Spinning the treadmill


I spent an extra hour in bed this morning reading. This came after a night when I slept for nearly 9 hours. I eventually got into work a little after nine, an hour later than normal. I still feel weary, but better than this time yesterday.
I did some figuring last night. I reckon since Christmas day I’ve worked every day bar maybe a couple – that includes public holidays as well as weekends, and the days of annual leave I took off. On those days it may only be a couple of hours’ worth spread over the course of a day, but then you factor in that pretty well every night for the last couple of weeks I get home and do more work to align myself with the folk in India. Last night it came to a head.

Yesterday the piece of work I’d scheduled to spend a good 5-6 weeks on reviewing, discussing, editing, and reviewing again, was crammed into an afternoon because it was announced it had to be submitted by that night.

I was quietly seething. My plans had been disrupted because all this time I’ve been waiting to get the information I needed, originally due on November 30. I got them yesterday morning, followed by the conversation that it all had to be submitted that night, meaning all the careful review and editing and discussion was impossible. Instead there was a helter-skelter afternoon quickly going through the document.
Last night I got home and I was bone tired. It was like I’d been wrung out. All I wanted to was collapse and stop thinking. But then I knew I had work to do. There was stuff with India to sort out, but before that I had to finish the last section before sending it on to my manager. I spent an hour on that, another ninety minutes with India, then in bed by 10, much earlier than normal.
Today, I discover, it didn’t need to be submitted last night after all, and hasn’t been.

I’m pretty ticked off. I set myself high standards, and though I may grizzle commit completely to the work I do. This shambles means that I’m putting my name to something I know is much less than it could be – because others didn’t show equal commitment. Despite all this I’ve raced around and taken it home to work on to ensure it’s as good as it can be – only to be advised I didn’t need to do that.

This place takes a lot for granted.

I don’t mind putting in the hard work. When you’ve got a level of responsibility it goes with the territory. There’s two problems with that, however. For a start I’m on not nearly the salary that would justify putting in so much of my own time and effort – except I’m a committed individual and so I do. The other problem is that they exploit that commitment. They know I’ll bend over backwards, and think no more of it. That’s just not right.

I’ve asked for support, particularly with the chatbot project, so I can take a step back occasionally. They just shrug their shoulders and do nothing – never mind that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow they’ll be in desperate trouble. And so, without anyone else to help or with the required knowledge it’s left to me on my days off, my nights after work, to manage and coordinate with the vendors in India to make sure everything runs smoothly.

All this has worn me down. I’ve been sleeping erratically since Christmas. I’m normally a solid 7.5 hours a night. Through this period I’ve varied between 6.5 and 9 hours nightly, like a compass lost its bearing. No matter how long I sleep it’s of poor quality, up to last night. None of that is helped by the hot weather we’ve been experiencing.

I’m feeling disillusioned. I know not to trust these place, but I feel totally used. They don’t deserve this effort from me.

I have to get out of this job, if not somewhere else altogether, then some other part of the business. I’m talking to someone later in the week about a potential role – the vendor, as it happens. And there may be a role upstairs otherwise. I’ve had it with the people here, though.

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Humble affection


I’m always learning, always adjusting. Things come to me, seemingly unprompted, or triggered by something, and sometimes mirrored unexpectedly in the fiction I write (that’s a very rich two-way relationship).
I keep on working on myself trying to be better and happier and sometimes I believe I can make it so by applying myself with intelligence to the hard-won lessons along the way. Sure, I learn a lot and it makes me wiser maybe, and maybe it makes things easier at the edges, but it takes more than knowledge to make things better, it takes change.

So, this is the thing. There’s a hole in my life where my family used to be and all the life that emanated from that. What was so abundant once is barely a trickle now. I deal with it in my usual way, by pressing on. Keep adjusting, keep processing, that’ what I figure, but I realised last week that can never be enough until I replace what I lost with something else.

It came as a surprise, though in retrospect it seems an obvious thing. I keep thinking I’ll get over it and I’ll be good, but the only way you really get over it is not by adjusting to it – as I have – but by replacing it with something of similar weight.

Then I was thinking about my friends and my changing relationship to them, and something related struck me. I keep saying I haven’t changed all that much, but I think there is one important thing that has. Because I had fewer concerns before, less pressure and stress, not as much baggage, my midpoint was a lot easier, a lot freer. I could be frivolous sometimes and whimsical and generally less caught up in things. I was a lighter human being.

There are occasions I’m whimsical now and I still get told I’m charming, but I know in myself that I’m much more close-mouthed than I was before and that it’s perfectly understandable. I suffered a great wound, the effects of which are still present in my life every day. I have small wins every now and then, and I’m making my way back slowly, but I can’t be the man I was before until I have the life I had before. I am a reflection of the life I’m living, which is determined but also is hard and sometimes grim and never easy. I seek to surpass that consciously, but my unconscious won’t be released until there’s more to be joyful about and less to struggle for.

