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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Barcelona 3 - 1.

Purely by excellent/bad management E@L happened to land in Spain Catalonia, paying homage of course to gods who allowed him to leave his camera on the desk at home, the day of the Champions League final - which by coincidence features Barcelona against Manchester United.

Some people may not be aware, but football (a.k.a. soccer) is big here. BIG big.

~~~~~~~~

E@L arrived in Spain Catalonia at 8am, after a 12 hour flight on which he was doped up on codeine, antihistamines and SilverKris Slings (gin, cointreau, pineapple juice topped with champagne). Slept well. OK, now (as in then), how to get to hotel? As per, E@L has done zero (0, count 'em) amount of preparation for this part of the trip, in fact any part of his three week holiday in Europe*. He had downloaded some Barcelona information onto his latest impulse-bought gadget - the Motorola Xoom tablet (Android OS3.0) - but didn't do much reading. Meh. Why would you?

Taxi. €25. Whatever. E@L is rich. At the moment.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hotel Catalonia Ramblas is round the corner from Plaça Catalonya at the top end of Las Ramblas, where pickpockets are thicker on the ground than anywhere else in the planet. But at 9am - hotel room not available until 2pm - it's moderately safe and decidedly quiet for the avenue that allegedly 'never sleeps'. But it's snoring right now. All the shops barred, most real restaurants closed (not Starbucks, not MacDonalds, not Burger King). The buildings are that Spanish Gothic, five/six stories, small cast-iron balconies, many with pink flowers in planters, don't drop one on E@L as he makes a turn up one of the narrow side lanes. A woman leans over a balcony from a high story, looks down and yawns. Way early to be up, she contains her impulse to smash E@L's skull with petunias and steps back inside,

E@L turns another corner (left, right, he can't remember), more closed cheese shops, more bodegas with steel shutters down, and up ahead he sees a waiter wiping down aluminium chairs on the cobbled lane. As E@L comes closer, around a small bend in the lane, he sees several groups of people sitting close to the cafe front, sipping coffee, drinking orange juice, eating things - croissants, pans?

It's a secret place, Bar Lobos, hidden in the forking paths behind Las Ramblas, a place for locals, for hipsters ("You've probably never heard of it") and artistes, for the cognoscenti, those in the know.

It's right next to the Le Meridien, you can't miss it.

English breakfast? Sausages, fried potato and an egg? Nah, ugh! Spanish omelette? Yep. Fried potato and egg, how nice is that! Inside, rather than gothic, it is decidedly modern, bauhaus in dark-stained wood, and E@L goes upstairs for a slash. Water in the wash-basin flows down a plank of black granite, not into a ceramic bowl. So 00's.

An elderly Asian lady in a white smock and wearing latex gloves like a surgeon - is everyone shit-scared these days? - is watering the small pots of pine-twigs on each table, E@L gets the waft of pine now.

OK maybe it's not so alternative, local, indie or such a secret place.

Even so, E@L feels it would be too pretentious to bring out his Xoom, so he scribbles these notes into a real pad, with a real pen. A group of similarly aged men, Brits, arrives at the table next to him, order coffees (cappuccinos will turn up) and an ash-tray and one pulls out an iPad. Well, maybe, like this big guy in the Man U shirt, he would look not so much pretentious as moderately foolish.

~~~~~~~~~~

Back at Plaça Catalonya, an occupying force of protesters, (students from the nearby university?) are camped in small tents, many still sleeping (hey, it's only 10am) on the ground in expensive sleeping bags and on hyper-dense foam ground-mats. Protesting against anything and everything to do with the status quo, no doubt, as we all did a generation (or more) ago. Naturally, it's the way we are built, the need for flux, it's m-m-m-my generation who are the guilty ones, the ones responsible for - what? - everything, for not being young anymore. Every generation throws a hero up the pop-charts of revolution. We love getting fooled again, it seems to be our destiny, for every person to learn themselves what the older generations have already forgotten. And then forget it in turn. Sun? New? Under? Nothing.

The statues and trees are draped with hand-written posters, E@L has no idea what they say. He see a bronze bull on a platform with some naked people, also bronze, draped on it. A sign has been in the naked man's hand. It says...



Zeitgeist.


~~~~~~~~~~

E@L boards a tourist bus, glides around the city in a daze on the Red Tour, sees some Gaudi place on the left then on the right, the Olympic stadium on the right, ticks them off, nods off for a bit, feels the brisk wind and is glad his friend living in Lubeck (will be catching up in Berlin) told him to bring something warm, however that something warm is in his luggage, back at the hotel

~~~~~~~~~~

They're tossing the FCB manager into the air to shouts and cheers as E@L types this, back in his hotel room not long after the match has ended, in Barcelona's favour obviously!

~~~~~~~~~~

In the early evening, around 8pm, the sun still up as it's Summer Time - the sun does as it's told here in Europe - and E@L wandered back towards Las Ramblas. The street outside his hotel was now roped off with yellow and red police tape. Vans of the guardia are a parked on the curbs, two brick shithouses in police uniform and those phrygian caps - a flap hanging down flat over the left (right?) ear - assigned to each van. They have arms like thighs - crossed to emphasize their massive biceps - severe miens, night-sticks, walkie-talkies and guns. And this one, the most tough, the one with the walk most like a battle-hardened soldier, the one with hair tied back, seems to have breasts.

Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No. Have you?


~~~~~~~~~~~

Las Ramblas is crowded now and E@L is trying to find something that resembles a pub to watch the football, which should be about to start. But Barcelona-shirt clad fans are walking this way AND that way. Which way are the pubs, the bars? He has no idea where his new favorite is, maybe the building has moved to another city, as in that curiously spooky China Mieville story.

