Sunday, August 30, 2009

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

This week's blog was going to be about the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, who disappeared off to Buenos Aires with his soul mate, leaving behind his wife, kids and constituents who thought he was hiking in the Appalachians.

But things took a dive last Friday, and I'm wiped out, computered-out, fazed out, burnt out and, well, to be perfectly blunt, out of it.

I'd planned to work this weekend. From home and for my salaried job. I stocked up with easy-to-cook food like eggs and canned peaches. I should have ordered canned laughter ... but as they say, rear-vision is 20-20.

Friday night came and suddenly everything went haywire. In the short span of 48 hours I had to

- do my salaried job
- reprogram my phone connection
- redo
- change my personal web-hoster
- set up my new iPod Touch (OK, I didn't HAVE to do that, but it was a NICE THING)
- look after my husband's email and transfer it to somewhere in the Timor Sea


And all this on top of everything else a woman has to do in New York in a weekend.

I tell anyone who cares to listen to me - which is zero, as no one listens to anyone in New York - we just talk, that I hate computers. And that, my friend, is why I am successful in the I.T. industry. For believe it or not, I am.

It all started a hundred years ago, in Bellbrae Australia. Bellbrae is a sleepy little coastal town, not far from Bell's Beach (known affectionately by the ten locals, as "Bell's"), where surfers surf, housewives gossip and men well, men do whatever men do.

My children were both school-age or almost school-age. Supposedly I'd soon have time on my hands. I thought I'd do a course. Post grad. Keep the brain cells synapsing. And I enrolled in a masters by course-work program at the closest university, Deakin.

Although I started off studying for a Masters in Psychology, a weird little new subject intrigued me. "Computer Science 101".

"Yeah, I'll be the mug," I thought. And enrolled.

It was bizarre. This was during the pre-historic, pre-PC age. None of the students had even seen a computer. And if you thought that they'd show us one, well you just weren't around in the heady days of Deakin University's coming-of-age.

We had to write in computer "languages". Stuff like "A$ =1" and "goto label-1". I'd studied French, Latin and Indonesian. Surely I could master this ...

One day, one of the more pro-active students in our little post-grad group asked to "see" the computer. "It's a PDP 11," the instructor sneered at him, but nevertheless escorted him to some strange place forbidden to ordinary mortals. Our fellow student returned. He looked nonplussed.

"Well," we said. "What does it look like?"

"Like a fridge," he said.

We sat there in wonder, and went back to writing stuff like A$ = B$.

Little did I know back then, but my life was at a TURNING POINT.

I passed Computer Science 101 and went on to all sorts of glorious subjects. Subjects like, "Compiler Construction" and "Pascal, ADA and Algol". It's a wonder I didn't fry my brain. Or did I?

But I persevered and when I finished, I ENTERED THE INDUSTRY.

My life has never been the same.

Yeah, I know, I should have taken up surfing. Joined the Bell's crowd and worked for Rip Curl.

But I didn't.

And the upshot is, here I am In Manhattan, surrounded by cables, ATA's, routers, phones that don't work, a very sad iPod thirsty for a song, something called a Garmin Heart monitor, and this morning's breakfast dishes.

I'd write some more, but I just HAVE to get the VoIP phone working. Either that, or buy a ticket to Argentina.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

A hive for the bees
I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Hair ©1967 Rado and Ragni

So the now oft-maligned baby boomers have done it again. Taken a stand, that is.

We are showing off our hair again, in all it's natural glory.

I feel liberated. I first noticed a change in my hair back in the eighties when henna, which I'd been using for close on a decade, started turning it a brassy orange instead of lustrous chestnut.

Out went the mud and in went the dye. Till I like many others of my generation decided to let it all hang out and grow out.

Shoulder length or longer
I wonder though, whether I''m alone in thinking that my own gray hair is chic, rather than an indication of age. Somehow I just don't see my own gray hair as I saw the hair of my uncles and aunts.

