Mind and body


I’ve been quiet for the last few days because I’ve been crook. At one point, I was heard to say that it was the sickest I’d felt for years. Maybe, but statements like that are easy to make when you’re miserable with it. True or not, it wasn’t much fun.

I felt it coming on during the grand final on Saturday, around the time most GWS supporters would have been feeling sick. It was in my head and throat, my nose and chest were congested, and I just knew it was going to be a bad one.

I slept poorly because of it, which made it worse. I kept a low profile Sunday, and on Monday too – which was just about the worst of it – which I’d taken off as an annual leave day.

Sleep was a big problem. I was all blocked up and found it hard to breathe, and through the day would bark a hacking cough out every minute or two. And I was running hot. I knew I wasn’t going to work on Tuesday, but ended up going anyway.

Don’t know what it is, but I don’t like giving into these things, and staying home when I should feels, in a perverse way, like giving in. So I went in yesterday morning feeling pretty wretched, and looking (and sounding) it too, by all accounts. The excuse was an important meeting I had to attend. I left afterwards at the urging of my colleagues.

Today I feel better, though not completely. I dosed up before I went to bed last night and had the best sleep for a few nights, and that makes a big difference. I’m still sneezing. I still have a deep bass voice. I’m still coughing, though not as much, and not as painfully – I coughed myself raw previous days. There’s the odd coughing fit, and I’m not in a state where I can share an office with others, but I feel much better in myself than before, when all I wanted to do was curl up and forget about everything.

I actually went out for breakfast this morning. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and I sat outdoors eating a couple of poached eggs on toast. I watched things go by. Notwithstanding my health, I felt fine.

I’m in a funny place. For the moment I feel more together than in recent times, though I’m still aware of something untethered within me. It seems to me that before I was inside of life and I flowed with it without thought. It was easy, and I was easy, and sometimes I felt commanding as if nothing was beyond me. The world spread out before me.

Then things happened, and I was thrown out of that world and was very aware suddenly that I was now outside of life. It makes sense in a way, and it’s one of the things that people who have a comfortable life don’t understand about those whose life has become disarrayed. There’s a lot of obvious difficulties when you become homeless and/or unemployed, but it’s the sense of disconnection that goes unseen.

I think I believed that would pass once I got my life back on track. By most measures now I’m officially ‘back’. I don’t feel it though, not even when I get back to doing the things I would when I was inside of life. I was out last Thursday for pre-grand final drinks. It was a big night starting at Union Electric drinking cocktails and ended at Punch Lane drinking wine. I was in my element, and in good form, it was a fine night – but it feels like an outlier. Not part of my life, but a diversion from it.

I wonder if all it is is a state of mind. Maybe I just need to decide that I’m back inside life and the world is my oyster again? What makes that difficult are the little crimps that remind me it’s not as it was – the limitations of my authority at work that run counter to instinct, the financial inhibitions that exist still despite increased salary, and so on. I realise in saying that I was spoilt before, and had it better than most – I should just accept abbreviated circumstances. It seems churlish not to. But actually, my public utterances are that I don’t need to do what I did before. I don’t know if I have the appetite for it, let alone the attention span. I say that, but I sometimes think it’s my insides that are geared to something more. My reflexes. Like I said, my instincts. I get into a situation, and it’s natural for me to take the next step, to propose or do something, to assume leadership, to speak up.

It’s an interesting one, almost as if I’m out of sync with myself. And maybe that’s what I need to resolve, though I don’t know how. For me, it comes down to a question that has been present throughout my life: what is true? What is right?

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On the other foot


Yesterday I experienced something which a lot of women probably have to deal with all time.

I left work early to go to a specialists appointment at Cabrini hospital. The receptionist was an extroverted, middle-aged woman who appeared quite taken with me. My vanity deals with that very well, but the result of it was unwanted attention.

I’m an easy-going, friendly character. If someone speaks to me, then I’ll speak back. I’m happy to engage in conversation as appropriate, and God knows have many times flirted with an alluring someone. To my knowledge I’ve never persisted past the point, it was welcome.

I won’t say it was unwelcome yesterday, I’d have just rathered it didn’t happen. It was pretty innocent, and though it made me a little uncomfortable, there was no sinister intent. As far as she was concerned, she was having some playful fun with someone she obviously found attractive. I played along, mostly from good manners, but I’m in a hospital waiting room and not in the mood to be witty and charming. Basically, I want to be left alone.

Most of it was pretty innocuous. She’d keep talking to me, a suggestive smile on her face. When she wasn’t talking to me, then she’d be in conversation with her offsider, obviously intended to be overheard, and sometimes making comments concerning me.