Here's a small place, in a rambla very close to the hotel. There is tapas fermenting and germs cultivating in the bain-marie, no it's all looking tasty, joking aside and E@L hasn't eaten since Los Lobos (was it?) nearly 10 hours ago. He has a fierce thirst as well. People at tables of four are all looking back towards E@L, at something over the window - a big screen TV. E@L finds a table upstairs that has a view to another TV on the rear wall (a pregnant woman in a tight-fitting top, her belly, a swallowed football, bars his view the other way), but, as in the standard procedure for toady, he has left his new glasses (fuck, is THAT what the world looks like?) in the hotel room and everything is moderately blurred. He can tell white and red (Man U) from blue and red (FBC), and such details are what counts. Young men and women, a table of eight, are jumping and shouting in front of the other TV when FCB scores the first goal. It is decidedly quiet when Rooney equalizes - E@L has no trouble seeing the replay of ManU's scoring shot. Two more goals to Barcelona in the next half, everyone leaps up, chairs fall back, arms in the air, then hugs and it's a done deal with 10 minutes to go. And E@L has only had two San Migs.

Blink, did E@L shut his eyes? Have those beers, that 1/4 pollo detached both retinae? The lights ARE out, yes, all electricity is gone, no TV, nothing. The bar is completely blacked-out. There are ironic cheers, but no-one seems fazed about the TV, no-one is angry or upset, it is, as E@L said, a done deal...

Even the emergency lights are out. E@L has a glow onto his face as he was txt-ing a Man U fan back in Singapore at the time... (He has yet to receive a reply.)

Weird. Amusing, but weird.

The power came came back after three or four minutes and the score hasn't changed. E@L calls for the bill before the crowd turns crazy-ugly, but the noisy eight in front have gone, paid-up one hopes. No rush, but lets try and catch the celebrations at Plaça Catalonya.

~~~~~~~~~~

He walks up the rambla toward the carrer of his hotel, not so far from the Plaça, but steel barricades and one of those severe-faced brick shithouses blocks his path. He speaks unknown words in Spanish Catalan, shakes his head and E@L gets the message. The air is clear and cool, the sky black, the streets empty, loud explosions are reverberating around the buildings. It's weird, unnerving, alien, to be confronted by a policeman here, now, ever. Fireworks somewhere, he hopes are the cause of these thuds in the air, not bombs, but the sparkling blooms of scintillating, happy colours can't be seen.

"Hotel" says E@L politely (who wouldn't be polite?) and indicates the corner ahead.

The brick shithouse says something else and gestures for E@L's hotel key. He looks at the card and lets him pass. There is almost no-one on this carrer. More pairs of bricks shithouses, barricades, tape, police vans, a few German, a few American tourists outside the hotel, on the footpath, warned not to go onto the road. They are expecting some sort of celebration, hoping some good-old-boy fun, but nothing can pass into here. At the far end of the block, a stream of red and blue seems to flowing but the shithouses are adamant. No, you cannot go this way to Plaça Catalonya.

Riots are subdued before force is needed, the place is way eerie. Something is supposed to happen here, there is static tension in the air, but it's not permitted. It's like a revolution and no-one is allowed in. The hairs on E@L's neck rise with each explosion. What is this sense of have missed something of significance, of being in the wrong place when the party of the century is elsewhere? He passes inside the hotel and the bar is closed.

It's a sign of the times.

E@L

~~~~~~~~

* Four days in Barcelona, three days in Berlin, ten days in Croatia doing the Split to Dubrovnik run along the Dalmatian coast with my old flatmate, the lovely Izzy, and her Hungarian boyfriend.

Will try to keep blogging, but internet is unusual in some places - as is electricity - and the Xoom doesn't have 3G.

Buenos noches.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back to You Later



Singapore -> Barcelona -> Berlin -> Split -> Dubrovnik -> Frankfurt airpot -> Singapore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Depending upon access, I might get back to you on my new

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raptured



Has E@L taken the Oriental Rapture Express to... what is, this place? Heaven?

Ah no, it's merely the cheese-board for the free-flow champagne (only Moet) brunch at the Ritz-Carlton. Sigh. Life is tough.

~~~~~~~~~~

However things took a slightly apocalyptic turn when someone came over from across the room. It was his new Japanese boss*, head of the division, his boss's boss to be exact. Don't get it wrong, he was fine, said hello, etc... He's a nice enough guy, but, you know, oops, one of the workers out at the Ritz?

E@L is now expecting a review of his contract tomorrow...

Does this also mean no "working from home" tomorrow**, or can he claim that he was taken up...



E@L

* had to txt our office manger to remind me of his name - we are talking my NEW boss.

Out to Tampines, it costs me $24 to get a taxi to work. Fuck that. Seriously. Fuck that.

Blind or Just Wearing Glasses for Distance? Or for Reading?

The word E@L was looking for earlier in the (non-calenderic) week is "BLIND".

Blind? Fuzzy-eyed? Bleary (try typing this at 2am) and befogged? Hop upon the boat to no-kids-ville!

In the great spirit of the American Frontier, it would be best to remove from the genetic typing pool those short of sight, those long of sight, those whose might have been feeling blur after a big night out... Hey, Nazi Germany, you might want to take note of this...

~~~~~~~~~

Oh shit it's just astounding. Witnesses can verify how often E@L would ejaculate expression of disbelief and horror as he read such words...

~~~~~~~~~

The point not being that OMG the horror of what America can do, and not the horror of what Germany has done, but the horror of which human beings such as you and I are capable of degenerating into, if we are given the right music, lights, drugs and the platitudinous speechifying of a person of certain charisma.

The one-eyed person leading the blind, the blind leading the stupid. We all follow the one-eyed, we all believe in the goal of a pure future that he promises...

We are human, we are stupid.

