Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'm melting. I'm melting ...

I think it is safe to say that today is hot. More to the point, it's bloody hot!

The maximum temperature for today was 43° Celsius (109.4° Farenheit). Right now at 7:15pm. believe it or not, it is still 41° Celsius (105.8° Farenheit).

Any fan of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series would be familiar with the character Odo, who regularly has to return to his natural liquid state in order to rejuvenate. He has a bucket in his office for this purpose. I now know how he feels. This is a pool of grease talking to you, not a corporeal entity.

And I hate greasy foods.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


This piece was inspired by the sight of Easter eggs in a store on Boxing Day.

In a move sure to leave millions of children around the world devastated, police yesterday arrested Santa Claus for the hit and run death of the Easter Bunny last December.

In a press conference this morning, spokesman for the police and head of the Road Kill taskforce set up to investigate the death, Detective Inspector Bharrum Bhugge, said that Claus had been lead suspect in the case right from the beginning. He said that unique parallell skid marks at the scene pointed to Claus being responsible but, up until now, police have been unable to question him as there is no treaty of extradition with the North Pole.

Inspector Bhugge said the breakthrough in the case came last week when an anonymous caller phoned Crimestoppers, telling them that Claus was going to re-enter the country, most likely coming from New Zealand. Acting on the information given by the informant, and in conjunction with customs officers and the Navy, Road Kill taskforce members were able to successfully apprehend the suspect when he flew in.

In addition to the hit-run offences, Bharrum Bhugge said, Claus was also facing charges of trying to avoid paying customs duties after a multitude of items which he had failed to declare were discovered in his sled. A number of passports under various names were also found. The vehicle itself, which has been impounded for forensic examination, also appears to be unlicenced and uninsured. Quarantine officials had to be called in to organise the capture of eight reindeer which Claus had apparently been using to pull his sled.

"This could very well be the worst case of animal cruelty ever seen in this country! And God knows what diseases they're carrying!" said one unamed source close to the investigation.

Inspector Bhugge also appealed to the public for any information they might have on Claus.

"It seems that this man is an habitual criminal who likes to flaunt his lawlessness. He practically admitted to us that he illegally enters peoples homes when they are asleep, and leaves gifts for the children. We are asking any member of the public who has had dealings with a man who calls himself Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Saint Nick, Papa Noel, Pere Noel, Papai Noel, Viejo Pascuero, Dun Che Lao Ren, Kerstman, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Kanakaloka, Mikulas, Babbo Natale, Hoteiosho, Julenissen, Swiety Mikolaj, Ded Moroz, Jultomten or Father Christmas, to come forward. We need to keep our children safe from this predator, and any information you have will go a long way to ensuring this. We would especially like to talk again to the person who phoned Crimestoppers in the first place; a young adolescent male, we believe. This could very well be the first time one of this man's victims has had the courage to come forward."

Claus is due to appear before the magistrates Court tomorrow morning. A lawyer for the firm representing Claus, Chris Angel and Partners, said they would be asking for bail on humanitarian grounds.

"It is our contention that Big Business, not Santa Claus, should be the ones held accountable for the death of the Easter Bunny. This was a tragedy just waiting to happen. There is a disease running rampant through our society, and that disease is commercialisation. Santa was only doing his job as demanded by the aspects of commercialism. So was the Easter Bunny. The two of them should never have met, but they did. Tragically."

"If Big Business hadn't been so quick to start promoting Easter after Christmas ... well. Our client is as much a victim as the Easter Bunny, and we are prepared to show that in court."

The lawyer refused to comment on the other charges Claus was facing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

To all

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to visit and read and comment; I hope you enjoyed what you found. Special thanks, too, must be given to the spammers who have helped increase the visitor count to a point where the Retreat looks, to the casual surfer, like it might be a blog of interest.

Have a happy and safe festive season, and I hope to see you in the new year, hopefully with a bit more regular input from me.

Be strong, be happy, be safe, and most importantly, be who you are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Me as a Tarot card

Copying S again.

The Hierophant CardYou are the the Hierophant card. The Hierophant, called The Pope in some decks, is the preserver of cultural traditions.

After entering The Emperor's society, The Hierophant teaches us its wisdom. The Hierophant learns and teaches
our cultural traditions. The discoveries our ancestors have made influence the present. Without forces such as The Hierophant who are able to interpret and communicate traditional lore, each generation would have to begin to
learn anew.

As a force that is concentrated on our past and our culture, The Hierophant can sometimes be stubborn and set in his ways. This is a negative trait he shares with his zodiac sign, Taurus. But like Taurus he is productive. His traditional lore can provide a source of inspiration for the creatively inclined, and his knowledge provides an excellent foundation for those who come into their own in the business world.

The mathematics of Christmas

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.

This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second--3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element.

Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them... Santa would need 360,000 of them.

This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.

The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Is Australia going to drop the bomb?

It has long been the nature of Australians to not take themselves too seriously, and this has never been better reflected than in their language. Australians have a wonderfully irreverent, knockabout vernacular. Nowhere else would being called bastard, poof, dickhead, and various other titles of a derogatory nature, be considered a compliment.

Naturally, like anything that has two meanings, it depends on the way it's said as to how it should be taken. If an Aussie calls you a mongrel, it might be because you've bested him in some sort of competitive exercise, and that he is accepting defeat gracefully and offering you a compliment. But look out if he calls you a flaming mongrel. It's easy to see how someone not raised in Australia could find themselves in all sorts of bother.

With Australia becoming more and more multicultural, and particularly with the endless downpour of American culture in the media, much of the subtlety and nuance, and much of the uniqueness, of the Australian language is being lost. And now, with the recent passing of the new anti-terrorism laws through parlaiment, it looks like another Australian language icon is set to become history.

Australia is going to have to drop the "bomb".

The bomb is a car. More precisely, it's one of those cars that goes past, and you're suprised that it makes it to the end of the street, let alone it's actually running. Chances are, particularly if you're a male, you have owned one at some time in your life. You know the car I'm talking about; faded paintwork, four different coloured doors, a windscreen that leaks in a heavy dew, rust-eaten panels, a hole in the muffler so you can hear it three kilometres away, and blowing a smokescreen they could have used on D-Day. A car that you would swear was going to blow up any second, hence the term "bomb".

The bomb became an Australian icon. It was almost a rite of passage for the adolescent Aussie male to purchase a bomb for his first car. Men would gather at the local watering holes and compare bombs. It was a subject of great hilarity if someone was seen driving a bomb, especially if they were someone generally considered to be well off. When buying a new car, it was common practise to let the Missus have the bomb to run around in. "Strewth! What a bloody bomb!" was the catch cry heard at a majority of male gatherings.

As I mentioned before, new anti-terrorism legislation has been passed. All of a sudden, Aussies now have to think twice before using the words "car" and "bomb" in the same sentence - or even using the term "bomb" to describe a vehicle. Imagine the confusion that could occur.

Someone rings the local authorities to complain that a bomb has been parked at the corner of First and Main for the past week. Who do they send? The RACV or the bomb squad?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bats and balls.

Scientists at Syracuse University in New York last Thursday released the results of analysis of 334 species of bat. They concluded that males cannot have both big brains and big testes. It's either large brains and small testes, or small brains and large testes.

"Because relatively large brains are metabolically costly to develop and maintain, changes in brain size may be accompanied by compensatory changes in other expensive tissues," wrote Dr Scott Pitnick in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Letters.

