Thursday, December 29, 2011

Piecemeal thoughts upon your cotton ball throne (Family Cactus)

And so that was Xmas and now it's the new year in a couple of days. Waiheke Island is now a memory, as is the stay in the Hawke's Bay with Sallie, Zen and our dogs (Dookie took great delight in rolling in fresh sheep dodos so he was a lovely pea green colour; Bazil was his usual delighted to see you self)

You find us now nestled in the New Plymouth address of my lovely sister-in-law - Ma Belle (sister of the LOML) and her husband.

We are here in the Taranaki town for the wedding of the century this week (our good friends Patrick and Randy are having their civil union ratification do). It's chucking it down with rain right now but that won't affect the occasion in any way.

The countryside is green and lush and so are we!

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's a new day (Bob Marley)

Amazing huh. One minute you're in the middle of a middle eastern desert admiring the sand dunes, you blink and you're staring out to a deep blue sea on an island with wood pigeons and tuis for company.

Okay admittedly the blink lasted some time (about 19 hours) while the Airbus whisked us from Dubai to Auckland and then we had the 45 minute ferry ride from Auckland to Waiheke Island. But the transition is really a stark one. A few minutes people watching at Auckland airport and you know you're not in the sandpit anymore.

It's interesting being back in Nu Zild. Different pace, different language, different culture, different food, different sun (one day with suntan stuff on and a hat and I can feel my skin), different driving conditions (hamdillallah), different clothes (there really IS a place for the abeya), different's just different okay!

We are on Waiheke (an island in the Hauraki Gulf - just east of Auckland city, some of which is pictured above) until the 26th of December. It's a bizarre place and different again from the North Island mainland. When I was growing up I thought of Waiheke Island seldom but when I did I wondered if there were cars/roads there. Or civilisatrion generally. But it's a cool place with fantastic views in all directions.

It has been worth the effort and the planning to get here.

Pre blink drinks in the Dubai Mall
SWMBO acts cool.

Wozza doesn't - I don't like flying much!

Pre flight breakfast in Emirates lounge, Dubai airport.
Post blink and post 13 hour sleep under a beautiful pohutukawa
tree on Waiheke Island this afternnon with the LOML.
Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I have all I want, is that simple enough? (Crowded House)

Jalal is still going strong on his charity walk. You can read all about it in the link. He is such an inspirational guy! He has no fear.

SWMBO and I will be in Nu Zild for our Christmas holidays, catching up with friends and whanau.

I will attempt to keep the posts coming but there may be a few gaps in transmission.

Love and peace - Wozza

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear (Mark Twain)

I became impatient waiting for the Gulf News to do an update on Jalal's progress (see previous post), so I emailed the man himself to see if he could update his website for those of us who are keen to learn how he's getting on.

His website is a good place to go for summaries of his achievements to date:

I find his courageous outlook and unselfish motivation to be really inspirational in a week when I have to get on a plane to return to NZ.

To my surprise he emailed me back.

I had some battery and thought I'd respond.

InshAllah my heart doesn't deceive me,in the end Allah knows the true intention of man.

I don't know how my ancestors did all this,they were tough. I'm sure most of this was due to their faith and humble lifestyle.
I'm near the boarder now ill probably cross tomorrow into saudi arabia.
Isn't modern technology wonderful! By the way - tomorrow for Jalal will be Wednesday 14 December.

I'm sure he is right - in the past faith, humility and courage meant people could walk huge distances through the Empty Quarter to Makkah and conquer all obstacles along the way. We've gotten soft, no doubt. That's understandable. The choice between walking 20,000 km and driving there in an air conditioned Landcruiser is a no brainer. When I told some of the Emirati teachers about what Jalal was doing they said, "He's crazy!!"

Jalal told me in another email that he has sent some pictures to the Gulf News so I'll check for those and include them on the blog, inshallah.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The time is right, I feel it strong (Dream Evil)

SWMBO and I spent the weekend in Dubai and Sharjah. It's SWMBO's last real weekend in the Middle East for a while so we wanted to knock off a couple of things from her 'things to do that we really didn't get around to' list.

