Yo, Bitch! Did you hear Bill Maher using the N-word?

As you might’ve heard, comedian Bill Maher used the N-word during his HBO show. While talking to Senator Sasse, he came out with the “I’m a house nigger”. Comedians are known to push boundaries, but sometimes they just push it too far, they try too hard. We just have to think few days back to a completely distasteful photoshoot coming from Kathy Griffin.

Bill Maher

Bill Maher

Given the nature of conversation at the time, Bill’s remark actually made sense – during the times of slavery, the “house nigger” was a common term to describe slaves working in and around the house, as opposed to the ones working out in the field. However, Bill is not a history professor lecturing in college on a subject of slavery. He is a comedian, and could’ve gotten his point across without offending anyone.

Having said that, I can’t put the blame entirely at Bill’s feet. Just look at movies that come out of Hollywood, at music videos, at the way people talk to each other in real life and on Social Media… The N-word is such a common thing, that one can be forgiven for thinking that’s it is an acceptable, everyday word. We often hear black people calling each other the N-word. Guys – it’s either offensive or it isn’t. If it is, STOP USING IT! Just because you use it yourselves doesn’t make it any less offensive. Lead by example, show to the rest of the world that using the racial slur is NOT OK.

While we are on a subject of respect, what is it with girls addressing each other as “bitches“? When did it become the norm?

Princess

Princess

Is it all a byproduct of “equality”? I’m pretty sure that your grandfathers would’ve gotten in a fist-fight if someone called your grandma a “bitch”. Once again, you want to be respected by men, start by respecting yourselves.

You can address each other by your real name, by a nickname, you can call each other Girlfriend, or Подруга, or Mate, or Paisano, or Homie….

just don’t call each other Bitch.

School Zones, Speed Zones, Confusion Zones

Last Sunday I was driving down my local street, and found myself stuck behind the car that was doing 50km/h. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the guy behind the wheel thinking. On Sunday, the speed limit there is 60 km/h, other days it’s 40 km/h. Did he think he’s in a built-up area and therefore should stick to a generic 50 km/h speed limit? Did he know that the road there has a 60km/h speed limit and he was just a Sunday Driver? Did he know it was a 40 zone and he was being a rebel, driving recklessly at 50 km/h? Who knows!

But it did got me thinking. It’s hard being a motorist in Victoria. Not only do we have to deal with “regular” speed limits changing on a same stretch of road without rhyme or reason, but we also have to keep in mind school zones.

Speed signs must be consistent

Speed zones chaos

It wouldn’t be so hard if we had some sort of uniform approach towards it, but I guess the people in charge of our roads think that it will make our driving experience too dull. Guess what? I can do “dull”. Dull trip is the opposite of Adventure trip, and when you are on a way to work, adventure is the last thing on your mind.

At the moment, we are in a middle of School term 3, and according to the Government sources, the dates of this term are from Monday, 11th of July to Friday, 16th of September.

But….. there is always that nasty “but”.

So the dates for the Term 3 are from Monday 11 July to Friday 16 September. Easy enough to remember, right? Not quite. If you happened to be driving along the Wootten Road in Tarneit, you don’t have to keep to 40 after 9th of September, as the Islamic College there finishes their term a bit earlier. Or if you were driving along the Old Melbourne Road in Chirnside Park during the first week of term, you didn’t have to drop the speed either, as the Oxley Christian College there starts a bit late. Or if you are driving past Yeshivah College in Balaclava – they start their term later as well.

These are just a few of hundreds upon hundreds of private schools in Victoria, and each of them is making rules as they go, changing term dates, adding or subtracting few here and there…

Speed zones chaos

Speed zones chaos

While I understand the reasoning behind the decision to make speed limit in school zones a low 40 km/h, I think our government, as usual, failed to think through the execution of this initiative. Let’s think about it – if you have a child that goes to your local school, you might eventually remember the dates of school terms. But what if you have to drive next to a different school, in a different part of Melbourne? How can you be sure if it is a school day, or a student-free day in a school you didn’t even know exists?

If our government is fair dinkum about safety, the solution is simple. Instead of those old style road signs advising motorists of school zones, we need electronic ones, which present correct speed limit at any given time and have an added benefit of having higher visibility level.

I will be getting in touch with a couple of people who not only have interest in this matter, but also have ability to make it happen – I’m talking about Minister for Education, The Hon. James Merlino and Minister for Roads and Road Safety, The Hon. Luke Donnellan.

And while they are out there, righting the wrongs, they might consider making our roads less “speed camera friendly”, and more “driver friendly”. Do we really need a change of speed limit every 1.5 kilometre? Because that is exactly what we have at the moment. If you travel along the North Road from about Leopold Street, South Caulfield to Blackburn Road, Clayton – a grand total of 11 kilometres, you have to go through 7 (SEVEN) different speed zones, ranging from 40 km/h to 80 km/h.

