Bouquets & Brickbats

Recently, The Banana Republic has become a place for venting against things that have pissed me off. Tonight, something different.

If I’m honest, it is a story which started out likely to turn into another rant against stupid corporations, and one in particular (who I’ve already complained about in November). That changed though.

A week ago, I spent five calls and almost three hours trying to sort out a problem with Telstra. In my household, we have a 100Gb/month broadband account. That works out at ~3Gb/day and we have two levels of usage – when I am the only one using the net, it’s around 1-2Gb/day, and when my house-mate’s son is visiting, it jumps up to 8-10Gb/day. Last Sunday though, I got warning emails, all timestamped 16:00 on 19 April:

“You’ve used 50% of your quota”

“You’ve used 85% of your quota”

“You’ve used 100% of your quota and will be rate-limited until the month renews”

On the painfully slow net, I checked my usage – everything normal until Saturday 18th, when we managed to use 196Gb in a day! That’s when the first of the five phone calls happened.

196

It was only on the last call – by which time I was getting a bit frustrated with that faux-American accent the call centre drones in the Philippines have – that the situation became clear. By that time, I’d used one of my free quota expansions to return to normal operating speed, and I did a speed test. The line was operating at 16.8Mbps. Multiply that out, and it means I can download 172Gb/day. Even if I had been running my connection as hard as it could go on the Saturday, I couldn’t have got within 20Gb of what Telstra were claiming I’d used.

The way Telstra call centres are outsourced though, the customer service people in the call centres have zero access to the back end of their network – they couldn’t tell me what the data I’d supposedly downloaded was, and as Filipino slaves, they were unable to display any initiative and deviate from their call-centre scripts. Result: I was going to get nowhere with them, so I asked the matter be escalated.

By Thursday – when the week’s weather had thoroughly distracted me and everyone else within a hundred miles from mundane matters like data metering – I got a call from their back-office people, who told me the metering was wrong (yeah, I already knew that) and that the data block I’d used to un-shape my connection would be refunded (as it should be).

Four days later, the usage meter is still showing the massive overrun on 18 April, so I tonight opened up a chat window to ask when that’d be fixed. It wasn’t really bugging me, but knowing how much we’ve actually used is helpful for rationing the data as we get closer to the end of the month.

Abigael from Telstra took ages to read all the history from the previous contact I’d had with them, but in the end, she refunded the data block I’d used, AND put a credit on my account so my next bill will be almost zero.

That is the outcome which should have happened a week ago. And in a company with decent customer service, would have. But The Evil Empire gave it eventually, so they deserve bouquets for that.

Don’t Mention the Pasha Bulker

Everyone remembers the last one. It got its name from the big red ship that ended up on Nobbys Beach. And all week, we’ve been hearing about it. “Is this the same/bigger/as big as the Pasha Bulker storm?” Whether it is or not, this week has certainly been the most severe storm since the Pasha Bulker storm in 2007. I wasn’t here for that one. I was moving house, from Chermside in Brisbane to Canberra. I was certainly here this time though, and I was one of the lucky ones – I lost power for about two minutes on the first day. Apart from that, it’s been situation normal. Something surprised me though.

This afternoon/evening, I had to go across town. Because of some strange schisms in the family, I assumed my uncle (their son) would be checking they were okay. But my sister rang this afternoon to see I was fine, and we soon realised noone had checked on the ancestors.

When I set out, no sign of trouble. The closer I got to Toronto, the more blacked out traffic lights I found, the darker the sky got, and the heavier the rain fell.

Despite this, the traffic worked. It was kind of weird to see, and made me wonder why we need traffic signals every other day.

On the way back from the grandparents’ place, I had to go through a really heavy intersection – where the link road comes in from the freeway into the suburbs. It’s three or more lanes approaching from every direction. The lights were out. Presumably, they’ve been out for two days. Was there gridlock? No. Was there accidents? No. Cars and trucks were pulling up at the lights, as normal, and a group-think was happening to allow each clump to take turns to proceed.

Sure, there was an occasional dickhead on the roads – there always is. But something about the larger picture meant they were the minority. It was the most pleasant aspect of the week. Except maybe the two days off? :)

iPage? Never Again

I have a number of online projects – hardly surprising, eh?

And one of them I wanted hosted somewhere completely different to the others. So I used iPage, based on a couple of articles I’d read which recommended them.

ipageSucksI shouldn’t have. They’re awful.

