Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I hate public transport. Well, that may be a bit harsh. I am certainly questioning our friendship though. I am starting to wonder if perhaps we should start seeing other modes of commuting.

The current bout of dissatisfaction started about two weeks ago. I know I can be a little offensive at times but I'm mostly pretty benign, at least while on public transport. On the particular day in question I managed to upset a complete stranger just by being me. I'm not sure what about me bothered him, because I was reading the paper at the time of the incident. Maybe I was moving my lips, I don't know. Anyway, the individual, a young man in his early twenties who was sitting on the ground, got quickly to his feet and punched me very hard in the chest. Being unsure what else to do, I fell backwards and landed at the edge of the train platform.

I wondered out loud what may have caused such an outburst and was informed by my assailant that he wasn't feeling well. He was clearly unbalanced, something I could easily sympathise with as I tettered at the edge of the platform. He stormed off leaving me to get up and try to seek answers from the other commuters around. No answers were forthcoming and most of them were looking at me wondering what I had done to deserve such a response. I'm pretty sure I don't move my lips when I read, but if I had then maybe it was my fault.

Station security seem to have some process issues. The station has a number of attendants but they are not security and the little walkie-talkies they carry apparently cannot be used to communicate with security personnel. However, they were very helpful in explaining their inability to help and in directing me to a window where I could go and speak to someone who was authorised to contact security. I went to said window and was confronted by disbelieving staff. That is not to say they didn't believe me, its just they were clearly expecting to be asked why such-and-such train was late or something similar. After repeating my story and informing them that the perpetrator was still on the platform, they agreed that the best thing would be for someone to contact security. I suggested that someone should probably be one of them and after a brief discussion amongst themselves, they agreed. Finally a couple of burly gentlemen with badges and big coats arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, not the platform where the assailant waited patiently for his getaway train.

And so it was that a mere ten minutes had passed as myself and the security guards made our way back to the platform. However, having just committed unlawful assault, the young criminal made a daring leap through the open doors of a stationary train, which slowly pulled away before we could recite the complete works of Shakespeare. It was a close thing, but he made it out of Dodge.

The head security guy patiently explained to me why they couldn't do more and what I should do, while his eyes said, "Its friggin' cold out here. Do you know that?"

So I reported it to the police the next day, as instructed and they said they would look into it but they couldn't promise much because of lack of interest. If only I'd been seriously hurt or famous.

Anyway, the week got marginally better after that as I began to appreciate more those times you catch a train without being thumped. However, almost every train I caught that week was over half an hour late. One night, the train headed off, then had to come back to Southern Cross Station, where we all waited for 90 mins before being told that a bus was now available. 400 hundred people queued up as the mini bus pulled in. Ok, it wasn't a mini bus but let's face it, unless it has wings, no bus is big enough for four hundred people. So we waited. And waited. And then they told us that they would run the train anyway, though it would have to go the long way via the freight lines. An extra twenty minutes maybe. That should have been an extra hour. We finally got home around 9:45pm. I left work at 4:30pm.

I also had to spend two trips standing as the train was so packed we couldn't even find floor space. This is uncommon on the country trains, but typical on the city trains. In fact it can sometimes be amusing on the city trains. During the public-transport-week-from-hell, I found myself squashed into a Met train and as it was school holidays, many young people were also crowded into the carriage, off to the big city to flock together. Most people in such circumstances are reserved and quiet, speaking softly if at all. But not these kids. One girl in particular felt that the friends immediately around her were leaving the other kids at the other side of the highly compressed carriage, out of the conversation, so she began to relay for both sides. This was annoying but also amusing. At one point, a particular cafe was mentioned and the vocally unchallenged girl gave the whole carriage her opinion of the shop which ended with the following gem:

"The coffee was like, horrid. It was like, you know, liquid."

Anyway, for the most part I like public transport as it means I don't have to pay attention as I travel from home to work and back. Its cheaper than driving and I don't get as many parking tickets. And besides, if I'm going to be hit, I'd rather my attacker not be in a car at the time.