Being Somebody – My Musings During the Melbourne Cup

Yesterday Melbourne was in a grip of a racing fever. There’s been a lot said over the past few days about the Melbourne Cup all over the internet and traditional media, so I’m not going to talk about it. I’ll leave it to others to talk about the winning horses, or talented trainers, or incredible jockeys.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

I want to talk about something completely different. At about the time when Race 7 was stopping the nation, I was in a middle of my own race – on a treadmill in my local gym. Coincidently, there was a lot of people around me, who cared very little about the races, but who cared a lot about deadlifts, bicep curls and reps. While running, I was listening to  Lay Me Low – a great song by an extremely talented Nick Cave. I must’ve been hearing this song for the hundreds time, but for some reason, this was the time when something about the lyrics attracted my attention. In particular, these lines:

They will interview my teachers (Lay me low)
Who’ll say I was one of God’s sorrier creatures
They’ll print informative six-page features
When I go

 

This made me think – how many of us will merit a six-page feature when we go? How about a one page? Or even a single line? Too many of us go through life without really doing anything outstanding, without caring about what’s happening around them, without being a Somebody.

Freedom of thought

Engage your mind.

I remember years ago, as a young man I was working with a cynical old-timer. He used to tell me “Never get a reputation”. I asked him once, “Don’t you mean never get a bad reputation?” “No” he said, “never get a reputation of any kind. You will be expected to live up to it”.

Now decades later, listening to Nick Cave, I remembered this conversation and thought that I would rather, in a words of a song, Make a Stand. I would rather get a reputation.

Be known for something. Be known as someone.

Melbournians fallen victims of self-absorbed and disgruntled renegades with permanent chips on their shoulders

Another day, another industrial action by Melbourne’s Public Transport workers. Once again tens of thousands of people have been left stranded, inconvenienced, made hostages of the Unions.

Yarra Trams holding Melbournians hostage

Yarra Trams holding Melbournians hostage

Yesterday, for the fifth time in two weeks Melbournians fallen victims of self-absorbed and disgruntled renegades with permanent chips on their shoulders, otherwise known as Rail, Tram and Bus Union leadership.

Workers fighting for their rights and conditions is an important and necessary part of a democratic society.  Unless, of course, this fight becomes a nasty squabble and stops being a vehicle of progress.

 

 

So what do the Unions want?

They want 6% pay raise each year for three years (18% pay increase) for Yarra Tram and Metro employees. That’s on top of already generous pay increase they’ve negotiated in the last two Enterprise Agreements:

According to a report from 3AW tram and train drivers have received pay rises of 28 per cent in the past six years after negotiating two new EBAs since 2009.

What does the Metro Train management offer?

Another day, another industrial action

Another day, another industrial action

  • 13% pay raise over three years
  • Increased maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks
  • Increased Carers leave from 1 week to 2 weeks
  • Up to 5 days of Bereavement leave
  • Trauma and Family violence leave
  • An option of when to take their five weeks annual leave

According to Yarra Trams, tram drivers, on average, currently take home $91,000, including penalties, bonuses and overtime. So we are not exactly talking about poverty-stricken segment of our society here.

 

It reminds me of when Telstra employees engaged in the rolling industrial strikes few years ago, after the Company and the Union failed to reach an agreement.

I’m sure you all remember it – tens of thousands of people lost their access to the internet, nobody could call their families overseas, people couldn’t withdraw cash from the ATMs and the entire police force went on leave, because no-one could call 000, remember? No? Because that’s not how it works when people taking industrial actions actually care about what they do and about their customers.

The problem is, the way I see it, that the Union bosses get joy from making life hard for businesses. They genuinely thrive on it, and are completely indifferent to the hardships their militant actions cause to country as a whole.

What’s even worse, they end up becoming a Labor Politicians and legislate to make it easier for their Union cronies to continue this vicious cycle!

Miss World Pageant- a Miss Universe’s Poor Cousin?

The other day I stumbled upon a Miss World Pageant show on Foxtel. Naturally, I stopped my channel surfing and decided to have a look. I was expecting to see Donald Trump’s silly hair, to hear contestants talking about world peace, while wearing a “barely there” bikinis….

Miss USSR 1990 Maria Kezha

Miss USSR 1990
Maria Kezha

Imagine my disappointment, when I realized that I’m watching the wrong show! Whose idea was it to create 2 (almost) identical shows? It’s like having NCIS and say, NCIS LA, or NCIS New Orleans; oh, hang on a minute….  Anyway, how does one decide which show to enter? If you are a bit smarter, you enter the Miss World one, but if you have more beauty than brains you try your luck in Miss Universe? Those are difficult decisions for girls to make 🙂

Also, isn’t it a bit ambitious to call it a Miss Universe? I mean, it’s OK for now, but the name would imply that the contestants from other worlds are eligible to enter. Wouldn’t it be ironic, if we get some beautiful ladies from planet Crespallion, or Acamar, or Crematoria or some other far-away place coming here and taking the pretty little crown away from us? I wonder if there is a clause in an application stipulation that a contestant has to be from Earth, or even a humanoid?

Nigerian beauty queen

Queen Celestine

Anyway, the show’s over. Now we wait for the Miss Universe to entertain us next month. Apparently, there even going to be a Nigerian Queen.

