Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Status Report:: Bangkok Day 2


Busy, in a sort of sitting round waiting for hours, then being intensely active for 45 minutes with an eager customer type way during the day, and hoping to be re-writing Powerpoint presentations for the training next week for the next few nights.

Bloody hell, one of the sales-girls in Singapore asked me to prepare a presentation for her to give on Wednesday! Even cutting and pasting from an existing one takes a good two hours... well, there's was tonight's effort on the training shot to pieces.

As a stress reduction I spent an hour (or more!)in the gym, mostly watching the girls in the aerobics room.

Nothing to see here, move along. At least that's what the security guard told me...


BTW Dick Headley likes my speaking of Thailand as 'The Land of Similies' [sic].

e.g. I am beautiful, like a young woman, he/she said.

Et cetera, et cetera, ad ridiculum...


Monday, October 26, 2009

Status Report:: Bangkok Day 1

Arrival in Bangkok, nothing to report except the normal (long) immigration queue was moving just as fast as the (abnormally long) APEC queue! Hey what's going on here!

When I came out of the Landmark Hotel (after being surprised naked in the toilet by the cleaner as I was about to have my freshen-up post-flight shower) it was raining outside too. Plan One was to stay dry without an umbrella and Plan Two was to find that cheap seafood market I often go to... but of course I can never remember the Soi number. I came over Sukhomvit Rd at the Nana Plaza station and made the mistake of turning right where I came down the steps at about Soi 71/2. That sent me into the heart of brightness - the longest, narrowest, most claustrophobic circus tent around. I am talking about the tarpaulin, plastic sheeting and steam of the Bangkok Sukhomvit street market. It stretches from Soi 3 (Nana Rd) all the way to Soi 17 at the Robinson's Department Store. In the rain it can be a complete nightmare.

It wasn't that busy tonight, but even so, as it was 34deg and rainy, you can bet I was sweaty as a fat man in a tropical city and grumpy as all heck by the time I had gone all the way down, checking each soi in vain, and then come back again. The rain was light by now, but I was still being dripped on from the cracks and leaks in the plastic roof, harassed by vendors and blocked by vague-walking European and Middle Eastern shoppers who dawdled at the weirdest, kitsch, overpriced "bargains". Then, next to an array of "Calvin Klain"[sic] underwear, I saw a pirate DVD stall that advertised "HARDCORE SEX, LESBIAN, GAY, ANIMAL"[sick] titles...

Class act, this Bangkok.

Grabbed just a couple of non-porno DVDs* - none containing any animals whatsoever, except for "The Hangover", which I believe features a chicken in a non-sexual scene or two. Also grabbed "The Other Man" and "Good" - 'Good!' said the lady selling the animal sex DVDs, pointing at the Viggo Mortensen flick about Nazis. "Genuinely Hilarious" says one of the quotes on the cover. "Delightful", "Irresistible", "ACTION-PACKED" say the others. What is this? - Springtime for Hitler meets Diehard? I presume I can trust her judgement in these movie-type things, so I took it, hoping that the cover comments were fake.

(They are. IMDB Synopsis: John Halder is a 'good' and decent individual with family problems: a neurotic wife, two demanding children and a mother suffering from senile dementia. A literary professor, Halder explores his personal circumstances in a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder finds his career rising in an optimistic current of nationalism and prosperity. Seemingly inconsequential decisions lead to choices, which lead to more choices... with eventually devastating effect.)


I found my restaurant back at Soi 7 of course, about 30 feet from where I had first crossed the road. After the spicy tamarind soup (with strange sea-creatures in it), I decided to grab an iced Starbucks from just next to the Bookazine there to chill out my taste-buds. As I went around the corner I made the mistake of looking back at some exposed dark flesh through a slashed-like back of bright green dress and was eyed most wickedly by one of two Nigerian, Jamaican (? -- they were black) hookers who were eating at an outside table on the corner. The look she gave me, one eyebrow up, piercing eyes, crooked grin, it could have burned a man's heart to a crisp if it wasn't made of adamantine stone, like mine. I not sure if she wanted me to drop dead on the spot, or take her and her friend to my hotel room back for some coke (and Viagra and [non-nitrate] blood-pressure medication) fuelled sexual excesses. Whew, girls, let me settle in first!

I had forgotten that outside Bookazine is a small area at a bus-stop that has no night-market and been instead populated by dozens of freelance hookers, like the street-scene in Irma La Douce, only with two paces or less between each girl. If a cop asks, I guess they can say they are waiting to be picked-up, by the bus I mean. Right in front of Starbucks there are about 12 girls all smiling at me, one or two asking me how I was...

Ready, I say, still not quite acclimatized, for a Java Chip Frappuccino...

(Rule # 3,575: Never pick up freelance hookers.)


* Might have to rethink my previously non-porno DVD lifestyle now that I know the Internet is bugged in Singapore. I scored two MDA warnings last week!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sadly Made In China

9. In Ma’anshan, Anhui province (安徽马鞍山), along the Yangtze River there are many small-scaled Iron selection factories and plastic processing plants. Large amounts of sewage discharged into the Yangtze River June 18, 2009


-- Lu Guang (卢广) from People’s Republic of China won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project “Pollution in China.”


6. Guiyu, Guangdong province, (广东省贵屿镇) rivers and reservoirs have been contaminated, the villager is washing in a seriously polluted pond. November 25, 2005

40. Zhangyuzhuan village by the Hong River in Xiping county, Henan province, (河南省西平县洪河边的张于庄村) 22-year-old Zhu Xiaoyan (朱小燕) had a tumor in her stomach in 2007. She died after number of hospital treatments on July 2008. 4-year-old girl with her grandfather came to her mother’s tomb. April 2 2009

(If this last photo doesn't make you choke up, you are soulless.)


More at China Hush. Hat tip to FriskoDude.

This is the economic miracle they are talking about. Chinese capitalism; an environmental disaster. "Disaster" is actually not a big enough word for the un-policed degradation goes on in that corrupt crony-run country...


Odyssey No.E@L

When I play Powderfinger's Odyssey No 5, Izzy sometimes gets up and turns it off - she says she loves it, but that it makes think her too much of dark thoughts about the meaning(lessness) of life...

I can't imagine why...

I absolutely love the rather bleak, despairing tone of the whole album (a softer more acoustic Soundgarden/Audioslave). Yes, the darker the song or book or movie, the happier I get. Cheers me up no end! I am not a death-metal or goth freak but some downer albums just click with me. The songs' thanatic energy on O#5 seem to feed some disquiet in me that is converted into a calm (often foot-tapping) sense of pleasure. What country music does for rednecks, what jazz does for sophisticates...

"This life well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned nothing like I planned
Control well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned..."

Can't embed my favoritely depressing Youtube Vid however.
The Metre

"If you measure the world by what you leave behind...
Welcome to the saving grace
Welcome to the saving grace..."


Smile, we're all gonna die one day. How else to take it, but with a grin, on the chin? What will you leave behind?


