Saturday, February 28

work and other pains

Didn't sleep too well last night, due to the stabbing foot pain, like someone intermittently glassing you or sticking pins in your toes.

At first I thought it was gout, but gout's more of a joint thing. This is the skin, or nerves in the skin.

With the help of the web, I've worked out it's nerve inflammation caused by tight shoes (the new bargain ones, not such a bargain after all).

Apart from pain and work, there's not much to tell about life here in NSC.

But over in Australia, Albert's having a ball. I quote:

Went to the opening of an exhibition. Quirky and beautiful photos of Hong Kong by this woman. There was free wine and grub, and I had a balloon and a half of red on an empty stomach. Watch out for gout.

It was in a modern bar/restaurant, what they would have called a yuppie bar in my day. Not sure what was more beautiful - the pictures or the venue.

As it was Saturday night, there were normal people there too, young diners falling out of their dresses. Is there anyone left that doesn't have a massive cleavage on show? Maybe the pendulum will swing back, and the next big thing will be a high-neck blouse buttoned all the way up - the height of sexual allure. It has to either develop that way, or the opposite direction, where every second buttock will be hanging out. Dearie me! It wasn't like this in my day.

Sounds like Albert's having a exciting weekend to balance up my humdrum one.

Thursday, February 26

aussie century

Lecturers sometimes like to observe, jokingly, that college would be the perfect place to work, if only they could get rid of all the students.

Librarians probably make the same joke - that working in a library would be so easy, if only the readers wouldn't keep messing things up by taking the books off the shelves and reading them.

My Australian mate Albert recently photographed some shelves that would delight a librarian.

That's all I'm saying.

Actually, to balance things up, I should also say that I'm reading this book just now. I bought it many years ago as a present for my partner. It was on special offer, it had more than 800 pages, and it looked expensive. The perfect gift.

At first I thought the title must be a misprint, that it should really read "The Story of Australia's Centuries". That would certainly help sales in Australia.

But in fact it's a hundred pieces of short fiction written by a hundred Australians. I couldn't imagine how they could have found that many stories in such a small country, even spread over a whole century. But I wasn't intending ever to read it. Who would?

Well I was wrong! I'm now at page 545 and enjoying it immensely. It's not often that you read a short story collection and enjoy almost every single story. Albert reckons that the editor sheila must be passing off overseas content as Australian.

I can recommend this book to you. There's no need to let the title put you off.

Tuesday, February 24


I have been told it's about time I said something about balance.

Well, when the Soviet Union fell, I remember people saying it meant the end to wars. Then as the most powerful Russians became uber-capitalists, people were expecting a new age of global progress. But remember everything has to balance up, and now we're seeing Western countries driven to large-scale nationalisations. Ultimate heresy! Even in the U.S., the state may have to take over several of the biggest banks. You're probably thinking that socialists who visit this blog will be rejoicing, but I wouldn't bank on it.

Meanwhile, here in the southern hemisphere we are doing our bit for universal balance. Albert informs me that living with the opposite gender is simply impossible, whereas I have no problems in that department at all. Especially when it's my day off work, the bliss partner is at her job all day and she'll be out all evening. Now where's my rubber suit and mouthguard?

Sunday, February 22

dearie me - is everything balancing out again?

Tedious fundamentalism has had a dream run in recent years, in the west too - medieval christianity has been repeatedly rebadged, whether as born-againism, creationism, or the brilliantly-named intelligent design, now mandatory in the U.S. school curriculum.

And christian god-botherers have had a stranglehold on the abortion agenda.

So I was relieved when the Americans booted their born-again numbskull out of office. Could the pendulum finally be swinging back toward the rational? And with all the books and broadcasts about Darwin in his anniversary year, it was looking as if we could expect a return to enlightened thinking.

But then I listened last night to a BBC world broadcast, in the "World Have Your Say" phone-in series. I'm going to download the podcast and pass it on to Cap'n Kev. He'll go ballistic. The programme started by discussing Sarah Palin's 18-year-old daughter becoming a mother, and then considered the disappearance of the concept of chastity in the West.

An articulate young woman caller from the Middle East rang in to explain the superiority of the Islamic practice of staying a virgin until marriage. The polite BBC woman asked her about the downside - the sewing-up of broken hymens before the wedding. But the caller explained that she had only ever met one person who had the sewing-up, so it doesn't really happen. I was wishing Hirsi Ali would phone up.

