Saturday, October 29, 2011



May as well remove the Twitter App at the side there. It automatically links to my tweets, but 99% of my tweets are the link to my blog posts.

Post-modernism or Modernism? Discuss.

By the time you read this, it will be gone so you'll have no idea what the fuck I am talking about. Like you ever do.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Molly Bloom? YES!

Two guys, P & T, go into a bookstore, browsing.

- I always like to read the last sentence of a book before I buy it. I find that it tells me most about the book, says P.

- Yeah, me too. Most people grab a book and look at the first sentence, or a bit of the first few pages, agrees T.

- Mistake. First few sentences writer dude's trying hard to grab the publisher's attention, you know, like publish this book and give money, sorta thing. It's not actually what the reader would like he's thinking of, but what he thinks the publisher will think the reader will like. You know how many subsequent classics have been knocked back by wanker publishers? Lots, it's fucking criminal. The first sentence can be annoying, but the book still amazingly good. Or the sentence good but the book crap, like the stuff you read.

- Ha ha. But yeah, never thought of *why* I do it, but you're spot on there. The last sentence or two are about tidying up the plot, the characters. Dude's only trying hard to impress the reader, make the reader satisfied. Well not always of course, but you know what I mean.

They nod. Such perfect agreement between people is rare.

T, a genre fiction addict, recommends to P a couple of science-fantasy-speculative-horror-magic/realism cult books which he thought everyone should read, but P hasn't.


"He never saw Molly again." *

" 'Don't ask me why, old sport,' said Stoney, 'but somebody up there likes you.' "

"I know nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."

"He walked away and he kept on walking."


And a few others of varying merit.

P, a pretentious autodidact who uses words like "autodidact" in general conversation, recommends some slipstream books which don't quite fit the genres, as well as some modernist and post-modernist classics which everyone should read but, naturellement T hasn't.


"And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out."

"For a long time there is really nothing to be seen; but after Golgotha's been burning for an hour or two, it becomes possible to see that underneath the shallow water, spreading down the valley floor, right around the isolated boulder where Randy's perched, is a bright thick river of gold."

"And all that is left to me is the sound of snow underfoot."

"It was summoning all the barges on the river, every last one, and the whole city and sky and the countryside and ourselves, to carry us all away, the Seine too—and that would be the end of us."

"Now everybody—"


And he picked up one more of the recommended books and held it open in his hands... And he started to read the last sentence.

P paid for his handful of books, had them demagnetized, placed in a biodegradable bag. He waited by the entrance.


Still waiting, he browsed some more new releases that tempted him. The Pale King. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet... He moved his biodegradable bag from one hand to the other, scratched at his groin as a pubic hair seemed to caught over the end of his cock. This irritated him. It was too long since he had last shaved his balls.

He wanted to call out to T to hurry the fuck up, but in a bookstore such as this one in Carlton, it is like a library but with allegedly cool people who have eyebrow studs and ponytails (males) and pierced lips and blue hair (females) behind the counter, and not little old ladies who always recommend Agatha Christie. It is not cool to yell here.

P gives up. Fuck, I'll go have a long macchiato, he thinks. I'll met T in the coffee shop he loves, the one next door..


His second long macchiato is down, some biscotti down. Despite his shaking hands, he is in a dream world, reading one of the books he has just bought. It is completely weird; moralistic, simplistic, and funny, and he was hooked by the expression "chrono-synclastic infundibula." T is still not back. P sighs, pays the black-clad, blue-haired waitress with the stud though her lip and heads back to the bookstore and find T, last seen reading over 30 minutes ago.

T is standing where he left him, still immersed in the book, turning a page.

- Come on mate, I thought you were only going to read the last sentence!

- I am.

- What the fuck book are you reading?

- You recommended it, man.

He turns to book over to show P the cover.

P groans.



[Sorry about that folks - it was just meant to be a three line joke but as usual, I got carried a way. The real Tom, from whom this completely imaginary conversation originated when he joked about the title of this post being on a t-shirt somewhere (or something like that), has neither (all) the characteristics of the hyopthetical T nor (all) those of the hypothetical P, but he is a well-read bastard. Both characters, says E@L, c'est moi.

And there is purely the smug satisfaction of being a wanker dilettante like E@L for those who can tell me which books are quoted above: they are last lines, of course. OK, a candy bar or a Guinness, your choice, if you can get more than five. I'm presuming most people I know will get the book T is reading... If not, I'm getting some new friends.]

* The author added this sentence as an afterthought in order to prevent him from writing a sequel, as in — hey, she's dead. It didn't work. (Thanks Paul.)

Seriously. Ow. (Slight Return)

Just in case you people thought E@L was joking about this fingertip issue...

Seriously! Ow!


Who can E@L sue?


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seriously. Ow (Redux)

Fingertip pain! Xoom, MacAir, Galaxy, the unused touchpad for his iMac, the corrugated touchpad on his work Lenovo ThinkPad. Swipe, slide, stretch, swype. His fingertip is wearing through to the bone, E@L swears.

Obviously E@L is not the only person with this affliction and, pain being the mother of tools of relief, a heap of people have come with a solution. Well not a solution as in a liquid, but as in a solid thing that works.

Capacitance pens. There are lots of them nowadays.

You all know how touchpads and touchscreens work, ya? There is slight charge held on the screen by lots of tiny capacitors, a technology called mutual capacitance, at least that's what E@L gathers from this Wiki would work well in those wonderful smart-phones, computers and tablets and that require multi-touch gestures. When you touch the screen your large body gives a slight 'earthing' effect (electrons surge into you seeking safety and solace) which can be localised by the changing of the charge at the Cartesian coordinates of the capacitors co-affected (at the court of King Caractacus). Completely correct.

Or not. Expert opinion sought, if people can be bothered.

Point being (ha!), you can't use a normal pen (duh!) with a plastic case or a even wooden pencil as these don't carry charge and there is none of that earthing to your body. So you can get a capacitance pen, one with a metal body and little (doped) rubber doovey-whacker at the end, which replaces and therefore protects your finger! And when E@L says you, he means him.

E@L bought a cheap (S$14.95) one in Tampines Mall, called iTap (which is odd, because he wants to use it to slide, primarily, tapping not being a problem) because it has a normal pen at the other end.

(The top one,)

All E@L has to do now is not lose it. If he doesn't, no doubt it will fall apart.


Domain Name

For reasons of unadulterated vanity, E@L now owns the domain name This should redirect to this blog, but as you see it goes to some Page Does Not Exist warning instead. The link at the bottom right, however does take you here, I believe.


Addendum: I tried again to change the redirect setting and now it takes me to my blogger login page. I'm not sure where it will take you.

Please let me know...


Addendum II: seems to work OK now.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Someone's Been Reading E@L's Blog

In a courageous attempt to support E@L's thesis from the other day, The Age newspaper from Melbourne, Australia, has chipped in with this disheartening article:

Households struggling to pay bills
Adele Horin
October 24, 2011

"More than 10 per cent of Australian households - or 850,000 - spend so much on rent or mortgage payments they have little left over to cover other bills, a study shows."



Mind you:

"Mr Millard called for the removal of tax concessions that encouraged property speculation, for increased supply of public and social housing, and for rental assistance to be indexed to the cost of living."

E@L made an attempt to purchase two apartments in Queensland with the goal of "flipping" one of them. These were short-term serviced apartments, though, not family housing. Anyway thanks to the flat market in Queensland, they failed to materialise and E@L received his deposits back (plus interest).


