To Boldly Go Where No Tablet Has Gone Before

A few years ago Omaha’s cable provider made the switch from analog to all digital television. The basic subscription package offers around a hundred television channels and thirty plus music channels. But you need to rent one of their digital receiver mini box for each one of your analog television sets be part of their new cable digital revolution. I dread to think of what you’ll need to do when you get rid of one of your analog television sets and upgrade to a smart TV; undoubtedly install, and configure some type of Artificial Intelligence box to descramble the cable digital services signal so it’s compatible with an internet ready 4K Ultra HD smart TV.

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I remember back when watching TV was simple. In Melbourne there were three stations to choose from, and they only broadcast from nine in the morning until signing off at ten at night. The stations signed off with a film montage of the queen inspecting her guard, riding her horse, walking through the countryside, and an exterior of Buckingham Palace; the montage ended with the Australian flag flying in the wind against a lightly clouded sky. God Save the Queen played throughout the montage. The three channels broadcast a black and white test pattern until their morning sign on. Without having many choices you never made a bad decision in deciding what to watch; we felt self satisfied with our healthy viewing habits. The The Mavis Bramston Show, Pick a Box, and Demonstrations in Physics were some of my favourite shows.

With the start up of a fourth station, and twenty four hours a day of on air broadcasting in vibrant colour, the viewing choices exponentially multiplied and became even more choices. But the newness of colour, and having too many viewing choices wore off. The risk of making a careless choice caused one not to choose, and watching television became a mindless exercise; it was also the seventies, and there were other thoughtful mindless distractions.

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Our cable providers basic digital television package is an overwhelming deluge of choices. I’m nervous and fidgety when I chose something to watch, and I worry as to if I’ve made the wrong choice; was there something better on one of the other hundred channels. I’m wracked with the indecision of choice overload; and so I’ve chosen to watch television in the same mindless trance that I watched GTV-9, HSV-7, ATV-0, and ABC-2 back when in Melbourne. A few nights ago I was watching the nightly national news in a numb stupor. The TV was a nice fuzzy out of focus glow; I find this an enjoyable way to watch the evening news. I sat content in my television induced stupor, hearing a muffled and toneless drone from the TV

A new year and another new recall of blood pressure medication. Aurobindo Pharma announced it is taking off store shelves 80 lots of its Amlodipine Valsartan. Aurobindo said it hasn’t received any reports yet of adverse patient reactions to their products.

And I thought, how thoughtless of the makers of Amlodipine not to advertise their drug on television; they’d have been obliged to warn about the possible side effects of taking Amlodipine. How often do we hear at the end of a commercial for a pharmaceutical treatment for erectile dysfunction, plaque psoriasis, heumatoid arthritis, atrial fibrillation and stroke prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis that it may cause serious allergic reactions, or could have side effects such as serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts, new or worsening depression, unusual changes in mood or behaviour, swelling, trouble breathing, hives, blisters, blurry vision, muscle pain with fever, rashes, constipation, heartburn, bladder dysfunction, tired feeling, skin sores, dizziness, sleepiness, headache, morning drowsiness, weight gain, and swelling of the hands, or legs and feet, and tongue or throat.

I remember back when taking a tablet for a headache, upset stomach, heartburn, or any ache or pain was as simple as swallowing an Aspro, taking a Vincent’s, or having a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down; and you didn’t worry about any unusual changes in mood or behaviour, swelling, trouble breathing, rashes, hives, or blisters. Aspro, Bex, and Vincent’s used to be the big three analgesics in Australia.


Aspro was simply asprin, and Bex and Vincents contained aspirin, phenacetin, and caffeine. During the fifties and sixties Bex was advertised in all the ladies magazines as a panacea for calming down. And it worked; aunts, mums, and sisters discovered a better living through chemistry. Dissolving a Bex in a cup of tea became a common thing, and some women were consuming Bex and Vincent’s in addictive amounts; they became known as mothers little helper. In the seventies phenacetin was linked to kidney and bladder cancers, and Bex and Vincent’s were banned. Aspro, with only asprin as an active ingredient, has stood the test of time and today it is readily available in any chemist, supermarket, or online.

In the early twenties the Nicholas company built an Art Deco style, ten story office building in Melbourne’s Swanson Street as a speculative investment. The Nicholas building isn’t on the must see list of many Melbourne tourists, but it houses what I think is one of the most glamorous deco heritage arcades in the city; a highlight is the magnificent stained glass and leadlight archways that lead into the central dome. The ten stories of the building are a warren of galleries, studios and boutiques; some would say it’s one of Melbourne’s vertical laneways.

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I started to hear once again the muffled and toneless drone from the flickering television screen and was jolted back to reality

Amlodipine Valsartan has been found to contain the chemical N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) which the Food and Drug Administration has classified as a probably human carcinogen.

I’ve been taking Amlodipine for the last couple of years; and it’s now a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

For some time now I’ve been visiting my doctor twice a year for standard check ups. He likes to monitor my blood pressure, and once a year take a blood sample to check the Uric Acid level in my blood, and do a lipid profile to measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels. During a recent visit he recommended that I have a chest CT; explaining that persons of my age, and who in the past had spent years smoking, have a reasonable chance of developing cancer. The initial scan revealed an indeterminate right upper lobe pulmonary nodule. A follow up scan was scheduled; a scan with a different type of radiation.

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I walked into the reception area of the The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, panicked that I was already five minutes late for my follow up CT scan, and gave the associate my name and appointment time. She spent some time searching a computer appointment data base. I confirmed my name several times, and she kept searching. After I handed her my printed appointment confirmation and scheduled, she smiled and explained I was at the wrong building; I should have been at least two miles away. She kindly called upstairs and located a scanning machine that was now available; after all it was the The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Me: g’day
CT Machine Technician: If you wouldn’t mind just lying down on the bed
Me: (with a nervous tone) They said I was getting a different type of radiation this time
CT Machine Technician: Yep
Me: (in a playful manner) Probably higher frequency EMFs; something in the ionizing radiation part of the electromagnetic spectrum
CT Machine Technician: Just like being scanned 200,000 times at an airport
Me: (in a joking way) They scan for cancer at airports?
CT Machine Technician: (checking numbers on a screen) Not really
Me: (attempting humour) What about a floroscope outside a shoe shop?
CT Machine Technician: Take a deep breath and hold it
Me: Umm, you’re leaving the room

The CT Machine Technician helped me up from my prone horizontal position on the scanning machine bed and ushered me down the hallway to the way out. I took a lift to the fourth floor and the Chihuly Sanctuary. The Chihuly Sanctuary is a collection of health care environment structures created by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and is a cornerstone of the Center’s Healing Arts Program. It’s a cool program; creating various art environments throughout the Center to support and comfort people. I sat on a circular bench in the large open cone and looked up. I became absorbed in the light playing off the sculptured crystal sconces; a similar but different light from the fuzzy out of focus television screen, and the stained glass and leadlight archways of the Cathedral arcade.