Actually, I prefer to think of my hair as silver, rather than gray.

The band "The Hip Replacements" now "Hip Tones" might be stuck in the past singing covers of the fifties and sixties, but my idea of hip has nothing to do with bones. I think my hair is hip. Cool. Silver. Platinum even.

So what's the difference between my silver hair and the hair of people who grew old last century?

To discover this difference I scoured my photo album and was shocked to discover there was no one in it over fifty.

down to there hair
Did the olds as they call them in OZ, hide from the camera back then? Do we? Now?

The photo album didn't hold the secret so I was left to my memories and came up with the following for last century's olds. For the female of the species, that is.

- They wore brooches (pins for you lot in the States)
- They rinsed their hair blue.
- They all had variations of the one hairdo that was round and fluffy.
- They wore nightgowns to bed.
- They wore hats to weddings and to funerals.
- They were invited to weddings and funerals
- They used a teapot to make tea.
- They thought black was what one wore to funerals
Here baby, there mama
- They had husbands who had steady jobs and mowed lawns
- They wore matching tops with finely printed pastel floral terralene skirts
- They didn't eat when walking down the street
- They owned sewing boxes with thimbles and pincushions made of little Chinese figures around a pink padding center.

Not much fear of us boomers falling into THAT stereotype.

And to the "Hip Tones" née "Hip Replacements", I have this to say. You might be ga ga at the go go, but I intend to Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Iceman Cometh

Those Were the Days, My Friend
Picture this. An upper working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia. A hot summer day. Early 1960's. A lone man walks along the street holding a very large block of ice on his shoulder. It's partly draped with a hessian bag, in order I suppose, to stop it slipping. "Anyone for ice?" he's calling out.

Bad timing Mister Iceman. By then we, yes even my family, had fridges. I suspect we were the last kids on the block to own a fridge. Before that we'd had ice-chests. And for the bulk of my readers - an ice-chest was a pre-fridge cooling device for use in the home.

The ice-chest looked like a very small refrigerator. If I remember correctly, there was a compartment for the block of ice at the top of the unit. The resulting cold air would convect down to cool the food that was stored, fridge-like, on the shelves below. The blocks of ice for the ice-chests, were delivered to the home by an "iceman" who had a refrigerated van for the purpose.

I googled "ice-chest" and came up with lots of pages, but they all referred to ice coolers or Eskies as they are known in Australia. Modern day portable devices for keeping things (usually beer) cool at sporting events or at beaches where there are no electricity outlets.

Ah, I am getting old my friends. Soon I'll be, horror of horrors, a receptacle for oral history, as opposed to ... better not go there ...

But to get back to my theme before my fragile brain wanders even further afield.

Second Avenue Subway Construction - A Four Year Project
The iceman of the suburban street of my childhood was a dying breed. I don't know how I know this, but that particular iceman on that sunny Australian day had just bought the business. A bad business choice.

I thought of the iceman when a new business started up around the corner from our apartment in Manhattan - a magazine store!

Not only had the business person chosen to buy in the middle of a downturn in the economy, in a place where drilling for a new subway was ripping up the street and keeping prospective consumers away in droves, but he (I assume it was a he) had decided to sell paper magazines. Un-Green, unWanted and unProfitable.

Poor Magazine Shop Owner. Poor Iceman.

The number of jobs that are becoming obsolete is mind-boggling, and one has to wonder why people enter into such business lack-of-opportunities and career paths when all signals screech, don't do it.

On the way out are paper boys, magazine stores (were they ever 'in'?), paperback writers (remember the Beatles), people who remember the Beatles, people who remember icemen, people who remember ice-chests.

On the way up are I.T. people, clouds, cell phone designers, greenies.

