Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Is Karma real? It bloody was that day.

Karma is  powerful force up here in the Rainbow Region, but I constantly have to ask myself if I truly believe in it.
As a hard-nosed scientist I was trained to only believe in things that could be measured empirically.
And I'm sure that you, like me, really hope it exists when someone does you wrong and you want the bad person in question to get their come-uppance from a vengeful cosmos, but I think that's the wrong (negative) way to think about it.
You're supposed to, as far as I can tell, drift about in haze of beautiful thoughts and seemingly, marijuana smoke, and good things will come to you.
But as I began tapping out the rhythm of this post I was still leaning toward it not existing, then, like a bolt from above I was suddenly reminded of an incident that proved, to me anyway, karma is real.
It was the most embarassing thing that ever happened to me sober, and there was a crowd of nearly as hundred to see it.
I'll get to that at the end, but first a little about climate.
It gets cold here in Byron Bay.
Sorry for the bad pic, but it is
the therm in my tent showing
5 degrees celsius.
Nothing like the old home town of Bathurst, but cold enough for me.
People up here constantly remark on my inability to handle the cold, I am the first into long pants in Autumn, and the last to shed the jumper in spring.
Then when people find out where I grew up they say, "You should be used to the cold!".
Well, here's the thing, the reason I left Bathurst is 'cos I was always so bloody cold.
I went searching for a better place, somewhere warm, somewhere with surf, and of course, mainly, somewhere my parents weren't.
So when people give me the "you should be used to it" line, I always tell them the Polar bear joke, which explains things better than I can.
A polar bear cub goes up to his mother and says, "mum, do we have any Black bear in our family?"
His mother says, "no".
The cub then says, "well have we any brown bear in our family?"
His mother once more says, "no".
So the cub goes on to ask, "Grizzly?"
And his mother says, "no, we have none of them, we're pure polar bear. Why do you ask?"
And the cub says, "'cos I'm trying to find out why I'm always so bloody cold".
Which reminds me of a story I read about a psychiatrist employed by the US military at the start of the second world war.
The top brass wanted him to find out under which climactic conditions each soldier would operate best.
Polar boy-shirt off
to shave at five degrees.
So he assessed them by unit and they were sent to various parts of the world to serve, some to the burning deserts of North Africa, some to steamy tropical jungles and others to the frozen wastes of Europe in winter.
The campaign was a successful one with the soldiers operating well in their various locales.
So at the end of the war the psychiatrist was called in the Washington to recieve an award.
As the general was handing him his medal he asked the psychiatrist how he did it, "did he use psychometric testing?", or "perhaps an exercise program under stress with body temperatures carefully measured?"
"What was your secret?", the general asked.
The psychiatrist replied, "when they came in to see me I asked them if they wanted to go somewhere hot or somewhere cold."
Occam's razor, all right.
And I must admit I kind of made the mistake when I moved here of thinking that Byron had a temperature in the mid-thirties all year round. 
But Wednesday this week I had that fantasy categorically smashed when I made the mistake of reading my thermometer at 7am and learning it was five degrees.
It was cold, but I was half wondering if I was seeing things, or worse if I had, rumpelstiltzkin-like woken up in Bathurst.
This is an occasional nightmare I have these days, I know many of you reading this blog love the old home town, but I for reasons stated don't, so suddenly to be living there again doesn't make for restful sleep.
And speaking of nightmares, well odd dreams at least, something I often dream these days is that I am drinking again.
Even in my dream I say to myself, "Oh, am I drinking again? That's odd."
I suppose it's only to be expected, a lifetime on the jungle juice does lead to a long lead time to get off it, but I find it particularly annoying to be reminded of the pleasures of a cold glass of Chardonnay whilst getting my eight hours.
But then I wake up and realise, thankfully, it was all a dream, and my therapist Paula, and doctor Mark can relax again and I am not showing up to see them red-faced and shaking-handed for therapy or my latest appointment respectively.
So leading back to the opening stanza about karma through a sign I
saw at the library which truly goes down as a genuine "Only-in-Byron" moment.
The library held a colouring competition and the winner was: Akira-Tygar Chee.
When I first read the sign I thought that Akira-Tygar Chee was a form of drawing, but as I read closer I realised that it was indeed the name of the winner.
Now you can name your kids what you like, but I wish some would not lade their kids with years of name calling.
Speaking of, when I was at uni there was a vet student called 'Everard Cock', I was going to say it doesn't get better than that, but on the same list was 'Hugh Cumber', which is not as rude but made me laugh.
And so to the best joke I know on bad names.
I guy walks into the local council office and says, "I want to change my name. Is this the right place to do it?"
The council worker behind the desk says, "Yes, here are the forms, what is your name?"
The guy says, "Bill Bumwiper".
The council staffer replies, "oh, well, I'm not surprised you want to change that, what do you want to change to?"
To which Bill says, "Fred Bumwiper".
Additionally, a bit of housekeeping.
A few posts ago I wrote about naming of various places in Australia, and one of those places was Bland Shire in NSW, well on the radio this morn I heard that in an enterprising piece of work by the local tourist promotions department, Bland Shire is hoping to twin, or triplet, with Dull, Scotland and Boring in the USA.
And so finally to Karma.
As usual the Simpsons put it best.
One episode Homer gets Apu, the Kwikimart owner, fired due to the sale of expired products.
Apu goes through some soulsearching and his previous anger at Homer for getting him fired turns around and he goes to the Simpson home to apologise.
Homer answers the door and gets confused during the conversation and says, "you're selling what now?"
Apu replies, "I am only selling the concept of karmic realignment."
To which Homer says, "you can't sell that, karma can only be portioned out by the cosmos", and shuts the door.
Apu, left alone of Homer's doorstep looks down at his feet and says, "he's got me there".