And while there’s a few things I don’t like about them since I set up with them, probably the worst is that now, *EVERY* YouTube clip I watch is now preceded by an ad for them. Not one of several of their ads, but the same horrid one with vacuous American-accented morons on it. I’m trying desperately to find out how to disable that particular aspect, because it’s the most painful. But picking the brains of my most techno-literate friends has thus far come up with nothing.

iPage – I am not sure why you’re advertising so heavily to me – I am, after all, an existing customer, and you know that. All you’re doing is alienating me. And encouraging me to write this, discouraging others from using your service. Is that really what your YouTube advertising budget is trying to achieve?

On the upside, whatever they’ve done is restricted to this one computer. So once the rebuild I am doing is complete, the Windows reinstall should get rid of it. I’m thinking around the same time, I might have to get alternate hosting. Because they truly are awful.

Responding

Someone posted something online a few days ago, attempting to attack me. Only the attack was so pathetic I’m not sure whether I am offended or amused.

I considered writing a complete rebuttal – dismantling everything they’ve accused me of, and why so much of it is utter nonsense.

Instead, I’ll outline a few basic points. If my accuser wishes to counter these, they’re welcome to. I doubt they will though – they’ve never shown themselves to be capable of sane rational debate, instead making wild unsubstantiated claims to fire up their cyber-friends.

  • I never delete tweets I’ve written, except in the situation where I’ve made a significant spelling/auto-correct mistake (in which case I re-submit it, and delete the original)
  • I don’t block people on Twitter either
  • I accused you, and still do, of raising money for driving lessons, and then using those funds for other purposes. I’ve read your attempts at justifying your actions, but so have some solicitor friends of mine. And, to quote one, “she either doesn’t understand trusts law, or thinks she is somehow exempt from it”
  • I have evidence you’ve committed other thefts. They’re currently being investigated, so I can’t go into detail here. If anything is to be pursued, it’ll be these other thefts, because they have the potential to hurt you more, so watching you sink because of those will be more entertaining
  • Several of the tweets you think are about you, aren’t. Your self-importance is amusing
  • You claim I broke into your house because I made reference to the state of it when you left. No, silly bint. I went through the property in the company of the estate agent. Because the house is located next door to a friend of mine. I was hoping to live there. *rolls eyes* But the property was so badly trashed, with feet marks on walls, household waste buried in the garden etc that idea lasted mere seconds after walking through the door
  • Yes, in 1997, I posted comments online critical of an ISP, and these were referred to by Peter “Kermie” Tilbrook. I stand by everything said back then – the ISP concerned acted dishonestly, and I was quite critical of their behaviour. Was it a case of me victimising the ISP and it’s owner? Why don’t you ask him? The ISP is question was called Dynamite and was owned by Harry Konstantinou. I suspect Harry wasn’t too traumatised by my criticism: he later gave me a job
  • And the blog post I wrote back in November? The one illustrated by your face? It’s about people who read something and completely fail to understand what the author is saying. If I need to explain why that image is used to illustrate the point, you’re dumber than I thought.

I’ll wrap up with a tweet I wrote months ago. One you even included in your attack piece. As with everything I write, I stand by it still.

Evidence

Being Proven Right

It’s nice when I find backing for something I’ve said for years.

Like this article.

pill-2In short, I’ve said for many many years that depression is not a chemical imbalance in the brain. To me, it made no sense claiming something was the result of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain when noone I’d ever asked had ever had those brain chemicals measured. It makes basic scientific sense – to determine if someone has a chemical imbalance in the brain, one samples and measures the chemicals, right? It was only later (around 2010) that I learnt the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory had been rejected by serious science on the basis there was no way to measure the chemical balance – in short, noone knew what ‘balance’ meant, what the proper mix should be, so the notion of an imbalance was rubbish.

Sure, anti-depressants like Zoloft help. But they are the psychiatric equivalent of a bandage. When you get injured and you have a heavily bleeding arm, you bandage the wound, to stem the bleeding, and to allow it to heal. That’s what anti-depressants are – a way of preventing the debilitating depression which destroys someone’s life or threatens it. But staying on those drugs for months or years is insane. In the case of a physical injury, the emergency is dealt with, then healing and rehabilitation happens. The ‘take these pills, and keep taking these pills’ is not a solution for anything. It’s the mental health equivalent of a patient never getting out of the emergency ward.

Are you full? Or racist?