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The Center’s ten story building isn’t on the must see list of many Omaha tourists. The Cancer Hospital along with the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Durham and SAC Museums, Fort Omaha, and the Old Market, is on our sightseeing guided tour for any of our friends and visitors who want to see the attractions of Omaha. A highlight of the tour is the but the two storey Chihuly Sanctuary; home to ten remarkable flower and nature inspired art pieces.

You’ll have to excuse me; I think I just heard the clothes washer finish it’s spin cycle so I’ll need to go and put the clothes in the dryer. But before I do, I need to check my Amlodipine to see if there’s a warning about driving or operating heavy machinery, or if any possible side effects include hallucinations or confusion.


Chihuly Sanctuary

Nicholas Building Association

History of Australian Television


A Beetroot Is A Man’s Best Friend

A couple of days ago I dropped off my cousin from Down Under at Omaha’s Eppley airport. For the last three and a half days the house had been filled with the melodious sound of Australian accented conversations; and in the mornings the delicious aroma of Vegemite on hot buttered toast. Matt had treated himself to a four week holiday in the US. He was heading to New York after spending a few days visiting an expatriate Aussie mate of his in Texas, and had detoured to Omaha to share some time with us. Before Matt arrived we gave some thought as to how to entertain a boy from Down Under and who was on his way to Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry and views of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the Rockefeller Center with it’s Christmas tree and ice skating rink in the Sunken Plaza. We put together an Omaha sightseeing tour which would allow Matt to soak up the thrill of the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Durham Museum, SAC Museum, as many Omaha craft breweries as possible, Omaha truck and auto dealerships, delicious iconic foods of Nebraska, Fort Omaha, The Old Market, and Omaha’s suburbs.

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There wouldn’t be a better place than the Crescent Moon Ale House to taste the delicious iconic Nebraskan Reuben; it’s across the street from the hotel where it’s claimed to have been invented. It’s hard to think of a sandwich as being invented. I think of the Wheel, the Steam Engine, the Computer, and the Flush Toilet as inventions; not a sandwich. As Matt and I sat nursing a couple of IPA’s waiting for our Blackstone Reuben, I shared the following story of the Reuben. Reuben Kulakofsky was known for playing poker with his mates at the Blackstone. As the night wore on they’d get hungry and call down to the closed hotel kitchen to see what they could scrounge to eat. It’s said that Kulakofsky dreamed up the Reuben Sandwich the night there was a lettuce shortage. On the fateful no lettuce night Kulakofsky substituted sauerkraut on the corn beef, cheese and lettuce sandwiches. He grilled the sandwiches to hide the cured cabbage flavor; thus melting the cheese. The sandwich was a hit with the poker players; Schimmel, the owner of the Blackstone, and one of the poker players, put it on the menu of the hotel restaurant. He named it the Reuben after his mate Reuben Kulakofsky. Thirty years after it was created the Reuben became famous by winning a national recipe contest. Today, the Reuben Sandwich is made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing between slices of grilled rye bread. Matt took three long swigs and finished his IPA; he reached with both hands for his just served Nebraskan Reuben. He declared the Reuben delicious.

image source:skmcadam

Matt’s taste buds were severely teased by the Reuben and the only other delicious iconic Nebraskan taste sensation that would satisfy them was the Runza. Matt listened attentively as I started to talk about the Runza. It’s a warm bread pocket stuffed with peppery beef, wilted cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings; you know like a pasty without potatoes, swedes, or carrots. Seeing I have German ancestors I thought I’d better tie the Nebraskan Runza to our family genealogy. Matt listened with fascination as I told him how in the seventeen hundreds Bierocks and Runsas were the go to lunch for German-Russian field workers; and that immigrants bought these traditional lunches to America. It was back in the early nineteen hundreds when a daughter of German immigrants who settled in Nebraska, mucked around with the family Bierock recipe and came up with the Runza. There are now eighty Runza restaurants in Nebraska that serve Runza’s made from Sally Brening Everett’s recipe.

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Me: How about that Runza Matt?
Matt: Crikey; looks like a giant sausage roll
Me: Ya wouldn’t find cabbage in a sausage roll
Matt: Could be mistaken for a chicko roll if it had a bit of offal in it and was fried
Me: Fair suck of the sauce bottle Matt
Matt: It’s good tucker
Me: What if you whacked a few slices of beetroot on it Matt
Matt: Bloody ripper

According to any Aussie a fair dinkum burger has to have a few slices of canned beetroot on it, and the bread has to be stained by beetroot juice. A burger, stained by the purple hue of beetroot is as Australian as football, meat pies and Holden cars; some would say it comes a close second to the Vegemite sandwich. The burger with the lot is an iconic Aussie burger; it’s filled with lettuce, tomato, beef patty, cheese, onion, bacon, pineapple, a fried egg, and beetroot. And you’ll never want for one with the lot; you can get them at pubs, restaurants, take away shops, and fish and chip shops.

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Aussies add beetroot to just about anything you can think of; we love our beetroot Down Under. You’ll soon forget about cuddly koalas and lovable kangaroos when you try some of these beauties.

Dips: You’ll load up your supermarket trolley with some of these bottlers: baby beetroot & feta dip, creamed beetroot dip, and sweet beetroot hommus dip
Salads: Everyone will want to know you when you bring one of these beauties to a backyard summer bbq party: classic beetroot salad, beetroot salad with chopped avocado, roasted beetroot and orange salad, or shaved brussels sprout salad with beetroot and carrots
Soups: You’ll only hear cries of bloody beautiful when you serve one of these winners: chilled beetroot soup, beetroot and bacon soup, or leek and beetroot soup
Sandwiches: You can’t go wrong if you take one of these for your lunch every day: beetroot, carrot and hummus sandwich, beetroot and cheese sandwich, or the classic salad sandwich made with two slices of buttered white bread, and sliced lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and canned sliced beetroot
Other Favourites: Chocolate and beetroot pancakes, beetroot energy bars, beetroot and blueberry bruschetta, and beetroot surprise cake

Every Sunday night back when, nanna and granddad would walk down the street from their place to have tea at our house. We always had cold left over roast lamb with salad. In the afternoon mum began soaking pulled apart iceberg lettuce leaves and celery in the kitchen sink; she wanted to make sure they were washed properly. The salad was made up of iceberg lettuce, slices of hard boiled egg, sliced tomato, chopped celery, and sliced Golden Circle beetroot; served on the same plate as the cold lamb. The beetroot juice turned the Heinz salad dressing a beautiful pink colour, which in turn turned the salad and cold roast lamb an elegant fuchsia rose colour.

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When granddad was working he ate beetroot six days a week; Sunday night at our place and five days a week for his lunch. I think Nanna grew beetroots in the backyard. She would have boiled them on her wood burning kitchen stove; in due course a gas stove with an oven took over from the wood stove. Nanna or granddad would have made beetroot sandwiches every workday morning; cutting two slices from a loaf of white bread, spreading some butter or dripping on the bread, and then slicing some cooked beetroot for the sandwich. Granddad’s beetroot sandwich was wrapped in grease proof paper and the bread was soon stained with beetroot juice; he carried it to work in his kit bag with a thermos of hot tea. His kit bag was similar to a doctor’s leather Gladstone bag. Nobody confused granddad with being a doctor; he was a tinsmith. He caught the train to North Melbourne every morning at Newport station and then walked to John Buncle and Sons in Wreckyn Street. The bread in his beetroot sandwich would have become a deep ruby red by lunchtime.


