Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - That's all folks!

Hi everyone,

Well, New Years Eve dawned cool and clear at Shepparton.  I slept well - only woke once in the night at about 4am with the moonlight shining through the window.  When I went outside (when the sun was actually up) the morning air was cool and had that fresh-yet-tired smell you only get inland.  Like many things, it took me back to childhood holidays around Albury.  As did the cupboards inside the house.  Have you ever noticed how country cupboards always seem to look the same?

The day underway, we loaded the steers from the yards.  They've done well at Shepparton and are well rounded and in great shape.  Perhaps too great, as two of them managed to hurdle the fences inside the yards!


We drove back by way of the Hume Highway, and as we went I got a couple of good photos across the Great Dividing Range.


The first port of call on the way was the property at Mt Martha where we've put two of the steers, and then brought the remaining steers back here.  The remainder of the day was fairly quiet and I was able to do a bit more on the outline of an article which now looks like it can subsume some of the other research I've done on Millennialism and the NeoConfederate Movement.

I've been trying to think of what to write about 2012 and about resolutions for 2013.  Goddammit, why doesn't Microsoft come out with an "insightful inspiring summary" macro?  As to 2012, it remains a year about which, against all probability, I feel pretty lucky, for the reasons I set out here.

As to 2013 ... I have some thoughts which I fit together in a way I can't quite see.  First, I spent part of this afternoon re-reading a diary I kept over the last 6 weeks of 1999, really the last time I kept a steady diary before I began this blog.  As I read it, I was struck by how the familiar issues of work and career and life choices and identity loomed as large for me then as they have since.  Perhaps I should feel upset that, despite being almost 35 years old (and therefore halfway through my allotted three-score years and ten), I haven't got my life all sorted out.  I'm surprisingly OK with this.  I'm pretty sure that despite countless wrong turns (and, it should be said, many many right ones), I'm still on the right track.  As long as I keep trying, I'll get to the point I want to reach eventually.  The worst fate I can imagine is to give up, and find myself in two decades time, some sad broken down schmuck in the Chatham Hotel, wondering where the Hell his life went.  On that note, I saw an insightful comment on someone's blog the other day: As long as you keep trying to do what is right, God will always have one of three answers to your prayers -
"Not yet"
"I have something better in mind".

The other thing I saw that I've been thinking about is something I read on SarahJane's blog over at Just the Two of Us which (if you'll forgive me) I'll quote at length.  She gave a link to an address called "Of Regrets and Resolutions" by Dieter Uchtdorf, a leader of the Mormon church, and explains that -

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing...
He highlights three things that people say they regret when they look back on life.
1. They wish they spent more time with the people they loved.
He tells us we need to develop deep connections with those who mean the most to us.
2. They failed to become the person they feel they should have been.
They feel they failed to live up to their full potential. 
3. They wish they had let themselves be happier. Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey
There is something in each day to embrace and cherish.. if only we will see and appreciate it.
With that in mind, I'm leaning towards these as my resolutions/goals/whatevers for 2013.
  1. Be a better "Dad at a Distance" to Grace and Rachel.  I think I've been OK (but not more than OK) at this so far, so some googling and reading will hopefully give me more to work with.  This is particuarly important as it appears this situation will persist for the foreseeable future.
  2. Try and have as good relations with Joni as I can.
  3. Keep writing and publishing.  For preference longer and more scholarly work, but if all else fails, letters and whatever else can be had.
  4. Keep getting fit and losing weight.  I've been doing pretty well with this: since starting my current health kick, I've gone from nearly 100kgs to 86kgs, with a goal of 80kgs.  So I guess I keep doing what I'm doing.
  5. Do a course - preferably a respectable one - in archaeology or museum studies.  I want my little princesses to be able to say "my Dad's not just another lawyer ... he does something cool!"
  6. Keep and strengthen my friendships.  I've been pretty dreadful about keeping friends; there's never a bad time to try and nudge the edges of your comfort zone on this sort of thing.
  7. Be a better brother to my sisters.  This year I've come to appreciate them more than ever: Oldest Sister Economist's clear-sightedness and practicality, Second Oldest Sister's unconditional love and gentleness, and Little Sister's good sense and patience.
  8. Let go of bitterness.  I've been better about this in recent months, but I need to keep resistng the temptation to hang on to a sense of having been wronged.  It's almost never warranted and is usually because one wants a quick sense of a right to God-like vengefulness.
  9. Learn more from other bloggers.  I've met a great many very very good people through blogging, and many of them really have their lives sorted.  I am not so proud that I don't want to learn from people who are doing great things!
  10. Put more into my faith.  Sometimes, I have to confess, I feel a bit mechanical about it - I guess because it's such a liturgically oriented faith.  While I don't yield an inch as to Catholicism's doctrinal correctness, there's a lot of things I think I can learn from our Protestant friends, especially their devotion to studying the Scriptures and their sense of a real relationship with God. 
So there you have it, my wrap for the New Year.  Either way, I am hopeful.

This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it: Psalm 118:24

See you in 2013!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

By night at Shepparton

Hi everyone,

I'm drafting this by phone at the property at Shepparton. All being well it'll automatically upload when I'm out and about tomorrow.

