"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Friday, 29 May 2015

AFL Shenanigans Round 8: Headlines

Somehow Matt keeps doing one better than us every week. But he had a debt to pay off from last week, so he had to take part in this week's challenge anyway.


Friday, 22 May 2015

AFL Shenanigans Round 7: Shirtless in the Cold

We dialed it back a bit after the horror show that was last week's challenge. Matt and I both lost and were asked to clean Adam's car in our bathers on a very cold Autumn day. It was a lot less eventful, but it still didn't go the smoothest...


Friday, 15 May 2015

AFL Shenanigans Round 6: Cat Food

This is by far the most horrible thing that any of us has had to do.

And Matt's the one doing it.

Hee hee!


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

While We're Here

I've always taken my parents as a constant, permanent factor in my life. I've never considered what life will be like after they're gone. I haven't always agreed with them - in fact, I rarely do - but that won't change that fact that once they're gone, I'll probably feel lost.

A parent's job is to teach their child how to become a healthy, productive member of society. Their guidance is like a lantern leading you down the dark path of life. Sure, they don't always know exactly where they're going themselves, but they've had a long head start to figure it out. For as long as they can, they lead us down the paths they know to be safe. Then their light goes out, and it's up to the child to pick up a new lantern and start leading the way themselves. Some children lose their bearings and start wandering down a different path, one that could lead to anything. Most will sadly but confidently pick up their lantern and continue bravely down the same road..

I act as if I don't need the light in front of me, but I do. I'll never really know the extent of what my parents do for me. The day their light goes out, I'll likely be scared and full of doubt. But I mustn't lose track of the path I'm on, because by then I'll have my own child. One who needs me, relies on my lantern for guidance. I'll lead the child as best I can, but then my own light will go out. If I've done my job right, the next lantern that the child picks up will be brighter than mine. And the next one will be brighter again. And so on until the whole world is lit and there's no darkness any more.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

AFL Shenanigans Round 5

The horror!

I lost the betting again. Stupid Giants, going down to the Eagles. Adam tied with me as well, so he had to do the challenge too. We had to be egged. We filmed it on Wednesday night and, well... Well, the video explains what happened.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ask An Aussie


Ask An Aussie is this blog's first joint venture! We here at the Think Tank got together with Cherdo On the Flipside for a big cultural exchange program. Cherdo got some schoolkids to ask some questions about Australia. I answered them. Exciting, right??? Check it out!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bonehead Bloghop

A new blogging initiative from the wonderful Cherdo, who resides in a mysterious, magical place called "The Flipside". She invites us to share a moment of real stupidity, a time where we acted like a real Bonehead.


The first time I ever went travelling without my family, I was 18 and had traveled to Sydney with my best friend Dimi. On the first night we were there, excited by the spot we'd found ourselves in, we decided to have dinner at one of the extravagant restaurants that overlook the gorgeous Darling Harbour. We picked an Italian restaurant that had a really nice, warm, classy-but-modern design (and hot waiters). But looking at the menu, I started to have second thoughts. $20 for an entree? $7 for a glass of Coke? What did they take us for, high society? I worked for three cents an hour at KFC, I couldn't afford that! I eventually convinced myself (and Dimi) that if we had come all the way to Sydney, we may as well live it up. No point in skimping out now. So I ordered an entree, a main course, a drink and a dessert. I'd deal with the consequences later.

Well... Turned out there was a very good reason the prices were so high. The portion sizes matched accordingly. As soon as my entree came out - a full-sized bowl of mini sausages that easily could have been a meal on its own - I knew I was in for a rough night. I ate the entree without any trouble, but then the main course - a schnitzel as long as my forearm with chips and salad - came out and that's when it got tough.At about the halfway point my pants started to get a bit tight and the food started to become less enjoyable.

I hate wasting food so much. I'll often eat stuff from other people's plates so that it doesn't get thrown away. I sat there painfully forcing each bite into my mouth, slowly watching the size of the schnitzel go down. I'd eaten the chips and salad and had asked for the dessert to come early. I figured having a Sundae would be a lot easier than scoffing a schnitzel, so it would make a welcome break. I was right, but it didn't make going back to the schnitzel any easier.