It appears that in bat colonies where the female is more likely to mate with more than one male, it behoves the male to produce greater quantities of sperm to ensure it's his offspring that are sprung. Whereas, in colonies where the females are less promiscuous, the males tend to have larger brains. I guess this allows them to concentrate on other, more important things, like meeting their mates down at the pub, watching the footy, etc.

The correlation between larger brains and monogamous matings came as somewhat of a shock to the scientists, leading them to hypothesise that "Perhaps monogamy is more neurologically demanding."

I'm willing to lay odds their are a few people out there who would agree.

And what does this say about Batman?

So, ladies. If you're interested in a bloke and you want to know if he's half as smart as he makes out, give him a pair of Speedos and invite him to a pool party. A quick glance in the right direction should answer your question.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Childhood's bestest friend.

This was sent to me in an e-mail, and I thought I'd share it with you. Makes a change from all the spam and warnings about viruses, etc. (Yes, the hard-boiled cynic has a soft spot)
There is a miracle called friendship, that dwells within the heart.
You don’t know how it happens, or when it gets its start.
But you know the special lift it always brings,
And you know the friendship is a most precious gift.
A friend is someone we turn to

When our spirits need a rise.
A friend is someone we treasure
And their friendship is the prize.
A friend is someone who fills our lives

With beauty, joy and grace,
And makes the world we live in

A better and happier place.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not what I would have said.

S, my partner, has her own blog called Beyond The Blank Page ... Yesterday, she posted one of those fun survey type things that you can find all over the Web. Being a copycat from Ballarat, I thought I would have a go. Surprisingly, I came up with the same result as her. Now, while I agree wholeheartedly that this describes S, it's certainly not how I see myself.

Might need to take it to the court of appeal, I think.

The Wisdom
You reflect the wisdom of the spirit. You shine as
a wise and anicent sage who values intellect
among the most. Your spirit brings guidance to
those around you. You have accomplished your
strength with age and time. Don't let your wise
advice go to waste. Share it with all who are
willing to listen.

Reflections of the Spirit?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Would you like flies with that?

Since meeting S, my partner, I have acquired a new skill. I am now one of this country's leading arachnid removalists.

With the onset of our Summer, and Christmas fast approaching, the holiday mood is starting to settle in. Many people's thoughts are turned to packing the family up and touring the countryside. The same can also be said of much of our fauna, especially those of a creepy-crawly nature. Not least amongst them, and
spelled with a capital, as all good lead characters in bettes noires should be, is the Huntsman spider. Unfortunately, the Hunstman's idea of a good holiday is to spend some time in the Great Indoors. In the last two weeks, two have made an incursion into our house.

It might not be so bad if these creatures weren't so bloody big. (I have included the above picture to give you some perspective) They have a specially designed flat body which allows them to hide between layers of bark, - and squeeze through the thinnest of cracks - that can measure up to 25 millimetres (1 inch) across. Their leg span has been known to cover 160 millimetres (that's a little over 6 inches for those of you who still believe it's easier to divide by twelve). Naturally, with legs like that, it's a foregone conclusion that they have the ability to jump. Actually, that's not quite true; they can leap. As much as 291 centimetres (approximately 3 feet). Little wonder their sudden discovery can be quite nerve wracking.

The experts reckon they're really quite harmless. Yeah, right. It's obvious they've never had one run up their arm when they opened up the daily newspaper, or had one drop from the ceiling with a thud onto the middle of their chest whilst laying in bed. And, if they're so harmless, why is it they produce in the majority of people a debilitating condition that requires the immediate and rapid administering of a stiff drink?

Which brings us to this guy over on the right.

Last Christmas, S and I spent a fortnight in Renmark, in the heart of South Australia's Riverland. We rented a beautiful old house, built around the turn of last century, situated less than fifty metres from the banks of the River Murray. Word must have gotten round that we would be leaving soon, and on our second last night, Mr Huntsman moved in, taking up residence in the spot most likely to cause distress the next morning; directly above the doorway leading to the kitchen. This was a deliberate ploy, calculated to create as much mayhem and disruption as possible, as evidenced by the evil gleam in two of his eight eyes.

Those of you familiar with the comic book superhero, Spiderman, would know about his famous "spider sense", which warns him when danger is about. I swear that S has the same sense, only in reverse. She has this innate ability to detect when a spider is lurking nearby. The damn thing could be at the bottom of a box papers which is in the back of a cupboard that hasn't been opened for two years. It doesn't matter, S would know it was there. So, naturally, it was S who first noticed our visitor in Renmark.

How best to deal with it? Simple. Go find a man. And, as I was the closest, I got the honours. Too bad the man is also an arachnophobe.

In my mind, there were two problems. First off, we had no fly spray. Secondly, as the ceilings in the house were ten feet up, the spider was too high to give a good whack with a shoe. These were only fleeting considerations, however. S doesn't believe in killing things just because they happen to wander across our path, so the only option open to me was to get him down from the lofty heights, and out the door.

This presented with a whole new set of problems. Some careful planning was required.

Further assessment of the trespasser revealed he was rather large. In fact, he was bloody huge! If any cats in the neighbourhood were missing, I'm pretty certain I was looking at who was responsible. Obviously, even if I was able to manouevre him into a position where a cup could be placed over the top of him, he was too big to fit in the cup; his legs would still be sticking out from under the rim. Ick! This necessitated a desparate search for a container large enough to accomodate him. We finally came up with a screw-top plastic container, and were able to hunt up a piece of stiff card to slide underneath. Reaching him ( just) was solved by grabbing the broom.

Thus, armed with the appropriate weapons, we commenced the assault. With S offering encouragement from a position of relative safety - ie. several feet behind me - I moved in. You would have thought that someone in his position, when finding themself facing the business end of a broom, would take the hint and simply comply with demands and move in the direction indicated. Not this bloke. If he wasn't raising himself up on his haunches, he went running in all the wrong directions. At one stage he managed to get onto the ceiling itself, almost directly above me. Images of him jumping down on my head were extremely vivid. I kid you not when I tell you my heart wasn't exactly at rest.

I eventually managed to herd him to an area where it was possible to trap him underneath the plastic container. As S wasn't going to go anywhere near him, I had to do it, whilst still holding the broom. Moving carefully closer, I slapped the container against the wall.

I missed.

I put it down to fear and loathing.

Of course, Mr. Hunstman was quite indignant at this attack on his rights as a free spider, and he did what comes naturally; he ran. Down the wall at the speed of sound, hit the floor running, and dart under the door to the spare bedroom.

Now we were really worried. Our suitcases were in the spare bedroom, open and half packed prepratory to our leaving the next day. Neither S nor I were pleased at the thought of this guy coming home with us, so steeling my resolve, I carefully opened the bedroom door and scanned the area.

Two emotions hit me simultaneously. Relief and frustration. Relief because the spider hadn't gone directly into hiding, and was in plain view. Frustration because he was in the corner of the wall where it would be impossible to trap him with the container. More manipulations with the broom were called for.

After about two nerve wracking hours - it was probably only a couple of minutes in reality but, as far as I'm concerned it felt like two hours - I was able to successfully trap him. (Either my shepherding skills had improved, or he simply surrendered - I like to think it was the former). It was then simply a matter of sliding the card under the rim of the container, then picking all up together. Carrying him across the road - all the time praying the card didn't suddenly go floppy - I deposited our friend on a big gum tree beside the river.

And what did S say when I returned frazzled, perspiring but triumphant?

"Are you sure he's gone? He's not going to come back, is he?"

Since our Renmark adventure, my spider wrangling skills have improved, and the latest two invaders have been removed with a minimum of fuss (although one did return and S was forced to deal with it herself). My heart still races though.