From Beowulf on ZGeek:

In the 10 years 1990 to 1999, the US took in nearly ten times as many refugees as Australia.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/imm_ref_inf_199-immigration-refugees-inflow-1990-99

The US also has more immigrants than Australia has people.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/imm_imm_pop_num_of_imm-immigration-immigrant-population-number-immigrants

Australia has:
21,262,641 People
472,461 square kilometres of arable land
45 people per square kilometre of arable land

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/as.html

USA has:
307,212,123 people
1,650,070 square kilometres of arable land
186 people per square kilometre of arable land

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

Australia would have to quadruple its population to match the US in DPD.

In total population density, Australia is ranked 187th in between Mauretania and Botswana.

http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/populations/ctydensityh.htm

So are you full or just racist?

How You Stop Paedophiles in Private Schools

I finished school at a now-defunct Catholic boys school. About two thirds of my classmates were boarders, the rest (including me) were ‘day-rats’. For the last 8 or 9 years, I’ve run an email discussion list for my classmates. It’s mainly been used over the years for organising reunions, both formal and informal.

In the last year or two though, since Julia Gillard set up the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse, it’s been regularly used for announcements like “Another of our teachers has been arrested” and the inevitable discussion about what went on there.

The abuse was so widespread, there is little doubt the school hierarchy (and probably elements in the wider Catholic church) knew what was going on and chose to ignore the effect on the victims because the reputation of the school and the Church was more important that the welfare of children.

Last week, one of my classmates made a suggestion which the more I think about it, the more I like.

The students should push for a refund of their school fees.

Their parents chose the school for their reputation of caring for their sons. That reputation was a lie. And so the order of Brothers who operated the school, and the wider church which sanctioned it, should be forced to repay the fees obtained under that deception. Not just to the immediate victims, but to everyone. Sure, it’d cripple the Brothers, and maybe even hurt the Church. But it’d make them think twice about protecting such scum in the future.

Offshoring is a Joke

There is a theory that all English-speaking countries are the same. Right? Because we all speak the same language, so a big company (let’s say Telstra) can substitute a call centre in the Philippines for a call centre in Launceston, and it’ll be just as good. Right? Right?

What a steaming pile of bullshit.

Do you know what a ‘elevated joint’ is? It’s one of these

ej

You may have one in your front yard. I do. Well, I sort of do. Mine looks like this:

Telstra

I just tried to call Telstra and advise them. Even though my service is working fine (well, the internet is, I’ve no idea if the phone line is: I don’t own a phone), I thought there’s wires and connections in that plastic bag thing, and it’d probably be unwise to let it get wet.

I called 132200, as you should do in these circumstances. And holy fuck what a frustrating time I had.

I described it as a “metal pole, about two foot tall, which everyone’s got in their front yard.. I don’t know what their technical name is” It took ages to get the Filipino girl at the other end to understand I wasn’t saying a ‘hole’ (I’m not quite sure what a ‘metal hole’ might be). She had no comprehension of what this thing was, or why it’s in my yard. Even when I found, while googling on the call, what they were called, she didn’t know what an ‘elevated joint’ was.

“I have a photo, if you’d like me to email it to you. Or it’s on my website, if you want to look and see, so you know what I’m talking about,” I offered, trying to help her understand.

“We don’t have internet access,” she told me.

No. Of course you don’t. You’re a telecommunications company.

Queenie – Crumpet

I used to manage a band called Crumpet. My favourite song of theirs was Queenie, which the songwriter of the band tried to tell me was a love song to Morticia Adams.

I am posting this purely because the song isn’t available anywhere online for anyone to listen to it. And I want to share it. So, here it is. Queenie, by Crumpet.

Strange Things Afoot in the Tree-lined Parkway Avenue

Roadblocks

Above is a map of Hamilton/Hamilton East. Any of you familiar with Newcastle’s inner suburbs will probably know the area well. I do, because I grew up not far off the right hand edge.

Last night, I went out for a kebab – as you do when you’re me – and so I was coming home about midnight, along the route indicated by the red dots. I’m no expert with MS Paint, so you’ll have to forgive the fact the map looks like it’s been marked up by a three-year-old using crayons held in their feet.

As I was saying though, I was heading roughly south-east. Something – I’ve no idea what – was going on where the purple circle is in Parkway Avenue. Whatever it was, it involved four police cars, not very neatly parked – they were on the footpath and the median strip.

I can understand that if something’s going down, the police might block off adjacent streets. That’s not what they did though. The blue arrows (yes, they are arrows, even if they look like blobs) indicate where police cars or 4WDs were parked, blocking traffic. But they were facing toward the purple circle, and in three out of the four cases, stopping vehicles headed AWAY from whatever had happened.

