Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Dog's Eye: I've moved.

Square Pegs posts can now be found at D.A.CAIRNS AUTHOR.

Quite a long time ago, Blogger changed their interface, (or whatever you call it - sorry for my non technical knowledge/awareness), and I was displeased. The functionality I had enjoyed since beginning Square Pegs back in 2009 had been impaired and it was no longer as easy or enjoyable to use.

Two things in particular annoyed me every time I wrote and posted an article on Blogger after the 'improvements'. One, I could no longer place a photo in the text. It had to sit alone between paragraphs or...or nowhere. The second thing was I could no longer scroll through my post to check it in any way other than using the side bar. I don't use a mouse, so you can imagine how irritating this process became.

Aside from the negative changes to the Blogger interface, I had for some time wanted an official author website; not a blog, but a professional looking, hosted website with my own domain. After exploring this move myself, and finding it above my pay grade. I checked out how much it might cost to hire someone one to build website for me.As I'm still waiting to make money from my writing, I found the cost prohibitive and shelved the project until such time as...well, until such time as the cost was no longer an obstacle. 

Fast forward to roughly a month ago, with the imminent launch of my first non fiction and first self-published book, I Used to be an Animal Lover, the time was right. However, it was only right because my sister stepped in with an offer to good to refuse. What was the financial incentive? What cleared the obstacle, making a path for a long held goal of mine? A payment plan.

In the end, with assistance from my children, and content from me, my sister built me a great website and I am now there. Not here. On the site, which is well worth a visit, you will not only find Square Pegs, but also information about me and my books, including preview and purchase links, links and downloads of my work, and a selection of writing services which I offer as a freelancer.

It's time to say good bye to Blogger and hello to D.A.CAIRNS AUTHOR. Please come and visit, have a look around a sign up for Square Pegs posts, and subscriber only content, including news and giveaways.

Thanks for the memories Blogger. Thanks to all those who have read, commented, and shared, especially those hundred odd people in Poland who followed my short lived food blog, I Don't Cook. Archived articles will remain available here, but all the new content can only be found at D.A.CAIRNS AUTHOR. See you there.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Much ado about nothing

The name of one of Shakespeare's plays. Much Ado About Nothing, entered the vernacular as an expression meaning to make a big deal about something which is either untrue or not such a big deal. The essence of it is found in two idioms.

1. to bark up the wrong tree which means to get worked up over something based on false assumption or an accepted lie. The dog starts pawing the trunk of a tree, looking up into it and barking in the belief there is something up there - a cat or some other creature which it feels compelled to attack - but it is barking at nothing, because there is nothing in that tree. Thus it is making a big fuss, much ado, about nothing.


2. To make a mountain out of a molehill means to get really upset over a small matter. To be fair, there is some element of subjectivity involved here in terms of what constitutes a mountain of an issue compared with a molehill of an issue, but the saying is used to express the idea that the person getting upset is overreacting. They are making much ado about nothing.

People say these things to other people when a. they know the truth and the receiver is acting on false information, or b. the speaker disagrees with the importance of the issue which the receiver is getting upset about it. The speaker does not feel the same way so naturally they perceive the others's expression of angst, fear, or outrage as 'over the top.'

Most people are passionate about something. Many people feel aggrieved when others don't share those passions or don't understand them. Many people support various causes and often request their friends, families and others to support those causes too. I'm growing a moustache for Movember again this year and as I usually do, I sent text messages to all my phone contacts asking for a donation. 95% of people didn't respond. A few people responded, but didn't donate. A handful of others donated, and even less people got so upset they felt the need to tell me how offended they were. In this case, I'm talking about one person in particular who suggested my cause was trivial compared to his and rambled about a lack of support for what he was doing. I knew nothing about it.

I also have a book launch coming up next week for my memoir, I Used to be an Animal Lover. It's not a cause, like Movember, because it's personal. I'm trying to sell my book and to do that I need to advertise. I've been using Facebook ads which have resulted in a massive increase in engagements on the I Used to be an Animal Lover page. What I was looking for, from those reactions, was people to sign up for Advanced Review Copies and register for the book launch. It's also great to get comments rather than just reactions. However, as with my Movember texts, the results of my advertising campaign have been predictably, but nonetheless disappointingly poor.

Zero event registrations. Zero ARC expressions of interest and only two comments on the most recently sponsored post. You can see the comments below, but essentially the only two people who took the time to comment were very upset about my ad appearing in their news feed. 


Here's my philosophy about all this in a nutshell.

1. If you don't appreciate something, or can't see any value in it, then ignore it.

2. Never expect people to care about your passions and causes as much as you do.

3. Be prepared to cop criticism or even abuse from those who don't follow number 2.

4. Life is too short to making much ado about nothing.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Mirror: Parental Guidance



In the 21st century, everything is apparently of interest to someone and the evidence of this can be found on social media and in reality television. Since the early noughties, reality television exploded in popularity with the advent of Survivor, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, and American Idol, all of which went on to become global franchises in turn giving birth to a never ending stream of progeny.

These shows are popular because of the ages old appeal of vicarious living. The ability to live a life, to experience an adventure, to undergo a trial, or to find romance without leaving your home had traditionally been provided by fiction or documentary, in books, films and television. Reality TV ushered in a new and more personal way to connect.

I've watched and enjoyed a few of the these shows over the years without necessarily becoming a devotee. Mostly, I've avoided them because either I found them too morbidly addictive, dull, or offensive, but when I find something I like, I'll commit for a season, and my attachment is based on two things; people and philosophy. Although I understand how heavily edited these programs are, and how manipulative such editing is, I still find the shows interesting and entertaining because of the characters, both their personal stories and how their worldviews play out in life.

The latest reality show to hit Australian screens is Parental Guidance about which I'd heard nothing until I saw an ad for it while I was watching a James Bond film on the Nine network. It's marketed as a social experiment, which is fair enough because it isn't exactly a reality TV show, although it does have elements of the genre, and I like it...a lot.

Co-hosted by prominent child psychologist Dr. Justin Coulson, the show brings together ten couples with different parenting styles, examining the strengths and weaknesses of each methodology through group discussion and a series of family challenges. Irrespective of what you might think about any of the various parenting styles, one thing is clear: these parents really love their children and are committed to doing what's best for them. They may chose different paths but their broad goals are identical. The environment in which these discussions take place is one of respect and openness, which has no doubt been engineered by the structure of the show and the careful selection of participants, but it makes for compelling, albeit occasionally uncomfortable viewing.


In most families, it is unlikely that any particular parental style has been intentionally chosen and pursued by the parents. Most people muddle their way through child rearing, as they do through life, doing the best they can  However, any parent watching this show would certainly be able to identify with some or all of the parental practices displayed. Most parents use a mix of strategies to achieve their goals for their children and to ensure a healthy family life. The difference with the couples on the show is that they are very intentional and consistent.