Finally, I said something to Rigby yesterday which immediately triggered an epiphany. Again, it’s not terribly profound – in fact, it seems bleeding obvious, but anyway… As he gambolled playfully about me, seeking my attention, I said to him: “you get my affection because you seek it.”

There it was. He craved my affection, as dogs do, and I gave it to him freely. How simple that was. It works with people too, though you have to be more clever with it.

I never seek affection. Just the opposite, if anything. I never curry favour, as if it goes against my principles. I’ve lived long denying the sympathy of others as if it was weakness to accept. I’ve always been rigorously independent and rejected undue favour. Seems awfully silly now.

I’ve opened up a bit this last year and addressed some of this almost unwittingly. I recognised the general problem and have tried to adapt my behaviours. I’m better than I used to be, but I feel as if I’ve been dealing with symptoms without addressing root causes. It seems simple now, if I want affection then I should open myself to it – indeed, I should actively encourage it.

All of this is circular. One thing leads to another. I need change if I’m to progress, but the change required is of such a fundamental nature that I have to change myself in this one key regard at least: like Rigby, I need to humble myself for the affection of others.

The ’84 second-semi


Many years ago I attended a footy match at the MCG I’ve long thought of as the best match I’ve ever seen. That was the 1984 second-semi between Essendon and Hawthorn.

I’d never seen a replay of it since then, though I’d tried to get my hands on a copy over the years. Yesterday I finally caught up with it and watched it again for the first time since that dim Spring day.

The match is famous not just in my household. Many proclaim one of the best finals ever, and it featured those two titans and arch-enemies of the eighties. Hawthorn and Essendon hated each other, but there was also a lot of respect. They played in three grand finals in succession, and in the years since that bitter rivalry has continued.

I’m glad to say the game lived up to my memory of it. It was fast and skilful and hard and tough. It holds up very well against modern footy, which isn’t surprising given the roll call of absolute champions playing. There’s an argument that this era of footy was the greatest because it the VFL – as it was then – was a compact twelve team competition that drew the best talent from around the land. There wasn’t the dilution of talent once the competition went national and expanded – ultimately – to eighteen teams.

It’s hard to judge eras. Football is more professional these days, and more scientific. Coaching, in general, is more advanced, and the game itself has changed – less confrontational now, but more pressure. I’m not going to buy into the general conversation because the game ebbs and flows, quality rises and falls away. I’d safely suggest that either of these two teams playing would be top four today. And I reckon the 1985 Essendon side would be premier more often than not – the best footy team I’ve seen.

But anyway, back to 1984. In 1983 Hawthorn had smashed the Bombers in the GF. I was there that day, and all the excitement of an unexpected finals run ended ignominiously with the team over-awed and out of their depth. We finished top of the ladder in ’84, but Hawthorn had beaten us twice that year and was said to have the wood on us.

They won on this day too but watching the game again it was clear the game could have gone either way. On balance I think Essendon was the more dynamic team on the day, but Hawthorn steadied went it counted. It was pulsating game though, thrilling to watch then and now.

History tells us that the Essendon players came out of that game with renewed belief: they knew they could beat Hawthorn. The next week in the prelim we made a mess of Collingwood to the tune of 133 points – their best player that day an ex-Essendon man, Ronny Andrews. That was pure footy.

In in the grand final, Hawthorn and Essendon matched up again in what was to become one of the best and more famous finals in recent times. Down by four goals most of the day, despite playing well, the Bombers stormed home in the last quarter to kick a (then) record 9.6 in the last quarter to win by four goals.

That’s a game dear to Essendon hearts, with many great and indelible moments in that last quarter. We beat them again the next year, finishing up with a new (and current) last quarter scoring record of 11.3. That was a mighty team, hard as nails, but silky skilled, like no other team in history.

Great memories.

Little pricks


I had a dream last night a little dweeb called Caleb Bond had published a novel to great acclaim. Bond is a young conservative columnist who looks like he hasn’t started to shave yet. He’s a fanboy of the conservative elements of the government and will occasionally indulge in the sort of breathless, fanboy prose that makes you feel like taking a shower after reading it. The rest of the time he’s a derisive, superficial critic of all things truly liberal. He’s a smug little prick with smug little prick views and just the sort of smug little prick you want to punch in the face. He and I are not close.

So anyway, in my dream, he opens up as the author of a novel that may be close to being a masterpiece and my world comes crumbling down.

For a start, how can someone I’ve dismissed so emphatically be capable of actual art? How does a smug little prick with the self-awareness of a gnat create something so layered with meaning and texture? And as I read it myself I become aware that the little cunt is actually the real deal. And, what the fuck, he’s actually got something published while I, heroic liberal that I am, slave away going in circles.