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Siri v HAL

Many of you are aware that in the Samsung v Apple tablet battle, Samsung pulled out all stops and reminded us that it had developed the concept of the tablet style device we now know as the Motorola Xoom Samsung 10.1 iPad, (allegedly) in their previously un-mentioned collaboration with Stanley Kubrick for the award winning (Award for the Slowest Plot Development in a Adapted iDapted Screenplay) movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey:

And a bit more clear demonstration at the very start of this clip (cannot embed).


But did you know that Apple claim the natural voice controls of Siri also were developed, but by them, for that movie?

- Open the pod-bay doors please HAL. Hello HAL, do you read me?

Of course a cynic like E@L would expect the interface to be slightly touchy (as it were), just as HAL was...

- I'm sorry Dave, I am afraid I can't find Futile Counter-Productive Copyright Battles in my dictionary.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Financial Lives Of The #OccupyEverywhere Demonstrators

I am not a card carrying member of that dismal science, Economics, in fact I received a stunningly inflated mark of 49% for my Economics exam in HSC (Year 12). Inflation, I knew what it was, but I didn't know what it was, as in the current rate (it was about 15%). I was more the poetic type economist than the strictly scientific one. As No1 son pointed out a few years ago, almost every Nobel Prize winner for Economics has had his theory debunked not long after, so not sticking to the alleged science was probably the correct option, however it made me a failure in the eyes of the scientific examiners - sob, sob. Not.

But after reading an article by a bona fide Economic Scientist - here - damning "post modern" [sic], which is to say Keynesian, thinking, that is, the method of stimulating the economy by giving people money to spend that allegedly saved us from the Great Depression, I got to - look out everybody - thinking.

Perhaps it does take someone from outside the economics profession to state the obvious. The stimulus packages that were applied across the world, failures each and every one of them, were applied in the name of Keynes. Why, then, did these stimulus packages not work?

There is no-one further from the Economics profession than E@L, so here goes.


Is it true that people are saving and not spending? Or is that people have no money to spend? Except on the evil iPhone! (Not me, I'm off to buy a new Samsung phone, this one is three months old.) Many people are just frackin' poor. Money goes on food on rent and servicing their enormous personal debt (and staples like cigarettes and alcohol). It was the easy money offered by credit cards that fueled the personal crises of many and then up comes new, free, money for the banks from the exorbitant interest rates these people struggle to pay. This is where their money goes, not into saving. (I know people in this situation.) And they're not even reducing any of this debt as the interest rates keep slugging them back to max-out each month.

And so many have no jobs. Some can't work thanks to work-induced debilitation, or from psychological problems (I know people in these situations - we all can't be high-flying execs like E@L). Some just don't have the appropriate skill-set, inclination, intelligence (it's true), ability and personalities to work in offices, to wait tables, to flip burgers even (how many new McD's required to soak up the unemployed?) . Much of the physical work in factories and dark satanic mills have gone - well not gone, but moved overseas. Skilled labour is under threat too. In Geelong (my home town in Victoria) the other week, almost every one I saw on the street was wearing the fluoro-yellow vest of a tradie. A tradesman. Brickies, carpenters, electricians, roofies, etc.. They were the brash, loud (violent too) men of an economy that's not doing too bad despite having good unions that protect worker's rights and incomes.

But look here, in Singapore and throughout the Middle-East as well,: who are doing all these tradie jobs? The economies may be coming back after the hit of 2008/9, but It is South-Asians - Indians and Sri-Lankans - Cambodians, Vietnamese and Chinese mainlanders who are sitting on the backs of tray-trucks, or waiting for them, squatting by the road-sides next to sky-scrapers-in-progress. These exploited, these wretched-looking, desperate men who clamber up the concrete and steel without qualm, are paid much less than the previously doing-well thank you Singaporeans builders. And many of those Singaporeans, forced out by cheaper labour, are now driving taxis (which explains their skills and attitude!) And the price of the hundreds of these cheaply inexpensively built apartments hasn't dropped, but sky-rocketed.

Looking at the USA, it seems that low-skilled (nice pejorative term, I note - you know that show where supercilious managers struggle and fail to do the tasks of their "low-skilled" minions? Ha!) jobs went with the factories to Asia, South Asia, China and Africa. And those jobs that didn't and can't be automated go to low-paid immigrants, some illegal. And this is the corporations strategy to maximize their profits, it is not some scheme by Mexicans and others to overthrow that good ole white American frontier spirit.

Not to mention the chronic addiction to automation and robot-ization in many parts of what we used to call work. When flying QANTAS domestic, (when they are flying, and I won't go into the domestic disputes caused by that Irish Ryan-Air twit who is trying to take apart and out-source our national airline) you do your own check-in, get your own boarding pass, put the tags on your own baggage and load it onto the conveyor belt. There is no-one there. The player pianos have taken over.

More about Player Piano

And with the unemployment benefits scheme cutting out after, what is it six months (Bill Clinton if I am not mistaken), people who remain unemployed just drop off the list and don't get counted anymore.

They're shutting down the factory now,
Just when all the bills are due.
The fields are under lock and key
But the rain and sun shine through."
Leonard Cohen: Coming Back To You

Small farmers are forced off the land by mega-farms who undercut the prices so they can't make a living. Monsanto makes the rest buy hybrid seeds that are sterile and seeds for next year must be purchased not taken form stored gain from last years crop.

To me it seems obvious. Corporations are squeezing for increased profit, as this means increased share prices and this is where the real money is to be had, in the financial world, in the stock exchanges. And as everyone in the #OccupyEverywhere campaigns is showing, the huge payouts to execs are just such a blatant rubbing of shit in of the faces the middle and lower classes, it is aggravating to the tipping point of the anger and frustration, such as they are now demonstrating. Demonstrations are not just for demonstrating against things, sometimes they are just demonstrating (showing) how people feel.

The way to may increase profits is to improve workers' productivity, or to reduce the cost of labour. There is the Wal-Mart Way - just pay shit money. Of course the Waltons girls are now amongst the richest humans (if you can call them that) on earth. Productivity. Love it.

Another way to increase productivity is create ways for fewer workers do the same amount of production - shedding jobs. Automation etc.

Yet another way is make the employees work harder, duh, and increase their output, but after 30 years of this squeeze effort, can much more be done? Health issues, stress and injury, workers have to leave, can't get new employment because of this history and because of my second comment and eventually slip off the employment radar... Pusjing the limits pushes people over the top.

Fourth way: go offshore, pay Asian workers a pittance - double the daily wages of the factory workers in Shenzen and your iPhones (and Samsungs) would cost $2 more (well, maybe $2 divided by the number of products they so productively produce per day). Plus there is the benefits of not paying corporate tax at home, not that the US corporate tax could go any lower (it is half what it was under Reagan, or close, I remember reading somewhere, The Economist?). And so now we hear stories of crippling injuries and horrendous hours of work and child labour coming out of Shenzen (not to mention that pollution that drifts over Hong Kong thanks to un-policed emission standards).

We choke, they die, you have Siri.


Of course all of this is off the top my head, which is why I failed my Economics exam. However, I was (am) passionate, if not poetic, about the people affected by the decisions made by governments under the advice of economists whose theories are about to be blown away. By economists who have a fundamentally flawed view of how the world works.

More about The Financial Lives of the Poets


I always of think of Economics in the terms of people, not of markets, not of institutions.

People are not no spending because have no money. In debt, unemployed and with an about to be repossessed house, what money? It seems much simpler to me than stimulus packages that rescue those financial people and ensure their huge payouts continue by making more and more people un- and underemployed, un- and underpaid.

