Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So long 2013. It’s been emotional.

Hi everyone,

So here I am with my New Years Eve wrap-up on 2013.  Those of you who are regular readers know it’s been a big year.  I’ve drafted and redrafted this post a couple of times in my head today.  For want of any better ideas, I’ll hit the high notes in a quick recap and then see if I can extract any lesson or pearl of wisdom or whatever.  Does anyone know what the sequence of keystrokes is for a Brief Insightful Observation?  Ctrl-Alt-O maybe?

So, this year: a chronology somewhat unreliably and completely arbitrarily prepared from memory…


Disaster struck: one morning I woke up and was completely out of cornflakes!

In other news, within the space of seven days I was fired from my job and my wife served divorce papers on me.  You’d think the starting January out like that would be kind of for the best: “get the year’s disaster’s out of the way” and everything.  Truth is, that really doesn’t make you feel that much better.  What does make you feel better is the way everyone in your life who you needed to rally round does rally round.   In this regard, special mentions to my sisters Kate, Jennie and Fran, my parents, and my dearest friends Heather, Kris, Donna, Darlene and Giselle.  I couldn’t have made it without you.


Not a significant month: I looked for a job (work had given me eight weeks notice) and discovered the legal job market was something of a wasteland.  On the plus side, one of my contacts in New Orleans referred me to a lawyer, Mr Brett Bonin, to protect my interests in the divorce.  I can’t recommend him highly enough: exceptionally acute and incredibly … the only adjective that fits is ‘gentle’.  When you’re at your lowest, he’s the guy you want in your corner.


My eight weeks notice at work ran out, and having nothing to hold me in Melbourne I shifted to the farm at Shepparton and kept looking for work.  One opening showed up with a certain plaintiff firm and I went to an interview with them.

In running news, I did one of my first very-long-distance runs.  One evening at about 7pm (after a ferocious freak storm had rolled through!) I set out on a 50km run from the farm to Shepparton and back.  I was struggling - and more walking than running - by the end.  I finished at about 1am.  I can say I was proud and a little ‘incentivised’ by this: Doing that, you come out feeling a little bit less breakable.


Job market was still crummy.  I went to a second interview for the job I mentioned before … on a Sunday … at a pub in a town 200 kms away.  After some nagging I was then asked to go to a third interview in Melbourne for the same firm.

In this month I did the first of the foot races that I think appeal to me most: a race against a machine.  This was the Puffing Billy race - a 14km race against a steam train through the Dandenong Ranges.  There’s something incredible in racing against steel that can’t feel pain and an engine that doesn’t get tired.  I know, I know: “Marshall versus The Machine”!


There was still no word on the job I’d been interviewing for and I was beginning to go a little crazy for want of a job to go to.  Unemployment doesn’t just suck: it’s incredibly tedious.  I started sending enquiries about jobs to firms in my area essentially at random.  As it happened, I sent one to a certain firm on the same day one of their personal injuries lawyers said she would need maternity leave.  It was a match made in heaven: they needed a short term lawyer, and I needed a job to get some money in, give me a reason to get out of bed, and give me a chance to work out what my next step in life would be.  One interview later they gave me a date to start!

This, I should add, was just as well: I was about two weeks away from applying for a job as a slaughterman at the local abattoirs on the strength of their ad saying “no experience necessary”.


The most blessed month of the year for me: I was able to head over to the USA to see my darling daughters.  As only so much time was available to see them (and as time was something I had a lot of) I took a couple of days going across to explore Los Angeles and Dallas.  This had two corollaries.  One: I’m pretty sure Santa Monica answers my idea of heaven on earth.  Two: I made a new friend in Dallas - Lori, a friend of a good friend there.  One can never have too many friends!

Time with Grace and Rachel in Louisiana was … divine.  I had not seen them except on skype for 18 months, but they knew me and were as loving and beautiful as only your own children can be.  Things might not be easy living like this, no indeed, but for such children no sacrifice is too much.


I started the new job, back being a plaintiff lawyer.  I have loved being back on this side of the fence, and made a new friend in the form of my assistant Renae - the sort of dear friend you can trust with anything.


Life continued.  I think it was in this month I completed my first official marathon - the Shepparton Marathon - which I entered on the spur of the moment and for which I did nowhere near enough training.  I finished in a fairly crummy time upwards of 5 hours.


I cannot remember this month in any great detail.  I think it was about this time that I found I could run in the lunch-hour at work and have a shower and be back at my desk by 2pm.  Wonderful discovery!


Epic running month: one weekend I did the 10km “Run the Maine” in Castlemaine (largely because I needed to go there anyway to see a client).  The next weekend, the Melbourne Marathon.  This time I had trained properly and equipped myself to match, finishing in a respectable 4:30-odd.  The next weekend, another machine-race: the “Sweat versus Steam” in Echuca, racing a paddle steamer over 13kms.  For this last, sister Jennie and her husband and the parents came up to make a morning out of it, and I was very pleased by that.


An old and dear friend - Jane - came back into my life through the magic of Facebook.  There are many things that make a man happy, but few more so than a friend you thought had slipped away reappearing unlooked for.


The festive month.  Not much, I suppose, to share for the first few weeks of the month.  I had a beautiful Christmas skype with Grace and Rachel and they loved the presents the family and I here had sent to them.  All I need to do is figure out how to top this for their birthdays!


Can I get a lesson from all of this?  Yes.  It’s that friendship, and kindness, and love, really are what matters in one’s own world.  I know, I know: it’s nothing that countless writers haven’t said before.  But it’s an insight for me because there are other things in this year I could also be proud of if I wished - being offered two jobs in a crummy labour market with a sniff of a third.  Or a bundle of publications of greater and lesser significance.  Or not slumping back into strong depression again.  None of those things especially matter to me, save perhaps the third.  What matters is the bonds you have with people.

With all this in mind, I am very ready for 2014 to begin tomorrow.  Quod bonum tenete.

Friday, 27 December 2013

South again

Hi everyone,

Typing this at Flinders.  Dad, Michael and I came down yesterday to roll hay and set up for a builder to finish the shed.  Will probably return to Shepparton on New Years Day.

Things are very green down here.  It's been 6 months; I forgotten how like a garden this part of the world smells.  I'm hoping to get in a few good runs and maybe a swim while I'm here.

Feeling a bit lost at the moment, although i think most people feel that way between Christmas and New Year!  Certainly I'll be grateful to leave 2013 behind me.  I must not drift.  The drive down yesterday afternoon took me through the suburbs of outer south-east Melbourne, a place which (from having handled a lot of cases from there) feels like the place hopes and dreams go to be mummified.  Shudder.