In the end it beat me. I didn't even have that much left to go, but I was sure that if I'd had one more bite I would puke. I rested for as long as I could before painfully waddling up to the front counter to collect my bill. $65 dollars. My pain worsened.

The thing is, I didn't really learn my lesson. I carried that free-spending attitude throughout the rest of the trip, I still haven't learned that high prices often mean big portions and that meal is no longer the most expensive meal I've ever bought.

I guess it's a fun lesson not to learn.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Question of the Month (Launch)

A little while ago, I brought up the idea of a new bloghop called Question of the Month. Well, now that the dreaded A-Z Challenge is over and we've all run out of things to talk about, I think it's time to get it up and going! Here's how it will work:

We'll answer the question on the first Monday of each month. The question will be available via the tab at the top of this page and through an email I'll send out to all the people who have signed up. With every question, you've got to explain your answer. So for example, the first question we'll be answering is:

If your house caught on fire, what's the one thing you'd grab before running out?

Sure, you could just say "My purse" or "My toothbrush", but that wouldn't be enough. Why would you take your toothbrush? That seems like an awfully weird choice.

The signup list is below, as well as the badge to put on the post. The first one happens on Monday June 1 - schedule it in now!




Sunday, 3 May 2015

Fear of Failure Week 13: Teenagers

I had my first umpiring session at the new club this week. I went there feeling quite nervous - I'd carved out quite a comfortable spot at the old club. I got given games every week (which isn't a guarantee) despite having to work when most of the games are on. When I won my award, the rest of the umpires were all genuinely pleased for me and like I've mentioned, the coach asked me to come back in a leadership role if I was available this year. Now I had to start again and I wasn't sure how I'd do it. Most of the people in footy umpiring are teenagers and most teenagers tend to dislike things and people for no reason. I know I did it when I was younger.

The club trains at a big private school called Sacred Heart. The school is so big that it takes up about two blocks. I found a carpark just as training was meant to start at 6:00 and then spent another 15 minutes weaving my way through the overly-extravagant buildings, perfectly-manicured lawns and even fountain, trying to find the oval where the club was training. When I finally found it, they were right in the middle of a drill. The kids were handballing a football around and yelling at each other in that obnoxious way that footballers (particularly young ones) do. There was an older man, possibly in his late twenties or early thirties with a shaved head and a very fit physique hovering around the edge of the group, placing cones and barking out occasional instructions. That must have been James, the man I spoke to on the phone last week. I carefully tried to approach him without attracting too much attention. I reached him, introduced myself, apologised for being late and then did a warm-up lap of the oval while the group finished their drill.

When I got back, the group was gathered around James, who was trying to explain the next drill. But he was finding it hard because the kids kept yelling jokes and insults at each other. They were certainly jocks. I kept silent, wondering how to behave myself. It's no secret that I was scared of being rejected by this group. Even if they were people who I wouldn't be friends with otherwise, how much could I really enjoy being at the club if they decided they didn't like me?

The next question was what was I going to do about it? Should I bound up to people and introduce myself, trying to start up a conversation. That would certainly confront my fear. Should I stay silent and withdrawn until someone else approaches me? That may never happen. As we split up and headed to our marker for the drill, I caught the eyes of three boys who were chatting and laughing away. I tested the water with a simple "G'day boys." They stopped talking and one of them suspiciously said "Hey" back. He was a mid-height boy with a young face, swept brown hair and a red jumper. Discouraged, I left it at that.

So it was that during the whole drill, I played the strong, silent type. I carefully watched each person perform their drill while all the people behind me mucked around. When it was my turn, I put in a big effort. Fitness gets respect around these parts. I stuck with that persona even though it was clear that nobody else was taking it as seriously. When James called us back in to explain the next drill, the other boys just kept on playing with footballs and hurling funny insults at each other. I watched both James and the boys, figuring them all out as best I could.

