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.

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I don’t think we trust mobile phones; we can’t believe a human voice can easily travel to faraway reaches 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 when using a mobile phone; 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 leads to other negative health effects.

When I think back, I now realise the teachers at Williamstown Tech knew about the dangers of noisy environments. The teachers were my guardian angels. I was an innocent teenage boy, naive about the hearing issues and negative effects caused by second hand noise. But the teachers knew of the dangers and hazards, such as, loss of concentration, fatigue, and a lack of interest in what they’re teaching, that were lurking in a noisy classroom; 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.

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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.

image source:bbc.com

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.

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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

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.

 

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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.

image source:theguardian.com

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.

image source:ktla.com

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

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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.

image source:consumerreports.org

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.

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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.

 

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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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No More Copying Off the Blackboard

They Say Great Minds Drink Alike

Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 from the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles Airport I was taping, swiping, and pinching the seatback touchscreen. There were hundreds of hours of movies and television shows to choose from as well as a selection of games. I knew I could find something to entertain me for the next 13 hours. I waited until the plane was at cruising altitude before swiping to the inflight live flight tracker; we’d left US airspace and were flying at 500 plus mph. I decided I would check back between movies to watch the small plane’s progress as it inched slowly along it’s flight path on the flight tracker touchscreen.

image source:jmcadam

The cabin staff had just pushed the food trolley past me when the aeroplane shuddered because of turbulence; my chicken tikka masala, and steamed jasmine rice and peas, jostled in the tray. With turbulence I lean back in the seat, and sway as the plane dips and bumps; that’s when “the food on my clothes” problem happens. I checked if my napkin had a buttonhole, or if there was a way to fold it, so I could attach it to my shirt to reduce the possibility of chicken tikka masala dropping on my clothes. A thrust from the engines caused me to swipe the touch screen to show the flight tracker; we were climbing and increasing speed. The chicken tikka masala stopped jostling, and the drink trolley with it’s selection of wines, beer, soft drinks and juices appeared beside me.

Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in a chirpy tone) Something to drink sir?
Me: (with confidence) Beer please
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: What type of beer sir?
Me: (with a smile in my voice) What do you have?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Stella Artois, Steinlager, Heineken, Speights, and Victoria Bitter
Me: (feigning expertise) I’d better have something New Zealand
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Steinlarger or Speights?
Me: (disguising my NZ beer ignorance) Would you mind sharing the difference?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in an affable constructive manner) Speights is a full strength bitter ale with a hint of grassy undertones that add to its complexity and allows the full flavour of the malt and hops to shine through. Steinlarger has a robust hop bouquet of fresh cut green grass and delivers a full flavour that’s perfectly balanced with a dry, tangy finish and crisp clean bitterness.
Me: Oh!
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: That would be a Steinlarger then sir?

image source:airnewzealand.com

I finished my chicken tikka masala and adjusted the wing like arms on the headrest. I was soon musing about when a simple “pot of whatever’s on tap” was all it took to get a beer. Now when you walk into your favourite watering hole you’re asked to choose between an ale, a bitter, porter, wheat, IPA, stout, or pilsner. And beer doesn’t just taste like hops anymore; there’s coffee, chocolate, banana bread, pumpkin, or any flavour you can imagine.

The pretension and pomposity that some say is associated with wine drinking seems to have inched it’s way into swilling the suds. The wine sommelier has been reincarnated as a cicerone; a professional who’s experienced in selecting, and acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers. I’ve always thought that ducking into a bottle shop and asking for a slab of VB stubbies, or downing a few with the mates at the local, qualifies you to be a cicerone; but if you want a piece of paper to frame and hang on the wall there’s a couple of certification programs now available. One program claims to provide everything you need to know about beer’s history and cultural heritage, the traditions of selecting and acquiring beer, and the practice of serving beer; it offers four levels of certification.

  • Beer Server: you learn how to be a master of beer service and styles
  • Cicerone: you acquire a professional body of knowledge and essential tasting skills related to beer
  • Advanced Cicerone: you receive a solid understanding and distinctive expertise of beer as well as an excellent ability to detect and describe beer flavors using both consumer and brewer vocabulary
  • Master Cicerone: you gain an exceptional understanding of brewing, beer, and pairing; combining outstanding tasting abilities with an encyclopedic knowledge of commercial beers

image source:jmcadam

You’d have no worries mastering the four levels of certification if you spent a few Saturday arvos studying beer at the local by downing a few pots with the mates; how hard would it be to come up with a few practice questions for the Master Cicerone certification test.

