Monthly Archives: July 2009

Zen it man…

When you rest, rest.

When you work, work.

When you play, play.

Etc. 

As usual when I need to learn a lesson the right thing, person, book or movie drops into my life to give me a little shove.  This week it’s been the book Zen and Now.  A great read about motorcycling, adventure, history, and philosophy.  It was very timely as well, as some of the lessons really came in handy.

First the tv playing up.  The new whiz bang tele’s can’t pick up the digital signal on my favourite channels when I’m trying to watch my fave shows.  So I retired to my room and did more reading and writing.  Excellent result, no stress.

Stuff I need just disappearing.  I mean lost.  We don’t have a lot of clutter in our house, so there’s not too many places things can hide… very frustrating.  But no more searching, sooner or later they’ll turn up… or I’ll replace them with newer, better, and much more brightly coloured items. 

Out in the boat last weekend, Junior Princess caught her first big ‘keeper’ fish.  We took about 5 photos of her holding it up.  So proud!  We got home to discover (after I’d eaten the fish) that Not one photo came out.  Don’t even exist.  In spite of having spare batteries and a spare memory card, it’s like the camera just decided not to work, something it’s NEVER done before, EVER… to say I was upset would be a very, very big understatement.  I went for a long walk, cleared my head and walked through the back door with the following announcement:  “Well, little chicken, you’ll just have to catch another big fish, and next time we’ll have two (or more) cameras!”  She happily agreed with this plan 🙂

Pushie:  The last 7 times I’ve ridden up town, I’ve managed to get a flat rear tyre (I’m not exaggerating here, the roads up town must be littered with wire, nails screws etc).  On Wednesday I rode up town and back home again, and was delighted to discover that I didn’t get a flat tyre.  When I got up to pedal to work for my first nightshift I strolled out to the shed to see my rear tyre flat.  ‘Zen it’ I thought.  So I walked to work.  It was quite pleasant.  Actually, it was so good that I walked to work again tonight…  great 🙂

My life is a work in progress, but there’s a lot to be said for ‘just letting things go’, it’s certainly stopped the mad, bad and sad thoughts from circulating round and round my head, which doesn’t do me, or anyone else, any good at all. 

Still a ways to go though, but it’s nice to be pointing in the right direction!

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Gold Coast Marathon: 1st Month of Training

This morning, marks the last run for July ’09.  This weekend, after my nightshifts, I’ll kick up the number of laps around the ol’ school oval, and see how I go. 

Shoes, unlike knees, are easily replaced...

Shoes, unlike knees, are easily replaced...

My running adventure has been a case of ‘So far so good’.  The knees aren’t playing up, I haven’t passed out, and my motivation is still surprisingly strong.  I’ve been quiet happy to get up early, eat the breakfast of champions (a banana and a cup of coffee) before ambling down the street to the oval, do some quick warm-ups then stagger out my 10 laps.  This morning I managed to get through all 10 laps without slowing down to a walk at any stage.  This is in stark contrast to my first run where I ended up walking at least 3 laps!  

 

I’ve been greatly encouraged at how quickly my fitness level has increased.   

The best part about running though, is the amount of ideas I seem to get while I’m pounding round in circles.  Inspiration for writing projects, jobs at home, family stuff just pours into my brain.  Unfortunately by the time I get home, it’s like I’ve been struck by a huge Stupid Stick, because I can’t remember most of it.  The answer:  carry a notebook and try jot down stuff on the run… that should be an interesting exercsise.  Will let you know how it works out… if I can read the writing!  🙂

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Filed under Getting Fit, Gold Coast Marathon

LMC – Short Circuit

After many years of faithful service, our old tele died.  It was a long, protracted death as the old unit struggled gamely to life each evening, until one fateful night the picture went altogether.  After observing a moments’ silence, I unplugged it and reverently tossed it into the trailer.

The next day, we learned that they don’t make tv’s like our old one anymore, so we plunked ourselves down in front of a flat screen model, and made cooing noises at the high quality pictures on display.  Then I was told the price.  “Not in this lifetime!” I gasped, struggling to my feet.  The salesman had heard it all before and began rubbing his hands together, “Mate,” he said, handing me his card, “this is a good price, I’m sure if you shop around you won’t buy better.”

“We’ll see about that,” I muttered, tossing the card over my shoulder and walking briskly from the store.  Two shell shocked hours later I was back, “I, um, seem to have lost your card mate,” I said to him, “about that tele we were looking at earlier, is it still available?” 

