Relos, Discovery and Footy


Earlier last week Tress and I decided to catch up with relos. So I sent A Hooi and U Seng a text message to see if they could do dinner. They could and we caught up on Friday night. We met up in Jazz Ria in Balwyn (second Friday in a row) and had dinner and talked till closing time. I decided to shout – we have been recipients of their generosity over the years and we haven’t really reciprocated very much. Almost every year at Christmas time, there’d be a dinner in their home with many from the family showing up and Auntie Anne would invariably lay a spread guaranteed to warrant weeks to work off.

The next day we had our usual lazy morning of coffee and quick and light brekky, but a bit earlier than usual. For one reason of another I was up very early and didn’t go back to sleep. We then went to pick up a dishwasher from the Good Guys at Nunawading – it was for unit at Edinburgh Road. The agent had contacted us earlier in the week to say the old one had broken down.

Dishwasher bought, we went and did our usual errands and after lunch at Madam K’s went home and did some gardening. The weather was magnificent and we wanted to max out the time we spent outdoor. Being out on the lawn without woollies and in a pair of shorts, under the sun and at temperature of 18/19, it was gorgeous. We spent a few hours pottering around. We removed the flex plant outside our bedroom. That plant has become larger and is not optically invigorating. We’re now looking for a more functional replacement –to either our olfactory or visual senses but preferably both. Tress also did the vacuuming and the whole house looked and felt cleaner and fresher.

After we got cleaned up, there was still time to get to the library. I discovered Robert Hughes’ “The Fatal Shores” and Tress picked up a few DVD’s.

I suspect stumbling over Hughes in a suburban library on a late Saturday afternoon is going to be a little eureka moment for me. I read the introduction and first few pages and thought what a great writer this was. So I googled him and found out he was yet another one of those literary greats whose earlier years were partly captured by Clive James in his memoir series. Hughes was the brother of Tom Hughes, a one-time Attorney General who is in turn Lucy Turnbull’s father. Lucy is Malcolm’s wife. It appears unfair how all these smart people are connected to each other in such tight circles north of the border. Connecting the dots was a rewarding google exercise. I later watched bits of the BBC series “Shock of the new” and I must include him as a favourite now.

So Hawks had a ripper of a game against Geelong that night (Sat) but we watched the DVD’s Tress took home from the library instead. My following of the Hawks has now reached a stage where for a big and important game – one where I expect we’d lose – I’d have trouble watching. It’d be different if we were in the MCG watching it live. Somehow the tension is less, possibly swallowed up by the excitement live action and crowd atmosphere. The tension of watching the battles on television is different and harder to deal with for the absence of those elements.

It’s the same with United games. I have become so tensed watching these games I have opted not to watch instead. Especially lately, when even under Van Gaal, we still appear to be struggling to play winning football. Well at least Hawks won (having trailed by 5 goals at one stage) and United drew so that’s not a complete disaster.

Sunday we had a soon to retire bishop give the sermon. Bishop Barbara Darling looked like a lovely mum type of person – probably really kind. Her sermon was relatively straight forward. It dealt with the message of letting God lead and not to direct God to do what we’d like instead. Simple but important lesson. We left straight after the service, to have lunch with Chews, Hipos and the Burgers at Westfield. I’m a reluctant diner in yum cha places these days, because the customer has to fit into the restaurant’s profit driven model of splitting the dining into two separate seatings. This means you either show up on time or you’re left with a small window to quickly finish your meal and leave. It’s not the sort of place I’d want to go to. I’d rather pay a fraction of the cost and go through a drive in instead, if I wanted lunch that way. Anyway the company was good and since we were the last ones to arrive, I didn’t feel the unpleasantness of the experience.

We ended the weekend with the usual cooking – another couple of days’ supply of soup neatly tucked away… the rhythm rocks on.

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That will do


I got this message from my boss in the middle of reviewing and drafting some stuff:

Do you have a few minutes free now? I have your salary review letter to give you and wanted to suggest we catch up nearby in 19.10 now?”

He’s seated some 5 feet away from me, separated by an 18 in partition. He’s a bit over 6 foot and while I’m not tall, I am no pigmy either so for the most part during a work day, when he and I both stare into our respective screens while working, we can see each other out of the corner of our eyes.

In short, he could have (and often does) said what he typed out, verbally and directly to me. Only when there is a sensitive or P&C matter will he message me via the internal office messaging system.

Of course I looked up straight away when that message popped up and I said yeah sure.

Well, I still have a job and I’m grateful. I said to him after yet another internal company wide communication yesterday about more lost jobs, I am grateful there is a salary review letter for me. He said well if you still think that after opening the letter… I wondered for a while but that meeting was swift and lasted only a few minutes.

