Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 2

Since Morgan was released, on parole, from prison. One might argue that it's early days and I ought not to expect overmuch; certainly such would be Sonya's argument if we were prepared to discuss the issue. So far we don't seem prepared.

Nonetheless, on the evidence of two days I have to say not much has changed. I was treated to the dancing hippopatami during my afternoon nap (which I always take after I get home from the office and before dinner). I heard Sonya try to shush her and heard the response 'I didn't know he was home'. Which response was accepted by Sonya. When I arose I was more pointed 'of course you didn't know I was home. To know that would have required looking at a clock or out the front door at my car!'.

I'm advised that when one goes to prison one surrenders ones street clothes and, here at least, dons an orange jump suit. Sonya wasn't really open to my suggestion that we buy a pair and wear em when she returned. *shrug* She was even less responsive to a suggestion that we schedule a night of films, featuring such titles as Women in Chains[^] or Caged[^]. Well, *I* thought it was a good idea!

Now if you think about it, it's pretty obvious that one enters into custody at a place other than the prison itself. It also seem obvious that, once in custody, one must be 'marked' in some way if only to make it easy for the transport guards to know who's who and who isn't. Thus, Morgan, having been sentenced and taken down, had to change out of her street clothes into the orange jump suit aforementioned. I'd have imagined the street clothes would follow her but not a bit of it. To reclaim those she has to go down to the Fourth Avenue gaol.

Thinking this through a bit further and knowing the propensity of the state to hang onto what it owns I asked the next question; if her street clothes are at the Fourth Avenue gaol but she's at Perryville *and* she has to return the orange jump suit what does she wear out of prison? I mean literally, what does she wear as she walks through the gate and back into our world? The answer, it seems, is that if no one arrives with clothes, either nothing or whatever they can scavenge out of a charity bin of clothing.

Since the nothing option would probably lead to swift arrest and return to prison it seems the released felons are very much subject to charity. Interesting catch 22.

Now you understand that this is what I've gleaned from my wife. I'd sooner die than ask Morgan about it. Indeed, on Sunday Sonya was waxing enthusiastic on getting the 'lowdown' on prison life from Morgan. I stared at her aghast. 'Are you insane? The very last thing you should do is lend the faintest odour of glamour to her last month!'

The little princess was to be released sometime between 8 and 10 AM. Sonya, of course, planned to be there at 8. I counselled an arrival no earlier than 10. As I put it, whichever way it goes one of you will have to cool your heels waiting on the other. Why should it be you? I'll let you guess what time Sonya got there.

On a totally unrelated note, today marks my seven year anniversary of living in the USA. As I said to Sonya, 'I've done my time - atoned for that mirror I broke. Can I go home now?'. Permission not granted!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Demonstrating ones intelligence.

My wife continues, in the face of all the evidence, to insist that Morgan is highly intelligent. Perhaps she is but she certainly doesn't seem to want to *use* that intelligence. What use being intelligent if you're not prepared to exercise it at least some of the time?

I mentioned in my last post that the little princess is currently in prison. I have to admit that I don't fully grasp the differences between being in gaol (jail) and being in prison here in the US. Nor have I found anyone who could explain the subtleties to me; somehow or other gaol is 'less' than prison. And when I express surprise that someone has been to either place I'm always left with the feeling of being incredibly naive; as though having spent a night in gaol, in particular, is a rite of passage rather than something to be avoided if humanly possible.

Or perhaps that's just me; the idea of being behind bars for even a day is something I'd really rather avoid!

So here we are, in what is the last week (according to the Arizona Department of Corrections website) of peace and quiet. I mentioned in the last post that the inmates contact list has to be vetted before communication is permitted; it seems that at least her two home addresses (ours and her fathers) have been approved, for small pieces of card of the sort once used in library catalogues have arrived, with incredibly small print in pencil!

The first arrived a week or so ago; Sonya drew my attention to it with the forlorn hope that I might care to read it. I didn't.

I gathered, from hints dropped over the next few days, that the pencilled epistles were full of regret for a life gone wrong garnished with many promises to do better upon release.

I've heard it all before, and so has Sonya. Not being the miscreant's father I can wallow in the luxury of disbelief; not so my wife. Oh, I'll be civil enough when she returns; I might even, if I had a good day at the office and a better drive home, greet her with something approaching cordiality. If we shake hands I'll be sure to count my fingers afterward!

Over dinner tonight Sonya related some details of the latest epistle directed toward her father. It seems that smoking is forbidden in prison. Hmm, so much for all those British movies where 'snout' is traded! Ok, I couldn't resist the temptation to use the word 'snout'. So much for all those Hollywood movies where the defiant prisoner rolls a smoke in the exercise yard. Anyway, the princess was suffering nicotine withdrawal until she was advised by fellow inmates that there was a particular place in the yard just out of sight of the guards where one could snatch a smoke!

I can sympathise with this. I am, as you well know, a devout smoker and, apart from long flights over oceans, I don't go more than a sleep without a smoke. Another reason, methinks, to stay out of prison, if you can't smoke inside em!

But what struck me as comical was the naivety with which this information was imparted, on a small piece of stiff card, written in pencil. Does she not think her written communications are vetted?

Intelligence has to be demonstrated!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Inmate 123456789*

I'd be lying if I denied enjoying the last three weeks. Such a pleasure not having the dancing hippopotami in the room above. Such a pleasure not having to negotiate the lounge room floor with the kind of care one usually reserves for tiptoeing gently across a minefield*!

In short, Morgan is in prison!

It was a long time coming. I'm not going to rehash all the details; I only know some of them. I took my stance on Morgan some years ago and methinks my wife prefers not to fuel the fire by aquainting me with the full depths of depravity. This is probably a wise decision!