As shown, I was able to continue on my planned path, toward and past the incident on Parkway Avenue.

I’ve no idea what was going on where the purple circle is. But the roadblocks Newcastle Police put in place were very odd. I checked this morning on the Police Media Release list – and they tend to put out press releases to announce anything they can think of! – but there was nothing to explain it.

Researching the Dambusters

divinglanc

I am working on a research project.

When I was in Year 3 (1979), and also Year 5 (1981), I went to Hamilton South Primary School. Their school song was to the tune of the Dambuster March from the 1955 movie about the bombing raid on German dams.

I have always wondered why the school used that tune. I had a number of theories, but wanted to know if any of them were right (they weren’t) but having disproved them, I’m now stuck trying to work out what the true story is.

A couple of weeks ago, I emailed the school (not for the first time) with the question, and ended up going in and visiting the librarian – Gwenda – who has a bit of a thing for the school’s history. A chat with Gwenda was followed by a chat with my now-retired fifth grade teacher – David Dyball, one of my all-time favourite teachers (he ignited my lifelong love of local history). Both Gwenda and Mr Dyball gave me small snippets to go forward with, but neither had the smoking gun, the bit of evidence I need to answer the question.

Along the way, I’ve learnt quite a bit. Three of the aircrew that fateful night in 1943 were Novocastrians – although none of them attended Hamilton South – the school was only opened in the 1930s. And sadly, the Royal Air Force disbanded 617 Squadron last year (for the third time since it was formed in 1943).

Circular Dilemma

Wednesday last week, I bought the shoes my podiatrist had recommended to me. At $229, they were more than any pair of shoes I’d ever bought but Dr Aaron had said they’d help with the painful arches and allow me to return to my evening walks without pain. Okay, made sense.

But within a day, I could feel my back starting to get twitchy. I figured it must be because my spone had gotten out of whack with bad shoes and bad posture, and these $229 wonder-shoes were fixing all that up.

Last Monday though, I hit a wall. I got to work, and could barely walk. I needed to support myself on desks and chairs to walk from one side of the office to another, so I was sent home. It got worse while driving. I went past my doctor’s office, hoping I might be able to pull up outside, and call him to come and give me drugs or treatment or something down in the street. But there was an hour before Dr Charlie was due to start for the day. I kept going, kept trying to get home. I failed though. Hit a wall – fortunately only a metaphorical one – near Denison Street, and pulled up at the ambulance station there. One of the trainers in the office came out, and chatted to me and radioed for an ambulance. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move.

whistleParamedics arrived and as usual, they were the most professional and friendly people in the world. I was given a whistle – a green plastic thing about 4 inches long. After breathing through it for 4 or 5 breaths, I felt no pain, my head was spinning and, as it was described to me “it’s like downing a bottle of whiskey, but it tastes like red fruit tingles, and wears off 10 minutes after you stop breathing through it”. These things would be worth a fortune on the black market, I’m sure.

I was taken to the Mater, given more drugs, spoke to a doctor, and as the drugs took effect, was fine enough to go home. Naturally though, as soon as I left, the pain was returning. So Jen took me home, and on the way, bought me some painkillers.

Later, I got more painkillers, and that’s pretty much the story of my week – painkillers, friends waiting on me, and me struggling to do much more than get out of bed long enough to go to the bathroom.

Until today.

Today, I have managed to spend most of the day out of bed. I’m not sure if it’s the Valium, Panadiene Forte, and Nurofen, or whether I am actually getting better. But now it’s down to a manageable ache. No longer completely crippling.

Rhiannon hit the nail on the head though when she texted me through the week.

“What are you doing about it?” she asked
“I’m resting and taking lots and lots of really strong drugs”
“What about longer term?”

That’s the question – what happens longer term?

Ironically, this latest crippling – coming only 13 months after the previous one – was a direct result of strategies triggered by the last one. I wanted to get more active, but that required sorting out the sore arches problem. That led to the podiatrist, and the new shoes. And now, to a week in bed.

She’s right though. Things must change in Banana-world

And so this is Christmas…

I am spending Christmas at Ec’s place. He’s off at his parents’ place for 3 days. I’m here looking after his cat, and watching some of his extensive collection of downloaded TV shows – so far Archer, Foyle’s War, Air Crash Investigation, and How We Got To Now. I did much the same thing last Christmas. Because I hate Christmas. And dislike the weeks leading up to it – the closer to the 25th, the greater the dislike becomes. The week after it’s not much better.

