"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

Monday, 3 October 2016

Question of the Month: Decisions and Regrets

It's time for Question of the Month, where a group of bloggers answer a (hopefully) thought-provoking question. This is the last one I'll be hosting, so I thought I'd make it the most personal. The question is:

"What's a decision you've made in the past that, logically, you know was the right decision to make, but which you still feel guilty or regretful about?"

I asked this because some months ago, my Grandma was diagnosed with cancer. Her health began on a rapid decline that was sometimes hard to watch. She had to have her voice box removed, and had to breathe through a hole in her neck. That unfortunately didn't stop the cancer though, as we later discovered that the rest of her body was riddled with it. Plus, while it was never actually diagnosed, it was pretty clear that she was descending very quickly into dementia. It started with her freaking out that her keys had been stolen and ended just a few months later with her sitting and scowling at the wall for hours on end, unable to walk and only being able to communicate by banging her cane on the ground.

Her kids spent a lot of time discussing how to proceed with this. They knew she would HATE going to a care home and that she would fight against it passionately. She was only ever comfortable when she was at the house in which she raised her family. Eventually, they felt they had to. She was living in that house on her own and she couldn't look after herself. At the very least, the hole in her throat through which she was now breathing (called a stoma) would require cleaning almost hourly, and she was in no shape to do it herself.

Just as they'd predicted, she hated it. She became insufferable and depressed. This was before the dementia had set in, so she would let her family know repeatedly (despite not being able to talk) how awful it was there. So eventually, my dad and his brother decided to do something about it. Despite being incredibly busy people, My Dad, my uncle, and both of their wives worked out a roster so that they could bring Grandma home and ensure that someone could be there around the clock to take care of her. They split it into morning and evening shifts, with the men usually sleeping there overnight. They set up an office space with internet so they could still take care of some of their work while they were there. And, because they just couldn't find anyone who was free to look after her on the Thursday day shift, they asked me (and I agreed) to help out as well.

The nurses at the care home thought we were crazy. They thought it was a terrible idea and were so convinced that she couldn't get the same level of care at home as what she could there, that they even threatened to procure government intervention and keep her there against our will. But a quick bit of research told us that that wasn't possible. So we took her home and began to be care nurses ourselves.

Every Thursday for a couple of months, I would bring my gear over to Grandma's house and do my work there while watching over her. Occasionally I'd take her for a walk in the sun. Every two hours I'd administer a serum to help with her pain. And every four hours, I'd put on some rubber gloves and get her to cough all the disgusting built-up phlegm from her stoma into a tissue. I'd try to find films and music that would keep her entertained so that she didn't bang her cane at me while I was working to point at something that was freaking her out and that I couldn't do anything about. And when the nurses visited to give her her daily truckload of pills, I'd have communicate with the other carers to keep on top of all the different doses of everything she had. It was heartbreaking ever time I had to leave. At 6 o'clock, I'd have to pack up my stuff and head off to host a quiz night. The next person wouldn't be able to come in until 7:00, which meant she'd be on her own for an hour. As soon as she saw me pack up my laptop, she'd jump up and start banging her cane, pointing at the ground to indicate that she wanted me to stay. She'd have a look of terror on her face as if she was about to lose the last person she had left in her life. "I have to go to work!" I'd plead, to which she'd furiously shake her head and point at the ground again. I worked out that I'd just have to repeat that a few times before it sank in and her voiceless cries of "stay here" turned into "when are you coming back?"
"Next week," I'd assure her, but she just got even sadder at that.

The nurses that made the house visits were endlessly impressed with what we were doing. They said they'd never seen anything like it and that they thought we were all crazy (in the best possible way). But eventually, her health just got too bad. We had to put her back in a place where she had access to trained medical professionals. So in early January this year, we bit the bullet and put her back in a care home.

Now, just a few weeks earlier, I'd booked a holiday in South East Asia with my friends. The plan was to spend five days in Singapore, then go to Thailand for another six days, where our friend Brooke would be there celebrating her 21st birthday. It would be the first time I'd been overseas since I was 14, and the first time ever without my family. It would also be my first time travelling to Asia, so I'd get to cross that off my bucket list. I was very excited. Then, two days before the trip, Grandma had to be transferred to a hospital. She'd collapsed and was having unusually bad trouble breathing. I remember being in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, sitting in a family waiting room, while a doctor came in, explained the situation so far, and then, as tenderly as possible, brought up the subject of whether or not to resuscitate her. Dad was shocked by the question and told them to resuscitate her as if he shouldn't have had to say something so obvious. Even though I didn't agree, I totally understood how he was feeling, and I knew it was his call to make. Despite all this, I don't think the thought of cancelling the trip ever crossed my mind.