Scary buggers, they are.

If you would like more information on these creatures, click here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Talking turkey.

Apparently it is a tradition for the President of the United States to hold a ceremony in which he pardons the annual Thanksgiving turkey. This year was no different. On November 22, George Dubya granted a Presidential pardon to a turkey named - wait for it - Marshmallow. and its companion, a stand-in called Yam. As to why a stand-in was required one can only surmise. Perhaps it was for the stunt scenes (see below).

Normally, the birds fortunate enough to be spared from the dinner table end up living out the remainder of their days at a farm called "Frying Pan Park". I kid you not. This year, however, the turkeys have been spared the ignominy, and instead will serve as honourary Grand Marshalls at Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Afterwards, they will remain at Disneyland until their allotment of daylight runs out.

Bravely resisting the opportunity to make pun - sorry, FUN - of the situation and point out the obvious references to turkeys political or avian, I'll just draw your attention to ancient Rome. It too was once the super power of the world, and its leaders also indulged in some pretty bizarre antics. We all know what happened to them.

Is history, perchance, repeating?

Annual Thanksgiving Turkey, Marshmallow
(or possibly Yam), shows his
gratitude at receiving a Presidential pardon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wall flowers.

Prime Minister Howard and President
Bush try to determine the reason for
their sudden plummet in popularity.
Bad breath, perhaps?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Letter of resignation.

Taken from an E-mail, author unknown:

I am hereby tendering my resignation as an adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an eight-year-old again.

I want to go to McDonald's and think it's a four star restaraunt.

I want to sail sticks across mud puddles and make ripples with rocks.

I want to think M&M's are better than money because you can eat them.

I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot Summer's day.

I want to return to a time when life was simple. When all you knew were colours, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know and you didn't care. All you knew was to be happy because you were blissfully unaware of all the things that should make you worried ar upset.

I want to think the world is fair and that everyone is honest and good. I want to believe that anything is possible.

I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.

I want to live simple again. I don't want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor's bills, gossip, illness, and loss of loved ones. I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.

So here's my chequebook and my car keys, my credit card bills and my tax statements. I am officially resigning from adulthood. And if you want to discuss this further, you'll have to catch me first, 'cause, "Tag! You're it!"

More thoughts on this to come ...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Personally, I think I would have preferred a toaster.

The arrival, last week, of the latest heir to the Danish throne, prompted in this country a flurry of gift giving which rivaled the birth of Christ.

Because Princess Mary is a native of Tasmania, the Danish royal family have been reclassified as Australian by default. Therefore, any issue from her marriage to Prince Frederick is an extension of the Australian nation and, as such, is entitled to be showered with gifts. It should be noted, though, should the young Prince grow up to be a reprobate, the scorn heaped upon him will be equally as generous.

Amongst the gifts of soft toys and knitted items bestowed by rank and file Australians were the official gifts from the various governments. The Federal government presented the happy couple with a first edition of May Gibbs' Snugglepot And Cuddlepie, a well known icon of Australian children's literature. Not a bad gift in itself, although I do shudder at the mental image of the cover being used as a teething rusk. The Tasmanian goverment gave them a pair of Tasmanian devils, though I can't see the young Prince playing with them in the backyard; they're liable to eat his fingers off.

This brings us to the Victorian government's proffering. Somebody obviously gave a great deal of thought to the question; "What do you give a Prince who has everything?", and Bracksie must have been impressed with the answer when it was whispered in his ear. (Steve Bracks is Premier of Victoria, equivalent of a Governor in the U.S. However, less inclined to kiss babies) The decision was made to give the proud parents a Melbourne tram, similar to the one pictured above, but a lot cleaner.

In our household - as in many others around the State, I suspect - bottom jaws fell open when they heard the news. The immediate response was, naturally, what the hell is the kid going to do with a tram? Isn't it a bit big? Certainly too big to pick up and suck on. And where on earth are they going to put it? It's going to need one hell of a toy box. And you could understand the Prince's reluctance to put away his toys when told by his mother.

Copenhagen has a tram system of its own, so I suppose the tram will be placed in a special area, and brought out for special occasions; trips to the seaside, the zoo, that sort of thing. But, what about when the Prince turns eighteen. I can just see him and thirty or so of his closest friends, in a mood to party, terrorising motorists around the city on a Saturday night.

All this is moot, though. The day after they announced the gift of the tram, the Victorian government qualified their statement by announcing that the Tram was, in fact, a belated wedding present for Mary and Frederick. The reason it took so long was the vehichle had to be refurbished and made to look as authentic as possible. The cynic inside of me, who is always jumping up and down trying to attract attention, wonders whether the Bracks Mob didn't hold off on announcing their gift until the birth of the Prince in order to save on cost. A two-gifts-in-one kind of deal.

Still, putting all that aside, if this tram was to be truly authentic, a few items had to be included;
  • An automated ticket machine that doesn't work ninety-five percent of the time. When, and if, it is working, the instructions for purchasing a ticket are to be incrompehensible to all except, perhaps, computer language writers.
  • A total absence of any display of route information (zones, etc.) that may enable passengers, who have been able to interpret ticket purchasing instructions, to determine exactly how much they are required to pay.
  • A group of three or more fifteen-year-old school girls who constantly laugh and squeal at excrutiating decibel levels.
  • An old man who stands directly in front of, or right beside, the ticket machine, singing opera badly and reeking of urine.
  • A roving band of ticket inspectors with a propensity for beating up on miscreant travellers.
  • A passenger, male or female, who places their bags of shopping on the vacant seat next to them, then refuses to remove it for anybody who hints they would like to sit down, too.
  • A driver who is totally oblivious to everything except the warning bell for the next stop.

What about a conductor, I hear you ask? That would be considered an optional extra, and is sold separately.

I hope the happy couple enjoy their wedding present. I guess they don't really have any choice. It's not like they can take it to the op shop if they decide they don't really want it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Early morning wake up call.

Like many people, I quite enjoy the sound of birdsong. The warbles and twitters touch a chord, and it can be very relaxing and soothing, peaceful.

Just not at quarter-past-bloody-four in the morning!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

One goal I don't mind not achieving.

S, my partner, has a book titled So Many Books, So Little Time. It's about a woman who sets out to read one book a week for a year, but fails to reach her goal. With my usual depth of consideration, I thought I'd see if I could achieve what she couldn't. Surely, it wasn't all that difficult to read fifty-two books in one year.

Now, with just over eleven weeks left until the New Year, and not counting the two B.C. comic books, the score so far is;
Books: 39 Weeks: 41.
Short of setting aside a couple of days for nothing but reading or, as S would say, selecting something fluffy that only takes a couple of hours to read, it's most likely that I, too, will fail to reach the magical target.
But whether I make it or not, it has been a wonderful journey. I've been able to catch up with some of the titles considered "essential reading", which have somehow managed to evade me over the years. I'm talking, of course, about such masterworks as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World and Tuesdays With Morrie. Of the others, On Beulah Height was a stand-out, along with the Harry Potter series (although I have to admit the jury is still out on Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince; I'm not sure how I feel about that one yet). The Sand Pebbles was a wonderful surprise, and The Flight Of The Falcon was as good an introduction as any to the works of Daphne Du Maurier; her precision with the English language is a breath of fresh air. And when it comes to non-stop action, Ice Station leaves you panting.
It's still possible, I suppose, to actually get fifty-two books read before the New Year, but even if I don't make it, I've sure as hell had a great time running the race.
And there's always next year, right?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Headline translation.