To a young secondary school boy the concept of being able to buy your lunch at the school canteen was mind blowing. Buying my lunch was a rare exception rather than the rule; and when I did I walked a little taller in the school yard. By today’s standards the lunch choices were meagre, but we toiled over them; sandwiches or rolls, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, and a coffee scroll or raisin bun. I’d always choose a salad roll; a bread roll filled with shredded lettuce, grated carrots, sliced tomato, grated cheese, sliced cucumber, and sliced beetroot. At the start of the second class period you wrote your name and form on a lunch bag and ticked off what you had painstakingly chosen for lunch. You’d put your money into the lunch bag and the lunch monitor would take all the lunch bags to the canteen. Ten minutes before the end of the before lunch class period the lunch monitor would go to the canteen and bring back a wire basket with all of the lunches. The bread in every salad roll was a delicate shade of pink. And it would become a challenge game in the boys dunny at recess to see who was producing the reddest stream.

I grew up with canned sliced beetroot. The Golden Circle company began in Queensland, Australia, in 1947 and over the years expanded to produce juice and drinks, cordials, fruits, and vegetables. If you’re buying beetroot Down Under you’ll be buying a can of Golden Circle. You can buy it sliced, diced, crinkle cut, pickled sliced, pickled baby, wedges, and whole baby beetroots; ready to plop on a dish, into a recipe, on a burger, salad, or sandwich. And if you want that little something to see you through the day, or substitute for a missed beetroot lunch, you can always throw into your shopping trolley a box of beetroot latte powder, wholegrain beetroot chips, sweet potato and beetroot chips, or a bag of mixed nuts coated with beetroot. It’s hard to find anything as yummy and moreish.

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I keep a jar of sliced pickled beets in the fridge for whenever I have a salad for lunch. But I think I need to return to where I came from. Granddad was a role model to beetroot lovers; my lunch will become six days a week beetroot inspired. It will be built upon beetroot, cheese, and Vegemite sandwiches, beetroot and asparagus salad, and diced beetroot, feta, and roasted pumpkin pizza; lunch will become pure pink ambrosia in my mouth.


Beetroot History – Origin and Historical Uses of Beetroot

Aussie Burger With The Lot

Only Nebraskans Know The Runza

Sometimes You Have To See The Big Picture

I had been fidgeting in the outpatient waiting room for a couple of hours; ever since Susan walked through the heavy duty, high impact, traffic doors. I remember when all there was in waiting rooms to while away the time were uncomfortable chairs and out of date magazines. It was the days before identity theft and privacy protection laws, and the address labels were still on the magazines. The doctors and nurses who subscribed to Australian Outdoors, Women’s Weekly, TV Week, and Modern Motor didn’t seem to care who knew about their reading habits; and you always felt a little more comfortable when you learnt your gastroenterologist subscribed to the Australian Home Journal. But now instead of reaching for an out of date magazine we sit in a strange limbo staring down at the glowing screen of our smartphone; aimlessly tapping, scrolling, swiping, and pinching at the screen; though waiting rooms still have uncomfortable chairs. And then my name was announced. A nurse appeared and beckoned me towards the opened high impact traffic doors; I made my way into the prep and surgery recovery area.

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There were small chairs with hard plastic seats and back rests in all of the prep and recovery cubicles. A mobile cart holding a laptop was alongside each chair; standing in the main corridor as if they were on guard. As I sat down on the chair a nurse started tapping on keys on the laptop keyboard. She continued to tap on different key combinations, and while still looking at the keyboard asked “has the doctor been to see you yet”.

Me: No, not yet
Hospital Nurse: (selecting a combination of function keys with shift, alt, and ctrl) Where are you from.
Me: Australia, Melbourne.
Hospital Nurse: (tapping keyboard) It must take a long time to get to Australia.
Me: Fourteen or fifteen hours flying.
Hospital Nurse: (selecting keyboard shortcut keys) It couldn’t take that long.
Me: (thinking to myself seems like she’s a few stubbies short of a six pack) That’s from the west coast. If you add on the time from Omaha you’re talking an extra five or six hours or more depending on how long you’re waiting in airports.
Hospital Nurse: (looking away from the keyboard and at me) It just couldn’t take that long.
Me: (convinced now that she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic) Well it does; from Omaha it’s about a day. Fourteen plus six is twenty.
Hospital Nurse: (smiling) Oh. I thought you said it took 48 hours not fourteen; it was your accent.
Me: Fourteen or fifteen, fourteen or fifteen.

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She turned and reached for a collection of papers that somehow had appeared on the mobile cart, passed them over, and asked if I could sign where indicated. I quickly glanced through the papers; they included a summary of the procedure just completed, colour images, date and time of follow up visits, expected behaviour for the next 24 hours, list of current medications, and cautions of what to avoid for the next 24 hours. I was mindful my accent could present misunderstandings so I maintained a pleasant and courteous tone as I started a slow pitched verbal tirade about the futile waste of paper.

Me: Have you ever thought of where we would be without the richness of the forests; all this paper is killing the trees faster than they can heal. And don’t start to talk to me about recycling programs and sustainable actions; you should be telling me about the number of trees that have to be destroyed so you can give me a handful of paper that I’m just going to throw away. What if when you looked up there wasn’t a sky filled with clouds of green. Birds won’t have anywhere to build their houses. Let’s take a few seconds to think about what a world without birds would look like.
Man sitting in chair in opposite cubicle: Are you from Australia. Thought you were. Had the good fortune to travel to Australia
Hospital Nurse: Have you signed the papers; I’ll take out the cannula and IV, and get Susan dressed and she’ll be right to go
Me: (in a jocular tone to man sitting in chair) Glad you didn’t say New Zealand mate; otherwise I’d have to tell you to put you thongs where your jandals don’t shine.


I handed the signed sheets of paper to the hospital nurse, and asked the man sitting in the chair in the opposite cubicle “when did you go Down Under; where did you go?”

Man sitting in chair in opposite cubicle: We took some prize bull semen down there. I’ve got prize bulls in Iowa. 1986 it was; we were in Sydney. You’ve got a lot of good bulls and cows down there.
Me: You should have gone to Melbourne mate; if you were there in September you could have taken the missus to the Show. You would’ve seen some prize bulls there. And you could have had some scones and jam, and a cup of tea at the Country Women’s Association café.
Man sitting in chair in opposite cubicle: Yep we went to Melbourne.

I was standing in the middle of the corridor that separated the two long rows of prep and surgery recovery cubicles. A man wincing in pain, and lying prone in a bed was being wheeled toward me so I excused myself from the man sitting in the chair in the opposite cubicle, and made my way to the general waiting room; never to find out if he and his wife had scones and jam at the Royal Melbourne Show.

