24 December 2007

Not a hiatus, as such

I'm on Christmas holidays now and I'll be spending at least two weeks in Adelaide, starting yesterday. During this time I will have reduced access to the internet and reduced inclination to write blog posts, so while I will endeavour to keep this blog alive with minor tidbits, the reality is that you may not hear from me at all for up to three weeks. Despair not however, as normal service will resume by mid-January at the latest.

Meanwhile, here's a joke to keep you going: What's green, has six legs and would kill you if it fell on you from out of a tree? Answer: A billiard table.

18 December 2007

Kiss me, I'm Irish

My mum is Irish, my dad is Scottish, I was born in Scotland and I have Australian citizenship. Whenever people hear my accent and inquire as to my nationality, my standard response is that I'm half-Irish, half-Scottish and half-Australian. It usually gets a good laugh, but I said it to a guy last week and instead of laughing he thought for a few seconds and then said, "You're probably more Irish than you think".

12 December 2007

Wendy killed my nickname

I'm not bitter about it, but I've really only had one decent nickname in my life and I liked it a lot, and Wendy quite inadvertantly killed it off. (Marty, as a shortened form of Martin, doesn't count because they're practically the same thing.)

When I joined the army at the age of 18, my fellow soldiers gave me the nickname Scotty because of my Scottish accent. I quite liked that and soon started referring to myself as Scotty. You just sort of do that without thinking about it. You get used to being known by the nickname and it comes out automatically whenever you meet someone. I became so used to it that being called by my real name seemed strange, almost wrong. Of course my family still used my real name, but they lived interstate and by the time I left the Army, all of my friends and colleagues knew me as Scotty. Most of my friends didn’t even know my real name.

After I left the Army I moved back to my home state and started attending university. I was still calling myself Scotty and all my classmates knew me as such. One of my classmates introduced me to a friend of hers called Wendy. My classmate thought that Wendy and I would make a good couple, but we didn’t really hit it off in that way. We became friends though and had lunch together every Tuesday. Wendy has a personal policy of never using nicknames. I suspect that is because you can’t make anything out of Wendy, but I don’t know for sure. Anyway, my classmate introduced me as Scotty, but Wendy started calling me Scott, thinking that must be my real name. I said “I'm not Scott, I'm Scotty.” She said “I don’t use nicknames.” and I said “Well my real name isn’t Scott, it’s Marty.” So Wendy calls me Martin. Shortly after that, Wendy introduced me, as Martin, to her friend, Debbie, who later became my wife. So Debbie and her family have always called me Martin.

Now Scotty is dead and Wendy has moved to Tasmania.

08 December 2007

Back by popular ambivalence

Sorry, but I just couldn't stay away any longer. Also, I've found a free utility that can tell me whether my random ramblings are being read or not, so I won't be in the dark any more. I am also encouraged by the fact that no one has posted any comments saying "Please don't come back and write any more nonsense, pea-brain". So here I am.

Naturally I am determined to post on a more frequent basis than before but I can't make any promises. Quality is more important than quantity anyway, so if I go for a week without posting just be glad that I'm not telling you what I had for lunch yesterday or what colour my co-worker's new hair tie is.

If you like what you read, please post a comment to let me and others know. Your comments are always welcome, but they are moderated to weed out spam, automated comments and personal criticism.

Tally ho!

19 October 2007

So, that's it then.

It was fun while it lasted.

Perhaps I'll return one day and write some more.


09 October 2007

Who are you?

Recently I've bumped into a few people who have said things like "I've been reading your blog and I think it's great." which is nice because I always hope to write things that people find entertaining, but for some reason, very few of my posts have attracted comments from readers. So whenever I post something here I never know who has read it, or even if it has been read at all.

So I'm asking everyone who reads this post to click on the "comments" link below and let me know that you are there. You don't have to have a Blogger account to leave a comment, and all you need to say is something like "Hi, this is Marty in South Australia". Feel free to plug your own blog if you like. If you want to remain anonymous, please at least tell me where you live.