 

Gypsies, Travellers and Prejudices

Television is a great time-waster. It’s also a great source of entertainment. And occasionally, it makes us ask questions, seek more information.

This was the case when I came across the show on Foxtel called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The show is based around the lives of Travellers and Gypsies, and I was disappointed to hear that in today’s age Gypsies and Travellers are being routinely discriminated against.

I remember dealing with Gypsies back in my younger days. They used to come through our town every summer. I remember their men being very proud, independent and decent fighters. Their girls are beautiful dancers and really easy on an eye. When the men weren’t busy smoking and talking trash, they earned their living as blacksmith and horse handlers. Women used to bring money into the tents by dancing and fortune telling. Their kids were known to help themselves on occasion with stuff that wasn’t bolted down, but I don’t remember it being a big problem – it’s not like they were the only ones with sticky fingers – there was enough home-grown low-lives to cause trouble throughout the year.

So where does this animosity is coming from? Why do we treat people who live next door to us, look like us, work like us with such content?

The answer, I think, is simple…. all this is because of the lack of knowledge and understanding.

Gypsies are different, in many ways still maintaining the way of life their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago. They were known as nomads, as the “descendants of Cain”.

Because of this being different, Gypsies suffered greatly during the WWII. They were sent to extermination camps together with Jews and homosexuals.

This makes the way they are treated today even more appalling. It is really sad when in a 21st century UK a grown up man is afraid to show his face on TV for fear of loosing his job, or a bride is refusing to name the place of the wedding venue till the very last moment for fear of the venue cancelling on her simply because she’s a Gypsy.

 

Law of the Jungle, Survival of the Fittest, Also Known as Suburban Driving

I have to start by saying that I like to think of myself as a reasonably safe, assertive driver. After many years on a road, I’ve seen just about everything, been in a couple of bingles, avoided few more. But today’s been interesting…. I had 2 near-misses within as many minutes.

First one was a Four-Wheel-Drive, whose driver decided that it’s a good idea for his vehicle to occupy the same point in space as my car.

4WD attempts to push me off the road

4WD driver decides to change lanes without paying attention to cars around

As you can see from my highly technical picture here, my car is on the right, with nowhere to go and the other car is to my left, attempting to get into my lane. The guy didn’t even bother to see if anyone else is around, and was really surprised to find my car only a couple of inches from his…. after I’ve used the car horn to warn him.

 

Second incident happened only about a kilometer down the road, when I was trying to negotiate a T-intersection; normally not particularly difficult task.

Bus unable to perform a right turn

A bus driver was having a bad day

Once again, I’m proud to display my significant artistic skills here. The green rectangle is my car, ready to turn right. The blue one is some other car, about to turn left, and the big brown blob is a bus, whose driver is on a mission to flatten my car.

I don’t know-maybe he was having a bad day, or forgot that he’s driving a bus and not a bicycle, but there was absolutely no way that he could turn without running me over. Yet, I had to practically beg him to stop and wait for me to reverse my car about 30 meters back, to make it safe for both of us.

What really got me, though, was that both drivers – the 4WD and the bus were Asian. Here’s the part I don’t get: Asians are arguable the hardest working people on a planet, they are also some of the most advanced academically-just go look at the Law and Medicine Faculties of any university in Australia-majority of students there are Asians.

So here’s a question to all my Asian friends out there…. please someone, explain to me: what the fuck happens to you when you get behind the wheel?

 

Life Without Internet in 21st century? Surely Not!

The other day I overheard a conversation between two young people, both in their 20th. The girl was trying to understand the concept of Facebook, and the guy was trying (without much success) to explain it to her.

You've Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail

I immediately felt the need to bud in on their conversation, and started asking questions of my own. It turns out, that the girl not only has no idea about Facebook, she also doesn’t own a mobile phone, and she doesn’t have an internet connection at home either. I must’ve had a stupid expression on my face, when on my question “How do you pay your bills?” she answered “At the Post Office”.

I must point out here, that the girl is NOT some sort of backwards person, unable to grasp the technology. She is a lovely girl, competent in her job, uses computer and internet at work, knows how to use them, so it’s a matter of personal choice not succumbing to the extra pressure of being on-line and available at all times.

I kept coming back to this conversation for the rest of the day, and I become curious as to how many other people are out there, that do not have internet?

Apparently, quite a lot. According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2013 there was 12,397,000 internet subscribers, of which, amazingly, over 200,000 were still on Dial-Up connections.  It appears that we are not as technologically advanced as I’ve always thought. Australia is only ranked 25th in a world by internet penetration, having 82.3% of its population on-line.

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

The list of countries and their internet penetration makes for a very interesting read – there are some surprises there.

First, Falkland Islands are ranked Number 1, which must piss Iceland off big time, as that little bit of rock  in South Atlantic is pushing the little bit of rock in a North Atlantic into the Second spot. Our cousins from across the Tasman Sea are doing real good, managing to secure a spot in the top 10. But the biggest surprise for me was Nigeria – I was sure that with the millions of e-mails from millions of relatives of the dead people, all promising me the guaranteed way to get reach, Nigeria would be high up on the list. But no – it only comes at a lowly 128th spot. Those poor scammers must be working overtime, to be able to contact so many unsuspecting winners  🙂

 

 

 

Social Dis-service

Yesterday my wife volunteered to help her mother and make few calls to some government departments – Social Security, Human Services, Aged Care….