~~~~~~~~~

Hang on, did I snore my way through the rapture?

E@L

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tax Free!

So good I had to share. I hope all American Republicans (and their international cohorts and supporters) read, consider and inwardly digest (as my year 10 teacher used to say) the following...

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102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes

O, you’re a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following.

1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
...etc, etc, etc...

The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world and are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

BY STEPHEN D. FOSTER JR. – MAY 18, 2011

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

stolen by

E@L

with a hat tip to Sav via FB.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hemlock on Singapore, E@L on Singapore

[Another post that no-one will read, except maybe the Gahmen spies.]

Here is a brief paragraph on Singapore and LKY from the blog of Hong Kong legend Hemlock (some big-rich-dude's paid blogger allegedly), Big Lychee and Various Sectors:

It looks like the sort of shallow, vindictive, spiteful and constitutionally and ethically dubious bit of electoral jiggery-pokery Lee Kuan Yew would have come up with, had opposition legislators existed in meaningful numbers back in the days when the carrier of the world’s mightiest human DNA was single-handedly carving Asia’s pinnacle of civilization out of a garbage-strewn wasteland of undisciplined, gum-chewing, inferior humanity.


Hemlock is about to analyze/demolish a constitutional change in Hong Kong in which:

As of 2012, if a democratically elected (as opposed to the other sort) Hong Kong Legislative Council member resigns or otherwise leaves his seat, there will be no by-election: the runner-up in his constituency will automatically replace him.


It does sound very much like a PAP (Lee Kuan Yue's People's Action Party) stunt doesn't it? If only LKY had thought of it. Hang on, maybe he did? Someone want to check that?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This fiery prose has of course inflamed E@L - he is fired up over the political system here in Singapore thanks to a slew of head-slapping activities before the recent election. If he is not blogging for the next few years, check the dank, dark, fetid basement of Singapore's equivalent to Stalin's Lubyanka prison.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Compared to Hong Kong (or so I believe), the structure of some of the Singapore electorates is already set-up in such a way that it is very difficult for an opposition party to make inroads and get candidates into parliamentary seats in the first place, let alone have them worry about what happens when they resign or retire hurt.

The Group Representation Constituencies (GRC )system in Singapore was set-up initially to allow minorities (like Malays and Indians) the chance to become parliamentarians. However, since the GRC was introduced, it is claimed that the ratio of minority groups (in parliament) has decreased!

How do the GRCs work (approximately)?** Groups of up to six candidates from each party stand in the GRC representing up to the six individual electoral wards that are now contained with the GRC. Each of these contained electorates may be contested by opposition party candidates and they may even win! But the seats in Parliament go not to those who won individually, but to the group of six (three, four, five) candidates from the party with the highest aggregate of votes across the GRC. WTF? So opposition candidates may win several electorates within the GRC, but still not get into Parliament, whereas their dumb-ass, wife-of-a-minster's-principal-secretary opponents from the PAP ride in on the coat-tails of a popular PAP candidate (like said minister) who calls in a huge number of votes and thus takes the GRC with him. Essentially a GRC is a way to stuff the parliament with PAP members with a minium of fuss. Why not just make all of Singapore one single GRC? Fair question.

Electoral borders for GRCs and electorates are carefully gerrymandered, building by building, floor by floor, flat by flat, bedroom by bedroom [joking! almost], so that, when the boundaries are announced only a few days before the election, the opposition is scrambling to work out where they should have been campaigning for the contest. The decision on GRC boundaries is in the PM's department's bailiwick. Any surprise there?