Last week, one of the major daily papers in Melbourne had an article in it under the headline;

The article then goes on to describe the results of the latest finding on obesity in women, and proposals for preventative actions and such. I think the meat of the article is really just a smoke screen for the actual meaning of the headline.
Australia is in the grip of Grand Final Fever. The two major football codes in this country have reached that week when the season winds up with the match that determines which team will be crowned champions. Actually, one - the Australian Football League (Aussie Rules Football) - was decided yesterday. Rugby League has their grand final next weekend. This brings us to the true meaning of the aforementioned headline.
Whilst it looks innocent enough, it is really a warning for women, written in "womenspeak". What is really being said is this;
You think I'm kidding, don't you?
Just ask any woman.

When the subject is tired and Warne.

As a spectator sport, cricket does for me what Angelina Jolie does for spousal fidelity; nothing at all. And I certainly don't consider the off-field antics of Australian spin bowler, Shane Warne, as anything newsworthy. Yet, "reporters" of the various media feel they need to expose us to his pecadilloes as often as he exposes himself.

The latest offering comes from the recent tour of England in which Australia lost the Ashes series. It was the last match of the series. Warne was due to bat the next day. Australia's hopes to save the match were pinned on his ability to slash his bat around with the same abandon as his other appendage.

It now comes to light that Warne met a woman the night before. They apparently engaged in a night-long session of sex. The woman is now laying (no pun intended) claim to making Warne so tired that when he came to the crease the following morning, he got out for a duck - no, that's not a misprint - and England thereby clinched the Ashes series. For non cricket types, "out for a duck" is when the batsman fails to score any runs.

Whilst I find the whole episode trite and and hardly newsworthy, it does bring to mind something I came across when researching another subject.

A woman's lot in late nineteenth century England was not a happy one when it came to the bedroom. Sexual congress between a husband and wife was for the purpose of procreation and to satisfy the rights of the husband as a man. If a husband demanded conjugal rights, the wife was supposed to just lie there and take it. Quite often, the woman found no enjoyment in the process. Religious dogma also stated that it was a sin for women to enjoy the act of procreation. Because of this, on the day of their wedding, many mothers imparted the following warning about the upcoming wedding night to their daughters.

"He is entitled to this because he is your husband, and it is your duty to produce an heir who will go on to become a valuable member of society. It is not a pleasant task, but it must be done. So, lay back, close your eyes, and think of England."


Sunday, September 11, 2005

When the questions stop and the smile falters.

Are we all going to wake up one day and discover we have forgotten how to to laugh, to smile? Are we going to be so immersed in the problems of the world that laughter is only going to be a faint echo resonating in a distant, ancient cranial canyon?

It's easy to see how we could forget to laugh. With everything that is going on in the world today, is it any wonder? Every day we're bombarded with news of disaster and war and economic catastrophe; an endless litany of negativity.

A megalomaniac exploits a loophole in Islamic law and as a consequence, two planes slam into the the World Trade Centre towers. Now, a quarter of the world's military are involved in trying to find this creature.

A despot in the Middle East (who coincidentally happens to be sitting on the world's largest oil reserves) is finally targeted by the FOG (Forces of Good) and flees. Eventually he is captured, and a large third of the world's military are concerned with trying to keep the peace in his devasted homeland.

In 1980, another despot came to power, but the fact that he behaves in exactly the same manner as his Middle Eastern counterpart doesn't seem to matter. Because his land has no economic or commodic value, he is totally ignored by the FOG and is left alone to do as he pleases. It would appear Zimbabwe's only hope now, would be the fortuitous discovery of a large deposit of fossil fuel.

Closer to home, the news doesn't seem to be any better; innocent children dying because their parents can't get along; our youth inundated by a tidal wave of so-called recreational drugs; evidence of corruption by people who hold positions of societal responsibility; road rage; phone rage. The list is added to every day, and more and more, we are afraid to get to know our neighbours.

The media must accept most of the responsibility for this. After all, they are the ones who deliver the doom and gloom to our lounge rooms daily. But we, as individuals, must also take some of the blame. We seem to be all too willing, almost sycophantic, to accept what we see and hear without question. And the more sensational, the more we believe, or so it would seem.

Stories of murder, rape of babies, looting, were recently plastered on our consciousness in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. These stories were given major headline prominence, and were the lead bulletin on the nighttime news shows. Yes, some of the things reported did happen, but it now appears many of them were unsubstantiated rumours. Did the media rush to make sure we heard that bit of news? To date, I have only seen a couple of lines in two leading newspapers. No headlines, more of an afterthought.
"Death and destruction continued today ... blah ...blah ... blah ... oh, and by the way, some of it wasn't true."

Our willingness to accept without question all we are being told is the very basis of fundamentalism, a field which propaganda, terrorism, fanaticism, censorship, and few other nasties, find extremely fertile. Yet, we increasingly pass our fate into the hands of the noise makers, and allow ourselves to be led blindly wherever they choose to take us.

"Their's not to reason why,
their's but to do or die:
Into the valley of Death
rode the six hundred"

We must never stop asking questions. And the best question to ask is that one known to every parent around the world; the one that your child asks and is so annoying; why? The more we ask, the more likely we are to discover just how irrelevant some of things we take so seriously really are.

That's where laughter comes into the equation. It allows us to not take life too seriously. To quote the consummate Peter Ustinov, "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." It allows us to examine that which we find important or threatening, and take the edge off it. Mark Twain said it best; "Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place." Comedy allows us to question the motives behind a political experiment in a way that's less confrontational physically, but has the surgical prescion of a scalpel mentally. It's a "rubber sword which allows us to make a point without drawing blood".

The ability to laugh at ourselves; to poke fun at our frailties and inadequacies; to find something funny in a tragic event; this is what allows us to get on with our lives. Without that release of tension, it wouldn't be long before the entire world population was stressed beyond breaking point.

"Total absence of humour renders life impossible."

*From The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Where do you go to, my lovely?

Ever woken up in the morning, only to discover you're more exhausted than when you went to bed the night before? Makes you wonder what the Hell you get up to when you're asleep, doesn't it?

God knows what I was doing last night, but I'm stuffed this morning. Feel like I've run a triathlon, topped off by fifteen rounds with Hulk Hogan. My right arm feels like it's been wrenched from its socket.

Reminds me of that story about the Scotsman who attended a wedding in his traditional dress.

Staggering home after the reception, he realised he wasn't going to make it, so lay down under a tree beside the road and promptly passed out.

Two women, coming home from a nightclub, spotted him lying there, and began wondering if it was true about what Scotsmen wear under their kilts. So they took a peek, and discovered that it was indeed true. Satisfied, they left him lying there, but not before deciding to play a little trick on the Scotsman. One of the women tied a blue ribbon around the object of their curiosity.

Upon waking the next morning, the Scotsman needed to answer a call of nature. He lifted his kilt, and imagine his surprise when he saw the ribbon.

"Och, Laddie!" he exclaimed. "I don' know where ye've been, but I see ye won first prize!"

Monday, September 05, 2005

The lights are on, and someone's home. They just might be out back, though.

I have described the Retreat as "a sanctuary for thought", yet considering the scarcity of - and long periods between - postings, even the most casual of visitors could be excused for assuming that I don't do a lot of thinking.

Not true.

My days are filled with observations and reactions to continuing events, and I am constantly thinking about them. The problem is, they all get jumbled and tangled, and I generally don't get a lot of time during the day when I can sit down and sift them thoroughly. I have gotten into the habit of taking a book with me to work, to jot down thoughts as they attack. Unfortunately, ideas and responses tend to hit at the most inopportune time; eg. when you're carting around 20 kilogram (43lb) cartons and you can't stop what you're doing.