  1. How many VBs can the average bloke throw down before going for the liquid laugh?
    a. a slab of tinniesb. half a dozen schooners
    c. half a dozen longiesd. all of the above
  2. After downing ten stubbies most people crave a
    a. chicko rollb. dim sim
    c. souvlakid. all of the above
  3. Which of the following is not a beer?
    a. frothieb.stubby
    c. eskyd. all of the above
  4. What beer would you pair with a chicken parma with chips and salad counter lunch?
    a. Carlton Draughtb. Coopers
    c. Boagsd. all of the above

We were back in the The Land Down Under last year. After we had settled into our Airbnb Albert Park, single fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian house one of the owners dropped over to check the barbie’s propane tank.

image source:jmcadam

Somehow our conversation turned to beer. After the usual VB and a “good cold beer” banter, I confessed how excited I was to see Melbourne Bitter back in the bottle shops, and that I was bowled over by all the craft beers in public bars and bottle shops. With a smile, he shared that he worked for an inner city micro brewery. And so our beer banter turned to craft beers. The next day he called in with a filled propane tank, and a 6 pack of 3 Ravens heirloom 55 American Pale Ale. He offered the six pack with “enjoy em mate”.

I opened a 55 after it had spent a few hours in the fridge, angled the glass and slowly poured the golden ale down the inside; allowing a frothy head to form on the beer. I walked with a slight swagger as I carried the ice cold beer to the kitchen table. I instinctively knew I had mastered the Beer Server level of certification.

image source:jmcadam

The first sip of 55 allowed me to surmise that it possessed a structured maltiness and clean finish; probably from five assertive hops meeting a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye grains. An uncontrollable smirk interrupted my second slurp of 55 suds; I had achieved Cicerone certification.

After a couple of days of catching the tram into town, walking the leafy streets, and shopping the local shops I was back living in Albert Park; it was as if I had never left thirty plus years ago. It was a warm, late afternoon when I set off for a pot of whatever’s on tap at the old watering hole; just as I would leave work a few minutes early to down a few with the workmates. Alas, the Albert Park Hotel had closed. The closest I could find to a bottle shop was a Vintage Cellars in the main shopping centre. It sold mostly wine, spirits, and liqueurs, but there was a small selection of craft beers. And soon I was engaged in an informative chat about Australian craft beers with a helpful associate.

image source:goodfood.com.au

Vintage Cellars Associate: (in a chirpy tone) We describe Little Creatures Bright Ale as a filtered, top fermented ale with a striking clarity in the glass; it’s a smooth, full flavoured beer that’s clean and refreshingly balanced
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: The Cricketers Arms Keepers Lager is made with sun dried Australian malt, and infused with Amarillo Hops to impart an intriguing citrus character to it’s aroma and flavour
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: We like to say that Collingwood Draught is a chestnut coloured lager with a malty aroma and subtle toasty sweetness; a dash of the finest hops gives this refreshing beer a superb clean finish
Me: I’ll have the Collingwood Draught
Vintage Cellars Associate: ‘Carn the pies
Me: ‘Carn the doggies

image source:jmcadam

A smile crossed my lips as I left the Village Cellars. I had just ascended to Advanced Cicerone certification; I was now able to describe any beer. I kept chanting the mantra; balanced malts, subtle toasty sweetness, aroma and flavour, clean finish.

It was early evening when we walked into the Steam Packet Hotel. The Steam Packet sits on the corner of Aitken and Cole Street Williamstown; a drop kick up from the cafes and restaurants of Nelson Place. The two storey structure was built in 1863 to replace an earlier building called the Ship Inn; Williamstown’s first hotel. During my late adolescence I spent many hours on Saturday arvos in the public bar of the The Packet. You could say my time growing into an adult at the The Packet was beverage driven.

image source:dimmi.com.au

My visit to the The Packet this time wasn’t to uphold the tradition of wetting the whistle with the boys; it was for a counter tea before partaking in a two hour walking ghost tour. Whilst waiting for my order of lamb cutlets to arrive I wandered into the old Saturday arvo sanctuary. I didn’t recognise the remodelled space; time and tide wait for no man. I asked for a pot of whatever’s on tap, and the bartender gestured toward eleven craft beers and ales. And I saw the 3 Ravens.

