Monthly Archives: September 2009

Mondays’ Column – Chucked Out – 28.09.09

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been recounting some of my experiences as a volunteer at a community radio station in Brisbane.  My task was to answer the phones late on Monday nights for Chuck, an announcer who was politically so far to the right that he was in danger of turning inside out. 

Chucks on-air rants were so controversial that nearly every caller was angry and outraged.  At times they were so upset that words would fail them, and I would have to help fill in the gaps.  And being the sort of person who bores easily, I even started to have a little fun with the few callers who were overly abusive or threatening. 

I’d let them rage, scream and swear until they paused for a breath, then I’d say in an official tone, “Thank you for contacting the Australian Federal Police, your call has been traced and an officer will contact you shortly.”  Without fail the caller would slam down their phone and I would never hear from them again.  I imagined that they had dashed from their homes into the night, and spent the next few years on the run, jumping nervously each time a chopper passed overhead. 

And each week, just as the show was wrapping up, one regular listener would call in and point out any flaws in Chucks’ arguments.  In spite of loathing Chuck, and everything he stood for, he never missed a show, and I eventually asked him, “Look Phil,” (for that was his name), “why do you do this to yourself?  Why do you keep tuning in?” 

There was a long period of silence before he replied, ‘Well,” he said finally, “maybe I can change him?” 

“Do you think it’s working?” I asked in amazement.

“Um, no.  But you never know do you?” he said stoically.

“Oh, you can take it from me Phil, Chuck is never going to change.”    

“Well, what about you Greg, do you agree with him?”

“Hell no!” I cried, and hung up leaving him to ponder our curious working relationship.  On air, Chuck was such a hard line right winger that Joe McCarthy would have felt embarrassed in his presence, but otherwise, he was a genial, laid back sort of bloke.  Even when I’d finally convinced him that I really was a card carrying unionist, he merely grinned and said, “You’ll come around eventually, I’ve got faith in you!”  I had been hoping that he would sack me. 

After each show Chuck would whip up some great tasting coffee, and we’d discuss the various calls and our political differences.  I learned that even though we had wildly differing beliefs, it didn’t necessarily mean that Chuck was ignorant or uncaring about the society we lived in.  And Chuck discovered that not all unionists are mindless, loudmouthed, beer swilling yobs, hell bent on destroying the very fabric of society itself; I preferred rum.

We only had one falling out, over whether or not it was Voltaire who said, “Sir, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend, to the death, your right to say it.”  Though we both heartily agreed with the sentiment, and eventually agreed to disagree. 

Afterwards I recall saying to Chuck, “I might not agree with a single thing you say, or how you say it, but depending on my mood at the time, I will defend your right to say it, until I get threatened with a black eye or severe financial losses.” 

But our peculiar relationship wasn’t to last as Chuck was eventually poached by a commercial radio station and sailed off to pursue a new life as a full time shock jock.  I was surprised to learn that a lot of people at the station were sorry to see him go; only because he took his little coffee machine with him. 

The selfish fascist!

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E-book Publishing: Should I, Shouldn’t I?

Well, it’s no secret that I’ve been toying with publishing a book in the coming year, and while I tap away at my keyboard, in the back of my mind is the burning question: Should I E-Publish my work?

Now, I quite like the idea of cutting out the middle man, offering my work to a wider audience (world wide at the click of a button), but the end users’ may also decide to copy and paste my work to all and sundry, even though the original could be purchased from $5 to $10.

Having purchased a number of E-books, and a couple of self published ones over the past year, I’ve been impressed with some of them, their quality, the ideas and the sheer effort put in by the author, but the majority have left me a little underwhelmed.   Particularly as some of the self published authors were still charging $30 – $40 for their books, and in one of them the spelling was deplorable.  The words were technically correct, but not in context eg: your, you’re, there, their, etc.  Spellcheck is a handy tool, but not as a replacement for a good proofreader. 

Poor spelling, phrases repeated, poor layout, and even poorer grammar have left me thinking that the publishing world with its’ well trained editors, proof readers and quality control systems (while not quite perfect all the time) is probably a better option.  Of course, there is a price for all that quality! 

