Seeing my brother next weekend

I saw the doctor on Tuesday. He seemed more knowledgeable about Venlafaxine (or Efexor) than the female doctor I saw in Auckland. Basically he said if I want to get the proper effects of the drug I need to be on a proper dose. He's put me on 225 (I was on that for a short spell before but I dropped back after some stuff-up with the prescription) and has given me enough ammo to go to 300 if I feel like it.

Apparently some fairly well-known people will be tying the knot a few hours from now. I can't get excited about the royal wedding I'm afraid. I just hope that somebody else (most likely a group of people) doesn't decide to throw their idea of a party as well.

Here's the good news - I'll be seeing my brother (who was two days old when Charles and Di got married) next weekend. It's been such a long time. And to think I used to see him every day! It's scary how easily families can drift apart.

Cake & Circuses

(Photos: Flickr, DIZ 2011)


I say spiffing stuff & the very best of British...

...but there's more on today's menu as we trot out a favourite 'time-honoured distraction' while Britain burns!

- ahhh! jolly good show!

...& remember to tune in again next year for a spot of 'olympics distraction' coupled with a dash of 'sparkly jubilee' - super times!

SCAM WARNING!

URGENT SCAM WARNING! :



If a man comes to your door and asks you to show him your bottom (backside) as part of a nationwide health survey,

DON'T DO IT!, it's a scam. The man is entirely unauthorised.

I wish I had recieved this email yesterday.......



(ps: You woudn't believe the trouble I had trying to get a picture for this post. If one goes to Bing Images and types in "Man's bare bottom" a lot of very unsuitable pictures appear!)

"Got your little helmet on now? - have you?"



"Whoop-di-doo!"

...we've got the artists helping us out now!!

(1:55 min for the time challenged - thanks, Andrew!!!!)

"Meet the future!"



Favourite 'mode-of-transport' given deserved recognition in favourite 'bicycle-riding-movie-moment'...(!!!)...ahhh!!

Juggling eggs and feeling scrambled

Yesterday was an up-and-down sort of day. On a “mood scale” from 0 to 10, I swung back and forth from a hopeless 1½ to a just-about-manageable 4. I entered a couple of inner-city lifts that normally stopped at real estate agents’ offices but yesterday weren’t going anywhere. I didn’t care. It was quite nice being in a lift. In Dick Smiths I was overwhelmed by all the lights and noise but sensibly got out before I did thousands of dollars worth of damage. I also chatted briefly with the busker I met last weekend. He juggles with up to four Head tennis balls, often dropping them. I can manage three and had a go myself. I asked him what the trick was for doing four; it looked to me like an optical illusion where you do two in each hand simultaneously. He only had 70 cents sitting on his rug; I threw him another 70. I suggested he might get more money if he diversified a bit – different coloured balls, tennis rackets, clubs, I even mentioned eggs. He just nodded and chuckled. I could do his job, if only I had the balls, so to speak.

Yesterday I was losing it, swearing and punching pedestrian crossing buttons, but when my mood scale was at four I steeled myself to view two flats. The first was in Brooklyn, right next to the cinema. I mean right next to the cinema. It had a spacious deck, but all you could see from it was the cinema wall. I couldn’t have fitted my bed in either of its two bedrooms. The 77-year-old landlord was charming and it’s a shame I’ll almost certainly never see him again, but I still couldn’t take the place. The other was in Te Aro – I walked to it from my apartment – and was potentially great but a bit pricey. If I was moving in with a flatmate it could have been a goer.

I got home and writhed around on my bed. Oh shit. I’ve got all this stuff to do with no hope of ever doing it. I rang Brendan in Auckland and we spoke for 2½ hours. I don’t think I’ve ever talked on the phone for that long before. He was very helpful; I’m lucky to have him as a friend. We clarified what I already knew, that applying for the job in the first place wasn’t particularly clever. Brendan was going through a bad patch himself a few months ago and he seems a lot better now.

It’s really hard to care about flats, my job or a lot else at the moment. Nothing excites me any more. My get-up-and-go has got up and gone. I really wish I could get it back.
In that earthquake claims job, for a minute there I actually cared what I looked like when I walked out the door in the morning.

Two things to say about Wellingtonians:
1. You lot who keep complaining about the weather obviously haven’t got very big problems.
2. “It’s too far away.” Bollocks! You have no idea what “far” is.

I’m struggling a bit with the complexities of living is 2011. What the f*** is Blu-Ray? Bluetooth? How does a T-stick work and why should I care? So for me, Good Friday’s supermarket sweep at Hamilton’s Pak ‘n’ Save was a good news story. The store automatically opened as usual, even though it was a public holiday, due to a computer glitch. No staff were present so people just filled their trolleys to the brim and left without paying. What was wrong with a man or woman with a key?

I might pop to the cinema (if I can face it) to see Paul. The film I mean.

Eagle vs Shark

At the last Asperger's group I went to, or was it the one before that, Eagle vs Shark was recommended as a "must-watch Aspie movie". I've just watched it for the first time on DVD and can see why it got the recommendation. I thought the Awesome tracksuits were awesome, as was the whole concept of the Crazy Burger - two slabs of meat with bread in the middle. Lily looked like one of my female friends from university (but a lot more feminine!) - this friend has been married for over four years now. I got another flashback to 1998 when the Stone Roses song This Is The One played; my first-year room-mate (who hailed from Barnsley and spoke with an almost incomprehensible accent) played that song over and over. The bit where Jarrod met up with his old classmate (who was now wheelchair-bound) made me wince.

What interested me the most was Jarrod's ego. A lot of socially awkward people I've met in real life (including some with Asperger's) have pretty damn big egos. Bazza was a fine example - he liked to play up his tennis skills and physical prowess, when in reality he's not exactly a picture of health. Once he laughably compared his current self to a young Elvis. Often a public display of arrogance is a way of covering up one's own insecurities, but I doubt that's why Aspies can sometimes appear arrogant. Possibly they just boast without realising it can be socially inappropriate - I don't know.

The best thing about seeing Eagle vs Shark in Wellington (and something I was unaware of until I saw it) is that it's a Wellington movie. Yes! And full of music from the Phoenix Foundation, surely one of Wellington's best bands. I liked the bit from the director at the start: "if you managed to rip this movie off the internet, congratulations for getting away with a crime."