Suffice it to say the offences involved the possession and disposal of stolen goods. I think I've mentioned it before but ones suspicions have to be roused when an expensive laptop or palm computer (both) sudddenly appear and are explained away as a gift from a friend who no longer wants them. Must be friends not invited to this house because, based on ocular evidence, those who *are* invited here certainly couldn't afford such luxuries!

The months leading up to incarceration were punctuated with desperate attempts to avoid the legal consequences. The DA offered her a deal and, as far as I can tell, she spent the next month trying to find a lawyer who'd advise her that it was *not* the cheapest way out! Failing that she eventually agreed to the deal and appeared in court for sentencing.

Now I wouldn't mind that if it was being paid on someone elses wages but I have my suspicions. Dangerous subject; Sonya and I have had hot argument over the drain down which I believe my earnings are being poured. I pretend, these days, to believe otherwise but the evidence is against it.

You understand that it has never entered her head to actually get a job to earn the money to pay lawyers fees!

Indeed, I remember asking Sonya a few weeks ago if she believed Morgan was guilty as charged. The answer being in the affirmative I then asked the most futile question in the universe 'if that's so then why are you helping her wriggle out of it?'.

I know I'll never understand this; no one has sprung from my loins! I suppose, being 'in loco parentis' to Morgan, I should be more concerned than I am; certainly I ought not to be having feelings of Schadenfreude, but I do and there's an end of it. She's legally an adult; has theoretically been educated in the responsibilities as well as the freedoms of adulthood. How long does one make excuses?

Alas, all proceeding according to the schedule laid out on the Arizona Department of Corrections website, she's out of prison a week from now. Far too short I fear, not just for my enjoyment of peace. Far too short for her to have learned anything from the experience. I'll admit it here if I'm wrong but methinks she'll have been in just long enough to pick up some new slang and to establish 'street cred'.

I was selfish enough over it all; the news that she was going to accept the plea deal broke a couple of weeks before my most recent visit to Australia. My only comment was that I hoped she wouldn't go to prison until *after* I returned - I wanted the entire month of peace!

In the meantime I've learned a lot about how the prison system works here. I never realised that the incarcaree (is that a word) is incommunicado while their contact list is being vetted. Nor did I know that after release on parole the parolee has to pay the costs of their supervision. (Want to guess who I think is going to be stuck with *that* bill?) Other things were more obvious; the new inmate goes into maximum security while their status is assessed.

*this is a reference to the fact that Morgan does not agree that it is her responsibility to tidy up after her offspring if they are too young or careless to clean up after themselves. I've lost count of the number of times I've kicked toys out of the way, long after their *owner* has departed. And no, I won't pick up after her or her children!

*I know the real inmate number but I made up one for this title. It's always been my policy never to reveal enough information about anyone other than myself that one could follow a trail on the 'net or in the real world.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My contribution to Halloween

It probably wouldn't surprise you overmuch to hear that I'm not impressed with Halloween. As I said to my wife the other day, 'so what it boils down to is that a bunch of ankle biters come to your door, demand lollies (candy) and have license to abuse you if you refuse! It all smacks of legalised extortion!'.

She shook her head sadly and we changed the subject.

I go for a walk most evenings through the back streets not far from here. Usually just after sunset for no more sinister a reason than that it's just after dinner and I enjoy walking at that hour. Last night, for the first time in the seven years that I've been here, I went walking on Halloween evening. Other years I've avoided it precisely because I don't want to have to put up with the ankle biters aforesaid. On the other hand, why should I allow them to cramp my enjoyment?

Normally one couldn't tell, by ocular evidence alone, that anyone occupied the houses lining those back streets. To be sure, the lights are on but it certainly looks like no one's at home. I could count on the thumbs of one foot the number of actual real people I encounter most nights. However, much like the graves that are supposed to yield up their dead, those houses yielded up many a reveler and the streets were awash with ankle biters and parents.

It would seem that the sight of a solitary middle aged bloke walking at a smart pace (I walk very fast by most peoples standards) was so far outside their experience that it could only portend evil. How else explain the number of ankle biters starting to cross the road such that they would intersect my path who were reined in by anxious parents eyeing me as I strolled past. Once I was safely past, however, the children were permitted to cross. *shrug*

I think, in future years, I'll eschew the walk on Halloween.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Now here's a puzzle

As you probably don't remember I'm a big fan of British Comedy, especially comedy from an earlier, more genteel period, the 1960's.

My wife is long inured to the sight of me, headphones clapped on my head, laughing heartily at the latest (40 year old) tomfoolery on Round the Horne[^], especially when Kenneth Williams[^] chuckles from the sidelines. Good stuff!

And so with other shows, such as The Goon Show, Hancock's Half Hour, Much Binding in the Marsh and many others that have run on BBC7 over the past year and a half since I discovered em. Indeed, if you have a very good memory you might even remember that I posted on that very subject on April 1 last year!

Back then I expressed some surprise that I was able to get the show over the internet given that I'm not in Britain, have never been in Britain and have never paid a cent in licensing fees. Well, apparently the restriction applies to TV over the 'net. I run into the same problem with Australian TV - I can listen to 3LO Melbourne no problems, but when I try and watch ABC TV I'm sternly told I'm not within their coverage area.

The mystery deepened today, when I noticed that the program I was listening to was listed as having been broadcast at 3:00 AM. Understand that I'm using their 'Listen Again' service, which makes all broadcasts available over the internet for the following seven days.

The program was Saturdays Comedy Controller, which first goes out at 10:00 AM London time, coincidentally 3:00 AM Phoenix time. A further check and I discover that they're listing all program times in the Real Player with a first broadcast time corrected for the Phoenix time zone.