The caller explained another thing that the West could learn - if you marry young, then you don't have time to be promiscuous.

I could say more, but I don't need a fatwa, especially as I've already got my very own psychostalker.

But has the West finally run out of ideas? Has it finally come to this, where we have to turn in desperation to god (and somebody else's god at that) for a solution to problems we brought on ourselves?

To be fair, there is one area where this approach is looking hopeful. The morally and financially bankrupt capitalist markets are so lost for ideas that they're looking to the East. And it seems that traditional Islamic banking may indeed have a lot to teach the West. One of the nice things about Sharia lending is the complete transparency that is required. And because the charging of interest is forbidden, there is no possibility of the highly leveraged derivatives that exposed so many institutions to minor interest rate variations.

Obviously I stole the last phrase from someone else, but I think this is a civilised idea. Lend people money without charging interest. If they use the money to make a capital gain, they have to pay you a share of the gain. If they don't make anything, they only owe you the original amount of the loan.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has been studying Islamic banking. But Tarek Fatah, who founded a progressive Muslim group in Canada said in an interview he was “shocked” to learn that “a Crown corporation is using taxpayers’ money” for faith-based banking. He calls sharia banking “the biggest con job ever. What are we going to have next, Buddhist banking?” he asked. I'm still trying to work out what his agenda is. Is everything balancing out?

Wednesday, February 18

aussies world champions

In the paper, there was an article about expats living in Dubai. It said

all expats complain occasionally about their host countries, but according to Irish journalist Aoibhlinn Hester "of all the English-speaking expatriate population, the Aussies moan the most."

Albert, who lives in Australia, tells me it's true. Oddly enough, one of the things that Aussies like to complain most about is "whingeing Poms."

Albert has still not been bumped off, no thanks to his employers.

As for me, I had a whopper of a day at work yesterday. For once the voice, which tends to pack up for ancient surgical reasons, was working brilliantly, and after the umpteenth tea and about ten squares of chocolate, I was hopped up to the eyeballs and hamming it up. I only had to open my mouth and the females in the class giggled, so I played up to that. The Aussie guys in the class were less entertained.

This morning after the dog walk and sweat, I was hacking away the undergrowth down the side of the house, when I came across some sort of nest. It belongs to a rodent judging by the smell. In the previous post, the blissheid visionary foresaw this when he said that my life was getting like the trenches.

I chatted to Lee Ann, who is doing it pretty tough right now, as you may know. I did the typical male thing of trying to suggest solutions rather than just listening. But I'm hopeful things will pick up in the Northern spring, when people get more sunlight (or in Scotland, just more daylight) and the body chemistry cheers up. Of course that's precisely when we spiral into seasonal affective disorder to balance things up. But the bliss partner has suggested we fly to Darwin in Australia in mid-winter. That could help, and we might even meet up with Albert.

Tuesday, February 17

full time

To balance out the ill-effects of the global financial debacle, I've started working full time again. What a shock to the system! And that's despite the fact that a full working week in New South Caledonia is only 4 days long. And by working evenings I have managed to cram 4 days' work into 3.

Yet last week I was so knackered that I had to resort to drugs (tea). The only way I got through Friday was by pumping myself up with several cups of green tea and even some black. Plus a whole bar of chocolate. Great buzz, but of course everything has to balance up, and I spent all Saturday in bed, mostly asleep. It being Valentine's Day, the bliss partner took it badly, but what can you do?

Sunday I managed to get out of bed but just blobbed out indoors. I thought a good rest would help. Bad move. Back at work on Monday, I was a zombie. I hope Albert, with the killer on his trail, is in better shape for a fight.

Today I took exercise for the first time in days, fast-walking the dog for an hour. I worked up a real sweat, and as a result I feel great. I must remember that rest is not always the best way to recover. Maybe hotters is on to something when he deals with a hangover by shadow-boxing inside a bin liner to catch the drips.

Saturday, February 14

alberto y los trios paranoias

With albert's permission, here's a fragment of an email he sent to his boss. Key identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent.

Dear Boss. A security matter has come up which I need to bring to your urgent attention.

An ex-student, who was in my basket-weaving class many years ago, was convicted recently for the premeditated murder of an official whom he blamed for his defrocking as an architect. His conviction and life sentence was then quashed on a legal technicality.