Pension and Aged Services

Pension and Aged Services

It wasn’t anything complicated – she wasn’t asking government agency to divulge any secrets, or assign Member of Parliament size pension to a regular Australian, or anything like that.

All she wanted, was to have some information brochures and application forms to be mailed out to us. Simple, right?

Well, it might be simple for someone who doesn’t understand the complexity of the bureaucratic machine, but after listening to my wife, I now realize how complicated and self-important those departments are.

For starters, before she even had a chance to talk to anyone, she had to endure some horrible hold music, with a total “hold” time of close to 2 hours. Next, she was transferred from one department to another, person to the next. Each time the story had to be repeated, names and other details provided and an oath given, just in case….

At one point of this process, she got told that the material we requested is not being printed any more, and everything is available on line. When asked if he can e-mail us the documents, the bureaucrat on another end replied that it’s not their process to e-mail documents. Fair enough we thought, how about a link to where the document is on their web-site? Apparently, link isn’t available, and we have to search for it.

What I found even more amusing (amusing because I wasn’t the one who had to listen to this rubbish), was the fact that apparently, there were some changes in rules and legislation affecting aged care. These changes came into effect on July 1st, 2014. All this was happening on July the 8th and guess what – new documentation wasn’t available ANYWHERE – not in printed form, not on-line not etched on cave walls.

If I was just as incompetent at my job, I would’ve been fired years ago, but I guess there is a benefit in being a government employee.

Federal Budget, Retirement and Death

Over the past couple of weeks we all have been exposed to the proposed “tough love” budget that our Federal Government is attempting to pass through Parliament.

One of the things that will affect most of us – the retirement age is set to go up to 70 years. While it scares me to even think that I might have to be in a workforce for so long, there is something that scares me even more. It’s the thought that we will have significantly higher number of drivers in their mid to late sixties regularly navigating our roads.

Are you ready to retire?

Are you ready to retire?
Is the government ready for you to retire?

Why does it scare me? It’s simple, really. Older drivers are not as safe as the younger ones. They are accountable for one-third of all fatalities related to traffic accidents.

Now, before all the old-timers out there decide to collectively bash me up – statistics don’t lie. Of 247 fatalities in a 12 months to April 2014, 84 are from the age group of 60+.

The reality of it is, this number is set to go even higher. Today drivers over 60 years old are mostly drive out of peak hours, and mostly for recreational purposes. When they will have to drive to and from work, faced with bumper to bumper traffic, and an added pressure of getting there on time, how will they cope?

I wonder if the government is prepared to spend extra money paying unemployment to all the young people who will have to wait few extra years for the older generation to retire?

I wonder if the government is prepared to spend extra money paying for increased number if accidents on our roads?

But most of all, I wonder if it’s a ploy to force all those 70-year-olds to become just another road accident statistic, thus eliminating the need to pay them pension for another 10-20 years?

Getting old doesn’t look like a lot of fun right now…

Tinglers and Tampons

This post is more of a WTF category, just a couple of things I’ve come across recently that made me stop and take a second look…

The first one was at a truck stop somewhere between Melbourne and Canberra.

Boldly Glow Where No Man Has Glowed Before

Boldly Glow Where No Man Has Glowed Before

While washing hands in a toilet, I’ve noticed a vending machine that was selling Tingler Rings.

Looks like our truckies have become more sophisticated, more adventurous. It’s not enough to just grab a plain old condom from a machine for a quick “pit-stop” on a way. Now they are looking for the Tingler Ring – a product promising you to “Boldly glow where no man has glowed before”.

It also promises to “Prolong The Pleasure Of Sex” – I always thought that our truck drivers work on a tight schedule, they would be more interested in a product that will allow them to get maximum satisfaction in a shortest time possible…you know, “in, out, back on the road again”?

 

The second thing that made me go “hmmm” was the banner in a local health shop.

What's In Your Tampon?

What’s In Your Tampon?

For a reason that escapes me, they posted a question “What’s in your tampon?”

Now, I’m not too sure what they are trying to achieve here… If they want to know what tampons are made of, they might be better off directing the question to the manufactures. If they want to know what’s in a tampon after it’s been used, I don’t even want to go there.

Being a health shop specializing in all things “natural”, I suspect they wanted to make people aware of some different type of tampons made of natural, or recycled ingredients.

What I find hard to swallow, even harder than a tampon staring in my face, is the fact that they sell those horrible drinks there, they call it “coffee” but it’s made from the soy milk and dandelions. No human should be allowed to suffer through drinking that horrible stuff.

Maybe next they should put up a poster asking “How to make real coffee?”

Celebrity Gossip Vs News

To be fair, the title of this blog might be a bit misleading. It’s not really celeb gossip VS news. Today, celebrity gossip IS the news.