An acquaintance of mine, a neighbour of some friends, such a nice bloke, Robbie was his name, I'd had a few beers with him every now and then, including one time I bumped into him and his wife in a hotel cafe in Dubai -- he dropped dead the other day. Woke up feeling dizzy and unwell... Thunk.

Thunk makes you think. He was just 2 or 3 years older than me.

He had a fatalistic attitude in general, I remember. Was sort of pleasantly grumpy, well more cynical (as we all in our 50's are) than grumpy. I can see his face now, serious but amused - it in my memory, in my brain cells, he is part of me. And I wish I had seen him a bit more often, got to know him better. We got on.


Everyone's life is its own odyssey. No-one who set sail with Ulysses got out of that voyage alive...

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;...


Speaking of going home: after 8 weeks straight sitting on my disrupted arse in Singapore, making hardly a dent in my unread list of books and save a weekend trip to Melbourne for the Grand Final, I am finally getting out. 10 days in Bangkok! I cannot wait. You know me. I cannot rest from travel...


Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Already Knew This, In Your Heart You Knew This

Somebody confirmed today that all HTTP internet traffic coming into Singapore (that is those that address Port 80) gets routed to a proxy server in the bowels of the Media Underdevelopment Authority, where content is monitored by a near infinite array of men in dark brown suits staring through oblong magnifying glasses at small TV monitors. (Hey, looking for a job? MDA is hiring TODAY!)

The port is the default for HTTP, and set by the site you visit so there is nothing you can do about it. HTTPS, secure sites, use Port 443 for example. They don't get screened.

So if you're in Singapore and your address bar starts with "http://" then you're not the first person to browse this page today...

Several pron sites are blocked already. My favorite ones are still working, thankfully. But for who knows how long?

And who know what they'll block next? That rabid socialist Rupert Murdoch's The Far Eastern Economic Review? Oops, no point in doing that, it's almost gone anyway.

So... Hmm. Does anonymous browsing actually work? Do they know where the page is going???

Somebody who knows more of how these things works might like to elaborate.

Meanwhile, I'm re-reading 1984 and re-watching Brazil on my new TV. (Retail price $3299, E@L price $600 - have I mentioned this already?)


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You Must Get To The Bottom Of This!

Nothing like toilet humour... Further to my crisis of the other day, here's Spike Milligan:

Jesus wept and so did I watching this!

And it was Spike himself, (at least the HongkieTown version on Facebook) who got me started on these classic clips...



Oh, and the deep and uncreepy (despite having a ouija board tattoo on his back?) Creepy kindly tried to kill me by sending me a link to another guy's arse-pain story - Bob, the Anal Fissure... Funny? It's so painfully amusing I was getting those fucking abdominal cramps again and almost died in the office chair. Or was that a dream I had while on the office chair? Ah dear, I've been either crying or dying all day it seems...


Monday, October 19, 2009

Vaccines & Correlations - or Why Lemons Don't Cause Car Crashes

Sorry people, you might have to open your minds to let some of this information in.

(Thanks to HKMacs who started me on this trail.)


Good News

Simon Singh PhD MBE is the renowned British science writer, author of several learned books on E@L's shelves - Fermat's Last Theorem (I never finished it), The Code Book (I never finished it), Trick or Treatment (I haven't even started it) - who has been sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for libel after claiming that their wacky, bullshit theories, in particular relation to claims of efficacy in such childhood disease such as juvenile asthma, ear infections and intestinal colic are "bogus" (as in bad, wacky and bullshit), is in a good mood, finally.

It seems that though he lost the preliminary judgement he has won his appeal, on the grounds the idiot judge who oversaw the first case is an idiot. (Hope no-one in England reads this or I'll be had up for libel too.)

Basically here is a scientific writer who, having researched the topic for (TorT), says that he and the medical profession in general can find no scientific evidence for these treatments, and he is sued by a vested interest group.

What the fuck? Have IQ points dropped sharply while I was away?

The story is nicely explained, as usual, in Ben Goodacre's Bad Science blog and there is much discussion elsewhere, such as the blog of British lawyer Jack Of Kent, which gives a bit more info. As in a LOT more info.

A good point is made on Dr Aust's blog, that the way Singh wrote the paragraph under contention (in an article, not in the book) was a rhetorical device that misfired; he put the conclusion, or the topic sentence, at the start for emphasis and then followed up with the evidence to back it. I guess people, like the BCA, who disagree are going to have their eyes roll back straight away and not read, or at least not take in, the rest of the paragraph.

E@L is died-in-the-wool skeptic about ALL alternative medicines (and even a lot of conventional medicine), even though he has been cupped and acupunctured in a Taipei hospital (just to shut them up about my sneezy head-cold - no it did NOT get better). My neurologist was once obviously thinking about something as was smiling in his reserved, self-conscious way when he said that he could send me to an acupuncturists about my feet if I wanted, but that he had doubts that I would be a suitable (suitably gullible) customer... It won't work he said, but at least we'll (I'll) have tried another option to give you (me) the sense of us (him) doing something.

Only fruitcakes, loonies, flakes and fairies-in-the-bottom-of-the-garden type people, and most of China, believe in this sort of fucking bullshit. Chiropractic, what a wank. Double body massage, now that's therapy!

To quote an American Doctor on his blog (shit, I've lost the link):

"I am often asked my opinion of chiropractic care. My usual answer (based on evidence) is that it can be somewhat helpful in the treatment of low back pain. That’s it. Any further claims are complete and utter [expletive] …"


Reading those other above-mentioned blogs (and some others I haven't linked to) for the first time, I'd have to say that in certain areas IQ points are through the fucking roof.

But not here at


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seasonal Variation

E@L needs new sandals as his current pair of Tevas are sort of clunky, he has decided. They are over three years old, are wearing out and not providing the soft-support he needs with this peripheral neuralgia, plus they have complete toe coverage like some dickhead old man's sandals. (No comments are necessary. The implications of him having worn these for the last three year are only too obvious.)

They were purchased for walking in Autumn in Paris, where that design made sense. It has finally sunk in, however, that they are not really suitable for these cloying, hot, sweaty-foot, days in the tropics.

Timberland make pretty good sandals; his previous two pair were tough Timberlands; lasted four/five years each, though they did expose his pinkies to the perils of shopping trolleys and angry aunties (some old post, can't find it, explains).

So E@L goes to the Raffles City Shopping Centre (don't get off at the Raffle's Place MRT station you dickhead! go back!!!) hoping to find the largest Timberland store in Singapore. OK, it looks a little cosy, but there are longs racks of boots (suitable for snow-slushing and extreme suicide mission on reverse vertical cliff-overhangs) and many shoes. Perfect for Singapore. Fucking NOT!

After looking around for a second or two, E@L realizes that there are no sandals.

There was an idiot fuckwit who, for all intents and purposes, seems to work at the store standing nearby...

- Do you not sell sandals? asks E@L and he misguidedly takes an earplug to listen to the irksome answer.

- We don't stock them at this time, the idiot fuckwit answers.

- Why not? asks E@l and sets himself up for the joke of the century.

- It's seasonal, says the idiot fuckwit, we only have the range...