After the Christmas break, I'll come back to Al Ain without the LOML for awhile (I'm continuing to work at Ali bin Abi Taleb School while she's organising Zen's new property for him as per the previous post).

The Karama souq in Dubai and the Central (a.k.a. Blue) souq in Sharjah joined the regular Dubai Mall visit on our schedule for the weekend.

While we there I read an amazing article in the Gulf News about a young Emirati guy called Jalal bin Thaneya.

Jalal is only 25 but he's already embarked on four lengthy walks to collect funds for various worthy causes (autism and a paediatric centre are two).

This time he's setting off on a walk from Abu Dhabi to Makkah. A huge walk of 2,000km which he aims to complete in 35 days.

I love the fact that he's packing light - 2 shirts, 2 coats, 1 jacket and 2 trousers but he also has a camel pack with medical stuff, a SAT phone, GPS navigator, camera and laptop. He's a 21st century boy!

The heroic Jalal bin Thaneya is in there somewhere.
All 'n' all he sounds like a completely brilliant young man. Here's the full story for you to read. I found it really inspirational.
I'm going to follow his progress over the next 35 days and let you know how he gets on.

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. PJ's going to have conniptions over that post title!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Could it be that I have found my home at last? (Steely Dan)

Zen (pictured right) recently talked the Light Of My Life (LOML) and me into getting a patch of Nu Zild dirt again.

As the blogosphere will appreciate, Zen, the star of a recent post, requires a paddock or five to live in, some poosh stables worthy of his zen-ness to visit when it rains, and a large three bay implement shed within which to store his moving bedroom (a.k.a. his 'horsefloat' - why is it called that? Stoopid right? I get the horse bit natch but a float? It's just...silly).

Oh...yes...and Zen's owners will need a place to sleep so that they are close by to keep an eye on him. That means a house which has commanding views of the surrounding countryside so that the LOML can preempt the rain and move Zen to the poosh stables.

Bazil, and Dookie will also be joining us in due course and I dear say that chickens, a cat, and a stable mate for Zen will follow along when we eventually return to Nu Zild on a permanent basis.

So, with all that in mind, we have obtained all of the above in a little country town called Otane, in the Hawke's Bay area, which is on the east coast of the North Island of NZ.

It's probably a good idea, at this point, to flesh out what exactly Otane is all about. Here is the entire Wikipedia entry for Otane:

Otane is a township in the Central Hawke's Bay District on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a small village, with a school, general store, cafe and pub.

See - told you it was on the east coast of the North Island of NZ. What the entry doesn't tell you is how beautiful the countryside is, so I'll correct that omission now with some photos of Zen's new digs.

Stables on left, front drive on right.

Zen's owners will live here.

Poosh stable area.

Love and peace - Wozza, LOML, Zen

Monday, December 5, 2011

He was standing in the doorway lookin' like the Jack of Hearts (Bob Dylan)

Flashes from the archives (of oblivion):
  • Socrates.
  • 1982 World Cup.
  • Brazil.
  • Zico, Falcao, Oscar, Junior...Socrates.
The 1982 Brazilian World Cup team is indelibly etched into my memory banks.

I was on my second teaching section at Havelock North High School and staying with a football mad Scottish family in Hastings opposite the Freezing works. It was the winter term - really cold. I'd just got contact lenses (ah vanity - thy name is Wozza) and it was agony trying to put them in with numb hands and twelve layers of clothes on.

But the FIFA World Cup was on in Spain.

The New Zealand team (known as The All Whites) had miraculously made it through to the finals for the first time. We were in a Group 6 with Scotland, The Soviet Union and...Brazil.

We all knew we would lose all three games - our world cup had been in making the finals, but we still all watched as our team battled manfully against the superpowers of world football.

In all likelihood, a Brazilian team of three - Socrates, Falcao and Zico - would have beaten us on their own.