Today's been spent on the move. In the morning we readied the truck to come up here and get some steers.

We were on the road a little before 11:00am. Traffic not bad in the city; we stopped at Watsonia for $5.00 worth of chips -

and were up here about 3:30pm.  I drove for a bit of the way, which was 'interesting'. Notwithstanding that I have a heavy vehicle licence, I haven't driven a truck in years.  I'd forgotten how vague the gearbox is, and how sharp air brakes can be!

Once up here we checked over the other stock and brought the steers up and penned them in the yards with a roll of hay to keep them quiet and content overnight.

There was also enough time in all that to water mum's roses, take assorted photos -

and scribble a few ideas for an article. Dinner and bed.

There's more i'd like to say, esp re the Situation, but it'll keep for now. Falling  asleep.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A post-Christmas Christmas (photo heavy!)

Hello everyone,

How are things?  It's been an ... interesting day here.

I was awake bright and early this morning.  That is, I was awake about 5:30am and by 6:10am had decided I was definitely due for a run..  So, I set out to Flinders and around the golf course and back - according to Google Maps, a total of 9.5km.  Felt pretty good, and the sea air was rolling in in an agreeable manner.

Today was the day set for a second Christmas gathering at Second Oldest Sister's place, particularly as our uncle and his wife and their three kids were coming down to Melbourne.  I had an oddish feeling about this.  On one hand I was looking forward to it.  On the other, I wasn't sure how I'd go as the uncle's family includes twins - call them Sunbeam and Fizzy - who are only 5 months younger than Rachel and Grace.  You can understand why I had a few qualms about the deal.

I needn't have worried.  Mum, Dad and I were the first to arrive and were having a glass of champagne when Uncle's tribe rolled up.  I have to say, his kids were the the sweetest little tots you ever saw (except for my girls, of course!)  The oldest boy we'll call Ted, who's fully 7 years old and goes to a little school in the bush where he's one of only two kids in his year level!  And the twins, who are about two-and-a-half, played nicely and were sweet, gentle kids.  Still, I did feel a bit lost and sent Joni a text asking her to give our girls a big kiss and tell them Daddy loves and misses them awfully.  She texted back that there was actually a skype window, so there was just enough time to skype.  Awesome!  I borowed Second Oldest Sister's laptop and fired it up.  It was a little hard to hear them - lots of background noise at our end - but they enjoyed it and so did I, and we were even able to introduce the girls to Mrs Uncle and to their little cousins - Grace was cluey enough to call out "Hello Fizzy"!  I had an interesting chat with Mrs Uncle after that where she explained how they'd seen mum and dad after the girls went back across the pond.  Mum was clearly missing them and doted on Fizzer and Sunbeam even more than usual for that reason.  Yeah, I know, I'm a bad and selfish person.

Mrs Uncle and Fizzy 

Guilt aside, it was a great lunch.  Mum had attended to roasting a couple of chickens.  Second Oldest Sister had prepared, among other things, a stunning salad with olives

Second Oldest Sister

 Little Sister

Mum, Michael and Ted enjoying lunch

Lunch was followed by presents for the kids, which was an opportunity to get a few holiday snaps of the tribe as well!

 Fizzy, Ted and Sunbeam waiting eagerley for presents!

JP keeping a watchful eye on proceedings

Uncle meets chainsaw

The tribe enchanted by Fizzy's present!

Sunbeam discovering that his Uncle Stephen has an eye for cool presents!

Fizzy also discovering that Uncle Stephen has an eye for presents!

The festivities finished up at about 5:30pm with all concerned going their different directions.  Mum, Dad and I stopped at the Aldi in Moorabbin on the way back here.  This was the Aldi just near where Joni and I lived at Heatherton.  I'm sure you can understand why this was a little bit like the universe was whacking me with a Wiffle bat wrapped in sandpaper.  Sigh.  Still, I did see two things to lighten the mood.  One was a cookie jar which aimed to discourage cookie consumption by undermining your self esteem.  I have no words -

The other was a car still sporting Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer antlers and nose.  I have a little trouble understanding this concept.  If you want your car to be reindeer-powered, why aren't you driving a sleigh?  And if you think that a car nose and antlers are so hilarious you want to leave them on a minute longer than Christmas, what does that say about you?

Tomorrow Dad and I will head up to Shepparton to collect some steers and bring them back to Mt Martha.  Not sure how I feel about this break - I feel a bit lost and don't have any real other plans.  And I know there mightn't be many more summers with the old man, so the office has less of a hold on me than usual perhaps.

Well, I guess that's enough for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Post Christmas update

Hi everyone,

Sorry I haven't updated for a few days: Christmas and all.

By way of recap: the tribe did indeed get together on Boxing Day.  I got the day off to a good start with a 12km run to (and around) Flinders Golf Course and back. The air already smelt enticingly of freshly cut hay and wood smoke.  I spent a decent whack of the morning wrapping presents, which wound up looking "suitable".

Little Sister and Michael were already here, and at about midday 90 year old cousin Margaret came up as well. It was a good day to feel in touch with my roots -

The ol' kitchen stove!

