Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Bangkok sewerage works - PART 1

An Australian mate offered me a job in Bangkok, Thailand, as a tunnelling machine operator. The Malaysian company he worked for had won part of the contract to install the sewerage system pipework. I don't know why I took it, just seemed like something different, so why not.

I’ll never forget my first day at work in this vast foreign city. Leaving the hotel with my new boss, I stepped into a nightmare of clogged streets, thick smog and incredible noise. My boss told me ‘rush hour’ cripples traffic flow for about four hours every morning and afternoon so we walked for a while until he hailed a couple of motorbike taxis.

Right, sounds dangerous, let’s do it.

His taxi-bike disappeared into the mess immediately. He hadn’t given my rider directions; he’d just said “follow me”. My rider rode flat out for a while until I realised he couldn’t find his mate and didn’t know where to go. I had no mobile phone. I didn’t have a single number to call and I didn’t even know the name of the hotel I’d left or what street it was in. My boss had picked me up from the airport fairly late the night before and I hadn’t taken any notice of these minor details. Nor did I know where the company I worked for had its head office or where any of the worksites were. I didn’t have any money or my passport.

I sat on that bike for hours. There was no way I was letting this guy dump me. He couldn’t speak English but he got the picture and stopped to make a few phone calls. Then we rode up and down a JAM PACKED highway looking for the worksite. The traffic was insane. I thought everyone else on the road was out to kill us. 15 million people live in Bangkok and most of them were on that road with us.

By pure chance my boss saw us and took his life in his hands to run out into the road, just about catching my rider in a head lock. He gave the guy a mouthful and wouldn’t pay him the fare so an argument started. I couldn’t pay, I still had Australian dollars. Before my boss could punch him out one of the Thai supervisors broke it up. He gave the poor guy some cash and settled things down. I was in a state of shock and couldn’t function too well for several hours after that.

Like it? See - PART 2.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Blogging for money - don't waste your time and mine

I had a bit of a rant on the blogger forum a while ago. Typical knee jerk reaction. I really should have done it here. If I hurt anyone’s feelings it wasn’t intentional. I shouldn’t use bad words there either. Apologies to the cool moderator who chose not to jump on my head.

To clarify my point, I took exception to bloggers whose sole intention is to make their millions by creating traffic from a blog with zero content and zero ongoing value. I was not targeting everyone with Adsense on their blog. I went down that route for a while. I made my own evaluation of its worth and you are free do the same.

The definition of content, in my view, is material that engages people who read it. Blogs that help you make money by showing you how to construct a successful blog can fit that definition, and are quite useful to all of us.

I’m no different to a lot of other bloggers out there. I’d like to be reimbursed for the time and effort I put into my blog too. But, I believe the survival or death of my blog will be based on its CONTENT and, of course, my marketing skills. PERSONALLY I find this the only acceptable way to gather readers and increase traffic.

How many blogs have you come across lately that have no content and are jammed with ads. But you’ll tell me they get a lot of traffic, right? What sort of traffic? Thousands of people tricked into clicking on a bunch of clever keyword. Those same people who look around for one second then leave in disgust. Is that what you want for your blog?

None of us actually go to those ghost sites with the intention of clicking an ad? We go to blogs to be ENTERTAINED and INFORMED. Furthermore I am not against advertising. Maybe you could try choosing products you feel strongly about or can recommend. Your visitors will be more likely to click on items someone has taken the trouble to review. Pushing ads should always be secondary to quality content though.

Help me believe blogging hasn’t lost it way. Give me something to read and think about. My faith in humanity is already on shaky ground.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Tanami Desert Diary - PART 3

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2)

My first day at Tanami mine could be described as stressful. I had to change five tyres some bastard had left behind from their last camp visit. The new boy gets these jobs even though the saying ‘you fucked it, you fixed it’ meant something back then.

Then I loaded two armour-plated Toyota utes with supplies to take to the exploration crew deep in the desert. The utes were bulldozers on wheels and we used them that way too. 10mm thick bash plates underneath, reinforced bull bars, and full roll cage braced to the chassis.

Since it was my first time out I was given a guide. A lad called Deaf Mick would show me the way. With around a tonne and half on the back of each ute in 44’s of fuel, food and other crap we drove off down the Tanami (goat) Track.