They were football gods. They remain football gods, Immortals.

Socrates - the Jack of Hearts!

He passed away this week aged 57, in hospital, from complications.

Remember him this way.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

And we dance out of time, and everything goes 'round and 'round (U2)

The box-set-a-thon continues at Yellow Jimi Apartment 6 as we continued to be dazzled, intrigued, amazed, entertained and generally hooked on LOST.

We finished Season One last week and started Season Two this week (we're up to Disc5/6 already), and I can report that the show has only got better and better with lots of plot shifts (didn't see Boone's death or Shannon's death coming) and fascinating symbols (the numbers), back stories, and character developments.

It's also an excellent adventure/survival yarn. I can see why people got hooked when the show aired originally and why the blogosphere is so full of Lost people (like me) still.

The Lostpedia wiki  ( is extremely thorough on details and the blogosphere is not short of Lost experts/obsessives adding their interpretations to things.

I found this great map from one such source (Lostysmurf) and a list of all the deaths in Season One in another ( Interesting that there were so many and since the landing on the island there were actually 8 deaths (and one birth) during Season One.

I like the fact that people care so much about something like this that they create their own websites about the show. You have to admire that degree of obsession. I read one Lost blogger who said he thinks about the show constantly during his day. That may stray onto the unhealthy side of obsession but the show does provide plenty to think about, and plenty to love.

Here are 25 things I love about LOST so far (Seasons One and Two).
  1. I'm a newbie in the Lost universe but we've seen each character in a variety of lights. I love the fact that Jack is not the show's hero. He's as messed up and damaged as the bulk of the characters. Maybe the most messed up!
  2. The show's setting. I love the scope that a remote deserted tropical island location has for a boys' own adventure series.
  3.  Jin-Soo. one minute he's the ultimate chauvinistic caveman, the next he's repairing Sun's garden.
  4. Hugo 'Hurley' Reyes. He seems the most genuinely nice guy on the island who acts in a more purely altruistic way towards his fellow survivors.
  5. The mystery of the old school computer in the hatch and their need to believe in it.
  6. John Locke's name. His namesake was one of the world's great teachers who believed that all knowledge had to be taught. He believed that, at birth, people's minds were a "tabula rasa." Since people were not born with a distinct character, Locke insisted upon teaching character first and academics second, saying the value of good character far exceeded the value of learning to read, write, complete calculations and memorize facts.
  7. The 'monster' on the island stops short when he confronts Mr. Eko and retreats. Mr. Eko (a quasi, very quasi, priest) says he does not fear the monster. Hmmmm?
  8. The constant battle between good and evil that rages inside characters like Charlie, Sayid, Mr. Eko, Ana Lucia, Kate, and, of course, Sawyer.
  9. The record player and the record collection!
  10. The flashbacks. I normally don't like this device much - often they slow things down unnecessarily, but in LOST the flashbacks are a crucial part of the show and the layers of mysteries.
  11. The polar bear and the black horse are unexplained presences on the island (maybe later but we're towards the end of Season Two remember).
  12. Sun-Hwa. She is a mystery all on her own. She has a powerful Korean gangster for a father and a subservient and manipulating mother but Sun is so sweet (at least so far).
  13. Desmond (and, later, Michael) can take off into the jungle and be absent for many episodes.
  14. The personal connections in the flashbacks that link characters in mysterious circumstances (they are often unaware of the connection).
  15. The lava lamp in The Hatch is cool.
  16. The mysterious positive power of the island - the way the island 'heals' John Locke's legs and Rose's cancer.
  17. The father/son story lines (John Locke and his con artist father, Jack and his father the surgeon, and, of course, Michael and Walt).
  18. Big big themes - fantasy vs reality, coincidence vs fate, science and faith, and the previously mentioned good vs evil.
  19. The soundtrack (as distinct from the music from Hurley's Walkman or the record player in The Hatch) is exceptional
  20. The sunsets on the beach look fantastic.
  21. How when it rains, and it rains a lot, no one seems to mind getting drenched.
  22. How tidy the beach camp is - no rubbish is left blowing around. The Utopia that has been created by the survivors has at least got recycling sussed.
  23. The Dharma Initiative sounds like a cool idea - a large scale community project on a remote island paradise where researchers and free thinkers can get away from it all, chill with some great jazz, read some Dostoevsky, and eat chocolate bars.
  24. All the literary nods from the obvious Lord Of The Flies and Robinson Crusoe inspirations to the books on the island that Sawyer reads to all the books found in The Hatch to all the other references found in the series and collected expertly on
  25. JJ Adams. What a guy - I'm a big fan!
Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our life is short to be so long, our minds are weak to be so strong, alone together we come and go, but where we’re goin’ I don’t know (Edgar Winter Group)

