Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Government is busy

I spent the past weekend at the Big V Basketball Leagues AGM at the Victorian country town of Shepparton, which as an aside only, was a pleasant weekend.  However, on the way up I decided to travel what might be called 'the back way" through places such as Yarra Glen, Yea, Bonnie Doon and Benalla, thinking there would be less traffic than going up the more direct route of the Hume Highway.  And I was right, but what I didn't count on was miles and miles of reduced speed limits due to "roadworks".

I have come to the conclusion that somewhere in some Board room in the bowels of a State government building, a group of bureaucrats have been tasked with the job of making the people of Victoria believe that the government is actually doing things, and that they have come up with the strategy of putting roadworks signs on every road in the state, even when there is no single road worker anywhere to be seen.  Every freeway within the metropolitan area has been undergoing road maintenance for years, but there has never been any progress.  Every night, trucks roll out of some hidden garages and lay out miles of bollards, reducing traffic to one lane and speed limits to crawling pace, to make us think that things are being done.  And then after 4 hours of rolling these traffic control measures out they return to the start and spend another 4 hours of picking them back up again, only to do the same thing the next night and the night after that.

And on the weekend I found that the same thing seems to be happening on every country road in the State as well.

Now the game is up - we all know what is really going on.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Southern Cross Railway Station in Melbourne is one of the country's busiest.   If you believe what you're told it could well be one of the busiest in the southern hemisphere with most of Melbourne's suburban and all of it's interstate rail links passing through or terminating there.  And that's why I was surprised one morning a few weeks ago when as I went up the western escalator towards Bourke Street I noticed a birds nest on one of the overhead wires.  Over the next couple of weeks I noticed Mum and Dad nesting, the eggs hatch and the chicks finally fledge.  One morning last week the nest was empty.





Now I'm a little embarassed to post the next couple of photos because camera shake in the low light makes them pretty ordinary but the lesson is check the photos at the time that way you won't miss an opportunity.  Now I may well have to wait until next year to see if they will return to nest in the same spot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grief

Like many people who saw the article I was deeply moved by this photo of chimpanzees gathered at a fence and watching as one of their own who had died was being taken away.

I have never been one who was so human centric that I did not believes that animals can feel emotion.   Anyone who has grown up with dogs or cats in their house will know that they do feel sadness and can mpoe when people they expect to be around are not there.  If you have had two dogs at one time and one of those passes away it is easy to understand that animals too can grieve.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Underbelly the second

The next few years in the late 80's saw us have to babysit a parade of undesirables.  If they were given protection because they were informing on other crooks it was something we could stomach but in several cases we were required to look after people involved in the murders of policemen.

In 1986 whilst I was still with the PSG [Protective Security Groups] a bomb went off in Russell Street outside the major city police station.  At the time we had no idea whether it was terrorist related but it certainly seemed to be aimed at the police force.  The bomb was in a car that was parked outside the main police communications centre.

It was timed to go off at lunch time and on almost any day of the week the street was crowded with police, the public and lawyers milling around outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court which was across the road.   This day, however, was Easter Thursday and the courts had been in wind down mode for the Easter Holidays so there were only a couple of people in the vicinity of the bomb as it went off.  One of those was Angela Taylor, a young police constable who had her clothes blown off with the force of the blast and who survived, her skin blackened and falling off, only to pass away in hospital around a month later.

Our office was around 150 meters from the blast but that day I was away on holidays and driving with my family down to Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.  My sister Deb was on duty that day and she was sitting in an office on the first floor of the building when the bomb went off blowing her off her seat and sowering her with glass.  I heard the news on the radio that a policewoman was seriously injured and it wasn't until late that night that I was able to find out that it wasn't my sister.

It turned out not to be terrorism, it was conducted by a group of crooks whose aim was to disrupt police communications so that they could commit some armed robberies in the northern suburbs.

The investigating police eventually were able to make some connections to the perpetrators based on forensic evidence from the remains of the car but in the end it was evidence given by Paul Hetzel that helped to put them away.

Hetzel lived for years in the witness protection program and we looked after him for the time in the lead up to the trial.   This was different to the Tizzone job.   This time a police woman had been murdered, a colleague and it could have been anyone of us.

We moved around a lot.  In one suburban safe house on a few acres of land there was a large shed at the rear of the property.  I remember one of the guys, nicknamed "Vegie" cobbled together bits and pieces of junk and came up with something resembling a machine gun which he mounted on a tripod aimed at the back of the house the witness was in.  It didn't last long because the braid at the time took a grim view of it and the witness nearly shat himself one morning when he stuck his head out the back door.

Before I move on a little more about Vegie who thought he was called that because as a red head he had a carrot top.  Truth is it had more to do with some of the things he said that earnt him the name.  One day we were driving along a country road when he said, "There's a lot of those new breed of horses around."

We bit and asked him what he was talking and he said the Caution Horse breed.  Then he explained that he'd seen a sign on the back of every horse float we'd passed "Caution Horses."

We also moved at one time down to a diary farm near Koo Wee Rup.  As with some of the other places we stayed at, the witness got the house and we had to make use of the sheds on the properties.   Another colleague who I shall call TT was a horrible snorer and as such he was put on permanent night shift so that the rest of us could get more sleep. 

Now we weren't the only occupants of these sheds and on this farm our constant companions were Huntsman spiders.

One day one of the guys came rushing into the shed and said "Quick, come and have a look at this."

So we all followed him quietly into the shed where TT was blissfully and loudly snoring.   On his face, moving up and down to the rhythym of his snoring was one of the largest huntsman I have ever seen.   Did we wake him I can hear you ask? 

Nope, we stifled our laughter and backed out thinking that finally he had found something that enjoyed his snoring.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspirational


Sent to me by a colleague.

As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to "make a difference" in the world.  It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other "seniors" who have found the courage to take on challenges. Harold Sclumberg is such a person.
VERY INSPIRING!!!

Harold said, "I've often been asked, 'What do you old folks do now that you're retired'?

“Well… I'm fortunate to have a chemical engineering background, and one of the things I enjoy most is turning beer, wine, Scotch, and margaritas into urine”.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ripped Off

Late one afternoon last week I had left a meeting and was walking down Collins Street when near the corner of Exhibition Street I was approached by a young lady.

"Excuse me?" she said.  "This is really embarassing but I've been asking a lot of people for help and no one will."

She was well dressed and groomed and about the age og my oldest daughter so I stopped and said "OK tell me the story."

She proceeded to tell me that her car had run out of petrol and that it was left in a clearway.  For those not from Melbourne that means any cars parked in that area for certain periods of the day can be towed away and impounded.

"I've left my purse at work and don't have any money.  If you could loan me $15 so I can buy a jerry can of petrol I'll make sure I call you and arrange to pay you back tomorrow."