Deaf Mick disappeared in the dust and even at 140kph I couldn’t catch him. I also couldn’t see because of the dust he threw up. The overloaded ute wandered back and forth across the loose sand. I clung to the wheel, foot to the floor shitting myself. I had no chance of getting Mick on the radio. He had a habit of turning it off. He’s deaf, why would he bother with it?

I had to back off and only got to the camp late by following his dust trail from many kilometres back. He wanted to know what took me so long. I was too insecure to explain what a frightening trip I had.

Deaf Mick wasn’t much for conversation. He had a hard time making sense of what the rest of us were saying without seeing our lips. After I grew a beard he stopped taking to me altogether. Not because he didn’t like me, he just couldn’t understand what I said with all that hair in the way. He used to have a hearing aid but somehow it had fallen out as he’d leaned over a hundred metre deep open drill hole. Down it went. He wasn’t getting that back.

(PART 4)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Jason's rash cure

(Skip to - Underground Mining)

I met Jason in Kalgoorlie while we were working at the Superpit as servicemen for a fairly rough contractor.

Jason was hired as my cross-shift. I got to show him around the huge site for a few days. I soon found out he’s not the shy retiring type. He’s a bit like a cyclone; you never know what he’s going to do next.

The first hour of ‘orientation’ certainly made me nervous. He’s waving at the truck drivers and hitting the horn as the supervisors go past, not a care in the world. I wondered if he was the boss’s son. (At the Superpit people waving at you and blowing the horn meant you’d done something wrong or your truck was on fire. I don't know how much production was lost by truckies stopping to check their tyres before they figured out it was just some mad bastard waving at them. He didn’t care.)

When I finally asked what the hell was he doing, he says, “I’m just being friendly...”. That’s Jason. If you weren’t friends with him after a couple of hours there’s a good chance you never had a friend in your life.

He’d give you his last dollar if you needed it. He’d never ask for it back. I’m against borrowing money from friends as a rule and always paid back my loans but Jason wouldn’t have cared.

He let slip one day that he donates to Greenpeace. He’s covered in grease, hydraulic oil and diesel. The ground around the service truck is almost black with waste oil from the work we do in the yard. He lights a cigarette and says “What?” to our stunned faces. I couldn’t help making a big deal out of it. I tried to convince him he had a conflict of interest here. We destroy the earth for a living.

I said “well Dolphin boy, if they knew your occupation they’d hang you from your balls.” He seemed offended by the thought that the organisation he gave money to might want to kill him. Or maybe he just didn’t like being called Dolphin boy. Nick names are really hard to get rid of. We didn’t call him that much, unless we wanted to be thrown through a window.

He loved to stir people on the common radio channel. He was always concerned someone might be developing a rash. If you annoyed him he’d ask, “How’s that rash going? You need a cream for that?” Half the site would crack up and the supervisors would be looking to have a word with him. I learned to have a reply ready. “That back, crack and sac rash is clearing up, thanks.” Wouldn’t stop him asking again the next day.

Jason was prone to get into trouble with total innocence. The funniest story (I thought) was about a trip he’d taken overseas and how he and a mate got on Thailand’s ‘watch list’. I thought he’d tell me he was a drug smuggler or some bloody thing. You never knew with Jase. But it was a typical Jason story. He and a friend went to Bangkok for a holiday. They get off the plane and instead of following the crowd to customs they take a ‘short cut’ and get lost. Somehow they throw open a door that led outside the airport. They’d totally bypassed customs. Anyone else might worry that this wasn’t right or good but not Jason. He shrugs at his good fortune of missing the long lines, grabs his bag and disappears.

Now it’s time to go home. They go into the airport the conventional way and of course have to go through customs. Their passports have no entry stamps which causes a huge problem. They have to sit in an interrogation room for hours while the very annoyed Thai's try to work out how they got here and what they’ve been doing. He manages to convince the cops they’d accidentally gone the wrong way and they let him go home. Now personally I would never go back to that country but he really liked it there and returned just about every year. He suffers through the special treatment he gets every time with good humour.

(Like it? See - Tanami Desert Diary).

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Underground Mining - PART 4

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2, PART 3)

After the first week the boss must have figured I wasn’t a total loss. He started teaching me how to run the rig. It’s a powerful piece of equipment that demands respect and a good ear. Not that you could hear much. The rig was so loud we wore earplugs and earmuffs over them. It was like going to a Heavy Metal concert 8 hours a day, every day. The vibrations actually loosened one of my fillings. Hate to think what it was doing to the rest of me.

