Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Coming Soon to a Neighbourhood Near You

Well 2010 is lurching towards an unlamented close. The last day of the year is approaching and as I look back on it I can only say "good riddance". Still there are bright spots; this marks the 150th entry since I started my blog and it seems like a good note to end the year on. I don't think 150 entries is a bad achievement for the year. Granted some of them were very short, others were monstrously self indulgent and still more were silly, stupid or wildly incoherent. This is before we even get into ill-informed, inaccurate, ignorant and occasionally deliberately untrue. Still, collectively I'm rather pleased with it. Which should tell you all you need to know about the standards I hold myself to.

A blog is the perfect medium for me. I can comment at length on subjects I know nothing about to a virtually non existent audience. It really is nothing more than an extended exercise in talking to myself without all the odd looks that that tends to generate. The great thing about a blog is that nobody can interrupt you. Sure they can comment afterwards but by that stage you have vented your spleen and have moved on to your next irrational diatribe. Having a blog means that no one can tell you to shut up. At least not until its too late.

The flip side of the above is that every idiotic comment, opinion and prejudice which even a moments reflection might have prompted you to amend is stored on the internet forever. If my family ever move to have me committed this blog is going to be Exhibit A. Furthermore if, later in life, you develop slightly more sensible attitudes people can dredge up old blog entries and wave them at you as evidence of your fundamental idiocy. If that happens write a blog entry about it. Be bitter.

Despite all the qualifications I am rather proud of my blog, a feeling which is in no way lessened by the fact that the next most impressive achievement I can boast is remembering everything I had to buy at the supermarket without referring to my shopping list. I have become a serial pest demanding that everyone I know reads it and (oh the monstrous egotism) quoting myself in conversation. Just think about that for a moment, with all the great literary, political and cultural figures of history to draw on the person I am most frequently quoting is myself. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that I am in need of remedial brain surgery.

Still talking authoritatively from a position of complete ignorance is rather fun. I like to think of my blog as the bastard child of facebook and wikipedia. Having a blog means never having to take responsibility (it is like facebook and wikipedia) and the beauty is, anyone can do it. Even more beautiful is the fact that nobody has to read any of them. The entire human race can publish their opinions to the entire human race and nobody actually needs to read a word of it.

The whole thing has been rather a lot of fun though. Next year I am going to improve. I am going to quit smoking, get fit, save some money, write a much better informed blog and sprout wings and fly. In the meantime this can do for the year. Tomorrow is the 31st of December and I'm going to pretend I have something better to do than write a blog entry.

Happy New Year, you might as well enjoy it. 2011 will turn up whether you like it or not.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where No Cat Has Gone Before

I stood on my balcony last night and gazed down over my little kingdom. No fewer than five cats stared back up at me, I felt a little like Mussolini on the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia. That is if Mussolini had ruled an empire of cats rather than the worlds most inept fascist dictatorship. I'm not ashamed to admit I made a small rabble rousing speech to the furry multitudes. I may even have thrust out my chin and made dramatic hand gestures a la Il Duce. The cats seemed singularly unimpressed and I've no idea what the neighbours thought. Still if you do hear of someone leading a horde of cats in a march on Rome you might want to give me a call and find out what I'm up to.

An empire based on cats would probably prove to be unviable. Cats are the original "does not play well with others". Humans are much more amenable to that sort of thing although we are rather schizophrenic about it. We build communities and institutions that operate like well oiled machines. We also build well oiled machines. On the other hand at any given moment a goodly proportion of us can't stand the sight of each other. I firmly believe that one of the main drivers of civilisation was the desire to more conveniently hate the neighbours.

This combined desire for community and frequent dislike of the people who comprise it is one of the things that makes our world such an interesting and often dangerous place to live. Our history is littered with civilisations that were toppled usually by their neighbours, who in turn succumbed to their neighbours. Still we go onward and upward bitching and snarling at each other all the way. We have even created an entire institution, the United Nations, solely so that people who normally would be unlikely to even meet will have an opportunity to dislike each other in a comfortable and well appointed setting.