I've found it impossible to keep my mouth closed while watching Parental Guidance. Whether I agree or disagree, praise or criticise, I'm fully engaged as watch and I'm sure I typify the reaction that the producers of the show desired. The show is about the conversation, about learning from each other, inspiring each other to be better parents and better people. 

I would argue that Parental Guidance is not only a clever and entertaining show, but also a necessary one. Does anyone not agree that parenting is the single most important job any person will ever have? Who doesn't want to be a better parent? What parent does not want the very best for their children? Who doesn't find parenting hard at times?

Although I find it tedious to have one same sex couple, or a same sex attracted person included in every show now, I think having Brett and Tony in Parental Guidance is important and valuable. I'm also pleased they included a single mum. I don't believe these are optimal parenting scenarios, but I do think good parenting should be acknowledged and supported no matter who is delivering it.

I only have three criticisms of the show. Firstly, it's too short. Opinions are delivered in 'grabs' designed to have maximum emotional impact on the viewer, but it doesn't go deep enough for me. However, as with most shows you can visit their website for additional content. Secondly, the disparate ages of the children skews the results of some of the challenges, and thirdly there is no accounting for, or representation of blended families. It is one thing to raise children from birth with a particular parenting style, but what happens when your parenting journey begins with an eleven year old and a thirteen year old, for example, as mine did. Perhaps the producers would consider a spin off which focusses on step parenting, which is unquestionably harder than parenting.

Parental Guidance ticks a lot of boxes for me as a viewer and a parent of four children. It's manipulative but not excessively, and it's controversial, but not for the sake of controversy I'm very much looking forward to the second week of the series, and I encourage you to check it out. Tune in, and take a look into the mirror. Do you like what you see? 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

relationDips: unpalatable and indigestible

Informally, we might use the word 'yuk' to describe such food which we don't like. We don't though. 'yuk' or 'yukky' tend to be used by children as adults have developed more sophisticated ways of saying they don't like or even can't eat certain foods. Imagine a five year old, sitting at the dining table, staring at a few florets of broccoli, saying, 'Mother, I'm afraid I find these particular vegetables unpalatable and indigestible.'


                                                                    photo source

I think some foods are yuk. Some of the dishes presented to me by my wife aren't appealing at all. Okra for example, is a vegetable I have tried to acquire a taste for but I can't get past the slimy texture. Certain other Asian greens taste okay but require exhaustive chewing to get value from them, and even then there is indigestible refuse to eject. I have a thing about having to put my fingers in my mouth while I'm eating, or having to spit things out. Nothing destroys my enjoyment of a meal like a fish bone jamming itself in my gum. I used to not eat cherries because I wanted fruit to put in my mouth, chew and swallow. I didn't want to have to negotiate a stone, then spit it out once I'd stripped the sweet flesh which surrounds it.

Eating shouldn't be hard work. There's usually enough hard work in the preparation, and the after meal cleaning. For me, eating is the part of the process which is enjoyable, or should be. Even if the food isn't great which is usually the case when I cook, the sitting down and eating should provide sensorial pleasure, and it should be relaxing. I don't enjoy cooking or cleaning, although I do find a certain satisfaction in those tasks. Eating is what I like.

There is something I like more than eating, from which I derive greater satisfaction, but even then not all elements of the procedure are equally enjoyable or rewarding. I love writing, but I don't love trying to find publishers or marketing. I love writing this blog. I've been doing it for 12 years, but thanks to Blogger's decision to change its interface, I'm no longer happy with the process. The writing is great. Adding photos and publishing? Not so great any more. I can write a short story of around 2000 words in a couple of hours. I'll usually spend an hour or so editing it, but then I can spend another hour or more sometimes trying to find a market for the story. After submitting it, I'll have to wait (sometimes forever), for a yes or no. If it's a no, I'll find another publisher and send it again. That isn't fun, but it's a part of the process. I wrote the first draft of my memoir in about six months. It's taken another twelve months after that to get it ready for publication and I can't tell you how many hours I've spent on various marketing endeavours. It will be available from November 22. You can visit the page here. 

There are elements of eating and writing which I don't enjoy, on both the consumption and production side. I don't stop eating after I've had a bad meal (unless it was so bad it made me sick and I couldn't eat for a while). Neither do I stop cooking just because I don't like it, can't be bothered, or I've cooked something inedible. (Ask my children about my lemon chicken.) I don't stop writing because my work doesn't sell well, or because I get a long list of rejections; or even because, again, it's too hard or I don't feel like it. I've read some rubbish books but that's never stopped me reading, and I continue to read experimentally, checking our different genres and authors.

None of these negatives put me off doing things I love doing because in my mind it's worth a bit of pain of discomfort to achieve pleasure and satisfaction. Most people have this attitude to things they care about it, and relationships are no different.

If your expectations meter is set to realistic, you know life isn't all strawberries and butterflies. You understand that weeds grow in your garden faster than roses and that if you don't get rid of the weeds and look after your roses, your garden will be 'unpalatable and indigestible.'

Whatever metaphor you want to use, the point is that good relationships require hard work, and if you're going to do your part, you'll need to push through the unpleasant parts while still giving them your best efforts. If I want to cook a horrible meal, I can avoid fresh ingredients and ignore the recipe. If I don't want anyone to read my work, I won't waste time refining and polishing the manuscript, then trying to marketing it. If I want an unhealthy relationship with my wife, I can easily achieve that by giving up. I can pick out all the unpleasant or unacceptable parts of the marriage and focus on them, using them as excuses for not working hard to make my marriage successful. The 'too hard basket' is always an option for those who lack courage.

The thing is, I want to eat healthy, tasty meals, I want to read inspiring, fascinating books, and I want to write books and stories which move people.  All of this requires effort on my part and it won't always be fun. And more than any of that, I want the best marriage I can possibly have. Loving my wife means I need to make an effort. My relationship with her is more important than food or books. She's not food which I can spit out or throw away. She's not a book I can put back on the shelf, then choose another. She's a person who needs me to love her unconditionally and consistently, to respect her, and to make her feel safe.

Perhaps if people took their relationships as seriously as they did their jobs, hobbies, and other passions, we'd have less broken relationships.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Dog's Eye: It's not just a lawnmower, mate.

Once upon a time I bought a house and the purchase of that house necessitated many other purchases. A great number of those purchases related to home maintenance which is not a thing when you're renting an apartment. Not only is there no lawn to mow, but any repairs which may be required are the responsibility of the owner of the property - for better or worse. (Unfortunately many renters find agents and landlords to be very diligent when they want you to sign a lease, but significantly less so when the tenancy begins.)