- But this is Singapore, interrupts E@L. It doesn't have any seasons, you fuckwit.

- The range is for the season... or something - the robot starts to vomit out his pre-programmed excuses...

But E@L has put his earplug back in, turned his back on the idiotic fuckwit and moved away, already out of the useless store.

Globalization -- exhale, count to fourteen billion seven million and seventy hundred seven thousand. World seasons are whatever happens in North America.


Fact is, Timberland don't seem to make the sandals E@L wants any more.

Along with the soap he likes, the talcum powder he needs, the antiperspirant deodorant he prefers, vegemite, the pot-set yoghurt he craves, any clothes that fit him, rock salt, etc... And his feet continue to hurt because of the old sandals.

Singapore, globalization, orthopaedic surgery, marriage and pretty much everything else has failed him.

Then he went for a crap in the RC toilets only to realize too late that there was no toilet-paper in the cubicle... Brilliant. He gave the Toilet Uncle, who he has seen earlier cleaning down the sinks in the washroom an angry-ang-moh blast, told him he was fucking idiot.

Sigh... Brilliant.

E@L doesn't think the Zen study he's been doing has kicked in yet...

How was your day?


ONE Good Point - the Wavehouse artificial surf wavepark on Sentosa is totally brilliant to watch if you are or ever have been a surfer.

OK - gotta lose 35kg, limber up and get back into surfing! (All together now - Never... Going... To... Happen!)

This was way cool. There were international "championships" on tonight as we knocked down a few Sols before sunset, and the guys were VERY acrobatic, lots of air, really gutsy cutbacks and deep "tube"-riding and the standard was awesome. Think wake-boarding and skateboarding and snow-boarding but in a 6foot artificial barrel in three inches of rapidly churning water. And it was left-hand break as well! (I'm a goofy-footer.)

Stoked to watch that, man!


Theme To Be Developed

Apple = Singapore

Steve Jobs = Lee Kwan Yue

Sleek shiny interface = neat tidy country

Tethered product-line = nepotism and corporatism

Attractive to shallow trendoids = attractive to shallow libertarians

Good for graphics applications = good for graphics workers

Small market share = little red dot

Real business is elsewhere = real world is elsewhere



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Defenestration Overdue

I popped the iPhone into its little white and very heavy cradle at work this afternoon and a message appeared: "This Item Was Not Designed To Work With iPhone."

What a piece of crap bullshit. I've been plugging the iPhone3 into it for ages now without any hassle. It looks to be charging OK, so, you know, whatever...

Later this afternoon when it was time go I decided I'd better synch that Dr's appointment tomorrow, so I loaded iTunes.

It didn't recognize the iPhone. I lifted the iPhone in and out of the cradle a few times. Still no recognition. Grrr. I unplugged the cradle to see if that WAS it. I plugged the cable directly into the iPhone and yep, it was recognised it...

And then I saw that I had a whopping 13.74GB free... (16GB phone) And I saw why. There was NO blue colour on the fill-guage bar at the bottom of iTunes.


The apps were still there, the contacts and appointments, just the sorta iPod things were gone!




I had updated iTunes on Monday, like I do every few days(!!!) when prompted and not synched since then. I checked the iPhone itself for the songs, thinking maybe iTunes is broke, but no; AND to add insult to insult, it says I can download music from iTunes which is an out and out lie because I live in Singapore, home of the most recalcitrant Telcos on the planet...

And it was just as I was about to leave the office, this happens! Fuck I need auditory stimulation for the taxi-ride home! Now instead instead of being home in time to go to the gym, I've to wait here for some 20+ 35 minutes while it synchs with my laptop playlist... and go straight over to Indy's place for beers and geek-dom* instead.

What a fucking tofu!

Why did I ever get myself into this frustrating Apple iJunk mess?

[Aw, heck and now there's some new iPhone software it wants to update!!! I go to start and it says 20mins remaining! Fuck that! I'm outta here!]


* Mercermachine and Indy want to play some 'adult' (as in 'grown-up' not 'sex') type board game... Like chess, says Indy, but with toy monsters and carefully constructed and hand-painted minature castles, etc...

Accounting, For Tastes

"I reclined on a sofa reading TGWKTHN for the last three hours, I am placing the piece in a place of honour (for pot-boilers)..." James Joyce. Well he said it about "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", so there's obviously no accounting for taste, what?


I just had to get up and come here to write this as a) I am sick of sitting on the sofa (recliner chair actually) and b) I had to pass on a bit from the book. This will not involve any spoilers (we all know Salander survived obviously or there wouldn't be a third book!) but this is about a relatively minor sub-plot (or so it seems at the moment, who can tell?).

There's this great little snippet about Erika Berger, who has left Millennium, and is now at the helm of some staid daily paper in Stockholm (known as S.M.P.) that need rejuvenation due to drastically falling revenues and circulation. It has been propped up and has maintained something like profitability by a continued and drawn out series of staff and wage cuts that have sapped the vitality of the paper and turned the journalists sour*, while the board members continue to reap their dividends and the shareholders hold their cyber fortunes. Sound familiar? She is being told by members of the board that more staff cuts are required... Instead of acquiescing, she rips them a new social democratic asshole!

"The board approved your measures [at cost-cutting], of course they did, because you guaranteed them a dividend each year. That's what has to stop, and now."

"So you're suggesting in all seriousness that the board should decide to abolish dividends and bonuses. What makes you think the shareholders will agree to that?"

"I'm proposing a zero-profit operating budget this year... If the newspaper were stable and bringing in a tremendous profit, then pay out as much as you want in bonuses. But this is no time for you to be increasing your own bonus. I propose cutting all management salaries by half."

"What you don't understand is that our shareholders bought stock in the paper because they want to make money. That's called capitalism. If you arrange that they're going to lose money, then they won't want to be shareholders any longer." [Well duh, then they could sell their shares to some other sucker. Sorry. E@L]

"I'm not suggesting that they [the shareholders] should loose money, though it may come to that. Ownership implies responsibility. As you yourself have pointed out, capitalism is what matters here. S.M.P.'s owner want to make a profit. But it is the market that decides whether you make a profit or take a loss. By your reasoning, you want the rules of capitalism to apply solely to the employees of S.M.P., while you and the shareholder will be exempt." pg272.

All I could think about was the book, The Divine Right of Capital which, I believe - so therefore am probably wrong - argues for what they call "Economic Democracy". Who said that the shareholder is the most important person in the company? Where did that come from? How has that become the last unassailable right in the world? Why did we allow The Shareholder to replace The King in such an all-powerful, all-hallowed role?

How do they suggest fixing this? Speaking of accounting (for tastes, remember?) - by placing the employees and the shareholders on the same side of the accounting equation. Just another little flip in the spreadsheet in order to a) give EQUALITY to workers and shareholders and b) to give them the FREEDOM OF SPEECH to have their say in running of the company that after all means much more to them, being often their sole source of income, than it does to those profit-hunting day-trading shareholders who'll flip their "ownership" to someone else at the beep of margin-call. Hardly any loyalty or commitment there. The idea too, is to prevent the widespread and enormous corporate corruption that has been exposed recently - SHOCK HORROR - but which of course is part of the unspoken mainstay of the capitalist system, at least once the company gets to a certain level of capitalization, and usually shrugged over as just another way to make money.