I wondered, as I settled into an uncomfortable chair in the waiting room, if a few vials of high quality prize bull semen from Iowa could have produced Australia’s biggest steer. Knickers is a giant seven year old Holstein-Friesian and hangs out at a farm in Myalup; a town about an hour and a half south of Perth, the capital of Western Australia. According to his owner, all of Knicker’s 6 feet 4 inches and 3,086 pounds, saved him from the abattoir; he was too big and heavy and wouldn’t fit through the processing machines.


Now I’d be the first one to jump up and say “Australians love big things”. On any road trip Down Under you’ll come across an oversized something; a Big Banana, Big Prawn, Big Potato, Big Murray Cod, Big Ned Kelly, or a Big Gum Boot. The big things are built just outside of small towns in the middle of nowhere, in the hope that you’ll stop and spend some money. And you can even climb into some of the big things. It was twenty or more years ago and we were driving down to Canberra from Sydney when the oversize fifty foot tall concrete Big Merino enticed us to stop the car. Imagine climbing up stairs into the head of a giant sheep and looking out through it’s eyes. A souvenir shop alongside the sheep sold stuffed koalas, and border collie stuffed dolls. Years late I learnt the Big Merino got moved when the Hume Highway, Goulburn bypass was built. And now it towers over a highway off ramp surrounded by a Bunnings, a petrol station, and a Subway.

It was a cold, overcast winter’s afternoon when we stopped at Murray Bridge, South Australia, for a late lunch. As we followed the Princes Highway down the coast a drizzly rain started and water droplets splattered the windscreen. Soon the drizzle became a downpour and the wipers laboured to keep up with the thick sheets of rain; even when squinting it was difficult to see ten feet in front of the car. Then, between the swishes of the wiper blades appeared a red smudged outline; and the red smudge grew bigger and formed into a giant crustacean. We turned off the highway, and skirted the big red lobster and parked outside of a desolate building. It was a deserted restaurant. As we walked up to the counter a lady appeared from a door behind the counter and asked if we would like to order something to eat.


Me: A cup of tea would be good, and if we could just sit and wait out the rain.
Lady in deserted restaurant: No worries.
Me: Could you tell us about the big lobster outside.
Lady in deserted restaurant: He was intended to attract attention and to get people to stop at the restaurant and visitor’s centre. He’s always been called Larry. He’s built of fibreglass. Twenty two pieces of them bolted together; he’s over 50 feet high and 50 feet long. They say that when he was built, tourists would arrive by the busload and sometimes they’d even be queued up through the front door just waiting for a table. And they all got their photo’s taken with Larry.

The crustacean has sat on the Princes Highway just outside of Kingston, South Australia, for the last forty years. Unfortunately you can’t climb up into into Larry’s head and look out through his eyes. The rain had softened and the late afternoon was wrapped in winter’s special cold and faded light. Larry slowly disappeared from the rear vision mirror and into the pale light as we headed for Port Fairy.

If there isn’t a giant highway structure built to honour the memory of Knickers then I think there are a couple of other options worth considering.

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Phar Lap was a champion racehorse who dominated Australian racing, and captured the public’s imagination, during the early years of the Great Depression. His mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, and his unusually large heart is on display at the National Museum of Australia. Perhaps, when the time comes Knicker’s, or a suitable organ, could be preserved, and put on display at the New Museum for Western Australian. A second option could be a Vegemite sculpture. Since 1911 a sculptured Butter Cow has been displayed at the Iowa State Fair. It’s said there’s enough butter in the cow for about 19,200 slices of bread. Most of the butter from the cow is recycled and is reused for up to 10 years. Every year a Royal Show takes place in each of Australia’s states. A sculptured Vegemite Knickers could be displayed in a 40 degree Fahrenheit cooler together with companion sculptures and shared between each of the state’s Royal Shows. And the Country Women’s Association café could serve Vegemite toast with a cup of tea.

There’s no question that now I need to go to the hardware shop and buy some chicken wire to start a Big Dim Sim sculpture for the front yard. I think the tourists would be queuing up to get their selfies taken with the giant dimmie.


I’m The Reporter Who Discovered Knickers The Giant Steer

Australia’s Big Things

Dim Sim: Melbourne Icon

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Haircut

Not all that long ago I decided to grow out my hair. It had been over forty plus years since I last had long hair. Hair that cascaded over my shoulders. Hair that I could pull back, and gather up into a ponytail and fasten with a lacker band. When I decided to grow my hair the undercut top not ponytail, man bun, and ponytail with side part, were just starting to show up on every wannabe hipster’s head. I wasn’t interested in following the latest men’s hair fashions, and I didn’t need long hair for a comb over. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could grow my hair below the shoulder once again; just the way the young john mcadam did.

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I don’t remember when I first went to the barber’s shop in Ferguson Street that was just down from the Hoyts picture theatre and a few shops up from Douglas Parade; I think I was either in first or second form at Williamstown Tech. When mum decided it was time for a haircut she would give us the money for the barber when we left for school in the morning. From when I first started at Williamstown Tech I rode my bike to school; riding up Peel Street into Wilkins Street, and then up to Melbourne Road and into Power Street. Houses lined one side of Power Street, and the Newport Workshops and railway lines the other side; all the way up to the North Williamstown Station. Williamstown Tech was a couple of pedal pushes down Kororoit Creek Road from the station.

The fifteen minute morning bike ride was no big deal; except when it rained, or if a North wind was blowing. We set off every morning in our school uniform. The winter uniform was long woollen grey trousers, grey shirt with tie, a light maroon v-neck jumper, light maroon blazer, and a cap. If it was raining we wore a light weight see through plastic rain coat, and rolled the legs of our long trousers up above the knee so they wouldn’t get wet. Your cap never got wet. All of the boys folded their caps and pushed them into their back trouser pocket with the tip of the cap just sticking out; making it easy to quickly slip the cap out and onto your head in case of a sudden school cap inspection. We’d all keep our raincoats on until the locker bell rang; as you headed for your locker you’d drip water onto the floor, producing small puddles of water the length of the corridors. You’d drip more water as you took your books for the morning classes out of your locker. Most of us shook our raincoats before stuffing them, still somewhat wet, into our lockers. And we didn’t care about our wet, drenched, straggling hair; we sat in the first period classroom with bedraggled rain slickened hair and waited for it to dry into an uncombed snarled mop. And today generous amounts of hair gel and glossing spray are used to produce the wet hair look that we obtained by riding our bikes to school in a Melbourne winter’s cold rain.


I was in fifth form when I started questioning my hair style; surveying it with the demanding eye of a teenager, and the insight of peer pressure. It was a pot cut; short on the sides and back, and looking as though the barber had put a pot on my head, and then cut off all the hair he could see. It was the sixties; and so with a proud act of defiance I rejected the pot cut.