More later.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Boxing Day morning

Hi everyone,

Typing this one just after breakfast on Boxing Day.  Hope you're all having a good Christmas.

Currently I'm really stuck in a Yuletide slump.  The next week has been mapped out for me by Dad and Michael who, in their usual style, made plans around me being available and then (and only then) asked "you didn't have anything else planned did you?".  I'd be more unhappy if it weren't for the fact that in still paying off debt and, apart from entering a few races, can't really afford to do a bunch of things.

Skype time with the girls in about an hour, which is great but awfully bittersweet.  Feel terribly sad at having hurt people.  Why did I give Mum and Dad the chance to be grandparents and then not make things happen to match?  Why did I take the job at Halls?

Why did I get effed up?

I know I won't feel like this forever.  Hopefully I won't feel like it for more than a few hours.  But now: right now  I feel like there's a big heavy cannon ball inside my stupid chest.

More shortly.

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Friday evening post

Hi everyone,

Typing this before I get on the road and while I have a bottle of water.

Disappointed by today.  Even for a day where I knew most of my work would be non-billable, to see my figures at 17% for the day and 68% for the week is just depressing.

I have these flashes of my mojo, but too much time spent not being as good as I can be.  And what saddens me is that in my ears I still hear the ex's voice telling me "you can't hold down a real job".  Every so often I have these flashes of brilliance, but mostly what I'm seeing this evening is a shitload of emails with little red flags which mean "follow up".

I know I can get this back on track.  Compared to the waist-deep s+++ I've been in at other times, this is just a week or two of being off my game.  But still: I suppose I'm acutely sensitive of where I score on the "loser index".

There's one more full week of work to go.  Let's make the bastard count.

More shortly.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thursday Thousand

Hi everyone,

Something of an up-and-down day here in lawyer land.  The morning wasn't actually unproductive, but it was a little taken up with non-billable work.  Still, I was able to send off another journal article today, for one of the ABA newsletters, so there was that too.

Things were more productive after lunch, and I was feeling my legal mojo kicking in, so I'm feeling kind of good for tomorrow.

Went and did a site inspection at Mooroopna after work and feeling more confident about liability in a certain matter.  Then to Victoria Park Lake to grind out a few kilometres.  Very pleased to report that they were enough to get me up to 1000 miles (yes, miles) for 2013!  Let's see if I can do even better in 2014!

Warm night this evening.  Weather expected to be hot for a while.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Pre burger

Hi everyone,

Typing this while watching the end of The Cleveland Show and before Bob's Burgers.  The importance of TV in my life is kind of disheartening.

Up and down day at work.  Couldn't focus for shit in the morning.  Went up to Yarrawonga to see a new client with Renae in the afternoon.  Went well and should be a very good file for her to run.

Country drying out between here and the border.

Still just feel badly off my game and can't seem to come out of it.  I think I'll give it a week and if I can't shake it, go see the doctor (for want of any better ideas).

Monday, 9 December 2013

Tuesday lunch-hour

Hi everyone,

Quick post before I get back to work.  I just went to the post office and mailed some depressingly pedestrian gifts for the girls.  It was one of those times when, out of the blue, it hit me just how damn far away from them I am.  Less than awesome, as feelings go.

If I'm honest, knowing that makes most things feel pretty pointless.  All this dreck that I get published is just so much blather.  And even having gotten fit and healthy seems, I dunno, kind of hollow without my own little family to share it with.

I'm kind of making peace with the likelihood that I might well not find someone new, and in any case I'm not 100% sure I would want to.  I'd still like to have a little family of my own, but I also feel like that would be to treat a second wife or further children as (so to speak) a silver medal.  That isn't how you should treat someone.

Sorry - I know I'm being kind of a downer here!

More later.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sunday afternoon

Hi everyone,

Typing this on a Sunday afternoon.  

It's been a quiet few days.  Office Christmas function on Friday night, which went well and far better than the GVLA dinner the Friday before.

Farm work yesterday.  A mile or so of steel posts lifted one by one with the backhoe and a lifting chain and the earth rammed tight about them with a crowbar.  I put this up on dailymile as 'rowing' and I surely have blisters to match.

Last night I finished the first draft if a sort article on a recent Privy Council decision.  I've spent this morning sketching the outline of a short piece for the ABA Workers' Comp newsletter.

When the day cools down a little I'll head out for a run.  Legs are tired but I kinda need it: having one of those slightly schizophrenic days where I don't much want to interact with anyone but keep checking Twitter and Facebook hoping someone will communicate with me!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Another hot and buggy night

Hi everyone,

It's another warm night here, and the window outside my room is again crawling with insects.  In the neighbour's paddock near to the house, a header is still grinding round at midnight.

A wind has just come up; not sure if any rain is in our future, although I imagine the grain cockies must be hoping not.

It was another 'blah' day at work: working ok but not how I was a while ago.  Good chat with Oldest Sister Economist on GoogleTalk about the challenge to the ACT's same sex marriage law.  The more I think about it , the less I'd be willing to predict the outcome, although I have a feeling the court may refuse to decide the matter on the grounds that the Commonwealth can override the law simply by declaring it invalid and no constitutional issue arises unless one of the states passes a gay marriage law.  I guess we'll see next Thursday when a decision comes down.

Parental units back from Flinders. All well.

Very tired tonight.  More tomorrow.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Warm Monday night

Hi everyone,

Typing this post on my phone in bed on a bloody warm, bug infested Monday night.

It's been a mixed day.  Tolerably productive, but I felt off my game and I'm still not working at anything like my peak. This annoys me.

Someone reminded me today that the office Christmas function is this Friday.  Seriously thinking of baling on it.  For one thing, I'm still feeling the aftershocks of  Friday night.  For another, the last two work Christmas functions I've been to have been A-grade screw ups for somewhat different reasons.  I don't really want to know how this one might unfold.

Added to which, I'm not feeling exactly Christmassy anyway.  I love the people I follow on twitter and all who are thrilled to have a month of holiday movies and music and the like ahead of them, but this year I'm not even close to feeling it.  It's not a "bah humbug" thing.  It's more... I don't know. Apathy?  I suppose that word gets close.

Not much else to record for the day.  Just feeling - I dunno - a little bit directionless.

More tomorrow.

Friday, 29 November 2013

By way of an update...

Feeling much more positive about the world this afternoon.  Never underestimate the power of a quick hit of dopamine!


Hi everyone,

So here I am trying to persuade myself to do something useful with Saturday.  I'm feeling absolutely flat as Hell after last night.  The last time I felt like this was after the utter débâcle of the Independence Day dinner of 2010 - a weekend long nightmare of stress, having people over and having one of the worst fights ever with Joni.