Then last week I was offered an e-book for a price I would hesitate to pay for a hard back novel, $48, and I thought, ‘Whoa!.  There are no publishing, printing costs, no distribution, warehousing, shipping, trucking, stacking, displays or retail costs, why so expensive?’  Possibly because the authors are offering the book as an alternative to a study course, as opposed to a motivational script.  But still… 

I’ll be watching with interest to see if the book sells well.  Maybe I’ll have to overcome my ‘conditioning’ in wanting to see “NY Times Best Seller!” on the back cover as proof that it has passed through the necessary quality hoops.

In the meantime, I need to focus on completing my novel before worrying about publishing, distribution etc.  Back to my scribbling!

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Mondays Column – Chance of Rain 22.09.09

Hello Funlovers!  Sorry for the late post, hope it hasn’t ruined your week!  Cheers, Gb 🙂

Do you want to know what the easiest job in the world is?  Well I’ll tell you, Gladstone Weather Forecaster.  If you can scribble the following: ‘Fine, with the chance of a late shower’, then you are more than qualified to do the job.  Of course, the odds of us actually getting that shower are about the same as my prospects of pulling off a major Lotto win, but we continue to live in hope.   

When my parents were debating whether or not to move the family von Bray to Gladstone in the mid-70’s, one of the big selling points was the areas’ annual rainfall figures.  Living in Innisfail, where rain is measured in metres, and cane toads grow to the size of chihuahuas, the prospect of moving to a place where rain is an infrequent visitor did have its appeal.  And, as we drove into town, we were actually delighted to see how dry the surrounding bush was, and how none of the houses seemed to be coated in layers of mildew.  Tossing away our mouldy old gumboots we settled down, and at my new school I asked a classmate, “How much rain do you normally get during the summer wet season?” 

He scratched his head and thought for a moment before answering, “Not much.” 

Those two words have since proven to be the greatest meteorological understatement I’ve ever heard!  This year is a case in point.  Unlike the rest of the coastal towns and cities dotting the eastern seaboard, Gladstone residents were unique in that we were actually on our knees praying for Cyclone Hamish to ‘pop by’ and soak our parched region, just like Cyclone Beni, ‘The Benevolent’, did back in ‘03. 

Hamish approached, and, as towns up north disappeared under floods of Biblical proportions, we eagerly waited for our share as Hamish meandered southwards.  The weather site on the internet came close to crashing as I hammered it mercilessly, mouthing the mantra, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” as each new report bought the storm closer by the hour.  When Hamish ramped up to Category 4 I did think for one moment, ‘Whoa!’ but I gave myself a bit of a shake, ‘Hey!  Just means more rain!’ I thought brightly.  Ingham vanished, Mackay wallowed, and Yeppoon was deluged.  Meanwhile here in Gladstone, we joined our fellow residents on an emergency supplies buying frenzy, emptying the supermarkets of anything not bolted to the floor, and afterwards I gleefully stashed away my hoses and sprinklers in hopeful anticipation.    

Well, Hamish, ‘The Horrible’, slipped by us during the night and sped south to inundate everything between Bundaberg and the border.  And how much rain did Gladstone get?  How much liquid gold was dumped on us by a category four cyclone, chock full of large clouds absolutely stuffed with rain?  Not much. Two whopping millimetres.  Which was slightly less than the amount of tears I cried the next night in front of the news, as I sat watching  footage of rivers down south bursting their banks, dams overflowing and smiling people strolling hand in hand along streets knee deep in water. 

Since then, I’ve done everything in my power to lure rain here;  polished the car, washed windows, concreted, organised fishing trips, picnics and bbq’s, aired out my tent, made rash promises to God, and so help me, I even did a rain dance.  The dance failed to attract any moisture, but I did earn some critical acclaim from the small crowd which gathered to watch my performance.   

The dry spell goes on, and the cheerful weather reporters from down south brightly announce, “… and if you’re heading to the beach this weekend, the weather will be fine, with the chance of late showers!”  At which point I call out to Long Suffering Wife, “Did you put the Lotto in this week?”  Because chance would be a fine thing indeed.

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Boating on Toolooa Creek & Boyne River

Kids can come in quite useful sometimes... "We'll be back soon honey.  Just don't let go of the boat!"

Kids can come in quite useful sometimes... "We'll be back soon honey. Just don't let go of the boat!"

One of the good things about living in a place where it doesn’t rain (or rain much…), is that pretty much whenever you want to go fishing you know that the weather will be good. 