An nice semi-socialist proposal - put staff and workers on the other side of the economic equation:

Capital income + employee income = revenue - cost of materials

"We might note that while employees and the community are left to the protection of the invisible hand, wealth is protected by the visible hand of government and corporations."

Marjorie Kelly - The Divine Right Of Capital


Ah, it's not what I know, it's what I feel.


[Shit, I think my revisions here have made my arguments even weaker and more confused - as if that were possible.]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ah, Melbourne...

At #OccupyMyerDepartmentStoreCBD in Melbourne Victoria. At least the cops didn't shoot, as they are wont...

Photo by one Jason South, ripped shamelessly from The Age.

This is not Singapore, this is not Syria, this is not Libya, this is not Egypt, this is frackin' Melbourne! As the crowd was chanting "the world is watching," four hundred (400, count 'em) police and riot squad moved in on ONE hundred (100, count 'em out) sit-in protesters to drag them away and demolish their tents.


Could mean the end of the current Liberal (as in conservative) party government - I hope.


Sideways (Redux)

Weaving wind waves wheat
Wind waves wheat weaving
Waves wheat weaving wind
Wheat weaving wind waves
, etc... you get the point.

Lovely images of the wind playing over the wide fields of grass on the ancient low hills of the Barossa Valley. E@L is staring out the window of the Honda van, entranced by the patterns of dark and light as the leaves dip, turn and rise again. The waves flash like flocks of birds turning, like a shoal of small fish, like the blinking wavelets on the water when he was young and sitting on his surfboard looking out for the subtle inflections that signaled the next big set.

There are a surprising number of fields like this, some of grass for hay, some of young canola. E@L wonders why these areas are not planted with grape vines. But of course there are many acres that are ranked and filed with armies of vines, limbs outstretched as if they were lining up on parade.

For some reason E@L thinks more about clouds, both sides of them. The flurries of wind across the grass are not cloud shadows, though they could be. The arrangements of vines are not the remarkable chess-board of cotton puffs that clouds can appear from above, which the high winds have harmonized into wavelengths, regular in both directions. The first time he saw this uniformity, this pattern, at 35,000ft, he freaked. God did this?

- These are old vines, says Tom, E@L's driver, interrupting E@L's reverie. Gnarled and twisted, thick, solid, ancient, grumpy and temperamental, but with the best, the richest yield. E@L did not need to be told this, he can just look in the mirror.

E@L has the van to himself (not counting Tom, the driver) as he booked late. 6:05 on Friday night Tom reminds him. Even though he had been considering a wine day-trip since he had been asked to return to Adelaide for a few days (checking the welfare and happiness of the brain-surgery crew he met last time) he had booked nothing beforehand. This is typical for E@L as we are sure vigilant and recidivist readers would had detected inter-lineally, if not explicitly, a long time ago. Several Bruces buddies had taken a similar tour six months ago and they came up with the list of recommended wineries with which E@L had impressed Tom earlier. When he put the call through, the lady (Anne?) was a rather hesitant.

John Duval, Henschke, Standish, Rockford, Torbreck… at least...

- The van is full for tomorrow, she said, then paused. But we have another van which is completely unbooked. If you are happy to pay $30 extra, you can have your own tour. You'll get where you want to go, rather than the general tour.

- No, yes, said E@L, that's great. I'll pay the extra.

It was exactly what he wanted.


And here they were, Tom and E@L pulling up at Henschke first up as this famous vineyard (Hill Of Grace, up there with Grange) only opens its Cellar in the morning. And even though it was only a whisper after 10am, they were not quite the first ones to start to sample the fare. An older couple (not much older E@L thinks back on it now) have moved already to the reds.

There are eight wines to examine, some quite inexpensive, but that is not why E@L is here. The links do not very far up the chain, and there no Mt Edelstone and no H.O.G. tastings today. But the nips are generous and everyone is pleasant. This is where E@L first proffers his soon to be recycled apology for the deficit in his wine-tasting vocabulary.

- I don't have the right, you know, um, words for this. I don't think I can't put a word to a particular flavour or aroma, at least not one that anyone else would understand. E@L is not Paul Giacometti in Sideways, apart from the grumpy bitter part, more Thomas Haden Church without the bad-boy charm.

- Well, you either like the wine or you don't, the lady said, smiling, inwardly rolling her eyes at yet another ignorant buffoon with too much money.

E@L started drawing diagrams on the tasting notes by the end of the day. Two arrows going out. Parallel lines up and down. Wide on the palette, maybe? Strong backbone, perhaps?

[NTS: E@L needs to go to a wine appreciation course to get some impressive terms to throw in there. Chocolate, cherry, blackcurrant - sounds more like dessert! Seep in Cointreau, serve with vanilla ice-cream and a nice sticky…]

He takes some hearty swigs at the samples, trying not to confirm his lack of couth as the $5 tasting fee is waived because he's on a private tour with Tom. So E@L goes as high as he can with the quality of wines on the bench, and knowing if he wanted, he could source this stuff easily in Singapore, he nods, takes a brochure and buys nothing.

- Hey Tom, just need the loo?

- It's around the back there, into that path, yes, that one.

He circles around the tall hedge, into a slightly mossy paved path to the rear of the cellar door, towards the toilet, and sees a locked pale-blue-painted wooden door a few steps down off the path, leading into the cellar under the Cellar. There is a stag's head over the mantel and a plaque commemorating the centenary of the Bacchus society. 1868-1968. [To quote my good friends in Holland, Danijel and Isabella; That's must be more than a hundred years old!]

- One of the ladies serving you, Christina, she has her own vineyard, Tom tells E@L when they are in the van. Dan Standish makes a wine from her grapes, he continued.


They drive up towards Eden valley, into the upper Barossa and then turn right and head back south. There, E@L sees some more of those fields of long (not that long) grasses passing up the slopes of low rising hills. These paddocks are demarcated with lines of evergreen trees, is it oak (E@L is not a treeologist, not a character in Murray Bail's Eucalyptus), used along the fence lines as wind breaks. The lines of these trees going up the hill and over the other side have from this angle, a curve, like a side-resting woman's thigh, up over her hip; it really is entrancing, particularly if you are already feeling horny and drowsy.

The view of hills and trees here bring on a slight bout of tumescence nostalgia. The road from Geelong to Colac, where E@L was born and where his uncles and many of his cousins still live seemingly trapped in their rural time warp, is the Princes Hwy (Hwy1, that is supposed to circle Australia). It has the same type of gentle hills, lined with oaks (they must pines) near Mt Duneed. And yes, of course, Ireland. And yes of course a lady's thigh. There was Plan A in Phuket that time, OMG what a body? E@L drifts...

But some sharper turns rouse him again like a slap. Tom is now driving right into the hills at the entrance to Eden, a higher valley than the Barossa (different climate, different soil terroir) where the native trees thicken, almost a forest. White-barked eucalypts shedding darker skin. Then we are back into vineyards.


They are the first this time. It is only 4 minutes after the doors are unlocked, as E@L strides into Artisans Of Barossa. Henry, looks at his watch, shrugs, looks after him. Tom stands behind; he can't drink of course He stands at attention, with his hands deferentially crossed in front of his groin. He is E@L's chauffeur in jeans and a cardigan and work boots.

There are seven different independent vineyards that don't (can't afford to) have cellars doors themselves who use the Artisan shop to put up two different wines each month for tasting. Seven cellars door for the price of, well, this place is new and clean and nicely designed, the price of probably six. Tom had told E@L that this is the only way to sample John Duval's wines.