Now I can understand that BBC management might want to know the geographical spread of their internet service, hence looking up my IP address. What I don't understand is why anyone thought it worth the coding, testing and deployment costs to convert original broadcast time from London time to the listeners local time!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Back in the USA

My sister complained, most vociferously, that I hadn't updated my blog since August 1. When I responded with the suggestion that *she* take it upon herself to write 1,110 posts, some of them vaguely interesting, and then see how she felt about writing the 1,111th it failed to have the signal effect I'd hoped. Well, I didn't really hope - until you've done this stuff you don't know what it's like.

I'm back in Phoenix after another two weeks spent in Australia. I may, if I can work up the enthusiasm for posts 1,112 etc (you get the idea) write about it. Sufficient for the nonce that two weeks was way too short.

You have, no doubt, observed a tendency toward gustatory enthusiasm on my part. There's no denying it, I *do* enjoy my food, when edible. Fortunate, no doubt, that it's mostly not edible, hence my youthful figure at my age. I can picture Gary and Heino chuckling over that line. Youthful at my age???

I don't mind admitting the shock when I tested the scales in the lunchroom at work a few weeks ago and they reported I was 11 stone 4 (158 pounds). How could I be that heavy methought? The next day they reported a more svelte 10 stone 8 (148 pounds). Now I'll admit my wife's cooking is nothing to write home about but 10 pounds in one day? Obvious conclusion? Those scales were liars! So it proved to be over the next few days, reporting varying weights from 134 to 172 pounds.

Arrived at Melbourne 16 days ago we did what I always want to do when arriving in Melbourne after the ritual 'maaattte' and smoke. Over to Williamstown to the fish shop! Here's a photo (honesty impels me to add that this photo was actually taken on my last full day there this trip).

Don't I look cool (not!).

Here are the comestibles themselves!

That elongated brown thing lower middle is a cornjack (corn dog in the US). The brown thing in the middle is a fish cake. All the rest are chips and potato cakes. The fish itself (actually it's shark) was wrapped separately and it was magnificent! So were the chips!

While our order cooked we joked around and it was suggested that I pose before the order board inside the fish shop itself. But no, that wouldn't do for the proprietors. I used to be a regular there before I made the move and by now they know that when my ugly mug appears, every year or two years, they have a visitor from afar in their midst. Thus an invitation to an experience very few fish shop afficionados have - an invitation to stand on the *other* side of the counter for a photo. Here it is.

Gotta say, it's bloody hot that side of the counter!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm not sure how much longer I can go on getting away with stuff like this

My wife and I went out for dinner tonight. I had the shrimp linguini with lobster and she had clams with linguini.

Part way through the meal she noted that the clams were rather small. And I, as quick as a flash, asked 'why don't you complain to the small clams tribunal?'

Boom boom!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Having a ball

I don't know that you'll remember, or want to remember, but I'm writing a new soundtrack to our movie[^]. As much as I'd love to write something as pretentiously over the top as a 'Lord of the Rings' style soundtrack I very much doubt I have the talent or the time, and certainly not the experience.

I've opted for something mainly electronic - lots of wierd synthy sounds, but with plans to use an orchestra where I think it'll be appropriate. There's an amazing amount of good free stuff out there if you know the terms to use and how to make Google sit up and sing.

When we did the first version of the movie soundtrack, 19 years ago, it was all quite different. There probably were computers out there capable of rendering a soundtrack but methinks they were way out of our price range. We did it the hard way, sifting through hundreds of commercial movie soundtrack libraries (there is, or at least was, an entire industry in writing 30 second and shorter tunes in particular styles), listening to each piece and deciding if it might fit whatever part of the movie we were editing on the day. We'd argue, the three of us, over this piece versus that, and we'd speed it up or slow it down a little to try and make the music fit the cues.

I think we did a pretty good job. Heino thinks we edited the video to fit the sound but that doesn't agree with my memory of the process. As I recall it, we did video first and then found music to fit. On the other hand, we *did* edit video to a rhythm to help it fit with the music we hadn't yet found.

Nearly twenty years later I'm glad it was cut that way; it makes it somewhat easier to fit a completely new soundtrack to the old video. The bank robbery at the opening is still giving me hell; I wrote the first half minute or so (for a 2 and a half minute scene without dialogue) using an insistent beat and heavily overdriven bass guitars and sent it off to Heino and Gary to have a listen. They liked what they heard. My problem is that one can only do 'duh duh duh duh duh duh' accompanied by 'whaaaaaaaaangggg' for so long - two and a half minutes is about twice too long! How to maintain both the tension and the listeners interest?

But we'll get there. I'm having a ball. This is almost completely new to me - apart from Mike Oldfield and Pet Shop Boys I haven't listened to electronic music in over thirty years.

I understand that Heino was somewhat nervous when he sat down to listen to that first thirty seconds of music; was it going to be Bruckner? I suspect he was surprised!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seniors Menu

Uh huh - I'm now old enough to order from the cheap section at the back of the menu in the cheaper eateries around here.

I honestly don't remember Australian restaurants offering a lower priced seniors section on their menus but then again, I wasn't, in those days, eating at the kind of place that *would* offer it. Even here I go to such places under protest or when Andrew and his girlfriend are expecting us to pick up the tab; call me a mean bastard but I ain't shelling out 30 bucks a head for those two.

A few weeks ago we were in just such an eatery and I, still blissfully under the age of 55 (but only just) pointed out to my wife that I'd soon be able to order from the same section of the menu she's been able to order from for years. The waiter, cheeky young bastard, piped up and told me he'd turn a blind eye if I wanted to order from there.