Then, the day came. We all slept at the house of my friend Kelsey overnight and woke up early to head to the airport together. We checked in our luggage, found our gate and waited there for an hour, at once both nervous and excited. Then... I got the phone call from Mum.

'It's Grandma,' said Mum. 'She's stopped responding. We don't know how long she has left.'
'Oh no,' I said, my mind racing. My friends, aware of my Grandma's current state, stopped talking to each other and listened. 'I... Should I cancel the trip?'
'I don't know Michael, is that possible?'
'Let me make some calls. I need to find out what my options are.'

Over the next 20 or 30 minutes, I made some hurried calls to my insurance company and my travel agent (the travel agent being difficult because Kelsey had handled that for all of us). I was now in a race against the clock to figure out whether I should get on this waiting plane, I abandon it and be with my grandma in her final moments. From what I could gather, I could get a refund if I had to cancel it. But the insurance company obviously couldn't make any promises before a claim was lodged. Then there was the wishes of my family to consider. Everyone always says things like "He/she would have wanted you to be happy," But in the case of my grandma, I wasn't sure. She was clearly very needy, and may have seen it as an insult for me to go off and have the time of my life. And what about her kids... One of my Dad's strongest characteristics is the enormous sense of responsibility he has for his family. Even if my Grandma would have wanted me to take the trip, would he? Eventually, I was back on the phone to my Mum.

'I don't think the money will be a problem,' I said. 'It might even be an option to take half the trip and then if she passes, I can make my way home.'
'I think you should do that,' replied Mum. 'The truth is, we don't actually know how long she has left. It might be hours, it might be weeks. And I've spoken to Dad. To him, it's more important for you to be at the funeral than at her deathbed.'
'Are you sure? I feel the need to be at her side. It doesn't feel right to go off and have fun instead.'
'Like I said, it's more important to us that you're at the funeral. We usually have the funeral about five days after the death, which means you'll have plenty of time to get home. It's what she would have wanted.'
'Well... Okay. I'll go.'
'Stay safe Michael, I love you.'
'I love you too.'
I tucked the dreaded situation into the back of my mind and let excitement flood back again. We got onto the plane left for what would be a very big moment in my life.

Twelve hours later, sitting in my hotel room with the others, having worked out how to activate my new Singaporean SIM card, I called home to let my family know I was safe. The phone was on speaker mode and the others could hear the conversation.
'How's Grandma?' I asked after a while. There was a long pause. Then, through a cracked, wavering voice, my Mum replied
'She's gone.
My friends' grins dropped at the news and I hurriedly took my phone off of speaker mode out of respect for them. I didn't want to bring them down their holidays as well. Apparently she'd crashed shortly after our departure from Adelaide. It wasn't very complicated - her body just gave up and she couldn't be revived. I'd just arrived in Singapore, but now I'd immediately have to make arrangements to get back home.

My Dad agreed to hold the funeral off an extra day so I could enjoy the time I had planned for Singapore and then just fly back home instead of continuing on to Thailand. I had a real blast in Singapore, but it was slightly soured by the constant, frustrating phone calls I had to make over the course of five days to arrange a flight back home in a way that would suit the insurance company. One time I even finished a phone call while setting off on a ride in Universal Studios, trying to hear the travel agent's voice over the loud music and rushing water. But I eventually made it. I arrived home on the Saturday morning and attended the wake that night. At the funeral the next day, I was given a eulogy that my Uncle had written, but was too self-conscious to read out. It may have been the fatigue, or the guilt, or just the combined emotions of everyone in the room, but when I got up and read the eulogy out, it hit a lot of nerves. Many people approached me afterwards to congratulate me on such a moving speech.

I don't regret getting on the plane. My family and I came to that decision together. It would have been nice to be with my Grandma at the last moments of her life, but like we agreed, when didn't know when those moments would come. It could have taken her another three days to finally pass, and no one would expect us to stay there for that long. But I'll always feel a sense of guilt about it. No matter what anyone says, the guilt will be there. It's just something I live with now.

Friday, 30 September 2016


Originally published on April 20th 2016

Part Q of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, where every day this month except Sundays, I'll be talking about things I love - one thing for each letter of the alphabet.