I could give an explanation that the dislike has come from the way Christmas was always dividing my household when I was married, or that Christmas Day was the day that Lana and I broke up. The reality though is I’ve hated it all long long before that.

I remember being about 7 or 8, getting a bunch of gifts, and not being allowed to do the thing I most wanted to – run across the road to my best friend’s place, show off my loot, and check out what he’d scored. I was told he was spending time with his family, and I should spend time with mine.

I’ve no idea if Matt liked his family or not. I don’t remember if I disliked mine then (I certainly do now!) but I certainly know I wanted my friend’s company more than I wanted my sisters’ or parents’.

There it is Matt – from way back in the 70s, you were part of spoiling Christmas.

Gullibility

It’s started.

The latest “magical alignment of all the planets is coming so *bang!* wow, amazing new paradigm in society” nonsense.

If anyone tells you the planets are aligning, look at this:

alignment

(Click image to enlarge)

This is how “aligned” the planets are: ie not at all.

But even if they were, even if every planet lined up in a line, either all on one side of the sun, or on one side of the Earth, the combined gravitational effect on you would be about the same as a 747 flying over your head at 30,000 feet.

Pub Noise

I have a friend who is studying Auslan – the sign language.

Last night, her class had Christmas drinks at a local club, and she’s a bit insecure in social situations, so asked me to come along.

What we didn’t realise until we got there was the drinks was coordinated to be at the same time and place as the Christmas gathering for the Deaf Society. So instead of one deaf lady (her teacher) and half a dozen (hearing, and therefore speaking) classmates, the main bar at this venue was full of people engaged in very animated and excited conversations, but not a sound coming from any of them.

It really was fascinating. And almost enough to make me want to learn the language too. I learnt it a bit before my sister was able to speak, I could often work out what a conversation was about, although not much more.

1812

tchaikovskyI recently wrote something on another site which referred to the 1812 Overture.

When I was in Canberra, I went to see it performed at Duntroon. The announcer that night told us how the piece was written to celebrate the Russian victory against Napoleon’s invasion and that’s why the French La Marseillaise is included. But I never got much more of an explanation, nor anything about what each part of the Overture is about.

I went looking for an answer to this a few days ago, and found this. I have been listening to, and reading, that page for the last few days, and so – as happens – I have had the overture blasting along in my head since about Friday.

It’s also made me curious about similar ‘stories’ associated with some of my favourite classical music.

“Evidence please?”

Something that’s been giving me the shits lately is people’s willingness to believe nonsense without questioning it. Or even worse, those who have nonsensical beliefs who carry on like they have been punched in the face when asked “Can you back that up with evidence?”

I’m the sort of person who questions my beliefs, and who asks those around me “If you think I’m wrong, stump up with the evidence? Prove me wrong?” but so few do, or even try.

I welcome someone bringing me evidence their position is right and mine is wrong, on a great many topics, but too often, the counter-argument is built on nonsense.

I should of course remember the rules about arguing with peasants, and also this great video/poem:

Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine!

When did the world become so stoopud?

Insanity

(I know Einstein never said this)

(I know Einstein never said this)

At work, I am slowly being driven crazy.

I am in the wonderful position of being responsible for making sure something is done, but not being given the authority to ensure it is done, or done properly.

I follow a process which will not work. I know it won’t work, but I follow it, so when it fails, I can demonstrate it is flawed. I have told my supervisor and the Director it will not work. I have explained to them at least four times the half a dozen or so reasons why it won’t work. Yet I am expected to carry the can when, a month or so down the track, there is shit is pouring on our heads because it hasn’t worked.

And when the shit is pouring on us, I explain – again – why their process won’t work, and what we should do to change it (which I have shown previously does work). Then they reiterate their way of doing things, and we go back through the whole ride again.

Really Telstra? Really?

TelstraWe had broadband hooked up recently to the new place in Hamilton.

This is in our front yard.

Is this really acceptable Telstra? Is it too much to expect you to fix the pole you worked on?

And does anyone know if this would be negatively impacting on the phone line?

Meaner, Dumber, Hotter

AA.jpg

I would love to get hundreds, or thousands, of these stickers printed out, and just wander the streets each night, dropping them in people’s letterboxes. Surely a few of them would end up on cars, or other places, and the slogan would spread far and wide.

But, knowing my luck, the next week, the Libs would replace him, and my effort would be for nought.

When Did Reading Become So Hard?

Nicola BellOne of my pet hates is people who read something, and then attack the author for words they didn’t write.