It's not like I'm short of stuff to do.  I promised a contact an article on the Jones Act.  I have another piece to prepare on the Act of God defence in tort law. And I have study to do.  And right now I can't even make myself get off the couch.  Even the thought of going for a run makes me wilt.

Epically not much fun right now, I'm afraid. 

The morning after.

Hi everyone,

Typing this to download after yesterday.  It's a little before 6am on Saturday morning.

Last night was the local Law Association's Christmas dinner. I really didn't want to go, but being on a limited contract I decided I needed to bite the bullet and go press the flesh in case I'm banging in doors in 6 months looking for work.

So, this was the venue:

It was probably a bad sign when I could smell beer before I was even through the door of the place.  Anyway, the pre dinner drinks were in the bar of the hotel with the regulars - mostly farmers and shearers it seemed.  Suffice it to say that I felt more than a little self conscious ordering the house red and wondered if someone was going to storm over and question my manhood.

Frankly, I should have stuck to beer anyway.  I'm not sure how long the bottle of wine involved had been sitting around, but it had clearly been a while.  Certainly a few more hours were all that stood between it being wine and it being vinegar.

Anyway, as is my wont I let people come to me and when they did, let them talk about themselves (as that's most people's favourite subject).  I met a couple of people that way, but inevitably I also had to explain why I'd come from Melbourne to Shepparton.  This was when I found something useful about my fellow legal practitioners up here.

They cannot take a fucking hint.

When someone is plainly skirting questions about their family arrangements and the like, don't keep fucking asking about them.  And when the slightly-less-evasive answers include the words divorce, broke and homeless, change the fucking subject.

Things didn't get a whole lot better when we moved onto the 'dinner' phase of the evening.  In fact, they got worse.

I found myself at the end of the table surrounded by dyed-in-the-wool Liberal Party members who wanted to talk about  politics ad infinitum.  I was less than comfortable at this point.  Remember how I said they couldn't take a hint? Well - 

I made one exception when one young fellow who aspires to be the next Liberal candidate for the seat of Murray began to  hold forth on how the French support their farmers.

Unfortunately, I was sitting next to what I gathered was a semi-retired lawyer from another firm who also seemed to have gone through law school before they included a subject on not being a dickhead.  What do I mean?  This is what I mean -

And then this gem...

"So you're divorced ...  Now you're up here you must be looking for a new wife..."

Attempts to change the subject met with limited success.

Incidentally, the food didn't make up for the evening.  For one thing, the chef confused the notion of a "rare steak" with a "medium-well done" steak.  I'm not sure what you got if you asked for well done, but I suspect it would have been charcoal.  On the plus side the wine improved once they opened a new bottle.

By a little after 10pm it was clear there was nothing for me there in terms of conversation or meeting people (Or coffee. Or dessert.) and so I put on my jacket and left.

Lying here typing this the morning after, I'm still unhappy and also ... I dunno. Disappointed?  I suppose that word will do. At some level I guess I'd been starting to think 'life is actually pretty satisfying up here ... I could get used to being a country lawyer ... Maybe this is a place to begin again..."  Clearly I was wrong.  I don't fit in here.  I don't belong here and never will.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Friday morning

Hi everyone,

Short post just before I get up to do some strength-work before breakfast.  I just woke up from the weirdest set of dreams in ages (having a major freak out while working as a window washer on Bourke Place or the Rialto, both being buildings I used to work in.  Kind of odd as I've never had a problem with heights.  Anyway, maybe it's a metaphor, maybe it's my brain telling me it doesn't care for these Prosomnia pills.  I think I'm fine either way.

Work is good, although I'm a bit annoyed with my performance this last few weeks.  My brain doesn't seem to want to get out of second gear.  On the plus side, more people are coming through the door, so there seems to be more work about.

Time to get up I guess, and face the day.  More later.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Hi everyone,

Typing this on my phone before Top Gear.

Today started early: a 7am seminar at work (aborted when the link to the Law Institute lecture theatre failed).  Which wasn't a complete loss, as I've got a chance to write a short piece for the Commercial Transportation Law committee; I was able to pound out most of that before working hours. Yay me.

Day itself was productive: leaping from job to job and zapping them like double-clumsy zombies.  A client who'd gone walkabout showed up (well, rang up) so I can get his matter underway again.  

Left office about 6:30pm.   Cooler air temperature this evening.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Hi everyone,

Frustrating day at work.  Couldn't seem to find my stride, and brain was completely out of step as a result of needing to go to a Rotary meeting (not a member - went as a member's guest) at lunch.  Good lunch but the strain of trying to try and converse.  I am not made for small talk 

Took dog for walk in evening. Very tired.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Hi everyone,

Sorry I'm being a pretty crappy blogger at the moment.  In the evenings I seem to be so tired all I can do is pass out.

Not that my posts would have made especially interesting reading: work, running, writing.  If you head over to dailymile page there's the race reports for Run the Maine, the Melbourne Marathon and Sweat vs Steam, which are about the closest I've come of late to writing anything decent about my life.

The last day or two the weather's been trying to persuade itself to rain.  There was actually a shower this evening before I took the dog for his last walk and the air had that 'relieved' feeling.  I remember that feeling, from when I was at Rushworth or Brocklesby.  It's a feeling of memories of happy times, and that the world was wide and there were still endless possibilities still to be explored.  I was trying to remember the last time I felt like that.  I'm not sure when it was.  When I was at university perhaps?  Maybe I'm just having a bit of a let-down after three weekends of running events, but right now I feel like I might have burned up an awful lot of my second chances.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Some night time thoughts

Hi everyone,

Here I am at second oldest sister's house the night before the Melbourne Marathon.  I drove down to the city this morning, went to the MCG to collect my race pack, then back to Brunswick to see a client who's based in the city.  I had lunch of pasta on Lygon Street, and then came out to here.  I had a really delightful and pleasant (and soundly carb heavy!) afternoon and dinner with Jennie and JP, and now I'm typing this on my phone the night before getting some sleep.

I'd be lying if I said I was a font of excitement tonight .  Truth is, I feel a bit blue.  I've been missing Grace and Rachel immensely the last few weeks, because for various reasons I haven't felt I could or should facetime or Skype them.  And Joni's not the easiest person to approach, so asking how they're doing tends to get a frosty response.  But they're growing up and I'm not there to be a father to them, and in light if that, everything else I do - running, publishing, work, whatever - just feels like so much trash.

Added to which, I'm kind of feeling like what I am - mid 30s, introverted, a mix of mediocrity and clown - means I'm having some doubt that I'll meet anyone else, or ever have a family of my own.  I found maybe the one woman on the planet who wanted to be with me and I lost her.  Pace the Internet, there actually aren't plenty more fish in the sea.  Sadly, these are the moments when I look at the fifty or so years of life ahead if me and feel like my task is simply to get on, serve my allotted sentence in this identity, and hope like Hell the Hindus are right about reincarnation, and that I'll get a second chance to get things right.

