The Only Constant Of Anything Is Uncertainty

I didn’t plan on doing it. It just happened. I haven’t seen it as a meme on any social media sites so I think I must be the only person doing it. I find myself stopping and counting the number of avocados piled onto a display shelf, and I’ll try to guess the number of avocados that are prepacked in the small, green mesh bags whenever I’m in the produce section of a supermarket. Not all that long ago, you’d only see avocados in the Omaha shops in summer; you might buy a couple to mix with a packet of guacamole seasoning mix to make some fresh dip. But now it seems avocados anchor the produce section year round in all of the local supermarkets; it appears that Omahans have fallen in love with the little green fruit.

image source:jmcadam

I don’t know how Australia started the avocado toast craze in the US; but a lot of thanks needs to go to those down under, prawn barbecuing maniacs. A couple of small franchise chain restaurant serving only breakfast, brunch, and lunch have sprung up in the neighbourhood; avocado toast is featured on their menu. Now it’s a bit of a stretch to compare them to a Melbourne cafe; a coffee shop with friendly staff, creative food, creative food, and a good neighbourhood vibe, but they are neighbourhood restaurants, and they do serve avocado toast. One of the restaurant offers whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, EVOO, a lemon wedge, and Maldon sea salt served with two basted eggs; and the other serves smashed avocado lightly seasoned, spread across a toasted wheat bread, topped with a sliced hard boiled egg, and a sprinkle of chives and pepper flakes. I grew up with Vegemite on toast in the morning so I haven’t gone the whole nine yards with the smashed avo on toast thing, but I do applaud Omahans obsession with avocado toast, and the convenience of being able to buy an avocado year round. Maybe it’s time to try out Vegemite and avocado on toast.

image source:jmcadam

Whenever I count how many avocados are prepacked in a small green mesh bag I always end up with the same number; regardless of what time of day, what day of the week, or what supermarket I’m counting in. I’ve started to vary the time, and the day, when I nick into the produce section to count the avocados; I don’t want to be so predicable that the avocados know when I’m coming to count them. Arriving at the same number every time I counted the avocados, reminded me of Avagadros number; I started started referring to the number of avocados in a green mesh bag as the Avocados Constant. It must have been during my first year at Footscray Technical College when I first heard about Avagadro’s number; most likely in Physical Chemistry. I don’t think it was anything I copied off Mr Fraser’s blackboard at Williamstown Tech. Willy Tech’s three science classrooms stretched down one side of the main corridors; and were separated from each other by a small equipment and supplies storage room. Mr Fraser taught fourth form science in the middle room. The room was configured with four long lab benches, with gas taps for bunsen burners, running across the width of the room, and a long lab bench along each of the two side walls; they housed sinks with curved water taps, and extra gas taps for bunsen burners.


4AB was timetabled as a double section for science classes so we sat ten to a bench, facing the front in a straight line, on lab stools. Mr Fraser taught the science topics in the sequence prescribed by the Victorian Education Department’s statewide, technical school science syllabus. Most of the time Mr Fraser, with his back to the class, would fill the front blackboards with chalk written chemistry, physics, meteorology, and geography definitions, descriptions, theories, postulates, and laws. When the statewide syllabus prescribed a demonstration Mr Fraser would oblige; during a physics class he assembled an intricate system of pulleys and levers on his front science desk, and choose two volunteers to step up to the front of the room to measure with a spring balance, and his blackboard ruler, whatever he pointed to as he changed the weights on his pulley machine. Mr Fraser wrote the observations and measurements on the board, substituted them into formulas, and we copied all of his calculations and conclusions from the pulley machine demonstration into our exercise books; but we couldn’t copy his excitement when he pointed to his calculations and announced we had determined the velocity ratio, and mechanical advantage, of a simple machine.


One time during a chemistry class Mr Fraser passed different elements and compounds to Max Fitzgibbon in the font row and told him to pass them along; telling the class to touch and feel them, and smell them. I remember touching and feeling mercury; it rolled easily in the palm of your hand, and when you dropped it onto the bench it divided itself into droplets that transformed back into one large droplet when you pushed them into each other. And the class shared together the exaggerated coughing and giggling as we took deep whiffs of Hydrogen Sulphide.