Today I spoke to Richard on the phone, then took a trip up the cable car at his suggestion. It was a great view from up there on a sunny afternoon. I then walked back. This evening I took a walk along Oriental Parade. I'll get my head around Wellington eventually I hope.

Just as an aside: having visited this we-never-close internet café a few times, it appears there are some we-never-leave customers. For me, having Channel 63 on the telly is a big plus.

From Darkness into Light

I love Holy Thursday, or as we call it in the Christian East, Great Thursday. My favorite liturgical moment of the year happens tonight. I will always remember with absolute clarity my very first experience of Holy Thursday ... and my very first experience of Great Thursday.

I was raised utterly unchurched, and even anti-church. This meant that I was, to a great extent, culturally illiterate when it came to religion and religious references. I knew who Jesus and Moses were. I knew what Christmas was. I'd seen The Ten Commandments, so I knew what Passover was. But I didn't know what Easter was. Really. I'm sure I knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead (I'd seen Godspell, after all), but somehow I never connected that tidbit with Easter. All I knew about Easter was the bunny, dyed eggs, and hidden candy.  I don't think I even noticed the proliferation of crosses in store displays.

Early on in my freshman year at college, I "became a Christian." (I put that phrase in quotes because I'm not sure one ever completely becomes a Christian. It is a process and a journey, a lifelong undertaking of the soul: theosis, if you will.) I affiliated myself with, and was baptized at, a small Lutheran church on campus, and I soaked it all up.  In the spring, people were very busy planning for and preparing for Holy Week and Easter.  I didn't know why, but I shrugged and went along with the program.

This Lutheran church celebrated a Tenebrae service. Seven candles were lit at the front of the small church at the beginning of the service. Passages were read from the Psalms and the prophets, and quiet songs were sung, setting the tone for the reading of the Gospel passages with the Seven Last Words of Jesus. As each Gospel passage was read, one candle was extinguished, and the overhead lights were slightly dimmed. At the reading of the last Gospel, at the words, "It is finished," the pastor SLAMMED the book shut, and all the lights in the church went out. We were left sitting in darkness and were asked to leave in silence.

I was stunned. I hadn't known what Holy Thursday was, what a Tenebrae service was. I hadn't known what to expect. I sat there shaking in devastation.  When I left the church, my desolation must have shown on my face, because one of my friends asked what was wrong. It's so saaaad! I wailed. Oh, I know, she said. But Easter is coming! as if that made some difference. Right. Whatever.  I walked around in a foul mood for the next two days and was totally blown away by the proclamation of the resurrection at the sunrise service. Totally blown away.  I hadn't seen it coming.

That was my first experience of Holy Thursday and Easter morning. It was 1979. No subsequent Holy Week ever approached the intense impact of those first encounters with the central mystery of our faith.  Until, that is, my first experience of Great Thursday and the Service of the Twelve Gospels.

In the spring of 1995,  Nick and I were looking forward to our first Great Week at the Melkite church we'd been attending for several months.  We had been told it defied description, that it had to be experienced to be understood, and we were ready.  On Great Thursday, when the Service of the Twelve Gospels began, I immediately recognized it as a type of Tenebrae service:* Twelve Gospel readings tell the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial.  And there were 12 candles at the front of the church. I knew what would be happening.

But they're doing it backwards, I thought. They're lighting one candle after each reading, instead of putting one out.  And so they did. After each reading, while we sang a hymn and some prayers, one of the twelve candles at the front of the church was lit, as was one of the twelve candles by the great cross that stood in the middle of the church. Then, after the reading that ends "and they led him away to be crucified," the people all made a prostration and stayed down, foreheads to the floor. For a long time.  We could hear the acolytes and the priests moving through the church, going down one side, coming up the center aisle. We could hear the swinging of the incense, the bells ringing quietly. Then ... the sound of a hammer hitting nails. More incense, more bells, and abruptly a song began, an ancient hymn from the earliest days of the church proclaiming:

Today 
There is hung upon the Tree He who suspended the earth upon the waters.
A crown of thorns is placed upon Him Who is the King of the angels.
With false purple is He wrapped about, He Who wrapped the heavens with clouds.
Buffetings did He receive Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
With nails was He affixed, He Who is the Bridegroom of the church.
With a lance was He pierced, He Who is the Son of the Virgin.

We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show also unto us Thy glorious Resurrection.

In Arabic and English, the two priests sang this hymn back and forth over the prostrate congregation. I was trembling with the beauty of it. I could hardly bear what I was hearing. Then incense again, and footsteps back into the Holy Place. As the service continued, we slowly raised our heads and lifted our bodies stiffly from prostration and I gasped. An icon of the body of Christ had been nailed to the cross, as I had heard, but ALL the candles around the cross had been lit. And there were candles above the cross that were now lit. And the candles in front of all the icons were lit. The house lights were still off, but oh how the candles blazed the glory of the cross!

The theology of the moment was like having a blindfold removed: In a flash, I understood the essential difference between Eastern and Western Christianity. In the West, Lent -- and the human condition -- is about penitence and unworthiness, and the cross is a terrible reminder of how far humanity has fallen.  In the East, though, we call Lent the time of Bright Sadness. Yes, it's a time for introspection and fasting and prayer, but it is also a time of drawing closer to God, of lifting our heads to see the cross as a glorious reminder of how far God was willing to go to come to us.

Here, by the way, is the hymn, sung in Arabic by the incomparable Fairuz.  I know you can't, but try to hear it as I did, kneeling in the dark, breathing incense, asking for the merciful presence of God.



* More accurately, of course, the Tenebrae service is a variation of the Twelve Gospels, since the Service of the Twelve Gospels predates the Tenebrae by more than 1000 years.

Leaving your bicycle face first



Whoopsa-daisy!

- baby no. 2 came a 'cropper', and no-one can tell me that an AS/NZS 2063 helmet would have made a difference!!!

Sydney University - hardly leadership material in cycling department

(Cycling towards Sydney University from Glebe)


(Walking towards Sydney University through Victoria Park)


(Whoa! - the heavy hand of USYD bike-patrol)


(...looks like a good deal though!!)


(Sum total of bike parks outside the Fisher Library - TRULY RULY!!)


(Sum total of bike parks outside School of Chemistry - woeful!)