E@L says he likes the GSM style, easy drinking enough. Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre. He finds it smoother, warming, an easy to drink blend. It would take quite a few year for a Cab Sav or Shiraz to get to this level of maturity, he says to Henry, who nods, inwardly rolls his eyes. Mourvèdre is the same grape as Mataro, he learns. And what else is? Never heard of it - Monastrell.

- Try this, says Henry and pours another, from some place called Massena. It's nice, very nice.

- I'm not good at describing wines, not so good.

Henry pours a Riesling.

- This has some after tones of kerosene.

- Kerosene? Is that a good thing? E@L is dubious.

Henry flicks eyebrows, as if to say, hey.

E@L sips it and it's fine, it's nice, but a second or two after swallowing there a suggestion, a mere whiff, sure enough, of airplane fuel, and like he hasn't had a whiff of that every now and again, stuck on runways forever. If it was always so simple to get a word for these aromas and tastes. Kero is the big easy one. Horse-saddles, not so obvious...

He tries all fourteen of those on offer, just a sip each, or two. The Grenache is different from the straight Mourvèdre, hell he can discern that much. Different from the GSM. From the Shiraz, the Cabernet. The words to describe this? Doesn't have any. After six wines and breakfast a long time ago, he is already getting a bit warm in the cheeks. He tries to spit some out into the funny looking thing that he hopes is a spittoon, on the bar.

He spurts rather than spits, and a few drips splatter onto his shirt, onto the bench. Very little into the spittoon. Next few he tastes a bit, a bit more, sucks in air with each sip, doesn't finish the glass. He pours the last mouthful directly into the bucket. Henry observes the wastage of a not insignificant portion of some $100 wine. Tom stands there, hands folded. Everyone is inwardly rolling their eyes.

E@L says to himself, what the fuck, he isn't driving and skips this pretense. He finishes the entire tasting sample of the last few, including the Eligo shiraz, he doesn't know about wine but he knows what he likes, then the last one, a sticky white. Gulp.

He agrees that the John Duval Eligo is the standout drop here, for the price if not the flavour. E@L parts with $200 and departs with two bottles.


Some sort of parroty bird with subdued, hushed colors, a parrot, long tailed, flaps a burst of speed and tucks wings in again and roll and curves in front of the van, under the power lines, over a bit of wire fencing, into the bush. Another follows. Riding the wind gusts, gusts you could see on the grass, can see, wow, really see, pushing the tops of the trees around. Must be a male, thinks E@L of the bird, but then why in pairs, why one chasing the other? Love or is it jealousy? Such subtle hues for a parrot, rosella, parakeet, whatever you call them (E@L is not an ornithologist either) they're usually brightly feathered. Not this lot. Must be British. None of that color stuff! Maybe they were pigeons.

He thinks back to Hong Kong, to the screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos outside his bedroom. How did he sleep? He remembers some nights in Wanchai, some in Lan Kwai Fong. He was not really into the, you know, the scene at that time, only had a few friends, social life was usually with his flatmates and people from the Australian Association, some of the latter were fairly wild, but none of the girls he moderately, shyly propositioned would sleep with him, would hear the cockies crowing in the morning. He laughs at this.


- Oh, there's an open sign [just on the road around the corner from Artisan], great, says Tom. Rusden, you'll like them even though they're not on your list. And they're not always open."

Denis (the 'den' in the vineyard's name) is very nice bloke. He pops a few wines for E@L. Again they move from whites across. The Semillion is delicious, not overly fruity, but with plenty of, what, body? E@L is not even sure if what he calls fruity other people call sweet.

The sandy terroir, means less moisture (or was it more?) says Denis. Once again the GMS/GMS (depends upon the ratio of Shiraz to Mourvèdre) is nice. E@L is starting ot have trouble with the differentiation of the Shirazs from each other. And the reds form the whites.

Tom admits to being a cork tester (I'll test your cork till the cork tester comes) years ago and he and Denis talk about the handling of cork in Portugal, how slack it can be, spraying chlorine to protect against rot, then laying the stripped cork bark onto chlorine damp ground. It is fascinating, E@L almost sways, concentrating a bit hard. Denis says the human nose can detect 3 parts per billion of something. Something that indicates a corked wine. They says TCA - trichloroanisole a lot. Tom says 2 parts, meaning the olfactory buds in his ruddy slightly pickled nose are better than anyone else. E@L starts to worry about Tom.

E@L asks Tom about compound corks.

- We used to put a coin of solid cork at each end so that the glue or resin they used would not leach into the wine. He was almost sneering at the concept. Compound corks, ppffft. This guy is an expert.

E@L, dude, don't ask about screw-tops.


Driving off to lunch… See a Beware Skippy the Kangaroo sign, a leaping black QANTAS logo on a yellow diamond, no bullet holes. Smile.

Lunch, ha, kangaroo pie is available at Lou Montana Estates. Very nice menu. Experimental, no chicken parmagiana here. But the special - apple and gorgonzola soup! Have to try that. Wow. Would be nice as a sauce over a pork chop thinks E@L. Must try that, too! E@L takes a stuffed chicken breast, terrific sauce, with a lightly-wooded chardy. Mmm. Something anti-establishment about drinking chardonnay in these days of Pinot this and Pinot that and this Blanc and that Blanc…

Flavour, says E@L inwardly off on a mental flight to the past, give me some fucking flavour here.

- Yes, one more glass, please.


Tom has managed to get in contact with Dan Standish. Elusive dude. There is a Cellar Door here, a small hut with a bench, all ready to go, quite nice, prepared pot of the terroir. No-one to staff it, the whole operation is only three people. Dan is young, a chemical engineer, we are talking smart. He hits me with the Relic first, pops the cork, pours us both a generous slug and talks about long-chain polymers. Time for E@L's eyes to roll. And the short chains in the white wine.

He recalls the Bruces, when they visited.

- Quite a personality, that Bruce-man, says Dan. A really funny laugh.

- That's him, say E@L. A Woolongong lad, what can you do. And there was a Welsh guy too. Bruce.

- Yes, the two, I remember them of course. Such funny guys.

Ah, sigh, right, moving on...

He has a Georgian wine. The grapes juice is red, he says, veryunusual. Saperavi. Hang on, it's Massena, the bottles at Artisans. This falls away for a moment as E@L is distracted...

- Hey, someone gave me some Georgian wine. They were in Georgia, explains E@L. Must try it. On the right occasion.

- Some people don't even know that red wine is only red because they put the skins back in later. I give talks, Dan says, and I really have to go back to basics.

There's a bottle with a black label. Completely unreadable. Even Dan is turning it around trying to change the reflection, moving it slowly in the light. At the right angle you can make out some words. Mozart, no not Mozart, some musician's name, Schubert. Schubert's Theorem. Theorem?

Which is? Something to with knot theory, with shapes. (The word topology does not come into E@L's head, though it should, he's searching for it, he in fact sees a torus with lines on it. Nothing can get in to his brain now, or out. He blows his nose to make space, nothing happens.)

E@L jumps in again here. Otherwise it's just gonna be Dan and Tom.

- There's this theorem, one from my work, listen. This is funny. I work for a Jap company. Man, the stuff in our manuals, such Japglish, shit, you know? There is this measurement you, you know, like, for the heart, it's called the continuity something, the Continuity Equation, but the manual says, like, "many point of measurement to equal together", or something. I mean, what is that? Continuity Equation. Something to do with Bournoulli's equation, theorem, something. Flow in flow out, sorta thing.