There’s a lot going on here. I mean, have I been so reductive in the first place that I can’t contemplate that someone might be more than their unimpressive public profile? What does that say about me? I wonder, where does art come from? What is the wellspring of it when clearly – as history shows – not all of its practitioners have been great characters (though generally, unlike Bond, have some talent)? I question everything, but what bites deepest is that he has done the very thing I seem incapable of doing – producing a work of art. That burns, and in the dream, I wonder if maybe I am a fucking snowflake after all.

Thankfully, it’s only a dream, and if that little suppository ever publishes anything worth reading I’ll join a monastery.

Where has this come from though? The Caleb Bond part of it is completely random. He’s a snide character, but so are most of his mates and I don’t waste much time worrying about any of them (though I’m curious how someone so young can hold such extreme conservative views- Keating used to call them ‘young fogies’).

What I really think is that this dream is a product – or reflection – of my own recent writing journey. It’s been bloody frustrating lately. Maybe Caleb Bond – a little prick – is the symbolic little prick to rouse me to greater effort?

I set myself to get to 50,000 words by the time I return to work on Monday. As of now, I’m a little over 45,000. I started off well this week, but then a combination of things sidetracked me – social events, hot weather, the cricket. Really though, what stopped me was that I’m at a creative loss just at the minute.

These episodes generally don’t worry me too much. I go back a little, I have a break, I take a look from different angles, and eventually, something will come to me. That’s been the case these last 15,000 words, but it’s not getting any easier, and even what I’ve done I’m not sure about.

I likened it the other day to driving on a winding mountain road at night with dim headlights. You’re not sure what’s coming up ahead, if you should turn left or right or keep going straight and you proceed tentatively, only to look back and wonder if you missed your turn and if you’re on the right road.

That’s where I’m at. I haven’t crashed yet, but I’m not sure where I am or where I’m heading.

Flipping the coin


As I write this, the final test match against India has commenced in Sydney. Finch is out for Australia, unsurprisingly, and Mitch Marsh – no surprise there either. Labuschagne is in for his leg-spinning prowess, though he’s actually a batsman first, and mediocre at that. He’s batting at three. Handscombe is back as well. He made a big score in the BBL the other night and it looked like he might have changed his technique a tad, batting closer to the crease. He gets the gig because of his prowess batting against spin. Good luck to him, but better-credentialled batsmen are missing out.

Unfortunately, we lost the toss again. This is an under-reported stat. Tim Paine has won the toss just once since he became captain, and it just so happens that was the match we won. We’ve got a fair bit going against us regardless, but batting last generally means we’re behind the eight ball from the start.

I’m hoping that we can rip through India this morning, but I’m not confident. I’m with Shane Warne and believe some of our bowlers have underperformed.

Let’s start with Starc. On his day he’s an absolute matchwinner. There’s no more devastating bowler than him when on song. That’s pretty rare though, which is the biggest tick against him – a lack of consistency. He’s an undisciplined, often loose bowler. He reacts emotionally too often when he should stick to the plan. Counting against him is that I don’t think he’s the brightest spark going around. These traits are evident in his batting also, which is disappointing given the talent he has.

Then there’s Hazlewood, long touted as the next McGrath. He’s just about the opposite of Starc in temperament. He’s steady, reliable, intelligent. He’s also a bit of a soft cock at the batting crease and can be a bit vanilla with his bowling. I reckon he should be more vanilla. McGrath had the patience to bowl his way ball after ball and I think Hazlewood should do the same – aim for the top of off stump, and just outside. Too often he errs from that, particularly down the leg side – which is honey for Indian batsmen. I’m happy for him to bowl basically the same line every ball, vary the length a little, the pace of the ball and, of course, the direction – some coming in, some going way. Keep it simple and you’ll wear them out.

Then there’s Cummins. Not much can be said of him except he’s everything we want in an Australian cricketer – smart, tough, reliable, talented, and a matchwinner on his day. His effort never wavers, and his courage undisputed. Compare him to Starc and he’s all application and match sense. He does what needs to be done, and will sacrifice himself for the team. He’s good-looking and articulate, and a very decent bloke – no wonder he’s touted as a future Australian captain.

Likewise Lyon. I used to be hard on him. He lacked confidence and I used to think he bowled without courage. He’s a much smarter bowler these days and bowls a much more aggressive line than he did. Confidence makes all the difference. Not a lot of tricks, but can be a matchwinner.

As for this match? I came into it thinking if we bat first on a pitch that will deteriorate then we’d win. Unfortunately – and I hope I’m wrong – I think the best is more likely to be a draw. Must bat well.

