Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hank Schrader was blinded by love

In Breaking Bad, some people consider it an extreme mystery that sharp minded DEA investigator Hank Schrader could not work it out that his brother-in-law was Heisenberg. It's no real mystery to me. Hank loved Walt so much that he could not possibly imagine his brother-in-law as a drug lord. Even when every single shred of evidence pointed straight to Walter.

I'm old enough to know that sort of love in a dozen different ways, to all sorts of people. Big tip - being loved by me is not particularly much fun. I'm too old, really, to think of love as that starry-eyed infatuation that teenagers tend to have.

However, the truth still remains that love makes us do stupid things.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018

Try to bring energy to your interactions

I have only so much energy. I try to bring energy to the interactions I have, but I only have so much. I've had three interactions with past students over the past day:

1/ An ex student saw me in a meeting and broke in to say how much they had enjoyed their last year with me - in front of a client. A very nice thing.

2/ An ex student saw (on Facebook) that I was in the airport and found me - because they wanted to catch up. A very nice thing.

3/ An ex student - who was never that good - wanted to discuss at length the nature of the course we finished eight weeks ago with what they thought could be better.

Which of the three do you think iare students I wish to have ongoing engagement with? When someone asks me what I think of student X, Y, and Z in little old Adelaide - what do you think my candid feedback will be?

A lesson I've learned in life. Always try to bring more to an interaction than you take out. Energy, skills, capacity, goodwill. In my own case if I disturb the people I've interacted with - then it's very deliberate. Sometimes one can't make an omelette without cracking eggs.

Or perhaps I've just totally screwed up my interaction - it happens.

I remember Dr House was once told "You need people to like you" to which he replied "I don't care if people like me".

"You need people to like you because you need people" [to do things for you]

I need people to like me. And tbh I also like people to like me, without sucking out my life force.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The downside to service and an extraction plan

I have watched from the outside once or twice and come to the understanding that it is possible to be too selfless. It is possible to do to much in the service of others, so that the system is actually made worse.

I am no saint; and any of the things I do for other people up purely by choice. An upside is that it can be my choice to discontinue service. There is a personal cost. Talents that one can take outside and convert into thousands of dollars or personal reward - those talents are used to benefit communities that really don't know the value of what they are receiving. When a person starts to dwell too much on those things, it's time to leave. And so it's time to leave.

But a more insidious effect comes when a community benefits from volunteer efforts that are concentrated in too few people. The community never really gets to take charge of its own stuff. The kids get to stay kids and the volunteer adults become further entrapped. There's a time for the young ones to take over.

It's when I make decisions in the cold light of day that those decisions are most far-reaching. I had a moment of clarity last night where I coolly decided to extract myself from a particular branch of volunteer service that I've been doing for about 5 years. Instead of a polite thank you I was requested to pursue an ever decreasing spiral of minor errors.

And so I have arrived at a better idea. I think I'll stop doing this altogether. It will take me about 8 months to extract myself from this area of volunteering, however the decision has given me a sense of peace. And I'll have extra time and headspace for the next crusade. The extraction begins.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My most recent detractor

It's been a while, but could I have forgotten how exhausting it is have a person close to you that despises you? A person who uses every utterance, measures your comings and goings and categorises everything once discussed when you were friends?

After I sat through a 45 minute diatribe the other day I had been given plenty of free character assessments. Many of the criticisms where just, others were simply wrong, but the most hurtful where the ones where my detractor didn't know what on earth he was talking about.

I was accused of short-changing my students in my university teaching but the guy has nothing at all to do with university teaching. He took a quote of mine "I give them the answers in the exam; how on earth can they fail?" and took it to mean that I simply phone it in.

I have close to a thousand students a year - from school leavers through Chinese postgraduates to middle and senior SA managers who are likely to disagree. And a few detractors.

As I come off a pair of super engaged one-on-one meetings where one of them gave me a spontaneous hug on leaving (I'm not a huggy type) I can honestly say this to my detractor:

"Spend a bit of time looking inwards before you start trying to find too much fault outwards"

Or is that the problem - you looked at yourself and it scared you? Never mind - we all get that, too. And I'll introduce you to the rest of the club of my detractors. They're mostly good people - I think you'll like them. And at least you'll have a conversation starter.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Love Takes Care

I forgot how much I liked this song and also forgot how much I really liked having Doc Neeson in the world. The doc died about 5 years ago and I've barely shrugged. This explosive, theatrical frontman of The Angels was an important part of my early years.

I saw the angels last night with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra as I sat there with my sister and brother-in-law. Dave Gleeson could not be a better frontman now; comfortable in his own skin and feeling the need to prove nothing.