The time will come when our desire for community finally wins out over our desire to beat up the neighbours and we will create a single unified human civilisation. On that day things will be harmonious, happy and, in all probability, incredibly dull. Unless we use our new found unity to travel between the stars; boldly going where no one has gone before in order to seek out new neighbours we can hate. We will probably be the galactic equivalent of those folk a couple of doors down who play loud music at 3am on a Tuesday, toss beer cans over the fence and have a spaceship up on bricks in the front yard. I can't help thinking that most alien races watch our internal bickering with a sense of relief and hope our current state of violent incoherence continues indefinitely.

Mind you, if cats ever learn unity of purpose, we're all screwed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Which Part of the Brain Controls Stupidity?

I was reading a book on brain plasticity the other day. It seemed to make a good deal of sense and not just because my own brain is so plastic it practically dribbles out my ears. Rather than "a place for everything and everything in its place" which was the traditional view of how the brain functions it would appear that our grey matter is highly flexible and, at least to a certain extent, capable of re engineering itself in response to damage or changing circumstances. I am awesomely impressed with how clever our brains are. Which makes me wonder; why are we so stupid? Why is it that the same brain that can reorganise itself in response to quite serious damage still can't stop us from falling for Nigerian bank scams? Perhaps slightly more topically, how did our brilliant, flexible brain ever think that sub prime mortgages were a good idea?

It really does seem that humans are a strange combination of genius and idiocy, not just collectively but within individuals as well. I am considered reasonably intelligent (by myself at any rate) but I can barely change a light bulb without killing myself. I have also recently been informed that I have been doing it wrong. This is one of those areas where it is convenient to believe in God. When faced with such a question the believer can wax lyrical about the infinite majesty of God's creation without stopping consider why some of this creation, no matter how infinitely majestic, is so bloody stupid.

Those of us who don't possess a belief system and are to lazy to go out and get one (I'm waiting for them to become available on eBay) are reduced to simply keeping score. So far we appear to be clever enough to get away with all of the stupid things we insist on doing, collectively if not individually. It will be interesting to see what happens if that changes. Although personally I recommend viewing the results from a different planet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When the World is Gripped by Fear Find the Nearest Drunken Serb

Hurrah, the Red Sea is saved. When all else failed a Serbian hero stepped up and made the waters safe to swim and discharge untreated sewage in. Keen observers of all things Red Sea ( will know that the Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm el Sheik has been terrorised by the local equivalent of Jaws. A shark has been swimming around biting lumps out of various tourists. Previous claims that the shark had been killed were proved to be a case of mistaken identity and the compensation claim by the unfortunate sharks widow is currently before the Egyptian courts.

Then, when all looked hopeless up stepped a man from Serbia. Fearlessly ascending to the highest diving platform he hurled himself into the sea, inadvertently colliding with the shark and killing it instantly (do I even need to mention he was hopelessly drunk?). This has prompted wild rejoicing amongst tourist operators and more restrained rejoicing amongst the Muslim Brotherhood who were in danger of being sidelined. For some reason a killer shark is more tourist frightening than some halfwit with an AK-47.

Our hero is currently recovering in hospital (from alcohol poisoning) and has been offered a free holiday by the resort when he gets out. I suspect they're going to ply him with drinks and unleash him on the rest of the area's shark population. After that I believe he has an offer from a cargo ship heading around the Horn of Africa. They're hoping he will jump on some Somali pirates along the way. Guess its time to short those pirate options I invested my superannuation in a few weeks ago.

PS: I know this story is almost certainly a hoax but if you had a blog could you pass up mentioning it?

Quite Bonsai One Morning

I'm sitting here staring at a bonsai plant with a certain level of nervousness. It is staring back at me with what I can only describe as a sort of malevolent vulnerability.
"I'm delicate," it seems to be saying, "I'm fragile. Make one false move and I'm dead."
I swallow hard and reach for the watering can.

The backdrop to this battle of wits between myself and a miniature tree is my reckless, some would say, foolhardy agreement to babysit a bonsai plant while the owner shovels herself out of snowdrifts in Germany. For the next few weeks the only thing that separates this plant from the arboreal afterlife is my tender care. Wish it luck.

Wish me luck too. I'm not crazy about fronting up to the owner with a bundle of twigs and a sheepish expression on my face. My bonsai nurturing skills are precisely zero. I have been informed that they need a lot of water. So far I think I have watered it thirteen times in the last three days. I'm thinking of adding some miniature fish. Apart from that bonsai care seems to consist of "try not to kill it". Things that can kill a bonsai include (but are not limited to), too much water (eeek), not enough water (great), too much sun, not enough sun, poorly trimmed roots (not going there), mould, fungi, insects, snails, movement, weeds, sudden temperature changes, prolonged temperature non changes, leaf rot, root rot, general rot, barbarian invasion and snowshoes. I think I'm safe on the last of these.