When the statewide syllabus prescribed a student experiment Mr Fraser would divide the class into small groups. Titrating to neutralise an acid was a prescribed class experiment for chemistry. It was books away and bags on the floor. There was probably five stations on each lab bench, and each group of three students had their own titration experiment. Mr Fraser demonstrated the use of a burette and pipette. We practised pipetting with water; then accompanied by with dire warnings from Mr Fraser about the hazards of acids and bases, the dangerous liquids were passed out to each group. It was the days before protective eye ware and suction bulbs, and we all felt a sense of excitement and risk. I think I enjoyed the thrill of putting a pipette into my mouth and sucking up acid into the pipette bowl; and then to just above the graduated marking on the stem.


We tried hard to be successful pipetters, but it was a challenge to slide your small index fingers into your mouth and then onto the top of the pipette stem whilst keeping the acid in the pipette above the marking on the stem. When you took the pipette out of your mouth you’d move your finger, to vary the air pressure, causing the liquid to drip from the pipette, until the meniscus was level with the graduated mark. It took several times sucking the acid into the pipette before we did a successful pipetting. Mr Fraser’s warning continually echoed through the classroom

watch out for air bubbles, and don’t suck to hard.

And for years after, whenever I stopped at a milk bar for a cold Tarax or Passiona, and took thr first deep suck on the straw I heard Mr Fraser’s warnings. I didn’t lose interest in using a straw to drink out of a glass or bottle until my first year at Footscray Technical College. The watering holes along Nicholson Street served 7oz glasses in the public bar without a straw; and that encouraged me to become disenchanted with the meniscus. I no longer cared if it was concave or convex.


Chemistry at Footscray didn’t possess the same wonderment or magic as Mr Fraser’s chemistry classes; but it was as mysterious. Within a short time, it was obvious that Mr Fraser had protected us from the complexities, and confusions, of Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. Nowhere was this more evident than when the ionic bonding theories and molecular orbital properties of elements were introduced; painstakingly by lecture and discourse instead of passing mercury, and other elements around for the class to play with. And it seemed that every week in Physical Chemistry a new obscure constant, uncertainty principle, and equation was unveiled. We committed to memory: The Bohr radius (the average radius of the orbit of an electron around the nucleus of a hydrogen atom at its ground state), The Faraday constant (the amount of electric charge carried by Avogadro’s number of electrons), Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (the position, and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly at the same time), and Avagadro’s number (the number of elementary particles such as molecules, atoms, compounds, etc. per mole of a substance).

I grew fond of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Avagadro’s number. After my final year at Footscray Technical College I practised, and refined the concept of the uncertainty principle. It was the late sixties and early seventies; an ideal time to embrace the concept of an uncertainty principle. As I searched for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary I mused over whether there was a thought experiment that would allow one to deduce Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle instead of observing it. And Avagadro’s number was my grappling iron to actuality; I knew that something would only exist after I calculated the number of molecules contained in one mole of it.

image source:jmcadam

After spending years applying Avagadro’s number to everything I’m confident I can use it to determine the number of avocados in a green mesh bag; all I’d need to do is to multiply the atomic mass of an avocado by 6.022140857 × 1023 to get the weight of an avocado in grams. And if I found the weight of a green mesh bag of avocados in grams, and divided it by the weight of an avocado (from the above calculation), then I’d get the number of avocados in the bag; which would equal Avocados Constant.

Seems like I’ ready to test the Avocado’s Constant hypothesis. If you would excuse me. I need to go and rummage around in the basement in the hope of finding an old spring balance; then I’ll be able to go down to the local supermarket and start weighing the green mesh bags of avocados. When I’ve finished with Avocado’s Constant I think I’ll work on Garlic’s Constant.


Avogadro’s law

The Crazy, International, and Delicious History of Avocado Toast

What is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?