But fuck I missed the doc. It was very nice that the Brewster Brothers dedicated this song last night to Doc Neeson and Chris Bailey.

And the song. When I first heard it in the 80s I thought of it as a love song to a girlfriend. But as it is for these things I find it equally applies to way I feel about my inner family - my inner circle - these days.

Sure, I am always off on my own tangent. I won't - I can't - smother you, but I would never leave you lost or fending for yourself. My mum gave me the emotional room to make my own stupid decisions for myself, and grow  I knew she was there for me; my biggest fan.

Love takes care of its own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a national treasure, and great value for money.

I like to have balance in the sources of news that I consume. So, I have a subscription to the Australian and to Sky that pretty much takes care of my "right biased" sources although they are often a little more balanced than I would expect. This screenshot is a perfect example.

My right-leaning sources cost me money. Sure, only about $30 a month but my "right" sources are far more expensive than my "left". The government funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation is an extremely cost efficient way for me to get my left leaning news. The price is argued to be something like 15 cents per day - about $5 per month. And for my $5 I listen to a huge amount of talkback radio and have the fantastic iView service. We have Insiders, The Drum, AM, PM, 7.30, and great specials such as the "War on Waste". All of these are top-class journalistic efforts and so much cheaper then the "right wing" content that I buy.

I agree. We should protect our ABC. It's a national treasure.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A slave by choice - at times

I came home a little late the other night from a day of teaching and entered into the familiar banter with my youngest son. And I love the way he slam dunked me:

"Yeah I'm the one who's kicking back or comfortable in my bed and you're the one who's still getting around here dressed like a wage slave".

That's my boy. He works hard at what he does and I hope he's learning the value that we only do this for our own reasons.

And that sometimes you need to be a wage slave to be able to break out do the things you love.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Raindrops are not pointy

I walk through every day where people are saying things that are flatly wrong. I don't have the energy for it but I assure you that if I say "no, that's not it", then I will be on solid ground.

Like this.

Raindrops are not pointy.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Betrayal is a thing

You know what drives me? It's a desire to live well despite a number of what I feel are deep betrayals. The deepest betrayals are where I have (explicitly or figuratively) sat in front of people and said "one day this shit is going to go down and when it does I'm gonna need you to stand by me. Are you down with that, will you be there for me?"

And then they weren't.

To live well despite the betrayals of that dozen or so people is my goal.

I have so many good friends and a dozen or so ex-friends.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent

My first ever boss in sales gave me a plaque with this quote on it:

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Calvin Coolidge - 30th US President, 1923 -- 1929.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The American Way

I love this country. When you are here and you have money you can have anything you want. It is the country where you can customise absolutely everything down to your perfect requirement. There are downsides to that, especially if you have trouble making choices that are in your long-term best interest.

I say that from my very limited experience of America and from the challenge I have when it comes to managing my weight. It seems that this fantastic country can give me the types of food that I find absolutely delicious. There are fried cheese Cheddar sticks and big bags of beef jerky. A rack of pork ribs in the supermarket is $14 for a 2 kilo slab of great ribs.

I am not very good at making choices that are in my best interests long-term. I'm pretty sure that if I lived in America then I would be 150kg. On this trip perhaps I can exercise some control. I can reject the idea but every meal needs to be and major event or that every single time I consume something that it needs to be the biggest and most luxurious tastefest ever.

As I take the back roads from my cheap hotel I feel pretty comfortable here, and I love this country. I just need to find a way to avoid that weight trap. That would be an achievement.

UPDATE: Achievement FAIL. On the night I wrote this, I left my bedside table looking like this. No - I didn't have friends over. I am my own worst enemy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sometimes you make the bad cut

Come autumn it's time to clean up the garden a little.

It's a good time and it extends all the way through until mid winter. At the end of this time the garden is very very tidy ready for the new growth of spring.

This tidying up involves quite a fair amount of pruning.

Often I am pruning trees that still have fruit on them such as this mandarin. You can see that I had to cut out diseased and infested growth. The Citrus leafminer and black aphids have gone crazy in the late summer growing season and the best thing to do is just take them off.

And here is my metaphor.

Often, in life when I prune sometimes I take things out that I wish I had kept. So as you can see in tidying up my Mandarin for next season I have made a bad cut and sacrificed one of the fruit that was sitting on the tree.