It was, and he even helped me load it into the family hot rod.  Man the Hunter and his Long Suffering Wife, returned home to the excited bleats of their family as they struggled to haul the new tv into the house.  It was surprisingly easy to set up, gave our lounge room a slightly modern look and even came with several new channels that our old tele couldn’t get. 

The remote control was as long as my forearm and filled with a colourful array of little rubber buttons.  I spent a lot of time fiddling with it, at times dragging bleary eyed family members from their beds to show them any new features I’d discovered.  For some reason, they didn’t share my excitement.  The Littlest Princess though, did spend a couple of fun filled weeks riding the cardboard box down our driveway.   

Unfortunately, the new technology did have a down side.  At crucial moments the screen would go blank, eg: “And now ladies and gentlemen I will reveal the identity of the murderer.  The killers’ name is….”  No Signal. 

Frantic discussions with the salesman, friends, family and workmates, revealed that this is pretty common, and that we’d just have to get used to it.  As it turned out, it was the tip of the iceberg. 

Apparently our ancient video recorder was incompatible with the new digital channels.  Further enquiries were made at the store and my wallet cringed in terror as the salesman started rubbing his hands together again.  Evidently we needed to upgrade to a new u-beaut, whiz bang high definition recorder. 

“Listen mate,” I said, massaging my temples, “all I want to do is record the odd show while I’m at work.  And believe me; I really don’t want to spend a thousand dollars to do this.”  He shrugged his shoulders, “That’s the way it is Greg.”  We were on a first name basis now. 

In the end he sold me a set top box which we could hook up to the old video recorder.  “This won’t tape all the channels on offer,” he warned me, “because it only has SD capability, but it will get you out of trouble til the prices come down on the new HD recorders.”  I pretended to understand, took the unit home, spent an alarming amount of time getting it to work and haven’t bothered with it since.    

So you can imagine how I felt when Long Suffering Wife announced that the little tele in our bedroom was now on the blink.  After I’d calmed down I thought about the bright side, “Well,” I said, waggling my eyebrows suggestively, “we’ll just have to make our own entertainment from now on.”  She responded by slapping me about the head with an electrical goods catalogue.

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This Weeks Reading

This week I’ve ploughed through 4 books which have all been quite good: 

The Cry of the Curlew – an Australian ‘Wilbur Smith’ type read.  Good yarn, some interesting facts about my area here in CQ, and some fairly vivid descriptions of Aboriginal ‘dispersions’ (massacres basically).  Water for cattle and sheep was much more important than water for local tribes during times of drought… apparently.

Zen and Now – revisits the route across America that Robert Pirsig took when he wrote the classic novel, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”  Has been such a good read that I’ve read it twice, and had to lie down a couple of times with a cold towel on my head to stop myself from kicking the old Kwaka to life and going on tour… might read it again this week at work! 

Now or Never by Tim Flannery –  I’ve read it, thought about it, and dunno.  Tim’s a smart bloke.  Much smarter than I’ll ever be, but… and that’s the point, I can’t put my finger on why I’m not convinced.  Probably because we’ve been lied to so much these days that I’m having a hard time sorting out what’s true and what’s spin.  Everyone has an agenda.  Things have to change, but at the moment all I can see is Governments jumping on the bandwagon in order to tax us for the air we breathe.  Maybe I’m being cynical, but it’s amazing how quickly all levels of government got onboard the carbon trading scheme.  Nothing moves that quickly in govt.  Show me where the money is, and then I’ll know why… in the meantime I’ll keep doing what I can in my own small way. 

This Year You Write Your Novel – great read, some excellent tips and advice.  But sitting down at exactly the same time every day and writing for 3 hours is not going to happen while I’m living this lifestyle… maybe if I was gay, childless and living in a unit that was cleaned and maintained by hired help, then yes, I’d write everyday for hours at a time.  Apart from that, writing when you can, and plugging forward is the only way to go.  JK Rowling did it, so can we… um, me, sorry, I meant, ‘I’. 

Perhaps if I was reading less, I’d have more time to write… nah, you’ve got to have some downtime!

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Freedom of Speech?

For the past few weeks here in Gladstone I’ve been following the news regarding the sacking of a local council worker, Don Schmidt, who was ‘stood down’ from his job after writing a letter to the paper expressing his views on the Councils Drug and Alcohol policy. 

Basically he pointed out that if it was good enough for the workers to be drug and alcohol tested, then it was good enough for the town councillors as well.  The letter appeared in Saturdays paper about 3 weeks ago.  On the following Monday morning, Mr. Schmidt was stood down from his job without pay.