I have a mental list of people that I'm hoping/expecting to hear from and most of them don't know each other, so it could be interesting for you to see who else reads this blog aside from yourself. I would also be interested to know if there is anyone reading this who doesn't know me personally. So come on, don't be shy. Take a minute to introduce yourselves and let me know that I'm not just talking to myself.

Thank you.

28 September 2007

Giant stuff-up

After years of wanting to watch Giant, starring James Dean, I finally bought it on DVD the other day. The disc is double-sided and in my experience that means that the disc contains two copies of the film; a regular television-size version on one side and a widescreen version on the other side. I couldn’t tell which side was which so I just put the disc in the machine and pressed 'play'. At the end of the film I was a bit confused about the plot and there seemed to be a lot of gaps in the story line. I knew that Giant had been nominated for several Academy Awards, and James Dean’s performance greatly lauded, but I couldn’t see why. There were just too many unanswered questions.

I pondered this for a while and then had an “uh-oh!” moment. I put the disc back in the machine – the other way up this time – and my suspicion was confirmed: I had watched only the second half of the film.


24 September 2007

Accomodation recommendation

If you're ever in Adelaide you absolutely must stay at my brother-in-law's place in Campbelltown. They have a very comfortable mattress-on-the-living-room-floor-with-sleeping-bag arrangement and the best spaghetti bolognese ever. The toilet and bathroom are clean and well stocked, but you'll have to share them with six other people, so there is often a queue at bedtime. Throughout your stay you will be offered plenty of cups of tea, coffee and cold drinks accompanied by various snacks and, once the younger kids have gone to bed, there's chocolate.

Breakfast is a do-it-yourself affair, but there is plenty of choice and you have a full kitchen at your disposal. I opted for porridge followed by a cup of coffee and it really hit the spot. Other options include various breakfast cereals, toast with jam or vegemite and even bacon and eggs, but be prepared to clean up after yourself.

The location is superb with a park, playground and even a Torrens River walking trail, right across the street. It's a short walk to the Paradise Interchange and from there you can catch a bus to just about anywhere in Adelaide. Without looking at a timetable, I went into the city and out to Tea Tree Plaza a couple of times each, and I never had to wait longer than 15 minutes.

The whole house exudes a warm, welcoming atmosphere and I am very grateful to my brother-in-law and his family for their kind and generous hospitality. You guys rock!

17 September 2007

Cruel Runnings

The race starts with a surge as 10,000 bodies strive to cross the starting line all at once. I'm caught in the middle of the throng, trying to find my rhythm as we slowly press forward. I feel like I could walk faster than this, but with the crowd so tightly compressed there is nowhere I can go. I wait for the front-runners to race away and open us up like a concertina unfolding. The 2007 City to Bay fun run is underway and, after a sketchy preparation, I'm wondering if I'll make it to the finish.

We go about 200m before I can start to run at my own pace and I'm reminding myself not to go too hard too soon, as people of all ages race past me. I know that some of them will keep up the pace all the way to the finish, while others will be regretting their strong start by the time they get to South Terrace. We pass through Victoria Square at the 800m mark and I see two runners dashing off to the side to use the public toilets. Why didn't they go in Elder Park before the start?! I went before the start and I'm glad I did because I drank a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water before I left the house.

Just past the 2km mark we turn onto Anzac Highway and something feels very wrong. My lungs are burning and I realize to my horror that instead of controlling my rhythm by singing 'My Sharona' by The Knack in my head, I have actually had Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk' running through my brain. My pace has been way too fast and I'm now exhausted with 10km still to go. Bother! Come on, focus! Shorten the stride. Get the rhythm right. "Ooh my little pretty one, my pretty one..." Try not to collapse.

By the 4km mark I'm feeling completely drained so I grab a cup from the water station. Drinking from a cup while running and struggling to breathe is harder than you might think. I don't think I actually got any of the water into my mouth; I did, however, get quite a lot of water down the front of my shirt, shorts and legs. Great! Now I'm exhausted, wet and cold and my calf muscles are starting to ache. Runners are passing me in great number. That stretcher at the SA Ambulance emergency aid station is looking decidely comfortable. But I press on.