I'm big on quotes. There are a ton of very intelligent, articulate people who can bring truths to light in a way I can't. I did once write a post which outlined all of my absolute favourites. It was part of a bloghop and since I'm a purist, I'll repost it here untouched from its original state - even though there are a couple of new quotes that would likely take a spot on the list today. Only the publish date has been changed (28/01/15).

My new friend Jamie Ayres has thrown down a challenge - write about a thought that has defined your life. She's doing this to celebrate the release of 18 Thoughts, the latest in her series of My So-Called Afterlife books. Since the book's called 18 Thoughts, she invited anyone who's adventurous enough to write out 18 of their own thoughts. That's great, because it would be way too hard for me to pick just one. Here are 18 thoughts that have helped shaped the person I am today. They're in a vague order of importance, with the less important ones coming first and by far the most important two coming last.

  1. Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw the mud, one saw the stars.
  2. You can't stay mad at someone who makes you laugh.
    -Jay Leno
  3. If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space.
    -Stephen Hunt
  4. It's not our differences that divide us - It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.
    -Audre Lorde
  5. A day without laughter is a day wasted.
    -Charlie Chaplin
  6. Things have a better chance of working if you try them.
    -That's one of mine
  7. Like a mountain, a good man can be seen from afar.
  8. Character is higher than intellect.
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  9. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
    -John Lennon
  10. I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
    -Michael Jordan
  11. When men are not regretting that life is so short, they are doing something to kill time.
    -Edgar Watson Howe
  12. Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  13. Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming - "WOW - What a Ride!"
    -Bill McKenna
  14. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
    -Neale Donald Walsch
  15. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  16. Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.
    -Indian proverb
  17. The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.
    -James A Michener
  18. Do you know who Marcel Proust is? French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh... he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you're 18... Ah, think of the suffering you're gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that.
    -Frank from Little Miss Sunshine

This post was a part of Flashback Friday, where we did up an old post that we feel needs to once again see the light. If you'd like to join the bloghop, join the list of blogs below. It happens on the last Friday of each month.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Question of the Month: Your Music

The question was put to us a month ago - Which kind of music best speaks to you?

For me, that's an easy question to answer. I love the pop/punk merge that happened in the 90s. Elements of the rebellious non-conformity that drove the original punk movement in the 70s, but with the much more polished, palatable sound of mainstream pop. I didn't realise until I considered this question that I can relate to that quite closely. For years, my unacknowledged desire has been to fit in, but on my own terms. To be loved, but as a shining minority, not a dull vanilla conformer. The overarching attitude of bands such as Green Day, Blink 182, The Offspring and NOFX was essentially a big "fuck you" to anyone who tried to disagree with what they stood for. In particular I can name examples from Green Day, who are my favourite of the lot. When they released their first couple of albums, they were underground hits, released on no-name labels, that had a niche following among the kids of that scene. In '94, they were approached by a major label who wanted to take them mainstream, to which they said "Yeah alright." Their original fans felt betrayed at the treacherous idea that they would want to fit in with the mainstream, but like I said, the general attitude with thes bands is "If you don't like it, fuck off." The album they released that year was listed at #194 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums of all time.

It happened again late in the 90s when they released what I once read described as "...possibly the most punk thing of all - a an emotional slow ballad." Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) was another insult to the expectations of the masses with its surprisingly heartfelt emotion. And then it happened again in 2004, when the majority of youth were starting to turn to RnB, pop and EDM. They came out with the politically-charged smash American Idiot, causing Rolling Stone to claim they had "saved rock." That turned out to only be temporary, but the point is that at all times, they did what they wanted. What they felt was right. And they did it in a way that convinced the rest of the world to go along with it.

I'm in love with songs like Prisoner of Society by The Living End, which is full of rage at the generation before them. Killing In the Name by Rage Against the Machine, with its venomous riffs and lyrics. The first two bars of Blink 182's All the Small Things alone hold so much power. It's easily the type of music that speaks to me the most.

This song sums it up pretty well.

This was part of a bloghop called Question of the Month, where we answer a question meant to provoke thought and explore who you are. If you'd like to join us, but your name on the list below and I'll email you when it's time to answer the next one.

Friday, 26 August 2016

New Experience Challenge Week 39: Salsa Class

Originally published on 29th Sep 2014.

My friends Brooke and Jerida took up a salsa class last week. As soon as I heard about it, I was in. No reasons, no rationalization, just sign me up and let's go. They were keen to have me on board, because there are never enough men who enroll in dance classes.