Never Ask A Librarian If You Need A Haircut

I need to start using Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. It’s not that I’ve suddenly developed a passionate interest in wanting to share videos, selfies, images with a quirky commentary, or comment on unusual tweets, but it’s because I became aware that you use hashtags when you post something; a word or an unspaced phrase that you make up to describe what you think your messages or image is all about. And then it came to me; hashtags are the digital Subject Headings of the Internet. Surprisingly, I hadn’t thought about Subject Headings since the days of studying librarianship. The epiphanous shiver that went down my back had to be caused by my memories of Minnie Sear.

image source:jmcadam

I was introduced to Subject Headings and Minnie Sears in the mid seventies when I studied Bibliographic Organisation; part of my librarianship studies at the Melbourne State College. The course was divided into sections; one being Subject Headings. The catalogue description read; the principles of subject cataloguing, studied through their application in the current edition of the Sears List of Subject Headings, and through the procedures required to establish new Subject Headings and reference structures in areas not covered by published lists. To the uninformed, Subject Headings could be seen as mundane, pedantic, and nitpicking. On the contrary; in the early nineteen hundreds, the square peg in the round hole of cataloguers, Minnie Sear, worked in small and medium sized American libraries. The Library of Congress Subject Headings was the defacto standard for descriptors used for indexing and cataloguing. The larrikin librarian, Minnie, thought these subject heading descriptors were too detailed, specific, and technical for where she worked; she simplified them, and came up with a revised list. Minnie Earl Sears first published her List of Subject Headings for Small Libraries in 1923; renamed The Sears List of Subject Headings in her honour after her death in 1933. And for six hours a week for one semester I lost myself in the mystical world of cataloguing and the artistry of Minnie’s Subject Headings.

image source:pixabay

I became so impressed with the concept of using standard descriptors to described events, thoughts, and happenings that I started to use Subject Headings in my speech. I called them hashtags, and sometimes I made up words with letters, digits, and underscores. I should have published them as McAdams Magical List of Hashtag Headings. I started putting my hashtags before and after everything I said.

Me: hashtag australiangreeting
Fellow Librarianship Student: g’day john; wanna grab a few frosties?
Me: hashtag alcohol_consuming sounds good
Fellow Librarianship Student: see ya at the Rose and Crown
Me: no rivermurrays mate hashtag
Later at the Rose and Crown
Fellow Librarianship Student: g’day john; what are ya drinking
Me: hashtag reckon i’ll have a green1
Fellow Librarianship Student: no worries
Me: thought I might be drinkingwithflies before I saw ya hashtag
Fellow Librarianship Student: no worries mate
Me: hashtag tide’s_gone_out_my_shout

For most of the time I was at the Melbourne State College I shared a single fronted Federation style house in McIlwraith Street Carlton and rode a bike around Melbourne. I didn’t ride a bike to challenge the mid seventies car dominated culture of Melbourne, or to see the city and it’s suburbs in a new and interesting way; I rode a bike because I was back in Australia after spending close on a year wandering through South East Asia and the Middle East, and I didn’t have a brass razoo.

image source:jmcadam

It was a vintage yellow bike without a cross bar; back then it was called a ladies bike. It had a 3 speed hub gear with the gear changer on the handle bars, a back wheel handbrake with the lever for the break on the handle bars, a bell on the handle bars, and a headlight that ran off a dynamo on the front tyre, on the handle bars. The bike didn’t have a front basket so I carried my belongings in a string bag that I would rap around a hand grip on the handle bars. It was before the age of the urban cycling; before bike lanes, Lycra bicycle shorts and skinny jeans, bicycle helmets, sculptured facial hair, bike stands, and bicycle-friendly cafes. It was when you road on the tram tracks and the footpaths.

When I was a young lad and started at Williamstown Tech I rode a bike to school; and I rode it down the same streets for next next five years. I think mum made us practice the ride a couple of times before the school year started; she and dad followed in the car. Mum knew exactly how long it took to ride to school and she made us leave the house every morning so we would get to school, with time to spare, before the locker bell and the start of class.

