Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The curious case of the polly kicking

So, you are sitting in a pub in a foreign country and you see some politician giving an interview to a TV crew.  Someone (also probably drunk) dares you to go and give them a kick so you do.  On camera.  During the day.  And the politician is a former police officer and tries to arrest you.  The politician is being interviewed because it is the middle of an election campaign.  Which the politician's party subsequently wins.  And the politician becomes the new Attorney General.

The latter bits are a touch of bad luck, obviously.  You may not have been au fait enough with local affairs to realise you were about to assault an ex-cop soon to be AG.  The cops and the prosecutors are not likely to let that one slide through to the keeper.  Not with his being an ex-cop and their new boss, and all.

But still, aside from being pissed enough that this seemed like a really good idea, you must have been lacking in judgement to kick someone who is actually being filmed by professionals at the time.  Some sort of disguise may have been in order.  You may want to up your overall level of cunning before your next drunken bet. 

Sadly, while you won the $200 bet, you copped a fine of $2200, so either your travel fund is about to take a lurch southward or you are going to have to pop off and serve a sentence in a nearby jail.

Lets hope the feds don't hear about it because they may revoke your visa and sling you out of the country for being a convicted dickhead.  Bad luck all round, really.

[I didn't make this up ... see here.]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Books of detrimental value

There are a variety of reasons why people choose to read books.  There is no rule that people should only read books that are of benefit to them.  Nevertheless, I contend that there are some books that are out the other side of a neutral effect and detriment the psyche of the reader.

This effect can sometimes depend on the current mental state of the reader.  For example, if you were generally prone to depression and were going through a particularly tough time of your life (especially if you were feeling a bit middle-aged and under-rewarded) I wouldn't launch on a Graham Greene binge.

Then there is the entire genre of crime.  How can a literary diet of torture and suffering, often against women and children, improve your view of human nature?  Ah, some say, these are generally moral tales where ultimately good triumphs over evil.  That alcoholic, dysfunctional, slumpy detective will eventually catch this evil perpetrator.  The fact that the detective (and reader) will gather psychic damage from their entry into the world of an imaginatively violent psychopathic killer is considered of secondary effect to the edification of the reader from the ultimate acquisition of justice, no matter how imperfectly acquired.

Not only do I doubt the maths of this equation, but I think a cumulative degenerative effect is achieved by the regular application of books of this genre.  Repeated doses chip away at a reader's generally positive view of the fundamental nature of humans.  Psychopathy is apparently quite rare, but it is common as dirt in these types of novels.  How can you regularly read them and not dwell on the evil that lurks in the hearts of strangers?

I put it in the same category as the increase in reporting of violent crimes leading to people being convinced they are more in danger of violence then they have been in the past.  It is not the incidence of violence that is increasing, but its popularity as a form of journalism.

Another generally degenerative class is the classic romance novel.  It conditions women away from a realistic view of relationships in the same way that pornography conditions men.  This drift from reality means neither party is in a healthy state to engage in a sensible relationship involving give and take.  (I can't even be bothered talking about low-end erotica  because the thought of all that submissive behavior gives me the screaming erks.)

Finally, I should like to tell you about a novel I just started by Philip Roth.  I read Portnoy's Complaint in my teenage years.  At that time it seemed a novel that was 90% about masturbation was new enough to have some merit in its elucidation of the sexually obsessed mind of a teenage boy.  I started reading a relatively recent Roth novel yesterday.  While I only read the first and last chapter, it seemed unlikely that the sex life of the novel's protagonist was going to be omitted from any intervening page.  It stuns me that in the 30 years between these two works, there had not been any increase in the maturity of the main character or their obsessive interest in sex generally, and masturbation specifically.  Are all his other novels on the same topic?

Frankly, I don't care to know the answer.  Whatever mild sexual thrill may be obtained from this stuff is well and truly counteracted by the exposition of a personality so immature and destructive.  People's own experience of sex can fuck them up without reading 400 tedious pages of someone else's attempts to destroy their own life and the life of everyone around them with the pursuit of continuous, dirty sex. 

Sigh. Possibly I should have written a blog about the range of possible edifying effects of reading.  I may need to save that for another time, but please, consider asking yourself, "Is your reading making you a happier person and is it strengthening your view of the nature of humanity?"  If the answer is a big no, then why are you doing it, and would you be better off seeking out something with a more neutral or positive effect?

Or not, you choose.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I poked my eyeball into your eyeball

No idea what this means - 'tis a monster quote.

