Yearly Archives: 2005

last call

Today is the day I like to spend goal setting and planning for the next year. I’m not given to new years resolutions which last 15 minutes or less – I tend to take time putting the ideas together, and when I’ve got them where I want them I go chase them down. Like big game hunting, as Dennis Oliver from the YMCA used to say.

In the past I’ve set goals like getting down to a certain weight (never to go up, I might add), to do something like study (that’s how my masters degree came about), to go somewhere (which is how I came to take my mother at age 81 to China and on to Denmark).

This year – for 2006 that is, we’re already plotting and scheming – there’s Blog Hui in March, and I’m quite keen to indulge in some further travel – I’ve never been to New York before, and I’m thinking it’s high time. I have an urge to create a new blog, to develop some better css skills, to learn some php, and maybe find a gap to complete some other study. I was going to do some university study, but I think it’s time for an interlude from that – just for the moment as there are some practical things to explore.

This has been a hard year for me, but some really good things have come to pass – may there be many more for us all.

 

casting bread upon the waters

I’ve blogged previously about casting bread upon the waters, this is a slightly different concept. I went fishing today. I’m not given to torturing fish for ’sport’ but fish for the table is another story. My bro-in-law gave me the call and away we went to go fishing with Pete Lamb. I’m something of a fishing duffer – before today I have caught in fresh and seawater the following: my jersey, my fingers, my hat. The wharf. Seaweed. Trees. Rocks. You might notice a singular lack of piscatorial protein. Uncle Joe says catching fish is a bonus, it’s all about the day and the experience. Um, yeah.

As we pull away from the wharf I did have a fleeting thought about how perhaps taking sealegs tablets might’ve been wise. As it happened, I was absolutely fine – there was supposedly a one metre swell – I don’t know how this is measured, but the waves looked rather more than one metre to me. It took about an hour to get out to the hapuka/grouper reef, and despite a number of my colleagues turning that subtle green shade unique to sea sickness, followed by a vigorous casting of bread I felt fine. Chirpy, in fact.

We paused on the grouper reef, and the guys started to gear up for fishing. And my world went green – and I joined the party on the side of the boat. Wierd – felt fine, my body just needed to download big time. Meanwhile, on the other side of the boat, Steve hauled in a huge grouper – a real ripple of excitement amongst the guys – a grand looking fish, gathered while drifting across the reef. (You can email the photo as soon as you like, Steve)

We got underway again back to the reef, and I immediately felt better. We paused again, and the guys geared up. I felt the urge to visit the side of the boat again. By this stage I’m feeling slightly stupid and somewhat unsteady on my feet. One of our colleagues had vanished into the cabin not to be seen until we touched land some six hours later. More fish are landed and we get underway again. I perk up as the boat starts to move.

The boat pauses. I head to the side of the boat – what is with this? While the boat is underway I’m all good. When the boat stops I’m seasick. Bizarre – I don’t feel sick, my body just has this urge to mark its territory on the ocean. Needless to say, I left the fishing to the others – I’m not about to do war with a big strong fish while just trying to hold everything together.

After five passes (and me communing the ocean four times) we headed back to more sheltered climes for lunch. Lunch? Yummy, yummy. The reality was, once again, once the boat got underway I was fine and when we anchored in the lee of Mana Island I was ready for lunch. We did some fishing in a couple of spots and although I didn’t catch anything for the table I did at least mostly manage to avoid catching myself, the boat, or the ocean bed. That’s huge for me. John and Pete dealt to the fish and we were all sent off with plastic bags of shared booty, including our pal emerging from the cabin now pale, instead of green…

So, what did I learn from all this?

  • Sealegs tablets just might’ve been an investment – planning ahead might be good.
  • Pete and John run a good ship, and it was a great day, despite the breadcasting.
  • It was a real lift after talking to John – here’s a man who’s found his niche and loves doing what he’s doing.
  • The only times I’ve seen guys being genuinely supportive of other guys is when fishing is involved – everyone has good luck and bad luck and there’s not much you can do about it – you’re all in the same boat, so to speak.
  • I loved the amazing blue colours of the ocean.
  • I loved the birdlife – gulls, shearwaters, and mollymawks.
  • My ancestors, who came out from England in 1841 in a small sailing ship, were made of sterner stuff than I am. Although it is unrecorded if they participated in drift fishing for grouper off the coast of Wellington.