To top this off, voters in the electorates which vote against the government, even those electorates within PAP held GRCs, are outrageously harassed with threats of second-class treatment when it come to infrastructure works, such as the upgrading of HDB lifts (some of which only stop every second floor).

~~~~~~~~~~~

Somehow with the PAP vote dropping to 60%, from 66.6% last election and the lowest ever, they still managed to lose only one seat (from 82 of 84, to 81 of 87) although the percentage changes slightly due to the extra seats and the WP win. One must wonder what is going on. 60% of the vote and 93% of the seats, you do the math.

Yes, you heard right. There was an amazing turn-around this election, two ministers and four other parliamentarians were defeated in the GRC of Aljeneid by contenders from the Worker's Party. The now former Foreign Minister George Yeo (about the only competent guy in the PAP, I hear) is gone. Amazing.

And to find talented people to replace him, the PAP will be up against it. Their members have never had to battle hard to win. Despite being extremely well paid the Singaporean parliamentarians (there is a thread viraling [new word!] FB and forums that the 30 most highly paid politicians in the world - not among the top 30, but THE top 30 - are Singaporeans) they have never had to seriously defend any of their policies against any strong opposition questions. Some can hardly speak in public, like blatant coat-tailer (but cute) Tin Pei Ling. In short they are lacking depth, talent and experience, whereas the opposition parties are bulking up their leaders with new blood.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

LKY, his PAP and Singapore: A city, and part of a continent. No true democracy. Why? Which is it? Not enough talent for a two party system, as PM Lee Hsien Loong says, or is all of Asia not ready for Western-style Democracy, as the received wisdom (received from Tunkul Mohammed Mahatir, or was it Uncle LKY?) had it when the Tiger Economies were in that boiling and bubbling cauldron prior to the 1998 crash?

In response to this essentially Chinese attitude, alleged Malaysian sodomite (not that there's anything wrong with that) Amwar Ibrahim made some plangent comments about Confucian values versus Western attitudes to government a while ago. These comments were discussed in an article on the Singapore Democrats website last year:

Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and the leader of Partai Keadilan in Malaysia maintained that there were still apologists, diehard sceptics and proponents of autocracy who say that democracy is not meant for all cultures because it is largely a Western construct and certainly not the only system for the rest of the world. “Asian values["?], for example, are said to be inherently incompatible with liberal democracy. The argument goes that the fundamental teachings of Confucius place great importance on filial piety and submission to state authority. He said that in Asia leaders of opposition parties and dissidents were incarcerated under draconian laws and no effort was spared in the war against ‘subversive elements’ and the ‘enemies’ of the people. He said that that the Asian values’ argument and ‘we-are-not-yet-ready-for-democracy’ excuse as nothing more than a doctrine for the justification of authoritarian rule. “There are still governments that are founded on the perpetuation of power not by free and fair elections but from arbitrary succession from the father to the son, or from one military clique to another, or even from one power elite to the next. And there are those who appear to have all the characteristics of a liberal democracy in so far as their domestic governance is concerned but they continue to violate human rights with impunity.”


No wonder they wanted him out of the way. He tells it like it is, allegedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With the way the Singapore elections are set-up, it is not the success of the Tiger economy style of Asia (free markets, expensive politicians) nor the people's support for paternalistic and serf-like Confucian values which contribute to the ruling parties winning again. As Ibramin says, it is blasting opposition members into bankruptcy and jail, detaining rebels - who refuse to apologize to LKY - without trial for up to 23 years (Communist Party member Chia Thye Poh is the longest political detainee in the 20th century, longer than Nelson Mandela, longer possibly than the Man In The Iron Mask), last-minute gerrymandering, and the vote-stacking system of the GRC that so far have enshrined the dynasty of the Lee family.

Dynasty? The Great Man, Lee Kwan Yue and his son(!), Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong are Chairman and Deputy Chairman on the Board of Directors of the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) which runs Singapore's foreign reserves around the world (about US$330 billion), and Hsien Loong's wife(!) is a director of Temasek Holdings which handles investments primarily in Asia (about US$186 billion).

Dinner table conversation must be interesting.

"Have we fucked up any major investments lately, dad? What about you, honey?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Enough. Apologies for the bad logic, grammar and typing. No time fix just yet.

E@L


** This paragraph amended.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Word Game

As though his statistics and projections were authentic, Howe railed, "It is unjust to the ~~~~ to allow them to brought into existence simply to lead miserable lives.... The longer we delay action to prevent this ~~~~~~~, the more difficult the problem becomes." His plan? Give ~~~~ people and their families the option of being isolated or sterilized." A large part, if not all, of this misery and expense, " promised Howe,"could be gradually eradicated by sequestration or by sterilization, if the transmitter of the defect preferred the later[sic]." Howe suggested that authorities wait to discover a ~~~~ person and then go back and get the rest of his family.

War Against The Weak, Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create A Master Race, Edwin Black, p149.


More about War Against the Weak


Guess what word is missing?

~~~~~~~~

Answer later.

E@L

Dinner With Bruce



(Apologies for Bruce's bad typing)

E@L

Saturday, May 14, 2011

WTF?

OK, OK, I see now why Exile on Moan Street was so pissed off*!

My last post (the interesting one) has disappeared (does anyone remember what it was about?) and my previous one (the boring one - does anyone CARE what it was about?) went into Draft mode and dropped out the comments from Tom and Mike (sorry mates! will try to reinstall them)

Hey Blogger, WTF?

E@L

* Funny (haha) thing is that I left a post on her/his blog and IT disappeared!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mr Grumpy Stoned Out