My dearest husband likes to adjust things around the house.  Electrical things, mostly.  If anyone other that the husb attempted to live here they would be a little frustrated as they may not actually be able to operate some things.  {Note to self: get written instructions pre-trade-in.}

The potable watering system is a write-off of complexity, for example.  The air conditioning has a cut-off switch that is mysteriously placed at best.  Even getting the microwave to spring to life would fox anyone lacking in imagination.

It is all for a good cause but frankly, some of it is difficult.  (!#%#&%*)

In the spirit of praise I mention two things that are early designs that go like a train.

We have a little freezer that likes to frost.  In its frosty state it tends to pop its little door open.  Thawing occurs followed rapidly by spoilage.  Entire freezer-loads of goodies have been consigned to smelly oblivion.  One little black box and a spot of soldering later, when the door is left open for three minutes a little buzzer goes off.  This little buzzer has gone off so many times it is squeaky and hoarse.  It is fantastic.

Second exhibit: we live in a very dry climate.  Water is expensive and getting rarer.  Water restrictions are ubiquitous.  Sitting under our house is a big rubbish bin and a pump.  There is another bin at the top of the block.  When we shower, wash our hands or do washing (and believe me, we do the odd load of washing) the water goes into the bottom tank, up to the top tank and out into the garden in one smooth flow.

The husbandal unit made this thingie years ago before they became all trendy and available in kits.  It is wonderful.  It probably shifts a couple of hundred litres of grey water per day on to the garden.  It has just been brought back to life as spring sprongs about the joint.

So while things you expect to work (like being able to turn on the computer) sometimes mysteriously don't, there are some things you just have to smile about and appreciate.  Thanks love.

Now I am hungry, damn this photo.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Little head friends

One of my monsters has little friends on her head.  Friendly blood-sucking friends.  Lousey ones in fact.

This is our first foray into the world of head lice and what a tedious business it is too.  We have been poisoning, egg loosening, combing, combing and more combing.  The little buggers are pernicious, I will say that.

It all began quite embarrassingly.  We went to the hairdresser for a restyle, in particular a fringe cut so that the lovely monster does not look like Sam the Sheep Dog in the school photos.  The hairdresser had cut some of the length off when she discovered the colony.  She gave the monster a quick trim to straighten up a bit and threw her out.

Sam the Sheepdog hard at work

The only advantage of the situation is that the infested one has the shortest, thinnest, finest hair in the house.  The rest of us are like garden thickets, except the husbandal unit of course, who is more like a short wire brush with the odd missing bristle.  The other monster and I only prevent passing birds from nesting in our hair by regular applications of bird repellents.

Nonetheless, because of the general hugginess of the household, this means that the rest of us have to defoliate and comb comb comb as well, just not every day to catch the hatchlings.  It would be nice to be able to say, "Sorry sad scared little person, I would give you a comforting hug but you are riddled with nippy vermin and I prefer to be vermin- free."  Truly one of the buggers of parenting and the reason we all get so many colds and flus.  But then, that is parenting for you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The hall and other Bergmanesque sagas

When Monster 2 was a toddler - quite a small one, my lovely brother and sister-in-law came over and entertained the Monsters while we painted the ceiling of the hall.  I well remember because M2 had the "nos".  This particular toddler disease involves compulsive repetition of the word "no".  We stopped for afternoon tea and my brother decided to "no" her back several times. It was just too much for the little petal and she dissolved into a wet puddle.  She had to abandon afternoon tea and be de-high-chaired for an extended cuddle.

It was fantastic to get the ceiling done as the proximity to the badly ventilated shower had caused some beautiful long curls of paint.

Well, M2 is a strapping 5 year old and we have recommenced hall operations.  We have been sugar soaping, sanding, spackling, etc for some months.  We are hoping to paint the walls before the monsters hit their teens.

One of the side effects of these lengthy operations is the higglety piggletyness of the house.  Everything in the hall is distributed between three bedrooms as well as boxes of painting gear with tremendous amounts of dust and deceased arachnids on top - a special gift from the shed.

I have no idea why other people's houses are not covered in rubbish.  I put it in the same mystery category as children in clothes brochures.  How do you get a two year old with clean hair, no head bruises from losing wars with coffee tables, snot free and with no sticky bits, in clean, well pressed clothes, looking rested and happy and standing still?  How does that happen?  How?  Mind you, I suppose you could airbrush off vegemite ear stains.

Enough of this existential angst - I leave you with the happy sound of trowel-work swooshing me gently from the hall.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The disappointment of snow

After three years waiting the monsters met their first snow this week.