Just think about it…..

Dennis Rodman making headlines

Dennis Rodman making headlines

Dennis Rodman travels to North Korea to bring birthday presents to his mate, dictator Kim Jong Un. Is it a gossip, or a news item? Or a fusion of both? What about AFL legend Doug Hawkins standing for Palmer party in a last election? Or U2’s front man Bono speaking about Mandela. Gossip? News? Search Google News for “Schapelle Corby” and the top result is about the bidding war for her first post-jail interview. Does anyone really give a shit?

Do we really care what celebrities think or say? (the two are not necessarily the same) What’s even more important, when did it become acceptable to substitute facts of political, economic or cultural news with titbits of celebrity gossip disguised as news?

So what have we got here….Rodman is breaking the United States law that forbids the flow of luxury items into North Korea. Hawkins? He was, without a doubt, an extremely talented sportsman and a bit of a court jester on The Footy Show, but that doesn’t make him even remotely qualified to enter politics. Bono – hardly a person inspiring respect. He is known for his “efforts” to eliminate poverty in Africa; however some experts say that what he does is actually causing more damage than good. Also, Bono – the citizen of Ireland, is not the most popular Irish son, all because he chooses not to pay his taxes in Ireland.

Schapelle Corby - alleged drug smuggler

Schapelle Corby – alleged drug smuggler

Schapelle? An alleged drug smuggler who somehow managed to attain status of quasi celebrity.

So why are we being forced to accept these celebrity gossip – turn – celebrity-flavoured news?

 

The answer is two-fold. First, it is much easier for local news crews to regurgitate already substandard overseas news than to report it’s own. Second, and probably more important, is the fact that the news business is a money making venture. This makes it impossible to report the news objectively.

Becoming a Lucky Country

A couple of days ago I read an article about a Sydney woman being attacked on a busy street, with not one of the dozens of bystanders coming to her rescue. Luckily for her, the attackers changed their minds when she started shouting and screaming for help.

That got me thinking….why? Why all those people ignored woman’s cry for help? What happened to the notion of helping a “Damsel in distress”? As I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that there is no one simple answer to it. Rather, it is a combination of different ways in which we, as society failed ourselves.

The most obvious reason for people’s non involvement is the most basic of the feelings – fear. Not everyone can be a hero, not everyone is mentally prepared to face off with a car full of aggressive males. However, this is only true if you are alone. There were people in groups, able to match “body for body” the attackers.

I think the next 2 reasons are related to inadequacy of our legal system and the way we are bringing up our youth.

First let me explain my view on the legal side of things…

Good Samaritan

Good Samaritan

In Australia, the law is not geared towards protecting a Good Samaritan or encouraging a person to act as one.  NSW Civil Liability Act 2002 No 22 states that a good samaritan can be liable if he/she “failed to exercise reasonable care and skill in connection with the act…” What it really says is that you can pretend to be a Superman, or a Wonder Woman, only to have the dubious pleasure of being stabbed, or shot at, AND then being sued by the villain, or even the very victim you were trying to protect.

Further, Australia lags behind in introducing a law which would make it a legal requirement for citizens to assist people in distress. There are dozens of countries that have this law in place, some of them are Brazil, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Russia and Spain.

Which brings me to the second reason – the way we educate our young generation.

We are way too accepting, way too tolerant, even when acceptance and tolerance becoming synonyms for apathy and desertion. Our political correctness is going to cost us dearly.

King Hit - Coward Hit

King Hit – Coward Hit

Take recent attack at Canberra night club, which left its victim with a fracture to his eye socket, a fractured cheekbone, and bleeding from his forehead, nose, and lips. His attacker? Sentenced to eight months in jail, fully suspended. Suspended? How about showing that we are serious and locking the bastard up for 2-3 years, making sure he works his ass off?

Or how about our attitude towards drugs? Melbourne drug addicts might be in luck. Needle vending machines could be rolled out in Victoria this year. Because you know, those poor addicts, they need to do drugs outside of business hours too. How about showing that we are serious and locking them up until they are clean, making sure they work their asses off?

Now let’s move onto politics… MP Geoff Shaw investigated over claims he rorted taxpayer entitlements. MP Scott Driscoll  under fire over family business dealings. Former NSW MP Joe Tripodi faces ICAC investigation. Keilor MP George Seitz was under scrutiny as fraud squad investigates allegations that he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling money. Those are the people who suppose to be our leaders and decision makers?

How possibly can our young understand what’s right and what’s wrong, if we keep sending them these mixed messages?

Now, I am not a whinger, but….why don’t we call things what they are: a bully, a corrupt politician (tautology?), a drug addict, a criminal. Maybe then our children will have at least a small chance to be able to tell right from wrong and maybe, just maybe we will be able to live in a country that once again will deserve the title of the Lucky Country.

My musings on joining a gym

This week I celebrated my second anniversary. Second anniversary of going to gym that is. Yes, I belong to a gym now. Well, let me rephrase that: I don’t belong there at all, but I go.