I think I've mentioned the core of this (the last two or three paragraphs) before, but as I have forgotten whether or not, you probably have as well, so I'll repeat myself (or not, if I haven't mentioned it before after all).

~~~~~~~~~~~

Mr Grumpy was shopping for some obscure objects he desired, one of which was tamarind paste (a jar of which, unbeknownst to himself, was already at home in his fridge) and some fragrant jasmine rice. Fortunately, though at the time he did not realize it was fortunate, the Chilled Repository was bereft of said items, or at least of the former item and so he did not bother to purchase the latter at that time.

There was another Chilled Repository across the way (i.e via the tunnel under the road) that might have a small jar of the (seeded, strained) paste of the fruit of tamarindus indica, said the helpful young man who had been unloading bottles of sparkling mineral water (of which, damn Mr Grumpy had forgotten to buy any, for it was sparkling mineral water he really had wanted when he had walked to the shopping mall in this sticky Singapore heat, and such is what happens when you don't make a list of things you need before leaving home, whereas not being able to find tamarind paste when you don't even need it, I mean didn't anticipate you'd need it, even though you really didn't - need it I mean - is another matter all together, basically due to only thinking of using tamarind paste after you had browsed through a recipe book in the Chilled Repository so that you were now looking for jasmine rice and tamarind paste, and you forgot about the sparkling mineral water, all because you saw a photo of a dish - stir-fried chicken with lemongrass and tamarind - that made your mouth water and that you have all the ingredients for, conveniently, but not, you incorrectly assume, the key ingredient, tamarind paste), the young man who had looked at the same display that Mr Grumpy had been examining and re-examining just prior to his enquiry, a display of jars of various curry bases, chili pastes, sambal olek pastes, black bean pastes, but not, Mr Grumpy could have told him (what, is Mr Grumpy blind? Is Mr Grumpy stupid? he almost thought but, in the end, didn't), tamarind paste, and said there was no tamarind paste here, and who had then gone off to ask someone more intelligent and approximately omniscient in the matters of this particular Chilled Repository's stock, and who had come back to report that not only was the store out of tamarind paste but also that the supplier of tamarind paste was similarly shocked by the absence from his own stocks of the sour, sweet ingredient Mr Grumpy thought he needed, but didn't really.

Mr Grumpy said to the young man, thanks, that's great, he'll try over (through the under-pass) there.

So he walked out of the Chilled Repository sans tamarind paste, sans jasmine rice (to go with the chicken and tamarind dish as he only had brown rice at home which is healthy in a low glycaemic way, but yuck in a low appropriate taste for rice to go with this Vietnamese dish way - well, it was in a Vietnamese recipe book), sans, he now recalls, sparkling mineral water, and into a throng of pedestrians caught in a bottleneck between stores and stalls in the shopping mall, adjacent to and blocking his path to the escalator he needed to descend.

This ambulationary stenosis had a variety of causative agents, and of predisposing risk factors. Some pedestrians were floating in the absent way of people (oops, he nearly said 'people in Asia', phew!) who want to buy to something but are not sure if this is the shop that sells that something or if that might be it in the window over there or if it might be better to come back tomorrow. Some were precessing on one spot as they rotated and counter-rotated while conversing with shouts and gesticulations (some might have interpreted this as arguing) about which way to go next. Some were iPoblivious and ambulating irregardless of the traffic in the slow-time-warp of some hideous Asia-pop ballad. Some (particularly the old and infirm) were just on-coming, relentlessly, in the manner of those who don't give a fuck, a broken hip would finish the day off nicely thanks.

There was a width of maybe five people available between the stall selling revoltingly sour sweets (those made of tamarind) and the pretentiously unpretentious Shoppe d'Body, but fifteen had converged to that one area and more were coming....

And Mr Grumpy stood back. He let the macrame of human bodies untangle itself and he waited to move, obligingly avoiding kids who would be described as feral were they not so impeccably attired (patting the delightful creatures on the head as they attempted to blow the legs from under him with irresponsibly fast and furious public games of chasey, or hide-and-seek or kill the ang-moh, on the slidey, slippery floor) by their completely inattentive parents, and wheel-chaired centenarians, and he smiled.

I say again, he smiled.

He did not curse, nor did he wail, nor did he ger-nash his teeth (Matthew 13:42). He allowed it (them, the kids) to slide by, to let it (them, the parents, wheel-chaired) pass (as must all things, a phrase that is incorrectly attributed to that unknown someone who is known as the apostle Matthew, quoted above, who actually saith "all these things [wars and the rumours of war] shall come to pass", that is, they will happen, not that all things will die or fade away, as the phrase is normally interpreted, particularly when the George Harrison album of that name came out, and E@L thinks this Biblization was perhaps an attempt to rehabilitate George back into the Christian fold although he was a deeply committed follower of the Hare Krishna movement ["Krishna is God," he said in that interview, and it's patently obvious that 'the Lord' in "My Sweet Lord" is Lord Krishna and not Lord Jesus] at the time, and that phrase is actually a variation of the Sufist mantra, 'This Too Shall Pass', i.e. fade away - the story is that it was inscribed on a gold ring [sound familiar?]) and Mt Grumpy bided his time until, as they say, the coast was clear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Point of all this being, Mr Grumpy is no longer grumpy. He is chilled, relaxed, in tune with the universe. Placid. Easy-going. He hardly retains the shadow of the former great whinging and whining Mr Grumpy - being E@L in a bad bad (but not violent, never violent, merely grumpy) mood.

E@L doesn't have those bad moods anymore. He does, fortunately have good moods, like when the words are flowing, as here, and when he works from home, in order to answer his few emails, be on stand-by for the return visit to the hospital that is just up the road, a mere three kms from his house, whereas his office is 15km and $25 in taxi-fare away, where yesterday he gave some training to eight young women and a Professor, all the time with his fly undone, in order to repeat everything with his fly done up, and nobody calls.

However, when he plans to spend this work-time in and/or sunning by the pool (phone at hand) and he sees that the pool-repairmen are disinterring the pump mechanism in order to preform a noisy repeat autopsy on it, and the pool's water level is dropping and the water, no longer circulating, is souping up with bacteria and viruses and germs, he is not necessarily ecstatic but nor, verily, is he majorly pissed off. Water, whatever, will swim in it another day, will write on it another story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~



Neither is he amazingly affronted when he is forced (kicking and screaming) to pay $2,000 for three months supply of the drug which is making him so benign. Money, drugs, since when haven't they gone together? Three dollars a tablet, five tablets a day, you do the math, or more correctly, the arithmetic.

It's sort of an ouroboros loop, you know the snake eating its tail (an Egyptian motif) - he doesn't worry about paying big for the drug when that drug is the one that keeps him from getting upset about things as temporary as money, for money, that too shall pass (into the hands of Big Pharma, in this case GSK).

However what won't pass is the underlying problem. Idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. Which is medical term for having sore feet (or hands, but not in E@L's case) and no-one knows the fuck why.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lamotrigine was initially prescribed for severe epilepsy, then for bi-polar disorder and other mood disorders requiring stabilisation. Off-label (non-FDA approved) uses include peripheral neuropathy, headaches, neuralgia, An expensive off-label use.

Foot pain almost gone - certainly the electric shooting pains and the hypersensitivity (gout-like in symptoms, but not gout) are passed away, but the side-effects?

Calm.

And of course you appreciate that with the foot pain being mostly gone, he would be less grumpy anyway, right?

... E@L examines his pre-neuropathy life...