Snippets of news reached us via the paper, “The Gladstone Observer”, and we waited eagerly to hear more of what was going on.  Apparently the council CEO Mr. Kanofski, the person responsible for dismissing Mr. Schmidt, stated that councillors were technically not employed the council, but by electors, and was unable to comment any further because of a ‘gag order’ imposed by the Qld Industrial Commission.  Mr. Schmidt has also been gagged by the same order, and is relying on his union representative, Mr. Phil Golby, to defend him at this time. 

My view;  well, it’s the old saying, “I might not agree with what you have to say sir, but I will defend with my life you’re right to say it.”  Except in this case, I do agree wholeheartedly with what Mr. Schmidt had to say.  I work in an industry where everyone who walks through our gate is subject to the drug and alcohol testing policy, as it is a condition of entry to our factory.  Everyone from the contract cleaner to the CEO can be randomly selected to report to the medical centre for testing, noone is exempt. 

Mr. Schmidt pointed this out in his letter, and he used a public forum to make his point.   Councillors in our town, who were elected by the citizens to represent our interests, and who are usually very outspoken on a variety of topics have clammed up on the subect.  Each one issued a statement of “No Comment” to reporter Ren Lanzon yesterday.    

We are not living in China (well, not yet) and to the best of my knowledge we, the citizens of this country, have right to express our opinions within the confines of our laws.  Mr. Schmidt is being punished for airing his views about his workplace in a public forum (ie: Letters to the Editor), and his example will no doubt silence others with similar views.  

I am hoping for a happy outcome to this wretched affair, and that Mr. Schmidt will be re-instated, and receive backpay, but he is facing off against some powerful folk.  If, in the event he is ultimately sacked, then the ratepayers of Gladstone may choose to provide him with some company as they vote several councillors into the ranks of the unemployed at the next election.  

The full story can be found at this link:  http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/story/2009/07/22/would-our-councillors-agree-to-be-tested/

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LMC – The 5 Minute Job

Due to an editing stuff up, this article appeared last Monday under someone elses name and photo.  Also they changed the title to: “Beware of the cost of those small jobs.”  I received some interesting feedback from several different folk which basically ran along the lines of “I saw it was someone else, so I didn’t read it.”  Which is a pity, because this article was one of my better efforts to date… well, that’s my opinion anyway!  And, included for the first time here on the Gladbloke Blog, is the colour photo that a nice lady from The Observer took, and is usually placed alongside 500 – 700 of my carefully written words.  Old Jungle Saying:  He’s got a good look for radio.

Observer Photo Large

Recently someone, who will remain nameless, slapped me on the back of the head while I was ‘working’ on the computer and asked me to hang a picture.  “Hardly a challenge my dear,” I replied, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” 

Minutes later I was winging my way out to the shed, whimpering nervously as I went.  It wasn’t the extra slaps to my head that was causing my distress, it was the words, “… and anyway, it’ll only take 5 minutes of your precious time!”  

Success is virtually guaranteed on any little task unless someone utters that dreaded mantra, “It’s just a 5 minute job,” at which point a horrible little beast appears, and disaster looms.  The blood drained from my face as I heard a small popping noise behind me and a minuscule cry of glee as the tiny fiend materialised.  Previous experience has taught me that this was going to be anything but a five minute job. 

First I discovered that my battery drill was flat, ‘Not a problem,’ I thought inserting the spare battery, which also turned out to be flatter than a slow toad at the Philip Street roundabout.  Reaching for the electric drill, I noted that the beasts’ partner in crime, “The Chuck-Key Fairy”, was also in attendance.  The missing key will only re-appear at a later date, once the fairy knows you don’t need it.  One time it popped up on the lawn while I was mowing, generating a stack of 5 minute jobs in one startling split second. 

So, tossing the drill aside, I returned to the house with a look of determination on my face.  Opening the toolbox revealed that Mr. Nobody had borrowed the tape measure and had failed to put it back.  Using the fine art of Guesstimation to work out where to place the hook, I marked the spot with a broken pencil, wondering, not for the first time, where my sharpener had got to.    

Searching through my box of goodies, I was unable to locate a single picture hook.  I upended the tool box onto the carpet and scrabbled through the pile of odds and ends in a desperate search for just one lousy hook.      