It's a mixed bag for yours truly. Oops - on the way OUT are people who sign off with

"Yours truly"

Yours truly,


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wild Strawberries and A Walk on the Wild Side

Panna Cotta at Stockholm's Cafe Albert
"I've lost all that Bahamas feeling; it's like I was never even there!" grumbled a co-worker, two days after returning to work from her Caribbean vacation. "Tell me about it!" I replied in New-York-speak. "It's like I was never even IN Sweden!"

I took the photos of the desert and the fish during my last days in Stockholm - so I could later remember the taste and ambiance of the place. Cool, crisp and civilized. But Sweden I've discovered, has another side, and as I waited in line at security at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport on my day of departure, I realized that the dark Bergman-von-Sydow-side of the Swedes had taken a hold on my psyche. What WAS the point of the vacation, any vacation?

Arctic Char at the Hotel Diplomat
It seemed to me that a vacation is merely a winding-up followed by an unraveling. It's like you do a heap of things and then proceed to UNDO them in reverse order.

Ten days before, I'd packed. Traveled TO Newark airport. Placed my case on a conveyor belt. Waited. Traveled to Stockholm. Taken my case off a conveyor belt. Caught a bus to a hotel. And now - I had traveled on the bus from the hotel back to Arlanda. I was about to undo everything and to return to Newark airport. Get a bus back to the apartment and unpack everything I'd packed in step 1. Bizarre!!!

Is a vacation like Bertrand Russell's table that ceases to exist when one is no longer looking at it? It seems so. And as I waited for security, my mind wandered further. WHY did I take those two photos? Was I like the blind man in Jocelyn Moorhouse's film Proof, taking photos to prove the existence of an unseen whatever? Whatever.

Clearly my Swedish experience had had some effect on my mental stability and had brought a new dimension to the term, "The Stockholm Syndrome". I was certainly identifying with the glass-darkliness of human existence - yikes, "existence" - that word again.

On arriving at the gate area I noticed several Swedes drinking straight vodka. Bloody hell; it was only six in the morning. I also noticed that the chairs were not cramped together as in U.S. airports, but separated by attractive wooden tables which clearly DID exist. Well they did when I was looking at them ... Pity though, the spaciousness meant there weren't enough seats for the 400 plus people waiting for the boarding call.

I stood waiting for the call and pondered my trip. I'd enjoyed it. I'd seen both sides of Sweden. The dark and the light. I remembered the guide at an archeological site at Birka where Vikings once ruled the northern seas. "We will be stopping digging shortly. We must do so because it would not be fair to our sister archeologists in the future if we took everything. We must leave them something to find". Sounded like a vertical job-sharing plan over the millennia. Personally I thought it was a bit over the top. Social-correctness gone viral.

The boarding calls started. More unraveling. I boarded the plane. I took my seat and fell asleep almost immediately. I dreamed of cool places in a land where the sun never seemed to set. Of blond citizens and cool designs. Of clean subways and girls wearing thick leggings under flimsy summer dresses. I dreamed of a land of contradictions where death plays chess and archaeologists don't dig.

Through a bus window. Darkly
And then I woke. Unraveling I got up where several hours ago I sat down. I left the plane instead of getting on it. I walked OUT of the airport instead of entering it and took a bus away from the airport, instead of to it.

Reality check. What was this? Where were the cool people walking leisurely down wide streets? Where was the silence? Horns beeped. The temperature was 100 degrees in both scales and rising. Look at those people. Frazzled. All different colors. Where were the blonds?

I arrived back at my apartment building and went IN through the revolving doors where last time I'd gone out. I unlocked the front door instead of, as before, locking it. I UNpacked.

The Wild Side
I was unraveled.

And then a great insight from some place that cannot exist as I cannot see it, descended into my New York frazzled mind.


Maybe the Swedish archaeologists should be putting their archaeological finds BACK into the earth for their as yet unborn colleagues. After all, that would be the fair thing to do.

Perhaps I'll them write a letter suggesting it.

I'm already planning my next trip to Stockholm. To collect my Nobel Prize.