Nope. He was always a grump.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L heard of a person who had been placed on 50mg per day in order to calm his mood swings, where was either yelling at the dog and kicking the kids (or was it the other way around?) or sitting in the bath for days on end with an electric toaster held over his head while downing bottle after bottle of Verve-Cliquot (all he could afford, he wasn't gone enough to drink domestic sparkly), during a period of "taking it easy" after being retrenched, and he (I may have been exaggerating a bit there about these symptoms) was back on the Mr Happy trail after merely a fortnight.

He was on 50mg. Per day.

E@L is on 500mg. Per day. Forever. If not longer.

No wonder Mr Grumpy is out of the office.

He is stoned.


E@L

Thursday, May 05, 2011

How I Spent Good Friday

Watching, listening and laughing my tits off with card-carrrying atheist, soon to be struck by lightning, ex-catholic Catherine Deveny.

Oh your God, she was funny.


(this is an unretouched poster)

"Sexier than Christopher Hitchens, funnier than Richard Dawkins, and more ethical than George Pell [RC Cardinal of Australia], Catherine Deveny is not to be missed."
Peter Singer - Author, Philosopher and Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Catherine used snippets from the following interview on Australian TV. Check the facial expressions and body language of Richard Dawkins when Steve Fielding and Julia Bishop spout their insanity. Listen to Richard at 4:37 - astounded that Fielding is "a Parliamentarian in Australia who believes that the world is less than 10,000 years old!"



E@L

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

To The Island

Hammered, shot, gone, neutered, smashed, wasted, pissed. Another Big Night Out for the lads, cheers all round in the bars of Wanchai.

You were so drunk that next morning, (is it afternoon, is that half-light sunrise or sunset?) at first you don't know where you are. And you can't remember how you got there. It is not just the details of what you did, where you were, who you did, that have disappeared, all the hours from about 2am on have evaporated. Where did they go these hours (how many hours?), where did you go?

You have been to The Island.

The Island is a safe haven for those who have seriously overindulged in alcohol. The Island is a place of respite and calm where worries are soothed away, where bad things never happen, where mistakes are forgiven. Here, the truly hammered can have solace, be warm and comforted. They can wake up innocent.

You can never remember The Island. Its disappears in a swish of floating silken mist when you awake. You can only assume that you have been there. And like all holiday places, it is damned expensive. You return with a wallet distended with credit card receipts but no cash. There was an ATM run early in the night, but where the notes have gone, you will never be certain. Man those tropical parties on The Island, dancing under those palm-trees, trees like steel poles, to Hawaiian drums, knocking back the mai-tais of Nepenthe, no wonder you are broke. Whatever you did, you don't have any of it with you anymore. Did you eat? Your guts have three goats fighting in them and your mouth a desert of filthy sand.

You are on the couch, naked. Thankfully it is your couch. The Island dropped you at home.

You let go a massive fart. Beer. Beer it was, pints, but you lasted with that only up to a point. Midnight, wasn't it? You were so bloated that the seventh (eleventh?) pint would not get down, so you switched to spirits. JD coke? Or was it G&T? One of the guys likes Irish. A double of Jamieson's, did you join in? At the bar, Bruce asks, "Miss, do you have a Black Bush?" Laughter, incomprehension. Out onto the streets, next bar, girls (are they really girls?) in tights skirts grab at you, a velvet curtain parts. Then the lights go down, the plane is taking off, you are on your way to The Island.

Cleaning up, dizzy as you bend over, you find your shoes filthy (rain? mud?), an empty wine bottle, clothes stinking of smoke and, hey, your underpants are missing. Maybe there is another pair of shoes, high heels. A dress? The bedroom door is shut. You are hesitant to open it, did you bring some exotic guest home from your voyage? You look again at the dress.

You have seen your maid in that dress.

E@L

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Great Financial Crisis

E@L was meticulous with a pirate version of Microsoft Money, entering each transaction from his credit card statements diligently at the end of each month.

The $7 thousand (AUD) debt on his credit cards was gone, cleared in three months. He was in the black for the first time in twenty years. He wanted to keep an eye on this transformation. The salary kept rolling in, all income tax deferred till the end of the financial year in March/April when he would have to pay for two years, this one and provisional tax for the next.

"Your Assets Over Time" was his favorite graph. Month after month the bars climbed steadily until it crashed through five figures (HKD), six figures, and just eighteen months after moving to Hong Kong, and even after paying two years tax (pro rata, at about 7%), seven figures.
E@L was meticulous with a pirate version of Microsoft Money, entering every transaction from his credit card statements diligently at the end of each month.

The seven thousand dollars (AUD) debt on his credit cards was gone, cleared in three months. He was in the black for the first time in twenty years. He wanted to keep an eye on this transformation. The salary kept rolling in, all income tax deferred till the end of the financial year in March/April when he would have to pay for this one year (pro-rata) and provisional tax for the next.

"Your Assets Over Time" was his favorite graph. Month after month the bars climbed steadily until the most recent one crashed through five figures (HKD), then through six figures, and just eighteen months after moving to Hong Kong, and even after paying tax, even seven figures.

~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L's money was "not working for him" it seemed. Malcolm scratched at the small patch of psoriasis at the edge of his moustache, shrugged and smiled. He picked up his cup, sipped at his tea, and then clattered the cup back onto its saucer. The Mouse appeared behind Malcolm with a plate of Anzac biscuits from the kitchen and she placed it on the table between E@L and his financial advisor. "Oh!" he jumped, startled by The Mouse's magical appearance [it's not just E@L that she spooks]. "No thanks," he said as he looked around to where she had just been standing. The kitchen door closed and he turned back to face E@L.

"Have a look at this." He unbuckled the strap of his brief-case [brown, soft leather, weathered, but well looked after - nice, but appropriately reassuring for a finance guy?] and took out a shiny prospectus folder. He placed the bag down beside his chair and opened the folder on table, moving the cup and saucer away to make room. He spun the folder around easily on the polished table-top and slid it closer E@L, and this knocked a biscuit from the plate. Absently Malcolm took up the disturbed biscuit [name for a band?] and nibbled as he pointed out colour-coded items on the page uppermost in the folder.

"It's called a leveraged loan. We take a certain amount of your money, right?" E@L nodded. "The Royal Bank Of Scotland will lend us 150% of that sum at 4%, OK?" E@L nodded, a bit more slowly. "That gives us 250% of your initial sum. We have 'leveraged' your money so that we have more. You with me?"

E@L looked at him. "Why would they do that?" he asked.

Malcolm brushed a biscuit crumbs from his moustache. "Because, um, they would. It's an investment strategy for them. They're making 4%, right?" E@L nodded.

"We invest that loan into a managed fund, one that will give us a good return, at least, say, seven per cent, maybe even ten in this market." He smiled as he spoke this last phrase. E@L saw the dry skin on Malcolm's cheek, small white flakes of desquamation, inflamed tissues. Itchy? Market? "That way, we will have a differential of, say, three to six percent." Malcolm looked up from the chart smiling, and nodded. E@L nodded with him. "That's good right?"

"Yep," said E@L and smiled too.

"And when the fund matures, you have made a lot more than you could just by investing your money on its own." He looked at E@L who was looking at the colour print were it said '6%'. E@L wanted top get a coloured pencil and change it to an eight.

"Now, this fund is the one I recommend. It's a local one. This guy is good. Charles Schmidt. His last two funds made an average of 9% and 10% each year. I can't say this one will do as good, um... but it started last year, and we can still get in. OK, it will mature in five years. I've plugged some numbers in on the next page..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

(Later that conversation)

"And so when it matures, I get to keep all the money, right?" E@L asked.

Malcolm paused as he brought another biscuit to his mouth. "Huh? Oh, yeah, all of it." He thought E@L was joking.

E@L thought Malcolm was joking. How could he turn $60,000 into $210,000 plus 6 per cent in five years? Talk about magic. But, hey whatever.