At the 7km mark the pain in my legs has spread to my shoulders. I catch myself daydreaming about lying on the grass at the side of the road. Come on! Snap out of it! "When you gonna give me some time, Sharona?" What can I feel brushing against my leg? I look down and see that the bandage that was supporting my right knee is starting to unfurl. By the time I grab the loose end, about two thirds of it have come undone. Another two steps and it would have been gone completely. As it is, there is just enough bandage left to support the knee, but only if I hold it tight. Now I'm running with one arm swinging and the other one holding the loose bandage. I feel very lopsided. Two teenage girls behind me start giggling. I would tell them off, but I'm hyperventilating and incapable of speech. I've also just had another frightening revelation: I need to do a wee.

There are toilets at the finish line, but none along the way, so at this point stopping would actually be worse than continuing. I try to run with my legs crossed and I feel like I'm sort of run-hobbling, holding the bandage, trying to push through the pain which is now also in my elbows, and trying hard not to wet myself; maybe if I don't think about it it will go away. "Doo-doo doo-doo doot doot - MY SHARONA!!" Sweat is running down my forehead from beneath my hat and into my eyes. Ten-year-olds are cruising past me. Just...keep...breathing...

At the 10km mark I spot two ambulance officers with a first aid kit. Hallelujah! I stop and ask them to cut and tape my recalcitrant bandage, which they do, and I quickly rejoin the race. I guess that the stop took about 20 seconds, but I feel like I can easily make that up because regaining the use of my right arm has given me an amazing burst of speed. I've caught my breath a bit and I only have to contend with the pain in my chest, legs, shoulders, elbows and now my ankles, being cold and wet, and trying to suppress the increasing urge to relieve myself. There is only 2km to go and I want to cover them as quickly as I can. I pass a slowing ten-year-old and think "Take that, Girlie!"

By the 11km mark I feel like my entire body is going into melt-down. My recent burst of speed has drained the last of my energy and my entire body is aching. I even feel pain in my eyes as I try to peer through an ocean of sweat. My only thought is to keep putting one foot in front of the other without collapsing. 'My Sharona' has never been sung this slowly. Eventually, to my great relief, I see the finish line in the distance. I try to open my stride to give the impression of finishing strongly, but only succeed in losing my balance and very nearly falling over, but for an impromptu, flailing, pirouette.

I stagger across the line and a wave of euphoria washes over me as I feel my jelly-like body slam head-long into the ground. Two ambulance officers rush to help me but by the time they arrive I have already regained my footing. I brush aside their offers of assistance and bob up on my tiptoes to survey the landscape. My exhaustion, dehydration, aches, pains and bruises must take a back seat while I attend to something much more important. I call out in search of the man who has become the best friend of all those who have a pressing, desperate need. "Kenny!! Where are you Kenny?? Kennnnnnyyyyyyyyyyy!!"

08 September 2007

Death By Jogging

I went for a 10km run today as part of my training for the City to Bay fun run in Adelaide next weekend. I enjoy running but it was tough today for a couple of reasons.

Whenever I go for a run, I head North from my house along a straight road for half the distance I want to cover, then I turn around and run home. Today I ran North for 5km into a strong head wind which is harder than it sounds. Of course, when I turned around I had the wind at my back, which made it easier, but I'd had to work a lot harder than usual to get there.

At about the 7km mark I was really huffing and puffing when I did one of those rhythmic farts that comes out a little bit more each time your foot strikes the ground. By now the wind was at my back and it blew the fart forward so I could smell nothing else for about 10 or 12 steps. Remember - huffing and puffing - I nearly collapsed on the road, choking on my own fart. Yuck!

03 September 2007

OK, so maybe I'm not quite as FREAKED OUT as I said I was.

I just wanted to see what sort of reaction I would get. As far as I know, only one person fell for my little fairy tale. While the photo of the "ghost tram" is a genuine, 35mm, single exposure image that has not been "photoshopped", the story of how I took it was entirely made up.