And to my fellow green men, thanks for your company. It was a great day, and I’m keen to go again, perhaps with just a notch more planning on my part.

 

frigate it all!!!

Back in November I blogged about the new svelte frigate tied up at Wellington wharf. On the 26th we drove around Island and Houghton Bays to Princess Bay for the biennial family photos, and I wondered aloud to my wife about what life has already arrived on the frigate F69. I was pleased to find reported in the NZHerald on the very next day (27 Dec) that the frigate was already supporting various forms of sealife from algaes through to the higher fishes including schools of red cod and juvenile fish of other species. Some of the algaes are expected to reach a metre in length in the next few months. The frigate has already had some 400 dives. Photos of the fireworks are available from NZPress Association.

 

attack of the drones

Just spent a few moments reading the links that show the latest postings on the edublogs.org blog site. I like to stop by from to time to see what people have been thinking and writing. Not surprisingly it’s all been a bit quiet lately – people have been participating in life instead of blogging.

But not everyone.

I notice there’s a drone (perhaps drones) who has felt the urge to open a number of new blogs, potentially rich in content, but not in this case. They’re entitled ‘Getting started for Online Business’, ‘SEO Strategies’, ‘Online dating tips’, ‘Cosmetic Surgery’, ‘Direct Mailing Tips’, ‘Pet Training Tips’, ‘Home Mortgage Tips’, and ‘weightloss’. Now I’m sure James will have a policy about this somewhere, or will make one up pretty quickly, so you’ll have to be quick to see the nothing that is there.

And that, for me, is the real problem. The nothing, that is. It’s not that I’m opposed to these topics at all – there’s a time and a place for everything. I’ve been interested in all these topics at some stage in my life. It’s that you can capture the content in about a paragraph or less – at times, part of sentence encompasses all of the information required for success.

Let’s have a look –
Getting started for Online Business
Find something someone online wants to buy. Agree on a price. Do the transaction. Get paid. Do it again. Account for it once a year. Pay tax on the profit. Do it again.

SEO Strategies
Write clean code. Use meta terms. Write valuable content so other people link to your writing. Do it again.

Online dating tips
Write well. It’s a skill the Victorian’s valued. Your dick isn’t 8 inches long (you’re not supposed to measure from your belly button). It isn’t as fat as a coke can (you’re supposed to take your hand off before you wrap the tape around). Respect, respect, respect. The person you’re getting down and dirty with is probably a guy.

Cosmetic Surgery
Find a qualified surgeon, listen to their counsel and have them modify your body as you see fit. It is possible for things to go wrong. That’ll just serve to make you more interesting. Everything dies eventually and in the scale of the universe your obsession with the way you look is deeply meaningful. Or not.

Direct Mailing Tips
Get something of value to others. Write about it well. Send mail the cheapest way possible. There’s a good chance it will not be valuable to most people, but some will be interested. Do it again.

Pet Training Tips
Most people can’t train themselves. If you’re not getting the results you want, ask yourself what’s being rewarded. Reward the behaviours you want, don’t engage with the ones you do not. Do it again and again. It is an animal, it may have a higher IQ than you.

Home Mortgage Tips
Get the lowest interest rate for the longest time. A quarter of a percent is a big amount – don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not. Get a second job and apply every penny against that mortgage as soon as possible. Sell all your unwanted and unnecessary crap and apply every penny against the mortagage. With a minimal extra effort you can cut tens of thousands off your mortgage over its life. I did this on my first house and pulled a 25 year mortgage down to a 10 year mortgage in five years. I saved over $65,000 – I couldn’t have saved that amount in five years. Well worth the effort. It’s important you act within the first five years to get the most impact, but it’s never too late to start. Re-finance to a different bank if you can get a better rate. Don’t be afraid to be a mortgage slut – treat banks with the same respect that you do a parking space – if you can get a better one closer, take it. They will treat you with the utmost contempt, you should treat them likewise. They are there for the sole purpose of making money out of your debt. Get out of debt. Again, get out of debt.

Weightloss
Eat less. Exercise more.

 

family tree

The Sevelj Gedye Miliszewski family portrait 2005 - yes, five people, four surnames.
Grafting together a family isn’t that easy, especially when you’re trying to graft a new branch into an established tree. We’re still a work-in-progress – just like your family – but we’re getting there.