Yes, minister


So I went to the docs yesterday for the small collection of ailments I have and got relevant referrals to get moving on them, in line with my resolution to get them sorted this year.

For my knee, he gave me a referral to have an x-ray and MRI. I rang to make an appointment later that morning and was told that because I was over 50 the MRI wasn’t covered by Medicare and I would have to pay full whack – $318. If I was under 50 or had been referred by a specialist and not a GP, it would be zero.

I vaguely recalled a discussion about this last year. The issue is that the government believes that GP’s have been making unnecessary referrals for expensive procedures, therefore costing Medicare millions of dollars more. Their solution is to set an arbitrary limit based on age.

I’m guessing the thinking around this is that by the time you’re over 50 wear and tear will have created a lot of extra issues – not that changes anything. If there’s a legitimate issue then age or cause should be irrelevant. And – correct me if I’m wrong – but isn’t this basically discriminatory?

I’m guessing this limit has been imposed because the over-50s have been ‘over’ represented in the referral stats. Well, guess what, maybe that’s because they are sicker more often, which makes complete sense. They’ve created a solution to save money by effectively saying we won’t treat you if you’re crook.

Not surprisingly the Australian Medical Association opposed this change and still does. I have little doubt that some GPs have prescribed unnecessary treatments, but this seems to me a very crude and unscientific way around it. Surely there’s someone in the government who can think of a smarter way to address this?

In my case, I need that MRI to check if I need to see a specialist and, more specifically, what sort of specialist. I can’t afford this expense so now I’m getting an x-ray only and hoping it does the trick. My other option is to get a referral to a specialist of some kind and get him to refer me. But now we’re going in circles – I’ll have to pay the specialist, even if of the wrong ilk, a fee of some dimension, in order to get a free MRI.

In other words, my options are to soldier on without the MRI hoping the x-ray can diagnose the issue. If it doesn’t then I can choose to let it go and hope it doesn’t further degenerate. Or I can go back to the doctor, get another referral to a specialist, visit the specialist, then get the MRI I might have got right at the start of the process – where it belongs.

It’s nonsense the whole thing. Bureaucracy creating more work rather than less, inconveniencing the public, and applying arbitrary, non-medical standards which basically contravene all equal opportunity tenets.

I can’t believe something so poorly considered has become law. Then again, maybe not. This is a totally inept government.

Living the low life


I had the choice last night of attending a cool party in the city, a low-key barbecue close by, or just stay home. Guess what I did? I stayed home.

It bemuses me a little since I complain of a paucity of social opportunities, but then, I’m not going to force it. You feel obliged to do something on new years eve and somehow a loser if you don’t. I didn’t feel like going out last night though. I certainly didn’t relish catching public transport to and from the city with a million other (often drunk) members of the public. And so on the basis of doing what I want to do – rather doing what is expected of me – I went nowhere.

I fired up the barbie and made dinner. Then I watched The Maltese Falcon again. A little after 9pm I put on the movie I’d set myself to watch last night Bladerunner 2049. It’s running time would take me up towards midnight, and it was a movie I looked forward to re-watching.

Once more I was blown away by much of the imagery and set-pieces in the film. It’s great to look at. It’s a classic story too, though. As I watched I thought there’s something Dickensian about the storyline, even if set in a bleak, rainwashed future. Watching a second time with knowledge of how it all pans out added another level of insight.

It’s funny, though it’s deemed a classic and high-up on many best-of lists, I’m nowhere near as fond of the original Bladerunner – even though, on paper, it’s just my sort of movie. I watched it again six months ago and found my views on it unchanged. It has great moments, again, some fantastic set-pieces, the production design is fantastic, Ridley Scott is a fine director, and it’s got Harrison Ford – and yet I’m unswayed. You know what? I think – despite the story – there’s something cold at the heart of it. It’s an unfashionable view and I wish I enjoyed it more.

About halfway through last night I cracked a bottle of bubbles for tradition’s sake and drank half of it. The movie finished at about 11.45 and so I put a leash on Rigby and together we wandered down to the beach.

The idea was to get a good view of the fireworks over Melbourne. From Hampton beach, there’s pretty well an unimpeded view of the CBD. As it turns out it wasn’t as great as that by night.

A few other people had got the same idea as me. Cars had pulled over to the side of the road to check it out. On the beach, there were a couple of party groups, as well as a couple of cops checking things out. It was a beautiful night – cool without being cold, and the night sky clear so every star twinkled.

Midnight came and people cheered and cried out and the fireworks went off. They seemed far distant from our vantage point, small splashes of colour erupting on an oversized canvas. We could hear them though, and soon enough smell them too as the smoke wafted our way.

I stayed for about ten minutes, happy to have come, and then home, and to bed by 12.30