Well, not entirely; I was wandering around Victoria Square at 1:00am looking for things to photograph in black and white, but the tram was already at the station when I got there. I asked the tram driver when it would be leaving and he said "In about two minutes." I quickly set up my tripod, lined up the shot, focussed the lens and tried to guess what exposure time would give me a good result. I figured about 30 seconds would do it. All I wanted was to capture a clear photo of a stationary tram, using the ambient light.

Using my watch to time the exposure, I pressed the cable release to open the shutter and waited. After about 20 seconds the tram driver closed the doors and, about five seconds after that, the tram started to roll slowly out of the station (away from me). I thought my photo was probably ruined, but I also knew there was a chance that it would look good. I left the shutter open for about another 15 seconds just to see what would happen.

I was taking photography as a University elective at the time and I developed the photo in the University dark room. As soon as I had a developed print I brought it out of the darkroom to have a good look at it. Aldo, the lab technician, was there and when I showed it to him he said, "You've finally impressed me!". That made my whole week. This all happened in October 1994 and 'Ghost Tram' is still my favourite photograph.

24 August 2007

I'm officially FREAKED OUT!

I know this is unbelievable but I swear it's true. I took this photo in Adelaide two weeks ago and it's freaking me out.

I had gone to Victoria Square at about 1:00am with black and white film in my camera to try to take some interesting night shots. The fountain had been switched off and there was no one around, so I was wandering around the tram station even though I knew that the trams stop running at 11:00pm. It was cold and nothing was happening so I was about to give up and go home when I heard what sounded like an approaching tram, but there was nothing coming along the tracks. The noise got louder and louder and I was peering down the tracks to try to see the tram but there was nothing there. Then suddenly there was a flash of light and I saw a tram about 20 or 30 metres away and hurtling toward me at about 80 to 100km an hour. I quickly raised my camera and snapped this shot and then felt the force of the wind from the tram rushing past. I turned to watch the tram speed away but it had disappeared. I sat on the bench for a long time, scratching my head and trying to figure out what had just happened. I left at about 3:00am and traveled back home the next day.

As soon as I got home I sent my film away for processing and the prints arrived today. Like I said, it's freaking me out. I swear to you this is a single exposure photo taken with my 35mm SLR camera and it has not been altered or "photoshopped" in any way, and I have the negative to prove it. Even if you don't believe in the supernatural you have to admit, this is pretty bizarre.

07 August 2007

Parting shots

The Education Department in a particular Australian state that shall remain nameless, sends one of two standard form letters to employees who resign. I know this because when I resigned they sent me one of each.

The first one said, rather cryptically, that because I had left under unfavourable circumstances (huh?), if I was to seek employment with the department again in future, those circumstances would be taken into account, reducing the chance of my application being successful. This puzzled me greatly, because I thought that I had left on good terms. Then I got the second letter.

The second letter said that the department was sad to see me go, that I had been a highly valued employee and that if I was to seek employment with the department again in future, they would love to have me back.

You can guess which letter I kept.

24 July 2007

Tax refund

My wife got an unusual letter from the Tax Office the other day. It said that they had reviewed her tax return from last year and that this letter was an 'Amended Assessment'. Since my wife didn't receive any income in the last financial year, she didn't pay any tax. This Amended Assessment lists my wife's income as $0.00 and the tax payable on that income as $0.00. This is no different to their original assessment, but just to ram the point home, they enclosed a refund cheque for 'nil'.

That's right. The government spent 50 cents on a stamp to send us a cheque for nil. Your tax dollars at work, people.

But that's not all. Yesterday my wife got another Amended Assessment letter from the Tax Office. It was identical to the previous one. Income: $0.00. Tax payable: $0.00. Another refund cheque for 'nil'. So far they are up to a dollar in postage to send us nothing.

When we deposit these cheques, I wonder how long they will take to clear.

13 July 2007

The latest model

Looking much like all of the previous models, the newest arrival seems quite relaxed about joining the clan.