So I did.  I gave her my card and I wandered off wondering whether I'd been scammed or not.  Now 6 days later it appears I was.  I should have used my mobile phone to take her photo and told her I would send it to the newspaper if it did trn out to be a crock.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Snags Ain't Snags

Snags or bangers, sometimes better known as sausages, never tasted better than when they were cooked on my Dad's old brick BBQ in the backyard at home when I was growing up.  Last night we had "Heart Smart" sausages which is a contradiction in terms really - no added salt, fat free, no preservatives.  Might as well have eaten cardboard really.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Underbelly Experience

In another life I was a policeman.  No secret there, I’ve mentioned it a few times in past posts and also posted photos of me in uniform at various times.  But I haven’t spoken a lot about some of the things I did and it’s probably getting far enough in the past now that I can start to mention a few things without causing any harm to anyone.

In the early 80’s the witness protection program in Australia was in its infancy. Some joint Federal and State police task forces had been set up and were concentrating on organized crime, specifically the drug trade and there was no bigger unsolved crime at that time than the disappearance and presumed murder of Donald McKay.

In the mid 80's I was attached to the Protective Security Groups within the Victoria Police and late one shift around 20 of us got called into a meeting with one of our Inspectors.

"I'll open by saying that you are about to be briefed on a highly confidential matter and if you choose to accept it your lives may well be in danger."

Well as you might imagine that got our attention.

"None of you have to stay unless you want to," he continued, "but if you want to then you should leave now."

We all looked at each other and not one left.  It was then we were introduced to a Vicpol copper who had been working in a joint task force and he commenced to brief us on a criminal investigation that we were told reached into the highest echelons of government and had the potential to see some very high profile people charged with major criminal offences.

The case he was talking about was the murder of Donald McKay and we were to be used to protect some of the key witnesses in the case.   The person we were to be baby sitting was Gianfranco Tizzone and his family.  Tizzone had turned on his boss Robert Trimboli and decided to give evidence against him.   During the briefing we were told that Frank had a lot more to tell and that as it unfolded we would be amazed at what would come out.

So over the next year or so we did look after Frank and my memories of him are mainly to do with his ordinariness.  A small man who wore an Andy Capp hat, polite and soft spoken, but here was a man who was deeply involved in the drug trade and who had been a key person in the murder of an anti-drugs campaigner.

I have to say that over the ensuing years our witness protection methods changed significantly.  At this time though we were very much learning on the job.  Tizzone owned an asparagus farm and in order to keep him happy and to ensure that he kept giving the investigators information it was decided to actually house him and his family there.

It was an old post war farm house with a bungalow and a few large sheds housing tractors and other machinery at the rear.  We boarded up the doors and windows and left only the back door as an escape route and had an armed guard stationed there 24/7. 

We lined half the shed with panelling and set it up with a lounge suite and camp kitchen.  The bungalow became our sleeping quarters and there were four other observation posts around the property from which we recorded the registration numbers for every vehicle that came up and down the road.

I remember having to scramble out of the bungalow quickly one night after a shot gun blast went off.  Turned out to be a colleague on guard on the rear patio who fell asleep in the wee small hours of the morning and jerked a shot off through the ceiling.  Needless to say he was banned from that work for a few months afterward.

At the time our boss was Chief Superintendent Chippy Norton.  Chippy was an ex Scotland Yard Metropolitan policeman what had been in Vicpol for a long time and risen to that rank years earlier.  Hard nosed, tough but fair, I had a lot of respect for him. 

Every shift we had to parade and had a uniform and equipment inspection.  He took great pride in us looking at our best in uniform all the time and I remember one morning standing next to a colleague on parade and quivering in my boots as Chippy stormed out onto the roof, smoke billowing from his pipe, pointing and yelling "YOU!   YOU!" at the top of his voice.  I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he dragged my colleague from beside me and asked him to pull up his right trouser leg.  Instead of his standard uniform issue black socks this bloke was wearing footy socks and chippy had caught a glimpse of them when he raised his leg coming to attention at the start of the parade. 

I did get a major dressing down from him at one time when I was late to an appointment with him after getting stuck in a lift for half an hour at Russell Street Police Station.  Lifts were banned for us, we had to use stairs because he saw it as a way to aid in our fitness, so when I came clean and told him why I was late I copped a mouthful.

Chippy was one of those blokes who could rip shreds of his men, but woe betide anyone else who tried to do the same thing.  He went to bat for anyone under his command and wouldn't let anyone criticise any of us.

Early on when looking after Tizzone he visited the property with a high ranking Federal Policeman.   Right around the perimeter of the house we had set up strings of hootchie cord with bits of metal attached at intervals set to rattle against other bits of metal is anyone tripped over them.   They were made from bits and pieces we found lying around the arm and served the purpose.  This particular Federal copper offered chippy some electronic surveillance equipment which was politely refused.

The farm was primarily used to grow asparagus but also had an annual crop of wheat.  That made it difficult for us because the view away from the shed at the rear of the property quickly became obscured by the wheat as it grew.  Line of fire now wasn't working in our favour and we later were told that Christopher Dale Flannery aka Mr Rentokill had cased the place and told people he could have taken Tizzone out but wasn't confident of getting away.

We spent a week on week off for months looking after this bloke and later on went into an apartment in St Kilda Road.   After the court case started he was separated from his family and we had him at another location in the city.  I'm not convinced that part of the reason for the change wasn't simply to save money.  In the city we could work three shifts a day and only needed a crew of four.  On the farm we were paid our normal day plus 8 hours overtime per day and there were 12 of us on hand 24 hours a day.

I can tell a few more war stories so let me know if this is of any interest.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Emails and Privacy

A person close to me asked me to look at a chain of emails the other day because they were feuding with another member of their extended family.  I said that I would not look at them because it wasn't fair to show someone what was essentially private correspondence between two people. 

I would have felt an utter hypocrit if I had read it because I've complained on this blog that emails I wrote to people containing intensely private thoughts had been passed onto others without my permission.   The problem is that the person receiving it cannot possibly know the full context of what has been said and the person who wrote the email has no chance to respond or to defend themselves.   I've had people tell me that I will never be forgiven but that they don't wish to tell me what they won't forgive.  I am pretty sure that some of that attitude came from misuse of emails I had written.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spontaneous Combustion

While I’m on funny sayings I used to work with a bloke who was a master of malapropisms and for those who don’t know what that is it means the malapprorpiate use of words.  And yes that was an attempt at rather bad joke.

There are a couple that stick in my mind.  The first was when he asked one of the other guys in the office who was a keen gardener to help him pick out some periannuals to grow in his garden.

The funniest though was when a young lady who worked on another floor pooped into our office for the first time in a number of months and she was noticeably pregnant.

“I didn’t even know she was married,” he said, “it must have been spontaneous combustion.”

Now let’s see if you can guess exactly what he meant

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chindians errerring

I have a young Chindian bloke who works with me and I like him a lot. He’s efficient, thorough and has a great sense of humour as evidenced by his self description of Chindian being an Indian from the province of Assam with some Chinese blood in the dim dark past.

That’s enough praise Leon because I don’t want you getting a swollen head and I know you do visit the blog occasionally.