The place was at 223 Flinders St in the city. I rushed straight over after my work at the radio station was done. Let's see, 217... 219... 221... I arrived at a building titled something like "German Social Hall". Was this it? I looked at the buildings either side of it. None of them seemed like places that could hold dance classes. A man pulled into the carpark behind me, jumped out and headed into the hall. He was an athletic looking guy with olive skin and wearing a cap. As he got to the door, he stopped and turned to me.

'You look lost mate, come on in.' He must have known I was there for the class. I followed him in and we stepped into a small carpeted room with lots of tables and chairs and a bunch of nerdy-looking middle-aged men sitting around, eating dinner.
'You're here for the boardgame club, right?' He asked.

Now there's something about me that I've never directly mentioned, but you've probably figured out for yourself by now. Whenever anything weird happens, I always wan't to play it out and see where it goes. I guess it's the comedian in me, always looking for a funny story to tell.

'Yeah, I am,' I said to the guy who brought me in, and I got my phone out to text Jerida and tell her I wasn't going to make it.

The men finished their dinners and started discussing which games they wanted to play.
'Have you played Archipelago?' asked the guy who led me in.
'No, but I've heard of it.'
'That doesn't help,' he joked.
'Well, I can learn...'
'I think the other boys are playing Kingsford, that might be a better game to start off with.

I walked over to the other group that had formed.
'Hey boys, I heard you're playing Kingsford over here. Got room for another player?'
'Well we do, but we're not playing Kingsford. We're playing Brass. Have you ever played it before?'
'No, what's it about?'
'It's a Euro game.'
'Oh... I see. Is it a strategy game?'
'Not really.'
'Because I've played a lot of Risk.'
'..................................I don't think you'd find this very fun. Kyle! We need a fourth player for Brass! Are you in?
'Yeah, sure.' Replied Kyle and jumped into the empty chair.

I guess I'd been excluded. I felt like I was back in high school. I faked an urgent phone call and made an excuse to leave, ducking across the hall to where a sign said "Salsa Connection Dance Class". Jerida arrived a few minutes later and gave me a quizzical look.
'I'll explain later,' I mumbled to her as the rest of the class filed in.

Brooke had been held back at work, so it was just Jerida and myself. At the front of the hall was a very handsome couple just casually dancing away while the students arrived. I was blown away by how effortlessly sexy they looked. And a little annoyed that I knew I wouldn't look the same.

There were 6 people in total. The six of us gathered in a group and the man from the couple introduced himself.
'I'm Paul, this is Charli,' He said, motioning to the girl next to him.I had a sudden embarrassed flashback to a similar incident involving a hot instructor named Charli. 'For those who weren't here last week,' (he looked directly at me) 'we'll just do a recap of the steps we covered last week. It shouldn't be too hard to pick up, it's just what we call a basic step, a side step, and a right turn. Then when we continue into the rest of the course, we'll get into more complicated stuff and start working on mixing all the moves in together.'

I gave Jerida a nervous sideways glance. Hadn't she told Paul I was only coming in for a week? I was starting to disappoint a lot of people by only turning up to things for one week and then never seeing them again.

We partnered up and went through the steps. It'll be too hard to explain them, so I'll just let you watch this video. It's a little bit repetitive, so feel free to fast forward through a lot of it.