There are many benefits to home ownership, but there are also increased costs and, let's call them burdens, but overlook the negative connotations of that word. I bought my first house twenty years ago. My ex wife owns and lives in that house now, and since our separation I have lived quite a transient life. I'm the guy who needs extra pages for all his previous addresses on mandatory police checks for employment purposes. Before I moved to Darwin five years ago, I racked up five different addresses in about eighteen months. During my time in the Top End, I had six permanent addresses, and for the eighteen month period in which I was a house sitter, I slept in nearly forty different beds.


In all that time, six years now, I bought two lawnmowers. One, a brand new electric model and the other, five years after I got rid of the electric one because I didn't have a lawn to mow, was a second hand mower which I pushed around the yard in the tropical heat until it spat the dummy. The engine seized a couple of weeks before we moved from Darwin back to the Illawarra.

Since our return, we're already on our third address. This time, I'm hoping and praying that we can stay for at least two years or more, even until we are ready, God willing, to look at buying a home of our own. So keen am I to put down roots, I have come to see the lawnmower as a metaphor for commitment.

The house in which we are now living, and as I said, hopefully not leaving for some time, has a sizeable yard. Had we been more financial at this time, I might have considered paying someone to come and cut the grass. Firstly, to avoid having to do it myself, and secondly to avoid having to buy a lawnmower. Now don't get me wrong, I like lawnmowers and I like using them. Cutting the grass is one of those necessary chores which gives you exercise and an immediate sense of satisfaction once the job is done. It's not that I don't want to do it, it's just that I can think of many other things I would rather do.

I have a philosophy that getting older (I'm talking about the second half of life - post midlife crisis) is about reducing the 'have to' components. Many of them can be removed with a theoretically simple change of attitude, but others are about making wise choices. Choices aren't only facilitated by money, but whether or not you can afford to do something, or go somewhere, or hire someone to do something for you, is certainly impacted by your financial circumstances.

I tell you, if I was on a six figure income, I would pay someone to clean the house and cut the grass. However, limited money means limited choices.

So, I must cut my own grass which is certainly not the end of the world. Having made that decision, I then needed to purchase a lawn mower. I could have gone second hand again, but aligning with the 'lawnmower means commitment' metaphor, I knew a second hand mower wouldn't last as long as new one. It would also be louder, dirtier, and harder to use. I decided to show that I was in for the long run by buying a new lawnmower. The problem was, I still had a tight budget. After a brief search online for mowers I could buy at bricks and mortar stores, I was not happy with the prices, so I turned to old mate Amazon.


                                                                      Giantz 4 stroke lawnmower on Amazon

To cut a long story short, I spent a total of just under $300 for a no name brand mower built in Taiwan, where I'm pretty sure there aren't many lawns, and a jerry can, funnel, and a bottle of oil. In just over a week a big box from Amazon arrived at my door and three days later I unpacked and assembled my new toy.

It's beautiful looking machine, was easy to put together, easy to start, easy to use, it's quiet, and it did a great job. Although I was hot, sweaty, and in pain from a pulled buttock muscle, I gazed upon the finished lawn and smiled. I'll do that every time I cut the grass, even though some days will be much hotter, and I won't feel like it when I start.

I bought a new lawnmower, but it's much more than just a machine to cut a grass. It's a metaphor for commitment. I'm all in. A long term determination to make a 'have to' task, a joyful one and one for which I forego complaining to express gratitude.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Snake Oil: Seatbelts and COVID

In 1970 Victoria became the first state in the western world to introduce laws making the use of seatbelt in cars compulsory. within year and a half the other Australian states followed suit and by 1977, 90% of motorist were wearing seatbelts. Why? Because they recognized that although wearing a seatbelt could be something of an inconvenience, it also prevents death and more serious injury in the event of a car accident.  

"The Australian experience supports the view that legislation for compulsory wearing of seatbelts is the single most effective method available for the protection of vehicle occupants in road crashes."(1)

Seatbelts were first offered in vehicles by Nash in 1949, followed by Ford in 1955, but American buyers didn't initially want cars with seatbelts because they believed that needing to install a seatbelt meant the car itself wasn't safe. Apparently safety did not sell. It does now, but not back then.

The first sash seatbelts weren't much chop, and actually caused injuries in some cases but the technology continued to improve with Volvo introducing the three point belt, then later the advent of the pretensioner was brought to us by Daimler-Benz.

We, both motorists and passengers, exercise faith when we use motor vehicles. Time has proven we can trust manufacturers to make safe vehicles, but they can't do anything about dangerous or incompetent drivers. We have licensing, registration, and training to help with that of course, but when you're driving you can really only hope that other drivers are licensed and they know what they're doing.

The mandatory use of seatbelts is just one of numerous examples of governments acting to protect their citizens. There was no conspiracy to restrict our freedom or inconvenience us. The purpose was keeping us safe. Governments still run advertising campaigns to remind people to belt up when they get in car even though most of us do it automatically. Despite the initial protests and concerns, we got used to seatbelts. And they work.

Call it a long bow if you like, but I can't see any difference between seatbelts and COVID vaccinations and precautions. Governments around the world want people to get vaccinated to keep us safe. Seatbelts, vehicle testing and registration, driver training and licensing, and speed limits are all designed to keep us safe. Most people accept this, not as evidence of totalitarianism, but of natural and acceptable paternalism. Don't we want the government to keep us safe? Lockdowns, check ins, face masks, and vaccinations are not evidence of a conspiracy to control and repress us. The purpose is to keep us safe. In my opinion to see more in it than that, is to enter the realm of paranoia.

I'm double vaccinated and will happily display by certificate before being granted entry into a restaurant. When I drive, I would like to know the other drivers are licensed, and it's no different in the restaurant, I would like to know if my fellow diners are also vaccinated. I want to be safe. Who doesn't?

I have friends who have been pushing various conspiracies theories on me, and others, since the pandemic turned the world upside down early in 2020. I've never bought into it and I'm not about to. I've seen fear take the steering wheel of so many people's lives. I'm not doing that either. I've never been afraid, nor will I be. I'll do what I'm told regarding COVID rules. I don't like the inconvenience and I am definitely not a fan of wearing a face mask, but I'm taking reasonable precautions and following the advice of experts to stay safe, including getting vaccination.

COVID conspiracies are snake oil.

Source: (1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/466050/ 


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Dog's Eye: A Moving Story

Without wishing to downplay the stress involved in what happened, this is not a heartwarming, emotional post. It's a post about shifting: changing situations, attitudes, jobs, and addresses.


                                                     (unrelated cute dog photo to warm your heart)

If there has been one consistent theme to my prayers over the last 3-5 years, it has been peace and simplicity. These two things are not necessarily easy bedfellows, nor are they always found inhabiting reality. I would like a peaceful and simple life, but neither my choices nor the circumstances of my life - not all of which are the results of my choices - promote the achievement of that goal.