It's the "capitalism with responsibility" theme that is so important in the above quote. Corporatism and monopolisation and the inevitable exploitation that such one-sided power ushers in crush the meaning out of that phrase. No wonder people like me (and frequent commenter Mark), who have seen something of the world, balk at the damage done by the lack of freedom in the core of all unregulated free markets.


* Which reminds me of what I was reading about in The Economist about the horrendous plague of suicides affecting French Telecom and about the tug between the demand for that overwhelming loyalty (something I never bought into at that crap-hole Philips where I worked for several years) modern companies seem to expect, and the worker's awareness the company doesn't give a flying fuck about the welfare of its employees when it comes to maxing up the Profit/Headcount Ratio (a genuine metric in Philips, I swear to Darwin) come dividend time. No wonder I was so cynical there. I spent half my time filling in forms about what I was doing, but nowhere on the forms was there a place where I could say that I had spent half my time filling in forms.

A more subtle problem lies in the mixed messages that companies send about loyalty and commitment. Many firms—particularly successful ones—demand extraordinary dedication from their employees. (Microsoft, according to an old joke, offers flexitime: “You can work any 18-hour shift that you want.”) Some provide perks that are intended to make the office feel like a second home. But companies also reserve the right to trim their workforce at the first sign of trouble. Most employees understand that their firms do not feel much responsibility to protect jobs. But they nevertheless find it wrenching to leave a post that has consumed so much of their lives


Yes, indeed. And at the moment my previously wonderfully paperwork-free-zone company is going through a certification process due some clause about us importing medical products, even if only for demonstration, and so I spent most of today writing up my own job description, rather than doing anything that is actually ON that job description.

I was about to leap from the window with the panoramic view of the east end of Sentosa myself until I received a hint from boss-san: only put down stuff that you can actually prove with documentation... Well, that's a lot easier! Nothing!

Plus it sounds a lot like a book I am currently reading...


Speaking of Brand Loyalty, I will give this to Philips, they make crap TVs...

But if you used to work there, or if know someone who still works there, or even someone else who USED to work there, you can get cheap deals on the ex-display stock from their Tao Payao showroom. I'm picking up a 42" LCD for SGD$600 to replace the old 42" plasma (SGD$1300 three - or was it four? - years ago), which is starting to go on the blink again - only got a pure red colour first thing this morning. Not only is old one about to kark it, it doesn't take digital signal. Might need that one day if I get a Blu-ray player. Or a game-console. When my shares dividends come in.


Speaking of shares,etc - just want to let you know that the Hong Kong restaurant I invested in hasn't returned a cracker in the last 18 months. I'm in it for the long haul. At least that what my investment advisor keeps telling me.

OK, enough rambling, time to get back to The Book.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Robbed of Music! By an Arse!

- Don't start something you can't finish, my uncle used to say.

I don't recall if that particular uncle liked classical music, but I certainly do not like taking on the challenge of getting to the Esplanade (currently the world's most inconveniently located Entertainment Centre) unless it means listening to some good floppy-haired cellists (can't find the link to my or Izzy's blog about the Russian Orchestra a few years ago, but this one will do - there seems to be a world-wide plague of floppy-haired cellists) and musicians of that ilk.

The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra is in town and playing Beethoven Tchaikovsky tonight and I am in the toilet. Physically I mean. I am in the dunny, the loo, the crapper. My arse is grass and being attacked by a weed-wacker.

I've started , but no matter how hard I try, I cannot finish...


Earlier, T was pissed off with work and SMS(short message service)'d to say -

- Let's meet at Harry's for a beer.

Actually, I was already on my way in a nice Mercedes taxi hoping for a bit of quiet time to finish reading that Krugman article on Friedman in the New York Review of Books from a few years ago (I'm still trapped in a "fuck I don't know anything about politics OR economics" spin), but I made it sound like I was dropping tools and heading off for a TDIF (Thank Darwin It's Friday) ale too. Dropping tools? It was already after 6, but this is Singapore, not Sydney where anyone at work after 4 on a Friday obviously hadn't booked their yacht for the weekend.

We had one beer (metric pint = 500mls). Izzy came looking very sophisticated in a cute LBD (I don't have to tell you what that is, surely?) with a white pleated scarf and a pair of scarlet 4" heels that would plague her all night. We listened to T's appalling geek puns and, this is where the mistake of our early arrival at the pub was made manifest; our glasses were empty and there was 20mins to go - WE HAD ANOTHER BEER. Before a concert, that is a MBM (Major Bad Move.)

When it was getting close to tune-up time we called for the bill. Typical for Harry's, it took forever to get change and while I waited T and Iz went for bladder relief. When T got back, the change still hadn't come so he waited and I went for a pre-show slash...


NOTE: The next few paragraphs contain WTMI (Way Too Much Information). But people don't talk/blog about crapping much (unless they're German or James Joyce) and it's such a big part of life... and hey I love toilet humour! so -- Enter at own risk.


I was feeling a tad gassy after wolfing that second beer, in fact I felt like I might need to take a dump. Man, what an inconvenient time! Instead I took a piss at the urinal and tried to squeeze out a fart. Sometimes a fart and a piss can take a lot of the pressure off, hold that inconveniently timed crap urge in abeyance for just long enough... to watch a concert orchestra for example. But no, this one needed to be attended to straight away. The next train down that tunnel was going to be the goods! But I'd only had a light breakfast and not much lunch, so I didn't expect a major effort.

So, reluctantly, I ducked into a cubicle, dropped me daks and sat down. Slowly, shyly, a little cigarillo of a turd squeezed itself half out... and stuck there. There was not enough solid momentum backing it up to force the issue. I had already let out most of the gaseous components which meant I could not explode it out with another big fart. A bit dropped of the end finally, but most of the turdlet just oozed itself to comfortable (for the turd, not for me) and intractable positions deep into every fold, crease and niche of my anal canal.

Now remember the other week when I had problems down below? An UTI (urinary tract infection) means more than a burning urethra I had found out. It means massive bone-splitting, muscle rending, out-of-synch cramps that push you bladder down into your prostate and raise the innards of your intestinal chute in all the wrong painful directions at all the wrong teeth-clenching, involuntary groaning times. At that time, I got myself constipated because the spasms meant I couldn't coordinate my shit extruding mechanisms to defecate properly... for five days. Oh fuck, that hurt. Bad memories came flooding back of a history of anal fissures(x2), one so bad that I was in hospital for a week (and my nick-name at work became Lord of the Ring, because I mentioned to someone that I had to sit on one those blow-up rubber rings - You've never seen one? You need to stay in more.) Anyway, it was bad. I thought with this UTI I was either getting another one, or that I had developed haemorrhoids from all the white-knuckle straining.

My arse has only just recovered thanks to the advice of a pharmacist in Plaza Singapura. Two words - nappy rash creme.