~~~~~~~~~~

(Later that year)

The advisor who had replaced Malcolm phoned E@L. His name was Simon, also a Brit. He wanted to set-up a meeting. When was a good time?

~~~~~~~~~~

"Well, Schmidt had been having a good time with your money, um... and that is not exactly what we anticipated." Simon nibbled on an Anzac biscuit nervously. E@L wondered if all financial advisors said "um" and if they all liked biscuits. He looked down on the papers, the coloured items encircled, the diminishing heights on the bar chart emphasized with scribbled arrows. E@L thought of his MS Money chart, afraid it was about to look similar.

"So?" asked E@L

"Well, in effect, you are losing the four per-cent on your E210,000 loan every year. That is, um... Look, I've run up some scenarios. As Malcolm probably told you [?! Malcolm? See above. No, he didn't!], there is quite a hefty penalty for exiting the loan in the first three years, so... Um... If we cash in now in order to pay off the loan, there is, um, also a penalty that the RBS have on this type of loan.. so we lose there as well. Are you OK?"

E@L had his head down, almost to the table. Then he looked up. "Did you say Euro? I thought this loan was in US dollars?" E@L asked.

"Um... Sorry, yes USD for the investment in Schmidt's fund, but the actual loan is in Euro. So with the dollar falling against the Euro, and with peg on the Hong Kong dollar of course, I mean that this is not really a great loan. I mean you can't predict the future... Um..." E@L nodded.

"So. What is my best option?"

Simon [... was it Simon? or a second E@L had no idea who this stranger was, in his apartment, sending a wrecking ball into his financial security] circled a few coloured numbers with blue pen, a bit clumsily E@L thought, but maybe that was because the papers were upside down to him. There was a buzz in E@L's ears, something was buzzing loudly.

"Here, and here..." he was saying poking his pen around some very large numbers, "so you can understand [E@L would have nodded but he was distracted by the grain in the wood of the table] that it's better to ride this out for a year, then have another look. If the dollar comes back against the Euro, you could lose a hell of a lot less. Maybe only 30 thousand."

Silence. Then E@L asked, "How much did I put in? 60 thousand?"

"Yes, 60 thousand, but if you wait, stick for even three more years, the early repayment penalty drops, right? You will lose even less again."

~~~~~~~~~~

(Later that day)

E@L held the cold cup of tea in one hand. He looked over the wall of his roof-top, across the park to the weird skyscrapers in the financial centre of Hong Kong. Fucking big buildings. HSBC. BoC. Which one was RBS?

He lent over the wall and looked down to the abandoned construction site. Only four floors on the other side, the entrance, but maybe seven floors on this down-side of the hill. He tipped the last of the tea over the side, watched the lightly coloured liquid turn to spray until it fell out of his focal zone on the descent towards a pile of building rubbish.

Aware suddenly of a presence next to him, he started.

"Mr E@L, do you want another cup of tea?" asked a soft, almost inaudible, voice. E@L turned around and there was a fresh cup of tea and a plate of Anzac biscuits on his picnic table. The Mouse was gone.