I have never really understood the mentality behind bonsai. Who, precisely, looks at a tree and thinks "brilliant concept but does it come any smaller?" A bonsai plant is really little more than a stick with delusions of grandeur. The bonsai is made by taking a cutting of an appropriate tree or other branch producing plant and doing things to it. What these "things" are I have no idea but apparently it requires a lot of time and skill. One wonders how people come to the conclusion that this is a useful thing to be doing with their lives.

"Do you want to develop a cure for cancer today?"
"Nah, I think I'll work on a tree you can keep in a shoebox"

What would happen if it all went wrong? Of course most of the time you would be left with a sorry group of sticks but just occasionally I hope it goes so badly wrong that the bonsai maker goes to bed and wakes to find a sixty foot redwood on his balcony. I suspect that the Japanese timber industry (is there one?) survives on reprocessing failed bonsai attempts.

Still it looks good on my balcony. Up to this point there was nothing on my balcony but two cacti that my best efforts have failed to kill and a lot of spiky things from the nearby liquidambar tree. Now there is a bonsai plant and suddenly I look sophisticated. At least I look sophisticated as long as you don't catch me on my knees begging the thing not to die. It does resemble a miniature tree in so far as there is nothing else it resembles more except perhaps a threadbare bush.

I wonder if anybody has considered gathering together all the bonsais in the world and making a miniature forest. Wouldn't that be cool? The next step would be to make miniature orang utans to live it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Satellite Cafe

It wasn't so long ago that I was proudly proclaiming that I wouldn't advertise on my blog. Now here comes an entire entry dedicated to a cafe. Giving up on the gentle hints I have dropped in previous entries I have just decided to go the whole hog in my attempts to get free coffee.

Satellite Cafe in Newtown is a cafe where I spend an almost disturbingly large amount of my spare time. I go there for the coffee, the food and most of all the atmosphere and the company. It is rare these days to be able to walk into a cafe or other similar venue and find a place that immediately makes you feel welcome. Satellite is such a place. The coffee and the food are both good but its the atmosphere that sets Satellite above others. The place has a slight 50s diner feel to it and you certainly wouldn't go there for the expensive fittings but you would go there if you liked unpretentious comfort and a relaxed attitude. I treat the place as my lounge room, an attitude which is tolerated with good grace by the owner and staff.

I wandered into Satellite more or less by chance. I had been looking for a cafe to hang out in for a while and thought I would give it a go. I was greeted by the owner a lean, sleepy eyed girl named Ash who welcomed me, took my order and chatted for a while. Favourably impressed I came back the next day to see if my previous experience had been a fluke. When I walked in Ash greeted me by name, remembered my order and asked me how I was. That was it, I was sold. I kept coming back and now it has got to the stage where the staff have to chase me out with a broom when they want to go home.

Despite my love of coffee it is unlikely that I would spend quite as much time in Satellite as I do if it wasn't for the company. I've already mentioned Ash but she is ably supported by Mitch, Dan, Bassam, Gabby, Morganne and whatever customers happen to have nothing to do. I've washed the occasional dish at the place myself. Everybody who works there greets me as a friend (or at least a well tolerated customer) and most of the clientele seem to be equally easy going. I don't come for the coffee any more really. I come to socialise with interesting people that I have come to like and enjoy hanging out with.

I have another reason for liking Satellite. I found the place at a rather low point in my life and collectively the owner, staff and many of the customers have brightened some rather dark moods. I'm very grateful and owe them more than they probably realise. So this blog entry isn't so much an advertisement as a way of saying "Thank you!"

Ash currently has an application in to get an evening drinks licence. If it gets approved I may never leave.

If you're interested, Satellite is located at 80 Wilson Street, Newtown and is open seven days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Birthday Greetings #20

Happy birthday to Field Marshal Svetozar Boreovic von Bojna. With a name like that he can only be a Habsburg army general. He was in fact one of the most capable commanders the Habsburgs possessed in the First World War. It is a testimony to the heterogenous nature of the Habsburg officer corps that this hero of the empire was actually a Croatian born Serb. He came of Grenzer stock, the irregular soldier/farmers who had guarded the Habsburgs southern borders with the Ottoman empire in days gone by. His father had served as a corporal in one of the border regiments and after long service was rewarded with promotion to leutnant.

