You Can’t Sit On Two Chairs At The Same Time

I became so distraught after reading that a new aeroplane seat concept had been created by Airbus Innovation Lab and a London-based strategic design firm that I almost fell out of my chair. The new concept seat is some sort of perforated composite frame fitted with a knitted sling seat. The sling seat is made with a polyester blended textile with conductive yarn in its weave so that it will carry an electrical current; it will connect to an app on a smartphone so you can monitor and control the seat tension, firmness, pressure, and temperature. The more I ponder the sling seat, I can’t help but think that you shouldn’t be sending electrical currents through conductive yarns in a fabric that someone’s sitting on thirty thousand feet in the air.

image source:airnewzealand

I hesitate to think what would happen if you’ve just loaded up a spoon with some chicken, from an in-flight meal tray of chicken tikka masala with steamed jasmine rice and peas that a cabin staff member has just passed you, and the plane dips and sways because of turbulence. Your hand clasping the spoon heavy with chicken tikka masala will lurch and pitch in reaction to the plane’s motion thereby causing the chicken tikka masala to take off and land on your shirt front, and then down between your legs. The thick tikka masala curry sauce seeping into the conductive seat fabric between your legs would have to cause a voltage surge and short circuit in your groin region.

I consider myself rather fortunate in that I have never experienced air sickness. Mum would always get motion sickness whenever she sat in a car; be it Sunday afternoon drives in the Commer and Austin around Melbourne’s suburbs, or long family holidays in the Holden. Dad tried attaching a metal chain, and then a rubber strap, to the back bumper bar to try and discharge the car’s built-up static electricity; but mum still had a bad time with car sickness. If I suffered air sickness I’d dread having to rummage through the lolly wrappers, boarding passes, wadded-up used tissues, and the orange peel and apple cores, in the seatback pocket trying to find the vomit bag. It goes without question that before I’d find the bag a heaving lurch of my stomach would cause a mouthful of warm, clouded, cream-coloured bile to spill from my mouth, splash between my legs, and onto the electrically charged seat fabric. I can’t imagine the resulting electrical discharge in my crotch area.

image source:jmcadam

Back when I was growing up we didn’t have ergonomic seats or smart chairs that were able to automatically adjust their fabric tension to your bum pressure; you had Buckley’s chance of finding a soft, comfortable chair outside of the lounge room. I only remember hard chairs without cushions; seats you could drip ice cream on, seats without air circulation that caused your thighs to sweat, and seats you’d wipe down with a damp Wettex.

We had a laminex table with chrome legs and matching chairs in our kitchen. The laminex was a plain, dull, clouded, cream colour. The chairs had a solid metal frame and a laminex covered, thin wood seat; the backrest was a solid piece of wood about six inches wide, curved, and also covered in laminex. The backrest was attached to the top of two chrome uprights that formed the back of the chair. I remember the chairs being hard and uncomfortable; in summer the laminex became slippery and moist from the sweat of our thighs. The longest I ever stayed sitting at the table was Sunday night teatime when nanna and granddad came down to our house for the ritual Sunday night tea of cold lamb and salad. Some Sunday nights I’d sit at the table after it had been cleared and the dishes washed and put away, and watch when nanna and grandad paired up, and mum and dad paired up to play Euchre. Now and then nanna would play a few rounds of snap with me before the adults got stuck into their game of cards.

image source:pixabay

I also lingered at the kitchen table a little longer when we had a sulphur-crested cockatoo as a pet. The white mice, guinea pigs, and the cocky spent the night sleeping in the spare room. When we lost interest in having rodents and birds for pets, dad and granddad renovated the spare room and it became my bedroom. Each night after tea, and before its bedtime, the pet cocky sat on the back of a laminex kitchen chair; the floor under and around the chair was covered with pages from the morning’s SUN. The cocky spent most of the night chewing the laminex off the back of their kitchen chairs. I think the cocky spent more time sitting on the kitchen chairs than I did. Mum kept the laminex kitchen chairs even though they had very little laminex on the backrests; I don’t remember anyone ever asking what happened to the laminex on the chairs. Dad buried our cockies under mum’s lemon tree in the backyard; how all the neighbours and family friends admired mum’s juice-filled lemons. I wonder if the laminex in the cocky’s DNA caused the plump, juicy lemons.