And so to my experience of the karmic realignment.
My first job when I left high school was as a laboratory attendant in the science department at Charles Sturt University.
It was a great job, I was earning the staggering amount of $150 a week, compare that with my elder brother who was receiving $27 a week to play rugby league in country NSW.
One of the conditions of the job was that I did the course offered by the science department.
I was supposedly so that I learned what the students were doing in the labs that I had to set up, but in reality the science department were so desperate for students that one extra, by any means, was worth it.
So I began work and study and loved it.
By doing the course I got to know the students and began partying with them.
As a lab attendant I was the worst in the history of the human race.
I was lazy, disorganised and every second day of the week operating on three hours sleep from another party I attended till near dawn.
In effect I was a perfect choice for the public service.
One day I was walking past the Rafters bar and noticed a couple of female students sitting outside on the newly built, but not quite finished deck.
I decided to go over and be a big man.
These particular students had left their area of the lab a bit messy at the end of their last class and I'd had to clean it up.
So I went over and gave them the rounds of the kitchen in my loud carrying voice.
Even as I type this thirty years after the fact I shriek internally with embarrassment at my action and even my motives in thinking that this would impress anyone.
I came to the end of my tirade and with a final, "make sure you clean up every time and don't ever do it again", I turned on my heel to make a dramatic exit, put my foot down a hole left in the deck for shade trees to grow through and fell flat on my face.
The hundred or so students sitting on the deck eating lunch whom I had previously been "impressing" with my monstering of two female students then broke into a truly heart-felt and perfectly justified guffaw at me.
Boy did I deserve it.
So there you have it, karma is real and that day it was instantaneous.




Monday, 19 August 2013

Demi goeth and the snakes cometh.