I picked up the basic step straight away. The side step was exactly like the basic step, except - as you can imagine - done from side to side rather than front to back. I picked that up straight away too. The right turn was a bit harder. I kept moving too much horizontally, I couldn't pivot in one spot like in the video. But it wasn't horrendous, so we were able to move on. We were told to partner up and everyone naturally went to the person that they came with. Paul put on some music and we tried doing some of the steps with our partner. Then he paused the music, gave us a few more tips and told us to switch partners. Oh geez, way to make this uncomfortable. I made my way around the room to a girl who I think had been there a few times. I grabbed her hands (or she grabbed mine, I can't remember) and we did the same thing again. I'm sure you've been in a situation like this before. Whether you've been put through dance classes in primary school or high school, or if you taken dance classes yourself... But it's often very, very awkward. I could only half concentrate on the steps because I was too busy trying to figure out where to look. If I was more self-confident, I think I'd just have looked into her eyes, but as it was I could only last a few seconds before it felt creepy, so I would turn to look at the instructors. Then I would look back at the girl. Then I'd find a spot just above her head. No, then she'll know that I'm trying to avoid looking at her... I eventually settled on looking at our feet, to make sure that we were doing the steps right. Um......... okay, maybe that's too long. I'll look back into her eyes again. Oh, that's enough, back to our feet. Finally the music stopped and we were told to switch partners again. I moved around the circle to a girl named Kate, with whom Jerida was good friends. We held hands and started dancing and I was annoyed to realize that she was staring at a spot just above my head. What, did she not like me or something? Why couldn't sh stare at our feet like a normal person? The song finished and we moved back to our original partners. Paul turned from the middle of the room to congratulate me. 'You've already got a great sense of rhythm. You know where the beats are and when to step.' He must have seen my blank expression, because he followed it up with 'You'd be surprised at how many people come in and can't find the rhythm. It actually takes them weeks to pick up. But you've already got that part, so it's easier for you to learn the rest of it.' I didn't quite know how someone could not know where the beat of a song is. I did once hear that when a man gets older, he loses his sense of rhythm as a way of advertising that he's no longer fertile and shouldn't be mated with. So I guess Paul was complimenting me on my fertility. Thanks Paul. The final thing we learned was a move I think he called a crossover. It's where the man basically steps aside and lets the woman step over to where he was a second ago. Then he steps back into place where the woman just was. All without letting go of each other's hands. I'd like to tell you how much trouble I had, because that would have made it more interesting. But unfortunately, I was picking it all up quite easily. I certainly don't think I made it look sexy. But I didn't embarrass myself. And in the end, isn't that all that matters? We made our way around the room again, putting all those things we learned into practice. I found I was getting better at looking into my partner's eyes without feeling weird and so was Kate. I still had a bit of trouble with those right turns though. As I made my way from Kate back to Jerida, Charli came and intercepted me so she could give me some pointers herself. 'Just try and pivot on the spot, otherwise you're stepping too much into the girl. It's like "Woah, hello!"' she said. We tried it out and I ended up making it worse, I was thinking too hard about it (I over-analyse things) and it meant I couldn't keep up with the music anymore. 'That's okay, this one's a fast song,' she said. But could tell she was really thinking "It's okay girls, no need to mate with this one anymore!" The song finished and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Paul congratulated me again on being able to pick up two weeks worth of classes in one and encouraged me that in the next few weeks I'd be able to flip a girl over my head if I wanted to. I realized I still hadn't told him I was only here for one week. What was I going to do? Disappoint him? As I left the hall, ducking past the window so the boardgame players didn't spot me, I thought about all the things I'd done in this challenge up until now and what the point of the challenge was. Jerida said 'I'm coming back, with or without you. I love it.' I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I'd found it a lot of fun too. 'I guess I'll see you next week,' I said.
This post was part of the monthly Flashback Friday bloghop, where participants dig up an old post that needs to see the light again. I found this one pretty funny, so I brought it back up. In the chronology of my New Experience Challenge, this came a few weeks before last month's post on pole dancing.
If you'd like to take part in this too, it happens on the last Friday of the month. Just join the list below so all the other participants know where to find you.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Is It Racist: Apu

I've heard the accusations made, particularly in the early seasons of The Simpsons. Apu is the Indian character in the show who works practically non-stop at a convenience store in Springfield. It plays on a stereotype that many of the people in those positions are also Indian. Does that make Apu a racist character?

My answer is no, and here are four reasons why.

The term "stereotype" is very often linked with bigotry. It can pigeon-hole an entire demographic into one key characteristic. But I would say that isn't always racist. The stereotype has to come from somewhere. In my experience, the vast majority of convenience store workers, taxi drivers and bus drivers I've seen have indeed been either Indian or Middle-Eastern. But there are two ways to acknowledge that. One is to say that all Indians work at convenience stores. I think that's the racist way to go. The other is to say that all convenience store workers are Indians. Of course that's not totally accurate - I do know Caucasian people who have that job - but I think it's far better than the former.

Second, there are many jokes made on the show that are based around Apu's Indian ethnicity. And this is something on which I can comment more authoritatively. When The Simpsons came to my country, Australia, they took every stereotype and observation they could and ramped them up to an insane degree. Some Australians were offended. Most weren't. The majority recognised the kernel of truth inside each joke and understood that the rest was just hilarious exaggeration. It wold be exactly the same in the situation of Apu.

Third, like the rest of the characters on the show, Apu has a lot of depth. The Kwik-E-Mart is a big part of his character, but that's because he loves it. He lives to work and loves the idea of American democracy and capitalism and everything else the country stands for. He's often more politically aware than his Caucasian counterparts. He goes home to his strong, intelligent Indian wife and his eight (eight) children, who all have subtle differences in their personalities.