The rig shouldn’t be that loud but we’d ripped off the silencer box to relieve back pressure and stop the rig from freezing. There was so much water in the compressed air the rig motor would ice up and slow down. Even running the exhaust hose was a pain. You had to be careful near the end of it as the ice would build up until the rig coughed up a ball of slushy, oily ice and fired it down the drive. The icing up problem got so bad we took the exhaust hose off. That baby really started to howl then. The whole mine could hear it. We got a reputation in one mine as ‘The Moaning Cow crew’. That's what they reckon it sounded like, resonating down kilometres of drives.

Tuning in to the rig is like learning a foreign language. There’re subtle sounds and vibrations that would tell you what it was saying. I could lay a hand on the rig and feel what the diamond bit was doing by the vibrations sent back up the rods, even when it was hundreds of metres down the hole. We only had a single gauge to watch. The pump’s pressure gauge. That erratic jerking needle could tell you many things. Little fluctuations warned of the bit bogging in or the core wedging in the barrel. The other indicators we used were the colour of the cuttings coming out of the collar, the rigs stance and sound of the exhaust. It was all hands-on gut-feel stuff. I started to pick up on tell tale warning signs and could correct problems before they occurred.

To really throw me in the deep end the boss would get the rig going then disappear for a crap or a look around the drive. Later he told me he’d duck around the corner and turn off his cap lamp then come back and watch how I’d react. Always did wonder how he’d reappear just as the pump pressure rose or the rig loaded up. It’s a training method I used on my offsiders later.

(Like it? See - PART 5)

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Brock and the monster television

I met Brock while I was working for mining equipment sales and service company. His first day on the job turned bad when the weirdo yardman dropped a crane bonnet on his fingers. I heard a fair bit of swearing and saw Brock holding his hand. He wouldn’t show me the damage although I could see the blood. He wouldn’t go to hospital and never took a day off. They must breed them tough in Victoria because he must have broken at least one of his fingers.

He’s a tough bastard but the nicest bloke you could meet. I worked with him for years and we never had a real argument. We had plenty of fake arguments, especially if one of the mine shift supervisors got on our backs when repairs took too long for their needs. We’d scream at each other and throw tools around until they pissed off and let us finish the job.

We did some long hours together, working around the clock a few times without a break. The Perth office would whinge about the overtime and the illegal hours. They were all talk though. We’d get unofficial pats on the back since they knew sales would suffer if the customers weren’t kept happy.

We learned how to play the system quickly. A lot of mine sites only allowed contractors to work 14 hours. We could stretch that out a few hours if we were almost finished. Then we might have to drive 1000 kilometres to get home. On the way back the mobile would ring. Another site would have a breakdown. Could we come right away? So we would. Some trips would have us mine hopping for up to thirty odd hours straight.

The wife and I lived next door to Brock and his wife Hayley for a while so the wives could look out for each other when we were away. You’d think living and working closely together might get irritating but we’d even go on holidays together. I’m sure our bosses thought we were wife swapping. We never said anything to make them think otherwise.

We had an informal competition going between us to buy the biggest and best stuff. Brock and Hayley bought a big screen TV, (Hitachi of course), which instantly caused me to be dissatisfied with ours. The wife must have picked up on my whinging so, as a surprise anniversary present, she bought the biggest TV available in town.

Plasma's and LCD’s were still around $7000. We weren’t that rich so the wife got a whopping 82cm, rear projection TV. The outer box only just fit into the back of a Hilux ute. She got it home and slid it onto the BBQ, (credit for thinking), to wheel it to the door and then got stuck. She called Brock to help her. He couldn’t believe his eyes at the size of bloody thing. He never got tired of bringing up the fact that he had to lift that huge, heavy TV into my lounge room on his day off. I never got tired of telling him it was bigger than his.

(Like it? See - Friends)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Demolition Darren

We lived in a freezing cold NSW town for a few years. We chose to go there solely because of its proximity to Bathurst. If you don't know why we consider that a bonus you haven’t been paying attention to our love of V8’s and racing.

I started a job at a nearby underground mine since that was what I knew, but I soon changed my mind. A lot of young idiots worked there who’d never had the benefit of older miners pulling them into line. If this is the new breed I didn’t want anything to do with them.

I left the ‘miners’ to their hero work and got a well paying job at a milk distribution depot. It was 5 minutes from home and permanent day shift. Due to the 5am to 2pm working hours I had half the day to myself to do other stuff I wanted. Loved it.