Gary Speed's death was the low point of last week by far.

By all accounts Gary was one of life's good guys. A talented footballer in his day, a real leader on the field, and a committed family man off it. After retiring from playing he inevitably became the coach/manager of Wales.

He took his own life this week. There were no suspicious circumstances.

The huge tragedy is that all seemed well in his world. He was a successful coach who always appeared to be very positive about things.

Why then would he resort to such a selfish act and leave his wife and two adolescent sons behind?

No one seems to know. One of my Arabic teachers at school who has no English asked me (via a translator) why this had happened.

I couldn't think of any reason to explain it for him, nor can I now.

Thing is - no one else seems to have a clue either which is really strange.

Clearly he had reached a point in his life that he couldn't go on and, it seems, he had internalised everything. There were no outward signs of depression or despair. His close friends were genuinely shocked.

The speculation will continue but the only thing that is conclusive is that his death is a tragic waste of endeavour and talent. At only 42 years of age he had plenty of time to change course and repair whatever was afflicting him so badly. What he ultimately lacked was the desire to do so.

Unlike the character Siddhartha, in Hermann Hesse's novel, Gary was seemingly unable to look into the river and at the last possible moment get a glimpse of hope and reawaken his slumbering soul.

If he had - the awareness of his situation would have become apparent. Gary would then have remembered all that he had forgotten, all that was divine. And he would still be with us.

My thoughts this week have been with his wife and two sons who have to live the rest of their lives without their father. I know how tough that is.

Love and peace Gary - Wozza

Dance with waves (Anouar Brahem)

Enjoy this awesome time lapse glimpse at the UAE via some jaw dropping photography, forwarded to me by Gavin, our ICT whizz at Ali bin Abi Taleb School.

It includes views from Jabeel Hafeet and a few other Al Ain shots mixed in with iconic areas of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and elsewhere in the UAE.

If you want to watch it in HD here is the link:
The HD version takes a bit to load but it repays the effort.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, November 27, 2011

May your smile shine on (Oasis)

Dad loved gadgets and he especially loved cameras.

I was very lucky, because, apart from my very first camera (a Kodak Instamatic), my dad always passed his old camera on to me when he bought a new one.
And, as he was a classic Early Adopter and a world class gadget lover, that was pretty regularly and so quite a few cameras came my way.
In my teenage years they were Asahi Pentax 35mm cameras and by the end of his life they had become FujiFilm digital cameras.
Last year in Doha I bought my second camera ever – a Canon 1000D. It’s not a state of the art Canon but it’s a great entry level digital camera. Not only that but it’s a beautiful looking camera, and a dream to use. Consequently it takes great pictures.
There wasn’t any great tortured selection process ( a là my Jovial watch and the RayBans sunglasses). It was on sale for a ridiculous price (with a zoom lens, case, data cards thrown into the deal) and I did some shallow online research on it before buying it.
Sadly, today, I have had to retire the last camera my dad gave me. It was a largish mini camera if you know what I mean. I’d been using it at school for some time but it’s developed some nasty imperfections so it was time for a new mini camera - my third camera.
Again there were no protracted selection issues – a new shop in the Al Ain mall has a fantastic display of electronic goods. I wanted (and got) a Canon power shot camera made in Japan (rather than elsewhere in Asia). I also got some extras thrown in – data card, case and free phone!
It’s a beautiful grape/purplish colour and so easy to use. It has such a sleek design and a huge zoom on such a little camera.
I love it and I’m sure dad would approve!