So, the thoughts fade and swirl around in that part of my brain that is always foggy until one day, possibly months down the track, they step into the sunlight and are ready for scrutiny.

Sure, it would be easy to simply write the first thing that pops into my head, but I feel that would be bordering on the outskirts of fundamentalism which is dangerous country. It's no good saying you believe in something without being able to say why.

And that's mostly why I take so long to formulate a response to something that many people would consider warrents immediate attention.

That and the fact that I am easily distr.... Wow! I didn't know John Wayne refused the lead role in the television series Gunsmoke because he didn't want to be type-cast as a cowboy...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The ripples of a Sand Pebble

The Sand Pebbles; 574 Pages; The Sand Pebbles is a gripping novel of adventure aboard a Yangtze River gunboat at the very moment of China's bloody awakening to its new destiny. It is also the story of Jake Holman, caught between the perils of love and the madness of war. Finished reading this book, The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna, a couple of nights ago. Anybody who has been paying attention to my reading list will have noticed that there has been a fair bit of time elapsed between this book and the previous one. That's because Sand Pebbles came as somewhat a surprise, and demanded a bit more attention than most.

I came across this second-hand copy at the annual OXFAM giant book fair in Eltham. The book was only fifty cents, and I freely admit that I bought it for all the wrong reasons. I thought it would be a real boy's book, with lots of bang-bang-shoot-em-ups and lusty interludes. Instead, I found a well crafted story that gives us a unique view of the birth pains of a nation.

The tale is set in China in 1926 - 1927, just before, and at the beginning of, the revolution that was to shape China into the nation it is today. It tells of an opressed, disenfranchised people struggling to find their identity, of a country steeped in the feudal ways of warlords, ready to explode. Chiang Kai-shek will write his name in the pages of history.

And in the middle of it all is the gunboat the San Pablo (Sand Pebble) and her crew, the Sand Pebbles. Their transition from opressor to opressed is as inevitible as the annual flooding of the Yangtze River which they patrol, and equally as unstoppable.

Well worth the careful read. And it inspired me to look up and gather some more information on that period which, in turn, has led to a better understanding of where the China we know today came from.

Just goes to show. When you throw a pebble in the river, sometimes the ripples become a tidal wave.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bird call

The other day I noticed that a bird had left its calling card on the brick fence beside our front gate.

Whilst bird poop on a fence isn't in itself particularly remarkable, considering the size and the quantity of the deposit, I strongly suspect an emu must have walked past our house at one time.

Friday, July 22, 2005


It's been a while since the last assault. You begin to think maybe it has gone away. But, if you listen carefully, you can still hear it moving around outside. You look out the window, and in the pale moonlight you see the trees swaying as it moves through them. A fingernail scratch on a blackboard shiver runs up your back. You instinctively fold your arms across your chest and give yourself a squeeze. There's a hollow howl as it rushes around the house. You know it's going to attack again. It's only a matter of time.

The windows in the dining room rattle. It's changed the direction of its assault again. You've heard it as it's moved around the house, probing, looking for that weak spot which will allow it access; the windows in the lounge, the kitchen, the main bedroom. It's shaken the back door numerous times. It's relentless. If there's a way in, it will find it.

And you know that, sooner or later, you're going to have to confront it. It's not something you like to contemplate - the very idea makes your blood run cold - but, you know it has to be done. Life must go on.

You replay the daily routine of your life. Breakfast, shower, dressing for work. All too soon, it seems, it's daylight, and you find yourself standing at the front door, mentally preparing for the onslaught when you open it. With a final shiver, you hunch your shoulders and step outside.

It comes at you in a rush. It's stronger than you anticipated, and it almost takes your breath away. It attacks your face. Your eyes are watering and closed to slits. You can feeling it tugging at your clothing, yanking at your hair. It's as if it's determined to prevent you reaching that sanctuary which is your car.

It's alive, malevolent, merciless. And it is oh, so cold.

It is the south wind.

Friday, July 08, 2005


While ever there remains in this world people who are free to think for themselves, these cowards will continue to skulk in the shadows.

Let's ensure that is where they stay.

Tomah es tay. Eh hah tomoh tekay.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Okay, You Found It. Now Please Put It Back.

According to legend, Archimedes was taking a bath when he suddenly chanced upon the solution to a task he was set by the king. He was so excited by his discovery that he forgot his situation and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse, shouting "Eureka! Eureka! (I found it! I found it!)"

What he had actually discovered was what is now known as Archimedes Principle, a mathematical equation relating to mass and bouyancy.

Maybe it was a common thing, in the Third Century BC, for naked men to run through the city streets, yelling, but imagine if Archimedes had done that in today's society.

Think about it. One day, as you're going about your normal daily routine - doing the shopping, paying bills, minding your own business - some bloke comes running down the street naked, shouting "I found it! I found it!"

How would you react? Confronted with such a spectacle, you would inderstandably be quite stunned, right? Would you then look away, pretending you hadn't noticed him, hoping like hell he doesn't come up to you and force you to pay attention? Or would morbid fascination not allow you drag your eyes away? Like at an accident when you know you're going to see something ugly, but you've just got to look anyway.

Then comes the speculation. Just what is it the chap has supposed to have found? That which he is currently displaying to the world at large? And if that was the case, why is it he hasn't found it up until now? Also, making allowances for the current temperature, is the object of discovery really anything to get that excited about? And why does he think we might be interested?

I think it would be safe to say that ninety-nine percent of us would come to the conclusion that the bloke was under the influence of some kind of drug, illegal or otherwise. It would also be reasonable to assume that the authorities would soon show up and deal with the situation, taking the poor fellow away, and that would be the last we hear of it. One can only assume that he had been taken somewhere he wasn't a danger to himself, or to others.

There are probably a lot of secondary school maths students who wish that was exactly what happened to old Archimedes. It might have saved them from ever having to calculate the area of a circle.

But you do have to wonder, don't you? It has been said that genius is society's accepted face of insanity. But, just exactly how many of us today would recognise a naked man shouting about his principle as genius?

Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm Sorry. Could You Repeat That?

Everyone knows that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Well, everyone that is except the Germans (who claim the honour for one of their citizens, Philipp Reis) and the Italians (who tout one Antonio Meucci).

However, putting all that aside, let's examine what were supposedly the first words spoken over a telegraph wire;

"Mr. Watson, come here. I want you."

I think we can safely assume this wasn't an invitation for Thomas Watson's luck to change. No, it was purportedly a call for immediate assistance. Why? Because Alex had spilled battery acid onto his trousers and it was burning its way through.

The sanitised movie version of how Alexander Graham came to invent the world's most annoying implement would have us believe that he spilled the acid on the top of his thigh. As any man will tell you, if liquid of any description is going to spill or splash, it invariably soaks that area of the male anatomy most embarrassing. The crotch. Such was the case, apparently, with Mr. Bell when he spilled the battery acid.

I guess in the sixties, movie goers couldn't be subjected to the image of a man violently slapping at his crotch whilst trying to rip his trousers off, so naturally they toned it down a little.

This, then, beggars the question, what did Alexander Graham Bell really say? "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you", calmly spoken whilst acid was eating its way toward a rather sensitive area? I don't think so.

I reckon he said something a lot more concise and to the point. And, most likely, only one word.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What If ... ?

Here's a hypothetical for the legal buffs.

Let's say you're covered by a life insurance policy, which encompasses accidental death. You are in a car accident and, whilst on the operating table, you pass away. Luckily, thanks to the ministrations of the attending medical staff, you are revived.