I fear my wife took a great deal of pleasure laughing at me on that occasion.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whatcha doing, Andrew?

I'm telling you, this being in loco parentis stuff ain't easy.

You'll recall that a few months ago Andrew started showing off a girlfriend. A big moment in any lads life methinks, the first girlfriend. I still remember, vividly, that time of overcharged hormones and proprietary pride. Not PC these days? Nope. But a real feeling at the time nonetheless.

And you'll also recall that I, remembering that time of overcharged hormones, vividly as aforesaid, took certain steps[^] with a view to averting an unexpected step-grandchild from that particular quarter.

So fast forward to June and the long long (incredibly long to my way of thinking) summer holidays. It might have made sense, in the frontier days, to release kids from school for 3 months so they could work on the farm but I doubt video games and TV are half as productive.

Andrew and his girlfriend use the time, so they say, to watch movies up in his room. I confess to having trepidations about this, especially when the lights go out up there. You might be wondering, how do I know the lights go out if the door is closed? And there we have the second source of concern.

Thus to my wife and I, at random times throughout the evening, yelling up the stairs 'Andrew, what are you doing?'. I vary the formula sometimes by yelling 'Andrew, front and centre NOW!' followed by an ominous sounding 'tick, tick, tick'.

He emerges, sheepishly, and we dismiss him.

A few weeks ago he expressed annoyance at this rigamarole. I gave him various choices.

No girlfriend.
Don't bring her here.
Don't take her upstairs.
Don't close the door.
Put up with random inspection.

He puts up with random inspections.

No surprise there, eh?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Other proof I'm getting old

You probably thought you had better hearing?? You were wrong!

The highest frequency you can hear is: 12khz
Try the Teen Buzz and see how well you can hear

The outcome

Well, at least for now.

You'll remember that I posted, a week ago, about Morgans troubles and travails.

In the event, I didn't attend the conference with Child Protection Services. I couldn't see a lot of point to attending; nothing I could contribute would be of any value to the process.

She lost custody of her children. That's passed to the father and his family. I doubt it would have passed there if it had been just the father alone though; I suspect his parents had some influence on the outcome. I don't mean unwarranted influence though, merely that they seem to have been supportive.

The loss is, for the nonce, temporary, with the carrot of the return of parental rights contingent upon successfully completing a drug rehabilitation regimen. One might expect, then, that immediate efforts would be expended upon finding such a regimen within her means (or more bloody likely, ours). Perhaps it's early days but so far I've seen or heard of no such efforts.

I imagine I come over as extremely negative about Morgan and let me tell you, if that's the impression you're getting you're absolutely right. I've watched her go to the dogs for six and a half years, ignoring every piece of good advice on the way down, refusing to take any responsibility for herself.

Well, six and a half years is long enough to be given free rein. If, after that length of time and a few nights spent in the cells the message hasn't gotten through then I reckon we're talking a case of wilful deafness to good sense that I just can't be bothered with.

So let her rot!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time for a good whinge

I haven't had a good one in ages!

Morgans second was delivered this week - Thursday morning to be precise. I actually didn't know the second little bastard had entered the world until Friday morning; my wife didn't think I'd be all that fussed to know. And let me tell you, she was correct.

What I did know was that on Wednesday my wife and Morgan had rushed off to the hospital on what turned out to be a false alarm; and that Morgan had been denying possible reality by saying 'it can't be born today'. When the kid's my age I'd posit that a day here or there will make no difference and indeed, to the kid today it probably also makes no difference. But it seems that the extra day *did* make a big difference to Morgan.

Everything had been scheduled to happen on Friday. I have to confess, not being a father, that I was a trifle puzzled at this 'scheduling' thing. Surely, I reasoned, a pregnancy came to a conclusion in its own time? Even if one were able to pinpoint to the second the moment of conception there is *still* some uncertainty, no?

All of which shows how out of touch I am with 'reality' today, for, as almost all of you are thinking, they had scheduled an induced birth. Such a pity for Morgan then, that nature had taken things into her own hands.

For, on the Thursday, the news came that Morgan had failed a drug test. Now you'd reckon that after some run-ins with the police, a few nights spent in gaol and the might of the State of Arizona in the shape of Child Protection Services focussed on her, that she might realise that partaking of her favourite, illegal, recreational drug a few days before giving birth to child number two might not be a good idea.

Hence her panic when nature took its course. Of course, I'm sure she calibrated her indulgence, calculated to a nicety breakdown and excretion rates, allowed for margins of error in the testing process and knew with absolute certainty that on Friday all the evidence would be gone. I'm equally sure that pigs can fly!

Well, the might of the State of Arizona swung into action and on Friday the family interview took place. I wasn't present of course; the first I knew about it was Friday afternoon when I found the family copy of the paperwork sitting on the kitchen table.

All kinds of restrictions; Morgan is not allowed, on pain of imprisonment, to take her children off the premises without an 'approved monitor' accompanying her. Want to guess who the approved monitor is?

As I said to my wife over dinner that evening, it's effectively house arrest for us! Oh sure, I can go out anytime I like. I can even hop on a plane to Australia (and I will, 117 days from now, not that I'm counting). So can my wife, if Morgan is still at the hospital. But she comes back here tomorrow and that's when the house arrest starts, for Morgan cannot be trusted and therefore my wife must be constantly here to monitor the situation.

In the light of that it almost felt churlish to object when I discovered that they are running a background check on me! I understand their logic but it doesn't sit well with the presumption of innocence. Fortunately they'll find me one of the easier investigations; I've been through it before for other purposes and haven't changed address since then. Always assuming an FBI background check is 'good enough'.