- Bernoulli! says Dan excitedly. He spits (man, he can do it brilliantly!) into the spittoon. Come outside, you'll love this. Bernoulli!

- Are you going to shows us a plane wing? laughs E@L and stumbles over the step, gets hit with a blast of chilling wind, it's a windy, chilly day.

There two large concrete eggs, maybe seven feet high, at the side of the allegedly non-existent cellar door hut. What the…

- The temperature of the concrete, in its wall, inside to out, he explains and rubs his hands over the surface, is cool and warm, it's the Bernoulli theorem (- there are two Bernouliis, E@L interjects, father and son, they hated each other, legend says) that make the wine circulate...

- Convection currents, says E@L. Hey, it's like a tangine.

- Yes, brilliant, says Dan. (Maybe he didn't say the word brilliant as such...) Yes, convection. The wine comes up from all around equally, falls back again, and you get, the wine gets a completely equal exposure to the lees. In a barrel, it horizontal and the ends of the barrel don't get exposure to the lees. And the concrete is slightly porous, like the barrel oak, so a slow micro-oxygenation…

E@L's eyes are now glazing. It's fascinating, but how is he going to remember all this? The wind is burning cold. Bitter, cold, like an ex-girlfriend. They move into the single shed, quite a few barrels, lots he supposes, but at least, hey out of the wind. There is a dead bird at the doorstep. Gift from a cat?

Inside, where else, there are different sized casks, it takes some close inspection for E@L to absorb this fact, new oak, old oak. Some are Voignier. White wine. Those are short chain polymers (E@L is pushing his memory beyond its usual boundaries here for this technical stuff). A little is added for brightness (and more polymers). Or was that back in the cellar door. E@L has to go for a piss. Through the office, bit of a mess, but hey, it's a man's world as the seat is up.

E@L is drinking again. Dan has been too generous. Everyone has been generous.

Ah that label, same as at Artisans, knew there was something he had to say. Massena, yes, what is this? A different brand, his own, not with the family, the wine is cheaper, but fuck. Fuck. E@L can't tell them apart any more. Not one single bit.

- This the wine from Christina's vines, Tom points out. (Was it the Mataro?, the Shiraz?)

- You've been to Henschke?

Have we been to Henschke? Been there? Can almost spell it!

E@L signs off on a 1/2 dozen of the Relic, 1/2 dozen of the the Standish. 1/2 dozen Bernoullis, no he means Schubert's Theorem. Finish up with one other, something with a nice label, Borne Bollene, it was nice, yeah whatever, they're all $95. Send it to mum's place.

(Three days later Amex call - $2,200 on wine? they ask.)

- He's a nice man, says Tom.

E@L concurs, leans against the van door. Struggles with sunglasses, feet. Vision and verticality in general.

- He certainly a happy man now.

- Yes, that made his opening the cellar worthwhile. I am sure his wife will be happy.


We are on a gravel road, a turn-off near a highway overpass. Bumpity bump. Going up hill.

- Remember the name of this road, says Tom.

E@L can't remember. Can't remember squat. Can't even focus. Why would he remember the name of this road, he's never heard of it before, never been on it before..


- If you want to impress people, tell them you were on *insert name of famous road in the Barossa*.

It all sounds a bit hipsterish to E@L, but everything is a-buzz, a-rattle. Gravel roads, done a few of those in his day. Surfing. Sand and gravel. The road through the Otways in those days, from Apollo Bay to Johanna,. Shit 20km of lock to lock on gravel 60km/h speed limit, lucky to get to 20km/h. (It was miles in those days.) And at night? And pissed/stoned? Bloody cold it was too. Windy, fuck yeah, like here.

- We heading back to Adelaide? asks E@L, a little confused. Where are we? When are we?

- You said you wanted to go to Torbreck, right? It's just here, a little further up Roennfeldt Rd...


A slicker affair here, neat, somehow suddenly popular, is it, mmm? E@L had never heard, fuck, of Torbreck until the, what, The Standishing, no The Steading. Funny name. They had it in Phuket at Rockfish, awesome. Everything that night there was awesome, food, wine, watching Bruce fall asleep at the table. Need more Steading? Actually, no, shit thas' right, bought six bottles back from Melbourne last week.

He we are finally. Cellar taster guys are young, but smart. They know this, hey, they think they know this. Want E@L to know it too.

The vines have been there for 130 years. Same for Standish. All this, fuck, wine fucking heritage has slipped under the old radar there E@L. His young days with wine? Try this Chatteau d'Cardboard. You've probably never heard of it. [He checks later, Torbreck has only just been going a few years when E@L moved to Hong Kong.]

But E@L tells them about Josie Bones instead, beer place in Collingwood, you know the guy from Masterchef, with the hat? Beer and great food. All the wine bars in Singapore, you take them like that That's what they need, E@L, is ranting now, is Good. Fucking. Food. The wine, get some great stuff, but a real chef, you know. There's the guy from Iggy's. Iggy.

These kids all know him, Iggy. E@L takes a breath, steps back. F&B, everyone knows everybody else. They are all in black, short hair. Uniform. E@L hears that Iggy used to work with Torbrecks, or something, maybe selling it for them. No hang on, was this the conversation he had with Dan Steadish, Standish, about Iggy's. Does everyone know the guy from Iggy's? It's a fucking conspiracy. Well man, he the most famous wine taster, summerly-er, right?

Torbreck, youth and knowledge, confidence, fucking bee's dick from arrogance, thinks (thinks? at this point in time?) E@L. E@L is one fat drunk dude, again. Discussion ensues about best pizza in the world. Brac, says E@L the four cheese in the Trattoria there.

By the waterfront where Odette had that threesome. Odette, oh shit, love and jealousy, wine and nausea, two sides of the same coin. He tries, grabs at a breath again. They recommend the best pizza in Adelaide, somewhere. E@L is knocking back another wine, but it's not sitting well. Try that one too, a muscat. Spit, no way? Fuck that, here drink it again, this is love, that was lust, she's only 20, jeez.

Spit? Split? He sees Odette in a bikini, in his mind, on the beach at Brac, or was it Hvar, the topless beach, has no tits to speak of, only to dream of? Shit. Thought this had ended. His gut clenches. Fuck this, he thinks, I think about her and feel, sick. Still… This is bullshit.

- Need a piss, um the toilet, says E@L, sorta, you know, urgent.

Oh, oh, Odette, he cries, as he upturns the best part of the day's trip into the cistern. All he can taste now, deep down, is apple and the long lingering dirty crotch smell of young blue cheese.



Shit, this eight-hour trip took me five days to write up!


Threw, as it were, the last bit in as a private joke, because it never actually happened at all (E@L doesn't get drunk->vomit type sick anymore) but because he was reading, not wishing to sound pretentious, but managing it somehow, Giordano Bruno - complete everyone in philosophy, it was like $0.99 on the Kindle - and Bruno was brutal on the double edged sword that is falling love/lust with someone who hasn't a clue that you exist. I mean I keep calling that episode a Lust Attack, but by pretty much anyone's no-nonsense thinking, it should be called by its true name. Love -

Ah Love, the standard-bearer
My hopes are ice, my desire a flame...

Swear to Darwin, it has passed, as Love does, as ice melts, as flames die down.


If I were serious about this as a story, I guess I should have introduced the Odette theme earlier. Or did I?


p.s. the names, as far as E@L can remember have not been changed, just the things they said and did and what they wore and how they acted, and what they thought of the wines, and of E@L and of the rugby match that afternoon...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Got My Steely Dan T-Shirt...