This photo is from our Boxing Day family portrait at Princess Bay. We decided we’re water people and we wanted shots of us with active water happening. Photo by Neil Mackenzie. I have to do a real plug for Neil (he’s paying me gazillion$ for saying this) – unlike many creatives I’ve worked with, Neil’s a real pleasure to work with. He is very open to working with you to get the images you want and his professionalism is outstanding. His portfolio range is extensive – if you’re in the market for images drop by his site and give him a click. He has taken photos of other people too, but I have absolutely no idea who they are. They’re certainly not as good looking as us.

reasons to be grateful

Queen of the NightXmas Eve. It’s been a huge year for us. We’re all pretty exhausted, but happy and healthy and we can’t ask for more that that. There are some things I am especially grateful for, and this seems like good time to note the changes.

We’ve had fulltime work for a full year each. Our jobs have their ups and downs, but at least there’s a positive cash flow.

Mira’s had a productive year exploring art and creativity and is showing great promise. Damian has also been exploring his creative side, and we’ve only had a couple of trips to emergency facilities. Zofia has started to make numbers her game and that’s been interesting.

Marica and I have taken trips to Sydney and Brisbane and met some interesting new friends, and caught up with old friends.

I’ve been more concerned with trying to lose weight than wonder where the next meal is coming from.

More worried about the pile of paper about to be torn from the presents downstairs than being able to afford a gift at all.

More worried about a scratch on the car paintwork than being able to have a car at all.

I finished my masters, and got great marks for my final research.

We’ve had some health panics this year, but we’re all still here.

And then, this evening, one of my favourite flowers, the night flowering ‘Queen of the Night’ (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) cactus opened. These flowers are pollinated by moths in the wild. The flowers are as wide as a hand spread, and have the most heady fragrance – they want to be pollinated big time. If only blogs supported fragrance!

It’s been a very good year.

last ‘working’ day

beer - it doesn't get better than thisToday is the last day – well, half day in the office. I’ve got work coming out my ears and then some. It’s better not to think about the content of the image to the left here. It’s truely better to just knuckle down and try to get on with it. I really understand the initial appeal of alcohol – no matter how hideous the hangover, the day-to-day work manages to make it attractive.

Already I’m making plans for 2006 – I’m beginning to look around in Australia and New Zealand for a meaningful option or two to commence my PhD – more about the impact of education in another posting. I’m still in recovery, possibly in need of psycho-babble, in a post masters mode. Study comes a huge price these days – quite apart from the loss of money, there’s the loss of earnings while you study, and unless you’re a kid you’ll never see than money again. So much for lifelong learning. It’s quite over-rated as a formal exercise and severely under-rated informal activity.

We definitely need more interesting teachers, working informally, to allow for a better educated and thus enriched society. Happiness is what we need – and there’s scientific evidence to support this now.

black cat, white cat

Today, my blogpal, James Farmer was obviously happy that the anti-racism march in Melbourne had gone well. James was less than impressed with earlier race riots in Sydney.

I think James is right. There’s every reason to be scared. It’s sad and it’s bad. I’m far enough away, here in New Zealand, to have an opinion. Oh yes, a ‘how I had nothing to do with it but what I think about it anyway’ kind of opinion. It’s my blog, my opinion. If you don’t like it, click off. Or, better still, write your own blog, especially if you are an Australian. Get in closer and tell the stories the media is unwilling or unable to tell.

Group think and mobs are scary. Racism is ugly. The worst part (and the hardest part) is, none of us is immune. I think we’d all be liars if we haven’t thought or voiced an opinion of another person (usually not within their hearing) based on their ethnic origin. Typecasting, forcing people into our preconceived pictures of what the world should look like, and be like. We’ve all done ugly things in our past that on our best days, our clear thinking days, we wouldn’t do. Sadly, not every day is a clear thinking day.

I’m not trying to make excuses for the excesses in Cronulla, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s just that the contributing factors that combine to facilitate hateful actions are easier to exploit by individuals plumbing the worst aspects of human behaviour than to turn to the overall good of humanity.