It turns out snow is:
  1. cold - yes, I did mention the frozen water thing
  2. wet - the little monster filled her gumboot with snow in a zillisecond and had a tragic sock thereafter
  3. hard and icy - well spring has sprung, the sun is sunny and the snow is not at its powdery best.  This means no snow angels and great difficulties with snowpeople.
  4. located on inconveniently slopey ground - ah yes, we live in a vast continent of huge climate extremes including an unparalleled desert collection and a steamy tropical swathe. Snow falls on a incey wincey portion of our country and all these bits are at the top of mountains.  All pointy.
  5. the location of a fun-looking sport - Mum will not be spending 300 smackeroos for you two to take a 2 hour skiing class. Sad but true.
  6. tiring - changing frozen, wet, exhausted monsters in a boot by the side of the road is not my idea of a good time.

On the up side we have done it.  The experience has been had. Now there is only surfing, skateboarding, ice skating, boating, tiger patting, dinosaur meeting (a girl at school says she has met a T-rex), overseas traveling, dog-owning, watching TV all-daying, horse and motor bike riding, going to every playground in the known universe at least onceing, kissing, and prince marrying left to nag for.

Who am I kidding.  I have just forgotten the other 13,000 items currently on the wish list.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I tell you why the goat is grumpy

You may never find out.  Ask the monsters - I am just quoting.

The real topic of today is a new concept in literature review:  the lightening review.  How few words can I use to describe the pile of birthday books I have recently inhaled.

Pratchett, Snuff
  • Unusually lacking subtlety -  feels like the goodbye Discworld book.
Wodehouse, The girl in the blue dress
  • Sadly lacking in pigs, approximately 3% of the chuckle of, say, Empress of Blandings.
Lewis and Uhlmann, The Marmalade Files
  • Fun to play spot the pollie - Canberra must be chockers with  narcissistic maniacs trying to resist the temptation to reach for their libel lawyers.
Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
  • Romance and literary theory - in theory intoxicating, in practice somewhat tedious, possibly because it  gave me flashbacks to hanging around semiotics lectures that I considered to be a pile of pigs earwax.*
Fforde, The woman who died a lot
  • Fake bod for a day, destiny aware teenagers, smite protection, terrific and joyous.
Ackroyd, Foundation, Volume 1
  • History at its least stuffy - who knew the Iron Age was so interesting.  I am only up to the fall of the Romans so a lot of kingery to come, I assume. 

"There must be grumpy goats out of here...", another mote drifts by and that is it for the day.

* Did I ever tell you about the time, quite early in my career when I attended a work function with a senior manager held by some clients?  Well, there we were, drinking our "cocktails" (= indifferent wine in nasty glasses), and, during a lull in conversation, I decided to launch into a tirade on the utter pointlessness of studying literary theory in academia, the drain on the world's resources, etc - full rant, 5 minutes worth.  Then my esteemed senior manager turned to me and said, "Did you know what I did my PhD thesis in?"  

You don't need one to guess, do you people?

Friday, September 7, 2012

How to bugger your husband's hobby

My dear husband has a  hobby that could also be characterised as an addiction. He buys electronic crap over the internet.  He got four parcels this week alone.  It is not as though he spends a lot of money - this is cheap crap.  Cords, chips, plug-in dooferwhatsis, etc.

It all started to hit a terminal stage when he decided to upgrade our set top box/ PVR thingie*.  He bought one and when it arrived, we worked out how to use the ratshit front end and over the next couple of weeks we worked out all the bits that didn't work. Needless to say the vendor's reply to his emails were a testament to "you were foolish enough to buy our pile of penguin guano - we don't give a fig if it doesn't work so shoofie off, moron boy".  Wife not pleased about the postage cost to send it back from whence it came.

Then the dear thing decides he can make one himself with a computer and several bits and bobs.  It takes about a month to assemble these b&bs during which time he negates the advantage of buying serially by continuing to purchase the next bob when the current bits are clearly non-functional.  The EPG ignores some programs.  The tuner has a little rest when it warms up.  The computer is also is prone to rests, apparently, or possibly not.  Maybe we should shield this lump of electric junk with aluminium foil?

After another month I hit the wall when he is taking the back off my tiny computer to set it up as the prototype.  Not once during this period has he gotten one program to record and play properly using his computer and now he is planning on buggering mine indefinitely.

Words were said.  He agrees the solution may be an off-the-shelf product offered for sale in our country of residence.