Managed a ticket to uber-smooth uber-70s&80's Steely Dan in concert (yes they're still around, but who isn't? [Amy Winehouse?]) tonight in Perth. They were supported by the brilliant Steve Winwood (speaking of not being able to kill someone with a stick). And no, my shaper-ly body did not fit into the Steely Dan t-shirt (c.f. Show Biz Kids - Countdown to Ecstasy) on sale at the merchandise store out the front.

Chalk and Cheese. Not the musicians, all brilliant, not a doubt. I'm talking about the stagecraft and the lighting difference between Winwood and Steely Dan.

Steve's was a vanilla show. Minimalist lighting effects, and I was sitting behind the lighting effects guy so I can verify that it was all done manually. It was a late change of venue, and I think that basically Stevie was shafted by the promoters and knew it. He came on 15mins late and left after just over an hour. No encore. Didn't play Back in the High Life. And a heap of others obviously. He did the expected stuff from Spencer Davis Group, from Traffic… Gimme Some Lovin', I'm A Man, etc. Thankfully he played Can't Find My Way Home, one of my favorite songs of all time - blogged about previously I think.

But it was just so disappointing to see how poorly that part of the show was done. Was it the promoter's fault, did they concentrate their effort and money on Steely Dan? I know Winwood was not part of the entire tour, but that is no reason not to give him the same level of support as the main group. Jeeze, the guy is a legend! Or was it just the bare bones way that he likes to play it?


Be that as it may, Steely Dan were as slick and shiny as you'd expect a stainless steel dildo (c.f. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs) to be after reeling in all these years. Four in the brass-section, three (black, female) backing vocalists. Drummer high on a plinth. Becker resting his ample butt on a high stool. Fagen in dark glasses, a pronounced hunch which seemed to change sides, an off-green jacket, laying his head back in a leer, looking as much like a frog as any human could possible manage. A smarmy arrogant frog. But that is all part of the act of course. He was brilliant.

As opposed to the Windwood show, here the lighting was completely computer controlled, mutli-coloured spots came up on each band member as they played a prominent part, on the backing vocalists as they sang, on Becker as he did a solo, on Jim Herrington the other guitarist, on the drummer (amazing effect for him). Man, smooth. Lots of colors and patterns and blasts of blazing white in your eyes. The lighting guy sat back and just listened, let the computer do it all. Occasionally got up and stretched, had a sip of water.

I could not imagine a greater contrast to Winwood's set. OK it wasn't a vast extravaganza like a Flaming Lips or Pink Floyd show, but it was very choreographed - pre-programmed the cynical people would say. But that is Fagen and Becker's music. Tight, orchestrated. I couldn't help but think of the skill, practice and dedication required of concert musicians in order to be this note (almost) perfect and yet not be one the rich-dudes up on stage here.

I remember first hearing their song Bodhisatava years ago and being amazed at how controlled the lead guitar was, fast but accurate and obviously well rehearsed. (Was it Larry Carlton playing guitar that song?) I was used to enjoy letting loose myself on my guitar lead breaks like (well sorta) Clapton, just blasting away in the BB King blues box, not having to move my fingers too much, hopeful all songs were in Cmaj or Emaj. Never play it the same way twice was the jazz/blues ethos in those days. Especially when, like me, you couldn't play it the same way again if you wanted to…


Set List: Aja, Black Friday, Hey Nineteen, Time Out Of Mind, Show Biz Kids, Bodhitsava, Papa Dont Take No Mess (? huh? - not my listing), Do It Again, Dirty Work (great song!), Josie, Peg, My Old School, Reelin' In The Years - encore - Kid Charlemagne


When I was first dating getting my girlfriend pregnant, she was a huge Steely Dan fan. Reason? The song My Old School on Countdown to Ecstasy (again) has a particular relevance for her. She was sent to a convent school for Year 12, away from her friends, not knowing any of the girls there and had a hard time fitting in. She hated it. Listen to the lyrics, you'll get it.


Well I did not think the girl (she heard that as "that girls")
Could be so cruel
And I'm never going back
To my old school


Perth audiences. Man. Attack of the music zombies. Only one person stood up to dance. In the 3/4 filled auditorium (a swimming pool!) I think that other than me there two others nodding their heads, and one of them may have been nodding off. The solid guy next to me (business class bodies in economy class seats) took off his fluoro-orange work jacket, crossed his arms and sat there as if set in concrete. My seat-rocking, toe tapping and thigh drumming and singing along didn't seem to bother him, but they didn't seem to please him either. I thought he might be there as someone's bouncer. WTF?

The backing singers tried to encourage the audience to clap during the guitar solo of Reeling the Years, you know the first bit, jazzy and counterpoint sort of thing, but only four people responded positively and that included myself and two of my friends. The rest remained immobile (in both body and mind one might think). Maybe they were clapping on the inside.

No wonder Perth has trouble getting concerts and big name artists.

The show was terrific, the songs kick-ass, brassy and rocking (as was most of Windwood's set), the band were bopping away (but never away from their predetermined spotlights) , the girls gorgeous, and… everybody sat there like trolls in the sunlight.

All except



p.s. From Donald Fagen's website (, duh!)

"A Steely Dan concert is akin to witnessing the passage of a single multiplex vehicle the size of a motorcade or convoy, its various segments comprising limousines, ice-cream wagons, hearses, lunch-carts, ambulances, black marias, and motorcycle outriders, all of it Rolls-grade and lacquered like a tropical beetle. The horns glint, as it rolls majestically past, splendid, a thing of legend, and utterly peculiar unto itself."

-- William Gibson

p.p.s. From someone who didn't enjoy the show (sounds pretty much like this tour) quite as much.

Matt Jason Blowitz

Steely Dan, a band that used to be good in the 70s, brought their nineteen-piece band of bored studio professionals to the Halliburton Amphitheater on Tuesday night and offered their obese, geriatric boomer fans the standard mix of "jazzy" hits and "deep cuts". While Walter [sic] Fagan [sic] did his annoying Ray Charles routine behind the keyboard, partner Don [sic] Becker leaned on his amplifier and played the occasional "bluesy" solo, leaving most of the guitar chores to crack session professional Jim Herringbone [sic]. In their heyday, the group (now supplemented by three female backup singers and a horn section) were known as obsessive perfectionists who spent millions of dollars in the recording studio torturing the many guitarists who apparently weren't "yacht-smooth" enough to complete the classic solos on their quirky, jazz-inflected songs.

If you connected electric wires to my testicles, I guess I'd have to confess that the "band" was pretty tight. On the other hand, Fagan [sic] and Becker seemed to be just going through the motions in order to continue to maintain their expensive yuppie lifestyles while the rest of us are left to fight off terrorists and the federal government, suffer the horrors of climate change or just starve to death because of Obama's economy. [sick tea-party prick]

Every single person in the audience had cause to be disappointed about something or other. Becker and Fogelberg [sic] refused to play the correct imagined set list that each ticket buyer had spent their life savings to hear. They played too many, and yet, not enough of the old nostalgic hits. Casual fans spent the entire show running back and forth to the porti-potties to avoid hearing any music they hadn't heard thousands of times before, while hardcore fans were again deprived of hearing the obscure tracks the sadistic duo played just two nights ago at the Raytheon Pavillion in Podunk Hollow. As the crowd filed out, many dissatisfied concert goers were heard complaining about the sound, the venue, the weather, the tour routing plan, and the fact that Beckstein [sic] and Fagan [sic] are still alive and working after more than forty years in the music business. And if anyone knows why the band played the theme from "Taxi Driver" at the end of the show, please clue me in.