Well, no more for now.  Will update you in the race tomorrow night.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Early morning

Hi everyone,

It's about 5:20am.  I've been meaning to do a blogpost for ages but ... Well, you know the score.

It's dead silent at the moment.  No cattle losing and no dogs barking. The stars are blurry but visible, so I guess there's some high cloud about.

Things at work are good, if a little slow.  Difficult day yesterday with a combative client and her equally combative son.  The sort of thing where after you've done the conference it leaves you drained for the rest if the day.

Another couple of small publications are in the offing - casenotes in the Agricultural Law News.

Melbourne Marathon coming up on Sunday.  Feeling like I've trained well for it and looking forward to it.

More later.  Feeling tired again.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Hello everyone,

Typing this on my phone, before I take my shoes off and do those going to bed things.

Productive day, I think.  Woke at about 6am to heavy rain, and woke again to strong winds a little after 7am.  Breakfast and off to work.  The weather had cleared by lunch, and I was a bit annoyed that I'd decided to leave my running gear at home.

The day itself was more productive than it felt like it was.  Having some interesting issues with one if my friends in employment law where she's acting for an employer who also has workers comp issues.  That time in defence work is paying off: if the claim is rejected (which it should be) I think I've set things up for the Panel solicitor!

Went to the op shop across the road at lunch and got the girls a nice looking story book.  Truth be told, I'm feeling their absence a lot at the moment.  Really , perhaps more than ever.  Well, no point griping.  One can complain or one can act.

Left work early (viz before 6pm) as I'd parked in the tower with the bad weather this morning.  Unexciting evening at the Casa with the parentals.  Thinking of joining one of the gyms in town, or the pool, to supplement the running.  A man's got to have a hobby I guess.

More later.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday update

Hi everyone,

How are things?  It's been an intense but somewhat frustrating day here.  I wanted to be out if bed just in 5am to squeeze in a quick 20km run before breakfast.  It didn't quite work, and so I was out of bed at 6am which meant a little better than 10kms (http://www.dailymile.com/people/sdtuc2/entries/25325553).  I'm not sure how I'm going to get in a 20km and a 30km prior to the marathon.  Hmmm.

I was at work a bit before 9am.  I got through most of the stuff on the to do list, but without feeling like I was actually achieving very much.  I dunno, I just felt kind of ... sedated.  Healthy lunch of fruit and nuts.  Does that make any sense?  Well, no matter.  As I said, it was a tolerably productive day, and I found time in the late afternoon to rattle off the updates to the other day's casenote for Ag Law News.

Back at the Casa a bit before 7pm.  Parentals in doing ok although being cooped up together is not making them overly happy.  TopGear rerun in the evening.  Reading up on real property law.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Catching up

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  I don't have an excuse: really the closest I get to an explanation is that as I get one part of my life in order, I seem to drop the ball in another.  Well, no matter. Onward and hopefully upward!

Typing this on my phone on a Saturday morning while I fail to write an article, a casenote, a submission to a government inquiry and to do a crossword puzzle.  

Just typing that last sentence has actually helped motivate me I must say!  At least I've gotten a few other longstanding things (doctor, dentist, taxes, will, insurance) sorted or on the high road to being sorted of late.  The thing is not to allow your life to drift ...

... or put entries to one side until you can finish them while waiting at the chemists (getting my Pristiq filled).

Anyway, it's been a productive day so far.  Some farm work and working on that casenote for the Agricultural Law News.  And I found some more little presents to send to Grace and Rachel.  

Feeling a little flat at the moment, but i don't expect it to last.  One of the few drawbacks of living in the Goulburn Valley, I think, is that it makes being content a little too easy, as if there's less to strive for.  This, to me, is a little horrifying: like being buried alive.  Which is why I need to make myself keep writing and running and trying things.  If I stop, I'll stop being who I am.  I may become someone I don't especially want to be. And I'm a little worried I may become old and bitter as well, and thinking about lost chances and such.  This may or may not be related to being halfway through my allotted three-score-years-and-ten.

I'll post this before my battery gives out.  But my next job is doing a bucket list.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Morning Post

Hi everyone,

Short post before I get the day underway.  I'm hoping today will be less of an emotional demolition derby than yesterday.  Emotions are good, but draining.  There are moments where you begin to think that, maybe, the Cybermen actually had it right and that the Cylons were probably on the wrong track when they started messing with human emotions!

Things are good at work.  Still really enjoying it, even if my productivity has been down a bit this week.  Hmm.

Will have the weekend coming up to myself.  Thinking about going to vote in Euroa, and then sticking around to watch part of the Shepparton Swans / Euroa Magpies match.  Also have a boatload of study to do and a couple of articles and case notes to prepare.

Anyway, we'll see.  I'd better get underway; hope your days are going well! 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Federal Election - Five days from polling day

I spent this evening reading today's Financial Review.  A big whack of the coverage followed on from the official launch of the Labor campaign at the weekend, and nearly all the pundits were administering the last rites to the government.  Notwithstanding the energy of Labor staffers travelling with the PM, I think it's safe to say that the only Labor operatives whose hearts are still in it are those too young to remember a defeat.  I think that the pundits are right in their predictions: there will be a change of government and the only question is by how much.

I'm mildly troubled, though, that I can't sense any enthusiasm in the electorate for the world beyond Saturday.  The Liberal campaign in general, and Tony Abbott in particular, has been rigorously disciplined and controlled and determined not to frighten the voters.  No doubt this has been a sound strategy, but it's produced a campaign of mind numbing blandness.

The minor parties haven't managed their usual job of livening things up.  The Greens have hit all the usual high notes of more money for everyone and only very fuzzy ideas for the economy.  The Palmer United Party has begun advertising in the last week, but its ads consist mainly of the Peter Griffin-esque Palmer rambling to the camera about tax policy.  That party is a dreadful wasted opportunity: a backer with the money and intelligence to put out new, or at least interesting, ideas, and all he created as an expensive vanity project which will pull about =/<3% of the vote tops.  And predictably the Katter Australian Party remains persuaded that being pissed off is a policy and that the world can return to 1955.

In short, I'm a little troubled.  The voters do indeed seem to be lurking with baseball bats to punish a chronically unstable and erratic government.  But once the deed is done, I'm not sure anyone knows what should happen next.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Another week begins

Hi everyone ,

Another week begins, and I'm updating by phone.  Yesterday's springlike day morphed into wind and rain by evening.  I was cooped up in the office all day today, and tonight has turned cold again.  On the other hand, it was still kind of light at about 6pm which is a heartening sign.