The only thing that can be a bit of a worry is the wind.  And last weekend the wind had picked up a little, so we decided to go for a run up the Toolooa Bends section of the Boyne River.   The Littlest Princess, Dad and I went for a bit of a tour to some of the prettier places on the river, including The Lillies, a little camping area, a mere stones’ throw from Gladstone, but standing there on a sandy beach, surrounded by sea, trees, and blue skies, you wouldn’t know it.

Sammy Sea Eagle: "Mate, can I have that mate?  C'mon?  Mate?!"

Sammy Sea Eagle: "Mate, can I have that mate? C'mon? Mate?!"

The few fish we hooked were too small (in some cases, only just) to keep, so they were returned to the water to grow a little more.  We slid up a couple of small inlets to have a bit of a look, and at one spot were keenly watched by a very friendly sea eagle. 

As the sun started to drop, the wind picked up, and we copped a bit of spray in the boat.  The water is still to cold for swimming…  Before heading back to the boat ramp, I took a run up the river to where the new wall for my factories dam had been built.  It’s an impressive structure, and behind it is contained all the slurry run off from the plant.  The idea is to allow the slurry to settle, dry and harden, then it will be covered by trees, grasses and shrubs. 

We returned home, happy and serene.  And that I believe, is time well spent. 

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Springing a Fetlock

Well, it had to happen sooner or later… I pulled a muscle in my leg, and it hurt… a lot. 

I quite like interval training day, the day between my day and night shifts.  I get up early, wander down to the school and rip out 10 – 15 laps of the oval in the following way:  jog, sprint, jog, fast run, jog/sprint, jog, jog, sprint, etc.

I’ve really come to enjoy the sprinting part.  The build up, the explosion of movement, legs and arms pumping, the wind roaring in my ears.  I probably look like someone has set me on fire and I’m running for my life, but I don’t care.  I really enjoy the sprinting, and afterwards, the feeling of achievement is palpable, knowing that I’ve had a top workout. 

Then it’s back home, do my laundry, a few householdy jobs, some scribbling, then beddy byes for a few hours before walking to work around 5 pm.  Good plan so far. 

On lap 3 yesterday, I felt something ‘move’ in the top of my left leg.  Then the pain started, just a little, as I gazed down at the top of my leg something went ‘twang’ and I hobbled to a stop.  Damn, damn, damn!  Being male I gave it a bit of a rub, a bit of a stretch and started running again.  Slow speed, no worries.  Sprint?  Damn, damn, damn!  No more sprinting today for you my son. 

In the end I managed to do 5 k’s, had a drink, walked home, walked the dogs and had a shower.  The hot water felt good on my aching thigh muscle, and I’m pretty sure there’s no major damage.  The walk to work yesterday was fine, a bit of a twinge now and then.  At work this week, I’m in charge of a machine that has just over 200 stairs from top to bottom.  It was a bit of a trial getting up and down those staircases t/out the night but no biggie.  As long as I didn’t do it at speed. 

Walking home this morning the leg wasn’t a drama, even pushing it a bit up the last hill to my house didn’t give me grief.  The question is, will it be right by tomorrow afternoon for the last Road Runners meet I’ll be able to get to for a few weeks? 

I’m not too sure.  Should I go?  Or should I rest up?  I can do the 5 klm run, but at a reduced rate, but was hoping to the 2klm run at speed.  Don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ll be sure to let you know either way 🙂

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Mondays Column – Helicopter Parenting 14.09.09

“Kill him! Break his legs!  Kick his head in!  Smash his face!”

I was twelve years old, and as I lay on the ground listening to the woman on the sideline screaming this to her son who was doing his level best to hospitalise me, my mind raced back to the day my parents signed me up to play soccer, instead of rugby, because they didn’t want me exposed to the sort of thuggery I was currently experiencing. 

Eventually some of my team mates dragged her kid off me, while the ref frantically blew his whistle and the sideline boys waved their flags about wildly.   “Madam,” I said, getting to my feet and brushing the dust from my shirt, “please disport yourself in a more orderly manner, after all, ‘tis but a game.”  Actually, what came out of my mouth was, “Give it a rest you old bat!”  That was my first encounter with a Helicopter Parent.

Helicopter Parents are the well meaning folk who hover over their children, continuously advising and protecting their precious offspring through a megaphone.  And, thanks to sensationalised stories on tele every night, and the paranoia they inspire, the number of Helicopter Parents has reached epidemic proportions.      