Some more good news for all of us who like sea turtles, and who doesn't?
This week we were able to release a breeding age Hawksbill turtle called Demi.
All our turtles are important, but Demi was slightly above the line for a couple of reasons.
Hawksbills are critically endangered, apart from the threats that face all turtles, hawksbills suffer a historical disadvantage as they were the turtles commonly used to make spectacles out of, and so they were slaughtered in their thousands, so getting any Hawksbills rehabilitated and back in the ocean is a great day for us.
Also, with the help of James Cook Uni we were able to attach a tracker to her shell.
This is lightweight and doesn't interfere with her swimming, and allows us to follow her progress.
Why do we need to know?
Well it's probably best put by something said by Rick Shine, my former reptile lecturer. (That is, he is an expert on Reptiles, not covered in scales and sleeps on the radiator in the basement.)
He said (or words to this effect), "what we know about sea turtles is equivalent to studying the human race by only observing what goes on in maternity wards".
We only really observe turtles when the females come ashore to lay, and the littlies when they hatch and return to the ocean.
Once they start swimming, our knowledge is lost to the vast ocean, itself still largely mysterious to us.
To give you some idea of that, we still don't know much about the Blue Whale's life and it is the largest animal that has ever existed, so easily is an animal swallowed up by the briny depths.
Things have improved with modern technology, tracking devices and so forth, but there are still vast murky holes in the picture of the turtle's life cycle.
So with Demi we are first hoping to find out her home range, and hopefully, where she breeds.
Rochelle, who is conducting the research, conjectures that she breeds in far north Queensland, and this is a pretty safe bet.
However to get there she will have to fight the East Australian Current, which flows down from Qld toward NSW.
If she can't outswim that, she may take the path that the littlies follow and ride the current down to the NSW-Victoria border, then swing out into the Pacific above NZ, across to South America, up that coast and back across the pacific via the Galapagos and Hawaii to her "home" in north Qld.
The tracking unit will hopefully tell us that.
We certainly hope she breeds again and it would be of immeasurable satisfaction to all of us to see a second generation of turtles run down a Qld beach one day, knowing that the rehab work done by our hard working shed staff, paid for by our members' contributions, has been part of the cycle.
Elsewhere in the reptile world, a question I'm sometimes asked is, "Do I encounter many snakes in my gardening?", and the answer is surprisingly 'no'.
The reason for that is that my passage through the undergrowth is usually accompanied by the mower or whipper-snipper and the vibration (snakes don't have ears, they "hear" by vibration in the ground) gives them fair warning that I am coming and to get the hell out.
However on Saturday whilst working at Joanne's of Possum Creek (her of hula dancing fame), I got a double dose of our reptile friends.
These two pics show a carpet snake that was happily minding its own business in Joanne's gutter, when I came by cleaning the leaves out.
I was on the third rung of the ladder when my (thankfully) gloved hand reached out for the next sweep and I realised that the lichen-encrusted stick I was aiming at was indeed a 1.5m Carpet snake.
I was up a ladder at the time and nearly fell off the damn thing as well as nearly suffering involuntary evacuation of the bowel.
The green blobs on the left of the picture
are my gloved fingertips.
For the record, although carpet snakes are non-venomous, their mouth contains a lot of alien (to the human system) microbes and so if they do nab you, infection is a common side-effect.
I've had several people say to me since that, "that's OK then, carpet snakes aren't aggressive".
Well they can have their moments, believe me.
I have been struck at five times by Carpet snakes.
Once when working at the animal reserve in Bathurst on school work experience.
Once when cycling home along the edge of my gravelled road, and three times by a large male that was asleep on my engine block.
What happened was this.
My friend Antony had come up from Sydney to stay for the weekend, and he parked his car next to mine and for the weekend we walked and cycled to and from town.
I was still drinking then, and so walking home from the pub was a more sensible option, and it's relevant to what happened next believe me.
Sunday night he drove off to Brisbane for his flight home and I prepeared for the working week to come.
Monday I went out to start my car and as I went to put the keys in the ignition I noticed my waste bag was stuffed up under the steering column.(picture simulated right.)
I sat and stared at it for some time.
My hungover mind grappled with the problem, like, to quote Douglas Adams " a supertanker doing a three-point turn in the English channel".
We had sunk a bucketful of piss, but I couldn't remember doing that.
Eventually, with sinking heart, I arrived at the answer.
I grabbed agardening glove from the back seat and looked in the bag.
Inside was an empty chip packet I had carelessly left in the car.
The rats had taken the chip packet for food, grabbed my nice cotton bag, dragged it up and wedged it under the steering column, formed a nest and spent a confortable weekend there.
They also, as I now discovered when I turned the key, chewed all the wiring through to the engine.
The lights on the dashboard lit up, but the starter motor did not kick, even a little.
Not a sausage.
I called the NRMA and he came and examined the issue.
He turned my key in the door lock to make sure they key was functional, then opened the bonnet and hotwired the car into life.
He switched off and then said to me, "I don't know what they [the rats] have done, but all I can do is hot wire it and you'll have to get to the auto-electrician ASAP."
So he sent me on my way.
The auto-electrician examined things superficially and then he said, "I can't see from here where they've chewed, so to fix it I'd have to trace all the wiring, I may find it in one hour, it may take ten. I charge $80 an hour, so it could be $800 or $100 you're looking at."
I couldn't afford $1 really.
So I got him to show me how to hotwire the car and went on my way.
So for the next few days every time I wanted to start the car I had to turn the key to the on position, then open the bonnet and short out the ignition fuse in the engine bay.
Which was fine till Wednesday morning when I opened the bonnet and discovered a carpet snake asleep on my engine block.
Asleep that is till I opened the bonnet, and this snake, like Garfield the cat, did not like being woken up.
I had already had my patience tested this week and now this.
I stared at the snake wondering how to handle the situation, but I was in a hurry, so had to dive in.
I grabbed it by the tail, and it, affronted by this dastardly attack from behind, reared and threw a gaping jawed strike at me.
I leapt back like someone had set off a small explosive under my boots.
But I was in a hurry and my another grab and the same thing happened, I then said some uncomplimentary things about the snakes parenting and sex life ("You're a fucking bastard".), then made my third attempt.
Once more the snake showed no compunction to leave and demonstrated this by flinging its head at me, once more making it known that my depredations were not welcome.
So I called time on our wrestling match and said, "Look, Pal, I've got to go, sorry, but that's the way it is".
So I shorted the fuse, the engine started, I shut the bonnet and drove away.
When I got to town I re-opened the bonnet and found the snake gone.
So all fine from then on, but when I went out Thursday I wondered what next?
The rats had come to eat the potato chips, the snake had come to eat the rats, following the food chain upward, I was prepared to find a Wedge-tailed eagle on my car roof waiting to eat the snake.
So back to Possum Creek, the Carpet snake in the gutter was very placid and only wished I was gone.
But the first reptile Joanne and I encountered that day was a different kettle of fish.