The day itself was a little frustrating, inasmuch as I got about 75% of my goals met, but got bogged down in one job for a big bit of the day.

Shopping for dinner in the evening.  Dad at Flinders, so it was just mum, me and Top Gear.  Annoyed with myself that I failed to finish off the oil and gas chunk of studies this evening and let myself get distracted into drafting a casenote.  Dangerously close to that project drifting off track.  Must. Stay. Focused.

Ok: I guess that's the update.

More soon.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

I need to rant #smalltownprobs


I don't care if it's after 9am and I'm meant to be working.  I need to rant.

I was ahead of schedule this morning and off to work a bit earlier.  I decided to stop at my local Post Office to get a copy of the Australian for its Legal Affairs section, which it always runs on Fridays, and a prepaid international A4 envelope to send a copy of the Law Institute Journal to one of my contacts overseas.  I have a phone conference on the TTP project at lunch so I can't duck out to the newsagent or post office in town.

So the first thing was that they don't carry the Australian.  Sure, it's only a major national newspaper, but whatevs.  They had the Benalla Ensign, but this wasn't really what I needed.

When I asked for the international envelope, the manager looked at me blankly and said he'd never heard of such a thing.  He actually checked his own catalogue to be sure they exist and I wasn't pulling his leg.  Anyway, could I guess the weight?  I estimated about that of two packets of Maltesers.  He offered to sell me a double-strength A4 envelope and the postage for my estimate.  I didn't need the extra strength envelope but said yes to speed the process up.  As he was trying to get the computer to tell him how much the postage would be, the office's electrical safety switch cut out (he explained it'd been doing this randomly for a while) and so there was a 15 minute wait while his computer system restarted.

And the kicker?  After all this, he said "actually, it's better if I don't sell you the postage now; come back when you've put your stuff in the envelope and I'll work the postage out exactly".

Awesome: I spent 25 minutes there to buy an overpriced envelope and was late for work.

And the kicker on top of the kicker?  Because this is a relatively small town, I couldn't even tell him what I thought of his service.

Rant over.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Not enough hours in the day.

Hi everyone,

Typing this while I put off another foray into Texas oil and gas law.  I'm afraid I lost focus there for a bit.  On the other hand, I've been quite effectively networking with other lawyers through LinkedIn, GooglePlus and the Wordpress blog.

The new job is going well.  Still feeling great when I get up in the morning and drive to work.  Actually in control of things still which I find slightly astonishing.  Sometimes I need to remind myself not to let myself drift, which is my worst sin, but aside from that, I find myself energised by the coming of every new day.  The coming of every new day, and a few pots of coffee at least.

Mum and dad are both fighting off the flu at the moment, so she's mumbling more and he's even deafer than usual.  The Casa Tuck is like a Laurel & Hardy routine some days!  The flu shot I had last year with H&W seems to be holding up still, so I'm still ok.

All feels pretty good still.  Many things I want to write, and there's some short courses I'm trying to squeeze in too.  Godammit, I need more hours in the day!

Sorry.  I guess that's it for the moment.  More soon.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Opera and Genocide

I've recently been listening to some of the BBC Proms concerts on ABC-FM.  The last couple of evenings they broadcast the first two parts of Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungen (for those that don't know, they are The Rhine Gold and The Valkyrie).  They were meant to be doing the third opera - Siegfried - tonight, I thought, but that seems not to be the case.

Anyway, last night the BBC presenter was waxing enthusiastic about how this was opera for everyone, and how that was Wagner's dream in essence: that the Ring cycle would be staged at Bayreuth, at a price that the ordinary folk could afford, and provide them with a kind of mythology of their own.  I was a little surprised when I heard this.  It seemed to me that our civilisation had already *seen* such a popular adoption of Germanic myths.  It was called the Third Reich.

This got me to thinking that, perhaps, the Third Reich could not have been imagined had Wagner's music not existed.  At least, it could not have been imagined in the way it was realised.

I'm not saying that Wagner himself would have approved of the Reich.  At the least I think that, having died fifty years before its inception, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.  But his music ensured it would have a kind of monstrous majesty that comparable regimes did not.

For example, there had certainly been genocidal regimes before.  Rome's destruction of Carthage comes to mind, as does the Turkish genocide of the Armenians.  But, I think, both of those were qualitatively different.  The destruction of Carthage can fairly be seen as Rome deciding that the Mediterranean was simply not big enough for two major powers.  The slaughter of the Armenians, too, seems to have been less an ideological campaign than a empire deciding to ensure that one of its subject peoples needed to be firmly ground down.  I'm not excusing either event, or denying that they represented genocides.  But both also look like the ordinary fruit of human cruelty.

Equally, the Third Reich was hardly the only authoritarian regime of its time, but it was in a singular class too.  The administration in Imperial Japan, for example, looked like the sort of cookie-cutter quasi-military government one can find in modern history from Ghana to Chile.  The regimes of Franco, Mussolini and (maybe) Pétain were anti-democratic and thoroughly nasty, but at some level seem to have contented themselves with an ideological patina on the iron glove.

It seems to me that Nazi Germany was different in both respects.  Both in its  genocidal and authoritarian urges, it seemed to obey an internal logic whereby even the grossest crimes became right , just and rational.  My instinct (I don't think it rises even to being a hypothesis) is that the operatic order and drive that Wagner manifested in the Ring, and in Parsifal and Rienzi and Tannhäuser, supplied a kind of intellectual trackway along which along which a certain line of Germanic thought could develop.

My instinct is strengthened by an argument running the other way: one can't watch Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro", with its skewering of Count Almaviva, without seeing the deflation if the Second Estate that would eventually explode into the French Revolution.  By a similar process (in the opposite direction) one can see the Germanic, hero-worshipping drives in Wagner that would come to power in 1934.  

So where am I going with all of this?  I'm no supporter of censoring ideas, or thoughts, or music.  And I think I've fully absorbed the point George Orwell made about Newspeak, as a tool for preventing the wrong ideas even being thought.  And yet: judges by its (unintended) fruits, shouldn't the Ring and its ilk stand condemned as the midwives of a nightmare, and be decently ignored, forgotten, and not again performed?  Or am I making too much of too little?

Would love to have your thoughts.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A scrapping weekend...

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the absence (again).

It’s been a quiet sort of weekend.  The parents are off down at Flinders until Tuesday, so I’ve had the place to myself.  Which might seem a bit ungrateful given that this was where I could turn to when everything went to pot earlier this year.  Still, there’s a limit to how long you can spend with anyone, and I think another weekend with my mother might have had me climbing the walls.  So, this weekend came just at the right time!