He then goes on to say that at least the cables he buys are ok (with the subtext that he will continue at about 2 purchases per week).  I remind him of the intermittent pins, loose plugs, poor shielding and limited life of these things. He then has that look on his face that means "I was carefully ignoring that thought.  Life would be easier with a dopier wife". 

I have a theory that the longevity of our marriage is dependent on my not generating that look more than a couple of times per year.  Exciting, isn't it!

*To be fair he had justification for this.  The shutdown of the analogue terrestrial transmission meant we could no longer watch one thing and record a second.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Future husband checklist

I was reading about some woman who had an extensive checklist of attributes her future husband must have.  I am not sure if he needed them all or of some were optional extras.

Anyhow, I decided to consider what checklist I must have been using when I met the husbandal unit. 
  1. Clear sense of morality - check - though I suspect he would download illegal stuff if he did not have this particular wife.
  2. GSOH - check - there is no way we would have gotten this far into parenting together without the capacity to see funny bits on the far side of hysteria.
  3. Major nerd - check - he looks forward to the monthly edition of Silicon Chip mag.  Sometimes he leaves them at work for his workmates to browse but it disappears in under an hour - yep, he works in a nerdery.
  4. Can budget - check - he was talking to folks at work about his yearly budget, rather than a "I can buy lunch because it is payday" budget and his workmates were shocked and said they would never get their wives to stick to lines item allocations for clothes, holidays, etc.  I said to husb, "how many of these chaps (all nerds, see above) would be willing to stick to an IT budget of say, $150 per year, including fancy phones, computers, tablets, entertainment systems, PCBs, etc?"  We laughed.
Which led me to consider what attributes may have been on his wifey checklist.

  1. Must be willing to reproduce species - check - possibly some disappointment that production stopped after 2 but then he was just as pooped so fair cop.
  2. Must like rumpy pumpy - check.
  3. Must have relatively high tolerance for conversations about newly released PCBs and control systems generally - check - though occasionally, when I am actually listening, I have to ask for definitions.
  4. Must be willing to give up loopy, demanding, well paid and interesting career to support husband in his quite dull job, demould windows, cook cake, wrangle library day and swimming day, and do school runs - check - sigh.
 And finally, here are some low-end optional extras we didn't get - you can guess who belongs to which.
  1. Must be able to dance, even a slow shuffly cuddle. 
  2. Must speak another language (BASIC and predicate calculus do not count)
  3. Must be a keen, knowledgeable and interested investor.
  4. Must love sport.
Haha haha  hhahhahaahahhaa HHA AHA AHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAH.

An oldie but a goodie - more spot than girl.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yet who would have thought the old man [woman] to
have had so much blood [snot] in him [her]?

Macbeth has great flow - it is hard to resist.

I used to work as a kitchen-hand in a low end restaurant.  It overlooked the fairways of a golf course - the very same golfcourse where my brother went wading the lakes at 2am when he was 9. He was looking for lost balls to sell to golfers.  My other brother and I sat on the bank watching the fog swirl and listening to the sound of the asthma attack from the daft, financially-focussed one. 

The restaurant specialised in reasonably priced group bookings - club dinners, weddings, etc. Not that the weddings were particularly cheap, but it was in the low (and I mean low) end of the wedding market.  Schnitzel night (size of A4 paper, texture of crunchy leather) was pretty popular.

The kitchen was tiny.  The only advantage was that it was split in two with a back galley kitchen. After graduating from the dishes and pots I used to prep veg and serve the desserts in the back.

Times were tough in the economy and the conditions were ratshit and illegal.  If you worked from 5pm til 1am you got hungry.  The boss was a maniac.  He would sack staff if he caught them eating food.  Frankly, I thought you would have to be mad to eat the food from this place so I had a plan.  Every shift I opened a new punnet of strawberries and ate the lot.  Luckily the bench in the back kitchen faced a wall and I would swallow the current strawberry as the cheap, sneaky dickhead crept up to catch me.

Ah, snowy bits

 It was always an interesting place to work:
  • what could be killing the mice found with their little feet in the air under the benches
  • how many days does it take for your hands to return from orange if you peel 40kg of carrots in one go
  • was it possible to buy cheaper, heavier plates because the staff hernia count was not quite at 100%?
Eventually the end was nigh.  The butcher went to cash on delivery, the veg got bendier and the wine even nastier.  I made sure I collected my wages el prompto.  During this period the whole place burnt down one night.  I know, I was as unshocked as you are now.

If I was being charitable I would say that with all that fat on the kitchen walls the place was a tinderbox.  And to think that for a period, the world had built a better mouse trap.