(Blowitz [sic] may even be a faked-up name as well. E@L)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seriously. Ow.

Samsung IIGS, MacBook Air, Motorola Xoom, touchpad for iMac, touchpad on Lenovo at work. All swipy things...

Killing my fingertips.

Seriously. Ow.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Chase Me Ladies

A blog I used to read YEARS ago in Hong Kong written by one Harry Hutton. Some of the older posts are the best - sound familiar? Some of his recent ones are funny too. Basically he's funny.

Love this one...

Chase Me Ladies, I'm In The Cavalry.


Saw a girl on the bus today, bit of a fox, so I sat down opposite and attracted her attention by bursting a balloon. “I am a tomato,” I announced, when she looked up. “So am I a fruit... or a vegetable?” She didn't know, so I explained to her in a nerd voice that technically I am a fruit in that I grow above ground, but that the United States Agricultural Department considers me a vegetable for the purposes of import levy.

Sadly, she did not speak English, otherwise we would have been getting naked within the hour. I have personally had over six hundred women using this method.


The line, "Chase Me Ladies, I'm in The Cavalry," comes, I am sure I don't need to remind you (but I must, I must!), from James Joyce's Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, viz:

—So we must distinguish between elliptical and ellipsoidal. Perhaps some of you gentlemen may be familiar with the works of Mr W. S. Gilbert. In one of his songs he speaks of the billiard sharp who is condemned to play:

On a cloth untrue
With a twisted cue
And elliptical billiard balls.

—He means a ball having the form of the ellipsoid of the principal axes of which I spoke a moment ago.

Moynihan leaned down towards Stephen's ear and murmured:

—What price ellipsoidal balls! chase me, ladies, I'm in the cavalry!


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Slow Brown Toast

My current brother in-law has taken to home sliced bread for his toast.  He likes my sister to slice the bread [as if he'd do it - women's work!] as thick as will fit into the toaster, if not thicker.  She has taken to grilling the toast in the stove.  She has to keep an eye on it but she is, as usual, fussing around with a million distractions [where does E@L get it from?], so she keeps the the heat down a bit.  She re-aligns the bread every so often to ensure that it is evenly done on both sides.  When it is ready she brings it out, butters it, jams it and delivers it to his highness.  His highness is not there this morning but the sister had now got into a habit.

E@L was watching this. 

"That's how they make kaya toast," he said.  His sister looked interested.

"Oh, the famous kaya toast! [She reads this blog]  They grill it?" she asked

"Yes, just they way you do, sorta, except the grill is underneath.  With kaya toast though, they slice it through the middle."

"What do you mean?"

So E@L took one of the thick freshly toasted slices and showed her how to cut it horizontally.  He had never done this before, only watched in fascination a hundred times. OK it was not so fascinating after the six or seventh time, but you get the idea.  He has seen it done, but never tried for himself. Using something resembling a bread knife [E@L's mum has a collection of mostly absolutely crap knives.  However, this was the one they advertised about forty years ago on TV, saying it would never go blunt - they sawed the end of a shoe and then sliced a tomato.  They were right, it is still sharp.  Great design, bad business plan.  Where is the inbuilt obsolesence?] he was able to manage the horizontal slice easily.  Might open a kaya toast place in Geelong?  He showed her how they spread the jam (he used her quince jam, fruit from her own tree, she make) on one inner side and how they dobbed on the butter in strategic places on the other.  

He placed the two halves together and cut them in half.  He passed one half to his sister and she bit into it.

"Oh my God," she said.  "It's crunchy on both sides."

The reallization of this hit E@L.  Of course, that is one of the great things about kaya butter toast.  It is not soggy.  He has been obsessed with toast-racks to let the temperature drop a bit to keep his toast from producing condensation on the cutting board or the plate and going soggy underneath from the moisture.  He loves crunchy toast.  Kaya toast is crunchy, he considered this revelation again, on both sides.  

He needs to buy unsliced bred and cut it thick to make his own at home from now on.   What a dolt.

Just need to borrow some stockings for the kopi.


E@L typed this at a Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet in Funan Centre on a new Logitech Bluetooth keyboard on the Motorola Xoom. Once you get the correct keyboard settings (!) it works fine. It was designed for the iPad, but you know what?  Fuck tethering.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Exotic Customs

Travel. Pain in the arse, right?

E@L is talking travel for work, obviously. Those of us with crucial international roles, though not crucial enough or international enough to interest the APEC people, no longer are enthralled by technically exotic locations and the perceived luxury of our accommodation and decidedly nonplussed by the process of check-in, security, immigration, crap food in airlines lounges, lay-overs, airports in general...

That movie where Tom Hanks was trapped in an airport for years in a bureaucratic jumble, man, fuck, E@L's worst nightmare...

Get me to the taxi, to the hotel, to the hospital (whichever one in whichever country E@L is visiting that day), back to the hotel, back into the taxi, back to the airport and back home where I can scratch where it itches, says E@L.

Each step of getting through the airport is fraught with the possibility of annoying delays and hassles. It's amazing that E@L hasn't blogged about it so much more (he has, but couldn't be fucked cross-referencing).


First you have to manage the check-in.

Sometimes E@L has to fly on airline that not part of the Star Alliance group (amazing but true) and is limited in his carry-on allowance. Problems and hassles.

Once, traveling QANTAS, he knew that his bags were on the check-in allowance cusp so he compressed some of the heavier paraphernalia into his carry-on bag. After coming through the check-in clean, he was about to line up for the immigration queue when an official airline looking person asked him to place his carry-on on a scale. Not an official looking set of scales at all, but one of those rusted and talcum-powder coated things you'd have in your own bathroom. The disc of numbers spun around inside the chipped glass and its oscillations diminished until it reached a halt. Shit. Overloaded. 11kgs instead of "no more than 7kg".

It was that motherfucking Compaq brick work computer that weighed about 7kgs on its own that caught him, not all the books (quite weighty tomes they were) he had in there.

"You have exceeded your carry on weight allowance sir," said the official

"But it's not that heavy really."

"It's too heavy for the overhead lockers, sir. There was a situation recently sir, on a Singapore Airlines flight, where a person suffered an injured neck from a heavy item that fell. We have to enforce this now. All airlines do."

Bullshit, E@L thought. He had just flown Singapore only a few days earlier and they were actively encouraging people to overload the lockers with suitcases larger, and presumably heavier, by far than the bags E@L had responsibly checked in. No-one seemed concerned about the integrity of E@L's cervical spine on that occasion.

Sigh, He had to go back out, buy another small bag and check it in with most of his book purchases, leaving only his laptop to bring on.

Annoying. Just let me get onto the plane, I want to get out of this temporal, spatial and political no man's land, says E@L.


While he was checking in this second bag, the pretty young lady at the counter next to him was having equivalent issues. However, unlike E@L, she had a newborn baby in a pale cotton cloth papoose strung across her tummy. She was traveling alone, well, with her baby.

The QANTAS woman at the counter had rejected her luggage because one of her suitcases was over the limit, even though her second suitcase wasn't. In fact, from what E@L could gather, the overall limit had not been reached. So this lady, with a crying baby strapped to her chest, had to step aside, bend over to open the bags in public and rearrange her clothing and her baby things from the heavy bag into a second lighter bag.

What is with you people? Give the struggling woman a break. Get away her, you bitch. It's only a technical foul after all. E@L reduced his own sense of affront after this watching this embarrassing debacle.