And to encounter a foreign culture (Singaporean beer).

We were able to have a good (if quick) skype with the girls. I honestly feel pretty sick of myself for creating a situation where mum and dad's only grandchildren are ones they're unlikely ever to see again. Bravo Stephen. Brah-fucking-voh.

Second Oldest Sister had kindly picked up an Optus broadband docket on the way down, so after lunch we were able to bring in Oldest Sister Economist up on skype on my laptop from the Solomon Islands which was a great moment. Really everyone enjoyed that.  I'm sorry there's no photos of the tribe from Boxing Day: my phone battery was nearly dead by then I'm afraid.  Good heart-to-heart with Little Sister in the evening.

Yesterday was a bit of a crisis I'm afraid. I got an email from one of the partners at work asking when I'd done a certain serious injury response. According to the system I'd failed to do it by the required date, which (if the case) is an absolute disaster. To cut a long story short, I had to drop everything and go to Melbourne to address the situation. On going over the file and the electronic records, it became clear I had failed to do it - it just got lost in the week with four hearings. I don't yet know what the fallout from this will be. It's about 90% of a sacking offence. Potentially I'm about to be unemployed. I emailed Joni to warn her. Mercifully her opinion of me probably can't get much lower, and the girls are too young to understand. There was nothing else to so at the office to rectify the situation, so I decided to try and do something worthwhile with the day and went to the Blood Bank to make a plasma donation: this just requires a beating heart, so all I needed was my brain stem. Drove back here afterwards.

Today has been full of up and down emotions. I couldn't drag myself out of bed this morning to go run, so all I can say is thank God for my pal Pristiq.  And for rain clouds: they're always kind of therapeautic, I think.

Big chunk of the morning spent marking and tagging calves and giving their mommas selenium injections -

- while being observed by Damian the Bull.


Which brings me to now.  Not sure what's planned for the afternoon.

More later.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Lunch update

Hi everyone,

Quick post from the Casa Parental just after lunch.

I slept erratically last night - a lot of weird dreams.  Anyway, I was up at a somewhat respectable hour, so that's all good.  Morning has been spent with Dad and Michael cutting wood and putting it in a hopper to begin to dry out.

The weather is good and the day a little cool, so it's pleasant to be outside.

I've been enjoying looking at peoples' instagram pictures of families getting together.  Although herein, perhaps, one of the drawbacks of the digital life: you do feel a little like someone standing outside the window of another person's house, looking in on celebrations you're not part of.  I dunno, I just feel a little lost I guess.  Kind of like there's something big and special going on, but it's not exactly part of my own corner of reality.  I'm not sure quite what to make of this.  Hmm.

OK, that's enough for now.  All being well I'll have an update with more pictures this evening.

More later.

From the Casa Parental

Hi everyone,

It's Christmas Eve and I'm writing this at my parents' place.  For a little while today I tinkered with the idea of staying in town another day and seeing Midnight Mass at the Cahedral, but I did that last year and now I was kind of feeling the need to see my own tribe and breathe some fresh air.

I slept later than usual today but was still able to get down to the City to pick up the bulky gifts I'd earmarked yesterday.  I hope they're OK.  I'm kind of legendarily bad at picking gifts, although in my defence I really do try.  Although, I kind of think that when all the people in the family are adults and employed and there's no grandchildren present (yes, I feel a bit shitful as I type those words), a 'food Christmas' has merit - where everyone makes the dish(es) that they do well and brings it.  With that in mind, on the drive down this afternoon I picked up a carton of buttermilk and will make biscuits to go with lunch on Boxing Day, which is when my family does actual Christmas for logistical reasons.

Anyway, after getting the remaining gifts together I packed the things I wanted at the sharehouse and then decided to squeeze a quick run in, so I belted out a quickish 7 kilometres then had a shower, loaded the car and got on the road.  I listened to Dolly Parton sing "Hard Candy Christmas" a few times on the way - one of the few upsides of being in a "problematic" situation is that you actually get what she's singing about.  I find that oddly pleasing.  Hmm.  And naturally, I then flicked over to some Amy Grant.

I was down here by about 5pm and gave Dad and Michael a hand with shifting some wood before they knocked off.  Dinner with the tribe, and after that Dad and I went to Christmas Eve Mass at St Peters at Shoreham.  That was the other reason for coming down.  As much as I love the very formal Mass at the Cathedral, this time I kind of wanted to go to the church where my grandparents' obsequies were done.   

I dunno ... I kind of wish religion hadn't been kind of an off limits thing in my family (seriously, it was up there with sex as something not to be talked about, with a comparable degree of embarassment and awkwardness).  But, there you have it.  Dad would go to Catholic services at Christmas and Easter; Mum and the kids would go to the Uniting Church at Dromana, also at Christmas and Easter, but otherwise none of us darkened a church doorway except for funerals.  Which was why I instinctively kept it a dead secret when I became a Catholic.  There would have been no effort to prevent me, but it would have been as uncomfortable for all concerned as if I'd been coming out.