I'm forcing myself to write this because I haven't written for a while. I found a slot on Sundays before church in which I was regularly adding content to this blog. Two Sundays ago, we moved house which meant I not only didn't write but I wasn't able to attend church. Last Sunday, I was too tired which has become normal for me these days because I am having to get up ridiculously early to go to work.


                                                https://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7184149/social-jetlag-sleepy

Wait a minute, I hear you say. You're a writer. Why do need to get up before Sparrows to go to work? You set your own hours, so why not get up later to give yourself sufficient sleep? Alas, being a full time writer remains a dream for me, albeit one which I am pursuing with much more focus and vigour than I have previously done.

We've got bills to pay so I thought a part time delivery job would help, particularly as working AM shifts means I am free to write in the afternoons. I don't work every day at this delivery job which I've been doing for a month now, so I have full days which I can devote to writing. Theoretically.

Yesterday, I had 'all day 'for example, but I spent three hours trying to do something unrelated to work; a home project to help my wife. It would not have been so bad had I actually been successful, but I failed miserably which left me thinking I had wasted half a day. So much can happen every day; thousands of other needful things, distractions and interruptions all working against my plan. 

Speaking of thousands of things, it's incredible how every day at the delivery job throws up new challenges. It's much more difficult than I thought it was going to be, and I'm certain I will grow to hate doing it before too long. However, I prayed for a job, searched for jobs, applied for many, and this is the one I got. It's not all bad. I love meeting people, chatting on porches, driving around the Illawarra enjoying the beautiful scenery, and of course, I enjoy getting paid.

The problem is I can't shake the nagging doubt that it's taking me away from where my focus should be. Writing. At times it seems like there is a conspiracy operating against me. Even my own energy levels aren't supporting me in pursuing my dream. I feel stuck, and unsure what to do.

We didn't want to move from Albion Park Rail and it was a monumental hassle; not to mention stressful as we had a very short time to find a new home and make it all happen. Despite the pain and inconvenience, we are definitely better off. The new house is better situated, bigger, and cheaper. I've even got an office. What a luxury to have my own room in which to work. Sure, I don't have any furniture apart from a camping chair and a large carton which is serving as a desk, but I have the space and the space will be filled in due course.

Lockdown has finally ended, so my wife has been able to resume her hairdressing and massage business. She's happy, so I'm happy. Things just keep on changing and I keep on adjusting, remembering to always remain thankful, but it isn't quite how I want it to be.

Out of necessity, I deliberately override my feelings, and try to move into the right space - the right metaphorical space - by being positive and refusing to let go of the dream.

I say it often because I believe it. There is always hope. Everything is temporary, everything passes in time. The biblical injunction to give thanks in all circumstances and to rejoice always requires discipline. Living by faith means sometimes ignoring one's feelings and choosing to see things the way God sees them. I said everything is temporary, but things of the spirit are not. God is not. He doesn't change. I can trust him because he's good and he's proven himself faithful to me.

Money is tight. My freelance writing career is in a trough. I have no money to advance my personal writing projects. I'm doing a job I don't really like in order to pay off a large and long standing debt as well as contribute to rent, food and other household expenses. It doesn't feel right nor does it look right, but I have no sense that it is not right.

I'm going to watch television now and come back to this tomorrow after I deliver groceries, then come home and take a nap. On we go. Did I move you?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Mirror: Cinderella

Cinderella is an old story which has been retold and reimagined in various ways, hundreds of times, most notably in movies. Last night we watched the latest adaption of this very well known and much loved fairy tale. I'll have more to say about the film in a moment, but first to satisfy your curiousity, as I needed to satisfy mine, let's go back. From where did the hyper romantic fairy tale of Cinderella originate?

While versions of this classic story date back to 6th century Greece and 9th century China, the English version with which we are familiar has its roots in Charles Perrault's Cendrillon which was published in 1697. Nowadays we use the term 'Cinderella story' to refer to any story in which a nice, deserving person, finally has something good happen to them. It might be marrying a prince or it might be winning a world heavyweight boxing crown such as was achieved by James. J. Braddock in 1935. Braddock's inspirational rags to riches story was depicted in Ron Howard's 2005 film, Cinderella Man. 

The story appeals to us because it is the stuff of dreams. Who doesn't want to find their true love? Who doesn't want to be rich? Who doesn't want to be a champion? For most of us, riches and glory are for other people to have and for us to imagine having. While we may not dream of being a world champion, a rock superstar, a movie star, president, prime minister or king, we all have dreams. There are things we want to achieve, metaphorical mountains we want to climb. Life is characterised by struggle and there is meaning in the struggle, but we want to win. We want to overcome. If we can't do it, or if it seems too far away, we don't give up, and at the very least we can vicariously enjoy the victories of others. When Cinderella marries the prince, she not only finds true love, but is released from poverty and mistreatment. From having nothing but her dreams, she now has everything she ever wanted and more. Her success makes us feel good, but more than that, it gives us hope.

Cinderella 2021 stars Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as King and Queen leading a cast of relative unknowns in a whimsical musical adaption of the Cinderella story. It featured some nice twists and some terrific songs, like Somebody to Love and Ed Sherrin's Perfect. Although it felt a little awkward at times - a fault of the writing mostly, but also some of the acting - Cinderella had some truly magical moments. Sure, it was corny and predictable, but as far as warm and fuzzy goes, it was a winner in my eyes. It was also genuinely funny in places, and featured in my opinion the best ever Fairy Godmother, played brilliantly by Billy Porter.

Feel good 'Cinderella' stories are important to us because they give us hope and they help us to keep on believing, to keep our dreams alive.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

relationDips: Why I don't argue

My wife insists on washing all fresh food, including pre packed meat before she eats it, or uses it to cook. Even after washing, she is suspicious of skin and will peel it off: even grapes. All traces of soap must be rinsed off the dishes before they are considered clean. Frequent handwashing is normal, and was normal before COVID. Now before you insensitively start labelling her a clean freak, let me tell you there's good reason for all that. She comes from a place where the standards of personal cleanliness are higher because they must be. Unsafe food handling and preparation by businesses from markets to groceries to restaurants put customers at risk. The detergent used to wash dishes isn't safe, dangerous chemicals are used in food production, and you can't drink water from the tap. As I said, she has good reason to be careful.

I've spent most of my life not giving a toss about these things. In Australia, which is one of the most heavily regulated nations in the world, we take it for granted that we can drink water straight from the tap. If the bag of veggies in the supermarket has a label saying 'pre washed and ready to serve', we accept that.