Thought for the Day: Public Transport. Its not just a way to get to work. Its an adventure.
Ta Daaa!!! One Hundred Posts. Its official.

Well, here it is, the one hundredth post to Total Bern Out! Its been a long time coming. I actually do have a good reason for the lengthy delay this time. I was home sick. I had a terrible head cold and given that I like to write about the most exciting events in my day, DW advised me that tissue contents are not good blog fodder, no matter how impressive. So I held off. And then DW got sick so I was looking after her. Again with the tissues and not much else. But other things did happen and I will focus on nose. I mean, those.

Firstly, the Adventures of Little Man. A few weeks back I blogged about Little Man's first escape from his baby jail. He was so upset he didn't even know he had done it. DW and I decided not to draw attention to it and all went back to normal. However, last week, as I was starting to get better, Little Man discovered he could climb out of the cot when he was happy. And it also made him happy to do it. So he did it. And he did it again. And again and again. We popped him back each time because, oddly enough, climbing back into his cot does not seem to interest him. All this happened during his afternoon sleep. The real fun began that night.

First of all, we waited until he was really tired. It seemed like a good idea, given that he actually seems to like going to bed sometimes. Well, he was ready for bed, not screaming tired but happy, content and floppy. Princess was already far away in sleepy land so she wasn't likely to be disturbed. It was a good plan. It was a sound plan. It didn't work. Little Man was out of the cot inside 30 seconds. The first time he just came out to the lounge room to see us. The second time, he brought his bedding with him. The third time he just threw his stuffed toys into the lounge and ran back to his room laughing. He would run and hide behind his cot (which was away from the wall to deter him kicking the wall) which made it harder to catch him and put him back. The fourth time, he decided to see what Princess was doing and tried to wake her, but Princess is a heavy sleeper when she first goes to bed. The fifth time, I caught Little Man jumping up and down one Princess, which, apparently she can't sleep through. So now they were both awake.

The sixth time, I had to send Princess back to her bed as well as pull Little Man out from under the cot. The seventh time, we decided to put Princess to bed in the study, and Little man back in his cot. It worked for nearly a whole minute. Little Man climbed out and went looking for Princess. We had left both doors open so the kids wouldn't be frightened, but eventually Princess started coming to get me to report that Little Man was coming into the study and yelling at her to come play. So we closed the door to Little Man's room and waited. He kicked and punched and punched and kicked and wailed and laughed and was generally manic. Eventually he went to sleep. He would probably have stayed asleep is I had not decided to check on him and opened the door, hitting him in the face as he lay sleeping on the floor behind it. I didn't hit him hard, as we have had a similar experience with Princess. Before he could start crying, I scooped him up, only to realise his fingers were stuck under the door. That made him cry.

Its an odd thing. A laughing child cannot be reasoned with or coaxed or pretty much any other form of negotiation. A crying child, on the other hand, can be comforted and settled. I truly didn't mean to hurt Little Man but it did work in my favour because he was desperately tired, getting cold from lying on the ground and had just been hit in the face with a door. And now his fingers hurt. I popped him back in his cot and he was asleep a minute later. No more problems that night.

The following night, he only got out of the cot once and he was put stright back in. He hasn't bothered getting out since. I guess he figured out that it really wasn't worth it. He could do it if he had to but if he didn't, well... what's the point?

Princess came down with gastro on the weekend and was hurling just as much as her little body would allow. She couldn't understand why we wouldn't let her have a drink if she was thirsty, nor why as soon as something, even water, hit her stomach it would come straight back up again. She couldn't understand why Little Man could have normal food and drink but she couldn't. She even kept apologising for throwing up. DW asked her where her happy voice had gone and she replied, "I think Little Man has it somewhere."