While their little darlings are trying to grow up and learn how to make their way responsibly in the big, cruel world, Helicopter Parents seem unable to stop themselves from diving in and aggressively shielding them from potential harm or insult.  They have become the bane of many teachers, coaches, tutors, and instructors’ lives. 

These obsessed parents lashed their children into car safety capsules with the zeal of a storm bound sailor, only allowed them to play in parks covered with soft-fall materials, glued bike helmets to their heads, smothered them in sunscreen, and sent them off to schools where the dreaded cane had long been banned.  They rushed them to numerous sporting and lifestyle activities, but otherwise kept them locked safely indoors.  And even in their adulthood, Mum and Dad continued to fly in to rescue them from landlords, college professors, bosses, police, and in some cases, judges.

With the best of intentions Helicopter Parents sacrifice their time and energy in order to make smooth some of the rougher life passages for their children, but it has occurred to me that it might not hurt to leave the odd stumbling block on those pathways.  I read an email the other day about a scientist who was watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its’ cocoon.  He grew distressed as the tiny creature struggled to fight its’ way out of its’ tight walled prison.  Picking up his scalpel, he carefully sliced a gap in the cocoon, allowing the little insect to flop out of its’ cage.  But when new born creature tried to lift its’ wings, the scientist was surprised to see that it was unable to do so.  The muscles it needed to fly are developed during the struggle from the cocoon, and his well meant interference had prevented those vital muscles from growing.            

We all want the best for our kids.  It’s nice to give them stuff we missed out on, and sure, there are a lot of dangers out there, but are we doing them any favours by being overprotective?  How will they learn to be responsible, to stand up for themselves, to develop the necessary skills to make the hard decisions and live with the consequences?  Who are Helicopter Parents really shielding, their children, or themselves?       

Look, I’d like to explore this topic further, but I’ve just spied the Littlest Princess riding her scooter on the driveway.  I’ll just pop out and tighten up her helmet straps, pop on her knee and elbow pads, sweep the concrete clear of any rocks, make sure she’s wearing enough sunscreen, and hang around til she’s ready to come back inside. 

I don’t know… kids today!

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The Gladstone Road Runners

The term Fun Run is a bit of an oxymoron.  A bit like the words Army Intellegence, and Work / Life Balance, some words just shouldn’t be uttered in the same sentence. 

GRR%20Banner%202009

Regular readers of this blog will know that earlier this year I set the goal of being able to run 10 klms by December, and I think I might have written that I’d be deliriously happy if I was able to run 5 k’s.  At that point in my life I could run 1 klm, not very quickly, and would have taken days to get over it. 

As the year raced by, my running goal took a bit of a back seat, and I’d hardly done any running, but having written it down and made myself accountable to an online group of ladies (with kicking boots) at the ol’ Craig Harper forum, I thought that I’d better get my arse into gear. 

I’ve been running regularly for the last couple of months, and am surprised to find how much I’m enjoying it.  Last week I summoned up the courage to ring the President of the Gladstone Road Runners ( http://www.gladstoneroadrunners.com/ ) and learned where the group would be meeting for their weekly run. 

Each Thursday afternoon at 5pm ‘ish’, they get together, and the runners can choose between a 2 and a 5 klm run.  So, at the appointed time, I pulled on my old workshorts, a pair of clean socks and my tattered runners, and joined them down at the marina.  There were a lot of ‘older folk’ assembled down there.  Very fit looking, wiry, and healthy ‘older folk’.  They were all friendly, keen to give me advice, and made me feel welcome.  Nice! 

I signed up for the 5 klm event, and soon set off with several others.  It was great!  Up til this point I’ve only jogged around the school oval.  The run through the park, over the bridge and along the waterfront esplanade next to Auckland Creek was magnificent.  The weather perfect, and the runners around me gave me some encouragement or cracked the odd joke from time to time which took my mind off the pain in my left knee. 

The pain disappeared altogether eventually, and in the last kilometre of the race I picked up the pace and ran home in just under 27 minutes.  5 klms.  I’m 5 short of my goal of 10 but I can’t tell you how happy I am with this achievement.  According to my shift roster, I’ve got a couple more Thursdays off over the next couple of weeks, so I’ll continue to join this dedicated and friendly band of joggers.     

It’s good to run, and have fun 🙂

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