Leon has been in Australia for a few years now and is an avid student of the vernacular. We’ve had a lot of fun teaching him such Australianisms as –
  • Pointing Percy at the porcelain
  • Shaking hands with the wife’s best friend,
  • Black as a dogs gut
  • Dry as a dead dingoes donger
  • Flat out as a lizard drinking and
  • [although not necessarily Australian] milking the python

And a word of warning don’t use the last one to someone who doesn’t know the meaning as a young lady happens to walk past because they may well ask them if they know what it means.

And there have been sayings like –
  • I hope your chooks all turn into emus and kick your dunny down
  • All over the place like a mad woman’s spit and
  • Mad as a cut snake

Anyway, the other day I got back to the office and he said to me, “What does errerr mean?”

“What?,” I asked, not really having a clue as to what he was talking about.

“Errerr, I’ve heard people saying errerr lately.”

“Can you give me the context?”

“Sure, Alex was on the phone the other day and when she hung up she said ‘Errerr’”.

And then it hit me. It was "hooroo" which means Goodbye.

I threw him a few others today including dry as a dead dingos donger and we decided to check his Fair Dinkum Aussie dictionary and side by side with that one was the old favourite “Dry as a Nun’s fanny”

“That’s not true,” he said.

“How many Nun’s have you met,” I asked.

“None, but some years ago I read a Sidney Sheldon novel about the life of a Nun and if that’s true then the saying isn’t!”

So give me a few examples of your favourite Ozzie slang – or make it up if you like.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blogs and change - The theme meme

I have tended lately to blog only when I have found the time to do so rather than make the time like I once did.  There are a few reasons for that, a busy job, a more settled life, and sometimes maybe a lack of inspiration.   I think all bloggers face that at times.   I once had delusions of being a writer and blogging was a vindication of that, there were plenty of visitors, a lot of comments and Technorati links of more than 100.

But it was hard work getting there, lots of memes done, linking to lots of people, some of whom I never read, commenting on as many blogs as possible in the hope that they would visit mine etc.  And the nature of my posts keeps changing - at one stage I was trying to maintain three separate blogs but since blogger allowed the feature of merging them into one, I did that.

Lack of time has also meant that I haven't found as much time to visit those of you who I consider to be my blogging friends so first and formost I apologise for that.  I do still try and return the favour of commenting back on people's blogs who show me the courtesy of doing the same and I try and visit those who follow me.   But instead of daily, that tends to be something of a weekly event.

If I was to line up every post on this blog and try and put them into a category I would say that the majority may fall into the reflective category, followed by current events in my life, things that have moved and or angered me, and a bit of whimsy thrown in now and then.   I once thought that there was a theme but I do tend to wander a bit more widely now in my thoguhts than I once did.  I think that I've let go of some of the loneliness and anger that categorised a lot of the early stuff but what I'm moving onto I will only know when I get there.

So if there is a meme to this post then let it be this.   Tell me what the theme of your blog is and how it has changed over time.  I tag all those who follow me, all those I follow and anyone else who is on my blogroll or who cares to comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One loaf short of a curl

I was coming in on the train this morning and was sitting near a bloke with shoulder length curly hair who looked a liitle like James May with the craggy features of  Don Chipp and the beginnings of a Friar Tuck tonsure.  Which will mean nothing to anyone who wasn't a Top Gear watching, Australian Democrat voting, Robin Hood fan of roughly my vintage.

And before I cop too much flack let me explain that I did in the dim deep past vote Australian Democrat when Chippy was party leader and before they became wig wam living, tofu and lentil eating believers in the doomsday version of climate change and that trees have souls.  Not that I'm saying trees don't have souls, just that for me the jury is still out, just like it is for global warming, which is another whole reason for a blog post.

But I digress.

Seeing the curly hair on this bloke on the train [remember him from paragraph one] reminded me of my two male cousins on my Mum's side, both of whom had curly hair.  Actually I had three male cousins but one of those is 10 years younger than me and therefore he is set aside for the purposes of this story.  My hair, on the other hand was straight and I always had a crew cut as a kid, so it wasn't until the 70's came and I grew my hair that I found out it did have a bit of a wave.  But both these guys had tight ringlets and I couldn't understand why given we had at least one set of grandparents who were the same that I didn't end up with curly hair too.  Any knowledge of genetics and hereditary were still a long way in my future.

Then my Mum came up with a fantastic bit of folk wisdom - "Eat your crusts and your hair will curl" she told me.   So I did.  I even took to eating everyone elses crusts and it didn't work.   Sometime around the time I stopped believing in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny, I stopped believing that crust eating would curl my hair.  As it turned out one of those cousins joined the army and had his head shaved and the other grew his long but spent so much time trying to comb it straight that he went prematurely bald.

I like to think that Mum didn't really lie to me.  That maybe I just had stubborn hair.  After all when I did grow it long it did have a bit of a wave to it.  Maybe I was just one loaf short.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Changing Language

I've noticed another trend in the pronunciation of a word recently and I don't know why these things happen.  Given you my readers [sounds like there's a lot doesn't there :)] are from many different places around the world let's see if you can help me here.

My name is Laurie, short for Laurence having been named for an Uncle who was killed by the Japanese when they invaded Rabaul in World War 2.   Now the phonetic pronunciation of my name is like that of the truck - "lorry".    Some of my American work colleagues call me Lawry, and a Malaysian guy I used to work with called be Rorry and himseld Lobert - I didn't get that.

Anyway the word I'm actually talking about today is worry which I pronounce wurry as in slurry.  But I've noticed a lot of people lately pronouncing it worry as in sorry or lorry.   What is that?  Where did it come from and how do you say it?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Prius Drivers the new Volvo Drivers

Everyone knows that it is best to avoid certain types of drivers - mothers dropping kids to school, old men wearing hats, young men wearing baseball caps backwards, women applying mascara and of course anyone who drives a Volvo.  Each and everyone of these classes of people seem pretty much oblivious to other road users. 

Well let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, having had the pleasure of driving to work several times over the past couple of weeks or so, I want to add another group to the list.  Prius drivers, absolute tools.  Maybe they think driving an semi-electric car shows they have a green conscience and the rest of us owe them something.  I've been cut off, held up, denied lanes and found my presence totally ignored by these Prius driving priapic pricks.  And yes I know there is a certain tautology about that statement but I don't care.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Remember 911

I am not going to write a long post about this because many writers better than me will do so but I think I would to spend a little time reflecting.   There aren't too many events in a lifetime where you can remember the exact thing you were doing when you first heard about it.  For me they include such things as the murder of John Lennon, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, the death of the Princess of Wales and seared into my brain are the events of 911.

I was working two jobs at the time, full time as a security consultant and another 40 hours a week, supposedly part time as the Executive Officer of the Victorian Basketball League.  I'd come home from one job and sit down immediately to start work on the other.  That was the source of my ex-wifes comments that even when I was home I wasn't there, and maybe there was some truth to that even if it was unfair.  But I digress.