Apart from the not throwing up, we could tell she was starting to feel better when she would open negotiations for requests by saying, "You know how I'm sick...?" It was weird to see her so flat and without energy. In a way, it was like watching a fight sequence in The Matrix, where the flurry of activity slows down and stops for a few seconds and then speeds up again back into a whirlwind of action. The forecast if for strong winds and possible lightning strikes. Back to normal then.

Of less blogworthy note, but important nonetheless, is the fact that I have finally finished my novel. It weighed in at 141,000 words, which is good for a novel of this size and genre and has taken me four years to write. Admittedly I wrote only 35,000 words in the first three and a half years, and the remaining words since January, so I'm hoping the next book won't take quite so long. And by the way, when I say finished, what I obviously mean is I am about half way. I have written the whole story and now I have to go back over it and try to make sense of it. MS Word gave up checking my spelling automatically and offered to just do it once I had finished, so there are a few spelling mistakes as well. Also, my grammar is more indicative of my mental processes than of my command of the English language. Suffice it to say that my blog is FAR more grammatically correct, and you have read at least some of that.

But the story is finally complete and now I just have to pretty it up and let DW read it. The rule of thumb is that you should never let friends or family read your book before it is published, unless they are an editor or publisher not only of books, but of the particular genre and style of book you have written. If you do let them read it, you should completely ignore any advice or criticisms offered, both good and bad. They will almost certainly given you incorrect advice that will either leave you thinking you have to change stuff you don't, or leave stuff that needs to be changed.

However, I don't think I can bring myself to present the novel to the world, let alone a publisher, without DW giving her stamp of approval. I value her opinion above all others and I think she has a very good sense of the potential of a work, seeing beyond the rough edges that are necessarily part of a first draft. She is widely read and enjoys the genre, but is not obsessed with it. She knows how to encourage me without over inflating my ego. Well, she knows how to deflate my ego should it become over inflated, whcih it has been known to do. Anyway, the upshot is no one gets to see it until DW gives the all clear.

So that's it from me for the 100th blog. Now that I have finally written the novel, I hope to be posting with greater frequency, but I assume that will only last until I start the next book. I've no shortage of ideas, its just a matter of choosing one.


Thought for the Day: "No bars can hold me, for I am Little Man!!!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Time to update everyone on the world of me. That sounds a little arrogant, which is fair enough.

Let's start with Princess and the word of the day is "independence". Recently Princess has become even more challenging and DW and I decided that rather than meet this challenge with increased discipline, we would meet it with increased responsibility. Princess', not ours. Presumably we are already doing all that responsible parents do. Anyway, we have started letting Princess stretch her wings a little and do more for herself. For instance, she is now allowed to go out to the garage by herself to get me a Pepsi MAX from the Pepsi MAX fridge. This approach has met with great success and combined with increased discipline is clearly having a positive effect.

Princess likes helping. After she and Little Man finish their main course (especially their vegies) they are allowed to have a little ice-cream and some tinned fruit. Princess, in her best manners, asks for permission to be excused from the table in order to get the bowls and spoons ready, and to carry the fruit and ice-cream to the bench for serving. A couple of nights ago, Princess was distracted and had forgotten to do this which is not a problem at all. However, it did cause me to ask her, with faux consternation, "Where is my 'fruit and ice-cream' helper?" Apparently my stare came across to Princess as an accusation and she replied with very real consternation, "Well I didn't take it!" DW and I laughed out loud, which is another thing Princess takes great exception to, if she is not in on the joke. She was about to get really angry and had just put on her really angry face before we managed a timely intercept and explained that I was actually referring to her. She did see the joke then and said she thought I meant the can-opener. An easy mistake to make.

We all headed to the big smoke on the Queen's Birthday holiday for a birthday party for Hulie. Unfortunately, Doolie wasn't able to make it so we all resolved to have only half as much fun. They are a whacky duo and they fight crime, albeit in very subtle ways. Princess was beside herself because the invitation required her to dress up as a fairy Princess and as far as she is concerned, nothing beats royalty that can fly. Hulie did her bit to entertain by dressing up as the fairy equivalent of an alien. She amused herself by catching little kids and making them be her extra arms while she giggled at her shadow. It was funny for everyone, but deep down we all missed Doolie because she would have been the best extra arms. And the alien would have had a pony tail!