Me: Ravens thanks mate
Steam Packer Bartender: No worries mate
Me: (in an intellectual tone) That 55 American Pale Ale pairs well with lamb cutlets. It’s crafted using five assertive hops and a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye. I’d say it has notable floral aromatics that lead to a structured maltiness and a clean, crisp, refreshing finish
Steam Packer Bartender: (placing a pot on the bar) No worries; that’ll be seven dollars mate
Me: (in a discerning tone) It boasts a full flavour and a serious hit of bitterness
Steam Packer Bartender: (in a discerning tone) No worries; cheers mate

image source:taste.com.au

I turned, and there was a buoyancy in my walk as I headed back to my lamb cutlets. Deep down I knew my 3 Ravens 55 American Pale Ale chat with the Steam Packet Bartender had advanced me to Master Cicerone certification level.

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to pour myself a kölsch and let it sit until it reaches a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit and then settle back and peruse my latest The Beer Connoisseur Magazine.

 

3Ravens

Steam Packet Hotel

The 20 Best Australian Craft Breweries

It’s Better To Pay The Butcher Than The Doctor

The other day when I was pushing my trolley through the aisles of the big box supermarket where I shop for an 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and a 12 pack of Grupo Modelo’s Victoria beer I wandered into the games section. I was gobsmacked; I stopped the trolley so quickly I nearly caused myself to somersault over it’s handle. Pimple Pete that must have, perfect for a fun night at home, pimple popping game was sitting on a shelf. This is how you play the game; Pete’s face is totally covered with pimples and he needs help in popping them so you spin a spinner which causes the arrow to land on either Pete’s pimple infested forehead, left cheek, right cheek, or chin. And then the fun begins; you choose a squishy pimple to pop, and carefully try to twist and wiggle it out of Pete’s face. If you pull it too hard you’ll cop a burst of pimple juice from the uber zit on Pete’s nose. You get points for each pimple you pop without exploding the mega-zit; highest score wins. If you get squirted you’re out of the game.

image source:jmcadam

I stood dumbstruck looking at Pimple Pete, and thought back to when dad had hepatitis; he was quarantined to the house and bed for a few weeks. Mum took my brother and I to our family doctor to be vaccinated. We all reacted to the vaccine; within a couple of days our necks, backs and armpits, were infested with weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. I became convinced that doctors should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

Dr Long is the first doctor I remember. I don’t recall him taking out my tonsils, but I remember him when I broke my arm. In the mid eighteen hundreds convicts did the heavy work of quarrying, cutting and breaking up bluestone rock in the quarries close to Williamstown. The rock was used as ballast for ships returning to London, and for buildings, lane ways, and roads in Melbourne and it’s suburbs. As a youngster I liked to think the bluestones in the lane connecting Effingham Road and Eliza Street were quarried by the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly; details weren’t important to a fresh faced young lad.

image source:flickr

The lane was our short cut from Peel Street to nanna’s place; the bluestones were lopsided and disproportionate, and they formed an incredible cragged riding surface. Mum would always warn us about riding our bikes through the lane.

One day you’ll fall off those bikes and smash open your head on the bluestones; your brains will ooze out of your cracked head and you’ll have to scoop them up in your hands and try not to spill any of them as you ride your bike back home. And then we’ll have to take you to see Dr Long.

Mum’s warnings stopped us riding through the lane; but there came a time when I knew I had to ride the lane and conquer the bluestones. Unbeknown to mum I started to ride the bluestones; her warnings materialised. I went crashing onto the bluestones, my left wrist collapsing onto the edge of a raised stone; my wrist now had the same profile as the U shaped edge of the bluestone. I don’t remember having X-rays, or Dr Long setting my wrist and arm in plaster. I remember dad taking me to his Ferguson Street practice a couple of weeks after my arm was first put in plaster. I sat in a front room, looking out the window onto the street; if I turned my head just right I could see the Town Hall.

image source:jmcadam

Dr long came into the room. He was cold and distant, as doctors were back then, and he walked towards me with a suction cup mask in his outstretched hand. The mask was connected to a long tube. He put one hand behind my head. The mask grew larger as he moved it closer, and soon all I could see was the inside of the mask. I thrashed my head from side to side, and flailed my arms, and tore at the mask as it went over my mouth and nose. Dad tried to hold my arms, and Dr long tried a second and a third time with the mask. I still remember Dr Long’s saying to dad

we’re just going to have to take the plaster off and re-break the wrist without putting him to sleep.