I started my rebellious life’s journey at Footscray Technical College by getting rid of all traces of my pot cut. I set my sights on being an unkempt, eccentric, brilliant Industrial Chemist relentlessly chasing reactions waiting to be discovered; dismissing all pressures to be a clean, efficient and organised, white lab coated scientist performing everyday experiments. Even though I enjoyed the thrill of putting a pipette into my mouth and sucking an acid or a base into the pipette bowl, and then to just above the graduated marking on the stem, I lost interest with the meniscus. I no longer cared if it was concave or convex. My fascinations turned to the student drama club, hotels along Nicholson Street, The British Invasion, and growing my hair. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the message of dissatisfaction the Rolling Stones embraced in I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, instead I focused on Mick Jagger’s hair. With the same strong commitment I had made to be an outstanding scruffy Industrial Chemist I ignored mum’s emotional hair cut pleadings and pronouncements.

john it’s about that time for you to get your hair cut
john have you thought about getting a haircut
john will you please get your hair cut
john you used to look so nice when you got your hair cut
john you look so handsome when you get a haircut

With my desire to be a dishevelled Industrial Chemist waning I was able to focus on growing my hair and finding other ways to nourish my newfound creativity; the success of my efforts were captured in the review of the college drama club’s yearly production.

image source:jmcadam

The college year was again “blessed” with the advent of unusual performances by members of the Drama Club. There were many old faces, but lots of new stars were born when the Group performed the one-act plays “Passion, Poison and Petrification” and “The Crimson Coconut” supported by an extremely well-written revue called Lady Loverly’s Chatter.

The main new star to arise this year was John McAdam. John’s ready made beard and flowing locks, along with his untamed flare for the melo-dramatic, presented the audience with a convincing villain, who was both evil and yet passionate, but nevertheless perfect to hiss and boo at. John made an extremely good job of his part and some mused that he wasn’t really acting nut being himself. However, this displays the creativeness and sensitivity of his nature, which could quite possibly take him to the theatre in time to come.
Drama Club Notes. Blue and Gold 1965. Magazine of Footscray Technical College.

My growing hair was a symbol of my rebellion to an authoritarian culture; me in defiance of mum, the old ways she stood for, and the haircuts that she had forced upon us. It was the sixties when All You Need Is Love. I don’t remember any haircuts after Footscray Technical College even though I would have had them as I whiled away four years working as a white lab coated Industrial Chemist performing everyday experiments. and teaching Math and Science.

image source:jmcadam

I set off on the Aussie hallowed right of passage with neat, shaggy mop top hair, and smartly trimmed mutton chops; they grew into a beard and long tangled hair as I searched for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I thought of my hair as a symbol of my self determination, and I admired the ragged, weathered, tired, frizzy look of my long hair; especially the ends as they flowed over my shoulders. My hair had been without products, or trimming, for two years and more.

Time went by, and eventually I had my wild free wheeling long hair, trimmed and shortened at a barber’s school. The young barber in training confidently explained how the bounce in my hair was caused by split ends. I remember dismissing the suggestion from the yet to be barber because the only split ends I knew about were the New Zealand band who renamed themselves the Split Enz; sometimes described as a twitchy weirdo cult band. Before I left Australia to traipse around South East Asia and the Middle East I had my shortened hair trimmed once again; throughout the next few years it grew and was without products. I maintained the belief that my hair was an expression of my thoughts, and an extension of me.

The mullet, flat top, and let’s look like my favourite hair band, welcomed me to the US. My hair was introduced to shampooing, styling, the blow dryer, and hair care products at a Lincoln, Nebraska, hair salon. It was my first time in a hair salon and I remember being mystified when the stylist, after draping me with a cape, gave warning that she was going to adjust the chair. And I thought I was just getting a haircut. She explained that she was going to shampoo my hair before styling it. It became short but not short; shorter than the Beatle’s mop tops, but as long on top as the pot cut I got from the Ferguson Street barber. The sides were also longer and layered into the top. She styled my hair for as long as we lived in Lincoln and Omaha.

image source:jmcadam

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

After spending five years in Omaha we moved to Illinois; returning after a two year absence. Over the next thirty years the same hair dresser pampered my hair. They styled it as a mullet, through to full length on the sides and back and spiky on top, to a ponytail fastened with a lacker band, Then came their retirement; I was in a tonsorial wasteland. I was racked with indecision about what to do with my hair; would it be haphazardly layered into beautiful chaos, styled into an amorphous blob with my eyes peering out, or would it be fashioned as a long blond streaked messy comb over. I strode with purpose into a strip mall barber shop and confidently announced I want hair so short that I’ll be mistaken for Brad Pitt in Mr and Mrs Smith.

image source:jmcadam

When I think back I should have acknowledged mum’s innate understanding of male hair fashion more than what I did; she was introducing her young teenage boy to the long hair undercut. My hair is now the shortest it has ever been for as long as I can remember; but it does bring a certain ruggedness to my personality. I need to start ordering three eggs lightly scrambled, bacon, and toast with marmalade for breakfast.


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Speak Softly And Escape The Double Handers

It seemed as if I’d been standing in the front of the Traders Joe’s freezer for an eternity; just staring down at the neatly arranged boxes of Steak & Stout Pies, and Chicken Balti Pies. For the life of me, I just couldn’t decide between the hearty chunks of tender beef in a stout based gravy, blended with copious amounts of gold potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms, or the chunks of chicken in a mild curry gravy, combined with generous amounts of carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. And then I was distracted from my pie conundrum by a voice just behind me

and if you report them they have people dedicated to that sort of thing and they’ll have them in custody in no time.

It only took a couple of seconds to turn around, but the man with the mobile phone had already moved to the end of the freezer and turned the corner. I was curious about mobile phone man so I decided to follow him.

image source:jmcadam

I picked up my shopping basket with it’s two boxes of frozen Chicken Tikka Marsala and a packet of frozen Seafood Paella, and set off after mobile phone man. Mobile phone man didn’t have a shopping basket or trolley; he meandered around and through different aisles of the shop, always talking on his mobile. When mobile phone man stopped in the cereal aisle I feigned interest in a resealable pouch of Organic Rice & Quinoa Hot Cereal. I sensed I must have looked just like an average Trader Joe’s shopper to mobile phone man; he didn’t look twice at me. He spoke into his mobile with a slow and emphatic voice

and that man has saved the country twenty eight billion dollars.

Mobile phone man wandered down the cereal aisle and into the produce section. I was losing interest in mobile phone man and was starting to think about a warm and savoury Steak & Stout Pie; I headed back to the freezer aisle. As I made my way to the check out I saw mobile phone man still wandering the aisles; he didn’t seem to care if he was overheard or not. I was deep in thought about mobile phone public conversations and absentmindedly emptied my shopping basket; as the checkout assistant scanned my boxes of Steak & Stout Pies I announced in a faraway tone of voice

there are two types of public mobile phone talkers; those that talk in a wake up the dead hushed voice and those that speak in a deafening booming voice.


I don’t think we trust mobile phones; we can’t believe a human voice can easily travel to faraway places through thin air so when we use a mobile we raise our voice, thinking we’re giving it the oomph it needs to fly through the air. We talk louder than if we were speaking in person; whoever we’re talking to talks louder, and before long we’re both shouting at each other. Our every day use of mobile phones creates an unrelenting wall of sound; a noisy environment of persistent loudness that threatens noise induced hearing loss, and other negative health effects.