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. Happy birthday to Jade for the 28th. I wish I could be in Nu Zild right now to take your picture with my new camera. Maybe you could bring back the bob to celebrate the 20th revolution around the sun?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost (Coldplay)

I got bored in a meeting recently and started making a list in my head of things with a 'lost' theme. One thought tumbled into another and pretty soon I had a head full of LOSTNESS, it helped that it was a very looooooong boring meeting.

I had so much in my head that I had to write it all down later (it filled a page).

Before I outline what was in said head you probably need to get yourself a coffee, then take the phone off the hook and get comfy – this’ll take me a while to explain I suspect.

I started with books on a 'lost' theme but pretty quickly I had roamed all over the cultural landscape - over films, under music, and through TV shows. Along the journey my thinking had morphed into 'lost' record albums and about being in a state of 'lostness'.

Here’s an example of my twisted thought process.

I started, fairly predictably and naturally, with Robinson Crusoe (by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719). Mainly cos it’s in the front of my brain – I downloaded it onto my ipad and have been reading it off and on for the last few months.

It is an archetypal castaway/shipwreck plot which has fed loads of other 'lost' storylines. I’m pretty sure it was the first such realistic adventure book with this plotline. The Tom Hanks film Castaway is a modern rendering.

From there I leapt to Swiss Family Robinson and detoured to Lost In Space’s Robinson family before getting to Gulliver’s Travels.

Lost In Space reminded me of the Albert Brooks film Lost In America which, by being an update of Easy Rider reminded me of the great tagline to the film. What was it again? Something like, ‘They went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere’. From there it was a natural leap into Paul Simon’s song America’And we walked off to look for America’. That also reminded me of the key line later in the song:

Cathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and I'm aching and I don't know why
Countin' the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They've all come to look for America, all come to look for America

When I got to this bit a light suddenly went on in my brain.

Lost isn’t just the Beatles in Yellow Submarine getting lost in Pepperland. Lost isn’t just a castaway on an island lost from civilization. Lost isn’t just about discovering lost worlds a la Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost Continent  or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core. Lost isn’t just people trying to get away from civilization and looking for a mythical Avalon. Lost isn’t just about seekers trying to answer Allen Ginsberg’s great question - America when will you be angelic?

Lost is all these external things and more. Lost is also about all the internal things – Paul Simon’s feeling of being lost and not being heard. The existential lost world inside us which drives so much great literature and cultural pointers like the TV show…Lost.

Told you my brain was twisted.

Allen Ginsberg from his poem America again:
It occurs to me that I am America. I am talking to myself again.
The next bit of thinking was my most interesting discovery of all: WHAT IF every theme in songs, TV shows, films, literature…EVERY theme…could be traced back in some way to the theme of loss?

Whether it be an external loss – Paradise lost, loss of life, loss of something tangible/physical, lost relationships…
Or an internal loss - Loss of innocence, loss of life and subsequent grief, feelings of alienation or abandonment, loss of direction in life, lack of understanding…
Or an abstract loss – the whole balance of gains and losses (can’t be one without the other), financial loss, lost in translation, when meaning is lost…
Suddenly I felt a bit like Phaedrus in Robert Pirsig’s amazing book Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In a moment of mad clarity I had glimpsed the universe. But was it true or had I just lost my mind?
I needed to test out this what if thesis on some random texts.
First some books (obviously this is restricted to ones I’ve actually read). I went to the Guardian’s list of the books I should read as a random source (wooah there were a lot of books in the list I’ve not read!). Here’s the first three I’d read:

Don Quixote (Cervantes) – bags of mental loss starting with a loss of perspective and geographical displacement (anyone working in education in the sandpit will identity strongly). The Don is a few mangoes short of a chutney, i.e., he’s lost!
High Fidelity (Hornby) – Lost loves and lost records!
Catch 22 (Heller) – Sanity has goneburger and the world is lost!
Okay – so that’s all literature…tick!