I tried to be a brave little soldier and not cry; I sobbed and sniffled when the plaster, together with every hair on my arm, was ripped off. And I howled and wailed when Dr Long took my wrist in both hands and broke it, and then reset it. That’s when I first decided that a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

In the early seventies I wandered through Europe and into the Middle East along the unmapped hippie trail; the journey was by word of mouth, bulletin boards at eateries and budget hotels, and trial and error. It was a journey without ATM’s, SIM cards for international roaming, GPS, Skype for video chat, and Google Translate. It was a journey with only a World Health Organisation yellow card, passport, and a collection of American Express or Barclay’s Bank travellers cheques. The yellow card was a passport of vaccinations; different countries had different immunisation entry requirements. My yellow card was stamped with the dates and dosages of vaccinations for smallpox, tuberculous, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis. Before leaving Istanbul to drive across Turkey, and into Iran and beyond, I checked my passport for the needed visa’s, and yellow card to ensure all vaccinations were current and updated; a vaccination was out of date.

You could always find a friendly somebody around the Blue Mosque who’d volunteer to be your chaperone, guide, escort, and taxi driver; at a small cost and preferably in US dollars. I’m not sure how much English our soon to be guide and taxi driver understood, but we explained that my Aussie travel mate and I needed to visit a doctor to get a vaccination.

image source:med.umich.edu

We showed him our yellow cards; he nodded and smiled, and gestured to his car and began to sing

Love, love, love
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need
Love, love, love

He stopped at a nondescript house somewhere in Istanbul, pointed to a door, and announced “health specialist”. My Aussie travel mate and I stood together in a small drab room. A man entered. I don’t know how much English the health specialist understood; we showed him our yellow cards. He took a syringe from the table draw, turned toward a wall mounted cabinet, and filled the syringe with a liquid from a vial in the cabinet.

image source:independent.ie

As he turned from the wall he gestured to bare our arm, and then walked toward us. My Aussie travel mate raised his arm and announced he would take the needle first. The health specialist plunged the needle into my mate’s arm and released the serum. Before another word could be uttered, the specialist whipped the needle out of my mates arm, spun around, and plunged it into my arm; the serum left in the syringe started flowing into my arm. The health specialist stamped and dated, recorded the dosages, and signed our yellow cards.

All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need

I never understood why I thought a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

Before the toy train had World Heritage status very few tourists rode the little train to Darjeeling. The looping, double reversing, narrow gauge track was designed by British engineers to carry supplies up 7,000 vertical feet to the thriving tea estates of Darjeeling. In 1881 steam engines and carriages, half the size of normal trains, started hauling administrators, troops and materials to the Darjeeling hill station. Darjeeling soon became a playground, and a refuge, for the men and women of the Empire to avoid the sweltering summer heat, and crowded streets of Calcutta. We boarded the little toy train at Siliguri’s old railway station; it was soon chugging alongside roads and crossing narrow bridges, and slowly heaving and steaming through towns. Youngster in the mountain side towns took turns jumping on and off the slow moving train; inspiring us to leave our carriage and walk alongside, and ahead of the train to buy fruit and other foods at different shops. At times the train would stop in a town for an engine to be hitched onto the back of the carriages to give an extra push up, and around, the loop ahead. The more loops the toy train looped the colder it became.

I wandered the bustling interconnecting streets and lane ways of Darjeeling with my travel mate and his companion. We relaxed in the traditional tea rooms with a pot of tea and fluffy warm scones, butter, cream and strawberry jam, asked the locals to teach us how to fly a kite, and stopped at the market stalls and shops as we strolled the town squares; the majestic snow clad mountains were a constant dramatic backdrop.

image source:reveriechaser.com

My travel mate’s companion had need to visit a doctor. The three of us walked the hilly street to a commonplace Darjeeling building. I waited outside with my mate; smoking cigarettes. We aimlessly shifted our gaze from the street to the building roof line, and then to the ground. I think we both saw it together; below the window was a jumbled mess of bloodied gauze’s and bandages. We quickly shuffled around the corner and stopped to smoke another cigarette alongside a window; before long soiled bandages and other medical dressings came flying out of the window. I went back to thinking that a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

I probably should stop at the Elwood Park golf course club house on my next morning walk to see if they accepts medicare cards. Just a precaution in case I stumble and fall, and break my wrist when I’m walking the uneven roadway that bisects and wanders through the course and need to see a doctor.