Mark Latham’s latest column in the Fin Review is a perfect example. He’s written how much he loves raising his kids, and his friends envy him. And criticises a columnist in another paper who disparages parenting and claims she only gets through it with “caffeine and anti-depressants”.

For years, we’ve had  the trope of super-wife/mother burdened with dopey Homer-Simpson-esque husband. In recent times, there’s been a push to break this stereotype. But when someone writes against this popular image, noone gets attacked. But Latham says “let’s not see parenting as drudgery and a chore, but a joy”, he cops it. In the weirdest twist, he even is being attacked for being disparaging mental illness. When if anyone’s making light of mental illness in Latham’s piece, it’s Lisa Pryor, she of the “caffeine and anti-depressants” flippancy.

Sharing the Costs

For a couple of months, I was living in Kotara. While there, for various reasons, the issue of domestic energy-use efficiency kept bothering me.

I was living with people who never hung washing out to dry (always with the clothes dryer), who dealt with cold or hot temperatures with heaters and air con, and were generally doing their best to keep the meter ticking.

I’m all for everyone being able to make their own decisions, but it was pissing me off knowing their choices were going to hit my wallet when it came time to divvy up the bills.

For Health Reasons

alien_abduction-2.6-50My grandfather had prostate cancer.

His two sons had it. One of them, my father, died because it spread and became, as he poetically referred to it “cancer of the fucking everything”.

Having a male ancestor with it doubles one’s chance of having it (or something like that, the number isn’t really important). So me and my male cousins are pretty much certain of getting it, unless we step in front of a bus or get abducted by aliens before it rocks up.

Then I saw this article:

Sex with more than 20 women helps reduce prostate cancer: study

I better get cracking!

Life’s a Big Banana Sandwich

I’ve had enough time to think about it
Life’s not gunna get me down
There’s nothing can stop me
Gunna make it in this town
I’ve got a rainbow in my pocket
I’ve got a dream that just won’t die
I’ve got money my parents gave me
So it’s about time I learned to fly
Doing it my way
Singing it my way
Got a lotta love to share
Life’s a big banana sandwich
I haven’t got a care

Terrorism? O Rly?

An unhinged bloke gets a gun, runs into the Canadian parliament, shooting people before he’s killed.

Another unhinged bloke gets a tomahawk, attacks two cops, and is killed.

If you believe the media, western civilisation is under attack. But it’s a load of bollocks.

There is no great entity of radical Islam coordinating these attacks. They are random, and happened as much in 1974 as they do in 2014.

There’s always been crazies who get it into their head to take on the power centres – political, police etc. And they go nuts, carry out their attacks, and get taken down.

I’m getting a bit sick of hearing about how these nutbags are now ‘terrorists’, and their flip-outs are being used to justify the revocation of basic citizens’ rights.

Welcome to the Banana Republic

During this by-election season, I wanted to report on them for Our Newcastle. But ebola prevented that happening. I did get along to some of the election forums, and public talk-fests. They were moderately interesting, and some of them were even informative. But I came away thinking I should nominate next March when the state election comes around.

Even though a serious campaign would require about $50,000, just nominating ($500?) would be sufficient to get a seat at these public forums. And it would give me a chance to stand up and raise the issues I believe are important and need promoting.

keanu

What would they be though?

Simple.

  1. A re-run of the 1967 referendum. Not the one everyone knows about, but the one held a few months earlier, to grant statehood to Newcastle and the northern portion of NSW
  2. The entire proceeds of the sale of the Newcastle port should stay in the Hunter, to benefit the communities who built the port and whose lives have been dictated to by the industries around the port. This money to be used for projects of significant benefit to the community, not to small sectional interests as is now the case
  3. The creation of a Hunter Transport Authority to determine what the region needs, and to see through the implementation of the resulting plan
  4. All political parties to have open books. In the past, they have argued that to reveal their income sources would be too administratively cumbersome. But anyone who runs a small business knows all that information is available just by running a report in MYOB, so the old arguments against transparency are a nonsense

In this town, that’s a populist recipe. And whatever the outcome, it’d be a fun race to run.

I really am tempted.

Two-Wheeled Banana

I am moving to the Tsunami Zone. That’s the name I use for the large flat expanse which stretches from Newcastle’s CBD out to the suburbs of Lambton, the edge of Kotara, Merewether, and even Mayfield.

One of the big reasons for moving there is the flatness, which will hopefully allow me to walk or ride places. I walked and rode everywhere when I lived in the zone before (although, I was a quarter the age I am now).