Boreovic joined the Croatian National Guard (then part of the Hungarian reserve forces known as the Honved) serving first in the ranks but gaining rapid promotion to leutnant. Thereafter a combination of military study and good service propelled him up the ranks. He served in the Habsburg occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (far from a bloodless affair) and garnered medals and commendations for his performance. As a major general he was ennobled taking "von Bojna" as his predicate.

The start of the First World War saw him commanding the VI Corps of the Imperial and Royal Army which he led against the Russians as part of the Fourth Army. In a disastrous campaign Boreovic's performance was one of the few bright sparks and he rapidly gained a reputation as a skillful and very tough general. A ruthless disciplinarian, he drove his men unmercifully but at the same time attempted to weed out incompetents from the ranks of his junior officers. Sadly he could do little about the incompetents above him.

Boreovic's moment of glory came when Italy declared war on the Habsburg empire in 1915. The forces guarding the Italian border were barely worth the name and Boreovic was transferred there with a handful of exhausted units from the Russian front. If the Italians had attacked immediately they could hardly have failed to be successful but they mobilised slowly and refused to launch a full scale attack until they had brought up their full force. This gave Boreovic enough time (just) to prepare a defence. Over the next two years the Italians would hammer at his defences, always with superiority in numbers and firepower but the Boreovic's army held them back.

Admittedly he was lucky. While the soldiers of the Habsburg army were indifferent to fighting the Serbs and appalled at fighting the Russians even the most unreliable nationalities were quite eager to fight the Italians. The German High Command which had an understandably low opinion of their Habsburg ally always added the qualification "except against the Italians". Part of the reason was that Italy coveted Slovenia and large parts of Croatia and had gone to war to get them. The Slovenes and Croats might not have been crazy about their imperial overlord but there was no way they wanted to swap him for the Italians.

After eleven battles along and around the Isonzo river Boreovic dialled in German assistance and went on the offensive driving the Italians almost back to Venice. This was an impressive achievement but it concealed weakness. Boreovic had gone on the offensive because he doubted the ability of his troops to survive another defensive battle. After four years of war the Habsburg empire could barely feed its soldiers and the troops that marched victoriously after the Italians were hungry, ragged and not a little desperate. The Italians managed to stabilise their lines and the offensive came to a halt. An attempt in 1918 to launch another attack was an even more desperate throw of the dice and after some successes it was called off in the face of more effective Italian resistance.

While Boreovic fought the Italians the empire he served was falling to bits; when the Italians launched their last offensive the empire had already dissolved. Boreovic pulled back with what troops he could save but most went into Italian captivity. His final act was to offer to lead his remaining troops on Vienna to crush the revolutionaries and save the emperor's throne. Emperor Karl, who could read the writing on the wall, refused. After the war Boreovic tried to go home, offering his services to the new Yugoslav government but they refused to accept him and by offering he had invalided the pension he was entitled to from the Austrian government. He was rather surprised that the only field marshal the Southern Slav peoples of the empire had produced was not welcome in Yugoslavia but the answer is probably that he was too much the Kaisertreu Habsburg officer. Loyal to his oath to the emperor and indifferent to nationality it is likely that he was an object of suspicion for one of the empire's successor states.

He settled in Carinthia in Austria which was as close to Croatia as he could get and died in relative poverty in 1920. It is pleasing to note that he was interred in Vienna at the expense of ex-emperor Karl who picked up the tab for his burial.

Not More Raving About Environmentalists

I have just received my latest electricity bill which was thoughtfully printed on recycled paper. They do this because they care about the environment. The electricity they provide is largely generated by burning immense quantities of coal in a huge power station but my provider sends me my bill on recycled paper. Methinks somebody is taking the piss.

I would prefer it if those in highly polluting industries gloried in their environmental unfriendliness rather than making weaselly attempts to pretend they care. Electricity companies should send their bills out written in octopus ink on baby panda hide. Now that would be a bill worth receiving. Electricity bills would become sought after collectibles, particularly after we ran out of pandas (patience Neil, any day now).