When I think back, I now realise the teachers at Williamstown Tech knew about the dangers of noisy environments. Those teachers were my guardian angel. I was an innocent teenage boy naive to the hearing issues, and other negative effects caused by second hand noise. But the teachers knew of the dangers and hazards lurking in a noisy classroom; loss of concentration, fatigue, apathy, boredom, and even disinterest. With our welfare and aural safety foremost in their mind they commanded

there’ll be no talking in class; talking will only be allowed when I ask a question. You’ll raise your hand if you know the answer or I will just call on someone for the answer. Be prepared. And when you have a question you’ll raise your hand. It’ll be the cuts for anyone I catch talking in class; anyone who doesn’t follow the no talking rules. Understood. Any questions. Remember, hands up.


The cuts were the strap; being hit across the hand with a three inches wide, two foot long, piece of leather. The cuts were a part of every day school life. They were a reminder for; no talking in class, that you didn’t do your homework, that you didn’t bring the right books to class, that you forget your apron for woodwork, sheet metal or fitting and turning, that you were caught fighting, that you were rowdy in the corridors, that you left the school grounds at lunch time without a lunch pass, and that you wagged sport.

Most teachers would bring their strap to class. Mr. Stonehouse carried his strap, along with his blackboard duster and chalk, in his chalk box; it was rolled and coiled in a defensive position ready to strike. Some teachers wore their strap under their coat. When they caught anyone talking they’d reach up and into their coat and slip the strap out; similar to Paladin drawing his gun in episodes of Have Gun Will Travel. Mr Baldwin kept his strap in his office. When he threatened the cuts he’d disappear through the door in the front corner of the room, and reappear carrying his strap; he’d leave it resting on the table as if it were a snake basking in the sun. It was a constant reminder there was no talking in class; that Mr Baldwin had our auditory welfare foremost in his mind. You got the cuts in front of the class. When more than one of us were getting the cuts we’d be lined up to wait our turn; teachers favoured an efficient assembly line delivery for the cuts.


None of us knew where the different classroom offences rated on the institutional severity scale; a graduated system only known to teachers. The scale was used to determine the type and number of cuts you earned. We knew that after your third warning you most likely would be in for a double hander; most times it was wait until the strap was raised above the teacher’s head and you’d listen for

Hand up now (one hander)
Hold straight and don’t move it
This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you
Up again (two one handers)
Other hand (three one handers)
The sequence is repeated for six of the best.

Two hands up and hold them together (double hander)
Hold them steady now
Wait; wait
Up again (two double handers)
The sequence is repeated for the number of double handers

One hand up (back hander)
This is for your own good
Just as the strap hits the palm of the hand it’s given a flip so it also curls onto the back of the hand.

The back hander is an extremely difficult cut and would need ceaseless practice for one to become skilled enough to pull it off. I think teachers who were masters of the back hander must have practised in the teacher’s staff room; probably putting sticks of chalk on a table and then trying to flick them onto the floor with their strap. It wouldn’t come easy; accuracy, and a deft movement of the wrist would need to be seamlessly combined into one fluid action. A lot of chalk would be smashed to smithereens before one became a master of the back hander.

image source:shutterstock

I went to a Technical School in a working class suburb of Melbourne. A lot of boys had already planned to leave school as soon as they turned fifteen. They spent three years at tech school aimlessly wandering from Form One through to Form Three; most were going into a five year apprenticeship in the trades and had no interest in Math, English, Science, or Social Studies. Some of these boys saw the cuts as a rite of passage, and it seemed as if they set themselves a goal of getting a certain number of cuts per week; taking it like a man and enduring the pain, demonstrated their readiness for manhood.

I spent five years at Willy Tech as an obsequious, hard working, well behaved A grade student. Very few of the boys in Forms 1A through 5A ever got the cuts. The fateful day happened when I was in Fifth Form; during an Art class Mr McEwen became somewhat irritated by the occasional creative schoolboy mumbling and chatter, and announced

it’s the cuts for the next one who talks.

I don’t remember what I said; I think I was answering a question from someone when Mr McEwan looked up from his table

mcadam go down to Mr Baldwin’s class and ask him for his strap

I stood in front of the class and held my hand out straight and motionless; it was the only one hander I’ve ever received.

image source:jmcadam ( John McAdam 2nd from your right top row)

The cuts played an important role in reducing public conversations in the classroom. I see no reason why the strap couldn’t be used to quell, and silence mobile phone public conversations in supermarkets and other public places. No mobile phone public conversations signs would be posted at strategic locations; along with a listing of the type, and number of cuts, for the severity of mobile phone public conversation. A strapper would be stationed at the entrance of the supermarket, or would randomly patrol the aisles, to deliver a one hander or a double hander to anybody talking into a mobile phone. There’d be a private area, maybe alongside the produce section, for anyone receiving a cuts more severe than a one hander or a double hander. I know most people would applaud any effort taken to ensure humankind a healthier lifestyle; nothing would be more selfless than creating a world where the threat of noise induced hearing loss and other negative aural health effects, caused by mobile phone public conversations, has been stamped out.

If you’ll pardon me. I have to go grocery shopping so I need to practice talking into my mobile phone in a hushed raucous manner; some made up grandiose conversation sprinkled with utterances about my successes, the demands of my job, how much the project I’m working on is costing, and assertively giving instructions to whoever I’m talking to.


Cruel And Unusual Punishment At Schools

No Phones On The Throne

Health Effects Of Environmental Noise Pollution

Where There’s Tea There’s Hope

It’s not often I yearn for a cup of tea; though I still enjoy the occasional, comforting refreshment of a cup of hot tea with milk. I grew up drinking tea back when you didn’t have to spend half the morning trying to make up your mind whether your first cup of tea for the day was going to be a Green Tea, Earl Grey, Chai Tea, Chamomile, or some flavour of Fruit Infused Herbal Tea. Making a cup of tea was as simple as putting the kettle on, scooping a teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot of Bushells or Robur into the teapot, and pouring in the boiling water from the kettle. After the tea had steeped for a few minutes the rest was just as easy; pour the tea through a tea strainer into a cup and add a quick dash of milk and sugar to your taste.

image source:jmcadam

If you were sharing a cuppa with a few friends there was always the argument of whether the milk should be added to the cup before or after the hot tea. It’s suggested that putting the milk in first came about because people who owned fine china thought it was a bit dicey to pour hot tea into the cup first; it might cause the cup to break. It would only break if it was inferior china so if you were  a pretentious owner of fine china and wanted to show your social superiority you’d always pour the hot tea in first, thus demonstrating the quality of your china. I’m a put the milk in after the hot tea has been poured person; a reflection of my pomposity.

I used to yearn for a cup of tea when I was teaching in the Victorian Education Department’s Altona North, Williamstown, and Collingwood Technical Schools and giving it all I had to share the beauty and logic, and create an aesthetic appreciation of mathematics, in preadolescence boys. I seem to remember the first class period starting at nine in the morning, and the last period of the day finishing at half past three in the afternoon. There was a morning recess, lunch time and afternoon recess; these times out of the classroom were all that seemed to matter to the boys. And these times were also all that mattered to most of us teachers. We let our classes out the instant the bell rang to announce morning recess.