I am not unhappy with the letter, and while the pay is mid-level (50 percentile) at least I’m going to work and earning this pay.

I was thinking this morning, about Jesus saying what father would give his son a snake when he asked for a fish. I thought often, we complain about getting a snapper day in and day out. We want some other fish. A coral trout perhaps. Or a lobster even. But if not worrying about where my food is coming from was also Jesus’ message, a fish would do. Any fish. He didn’t give me a snake when I asked for a fish. As the farmer said to Pig in the movie “Babe”:

That will do.”

Weekend Wallop


It was hard work in the gym this morning. Blame it on the eating spree of a weekend we just had.

In fact it started even before the weekend started. Tress and I had lunch in a Japanese ramen shop in Chinatown (not far from my office). There were office drinks later that arvo and so the usual chips and nuts and stuff were consumed together with the white wine I helped myself to.

Tress and I then caught up with Jason and Mel in a Malaysian restaurant in Balwyn (Jazz Ria on Whitehorse Road). It was a lovely little place with pretty decent Malaysian food with many twists and we (or at least I) felt relaxed over dinner and good hearty conversations.

On Saturday the indulgence continued. After brekky at home of toasts, avocado and lots of coffee, we went about the usual routines including heading to Madam Kwong for lunch. They had as one of the day’s special the wonton mee, which was one of my several favourite dishes there but they also had a new dish – a fish head noodle type of dish but they used fish fillet instead. Tress had that while I had my wonton mee. After stuffing ourselves there, we went to a Blackburn coffee place known as “Nuts about Coffee”. The coffee was delicious, cheap and served in a wonderfully homey place.

We decided to take LBJ for a walk after all that eating. Psychologically we “walked some of it off” but really, a 45 minuter stroll like pace wasn’t going to do any serious dent to the calorie count. We got home, I gave LBJ a bath and we then did some cooking for the dinner party at Alex’s later that night.

Yet more eating took place at Alex’s as Jermel had his 5th birthday party. I tried to keep to the roast pumpkin and spinach salad we brought there but the spread was too attractive to ignore. We got home relatively early and watched Robin Williams’ “Good Will Hunting”. RW’s sad departure a few days earlier had many TV stations screening his movies and even Apple TV featured his movies on the home page.

Sunday was pretty much the same. We had planned to get a couple of curry puffs from Madam Kwong’s after church and come home to have them for lunch together with some of the leftover salad from the night before. We stayed back however to attend the “Faith Effect” session to listen to a few people talk about disability. Somewhere between where St Alf’s stands on the corner of Springfield and Koonung roads in Blackburn North and Court Street in Box Hill, our plans for lunch got dumped. I had my fish fillet noodles, Tress had her “Sar Hor Fun” and we came back absolutely stuffed again. The walk with LBJ helped a little bit but thankfully dinner was just a little bit of nibbles.

The weekend ended the way our recent weekends did. We cooked. With a couple of days’ dinner (soups) safely tucked away in the fridge, we watched a bit of TV and then went to bed. Our bellies still full from a weekend of weakly succumbing to our voracious appetites.

Basics


Towards the end of last year I thought I’d re-commence reading the Bible sequentially and try to take on the overall narrative as much as I can, without too much pondering or hip hopping from one book to another. And so I did, trudged along and recently finished reading the Old Testament.

So about nearly a couple of weeks ago I started on the New Testament and took in the Gospel narratives of Matthew and Mark. I should finish Mark today/tomorrow.

When one reads the gospel narratives by 2 different writers consecutively, one gets a sense of the statements or events which resonated with both the writers. One was the feeding of the multitudes, followed very soon by the incident where the disciples talked about not having bread. Jesus had just before that talked about being wary of the leaven of the Jewish leaders and the disciples then zeroed in on the fact that they had no bread with them, and were a little bit concerned.

Jesus’ admonition to remember what he did (in feeding the multitudes) in a way, says don’t worry about our feed.

Not long after that incident the narrative switched to a teacher who professed the greatest law in loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and the second being to love our neighbour as ourselves. These are more important edicts than those involving burnt offerings and sacrifices. When I read that (in Mark 12) I thought it meant the greatest 2 laws are far more important than what we do in and in relation to church. The Sunday services, the tithes, the home group attendances, the participation of church activities, are really all secondary rules and practices. If they all take precedence over the first two laws, we’ve missed the point.

They would have been obvious points. However in eking out a grind of a living it is easy to (1) think about where our daily bread is or will come from and (2) worry more about the burnt offering and sacrifices. Loving God with all of our being and loving my neighbour as myself needs to fight their ways to occupy more central focus.