Born 9 July 2007, weighing 3.9kg (8lb 9oz), and 52cm long.
Mother and baby are doing well. Father is a bit frazzled from looking after the rest of the tribe and making daily trips to the hospital.

04 July 2007

Oh Brother

Whenever I eat a meat pie, I always put some tomato sauce on the top and smear it around with my index finger. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, although it makes my wife grimace in much the same way that she does when I lick the dirt off the soles of my shoes.

I had a pie at my brother's house one time, and as I went through my sauce smearing ritual, I noticed my brother and his wife exchange glances that silently conveyed a complete conversation. Her look said to him, "You've got to be kidding me! I can't believe what I'm seeing!" while the look on his face said, "See?! I told you! It's perfectly normal behaviour!"

18 June 2007

That's just weird, man

Pregnancy does strange things to women - ask any dad. We all know about the cravings for strange foods, like pickles with ice-cream, but there are other, lesser known effects that are often quite bizarre.

My brother-in-law once told me that pregnant women don't get jokes. I have since observed that phenomenon myself. I've also noticed loss of memory, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, incoherent speech and insensitivity to freezing cold weather. But the strangest pregnancy-related malady I have encountered happened just the other day. Actually it happened during the night but I only found out about it when I woke up that morning.

When I got up my wife said to me, "I woke up at two o'clock this morning and couldn't get back to sleep because THE HAIRS ON MY LEGS WERE HURTING."

Seriously, she had to shave her legs before she could go back to sleep.

Now that's just weird.

04 June 2007

The name game

The Banana clan is set to expand early next month, so it’s time to think of baby names again and it seems to get harder each time. It’s not hard to think of names that we like; the hard part is thinking of names that my wife and I can agree on. Girls’ names aren’t a problem, but there's always the chance that it could be a boy and we can't seem to settle on a boys’ name. If I had my way it would be Elvis. My wife would rather just about anything other than Elvis.

I once heard a stand-up comic say “G’day, my name’s Brian. At least I think that’s my name, although sometimes I wonder if my parents just made that up.”

Whenever the kids ask what we're going to call the new baby, I tell them that we will just wait until the baby is born and then ask it what its name is.

For the last few weeks we have been referring to the new baby as Epponnee-Rae, but that’s mostly for the kids’ amusement. We can’t really call it that, especially if it’s a boy. Our older son refuses to call it Epponnee-Rae because he wants it to be a boy, so he calls it Seamus. Strangely enough, our son wants it to be a boy while our girls all want it to be a girl. The logical consideration that we already have more girls than boys and that another boy would balance the ledger, while another girl would make us further lopsided, doesn’t seem to enter their thought processes.

Our youngest son has no opinion – he is completely unaware of the impending arrival of a new sibling, so he’s going to get a big surprise.

So if you have any good baby names lying around, particularly boys' names, feel free to toss them my way, but beware: any suggestion of a name that is predominantly used as a surname in our society (e.g. Taylor, and variant spellings thereof) will be met with a cocktail tirade of brimstone and bile.


28 May 2007


Yesterday I was at my Mum and Dad’s house playing darts with two of my brothers. After about five or six games they started paying me out quite savagely because I hadn’t won a game yet. Mum said it was good that they were paying me out because it meant they weren’t paying her out, which is more usual. Then my wife asked me if we would be finished soon because she wanted to hit the road. I said I would just finish the current game.

Mum thought she would join in my brothers' fun and said "It’s a good thing you didn’t say you would just play until you won a game, or you’d be here all night."

My brothers immediately seized the opportunity to turn on Mum:

"I was almost going to say that but thought it would be too cruel."

"What a horrible thing to say, Mum."

"Have you no concern for people’s feelings?"

"It’s bad enough that he can’t win a game, without someone rubbing it in like that."

...and various other comments. It was hilarious.