So here I am with a mushy chocolate cigar stuck in my quoit. Thank Darwin I am not in a Malaysian or Thailand or the Singapore heartland toilet with just my fingernails between, well, between nothing really. No baby-wipes, no nappy rash creme. At least I have toilet paper. There is two minutes to go before the concert starts and I have to extract myself from this toilet trouble in time. Cheap, rough toilet paper. Holy hell! And hell it was...

But even as I stood to do up my jeans, giving up any more wasted efforts, I knew it was not over yet. There was certainly something left, something horrible besides the rubbed-raw flesh of my sphincter. I had proof of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem: it was half-stuck up my bleeding arse.

Enough time had elapsed for Iz and T to be worried about me, and I saw T come into the toilet looking to see if I had had a heart attack, but I was already washing my hands thoroughly - for a second time...

- You OK? they asked.

- No. Read about it in my blog tomorrow.

And so we headed to the concert hall with minutes...



Our chance to get seated for the first piece was gone, as we were two minutes, maybe three, late. The lady was just shutting the outer doors and the band was already playing; we could see and hear it on the LCD (liquid crystal display) display above the outer entrance. You don't expect this sort of punctuality in Asia! The tickets said 7:30, that means, seriously, move to seat around 7:30 because the actual music will start at 7:45ish. But not tonight - 7:30 meant 7:30, kaboom. We are dealing with the Dutch here!

It was a little bit OK for it became evident, as a small crowd gathered around the LCD that there were others in the same predicament. Being late I mean, not have the remnants of half a turd still stuck in their shit-chute.

The first piece by Wagenaar (sounds Dutch or Swedish - note the comment on YouTube = hoor de voor do goor de goor) was the Overture to Cyrano De Bergerac, and only 14 minutes long. So we miss that, so what?

I told T and Iz, who didn't know it seems, that Cyrano was a real person. He was in fact well-known(-ish) as a pioneer Sci-Fi writer back in 14whatever (OK, he died in 1655). I had bought his Journey to the Moon and enjoyed reading it (in English!) in the cafes of Paris. Quite subversive it was - Cyrano was very critical of the French Church at the time, but got away with it, saying it merely fiction!

We went to our seats at the first break in the programme and listened to Nina Kotova play a cello piece by somebody called Theofanides that was like the soundtrack to a really scary movie. But as the deep rumblings of the drum and intense scratchings across the strings reverberated, my bladder immediately started to distend itself with the filtrations of THAT SECOND BEER! 20 minutes to go!

At the next break I had scramble across everybody in the row and get out quickly. Luckily too, because those parts of that cigar which I had been forced by the pain and frank bleeding to let lie, had liquefied nicely while I was sitting there and were now thinking of trickling into prominence in the windmills of my mind arse. Itchy, itchy arse. Yowser -- full bladder, itchy arse! Back to the loo, and a big big sigh as everything was slowly, gently brought under some form of control.

By the time I returned (I had whispered quickly about "just getting over a bladder infection" to lady at the door as I nearly bowled her over in my rush) the next piece - Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini - was well under way. The sympathetic door lady let me into the crying-room where I could at least see the performance and listen to it through little tinny speakers, but unhindered by the din of band that was playing upstairs in the main foyer of the Esplanade complex.

It looked great, the amazingly young 14 year old(!) pianist Conrad Teo was jumping around like a madman (as required by a lot of Rachmaninov, I am informed). But seeing it through glass and not hearing it properly made me feel that I had lost the opportunity to have the memorable experience of a really spirited performance. When it finished, Intermission was due. I went downstairs for a slash again, but found the foyer empty I came up. It must have been a truly great performance because I saw on the LCD display that the orchestra was still on stage and the audience were still applauding! This was obviously the centerpiece and the highlight of the night.

Sigh. I missed it.

The Tchaikovsky was good, was really good in fact - it was the 4th Symphony, and in the 2nd movement, there's this beautiful rising/falling theme that goes da da daaa dumdum dur da dee dada dee da dum, then go down a tone and repeat; you'd know it if you heard it (starts at 1:21) - but having missed the the Wagenaar, AND the young kid playing Rachmaninov, and being uncomfortable for the second piece, I felt a little disappointed (with myself) and that brought down my appreciation of the whole thing. (I remember, now, thinking that from the our expensive seats in the middle of stalls perhaps you couldn't hear the wood-wind as well as you might if you were seated higher up).

Overall I felt that my arse had cheated me out 50% of the concert and brought me down so I couldn't appreciate the entirety of the night.

But then, as an unexpected encore the orchestra did a terrifically rousing arrangement of (what to me sounded like) Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody - without a piano! Very spirited also, and it left me smiling.


OK bum-story sorties are over, things were back to relative normality after that....

We gave up waiting in-line for a cab, or waiting on-hold to book one and walked for ages to get to the nearest MRT with Izzy in bare feet looking for a place that sold black flip-flops - fuck the Esplanade is dab in the middle of Transportation Nowhere - then walked for what seemed ages from Somerset MRT right through a fucking construction site to Orchard Rd...

- Fuck all this walking, cry my feet, as do Izzy's... She got some plasters at a 7/11 and was OK then, but my neuralgic dogs can't handle it all and they were barking!

But that persistent annoyance didn't stop me pondering what would constitute a great day - golf in the morning, book browsing, reading and chatting in the afternoon, and going to a concert in the evening, all without having a sore arse to fuck it all up.... Just dreaming...

We got to Cuppage Plaza at about 10:45, hoping somewhere would be open (Singapore!! restaurants still shut way too early) and found that the small place T wanted to try out was still open. People even came in after us!

This was some great Japanese food - great sashimi (the hamachi - yellowtail - in particular was superb), yummy boiled pork-belly, shioyaki mackerel, and some GENUINE Kobe beef, OMFD, that really just melted in the mouth - Toothless grannies could eat that, said T. Reasonably priced for a Japanese food in Singapore too! Maybe that where a great place to end that perfect day too.

I have the name of the place, but it will cost you... OK, it's called Nagomi.


And for MY encore - the genuine Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 - played as it was never meant to be by the peerlessly funny Victor Borge and side-kick...


p.s. Now, after having listened to Borge, I can't tell if this the music they played or not!

Friday, October 09, 2009

One For All The Animal Lovers Out There

I needed to confirm the number of beats per minute that a cat's heart works, right? (Don't ask why, corporate secret. Mrgnao - "Get that cat out here!" ) So I Googled

"What is the feart rate of a cat?"

LOL! Fortunately Google was feeling forgiving and suggested "heart rate"...and I found some interesting discrepant answers - 140-160bpm says someone, 160-220bpm says someone else.

But what if someone really DID want to know the fart rate of a cat?

It's about one every 12 seconds according this academic study (no, the cat does not die)-

(Mmm. This cat looks supiciously like the one I saw at Indy's the other day...)



...goes to someone no-one outside of her closeted family and introverted friends have ever heard of... and E@L smiles an inscrutable smile and sits back, knowing his day will surely come.