image source:jmcadam

Mum’s good chairs were in the lounge room and dining room; both rooms were off the passageway. Dad hadn’t cut an opening out of the kitchen wall into the dining room at that time, so the kitchen passageway door was the only way into the rooms. The door was kept closed whenever a bird was sitting on the back of a laminex kitchen chair; they weren’t allowed within a cocky’s breath of the lounge room and the dining room. And neither was I. The lounge room was only for receiving and entertaining visitors. Mum had furnished it with the formal elegance that dad’s working wage would allow. Crocheted dollies sat on the back of the sofa and the two lounge chairs; her crystal sparkled from the glass shelves of the display cabinet, and a PMG 300 Series, Bakelite Rotary Phone sat on a small table beside the crystal cabinet. Before I went up the passageway to meet the visitors mum would sternly warn us

be on your best behaviour and keep your shoes off the chairs.

If it was during the eighteen hundred’s mum’s lounge room would have been an ideal place to entertain a young lady. A place to sit and talk, and sip a cup of tea; with mum always close by to chaperone. But when I was a teenager it was a time of Love Will Keep Us Together, and the preferred place to entertain a young lady was the back seat of an FJ Holden.

image source:wikiwand

Back when mum and nanna took us into town on their window shopping day, and to pay a few pounds off the Myers lay-by, I didn’t think twice about the interior of Melbourne’s Tait train carriages. Bench seats ran across each side of an aisle; each set of seats had its own sliding door and carriage window, and each window had a wooden latticed blind. Shaded lights hung from the patterned pressed tin ceiling and luggage racks were mounted onto the carriage’s stained wood grain walls. The carriage was styled after a wood-panelled parlour. Carriages were divided into first and second class, and subdivided into smoking and non-smoking sections; you sat on small hard wooden slatted bench seats in second class. First and second class was done away with on the suburban trains in the late fifties. An unyielding cushioned seat, covered with a leather vinyl material, replaced the wooden seats. Mum would let us kneel on the seats to look out the window, but only after a stern warning of

no standing on the seat; and keep your shoes off the seat.

Now that I think back, the small areas created by the layout of the seats, and the snugness and warmth created by the fine wood panelling were ideal for a chat with a young lady, a couple of whispered choruses of You Are So Beautiful, and a quick hand-holding session before the next station. If only there had been a chair rail and wainscot.

We didn’t call them W-class trams; they were just green trams. The open-door trams I rode on were made up of two areas; a sliding door separated a space at each end of the tram from the open doors and wood slatted seat area. Most men, and young boys, preferred to swing into the middle area from the outside wooden boarding step; or during peak hours wait until everyone had boarded the tram, and then holding on to the handrail ride the boarding step. I’m still not sure if riding the step was revealing your manliness or if it was avoiding the conductor.

image source:pinterest

The tram’s wooden seats were replaced by unyielding cushioned seats covered with a leather vinyl material by the time I was riding the tram to and from Flinders Street to the State College Victoria Toorak. The college was housed in Stonnington; a regal, grand old house that had been a private residence, and a former Australian Government House. An Australian Government House is the residence of the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia; the Queen’s representatives in Australia. The elegant Stonnington rooms had become classrooms; furnished with solid plastic chairs with a tablet arm. The plastic chairs reminded me of our old laminex kitchen chairs. The Number 8 tram took me to Stonington every morning and afternoon for a year. I sat on the unyielding cushioned seats; tempted to stretch out and rest my feet on the opposite seat whenever I was musing over the theoretical foundations of Educational Technology. But within my scholarship of discovery, I remembered mum’s rule

no standing on the seat; and keep your shoes off the seat.