Founded in 1850, the University of Sydney is the oldest university in Australia...

...& for their 31,634 full-time undergraduate & 16,141 graduate students, the University of Sydney provides 7 bike hoops outside the School of Chemistry and 8 outside the Fisher Library! There are a few more dotted around the campus but none of any note.

Sigh!...methinks this sorry state of affairs could be worthy of a few chuckles in East Anglian ovaltines...

(Photos: Flickr, Gkriniaris, Bicycles at Cambridge)

Rabbit in the headlights

I've made a doctor's appointment for Tuesday. That's just as well - if my pills run out I could end up in a bad way rather quickly.

So I should be getting some more Venlafaxine next week. The big question is: will that be enough? So far, with the possible exception of my time in France ten years ago, I’ve always resisted the temptation to self-medicate. My dislike of being out of control has something to do with that. But if my stress levels stay elevated for much longer the urge might prove too strong.

If I’m to avoid going down the slippery slope, my best bet is probably to get some beta-blockers prescribed. I’ve got a couple of packets of them with me but a Google search tells me they’re well beyond their shelf life. The good news is that, as far as I can tell, you can combine them safely with my antidepressants. I last took beta-blockers in 2001-02 and they were great! Sure, in the first couple of months I had a few feelings of unreality (unreal, man!) and I got tired a lot, meaning I couldn’t really perform that well, but my increased self-esteem more than made up for those side effects.

When I see the doctor on Tuesday it’s vital that I’m put in touch with a support group of some kind.

This moving thing was all so ungoddamnecessary. For most of my life, being myself has meant being by myself. The Asperger’s group and the men’s group had gone a long way towards changing that, but thanks to the move, a return to people-are-very-scary-and-must-be-avoided seems inevitable. My work colleagues are nice people (although I’ve yet to stuff up any spreadsheets so perhaps I’m jumping the gun a bit there), but they still have the potential to be quite judgemental. The constant feeling of being judged is exhausting – I feel like a rabbit in the headlights. When I got back to my apartment last night I had no energy or inclination to look for flats or carry out any of the other tasks on my to-do list. I just wanted to curl up into a ball.

These feelings affect my performance at work too – they dominate my thought processes, leaving little room in my brain for dealing with the matter at hand.

I never felt this tension when I was doing the earthquake work. I could just turn up, do my work and go home, so I never felt under pressure. But in my new job I have to, you know, talk and shit. Well just talk I suppose, although I’m so nervous that frequent trips to the loo are an added bonus.

I don’t know why I never thought of this before, but I might well have Avoidant Personality Disorder. Wikipedia gives these six symptoms:


  1. Persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension;

  2. Belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;

  3. Excessive preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations;

  4. Unwillingness to become involved with people unless certain of being liked;

  5. Restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security;

  6. Avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.

I've got all six of those, except maybe number four where "certain" would be too strong for me. We’re social creatures so having this disorder isn’t conducive, unfortunately, to living any sort of normal life. That’s assuming I’ve got the disorder; maybe I’m just a bad and selfish person for wanting to avoid other people.

Wednesday was my birthday. As it was only my third day at work, and I didn’t want the attention, I didn’t tell anyone. Besides I wasn’t au fait with birthday protocol and I’d fallen foul of that before in 2004. That evening I went round to my cousin’s place; she’d baked a rich dark chocolate cake. Where she found the time for that I don’t know. On top were two candles: a number three candle which she’d used for the boys’ birthdays (and can use again for Jack’s next birthday) and an astronaut-shaped candle to represent the one. After we’d all hoed into the cake, 60% of it was still left. I couldn’t eat the rest of it myself without being sick so yesterday I came clean about the whole birthday thing and took the remainder to work.


I’ve now got a long Easter weekend. I want to hibernate but will have to force myself to go on some kind of flat-finding mission I guess. I know that staying in my apartment wouldn't be clever in the long run. Last night the Canadian woman behind the desk at the internet café was trying to translate some French; I helped her with a couple of words. This morning I chatted for a minute or two with the Pom in the three-bedroom apartment next-door – he’s also just arrived having lived in Auckland for several years. So I can talk to people in short bursts without much effort. Social situations and building relationships are a different ball game entirely.

I saw on the news last night this bloke who turned up to a Britain's Got Talent audition dressed like a slob (à la Susan Boyle, kind of) only to produce a stirring rendition of Tracy Chapman's Fast Car which has had two zillion hits on YouTube. Great song. Perhaps I'm missing the point of it but I've always thought it's about hopes and dreams: "I can be someone."

Music Choice (1)




http://www.mystictracks.com/

Just for the hell of it here are five pieces of music I like with You Tube links:

Turn the sound up and try not tapping your feet and getting up and dancing - it can't be done! And for good measure here is a terrific live recording of the same song.


The best of the best!



I really enjoy proper classical guitar music (not flamenco)and this tune has long been a favoutite. This is also known by several other names principally Valse Criollo.



Recorded when she was seventeen, this was the last of her top ten UK hits. They started when she was thirteen years old! For me, she is one of the finest British popular singers of all time and she should have been a world wide star. And if you like it check this out!



Although sung in the original Italian you do not need to understand the words for the emotion to come crashing through. It makes my skin tingle and I think I've got smoke in my eyes.....

Helmet laws cause discrimination & low expectations

(Photos: my bike's perspective from traffic lights, King Street, Newtown)


Regulation 256 is an example of manifold discrimination towards road users other than motorists, and as such displays an unacceptable level of preferential treatment for one group over another.

Coupled with their own ignorance & the support of other protectionist bodies (aka Bicycle NSW & UNSW), the NSW government has embraced a blatant top-down approach in order to paralyse the freedom of choice debate.

Should this status quo continue, government inertia and deferred action will be the continued 'Plat du jour' ad infinitum - sigh!

So join me on the "Punk Commute" to remind our democratically elected representatives exactly what we're looking for in the 'much-awaited-brand-new-transport-landscape'...

...and it isn't more congestion!

The new job - my first two days

Wellington is great. Just walking around the city gives me a buzz. But it's still New Zealand, which means that things tend to be closed in the evenings. I don't have internet access in my apartment so I've been searching frantically for an internet café that's open after six and to my surprise found this one on Manners Mall that never closes.