I remember the first day at Melbourne State College and my first library studies class, as well as I remember Bibliographic Organisation and Subject Headings. The house in McIlwraith Street was about a mile from the College. The day began with a warm summer morning. I left the house fifteen minute before class started; more than enough time for a leisurely ride down Lygon Street, enough time to throw the bike somewhere and lock it, and then find the building and room for my first class. I didn’t practice riding by bike before classes started.

image source:google

I was half way down Lygon Street and I realised I was going to be late for my first class. I pushed on the pedals. My tee shirt became damp, and wet with perspiration; sweat flowed down my back and through the waistband of my cut off corduroy shorts. My shoulder length hair became damp and matted. I threw the yellow bike onto a bush and dashed into a building in the shadow of the heritage 1888 building. The door to the classroom was closed; I opened it and found myself looking down into a medium size, tiered, lecture theatre. I was late for class. The instructor at the front of the theatre had started lecturing; they gestured to a seat in the front row. Forty five women, and three males, turned their heads and their eyes followed me as I walked down the aisle and into the seat in the front row.

Back in the seventies it seemed as if there were a high percentage of females studying for a diploma, or degree, in secondary school librarianship. Males mostly taught mathematics, science, solid geometry, or the trades, coached the school football and cricket teams, were in charge of the lockers, and were the caretakers of the school timetable. I wonder if the forty five women and three males, thought of the aspiring educational technologist walking down the lecture theatre aisle in a sweaty tee shirt and corduroy shorts, with long damp hair and a beard, wearing thongs and carrying his books in a string bag, in the same way cataloguers once thought of Minnie Sears.


I was early for the first day of every other class. I chose a seat in the back row for Comparative Librarianship. It was promised in the syllabus that the course would compare the different functions and services of Australia’s national, public, educational and special libraries; as well as the library systems in other technically advanced countries such as: England, France, West Germany, North America, China, Russia, Australia, and Scandinavia. The comparison of library systems was also going to include, what were considered as developing countries at the time: Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua-New Guinea, and India. The final topics for the class were national and international library co-operation, the formation of national bibliographies, union catalogues, and international library associations and organisations. I realised quickly that this class was going to be a challenge; I employed a strategy for success. It was an early morning once a week class. I sat in the back row with the morning newspaper, and, after reading the news and sports section did the crossword. I always had a pencil in my hand, and it seemed as if I was taking notes and highlighting parts of the handouts. I used the asking a question ploy as well as the pencil in the hand ruse; regardless of the topic I waited until the last ten minutes of the class, and would feign curiosity and interest with a compare and comparison, or a I’m still confused type of question.

I’m still a little confused about the use of see and see also cross references in the Australian Technical School catalogue compared to the Subject Headings used in Indonesia Junior High School catalogues.


Comparative Librarianship caused my own Catch 22. I contrasted my new found knowledge of the libraries of the world with my past journeys through South East Asia, Burma, Nepal and India, and the Middle East. And I mused as to what could have been if instead of wandering Darjeeling’s steep curved pathways, and twisting streets lined with shops and market stalls, I had been reviewing the Darjeeling Deshbandhu District Library policies relevant to the number of digits truncated after the decimal point in their Dewey classification; or in place of being lured into the seedy and provocative charm of the cheap restaurants, go-go bars, nightclubs, and hotels of Bangkok’s Patapong district I could have been at the National Library of Thailand exploring their standards and procedures for storing and preserving intellectual property.

My twelve months of librarianship classes came to an end. I moved out of the McIlwraith Street house and into the Western Suburbs, and started the second year of my “I’ve gone back to college one more time” lifestyle; studying educational technology at the State College Victoria Toorak. I retired the ladies yellow bike without a cross bar, and took trains and trams to the State College in Glenferrie Road. Studies in: Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology, Curriculum Studies. Educational Psychology, Theory of Educational Technology, Educational Media Studies, and Educational Administration caused my love affair with Subject Headings to wane.