12 May 2007

I'm angry

I've spent most of this week trying to stop the mattress from escaping from my bed. Actually, I was in bed because I was suffering from the mother of all migraines. I have had migraines before, and they were horrible, but nothing like this. If you don't experience migraines then I don't expect you to understand. If you do, then you may well be saying "I feel your pain, Brother." but you don't. Unless you have spent four days with your head in an ever-tightening vice, throwing up everything you tried to eat or drink, then been admitted to hospital and put on an intra-veinous drip, wishing the whole time that someone would cut off your leg with a hacksaw to take your mind off the agony, you haven't even felt a pin-prick of my pain, so stop whining.

For me, the worst thing about migraines is that there is no rhyme or reason to them. Some sufferers have identified their own migraine triggers, which they can avoid, but for most of us there is no known cause. It's just random; they attack without warning and with extreme prejudice, and that's what makes me angry.

For most things in my life there is cause and effect. If I have a hangover, I drank too much. If I have sunburn, I stayed in the sun too long. If I fart too much, I can blame the fried bean burritos that I ate the night before. But a migraine is cruel and unusual punishment for no reason at all, and that's not fair. In fact, it's infuriating.

Much better now, thank you for asking.

06 May 2007

Song of the arbitrary time period

I recently bought a double CD set called ‘The Essential Johnny Cash’. I wasn’t a huge Johnny Cash fan but I did like some of his songs and I thought I should listen to more of them. Well I have been surprised by how much I like these CDs and I have been listening to them quite a lot. I guess you could say that I'm now a huge Johnny Cash fan.

Of course all the classics are there; Ring Of Fire, Man In Black, Walk The Line, A Boy Named Sue, etc. My favourite song at the moment, though is One Piece At A Time. If you don't know it, it's about a General Motors factory worker who sets out to steal a Cadillac from the factory, one piece at a time. It takes him over 20 years and when he puts it all together there are, well, complications. Cadillacs changed a lot over the years so, for example, he has two headlights on one side and only one on the other, and when he puts the back end together he finds that there is only one tailfin. The end result is a car that would have looked hilarious.

If you can, go out and find 'One Piece At A Time' by Johnny Cash and listen to it.

"Red Rider, this is the Cotton Mouth in the Psycho-Billy Cadillac, come on."

"This is the Cotton Mouth and negatory on the cost of this machine there, Red Rider. You might say I went right up to the factory and picked it up, it’s cheaper that way."

"What model is it? It’s a ’49 ’50 ’51 ’52 ’53 ’54 ’55 ’56 ’57 ’58 ’59 automobile. It’s a ’60 ’61 ’62 ’63…"

23 April 2007

Groan if you must

I like bad puns. I can’t explain why. I know it seems incongruent with my otherwise sophisticated sense of humour, but a good bad pun just tickles my humerus.

When I was in Alice Springs in the early eighties I saw a butcher’s shop with a sign that said “We’re pleased to meet you with meat to please you.” I took a photo of it.

Once, I sent ten puns to a newspaper pun contest, hoping that one of them would win. But no pun in ten did. OK, that one’s not true but the butcher’s shop one is. So is this one:

The other day I was watching ‘The New Inventors’ on TV and saw two guys who had invented a lawnmower attachment that digs holes in the lawn as you mow. Apparently, this is good for the lawn because it allows air and water to get to the roots of the lawn, and this promotes growth. The device consists of a series of rotating blades on a horizontal bar mounted at the front of the mower. At the end of their presentation one of the guys said, “Our invention is at the cutting edge of grass-roots technology.”

I’m going to buy one just because of that comment.

15 March 2007


I’m in Adelaide for a few days to attend a conference and, having flown between state capitals quite a lot in recent years, I have to say that the flight to Adelaide was not what I expected. Of course I knew that flying from a small country airport on a regional airline would be a bit different to what I was used to, but I wasn’t expecting to have to crawl down the aisle on my hands and knees to avoid head-butting the ceiling. When I read my booking confirmation sheet I made the mistaken assumption that a Saab 340 was an airplane. I knew that Saab make cars but I didn’t know that they took their poorest performers, stuck wings on them and sold them to budget airlines. It took almost an hour and a half to cover the 500km to Adelaide and they gave me some Barbecue Shapes for breakfast. By comparison, it takes just over an hour to fly the 850km from Adelaide to Melbourne with a major airline, in a proper airplane, it’s cheaper and they feed you a real breakfast. On the positive side, the regional airline staff were very friendly and efficient, which is also not what I have come to expect from the major airlines.