From The Daily Mail last year, when some unknown French dude, LeClezio (a berm? A BERM?), won The Prize:

The last U.S. writer to win the prize was Toni Morrison in 1993.

"The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature," Engdahl said. "That ignorance is restraining."

His comments were met with fierce reactions from the literary world
across the Atlantic. The head of the U.S. National Book Foundation offered to send Engdahl a reading list.

In Sweden, Jonas Thente, a literature critic at daily Dagens Nyheter, said he hoped U.S. writers Thomas Pynchon [YAY!] and Don DeLillo [not so much vit de YAYing] would share the prize.

"This year's scandal is about American literature, which has more or less been disrespected by the secretary of the academy," Thente said in a video clip on the newspaper's Web site. "I would hope that the big American postmodern novel finally gets the prize."

The academy often picks obscure writers, making it nearly impossible to predict a winner, but Engdahl denied that academy tries to surprise observers.

"We get astonished by the fact that the general public finds the choice so unexpected," he said. "Those who finally get the award and become laureates are often old acquaintances, they are old goodies that the academy has chewed on for quite a while and therefore know very well."

Other names mentioned in speculation on the 2008 prize include Romanian novelist Herta Muller[sic], Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Danish poet Inger Christensen.

Herta Mueller [correct spelling]? Who the fuck? How far up your own arse do you have to be, I swear, as if there aren't dozens, hundreds, of people who haven't done more for world literature than this - I am sure personable and lovely - lady (unlike that psycho-bitch Elfriede Jelinek who didn't even turn up [whom I admire, and I loved The Piano Teacher]), who deserve a pat on the back and cup of tea and a million bucks worth of encouragement more than this niche market nobody. For her to be up there with Thomas Mann, Patrick White and Germaine Greer [whom she resembles, nicht var?], I don't think so!


But if being obscure and unknown means winning The Prize...

E@L? yeah I know him, I saw him it at the Wine Connection tonight on Robinson Walk, writer guy on the innergneck. He was pissed again. HE should win the Nobled prize, fer sher, if for nothing else then this interchange with the venerable Milos on the noble medium of the SMS:

Milos: Can't come and join you guys. My sister is depressed.

E@L: Your sister is depressed? Well, mine... has her moments too - trumps to me.

Milso: Nah, she just got cancer.

E@L: Mmm.... bad... sorry to hear.

Milos: I'll get over it, she'll die.

E@L: Cancer therapy these days, man she'll live forever. You, however, ARE doomed. Me, I won't live long enough to get cancer. How many fat old guys you see?

Milos: Come live with me, it's like Belsen over here, without the good uniforms of course.

E@L (runs out of inspiration, gets depressed, conversation peters out...)

Sigh. The world is fucked, the good people get cancer, the unknown win the lottery.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Nobel Prize For Literature Goes To E@L

For collecting literature that is, not creating it.

Fuck, what am I going to with all these books? Izzy had to buy another IKEA shelf to catch the overflow in her room as I store most of my S-F stuff in there. The lounge room is packed, - four bookshelves, one of them double stacked. My bedroom has its double set of tall IKEA construct-a-shelves which were meant to just hold the books I am currently reading but now they are bloated and double stacked with just my recent (last 12 months) purchases!

Even with my current purchasing criteria of a) nothing contemporary and b) nothing American, (unless the book is recommended by friend, Dick Headley or Martin Amis) things are getting out of hand.

It's just the way I am...

I get into a conversation with someone and have to buy the political philosophy books I should have read before even attempting to participate in the dialogue. I have an idea for a story set in the Russian Gulags and therefore I have read (purchase I mean) everything about Mandelstam and Akhmatova and Solzhenitzen and Stalin ever written. Someone asks about happiness and I grab all the psychologists and philosophers I can find who have an opinion. My head spins as my piles of books grow.

Because you see:

Books expand to fill the shelves available.

And then some.


Meanwhile we wait and wonder for Thursday, the day that the Swedish Spending-Profits-From-Dynamite Academy pronounce on their deliberations for the real Nobel Prize for Literature.

Does anyone have any idea which obscure unpublished Andean poet or Namibian blogger/twitterer they will throw their dart at this year? Which one that is still alive that is, as all the famous people (who deserve to be famous) seem to be dead at the moment. Except in and around Australia!

My sincere and unbiased guesses for the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature:

Les Murray - Australia: The big bloke is still kicking on, so go on, give another Australian a plaudit (can we claim Coetzee, since he lives there?) Les has actually has been short-listed before, so this really is a serious suggestion. Either Les or...

Clive Barker James - Australia: Because, let's face it, he's funny and he's on TV and he keeps churning out books, which is what counts, PLUS if Les and Clive were in the same room a) you wouldn't fit in and b) you couldn't tell them apart. Plus he's a buddy of Martin Amis (who hasn't got a chance for the Prize as he is too short, and it turns out hasn't even read "Journey To The End Of The Night" all the way through.) Perfect unexpected but popular choice.

Germain Greer - Australia: the harpie of Earl's Court has been immensely prolific in upsetting everyone, even claiming the Mrs Shakespeare (she of the second-best bed) wrote all Will's works. Well if she didn't she should've, just to stick it up 'em. The Swedish just love a rebel.

Other than that I can think of anyone writing currently who deserves the kudos. Apart from Thomas Pynchon, who is currently running at 9/1 on the books, well behind Amos Oz (OZ? Not an Aussie?! - no, a popular Israeli novelist), Joyce Carole Oates and Assia Djebar (Assia, not Aussier?! - no, an obscure Algerian novelist). Not to mention Philip Roth.

Go Les, go Clive, go Germaine!


Nice to see an actual Australian (despite the headline, she was born in Australia but has dual American citizenship), Prof. Elizabeth Blackburn, has already received a third of the Nobel Prize for Medicine this year, even though it seems she did at least half the work, having collaborated with both the other winners on the two breakthrough achievement recognized by the Committee. I wonder, do they have to split it equally? Is that really fair?

As far as the other prizes go, I think Joseph, the guy I was having a chin-wag with the other day should win the Economics Nobel Prize. He was convinced he was 100% correct on everything, including all the reasons that the world economy is as fucked up as it is right now, and I couldn't prove him wrong at all because I am just an armchair socialist with my head up my arse* (uncomfortable way to watch TV).

His buddy, Comb-over John, who is currently arguing that Old People (check the Sunday schedule - note the presence of Germaine Greer!) should be turned into green crackers and distributed to the hungry of the world, should get the Politics Nobel nod. Nice one, John.

But that would only make three!

For my money, the guy who created iSnack 2.0 should get the Chemistry Nobel Prize. Putting Vegemite and Cheese IN THE SAME BOTTLE - what an unsurpassed victory in molecular bonding. And that makes...


If we can just get the Lit prize, and we have a genuine show with my choices I reckon, that might give us a real chance of winning the most prestigious cultural medal tally in the world for 2009!! Wouldn't that be fantastic?

C'mon Noble Aussie, c'mon! Aussie Aussie Aussie!! Prize! Prize! Prize!.