For example, she asked her offsider if she thought much could be told about a person’s personality by the socks they wear? She gave me a cheeky smile as she said this, her eyes shifting to my daringly striped socks. I gave her a friendly, closed mouth smile, but chose not to contribute to the discussion. There was a lot like that.

When I think about it, it feels sorta strange. I’ve had many conversations like that, but generally only when there’s an understanding already in place. Give and take. While I wanted to keep to myself, responding to her conversation wasn’t really a problem. What felt uncomfortable was being alluded to like that as the third person. That, and the raw, unashamed interest she had in me.

I expect women experience this all the time, and to a much greater order of magnitude than this. I’ve heard this before, but I didn’t really know it. Sounds funny, I felt kind of objectified – who’d ever think I’d have a problem with that?

Fools and buffoons


I just want to put on record that I think Greta Thunberg is a force of nature. Her passion, her determination, her stubborn insistence is an inspiration to the likes of me and many millions more, and a source of frustrated rage for millions of others.

By and large, she has the people onside. It’s a rare person these days who doesn’t believe in the fearful spectre of climate change. Unfortunately, many of those who oppose her are the dinosaurs that rule the world – mug leaders like Trump and Morrison, the right-wing media, not to mention vested interests, particularly in the fossil fuel industries. The rest are fools and reactionaries and the little men whose masculinity is threatened by a teenage girl with a mighty voice.

To see and hear Greta Thunberg speak at the UN yesterday was to witness a moment in history. How we look back upon it depends on how we respond now. It may be a turning point, but it may also be recorded the last futile words in defiance of a doomed fate. I tend to the pessimistic on this score – not because I’m a pessimist, but rather because self-interest and disorganisation are the ruling attributes of world polity in 2019.

Speaking of, our esteemed PM is in the states at the moment and making a right royal fool of himself. He’s cosied up to Trump and even attended one of his rallies – a bad look that betrays impartiality, and something that will badly both here at home as well as with the American Democrats. He was denied an invitation to the UN climate summit because of his government’s recalcitrant policies regarding climate targets and most recently snapped visiting a McDonalds in Chicago. Inspiration he isn’t. Embarrassment, definitely.

While much of this is cringe-worthy, there are consequences. Presuming Morrison is PM next year it’s more than likely he’ll have to do business with a Democratic government in the US. He’s started out on the wrong foot by appearing a Trump partisan. And in cosying up to Trump, he offers implicit support to the anti-China rhetoric coming out of the states. That’s how the PRC see it.

Let’s face it, Morrison is a buffoon, but surely he has an advisor smart enough to know the perils of his clownish behaviour? China is our biggest trading partner by far. We may have longstanding cultural links to America, but the days of American pre-eminence are gone, never to return.

Assuming there’s still a world in 50 years then the Chinese will be running it. Who would bet against their monolithic will when their ‘rivals’ are so disorganised and narrow-minded? And what the Chinese have is the long term view that no western nation can match. Democracy is a great thing, but populist electioneering that predicates short term goals undermine progress. It’s not democracies fault for it wasn’t always the case – only since politics has been corrupted by individualism. The ‘greater good’ exists but in isolated pockets in western democracies.

That’s very true in Australia also. The world may burn tomorrow but how good is it today? It’s a short term view that betrays future generations, not just in terms of climate change, but also economic prosperity. A truly wise Australian government would know it’s in our interests to stay close to the Chinese. Like it or not, our economic future is hitched to them. That’s not to say we should be compliant, as the Chinese will try and dictate. Retain our independence and use our currency wisely – not fritter it way in useless support of a Trump administration that may well be impeached shortly, and which in any case is corrupt and hopelessly inept.

One of these advisors needs to tell Morrison that ‘it’s not about you’. The bromance may flatter him, but the rest of us despair and the damage it’s doing may be terminal.

Checking my crystal ball


In recent years ahead of the AFL season I’ve peered into my crystal ball and given my prognosis on the season ahead. Now that we’re on the cusp of the Grand Final it’s worthwhile to check how I went.

First up I have to admit to getting a few things very wrong. For a start I tipped Melbourne to be premiers and they ended up finishing second last. It was a disastrous year for them, but in my defence, that’s a tip I think every single commentator got wrong. I think it was an aberrant result, and all Melbourne supporters will be hoping that I’m right.