Anyway, the Mass itself this evening was kind of funny and a little, I guess, curious.  It was funny inasmuch as some of the littler kids, ranging in age from a few months to a few years had been drafted into being dressed variously as angels, a shepherd and baby Jesus in an impromptu nativity scene in front of the altar.  This worked OK until baby Jesus really needed his mum to give him a cuddle (he was pretty good about it I should say!), and during the homily the shepherd got up and walked down the aisle loudly calling to his mum that he needed to go to the toilet! 

It was also kind of obvious that for a lot of the congregation this was their annual visit to Church: an awful lot of people looked terribly uncertain whether to sit, stand or kneel, and didn't understand that not everyone is meant to recite the words of the responsorial psalm, and in particular, is not meant to read it straight through.  Added to which, people were giving the old words of the liturgy, not the new ones that have been in use for about 18 months now (e.g. "peace be with you" - "and with your spirit" has replaced "peace be with you" - "and also with you").  Me, I tend to err on the side of inclusion: I don't want anyone to feel awkward or uncomfortable about coming to church.  As long as they're making the effort to be there, I'm OK with someone turning up in a grass skirt and doing their part of the liturgy in Norwegian.  But, I also had a slightly uncomfortable feeling that a lot of the attendances were kind of "phoning it in", which seemed a little wrong.  Still, "mysterious ways" and all, so you kind of hope that for a few people who were making their annual attendance, it's inspired them to maybe come again on a regular Sunday too.

Which brings me up to now.  I've had a cup of cocoa, and I'll go and do the usual reading of the opening to Luke's Gospel - which has been kindly posted by Megan over at Just a Small Town Girl - and read "The Coming of the Magi", and enjoy sleeping where the only sounds are cars passing occasionally, and sometimes cattle bellowing.

Merry Christmas friends!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Only three days? But it's a long post.

Hi everyone,

Has it really only been three days since my last post?  It felt like it had been fully a week.

It's been a full - or not - few days.  On the Thursday I went and got the judgment I mentioned in the last post.  We lost, which was a little disappointing as I thought we were in with a chance on this one.  Still, by way of consolation, our department lunch was that afternoon, at a nice place on Southbank.  I'm pleased to say I stayed sober, didn't embarrass myself, and even had the discipline to walk back to the office a little after 3:00pm to finish the appeal advice following the aforesaid  loss and also do a couple of liability-and-quantum advices.  Running in the evening.

Friday I was in the office tolerably early to get through the last of the work.  I was a little shocked to look at my timesheets and realise that I'd been at the office every day for about 30 days on the trot!  Friday kind of petered out: I got out what was necessary; by 2:30 people were just knocking off and leaving.  I got as far as 5:00pm, but by then it was a case of "who am I kidding?  I'm not actually working ... time to go...".  So I did.  I found my way back here, went for a run through the back streets of Brunswick - there was no way I was going to try and run on Lygon Street or Sydney Road the day most people's work finished for the year!  Got groceries in the evening and then sat up for a few hours writing a not-half-bad column on the Jon Hammar affair.  I sent it off to a couple of places and then turned in.  Naturally, when I woke up the next day I found the Mexican  government had released him.  As Bender said, "Ah crap, a miracle"!

On the plus side for Saturday, I found two of my letters had been published on the other side of the pond (here and here).  Letters to newspapers are surely the lowest form of publishing, but my strike rate on getting columns on history or law published is basically nil.  I need to get my name out there, and this is a way of doing it.  Not great, but better than nothing.  And it's a useful discipline to be able to condense an idea down to 250 simple words, so there's an upside there.  On that point, I remember something Oldest Sister Economist once told me: the reason The Communist Manifesto has been read far more than Das Kapital is because Kapital was  largely written by Marx - an economic theorist.  The Manifesto was largely written by Friedrich Engels, who had been a journalist.  Guess which one of them knew how to write?

Saturday itself I was actually up about 8:00am and on the road to USA Foods, on the other side of town.  I'll fry a turkey for the tribe for one of our extended-Christmas gatherings, so I needed to be injectable butter marinade.

USA Foods is the only place in Melbourne you could ever buy it.  When I got there I found they no longer carried it (which, when I think about it, isn't a huge surprise: how big a market for it could there have been?)  Nevertheless, while I was there I got some Zatarains etouffe mix and a bottle of - oh joy! - Crystals hot sauce.  Oh Lord, how I have missed Hot Sauce!

You may assume I've been eating it with almost everything since yesterday.  I even thought about putting it on a banana but decided I needed to draw the line somewhere and that was probably it.  I ran out of hot sauce from the before-time in about February; the only reason for not getting more is that USA Foods is (a) not cheap and (b) not really on my anywhere unless I'm going to see the parents.

For the balance of Saturday I re-edited the Hammar column into something current and emailed it off to a few more places.  As the day was warm I decided to go swimming at the Coburg Olympic Pool.  The warm day was one factor; also all the running I've been doing was drawing protests from my ankles, knees and hips, and my leg muscles were running in a fairly sullen "I'll do it because I have to" way.  Thoroughly enjoyed the swim, and it's been a long time since I've swum in an open-air pool.