It’s easy for fear and ignorance to join up with drugs, alcohol and high temperatures to turn neighbours against each other. Australia is a country, and Sydney is a city, with huge variation in incomes and future prospects. It wouldn’t be too difficult to miss some education, get stuck in a stinking dead-end job, know that the odds of winning lotto are next-to-zero and be fully aware that affording decent housing means an unobtainable mortgage that looks more like a phone number. Frustration would well up when images of the good life and the beautiful people continuously spew out of the tv. And so the one thing you can enjoy is a beer at the beach – something that’s just about hard wired in the Aussie genetic code. If you’re un- or under-employed in Aussie it’s not a fun place to be. It’s really easy to get the gnawing, grinding feeling in your gut, and you know you’ve done all the right things within your experience and your culture, and it should be ok, but it’s not.

And so, lashing out at anything is an answer. A dumb answer, maybe, on clear thinking days, but an answer. Because, maybe, with a tv camera and a moment of wit and grit you can become one of the beautiful people. And if not beautiful, then at least on tv. The guy James notes was not beautiful. But that is the reason why his image was there. Naked hatred, fear, lust, rage, and frustration bellowed in sound and body language. So what did he want?

Clearly, he wanted to be heard. I believe he wants to feel valued.

It doesn’t matter what our ethnic origins are, what our skin colour is, what our religion is, what we eat – everyone is different. I believe we are a culture of one, and this, for me, is the true value of blogging. The one thing I thing I think is universal to the utmost majority of humans is we want to feel valued. We want to feel needed, appreciated, listened to, and that we, as individuals, are of some value in ourselves.

I’m don’t think John and his government listen carefully enough to the people he represents. New laws make it more difficult to communicate with a government that’s not listening. Closing down a valve doesn’t reduce the pressure, it builds it. It’s correct to suggest, John, that the riots are not purely based on racism fueled by sun-ripened drugs and booze. It runs deeper than that.

You’ve got a huge number of young people born in the late 70s, 80s and 90s that you’re attempting to shut out. They’ve missed the post war booms. They haven’t had the same opportunities. They’ve not got the experience or the resource base of the baby boomers. They’re confronting intergenerational poverty. They’re working in boring roles in factories and offices where a machine could make them redundant tomorrow, and probably will. No matter what training or study they’ve done – if any – odds are it’ll be meaningless in five years or less. Whatever promises have been made, or alluded to, are shallow, hollow shells. They’re sick of the sham. They don’t give a rat’s arse about your politics or your grey-haired ambitions. They’re feeling undervalued, and unlistened to. They feel powerless.

Except for the things they can do. Power corrupts, so does powerlessness. They can get out their cellphones. They can get booze and drugs. And they can build on the pseudo-patriotism they get fed through the media. And in the absense of real opportunity and real role models, they will find some way of working out their frustrations, be it through vandalism of their bodies or their environment, or attacking people who look different.

I don’t think it will end easily and quietly. Bush fires can jump ahead, leaving areas untouched and seemingly safe. But the smouldering menace continues.

John, don’t minimise Carcass’s clarion call. Listen. While you can.

 

the land the internet forgot

Finally! A computer, internet access and the time to write a post. I’m in Brisbane at the moment, at the ascilite conference. I’ve moaned loud and long, before today, about internet connections in New Zealand. I’m feeling quite guilty about that now. Our hotel – by no means scungy in any other sense – has an internet connection (note: singular as in one) on the fourth floor. A staff member has to set it up for me and then it’s $20/hour. That’s it. I can’t even use dial up from my room. One of the delegates was saying their hotel offers internet at .55 cents per minute.

Edvard Munch's Scream from www.briansp.com It’s pretty easy to spot the kiwis here – the newly arrived ones are doing this jaw grip Edvard Munch ‘Scream’ thing. The old hands are the ones either furiously swapping notes about how to get at unsecure wireless, or, those laying in a sort of fetal position quietly weeping with their mouse finger twitching spasmotically in some pathetic attempt at a cargo cult. I noticed most kiwis heading for the airport haven’t turned off their laptops, merely slipped them into sleep mode, so they can start connecting the second they land.

The other angst causing thing in these post 30o temperatures is beer is amazingly difficult to buy. In restaurants and bars, no worries; but I find myself craving 10 minutes in Thorndon New World – and I don’t think I’ve ever bought beer there.

Of more major concern is – and don’t get me wrong – I love Aussie, and have worked here etc etc, I’m appalled at the feeling of closing in-ness. I know that sounds really scientific, but the way the newspapers that get dropped outside the hotel door are written seems to be so moralistic and suppressive – I’m amazed at the change in the atmosphere. This isn’t the Australia I know and love, this really is beginning to feel quite oppressive.