I need to spend some time reflecting about defining dictionaries as descriptive or prescriptive. Consider the Australian National Dictionary; it records the historical development of Australian words and phrases from their earliest use to the present day. It’s 2018 Word of the Year was Canberra bubble; short listed words were: bag rage, blockchain, drought relief, fair dinkum power, and NEG.

Prescriptive or descriptive; I need to ponder that conundrum over a few frosties: #confusing #questionmark #descriptiveandprescriptive.


1888 Building, Part Of Former Melbourne Teachers College

National Library Of Australia

Cycling: City Of Melbourne

Sometimes The Wrong Train Takes You To The Right Station

I’m not sure exactly what makes a tradition; is it the number of times that something is done, or is it a belief or custom that’s passed down from one generation to another. Towing a caravan down to Rosebud and parking it amongst the tea trees for the summer holidays has been a tradition for generations of the same families. Tossing the garter at a wedding is a tradition. I’ve always wondered about a tradition where you watch a man whack their head up a ladies dress, and then fiddle around for a few minutes with their hands to find a garter to toss at their mates. Would you really enjoy watching your dad, after getting married for a second time, putting his head up his new wife’s dress so he can find a garter to toss at you. But having a few plates of lamingtons on the dessert table at a wedding reception is a tradition I understand.


I drove a taxi part time to earn a few dollars when I went back to college to study for an advanced degree in Instructional Technology. The tradition in Australia back then was if you were male, and travelling by yourself, you’d hop in the front passenger seat of a taxi. And that’s what just about every male passenger did. It was also part of the tradition to talk to the driver. By the time you’d dropped a passenger off they’d have asked you what type of day you were having, how did you come to be driving a taxi, and how about the weather we’re having. I don’t get the tradition of taking a taxi so you can bash somebody’s ear about nothing. But heading down to Bunnings on a Saturday arvo and grabbing a sausage sizzle, or spending Boxing Day on the couch with a stubby, and falling asleep watching the test cricket are a couple of traditions that make complete sense to me.

I think I’ve started a new tradition for myself. The last couple of times relatives have visited Omaha we’ve taken them to the Durham Museum; I think rellies at the museum is now a family tradition. The Durham Museum is housed in Omaha’s Union Pacific Railroad’s restored art deco Union Station, and the building, as well as the working soda fountain are considered to be part of the permanent exhibits. There are several life-like, talking statues scattered around the elegant first floor waiting room; it’s easy to imagine it’s the 40s and you’ve just bought yourself a ticket for the Westbound, City of Los Angeles Streamliner.

image source:jmcadam

I sauntered over to the train timetable and checked for the Westbound 103. I was soon joined by another traveller; we stood together but alone in a deafening silence. I turned to my fellow passenger

Me: g’day mate
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Afternoon
Me: By ya self
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Going back to Denver; it’s my first time in Omaha. There sure are a lot of tracks out there; must be a lot of trains coming through here each day
Me: Sorta reminds me back when I spent most of the May school holidays making railways in our back yard with my cousin Peter. He lived in Dandenong. His mum let him catch the train by himself to Newport. He’d stay at nanna’s place for three or four days. My brother and I had a Hornby O Gauge goods train set; mine was green for the Great Northern Railway and his was red for the Midland Railway. We shared a passenger train. The goods trains had four different types of goods carriages and a guards van
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: I heard they’ve got thirteen sets of tracks out there
Me: No worries mate. I reckon we had enough rails to cover one side of the backyard; we had two stations, some level crossings, a few points, some wooden bridges, and a collection of curved, straight, and cross over metal railway lines
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Let’s see now; the platform for the 103 Streamliner
Me: We built our railways on the dirt side of the backyard. We’d start in the morning by digging valleys and gullies, and smoothing out spaces for other different types of shapes. After dinner we’d join the rails together; making cross overs, using the points for station sidings, and inventing long meandering tracks. Peter had to be back at nanna’s for tea by five o’clock so we’d pack everything up around four o’clock
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Do you want to grab something to eat in the dining room; wonder if they’ve got Whitefish
Me: The next day we’d start a new layout; making it up as we went. I don’t remember ever running an engine or carriages around any of the layouts; we never finished any. Sometimes we’d push some of the carriages around different parts of half done bits of track though
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: I’ll save you a seat
Me: No worries. On the last day of Peter’s little holiday in Newport we’d catch the train into town and spend the whole day going to different Newsreel shows. Cheers mate, see ya in the dining room