The depot only had about 6 employees. Three freaks were on permanent nights so I never really saw them. Of the other three blokes on day shift, two turned out to be weirdo’s. (They’re everywhere). That kind of knocked the numbers down for people to talk to. Luckily the boss, Darren, was pretty easy to get along with. He loves Holden V8’s, fast bikes and high speed. In the past I’d always made a point of not being overly friendly with bosses. It becomes awkward for them when you screw up and the other workers are going to give you a hard time. I broken my rule here otherwise life would have been very dull.

Darren and I were keen Playstation addicts. The conversations we used to have about playing Grand Theft Auto 3 made other two workers nervous. Especially if they came into the office while we were discussing how to rob banks or do multiple back flips in stolen cars. They were into S & M porn so they had no right to give us strange looks. We left them to it.

Like me, Darren loved to renovate. He had big plans to rip his house apart and modernise it. He’s one of those ultra-rare people who actually turn their plans into action. I spent many hours after work helping him.

We pushed the boundaries of our capabilities with a couple of those projects. I’m still unsure how we managed to raise that pre-assembled 10m X 5m veranda by hand. Even the Egyptians would have been impressed. I fell through the ceiling while putting in the ducted A/C. My balls hitting the joist stopped me going all the way to the floor. He needed a return air duct hole anyway. I did have a few misgivings about gutting and rebuilding the kitchen. Darren was confident and convinced me it would be easy. It wasn’t, but we got it in. Most of the time we had fun and I got a lot of valuable experience out of it. Also I got to drink most of his beer.

By the way leaving huge burnouts up your street when I leave in the afternoon is traditional.

(Like it? See - The oldest can of peas and carrots in the world).

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Underground Mining - PART 3

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2)

Drilling up-holes suck. Getting soaking wet is unavoidable. There’s also the added danger of several hundred kilos of slippery rods spearing out of the hole if the brake fails to hold them to consider. This could be especially hazardous when we used additives. Elephant snot, a mucusy, slimy liquid meant to stop water loss and lubricate the barrels and rods, makes core retrieval easy and rod handling difficult.

I was always extra-keen to get to the change rooms and out of my wet overalls at the end of up-hole shifts. I should mention the ‘dirty’ side of the change rooms could almost make you vomit at times. Most of us wore the same gear for a week at a time so you can imagine the smell with heaters going full blast even in summer.

Our cross shift liked a joke. They found my soaking wet overalls which I’d hung from ceiling on a pulley as was the custom here. Instead of feeling sympathy for my hard shift, (didn’t expect any really), they tied a tight knot in one of the legs and rehung them to dry.

Now you should understand that underground water is loaded with minerals and salts. When the water dries, your clothes become so stiff you can hold them out horizontally like a piece of cardboard. Clothes tied in a knot when wet aren’t going to be easy to undo when dry. When I discovered what they’d done the next day I tried everything to get that knot out. Eventually I had to admit defeat and soak that leg in water to free it up. I started the shift with one flapping wet leg and the other stiff starched. Bastards. My boss got his boots filled with gravel.

We had to retaliate. At the end of our shift my boss shows me a trick. We overfilled the rig bearings with grease and leave everything else neat and tidy. Our changeover is all hearty laughs about their funny jokes with our clothes. HAHAHAHA. Next shift we see our amigos covered caps to boots in a fine spray of black grease. You can sure tell who doesn’t bother with safety glasses. We are cool about it so they don't twig but we double check all our gear before we start. Pay backs are a bitch.

The cross shift aren’t real annoyed as they get a monstrous 51 metres for the shift. I’m pissed off. I’d finished a long hole, pulled down the rig, set up and collared the hole for them the previous shift. Totally rooted me for a minimal meter bonus. They waltz in, drill cream 4th gear ground of soft greenstone and unbroken core for the entire shift. At $8 a metre not a bad days work. I bitch a bit but placate myself with what comes around goes around.

Later I found out they used 21 metre barrels and three metre head rods, a risky gamble that can damage the equipment. My boss made over $7000 for the day so he tempered his annoyance at the abuse of his gear. He’s a bit old school. A careful, by-the-book driller. He looked at the plod book and said “Cowboys”. I filed the information away for later.