Some of us anticipated the bell and already had the boys sitting up straight in their desks, their books in their bags, ready to be dismissed. There was no running in the corridors so the boys walked quickly into the yard to enjoy their morning recess; the teachers walked quickly in the corridors to the staff room. And we walked quickly to the staff room table with the tea urn, milk, and sugar; our mugs were on a peg board alongside the tea urn. We sat with our hot tea at our tables; tradies at their own table, english and social studies at theirs, math and science together, and the phys ed, accounting, and music teachers scattered around the room. The tables were united by the camaraderie of sharing a mug of hot tea, and the silence of sipping tea. Tea was our nectar; it revived us from the exhaustion of teaching a classroom of preadolescence boys, and it gave us strength and purpose for our next hour of teaching. Knowing our time was limited we risked scalded lips to savour a second cup of the divine beverage, and when the bell rang to announce the start of the next period we rose as one, flushed with a renewed strength, and headed off to our next class.

Each day at the start of each school year a makeshift daily timetable was pinned onto the staff room notice board.; at day’s end you’d check the timetable to find out what you were teaching tomorrow. The timetable was handwritten and detailed every class from form one through five, the room number, and the assigned teachers. In all the years I was teaching in Technical Schools I only knew the timetable to be put together by a trade teacher; a Fitting and Machining or Sheet Metal teacher. Usually around the third week of school the conflicts with teachers and room numbers had been worked through, and a permanent weekly timetable was pinned onto the notice board; a handwritten master piece usually on some engineering size drawing paper.


Before we had memorised our timetable we gathered each morning in front of the notice board, and as we slowly sipped our hot tea reminded ourselves what we would be teaching for the week. You silently prayed that you weren’t assigned yard duty for morning or afternoon recess; for that would mean tea break without tea. And if you were assigned lunchtime yard duty you hoped for the last half hour. I still don’t know who made the tea in the Tech School staff rooms, but I knew that if you needed a hot cup of joy to start the morning, and a comforting refreshment during the morning recess, lunch time, and afternoon recess the urn was there.

It was one of those late weekend afternoons announcing the colours of autumn. I was in no hurry. I was slowly motoring home from the mall, when without warning I was struck with a yearning for a cup of tea. It was a short drive to a well known Omaha restaurant and bakery; described by some as serving simple but elegant foods, and showcasing a bakery lineup that includes everything from warm fat cinnamon rolls to strawberry wedding cake. Some time ago I learned that if you ask for tea in a restaurant you’ll be served iced tea ; I was prepared when the waitperson inquired

Waitperson: And what would you like to drink sir?
Me: (in a casual manner) Hot tea please

image source:pixabay

He left and returned with a wooden box balanced on an extended arm. When he was within arms reach he slowly opened the lid and angled the box to allow me to see into it; I somewhat expected to see two percussion duelling pistols or the Crown of Scotland. Instead, the inside of the box was divided into eight small sections; each section just large enough to hold ten individually wrapped tea bags. The tea bag collection was made up of; Twining’s English Breakfast, Natural Green Tea, Lemon Delight, Earl Grey, Chai Spiced Apple, Chamomile, Naturally Decaffeinated Organic Green Tea, and Black Mixed Berry Tea. After some hesitation I reached into the box and chose two English Breakfast Tea teabags; I always top up the pot with hot water, and then put in a second tea bag after I pour the first cup.

Waitperson: If you take two tea bags I’ll have to charge for two teas

I put one of the tea bags back into the box. With tax, the cup of tea was costing about $3. 50 so now it would have been close on $7.00. As I waited for my hot water I pondered; at $3:50 a tea bag supermarkets should be charging $175:00 for a box of 50 Twinings London Classics English Breakfast Tea Bags. And that means the tea urns in the staff rooms at the Technical Schools would have had a couple of hundred dollars worth of tea in them. Three or four urns a day and you’re talking $400.00; I don’t think any of us thought about the cost of our morning recess, lunch time, and afternoon recess mug of divine goodness back then.

The waitperson returned with a small pot of lukewarm water, a lemon wedge, and an individual portion cup of honey; I asked for milk, knowing I would get cream. I let the tea bag steep in the pot for several minutes and then poured the tea into the cup; it was a cup of stained, see through, tepid water.


I remembered back when a good jiggle would fix a pot of weak tea so I jiggled and jiggled. I gestured to the waitperson, and when he was alongside the table asked if he would look into the cup and tell me what he saw. Before he could answer I started on an articulate, and expressive description of a cup of hot tea and milk, and ended with the passionate declaration;

This cup of tea is an insult to all honest tea drinkers; the tea drinkers who don’t need a reason to put the kettle on for a cuppa, the tea drinkers who stand up and proudly ask “shall I be mother”. It’s a slap in the face to the tea drinkers whose grandfathers poured their tea from the cup into the saucer and drank from the saucer. I refuse to drink this swill; I took two tea bags to uphold the tradition and decency of all true blue tea drinkers.

image source:pinterest

He replied that he couldn’t give me another tea bag because the video cameras were watching; but he would ask the manager if I could have another tea bag. He returned with the wooden box and opened the lid to expose the selection of tea bags; I took a Twinings English Breakfast tea bag.

I keep a small stash of English Breakfast tea bags in a kitchen cabinet; the next time I’m out and about and yearn for a cup of golden deliciousness I think I’ll wait until I get home. But I suppose I could always stop at a restaurant and order a Long Island Iced Tea; made by mixing vodka, gin, tequila, triple sec and rum, and then pouring the mixture over ice, and adding a dash of cola for colour. I wonder if you could add milk to a Long Island Iced Tea.

About 85% of the tea consumed in the US is iced tea so I should just go with the flow. Because restaurants and eateries offer bottomless ice tea I should just order tea and then add milk and sugar, and have endless glasses of iced sweet milk tea.