And now if you’ll excuse me. I need to go online and find the address for Public Transport Victoria. They’re planning on replacing the seat fabric on all trams, trains and buses in Victoria with a textile that has a thoughtful design incorporating triangles. I’m going to ask if I could have a few yards of their new fabric for a shirt; I wonder if I could sew a few transistors and capacitors into the yoke.


No More Sad Streamers: The Redesign Of Melbourne’s Garish Train Seats

These New Airplane Seats Could Make Economy Feel Like First Class

Fate Of Melbourne’s Iconic W-Class Trams Up In The Air

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?

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

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 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 the mobile phone man so I decided to follow him.

image source:jmcadam

I picked up my shopping basket with its two boxes of frozen Chicken Tikka Marsala and a packet of frozen Seafood Paella and set off after mobile phone man. The 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 the 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 the mobile phone man still wandering the aisles; he didn’t seem to care if he was overheard or not. I was deep in thought about mobile phone public conversations and absentmindedly emptied my shopping basket; as the checkout assistant scanned my boxes of Steak & Stout Pies I announced in a faraway tone of voice

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


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

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

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


The cuts were the strap; being hit across the hand with a three inches wide, two-foot-long, piece of leather. The cuts were a part of everyday 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 lunchtime without a lunch pass, and that you wagged sport.

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


None of us knew where the different classroom offences rated on the institutional severity scale; a graduated system only known to teachers. The scale was used to determine the type and number of cuts you earned. We knew that after your third warning you most likely would be in for a double hander; most times it was waiting 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 (backhander)
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 backhander is an extremely difficult cut and would need ceaseless practise for one to become skilled enough to pull it off. I think teachers who were masters of the backhander 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 backhander.

image source:shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cruel And Unusual Punishment At Schools

No Phones On The Throne

Health Effects Of Environmental Noise Pollution

Where There’s Tea There’s Hope

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

image source:jmcadam

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

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


Some of us anticipated the bell and already had the boys sitting up straight at 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 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 a 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 masterpiece usually on some engineering-size drawing paper.


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

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

image source:pixabay

He left and returned with a wooden box balanced on an extended arm. When he was within arms reach he slowly opened the lid and angled the box to allow me to see into it; I somewhat expected to see two percussion duelling pistols or the Crown of Scotland. Instead, the inside of the box was divided into eight small sections; each section was 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 to $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, lunchtime, and afternoon recess mug of divine goodness back then.

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


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

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

image source:pinterest

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

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

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


How to make the perfect cup of tea


Why tech schools won’t seem to go away

It’s A Long Road That Has No Turns

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

image source:jmcadam

It seems that the mention of no planning caused the young John McAdam to become restless. At seventeen I planned 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 statewide 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, 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 decided 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 wrapped himself in his blanket of thoughts, hopes, and dreams; he was deep in hibernation. For close to 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 buy runners with shoelaces and replace the laces with no tie waterproof silicone flat elastic athletic running shoelaces. I could keep the original shoelaces 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 everything easy to wash down in the other rooms get the chairs and sofa cover with plastic. But I think the best way to avoid 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 repeat 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 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 the hydraulic suspension to be a bouncer. Singalongs would be a medley of the greatest hits of Daddy Cool, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Master’s 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.



7 Themed Retirement Communities We’d Like to See

The Future of Getting Old: Rethinking Old Age

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 its 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. The turbulence caused me to lean back in the seat and sway back and forth as the plane dipped and bumped; that’s when the food on my clothes problem happened. I checked if my napkin had a buttonhole or if 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 seat-back entertainment touch screen to display the flight tracker, we were climbing and increasing speed. Just as the chicken tikka masala stopped its jostling, and the drink trolley with its 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?


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 seem to have inched its 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 flavours 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 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 microbrewery. 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.


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 its 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 superbly 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 dropkick 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 Packet. You could say my time growing into an adult at The Packet was beverage driven.


My visit to 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


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.



Steam Packet Hotel

The 20 Best Australian Craft Breweries

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 every one 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 have 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 supplying 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.