The best part of any 5 minute job, is the drive to the hardware store, singing along with the radio as you wait at all the red lights, and listening gravely to the numerous nasal spray commercials.  Eventually I was walking zombie-like through countless aisles in a desperate search for some picture hooks.  I finally discovered the box containing the necessary hooks, and was not surprised to see that it was empty.  Sighing, I returned to the car, carting a pile of stuff that I hadn’t intended buying, before driving to the other side of town to my old hardware store, where I immediately found what I needed.

Back home, I tossed my purchases through the shed door and strode purposefully back into the house for the final assault.  My enthusiasm had waned to the point of giving up, but I’d come too far to turn back now.  After hammering the picture hook into the wall, thankfully missing any hidden wiring, as well as any sort of solid beam which would have been a major help, I then hung the picture.  Total time taken:  86 minutes.   

As I packed up my stuff, I stepped on a picture hook which had buried itself into the carpet during my initial search of the toolbox.  Hopping on one leg to avoid leaving a trail of blood through the house, I returned to the shed, and decided it was time for another one of my famous clean outs.  The first thing I saw upon opening a cupboard door was an unopened box of picture hooks, with my chuck key and an unbroken pencil resting on top of it.  The little monster was sniggering with delight.       

I was telling God all about it, when a voice called out, “While you’re at it, could you have a quick look at this leaking tap, the knob on the stove, and straighten the pantry door?”  Locating a solid beam I started banging my head against it; personally I thought it was a better option than tackling another batch of 5 minute jobs.

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Learn while you Earn

Once a month, just after the full moon, I get a strange yearning to start cruising university web sites in search of a Journalism degree that I can do either online, or by correspondence.  It’s driving me insane 🙂

The thing is, I’m already battling my way through a correspondence course on Counselling, which I may not finish at this stage, because for some reason my computer/s have never been able to access the rich goodies in the courses’ online library.  My real library doesn’t stock the necessary books, and the local uni library probably does, but I’m not a student so I can’t borrow from there.

But, having started the course, I battle away at it, and 4 years later I’m still struggling to get information.  My enthusiasm has waned to drop off point… 

After looking at my motives for signing up; basically to help me and my workmates with career advice, I realise that the information I wanted to learn I could have easily picked up by talking to the relative professionals in the business, which is exactly what I did not long after starting the course.  And now, after studying several modules, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m not a Counsellors a%^*hole.   I’m keen to move on to another course, but won’t, because a big part of me wants to finish this one… I started it, now I should bite the bullet and see it through, come hell or high water. 

I’d love to study Journalism, and after researching several likely courses over the past 4 – 5 months, I then logged onto as many student forums I could find, and got a real education.  Most of the students seem to be idealists who are trying to better themselves whilst working full time.  They have paid (in many cases) a small fortune to sign up, and are dismayed to find that the level of support is extremely poor: lack of feedback, long delays for text books, no communication, gradings changes without notice, out of date information, spelling mistakes in the course materials,  etc. 

I’m starting to think that a lot of these places are set up to milk cash out of those desperate folk who can’t afford to attend full time uni, but are keen to learn as adults. 

This is why I’ve always been a keen supporter of the TAFE system.  Affordable, flexible, relevant and excellent assistance from the teachers.  At the turn of last century, many unions set up night schools to help workers better themselves, and improve their chances of applying for better positions, or change careers.  From this movement was born the Tafe system.  Unfortunately, the range of courses on offer these days is not very good.  Unless you are doing something trade or business related. 

Discussions with my wife, usually once a month… just after the full moon, usually snap me out of my fog.   My wife is a pragmatist, a practical thinker, and she generally listens to my thoughts then asks the ‘Right Questions’, eg:  

What do you want from this course?  How long will it take?  How much does it cost?  Wouldn’t you enjoy the freedom of writing your novels in your time, when you want to, as opposed to trying to write assignments you’re barely interested in?   

She’s right.  In Stephen Covey terms, it’s the BIG question, First things First, Start with the End in Mind.  What is it that I really want?  The answer of course, is To Work from Home as a Writer. 

Will getting a uni degree, or completing a correspondence course assist me in this?  Probably not.  Knuckling down and writing my backside off on a variety of topics, polishing my editing skills, and reading relevant literature (available for free at my local library, or easily accessed online) will help me achieve my goal. 

My search is revealing some interesting information, and I’ve stumbled across some excellent sites which have been a major help.  There’s still more info that I need, but the thing that’s making me happiest, is the knowledge that I’m on the right track, even if I am a long way from my goal… 

Now all I have to do is remember all this stuff during next months’ full moon 🙂

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Filed under Becoming a Full Time Writer, Writing