I wish I hadn't done that. Such is life. But sometimes when I make a mistake you I need to plough on. Spilt milk. Sometimes I lose friends in the same way as I lost that mandarin. That's always a sad thing for me. Sometimes it's only a close call - let off with a warning.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Roll away the stone

A good Easter to my Orthodox friends who have the same story as my other Christian friends and family - it seems to be just a matter of dates.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Dreams of being back in an old job

My greatest fear
Had a dream a few weeks ago that I was back in an old job working for Cryovac - talking to local food businesses and selling them their extended shelf life packaging requirements. That was one of the best jobs I ever had.

But it was different in my dream. I sucked at the job. I didn't turn up on time to any meetings, I didn't follow up any the things I said I would, and everybody just groaned to have to deal with me. I don't really think it was like that when I was there for real.

My greatest hope
I had a dream last night where I was coming off of an injury and due to restart work in a marketing and research business that I had worked for very briefly in 2012. A bunch of hacks that surprise me with their survival. This is not Square Holes- they're great.

The bunch of hacks - the manager was a not very good (call him Peter), mindless work, and the clients were not very nice. And the manager thought I was hopeless. In real life, Peter had sacked me - which saved me finding a solution of how to get out. 

In the dream, the dynamic soon became very clear. Peter hated me, however his clients loved me. The project leader was immediately talking to me about the job and waving Peter away.

The dream wound up with me saying something like "Well, Peter doesn't want to work with me but you do. That sounds like a problem that you have to deal with. I really want to work with you as well. I suppose I just leave that situation with you".

And then I woke up.

Two dreams - one that demonstrated my greatest fears and the other that demonstrated my greatest hope. I am pleased to report that (aside from an ill-fated foray in 2015) my real life situations are far closer to the second.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd

I have done many things that I'm not proud of. I feel I have done fewer and fewer of those as I get older. And I hope that one day I may do enough good things to outweigh the harm that I've done.

In the early years perhaps we have the excuse of being easily led or forced to survive. But at some point a person needs to ask themselves the question "do I want to be a good person or not?"

An old lecturer who became a boss and a friend died the other week. Sure, we had our ups and downs but at the time of my reckoning I hope the verdict will be the same as mine of him. A good man. This is a work in progress.

As I consider the ball tampering cricket disgrace I am reminded of the brilliant scene late in Pulp Fiction, where Ringo and Yolanda have held up a breakfast Diner. They found they picked the wrong target. In some ways I am driven by the same urge for redemption as Jules Winfield - but I'm way, way less cool.

Sure, I am always doing things that other people don't like (and that's often more about them than me) but in the big picture - "I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd"

Because there was this..

And then this..

Friday, March 23, 2018

If you're not happy with where you are being slotted then reinvent yourself

Quite often the limitations that we have are ones that we have allowed other people to foist upon us.

If we aren't happy being slotted as a production line worker, a barista, a librarian, or "an easy option if all else fails" then we should move ourselves to a space where those descriptions don't apply.

Sure, that means leaving the comfort of the familiar and it involves risk, but "if it's to be then it's up to me". And when the people who have risen to the top of their little ladder realise that you are simply not playing in their domain then you receive the quiet satisfaction of simply having moved on.

If "the best revenge is living well" then watching the past recede in the rear vision mirror must be one of life's simple pleasures.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Memories of a job I didn't take

I remember when I had a friend that asked me to become involved in a research project with state government.

I went and priest up the project and it's got quite a bit noisy. I could smell vested interests coming from any direction I care to choose.

It was at this coffee shop at my friend asked me to come out and have a chat. And she told me that I must avoid taking the job because it would be a disaster for me.

I had sort of worked that one out, and was looking to find a way to extract myself from the job without causing her pain. So it all worked out pretty darn well.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Winners and Losers: Life is not a competition, but it's a game

A person was saying yesterday that life is not a competition. I think I agree with that but I think they didn't have a complete understanding of the situation.

One of my young friends said "you know I found the only people who say that life is not a competition are the ones who aren't winning at it". Perhaps a little harsh. [Shoutout buddy - a little poetic licence.]

Because there are winners and losers. But life's not a competition, it's a game. And the beauty of the game is that the players get to choose what they wish to be scored on.

The beauty there, is that everybody can be a winner in the game of life. If you choose your scoreboard to be a happy family life and fantastic grandchildren and achieve it, then you're a winner. If you choose your scoreboard to be simply how many dollars you have in the bank when you die, and finish with a large balance, then you're a winner. Who am I to critique your choice of scoreboard?