 

Passports, Visas and Yellow Cards

Melbourne’s Bluestone Laneways Get Sleek Makeover

A Short History of Anesthesia

Life Is A Lot More Than Beer And Skittles

I don’t remember ever thinking that I needed to start reading the obituary section of the newspaper; now, every morning after I’ve finished skimming the local news, I turn to the obituaries. The obits in the local paper usually contain a small photograph of the deceased, a listing of who preceded them in death, and who in the family they are survived by; their date of birth and death, as well as the date and location of the service, and any information of a luncheon reception is also included. You wouldn’t call the obits in the local paper great storytelling as do the readers of London’s The Telegraph and New York Times; those obits describe the careers, and the crimes and foibles of the good and the bad, as well as the famous and infamous.

image source:jmcadam

I’m scrolling through the obits as if I’m scanning Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I don’t have time for any creative obituaries that use descriptive words such as susurration and obfuscation; I’m only looking for the date of birth of any recently deceased. As I scan the obits I’m also rehearsing mental subtractions so I can quickly determine the age of whose carked it, and if they were older or younger than me. I think reading the obits has given me an upside to the ageing process; an awareness I’m not dead yet. If I don’t see a John McAdam death announcement then I know I can have another cup of tea, put on my runners, and go outside for a little morning neighbourhood walk.

Whenever I log onto the web it always seems I’m stumbling upon something that I didn’t know about. I’m not saying that I start everyone of my web adventures at the Google search bar looking for useless facts to become a top-notch Trivial Pursuiter. Every click on a link, and every click thereafter, sends me down a vortex and into a treasure trove of knowledge titbits; I have learnt that camels have three eyelids and two layers of eyelashes to keep sand from blowing in their eyes, the lint that collects in the bottom of pockets is called gnurr, and that a wild koala usually changes trees every day.

image source:jmcadam

And I’ve discovered that print obituaries have gone online and transformed into memorial websites; digital images, music, and videos, are now used to share the life story of a loved one. What if these e-memorials became Instagram eulogies; a photo and video sharing social network where you post simple and fun e-obits of a recently deceased. Imagine face filters applied to a loved one, creative selfies with tasteful backgrounds, and music video stories edited with the latest video editing apps; but one would need to be careful and not send readers 200 elements deep into a life story to find a name. Social media and smart devices have conditioned us to tap, zoom, scroll, swipe to navigate, and pinch to zoom in or out of different page elements. Scrolling and swiping e-obits, to catch up from a minute ago of who has been added to the latest obits, could become the new norm at mid afternoon work breaks, waiting to order lunch at restaurants, and riding public transport; and it would be a great way to make sure you’re not dead yet.

image source:jmcadam

Facebook Live, Apple Facetime, and Instagram Live’s video streaming and video chat has caused print and static images to become so yesterday for sharing web experiences. Live video streaming has to be the next way to share the last journey of a loved one. I think funeral webcasting is the next viral emotional experience. FuneralOne has tried to make funeral webcasting as simple as Point, Click, & Cast Away by suppling webcasting funeral software to more than 2,000 US mortuaries. Cameras inside the chapel stream video through the webcasting software to a password protected web server, and relatives and friends are given log-in information to view the live feed of the deceased’s last journey. I think funeral webcasting will spread across the internet like a bushfire. People like to share emotional experiences; when we feel something, we want others to experience it as well.

image source:vanityfair.com

The next time you see people in a pub sharing a smart screen over a few drinks, don’t rush to judge them; it’s most likely they’ll be watching one of their best mate’s funeral webcast and sharing a journey of grief. If you notice a Melbourne career worker fixated on their screen while ordering Chicken Curry Don at a pop up restaurant during their rushed lunch hour, don’t presume their checking their latest Facebook likes; it’s a penny to a quid they’re watching a live funeral webcast, and when they raise their hand it’s in a toast to the departed, not a means to attract a waitperson.