I was whipper-snipping and Joanne came down to talk with me about what jobs needed doing.
I switched of the snipper and started talking to her.
Then, over her shoulder I saw a two metre Brown snake sunning itself in the grass, thankfully, five metres away.
I wasn't sure of Joanne's attitude to snakes, many visitors from the British isles, accustomed to the more placid and infinitely less toxic Adders of Britain, find our heavyweight snakes a little scary.
For the record, and it is hard to pin this down, but it is commonly quoted that six, sometimes five, of the world's ten most dangerous snakes live in Australia. (The inland Taipan, with a bite that can kill half a million mice is the frightening number one.)
Anyway, I interrupted Joanne, and gently tugged her arm and said, "could you come over here with me, please Joanne?"
I then reefed her around and she nearly broke her leg tripping over the whipper-snipper shaft, and was about to ask (I suspect) "WHAT THE SAM HILL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?", when I let go of her and pointed at the Brown snake.
She handled it well and said, "oh, yes, that's the one that lives in the base of that tree."
We then calmy discussed the gardening and she (Joanne) went on her way.
I went back to the car for my phone, but by the time I returned and approached closer hoping for a close pic, the snake, alerted by my tread, had decided that things were getting too crowded here in its favourite sunny patch and wriggled off.
(I just caught it's tail with the camera here to the right).
Which reminds me of a scottish friend of mine, Nicola's, story of her parents visit to Australia.
Nicola's mum and dad were staying in Cairns at a tropical resort and her mum phoned Nicola back in Scotland using a public phone (remember them?) outside the reception area.
Nicola said they were talking normally, when her mother screamed like she was being murdered, dropped the phone and all Nicola could then hear were the sounds of the Australian tropical night.
She hung on for some time, but there was no further word from her mother, so she hung up and rooted frantically about trying to find the name of the resort so she could ring back and see what on Earth had happened.
She couldn't find anything useful and this was in the nineties before mobile phones were widespread, so she spent nearly a day in agony wondering if everything was all right.
Eventually, her father rang back and said that a green tree frog had dropped on her mother's head.
Worried, scratch that, TERRIFIED, her mum had dropped the phone and run screaming into the night.
A green tree frog of course isn't dangerous, but I think any of us having a bit of the local wildlife parachuting in would give my one-legged standing long jump record a good shake.
PS: Apparently her mum washed her hair fifteen or so times before she felt clean, and developed an understandable aversion to using a public phone.
PPS: Although a green tree frog is not dangerous, I have related previously of getting one smack in the mush at 3am and believe me,  I jumped as well.
Encountering anything in the dark suddenly can be terrifying.
I might add that Nicola's mum being scottish was already hypertense about life in Australia and the things here that can kill you, best put by Bill Bryson, himself the epitome of the nervous visitor to our shores, when he wrote: "I looked up this animal in 'Things that Can Kill You in Australia, Volume 27, chapter 23.'"
And it has to be said that we have a lot of venomous things, I mean a lot.
The world's deadliest spider, the Funnelweb lives here and to put things into context about this spider, it leaves the Red-back behind in a trail of venomous dust, and the Red-back is the Australian analogue of the much feared Black Widow of the United States.
Can you tell which of the spiders on the right is the Red back and which the Black Widow?
(Red-back is the lower pic. You can see how similar they are.)
And both these species pale dawdle far behind in the dangerous stakes when compared with the Funnelweb.
Even the Funnelweb's scientific name, Atrax robustus, gives you an insight to its nature.
The story I remember most about Funnelwebs was from my friend Johnno, a gardener I learned a lot from while working with him on the northern beaches of Sydney.
Johnno picked up a double handful of leaf litter that he was going to put in the wheelbarrow and as he lifted it he suddenly saw on top of the pile, getting nearer his face with each passing millisecond, a Funnelweb raised in aggression posture.
No one, not even Johnno really knows what happened next, best guess is that Johnno set a record similar to my one-legged standing long jump, but for mulch hurling.
He was working in Frenchs Forest at the time and we believe his double handdful of leaf litter landed scattered over parts as far north as Mona Vale, approx. 20 kilometres away.
The Blue-ringed octopus, if this colouration
doesn't tell you to watch out,
you deserve to get bitten.
So apart from the Funnelweb, a spider apparently designed by Hell labs, we also have the box jellyfish, with a sting so painful that a victim can still be screaming after morphine has been administered.
The Blue-ringed octopus has a venom that defies local strategic arms treaties, snorkellers were sometimes bitten when they put a shell in their pocket and the Blue-ring swam out to find out who was messing with its house.
We even have the only poisonous mammals, the Echidna and Platypus, with the male of the species equipped with a poisonous claw on it's rear foot. (No one is clear why it's there. It seems to be to do with mating and dominance.)
The Cone shell is another beauty with a venom that paralyses the small fish it preys on.
Don't do this in Australia.
The Brazil Cone Shell is the most venomous, but our species are no slouches that's for sure.
One source I consulted said this: "Due to the toxicity of the venom Cone shells should be handled very carefully, if at all".
So I was astonished to find this picture on Google images.
This young woman will almost certainly appear next in the Darwin awards.
Even on close up I can't confirm is she is holding a Cone shell in her palm, but take it from me, don't go messing around with any shells on the Barrier reef, if the rest of the country's pattern of toxic animals is any guide, treat everything as if it's venomous.
So I'll close with a few stories about snakes, since that has always been my main area of interest.
Ironically, it was one of the third year subjects I failed at Uni, but unlike all the other things I failed it was nothing to do with drinking, smoking pot and playing soccer, I failed becuase I was too interested.
How's that?
Well, so fascinated by the animals themselves, I spent all my time reading esoteric and odd facts, some of which I will finally put into use here, that I didn't read the coursework properly, and so failed.
Anyway, when white settlement began the english settlers and convicts began recording the animals they saw, the Brown snake being one of them.
It was quickly realised to be deadly and to be avoided.
The Brown went on the list with the Tiger and Death Adder as snakes that would kill you if bitten, certainly in the days before anti-venine.
It even happened for me.
When I moved to Byron Bay I did various jobs and one of the best was as warden on South Ballina Beach for the Shore Bird protection patrol.
One sunny summer afternoon my partner and I discovered a snake slithering among the rocks of the south wall.
I thought it was a Brown snake, but the colouration was a bit different to the standard pattern.
I could tell though it was an Elapid, that is the family that Australian venomous snakes belong to, and ensured everyone avoided it.
The Rough-Scaled snake.
When I got back to my computer, I looked it up and discovered it was a Rough-Scaled Snake, I'd never heard of it, but sure enough, I had stumbled across, not literally thank the lord, another brown snake that is, and here I quote from Sciencentre, : "A dangerously venomous species with strongly neurotoxic venom.  It is a ready biter and is responsible for at least one human death and several severe envemomations.  If bitten, apply first aid and seek urgent medical attention."
Great, now I'm discovering them in my own backyard.