I also tipped Adelaide to finish high up, and this one I’m kicking myself about because I made this prediction despite my better judgement. I’m not usually one who’s swayed by popular opinion, but on this occasion I fell into line even though my gut feel was that they might struggle. In the end all sorts of internal issues sabotaged any chance of success.

I also tipped Geelong to slip. This was popular conjecture also, but I was right on board with this. Geelong were an aging team that seemingly had been found out. This was true. What I didn’t anticipate was that they would reinvent themselves. For the first half of the year it was a stellar coaching performance and they were the best team in it. After the bye they reverted to type – no amount of coaching tricks could paper over the gaps. They finished top of the ladder when I tipped they’d finish out of the finals – but they’re out of it now and no-one is surprised. For what it’s worth, I reckon they’ll struggle next year too – they’re not getting any younger, and I expect they’ll lose Ablett, Taylor and Kelly in the offseason.

Now for the good stuff. I’m very happy to take credit for Brisbane, which I tipped would be the big improver and smoky for the 8 – they finished top 4. I predicted the Bulldogs would improve and the Swans would miss out.

Now the only game ahead of us is the big one, the Grand Final. Richmond take on GWS. Most people think Richmond will win while hoping GWS will get up.

GWS are an interesting case. They found the one thing they’ve lacked in recent years when striving for a flag – their mojo. Their win on the weekend was outstanding (and beautiful to see all those little Collingwood hearts broken for another year). I give them a chance as they’ve met every challenge so far and will have belief. They’ve done it against the odds, which has worked in their favour – the suspension of Greene was a disgrace, but I thought it might steal them for the big match. And it did, the old us against the world trope works.

This week they’ll have the crowd against them, though the neutrals will probably be onside. They’ll go into the game much strengthened on paper where Richmond are likely to be weakened.

Richmond deserve to be favourites but GWS will give a good account of themselves. It reminds me a little of 2017 when Richmond when in as underdog against Adelaide and took it away. Now GWS go in as underdog, but with decent momentum and nothing to lose.

One thing’s for sure – I’ll be barracking for them. They’re less offensive than Richmond and I don’t think I could bear another year of cocky Richmond supporters. And I hope they do it for Sheedy. He’s one of ours, but they had a lend of him. Good enough for me.

Outside the schema


The world has a funny way of squaring things up. Even as I wrote my post yesterday, I wondered if I was completely fair. It was true enough, but there was a touch of hubris to it. But then, within a couple of hours, that hubris was repaid when I got a message from a colleague advising that he had feelings for me. That’s right, he – a him.

Being a devout heterosexual, I barely account for the possibility of homosexual interest in me. It doesn’t fit in my schema because I can’t really conceive of, let alone imagine it. That’s despite receiving occasional, but regular, come-ons from men through the years. I reckon I’ve been propositioned maybe half a dozen times – maybe more – ranging from the forthright to the affectionate to the purely physical: an unexpected caress or pinch. Some, in hindsight, is quite amusing because of my innocent naivety. At the same time, I remember one particularly vivid invitation when I was informed that I’ve never experienced a true blow-job until it’s been performed by another man.

Yesterday I was completely blindsided. It came from a work acquaintance I had pegged as being socially awkward but well-meaning, and very likely a virgin. I’d never thought twice about his sexual preferences. Even less could I have imagined that he might be drawn to me.

I was flummoxed at first but quickly gathered myself. Ok, I said. I was conscious that he had put himself in a delicate position. Part of me wondered why he had bothered to tell me – surely he knew that I was interested only in women? But then I thought again. Life is neither as linear or as straight-forward as that. I’m sure he does know, but this is an expression of self – the truth, if you like, his truth. And so I suggested we catch up for coffee. That hasn’t happened yet.

Incompatibilities


Just before I woke this morning, I had a pleasant dream featuring an alluring woman. Though the dream was in an entirely different context, I realised as I woke that the woman in my dream was someone I used to work with. I wasn’t surprised altogether. We hadn’t been particularly close, though we flirted a few times. What she had was earthy sexuality. Dark and vivacious, she was womanly in all the best ways. She’s one of those people you just know would be into sex.

It was a pleasant enough dream, but it quickly fades. I’ve had a million saucy dreams throughout my life. It’s nice to reflect, then you get back to the real thing.

On this occasion, though, it made me think of the woman I have coffee with.

I’m none the wiser yet as to what she sees in me, though it might simply be down to my impressive good looks and charming manner. It’s not something I’ll normally dwell on, except that she seems an exception. I know the women I go for. I know the women who go for me. And while she might share some attributes with those women, she most definitely doesn’t others.