I don’t remember when I was last at a Costco but I recently learnt that they sold caskets; so off I went to see the caskets. I didn’t know you had to be a Costco member to enter the shopping warehouse

Costco greeter and membership card checker: (in a chirpy tone) Hello and welcome to Costco; do you have your membership card
Me: (with a smile in my voice) We’re not members, we just wanted to look at one of your products
Costco greeter and membership card checker: (In a soft and deliberate voice) (In a soft and deliberate voice) You have to be a member to shop at Costco; we don’t want outsiders and competitors coming in and checking our prices and then matching them. And we don’t want non members eating the free food samples.
Me: We wouldn’t do any of that; we just wanted to look at one of your products
Costco greeter and membership card checker: What were you interested in?
Me: (in a solemn voice) Caskets
Costco greeter and membership card checker: I’m sorry but we don’t have any on display; we only sell them online. I bought two online; one for my husband and one for grandmother. They were just beautiful and so cheap; they delivered them right to the funeral home
Me:(attempting a joke) Were they shrink wrapped two to a pack. If it’s possible could we just go in for a few minutes and look around
Costco greeter and membership card checker: (overcome with empathy and compassion by the memories of the caskets) You can go; and you can take some of the free samples if you want

image source:jmcadam

Amazon offers a large choice of metal and wood caskets from several companies, and free shipping is available on eligible orders; and being able to read the reviews to narrow your choice is an added bonus of shopping with Amazon. Most casket shoppers seemed extremely pleased with the Titan Orion Coppertone Steel Casket

  • For my dad’s funeral, I ordered this casket which was even more beautiful than I had imagined
  • I only saw it for a few minutes before the burial while a pallbearer. It was beautiful and felt sturdy and well made
  • I was so pleased! It was simple, but BEAUTIFUL! I ordered this casket for my mother, who had cancer and she passed just a few days after ordering
  • I liked everything about this casket. It was beautiful!!!
  • No complaints from Grandpa
  • Great quality, came faster than expected and price was just right!

Titan Caskets is the first to tell you they spared no expense in creating the Orion Coppertone; it’s hand crafted and completed with a head and foot adjustable bed, a soft to the touch crepe interior, sculpted detailed hardware, and reinforced stationary handles. It’s made in the USA from 20 Gauge Steel. Now that has to be some casket. If I was a pall bearer I bet I’d buckle under the Orion’s weight, and I’d probably have trouble walking straight.

image source:thewirehindi.com

I think it would be difficult to share the Varanasi ghats experience as a funeral webcast. There’s about a 100 ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi; they’re riverfront steps leading down to the banks of the River. The ghats are used for bathing, washing clothes, and worship rituals; two are used for cremations. Hindus believe that by casting the ashes of the deceased into the Ganges their soul will be transported to heaven, and so they will escape the cycle of rebirth. I didn’t go to Varanasi to look at the cremations but instead to look at the small room where George Harrison studied, and learnt to play the sitar while sitting at the feet of Ravi Shankar. I remember there weren’t many tourists, only narrow lane ways leading to the ghats, clouds of wafting sandalwood scented smoke, and my eyes constantly stinging from the smoke and incense. I couldn’t see the bodies as they were carried down the ghats and put on funeral pyres because they were wrapped in brightly coloured shrouds. The pyres though seemed alive; steadily hissing and steaming, and spitting burning embers into the air.

image source:wikimedia

At the finish of the cremation, when the wood was burnt and charred, the ashes and any remaining bones are placed into the river. Many of India’s poor can’t afford to buy enough wood for a complete cremation so many half burnt bodies are thrown into the river; and if there’s no wood for the cremation wrapped bodies are placed in the river and lit on fire. At the other ghats people bathed in the sacred waters; submerging and splashing themselves with the holy water to wash away their sins. Cows were wallowing and enjoying themselves in the same Ganges waters, and people busied themselves washing clothes. I left the ghats covered in human ash and with images of bloated and charred bodies floating in the river. And I left Varanasi without seeing the small room where George Harrison studied, and learnt to play the sitar while sitting at the feet of Ravi Shankar; there was a lot of misunderstanding and confusion in the seventies.

image source:disruptionhub.com

I don’t think today’s digital natives will have to worry about funerals and cremations and reading the obits. The technology to create a digital surrogate from a 360 degree body scan is already here, and during their lifetime today’s mortals will have created, and collected over a trillion gigabytes of data about themselves. What else is needed to create a digital avatar? If your avatar was combined with a chat bot then you would be able to text, instant message, and chat from beneath a thin veil of death. And if virtual or artificial intelligence was added to the avatar then if your still living mates were having a barbie they’d just message your digital duplicate and you would Skype in to share a few ice colds from beyond the grave. Just like old times.