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 they’re 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 the price was just right!

Titan Caskets is the first to tell you they spared no expense in creating the Orion Coppertone; it’s handcrafted 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 pallbearer I bet I’d buckle under the Orion’s weight, and I’d probably have trouble walking straight.


I think it would be difficult to share the Varanasi ghats experience as a funeral webcast. There are 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 laneways 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.


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 chatbot 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.


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

Never Bite The Hand That Holds The Camera

There’s a large cane basket that sits on the floor in the front room; it’s used to store most of our photo albums. I don’t remember the last time an album was taken from the basket; they sit in the basket as if they were a game of Stack Tower. The basket’s duty these days is to serve as a decorative piece and occupy the negative space in front of the didgeridoo. At one time the albums were kept within easy reach on a bookcase shelf or a side table. They were searched at random, or each page of an album was methodically turned releasing treasured memories of long ago holidays, family gatherings, birthdays, and special events. Most of the albums have plastic pages with six pockets on each side holding the pictures; some have a clear plastic overlay coated with an adhesive to hold the pictures onto the page. And there may be an album where the prints are held in place with decorative photo mounting corners. I remember when the pages of photo albums were always sheets of black paper. You’d carefully put a photo mounting corner onto a black and white photo, lick them, and then hold the photo in place on the page until the glue spit stuff on the photo corners was somewhat dry.

image source:jmcadam

Years ago we licked a lot of stuff. You never worried about where a stamp for an envelope had been; you’d just lick the back of it and stick it onto an envelope. If you collected stamps you’d use a stamp hinge to mount them in your stamp collectors album. The hinge was a small piece of transparent paper with glue on one side. You’d lick the side with the glue and try to put half of the licked sticky side onto the back of the stamp, and then fold the hinge so it would stick onto a page in the stamp album. And you did this all before your spit dried, and the stickiness stopped being sticky. Licking stuff was just second nature. You always licked the icing off a Tic Toc biscuit before eating it, and you always licked you fingers or wherever the sauce and meat had dropped when you were eating eating a pie and sauce, and you always licked the beaters after mum had whipped the cream for her cakes with the Mixmaster.

Back then you never really knew what you had taken a picture of until you picked up your printed photos from the chemist shop. You’d point the camera at something, look down and through the view finder to see what the camera was pointed at, and then push the shutter button on the side of the camera. I think I had a Kodak Brownie Flash II. You got your Kodak black and white film at the chemist shop; 8 pictures to a roll. The film was wound on a spool that would slip into the camera.

image source:skmcadam

You’d take the exposed film back to the chemist to be sent away for processing and printing; it would seem like an eternity, but the next week your photos were in a Kodak envelope waiting to be picked up. Before you left the shop you’d breathlessly reach into the envelope for your black and white memories; most times only half of the eight were in focus, well framed, or properly exposed. And you would carefully put a photo mounting corner onto the corners of each black and white photo, lick them, and then hold the photo in place on the page of a photo album.

I think at one time photo’s were somewhat personal. Photo albums weren’t passed around or given to friends to enjoy; they were personal keepsakes. You never really knew what attractions, buildings, scenes, or destinations your friends had preserved from their holiday’s as personal memories. When relatives or friends did share their albums it was unusual to find two identical photographs; a well known attraction may have been photographed from the same viewing place but there was always a difference in the angle or direction. It’s different today. It seems that images are captured, and then immediately shared on the myriad of social networks, or uploaded and distributed through cloud based databases. A quick search through these online resources shows that most people have photographed the same buildings, attractions, and landmarks from the same viewing place, at the same angle, and from the same direction. Data suggests that 35% of the online photographs of the Eiffel Tower are taken from the same three angles and that 85% of the photos of Machu Picchu are from the same spots; creating nearly half a million identical images on Instagram. It would seem that Instagram and TripAdvisor are not only used for inspiration of where to go for a holiday, but what to photograph and visit.

image source:jmcadam

And so I started musing. Why not provide different images of the same attractions and landmarks for all those bored with seeing the same images; and what if there was an online database of images of the world’s finest beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers, rain forests, cultural monuments, heritage sites, important historical and political sites, and architectural structures taken from different perspectives. And to ensure the integrity of “a not the same old images” database an image would be subjected to a content analysis script before it could be uploaded. If the content analysis script determined that a similar image already existed in the database, then the image awaiting uploading would be rejected; no two images would be the same.