I think I’ve put it to good use, inasmuch as I prepared a photographs-and-documents scrapbook of the visit with the girls.  It’s a project I’d had in mind for a bit, but was putting into practice for the first time.  It didn’t turn out quite how I’d planned, but I know how it can look even better next time!  And today I cut out and pasted into another scrapbook a bundle of newspaper clippings I needed to store - I know it’s a pathetic way to have spent Sunday, but it means an unsightly bundle of old newspapers has now been consigned to the flames.

I skyped with the girls last night.  They were as sweet as ever.  Rachel is more talkative and verbal, even if she was having a meltdown when we first made the connection.  She’ll catch up to Grace quick smart - no doubt in my mind.  I love that they love me too like they do - as if this is the most natural thing in the world.

I gave Mass a pass today.  I know … I’m a bad Catholic … I was just enjoying some alone time and really didn’t want to be ‘on’ again for an hour or so.  I’m pretty sure God understands.  When you think about it, He never gets to be ‘off’.  As Augustus Hill said in Oz, prayer might be the thing that makes God regret the act of Creation: “and now God, who just wanted to talk, is tired of listening”.  Hmm.

Oh, and last night I watched No Country For Old Men before skyping.  It needs more reviewing than I have time (or energy) to do here, but I will definitely do a review, maybe over on the Wordpress blog.  There’s a lot to unpack in it,  Suffice to say for now, though, that it’s a strikingly ‘unfinished’ film: the characters are barely introduced, and the climactic scenes tend to take place out of shot.  Not unlike life, the events are happening, you just happen to be getting to see parts of them.

I guess that’s enough for now.  More tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

What? An update?

Hi everyone,

Sorry I'm being such a bad blogger at the moment.  I'm getting to the evenings, and sometimes just have nothing to say,

Today, at any rate, dawned cold.  How cold?  This cold!

Anyway, with some good hot coffee in board I got to the office , although there was frost everywhere this morning.

The day itself was kind of frustrating.  I was trying to draft a briefing letter for an expert who has already prepared a couple of preliminary reports and exchanged a lot of correspondence with us.  Working out what materials he needed to have and what assumptions I should ask him to make was a mind numbing task, not made easier by repeatedly needing to stop to see some clients, go to a marketing committee meeting and go to a send off for some colleagues. At about 3:30pm my brain threw in the towel altogether and I rounded out the day preparing a case note on an Alabama decision that makes some reasonably quotable points about identifying an employment relationship - blogged here: http://emergingpolymath.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/smith-v-bp-america-inc-11th-cir-wilson-jordan-and-anderson-jj-5-july-2013-unreported/

I finished out the day with a 5 mile run around Victoria Park Lake and a phone call with oldest sister economist for her birthday.  I was able go get her on speakerphone for Mum and Dad and I think they really enjoyed that!

I guess that's everything for now.  More tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

How I didn't become an actor...

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the dearth of posts (again).  I guess it's been a bit of a big week.  I'll try and recap the highlights.

Last Sunday was a cool day.  I wrote a couple of letters, including to the girls.  I also managed not to give in to thespian yens...

Let me explain...

So I've had a yen for a while to try and do something in front of the camera.  No, I'm not about to run away to Hollywood and seek my fortune, but it might be fun to be an extra in something, if only to have something more to put on the CV.  So, I set up a profile on starnow.com (you can laugh any time you like) and I get emails from the site about jobs and the like.  Anyway, last Sunday there was a posting seeking people as extras in a swingers scene in a movie called Mirror of Filth.  I checked a bit, and it did indeed seem to be non-pornographic, albeit rather edgy.  And the auditions and filming were at the weekends, which is obviously critical at present.  I drafted up an email enquiring about the role, and I was about to hit "send".  That's when a little voice in my head reminded me that in about 15 years Grace and Rachel will be wanting to go off to spring break somewhere, and it's going to be difficult for me to tell them to behave themselves when, at some point, I will have had a conversation with them that included the phrase "but Daddy, why weren't you wearing PANTS?".
So instead, I applied for an extras role in a short murder mystery film set in the Gold Rushes.  I'm pretty certain I can keep my pants on in that one!

The week itself was unremarkable: lots of wading through files and setting strategy.  Drinking pots and pots of coffee.  Some divorce paperwork came up which we were able to process efficiently.  I was kind of pleased with myself that dealing with it didn't hurt half as much as it would have done in the past.  I think that's a good sign.

I attended the firm's Friday evening drinks.  I stayed sober and didn't make a fool of myself, although there was some rash talk: I've promised to fry the firm a turkey on the Friday afternoon nearest to Thanksgiving!

It's rained on and off all day today.  I wrote a piece for my legal blog this morning, and in the afternoon made a gumbo with some ingredients I picked up yesterday afternoon.  Not the greatest gumbo - strassburg just isn't smoky enough to give it the right flavour.  But, it was warm and spicy and good on a chilly evening.

Not much more to add: I have a skype date with the girls tonight which I'm looking forward to incredibly.  Will write them another letter tomorrow morning.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Saturday, books and rain

Hi everyone,

Here it is: Saturday night and uploading this.

It's been a quiet couple of days, really.  Yesterday dawned bitterly cold. How cold?  This cold 

And this cold 

The day itself at work was straightforward: more taking over files and working out litigation strategies.  I was tempted to stay for after work drinks but needed to get back to give the poor dog a run.  He was grateful!  Otherwise, a quiet evening of dinner, tv and brushing up on the law of evidence.

Today has been equally forgettable I'm afraid: more evidence law, more giving the dog a run, and much more coffee.  Thick cloud came over mid morning, which meant it was cool but not so bitterly cold.  Parentals got back about 4pm.

Too much tv this evening.  Feel like I dropped a LOT of IQ points, to be honest.  More reading on evidence, then bed.

A big happy birthday, btw, to Second Oldest Sister!!!  Love you heaps!

See you all tomorrow

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

While Burning

Hi everyone,

I'm typing this on my phone while burning a bunch of things from iTunes to CDs so I can play them in the car.  I started just by planning to burn some lectures from the law school at Arizona State University (in gratitude: Go Sun Devils!), and then I thought, why don't I put those lectures on astronomy on disc too?  And then... You get the picture.

It's been a good couple of days.  At work, I'm steadily getting into my stride and feeling more together and focused every day.  The other day was pay day, too.  Did that feel awesome? Does Julian Knight have an image problem?

Truth be told, maybe I'm right for plaintiff work after all.  I know it's early days, but I feel, well, energised at work.  Anyway, it feels good and that's good enough for me.  Although, having good coffee -

and a suitably customised computer -

help the attitude quite a bit!