Even though I’m planning on having my ashes scattered I probably should start scouring the second hand shops to find some old wooden beer crates; it’d be good to have a mock up model of the coffin I’d like for my service.

Death on the Internet: The Rise of Livestreaming Funerals

The Best Way To Utilize Technology For Memorials

The Pyres of Varanasi: Breaking the Cycle of Death and Rebirth

A Crumpet Always Falls Jam Side Down

The three weeks we spent back in the The Land Down Under in 2017 was all about living in Melbourne again; staying in Albert Park where I once rented a flat, walking down to the beach, catching the tram into the city, shopping at the South Melbourne Market, and being a tourist in the city where you live. On most days we caught the number 12 tram at the Mills and Herbert Street corner; just down the street from our single fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian Airbnb house. The stylish Miss Colombia Cafe was on the corner by the tram stop; it soon became our mid morning hanging out spot. Every morning we would order a flat white and watch out for the number 12 to go wobbling down Mills Street on it’s way to Fitzroy Street. By the second day we knew how long it would take between trams, and when they would return up Mills street on their way back to Collins Street and beyond; we gave our self two trams to finish our flat whites.

image source:jmcadam

Miss Colombia was everything a Melbourne cafe should be; friendly staff, good food and coffee, and a good neighbourhood vibe. It was a locals haunt; the communal tables were shared by mums with their preschool little ones, young and mature couples adorned with colourful tattoos, and hipsters with big glasses and bushranger beards. And it wasn’t just locals hanging out to drink coffee. Tradies were popping in to grab one of their favourite take away brekkie snacks; a flat white, and an order of smashed avocado with Persian Fetta and a couple of poached eggs on multi grain toast. It wasn’t uncommon to find a dog, or a couple of dogs, hitched to the parking permitted sign post on the footpath. By the second morning three of the staff new us, and we would have a bit of a chat; by the third morning they knew our coffee order. When I think back, I should have taken up a counter staff’s offer to swap print shirts; the Albert Park hipsters are having their milk textured, and their coffee needs satisfied by a John McAdam doppelganger barista.

image source:misscolombia.com.au

The Melbourne cafe is a coffee shop that also offers creative food. Two Hands opened in New York in 2014 and is one of several Australian owned cafes serving up versions of Melbourne’s avocado smashes in the Big Apple. Other Aussie cafes attracting a crowd include; Little Collins, Brunswick, Flinders Lane, Sweatshop Coffee, Hole in the Wall and Bluestone Lane. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Aussie flat whites and avocado smashes now have more than a foothold in New York. The chalkboard menus in Melbourne cafes will always have some type of avocado smash, french toast, smoked salmon, and a pulled pork bagel; and you always add a poached egg to whatever you order. I think the success of the cafes in the Big Apple isn’t because of the food or the coffee they serve, it’s because of the experience they offer. What if there was a Melbourne style cafe in every US city? Imagine being able to grab a smashed avocado with chilli, coriander, feta cheese and cherry tomatoes on seeded toast as well as experiencing that Aussie thing to start off your day.

image source:jmcadam

Experiencing a little bit of the The Land Down Under culture and tradition shouldn’t stop with the Melbourne cafe. Aussies love their seafood; nothing beats the standard order of a piece of flake and chips from the local fish ‘n chip shop. You can bet a penny to a quid when you’re at the local with a few mates for some good pub food a barramundi fillet will be ordered way before a peppered kangaroo fillet with seasonal greens; and there’s always a serious rivalry at the table to see who’ll grab the last salt and pepper calamari ring. Anytime you’re unwrapping a fish ‘n chip shop’s parcel of golden goodness you’ll be surrounded by family and friends telling the same old stories of yesteryear, or creating new stories for tomorrow. The seafood experience is an Aussie indulgence that all of the US should be allowed to enjoy. I’ve got no doubts that Aussie fish and chip shops would meet with the same success in the US as the Melbourne cafe did in New York; and there’s no need to build shops because it wouldn’t take much to add the The Land Down Under fish and chip shop vibe to Five Guys burger restaurants.