(PART 4)

Monday, 7 July 2008

Succeed as a contract labourer - PART 9

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5, PART 6, PART 7, PART 8)

Be careful when pursuing disputes with either your employer or Labour Hire Company. Pay issues are the most common dispute you’ll come across. Be polite no matter how annoyed you feel. Accept the fact that the 9 to 5er’s in the office couldn’t give a rat’s arse if you’re waiting on that money to pay bills and buy medicine for your kids. Some of them can make life hard if you get up them. Remember that jealousy thing I mentioned previously? When you’re making big dollars and the guy processing your pay sheet isn’t, there’s every chance he’ll be unsympathetic when you abuse him.

Be reasonable, courteous and firm. Follow up your dispute. Ring every single day unless you’re told a specific date that something is supposed to happen. Ring as early as possible on that date, especially on a Friday.

From the start of a dispute write down who you talked to, the date and time, and the result of your call. While tedious and annoying these records can be very helpful when a dispute stretches out. Outside help may be required if you hit a brick wall. Your Labour Hire Employer is required by law to give you the option of calling in a third party. Asking for one of those numbers will, 90% of the time, result in the Manager’s immediate involvement and a swift resolution of your problem.

I’m very obvious about recording names and repeating things like “so you’ll find out today and get back to me?” When they don't, (a common problem), ring back the next day. Try to speak to the same person. If you get someone else, run through the names of people you’ve already dealt with and the dates and steps you’ve already taken to work out your problem. They’ll get the message that you are holding these people accountable and, depending on the dispute, might prefer their name wasn’t added to your list as someone who wouldn’t help.

Happy contracting.

END

(See - Dancing with a heathen tribe)

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Succeed as a contract labourer - PART 8

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5, PART 6, PART 7)

Don’t bring your problems to work. Nobody wants to hear you whinging, the same as you don’t want to hear about other people’s dramas. Wait until you have established a relationship with your workmates before confiding in them. Less trustworthy people will take the first opportunity to spread your personal issues through the work site for their own amusement or to make themselves feel superior.

Bring your sense of humour to work. I can’t think of anyone who’d choose to hang around a sad bastard.

Keep an open mind when you’re meeting new people. They’ll tell you the strangest bloody things if my experience is anything to go by. Try not to judge too quickly. They might be psycho but at least they’ll be entertaining.

Have something to talk about. Broaden your range of interests and knowledge so you can participate in a discussion. You don't have to be Mr Memory, just stay abreast of current events and maintain a broad general knowledge. Don't know what your workmates are talking about? Try listening. At least try to elevate yourself above the dumb and boring, tired deadheads who have no opinions, no drive and no prospects. Believe me, you’ll come across them.

You’ll find yourself working with young know-nothing apprentices just starting out and old bloke’s ready to retire. Find some common ground with each of them. If they’re negative and unhappy, find out what they like doing instead and get them to talk about that. If you can’t find common ground on their favourite subject, ask questions, constantly steer the subject into positive territory. When you leave that person they should be less miserable and will have a good impression of you. You don’t have to be deceptive. How hard is it to be genuinely interested? You might even learn something.

There are a few people who cannot be positively steered. They generally attract negative acquaintances who feed off each other and make life unhappy for others. Avoid them.

(Like it? see – PART 9)

Friday, 4 July 2008

Succeed as a contract labourer - PART 7

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5, PART 6)

You’ll find a notepad and pen essential. Write down instructions and repeat them back to your supervisor before starting a job. Do this every time you receive instructions involving numbers or if you have several different jobs to complete. Major discrepancies in what you’ve been asked to do and what actually needs to be done should be double checked. While the boss would rather you just get on with it, they appreciate your question if it saves them from a headache later on. Don’t take on any additional work if you don’t have instructions. This does not include housekeeping. Nobody gets in trouble for cleaning up when there’s nothing else to do.

Record your start and finish times daily. You’ll have a time sheet supplied by the Labour Hire Company. Keep your duplicate copy. If your employer wants their own timesheets used, still record your times independently. This is very important. Payslips can be several weeks behind and you’ll have trouble remembering what happened two Tuesdays ago. Avoid being ripped off by getting your supervisor to sign your own timesheet every week even if they use their own records to pay you. Any inconsistency with hours claimed and hours paid can be dealt with straight away. There’s nothing worse than chasing money from weeks ago when the payroll has been done and archived. Payroll staff soon lose interest in what happened last week when they have this week’s payroll to worry about. Stay on top of your entitlements. Allowances are known to go missing. If you don’t speak up, you’ll get nothing.