There's another family interview taking place this Wednesday and I'm still debating whether to attend. I'm not sure there's anything I could constructively add. I'd be much more likely to make things worse by objecting to the aforementioned presumption of guilt without evidence. Probably best left alone.

I'm sure that attitude is how anti-semitism managed to grow in post Weimar Germany.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ednas Radio

Shamelessly stolen from CodeProject (and probably the poster over there stole it from elsewhere).

Dear Thorsby School.

God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent senior citizens luncheon. I am 84 years old and live at the Sunnybrook Assisted Home for the Aged. My family have all passed away and I am alone so thank you for your kindness to a forgotten old lady. My roommate is 95 and has always had her own radio, but she would never let me listen to hers, even when she was napping.

The other day her radio fell off the nightstand and broke into a lot of pieces. It was awful and she was in tears.

She asked if she could listen to mine but I told her to feck off.

Thank you for that opportunity.



Monday, April 20, 2009

7 minutes of fame

if that much!

You might remember this post[^] a couple of weeks ago.

The journalist concerned contacted me and we had a bit of a talk on the phone about my misguided attempts to locate Adams Ribs. I note that he seemed to know a lot about me before we even started! I have, it seems, left a fairly easy trail to follow on the internet. Good thing I have no known enemies in the USA.

Given that he seemed to know a lot about me before we even spoke I took the precaution of searching the internet for info about him! Turned up bugger all but then again, it was only a half hearted attempt at best. Life is, after all, too short to spend ferreting out the home address of someone you've never heard of.

Thus to the phone call aforementioned. I'd taken the precaution of rolling a couple of smokes before returning the call and smoked em as I walked back and forth chatting on the phone. As an aside, I've never mastered the art of staying put when on a mobile phone. Possibly because I hate being tethered to a land line.

A week or so later a sub editor from the Chicago Sun Times called; doubtless to reassure himself that I wasn't an invention of the journalist. My story (and his) confirmed, they went to press. You can find it here[^]. Umm, for the record, I don't recall saying that 'I took it as gospel that the restaurant really existed' but who knows; perhaps I did. *shrug*

By amazing coincidence that episode of M*A*S*H ran on cable at midnight on the day of publication; I've recorded it for old times sake. I might even DVDify it!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I have no pointy objects

I had occasion today to visit the local Social Security Administration. Call it an exercise in making sure that, when I retire, a decade or so hence, my entire 2008 income is factored into their calculations. Should make for an extra 3 bucks a month!

This was my third visit to the SSA. The first was the day after I arrived in the US, to show them the immigrant stamp in my passport and get my social security number and card, with the all important *lack* of an endorsement, the one that says 'not valid for work authorisation'.

The second visit was to show them my newly minted citizenship certificate and get moved off the non-citizens list.

I have to say that, as government departments go, they're not bad. Reasonably efficient for a walk in and the waiting times aren't astronomical. They compare very well with any of the motor vehicle departments I've had to deal with, here or in Australia.

I don't think I've spent more than half an hour on any occasion with them.

As one walks in through the door one runs the gauntlet of the ubiquitous uniformed fat guy who fulfills the role of security. Pretty friendly so far as it goes, one explains the purpose of ones visit and he touches a few areas on a computer screen and out pops a ticket. Then you go sit and read whilst waiting for them to call your number.

Except that first he asks a few other questions. You understand that there's no metal detector; no rectangular frame to walk through. Nope, just the questions. 'Do you have a cellphone?'. The answer is affirmative. 'Does it have a camera?'. The answer is negative. The guy in front answered yes to both and was told to turn it off. Since mine doesn't have a camera I was permitted to leave it switched on. I imagine they don't want you photographing the staff.

And then they ask 'do you have any sharp objects?'. Now I want any NSA or FBI or CIA wonks finding this via google to understand that this is said in the spirit of sarcasm, as an illustration of a point! I have every intention of sticking this blade in my pocket into the neck of the person behind the counter, but, being asked that question, I realise the futility of my plan and run away! 'No'. 'Ok', he says, 'take a seat and wait till they call your number'.

So just what is the point of even asking the question, if you're not going to verify the answer *before* allowing the suspect into the waiting room? A legal out? 'Yes, your honour, we did ask the fiend if he had a sharp object'.


Friday, April 10, 2009

I need to learn to speak English!

at least according to one deli worker.

This happened a few weeks ago and I didn't feel much like writing about it at the time, but on further reflection I think it's worth relating, if only so I can come off as a complete bastard!

I've related, a few times, the things that can happen when trying to communicate here. I speak, fairly obviously, with a strong Australian accent and, given that I was 48 when I moved to the US, I think it unlikely my accent is going to change. Partly that's stubbornness. I speak the way I speak because that's part of who and what I am, US citizenship notwithstanding.

I avoid certain words that are 'dangerous' due the possibility of misconstruction; I don't say can't for example, always using the full form of cannot, even if it's grammatically awkward.

I'll even, when necessary, pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as zee instead of zed.

So a few weeks ago it was time for the Sunday afternoon purchase of deli products for the forthcoming weeks lunch. I fronted up at the counter, grabbed the ticket[^] and awaited my turn. When it came I asked for 'a pound of Boars Head roast beef, sliced thick'. Got the usual non-comprehension. So I tried again. same non-comprehension. So far, par for the course. I don't really blame em either; I certainly wouldn't want to be standing for 8 hours dealing with the people who buy stuff at the deli counter, dickering over the thickness of beef and cheese. It's not as if the conversation we hold as part of the purchase is scintillating stuff.

I usually have to repeat myself thrice. *shrug*.