Saturday evening - more writing, another column on a historical theme.  I settled that column when I woke up this morning (about 6:50am - on a Sunday?  What's become of me??).  Anyway, having finished the column I sent it to a bundle of places and then went to Mass at St Ambrose's over in Brunswick.

It's a beautiful old late-19th century church in bluestone where, mercifully, the Mass is done straight.  There's a time and a place for electric guitars, but it really isn't during Communion!

After Mass I came back here and waited to skype with the girls for their bedtime.  Oh my Lord, how cute were they this time!  Grace, my little extrovert, was a ball of energy, chattering like crazy and thrilled to tell me all she'd been doing and how she knew how to make a tunnel with a blanket and now she could do a kind of a forwards-flip.  I love how she calls me "Dad" and wants to talk to me every moment I'm on the screen and got quite insistent I pay attention to her when Joni turned me round to speak to Rachel.  Twas ever thus, though: Grace looks like me, but her personality - sunny, extroverted and enthusiastic - is all her mommy.  And Rachel was being her sweet, placid self.  When we got the skype connection happening she was already lying down in bed looking very much like a tired tiger.

But when she saw me, the first thing she started to do was blow kisses at me.  And she stood up and wanted to smile and pass things at me.  I love that she sleeps with the Kermit the frog I sent them after Hurricane Isaac.  Seriously, together or apart, I'm the luckiest man in the world to have them as my daughters.  I'm so proud of them already.

Skype dropped out and Joni needed to get the princesses to bed.  I went down to the City to get the last of the presents for the tribe.  It occurred to me that this is a good barometer for how well you actually know your family.  That is, do you know people well enough to know what they really like?  Or only well enough to take a stab at it and hope for the best?  Hmmm.

Shopping was kind of done by 5pm (need to go and get a few things tomorrow), so I decided to go swimming again.  This time I was completely beat after swimming a kilometre.  It was a 37C/104F degree day, though, and the cold water of the pool was heavenly.  Swimming done, I came back here and watched Big Bang Theory and had a shower and dinner.  Then, updating this blog which brings me to the present moment.  Tomorrow I'll finish Christmas stuff up here and then head for the parents place for the next few days: there's really nothing to keep me in town.  Looking forward to some time out of the City for sure!

OK, I guess that's the update.  I should post this and shut down, especially as my laptop's air cooling fan is making a very unhappy noise and feeling badly overheated.

Hope all your Christmas prep is coming along well!

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Back into it

Hi everyone,

Here I am, starting this post on the tram to work in the morning.  How are things with you?

It's actually been a quiet couple of days so far this week: work ... run ... sleep ... repeat.  No, really, that's pretty near all of it.  Well, save that I scored one small piece in the Magnolia (Arkansas) Reporter the other day, with at least one other possible piece coming up.

Last night I was at the office late and, needing a break, began drafting another longer piece and wound up writing all of it, about the recent secession talk post-election.

Today will be hectic. Ths morning I'm off to court to get judgment in the County Court matter I ran last week. I also have two advice to settle and a defence to draft. And our department Christmas lunch is this afternoon: the Outlook invite blocked out all of the afternoon.  Genuinely uncertain whether I'm pleased about that or not!

Ok, nearly my stop. More later.

Monday, 17 December 2012

At the risk of ...

Hi everyone,

This is kind of a post in the "note from the management" vein ...

Sorry there's no substantive post tonight.  Call it fallout from the Newtown tragedy.  I try not to self-dramatise things like that: I didn't know any of the families involved, and have only one friend in Connecticut (and she's in a different area), so I'm not going to try and say I'm personally distraught.  But, blogging about my usual guff (work, running, history and all) just seems kind of out of place at the moment.  I can't set out out any more scientifically than that, I'm afraid; it's kind of an instinct thing.

Normal broadcasting will be resumed as soon as possible.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Newtown - my two cents worth

Hi everyone,

I'm drafting this post at my office.  It's 8:30pm on Saturday evening, and I came in just to do some tedious jobs that wouldn't actually need my brain to focus.  I've been reading, responding to, printing and archiving two week's worth of emails.  I receive about 40 emails a day, so you can imagine that this took a while.  But, if I'd let it go another week, it would have been significantly worse.  I've really come to value archiving my emails: I can actually FIND information when I need it.   Otherwise, I've kept it a restful Saturday: I did laundry this morning and sussed out possible Christmas presents for people in the CBD, got a haircut and then came here.

I wanted to say something about the shootings in Connecticut.  I don't usually much discuss current events in these pages: there's enough people spilling ink on things like the Presidential election, for example, without needing me to add my valueless two cents.  This massacre, though, begs a response.
We all know what the news of the next few days will mean: coverage of the victims that will range from the sentimental to the ghoulish.  Patronising editorials in the British and Australian press about "the American love affair with gun".  Probably a political shitfight over an assault weapons ban or something of the like.  And both pro- and anti-gun advocates trotting out the same hackneyed, shop-soiled, well worn arguments we've heard a million times before.