In April 2001 I had attended a Counter Terrorist Conference in Washington DC and there were a number of keynote speakers form the US Intelligence community.  There were two major topics of conversation.  The first the fragmentary nature of the US CT effort and the second the threat Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden posed to the West.

So after my usual 16 hour working day on September 11 2001 I sat down and turned the TV on to watch the late news and watched in horror the footage of those planes crashing into the twin towers.  I spent the next several weeks in my security consultant role gethering and analysing whatever open source information we could find, writing threat assessments for our clients and reliving that horror as more and more details were revealed.

In my other role I had been organising our teams to compete in a National Basketball final series to be held in Bendigo which were cancelled because at the same time the domestic airline Ansett collapsed and I fielded a lot of complaints from people about how upset they were at the cancellation.  I wrote an article for our website at the time which said in part that we needed to put things into proper context.   Around the world tonight are, I wrote, are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, who would never see their loved ones again, not because those people had done anything wrong, but because someone somewhere had randomly chosen that they were to die as a part of campaign of hatred, as a symbol of philosophical difference.    I told people to put things into proper context, that the cancellation of a basketball series was not something which could truly be considered a disaster.  Crashing aeroplanes into buildings and destroying lives was a disaster and we should remember the sacrifice of those brave men and women who selflessly entered those burning buildings in an effort to save others lives.

On Friday I asked a number of people at work if they knew what the day was and for most it took a while to make the connection.  That came as a surprise to me and the only comfort I took was that when it hit them what the date was that there was an element of embarassment that they had forgotten.   Let us never forget because if we do and we let our guard down these things can happen again - we've seen it on October 12 a year later in Bali and on July 7 2005 in London.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Musical Monday - My Little Girl

It's been a long time since I did a musical Monday post but having spent yesterday reflecting on what it's like to be a father I thought I'd post this one for my daughters.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Fathers Day

My Dad died on 14th August 2004, a little over five years ago and that was the catalyst for starting this blog and in so many ways the trigger for most of the changes in my life.  It was the moment when the midlife episode hit leading to an awakening and a realisation that things would never be the same again.   There's been good and bad since that time for me.  I have changed, in some ways becoming more honest, mainly with myself.  I have learnt where I was weak and in the process I think I have become a better person.   But you know what, hardly a day goes by when I do't think of my Dad, when I don't wish that our relationship had been better, that I had taken the time to spend more time with him, that instead of being just father and son, that we had also been mates.

And I sometimes wonder in looking at myself in terms of that relationship, how I might have been a better father to my kids.   I know now that my biggest failure as a person is that I am a master at keping feelings to myself.  Ironically that has been seen as a strength by many work colleagues because they percieve me as someone who is cool calm and collected and always in control.   They don't realise that sometimes that facade is hiding a little boy who sometimes quakes in hs boots.

That little boy tends to reflect on days like today.   I remember going to the local shopping centre on Saturday mornings and getting a hair cut with Dad and then sprinting along the street to the milk bar for a milkshake.  I remember him sitting on my bad at night smelling of beer and cigarettes and fetching me a glass of water.  I remember the cubby houses we would build out of sheets of masonite he would bring home from work, and the days spent setting up my cowboys and indians and farm yards on the lounge room floor.   I remember playing marbles in the backyard.

After I separated from my then wife and whilst I was living alone in a flat no one came to about two years after Dad died he came to me and sat on my bed.   I know I was more than likely asleep but it was a very vivid dream and I was once again that little boy who got comfort from that nightly visit by his Dad.

I expect to see three of my four kids today.  I fear it's not because they want to but because they think they should and maybe that is a reflection of the type of father I have been.  My ex did tell me after I left that they kids had discussed things and thought that I was never there when they were growing up.  And it's true I worked long hours but I never missed an event or any of the many games of sport they played.  I didn't play cowboys and indians with my sons, nor marbles, nor did we build cubby houses, but we played basketball and built lego towns and I read them stories at night whilst they fell asleep.  Could I have done more?  Undoubtedly.  But I was what I was and that is all I was.

For anyone who is interested I have looked back over the posts on this blog and found some familiar themes in older posts.

Bad Jokes Good Father?
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father
Things I miss
Cats in the Cradle
Parents and the Damage Done
Josie's Interview Part 2 - A non-sozzled Loz

So if you happen to be lucky enough to still have your Dad, make sure you contact him today and tell him you love him.   Don't end up with some of the regrets that I have.   And if you happen to be a Dad make sure you also tell your kids how much you love them, that if at times there have been some cats in the cradle moments, that is a weakness most fathers have.   We carry that burden of provider, pre-programmed into us and for some of us it is something we will bear till the end of our days.  If we're lucky our inevitable midlife episode may give us a shake and awaken us to some of the other possibilities.  Maybe that's why some of us make far better grandparents than parents.   Perhaps being that little further down the road means that we can choose to live the moment differently.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Emasculating the dog

My dog Ramsey is a little over a year old and a true ratbag.  Daughter number 2 who is with me at least every second weekend has been harping for months now about the need to get him desexed.  Now he doesn't have a predilection to hump legs of tables or persons, he is not overly agressive and whilst I understand that it is a recommended course of action I'm a bloke.  And blokes struggle with the thought of having their balls chopped off.

Today daughter number two decided to tr and appeal to my medical knowledge by telling me that if his was deknackered he would not get testicular cancer, to which I replied "Why don't we chop off his head then.  That way he won't get a brain tumour."

Now any bloke who has seen someone else hit in the nuts at any time knows that it is the one thing that makes all of us squirm.  It is deeply programmed into mankind and most likely dates back to the time when our first shrew like ancestor fell onto a tree branch and straddled it painfully.  It's something that we tend to want to avoid at all costs.  I'm not saying he won't be done at some stage in the future but right now with a 16 year old telling me that his nuts are gross and he'd be better off without them, I am manfully resisting the call.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blogger Feed on Facebook

A few days ago I briefly set up a burner feed of this blog back to my facebook page, but only left it up for around 15 minutes.  I chickened out in other words.   Blogging has been a refuge for me for a long time.  A place where I can reveal parts of me that I wouldn't dream of talking about in the real world.  Sure there have been people who know me reading it on occasions with the associated grief that brought at the time, but for the most part this communication has been with people who began as strangers but who I have come to regard as more than that as we have interacted.

Facebook though is full of people who know me personally - there are friends and family, current and ex work colleagues, business associates, old school buddies, a conglomerate of every type of person I have met throughout my life, and after I posted the feed I asked myself if I was ready for each and every one of them to have access to what is really a mirror into my soul.  The answer was not really.

I am not ashamed of anything I have written because I know that blog posts are snapshots of an instant in time.  Truth for the moment and in the context of the moment.   But there are also people who don't understand that and some who will take things out of context and use them against me.  That sounds a bit paranoid but I have had it happen before so I don't have a lot of faith that it couldn't happen again.