Then the settlers began to move into Queensland and began reporting another "brown" snake, larger than the Brown previously reported, this was the King Brown or Mulga snake, and it was as deadly as the Brown.
Things went on and then reports began coming in of another "brown" snake, the scientists once again went out and examined this beast and classified the Taipan, and yes, it was even more unhealthy to be up close and personal with.
Tai Pan incidentally is derived from Cantonese and means "Big Shot", an appropriate name that's for sure.
So by then I had a mental picture of reptile scientists cowering in their laboratories, dreading the next phone call saying "we've found another 'brown' snake", then going out and finding the arms race has ratcheted up another notch.
Sure enough.
Long term settlement in the "dead" heart of Australia meant that the animals came under closer scutiny, and differences were noted about the local taipan.
For one, it changes colour from winter to summer, so it was contended that there may even be two new species out there. (god help us)
Once again some death-defying scientists went out for a look and discovered a single new species, the Inland Taipan, rejoicing in the scientific name of oxyuranus microlepidotus.
And sure enough, it set a new standard for venom.
A single drop can kill 100 adult humans, and a single bite may contain a hundred drops.
As of this writing date the Inland taipan is the most venomous land snake on earth, but due to its (thankfully) shy and retiring nature, there have been no recorded deaths from this beast.
And so to the list.
You may in your travels have heard things said like "of the world's ten most deadly snakes, 8 of them live in Australia."
The number varies from list to list, but the list below from Listverse is a good general model.
It puts the Coastal Taipan below the Brown, which I disagree with, but it's reasonable.
It declares that five of the world's worst snakes are Australian, and 50% is enough to be going on with, believe me.
10. Rattlesnake - North America
9. Death Adder - Australia
8. Vipers - a group of folding fang snakes including the Gaboon Viper with fangs 60mm long, eek! From many continents
7. Phillipine Cobra - Asia
6. Tiger Snake - Australia
5. Black Mamba - Africa
4. Taipan - Australia
3. Blue krait - Asia
2. Brown Snake - Australia
1. Inland Taipan - Australia

And in conclusion I'll say this, I've never seen a snake at Possum creek before last Saturday when I saw two in one day.
So I predict that this is going to be one of the worst snake summers we've had in a long time.
Let's just pray that we don't discover a new species of "brown" snake that is even worse than the Inland Taipan.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Bong diving aardvarks

Kelso high school two hours after I started
cooking class.