This usually feels unseemly to me; this time, however, it feels like it will actually be nauseating.  Maybe it's because I've been thinking a lot about different types of knowledge and how we can think about things, but I feel (and I say "feel" rather than "think" intentionally) that taking those poor, dead children and teachers and making them the subjects of the narrative of a news story, or the basis for a government policy or lack thereof, or the starting point for some psychoanalysis of the American character, is to misuse them.  Maybe the only response, the only decent response, is an aching, silent grief, a wish to take onto oneself the hurt of their parents and brothers and sisters, and an attempt - silently and within one's own heart - to take to oneself and hold without intellectualising a pain too big for words.

Friday, 14 December 2012

On a Friday evening

Hi everyone,

I'm starting this post on the tram back to the casa on a Friday evening.  I always find Friday evenings kind of bittersweet. I'm off work ... but I know I‘ll be at the office tomorrow for (literally) the 25th day on the trot, and not going to the farm to help my parents out.  Herein my cause for guilt.

It's been a quiet day overall. I was scheduled to meet with The Client at some point between 9am and 10am but was so wiped out after the last few days I slept through the alarm and woke up at 8:20am.  Regular readers will know this isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened, and that I actually can go from "wake in panic" to "out the door" in ten minutes flat. Nevertheless, I cam empathise with the set of iPhone alarms I've seen on a few girls blogs -

With the exception that for “do your hair" put "shave".  I emailed my boss from the tram and explained the situation.  He mentioned later that he's not that worried about lateness.  He explained that he long since concluded that lawyers fall into two classes: early starters and late finishers.  He had also concluded (correctly) that I'm in the second category.  It all worked itself out in any case: The meeting I was booked for didn't start till I'd arrived and had time to pour a coffee down my throat and it was on a file I'm familiar with.

The balance of the day was spent getting out a response in a workers comp matter, preparing another response and addressing a possible issue in a third.  Seriously, I love this firm: you can't help but try a little harder when your own boss says "you've got a fair bit ahead of you - do you want to throw one of these responses to me to prepare?" rather than "you've got a lot to do - good luck" or "If this all goes pear-shaped you'll be ...".  There honestly wasn't a lot of intellectual fuel in the tank, so I got as far as 6pm and pulled the pin and came back here.

Once back here I watched some Big Bang Theory while doing some static exercises - my legs were still feeling a little more worn out than I wanted to run on. I also checked out my weight and was pleased to find I'm now down to 88kgs!  Dinner was something repulsively healthy that I'd also been craving - tortilla wraps with chicken meat, tomato and lettuce, with almonds for dessert.  Yeah, I know, I sound like a health bore.  But seriously, I was craving that particular combination all day.  Well, I also wouldn't have turned up my nose at BBQ chicken pizza, but this didn't leave me bereft of self respect tomorrow!

On the "also good news front" - I got the credit card statement in today's post and it's down to and encouraging figure.  All being well, early next year I can start looking for work in the US in earnest.  Ever dollar gets me a little bit closer to my darling girls.

OK, I'm going to wrap this up and finish catching up on sleep.  Hope all is well with all of you!

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Catch-up post

Hi everyone,

Here I am trying to bring my blog up to date, and also comment on a few other people's blogs.  We'll see how I go: dreadfully tired tonight.

As I think I grumbled about recently, I had four hearings in the last seven days. Hence, four lots of advices, briefs, court books and court time, as well as all the other usual work.  Herein the explanation for my recent crop of 10-11-12 hour days.  Anyway, the first hearing was adjourned not reached (ie, no judge available to hear it). The next was meant to go for one day and wound up running for three, the third day of which was today. And today, I also had two matters meant to start in the County Court, one of them a multi-employer matter with another defence firm involved and competing insurer objectives.  Fortunately, my boss and one of the Summer Clerks were able to pitch in and help keep the multiple balls in the air at once.  It all worked out though: the two matters that should have started today were both not reached, but not before we'd had some illuminating discussions with the other side(s).

I noted that the County Court has set up a "wishing tree", so I must remember to put a present under it next week.

The day got off to an encouraging start as well: I was awake early enough to go for a good 4 miles run, which meant I was also awake early enough to get a proper brewed coffee at Hudsons, rather than just drinking the granulated instant coffee that work provides (and which is the reason I tend to drink more tea during the day).  By the end of today I was completely wiped out and out of ideas, so I pulled the pin at about 5:30 and went to a Christmas function that the recruiter who landed me this job was giving.  I was only able to stay half and hour because of a Blood Bank appointment, but it was enough to do the catching up and networking I needed to do, and also to find he'd rung my boss a few weeks back and asked for feedback about me and received a generally positive review.  This was comforting: maybe it's just the lack of sleep, but the last couple of weeks I've kind of had the feeling of being radioactive at work - like nobody wanted to be too close if an axe fell (a feeling not helped by one of the partners in the head office in Adelaide calling my former assistant a fortnight ago to ask her about a large write-off in my name that I've mentioned previously in these pages).

As I mentioned, the other thing this evening was the fortnightly plasma donation, which was rewarding and pleasing to do.  Although I now have punctures in both elbows, as the first needle was a little off target.