At the end of the third repeat, faced with the same non-comprehension, I'm wondering what I can do to make this easier? I have considered printing up the request and handing it over on a piece of paper, feigning muteness.

At the end of the fourth repeat the person behind the counter suggested that I 'should learn to speak english'.

Now I probably should have just ignored it. Nonetheless, this was rudeness beyond the acceptable. I've spoken English all my life and know no other natural language.

I asked for, and spoke with, the manager. He did a much better job of coping with my accent and offered to waive payment for my purchases. Nope, that's not the point and not the reason I'm complaining. This is America, the country so proud of it's melting pot immigration background. I completely understand that pride; we Australians are also proud of our immigration mix.

I insisted on paying for my lunch material. I fear he thought I was planning on suing but not a bit of it. Sue the company because of one ignorant person?

I've been back there once or twice and strangely, never seen that person behind the deli counter again. If they lost their job then I'm sorry about it, but I'm not going to apologise (much) for being offended.

Meanwhile, I've learned to appreciate it when the black girl, or the hispanic guy at the deli serves me; they actually listen and I never have to repeat myself more than once!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Supporting the rubber industry

There comes a time in the life of every conscientious parent (or one who stands in loco parentis) when action must be taken. Thus to last night when Andrew seemed unusually pleased with himself, after an evening spent with his girlfriend. I swear he exuded self satisfaction. As I said to Sonya later that evening, he had every appearance of someone who'd gotten lucky!

Perhaps it's too late; perhaps the horse has already bolted, but it seemed to me that perhaps it was time for concrete action. Thus to the supermarket this afternoon, to purchase the kind of thing that was once almost impossible to purchase without a marriage certificate.

Indeed, I remember once swaggering into the local chemist (pharmacy) to purchase a pack of the unmentionables. A young lady (this was about 1975 so she's most likely a grandmother by now) assisted me in my purchase. As I left the cash register the male chemist, a dour looking man in his late fifties, took me aside and requested that I make any further such purchases through him and not embarass the young lady.

I don't recall her being all that embarassed; certainly rather less than I was.

Now it's one thing to purchase em for ones own use; quite another to purchase them on behalf of ones underage stepson. Especially when it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some moral simpleton may take both exception and action. It's no acccident that I'm very careful about certain things in this household.

On the other hand, we always have Morgan as the example, par excellence, of what can go wrong when one buries ones head in the sand. I discussed the issue with Sonya (he's her son after all) and she was in complete agreement with my proposed course of action.

So I took him aside after dinner, outside and just the two of us, and gave him a present accompanied by a very short speech. I wasn't particularly embarassed but I well remember being 17 years old. Indeed, I had the experience, as I've related before, of my mother taking me aside at not much older than Andrew now is, and her handing me a pack of the same items we're not talking about, with much the same speech. 'We're not encouraging you, Andrew, but we're realists. Take care.'

I give him credit; he wasn't much embarassed either and he had the grace to say 'thank you'.

I think he'll turn out just fine!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Back in 1995, our movie safely finished (4 years previously), and 'Scarless: The Unseen Bits' (the inevitable making of movie) finally finished and shown, Gary, Heino and myself found ourselves lacking an excuse to get together every Sunday.

As I'm the only drinker of the three that meant beer was out and, so far as I can tell, Heino's the only one of us interested in sport, so that was out as well. We certainly never went bowling!

So we invented other excuses. I remember one Sunday morning they arrived at my house, computers at the ready and we networked them and played Hearts. You have to remember that this was before the Internet was easily available and when the idea of networking a couple of home computers was quite the novelty. Indeed, Heino was asking me just the other week if I remembered why they kept bringing their computers over; he recalls going to the extent of making a crate with styrofoam cutouts for it but can't remember just what we did once they were at my place. Alas, I can't remember either. Surely we didn't play Hearts every weekend?

We *did* drive down to Williamstown frequently, to get fish and chips and wander down along the beach, even in winter. Since much of our movie had been shot in Williamstown there was much reminiscence which led to the idea of us hosting our own late night TV talk show, to be called 'Boring'. The premise was simple; there'd be a large couch or two, the show would run for three hours and there'd be a studio audience to hang on our every word!

As for those words? It would be unscripted and we'd just talk the same rubbish we talked every Sunday afternoon together!

Such hubris.

Needless to say it didn't happen. Just an idea to kick around of a Sunday afternoon.

You'll remember I mentioned a week or so ago[^] that I was planning to be in Australia in September 2010 for the 20th anniversary revival of our movie? (It'll actually be just short of the 19th anniversary but round numbers are so much better).

Heino and Gary have been, it seems, spending an inordinate amount of time on the project. Methinks Heino is much more the driving force; when we were making the 'making of' movie alluded to at the start of this entry Heino moved away briefly, to Sydney, for a job, leaving Gary and I to continue in his absence. Upon his return a quarter of a year or so later he was disgusted to learn that nothing had been done. I still have the 'Highly Commended Award for Sustained Inactivity' he presented Gary and I with hanging on my wall.

I foresee much chivvying about the soundtrack over the next 18 months. Indeed, Heino asked me just a week or so ago whether I'd started writing it. I had to answer no; I'm writing a Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra right now. But I'll make a start soon, I promise!

I hope to have most of it in at least rough sketch by September 2009 when I'm next to be in Australia, so we can argue about it.

Meanwhile, there are plans for the inevitable DVD release of the movie! Back in 1991, when we premiered it to an audience consisting entirely of cast, crew, friends and family, we ran off VHS copies (and a few Beta copies for luddites like myself). Those copies contained only the movie.