I'd been staying with my cousin in Wadestown until Sunday. Very nice people though she and her husband are, I didn't find it easy living with them, mainly because if I don't have my own space I'll gradually go round the bend. They're both highly successful and knowledgeable people, especially my cousin who's a real go-getter, and they're bringing their three boys up to be highly successful and knowledgeable too. At the dinner table one of the boys wanted to know what cholesterol was. If I'd asked my mum that at that age, she'd have told me it was bad fat or something along those lines, but my cousin gave a full-on diatribe. They do so much for the kids and themselves but still go to bed before ten - heaven knows how. I marvel at people who seemingly pack 25 hours into each day; they manage about 32.

My uncle, who turned 70 last week, was also there; I've always got on well with him - he's a bit of a misfit just like me. On Saturday we watched a fascinating programme together called Mind Over Money, all about financial bubbles and the irrationality of human behaviour when money is involved. It was on TVNZ 7, a channel which is unfortunately facing the axe. I've been encouraged to enter the housing market, and might still do so, but buying a house might just be one big decision too many at the moment.

On Sunday I felt pretty terrible and I had thoughts going round in my head at a hundred miles an hour. Starting a new job the next morning was the last thing I wanted to do. I felt better when I moved into my apartment which is a stone's throw from work. My company are generously putting me up there while I find something more permanent. It's a very nice, clean, spacious apartment with everything I could possibly want - it's a shame I can't stay there for good.

The next morning the alarm woke me up but I couldn't face getting out of bed (the horrible weather didn't help) so I hit what I thought was the snooze button. I awoke again half an hour later. Right, so I guess that button isn't snooze. I was worried I might be late on my first day but as it happened I still arrived in plenty of time.

My office is on the 25th floor, and being Wellington there are civil defence cabinets dotted around so we can hopefully all survive if (or rather when) the big one hits. We get great views from there when weather allows which it did today, unlike on day one. As for the work itself, it won't be easy for me. My colleagues all seem friendly, more so than in my first "big" job, and the whole outfit seems refreshingly lacking in ra-ra-ra (that's a technical term) but I'm still likely to find it hard. A lot of things that might be obvious to some people are less obvious to me. Do you want this report finished by lunchtime, by next Friday or some time in late August? You seem very busy there - is it OK to interrupt you? Maybe I have Asperger's after all.

The other difficulty I face is that it's still life insurance. Unlike the recent earthquake work, or the flood-risk mapping work I did in the UK, I might find it hard to care about all the life-insurance-based figures and spreadsheets I'll have to negotiate. I can't ever imagine buying life insurance myself, because nobody depends on me financially and my history of depression would force my premiums up. In the back of my mind (or maybe the front) I'll know I'd rather be doing something else with my life. And then there's the exams - eek.

Lunchtime is the highlight of my work day. Central Wellington is food heaven. I asked one of my colleagues what she does for lunch. She said she either brought her own (which is what I've mostly done in my previous jobs) or went to Subway, then she told me where Subway was. Subway? C'mon! I mean there's nothing wrong with Subway, in fact I've been there more often in my life than any other fast food joint by some margin, but there are so many other eateries in the city to try that eating at Subway seemed frankly daft. I'm working my way through the nearby food court, trying not to turn into a fatty.

Adding to my state of panic over the weekend, the two biggest poker websites - Poker Stars and Full Tilt - were seized by the FBI and closed to American players. I've got US$3800 sitting on those two sites. I shouldn't lose the money, especially as I'm outside the States, but the whole thing is all a bit scary. I'd like to cash out but I've got no permanent address so I'll have to wait.

We've got a late Easter this year (who keeps moving Easter?) which gives me a very handy long weekend. There's a lot to do - finding a doctor and a support group are top priorities. Then I face the small matter of finding a flat or a house.

Tomorrow is my birthday. It's my second since last Easter so I'm getting old quickly. I'll pop over to my cousin's place tomorrow but there won't be a big birthday celebration. I'll be turning 31 but after a month of birthdays you can pretty much stop counting.

I'll give Richard a call tomorrow. I certainly haven't forgotten everybody in Auckland and I'll book a flight up there before too long.

Bicycles built for every advertisement imaginable






During my customary weekend 'reading-bonanza' last weekend I couldn't help but notice that...

"The Newspaper Industry"

"The Meat Industry"

"The Medical Research Industry

"The Wine Industry"

...(just for starters), had bicycles featured all over their pages pushing their wares...

This curious state of affairs almost appears to be a case of 'bicycle-washing' (aka "Green-washing") whereby businesses are cashing in on benefits gained from marketing unique selling points with utility bicycles as though Australia has a utility bicycle culture.

This is misleading or deceptive (and / or both) and whilst we'd dearly love to have a utility bicycle culture, we don't have one yet - so why are industries all over the place carrying on as though we do?

These dudes are messing with our aussie heads!

A confession

I have read -- several times -- and enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. In the current political climate, that statement would likely shock people who know me well, so I must hasten to add the disclaimer that her philosophy and the conclusions she draws in her book are antithetical to everything I believe and think. That being said ...

I first read Atlas Shrugged when I was 17 or 18 -- a guy I was very interested in asked me who John Galt was and snorted in dismay when I didn't know the answer.  I was utterly enthralled in that first reading: Dagny Taggart took my breath away. I had grown up reading fairy tales and mythology and Nancy Drew and The Lord of the Rings, and I had never encountered a woman so strong, so proud of her intellect, so unafraid of herself. It was a revelation. SHE was a revelation. She made me believe that I didn't have to sacrifice anything: I could have my intelligence and my beauty and my career and my sexuality.  Wow!

I read it again some 10 years later:  I still loved the storyline -- her story of the cascading disintegration of industry and the American way of life really does make sense -- but I could no longer tolerate the longer passages of philosophy. Her dismissal of human suffering turned my stomach. I skipped over those sections to read only the plot, especially the loves of Dagny's life. I'd had a few heartbreaks and disappointments by then, and again -- Dagny inspired me. She kept me from "settling": She reminded me that I had to find an equal partner, because I would squash any man who couldn't stand up to me, and if I married someone less strong than I, I would wind up despising him.