Here's the question.

Technically speaking, you have died. Are you then entitled to lay claim against your life insurance policy? I mean, can you ring up the insurance company and say, "Listen. I've got a policy with you. I died. Now you pay up"?

And what if, at some later date, it happens again? Would you be able to claim a second time? And would the insurance company put the premiums up, like they do when you've had a driving accident?

Just wondering.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stitched Up.

Went to doctor Thursday afternoon to get stiches removed from the back of my scalp.

I've always had what I assumed (as have most other people) to be a mole on the back of my head. Last week , it decided to to get angry and puffed up like a blow fish. Consequently, I took it to see doctor and, being somewhat attached to it, I thought I'd go along as well. As I had never actually seen the thing, and because she was in a better position to be able to testify to its condition, S came with me. Between us, we managed to convince doctor that the growth was indeed misbehaving, and deserved some form of discipline.

Whilst examining the miscreant, doctor discovered it had a false identity. What had been passing itself off as a mole was, in fact, a wart. For such duplicity doctor was obliged to hand down the only sentence allowed. Capital punishment. "Off with its head!" A date was set for sentence to be carried out.

The day of excision finally arrived. S and yongest daughter, E, came along with me for moral support. As they had some shopping to do, they thought they'd get that done, then meet me at the surgery. This sounded like a plan, and off we went on our adventure.

To ensure proceedings went as smoothly as possible, I had previously gone to my barber and gotten him to shave the immediate area surrounding wart, exposing its crimes for all to observe. Boy! It stuck out like a certain part of a dog's anatomy, only uglier, and I was sure that everyone behind me in the crowded shopping centre was staring at it as I made my way to the surgery. I forged onward, though.

Being experienced in these matters, (not by design, mind you) I wasn't particularly anxious about the upcoming procedure. The only part I wasn't too happy about was the injection they give you to anaesthetise the immediate area. That stings a bit. But, of course, once the anaesthetic kicks in, everything becomes numb, and the operation is carried out smoothly and painlessly, all according to the script. Sometimes, however, the lines get fluffed, and the performance is suddenly impromtu.

Doctor didn't use enough anaesthetic.

It's a good thing scapels are so sharp. With the exception of the bottom extremity of the excision site which was nice and numb, I felt every single slice. Imagine slicing your finger open with a carving knife, ten to twenty times. Then imagine not being able to jerk your hand away. That was me, lying there on my stomach - which is something I am unable to do for any great length of time, to start with - fists and teeth clenched.

Because scalps are quite vascular and can bleed freely, doctor had called in nurse to assist. Her duty was to swab the area to ensure blood didn't make a mess. Nurse was aware of what was happening, and offered to let me squeeze her hand to ease the pain. I cheerfully asked if she wanted to keep her hand. Finally, accompanied by a chorus of relieved sighs, the recalcitrant wart was divorced from my scalp.

Now, if you think cutting something out of your body without anaesthetic might be painful, try stitching it up again. When something is causing you pain, it seems to last forever, doesn't it? I would have sworn doctor was hand sewing a quilt, it seemed to take that long. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if he's stitched a label that says "Hand Crafted In Australia" back there.

Suffice to say, the job was eventually finished. The wound stopped bleeding, and the wart was sent off for autopsy. Nurse, who had come close to revisiting breakfast, was able to return to her more mundane duties behind the reception desk. I was sent home with a smarting scalp, and a belief that Rambo had nothing on me. S and E were in the waiting room doing what waiting rooms are designed for - waiting - and I filled them in on all that passed. S was naturally concerned and empathetic. E covered her ears.

Anyhow, as I said, on Thursday I got the stiches removed. Well, not all of them. One had been covered over by the scab. Doctor was reluctant to try and remove it for fear of pulling away the scab and reopening the wound, thereby forcing him to repeat the sewing procedure. I was never more in agreement with someone than when he suggested we leave the stitch in for another week, and give the scab time to dry out and fall off.

Results of the autopsy showed there were no signs of cancer, just a mild bacterial infection which the antibiotic army had already dealt with. Also wart's identity was confirmed.

So, all in all, a happy ending, except ...

Being a wart, it's kind of like a lizard's tail. It can grow back. Doctor informed me of this possibility and advised that, next time, I come in earlier, whilst it was still very small, and he would be able to freeze it off instead of excising it.

Not a problem.

Anything larger than a pin head, and I'll be waiting at the door when they unlock the surgery.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

More New Purchases.

I'm excited about three new purchases which arrived in the mail yesterday; two from Singapore, one from England.

They are three CD's by a Chinese woman named Dadawa. I stumbled across her album, Sister Drum, here in Melbourne, and was really impressed. Enough so that I went online to see if she had done anything else. I discovered that Sister Drum was her third album, and (to date) her biggest seller. I took note of her two previous titles, and went searching.

I discovered both were available on Ebay, plus another album comprised of her greatest hits. Only problem was, they were all only available overseas.

As the items had some time to go before the auction closed, I thought I'd have a look here first before committing to an international purchase. (Never done it before, and was a little wary). I asked at JB Hi-FI if they had any of her work. The only album they had on file was Sister Drum, and that was only in Sydney. They had never heard of her first two albums.

So back I went to Ebay where I was able to get all three albums at a very reasonable price. Listened to the first one last night. Very nice.

Now, excuse me a second while I put this hat on (Those who know who Molly Meldrum is will be familiar with the image). Do yourself a favour. Go out and buy these albums today. Okay, she may not be mainstream, but Dadawa is being touted as the Chinese Enya, and she's got some really good stuff.

New Purchase.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased off Ebay a learn touch typing program. The thinking behind this was, naturally, to improve my typing skills.

I think it's going to work out. Now, instead of having to watch where my fingers are going, I can look up at the monitor and make twice as many mistakes twice as fast.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Never Judge A Hook By Its Cover

Everybody knows about clothes hangers. You know the legend; leave one alone in a dark wardrobe long enoungh and it will multiply. This is especially true of the wire species of hanger. And we all know that when a piece of toast slides off your plate, it will always land on the side that's spread. Actually, when you think about it, it's amazing how so many inanimate objects go out of their way to annoy us. Glasses are never where you last left them. Keys always go missing when you need them the most (I believe socks use the same tactic, especially with men). And how many tales of horror have you heard about furniture attacking toes in the middle of the night?

Let me tell you about one of the lesser known, yet just as evil, objects de torture; the crochet hook.

Ha! I hear you scoff. Nothing could be more inoffensive. Yeah, right.

A couple of weeks ago, S, my partner, knitted herself a lovely scarf. To finish it off, she wanted to put a fringe on each end. To do this, she needed a crochet hook. As she doesn't possess one, she rang her sister, B, and asked if she could borrow one. A couple of nights later, we subsequently paid B a visit, and picked it up.

The next morning, as I got into the car to go to work, I noticed the hook sitting on the floor of the front passenger's side. Obviously, it had fallen from S's lap unoticed in the dark. It's amazing how we notice omens after the fact, isn't it? I should have been warned then but, instead, I simply picked the hook up, took it inside and gave it to S.

Admittedly, the hook performed the rquired task admirably, and S is now in possession of a really warm looking scarf with a boisterous fringe.

Then came last weekend.

Youngest daughter, E, and I wanted to go to JB Hi Fi. S, who isn't a big fan of browsing through such places, thought she might spend the time with her sister. It would give her a chance to catch up on gossip and, of course, return the crochet hook. This sounded like a plan, so off we went. We had to stop at the police station on the way to fill out some legal forms, but eventually we dropped S off at B's house, and E and I went on to spend a pleasant hour or so looking at music and movies and such.