Not the DVD! Nope, this is to contain the movie aforesaid, also the 'making of' aforesaid, a gallery of stills we shot during production, a copy of the script and a directors commentary. Now in reality Heino was the director; Gary and I get a credit each and Gary's is probably deserved, mine really isn't.

When I heard these plans I couldn't resist commenting that it sounded rather like the directors commentary was going to be our only chance at making 'Boring'.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


When I lived in Melbourne I had personalised number plates (car tags). MANDO. It's one habit we Australians seem to have, when abbreviating someones name, to stick an O on the end. Thus, when abbreviating my name from Manderson it becomes Mando and was for quite some years. Of course, when I was a short trousered urchin, my friends of the time would tee hee as they abbreviated it to Mandy and I endured that particular cognomen for a number of years. Little bastards. We'll pass over any similarly juvenile 'humour' in which I might have participated!

Now I wouldn't want you to think *I* went out and got those number plates! Nope, they were my 40th birthday present from my second wife. I was, however, inordinately pleased at receiving them and would say, to any who cared to listen, that I 'used to think people with personalised plates were wankers and now I are one'. You can tell that my standards of humour haven't improved appreciably over the last half century!

A couple of years later I awoke one Saturday morning and went out to the car, to find someone had left a note under the wiper. Uh huh. Did this mean some neighbour objected to the way I parked? Nope, it was from one Campbell Manderson offering to buy my plates, at a premium, as he'd always wanted MANDO as his rego.

A pity then that he had left no phone number, no address and I had never heard of him! Might have been able to turn a tidy profit, especially as my second wife and I had parted ways by then.

I notice that the tradition continues; someone left a note on my previous post, Three dags[^] wanting to get a quote or two from yours truly about a post I wrote way back in 2006 about Adams Ribs[^], for possible inclusion in an article to be published in the Chicago Sun Times.

Such a pity then that the journalist posted as Anonymous and I have no way to reply save through these pages.

I'd love to be quoted. Contact me at rob (dot) manderson (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three dags

Photobucket (the site I use to host images) was down when I wrote the last post. Here's a shot of three dags.

Left to right, Gary, Moi and Heino. Can you tell we get more sunlight where I live?

A new countdown

started last night. Uh huh, counting down until the *next* trip to Australia, which is happening a year earlier than I anticipated.

It all began the last time I was there, half a year ago. Heino and I tracked Gary down; found the bastard two days before I had to return to Phoenix! Gary, if you've forgotten (or haven't poked around in the archives under 'our movie' over there --->) was the third member of the triumvirate involved in the making of the movie aforesaid.

Heino and I were the other two.

We spent a wonderful evening, the three of us, watching our movie and reminiscing. As the senior member I wussed out around 3 AM - I was falling asleep. I understand the two of them kept at it for another two hours! On the Sunday Gary met us at the airport as I was leaving and we got a shot of the three of us.

Well, just because I was condemned to a long flight back home to the US did not mean that Heino and Gary were. They, it seems, repaired to Garys house and continued the reminiscence.

Now you have to understand that Heino, in particular, just can't let sleeping dogs lie. I reckon he'd see one in proximity to a stick and just have to use the latter to poke the former. Hence the latest project - the digital remaster, in widescreen dolby thundervision, of our movie. I've been roped in to write the soundtrack. I'm not sure I *can* write 47 minutes of music of interest to a general audience but I'll sure try.

Hence the planning of a trip back to Australia in September 2010 - we reckon we might have finished the remastering by then! Besides, it's always good, on projects such as this, to have a deadline.

Things have proceeded to the point where they've already selected the venue, the Sun Theatre[^] in Yarraville. They couldn't have chosen a better venue! It is, after all, one the cinemas I used to frequent with my mates back in the early 60's when they still did Saturday afternoon matinees. If you can be bothered clicking on the link you'll see that it's moved on a bit since those days; what was once one large cinema is now 6, each named after cinemas of the area from the 30's on, most of them now closed and most of them once enjoying my patronage as a small urchin!

It seemed to me, a couple of weeks ago, that it might be fun for Sonya to come with me to Australia this time (September 2010). Thus to some planning. Minor details such as how much it will cost!

Now you can't actually book a flight that far ahead so we thought we could at least get some indicative pricing by looking at pricing for September 2009. It didn't come as much of a surprise; approx $1800 each, return via United, a little less on Air New Zealand, a bit more on Qantas and a staggering $3400 each on Singapore Airlines. Chalk that up to Australian Federal Government policy over the last quarter century; there were only two airlines permitted to fly direct from the US to Australia (Qantas and United). Air New Zealand get around that by going through New Zealand, which is, at least, in the right direction. Singapore? That's a bit out of the way but they're Star Alliance so frequent flyer points accrue.

Last week Delta Airlines announced their fares for US to Australia, commencing in July. Uh huh, that 25 year old (at least) policy is relaxing a tad and by the end of the year there should be 4 airlines doing US to Australia direct. The opening fare was very tempting, $A777 return. Translated into US currency somewhat cheaper again. I started thinking, wouldn't it be great to go, alone, a year earlier *and* go again in 2010 with Sonya?

Of course there's a fly in the ointment. Ain't that always the way? This particular winged insect in the unguent is that the quoted price is Los Angeles to Sydney. Heck, all I want is an extra hours flight at each end, Phoenix to Los Angeles and Sydney to Melbourne.

Deltas offering is ridiculous. To fly from Phoenix to Sydney on Delta I'd have to do the following - Phoenix to Atlanta, Atlanta to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Sydney and then I'm on my own as far as Delta are concerned. Same on the way back. Total travel time not counting the Sydney Melbourne leg? 33 hours each way! Delta don't even list *my* Melbourne as a destination; they only have the one in Florida.