Next - some random films from imbd’s ‘films to see before you die’ list.

Fight Club – lost masculinity and lost teeth.
American Beauty – Lester in a mid life crisis is mourning his lost youth.
Road To Perdition – about a hit man and his loss of humanity and his lost relationship with his son.
Okay – so that’s all films ever made…tick!

Music might be tougher though. I’ll need to do three random songs for this exercise.
Some reductions are required first though. It think it’s a given that every love song ever written will conform to Wozza’s Lost thesis ©. It’s either lost love, or the love that never was, or unrequited love, or she-done-me-wrong love or some other twist that always involves human relationships. And those we can trace all the way back to Paradise Lost. So that’s love songs done and dusted.
So I’ll take a random three non-love songs from the Guardian list (set out thematically bless ‘em):
It’s My Life The Animals – lost opportunities and the way Eric Burden sings, ‘No regrets’ you know he’s lying.
Space Oddity  David Bowie – severe dislocation and alienation for the poor geezer floating in his tin can high above the world. He’s very literally and metaphorically lost in space!
Penny Lane The Beatles – beautiful nostalgia from Macca and all nostalgia involves a sense of loss.
Okay – music…tick!

Finally - Television shows. Here’s the last three series we’ve watched:
Grey’s Anatomy – a whole heap of lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year.
Bones – lost lives, lost hopes and dreams.
Hustle – a bunch of Robin Hoods stealing from damaged people who have been making their vapid way in the world.
I think the Wozza ‘Lost’ thesis © holds up but I invite you to send me your challenges. I bet I can find an angle!

So there you have it - I'll leave you with this great still from The Graduate. Two people, embarking on a mystery ride, lost in thought having just read this post and wondering what the heckfire Wozza was on about.

Love and peace - Wozza

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm lost in the ozone again (Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen)

God bless the invention of the DVD box set.

It is so great not to be at the mercy of TV schedulers. Box sets mean that you can watch a TV show whenever you want to and without lots of pesky advertising wrecking the internal flow.

Watching a TV show on a TV network means a certain level of obsequious organisation on the viewer's part - being slavishly available at the same time each week and then waiting another week for the next episode. There's a power imbalance there. This often creates a dire situation for SWBO and me. If we miss an episode the continuity is... lost.

Which is why we never watched 24 on TV - every episode always ended with an impossible cliffhanger and we couldn't wait to see what happened next.

Living in the UAE has meant a steady succession of box sets to fit in with our restless and impatient lifestyle (Jacky's horse riding, our walks in the evening, live Arsenal games, books to read, long baths to take, you know the drill).

We have finished a couple of sets lately - Bones Season 6 was poor poor poor. Only a few episodes were up to their earlier standard. It truely was their Pam's Dream season.

Hustle Season 1 from the BBC got better and better along the way and in the end was more than just okay. There were only 6 episodes but they were well written and kept our attention (something Bones couldn't manage).

When we come to the end of a set we always cast around for the next thing to watch.

I put a J J Abrams TED talks address on the Baggy Trousers blog a while ago. It piqued my interest in the TV series Lost big time. J J directed the first episode and wrote it with others and is a hot shot producer as well.

In case you missed it on Baggy - here it is on Wozza's Place.

I hope you watched it all the way through - he's a cool dude and he had me at Grandfather! I know it's quite long but don't cheat yourself by glossing over it.

Based on this we have embarked on  Season One of Lost. It's a show that my daughters loved watching in the middle of the noughties but I lost track of the plot and characters pretty quickly and then gave up.

I must admit that I wasn't even that impressed with the early episodes when I watched them in 2005 but I guess this is coloured heavily by the fact that a plane crash is the central plot device and I'm a nervous flyer.