I read it again some 10 years after that.  Happily married to Nick, my equal in every way and my better in many ways, I enjoyed Dagny's personal victories, cheered her on, and wished her all the happiness that I had found. And I realized, much to my surprise, that I agreed with many of Ayn Rand's observations about society.  There are a lot moochers, looters, and parasites among us; there are a lot of people who discount the efforts and work of others as meaningless; there are a lot of people on both extremes of the economic spectrum who walk around with a profound sense of entitlement, who think that the world owes them something; there are a lot of people who value only the trite and ridicule the substantial; there are a lot of people who think their opinions should carry the same weight as carefully researched facts; there are a lot of people who snivel and whine that life needs to be fair. Well, you know what? Life isn't fair. Get over it. I could read Rand's words, acknowledge the accuracy of the portraits she was painting of different segments of society -- and still utterly reject both her premise and her conclusion.

I really do like Atlas Shrugged. There is a lot of truth in what Rand wrote -- but not the whole truth, and that is what makes her writing so disastrous when used as a road map for a Path to Prosperity. She leaves no room for compassion, for humility, for grace, for mercy. (After having written this, I note that in a review of two biographies of Ayn Rand, a writer at Slate says she was "a horribly damaged woman who deserves the one thing she spent her life raging against: compassion.") She says that those who are victims deserve to be victims. She yields all power and glory and homage to the almighty dollar. Even those who do not believe in a deity should be able to acknowledge that the worship of money could lead only to the destruction of humanity, of that which makes us human.

Something beginning with W

I arrived in Wellington on Thursday evening. The drive down, with the exception of the last little bit which involved considerable guesswork, was no trouble; I was blessed with excellent weather. I spent Wednesday night at Turangi, a popular fishing spot just south of Lake Taupo and a very pleasant place to break up the journey. The next morning, I had lovely bright sunshine as I drove along the Desert Road - the first time I'd been that way since 1993 when Mum would have pointed out Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Driving long distances on a nice day when there is little traffic makes me feel so much more alive. I had lunch at Bulls, a town that doesn't have a lot to offer except its name. No bull! A town like no udder! Every shop in the town came with a tagline such as "drink-a-bull", "bank-a-bull" or "irresist-a-bull". The toilets were "relieve-a-bull". I couldn't blame them for cashing in on such a memor-a-bull name. Shortly after I passed a sign telling me I had entered the roaring forties latitudes, the sun disappeared and it hasn't been back since.

Driving in Wellington is interesting to put it mildly. The topography of the city brings the z-axis - up and down - very much into play. There are hairpin bends and precipices to deal with, which would be tricky enough even if I did have a clue where I was going. I did get to my cousin's place in Wadestown in the end. My uncle is also staying here, so with my cousin's husband and three boys, she's seriously outnumbered. Tomorrow I'll be leaving to stay in a hotel in town; I'll be more than happy to do that. I don't find it easy being in someone else's house, easy-going people that everyone here is.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to learn that affordable property, to buy, actually exists in Wellington. I might take a look at a few uncomplicated one or two-bedroom flats, ones that would hopefully be easily saleable if I do decide to move on. It's been tipping it down with rain pretty much from the moment I got here. Yesterday was also windy, but today is calm, which only means the rain is sticking around. I spent some time in the city yesterday and my first impressions were, hey, I think I'll like this place.

Last night I played I-Spy with the two older boys. One of them picked the letter W. Hmm, let me see. Window? Water? Wind? Wellington? Why?! And on Monday I'll have Work.

Update: a 5.3 quake has just hit Christchurch, cutting off power and phone lines.

My Heroes (32): Sir Patrick Moore




Patrick Moore with Dr (of Astronomy) Brian May. Yes, the guitarist from Queen!.
 Patrick Moore is a truly remarkable man for several very different reasons. He is a real British eccentric, who always wears a monocle and is about the size of a dirigible these days. At eighty-eight years old he is the presenter of the world's longest running TV show (with the same presenter). 'The Sky at Night' is an astronomy programme that has been broadcast once a month since 1957. He only ever missed one episode due to a near-fatal food poisoning incident involving a goose egg!

He thinks he is the only man to have met the first man to fly (Orville Wright), the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin) and the first man on the moon (Neil Armstrong). Before the war he played piano with Albert Einstein in New York. He is also a very skilled composer and plays jazz on the xylophone.

He lives alone on Selsey Bill on England's south coast which is probably the most cloud free spot in Britain. He has a garden full of telescopes, some of which he built himself.

'The Sky at Night' recently celebrated it's 700th edition and in this clip  you can see him surrounded by professors and doctors of astronomy who look like nervous schoolboys next to him.

During the war his fiance, a nurse, was killed when a bomb struck the ambulance she was in. He later remarked that he never married because "there was no one else for me...second best is no good for me..."

I once heard a producer of his show saying he was the most amazing broadcaster because he spoke on cue without notes or hesitation for exactly the number of minutes required. This clip from 1960, over fifty years ago, shows him in action. You can't see the pupeteer who seems to be working his eyebrows! He has written over 70 books (all on a 1908 typewriter) but, remarkably, is a self-taught amateur astronomer, however, in 1969 he was invited to NASA for the moon landings. They said they could not have gone to the moon without Sir Patrick's highly detailed maps.

When he passes away every broadcaster on this planet will move up one place.

Adios Auckland

The truck has been and gone (my "about 10" boxes of stuff ended up being 26) and in the morning I'll be gone too. My last day in Auckland has been a glorious one weather-wise. The last three days have been quite exhausting - hell, the whole process has been so drawn-out - and it'll feel good to finally be on my way. Tonight I grabbed a pizza from Delissimo's - a slightly tacky burger and pizza joint in Devonport. It was the first time I'd been there since it opened a year ago - the foot-high Comic Sans sign outside had always put me off. "How spicy would you like the pizza?" "You know, fairly spicy." Big mistake.

I attended the men's group for the last time on Wednesday. Another positive addition to my life that I'll have to do without. Yesterday I met up with Andy, who runs the group and has become a good friend over the last two years. I'll admit I hardly oozed positive vibes when we discussed my move.

Now, in spite of everything, I promise to be more positive. This could be the best thing I ever do.

"Bicycle helmet laws must go" - email (soon-to-be-letter) for The Hon. George Souris MP

(Photos: April 2010, The Hon. George Souris and me, at our last meeting in Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW)


Content of yesterday's email correspondence to my local member:

==========================================
Dear George,

First, congratulations on the coalition’s election to government, and in particular, your ministerial appointment – thank goodness Sussex Street has been decimated.