Thus, last night, I found myself juggling itineraries on three airlines, one to get from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Delta itself to Sydney and then the parlous choices in Australia to get to Melbourne. Considerable scheduling difficulties (do I really want to try and catch a 5AM flight out of Phoenix?) and the ticket price was starting to add up.

On a whim I checked the United pricing again. And bugger me drunk if the fare hadn't dropped a thousand dollars in one week. Amazing what a new entrant to the market can do! On top of that, it's the familiar route, on the one airline, from Phoenix to Melbourne and back. Drop off my baggage in Phoenix and worry about it again in Melbourne!

Some quick emails back and forth to Heino (I *do* impose on the poor bastard) and it was settled. I clicked the booking button and went to bed with visions of fish and chips, dim sims and the whole rigamarole dancing in my head.

Oh, the countdown? 184 days at the time of writing. Not that I'm counting!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A misunderstanding

Andrew had been rather secretive a couple of months ago, something I put down to being 17 years of age. It turns out that I wasn't far off the mark - there's a girlfriend in the picture!

This fact emerged slowly, at least from what I could observe. You understand that I, being a curmudgeon, have certain ideas regarding how far one should go in accomodating ones step kids, and that does not include ferrying the little bastards half a mile when they could perfectly well walk it.

Thus Sonya had met the young lady in question well before I did. Suspecting that perhaps Andrew was concerned that I might embarass him I promised that I would do no such thing; even if she came to dinner on Sunday night[^]!

And so to this week; when I arrived home from the office on Tuesday evening it was to find Andrews computer strangely neglected and nary a sign of World of Warcraft. This is so unusual an occurrence that I asked Sonya if he was feeling well. Nope, it turned out that he was up in his room with a girl! Ah ha!

A few minutes later they emerged.

She's cute. As an aside, I always like to lie about the meaning of that word. I'll describe myself as being cute and when the listener, understandably, demurs, I say 'well, if you'd read the dictionary you'd know it really means 'ugly but interesting''. How cute that no one has ever called me on it!

As another aside I couldn't help but notice that Sonya would call out to Andrew every so often as he lurked upstairs with her. I understand that Sonya even barged in on them once without knocking. Apparently the imminent arrival of a second grandchild courtesy of Morgan has taught her something!

The next morning at the office I mentioned having met the damsel and commented that she was 'cute as'. Shocks all round! How dare I notice the damsels backside let alone think it cute.

After laughing uproariously I pointed out that had I meant that I'd have said 'cute arse' and *not* 'cute as'.

Really, after half a year of my accent you'd think they'd know better!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The triumph of optimism

over experience.

You'll remember that I mentioned, a couple of weeks ago, that our cat Tiny had died. I wasn't kidding when I said that losing him had hit me harder than the loss of any other cat; I still can't believe he's dead. If I weren't such a hard headed realist who doesn't believe in the concept of 'fairness' in life (ain't no such thing) I'd say that it was most unfair that Tiny died. But he did and one copes as best one can.

Krylenko seems to have missed him as well. I try and avoid the worse excesses of anthropomorphism where my cats are concerned; what do I really know of what goes on inside their heads? Nonetheless, he *did* seem to be exploring the places Tiny frequented, perhaps wondering where his buddy was.

Sonya was hit as hard as I was when Tiny died. Possibly harder; she was the one who cried the tears though I have to admit I got damn close a few times. Still do if the truth must be admitted.

Eight or ten days after Tiny's death the subject was broached; should we get another youngster 'so Krylenko will have someone to play with'?

Well you know me. Cat? Good! I wasn't opposed to the idea. I was a trifle concerned at the suggestion of getting another Himalayan though. Not because Himalayans are genetically predisposed to Kidney disease or through any other prejudice against the breed; nope, this was sheer practicality. Another Himalayan would look rather more like Tiny than any other breed and it's not a long step from there to expecting the newcomer to *be* Tiny reincarnated.

When Tiny died the vet asked us if we wanted his body back. Well no, this is a condo and we don't own the land outside the walls; where would we bury him? Did we want his ashes? Apart from a certain cynicism (how would we know the dust we were handed *was* Tinys) I also wondered what we'd do with them? Make a shrine of them?

Call me hard hearted if you will but that's just not my way. I haven't had a lot of experience, yet, with the deaths of those I knew, but what little I've had suggests that it's better to remember them than to guard a vial of ashes.

I still remember my surprise, nearly twenty years ago, when walking through Melbourne Cemetery and hearing a tinny tune near a grave. Careful listening pinpointed the source; a birthday card propped up next to a marble headstone. Yes, I do remember the date and the name but I'm not going to mention either here; the date on which I found the card was a couple of days after the birthday of the person buried there; the card was for his 21st birthday. Curiousity led me back there a year later and sure enough, there was a new card.

Sometimes you have to just let go.

Much better, overall, that the newcomer *not* be subjected to disappointed expectation.

Krupskaya[^] has lived with us for 12 days. She's a Tabby about 8 months old and very comfortable with the humans who live here. She's also very playful, as befits a youngster.

Would that she were so comfortable with the other cats! Imagine how poor Krylenko felt when he trotted up to the newcomer, full of goodwill and friendliness (he's the friendliest cat I've ever known) and his reward for his pains was snarls and spitting! Quite the shock!

I can't blame her; she'd spent time at the 'animal shelter' in a cage waiting for someone to come rescue her.

But it's getting better. Tonight Krylenko ignored the newcomer and did his usual burying of the nose in my armpit with the newcomer a mere foot away on the couch. She, for her part, regarded him benevolently and didn't feel the need to snarl and spit.

I have high hopes that they'll be playing by the end of the week.

Saturday, February 28, 2009