Kulcha? We just ooze it.


* private correspondence.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Health Care Rationality In America - Do More Ultrasound Scans!

Is it possible?

Try here at the NEJM for a calm chat.

Things are seriously wrong in American Health Care and something needs to be done.

The quality is killing people -

- Out of 19 industrialized countries, the U.S. ranked last on deaths amenable to health care, which are deaths that could have been prevented with timely and effective care.
- As many as 101,000 premature deaths a year would be averted if the U.S. was able to achieve the same mortality rate as other leading countries.

The cost is killing and hurting people -

- Economists have found that rising health care costs correlate with significant drops in health insurance coverage, and national surveys also show that the primary reason people are uninsured is due to the high and escalating cost of health insurance coverage.
- A recent study found that 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had health insurance.
- According to another published article, about 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.

(Quotes are from The National Coalition on Health Care.)


Personally, and being biased as a sonographer, I think US Health Care costs could be cut dramatically if instead of ordering a CT or an MRI as the first line diagnostic imaging test, Doctors ordered an ultrasound scan.

I don't have the breakdown on the financial stats but certainly the defensive use of imaging tools - doing a diagnostic study not because you believe there is anything wrong but just to cover your goddam ass in case of a malpractice suit! -and the widespread availability and advocacy of these expensive MRI and CT machines must means that diagnostic imaging is a much more significant part of health care costs than it is in other countries.

And certainly the number of articles published on diagnostic MRI and CT topics in both American and European journals that could sensibly be handled by competent ultrasound scans is stunning to an Australian. Sports medicine studies, peripheral nerve studies, a lot of vascular studies, the search for metastases in oncology patients, I believe in most of these cases and in many others, ultrasound should be the first line of diagnosis.

The main problem is the (often correct) perception of ultrasound as being unreliable primarily because it so operator dependant. The referring physician wonders if they can really trust the report. Ultrasound scans are considered so difficult to read by untrained eyes that the images themselves are pretty worthless to the referring physician. So here's a study in which he/she cannot confirm the finding for him/herself and which was performed by an anonymous somebody who could be the office cleaning lady for all the Doctor knows.


I had a buddy in Australia who was about to proclaim at our annual sonographers' conference back in the early 90's that "70%" of ultrasound examinations in Australia were crap. He had made up that stat after completing an assessment during a training tour of some of the hospitals and clinics in Sydney. I pulled him up on using that exact number, but he certainly did have a point. Even in Australia, where we are proud of our advanced ultrasound standing, forced upon us by the strict control of MRI machines, the standards of many sonographers was indeed marginal at that time. In my own experience as an examiner for one of the Australian Societies, I had to fail some of these people for their sub-standard skills on several occasions.

Since that time, in Australia we have developed an Accreditation Board to oversee the development of courses available at the universities, and we maintain a Registry of suitably qualified sonographers (I was involved in the set-up of those boards) and I believe the relatively new imaging tool of ultrasound has advanced remarkably. Certainly many of those sub-standard wanna-be sonographers have now gained the experience to make them worthwhile scanners, even champions of ultrasound. Eventually, as a trainee you reach a point where the whole thing just clicks and from then on you really know what you are doing and what is expected of you. But that "click" takes time. That is why I favour longer periods of clinical training. It is not perfect in Australia yet, but it has come a long way.

In Australia, Sonography is a post-graduate degree (a Masters, for example), so we are already dealing with radiographers or Nuclear Medicine techs, or even nurses who generally already understand the anatomy, pathology and the science of imaging. We do have a more structured supervision for students and the universities all require tutor sonographers to supervise, and the students must present case-studies for assessment. At least one of the qualifications in Australia requires direct assessment by a third party during the clinical examination of real patients.

In comparison, the education and registration of American sonographers suffers in relation to Australia's in that it is an undergraduate degree, assessed by a standard exam for all applicants with no input from the students supervisor, no case studies, and no over-the-shoulder assessment.

It would be good if all American sonographers could also be educated in a similarly structured way to the Australian method (which is based on the British accreditation process). I personally would like to see something more like the Nursing registration schemes, where nurses are sort of mirco-accredited for specific skills. Each one of the ultrasound applications (abdominal, Sports MSK, Neuro-MSK, OB-Gyn, vascular) requires relatively huge amount of knowledge, skill and experience.


However, what I have said doesn't mean that ALL American sonographers are bad and that is why MRI is winning, but I do believe that as they are coming from a lower level of education, American sonographers (as a whole, not specific songraphers, who may be exceptional if they have already had the "click") can only achieve what must be a lower level of INITIAL competency during their shorter training period. This might be one of the explanations for referrers sending their patients directly to MRI or to CT.

Another of the ways to gain the trust of American referrers is to standardize the examination to ensure a certain minimum standard is met. Improved technology is being placed in most high-end and even mid-range ultrasound scanners to help achieve this aim: such as recording short video loops instead of still frames, of taking 3D volumes and processing them like CT scans (not just for babies but for the upper abdominal and the pelvic organs), of programmed protocol guides that ensure the sonographer does a complete study and doesn't miss anything. These sorts of innovations might make the exam easier to read and review by a referring physician (so long as he has the software to read them).

There is an accreditation system for hospitals and medical clinics in the USA, but it doesn't really go far enough and compare the outcomes of the actual sonographers who do the scans, because that is the critical interface: where the patient meets the machine that goes "ping". Neither does the Australian system, but it is something that was being looked at.

So it comes down to education, the processing of accreditation and the continuing appraisal of a sonographer's continuing education.

So maybe this is another path on the road achieving lower costs of health-care in America. It would of course require the skills of experienced sonographers to give that advanced training and make these assessments. It would also require funding from the socieites to provide this service and pay the costs. Hopefully, the vast amount of money that could saved woudl more than cover the costs.

I wonder if there is anyone I know who could fit that bill?



Staring Into The Headlights

This life, well it's slipping right through my hands.
These days turned out nothing like I had planned.
(Powderfinger: "These Days" - OdysseyNo5)

Planned? Who plans anything these days? Who has such control over the chaos of time so that planning would work anyway? Best to slide in easy each morning, go with flow of whatever pops up, ride out the bumps according to the Rule of 10. Will it matter in 10 seconds? 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 weeks? 10 months [important during sex]? 10 years? Where am I to-day, tomorrow, next week, next month? Wherever you need me, I guess. You pay the airfare, the hotel, I'll rock up and say Hi to whomever you want me to say Hi to. Wherever I lay my hat, as they say. I'll even sit here and let them come to me on occasion, though I know they're only here for the shopping.

So the annual trip to freezing Chicago all of a sudden doesn't look so permanent after all. Done it twice now, so OK even though I was ill last year (food poisoning in the Windy City! Hooda thunk?) and I haven't yet seen Buddy Guy (a guitar hero since I was 14) jamming with Matt "Guitar" Murphy like some RSNA historicals, I've had a good time there once, no need to keep trying for it again. He's not playing hardly at all I hear. Might even be dead, everyone else is these days.