The iconic Flinders and Swanston Street intersection could be thought of as Melbourne’s Time Square, Piccadilly Circus, St Mark’s Campanile, or the Fontaine Saint-Michel; there’s always people going places walking up and down the street, and others stopping and waiting to meet under the clocks. On each corner of the vibrant intersection is a quintessential Melbourne building.


Flinders Street Railway Station is Australia’s oldest train station, and the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere. Before Melbourne’s underground was built all suburban trains would finish and start from one of Flinders Street sixteen platforms. The clocks under the main dome have always shown the departure time of the next train; if I was living in Melbourne I would be meeting under the clocks. There’s always an urban myth attached to an iconic building, and Flinders Street is no exception. The firm that won the design competition for Melbourne’s new station was also building the Mumbai station and it’s rumoured that the plans for the two stations were mistakenly switched. India got a Gothic style station, and Melbourne an East-Indian design with a flashy dome, an arched entrance, a tower, and clocks.


Young and Jacksons has welcomed Melbourne drinkers since 1875. It’s not only legendary as a watering hole, but also for a nude painting. Chloe was a 19 year old Parisian artist’s model named Marie, and was painted by French figure painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre. Chloe was showcased at the Paris Salon in 1875; she has graced the walls of Young and Jackson’s since the early nineteen hundreds. Who didn’t have a few pots of the amber in the public bar whilst waiting for their train; looking through the windows, and across the street to the Flinders Street clocks to check their time. There was always time for another couple of pots. Today you can relax with a beer, wine, or a cocktail, and steal a glimpse of Australia’s most famous $5 million nude in Chloe’s Room on the first floor.


The neo- Gothic St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by the British architect William Butterfield. The building’s foundation stone was laid in1880. The church is unique for several reasons. Instead of using the traditional blue-grey Melbourne Bluestone of the time a warm yellow-brown coloured sandstone from Geelong was used. The three spires that were added thirty years later were never part of the original design; they’re a different colour from the rest of the building because a stone from Sydney was used for their construction. Before construction of the church started it was discovered the traditional east west orientation design wouldn’t allow the cathedral to fit into it’s block of land; it was flipped, and the north-south orientation makes it unique from all other Anglican Cathedrals.


In 1967 the Prince’s Bridge railway station was demolished, and the seventeen storey Princes Gate Towers twin towers office buildings were built over the still functioning train platforms. The towers became the headquarters of Victoria’s Gas and Fuel Corporation. When mum and nanna went into town they would start their day at the cooking presentations at the Gas and Fuel’s demonstration kitchen. Thirty years after being built the stark blocks of concrete were flattened, and the railway lines covered over. Federation Square, a modern piazza was created; a civic and cultural space where Melburnians would gather to celebrate, share, learn, and be inspired. Fed Square’s open spaces, galleries, restaurants and bars have become part of Melbourne’s heartbeat.

If you Google Flinders Street Station, Young and Jackson Hotel, St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square, or Flinders and Swanston Street intersection you’re presented with countless identical images; all taken from the same angle, and the same point of view. The following are the beginning of my “a not the same old images” database for the iconic Flinders and Swanston Street intersection.

image source:jmcadam

image source:jmcadam

The more I mused the concept of “a not the same old images” databases the more I became convinced that

the ones who see things differently; they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. steve jobs 1997

And now I need to put the kettle on, sit back with a cup of tea, and look through the albums to find photo’s of my svelte self.


15 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos 

Michaels Camera Shop; Melbourne

Modernism Lost