My experience with the hire car company was much more satisfying because I got exactly what I was expecting – the smallest, cheapest car in their fleet which I drive by putting my left leg over the centre console into the passenger’s leg room area and my right knee against my right ear. The hire car lady was also friendly and efficient and she laughed appropriately when I offered to exchange a big smile for a free upgrade. She also seemed sincerely disappointed to have to turn me down due to having no other cars available. It’s natural to wonder whether that’s just her standard response or whether she genuinely had no other cars available, but when I went to collect my miniature car I noticed that almost all of the surrounding hire car spaces were empty, so I choose to believe that she would have upgraded me if she could. She was so nice about it that I ended up giving her a big smile anyway. What can I say? I’m a giver.

06 March 2007

I'm no photographer, but...

My sister-in-law lives in a flat across the street from the beach. It faces West so she can look out her front window and see a beautiful sunset over the ocean every evening. I was there recently and saw a woman setting up a camera and tripod across the street. It was early evening and she was obviously getting ready to take a picture of the sunset. I couldn't help but think that this woman's picture would be lacking something. It would look very nice with the beautiful sky over the dark ocean, but that's all. I thought she needed something else in the picture, a silhouette against the sky, to make it interesting. But there was only sand and sea between her camera and the horizon.

It just so happened that the woman had set up her tripod next to a public bench. It's like a park bench but there is no park. It's just a bench beside the footpath, facing the ocean, where people can sit and enjoy the view. While waiting for the sky to turn the optimum shade of sunset, the woman and her husband sat down on the bench. I could see immediately what her photo would be lacking so I grabbed my camera and took a shot.
What do you think?

28 February 2007


I washed my car on Saturday and proved once again that Murphy’s Law is true. About an hour after I had finished washing the car, I had to drive to work to retrieve something from my office. It was a short trip and my car was out of the garage for less than ten minutes, but during that time it rained and my car got wet. It wasn’t raining when I left the house and by the time I got back it had stopped. Not only was that the only time it rained that day, but it was the only rain we had for the whole month of February. This is the desert. It almost never rains here. I almost never wash my car so you can see the obvious connection there, and Murphy prevailed against me.

He's sneaky like that. He creeps up on you when you least expect it. Like I said, it hardly ever rains here, so we wash our clothes and hang them out to dry without a single thought for the weather. We know that in a few hours we can bring them in again, dry and usually rather warm. But in the school holidays last year, we were preparing for a trip and hung three loads of washing on the line the day before our scheduled departure. That night it rained for the first time in weeks and we had to delay our trip by a day while we waited for our clothes to dry. Murphy got us again.

He's sneaky and he's waiting for the opportune moment to strike, so remember the old saying: when you least expect it, expect it.

23 February 2007

Out of the mouths...

Here is a story that my six-year-old daughter wrote for a school assignment.


Once upon a time there was a man. He was a great chef. One day he had so many customers that he forgot about the spaghetti on the stove. The chef left it there overnight so when he woke up the building was on fire!!!

Everyone was screaming and screaming! No one knew what to do but...

SUPERMAN! Superman saved the day again all thanks to the screaming.

The end.

(used with permission)

20 February 2007

Words I like

In the movie Donnie Darko, Drew Barrymore's character says that "cellar door" is considered to be the most beautiful phrase in the English language. She doesn't specify by whom or how they managed to arrive at that particular phrase, but I can think of a few other phrases that I find rather more appealing. "More beer" and "Congratulations on winning the million" spring to mind. Before that movie came out, a work colleague of mine who I shall refer to as Alex, because that's his name, asked me what I thought was the most beautiful word or phrase in the English language. I said "trousers" and Alex nearly fell off his chair.