image source:jmcadam

The new style restaurants would

  • serve home made potato cakes that are dipped in batter just before being dropped in the deep fryer
  • only serve home made chips; frozen chips from a bag would be unacceptable
  • include a hamburger with the lot on the menu; has the options of beetroot, egg, and pineapple.
  • have walls decorated with Chiko Roll and ocean fish posters
  • offer fried and steamed dim sims that only come frozen and from a plastic bag
  • have a wide multi coloured plastic strip hanging in the front door to keep out the flies
  • keep pickle onions in a plastic jar on the tables with their price written on the side of the jar with a felt tip marker
  • provide salt and vinegar on the tables in recycled soft drink bottles with holes poked in their screw top cap
  • keep soft drinks in fridges with a sign on their door which says; please select before opening door
  • have retro 1980’s arcade machines with games such as Frogger, Centipede, or Ms Pac-Man

image source:tripadvisor

Each shop would have a handwritten chalk menu board above the cooking fryers. You’d stand at the counter and watch the fish and potato cakes being dipped in batter, thrown into a wire basket, and plunged into the hot bubbling oil in the fryer; chips would be added after a few minutes. The master fryer would know just when to raise the basket of golden goodness from the oil, and how to bump it on the edge of the fryer to drain just the right amount of hot oil from the golden chips, and crunchy fish and potato cake batter. The golden pile would be sprinkled with salt and wrapped in paper.

Just as you’ll find America’s national sport on every television screen in the US in summer you’ll find cricket on every television screen during an Aussie summer; it’s video white noise in every hotel bar, airport lounge, and home electronics shop. And there’ll be a TV alongside every barbie; so when you turn the snags and chops, or throw a bucket of king prawns on the grill, you won’t miss the last wicket to fall, or the last four slogged to the boundary. It makes a lot of sense to add a few cricket rules to baseball. World Series games would be world series; eleven countries currently have a national cricket team and compete in test cricket matches. And if the excitement of baseball isn’t enough already; it would be quadrupled because the run rate of a game would increase. Over three hundred runs is a good average runs total for a side batting first in a one day cricket international; imagine that in baseball. The average television audience for the ICC Cricket World Cup is 400 million. Around 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015; now that would be some audience for a Doritos television commercial. I’d suggest the following cricket rules be introduced into baseball.

image source:jmcadam

  • each team plays one innings; an innings is limited to fifty overs
  • an over has six consecutive balls
  • each bowler can only bowl 10 overs; no bower can bowl consecutive overs
  • after a bowler delivers six balls they have completed an over so another team member must bowl the next over
  • after the batting team has lost ten wickets, or fifty overs has been played, the teams switch roles
  • after each team has batted for an innings the team with the most runs wins
  • batsman don’t have to run
  • batsman must wear their helmet, gloves, leg pads, thigh guard, arm guard, gloves, box, and carry their bat with them as they run between wickets
  • Each team has a twelfth man to use if a player is injured during a game

image source:jmcadam

What could be more Aussie than talking like an Aussie? Cricket has a language all of it’s own. Putting a little cricket into baseball would open a treasure trove of Aussie lingo to the average American; every day would be talk like an Aussie day. Forget about peppering your conversation with throw another shrimp on the barbie, and that’s not a knife; this is a knife. Start using any of these in your everyday conversations.

call it stumps: each of the three upright sticks or wickets during a cricket match. The stumps are pulled out of the ground when the cricket is finished for the day. Used to end or finish a task
carried the bat: a batsman who was able to play throughout the game and was not dismissed; a rare feat in test matches. Used to refer to a person doing an incredible job or task
easy wicket: a pitch of slow pace which favours the batsmen. Used in place of an easy task or a comfortable position in life
good innings: a player scored a lot of runs during a game. Used to refer to a long and fulfilling life or career
pearler: a very good delivery of the ball by a bowler. Used to describe something that is impressive or excellent
slog: means to hit the ball so hard that it reaches the boundary. Means to work very hard
sticky wicket: used to describe a damp and soft pitch which could make it extremely difficult to play on as the ball would be going anywhere. Used when a person is in trouble or faced with awkward circumstances

Tony Benneworth from the ABC Radio best summed it up with; it’s been a very slow and dull day, but it hasn’t been boring. It’s been a good, entertaining day’s cricket.

I think I’ll put on a pair UGG’s and sit out in the backyard in a full lotus position and start chanting the mantra; salad must be served with the meal. It would be good brain training for next time I’m at a restaurant and the salad is served before the food order is brought out.

 

Miss Colombia Cafe

Glossary of Cricket Terms and Sayings

Saltwater Grill; Fish and Chips takeaway