E@L

~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L's money was "not working for him" it seemed. Malcolm scratched at the small patch of psoriasis at the edge of his moustache, shrugged and smiled. He picked up his cup, sipped at his tea, and then clattered the cup back onto its saucer. The Mouse appeared behind Malcolm with a plate of Anzac biscuits from the kitchen and she placed it on the table between E@L and his financial advisor. "Oh!" he jumped, startled by The Mouse's magical appearance [it's not just E@L that she spooks]. "No thanks," he said as he looked around to where she had just been standing. The kitchen door closed and he turned back to face E@L.

"Have a look at this." He unbuckled the strap of his brief-case [brown, soft leather, weathered, but well looked after - nice, but appropriately reassuring for a finance guy?] and took out a shiny prospectus folder. He placed the bag down beside his chair and opened the folder on table, moving the cup and saucer away to make room. He spun the folder around easily on the polished table-top and slid it closer E@L, and this knocked a biscuit from the plate. Absently Malcolm took up the disturbed biscuit [name for a band?] and nibbled as he pointed out colour-coded items on the page uppermost in the folder.

"It's called a leveraged loan. We take a certain amount of your money, right?" E@L nodded. "The Royal Bank Of Scotland will lend us 150% of that sum at 4%, OK?" E@L nodded, a bit more slowly. "That gives us 250% of your initial sum. We have 'leveraged' your money so that we have more. You with me?"

E@L looked at him. "Why would they do that?" he asked.

Malcolm brushed a biscuit crumbs from his moustache. "Because, um, they would. It's an investment strategy for them. They're making 4%, right?" E@L nodded.

"We invest that loan into a managed fund, one that will give us a good return, at least, say, seven per cent, maybe even ten in this market." He smiled as he spoke this last phrase. E@L saw the dry skin on Malcolm's cheek, small white flakes of desquamation, inflamed tissues. Market? "That way, we will have a differential of, say, three to six percent." Malcolm looked up from the chart smiling, and nodded. E@L nodded with him. "That's good right?"

"Yep," said E@L and smiled too.

"And when the fund matures, over say five years, you have made a lot more than you could just by investing your money on its own." He looked at E@L who was looking at the colour print were it said '6%'. E@L wanted top get a coloured pencil and change it to an eight.

"Now, this fund is the one I recommend. It's a local one. This guy is good. Charles Schmidt. His last two funds made an average of 9% and 10% each year. I can't say this one will do as good, um... but it started last year, and we can still get in. OK, it will mature in five years. I've plugged some numbers in on the next page..."

(Later

"And so when it matures, I get to keep all the money, right?" E@L asked.

Malcolm paused as he brought another biscuit to his mouth. "Huh? Oh, yeah, all of it." He thought E@L was joking.

E@L thought Malcolm was joking. How could he turn $60,000 into $210,000 plus 6 per cent in five years? Talk about magic. But, hey whatever.

~~~~~~~~~~

The advisor who had replaced Malcolm phoned E@L. His name was Simon, also a Brit. He wanted to set-up a meeting. When was a good time?

~~~~~~~~~~

"Well, Schmidt had been having a good time with your money, um... and that is not exactly what we anticipated." Simon nibbled on an Anzac biscuit nervously. E@L wondered if all financial advisors said "um" and if they all liked biscuits. He looked down on the papers, the coloured items encircled, the diminishing heights on the bar chart emphasized with scribbled arrows. E@L thought of his MS Money chart, afraid it was about to look similar.

"So?" asked E@L

"Well, in effect, you are losing the four per-cent on your E210,000 loan every year. That is, um... Look, I've run up some scenarios. As Malcolm probably told you [?! Malcolm? See above. No, he didn't!], there is quite a hefty penalty for exiting the loan in the first three years, so... Um... If we cash in now in order to pay off the loan, there is, um, also a penalty that the RBS have on this type of loan.. so we lose there as well. Are you OK?"

E@L had his head down, almost ot the table. Then he looked up. "Did you say Euro? I thought this loan was in US dollars?" E@L asked.

"Um... Sorry, yes USD for the investment in Schmidt's fund, but the actual loan is in Euro. So with the dollar falling against the Euro, and with peg on the Hong Kong dollar of course, I mean that this is not really a great loan. I mean you can't predict the future... Um..." E@L nodded.

"So. What is my best option?"

Simon [... was it Simon? or a second E@L had no idea who this stranger was, in his apartment, sending a wrecking ball into his financial security] circled a few coloured numbers with blue pen, a bit clumsily E@L thought, but maybe that was because the papers were upside down to him. There was a buzz in E@L's ears, buzzing loudly.

"Here, and here..." he was saying poking his pen around some very large numbers, "so you can understand [E@L would have nodded but he was distracted by the grain in the wood of the table] that it's better to ride this out for a year, then have another look. If the dollar comes back against the Euro, you could lose a hell of a lot less. Maybe only 30 thousand."

Silence. Then E@L asked, "How much did I put in? 60 thousand?"

"Yes, 60 thousand, but if you wait, stick for even three more years, the early repayment penalty drops, right? You will lose even less again."

~~~~~~~~~~

(Later)

E@L held the cold cup of tea in one hand. He looked over the wall of his roof-top, across the park to the weird skyscrapers in the financial centre of Hong Kong. Fucking big buildings. HSBC. BoC. Which one was RBS?

He lent over the wall and looked down to the abandoned construction site. Only four floors on the other side, the entrance, but maybe seven floors on this down-side of the hill. He tipped the last of the tea over the side, watched the lightly coloured liquid turn to spray until it fell out of his focal zone on the descent towards a pile of building rubbish.

Aware suddenly of a presence next to him, he started.

"Mr E@L, do you want another cup of tea?" asked a soft, almost inaudible, voice. E@L turned around and there was a fresh cup of tea and a plate of Anzac biscuits on his picnic table. The Mouse was gone.

E@L

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