Electricity amazes me; I flick the switch and the lights come on. Or to be more accurate, the lights don't come on but they would if I bought some more light bulbs. Still the thought that illumination is a simple trip to the hardware store away is something I find very impressive. It is easy to take the miracles of modern civilisation for granted until one visits a country where the shit just sits in the street rather than being flushed invisibly away. Anywhere that a dentist doesn't actually have to tie his patients to the chair is definitely on its way to civilisation.

The ability to light up the darkness is surely worth the occasional flayed panda. I think so but many people don't. They look at inkless octopi and cherry red pandas and they feel disgusted and ashamed. They have a point of course, the miracles of modern civilisation do tend to have some unfortunate by products. Pollution, mess, extinctions, environmentalists the list goes on. And so do I.

Our world has become somewhat grotty and there are certainly fewer animals and plants around than there used to be although personally I think some of them have just gone into hiding to avoid being bothered by David Attenborough. Still mess there is, modern civilisation has created so much mess that probably the only thing that will save the world is modern civilisation. Eating recycled tyres and wearing carbon neutral clothing are all very well but realistically we can't expect everyone to be an idiot. For a true global clean up we will need to deploy the resources of our civilisation in a concerted effort at tidiness. Or to put it another way, somebody is going to have to make money out of it. Some people already are of course and many more are making money out of pretending to solve the problem and then sticking the gullible with a huge bill. In Australia we call that a solar power rebate.

Nevertheless more and more companies are getting interested in solving the problems our civilisation has created. To be more specific more and more companies are getting interesting in making money from the problems our civilisation has created. I am utterly confident that in the fullness of time they will solve all the current problems if only by accident. I am equally confident that they will create a whole bunch of new problems that we will only recognise when future generations of environmentalists draw our attention to them. Possibly in a century's time we will all be dining fat on whale meat and the cow will be an endangered species. It would cheer up my dotage no end to see earnest young things waving placards to preserve the life of animals they could have picked up for a couple of bucks in McDonalds in my youth.

I am rather ambivalent towards environmentalists. On the one hand I rather hope they do succeed in saving whales, rainforests, lions and so forth. Those things look so good on nature documentaries. In the future when they're campaigning to save the cow it just won't be the same. Can you imagine David Attenborough standing in a field commenting on the magnificence of the aberdeen angus in hushed and reverent tones? So can I actually but most won't bother. If environmentalists really wanted to save the world they would start working for major corporations with an interest in cleaning the planet up, or start one. Greenpeace could have been a Fortune 500 company by now if they had gone about it the right way. There is nothing wrong with getting rich while you save the world. In fact its probably the only way the world will get saved.

Still, I suspect, many environmentalists secretly love the idea of being outsiders railing against our civilisation rather than part of the entire faceless conglomerate that produced the society which, incidentally, produced them. Two centuries ago we didn't have environmentalists. Two centuries before that and the only contact anyone had with the environment was in beating a part of it to death so they could eat it. Make no mistake; environmentalists are the bastard children of the industrial revolution. Without it there wouldn't any environmentalists and not much civilisation either. Now if you will excuse me I have to draft a stern letter to my electricity provider. Where did I leave my panda pad?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Birthday Greetings #19

Happy birthday to Francis of Lorraine, less well known as Emperor Franz I of the Holy Roman Empire. Francis was the Duke of Lorraine a territory which, although part of the Holy Roman Empire, had long been coveted by the Kings of France who periodically invaded the place. Perhaps in reaction the Dukes of Lorraine were loyal servants of the emperors and provided the Habsburgs with a succession of mediocre administrators and second rate generals.

Francis was the last of his family to be Duke as the King of France decided to give the territory to his father in law after a failed attempt to put him on the throne of Poland (why anybody would want the throne of Poland is another matter). In exchange Charles VI, the reigning emperor gave Francis the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and arranged for him to marry his eldest daughter, Maria Theresa. Charles had no sons and when he died the male line of the House of Habsburg died with him. Charles had attempted to prepare for this moment with a frantic piece of international diplomacy called the Pragmatic Sanction whereby he made concessions to pretty much everybody in return for Maria Theresa being recognised as sole heir of all his territories. His success can be measured by the fact that virtually the entire of Europe invaded her lands before his body was cold.