For the whole 2 months I was coming to this place, doing things to my body that no body should ever endure. I was making it run, lift weights, bend into weird shapes. I hope one day my body will forgive me for making it do all these crazy things.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

Some would say that two months is not a big deal, that people are going to gym for years. Well, it is a big deal for me. You see, when you are on a wrong side of 40 years, on a wrong side of 100 kilos, and when the only exercise your body knows is lifting a fork full of herring salad and a glass full of vodka, any additional effort can potentially become that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back.

When I was shopping around for a gym, I looked at about half a dozen of them, most within walking distance from me. One was too “boutique” for my liking, another one too “hardcore”, yet another one too expensive… But one struck the right balance – it was reasonably priced, seemed nice inside, the fact that it’s open 24/7 was also a factor. But what really swayed me over was the location.

Grilled, Zap Fitness, Cellarbrations

Perfect location for any gym

Talk about perfection. Such thoughtfulness, such attention to detail. On a way to gym you can pop into Grill’d, get one (or two, or three) of their “Hot” Mama burgers, move next door in an attempt to lose just acquired calories at a gym, fail miserably, leave the gym disappointed and move on to the Cellarbrations to drown you sorrows in alcohol – all without having to cross the road or move your car.

I guess there is a lesson in this. All these things can co-exist. One can eat out, have a glass (or two) of alcohol, and still be a gym-goer. There is nothing wrong in indulging in life’s little pleasures, as long it is done in moderation.

The Big Bang Theory and Hot Tub Time Machine meet at Australian Synchrotron

For all the nerds, geeks and all the “regular” people who are not afraid to show their “geeky” side, this month’s calendar had one very important and exciting day. I am talking of course, about the Australian Synchrotron Open Day.

Australian Synchrotron opened in 2007 and in what’s becoming a yearly tradition, the scientists and the support staff are opening the doors to this marvel of engineering, volunteering their time and knowledge to bring the science to the masses and give our kids (and there was A LOT of kids) a taste of what science is, and hopefully inspire some of them to become the next Albert Einstein.

Synchrotron Open Day

This is how visitors were greeted

This year I decided to take this opportunity and see what all the excitement is about. Secretly, I was hoping to see Dr. Sheldon Cooper in attendance, or Leonard Hofstadter, or maybe even their girlfriends. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, but I did see a guy who closely resembled Howard Wolowitz, down to the weird hair and a skivvy. Although, I am absolutely convinced that Penny was there at some point. How else do you explain that many bottles of nail polish?

Penny was here

Penny…..Penny…..Penny….

What I found very intriguing, was the scientists’ fascination with aluminum foil. It was EVERYWHERE! They either treat the whole thing a bit like a primary school science experiment, or they are really paranoid about the government spying on them.

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

At one stage I even began to wonder if those scientists are really all that smart. I mean, you would have your doubts too, if you found that they need these type of signs to aid them in their work:

Those scientists really worry me...

Those scientists really worry me…

But as I was moving along, I realized that I have little reason to worry. The scientists definitely knew what they were doing. One of the projects I spotted was obviously a robotic can opener; a must-have in every household

Robotic can opener

Robotic can opener

Soon after, I’ve discovered even more amazing project Synchrotronians (is it a word?) were working on. Not sure if the Hollywood producers borrowed their idea for a movie from our scientist, or our scientists drew inspiration form a Hollywood blockbuster, but the fact remains: Time Machine is real, and it is right here, in Melbourne!

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine

Overall, it was a great day, the staff there were very helpful and did their best to explain even the hardest theories and hypothesis in a way that anyone would understand.  They were there on a Sunday, during their time off, away from their families. Yet they made all of us feel like a family, welcoming us to a wonderful world of science.

Managing your own financial affair isn’t a rocket science.

I finally did it. With only 8 days till the deadline, I have submitted my Tax Return.

It was an intense 2 hours, skimming thru ATO’s regulations, digging out 12-months old receipts, generally trying to do the right thing.

Tax Time is the time to get involved

Tax Time is the time to get involved

All this made me remember doing my very first Tax Return, all those years ago. It used to be a very involved process. First, it required a visit to a Newsagency to pick up a copy of the Return, and to get a pack of smokes (I’ll need them). Then I needed to clean up the dining table, so I can spread all the papers out, next step was realising that I don’t have a black ink pen, so back to the Newsagency I go, getting a bottle of vodka from a bottle shop while I’m out (I’ll need it later too). Finally, about an hour after I’ve started filling in the form, I hopelessly stuffed it up. Stuffed it up to a point that I just knew that no amount of Whiteout would fix it. Which only meant one thing – another visit to the Newsagency, to get another blank form.

Back home with the form, thoroughly frustrated, I spend the next few hours doing my best impersonation of an old accountant. I grumble, I argue with the form I’m filling in, I’m yelling at my pen, I admonishing the receipt for deciding to play hide and seek with me.  At long last, it is done. Two sets of forms and a pack of smokes later, I feel totally exhausted, but my Tax Return is done. Now all that’s left to do is to jump in a car and drive to the local Tax Office branch to make sure my forms are there in time. By the end of the day, the place looked a lot like this:

Paperwork during tax time

Paperwork during tax time

 

Looking back at the way I did my first Tax Return, I suddenly realise that today’s tax affair is rather boring, uneventful, even dull.