I enjoy having coffee with her and our conversations, but I’m not much drawn to her. It’s not that she’s unattractive – she’d be considered a reasonably attractive woman. It’s rather that she seems to entirely lack those elements that had me dreaming of some forgotten ex-workmate. There’s no sex vibe. To be clear, I don’t mean anything particularly raunchy by that, just that frisson will emerge between acquaintances occasionally. It’s an indefinable thing, and generally with anyone you get to know it’s there in some degree, even if only occasionally. With her, it feels absent.

I had to wonder if it might equally be me, except the feedback I get and general experience I have is that it’s quite strong in me. I’m one of those men that women know like them. I like sex. I’m always being considered a ladies man without lifting a finger to substantiate it. My appetites are undiminished, and I reckon you can always sense that vibe. And if I doubted it, then the friend I had drinks with the other week confirmed that just about word for word.

This is the thing, really. The women who like me generally sync to that, among other things. I think it’s a basic element of compatibility: you get each other on a chemical level. There’s much more to it than that, but I think that’s pretty central. I’m also a strong character, smart and confident, and that’s a type too. I’ve got a hard edge that’s hard to miss, even if I’m inherently kind and decent. The point is, I think this lady appreciates my intelligence and seemingly is fascinated by the life I’ve led, but I’d have thought those other parts of me would be more foreign to her. I mean, I can be brutal without even thinking about it, whereas she appears a softy. (I loved a softy once and admired her sensitivity and grace, but we also had a mighty vibe between us. She had IT.)

If my life attests to anything, it’s that I don’t really have much idea about women, and maybe that’s the lesson from this: desire doesn’t follow a formula. Or it may be there is no desire, and I’ve got it completely wrong. It’s not something I’ve thought about in this way until now. I’m not sure what I think. I know what I feel – not much.

I’m intrigued enough to go on. I wonder if I’ll happen across a secret that’ll make everything clear?

Being old school


I got into work this morning and found that a heater had been left on overnight. It happens most nights. Muttering under my breath about it, I switched it off, as I do most mornings. My team lead noticed my muttering and asked the question, and I explained how I have to turn it off every morning and what a waste of energy and money it is and don’t people turn off after themselves anymore? He smiled at my affable grouching and related how his grandfather would mutter similar imprecations, and how he’d been brought up to think much the same. He’s about my age, and at that moment we were a couple of self-deprecating grumpy old men.

A few minutes later, after I’ve logged in and done all that first stuff – checking emails, messages from overnight, system issues, etc. – he speaks up again. He’s reviewing some data fixes we’ve proposed for which I’ve done the documentation, and he tells me he doesn’t have to change a thing, just cut and paste what I’ve written. It’s a compliment of sorts, and I tell him, well, I like to be thorough. And he replies that he’s the same and we both agree wistfully that we’re old school and unspoken in that is the thought: haven’t things changed.

I sometimes wonder if my experience makes me a bit of a dinosaur in some ways, but the reality is that it stands me in good stead. It means I have an answer often when others don’t because I’ve done my homework and because I like to understand things. I have a creative mindset and realistic enough to know that shortcuts are necessary sometimes and that just doing it is occasionally the best option. And I enjoy that because I like to do. But, I come from a process-driven background. There are ways to do things. There are structures to adhere to. I’m nowhere near as anal about it as some, but the irony is that when once I might have been considered on the looser end of that scale now times have changed such that I’m one of the more rigorous. And I haven’t moved an inch.

There are trends and fashions in everything, including business practice. The trend right now mirrors agile, even outside of IT and projects. It’s become a way of doing things across the board – a quick-moving, lightly touching, low documentation way of doing things. I have nothing against Agile per se and think it’s just right for specific projects but – and I always say this – horses for courses. One size doesn’t fit all. Properly speaking, you should define the problem first and identify the right solution for it rather, as it often appears the case now, having a cookie-cutter solution and attempting to fit the problem to it.

I guess this is an attitude that makes me old school at least. I’ve walked into an environment where nothing has been documented because no-one considered that anything you build will also need to be maintained. Knowledge is held in people’s heads or in scattered emails and user stories. There is no coherent understanding, let alone a baseline. If you put everyone in the same room and extracted what they know you might piece something together, like a jigsaw, or more likely a version of Frankenstein.

Trends come and go, and I expect this will moderate, as trends do, but I also think it mirrors the times, just as I mirror my times. I was brought up such a way that now makes me old school – turning off lights when I leave the room, closing doors after I open them, doing what I’ll say I’ll do, and doing things in a rational, methodical and thorough way.