So I'm asking you as blogging buddies - do you publish your feed on Facebook?   Am I being a chicken or are my concerns legitimate?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I don't get sick

At least that's true most of the time and it usually means that when I do I tend to fall in a heap.  I got through the entire first 13 months at my current job without taking any sick leave but on Monday night last week started to get a bit of a dry cough.   That night I went down hill and although I got up to go to work I ended up going back to bed.  Same thing Wednesday and come Thursday morning I decided I'd go to the doctors.

I was in the surgery for around a minute I reckon.  He held the stethscope to my chest in three places and asked me to cough, he stuck a depressor down my throat and then said.

"You are not well.  I feel you have a virus and you should go home and spend the next three days in bed.  If you are no better on Sunday, come back and ask for Dr Alex."

Come Sunday I was feeling better and Monday I went back to work only to find that I coughed and spluttered all day and lost my voice.  In the end the boss told me not to come in on Tuesday, so I didn't.   So what is the illness - I don't know, I have had the symptoms of swine flu, but the doctor never told me that was what it was.  All I know is that I was not myself.  Some might say it was man flu, but I can tell you I was genuinely incapable of working for the best part of a week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A sticky situation

Now here's a nightmare.  A 58 year old man was taken to hospital in Cairns early this week after sitting on a public toilet seat only to find that it had been smeared with superglue.   Now I'm hoping that it was one of those horsehoe type seats because if his willy had somehow brushed the seat the outcome may have been even worse.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embrace the Fool

One day I hope I can be a bit more open about the project I am currently employed on. For the moment though I can't mention it because if I do this blog will pop up on the google alerts notices of a lot of people and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I have no idea if anyone reads it anymore, certainly with the posts few and far between there is no reason for anyone to turn up and see what's been happening. But maybe I do owe some of you who have been loyal readers over the past few years just a little insight into why I haven't been writing.

When I got this new position in June last year I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into. And I wallowed. I wasn't sure I liked it but had no alternatives that gave me an income sufficient to pay the mortgage, I certainly lacked job knowledge and whilst I knew that I can be a bit of a sponge, the 50+ year old brain isn't quite as absorbent as it once was and I found that a lot of what I was trying to learn seemed to go in one ear and out the other. That combined with the obvious competency and intellectual capacity of my new colleagues left me doubting my own ability.

That too was nothing new. I'd spent the previous few years with major self image and self respect issues, hidden to most people I think. The first was my own fault, the second foisted upon me because many people had judged my marriage breakup and the subsequent upheavals and come to the decision that I was the sole person responsible for everything that had gone wrong. And I didn't discourage that. It seemed easier to take the blame because that tended to vindicate the self loathing and ultimately meant that other peoples judgement of me vindicated the way I felt about myself.

Then of course I was sacked from a job that I loved and that I was good at, so again it's very easy to start thinking the worst about yourself. Combine that with the fact that I got my new job as a result of who I knew, not what I knew, and that first few months in the new role left me wondering what the hell I was doing. I didn't want to let down the person who recommended me for the job, and yet I felt absolutely useless.

But slowly I got a handle on things. I coordinated and lead security and privacy audits, I was the key contact for the recertification of our Quality Management System to ISO9001, I began to make myself an expert in Privacy law, I developed and maintained relationships with our major client and other stakeholders and I think began to earn the respect of my peers. I have done things in the past year that I never expected to do. I make no pretense about the fact that I still have a lot to learn, but the greatest lesson I brought with me into this role from my previous working lives is that it is not shameful to admit gaps in knowledge and experience. In fact it is far better to be honest and tell people that you don't know something than it is to give bad advice simply because you don't wish to appear foolish.

Maybe as you get older that ability to embrace the fool with honesty rather than put on the mask and deny it's existence is a gift that comes more easily to us.

Upshot of all that is that I have now finished my first 12 month contract and been made a permanent member of staff. I received a pay rise which was more than twice what I got in the entire six years at my last job, and more importantly it has come with more responsibility and with the opportunity to become involved in other aspects of the business as well.

But you know what, the most important thing is that I am now a contributor and that I am enjoying what I do again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sam the Koala Dies

Back in February during our disastrous bushfires the world was touched by the story of Sam the Koala and a volunteer firefighter by the name of David Tree.

For those who haven't seen it or who don't know the story check this out -



After surviving her burns in a wildlife shelter for the past few months Sam was operated on today for the condition called  urogenital chlamydiosis, a life-threatening disease that affects 50 per cent of the koala population.   Unfortunately she died on the operating table.

For those who didn't hear it at the time I heard David Tree interviewed on the Neil Mitchell program on radio station 3AW here in Melbourne not long after the incident happened, and I was hoping they would post it on their website.   For those who are interested in hearing the story you can listen to the audio here.

This was a story that touched all our hearts and it is sad that despite all she went through she was not able to be returned to the wild.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Bike

The consensus amongst the guys in the office today is that most men relate to this bloke.



And with all the blokes in the office having agreed to that, one of the ladies sent us the following -

NINE WORDS WOMEN USE
(1) Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

(2) Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

(3) Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.

(4) Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!

(5) Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)

(6) That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

(7) Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome' . That will bring on a 'whatever').

(8) Whatever: Is a woman's way of saying 'get stuffed!' (and that is beign polite).

(9) Don't worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cocoon

A few weeks ago after attending a meeting in the city I caught a late night train home. That’s always an interesting experience because there are often drunken and drug addled people who also tend to travel around at night.

This particular night a bloke got on and it’s fair to say that he was under the weather. He confirmed it when he sat next to a young lady and started chatting to her admitting he’d just finished a long lunch with a client.

Now the train for me is somewhere I cocoon myself, relax and read a book, for the most part oblivious to things that go on around me. I’m not interested in other peoples conversations or hearing about their lives but occasionally there are sometimes things that are so distracting happening that the cocoon is breached. This bloke was one of those distractions.

The poor young girl next to him put up with being told about Sylvio Berlusconi and his marital exploits. Not content with discussing old news he proceeded to tell her his life story – he was a CPA and currently in charge of his practice because the boss was away; he did more than 300 BAS statements every quarter and been out to lunch with his largest client; he was widowed ten years ago when his wife died aged 50 and he was only 48 at the time; his three children, a thirty year old daughter and 28 and 25 year old sons still all lived at home; he was thinking of subdividing his block building a small two bedroom place on the front part and forcing his kids to move out; and on and on.

None of this was in the least bit interesting, I’d listened to enough drunks over the years to be less than inspired, and he was less interested in conversation than talking anyway. Try as I might I could not tune out. He grew up in a small country town called Drouin where Collingwood footballer Dale Thomas came from; life was different when he was a lad; and the drone continued through 13 raliway stations.

Unfortunately, there was track work going on and that meant that we had to change from a train and travel the last few stations by bus. Now, my cocoon in tatters, I did my best to avoid this bloke, but he sidled up to me and decided that it would be a good thing to talk about football until the bus arrived. So we did and when the bus finally did arrive I held back and let him get on first so I could choose where I wanted to sit that would allow me some peace and quiet. That worked until he saw a lady seated by herself in front of me and he decided that he could strike up a conversation with her. And then I learnt about her life as well – born in London, been in Australia for 30 years, divorced, living in a one bedroom flat and occasionally has a meal with the landlord who cooks for her, but the problem is he then expects her to reciprocate; lived in Darwin and Brisbane for years before moving to Melbourne; and so on. They had a great time together for those four stations.