After having a late breakfast on a Sunday morning, I downloaded eTax software from the ATO website, “digging out 12-months old receipts” in reality only took a couple of minutes, as most of them are electronically stored in my e-mail. No hunting for forms or for pens. No wasting time going to and from Newsagency. If a mistake is made, all it takes is to hit the Back button and correct the mistake. And once all is done, getting the information to the Tax Office is as easy as pressing the Lodgement button.

All this makes me wonder why would people pay hundreds of dollars to have their basic Tax Returns done by accountants? Unless you have a complex financial portfolio consisting of investment properties, shares, running a couple of small businesses, you don’t really need anyone sticking their nose in our financial affairs. Think about it – a lot of people would pay a few hundred dollars to an accountant, just to have a couple of hundred dollars in tax return. next year, why don’t you give it a go and try doing it yourself. After all, if you were smart enough to have finished high school, you are smart enough to manage your own Tax Return.

Halloween in Australia, Mud Wrestling or Tomato Throwing?

I had to do a bit of shopping in Big W the other day, and the moment I entered the store, I was confronted with evil pumpkins, witches, spider webs and zombies…..Yes. Halloween is upon us once again. So what is Halloween, and why do we celebrate it here, in Australia?

Halloween

Evil Pumpkin

The origin of Halloween is from the Celtic festival of death marking the beginning of their New Year, celebrated on 31st October or 1st November. The earlier records indicate that it is not just a day for the dead but also the day when the dead might reach out to the living. It came to be known as the feast of the dead, because the Celts believe that on this night the border between the worlds of the living and dead is the thinnest, enabling souls of the dead to re-enter the world.

When first Europeans came to America, Halloween wasn’t a big day on a calendar, due to the fact that most immigrants at a time were Protestants. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when millions of Irish made the trip across the Atlantic, that the festival started to gain momentum and became a national holiday.

So why do we celebrate it here? Why not? After all, we are quite happy to celebrate Christmas in a 40C heat, and we embrace the spring holiday of Esther by getting out our winter clothing, so it only logical that Halloween is a sound choice for Australian holidays. While we at it, we might want to consider adopting another festival – La Tomatina. Getting a bucket load of tomatoes and chucking them at complete strangers sounds like a fun day out. Or if you are after a bit more “hands on” experience, maybe we can start lobbying to adopt a Korean festival known as Boryeong Mud Festival? Two words….Mud Wrestling

Halloween in Australia

Halloween is here

I guess, there would always be people who are happy to embrace an idea of a new festival, just like there would always be those who oppose any change. Whichever side you are on, it is easy to show your allegiance. If you think Halloween is an evil’s work, go buy yourself the biggest water gun you can find, and give those little shits a good spray if they dare to disturb your evening. But if you think Halloween is a fun holiday bringing families together, go spend few dollars and shower little angels with candies.

Since either way it is spending –  there is no wrong choice, for any spending is good for our economy.

My Mum Gave me Drugs, or Why Our Athletes Choose to Cheat

Australian sport is going from one drug related scandal to another. In a last few months we’ve heard all about Cronulla Sharks, Essendon Bombers, and now Sydney Roosters looking down the barrel of the ACC’s investigation. I don’t think anyone’s really surprised anymore to hear about yet another drug scandal in sport.

Of course, nothing’s new under the sun. We all remember Ben Cousins’ drug scandal in 2007, Shane Warne’s ‘My mum gave it to me’ saga (did anyone actually believe that one?), Tour de France’s greats Lance Armstrong shocking allegations of 2011, and Floyd Landis before him, back in 2006. One good thing that came out of drugs scandals in Tour de France, is the numerous jokes it generated. Here are just a couple: “Amsterdam is like a Tour de France. Just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.”

Drugs in sport

Drugs in sport

All this got me thinking. I understand the motive behind the decision to cheat. For some, it’s the ambition to be number one, for others it is the temptation of money, for yet others it’s the promise of fame. So when did it all start? When did the sport lose its purity?

The sad truth is, it all started millennia ago. In ancient Greece, the original Olympians used extracts of mushrooms and certain plants to create performance enhancing mixtures. During Roman period, gladiators were given drugs to make their fights more “spectacular”.

Drugs in sport

Cheat to Win

Once again, I am not a whinger, BUT… Here’s what I don’t get- why would anyone with half a brain risk taking drugs? Forget about the issues of morality, honesty and integrity. I’m talking about the health risks that associated with drug use. It should be obvious to anyone that long-term negative effects of drug use outweigh any dubious short-term “benefits”.

And just to finish it off:

A female athlete is preparing for the Olympics. She goes to the coach and complains about the tablets he is making her take.

“They are causing hair to grow on my breasts.”

“Ah whats the problem, a little bit of downy hair. everyone has a few little hairs’

“They are not downy and they are not little and they are not a few’

“Well exactly how much is there?’