And fourth... How many other strongly Indian characters do you see on television? With the exception of Raj from The Big Bang Theory, I can't think of any. The fact that here is a character with a very strong, undiluted display of Indian culture, attitudes and mannerisms is a fantastic thing to promote diversity. It acknowledges that there are people who are vastly different to their white American counterparts. Sure, they could have made him a suited lawyer character, someone who's high on the social ladder. But I think that would have been much less helpful than what they did. We've seen it with the African American people of the US. During the civil rights movement, there were black people wanting the same respect, opportunites, rates of pay etc as white people. But there were also people saying "No, fuck you. We don't want to be a new generation of white people. If we're going to flourish, we'll do it our way, on our terms." Now, thanks to that and to characters like Apu in popular media, people who are minorities in their own countries can thrive without having to give up their culture.

Friday, 5 August 2016


I found out a while ago that there's a few people in my umpiring group that see me as being opinionated. I was sitting in the change room after a match and my co-umpire asked me what I thought of the whole Brexit situation. I hesitated before giving my answer.
'Ah... No strong opinions,' I finally said. I was definitely interested in the situation but I didn't have a clue how it really affected me or the people in those countries. My co-umpire bawked.
'What's this? Michael without an opinion? I never thought I'd see the day!' he boomed. I found that perplexing.
'What? When did I get this reputation of being opinionated?'
'Our coach reckons you are. And you're always going on about your quiz nights.' Not wanting to be too argumentative, I left it there.
'Yeah, I do talk about that a lot, I'll give you that,' I said, giving a fake laugh. I decided not to ask him how on Earth talking about one's passions could translate into that person being opinionated.

When I left the change room and went off to my next thing, I felt troubled. I wasn't at all sure why. I don't view being opinionated as a particularly bad thing. It's people who have uninformed convictions or people who drill their opinions onto others that you want to steer clear of. In fact, I've often found myself wishing I was more opinionated. I tend to just be an impartial observer in most situations. I won't take action until I have all the information I need to make the right decision. I assume nothing and if I do assume something, I eventually realise it's an assumption and factor that in my decision-making process. I do love that about myself, but sometimes I just wish I was like everyone else on Facebook who seem so sure of the difference between right and wrong and where they stand in it.

So why did it bother me to be called opinionated in such a matter-of-fact way? Was it because I didn't think it was true? Was it because maybe it was true? Maybe I couldn't see it from my position - like when I friend has to tell you you have something stuck in your teeth, I was being opinionated the whole time and just couldn't see it. I eventually realised that that was the problem - I, like most people, work hard to control how the rest of the world sees me. Somehow, I was doing something that gave off this impression that I'm opinionated. And without knowing what it was I was doing, I couldn't stop it or control it in any way.

Coming to understand why that accusation had made me feel that way was great, but it didn't alleviate the feeling. It took me a couple of weeks to feel okay about it, and it took a number of events to gradually achieve it over that time.

First there's umpiring. When I give a free kick during a game of football, it's very rare for the infringing player to agree with my decision. No matter how blatant the free kicks are, during the game I'll get constant complaints from the players, the coaches and the spectators - even the spectators of games involving 9-year-old kids. It's a constant bug-bear of mine, but those people just see events in a way that I never will.

Then, I was listening to a podcast that talks about each episode of The Simpsons. The podcast has a segment where they talk about what people were saying on the internet at the time the episode first came out. The comments are almost exclusively overly negative. From as early as season 2, people were proclaiming every episode to be the worst ever and that The Simpsons was coming to an end. They said the worst bits of the show were the bits that we now view as absolute classics (think "knifey-spooney" from Bart vs Australia and Sideshow Bob with the rakes in Cape Fear).

Third, it came up during conversation that when I was much younger, my Dad would get it in his head that I'd done something wrong. It didn't matter what evidence he had - it would often be as little as he saw something out of place and assumed I'd done it. I could swear black and blue that it wasn't me, but the stronger I protested, the angrier he'd get and the more trouble I'd be in.

This all brought me to a realisation - sometimes, people will just see things that just aren't there. No matter what you do or how hard you try, there will still be people who see things in a way that's so far out of how you see it that it's like their opinion came from outer space and asked to be taken to your leader. I never like proclaiming that some opinions are just plain wrong, but for my own sanity, I need to accept that it's sometimes the case. I had no clue what I was doing to give the impression that I'm opinionated, and that's because I wasn't doing anything. That small group of people just made something from nothing. Now it no longer bothers me, it just makes me laugh.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Question of the Month: The Best Beach

It's time for Question of the Month, where we answer a question and then visit each other's blogs to see what everyone else answered.