Since I gave up drinking and rugs [Sorry, that's meant to be drugs, I have never been addicted to fabric floor coverings.] I've been slowly getting the world into focus and one of those things has been getting in touch with old friends, or more accurately, with people whom I didn't know were my friends.
Faceplant has been instrumental in this and even though I worked in IT, I was never an early adopter, as it's called.
I was brought to Facebook by Bill Louis, in the year ahead of me at Kelso High, with one of those social network emails, purportedly from Bill, asking if I wanted to join.
I did, and have been able to make a leap that I never thought I would, being friends in adulthood with people from school.
My time at school was very unhappy and I linked this with everyone who was there, which is of course the wrong thing to do.
But I think it's a human trait to weight bad things heavier in our minds than good things.
Is that right?
I think so, for instance the old customer service aphorism, if you treat someone well they will tell three people, if you treat someone badly they will tell thirty people.
And so (sadly) the things I mostly remember from school are being yelled at by the teachers and being bullied in the playground.
Which leads me to another piece of philosophy that I developed over the years: "The things that made you cool at high school, became proportionately less cool the further you get away from said school."
At my high school in the 70s and 80s in country Australia the coolest person, at least coolest male, played football, failed all his exams, drank alcohol, smoked pot and had sex with lots of women (at least he said he had sex with lots of women, we all know the truth now).
But as time went by and the same male moved into the adult world of jobs and marriage, he would find that women casting their eye about for a prospective male, wanted someone who was intelligent enough to have a good job, didn't drink or smoke pot, and clearly, only had sex with one woman, her.
I, like almost everything else in my life, did it the wrong way round, and fulfilled all the above categories of being cool at high school, once I turned thirty, behaviour which, as I have related, led me eventually into rehab.
And I can assure you, women looking for a relationship don't hang around outside the rehab centre looking for men.
Perversely though, men do.
Quite a few of the women I met in there, said that such-and-such a male was waiting for them to come out, and saw themselves as her protector.
Which is rehab speak for "he just wants a shag, and sees me as an easy option".
As if she didn't have enough to cope with without having to fend off the amorous advances of a dysfunctional male who felt that simply because he had driven her to Wyong hospital, she owed him something.
I'd like  to add that I don't mean to harp on about going to rehab, but I likewise don't want to glamourise excessive drug and alcohol taking either, but since many of the interesting stories of my life occurred whilst under the influence of, or recovering the next day from, drugs and alcohol, I think it is a good counterpoint to show the down side.
For that reason I feel I have something in common with Billy Connolly, one of the world's greatest comedians.
Billy built a career on riotous drunkeness, getting drunk, and then telling people what happened.
Sober Billy got on his bike.
But once married to Pamela Stephenson and had his first child, he realised it couldn't go on, so he became teetotal and moved away from stand-up comedy into the quieter world of funny travel logs.
It occasionally worries me that I may run out of stories to tell and things to say, with my own riotous behaviour now receding into the past.
Having said that, quite a few of the funny pics I've taken recently have been while out cycling, and there was no way I would have had the fitness to cycle anywhere while still on the juice, so we hope that, like Billy, I will soon develop a fund of stories that occurred whilst sober, so let's all look forward to that.
And so to the title of this post, one night I was so stoned that I developed the idea that Aardvarks were going to get into my bong and then jump up my nose.
An Aardvark is a rabbit-sized insectivore from southern Africa.
I worried this aardvark would penetrate my head.
Just where this idea came from I couldn't say since I was smoking said bong in Australia, and an animal the size of a chicken is never going to penetrate nasally.
Most of us under the influence of pot think we have had the greatest ideas since Newton discovered gravity, and we often write these things down, they're so profound.
However, when we stagger out to the living room the next day and try to check we find a sodden piece of paper with illegible scrawls disappearing toward the torn edge, where, short of rolling papers, we have ripped off a bit of our magnum opus to roll another joint.
If we can decipher some of it, we invariably find that it says things like, "Milk, and will, but only, yes."
Or, "Water doesn't grow!!!!"
Not least, "Stumps of trees, what use???"
Please note, the punctuation is mine, these scrawls are of course devoid of this aid to clear reading.
However I have had some good times on pot.
Daz and I smoked a joint in an alley next to the theatre before seeing the South Park movie in Sydney's George street movie complex.
We refer to it now as Hooter Alley (Hooter being of the many nicknames for pot), and I can assure you it did enhance the experience.
Perhaps, too much, I was shell-shocked when I came out, the sensory overload was phenomenal.
Also, I am probably unique in this, though if you have any similar tales please send them in.
I always wanted to be stoned whilst taking off in a jet.
So when flying off to somewhere I smoked a joint on the footpath outside the airport, then boarded the plane and strapped in.
That was a rush!
It was pre-9/11 of course, there is no way I'd encourage anyone to take drugs anywhere near an airport now.
Also, I did have one idea when stoned, for a new type of surfboard fin, which I then developed and am trying to sell.
I can assure you that whoever said "inventions are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration", was telling the absolute truth.
It is attributed to Thomas Edison, but since he stole most of the ideas that would make him famous (and rich) then there is every reason to believe he stole that expression as well.
However it is true, I've done nearly half a decade of R-&-D and I still haven't got the fin to market.
If it ever sells and I make some money from it then it will have to be said that I had the original idea whilst really, really stoned.
Which reminds me of one person's secret of life: "a little bit of everything".
This was said to me by a young American on the grass lawn behind the backpackers we were staying in.
It was high summer and I was on my annual vacation up here in Byron.
We sat on the grass, women in bikinis and men shirtless in board shorts, music played from the ghetto-blasters.
Beach volleyball went on under lights, we had all surfed most of the day.
Beach volleyball in the background,
and the very grass where my
American friend expounded his secret of life.
The eskies were full of beer and I joined a group who were passing the peace pipe around.
A young american packed the cone with Nimbin buds, handed it to me and said, "my secret of life is a little bit of everything".
Which is pretty good (and one of the few stoned ideas worth reventilating).
Clearly, he didn't mean "a little bit of paedophilia", or "a little bit of murder", but a little bit of pot, a little bit of alcohol, a little bit of fatty foods, a little bit of work, a little bit of surfing and so on.
I can generally agree with this, if I could have have had a little bit of alcohol, or a just little bit of pot, then things would have been fine.
But of course it was the anaesthetic effect of the drugs that quickly became essential to my being, and so I overindulged, to put it mildly.
If any of you have a secret of life I'd be happy to hear it, and I'll add this bit of philosophy as well, since it likewise, in my opinion, is pretty good.
Whilst living in London my I was chatting (read: moaning) to my friend Don about a girl who had dumped me and the talk turned to human relationships in general, and Don said this: "In my opinion, the best relationship is one where both parties have to compromise the least."
Pretty good, huh?
The opposite, for instance the relationships in P.G.Wodehouse novels where Bertie Wooster is constantly having to give up cocktails, cigarettes, golf, sleeping in, meat, fatty foods, murder novels and even his man, Jeeves, every time he got involved with a girl, are clearly a recipe for disaster.
So find a relationship where neither of you have to compromise too much and have a little bit of everything.
With thanks to Don and a nameless stoned American for this week's tips on living.