I feel a bit vile about this post – I’ve mocked the internet access, the beer access, and now I’m saying the papers sound like they’re the mouthpiece for some police regime. Perhaps it’s because Australia is more open and people aren’t afraid to say what’s going on. Maybe there is a huge terrorist threat. No-one would want that. It just feels quite strange and different – and it’s not that long ago that I was in Brisbane. The new sedition laws were passed last night. I completely understand how hateful and hideous it would be to have a terrorist attack at the commonwealth games – now less than 100 days away.

I also felt a bit stupid because I didn’t actually know what sedition was. I had to google the meaning. According to wikipedia.org:

Sedition is a deprecated term of law to refer to non-overt conduct such as speech and organization that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often included subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

I think these are more than a little worrying. This blog posting might be considered ’seditious’. I was talking to a delegate here at the conference today – I’m now too afraid for both him and I to mention his name – and he mentioned that blogging was banned from schools because they (note to self – who was ‘they’?) can’t control what the kids were saying. I nodded at the time, because I understood what he was saying. Now I’m becoming paranoic and wondering how seditious my blog is. What if I wrote something two years ago. It’s got a whispering hint of ‘1984′ meets ‘Brazil’…

I’m sorry, Australia, I can’t get past feeling there’s a worm in the bud. I feel sad about this because I genuinely believe this is one of the best things on the planet. Kiwis – stay calm – I said ‘one of the best things’. If Australia is our cousin, I feel a bit like my cousin has joined the scientologists or the moonies or something. They look the same, but things are not as they were. The medical system seems to be absolutely filled with rot – there are frightening stories about teens dying of head injuries after waiting for hours for medical treatment, and then being given the wrong drugs and then – wonder of wonders – the medical records have vanished. Got lost. If Tui sold here they’re have to have digital billboards, because it seems there’s a ‘Yeah, right’ news flash at least twice a day. Lost, indeed. Except the Tui ads could be construed as seditious.

The other thing that astounds and frightens me here, and I guess it’s as bad in NZ, but kiwis don’t talk about it in such a public fashion – and that is the level of personal debt. In the paper today there’s a story about an average aussie battler (his wife didn’t work), earning between $A30-40,000, with over $10,000 spread over 10 credit and store cards, with an average of over 18% interest. A third of an annual gross income on your credit card? Mate – what if you get sick? Or made redundant? Talk about living in a fool’s paradise – but it seems Aussie as a nation is doing much the same – borrowing from overseas plus importing more than it exports. Sounds a lot like NZ in the 60s-70s-early 80s while Rob Muldoon was in power. A recipe for disaster, both nationally, and as a personal financial approach.

music filled the air

I somehow must’ve been out having a leak or a walk or something when they handed out the music gene. It’s not that I don’t like music – I really like lots of different music – eclectic tastes that’s what that’s called. But somehow the making of music seems to have eluded me. At school I missed the hip music of the 70’s by listening to Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream, Beethoven, Wendy Carlos, and the like. In the early 80s punk chundered and left. Reggae smoked through. And now it’s all of the above, along with oodles of Penguin Cafe and a dash of Mozart.

Today my wife arrived home with a selection of cds – Enya’s Amarantine, and Fat Freddys Drop – Based on a true story. Lovely music, to add to our ever expanding cd collection – our friend Cathy sent us Flowers in Song, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cathy is there, selling art and culture, stop by and buy – goowan, you know you wanna. At the gift shop, ask for Catherine, and tell her I sent you.

Meanwhile, in the corner of my mind, rarely shared, is the part of me that looks at recycling bins and sees musical instruments, looks a daikon and wonders what they’d sound like with a recorder mouthpiece shoved in it, what sounds would a cucumber make with a clarinet reed poked in, and whether I can record and loop and scratch and play my electric toothbrush. I want to grab sounds and make them my own. A sort of middle class middle age middle earth deep forest. I’m thinking: Shallow Suburbia. Accompanied by lawn mowers. Blenders. Electric toothbrushes. Alarm clocks. Cellphones.

What music is hidden in our lives? Perhaps I wasn’t out when the music gene was handed out, perhaps they just dropped it, wiped the dust off and – *bing* good as new. A bit like the sausage off the barbeque – blow the dust off and yummy yummy.