What else?  Well, the time of year resulted has resulted in me receiving two cards so far: one from a surveillance company I use a bit, and one from a fellow blogger as part of a "Christmas card swap" program.  I sent my own cards out on Monday, along with a package of presents for Grace and Rachel.  I found a good place to write quite a few of the cards...

Last Friday, when I was feeling pretty good about having lost quite a bit of weight, this showed up in the kitchen at work.  Must. Retain. Discipline.

Also, on Friday last, I got the best news in the world: some of you will know that there's been some concerns one of the girls may have a few health issues beyond ordinary childhood illnesses.  Joni emailed me last Friday to advise the latest assessment has said firmly that that is no longer considered a serious prospect.  I was beyond thrilled by that bit of news and told everyone in my office who would listen.  I know some people might not believe it, but I truly love those girls more than anything in the world.  Which is, when I think of it, one of the things that keeps me here.  I may blog that at some later stage, but not now.

The city, incidentally, is all dressed up in yuletide spirit was well.  As you can gues, one of these photos instantly had the voice in my head sounding like Will Ferrell in Elf and saying "son of a nutcracker"

If you look closely at this photo, incidentally, you'll see the name of this store was originally "Buckley's & Nunn".  This is the origin of the phrase you'll sometimes hear me use, which is still common here, "you've got Buckley's (chance)", that is Buckley's and Nunn (none).  Anyway, the other photos ... 

So there you have it: that's what's been going on in my little life this last week.

Hope all is well with yourselves too!

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Hi everyone,

This post is partly to apologise for the long absence from the blog. Sorry about that: I'm having the fortnight from Hell at work: every day ends abot 10-11pm, and it's a rush to finish stuff before year's end. I presently have on foot a matter that was meant to run for one day and is now into three, and two other matters due to start tomorrow!

I'm also doing this to test out putting up posts by phone, as memory constraints meant I had to lose the Blogger app. Let's see if this works!

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible,

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Hi everyone,

Here I am in my office at about 6:30pm.  I'm trying to muster the energy to crank out another brief and court book, and I'm honestly not sure where the aforesaid energy is going to come from.

Today was a haze of settling advices, finalising the brief and court book I was doing last night, and dealing with a bundle of incoming phone calls and emails as well as getting dropped by no less than FOUR barristers for tomorrow's hearing..  I noticed something odd though: you remember how the Blood Bank said ther other week that my heart rate seemed potentially too low for me to donate?  Well, despite the blister pace that today involved, I don't think I came close to getting agitated at all.  That is, my physiological responses all remained much the same as if I'd been chilled out in front of, say, South Park.  Interesting.

The last few days have left me with an office that looks like a barbarian set out to ravage and then thought "Actually, it doesn't need anything further".

Tomorrow evening will be interesting - the office's Christmas function is on.  Last year I really struggled at the old job's function and teetered on a right royal meltdown.  Not because I'd been hitting the grog (which was probably just as well) but my head was in kind of a messed up place.  Anyway, it'll be an interesting experience: I'm never going to be Captain Life-of-the-Party, but I'll be interested to see how I go.  If it becomes a strain, I'll promise myself a big-ass lamb kebab and/or Starbucks on the way back to the casa (which in hindsight is what I should have done last year).  My mission is otherwise not to get smashed and to avoid any Career Limiting Moves.  Unlike this guy -

OK, my brain is feeling somewhat recharged.  I'll attend to the next part of this job and then pull then pin, I think.  Tomorrow will not be straightforward so I think this is a proper night to have some actual downtime.

More later.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Another tram post. Or not.

Hi everyone,

Well, I beat yesterday! Today's timesheets tell me I racked up a bit over 12 hours of actual work time today.  The life of a lawyer...

I managed to be in the office a bit before 8am, as planned. This gave me enough time to look over the file for the site inspection.  I was out at the employer‘s warehouse for about 4 hours. They were incredibly helpful, and it was certainly enlightening. They're actually the Australian arm of a US company.  On the way back, the cabbie's radio did a story about how employers in Minot, North Dakota, are struggling to get workers because everyone in the town wants to go and earn better money in the oilfields.  I found myself seeing if this business had any operations in Minot, ND, on the basis that it's still a lot closer to Louisiana than Melbourne (they don't).

Lunch today was the farewell lunch for the assistant of whom I have a 33% share. It was held at "Gurkhas", a Nepalese restaurant about a block from work. Their beef curry was awesome!

Then, back to the office for more drafting, advising and preparing for the FOUR hearings I have coming up. And now, leaving the office at 10:30pm.

No matter how late it is when I get to the casa I'm DEFINITELY going for a run. Partly for health reasons; mainly for psychological. The last two days, between stress and fatigue and all, I've been finding it harder than it's been in a while to bounce back from reverses, or to soak up mild (possibly imaginary) criticism. Two of my recent tweets were 
Screwed up again. I'd give up this lawyer thing but there aren't many jobs for someone whose skill set is "breathing" and "bladder control".
If a teacher ever tells you your chosen career is better pursued by someone with a brain larger than a grape, believe them
Which should give you some idea of the difficulty I was having feeling positive about things!  So, a run to clear the head, get the endorphins going and force some fresh blood into my brain is definitely in order/

A propos of nothing, but in case you haven't noticed, it‘s been a great couple of days for space science. Yesterday the news was of Voyager 1 discovering a new region of the heliosheath.  And today, the Opportunity Rover - nine years into a three month mission - is still making discoveries on the Martian surface.  How cool is all this???