Monday, 5 August 2013

The cemetery is in Cemetery road.

And appropriately enough, Cemetery road is a dead end.
I snapped these pics while out riding my bike, which is my latest secondary passion.
I say secondary because I have a simple enough philosophy these days, "surf when you can, work when you have to".
So work is my top priority, then surfing.
If I have got my work done and there is no surf, then I literally get on my bike.
When I saw this signage, I at first thought it a bit redundant, but then was reminded of my ex-wife's confusion when we returned from Vancouver to live in Sydney.
Syndey is an organic city, with roads, streets and alleys disappearing up and down vale, round corners, changing names as they go and with numbers placed on houses apparently by a chaos-theory practitioner.
Vancouver, where my ex was from, is far more ordered.
The avenues are numbered and the streets have names.
Thus, a friend giving direction to their house may say "head for Commercial and First".
Meaning they are located near the corner of First Ave and Commercial Drive.
House numbers are an additional aid, going up by 1600, that is, the first housing block on a road is 1600, the next block has numbers starting at 1700, so if you just have an address, say 1812 West First, then you know which block it's in.
Many then say why not number the streets and the avenues and make it even easier.
Well apart from removing the charm of a corner like Maple and Third, Calgary did do this and this led to confusion of it's own, if your directions were for 4th and 194th (yes, Calgary has a 194th st), you better make sure which is which or you will be  a long way from your destination.
Which also reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend in Trevor in Vancouver one stoned Sunday.
I was telling Trevor something about my native land and mentioned The Great Sandy Desert and the Snowy Mountains.
Trevor then looked at me amusedly and said, "do you have The Big Wet Ocean or the Large Green Field as well?"
My dope-addled mind grappled with his question and I got the point, talk about naming something what it is.
Great and Sandy, this desert
delivers what its name promises.
The dry geographic feature first named is indeed, Great in size, Sandy in composition and a desert to boot.
The Snowy mountains are, or they were at that time at least, snow capped.
This then led me to examine some of our other names and so:
The Great Barrier Reef is a reef that forms a barrier and it is truly great any way you wnat to use the word, in size and visual splendour.
The Great Ocean Road fills all three words of its name accurately.
The Blue Mountains are blue-the blue is from the eucalypts from the area which reflect more bluish than green light.
Deep Creek, South Australia we suspect is deeper than the next creek over.
The worst place name in Australia previously referred to in this blog, Dismal Swamp, is pretty dis...
Actually, I just looked it up on Google images and it's not too bad to my eyes, but I realised that it was most certainly named by an Englishman, all of who saw Australia in the early 1800s as nothing more than a hugely desolate wasteland, and no doubt Dismal copped the brunt of that.
Long Reef in Sydney is long, well longer than some other reefs, there are no Short Reefs for instance.
Little Bay is little and so it goes.
I might add since we are in the geographic area, I heard on the radio on the weekend that Royal Prince Henry hospital in Sydney's south-east was originally called The Coast Hospital, a much more charming and accurate name than the one bestowed once some damned monarchist got hold of the naming rights.
So why do we name things so obviously?
Well my ex-wife for one will tell you that giving something a name that reflects its appearance is much better for a newcomer to navigate with than naming it, as is common, after a person.
Thus one suspects we could pick Little Bay out easier than we could Byron Bay.
Hopefully, your colour gradations are adequate, and I ask if you can tell which of these two pictures is of the Blue Mountains?
So just because I am a nerd really here are some naming things.
Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart were named after notable British gentlemen of the day.
Brisbane, and I'm sure any Queenslander reading this will gnash their teeth to learn, was named after the then governor of NSW, Sir Thomas Brisbane.