What else?  Well, the other evening I went to OfficeWorks and printed off my bar review course materials.  All 1800-odd pages of them!  

My firm view is that any lawyer who can pass the damn thing deserves to practice.  Although remind me to swat any of those idealistic "Reprieve" kiddies who airily refer to death penalty lawyers as incompetent.  My firm view is in any case that no intern who happens to be a third year law student has any business referring to a practising lawyer as incompetent.

Bitterly cold here at the moment - regularly -1 or so overnight.  Getting out of bed is not fun in the morning!

Forgot to say that cousin Kevin died last week.  Parents going down for the funeral tomorrow (back Saturday).  I feel pretty bad for cousin Christie, to lose his wife and eldest son in about 6 months, even if death was something of a mercy for both of them.  He's anything but young himself, and I wonder if he'll be long in following them.  The old order changeth.  Sic transit gloria mundi.

Not much else to note. Will try to keep the blog more regularly!

More tomorrow.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wet weekend catch up post

Hi everyone,

Typing this up late on a Sunday afternoon.

It's been a good couple of days since my last post.  Sorry about the delays between entries; the return to working life is helping me sleep at nights!

Anyway, Thursday and Friday were both good days, ploughing through files, getting on top of them and getting to grips with the litigation strategies involved.  I really do still have a good feeling about this job - like I'm really going to be happy here.  By way of underlining the point, this was the view on the drive to work on Thursday.

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I've now signed up to do a course in preparation for the Texas Bar Exam next year.  Time to put my money where my mouth is.

State Bar of Texas ornament 
Image from here 

Friday evening happened to be the firm's mid-year dinner, at the Butter Factory in Euroa.  It was a first class venue, and I'm told by some of the folks at work very popular for wedding receptions.  Certainly it was a spacious but warm venue, and the food was as good as you'd expect.  They served a beef roast that was to die for, tender, quite rare and full of flavour.

Those of you who know me well may be relieved to know that I managed to get through the evening as the most sober non-pregnant person there and also managed not to shoot my mouth off.  As a result, I should still have a job tomorrow morning!  I'd left my car at the property of one of the partners, which was halfway to the venue and about three paddocks from here (the firm had arranged a bus between the venue and the office), so I was dropped off there and drove back here about midnight on Friday.

From there, it's been a quiet weekend.  Dad returned to Flinders yesterday feed the cattle down there, which has meant it's been just mum and me here.  Weather very cold and rainy, so aside from some longish walks to keep the dog entertained, I've been reading and also catching up on my networking via LinkedIn and the wide wide world of web.  This, incidentally, was yesterday's rain.

Aside from networking, I wrote a couple of letters yesterday and read a fair bit.  Watched way too much TV last night.

This morning didn't exactly dawn as much as it slouched out of the fog.  Was it cold?  It was bloody cold.

Photo: Foggy and f*ing freezing this morning at Shepparton!

 I've kept wading through back issues of journals and books today.  This was the harvest from my night stand, so you can see why I need to catch up.


I'm still getting on top of all the features of the iPhone.  Next step is FaceTime!

Not much more to add.  I'll post something further this evening if there's anything at all to report.  It seems odd to say it, but I'm actually looking forward to tackling work again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dawn post

Hi everyone,

Typing this a little before 7am after a bitterly cold night.  Sorry I didn't post last night: 11pm came and I passed the eff out!

Yesterday was a good day at the new job. It was a pretty drive to work, with a lot of mist hanging over the paddocks on either side of the road.  The day itself saw me beginning to get properly into my stride with the work, and even able to make a few useful suggestions on the subject of marketing!

Uncle Greg and his tribe stayed over tonight on their way to Mansfield.  Not sure if they're here two nights, although that'd be nice: having kids about really adds life to the place!

Getting on for 7am so I guess I should get showered and dressed.

More later.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The new job

Hi everyone,

Sorry it's taken me a while to post this: a couple of evenings of crashing into bed dead tired does not consort well with active blogging.

Yesterday I started the new job.  I have to say, I like how it's shaping up!  It's a smaller firm, about 25 people, but that means I've now met nearly all of them.  Unlike the last two jobs, where induction took a solid 3+ days, induction took about 90 minutes, and that included learning where the toilets were!

I'm actually rather liking the idea of small town practice: every time I mention where I'm living people say something like "oh, that's just down the road from my cousin!". When I went to the Telstra shop today to change my phone service over and join the iPhone generation, the sales assistant mentioned that at the weekends she plays netball for Murchison, and I could truthfully say I'd seen them mentioned on the local TV news.  I kind of like that.

The work is very much TAC, which I'm a tad rusty on but can certainly get my edge back. I have a very good feeling about it!

I've been looking at the process for applying to sit the Texas bar exam and also at various bar review courses. It's both less and as daunting as you might expect.  I still have to do it though, both for my girls and for me.  I refuse to wind up how one imagines Granville from Open All Hours did, a sad old flop who life passed by, eternally mumbling sentences that include the word 'coodabeen'.

At the risk of cliche, the things you most regret will be the chances you didn't take.

Well, it's time for me to sleep.  Have a good day peoples!

More tomorrow.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Preparing for tomorrow

Hi everyone,

Typing this on a late Sunday afternoon.  Tomorrow I start the new job in Shepparton.

I'm looking forward to starting the new job, and petrified something will happen to cause it all to fall apart.  Silly, right?  I guess I just worry a lot.  I know it won't but ...

The thing that is most speaking to me is that my life starts moving forward again.  Not working, you feel like your life is somewhat frozen in amber.  You can make endless plans, and dream big dreams, but unless you're working and keeping the wheels turning, the dreams are just dreams.  So, as you can guess, I'm feeling pretty good.

I went into town this afternoon to scope out the parking situation near the workplace.  It's pretty good - a parking tower where you can park for $4.50 a day.  This is awesome: when I parked in Melbourne, parking set me back about $80.00 a week >shudder<.  I went from there to the small shopping mall on the way out of town.
Photo from here

I needed to get a few necessities - shaving cream, that sort of thing.  I also got a hand of bananas.  Partly for nutritional value, and partly because I'd heard you can get shoes up to a high sheen using banana peel.  I've now tried it and I can assure you it works like a charm!

While I was in the mall I did experience an augury that I'm pondering a little: the background music included Counting Crows' Omaha and Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles.  These two songs are ones which stick in my mind from times in my life when I kind of went on a wrong turn.  SOme of you may recall that 'Omaha' was on the Crows' album August and Everything After, which was released in 1993, but the song itself didn't become big out here until 1996-7.  'A Thousand Miles' got big in 2002-3.  As I've talked about previously, these were times when I kind of let my life go into drift, and just kind of started ambling from day to day rather than pursuing something better.