There was one thing that Charles couldn't give to Maria Theresa, however. The imperial title was elective and male only. With the Habsburgs out of the running (and technically extinct) the Elector of Bavaria, backed by the French, put up his hand and was duly elected; the first non Habsburg to hold the title in almost three centuries. Maria Theresa currently being invaded by Bavarians, French and Prussians was in no position to argue.

Francis wasn't much of an administrator or a general but he was very good at avoiding the limelight and letting his much more talented wife run the show. In a spectacular resurgence Maria Theresa's troops beat the French and the Bavarians, drove them out of her territory, laid waste to Bavaria and forced the hapless emperor into exile where he soon died. With her star in the ascendant Maria Theresa managed to impose her will on the electoral college and the replacement emperor was none other than her husband thus bringing the crown back within the Habsburg family. Technically it was now the House of Habsburg-Lorraine but nobody paid too much attention to that. Nobody paid too much attention to Francis either although Maria Theresa modestly refused to attend the coronation so that she wouldn't divert the lustre of her husband's big day.

Francis wore the mantle of emperor pretty lightly if only because by this time there really wasn't much for an emperor to do. His powers and authority were virtually nil and the title had little more than prestige value. In his early days Francis had turned his hand to both administration and soldiering in the service of Maria Theresa's father and had proved lousy at both. As emperor he served as an assistant to his wife, who actually ran things, and patronised the arts. His one real talent turned out to be business and his advice was always listened to on economic matters. As further evidence of this he quietly accumulated quite a fortune which he left to the imperial treasury on his death. Apart from this he managed to father sixteen children with Maria Theresa while at the same time keeping at least one and sometimes a couple of mistresses on the side. Frankly I'm amazed he found time to do anything else.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Welcome Jasmyn

Hello Jasmyn, welcome to the world. I would have had lots of helpful advice for you but unfortunately some other friends of mine (who you will no doubt meet) had a baby not so long ago and I used up my stock of desk calendar quotes welcoming her. Of course I have had a few months warning to think of something useful to tell you but a few months is barely enough time for me to register a pulse never mind give you the sort of advice that you will cling to throughout your adult life. I blame your parents really, if they had waited a year or two I'm sure this blog entry would have been much better. Still here you are athirst for wisdom and I will just have to do my best. Bear in mind that you can't actually sue me for anything I say here (I hope).

Firstly allow me to congratulate you on your choice of parents. This is a very important decision for a baby to make and many of them get it badly wrong. I'm pleased to see you avoided the pitfalls and went for quality from the get go. I'm also sure that I'm not just saying this because your father has a habit of lending me money.

Now that you have selected your parents remember that it is never too early to develop the sort of interesting character quirks that will infuriate them when you are a child and make them incredibly proud when you are an adult. At times you will wonder whether your choice of parents was a wise one. When those moments occur I invite you to examine your friends and look at the choice they made. I think you will see that on balance you got the best deal.

Now that we have your parents out of the way (something you will be trying to do for the next eighteen years) here are just a few tips to be going on with.

Firstly, don't waste any of your time looking for a meaning of life. There is no meaning of life and you can waste all of it looking for one. Realise though that this lack of meaning means that the potential your life has is limitless. You can't have a meaning of life but you can give your life meaning.

Secondly, respect the law. Note that I don't tell you to obey it necessarily. Some laws are stupid, ill conceived, out of date or were quite simply written by crazy people. However as a whole laws are the corporate soul of the human race. More than anything else, even religion, they bind communities together and make us something more than six billion apes alone in the night. Respect and understand the law. Only then will you have the right to occasionally break it.

Thirdly, in reference to my previous comment if you do break the law (for however justifiable a reason) there is the possibility that some heavy set people in blue are going come around and lock you up. Accept this, it is the price of breaking the law. If you're not prepared to pay it don't break the law. It is entirely permissible to hope that they never find out however.

Fourthly, there are many, many flaws in our society. By all means try and fix some of them if you have a little time to spare but don't go kidding yourself that you can actually replace our society with something better. Every attempt to do that has ended in disaster and an horrifically high body count. Remember "I meant it for the best" is not a good enough excuse for anything.

Fifthly, come and visit me in the old folks home from time to time. Wipe away the drool and listen to my senile ramblings. I won't be aware of you then of course but I thank you right now.