Instead, it looks like I will have to do a "3rd Man" rerun instead and hit the European Congress, which is held in Vienna in springtime. Ah Vienna! Never been there. Wonder if it will too late to go skiing as well?

SOoooo I haven't planned to stop blogging or anything, it's just that I don't seem to have had much in the way of free nights or days of late. When I was Ill I didn't really feel like writing much, and then back to work for some mega-catch-up and then the weekend off to the AF Grand Final.


When I first came to this island
That I called by own name
I was happy in this fortress,
In my exile I remained
But the hours grew so empty...
(Audioslave; "Out of Exile" - Out of Exile)

Not lately, not so empty, and not this Weekend certainly. Been busy as a one-armed man who is very busy.

Friday night, after enjoying some wine and several beers with Indy at Cuppage and that Scottish bar near Wheelock, and seeing him off for his connubial bliss, visiting blogger Skippy-san FORCED me to head to the 4FoW to see if anything had changed except the prices, but we just bought some pirate DVDs and left early (midnight). Skippy then skipped out (alone, and best wishes for the daughter's wedding). However, just drunk enough to commit the drunk's first degree error of judgement - thinking I wasn't drunk - I skipped on (also sans girl) to the PoW (Prince of Wales in Little India) to catch up with some other intellectual friends for more beers and for a deep discussion of Joyce's "Ulysses" as well as some competitive arm-wrestling to settle issues of etymological accuracy in certain passages of the Oxen Of The Sun episode.

We actually DID talk about "Ulysses"! - and I didn't bring it up, I swear. This guy was immensely impressed that I had read it, whereupon I pointed out that reading it is not quite the braniac accomplishment that the writing of it would have constituted. Finished there about 3:30 am with aching arms from the wrestling contests (won 1 - lost 1). I remember doing arm wrestles in Wanchai one night (early-morning actually in Devils Advocate) and the short-term memory wasn't working well at the time so three days later I was trying recall where the DOMS could possibly have come from - I hadn't been masturbating THAT furiously! Then the image of me and a buddy from Andover (near Boston) playing up for the waitresses slowly formed. Ouch.

Saturday was a re-run of the Grand Final with Aussie meat pies and Aussie beers at Indy's place and we invited Skippy to CARE - the "Compleat Aussie Rules Experience". Or the experience of watching me get excited by Aussie Rules, more to the point. Then, after Skippy skipped out again, gin and tonics were placed in hands and we watched Star Trek (why didn't everything collapse around the red-stuff if it was so gravitationally strong?) until I fell asleep on the couch. But I had to rise and push on as I had BBQ dinner later to attend - and copious beer and wine to be sure - at another buddy's place. Steaks form the Aussie Butcher - where-ever that is - joking - were brilliantly tender and flavorsome.

But man was I rooted last night! Apparently I could finish the end of words properly during the dinner-table conversation. Slurry words drunk, oh dear. Cormie Attaxy, ma'am!

The old body was having trouble coping with those two nights out when I eventually awoke this morning, so I politely avoided the invitation to margaritas at Iguana this afternoon. Those drunken yobbos you saw there, making fools of themselves probably, well the group did not include E@L.

I swear that the joints are rusting, the pipes occluding, the flay-rod out askew on the treadle...


...But the hours grew so empty
And the ocean sent her waves
In the figure of a woman
And she pulled me out to sea.
(Audioslave; "Out of Exile" - Out of Exile)

An old friend sent me an email today offering to introduce me to a female friend of hers back in Geelong... What to do?

There was a time after my divorce when I was realizing how tough it was to survive with a kid in private school on only one (I once thought relatively good) income. The taxes were slogging me and the union's salary-packaging didn't work for me as my home loan was a private one. I started getting a bit mercenary and was consciously checking out the female medical imaging people at the meetings and conferences that constituted 100% of my social life in those days. Where else could I look? I couldn't go out bar-hopping at night as I had a kid at home there needing care and support ("NAT! Get off the computer and do your HOMEWORK!" - Now he is an ace computer programmer of course.)

I recall one night just talking innocently to a lady after a meeting in Melbourne - we were talking about the internal politics of sonography of course - and I remember gradually realizing how pleasantly attractive she was. I had seen her round for years, a nodding acquaintance. Tall, fair-haired, relatively slim (like I can be size-ist!), well-educated and sincere about her convictions, and with a soft, husky voice that rolled nicely off her tongue, giving it immense character. Then for some reason I had caught a chance view of the back of her hand - maybe she was holding a coffee-cup or something - but I noticed how it had started to show the increased crenelations of age, or rather exposure to the elements like the darkroom chemicals we still used in those days. Was she older than she appeared? No, she must be my age. My faint stirrings of interest suddenly dissipated. It was strange. So sudden, so shallow, my reactions.

Later that night, back at home in Geelong, I examined the back of my own hand, something I thought that, hey, I knew. My god, it was graining up too. Little cells of surface wrinkles much more around the knuckles; they had never been there. Even a small spot of melanin, a liver spot or two. I had never noticed these changes on myself before. I always considered the skin of my hands to look and feel young, indeed kept young by the ultrasound gel that I was awash in most hours of the day. Not a working-man's hands. How silly of me. We all grow old, I realized, for the millionth time. Show me a garden that doesn't have fading roses as well as blooming ones.

Next time, next meeting, I would make a real effort to get to know her. And I did get brave enough to invite her for a coffee (or was coffee the first time?), anyway we chatted again... where she excitedly told me how she and her fiance were moving to Queensland for the warm weather (it was winter in Melbourne I recollect) in a fortnight and how she had a great job at a well-paying clinic and how they were going to get married at Seaworld... I led her to her car and she drove away into dark night.

Then I met somebody else... (another novel there.)


And I met the lady with the husky voice in Sydney just the other week. She was exactly as pleasant and nice as she was twenty years ago. She was surprised at how I had remembered her name without having to look at her badge. We chatted, laughed, though we had nothing much to reminisce about really, just our contemporaneity - she WAS my age. And somehow, at some stage I managed a glance at her hands, (the instant I noticed her by the book display, the aging of skin came to my mind - as did her name) how young and supple the glowing skin seemed. There was a wedding band and other rings on her fingers.

- Yes we are the old fogies now, she laughed. You look exactly the same, she lied.

- Right, sure! No hair, twice the size, I said. But you, I said, you look like... (words failed me. She looked great!)

And I thought of what could have been.

And I think again tonight of what might yet be.


[Early readers, hey, sorry for the typos and the ellipses. Hope it reads better now.]

Friday, October 02, 2009


The most outrageous surfing acrobatic move ever! Fucking mental!


Ateth Grayd Eddycashun 1895

Received this in an email. Far be it from me to break the cycle...


What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895...

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie,""play," and "run."
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]

1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, sub vocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguales
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

Also shows you how poor our education system has become and, NO! I don't have the answers

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law," (Preamble - Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


Teacher notes:

Arithmetical Question 1. : Very good Mr Euclid, but what if the universe was a ball or a torus and there were no flat planes or straight lines?

Geography Question 8. : No, Mr Schwarzenegger it is not the warmth of your personality.


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