When we finally made our choices, we went back to pick up S. On walking in the front door, S informed me that she couldn't find the crochet hook and asked if it was in the car somewhere. I went out to have a look. It didn't leap out at me straight away, so I got down low and twisted and turned, trying to see if it was under either of the front seats. Nothing, zip, nada, zilch. No hook.

S was upset at this; she doesn't like the thought of borrowing something then losing it. B said not to worry about it, but S isn't one to let something like this go easily. On the way home, she said how she felt really bad about losing the hook. She swore that she had it in her hand, and couldn't understand where it could have got to. I suggested we just buy another one, but S thought maybe it had fallen out of the car at the police station and could we please go and have a look, and see if we could find it?

Back we went to the police station. I was able to park in the same spot we had previously parked, and S got out and began inspecting the ground. She began to move ahead of where we were parked and I said something about how we didn't park up that far, but I was beginning to suspect that the blasted thing might actually have a life of its own, and had decided to torment us by absconding. S searched diligently, but eventually had to admit defeat. The crochet hook was nowhere to be seen. E suggested maybe somebody had found it and handed it in at the police station. Somehow, though, I think the thought of actually walking up to the officer behind the counter and asking if someone has handed in a crochet hook proved too embarrassing for all concerned, and we just wrote the item off as lost.

We finally arrived home. E opened up the house, and was first through the door. I was next. I happened to look down, and lo and behold! Sitting on the threshold, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in its crook, was the elusive crochet hook. The damn thing hadn't even left home. And I swear it was bloody smiling.

So, the next time you haul out that unfinished crochet project, or are about to start one, remember this tale and take precautions. Put your crochet hook on a short leash before it starts heading for the hills. Or wherever it is that inanimate objects go when they don't want to be found.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Time Has Come ...

... To speak of many things.

Well, not so much speak, as write.

S, my lovely partner, has suggested more than once over the last couple of weeks that I should take up my writing again. And I have to be honest here; I have been incredibly slack about it.

As usual, when it comes to things like this, S is right, so I've made the move. I have created a new blog where I am going to post chapters of my novel as it progresses.

There is one slight problem, however. I have more than one book running around in my head, and each one is clamouring as loudly as it can for attention. I might have to give serious consideration to allocating each its own blog, and then contributing to them as the ideas come.

Hey! Why do something simply when you can make it more intricate than Damascene cloth?
I think I'm going to be a very busy boy.

Oh dear.

And Another Thing ...

I hate shaving.

That's it. Pure and simple. No great profundity. I just hate shaving.

You Know You're Not Really In The Mood To Go To Work When ...

You go to the drawer looking for the cling wrap to wrap your lunch, and end up standing there wondering why the hell you've got a garbage bag in your hands.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Don't Forget To Pack Your Toothbrush

In view of the recent debacle concerning our immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone (for those unfamiliar with the case, the minister's department somehow managed to illegally detain one citizen of this fine country, and illegally deport another), I thought it would be interesting to listen in as the Prime Minister gives her a call.

'Hello, Amanda? John Howard here ... No ... No ... No. Amanda! Not the actor. The Prime Minister ... Yes, that John Howard.

'Anyway, I'm ringing to see if you've sorted out the problems in your department yet ... No ... No ... Amanda! I'm not talking about that ... No. If The toilet's backed up, call a plumber ... Yes ... Tell you what, I'll get my secretary to get in touch with you, and give you the name of one. Apparently he's done some work for the Packers, and they highly recommend him. Okay? ... Good.

'No, what I really called about was this sudden run of stuff-ups you've been having ... Oh, you wouldn't, huh? ... Well, what would you call them? ... Teething problems ... I see ...Yes, well. I can't really see how you could possibly consider illegally imprisoning one person, and illegally deporting another, as teething problems. I mean, how long have you been the Minister for Immigration now? Four, five years? ... Really? That long? ... Gee! Time flies, doesn't it?

'But that's beside the point. Don't you think you should have ironed these wrinkles out by now? ... Um ... Amanda ... Amanda, stop! You're forgetting something. I'm the Prime Minister. I know exactly how slow government works, and I reckon you're milking it a bit, now ... Yes, well. Make sure you do. As soon as possible please.

'Now, any progress finding a scapeg ... I mean finding out who's responsible for this mess? ... Your chief advisor, huh? ... He failed to keep you fully informed ... Uhuh ... Uhuh ... And you were unaware of the complete picture ... Yes, there seems to be a lot of that going around. Happens to me all the time ... Maybe you should send him over so I can have a word with him ... Oh, he's not there any more ... You already got rid of him ... Put him on a slow boat to China, huh? ... Hey! Stick with what works, I say.

'Also, the head of ASIO informs me that they've identified a young German couple who might turn out to be a security risk ... You got the memo? ... Yes, that's them. The Kohls ... You've already detained them ... On the next flight back to Germany ... Oh, good. I was worried for a minute there, that you might try sending them to Newcastle ... Kohls ... Newcastle ... Get it? ... You don't get it ...Just a little Prime Ministerial joke there ... Now you get it ... Ha Ha! ... Um ... Amanda ... Amanda ... You can ... Uh, Amanda ... It wasn't that funny ... You can stop laughing now.

'Well that just about covers everything, except ... Well, there’s something you might be able to help me with ... A little favour I need ... Right up your alley ... There's this bloke, you see ... I've been keeping an eye on him, and I reckon he could be bad news ... Oh, yes, very dangerous ... I was wondering if you could deport him for me ... You can! Great! ... I'll give you his details ... Got a pen? ... His name is Kim Beazley ... Leader of the Opposition, that's the bloke ... You'll get onto it today? Terrific ... Only, Amanda? ... Just make sure you get the right person, okay?'

Monday, May 23, 2005


The air is sharp and crisp; crystal. Every breath is cool and fresh.

In the west is a full moon, an unhealthy yellow as it begins to sink below the horizon. In the east a faint glow marks the ascendency of its assassin. Power lines become elevated freeways as possums scurry to their daytime hideouts. A car, headlights stabbing at the darkness, slowly moves down the street, spitting newspapers.

A magpie begins to pipe in the new day. Noisy minahs resume their squabbling. The clouds are tinged with red, as if smeared with the blood of the dying moon. Crickets switch off their night-time hold music as the daylight penetrates the gloom. Birdsong has taken its place.

It's a beautiful Autumn morning, and it's going to be a gorgeous day.

Pity I have to go to work.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Read on a novelty item found inside a bag of crisps;

If at first you don't succeed, redefine success.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Who's On First?

I always find it amusing when our politicians find themselves embarrassed by their own. Consequently, this week started with a big grin.

Our "beloved" Prime Minister, John Howard, again revealed his arrogance by announcing over the airwaves his intention to still be at the helm come the next federal election.

Upon hearing this, heir apparent, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, promptly threw a hissy fit, and dire hints of a "leadership challenge" swept through parliament like a tsunami. It has long been known that Mr. Costello covets the top spot, and Little Johnny did say at the last election that he was more than likely going to step aside and pass the reins to his Treasurer. Like interest rates and the Medicare Safety Net however, Prime Minister Howard has reneged on yet another promise.

I honestly can't understand why Peter Costello should be so upset. Surely he didn't expect one of his own, a consummate politician, to keep an election promise?


Proposed New Uniform.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Very Good, M'Lady.

Here's something to ponder.

When Sir Elton John gets married to his gay lover, does that make his new spouse a Lady?