Sixthly, friends are good to have. So is integrity. Try and arrange it so that possessing one doesn't mean you compromise the other. Ultimately though, if it comes to a choice pick integrity. This will lose you many friends but it does mean that those you keep are pure gold.

Seventhly, and this is very important. Learn to distinguish between friends and people who are just fun to be around. I'm not saying you shouldn't associate with the latter occasionally but keep a clear distinction in your head.

Eighthly, family is important but remember that everybody is part of your family. Even me. Loyalty to your immediate family should not overshadow the loyalty you owe to the human family in its entirety.

Ninethly, kindness, compassion and forgiveness are rarely rewarded. Practice them anyway.

Finally, try not to be discouraged by defeat or failure. These things will happen and it is a measure of your character as to how you react to them. Use your defeats and failures as fuel to drive you on to more success. If you can do this visit me and tell me how.

Anyway Jasmyn (lovely name by the way) this is probably enough for you to be going on with and it occurs to me that your parents probably have control over your internet access at the moment which means you probably won't read this until after they're dead. I wish you all the success in the world and one day I will point at your face on the tv and boast that I knew you as a child.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snails Rule but Beetles Die

There are beetles everywhere in my apartment. Mainly they seem to be in the sink. What with snails on the balcony and beetles in the sink it would appear that I am being overrun by invertebrates. I don't mind the occasional insect buzzing about the place but these beetles don't buzz. All they do is float sluggishly in my sink. Somehow they manage to do it even when I haven't left any water in there. Apparently I am only visited by the suicidal type of beetle. Those beetles with a healthy, well adjusted personality avoid my place like the plague.

I'm not sure why my apartment got selected as the place where beetles crawl away to die but I'm getting a little tired of fishing their corpses out of the sink. I appear to have become a de facto funeral director for the beetle community. I feel as though I should wear black as I pitch their corpses into the bin.

I wonder where all the happy beetles are? No doubt they're off frolicking in the atmosphere having a great old time while the miserable beetles hang around on the sidelines painting their feelers black and muttering to themselves until it all gets too much and they make the final journey to Neil's place from which no beetle ever returns. Of course its possible that they see it differently.

Perhaps in the beetle world I am the reaper, the doorkeeper at the gates of death. My mild bespectacled visage is the very face of mortality and eternal darkness. Is it creepy that I find that image rather appealing?

Christmas Party

Firm Christmas parties always raise conflicting emotions in me. On the one hand free food, drink and the enjoyable sight of ones colleagues making complete dicks of themselves. On the other hand tight self discipline is required to avoid being the one making the complete dick. We had our firm party at Wildfire, a restaurant near Circular Quay (so near that drowning was a danger late in the night). Several hundred odd members of one of Australia's premier law firms turned up for the evening.

I got ready (preparation time three minutes) in a hotel room rented by some female colleagues (preparation time over an hour each). We were only about ten minutes walk from the venue so time was not an issue. A Latin American theme was the order of the day which in practice meant a bunch of sombreros and false moustaches plus the occasional bullfighter. We all dressed up, I use the word "we" in the loosest possible sense, the girls dressed up but I settled for painting my nails and wearing a red fuzzy bulls head so that I could be a bull for Natalie's disturbingly attractive matador.

We had a mixture of styles; Liza - pretty, Natalie - striking, Cathy - elegant, Michelle - sexy and Neil - bull. Thus attired we strolled through the Rocks to the restaurant. Once there we mingled with our colleagues and agreed that we were definitely the best dressed group present. Access to food seemed to be determined by how close one happened to be standing to the preparation area but alcohol quite literally followed us around. On the other hand it took half an hour and three attempts to get a glass of orange juice and even then I had to almost wrestle it out of the hands of the waitress who didn't seem particularly inclined to give it to me.

Still there was music, dancing and upstairs there were comfy couches and a coffee machine plus barista. That last was a brilliant idea. Another brilliant idea was had by whoever organised the speeches and formal part of the evening. It was over in five minutes. Kudos to whoever organised that.

The Hot Polish Girl turned up late (did I mention she was a colleague?) and proceeded to tear up the dance floor. She very kindly danced with me and even more kindly failed to point out that I suck at dancing. All in all a very enjoyable evening, I left at about a quarter to eleven when everything was fun but nothing was too messy. I'll find out what else happened from facebook.