“They grow all the way down to my balls, and that’s something else I want to talk to you about’

Footy Finals, Kennett’s Curse and Weird Superstitions in Sport

So it finally happened. From twenty points behind at three-quarter time, the Hawks turned the game around and finally broken The Kennett Curse. As entertaining as the game itself was, this isn’t about the Aussie Rules. It is about something strange, something out of left field. This post is about superstitions in sport, and boy, there are some weird ones.

So, what superstitions are out there?

Lets start off with one of the best tennis players of all times – Serena Williams. Most of us would cringe at a thought of wearing our socks more then once. Serena doesn’t mind it. She actually likes it, likes it so much that she only wears a single pair during any given tournament. Really? Eeeew!

Change of socks anyone?

Change of socks anyone? (image courtesy npr.org)

Even Big Bad Bezza is not as gross. Footy legend Barry Hall admitted that he wore the same pair of his favorite underpants for every game. Naturally, he made sure to explain that he washed them in between games.

Switching to cricket, Ricky Ponting’s level of play was not the only consistent aspect of the legendary cricketer’s career. Despite numerous pleas to get a new cap, Ponting refused to wear anything but his trusty baggy green. Another cricket great, former captain of the Australian Test cricket team Steve Waugh, played every game with a red handkerchief given to him by his late grandfather in his pocket.

Moving onto track and field, Fabrice Lapierre, an Aussie long jumper, begins every approach by putting his gold necklace, an 18th birthday present from his parents, into his mouth and biting down before his launch.

Want to have a swing like Tiger? Not a problem. Tiger Woods wears a variation of a red Nike polo during the final round of tournaments. The red color supposedly is linked to Stanford, where he spent his college days, and gives him an increased sense of aggression.

But my personal favourite is the story of Socceroos playing in 1970 World Cup qualifiers. Apparently, according to legendary Socceroo Johnny Warren, the team hired a witch doctor to curse their opponents (supposedly for a bit of a laugh.) Australia beat their “cursed” opposition Rhodesia 3-1, but then decided to screw the witch doctor out of his $1500 fee. Rightfully upset, the witch doctor reversed the curse onto the Socceroos. They lost their next match to Israel (Partly because three players succumbed to illness during the match) and ultimately failed to qualify. Apart from a blink-and-you’d-miss-it appearance in the 1974 World Cup finals, the Socceroos didn’t return to the FIFA World Cup until 2006. What’s real spooky here, is that their qualification occurred shortly after comedian John Safran travelled to Africa in 2004 and hired another witch doctor to reverse the curse.

Kennett's curse is over

Kennett’s curse is over

But going back to Kennett’s Curse… According to Melbourne master of darkness and The Haunted Bookshop owner Drew Sinton, Hawthorn’s midfielder needs to pee in each corner of the ground to help break the Hawk hoodoo. It makes sense. Geelong are Cats, and cats can give a spray. So the Hawks should mark their territory. It’s an animal thing and it’s highly symbolic.

Is there such thing as bad publicity?

For me, TV is an endless source of entertainment, amusement, frustration and, surprise, surprise – material for my blog.

The latest “light bulb” idea comes after watching an Old El Paso ad, the one advertising Mexican Rice Kits. Apparently, Mexicans are a backwards people, complete baboons, who just recently discovered what to do with forks.

It got me thinking: do we really need this kind of racist advertising to push a product? And what other ads are out there, playing on our feelings of superiority towards other races?

I found quite a few examples of what can be construed as racist advertising. One of the oldest ones is a Jell-O ad from the 60’s, implying that if it wasn’t for the Western Civilization, Japanese still wouldn’t know what a spoon is. Another one is a South Oak Dodge ad – again having a go at Japanese. All those imported cars must be really pissing that guy off.  Not to be outdone, the Japanese advertising for the Play Station Portable White is pushing the limits of advertising. Italians contribute to the list with the ad for Coloreria Italiana. Closer to home, KFC had to pull down its ad depicting a white Aussie cricket fan, offering fried chicken to West Indies supporters. What’s interesting here, is that this ad was deemed racist over in America, but in Australia we just laughed it off as an example of Australian humour. To be honest, I don’t get what the problem is – the guy is sharing his food with his mates…we’re all mates, aren’t we?

Dick Smith Australia Day

Dick Smith Australia Day ad

And what about the infamous Australia Day ad from an Aussie icon Dick Smith? I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like some dick?

Just to finish it off, here is an ad from Volkswagen, promoting its new model VW Polo. In this commercial German car maker is stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. It’s actually funny coming from Volkswagen, the company with really close ties with Nazis and Hitler.

I’m sure there are plenty more of these ads out there. Some are actually racist, some borderline so, and some are just labelled as racist by bigots or people with no sense of humour.

I am not a whinger, but it is a Politically Correct world we live in, where making fun of other people’s race or religion is frowned upon. Unless you are an Aussie, of course. In Australia, we are allowed, no – expected, to take a piss out of everyone. Anything less would be un-Australian.

As for everyone else – avoid the dangers of being labelled a racist and stick to the good old axiom that “sex sells” and play it safe.

Sex Sells

Sex Sells