Earlier this year, I bought a second hand bike, but the more I examined it, the more I realised how much work it would require to be usable. Just the other day, I was looking at it with the thought it could be a project for the next couple of months – fixing it up and making it more viable. Knowing how I procrastinate, it might take most the summer. And missing the warm months would be a waste.

This evening though, I was impulsive. I bought a bike. A cheap hybrid bike to get back into the habit of riding places.

Paying money out, the improving weather, and moving back to the Zone, should be enough incentive.

reid-mtb-sport-e8

Speaking Out

I went to a talk last night, well, a pair of them.

Kellie Tranter & Fr Rod Bower. The topic for the night was the importance of speaking out: for the dispossessed, the voiceless, but mostly when silence is wrong.

It was refreshing, especially given my own challenges in the past. I remember years ago, when the legal shit piled atop me for speaking my mind, I kept telling myself that when it was all over, I was going to “seek a life more beige”. But, of course, I can’t.

I don’t know where it comes from, because both my parents, my ex-wife and even my ex-girlfriends would keep their mouth shut if speaking were likely to bring them harm. But for me, silence and beigeness has never been an option.

For a few years, I even hated Australia, with its cliche of “it’s a free country” because I had been a victim of it, and realised what a lie it is. We are only as free as we’re allowed to be.

Ebola?

It would happen that way, wouldn’t it? I write a post about getting my life back on track, and then I get sick and am unable to do much of anything for ten days.

It’s Tuesday, and I’ve been sick since Thursday two weeks ago.  Started off as a general sense of unease, and then fell into a significant sinus infection, with loss of voice, and plenty of coughing – really violent coughing! – for days on end.

It’s started to ease off now, and I have at least returned to work. In the meantime, my new phone arrived, and a decision was made about which part of town I want to live in.

Not surprisingly, I’m being drawn back toward the area where I grew up, where I was happiest and where I am most comfortable. The wide flat streets, so familiar and easy. Not quite the intersection of Parkway & Dumaresq (where I used to joke of moving back to) but not too far from there.

ParkwayDumaresq

Back on Track

on-trackI’ve allowed a few things to go off the rails lately.

Not majorly. But bad habits have formed, and good habits have faded from view.

I am thinking the best way to address this is a few small plans, like new year resolutions. Except not in January. And to last longer than three days.

One example is I haven’t been to the gym since early July. And it’s October. First I was sick, then I was moving, then there were issues around payment and expired credit cards, and all that. I need to return to the gym at least four times a week.

Another is because my books are in storage, I’ve fallen out of the reading habit. But I’ll be retrieving them in coming weeks. Once again I will be surrounded by my books, and with luck they’ll be unpacked and on shelves for the first time since I left Lana. I need to finish a book each month.

I usually read books and stop somewhere in the middle third. Even books I like. Only later will I go back and finish them. I estimate around half the books I own are in this ‘partly read’ category. That’s why I didn’t put ‘read one book a month’ but ‘finish’ – the difference matters in my case :)

Moving into a house which is under renovation means I haven’t cooked anything for weeks either. The new kitchen will hopefully change that. But am I the only one who ponders if my friends would mind me coming over and cooking them dinner? I probably am.

Am I Too Happy?

miniatures

When I was a teenager, and living in East Maitland, there was a story in the Maitland Mercury about John, a bloke who wanted to set up a club for gamers – miniature wargamers & board gamers. Although too young to officially join, I went along and, as it happened, John and my father knew each other. My age was overlooked, and I started going regularly, learning about Napoleonic warfare, strategy and gaming. I loved it.

Since coming home, I’ve been thinking I should try and contact John, find out if the gaming group is still going. But, as with many such thoughts, I’ve not chased it up yet and it was on the back-burner as a ‘will do some day’ item.

At work, I’ve been having some issues with the computer network, and so I got an email from a senior bloke at the IT department. He had the same name as John’s son (distinctive enough there was a reasonable chance it was the same guy, and hey, it’s quite believable John’s offspring would end up in IT) so I asked if it was him. Then, I found out the gamer group still meets, still on Friday nights at John’s house. Although, they’re into Warhammer, which leaves me cold. But the email chat was just another brick in the wall – the wall on which is painted a massive sign that I love being back in my homeland, and the sense of being where I belong is enormously beneficial for my well-being.

Some days, I wonder if being this happy over something so intangible as being home is a sign of some sort of disorder. I wonder if maybe I need professional assistance.