As soon as you can fit me in, I would like to meet with you to discuss the NSW Bicycle Helmet Regulation - please.

I received another infringement notice in March for the crime of riding a bicycle without wearing a bicycle helmet. This will mean another court appearance for me, in the not too distant future, to defend my identified criminal behaviour. Naturally, I will raise the defence of necessity again which interestingly now seems to be gaining more traction as a defence for environmental offences as they occur around the globe. The UK courts and even some of the US courts have been quite sympathetic in considering the environmental issues raised before them.

As you would be aware from your readings of the material submitted to the Vulnerable Road Users Committee, access to climate change law was an approach I took in my court appearances in 2009 & 2010. Whilst somewhat at the ‘vanguard’ of climate change law, in my District Court Appeal Judge Ellis was sympathetic to me too. As each month passes and more catastrophic climate aberrations occur, it is possible that more Australian courts will join other Common Law countries in their support for the defence of climate change necessity. Until such time or without your assistance, my curial sojourns appear to extend into the horizon as an endless ‘merry-go-round’ of wasted resources and time.

Given that bicycle helmet studies over the last 20 years have still not reached a definitive conclusion of the merits of bicycle helmets, the bicycle helmet issue ought to be decommissioned as the political tool that it is, and remitted to one of personal choice. There is far more evidence to support mandatory legislation of childhood vaccinations than for compulsory bicycle helmet wearing yet the fear of litigation will always preclude governments from going down the mandatory vaccination path.

For 20 years NSW taxpayers have endlessly funded millions of dollars to endless academics to conduct interminable studies. No Class One evidence has ever been provided, and probably never will be because of university and/or hospital ethics committees involved in the collection of data. Anecdotal Evidence was the only content to the ‘Pitch’, and was specifically cultivated to clinch the ‘deal’ in 1991. To this day, it is still only anecdotal evidence that underpins current policy and the restrictive regulation.

George, more than anything I am hoping that you will see fit to propose a revocation of Regulation 256, NSW Road Rules, either in the course of Coalition legislative ‘housekeeping,’ or failing that, as a private member’s bill in your capacity as my democratically elected representative in Macquarie Street.

I really look forward to hearing from you, and would be more than happy to provide you with any more papers, studies, letters, transcripts, judgments that you might find useful.

Kind regards,
Sue

==========================================

...fingers crossed I hear really soon!!!...

...& thoughts please...

* Should I go by myself?

...or...

* As part of a delegation?

* What to do?

...suggestions welcome!

How Dirty is My Valley

(Photos: my view of 'Bayswater & Liddell Coal-fired Power Stations' from Scone train)






This is my home, this is my valley...

...this is the internationally acclaimed HUNTER VALLEY; the 'Newmarket' of Australia; the 'Bordeaux' of Australia...

...and this is what the 'Newmarket' & 'Bordeaux' of Australia looks like today - sadly.

It's a far cry from the verdant image of lush vineyards and picture-perfect horse studs that my address usually conjures in the minds of inquirers.

However this is my acutal reality - Coal-Fired Power Stations & Mines - and there's only going to be more...

...and not only for my Valley - it's happening everywhere - everyone wants a piece of Australia.

But back to us in the Hunter, we are selling our children's inheritance as fast as we can get it dug up & popped on ships.

Whatever happened to the notion of 'Intergenerational Equity' so nobly enshrined in the principle of 'Sustainable Development'?

We're clearly not having a bar of it. Disappointingly it appears we'd much rather 'post' our soul off to Asia, so we can get on with the business of watching our souless flatscreens.

Yet by relinquishing our valley were losing our community.

Cash flow is higher than ever but our committment to each other has plummeted. The itinerant feel to my valley has made us edgy, and eroded our sense of belonging. Everyday my home is being chipped away and all my local council can do is to operate as 'bag-men' in order to facilitate easy entry for mining 'carpet-baggers'.

What to do when politicians of all political persuasion 'Tiptoe Through The Tulips' with corporations of all corporate persuasions?

...think:

* Resources,

* Minining & Energy,

* Transport,

* Logistics,

* IT,

* Banking & Finance,

* Infrastructure & Telecommunications,

* Aus RAIL

...now:

1. Pick an industry, any industry...& then another one

(for example) Banks (ANZ) + Finance (Dow Jones)

----------------------------------------------------

2. Observe a 'core-partnership' claiming 'environmental' approval

(for example): Banks (ANZ) + Finance (Dow Jones) = leading corporate responsibility award

----------------------------------------------------

3. Scratch the surface (just a touch) - and what have we got?

(answer) Banks (ANZ) + Mines

----------------------------------------------------

4. Observe a 'core-partnership' without claim for 'environmental' approval

(answer): Banks (ANZ) + Mines = 'Greenwashing-spin'

----------------------------------------------------

Sigh!

What to do when governance & corporate-entities are so inextricably linked?

My home is doomed - my community is doomed - we no longer belong - I no longer belong

My valley is destroyed - I am destroyed.

T minus 57 hours

Not long now, and still so much to do.

Yesterday I had a farewell lunch with the Asperger's group. Richard sent out the invite. He's been such a good friend; I'll miss him a lot. That he gives so much to others having been through so much himself is quite remarkable. We sat in the courtyard of Ironique in Mt Eden on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Richard gave me what looks like a good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from his work; another of the members made a card by hand (she's very good at that) which everyone signed.

After that I drove to Papakura to return Bazza's Cardio-Glide exercise machine. I got a lot of use out of it but he needs it more than I do. When it comes to his weight, he's in that most famous of rivers, de Nile.

On Monday night I had my last (ever?) outing for Belmont. It was an away game at Campbells Bay club. Very picturesque surroundings even if we were confronted by a plague of scarab beetles. We lost a tantalisingly close doubles 11-9 in a super tie-break (we never had a match point nor were we ahead at any stage either in the shoot-out or prior to it) but I'm happy to report that I won my last (ever?) match for the club, 6-1 6-1 in the singles. My overall singles record for the season: P11 W7 L4. Doubles: P19 W4 L15. Eek! Who knows where or when my next match will be, if at all.

Well, better go. So much to do, so little time.