Since marrying my Top End Angel, I take more care. I wash apples before I eat them, I rinse all (most) of the detergent off the dishes, and I wash my hands...often. I don't do these things because I think they are necessary. They are not. However, my wife thinks they are necessary. She wants to keep herself and her loved ones safe. I could argue the point every time she tells me to wash my hands after I already washed my hands or get upset at her for getting upset with me for not washing the chicken breast before I used it to make the tacos she won't eat. I could contest everything, attempt to change her mind, and try to win every argument, but why would I do that?

We've had very few arguments in our short marriage and while that's partly due to our complementary personalities, it's also due to the fact that over the years I've learned something about arguments.

  • Nobody wins arguments.
  • Arguments don't get the expected results.
  • Arguments expose character flaws.
  • Pride is the chief cause of arguments.
  • Arguments don't build strong relationships.

As a result of these lessons, I avoid arguments. Don't get me wrong though. It happens to almost everyone. None of us are perfect and there are times when we either start arguments or needlessly get involved in them, even ones which have nothing to do with us. But, what is the point?

I could argue with my wife about her over the top cleanliness, but I know she's coming from a good place. She loves me and wants to look after me. Why would I resist that? I could argue with my children, but I know they are not interested in truth or in doing what is right or sensible, so I tell them what to do. If they don't do what they're told, they know the consequences. There's no point arguing about it.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about arguments is they cause division. This is equally true in your home as it is in the COVID world. People are arguing about the vaccinations, the lockdowns, the restrictions, but I don't get involved in those arguments. The government is coming from a good place, not trying to ruin my life or control me, but trying to keep me safe...just like my wife is trying to keep me safe at home. Some of us respond to the government, to our bosses, even to our family and friends like rebellious teenagers do to their parents.

There are and always will be people with whom I disagree, but I am not interested in having arguments with them. I'm not going to expend energy trying to change people's minds. I have friends who fervently believe COVID is a conspiracy, and that the vaccination passport is a sign of the end of the world. I've been double vaccinated, but I have friends who are refusing vaccinations on the grounds that they are potentially harmful and/or part of some sinister government plot against freedom. We can stay friends because I am not interested in having an argument. I disagree with them, but I'm not going to start a fight about it.

Whether it's a global pandemic or a family meal, I don't argue. Of course, many things need to be discussed, some of which are important, some not, but if you aren't sure of the difference between a discussion and an argument, consider the list above. Ask yourself a few questions before, during, and after the conversation. You'll figure it out.

The most important question is this: Do you want to have good, healthy relationships or do you want to be right all the time?


Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freelancer v Upwork Part 2

As I write this, things have been quiet on both platforms. I haven't got a new client on Freelancer for months, nor done any work for existing clients since a disagreement over what I considered to be unreasonable demands. When my client asked me to have another attempt at rewriting a document, I said no and that was our last communication.

I know you have to start somewhere but how long was I prepared to work for the equivalent of around $10 an hour? Many of the clients on Freelancer offer even less money and are running, in my mind, what amounts to writer sweatshops. It becomes increasingly hard to get motivated to work for half a cent a word when you have other clients paying you four times as much.


As I said, my last communication with a client on Freelancer ended badly, but most of the communication with clients on that platform was bad, period. I've lost count of how many times a chat was opened as a result of my job proposal being excepted, only to end with either a sudden and inexplicable refusal to continue the chat, or a request to continue the discussion off site (which is against Freelancer rules). I've never had such problems on Upwork. The instant messaging on Freelancer is like Messenger or Hangout. Upwork is similar. Both provide notifications and allow attachments. The only real problem with either is a human one: the universal problem of poor communication. I could give examples, but this post is about the platforms, not the clients.

Both Freelancer and Upwork take commissions. Upwork takes 20% for your first $500 of earnings which is steep, really steep, but if you're any good, you should be able to quickly move, as I have, into the next bracket which goes up to $10,000. Upwork takes 10%. It's still a lot but I take comfort from the fact that most transactions are in US dollars. so I always get more when it converts to AUD. Once you go over $10,000, Upwork's commission drops to 5% which to me is about right, given Upwork does not do any work. They simply provide a platform for work to take place. They're a business and the have to make money, but 20% or even 10% is gouging in my opinion.

Freelancer is worse. They charge a flat rate of 11% irrespective of the size of the job or how much you've earned from Freelancer clients. For both hourly charge projects and fixed prize projects, it's 11%. And it gets worse. Large fixed price projects are divided into milestones. Freelancer takes a cut of 11% for every payment made to the freelancer. So a project with three milestones will see you paying the 11% three times. Again, I make the point that I'm not begrudging the charging of commissions. Freelancer is a business, and businesses are first and foremost about making money. They all advertise how much they are about helping people, but they are profit making businesses.

Upwork uses a bond system whereby clients have to fund work before freelancers begin work. The system is easy to follow. A client funds a milestone, the freelancer begins work then submits the deliverable at which time the client releases the payment. If the client is not happy with the work and decides to cancel the contract, they request a refund of their bond. It's a good, secure system with which I have had no trouble. Freelancer has no such system nor is there much security. it's more a trust based set up. I've had trouble with this. A client did not pay me after I submitted work. They also stopped communicating with me. This leads me directly to the last thing I want to discuss: dispute resolution.

When I lodged a dispute with Freelancer about the client not paying me. they basically said they couldn't help and they didn't. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they said it was my fault for trusting the client. I've had lots of other dealings with Freelancer support, including reporting bogus jobs, but they are not supportive. This could be a snake oil post. The help desk does respond to complaints but they don't do anything. They say they'll look in to it, but either they don't or they come back with some denial about the problem existing. Apart from the fact there is hardly any genuine work on Freelancer, they overcharge freelancers, and most of the clients run sweatshops for non-native speakers of English, the lack of support from Freelancer support is the main reason I'm leaving. I have no faith in the platform.

I've had one minor issue on Upwork whereby a client broke off contact after paying me but didn't leave a review for me. Upwork said they couldn't do anything. Fair enough. If  a person is uncommunicative, what would I expect Upwork to do? Go and knock on their door?

Overall, with a lower fee structure, a safer payment system, an easier to use website, better quality clients and more work, I feel much more confident and happy using Upwork.

I wonder what Fiverr is like.


Saturday, September 4, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freelancer v Upwork

Starting a new business is not easy, especially when you're not a business oriented person. For me the 'business' of writing is nowhere near as fun as actual writing. It has its moments of course, but rather than being 'writing' moments, such times are the fruit of writing and/or the fruit of the business of writing.

As a 'nobody' novelist, the business of writing is all about selling books: marketing, to find readers, while as a short story writer, it's all about the search for markets, trying to find publishers. On the other hand, the business of writing for a freelancer is all about getting clients.