Wednesday morning as I again was sitting reading my book and the train began to gradually fill I found my personal space invaded. There is an unwritten protocol on public transport that you spread out us much as possible and then gradually fill in the space as it becomes more crowded, but on this occasion despite there being plenty of empty seats this bloke sat right next to me and said good morning. I glanced up and found, much to my unease, the very same widowed father of three CPA who I had run across a few weeks ago.

So I buried my head in my book and he settled back to read the big paper until a young lady filled the seat opposite him whereupon he chose to strike up a conversation with her. This time the theme was cousins; Australia and England hate each other at cricket, but we’re cousins; New Zealand had an imperious batsman a few years ago called Martin Crowe and he happened to be the cousin of Russell Crowe although he wasn’t sure how old either of them were now; Australia and New Zealand hate each other at sport as well and would even compete heavily at tiddlywinks despite the fact that we’re cousins you know; and Australian fast bowler Bruce Reid, who also excelled at basketball as a youngster and played 100 games of AFL football as a Junior was actually the cousin of Kiwi batsman John Reid.

And on it went. Occasionally the young girl what mutter stuff like “Is that right” or “That’s amazing” whilst giving a stifled, forced giggle at his jokes. I tried to catch her eye and give her a knowing wink to let her know she wasn’t alone, but I don’t think she wanted to make eye contact with anyone else on the off chance that they would wreck her cocoon as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Great Expectations

I would rather read a book about Dickens than one he wrote himself.  Maybe that is a natural aversion to classics because of the reading we were forced to do in school, maybe it’s laziness or simply a matter of taste. Maybe it is that as a classic myself now, I no longer need to pretend to be the intellectual I sometimes thought I was when younger.

Although it is true I once had great expectations, I am now older and wiser and have learnt that expectations are often too weighty to be bothered carrying forever. Birthdays do this to us. Make us ponder the wotifs, the forks in the road taken or missed.  Often I wonder what would have happened had I just let the wind fill my sails and drifted not caring where I went.   There would have been good and bad in that, but maybe, just maybe, the expectations of others may not have been so warmly embraced by me.   And as I sit here thinking again, it seems to me that it was not my own great expectations that shaped who I am but the ones I soaked up from others in my life.

And I guess with that riddle still to be answered my whole midlife journey continues.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lost Job and swine flu

My youngest son messaged me today telling me he has lost his job. He rang his boss to find out where he was supposed to be working tomorrow and was told that there isn't enough work and that he is therefore sacked. No real explanation why it's him and not someone else although I think he has had a bit of time off lately with a virus and also having just been diagnosed with a hernia. He works as a scaffolder so maybe that is the real reason.

I told him that I will help in whatever way I can but truth is I feel pretty helpless. I have no work to give him. My lady has said that we will help financially [he has a car loan] but I haven't told him that yet. It's more important that he gets motivated to start looking for work immediately.

Lot's of people have been crook at work in the past few weeks, but although Melbourne is apparently the swine flu capital of the world only one person I know of has had that illness. There is the odd person seen walking through the city with a face mask on but for the most part people are just getting on with things.

I am still waiting to finalise my new contract only because the HR Manager has not had the time to deal with it. I will admit a little anxiety over not having it in place yet, but that's based on what happened to me last year, not because I think my position is in jeopardy.

I've had a few interesting exchanges of emails with a former employer and a few more facts about my sacking have fallen into place including the fact that there were three Board members wh pushed for my removal and not one of them ever said that they had any issues with my work performance. I was also told that some of the false information that they were telling people after I was sacked was a deliberate attempt to discredit me and they have come very close to finding themselves with a defamation case. I'll dig a bit more over the next few weeks simply because I beleive I am owed the truth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Old Work Revelations

A busy few weeks with not a lot of time nor inclination to write.  I'm Acting General Manager of a basketball organisation at the moment and will hold the position for another few weeks when the new GM will begin.  I'm doing it as a volunteer and it is not an onerous task but still involves a couple of hours work most nights.  To be frank I have realised that I don't get as much satisfaction out of volunteering as I used to. In fact, if I'm honest, I would say that it is really a bit of an imposition.

I have been given an extended offer of employment at my current workplace and I am talking to my boss about the detail in the role first thing tomorrow morning.  At the moment the pay remains as it has been the past year but I can't complain given the current job environment, plus the fact that I recently got a 10% bonus for my work last year.  The position description I have been given was not exactly what I have been doing, some things were left out, others are included that I am not currently responsible for, so the meeting tomorrow will clarify that for me.

A former boss has been in contact with me and a few of the issues I had with him have been discussed.  Not to the point where there has been any great resolution or closure but I certainly was able to get some things off my chest and got an apology of sorts from him.  I certainly got an agreement that I was only the first of several who were shafted, including himself.

I will try and post more in coming days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Maybe the best years of our life are in the here and now.

I was a lucky person to have four grandparents until I was nearly 17 years old, not too many kids can say that. My sons were five and four years old and my oldest daughter only six weeks when their mother’s father died suddenly aged only 56. My youngest daughter knew only three of hers.

If I could instantaneously travel 51 light years from earth and gaze at those light captured memories of me to a place where I could catch up with my birth. And if I then began to travel back through those light shows and gaze as my life passed me by I wonder if those first 16 odd years of my life would pass by more quickly than they seem to have done in my memories. Because it is an odd quirk that time accelerates as we age, a year as a five year old or 20% of a lifetime then is equivalent in percentage terms to 20 years as a 50 year old. No wonder Christmas and birthdays come around so quickly these days.

And in that travel we could meet again those we cared about and maybe this time thank them for what they did for us. Maybe with the wisdom of age we would better recognize some of those seminal moments that lead our feet, and maybe our fate, in a particular direction. We couldn’t change it but maybe in the retelling we could understand a little better why we are who we are. Perhaps that understanding could see us change our direction again.

But I somehow think that the path of life is probably best taken when the direction ahead is shrouded in fog or maybe obscured just over the brow of the next hill, where the horizon is just a little beyond our sight and the knowledge of what lies beyond remains something we can anticipate with excitement and look forward to the passion which may come from around the next bend. And let it be with eager feet that we face whatever the future may bring and let tomorrow be the gift that constantly delights us.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Uluru and Kata Tjuta Panoramas

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta in Central Australia.  I took a lot of photos as usual and most I am still fiddling with.   Below though are three panorama shots which I had printed off to 1 meter long shots for framing.  I'm pretty happy with them.

Here's a bit of technical stuff for those who may be interested.   I use a Canon 30D and these photos were taken with a Tamron 18-250 zoom lens.  Each photo consists of around 8-12 separate images stitched together in Photoshop Elements.  I had to remove a few spots in the sky caused by some dust on the sensor and made some minor adjustments in the levels but other than that what you see is how it looked to me on the day.  The shots have been resized for web display.  You can click on the image to open a larger view.