How to make the perfect cup of tea


Why tech schools won’t seem to go away

It’s A Long Road That Has No Turns

It’s taken a few years to understand the concept of retirement but I think I’ve got it. You don’t have to plan on doing something; not having a plan to do something doesn’t mean you do nothing. Oftentimes I find myself saying either; “I think I’ll cut the grass tomorrow, or maybe I’ll throw the shorts that I’ve worn for the last five mornings I’ve gone walking into the washing machine”. And then tomorrow comes, and I’ll surf the web for seventies Aussie rock music, have a bowl of gelato, take a few selfies, or do nothing. I do this because I know that when tomorrow becomes today I can still do tomorrow, what I had planned to do today. Retirement means you don’t plan your tomorrow and you don’t plan your today.

image source:jmcadam

It seems that the mention of no planning caused the young John McAdam to become restless. At seventeen I planed on becoming an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who would mix chemicals to create new age polymers that would change the world. I started college with a passion and strong sense of commitment; soon displaced by the change and uncertainty of the sixties and seventies. There’s a lot I don’t remember about the seventies and my searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I plunged into the Aussie hallowed right of passage; the two-year working holiday in England. I hitchhiked through England and Scotland, and wandered along the ill defined Hippie Trail. I travelled overland, using buses and trucks, into India. The only plan for my journey of discovery was “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. There was always another path to follow. A few years later I stumbled into South East Asia, Burma, Nepal, India, and back into the Middle East. The itinerary was once again “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. What remained of my predictable childhood, and young adolescence, was stolen by the enjoyment of the unknown.

image source:jmcadam

Back in Melbourne I drifted through life teaching in the Victorian Education Department’s Technical Schools. My enthusiasm for sharing the structure and logic, and creating an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty of mathematics in preadolescence boys, was dampened by the Department’s state wide syllabi. What was to be taught, and the week or weeks it would be taught, was prescribed by the Education Department; every mathematics teacher in every technical school throughout Victoria would be teaching Form 3 boys factorising expressions in the same week. I was in conflict; I had embraced living with the randomness caused by the absence of a methodical and systematic plan. My life was being planned by the sequence of teaching preadolescence boys; factorising an expression, calculating the area of polygons, and determining percentages and differences. And so I embraced the pandemonium and chaos of the Schools without Walls revolution. The progressive school where I taught divided a students day into three compulsory timetabled classes, and two “let the boys pick whatever they want to do” classes.

image source:jmcadam

The traditional first, second and third forms technical school structure wasn’t used to group the boys into classes; instead six of each year one, two and three boys were combined to create a class for the timetabled activities. Classes were a collection of twelve through sixteen year old young boys and pubescent teenagers. Teaching was based on the premise, that young boys will best learn when they decide they are ready to learn. I was no longer in conflict with a structured syllabus, and the boys were no longer in conflict with having to learn; if two parallel lines are cut by a transversal then the corresponding angles are congruent, obscure trigonometric ratios in right angled triangles, and ambiguous algebraic functions. I watched as inexperienced boys drifted aimlessly through their formative years and wondered, who would allow the hallowed right of passage, or the Hippie Trail and the cultures of South East Asia to mould and define their adulthood. Because most of the boys hadn’t decide they were ready to experience the aesthetic pleasures of mathematics I had nothing else to do but think about how and why we learn. I returned to college to study Instructional Technology and graduated with an advanced degree.

I once again took the fork in the road; leaving Australia and settling in the USA. The young John McAdam became dormant. He nestled into my hippocampus and wraped himself in his blanket of thoughts, hopes, and dreams; he was deep in hibernation. For close on thirty years I enjoyed being a member of a dynamic community college instructional design team; responsible for infusing technology with learning, and transforming and redesigning the delivery of learning for college students. I was an immigrant travelling without GPS through the still shaping digital landscape; our only plan was to use technologies to create new learning environments.

image source:jmcadam

It seems that my retirement of no planning has caused the young, hibernating John McAdam to stretch and yawn. I need to start planning some strategies for my old age before he fully wakes and starts off with his laissez faire, do nothing way of thinking. I think I will need to;

Wear white socks. Instead of roaming ill defined trails, or splashing through the waves in my rugged closed toe sandals, I need to start wearing white tube socks with my Teva sandals year round when I’m in the house, and when I’m mall walking. And when I take up bowling changing into bowling shoes will be so much easier; I’ll be halfway there with my socks already on. Wearing white socks will also prepare me in case I develop diabetes as I move on in years and have to wear compression socks.
Wear shoes with Velcro instead of shoelaces. This decision is based on the premise that my shoe wardrobe is made up of Teva sandals and runners, and I’ll never wear a classic men’s dress shoe again. Maybe I should by runners with shoe laces and replace the laces with no tie waterproof silicone flat elastic athletic running shoe laces. I could keep the original shoe laces and tie them together so I have a belt for my trousers,. They would also be on hand in case I nick myself when shaving and need to apply a tourniquet; I have read that as you put on the mileage you can develop unintentional shaking or trembling hands. I could also use the original laces as a play toy for the little cat or dog I adopt from the humane society.
Adopt a little cat or dog.They say that urinary incontinence; having a hard time controlling when urine comes out of your body, is something that just seems to happen with the golden years. The commonest form in older men is urgency incontinence. It seems that speed is essential when the urge hits, and the challenge is to rush to the loo without leaking on the way. I’m probably going to have some dribbling, and because of my shaky hands some problems with my aim; another reason why white socks are a good idea. I could think about getting a walk in shower installed in the bathroom to use as the loo; and to make every thing easy to wash down in the other rooms get the chairs and sofa cover with plastic. But I think the best way to avoid the frustration and embarrassment when I wet my pants is to adopt a little cat or dog from the humane society. I could rush over and sit on the sofa, put the little cat or dog on my lap, and blame it for the soaking in my groin and any soggy spots on the couch.
Commit to a single leg stance balance exercise program. The ability to stand on one leg and balance on one foot is important to an old timer; especially when you’re trying to put on the reg grundies. To improve my balance while standing on one leg I’m going to do the following single leg stance exercise every time I’m at the supermarket;

    • stop pushing the shopping trolley in any aisle
    • standing behind the trolley and hold onto it with both hands
    • slowly lifting one leg off the ground
    • holding the position for up to 10 seconds
    • repeating 10-15 times
    • and repeating with the other leg

When the single leg stance exercise becomes easy and my balance improves, I’ll up the ante by closing my eyes and holding onto the trolley with one hand; I may also increase the time standing on one leg to 60 seconds. Maybe I could interest other sunset year shoppers in the single leg stance exercise for better balance. We could form a club similar to a senior mall walking club. Supermarkets have a comfortable indoor climate, easy access to toilets and water fountains, and the camaraderie fostered between a group of old timers standing on one leg in a supermarket aisle would be beyond belief.
Start a fundraising campaign for a Rock and Roll retirement resort. Some people in their second childhood see nursing homes as places for the unwanted elderly; a place where one goes to die. What if we lived out our golden oldie years in a sex, drugs, and rock and roll, themed retirement resort? No formal dining room; instead, electric food warmer hot plates with avocado green crock pots brimming with Swedish Meatballs, Rice A Roni, and Chicken a la King, and yellow electric fondue pots with simmering cheese, crab, and pizza fondue, on buffet lined psychedelic walls. Geometric contemporary art, pink patterned sofas, beanbag chairs, brass reading lamps, and indoor house plants would underline that getting old should is fun. Paper plates laden with devilled eggs, bite size pieces of celery stuffed with vegemite, green and black olives, and bowls of Frito’s, Lays Potato Chips, and Dorito’s would always be in reach to satisfy the munchies.
Daily activities would include how to chop and channel your walker, and customising your walker with hydraulic suspension to be a bouncer. Singalongs would be a medley of the greatest hits of Daddy Cool, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Masters Apprentices, The Easybeats, AC/DC, and the Skyhooks.

It seems that the mention of sex, drugs and rock and roll has aroused the young John McAdam from his hibernation. I need to go into the backyard with him to plan what we are not doing tomorrow so we can do something else.



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