But checkin is nothing compared to the immigration queue,

Not only is it also getting between E@L and his hotel bed or his bed at home but his happiness factor drops to unmeasurable when significant periods of time are spent in line. Why for example does it take one immigration guy in Thailand 2 minutes 20 seconds to process each person (E@L had been at the sticky end of a 20 person queue and was able to measure and average this guy's processing time over quite a large sample) while the next counter is putting each one through in a giddying 90 seconds (and smiling at everyone as well?)

You've got to pick your queue. How many Chinese mainlanders (aka foreign talent)? How many Filipino guest workers? How many with melatonin rich dermis? (I'm not saying that E@L is racist, I am saying that the immigration people are. Are cautious, I mean.) How many kids? How many sporting groups or Greek families are bunched together so that the queue appears shorter but is actually three to four people wide? Ah, but are there any queues feeding two counters? This can be a winner in Bangkok, you live for those days, the double speed queue. It's the small victories.

You have only a second or two to make a decision as the plebs economy class passengers are coming up behind you and the lines are going to double fast. So you make a choice. And you live with it. Unless another counter opens up between yours and the next across. Then it's decision time again. Do you lunge for the new counter, or just sit back and watch the people in front of you disappear. Hey presto you've moved up ten places and did bugger all. Laughing.


The Singaporean (? - going on a faintly heard accent) woman at the front of the queue beside E@L's had two brats kids misbehaving in a mildly meritocratic way, as befits the sibling rivalry of four year old and six year old boys. When she got the counter with kids in close tow, she placed their three passports on the bench. But the immigration officer, a gruff, older, misanthropic-looking Thai gent, held up his left hand. "Only one at a time!"

The woman was disoriented for a few seconds, not sure of what she had just heard. "One at a time!" he repeated.

So she pushed the kids back from the counter and took their passports down. The officer processed (2m20s) her passport only. He then waved her through. While she had realized that this wasn't going to work and had awkwardly tried to come back and place on of the small kid's passport on the bench, the annoyed immigration officer became even more be-grumped. But obviously there was no other way. He took one passport of the children's reluctantly and processed it without leaning over to look at the child. Mum was forced to stand back, she was no longer legally in Thailand. She was waving her hands trying to indicate to the kids to stay there, back behind the line. The children were like, what the fuck is going on, why mum is over there and we are still over here? The second child, the four year old, was getting frantic as mum waved and whispered loudly to him to stay back, stay back. He vacillated, here, there? But he didn't cry, one wonders why not.

E@L saw this unfold and was stunned, completely in disbelief at this arsehole immigration idiot. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he didn't at first realize that the second and third passports were for the children he couldn't even see. He had not been looking at people at all E@L had noticed. But being a grump and a misanthropist, and not wanting to lose face, he was placed in the unfortunate position of making himself look like a total cunt in front of everyone.


It was only a few days ago that two friends of a friend were headed for the United Stated of Paranoia but were stopped at customs at the Mexico Airport by an hyper-efficient official. OK, in fact the suspected (alleged?) smugglers were former and soon-to-be next Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, and the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith...

Suspicious items? Unbeknownst (great, underutilized word) to them, they had each brought a jar of that venerable Aussie staple, Vegemite, in their bags. Two jars, eh? Drugs? Where's my cut?

They had some time to spend in the country for various relatively important meetings, and both of them - hey, they are dinkum Australians - both of them liked Vegemite on toast at breakfast.

E@L is reliably informed the discussion on the finer points of this variably enjoyed yeast extract entered into a state in which voices were indeed raised and nasturtiums were cast on both sides, one side feeling that their diplomatic immunity status had been unjustifiably disenfranchised, the other enjoying the power-fueled semi-orgasmic thrill of a sadistic satrap. (cf: "Prison Experiment, The Stanford.")

Eventually, sense was restored, the honorable gentlemen received their jars back, and the Customs Official person was severely castigated. (Ouch! Mexican justice is harsh!)

You all probably remember when the rumour started going around of the FDA banning Vegemite. The usual reason given is that its relatively high level of folate was of concern. As the article explains, the FDA monitors supplementary folate, but as Vegemite's B vitamins are natural they are not covered by this ruling. Allegedly. The FDA later denied that any such ban ever existed, and...

"Many news outlets are now classifying the weekend reports of a Vegemite ban as a hoax or an urban legend that began with an overenthusiastic border official possibly confiscating a jar of the spread." (source)

It is possible that the incident E@L described here may have been the source of the controversy but for a slight discrepancy in the dates and countries. 2011 Mexico and 2006 USA.


A member of E@L's family had been through a certain country which may or may not have been Laos. A Canadian was in the travel group. Everyone's visa was about $30 USD, with some slight variations across the countries - $25, $32 - but when the Canuck presented her application, the request was for $85 USD. What? Why so much more for a Canadian? What was the special relationship between Canada and Laos?

"Why $85?" she asked.

The immigrations officials looked at each other, mumbled some words and then commenced sniggering, then trying not to, they burst out laughing. They pointed at her and slapped their thighs, crying almost. The first guy then sobered up immediately and with a straight face said, "$85." (Well that's how the No1 son tells it.)

In a line of six people, they queued for over 20 minutes (about 3m20secs, no big deal) while an immigration official examined each visitor's passport meticulously. The routine was, allegedly, something like this: Pretend to look at a page; look up and examine the person's face suspiciously; turn the page; repeat. Show the passport to a colleague who then does his version of the routine. Look at another colleague's computer. Call several other officers over to look at the computer. Then at the passport. Point at the computer and say something in an hushed tone. Return and hold up the passport to compare the face with the passport photo. Stamp this, stamp that. Next.

On the way through, they looked back to the other side of counters and saw that the immigration official with the popular computer had been playing Solitaire all the time.


E@L was entering the political paradise, free-speech haven and democratic bastion that was Cambodia in 2000. Handphones were confiscated. Cameras were OK. Tourists were not allow to spend US dollars in the country at that time - heck, there were no tourists at that time - but had to exchange their cold hard for warm soggy Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) which were about as attractive to retailers as used toilet paper, had they ever even seen toilet paper, the evidence later discovered was that they probably hadn't. The exchange rate was horrendous.

"FECs $300 USD." "MUST EXCHANGE $300 USD." Signs all over the walls and windows of the immigration area read, "MUST BUY FECs TO VALUE OF $300." May as well have read, "Must give the Military Junta $300 and shut the fuck up."

E@L's colleague went first to the currency exchange counter. E@L could see that he passed some money over and that he took a bound pile of what were presumably FECs in return. As he moved away, towards the entry to Burma, he made a point of walking in a slightly larger arc than necessary so that he could whisper to E@L, "Just change one hundred!"

E@L approached the large window to the exchange counter, most of which was plastered over with those "$300" signs. A tough, scarred, solid armed, short soldier was standing beside the window, holding his AK-47 casually as he chatted to the pretty young lady who, E@L noticed, had whorls of what looked like drying talcum powder on her cheeks. The lady turned to E@L. "How much do you wish to exchange?" she asked in pleasant accent. E@L looked again at the signs - "$300," "$300." Everywhere it said "$300."

"One hundred dollars?" asked E@L in return, softly in a shaky voice.

The lady said, "OK. I give you $90 of FEC. I keep $10, OK? Good for you, good for me."

"Sure," said E@L. The soldier with the AK-47 was smiling. There were 15 people still in the line.


Just take me home, says


(as in the Bruce series, not all E@L's observations here were actually made by E@L. In other words some of these stories might not be his, and may not be 100% accurate.)

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