 
 Uluru Sunrise
 
Valley of the Winds - Kata Tjuta
 
Kata Tjuta Sunset

Thursday, May 7, 2009

School Daze

I have been contacted by a couple of people from school in the past few days.  They weren't looking for me, but hoping to make contact with others who we shared time with some decades ago now.  I've spent a lot of time reflecting on childhood and the wonder years in this blog and I think that may well be a symptom of midlife episodes.


I do remember both these people but I cannot remember ever having spoken to them.  One is a girl and I was as shy a school boy as anyone would ever come across so it's not surprising we never had a conversation during school days - apart from being shy I wasn't a "jock" and being bookish I tended to shrink a bit into the background, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that some of my mates alwyas did well with the girls, if you know what I mean.

So for these two people I think I was basically one of those forgettable people, someone whose name you may remember, but whose face was never one that was going to leave a lasting memory, or be easy to recall when the name was mentioned.

There are some things I remember from Burwood High School that seem seared into my brain and will be there forever.  But there are far many more things that seem shrouded in fog and have continued to fade, not unlike the photograph here of the front gate of the school.   The contrast is going, fading to grey, the corridors and class rooms hinted at behind the walls of the building have also remained for the most part hidden from the view of my memories.   The six years spent wandering the quadrangles and learning the things that still echo in the man writing here today, are lost somewhere and may never be recovered. 

I could make things up about those days.   Talk about the clarity and the teachers who changed my life, or the lifetime mates who I still see.  But the truth is that whilst some teachers made a mark, there was no Mr Chips or John Keating in my life.  Not their fault either.

When I look back I realise that I was an observer rather than a participator and I regret that, as I regret that even in the observation I failed to record the things that mattered.  If I had, I may now be able to recall those days with greater clarity.  There's a photo of me here in the Junior Boys Basketball team and I feel I made that team by default too.  I could jump, but not dribble, I later learnt to shoot, but back then, I tended to be one of the kids who was last to be chosen in any team or group activity, so whilst I did represent the school I didn't get a lot of minutes.  As with the rest of my school life, the other members were far more outgoing and talented than I.  

Did I have self esteem issues?   No, that came much later on.  I wasn't aware of anything different at the time.  I was who I was and not capable of being anything else.  I froze in social situations and because it made me uncomfortable I tended to use excuses not to go to parties.  At school I hung around with a group, but was one of the less inspiring, tending to listen rather than participate.  I don't even know now if any of them actually liked me.  Maybe I was just tolerated, no threat, so no reason to be ostracised, no dill, so no reason to laugh at me, no opinions or personality, so no reason to be remembered, a bit of a misfit who didn't know he was one at the time.

Sometimes, when I'm alone and thinking of the past little bits of those times come back to me.  It's like peering through a window with a blind fluttering in the wind, sometimes revealing the outside world, other thimes threatening to, but rapidly closing it off again.   So I will try and reach back to understand why I am who I am, because the one thing I can say is the boy from that school carried baggage with him into manhood.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Snollygoster

Always on the lookout for unusual words I found this one with a high hit rate on google trends today and as with some other things I have come across I can find no real reason why a search for this word takes off on one particular day. Certainly in searching it myself there is no hit on Google news so it doesn’t seem to have been triggered by a news item.

Still this is a useful word and the meaning is worth checking out.   Here are some of the definitions – From Urban Dictionary
  • A 19th century coinage, meaning a crooked and flamboyant politician. Later, in Maryland folklore, a monster half bird and half snake, that was used to frighten ex-slaves out of voting.
  • A "carpetbagger". Somebody who will go to any lengths to achieve public office, regardless of party affiliation or platform.
Michael Quinion on World Wide Words writes -
  •  "A shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician."
I guess we all know politicians like that and some may even say that politician is a subset of snollygoster which I don't personally subscribe to.   Well, maybe sometimes I do because there is always a fair bit of snollygosting going on amongst our erstwhile leaders.

Look at our Premier here in Victoria, John Brumby,  who claims, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, that we are not in recession.  Shrewd, certainly, unprincipled arguably, snollygoster?  Well I guess that will depend what side of the political fence you sit on and in the current climate whether you have a job or not.

I know that politicians change their minds - I live in the eastern suburbs and I remember the pre-election promise that eastlink would not be a toll road, only to find a few short weeks after they were re-elected that the situation had changed.  But how often is bad policy blamed on external influences and how often is political expediency used to mask the truth from the public?

Remember in the state budget last year that we were told we could expect four years of continued growth and that unemployment would remain at around 4-5% with a budget surplus approaching $800m/annum.   Now we find that growth is flat, if not negative, that unemployment will climb to more than 7% and the surplus is gone, not only for this year but probably for the forseeable future too.  I am an economic moron so I have no idea who to blame for this, but I guarantee you that politicians around the world will not only continue to blame the "worldwide economic crisis" but swine flu as well.

Watch the snollygostering continue.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Changing my Name

I am thinking of changing my name to Authorised Persons.    I feel so many more doors will open for me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A belated Happy Earthday

I came across this one at Discover magazine and thought that it was well worth re-posting in celebration of Earth Day even if I am a day late.


Visit Timescapes for more.

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I will be scarce for the next few days.  Tomorrow morning we are flying to the Northern territory for a 4 day holiday courtesy of my ladies boss as a thank you for some long hours she's put in recently.   Of course my camera will be coming as will a new digital video camera I've purchased and whilst I don't expect anything the quality of timescapes I'm going to have some fun trying.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is the truth out there? Edgar Mitchell once a man on the moon.

I grew up in a time of wonder and was fortunate to have been encouraged by my parents to be an avid reader.  Circumstances and some childhood events meant that I did spend a lot of time alone in my bedroom immersed in comics and the tales of Superman and the Green Lantern.  But I also became an avid science fiction fan and devoured Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Pohl and Clements, indeed I haunted the shelves of the local library looking for the bright yellow spines which like a beacon showed me wondrous tales from the publisher Gollancz.

On the wall so me bedroom were drawings I ad done of superheroes and in pride of place on one wall was a map of the solar system showing the then 9 planets and their comparative sizes.   There was no doubt in that young boys mind that aliens did exist and that one day he may be riding a rocket to Mars and encountering strange people in strange faraway lands.

And now as a person on the older side of 50, who has been jaded and cynical I find that my belief in life elsewhere in the universe still hasn't changed even if we didn't reach the goal of my childhood of living on another planet by the time I was thirty.  And that is why I place some credence in what some people say about the possibility of life other than on Earth.

In the news today is former astronaut Edgar Mitchell who is one of only 12 men to walk on the Moon.  A respected and knowledgeable man he claimed yesterday in a National Press Club appearance in the US that man is not alone.    Mitchell grew up in Roswell, the site of conspiracy theorists shangri la, where an alien aircraft allegedly crashed in the 1940's leading to an ongoing cover up in the US.   This has been a favourite subject of science fiction shows for decades, notably the X files and Roswell, and has been consistently denied by US Government Officials.