Bazza's producers reveal other exciting work!

Everyone this side of the Arctic circle has been asking - "Where on Earth is Bazza?" We've had you convinced he's on another adventure! Truth is, we've been busy with some other exciting masterpieces, which we'll explain here. But don't fear, Bazza vs. Wild is still coming! Just not quite as soon as we had hoped.


ASHLEY SANDERS

Ashley Sanders (Bazza/writer) has been busy writing a young adults fiction novel - Facing Demons, which is being published by Trafford and will be released in September. Read on for an overview and more information. Or check out Ashley's website - ashleysanders.com.au





ISBN:    978-1-4269-4801-5 (paperback)
           978-1-4269-5170-1 (hardcover)
PUBLISHER:  Trafford
PUBLICATION DATE:  September 2011
PAGES:  200
RRP (USD):  $19.95 (paperback)
                     $29.95 (hardcover)

OVERVIEW

Emotive, confronting and dramatic, Facing Demons, a novel by Ashley Sanders will have you hooked from page one and continue to take you on an adventure while unconvering many issues adolescents often struggle to deal with.

Facing Demons follows the incredible journeys of four young individuals as they tackle their problems whilst at the Anchor Beach Rehabilitation Clinic. The facilitator, Blake Solomon has succeeded in his own battle with cancer and feels obliged to pass on this second chance to those less fortunate.

The first person views of each of the four main characters - Felicity, Jason, Matthew and Rebecca - gives vital insight into their developing minds and conflicting ideals. One by one they are each able to tell their heart-wrenching stories of lives tainted by drugs, alcohol, self-harm, abuse, gangs, child prostitution and homelessness. Reaching beyond the depths of despair, where all hope seems lost, the four teenagers find ways to face their demons.


ORDERING INFORMATION

Facing Demons will be available online at any major book retailer.

www.amazon.com
www.barnesandnoble.com

For commercial orders please contact the publisher, Trafford Publishing for bulk discounts or free review copies.

orders@trafford.com
www.trafford.com
Toll-free: 1 888 232 4444 (USA & Canada)
Phone: 250 383 6864
Fax: 812 355 4082

Don't forget to keep those brick and mortar bookstores alive and ask for a copy at your local shop.

Please feel free to contact the author Ashley Sanders for more information.

Available in hardcover, paperback and e-Book versions.



BENJAMIN DOWIE


Benny from Beanpole Productions has also been a busy little beaver. He has had a lot of work producing promotional videos for a range of companies. He has been focusing on his love for longboarding, producing a promo video - YELLOW - for a new line of wheels by Orangatang. His other epic longboarding video SLIDE continues to be incredibly popular.
On the side, he has been hectic with his company SLIPPERY DIP SLIDE PUCKS making and selling silde pucks for longboard skating.
And to top it all off, he has currently signed a deal to film and produce several promo videos for the alcoholic beverage giant Lion Nathan.






Once all these projects have settled down enough for us to scratch our little behinds, we will release the first Bazza vs. Wild epic short film. For now though, keep following our other great work and you'll be pleasantly surprised!


Sincerely,


Ash and Benny.

One in Five by Paul Curtis




http://www.thechildmindingshop.co.uk/
One in five in

The world today

Are apparently

Chinese they say



Now we have five

In our family

So one is Chinese

I know it’s not me



Well it’s not mum

Or my dad even

So it must be one

Of my brothers then



Now is it Colin

Or Lee Woon Jae

I think its Colin

I have to say

                             Copyright © Paul Curtis.

I love the simple humour and the lovely twist at the end of this poem. I have read it many times and I always have to smile!

We shall overcome one day - pretty soon

(Photos: Sydney Morning Herald cartoon, Shakespeare, April 2011)


Nothing that gets chucked at us is going to put us off!!

...thus notwithstanding last week's 'fear-mongering' article raising the notion that everything bad is happneing to middle-aged male cyclists, Chris Rissel & Stephen Greaves (scroll down through SMH letters) are spot on in their celebration of the fact that middle aged men are cycling at all given our much publicised 'tubby-nation' status.

Ho-di-hum! such a predictable 'ball' from our lazy journos but so heartening to see the academics pass it straight back with such precision!

If only Macquarie Street was full of Clover Moores

(Photos: The Saturday Everleigh Markets, Redfern - bliss!)



The diverse & inclusive cycling evolving in Sydney is largely due to our Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Her vision has been second to none, and even in the face of fierce opposition, her determined resolve to improve our chronically congested city has never faltered.

How fortunate we are to have this fearless leader at a time when we've needed one like never before.

Notwithstanding her many detractors, she continues to stoically lead us into a responsible era of city living with 'liveable, sustainable' and 'intergenerational' as the guiding principles for her 'modus operandi'.

Go, Clover!!

Painting of the Month (16 ) April 2011: Samuel Palmer






In a Shoreham Garden. Probably painted around 1830
Samuel Palmer was a British painter who was influenced by Turner and William Blake. The reason for the uncertainty of the date of this picture is that he kept his work private after some heavy criticism; that's often the fate of those trying to change the boundarys of art.




Samuel Palmer, self-portrait.
The painting has a mystical quality and is very stylised and heavily 'designed'. One's eye is taken to the female figure walking across the lawn but the subject really seems to be the tree in full blossom. But it has been depicted in an unrealistic, 'modern' way. Cascades of blossom hang down and overflow in huge bunches in a style that pre-figures Van Gogh. Palmer's work was not recognised in it's day and was rediscovered in the 1920s when modern taste had caught up with it. He would have been around 25 years old when he painted 'In A Shoreham Garden'.

Incidentally the title refers to Shoreham in Kent, very near to London and not to Shoreham in West Sussex as popularly believed.

I find it to be very beautiful and a pleasure to look at.

Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG) Media Release




===================================================
MEDIA RELEASE, 31 MARCH 2011
In the May 2011 edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention, Dr Rune Elvik, Chief Research Officer of the Institute of Transport Economics, Norway, reports biases in the 2001 study that Australian governments rely upon to support the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets.

The 2001 study, by Attewell, Glase and McFadden for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, claimed in AA&P that helmets reduce the risk of death and injury to the head, brain and face, but Dr Elvik’s re-analysis of its data finds no effect of helmets on injuries to the head or face.