Irrespective of the specific target of my writing/business of writing endeavours, the bottom line goal is to meet needs, to satisfy demands.

Which brings me to Upwork and Freelancer. How have these two platforms met my need to find clients? How are they supporting me to build my freelance writing business?

Profile creation 

Not much difference between the two. It's relatively straight forward to create a basic profile on both. However, the Upwork website looks cleaner, more professional, and is easier to navigate than Freelancer.

Membership 

Freelancer charges a monthly fee for membership at different levels. I'm on a basic membership plan which allows me to bid for 50 jobs per month for $13. For an additional fee, you can take a grammar test which if you pass adds 20% value to your profile. I refused to do that. They also offer to boost your proposals for a fee. There are a number of other allegedly useful services which also requirement payment.

Upwork gives you Connects to use to pay for bids when you sign up. Proposals cost from 2 to 6 Connects. When you run out of Connects, you can purchase more in packages starting from $3 for 10 Connects. If you respond to an invitation or interact with a client, Upwork also gives you free Connects. In other words you get rewarded for being active. It's been two months since I purchased any Connects on Upwork.

Bidding

Freelancer has two channels for finding jobs, one of which is a drop down of the very latest jobs. Initially I thought this was great. As there is a lot of competition for jobs, it makes sense to bid on the most recently advertised jobs as soon as you can. In practice, it is not as useful as it seemed. When doing a traditional job search, you can't save jobs. You can't attach any documents to your bids and Freelancer also limits how low you can bid which means in many cases you won't get the job because obviously clients will select the lowest bids. The other problem is Freelancer doesn't tell you when you've already bid on a job. It's difficult to keep track of what you're doing, and what you've done, on Freelancer.


Upwork only has a traditional job search, but you can save jobs you like, then go to your saved jobs and work through them one by one, to send a proposal or not. Upwork also limits your bottom bid, but on some jobs you also have an option to bid an hourly rate or a milestone rate. For example, it's $40 an hour or $250 for the job, divided into three milestone payments of $50 + $100 + $100. Upwork notifies you when a job you have bid on is no longer available. It's very easy to keep track of what your doing in terms of job searching and bidding on Upwork.

Next time, I'll talk about the communication functions of the two platforms, payments, dispute resolution, and the quality and volume of the work.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freefaller

I stepped off the edge, but I didn't fall. Was it a miracle? Was it luck? Was it, in fact what I had suspected all along? That if I surrendered my right to financial security based on working 9 to 5 for a wage, I would survive? 


On April 8 this year I was made redundant. My role as lead teacher was identified by management as one which was unnecessary. I was no longer required. I couldn't help feel, as I still do, that the decision to deem my position surplus to requirements cast a pall on everything I had done during my two and half years with the company. It doesn't mean my contributions had no value, but it's difficult not to see it that way.

Losing my job was a good thing. Even though I enjoyed most aspects of the work, and of course I loved the regular pay packet and the associated tax benefits of working for a not-for-profit organisation, I wanted to leave. I had been praying for a way out.

Ever since I was gifted an old 486 computer, in 1998, and made the subsequent decision that I wanted to be a writer, I have been dreaming of achieving that goal. Of course, I could never pursue that dream full time. For mostly financial reasons, my writing remained a hobby, until April 8, 2021.

The time had come. I once dreamed of being a professional writer, of earning my living exercising my brain and my imagination by tapping on the keyboard of my laptop. Now I dream of more. I am a writer. Although it has taken some time to get used to, I now tell people when they ask what I do. I tell them I am a writer. Thanks for asking, I say then I give them one of my business cards. I'm a writer, but I'm not earning a living...not yet. I'm in a kind of freefall. Financially untethered.

I have six novels and scores of published short stories under my belt, but I've only made pocket money from these works. I have a memoir which is nearly ready to be published, and I've almost finished the first draft of what will be my seventh novel. My most recent short story will feature in an upcoming anthology. This is one aspect of my writing, one half, if you like, of my work as a writer. These are my projects. They bear my name. They carry my hopes. These are the projects will fuel my creative fire.

The other half is the new world of freelance writing: content articles, short stories, longer works of fiction, non fiction books, and even speeches. I get paid for them but none of these works bear my name because I'm a ghostwriter. Someone else gets the glory. I do get paid way more than I've ever earned from those pieces which bear my name though. It's not regular pay either, and mostly it's not big money and a lot of it is just work. The passion I feel for my work is missing with this ghostwriting work. It's just work.

The two platforms I've been using to find freelance writing work since I began my freefall are Upwork and Freelancer. Yesterday I made the decision to leave Freelancer. I apologize for teasing you. I did say in my previous post that I would discuss the differences between these two platforms in this post. However, when I sat down to write, I was carried away to another place. Not far away mind you. Not the bottom of the cliff from which I stepped off. I'm not going to reach the bottom, by the way. I'm on the way up because God caught me soon after I yielded to gravity. I'm safe, even though I don't always feel safe, I am.

I'm a freelancer. I'm a writer. My decisions are based on that fact now. How does this or that support my quest to return to my previous income level, or higher, on the back of my writing? That's the question.

Why have I dumped Freelancer? Why do I much prefer Upwork? How is my journey from hobby writer to professional going? Next time, I promise to lay it all out for you.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Snake Oil: Filthy Rich Writer

Right off the bat, I have to say I am not a fan of the expression 'filthy rich' because it suggests that riches are dirty. That being rich is a bad thing. Wealth is a tool, and tools can be used for good or bad purposes. Generally speaking, I think wealth is good and I suspect it would be a losing and futile search for me to find anyone to disagree.

My post today is inspired by an ad which appeared in my Facebook Newsfeed. (I'm aware of the contradiction. A slightly oxymoronic use of ad and news together.) The headline of the ad is 'Filthy Rich Writer' and it's an invitation for people with spare time on their hands, stuck at home due to COVID lockdowns or some other reason, to write content for websites and make a lot of money.


Snake Oil.

If you've written anything, then you know why this ad is obviously false. It's especially false for ghostwriters, who can make money, but rarely heaps of it.

Since losing my job as Lead Teacher with a not for profit Registered Training Organization, I have been concentrating on establishing a new career as a freelance writer. With six novels, and scores of published short stories under my belt, I'm not a novice writer, but as a freelancer, I'm starting from scratch. Freelancers mostly ghostwrite articles, stories and books for their clients. Most of these clients seem to be 'middle men' who sell content written by others to their own clients. Pay rates range from around half a cent per word up to 2 cents per word. So, a 1000 word article at half a cent per word pays $5. Do you know how long it takes to write a 1000 word article on a subject with which you are unfamiliar? Even at two cents per word, you're talking about an hourly pay rate of about $15. Filthy rich? (writer chokes on a mouthful of tea).