Mitchell states that people from Roswell began to come to him and told him their version of the events from that night decades ago and that as a result he was given an interview with a Rear Admiral at the Pentagon.  But enough of me prattling listen to him yourself and tell me whether you think he is credible or not.  Here he is in an interview on the Larry King show on CNN.

Mitchell has been talking about this for some time and in 2008 went on a UK program Kerrang Radio.


There has been several follow ups on the US radio program Coast to Coast.



I won't overburden all of you with the rest of this story but if you wish to hear it all the links on youtube are here - Part 2,   Part 3.

For all those who believe the Roswell Coverup, there are an equal number who scoff at it.   I believe that some people are more credible than others and Mitchell hasn't claimed to have seen them himself, he simply claims to have been told about certain things by people he knew and trusted.  That is not proof but it is a tale worth listening to because he seems to me to be a credible person.

Let's also remember that the UK Department of Defense has recently released it's own UFO files and we can say that there have been a number of occurrences that are not explainable.

So is there any concrete proof?  No.  But it is not a big stretch for me to believe that somewhere in the vastness of the universe there are other people gazing out at the stars and pondering the same questions we are.  It is not a stretch for me to believe that over the at least 4 billion year life of the universe that somewhere life has evolved technology beyond what we currently have.  So am I a believer?  Of course, what about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

People who wear baseball caps backwards shouldn't open their mouths

Went out for my usual lunch time walk today and as I was stopped at a red light a small black convertible driven by an attractive young lady pulled up at the intersection waiting for pedestrians to clear the road so she could proceed with a left hand turn.   A young bloke in the passenger seat decided that even though the pedestrians were crossing on a green light they should be moving more quickly so he decided to abuse a couple of them.  This turkey sitting there in a singlet, sunglasses on and wearing his baseball cap backwards proved that if you don't know how to wear a hat properly you shouldn't open your mouth or you'll just confirm to everyone that you truly are a tool.  It could have been worse i guess, he could have been wearing it sideways.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Letting go of the Anger and Other Things

I'll start with an updat on last weeks update - I spoke to the mother of the girl allegedly dating a drug dealer and she is making some discreet enquiries.  She was grateful for the heads up and I guess time will tell whether the story is right or not.

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I've been asked to run for another committee and I'm weighing it up.  I have to find the passion for the sport again.   I find that I have lost a lot of respect for people involved and although I think I can do a better job than some of them I worry about the impact on available time.  I am enjoying having weekends off and spending time in the garden.   That will likely change if I take this position on and I am not prepared to do it unless I am 100% committed.  Maybe I still need some more time away from it.   Maybe I will never fully embrace it again.

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My contract is up in about 8 weeks so I am going to ask the boss tomorrow what his intentions are.  I look back twelve months and realise how much I have learned in this role but recognise that there is still a lot more to be done.   I remember the first couple of months when I was floundering not knowing anything at all about ISO 9001 or 27001, being a novice in Business Continuity Planning and Risk Management, but as the months wore on and my background knowledge increased and I was able to call on my former experience both in the police force and as CEO of one of the largest not-for-profit sporting groups in the country, I started to realise that I could make a difference and I like to think I have.   I guess I'll find out soon if my boss concurs.

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I do keep dwelling on anger and an incident yesterday made me think a bit more about the impact of a marriage breakup on the kids and the log term impact on them.  I won't go into detail of the actual comments made to me here because that'll just get me into more trouble but I thought I'd make a few general comments.

I know better than some how comments made to children can have a profound impact on their lives, as can the actions of others.   Often there is no malice in the comments and no actual forethought about the long term impact of those actions.  I started to think about what impact it may have on kids to find that their parents no longer love each other and I have come to this conclusion.   Younger kids, if they are lucky, get the unconditional love of their parents, and that love is something totally different to that of the love between a husband and a wife.  Maybe to those who haven't gone through a marriage break up this is not something that is true.  But I think for those of us who have it ought to be self evident.

I think that kids can feel threatened by that.  For them the love of a mother and father is the same as that of the love for their brothers and sisters and it is unconditional, just like that of a parent for a child.  But when a marriage goes wrong, particularly when they don't see what was wrong, then it is something that is very hard to understand.  Perhaps in those cases, the worry is that if one parent falls out of love with the other, it is not a big stretch to think that they may also fall out of love with their children.  They don't understand, maybe they can't understand, that the love is different.

It seems to me that the parent who has the bulk of the custodianship of the child has a great responsibility to ensure that the child is protected from the detail of the breakup.  There are some things that children don't need to know and both parents should do their absolute best to ensure that kids know that they are loved by both parents equally.  If they hear criticism of one, then the fears of losing that love creep in and the kids can hang onto anger about the breakup far longer than they should.   Maybe they can never really understand it until they get older.   It is difficult for the parent who is seen as the instigator of the breakup to defend themselves in those circumstances without bagging the other parent.  And as tempting as that is at times it is far better to keep quiet about things even when it means they still cop the bulk of the flak from the kids.

Sometimes the whole truth and nothing but the truth ca do way more harm than good.  Why be vindicative enough to drag the other parent off the pedestal.   There may be a future time and place for everything to be told, or maybe not.

I know that I have often referred to Don Miguel Ruiz and his book "The Four Agreements"because it had such a profound impact on me.   Back in the early days of this blog I wrote a piece about The First Agreement - Be Impeccable with your Word and I think it applies here.  It's an orphan piece that drew no comments at the time so I would be interested in any comments on that now if anyone has the time to read it.

I know that there are a lot of readers of this blog who have gone through marriage breakups.  Tell me how your kids coped with it and how you may have tired to protect them from the detail.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Remember when Mum said if you ate an apple core...

...that you would end up with an apple tree growing in your stomach.  Or that if you didn't clean your ears or toenails that potatoes would start to grow.  So I grew up terrified that I would turn into a triffid or an ent, or worse that stalks of celery would start to burst forth from my nostrils.  I could only quake in fear at the thought of blackberry bushes growing from other orifices and the damage that the thorns may do to various bodily parts.  And as a result I was very careful never to digest anything that looked like a seed and in fact grew up with a mortal fear of nuts.   Or maybe you don't remember any of this and my Mum was the only one who managed to induce these fears.

Well I hate to tell you folks but it seems like it was all true.  There is a report that has come out of Russia which states that surgeons who operated on a 28 year old man to remove what they thought was a cancerous growth found a 5 centimeter fir tree growing in his lung.   They believe he somehow inhaled a seed which germinated and grew inside his lung.   It got me thinking that if a single seed can do that then imagine what a few thousand spores could do and I have promised myself never to sniff mushrooms.

So here's a couple of questions.   What words of cullinary wisdom did your Mum give you?  And check out Discover magazine who are asking whether you believe this is true or not.   Let us know your answer here.