So life is not a competition, it's a game. And we can all be winners. So if you don't feel like you are winning, then pick another scoreboard.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why bad people leave a place with good references

To me, it's no great mystery. I have watched workplaces for 35 years and I have come to understand the mechanism whereby some of the very worst people end up getting glowing reports from previous employers. Here are my thoughts:

  • They manage upwards. Often the people who are giving these references have been schmoozed to the maximum level. From where the boss sits, it all looks fine.
  • The full extent of the damage has not become apparent. The malignant narcissist can keep a lid on the crap while they are still around. It's only after they have left that the remaining people begin to see a pattern and put the pieces together.
  • They look good on paper. Often these most obnoxious people tend to get results according to somebody's key performance indicators. Whether the bosses are deliberately turning a blind eye or just perfectly hoodwinked, the malignant narcissist can appear to be a star.
  • They discredit any critiques. There are dozens of people who know the real story about the malignant narcissist however those stories do not get heard. A complex pattern of marginalising their rivals creates a conspiracy of silence.
  • They talk a good game. To anybody watching from a distance these people are often engaging and positive. It is really easy to do that when you are standing in front of a meeting or just back-slapping in the hallway.
  • Some people remain to fight the rearguard. Whether the rearguard is made up of previous favourites or people who are still scared - there is often somebody left to act as a mole. The conspiracy of silence continues.
  • People are happy to see them go. Finally, sometimes the bosses just want the malignant narcissist out of there. They have been a problem for years - a problem they just didn't seem to have a solution. And now here is this same person requesting a reference; a perfect answer. "They are fantastic - their record speaks for itself".

Except "the record" doesn't even begin to tell the story. Still, by that time the malignant narcissist is somebody else's problem.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The "holier than thou" two for one deal

I've recently noticed an interesting trait in human behaviour. It's the tendency to take what I call the 2 for 1 deal about moral behaviour. My dead Mum made the obervation a long time ago about vegetarians.

I've recently seen similar behaviour in myself around body weight, and I have noticed it in non smokers for a long time. This two for one deal comes when a person makes a decision for their own reasons and then a little later on realises that there is also an ethical dimension do that decision that they hadn't noticed.

So I have decided to go off alcohol in the lead up to a sporting event, which has caused me to lose a few kilos. That's very nice for me, however I get this tiny flicker when I see somebody who is out of shape it has me think "how can a person let themselves get that way?". Of course the answers are complex, and who the fuck am I to judge? That's why I call the holier-than-thou two for one deal.

Mum had noticed this when people gave up eating meat - mostly because they just didn't like it, or could take it or leave it. Soon after, however, Mum would hear these people counting the virtues of vegetarianism and veganism because of animal ethics and impact on the planet, amongst other things. The two for one deal.

Strange people, us humans.

Why do young Army guys seem to be so unreliable?

This is just an observation of mine and more just a feeling I have the than any hard data. I work with people from many different walks of life and I would have sought that people from the army were reliable. I have certainly found that the older army guys are like clockwork. They say what they're going to do and then they do what they say they're going to do. Not so much the young Army guys. A number of times I have had them simply not turn up. I don't include a young guy from one of my teams in that mix because in that case it has been the army making demands on him. But in terms of just turning up when you say you are going to turn up I had a bunch of army guys just not do so. A couple of times. I can only put it down to the fact that there is such a strong external discipline. So when these guys are young they end up being told what to do and screamed at if they don't do it. If they are not being screamed at and threatened with being put on report comma perhaps they just go a little slack. But the fact that the older guys are such good operators gives me hope. Perhaps it is just as simple as the external discipline rubs off over time and it becomes a sense of order and internal discipline. Who knows?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My are men avoiding marriage?

1. He'll lose respect
2. He'll lose out on sex
3. He'll lose his friends
4. He'll lose his space
5. He could lose his kids and his money: And they may not even be his kids! 
6. He'll lose in court
7. He could lose his freedom
8. Single life is better than ever

Population trends only. I'm not talking about my (or your) marriage.

Her: "You don't believe that, do you?"
Him: [deer in headlights] _mutter_ "fuck you, Cullen"

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Inconsiderate as a smoker

There's a certain lack of respect that just seems to travel with being a smoker. That's not to say that if you smoke you are a pig, but I do find some of the most inconsiderate behaviours are related to smoking. Sure, there is the simple fouling of everybody's air for a 5 m radius (and that is at least the radius) but there's also this flagrant littering that goes on.

Somebody once told me that a single cigarette can kill all of the earthworms within a square metre of where it gets thrown down although that sounds a little overstated. But for f***** sake it is litter.

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and they won't just compost down. I feel sorry for the smokers who really do think of other people and the general environment, because there seems to be a lot of pigs out there as well.