I must admit, I was somewhat bemused when they announced that Elton John was being awarded a Knighthood. I don't know, but I guess it had something to do with the mental image of one queen tapping another queen on the shoulder, and telling him that he was a Sir.

... And Now For The News.

Listening to the news on the radio today, it was interesting to note that Sir Elton John's forthcoming marriage to his gay lover took precedence over a report about yet another earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

It does make you wonder, sometimes, about the media's priorities. But then again, depending on your moral standpoint, I suppose both news items could be considered earth shattering.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

War Stories

It has been said that as we grow older, we also become more cynical. This is understandable; the longer we live, the more we see of life, good and bad. Nowadays, it seems we're constantly being bombarded with the negative aspects of our society. The media places great emphasis on reporting the bad. The latest celibrity to be caught up in a sex scandal rates top billing, whilst the well known movie identity who spends twenty hours a week with handicapped children rates only as a page filler. With this bias toward the dark side, it's easy to see how we can become jaded.

I would like to think - just like you would - that I haven't been adversely affected by this constant barrage, but I find myself looking at the news with an almost perverse sense of fatalism. And how often have you heard yourself say "this world's just getting worse and worse"? It's very easy to see only the bad when you aren't given any other alternative, isn't it? And I think it may be this conditioning that is partly responsible for the following:

I heard somewhere that the R.S.L. (Returned and Services League) was becoming concerned that numbers were dropping as members, exhausted by Time's forced march, fall by the wayside. It seems, on ANZAC Day in particular, that the gatherings of those brave souls who served their country in the major wars are slowly getting smaller. ANZAC Day has always been seen as an opportunity for old comrades to re-muster, and to re-live. To share again the comraderie which is conceived only in the womb of war. Battles are re-fought as fiercely as the first time. Memories, faded by everday life of the past year, are wiped off and polished until they gleam with the radiance of the present. The fallen are brought back to life, their health drunk to, and then laid to rest again. Homage is paid to those who were there the year before but failed to make it this time around.

In an attempt to improve on numbers, the R.S.L. is looking at promoting interest amongst today's youth. They are hoping that the young ones will pick up step where the old ones have faltered, thereby keeping the ANZAC tradition alive. A noble sentiment, for sure, but somehow I don't think it will be quite the same.

I have been extremeley fortunate in that I have grown up in a period of our history when I have at no time, no matter how reluctantly, been forced to consider taking up arms and going to war. In that regard alone, I would find myself with nothing in common with our returned veterans. Sure I can imagine the privations, the noise, the smell of blood and death. But it's not the same as actually being there, is it? I have never been that scared. I have never tried to hold in my mate's brains as they leaked out of his shattered skull. Nor would I ever wish to.

That's what sets our brave veterans apart. So imagine how wide the gap would be between them and today's youth. As the old-timers gather and reminisce, and great battles with exotic sounding names such as Gallipoli, Ardennes, Tobruk, El Alamein, Battle of the Bulge, Nui Dat are re-fought, what will the young-timers have to talk about?

The Rumble at Southbank during the Gangbanger War of 2003?

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Eye Is Quicker Than The Brain

You know how you glance at something, then you have to have another look because what you thought you saw and what you actually saw were two different things? What you thought was a fifty-cent coin on the ground was, in reality, just a piece of lolly wrapper. That sort of thing?

With me, it's generally words. Last week, I was rummaging in the pantry cupboard for something, and I glanced over a packet of "breakfast muffins". I read it as "breakfast coffins". Naturally, somewhere in the logic department, that didn't compute, so I had to double check what I had read. I mentally shook my head at the literate faux-pas, and continued on my search.Mind you, considering some of the crap that is pumped into those things, I do wonder if "coffins" might not be the correct description.

Another time, I was shopping and picked up a bottle of Listerine (For those who don't know, Listerine is a brand of mouth wash). There was the name, Listerine, in big bold letters on the label. Underneath was what I read as "with coolant". Doing a double-take, I re-read it. What it actually said was "with coolmint". I had a chuckle to myself, but having tasted the stuff, I sometimes think I got it right the first time.

You know what they say about first impressions.


Not a lot happening now.

We’re fast approaching the last day, and already many of the people have left.


Someone coughs somewhere, the noise resounding up and down the corridors, emphasising their emptiness. There’s a flurry of activity as someone hurriedly gathers up their things and rushes out the door, not wanting to be left behind, not wanting to lose contact with the people who have come to mean so much to them. Hurrying to retain their sense of belonging, their perception of worthiness.

There are the usual stragglers. Those who hang back, saying the last goodbyes, making last minute arrangements to meet up somewhere else. Even one or two who seek the honour of being the last one out when the doors are closed and locked for the final time.

It had spirit, this place. The spirit of all who walked the length of its corridors. Infused in the walls are all the dreams, the hopes, the loves (lost and found), the battles (and what battles!), the laughter, and the tears of every person who entered. Will these walls hold that spirit? Will we be able to come back at some future time and feel the vibrancy of human emotions, like we can in some old houses that are described as having ‘character’? Or will the humanity slowly melt away, much the same as ice does when you’re defrosting the freezer?

One day, perhaps, we’ll know. But in the meantime, we will move to a new place and hope to instill there the same spirit that we are leaving behind.

Speaking for myself, I believe that when the doors shut for the last time, a piece of me will be trapped inside forever, impregnated in these walls.

I did it all here. Laughed, cried, got drunk, made some enemies, made some incredibly wonderful friends who will be there for life, gained respect, learned respect. I found an amazing lady who loves me, and whom I love so very, very much. My eyes water with the emotions I have for her.

It’s time to say goodbye. When I walk out the doors, I will be taking so much with me, leaving so much behind.

There’s a great future ahead, and that’s the direction I'm looking in. But, every now and then, I’ll turn and look back. I’ll think of all that has happened here. And in my mind I will slowly walk through the empty corridors where the only footsteps are echoes, hanging in the air like dust motes.

© Peter Stone 2005


The woman looks nervously out the window. Oh, God! In just a few minutes ...

The pilot has announced they have begun their descent. Soon the plane will come down through the clouds, and the woman will be able to see the city. His city. Where he lives.

She shuts the book that she has brought with her to read on the plane. The book that she has stared at but hasn’t read a single word since taking off several hours before. Every time she makes the attempt, her thoughts run madly to him.

She can’t believe she is doing this. What on earth has possessed her to fly across the country to be with a man she has only spoken to on the phone, and on the computer? She thinks about the first time they "saw" each other in the chat room. How they felt immediately drawn to each other. How they started chatting and found they had so much in common. How, at the end of that fist time chatting, she felt, somehow, a little more alone than usual, and couldn’t wait until she spoke to him again.

Naturally things lead to e-mails and phone calls. Long phone calls. Conversations so deep and personal. She had felt in awe at allowing a complete stranger share so many of her secrets. Her hopes. Her desires. Her fears. They explored all there was to explore on the phone. They got to know each other so well.
The next step was a foregone conclusion.

Let’s meet.

Now, after a lot of planning and soul searching, she was in a few minutes going to be in his arms. It’s what she has wanted for a long time, especially these last months. But there is still nervousness. And doubts. What if he doesn’t like the way I look? What if we don’t get on together in person like we do on the phone? What if? What if?

The plane has landed. The woman finds herself walking up the covered walkway toward the arrivals lounge. In just a few seconds reality will replace the fantasy. The door looms before her.

Is my hair okay?

Ten more steps.

Is he here?

Five more steps

Will I recognise him?

One step.

Oh, God! Deep breath. Here goes ...

She steps into the arrivals lounge.
© Peter Stone 2003