So this arvo when I took my quick midday walk I sought out the couple of homeless persons I have often walked past. I didn’t see them today. I wanted to offer to buy them a meal – of hot soup maybe. Have a chat with them to see how they’re doing and how they’re coping. Maybe give them my coat if they needed something warmer. Do what’s needed to love them as myself. Maybe I’ll go look for one of them again tomorrow arvo. I’m kind of scared. But I think I’d try to.

Flowerdale Estate and Robin Williams


This is a “wordy” space, not one with many pictures. A picture sometimes does say (or paint?) a thousand words and last weekend, the numerous pictures Tress and I took would indeed, say a whole lot more than I can properly write.

Tress and I were at the Flowerdale Estate in the King Lake/southern Goulbourn Valley area. It’s a serene pocket in Victoria. So peaceful you could hear the calls of half dozen or bird species calling out incessantly. Soft, lyrical calls which make the peaceful scene even more laid back. A particular type of rosella on the other hand, was very quiet but the half dozen or so feeding on the grounds of the property added such luscious colours we kept taking photos.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon just before 3pm. Tress and I had spent the morning cleaning the house. She vacuumed and I trimmed the hedges on our back fences, which are now over 7foot tall. We then had lunch at Madam K’s before dropping LBJ off at George’s just after 1pm.

On arrival, we quickly checked into our room and walked around the property. A small sheep paddock with maybe a dozen sheep on one stretch along a creek set against a backdrop of rolling hills looked so picturesque I wish I was a painter with a canvas and a palette full of colours. Some say winter creates a certain mood for a joint like this which in fact makes it a better time to visit. I can imagine however, the autumn colours doing so much more justice to the palette, or summer making it far more exciting to explore the creek. As it were, we tip toed past through the paddock towards the creek, manoeuvring past a minefield of very healthy looking sheep droppings. There was also a lake which was very still except when some ducks swim through it. A few more quaint features peppered across the property and we explored it enough to make dinner less guilty.

After a very thorough and wonderful dinner at Gracies’ on the property, we went to our room to play with the photos we took, watched tv and then went to bed. In the morning it was back to Gracies for an equally delicious breakfast. We then left the property just after 11am, picked up LBJ just before 1pm and headed home. Once home, it was the usual routine of cooking for the week. This time Tress did some curries for our lunches and so the past couple of days I’ve had something more interesting than my usual bean salad. Happy.

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Thanks heaps Robin

One of my favourite performing artists has died. Thank you Robin Williams, for some of the best movie roles I’ve witnessed. John Keating in Dead Poets Society, Adrian Covoure in Good Moring Vietnam and Dr Macquire in Good

Winter and Victoria


We’re going away this weekend to a place known as Flowerdale Estate. It’s just another dot to connect in the State we live in. Victoria is small compared to any of the other mainland States but it is still very large. It is probably 20-30 times larger than Selangor, our previous home State in Malaysia.

The weather forecast for the Strath Creek area looks good for the weekend. It’s supposed to dip to about 2deg on Sat morning but we’re only going to arrive after lunch so that should be nice. In any event, it can’t get much worse than last Sat when even in Forest Hill the temp dipped to 0deg and parts of suburbs nearby dived below that. It was reported to be one of the coldest mornings Victoria ever had.

We’ve also made plans to go across to Warnambool in a little over a month. It would have been far nicer to go now as it’s the height of the whale watching season and when we get there next month it’s probably tapering off. But connecting dots in this State of Victoria is our current favoured activity now and it isn’t a bad way to have some welcomed distractions from an otherwise long and drudged winter.

Breakdown


There was an article I read somewhere a few weeks ago. I think it was in The Australian by Greg Sheridan. It was on breakdown of governance and structured society. Soon after that the MH17 disaster happened. It brought that article to sharp focus for me.

In so many places around the world today, there appears to be deliberate discarding of a structured society and governance. Eastern Ukraine had for several weeks, showed no one was really in charged or claim to be. The Ukrainian government was up against separatist rebels as well as the Russians. Many say those rebels are proxies for the Russians but equally there were apparently fragments of groups all claiming different things. Nearly 300 innocent lives otherwise totally unconnected to the quarrel were lost as a result of such breakdown.

Then there is the situation in northern Iraq. Many blame Islamic State (formerly ISIS) for the plight of the Christians in Mosul. The Islamic State may rightly cause revulsion and yet they are only one of several rogue groups marauding across Iraq, undermining the formal government of Al-Maliki. It often comes across as no one being in charged, even the notorious Al Baghdadi, who at least projects the image of a reigning caliph.