Friday, January 26, 2018

If someone is not interested in you then that's fine

All of my life I have had to deal with businesses, people, friendship groups, and sports teams being less interested in me than I have been in them. By the age of 50 I've come to realise that there is a simple solution to it. Forget them and get on with your own shit. In many cases if you're doing things that were your original reason for having those friends then you probably grow past them. Many a time have I just gone off to do my own shit and then the people who weren't interested in me are all of a sudden surprisingly interested in what it is ongoing and want me around them. If I was petty then that would be the time for me to revel in the fact that now I'm the Cool Kid, but mostly I just keep going on about my things. Because those people don't interest me anymore. I say that with all humility.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The power of "comin' through"

It seems to be that people just don't really look where they are walking or want to be getting anywhere when they are walking.

I have a very mild-mannered friend who deals with this problem. When people are not looking where they are going he plays a fun game.

My friend sees a person with the head buried in their phone or gazing off into the distance and walked towards them, gazing off into the distance.

They never walk into him. I tried it and found it to be a great deal of fun.

Similarly if there are three or four people obstructing a doorway then it's them being the rude ones. I found that "excuse me" is a little too nice, and that a cheery "coming through" gives me the chance to communicate what I really think. But I think that often the subtlety is lost.

But at least I had some fun.

Put Labor last

Their cynical game playing has to come to an end.

This election, Labor has gone all out to dovetail their ribbon cutting ceremonies right into the time of Mad March where we then go onto an election and vote them back in.

Well, fuck that.

This time around their projects are running over time and south Aussies are caught in a bunch of misorganised, disorganised traffic jams that I hope will make the chickens come home to roost.

Remember the traffic; put Labor last.

Kick them out, it's time.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Learning to live suboptimally: A computer example

When things that once brought you pleasure and worked to your advantage fail to do that anymore, there is a time to find ways around it. I call that living suboptimally. And I will describe my computer as a case in point.

The last year I was on staff, I had a computer that was two and a half years old. When I became an independent contractor to the same previous employer they did me the favour of allowing me to keep that computer. That was great but after five years as an independent contractor my 7 year old computer is starting to get a bit tired. Suboptimal.

I have found ways to deal with that and it provides a reasonable metaphor for life, perhaps.

I need to prepare for the eventual catastrophic failure. I actually thought I had experienced that early last year and my previous work computer sat dusty in a corner for 6 months. Even then, I was reasonably unphased. I had begun the first stage of living suboptimally. There was no chance of me losing any data because anything important is stored on the cloud. I gave up on the idea of getting anything resembling performance - this was once a laptop that I could take overseas and count on presenting with, and doing major data crunch. Yeh, nah. No longer.

So I just came to terms with the fact that this old computer just wouldn't do the things for me that it once did. In computer world it's just that the hardware is getting old, in the world of personal relationships sometimes people just lose interest. I have software that I like to run on my computers and sometimes that software is a little bit demanding.

Living sub-optimally just means that there are some pieces of software that I don't ask my computer to run. Sure, the computer could run it but if I anthropomorphise a little I'd probably say that the computer has just lost interest. And the amount of extra effort and workarounds required just don't seem to be an efficient use of my time.

There is some software that I simply still have to run on this PC. I can't change the BIOS and it still needs to run a version of windows/office.

If I have a critical activity that I really, really need my old PC to execute then I need to plan for it. That might take hours of putting things in the right places, making sure the PC has had a fresh reboot (perhaps even two) and making sure there aren't too many extraneous demands on it. I shut down all peripheral programs and allow the computer to concentrate on only the one thing that I need it to do. If I manage to caress and cajole the computer adequately I seem to get it to do what I need it to. It's a lot of work, but sometimes there is no other way.

So, living suboptimally is a skill. A great old (now dead) friend of mine once said "I expect nothing of people, and I am rarely disappointed". And the same seems to be true of computers. It's not a path to exhuberant joy, but perhaps "exhuberant joy" - in the long term - is simply a mirage, anyway.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fat you can see..

We all know that cookies aren't good for us but this was a telling reminder for me. A popular brand of cream cookie was left on a piece of paper a few days ago and I think it's an image worth sharing.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cascading vices

Cigarette shop is selling greeting cards too top up their revenue and the newsagency is selling lottery tickets and Kino to top up its revenue.

I felt bad about buying a greeting card at the cigarette shop (before I went on to buy some liquor) but then realised that we are all just in the game of cascading vices.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Major page view anomaly last year - I blame the Russians

No, I'm not joking. I just rambled around looking at the pageview stats of this blog and I recall that this time last year I had gone from 1000-2000 views per month up to over 7000. At the time I noted that most of the traffic was from Russia.

That didn't seem too good. But then it stopped. Another of life's mysteries for me.