Time for the Little Man weather update. Thunderstorms, followed by heavy drizzle and snot down his cold front. At the moment everything seems to make Little Man cry. Not crying makes Little Man cry. DW and I think that maybe his last four front teeth, the pointy ones, are making a dash for it. Also, he has decided that it is fun to play for hours at any time between 12am and 5am. Its more fun if her can wake up his big sister. What is most odd is that he rarely cries during this time, only when the sun is up. I think the sun makes him sad. Maybe at night, when he can't see where we keep him, his natural happy streak comes out but during the day, well it is the way it is buddy. So we are racking our brains to come up with a way to alter his sleep patterns. Besides, the house looks the way it does mostly because of him**.

**NOTE: DW does a fine job of keeping our house in order, which is a testament to her ability to combat the combined forces of Princess AND Little Man. At least Princess will try to help clean if she is paid 5 cents per room. And she is nearly worth every cent.

Well, that's all I have time for. Tune in for the next installment of Total Bern Out! because the big 100th post follows this one. I can't guarantee you won't wet yourself laughing, or even that you will laugh at all. Let's face it, unless I do it in Haiku, I can't guarantee it won't be crap. Until next time...


Thought for the Day: A Royal Flush serves the same purpose as an ordinary flush.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bonjour à tous.

Well, DW and I had our very first exposure to the world of primary schooling as seen through the eyes of a parent. As Princess ploughs headlong through her last year at Kinder, we have to decide upon which school to unleash her next year. So off we went to hear the sales pitch of the local Catholic Primary School, St. Brutus' (not its real name).

The first things that annoyed me was the fact that it was held at night, so we had to get a baby sitter. Ok, it did mean we both were able to go, and all the teachers were able to be present and not distracted by heaps of kids, so it was actually a good time to have it, but it still annoyed me. Apparently I don't actually have a good reason for that. So I guess they don't lose points for the chosen time but I will take a point off because it rained a little when we left.

The session was scheduled to go for around 90 minutes and they drifted over a little, so we finished up around 9:15pm. That in itself was not a problem, except for the fact that time apparently goes much slower when you are in a classroom. It certainly seemed to go for about three hours. I seem to remember thinking the same thing when I was sitting in such a classroom as a student. I managed not to fall asleep, mostly because DW was just as bored as I was so she amused herself by prodding me every time I looked like I was drifting. And occasionally when I wasn't. Not wanting to disappoint, I drifted every other minute or so.

As far as I can tell, public speaking is not part of the curriculum because I'm pretty sure none of the teachers that presented had the necessary qualifications to teach it. A couple of the teachers spoke reasonably confidently, and quite well, but my overall impression was that they were a very mild bunch. I expect Princess will turn them into some sort of paste.

I was amused to note that they had not really prepared fully for their presentations. Obviously they had planned the rough order and had prepared some visual aids in advance, but I think they wanted it to feel very, very informal. What was most noticeable was they tended to stumble over each other, repeat each other and cut each other off. I felt like saying, "shouldn't you be raising your hands."

It would seem that while public speaking will not be taught, political speaking will. Several questions were put to the teachers and some of them were nearly answered. Probably the worst offender was the principal who seemed unable to say "different religions", despite the fact she was desperate to. She also made it clear that if any child misbehaved, they would have to face the severe wrath of St Brutus' disciplinary system. Ok, so I'm not promoting corporal punishment, but the St. Brutus' modus operandi when dealing with miscreants is to give them a severely mild talking to. If the little monsters don't get the message and burn the school down again, they can be assured of facing a slightly longer and possibly milder talking to. So if some big bully starts taking the lunch money of the smaller kids, those smaller kids can rest assured that any issues they have with that big bully will be discussed with the bully and the bully will then have some time to think about what they have done. If the bully dares repeat the offence, the previous speech will be repeated, but without contractions. "can't" will become "cannot" and "isn't" will become "is not". Let's just see how the bullies deal with that bit of verbal ass-whooping.