Then you scan through the scenes of Egypt, Syria and maybe even parts of China and the sense is reinforced. It is as though groups are sprouting out which decide to do as they please, abiding only by the rules accepted within the respective groups. The formal governments don’t seem to matter too much.

I wonder if the self-determination mantra so priced by many is starting to demonstrate the risk of this mantra spreading and being given an elevated importance. No one is completely free. Everyone needs to come under the control of some regime. It is entirely legitimate for that control to be properly and strictly defined but where anything resembling anarchy takes any level of significance, maybe not immediately but not too far down the track the outcome is almost certainly disastrous.

Cold weekend, many thoughts


Something was whirring away in a corner in my mind when we were seated in the lovely New Shanghai restaurant in The Emporium in the city on Saturday arvo. There we were enjoying lunchof very delicate and delicious food, just before we joined a public meeting to protest the killing of Christians in Mosul in Iraq. There was something incompatible between the two activities but such is Melbourne which presents a juxtaposed context in which first world consciousness of world peace issues is played out. The soft, translucent skins of the xiao long bau or the steamed dumplings were in stark contrast to the horrors of what we saw on the screens and heard from the lecterns a few hours later in Fed Square.

It was nevertheless, a hell of an arvo. It felt strange to be part of only a handful of orientals in a sea of Arabic people. Persians to be accurate – modern day Iraqis, Syrians and Macedonians – but the sounds and appearances were Arabic. Probably part of my ignorance. But we soaked it all up. The over riding message was silence and apathy when others were systematically persecuted. Driven out by the thousands, the Christian community of the ancient city of Mosul (aka Niniveh) in northern Iraq has been eliminated but the world has reacted in such a muted fashion. As a fellow Christian, I felt like a traitor. Someone who has betrayed my fellow believer. Martin Luther King Jr’s statement about silence and betrayal comes to mind.

We took pictures and dutifully put them up in facebook. I hope more have become more tuned in. I have noted more postings about this. I guess it has had its effects.

The day had started very cold but has ended in me being warmed up to care more.

Sunday started just as cold. Colder, in fact. As I stumbled out of bed and struggled against the 0.1 deg  temperature, I drew the blinds in the lounge room and saw the oval covered with ice. The windscreen of my car – ditto. We eventually managed to get through the morning and go to church, where Mike preached on euthanasia. It was that kind of weekend. Stories of mass persecution and killing in Iraq ans Syria and Macedonia and slow creep of euthanasia the next. They made me sombre…

After lunch at Madam K, we went grocery shopping, then Tress took LBJ for a walk while I went and saw Gus, an old friend I hadnt caught up with for a long time. We met at The Glen and over coffee (his shout) talked about family, work and current issues and challenges. We talked about rebellious teenage children, politically correctness at work and I’m glad I responded to his initiative to catch up.

I got home a bit after 4, sat down to watch Hawks demolish the Bulldogs, while I did the second batch of soup for the week. Soups done, breakfast and lunch for today packed, all cleaned up, Tress and I sat down again and I thought what a weekend. I’m grateful. Living in a city which affords such divergent and contrasting indulgences. My taste buds, conscience, awareness and my emotions all stimulated in one weekend without travelling out of Melbourne. Yet it’s more than those things. As always, few things are about me. The Iraqi christians need advocacy and help. The assisted and unnecessary deaths need to stop.

Dog Eat Dog


My manager is the General Counsel of the company. That’s almost always the highest ranked legal person in an organisation. In my organisation however, there is an executive above the GC. My boss the GC reports to this executive, who also has a legal background.

I’ve always felt it strange that such a structure exists. The executive role was a newly created one. It wasn’t in place when I joined this organisation. When it was created, I thought my boss would seek appointment to the role. That didn’t happen and this executive came on board.

Many things have changed since. For sure, my boss is almost certainly more stressed. That stress factor certainly got elevated today.

For some time now the company has been on the periphery of a royal commission hearing into union behaviour that is now under way. There has been some allegation of mishandling of personal information, and also allegation of privacy law breaches. Naturally my boss has been all over this issue.

For an executive team meeting this morning the executive had asked my boss to prepare and present a memo on the status of the commission hearing. So my boss dutifully prepared and presented the paper. Apparently, one of the executives thought that paper was an utter waste of time and the executives need not have that paper presented.

My boss’ boss kept quiet and did not respond to that feedback/remark. How could you instruct a subordinate to prepare a paper and present it, sat in a meeting where it was presented by your subordinate and kept quiet when there was a question as to why the paper was thought necessary and it had been a waste of time?

It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall when a discussion (between my boss and that executive) eventually takes place to walk through what happened. I think this goes straight to the keeper, any future talks about integrity and team work and resilience and all those types of threads would ring hollow.