Adelaide was named after the German bride of King William the fourth, who rejoiced in the fully splendid name of Adelheid Amalie Luise Therese Coralin of Saxe-Meiningen.
Perth is named after a county in Scotland, Darwin for the scientist Charles Darwin and the only (belated) indigenous entry to the list of capitals etymology is Canberra, "meeting place" in the local indigenous dialect.
Of course if we'd known we would have asked what is your phrase for "phenomenally boring heck-hole in the middle of nowhere that no-one cares about", but none of us can see the future can we.
Side Note on Psychology: Intelligent people leave Canberra, only nutjobs go there.
Of the other major cities, Newcastle after the English industrial centre in the north-east, Wollongong is from an aboriginal word woolyungah meaning "five islands", Parramatta, Australia's second city means Place of the Eels and my old home town was named for the Earl of Bathurst.
In Queensland all the major towns are English derived, notably, Townsville, Cairns, Gladstone and Rockhampton with the exception of Bundaberg, which is a composite of the name for the local aboriginal people, the Bundas, and Berg, a common ending meaning town, as in Edinburgh and Pittsburgh.
In Victoria indigenous naming finally got a foothold with Geelong and Ballarat. Although Bendigo sounds to my ears an aboriginal name it is in fact named for a local (white) shepherd, famous for his boxing.
Tassie has all English names with Queenstown, Launceston and Devonport.
South Australia has a mix with English names with Port Augusta and Victor Harbour, whilst Whyalla, Coober Pedy and Coolgardie are indigenous, with Coober Pedy meaning white man's hole, water hole that is, no salacious giggling please.
Western Australia has white names on the coast with Geralton, Bunbury and Port Hedland, whilst Kalgoorlie is an indigenous term for (most likely, "Place of Silky Pears").
I asked various friends what they thought was the commonest street name in Australia and the various guesses were: Boundary, my Aunt Jen, High, from surf friend Ivan, Smith from Tom and Scott, Main from someone whose name escapes me, Ocean, from me, Station from Warren and Railway from Becky.
Well the answer is none of these, but Park.
This rather mundane entry highlights the lack of imagination when it came to naming streets in Australia, I tried "Funny Street Names Australia" in my search engine and only got North American and British sites, Butt hole Road in Doncaster England was probably the best, but the residents clubbed together and had the name changed to Archers Way.
The best name I saw with my own eyes was on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada and was Twiggly-Wiggly Rd, Nanaimo, we suspect named by a local councillor's five year old child.
However if our streets stick to the middle of the road, our town names throw up some crackers.
Burrumbuttock, Tittybong and Delicate Nobby are three redolent with mirth, Useless Loop in WA seems like a place not to drive, Boyland, Qld we suppose has male gay visitors patrolling some rich pickings and Bland Shire would be a better name for Canberra.
Mind you, the English have it over us with town names as well, with Cold Christmas and Nasty leading a list that includes Foul End, French Beer, Splatt and Watery Bottom.
And segueing neatly, I learned at pub trivia that Schizophrenia means literally "broken head".
Schizo- has the same word root as schism, meaning to cleave in two, -phrenia from the same source that gave us phrenology, the crack pot victorian-era "science" of telling criminality by the shape of someone's head.
A broken headed dork under
the sign to Broken Head.
I didn't plan that stupid look on my face,
 it happened all too naturally.
And so last weekend I went on a cycle with Pharmacist Fleur and her friend Janet, we did a very popular ride in this area to Seven-mile beach via Broken head, and very appropriate to for a loony like me to pedal my broken head over Broken Head.
I'll close with some pictures of the ride and stop writing as these pics cannot be improved by me wittering on interminably.

Uphill over Broken Head.

(Above and below) End of the outward leg at Seven Mile Beach.

Fleur won the first sprint point (Please note Janet didn't know she was in a race).
But Janet was Queen of the Mountains.