After listening to the life sized statutes, who could easily be mistaken for real people, it’s easy to imagine you’re about to catch your train as you take the stairs down to Platform One. Waiting at the platform is a collection of restored, luxurious Union Pacific train carriages from the 1940s; the train includes a Club Car, Lounge Car, and Pullman Car. As you walk through the passageways of each carriage you could think you’re a passenger travelling in the Sleeper carriage, and you’re just stopping off in the Lounge while waiting for your bed to be made up. The platform and track is enclosed, and windows look out to what is left of the railway lines passing through Omaha.

I settled back into a seat in an open section of the Pullman carriage and closed my eyes; before long the train slowly started to move. As it gathered speed the carriage started to rock from side to side and I heard the comforting rhythmic clickety-clack of train wheels.

image source:jmcadam

McAdam is a small town in Canada on the New Brunswick-Maine border. The stone, chateau-style railway station was a hub for Eastern Canada and the US; over 15 passenger trains a day passed through the station. The station is now designated as a Heritage Railway Station. In 1943 Winston Churchill visited the station and acknowledged the people of McAdam. It is said that when his train pulled into the station and stopped, he was standing on the platform of the Observation Car smoking a cigar. They say that he spoke briefly to the gathered crowd; ending his speech with God bless you all and raising his hand high in the air and giving the famous V for victory salute. But I find it more endearing that Winston’s daughter was so appreciative of the people of McAdam that she blew kisses to them from the platform of the Observation Car as the train left the station.

Railway Pie was first served at the station in the early 1900’s. Honouring the tradition the Restoration Committee has brought it back as a fund raiser. From July 1st until the end of September Railway Pie is served every Sunday afternoon at the restored lunch counter. Many say it’s worth the trip just to choose a slice of delicious Railway Pie; twenty plus varieties of homemade pies are baked with love by local volunteers.


Sunday afternoon was also mum’s baking day. After our traditional Sunday roast lamb dinner the kitchen counter tops became mum’s pastry bench. Her Sunday afternoon baking staples were sponge cake, lamingtons, butterflies, vanilla slices, and matchsticks; occasional she made an apple pie. Mum used Granny Smith apples and made the pastry from scratch. Even though mum never seemed to weigh or measure any of the ingredients, her staples were delicious; her apple pie was just as memorable. Nanna also made apple pie. She put whole cloves into her pies. As youngsters we silently gagged when we bit down on a clove; of course we never said anything about the overpowering, sickening taste of cloves. After all it was nanna’s apple pie. When I think back nanna and mum’s apple pie would have been right at home in the McAdam Station lunch room.


As I was finishing off my wander through the restored carriages I pondered whether to stop at the old fashioned soda fountain and order a float or a malt. The phosphate could be a little something to inspire me as I contemplate a recipe for McAdam Pie; and I’d have a serviette to scribble the recipe on.

I don’t remember what Peter and I named the stations on our wandering never finished May school holiday backyard layouts; I wonder if we called them McAdam Junction and Wallace Central.


All Aboard for Railway Pie at McAdam Railway Station

Durham Museum

Australia’s 10 Most Popular Traditional Foods

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:skmcadam

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.

image source:skmcadam

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.

image source:skmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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.

image source:jmcadam

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 Knicker’s I think there are a couple of options worth considering.

image source:jmcadam

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 Knicker’s 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 Knicker’s 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 once again grow my hair below the shoulder; just the way the young john mcadam did.

image source:jmcadam

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.

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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.


60 Old School Haircuts For Men

Digital Mirror To Transform Your Trip To The Hairdresser

25 Fun Facts About Hair