The following might sound ridiculous, but it’s worth mentioning. Don’t wear brand new clothes to a new job. You’re immediately downgraded to a 16 year old no matter what your true age is. New clothes encourage the perception that you’ve never worked before in your life and you are a useless mummy’s boy. Old faded clothes give the impression you’ve been around for a while, and maybe you know what you’re doing.

Your clothes will have to adhere to some Australian Standard, and will be in a range of disgusting fluoro colours with Hi-Vis stripes. You probably won’t have a lot of choice in what you are given, but try to wear the same colours as the workers at your new job. It’s all about fitting in. If you look different, you’ll be treated different. Keep your new clothes for later on. Once you’ve been on site for a while you can complain about being issued with new Hi-Vis gear as yours were too faded. Endure the mild taunts and it will soon be forgotten. Everyone else has had to go through the ‘new clothes syndrome’ every now and then.

(Like it? See – PART 8)

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Succeed as a contract labourer - PART 6

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5,)

Try to keep the bullshit to a minimum. If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment, ask. Far better to look ignorant than fuck up the company’s expensive gear. Have a go at whatever is offered. Any additional experience will serve you well on the next job. Try to get an experienced operator to show you some of the tricks they might have picked up. Talk to a couple of different operators to make sure those tricks aren’t damaging to the machine. Be very careful not to take the fall for someone else’s damage. Pre-starts are a pain in the arse but they can be handy to show your innocence when previously damaged gear gets blamed on ‘the labour hire dickhead’.

If you’re going to be a smart arse, at least make sure you're actually funny, otherwise you’ll be the butt of the joke. Your work mates will be group of people who know each other well. They are likely to band together against easy targets like labour hire employees until you fit in or fuck off.

Don’t lie unless absolutely necessary. If you damage something or forget to complete a task you were given, tell a supervisor and get it sorted before you get dobbed in. Your boss is more likely to forgive a genuine mistake if they hear it from you first. They've got better things to do than hunting down the culprit, and worse, have that person lie to them. At best they won’t trust you again but you’ll most likely be sacked. Labour hire employees are very easily disposed of. In any case lying should be severely limited. I’m no saint myself but I’m a poor liar and find honesty is far less trouble in the long run.

You’ll often be told that you only have a few days work at a certain place. This allows your employer to weed out the losers and weirdos. As they appraise your work, attendance, and your ability to fit in; and if you meet their standards, they may ask you to stay on. Some may even offer full time employment.

Other jobs have specific time frames like shut-downs and clean-ups so this should not be taken as an indication of your performance when they don’t keep you on after the job ends.

(Like it? See - PART 7)

(Skip to - Secrets)

Dancing with the heathen tribe

I can’t leave this subject alone. It keeps exploding in my face. You’re copping the shrapnel.

I feel sorry for you religious nuts wasting an entire life huddled in fear and guilt. All those worries about getting into some Heaven.

Muslim men can kill in God’s name and guarantee themselves a place up there. They get a bonus bunch of virgins on arrival like a basket of fruit at a flash hotel. (What do the women get? To be virgins again? Better than getting a bunch of virgin men, hey girls. I was hopeless...at first...good now but.)

Catholics have a handy automatic redemption function that allows them to lie, cheat and steal and they’re in anyway. Yay, let’s fornicate, sorry about that God, which cloud is mine?

Christians don't want their Heaven to be filled with a bunch of remorseful murderers, rapists and thieves from other faiths so they have a different stratagem. They are the holy door guards and won’t hesitate to slam them in the face of anyone who hasn’t believed ‘correctly’. Grew up somewhere remote and never heard of Jesus? Too bad, Hell’s that way. Slam.

And what problem could any of us have with this next far out notion? Each mistake we make in this world is recorded by some ever vigilant being who scrutinizes our every tiny word and deed. Transgressors will be punished FOREVER! FOREVER! That's a long time to be punished for skimping on your tithings.

And we’re all going to Hell if we don't believe in one specific God. Which one? Don't tell me, provide proof. I’ll stop giving money to the Red Cross and RSPCA and I’ll give all my money to whoever can convince me. Well actually I won’t. The Red Cross and the RSPCA need it more and I’d rather spend what’s left on cars and alcohol. Makes my last statement a lie. Shit, I’m screwed, might as well be evil, starting right now. No point being evil in Hell. Never was a conformist.