As regards brain injury, articles in AA&P by Bill Curnow discredited the 2001 study for ignoring the science of its main cause, rotation from oblique impulse. In fact, helmets are likely to aggravate rotation, and the risk of death by head injury in Australia did increase after helmet legislation.

But Attewell et al. disregarded the science and so have road safety authorities, who continue to advise governments that helmets protect brains and save lives.

Professor Chris Rissel at the University of Sydney School of Public Health commented that “the effectiveness of mandatory helmet legislation has been questioned since it was introduced in Australia, but now there is doubt whether modern soft-shell helmets protect heads at all.

“With rapidly rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases, we need to be doing everything we can to get more people cycling. Compulsion to wear helmets discourages casual and spontaneous cycle trips, particularly among non-regular riders.

“There should be a choice about wearing helmets," said Professor Rissel. "If people want to wear a bicycle helmet then they should go right ahead, but don’t force them on everyone.”

===================================================

In response to CRAG's Media Release, The Age attempted to analyse the information. Unsurprisingly, the journalist did not find the information in the Media Release to be palatable, and allowed her own bias towards helmets dictate the timbre of her story. Consequently The Age’s report on the study’s findings muddied what had actually been revealed to them via the Media Release, and ought to have been revealed to the Australian public.

Everywhere else in the world they're worried about air pollution and the fact that the 'high concentration of many fine particles, largely due to emissions from diesel engines and heating systems, knocks almost two years off the average life expectancy'...

...but not here - we're preoccupied with bicycle helmets - and anyway they protect us from absolutely everythihg, don't they

No text please, I'm British

My mobile phone is stuffed. Water got into it, and now the writing on the screen comes up upside down, backwards and very faint. I'm not making this up. I had no idea the digital brain of a cell phone was fiendish enough to produce upside-down back-to-front text. If anyone who has my cell phone number is reading this, please don't text me. Not until I've got a new phone anyway. At a push (and if I've got a mirror handy) I might be able to read your text but you won't get a reply.

Luckily I'm not one of those people whose cell phone is a fifth limb. Yesterday at the tennis club someone wanted to know what time it was. Nobody in her vicinity had a watch. I remarked on this, and the consensus was that people don't need watches any more because they've all got phones. Well I disagree. I feel semi-naked without my watch, which my aunt bought me for my 18th birthday. Admittedly I'm obsessive about the passage of time - I always know what time it is: it's one minute since I last looked at my watch - but a "proper" analogue watch gives you a better picture of its passage. Time is a gradual, cyclical process, not a series of digits that clicks over every minute. There are a variety of jewellery shops close to my current work. My favourite analogue watch on show has a dial showing the year. It goes up to 2299 - I might have added a couple more centuries myself - but it's still a nice touch. Unfortunately it sells for about forty grand. Continuing the same theme, the clocks went back overnight. The extra hour has proved very useful - it's a shame we can't put our clocks back every weekend.

Wednesday's tennis never happened, but then on Thursday at 6:15 the phone rang and I had to drop everything and immediately drive to Albany to play. Great. We carried on our previously rain-drenched doubles match where we left off at one set all. The super tie-break rule was waived and we played a normal third set, but we didn't last long, going down by the final score of 6-7 (1-7), 7-5, 6-2. When we played a very solid - and quick - game on my serve to close to 4-2, I thought that might send out a message to our opponents, but whatever the message was it fell on deaf ears: we only won one more point. A couple of stats from that match: It was my ninth night-time doubles loss in a row. Also it was only the second time in my life I'd won a tie-break but lost the match. The other time was a singles match in 1996. The score: 7-5, 6-7 (1-7), 6-2. How I remember that I've no idea.

In the singles I put together a steady performance to win 6-3 6-1. The first set could have gone either way - a couple of net-cords towards the end of the set proved crucial. The rallies were long as we both tried to work each other around the court. I was able to stay in a lot of points and was more consistent, and I guess that's why I won. As a team we lost by four matches to two.

On to Saturday. For April it was a scorcher, but there was no escaping the tennis court. I would play my last ever match with Bazza - we're both leaving the club. Unfortunately we couldn't finish on a high note, going down 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3). The score in the first set was highly deceptive - they had points for just about every game. We led 3-1 in the third and were tantalisingly close to victory at 6-5 and 30-all, but it wasn't to be. It was some time since I'd last played with Bazza but he hadn't changed one bit. Dodgy line calls which I sometimes had to overrule and calls of "yours!" when it was far too late. I thought we both played fine given our limitations, which are pretty severe on the doubles court: we're both hopeless at the net. He can be infuriating to play with (even more so if you don't "get" him) but we've had some very good matches over the years - it was perhaps fitting that our last match would go all the way to a deciding tie-break.

We played another tie-break in the first set of the mixed. This we won, 7-2, but there was still a sense of inevitability about the final outcome. Their man had a very tricky slice serve and a strong net game, both of which brought them numerous cheap points. All of our points required far more work. Things just didn't add up. Despite our best efforts we duly lost the last two sets 6-2, 6-3. For the second time in three days, but 15 years after the only other time, I'd won a tie-break in a losing cause. A disco started up as our match was finishing. It was to celebrate the club's 75th anniversary and was mainly for the kids' benefit although adults were invited too. It was a themed disco: you had to dress up as something beginning with B. I saw a banana, a ballerina and Bob Marley (which given the number of kids present, might not have been appropriate). I could have had an absolute field day dressing up as Bazza but I wouldn't have dared.

But that's not all! Tomorrow night I've got more tennis. My last pair of matches for the club.

This morning I went to the French club for the last time. I spoke perhaps more French there than ever before. My imminent move got me some attention I suppose. After that I met up with Richard in Mt Eden for lunch. We had a long and enjoyable chat as always. That's something I'm going to miss for sure.

A musical interlude



I love this, even if it is a commercial.

"Oh to be in NZ now that April's there!"

(Photos: NZ's Ashburton Guardian featuring official bicycle seatbelt fitter Ross Butterick tests the belt settings for rider Penny Farthing)


Just too, too brilliant - a wonderful expose on the daftness on bicycle helmets via the dafteness of bicycle seat-belts...clearly our mates across the ditch suffer just as much as we do from daft laws that fail to protect!!!

Why can't helmets be 'beached is'!!!?