Actually, I shouldn't criticise the place too much. In fact, despite some little issues which I have exaggerated for humerous effect, the place left me with a sense of what I felt when I attended primary school. I loved my time at primary school and I felt that Princess could have the same from St Brutus'. Obviously much has changed in that time but I guess if you walk away from a place feeling good about it, its pretty hard to ignore.

On the other hand, DW wasn't quite as fond of the place. She did say that she felt Princess would probably do alright there but she is very keen to see the alternatives. I think she is more worried about the paste thing than I am. Choosing a school for your child is actually quite a big decision, and we are lucky enough to have only three schools in proximity to consider. Admittedly, once we have committed to a school for Princess, we shouldn't have to repeat the process for Little Man, and besides, he likes paste.

And so we wait now until next Thursday when we visit the local State School. It has the added benefit of being so close that if Princess forgot her lunch, I could probably throw it to her, as long as it was weighted properly. Sometimes, on a quiet day, if I'm home and outside, I can hear the school bell and the loud speaker calling out messages to the kids in the playground. I'm wondering how surreal it would feel to be swinging quietly in my hammock one holiday and hear the happy sounds of children laughing and playing and hearing the sound of the loud speaker drifiting over the fence. "Mr Meade, could you please come and collect your daughter?"

c'est la vie.

au revoir

Thought for the Day: I've waited and waited but no cows!

Friday, June 01, 2007

'Tis winter again, should ye be wondering what's with all the cold, cold, coldness. And hello.

Onward the slow march to the shortest day of the year. June has crept up and slapped me in the back of the head. Its no use denying it. Nearly half the year has gone. Its DW's birthday at the end of the month, so I'd best start the mental cogs turning about what she would like for her big Three-Five-"th". I asked her last night if there was anything in particular she wanted or had been planning to buy and she said, "Not really. I've pretty much been buying whatever I want." Good then. Obviously she is joking as I still don't earn enough to keep her in the life she plans to become accustomed to, a fact she points out after every tax return.

Its about this time of year that I reflect on the objectives I set myself at the beginning of the year. In many ways, I feel like I'm starting the year anew, mostly because I haven't done any of the things I planned to. Still, I have a little over half a year to get myself back on track. Well, I guess I could wait a little longer.

However, the buying of presents for DW, including suitable presents on behalf of the kids, must start soon. Princess is old enough to actually have some say in what she will give DW and so I have to schedule a shopping trip before the big day. As usually it will involve an hour long trek through countless shops looking for the pinkest thing Princess can find. Despite being old enough to want to choose a present, Princess isn't old enough not understand that DW doesn't have EXACTLY the same taste in gifts as she does, and the pinkest thing isn't necessarily the best thing. I have to help guide Princess toward something that DW might actually like rather than something she feels deserves payback when my birthday next comes around. The trick is allowing Princess to think she has discovered the present entirely on her own, and that her $0.25 contribution to the cost is what actually makes the $50 purchase possible.

Little Man would give DW a toy truck and a handfull of sand, because what else could she possibly want. Also he would want them back after she had broooomed the truck and tasted the sand.

So its up to me to find something to make her day. Something that makes her happy and feel important. Not something that will make her say, "Wow! This is great, really." Of course, I could always get her a voucher from a craft store but I'm not fond of that. Its not really a present from me, but she would definitely rather a voucher than me going into a craft store and buying stuff I think she might like.

This is why I like to start early. I don't like to wait until the last minute, but it is usually in the last minute that I actually finally settle on something. Still, I've got time...


Though for the Day: The Snoopy Dance is very similar to traditional Irish dancing.