If you chose to regret my beliefs then be aware I’m probably having more guilt free fun than you. Smugly assure yourself that I’m going to be punished but refrain from letting me know your opinion. I don't need doorstep preachers spouting nonsense in my face trying to fix me. Don't let me catch you slumming it down in Hell either after all your high and mighty talk. (Edited under family pressure.)

(Like it? See - Religion)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mental the cat

(Skip to – Flying)

At home by myself one day I heard a strange sound from the unit’s courtyard. It was annoying. Sounded like a baby crying. I went out to hit it with a stick, (only a small one), to make it stop. After a bit of searching I found the source of the noise. A kitten, stuck between the shed and the fence. A 50mm gap. Somehow I dragged it out without breaking its neck. Just a small ball of fluff, black as sin, barely weaned.

I figured someone had thrown their cat’s unwanted litter over fences around the neighbourhood. I don't know if that’s easier than taking them to the pound but weirdo’s aren’t known for their intelligence. I gave the kitten some milk and waited for the wife to get home thinking it would freak her out. Big mistake.

You know how women love cute stuff. She goes all ga-ga over it. Belatedly I wished I’d told her it was a present. We play with it for a while then it pisses on my Street Machine magazine. Glossy cover so it runs off onto the carpet. Typical female. I assume we aren’t keeping it and ask the wife to take her to the pound tomorrow. Yeah, yeah, no problem.

I get home to find the kitten still in residence. She’s also accumulated a bowl and has cat food in the cupboard and sleeps on the bed with us. Who’d have thought a kitten could take up so much room. I now have a handkerchief sized space to lay on.

A few days later we find out our cockhead neighbours are looking for a black female kitten. We give her back to them. Fair’s fair, they paid for her.

The damn thing comes back again the next day. This time its whiskers and some of the fur on its face had been burned off. I think they used a cigarette lighter. (I used to smoke in those days and the cat freaked whenever I flicked the lighter on for a while.)

We didn’t give her back this time. Fuck them. (Burning the hair off whoever did this crossed my mind. Then I took a moment to think about it. They’d only run around like spastics and set everything else on fire. That would’ve been OK if their unit didn’t join onto ours. The flames might have damaged some of our stuff. Karma will get them.)

So we had a free cat. She loved the wife but didn’t take to anyone else, like me for instance. The damn thing would go crazy for no reason, patting her was a gamble. It’s like putting your hand in a blender with a lunatic hovering over the switch; you never knew what condition you’d get your hand back. We accepted a few behavioural problems seeing as she’d been mistreated by psychos that owned it.

The wife named her Mental. I wanted to call it Satan.

(Like it? See – How to write)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up fast. November 1st for those of you who are interested. I’ve decided to have another go at it as I got so much out of the last one. Might boost something that can wan on the odd occassion. I encourage everyone to have a go.

To save you clicking the link let me tell you about it first. (Then click the link).

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation who want you to release your inner writer and give him, or her, free reign. Nothing more than that. How nice. They are also complete bastards for doing this to people however, as the process will hurt a lot more than you might anticipate.

There’s two ways to approach this competition. You can use the true spirit of NaNoWriMo’s framework to actually write down those ideas you have instead of merely thinking about them. At the end of the month you’ll be in raptures, happily riffling through the pages that you’d never have otherwise, and everything’s all jolly with flowers...

OR

...you can forget that bullshit above and do it my way. Extreme angst, competitiveness similar to full contact Karate and total immersion to the detriment of everyone around you. If you’re the driven type who can’t stand being beaten by a Sudoku or that tree stump that won’t come out, or a sibling who’s that much smarter than you, you’re in trouble.

The main competition is going to be...you. Beating this lying, cheating, lazy, whiney person won’t be easy but, once you start you must commit yourself to WIN! Win at all costs! Destroy that flaccid procrastinating self! Use a baseball bat! Kill, death, smash.

Wait a minute. Settle down. You don't really need to tell anyone you’re participating if you’d rather keep it quiet. I find my motivation is stronger when envisaging scenarios where people pounce on my failure to finish and run up and down the street with ‘YOU’RE A LOSER’ written on banners. Paranoia is fun.

You win a special prize if you make the 50,000 words in 30 days. You get to feel good about yourself. Sorry, what’s that? No, it doesn’t suck. It’s perfect. You look so disappointed. You get a certificate if that helps.