He phoned up last week and wishes to meet me in my office to discuss the circumstances of his failure in the basket-making course all those years ago.

In the circumstances I think we should err on the side of caution, and look at appropriate security arrangements without delay.

Looking forward to to hearing from you soon. Regards, Albert McDonald.

I wouldn't say this to Albert's face, but I view this as simply a pathetic attempt to one-up ion's correspondence with the police database folk.

Thursday, February 12

australian beer advert

My friend Albert sent me this youtube clip of a very Australian beer advert.

Tuesday, February 10

oz culture

We often receive TV broacasts relayed from Australia, it's the usual stuff you'd expect: Skippy re-runs, and repeats of Home And Away, Neighbours, etc.

Well suddenly all that has changed, and there's only one programme on, round-the-clock: bushfire caught on film, bushfire interviews, bushfire discussions, footage of half-singed koalas. You can see the whole of Orstrahya thinking "At last! Something has happened here."

With the permission of Albert, who lives in Australia,, here's a fragment of an email he sent me:

... strewth it's been hot here, too hot to think straight. For weeks we were sweating naked in front of fans. I bought an air-conditioner, but of course the electricians are all too busy installing for other people, so the machine's just been sitting there in the box. Now I've finally got a guy to come and do the installation this week, and the weather's suddenly turned cold and it's flamin rainin! Who needs the air-conditioner now?

Notice the complaining tone. The Aussies are no longer world-leaders at cricket, but they're still world champions in whingeing. To be fair, they're not whingeing at all about the firestrorms, they're crowing: g'day world, look at us, we've got world-class fires. Next week, they'll be bragging about their world-class floods.

For some reason they're not keen to talk about the cricket. A recent Australian newspaper article, headlined "Australian cricket will be back", actually spends only two sentences on cricket before wandering off topic to crow at length about Lance Armstrong racing his bike in Adelaide, Roger Federer playing in Melbourne, and Australia's world dominance of Australian football. Anyone would think their cricket team's recent performance wasn't worth talking about.

My friend Alec left a helpful comment for Ricky Ponting at the newspaper.

Saturday, February 7

bushfires and bullets

Too busy to blog right now, what with dodging hazards, but all will be revealed. Back when the clairvoyant said I would die around now, I assumed he meant the black spot, not the burning bush or the assassin's bullet. As ion I think said, there's no point in worrying, because it'll turn out to be the bus back from the hospital after the all-clear that'll kill you.

Tuesday, February 3

ethical dilemma on day one

The first day of full-time work yesterday was disappointing. No, it was depressing.

When my guard was down I wandered into a meeting and then allowed myself to be drawn into a discussion. People were suggesting changing the beginners' course by giving it some of the horrible java classes that are normally taught only in the intermediate course.

When I objected that this was cruel and unusual punishment, the rationale offered was that the students who were destined to fail the intermediate course should instead be failed six months earlier. Call me old fashioned, but I still regard my work as helping our paying customers to learn something, not pissing them off as quickly as possible.

At this point, the meeting seemed to disintegrate, and everyone else mysteriously drifted off to do photocopying or whatever. I was sitting there alone for a while before I realised they weren't coming back.

So I left too, and got on with something useful myself. Walking by the room later on, I noticed that the meeting had mysteriously reconvened itself in my absence.

I'm in an ethical dilemma now. I could speak out against their unfair plan. For one thing this idea, of spreading the delights of java, completely ignores the fact that the official curriculum of the beginners' course contains no programming at all, let alone the more advanced programming they want to use to get rid of students.

But can I be bothered making all that effort? Writing memos, having more meetings, alienating colleagues, and straying into other people's insanity when I've got plenty of my own.

Another option is to step around the madness and go over people's heads. Which incidentally is what they did when they wanted to shaft an (admittedly useless) staff member. It would be satisfying to see them live and die by the sword, but then I would attract the same sword to myself next.

And a complication is that it involves the person I share a room with, who happens to have been a bit of a cow recently, and it has taken me all my time just being consistently rude to her. I think that's enough of a project to be going on with. I sometimes forget that all the toilet training and self-harm has left me incapable of achieving anything useful.

So a pox on all their houses. If I want, in a few months I can encourage the students to mount an official protest when they inevitably fail.

Meanwhile, some unbelievers continue to deny the existence of the USB cable: