the same as the ones you reveal to the people you know in the real world. I was asked how I knew that what you said and revealed was the truth, and my reply was that I just know it is. I said that it was like interviewing a crook, sooner or later if lies are being told, the inconsistencies will trip those people up. Similarly, where you talk about the pain and passion of your lives, there are things that ring true to me. I can tell when you are really hurting, when past tragedies have shaped present lives, where hopes and dreams are revealed in all their wonder.

That is not to say that in our writing we are totally naked. Sometimes there are things held back, hidden doors that remain closed to everyone.

Reading a personal blog is like being invited into someone’s house. Sometimes we stand on the doorstep and peer inside seeing a glimpse of a room. Perhaps on the first visit we may not get past the loungeroom, but as we become more comfortable and visit more often, we may start to explore the different rooms.

Each post on a blog is another room, and as we read them a little more of the writer is revealed. Perhaps there are sometimes things we see in the visits that we would rather not know, at other times there are things that delight or educate us. If you don't mind me mixing my metaphors let me say that each post is like peeling another layer from the onion and if we keep going we will one day get to it's heart.

So when you come into my house, do not judge me too harshly. If for some reason you do not like what you see then you need not come back. When you do though, perhaps you should be prepared to learn a little more about me each time. One day perhaps you will be comfortable here and rather than feel confronted or affronted by what you read you will look forward to the visits.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Belated Musical Monday - The Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden


I know I haven't posted a musical Monday for a couple of weeks but I have had one CD on high rotation since it was released last Monday. The Eagles Long Run Out of Eden is already a favourite and there is one song already on Youtube. The album is classic Eagles, rocking guitar, four part harmony and terrific lyrics. Don't just take my word for it, read the Rolling Stone and Billboard reviews, then listen and make up your own minds. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thought of the Day 2


"If God had wanted us to be vegetarian why did ne make cows out of meat?"
- Des Gleeson, VRC Steward, Radio 3AW this morning.

Thought of the Day 2

"If God wanted us to be vegetarians why did he make cows from meat?"
- Des Gleeson, VRC Steward on Radio 3AW this morning.