For my next post, I'm gong to write about the two platforms that I currently use to find freelance work. Upwork and Freelancer. My experience with these two has been mixed. I'm getting work, but I'm missing out on a lot of jobs as well. Why? I have no idea, but I suspect it comes down to money. Doesn't everything, come down to money in the end.

Platforms like Freelancer, Upwork and Fiverr are not charities. They are businesses. The primary aim of most businesses is to make money, not to help people. Not to make other people rich, but to make themselves rich.

No one who bought and read the book Three Easy Steps to Unimaginable Wealth got rich. You know who got rich? The author of the book did, because he preyed on people's laziness and greed, making ridiculous promises about how easy it is to get rich, in order to make money for himself.


Wise writers, who've been around for a while, know that 90% of services offered to writers to help them write and sell books, are, in fact, only designed to make money for those providing the services. That guy on Fiverr, who's a book marketing genius, makes extravagant promises about how many people will find out about your book. You pay your $20, which covers hidden costs only added in after you're committed, and get nothing but a screenshot of an anonymous Twitter account which mentions the title of your book but doesn't have a purchase link.

Less than one percent of writers get rich, and they don't even have to be good writers to do it. Lots of good writers do earn a reasonable living though, and I aim to be one of them. I love writing, and am enjoying the challenge of a being a freelancer which offers many opportunities to write in genres apart from those with which I am comfortable. It's stretching me, improving my skills, but I'm not going to get rich.

Honestly, a think the ambition to get rich is unworthy of humanity. If riches come, thank God. If they don't, thank God. It's not my goal to get rich. Of course I want to earn a good living and consequently have a degree of financial freedom, but wealth is not the goal. My goal is to connect with people and to make a positive contribution to the world. 

I reckon if you make love your goal, you will always be richly rewarded.


Friday, August 13, 2021

The Mirror: Gullible's Travels

Three hundred years ago, Jonathan Swift wrote a fantasy novel which his protagonist called a travel diary. He visited five fantastic lands during his travels, describing them in excruciating detail. He also recorded the ill fated journeys which took him to those places. The novel is a traveller's journal which the writer asserts is completely true despite the absurdity and impossibility of those places existing. When he told people back home in England what he had seen and experienced, some people believed him, but only because he presented physical evidence. Some who heard his tall tales might have simply humoured him during his recounts, privately dismissing him as a madman.


We basically only have two sources of knowledge. First, what we have personally experienced involving input from our five senses, six, if you want to go there, Secondly, we have what other people tell us. We might hear or read the knowledge of others. Now without diving into the deep ocean of epistomology, the bottom line is that we accumulate knowledge either from ourselves or from others, and the acceptance of what others tell us depends on authority. In other words, we incorporate other people's knowledge into our own if we trust them. Theories of knowledge are much more complicated than that, but I'm a simple man, and that's how I nutshellize the concept as I understand it.

People often tell us things which contradict our knowledge which means that someone is wrong and someone is right. The local bookshop either sells my book or they don't. Rain is either wet or it's not. This isn't such an issue because most people happily adjust their thinking when confronted with fact. Knowledge is one thing, but experience is a different beast altogether. The biggest challenge we face is when someone tells about something they experienced, something which from our experience we know can't happen. For example, my friend tells me he saw ghost. I've never seen a ghost and I don't believe in them, but I trust my friend. That's when it gets tricky.

When Gulliver told people he lived among the thumb-sized people of Lilliput for two years, they would have thought he was insane, but what about his wife? She who was in effect Gulliver's mistress, because he was married to adventure, and spent most their marriage in foreign lands. What did she think when her husband regaled her with stories of a land inhabited by giants, and another ruled by a race of necromancers?

On Gulliver's final journey, the one which arguably had the greatest impact upon him psychologically - for of course he always managed to maintain his physical health in all these strange, mythical lands - he arrived in a land where horses where at the top of the societal hierarchy. They were the most intelligent, wise and benevolent race Gulliver had ever met. When Gulliver told them about how it was at home ,in England where horses were dumb, subservient beasts, his words were greeted with not only indignation, but disbelief.

I'm not sure if Gulliver's Travels is intended to be read as satire or not, but it sure came across that way to this reader. In any case, many people (tiny and enormous), and horses evidently believed what he was saying. Well, I said as I got to the end of Gulliver's Travels to discover that Gulliver was disgusted by people, even his own wife, when he returned to England, some people will believe anything.

Knowledge must be tested. If you believe everything you hear and read, and one day you write a memoir, you'll have to call it Gullible's Travels.


Friday, July 23, 2021

relationDips: triple cheese spicy vegorama

With apologies to Dominos, whose pizzas I enjoy periodically, I present the histories of vegetarianism, pizza and vegetarian pizzas. I will then explain how all three are intricately connected with, and reflected in, our relationships.

It seems the earliest record of vegetarianism, which is the choice to not eat meat, is in the writings of ancient India. Unless you read another article which says it was Pythagoras, the great Greek mathematician; he of the famous theorem we all studied in high school. It does seem clear though from the Biblical record that Adam and Eve were vegetarians. Next level vegetarianism is veganism, under which philosophy, practitioners do not eat or use animal products.  The term veganism is a 20th century construct, but this extreme form of vegetarianism, appears to have originated around the same time, in the same cultures. 

Of course in Western societies, with their focus on the individual, vegetarianism has mostly been a choice; either a health choice or an ethical choice, or both. In eastern cultures, so bound with the religious beliefs of Hinduism and its offspring, Buddhism, and very much collectivist societies, such choices have not been, and are still not available.


Pizza was also born in ancient times, although the first use of the word only dates back to first century Gaeta, now contained in the modern nation state of Italy. While ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks ate various flatbreads with toppings, the pizza, as we know it today is said to have been created in Naples, in the late 18th century. 

You can travel to almost any country in the world and find some version of pizza, including vegetarian pizzas like one of my favourites, that I mentioned in the title of this post. However, it is only recently, over the last 10-15 years, that major western pizza chains like Pizza Hut and Dominos have begun offering vegetarian pizzas.

Also dating back to ancient, even pre-historic times, are relationships, and it is here that I wish to sharpen the reader's focus.

The issue of eating animal products, or not, can be an issue in relationships, but it generally isn't. Of all the problems and disagreements a couple will face, food has rarely directly caused a relationship breakdown. Eating maybe, but not food itself.

Perhaps because it is so vital, the question of what is eaten by who and where and when, seems to be an aspect of relationships in which compromise is relatively easy. As part of her Catholic practice, my wife chooses not to eat meat on Fridays. Although this prohibition is not a part of my religious practice, it has been an easy thing for me to simply not eat meat on Fridays. It's a simple way for me to demonstrate respect for her. She doesn't eat chicken because she doesn't like it, but she cooks it for the rest of the family, because we do.