OK, now back at the sharehouse.  I did indeed go for a run - the usual 4 miles or so.  Although, this was a record time (32 minutes) and I was able to crank up the pace at the end for longer than usual, an extra 200 metres.  I either need to start trying to crank the time down or start lengthening the run!

OK, it's badly late (again).  Still, my head is clear and I'm ready to burn it all up tomorrow.  Definitely worth a late night.

See you tomorrow, friends.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A long day

Hi everyone,

It‘s 11:30pm and I‘m finally on the tram back to Brunswick. According to my timesheet this came up as a 13 hour day. Someone remind me of the vital public role I perform!

Today was drafting up two 7 page advices and doing 2 major rewrites of a third. Fun. Tomorrow morning I need to go out and do a site inspection and interview witnesses at a warehouse in Dandenong.

My stop.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Another page to share...

Hi everyone,

I just read this page of KatyBraden's and wanted to share it.  It's really worth digesting.

Proper post this evening.

See you then.

A new song?

Watch "Ann Chaplin - Underneath The Christmas Tree" on YouTube

Let‘s face it: there aren‘t many new songs for this time of year. But this is new and, moreover, it‘s pretty cute!

More tired than a stack of Dunlops

Hi everyone,

Starting this post on the way back to the casa tonight. It's about 7:30pm. I was about two-thirds of the way through an advice and up to the heavily analytical bit when I had to admit I didn't have enough left in the intellectual tank to do it. The combined effect of doing something like seven advices in four days, and a busload of exercise, and getting to bed really late is that I'm utterly beat!  So, tonight I think I'll call it a rest day.on the exercise and get an early night.  Hopefully the Sharehouse Bore will let me reheat dinner without renewing last night's argument!

 Hello again.  Finishing this post off on my laptop before I turn in.  I did indeed get to have dinner without another blazing argument - hurrah!  And, since, it was a rest night, I decided to let myself finish the last of the wine in a cask that had been sitting in the cupboard for a bit - I've actually not had a drink outside a social setting for some weeks now.  I took the opportunity to scribble a few ideas on a non-linear history (if you want to know about it email me; in essence I have a pet theory that in some respects the past can be shaped by the present, and I think I've got a way of demonstrating it No I am not a crackpot!) and put on the music to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

That stung a little bit, but I heard it out and then tried some Amy Grant.  I was able to listen to about one song and then moved on to something else.  Ouch.  Still, not quite as bad as I expected.  I guess that's kind of something.

OK, definitely bedtime for me.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

In which I skype

Hi everyone,

Starting this update while killing time: getting near time to skype with the girls.  Hurray!!

The day's been full since the last post.  I got a bunch of ground made up on the job I was about to start, and then did indeed make it to St Francis' for 6pm Mass.  Today's the first Sunday of Advent, obviously, but I'd forgotten that it's also the first day of the liturgical year.

Incidentally, for anyone that's interested, His Holiness has released an Apostolic Letter of which copies were available at church as well.  I was honestly unaware of this.  Clearly I've been even slacker than I thought!

After mass I went and got lunch fixings for the week from the supermarket in the city, and then trammed back here.  I went out for a short run, really just because I had a yen to, which took me to Lygon Street and back again - about 3 miles.

The sharehouse's resident bore was in full cry by the time I'd showered after my run, but I had some sausages in the fridge I hadn't been able to cook all week, so I decided to risk it and went down to the kitchen/loungeroom area.

Big mistake.

I really did try to stay out of it, as he riffed ad nauseum on the inadequacies of the Victorian criminal justice system, but in the end the stream of "I only know what I hear on 3AW and read in the Herald Sun but I have a really strong opinion" got to me and I said "Well, that's not quite how it works ... "

An hour and a half later I quietly snuck out while he was hectoring someone else.  Gripe.  This was an hour and a half I could have spent earning a Nobel Prize or watching Star Trek or something.  where do I go to get my 90 minutes back?


After I'd extricated myself from that particular black hole I came up here and ironed some shirts and fired up the computer.  And soon I'll see my girls - Yay!
Just saw the girls.  Oh Lord, even  more beautiful than last time.  Grace, so chatty and sweet, and Rachel, so happy it just shines through her.  Just playing happily with the Olivia Pig house that Grandma Judith got them, and with their Princess and the Frog dolls.  And, making music banging on their trays with their dinglehoppers!  (for those of you that don't know, that's what Ariel the Princess knew forks as in The Little Mermaid and it's the munchkins' preferred term as well).

And now?  I need to have a shave and get to bed.  This moment always sucks: I've just had the best bit of my week.  And truth be told, it's always throws the rest of my life into a kind of relief.  I can write up a storm, and work hard and run and lose weight and all,  but without the people I love, it all carries a tint of the meaningless.

Definitely bedtime.  Things will feel better in the morning.