This month's question is a simple, easy one.

"What's your favourite beach?"

I'm lucky to come from Australia, where 90% of the population live on a coastal city. Australia's one of the cleanest places in the world and we get a lot of sun. And because we're such a big country, you can get a good variety of Summer climates - from the dry, searing heat of Adelaide to the humid, sticky heat of tropical Gold Coast, to the more English-type semi-heat of Hobart.

In my home city of Adelaide, my first choice of beach is Glenelg (pictured). It's the biggest social hub on the coastline, with the delightful Mosley Square just behind it.

With its rows of palm trees, pretty fountain, restaurants (both fast food and sit-down) and well-designed levels, it's a great place to hang out and grab an ice cream. It's the most accessible beach we have - not only is it right at the end of ANZAC Highway, just one road that connects it directly to the CBD, but it's also the terminus for Adelaide's only tram (I know, right?), which gives it an even bigger feeling of importance.

There used to be a major attraction at Glenelg called Magic Mountain, which was essentially a mini fun-park. They had dodgem cars, bumper boats, mini golf, arcade games and I believe there was also a type of cable car which users would propel through the building with bicycle pedals. the Mountain has since been sold off and demolished, and was replaced a few years later with a new building called The Beach House. It's more modern and as far as I can remember, a lot more expensive. It looks better from the outside, but for me it doesn't have the same charm as what I experienced in early childhood.


That was fun to answer. If you'd like to join the bloghop, put your blog in the list below and I'll email you the new question when it comes time. It takes place on the first Monday if each month.

Friday, 29 July 2016

TED Talk Tuesday: Can We Create New Senses for Humans?

(Originally published on Oct 27, 2015) (Tuesday)

I'm scared of technology. I'm one of those people who feels like we're making new technology faster than we can how to use it. I see stories all the time about new technology that can make us super-human or allow us to live forever. I worry that that will in turn make us inhuman - that we'll slowly strip back our own humanity until we essentially become The Matrix.

On the flip side, I don't want to halt progress completely. Just because I'm worried that Wall-E will come true doesn't mean we should accept every shortcoming we have. That robotic pair of legs that can allow a human to jump 50 feet in the air... It can also give a soldier new life when his own legs are blown off in battle.

So where's the line? I have a theory that we should establish what it is that an average human can and can't do. Any technology that helps those below the average to join the rest of us (people in wheelchairs, blind, deaf, dumb etc) should be supported and encouraged. Any technology that helps the average human become decidedly above average should be discouraged.

The thing that's talked about in this video falls squarely into both of those areas.

And I'm ALL for it.


This post is now part of our Flashback Friday series - a day we set aside to revisit an old post that needs to be revisited,

I used to do this series - TED Talk Tuesday - because I would often see TED Talks that really opened my eyes to new ideas (as is the intention). I stopped after a little while because they were getting very few hits and really ever any comments. But not before I found this gem that taught me the new word "umwelt" and helped me to apply it to much more psychological situations.

If you'd like to join Flashback Friday, just join the list below. It takes place on the last Friday of each month.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Go Again

So this Pokemon app is getting bigger. this happened in Central Park recently when word got out that there was a rare Pokemon all over the area.

What I find interesting about this is the reactions of the public. They range from hilarity and jealousy over not having been there themselves to doomsday lamentations. Just in case you were thinking otherwise, the fact that this pointless game has taken over the world is not an indication of the de-evolution of the world.

I totally agree that the points this person raises are conversations that need to be had. But not all the time. The world needs just as much of this as it does of that. As soon as the balance tips too far one way or the other, that's when it becomes a problem.

Contradictively though, there's just no way I can get behind the popularity of the Kardashians.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Pokemon Go

I've managed to keep this blog going on a regular basis for two and a half years now. I've pushed through idea slumps, lack of readership and having 601 jobs and still managed to find time to keep this going. But now Pokemon Go has arrived in Australia and it's become the biggest threat to this blog since it started.

Any time I've got free time (and sometimes when I don't), I think to myself "I could be catching Pokemon now. I, like most of the players of the game, want to be the very best, like no one ever was. And I am doing pretty well. I'm at level 15 with a couple of Pokemon over 1000 CP. I've seen 65 Pokemon and loaded 63 of them into my Pokedex. That's reasonably close to half of the Pokemon that are currently available in the game.