If vegetarianism was a big deal for a particular person, it would certainly come up in the early stages of a relationship, and be dealt with. Post marriage or post relationship commencement vegetarianism might present more of a challenge, but as I said, it is highly unlikely to destroy the relationship.


What can we learn from all this? Pizza is good, choice is good, and compromise is not only good, but is also an indispensable ingredient for healthy relationships. Meat, on the other hand, is not an indispensable ingredient for a great tasting pizza.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Snake Oil: Bells and Whistles

Some time in everyone's life - multiple times throughout life in fact - difficult choices will present themselves. There are moments when decisions have to be made, important, pivotal points in time. The consequences of these decisions need to be considered when there is sufficient time for proper consideration. On occasion, we are forced to act quickly without proper deliberation.

Here's an example of a watershed moment which occurred recently in our lives. Everyone knows air fryers are a safe and healthy alternative to traditional oil frying. Having had countless hairy cooking sessions and suffered injury as well, my wife wanted to ditch the oil and go for the air.

So off we went to The Good Guys. The Good Guys at Warrawong are situated in a row of large homemaker stores. All the major furniture and appliance retailers are there, except Bing Lee. We chose The Good Guys for two reasons. First, our last appliance purchase had been there, albeit at the Millner store in the NT, and secondly because when you are travelling southbound on King St, as we were, they are the first appliance store you come to.

To cut a long and dull story short, we narrowed the choice of air fryers down to two; both Phillips brand air fryers. (Phillips invented the air fryer). The two fryers were identical in all but two aspects; colour and instrumentation. It was literally and figuratively, a black and white decision whether to chose the white fryer with a good old fashioned dial, or the black fryer with a digital control panel. The black fryer with it's numerous settings and bright lights was significantly more expensive. For me it was a no brainer. If the two appliances do the same thing, why pay extra for electronic controls?

It won't surprise you to hear, that my wife, as the chief cook in our home, had the final say and she chose the black one.

I'm totally okay with that. It's a great appliance which does what it is supposed to do and has certainly reduced the incidents of burns from splashing, spitting oil. I've even used it to cook pies because the gas oven we have, sucks.

My issue is the electronic component. All modern appliances have them. They have all the whistles and bells, including the twin musical dipsticks I used to joke about in relation to cars when I was young enthusiast.

The trouble with all these fancy electronics is they are noisy. Really noisy. They're intrusive rude, and a bit of a nag. Where one beep might suffice to tell me the microwave has finished it's job, several beeps insist I take action. I can't touch any buttons without loud beeping. I can see the display so the sound seems redundant. I suppose if I was blind, I would appreciate it, but come on. Why is the sound necessary? Why is it so loud? When you turn a thing on. BEEP! When you adjust the time, temperature or other setting. BEEP! When you switch it off. BEEP! I don't see the need for it.

Maybe it's how the appliance asserts itself, signalling its obedience, declaring its efficiency. Maybe, it's intended to be reassuring. It's making a loud noise, so it must be good. It cost a lot of money so it must be loud, and the display must be bright. There's a light on the USB charger in our car. At night, it's so bright, it's distracting. What is the real purpose of all these lights and beeps? Do we really need the bells and whistles?

The popularity of electronic controls on appliances suggests their desirability, if not their necessity. Or have we been fooled? Have we been seduced into believing that appliances with electronic controls are better? More powerful? Easier to use? More efficient?

In the opinion of the writer the whistles and bells only serve to make appliances more annoying. I'll continue to use them of course, including my second choice air fryer, but I'll also vainly tell them to 'keep it down' while lamenting the intrusion of yet more unnecessary noise.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Life's a Funny Thing

The day had not gone at all according to plan, and as I sat in the taxi, I was contemplating how unfair it all was. For a fraction of the cost, I should have been riding a bus. My intention was to test the route for the children to get to and from school. Alas, it was not to be. What now I wondered? And this on top of everything else.


We arrived in Wollongong on June 1, after an eight day road trip from Darwin. We spent three weeks at mum's place, looking for work, looking for a place to live, praying things would work out, fighting the doubt which naturally arises following each disappointment. Each closed door, each rejected rental application, providing opportunity for us to allow despair and regret to run us over, or to praise God for the opportunity to trust him. Remember, prior to our departure, we had confidently stepped out in the deep ocean of uncertainty and insecurity to trust the God who called us.

We did all that we could. The children started school, and I continued to apply for jobs, as well as pursuing my dream by writing. When we finally received a 'yes' from an estate agent, we were naturally elated, but soon after began to worry how we would pay the rent. My wife and I took turns encouraging each other to keep the faith. Why would God help us get a place to live, then not help us to pay the rent? That was absurd. I kept applying for writing jobs and many others, some in my professional field, others not.

The house we got became yet another test, as many unsatisfactory elements only became apparent after we moved in. We struggled at times to stay thankful in the face of so many irritating little problems. Some, like the lack of functional TV antenna, and missing locks on the windows in the main bedroom, were serious, others less so.

With my redundancy payout now exhausted, no income, and no prospect of paid employment, an unexpected and avoidable taxi fare was nearly the straw which broke this camel's back.

So I sat in the cab, feeling sorry for myself, wondering when this season of insecurity would end. I had a feeling I should talk to the driver. I'd said hello, and asked how he was when we boarded, but had maintained silence since then. I didn't want to talk to him, but the thought persisted that I should. Three times I felt the urge, and each time I was given the exact words to use to open the conversation. Finally, I relented.

'Life's a funny thing, isn't it?' I said, turning to the driver.

We chatted for the remaining fifteen minutes of the trip, after which I realised how talking to him had lifted my spirits. Either by functioning as a distraction, or releasing a blessing because I responded, albeit reluctantly, to a prompting to start a conversation, doing it had made me feel better. Much better.

When I related this story to my wife, I became aware of the fear which had insidiously crept in and was negatively affecting everything. Our feelings, our words and our decisions. We talked it out and agreed to reject that fear and continue to walk in faith.

Then COVID joined the party and the city in which we live was ordered into a two week lockdown. 

Yesterday, looking resplendent in our face masks, and rugged up against the cold to which we are still adjusting, we caught a bus to the mall to do our grocery shopping. Did I mention we don't have a car at the moment? It's at the smash repairer because we hit a kangaroo 50km west of Renmark, South Australia.


You gotta laugh. Really. Life is a funny thing. I have even more time now to write and work on things writing related. I feel quite relaxed, even though we will soon be pillaging our nest egg to pay the rent and everything else. Externally, nothing really seems to be happening. We're quite stuck, but internally, we are growing stronger together, and continuing to laugh, even when we feel like crying.