There’s no use cheating, you’re only cheating yourself. There’s no judge of your work so you’re free to write any old crap without self-censorship. And no matter what happens, (barring the end of the world, or computer virus), you’ll always have that piece of writing to play with.

Maybe you’ll even turn it into something readable sometime.

(Like it? See - Writing)

How to write

(Skip to - Coffee)

How do you write? Easy. Put words together to convey your thoughts and feelings to others. But, how do you write fiction? Personally, I can’t offer an explanation or ‘how to’ guide for that. I have no control over my compulsion to write of things that haven’t happened or don't exist. I don't know how or why my brain holds up these strange shadows for me to decipher. I find it impossible to explain the tilting of worlds that suddenly fill my head with ideas at the most inopportune times. That's why I’m so sceptical when I see websites dedicated to explaining the mechanics of writing. I can’t even explain how a story evolves to myself. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

Mind you, a majority of these sites suck. It shits me that I waste time reading useless filler material. Stating the obvious “if you want to write, just write” is so utterly annoying. People are looking for inspiration here. They might have writer’s block or are finding it difficult to begin. Give them something tangible. Point them towards software that assists them to write 500 words a day. Maybe include some lateral thinking exercises.

It’s not all bad. Plenty of sites offer a weird first line to help launch you off on a tangent. Some allow members to add on to an existing story shared with hundreds of others. Lots of good stuff out there.

If writers block is described as the condition of being unable to write, I’ve never had it. I avoid the affliction by never locking myself onto a single train of thought. When I get stuck or bored with a story I leave it and jump to one of my many other projects. Not necessarily another writing project either. I allow the bogged pathways of my brain to work on the problem at a different level. Dig in the garden, make something in the workshop, read a book, write a blog post.

It may take days, weeks or months but ideas come at their own pace. Ideas that feel right and fit in amongst the other pieces. Sometimes the story might turn in a different, better direction. I’ve had amazing ideas come to me while working under the car. I drop whatever I’m doing and run for the computer or other writing device before losing the thread. Get out of my way if I’m on a roll.

I’ve found forcing a story beyond its natural bent is never satisfying. ‘Oh shit, deadlines coming up. Better finish the book.’ What a sell out. I don't need all my endings to be wrapped up ‘happily ever after’, but I won’t kill off my characters to serve a time limit. It’s disrespectful to the readers, the characters and yourself. If I had to offer one piece of advice, (and join the hated ranks of ‘how to’ blogs), don’t waste all that effort of getting your characters through the trials you set them in a story with a piss poor ending.

(Like it? See - Snapshot of a writers mind)

Cognac

The family decided to buy a bottle of Cognac for a 40th birthday.

A special 15 year old Cognac with a pedigree going back several hundred years seemed apt. Only one place in Australia had a website that stocked it. The wife bought it online using her name as the purchaser and her brother’s name as the receiver. Easy. Done deal.

We got a return email. ‘Private sales attract a 20% charge.’

OK, charge us. We want it.

Couldn’t get the website to understand that we wanted an invoice. I tried the old standby. The phone. Nobody answers. I break a cardinal rule and leave my name and explain I want to pay for an item my wife had ordered online. When they finally got back to me the lady’s all confused.

I’m leaving out her side of the conversation.

“Yes, my wife, (with a different last name), has already made an order online.” Look it up. Tap some fricken keys for crying out loud.

“Yes, her brother, the person it is addressed to, has the same surname. He is not her husband. That would be me.” OK. I can see where you might go wrong there.

“Yes, I live at the same address as her and my surname is different.” Do I sense disapproval? I sense withered, old, moralistic, opinionated hag.

“My wife’s brother’s wife also has a different last name. She lives at the same address and will be the contact to receive the parcel.” Do I sense more disapproval? Maybe you can shove your Cognac.

“Yes, the billing address and the receiving address are in different states. We’ll pay for it but the invoice should go with the parcel to the receiver.” Her opinion of my dirty commoner money seemed less disapproving.

I do understand a person who speaks English as their second language may have trouble with this. I got two call backs to decipher if this was indeed what I wanted. I refuse to believe I’m the retard here.

As complicated, (or not), as this might sound, all this info was already clearly set out in the online ordering form we'd filled in earlier. The only reason it got all fucked up was their inability to sell to the public through their website because their web designer is a wanker.

Gifts will consist of off the shelf items from now on and I’m not speaking to anyone on the phone for a week.

(Like it? See - The whole world is against me)