I can just imagine the opening line of that visit:

“Hello doctor, I am terribly happy; something must be wrong”

Some Friends Will Hate Me For This

Some of my friends will hate on me for saying this, but I do not believe depression exists.

Or, at least, does not exist in the way our society does.

I don’t accept it’s a disease.

I don’t accept that it’s an excuse for behaviour like this: Link to Sydney Morning Herald article about farmer Geoff Hunt killing his wife and three kids. Or, for that matter, any anti-social, criminal or inappropriate behaviour. I have though sat in criminal courts and listened to solicitor after solicitor stand up and say that their client should receive a lesser sentence because they are suffering from depression, are being treated for depression etc etc etc. I have never though heard a solicitor stand up in court and explain their clients actions as being caused by their dysfunctional liver, or excessive acne, or ingrown toenails.

Defence solicitors love depression because it’s undiagnosable, in the clinical sense. Because the prosecutors can never stand up and counter “Prove it!”

Years ago, I made a comment on a forum where I referred to depression as “a code-word doctors use for ‘this person needs to get their shit together, and won’t'”. When I wrote it, it was flippant, and half-intentionally inflammatory. But the reality is that, over time, I’ve found evidence to back the comment keeps piling up.

The standard argument against my claim is that it’s biological, beyond the control of the patient, a chemical imbalance in the brain.

But it’s not. Current medical science does not know what the ‘balance’ should be, so of course, they cannot measure an imbalance. And even if this ‘imbalance’ theory were right, I ask this: if your depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, when was the last time anyone gave you a diagnostic test? To measure the chemicals in your brain? You haven’t had such a test? Know why? It’s because they don’t exist. Because, as I’ve already mentioned, doctors know it’s not real.

The other argument is that depression is a result of a lack of serotonin. Since we do not know what the appropriate level of serotonin is, the only way we have come to believe it’s a lack of serotonin is that boosting serotonin in a depressed person improves their depression. This proves depression is a disease in the same way that sculling a bottle of vodka proves that sobriety is a disease.

In the last ten or so years since my initial comment, I have encountered a single example of someone who had “depression” as a result of a quantifiable biological cause. Actual, measurable, clinically-identified. But I’ve encountered hundreds who have claimed they were biologically depressed who weren’t.

If depression is not a disease, what is it?

It’s a failure to cope.

With life.

And the only way to address it is to do the things depressed people claim they can’t do (when really, what they’re saying is they don’t want to do).

Get out of bed.

Fix your shit.

That’s the only way it gets fixed.

Am I wrong? C’mon, you think I am, don’t you?

And to prove me wrong, you’ll get your shit sorted, get your life back in order, and you’ll still be depressed, right?

Yeah. Sure you will.

Either you’ll do as I say, you’ll fix your shit, and find I’m right.

Or you’ll continue, and you’ll proclaim I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Not because I’m wrong. But because you’re too addicted to the pity-train to hear what I’m telling you.

On the Days I Cared

I was the best, you all knew it
On the days I cared
You can all say I blew it
You’ll be talking about me for years

I was my own man, can y’all say that?
Yeah, I was the shit

I Will Not Go Quietly, The Whitlams, 2002

 I need to remember this.

Whatever my failings, I’ve never lived a beige life. And, when it comes down to it, I’d never have done so.

She’s Dead Captain

Some aliens are worth waiting for

Some aliens are worth waiting for

I have kept blogs for more than twelve years now. With different titles, and by different personas.

Dermott kept one on LiveJournal. Then Aurelius had a few, most notably The Lost Legionary, and Aurelius’ New Direction.

In about 2007, old posts from all of them were copied into Waiting for the Aliens. I was still using Aurelius (or, to use the formal, Marcus Flavius Aurelius) to write. But then came the legal battles of 2009/10. And a large part of those were around whether I was Aurelius. The prosecution never managed to prove that point, and so Aliens never was able to be used against me in the various wars with a landlord who was upset by my descriptions of their thefts.

When Aliens was caught up in legal chicanery, I registered DermottBanana.com and blogged there instead. I also backed up Aliens and its predecessors to there. That blog covered 2009-2014 – the highs and lows of the Lana story, the end of the Lana story, the ugly post-breakup of the Lana story, the just-as-ugly lost year of 2012/13, and the gradual return to something approaching normalcy.

Two nights ago, I learnt everything there – at least 1200 posts, but maybe more, I can’t recall exactly – had been lost. In a confusion over which credit card to bill, and the hosting company deleting the files. I can get it back from a back-up, but that’ll cost a fortune, and so I felt it better to start afresh, with a clean slate.