Finally, as we waited for our turn in the next drill, the person behind me spoke.
'Are you new here?' he asked. He was a skinny kid with a small head and short brown hair.
'Yeah, I'm Michael,' I said, offering my hand. I realised that now that someone had broken the silence, I wasn't nervous at all about talking to him. That thought put a big grin on my face.
'I'm Liam. Is it your first year umpiring?'
'No, second. I did a year at North-East Metro last year.'
'Right, how old are you?'
'23.' That probably made me the oldest person training there that night. 'What about you?'
'I'm 14,' said Liam. I was surprised, he looked 15/16 to me.
'And how long have you been doing umpiring?'
'Four years.'
'Wait, so you started when you were ten?' I asked incredulously.
'Yeah...' he said as if he couldn't see why I was surprised. The person in front of me - a taller guy wearing a Crows jumper and a backwards-facing cap over his messy black hair - leaned over.
'Have you been here four years?' He asked just as incredulously.
'Yeah,' replied Liam just as confused.
'How long have you been doing it?' I asked.
'Just two.'
'I'm Michael, anyway.'
'Nick.'
'Have you umpired any of the Auskick games at the AFL?'
'Yeah, but I prefer the SANFL. In those ones, you get paid.'
'What, really?'

We carried on talking until the drill was finished and even as we walked back to get more instructions from James. Once there, we were joined by two other guys - an enormous guy who also had a backwards cap and the guy with the red jumper who I'd spoken to first. They immediately restarted the ribbing. But then the big one paused and grinned at me.
'Hi, I'm Barry,' he said shaking my hand.
'Michael,' I returned, then turned to Red-Jumper. 'And...'
'Riley,' he replied distantly. Okay so it was just this guy who had a problem.

From then on, it was like I'd been there for a few weeks. I made sure to keep paying attention when James talked and when others were doing their drills. But I also started to rib the boys I'd met, and they found it funny. More importantly, they allowed me to rib them. It shows a level of familiarity when, during one of the drills, I paid a free kick to Barry for no reason and he and Nick actually got that it was a joke. Barry laughed and demanded the ball and they kept on playing. At the end of the training session, James brought us back in again to give his final notes, and then the group disbanded. I busied myself trying to find my registration form to hand to James, and I heard Nick, Barry and James talking.
'Picking Lewis as your captain this week James?' smirked Barry.
'Of course mate.'
'What do you think of Goldstein for captain?' asked Nick.
'No way in hell.'
They were talking about Fantasy Football - something I'm VERY interested in and spend an unfortunate amount of time per week working on. This was a great turn of events.
'The Traders reckon Goldstein will be the top pick for captain,' I piped up. 'Do you know The Traders?'
'Yeah, I follow them, but I'm not convinced.'
'So you've got a Dream Team?' asked Barry.
'Yep!'
'Are you any good?'
'Nup.' The boys laughed. I get between 17-1800 each week.
'Well that's not bad, it's better than Captain Ablett over here,' he said indicating Nick. I won't bother explaining that one.
'Have you got Lewis?' asked Nick.
'Yeah, but apparently he gets low scores against North Melbourne.'
'Have you got your team on your phone?'
'Sure do.' I took out my phone and Nick and Barry went through it, making smart-ass comments about the players I had. We chatted a bit longer and then their ride turned up and they had to leave. I'd made some solid friends that night.

So what did I learn from this? I learned that tackling my fear of failure by diving head-first into it isn't always the smartest option. What's more important is just being comfortable. Somehow I figured out that if I stay quiet and watch for a while, opportunities would present themselves. And that turned out to be the right call. I can't wait to go back next week and let Nick know what a dumb decision it was to pick Goldstein as my captain. I'll probably get a nickname out of it.

Friday, 1 May 2015

AFL Shenanigans Round 4: Finally Wore that Bloody Dress

Alright, so many people asked for it. I was the one who got stuck with it.

Matthew and Adam had all the same tips this week. I differed on three of the games. The first was on the Friday, where the Demons beat the Tigers. Everyone was saying it was an upset, but I thought it would be obvious to tip the Demons. I was full of confidence after that, needing to win only one of the other two to win the round.

The next one was St Kilda vs Carlton. I tipped St Kilda, who were leading at half time. I started going around, telling everyone how well I knew my football, then Carlton ran over the top of them to win by 40 points. I looked at my computer screen with discomfort as I realised that my third tip was for the Swans to beat the Dockers in Perth. The Dockers hadn't lost at home in over a year, but I just thought that they had handled Port Adelaide so easily in Adelaide (also a tough assignment) that they'd go in as favourites.

The Dockers killed them.

To be fair, the Swans launched a comeback and the last few minutes of the game were heartstopping. But they couldn't make it and I lost the round.

Here's what I had to do.


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