Picture from here

My feeling on the augury is this: that it's a warning to me not to let what could be a somewhat comfortable existence - work, living with parents, and living in an inland town - sidetrack the desire to be a proper father to my girls, to be a real and present part of their lives, to do something 'remarkable' with my life.  I know this shouldn't be a problem, but I also know myself, and I know that I have a tendency to drift that I have to keep an eye out for.  Fortunately I have good friends and great sisters who will kick my butt and keep me moving when I need it!

(Which reminds me: I need to arrange birthday presents for Oldest Sister Economist and Second Oldest Sister.  I have some great ideas worked out for them!)

Not much else to note.  Dad returned from Flinders this afternoon.  No rain here at the moment (or, it seems, for some weeks).

Looking forward to seeing what the next steps in my life will bring!

Friday, 28 June 2013


Hi everyone,

Short post to confirm that I made it back safely.  Typing this in one of the spells of being awake in the usual long sleep after a long flight.

Many, many thanks to everyone for how the trip went.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

In the city of Jazz: the last day

Beginning this entry while waiting for Joni, the girls and Miss Bertha (mother in law) outside the Audubon Aquarium.


Continuing it in the food court line at the aquarium. Grace is being extra loving today and wanting to hold my hand all the time and saying "daddy daddy daddy". Rachel is a little more bashful. It makes me


I'm now sitting in departures at N.O. Airport, wondering if I'll get bumped from the flight to Los Angeles, which in turn gets me to Melbourne a day later. I don't sorta care about the delay. I'm not really in a hurry.

Today has been a happy, if 'clouded' day. I'd thought of squeezing a run in, but decided to give myself some extra sleep instead given the flights I have to do.

I got up and finished packing and tried to call D in Dallas for a catch up, but she wasn't about. I went down to the lobby and formally checked out and cloaked my bags for the day.


Ho-ly doggy-doo! I'm now on board flight UA856. You remember I said I was waiting to see if I'd get booted from this flight? I didn't get booted. But because I was a good sport about it, the fellow on the desk upgraded me to business class!!! That photo of a wineglass and china dishes below? That's my inflight snack. I don't have the hubris to post a selfie; you can assume that right now I look like the cat that swallowed the canary!

Now that I can focus on this post: after I checked out of the hotel I returned the rental car to the nice people at Avis, then walked to the aquarium. Joni and I had tossed around a few ideas for today, and came to the conclusion that another trip to the aquarium would be ideal for the girls and also for my flights. Pleasingly, Mrs Bertha had decided to come along too.

The girls took an extra interest in the aquarium this time. They were so sweet about spotting Nemo and Dory in the clownfish tank, and loved to watch the sea otters and penguins at play.

Lunch was had in the aquarium food court. Grace had a hot dog and Rachel pizza, and the both had fries too. I went for chicken strips; Joni also had pizza and Mrs Bertha just fries.

Grace was very keen to go and feed the birds again: the aquarium has a fenced in open air section where a big flock of parakeets flies free, and you can buy little sticks with birdseed attached to feed them with. Anyway, she wanted to do that a lot, so we did. It was a little busy in there, and the birds seemed well fed and not so interested in free food. But, Grace and I went up to the entrance to their cote and I lifted her up to where my arms were at full extension and she was standing on my collarbone, and this got her high enough to interest a bird in her stick of feed. She was SO happy! Joni did a similar thing with Rachel, and so she also got to feed them. Awwww!

After feeding the birds we stopped for ice-cream at the Haagen-Dasz at the aquarium, where Rachel had vanilla and Grace chocolate. We took them next to the jellyfish displays (lots of buttons to push which Rachel loved) and then took photos of them on the big statue of the frog prince in that part of the museum.

By this time, it was about the point to get them a toy each. Rachel selected a big pen and some windup toys, and Grace went for a mermaid doll in a handbag. I'd brought along a lot of pennies, so we let them throw them in the wishing pool for a bit and then took them to take a look at the Mississippi River.

It was getting a little late by then, and Joni wanted go beat a gathering storm on the way home, so we went to where she had parked. The girls both gave me lots of kisses and "I love you too"s, and I told them I loved them but I had to be away for a while. Poor Grace's first comment on me saying "I love you" was to say "My tummy hurts!". Afterwards she told me "have a safe trip daddy", so Joni must have outlined the state of play to her at some level. Then they drove away.

I walked back to the hotel, got my bags, and climbed aboard the taxi I was splitting with another passenger. Went to the airport, checked in, had some beignets and coffee and bought the Advocate for the flight. This brings me up to the present: in business class next to a pleasant Canadian lady.

I miss my little girls already. I miss Rachel's snuggliness. I miss Grace's exuberance. I already miss being able to make them happy and be a part of their lives.

I miss looking at the awesome ladies I know they'll grow up to be like and thinking: if only they could know how much I love and miss them.


LATER: now somewhere in the sky over New Caledonia. This flight has been passing swiftly - I've slept pretty well although I've been trapped in my seat the whole time.

I'm still trying to process my thoughts on the trip. One of Joni's observations was that it might be desirable for me to keep working over here indefinitely, on the grounds that the pay is good and there's a norm of 4 weeks leave a year, both of which are better than I would have in, say, Tulsa. I should add, I don't think she was trying to keep me away but, I don't know if she realized what she was suggesting: that I be only a 'holidays dad'.

Her point about the money is well made though, which pushes me in a fairly specific direction: Texas, which has a couple of things to recommend it -

(a) its economy is fairly sound, according to the friends of D who I met there.

(b) the cities in the east of the state - Dallas, Austin, Houston - are within two hours combined flight and drive of Thibodaux. That is, nearer than my office was to the house at Heatherton on a bad traffic day.

(c) I can sit the Bar Exam without having to do an LL.M. first. I don't want to practise law that much: it isn't my passion, but it DOES pay well and that's important right now. In any case -
(d) it's a state near obsessed with its own history: the Texas Historical Commission exists for a reason. So history and archaeology are more likely to be a part of my future there than anywhere else.

(e) according to the LA Times I picked up at LAX, the recent rises in house prices across the US hasn't markedly affected the Lone Star State. Actually, land around El Paso appears to be REALLY cheap, but may come with too high a risk of a nasty run-in with someone bringing drugs north of the border.

Granted, my little Cajuns may resent their father having thrown in his lot with what their great-grandfather called "les maudits Texans" (I'm mostly joking!). What they'll remember more than anything, though, isn't what money I made or what work I did, but whether I was there in their lives. Being in their lives, once a week on a computer screen and a few weeks a year... I don't think it's enough. The girls may not remember what cases their daddy did. But they'll remember if he didn't love them enough to be there.