The Conference At The Winery

Or the brewery. Or the restaurant. Or the resort/theme park/house of ill repute.

Or anywhere these days, really – the gathering of solemn delegates for professional development and networking. The serious exchange of considered views and the presentation of enlightening technical papers. The art and science of the drunken tax boondoggle.

I may be a little jealous about this – I am retired and no longer have someone to send me  to a pub in some other city at their expense. I’m considered a big boy now and have to buy my own. There is also the sobering realisation that I have nothing to say and no-one wants to hear it anyway. So the conference/seminar/junket/fact-finding mission/holiday/tax dodge/perk/swizzle/fraud door is largely closed to me.

On the other hand, I am not required to attend power breakfasts, staff meetings, team-building exercises, Powerpoint presentations, or hot wash-ups. I can regard the marketing consultant, art director, and HR manager with the same interest that I would give to a sea slug. I may have to buy my own beer but I can leave after I drink it, while others have to stay…

I first discovered the pleasure of opening the door and vanishing when I was a member of the Australian Dental Association. I attended a couple of their meetings in the West Perth headquarters and decided that they were appallingly boring. Then when an ADA dinner was advertised at a golf club, I went along – thinking that things would be looking up.

Looking up, all right – looking up the noses of the ADA executive at the head table as they praised themselves and advertised their professional successes. Long about dessert time they introduced a new Dean of the local Dental School as speaker. Most of us knew him from contact as undergraduates years before. Many were amazed that he should have risen to such an academic position. I was appalled to realise as he spoke that his personality had never changed.

It was such a pleasure to excuse myself, head for the washroom, and glide out the front door of the club.

Since then I have stood up and left any number of speakers in trade and social circumstances, and have never felt bad about it. I regard it as a much more civilised response to bad lecturing than my other impulse – to throw a half a brick at the podium.

Besides, how can you get half-bricks into the venue unseen?

 

Advertisements

Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

The Obligations Of A Host…

And the obligations of a guest…

This topic has been the subject of social discussion for centuries. Sometimes it has been theoretical, and sometimes practical.

Societies vary, but most have set the rules of hospitality in a similar way.

a. The guest must not attack the host – the host must not attack the guest. Prior to relationship becoming established, this rule may not be in force. ie. wartime or family birthday parties. If the combatants have not yet surrendered, all legal force my be exerted against them. Once surrendered, restrictions apply.

b. The guest must fed, watered, and bedded in an honourable manner. This means that the host must exert some effort to achieve comfort for the guest. The guest must accept what is offered with gratitude.

c. The guest must be protected from attack by third parties.  The host becomes responsible for the health and safety of the guest. The guest must not overstrain the resources or attract contumely upon the host in this process.

d. The host must provide hospitality for as long as necessary. The guest must make this as short as possible.

e. The guest and host must not plague each other with unpleasant wrangling – even if this is contrary to their normal nature. They must both assume the appearance of polite persons.

And this has been brought to you by the Backstabbers Guild of Australia – who encourage everyone to behave well and to extend charity and graciousness whenever they can. And to mark the positions of their host’s magazines and troop concentrations on an ordnance survey map as soon as they learn of them.

 

What Does The Fourth-Best Runner Collect?

Every major athletic contest  – from the 100-yd Hammer Dive to the Hop-Step-And-Throw Up – is judged pretty carefully. The Olympic Games and the Consolation Games ( Sorry, I meant to write Commonwealth…) all have teams of judges, fabulous digital measuring gear, and the kind of visual recording that used to be reserved for H-Bomb testing. Plus the competitors themselves have their crankcases drained regularly and the contents analysed.

The three fastest, farthest, highest, or strongest eventually get medals and public acclaim. They also get recruited by sportswear, soft drink, and rubber prophylactic makers to promote their wares…at least until the next set of neck muscles win fresh medals and replace them. The very lucky ones get to spruik for all three products at the same time. It’s not the sort of advertisement that runs early in the evening when the kids are up, but it’s worth staying awake for…

But what does N0. 4 or No. 5 get? I suspect they are lucky to get bus fare home. And once there, the glare of publicity is probably replaced by the sight of the backs of a lot of heads. For people who may have devoted a decade to daily idiot pain in preparation for the contest, it seems to be a devil’s reward.

Living up to a promise is hard – living down a defeat is worse. If all this has been your entire life, you have been living it on rough ground. Perhaps the best reward for them would be to just be on the level for a while.

The artist or model builder or knitter or pumpkin grower who competes for some prize can  also feel the sting of victory or the thrill of defeat, but unlike the runner or swimmer, the producer has something to show – or at least to store and dust – for it. The performer who doesn’t get the plaudits has nothing for the effort other than the snide remark that they failed.

If their character is such that they take this quietly and get on with other activities – working, studying, mating, etc – then the time has not been wasted – it shows that they have matured and become good human beings. If they try to trade on their pain and defeat it says something else. Would that defeated politicians and their backers also learn the lesson.

Coupla Shotza

That sounds like a Polish folk dance, doesn’t it? The Kupula Shotza. with big skirts and lots of twirling around.

Actually it is a prescription for the end of a good day and the start to a new project. I am retired, with enough working space around me and time to spare…I can commence making trouble in a dozen ways.

Fortunately I have not retired with a fortune…or I would actually be dangerous. I have also retired in a very nice part of the world and need not try to escape from it. Indeed, I really think I should be wise to escape into it rather than the other way round. I have a comfort zone and I’m smart enough not to allow someone to try to inveigle me out of it for their own purposes.

See? The coupla shotz are working. I’m actually thinking for myself. If you’d like to draw up a chair and pour one, we can can both benefit.

It is very rarely that we can admit to being happy. We are not allowed to be so by the people who want our money…happy people don’t spend. We are allowed to search for happiness, but we’d need to buy all the equipment for the search and pay ( ask about ezi-finance terms ) before we could play.

And in the end it would not be play. It would be work.

I used to worry about not being successful, or rich, or powerful. I could as readily have worried about not being puce, or steam-powered, or slanted. It would, in the end, have made as much sense. I have now reduced my worries to whether the dinner will be overcooked or whether I will be able to do my hobby in my little workshop…rain and cold weather affects it. It is a much more basic approach to life, and much more pleasant.

 

I Think Of You As A Good Person

But I’ve been wrong about these things before…

I try. I really do try. Every day I attempt to have a good opinion of the people I meet. Some days are successful days and some days are just…well…days. But the good news is I am prepared to reset the mechanism at midnight and re-consider your character in the morning.

This means that in many cases you will have a chance to do better – to appear kinder and more intelligent and more honest than on previous occasions. And each time you do, it will raise you in my estimation. You may reach a plateau – like a level in a video game – that means each thing you do is going to earn you extra psychic points. This is wonderful, and eventually you may get to the point where you turn into a princess or a prince and the golden moneybags start to appear on the screen.

Conversely, every time you foist something on me via Facebook that has been supplied by the latest fake news source, you drop down a notch. Please be aware: there are only so many notches before we reach rock bottom.

In case this sounds really arrogant…well it is. It’s part of the mechanism that I employ to navigate through the world. So far I have hit remarkably few rocks and shoals and I’m willing to attribute this to the personal cynicism about which you are reading. As long as I keep it inside, it is not going to do you any more harm than you deserve. If you behave as a lady or a gentleman should, you will be treated as such.

And we will have a successful day.

Note: Unfortunately this sort of philosophy requires me to be a good person as well. It is annoying, but there you are. You can’t make omelettes without breaking expensive kitchen utensils.

 

Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.