Alex has a peculiar fascination for words and phrases, particularly collective nouns. Because I work in IT, Alex once asked me what I thought the collective noun for a group of IT workers might be. He suggested "conundrum" and "cornucopia" as possible contenders before I told him straight out that the correct term for a group of IT workers is, of course, a "gaggle of geeks". Surprisingly, Alex was less than impressed and went off to interrogate the Engineering department.

Other collective nouns that I like are "a brace of orthodontists", "a murder of crows" and "an absence of waiters".

Other phrases that I like include "Aurora Borealis", "macadamia nuts", "four-legged droopy dipole" which is a type of radio antenna, and "Carrickalinga Boulevard" which is a street near where I used to live. In fact I want to buy a house there just so that I can tell people that I live on Carrickalinga Boulevard. Best of all, it's just around the corner from the Torresan Estate winery which has an excellent cellar door.

12 February 2007

Teeing off

I'll watch just about any sport on television. I particularly like cricket and rugby league, but I have found that I can pretty much watch any competitive endeavour and get quite passionate about the outcome. The secret to enjoying sport on television is to pick a team. If you're not barracking for someone it's just boring, but if you care about the outcome you can watch snails racing.

The exception, for me, is golf. I've never considered golf to be a sport, partly because you can be overweight and over fifty and still make a good living as a golf pro, but also because it's competitive in a weird, non-competitive kind of way. Compare with tennis. In tennis, the way you play can affect how well your opponent plays. If you play particularly well you can make it difficult for your opponent to score points against you. If your opponent has a weakness, say a poor backhand, you can exploit that by hitting the ball to their backhand side a lot, thus giving yourself an advantage. The same principle applies to most other sports; you can triumph by playing well and negating your opponent. In golf, there is nothing you can do to affect the way your opponent plays.

Of course, it could be argued that if you play particularly well your brilliant performance will put pressure on your opponent and that pressure could cause them to play badly, but that's not the same as thrusting your nine iron in the way of their ball as it's rolling toward the hole. In golf, all you can do is play your best game and hope that Tiger has a severe attack of the yips.

That's not to say that people shouldn't play golf, or that they shouldn't be allowed to make a living doing it. If you're blessed with the skill to hit a little ball a long way with a narrow stick, more power to you. I just don't understand the urge to "compete" in a so-called "sport" where the only weapon you have against your opponent is hope. I also don't understand the urge to watch your favourite player "competing" in a tournament when they're not allowed to, I don't know, body-slam an opponent mid-swing. That's gotta be frustrating.

So that's why I never watch golf on TV.

Now I'm off to the pub for a game of darts.

07 February 2007

My Big Achievement

The town that I live in has a monument to the man who first explored and surveyed this area. He was quite the pioneer/explorer/surveyor and without his efforts this town would not be here. He died in 1993 and now there is a monument in the town square commemorating the man and his achievements. As I walked past it yesterday, I wondered whether anyone would build a monument in memory of me when I'm gone. My immediate response to myself was "Probably not".

Just as actors don't make movies in order to win Academy Awards (yeah, right!), we don't live our lives trying to warrant a monument after we die. It's not an achievement that's usually aspired to. But I did get to asking myself, what noteworthy achievements have I accomplished in my few short years?

I first thought of those things that lots of people achieve. I have a University degree, I have a wife and children, I've bought a house, I have a good job, I can tie my own shoelaces and I've learned how to solve the Rubik's cube. Naturally, I'm proud of all of these achievements, but none of them sets me apart from the crowd. What have I done that most other people have not?

Well, at age 16 I won a yo-yo competition. OK it's not world-changing but it felt good to be crowned the yo-yo champion. It didn't lead to a professional yo-yo career with multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals like I'd hoped, but I did get a six-pack of cola and a ghetto blaster. It may not seem like a big achievement to you, but back then, in the eyes of my 16-year-old friends, I was a legend. When I told my mum she said, "I always knew you were special." and I believed her.

So that's my claim to fame. I realise they don't build monuments to former yo-yo champions, but I've still got time. I'll achieve something more monument-worthy later when my kids have grown up. Right now I'm going to go and practise my yo-yo.