I love this thing. It gets kids (and young adults) out of the house like nothing else has ever done. It's combined video games and fitness in a way that many have tried to do but ultimately failed (think the PlayStation Eye Toy, the X-Box Kinect and to a lesser extent the Nintendo Wii). And it's so much more social than I would have thought. On Monday I went to Unley with my friends Mitchell and Kelsey. We hung around the oval eating pizza, watching the Sturt Football club train and catching Pokemon as they appeared. After we finished our pizza, we got out of the grandstand and headed for the outside of the stadium, and we found it was surrounded by people who were also playing the game. They'd set down lures and were co-ordinating on which Pokemon could be found where or complaining about how hard some of them were to catch etc. There were dozens of them and I'm pretty sure I spotted some people I know.

I should have seen this coming. I've been intending to put some money in the stock market for a while. I knew this game would be popular, but it didn't click that its popularity would affect Nintendo's share prices. But in just the first week, the company's shares went up so much that the company as a whole became 10 billion dollars richer. That's right, billion. In a week. I certainly missed that opportunity.

Here are some pics  of my adventures so far.

Monday, 11 July 2016

History Is Repeating

Friday, 8 July 2016

Entering the Digital Age

There are different methods of periodisation - the tendency to separate human history into arbitrary, non-overlapping blocks of time. You've got pre-history, then the stone age, bronze age and iron age (often viewed together), then the middle age all the way up to the industrial age. From my small amount of research, it seems that these shifts in the times are caused by major advances in technology. The stone age began when early humans first learned how to make tools out of rocks and wood. The iron age came when we learned how to smelt, making weapons, building structures and trading in it. After we learned about the ways in which fossil fuels could be burned to create energy, we created the first steam powered engine and suddenly we were in the industrial age. Everything became faster and more hungry for power and things were produced at a rate never before imagined.

The general theory is that sometime in the mid-20th century, we left the industrial age and entered the information age. I think that's close, but not quite right. Because in the 1990s, there was an advent in technology that changed the whole direction of mankind just as much as the steam engine, the blacksmith and the wheel.

The internet.

Whether you're very young and have lived with smartphones your whole life or very old and complain about the young people's dependence on them, there's a very, very high chance the internet shapes your life in some way. I call this the digital age - the period beginning in 1990 when a computer scientist took a developing "network of networks" and turned it into the world wide web. Our dependence on the internet exploded after that, to the point that just a quarter-century later, we have toasters that are communicating with kettles, TVs that can download movies and supercomputers that have all of the world's knowledge in our pockets. One of my favourite stories is from 2012 when I took a trip to Perth, Australia. I went into a store to buy some new board shorts and couldn't decide which one to buy. So I took a picture of myself wearing each of them, sent them to my friends back in Adelaide (2700 kms away) and got a response from them by the time I left the changeroom. I love the digital age.

But what I find really interesting is that I'm at a weird age where I grew up with the very last of the analogue era. I'm just old enough to have held a cassette recorder next to the radio when I wanted to keep a song for future use. Failing that, the only music I'd hear came from the CDs that I bought, which I would listen to on my Discman. The same goes with analogue cameras. We would take holidays overseas with our bulky camera, looking through the viewfinder at the top to work out how it would look. I would be sternly warned "Don't open the back!" else we'd lose the last few shots we'd taken. I remember getting prints back from the chemist and only then would we know if the photos had turned out alright. My formative years were still in that time where you would call up your friend on a landline phone and talk to them (using your actual voice) for ages. If your friend wasn't home, it would be unlikely you'd be able to contact them until they got home and called you back.

I wonder all the time what it must feel like to have been born just ten years later than I was. People older than me grew up in a world where the internet didn't exist at all. That shaped their lifestyle in a certain way. People younger than me are growing up in a world where the internet controls and runs everything. That shapes their lifestyle in a certain way. Me, I'm in this weird half-half generation, where the internet existed, but hadn't yet taken over. It must be similar to how people feel if they were born after the first 9/11 or the first World War. Growing up in a world where events like that have already happened would have a vastly different feeling to being in a world where they haven't yet happened and are therefore unimaginable.

I've generally embraced the digital age like many who are older than me have not. I log into a lot of things using my Google account, I stream TV shows from Netflix right to my phone or to the TV with Chromecast, and the moment I driverless cars become a reality (and I can afford one) I'll get one. But on the other hand, I'm very slow to embrace most new technologies. My gaming console requires a separately sold device to be able to go online, I only discovered and bought my Chromecast a couple of months ago and I'm usually one of the last to try out a new social media service or app. It's a weird place to be. But it's also kinda fun.

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