I am trying to stay with it this time but it didn't help that episode two had recurring, heart stopping, flashbacks of the crash, the famous polar bear scene and various severly injured people (amputations, impailments) that just need some panadol and they'll be fine!

J J's talk has definitely opened me up to stay with the series at least throughout Season One and there are only five others if this one hooks me. SWMBO seems to be hooked already!

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Listen to the tales and romanticize (Tool)

The title quote for this post is from Tool's 10,000 Days album and song (a great prog metal album by the way). I'm using it because the blog has passed 10,000 pageviews since I started in 2008 (see the counter down the right column). My brain makes these seemingly random connections all the time.

Thank you if you're a casual pageviewer or a regular reader.

10,000 sounds like a lot of views. Originally (when I started the blog in 2008) the audience I wrote for and my whanau emailing list was restricted to just the immediate family. The whanau has kept growing since then and I know there are people throughout the blogosphere I've never met who regularly tune in to see what Wozza is up to.

Reality check time.

10,000 hours is the magic number that Malcolm Gladwell highlights as the amount of hours needed to become an expert; the difference between success and non-success, genius and mediocrity.

According to Malcolm Gladwell's thesis: anyone from the Beatles (in Hamburg playing marathon sets) to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (tinkering away on their computers) who has succeeded has done so on the back of at least 10,000 hours of practice. Plus, obviously, some intelligence and talent. 

How many hours have I put into my three blogs since 2008? Nowhere near 10,000 hours.

I've done 313 posts on Wozza's Place (the one with 10,000 pageviews), 148 posts on my music blog and 111 posts on Baggy Trewsers. I would conservatively say that on average I spend about 3 hours on each post before I publish. I also start quite a few posts and forget about them or ditch them.

If my maths is correct that makes a grand total of about 1,700 hours. A looong way to go. I'm still a blogging novice.

When I compare that to teaching it puts the 1,700 hours into glaring contrast.

I've been a teacher since 1983 (with one year off in my first year of being a Principal and the last two years of being an educational consultant). That makes 26 years of teacher contact with students. I've taught for about 4 hours a day on average (more when I was younger and less when I moved into management areas) for about 190 days a year.

That makes a grand total of about 20,000 hours. That's a lot. Way over the Gladwell 10,000 hour yardstick.

I mention this because I miss teaching English. I love being an advisor at Ali bin Abi Taleb School in Al Ain and that has reignited my teaching juices.

Maybe in the future I can get back into the classroom again. I do understand now why many former Principals end up full circle as classroom teachers.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Everywhere I turn seems like everything I see reflects the love that used to be (Holland, Dozier, Holland)

This post is in many ways a sequel to my Posterity post (see next door in the popular post section for the link).

Without wanting to toot my own horn too much (the previous post on my cool quotient did that enough for a while) - I don't ever struggle to find things to write about in this blog. Things just float to me without any effort on my part. Case in point:

I've been thinking about that George O'Malley (Grey's Anatomy) quote that was a few posts back. I've been thinking about it a lot.

Here it is again to remind you:

CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead Dads' Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club."
GEORGE: "I... I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."
I've considered trying to help George out with some advice but then thought, naah - too sentimental (even for a sentimental old fluff like me), too potentially didactic, too sad, too open, too personal.

So each time its floated into my brain I've been rejecting it and trying to forgot about it. But the thought wouldn't leave me alone.

Then I read some thoughts by a Zen master called Zhaozhou who lived from 778–897. He's similar to Baiyun Shouduan (another Zen master) who wrote:

I have four great vows:
When I'm hungry, I eat;
when it's cold, I put on more clothes;
when I'm tired, I stretch out and sleep;
when it gets warm, I like to find a cool breeze.
Zhaozhou seemed to enjoy whatever was happening. If it was cold he enjoyed winter and the fire; if it was hot, he loved walking in the evening. If he was happy, he laughed; if sad he was just sad. He didn't clench up against life.

I realised that I'd clenched up in my thinking and these two Zen masters gave me permission to be sad.

That's quite a relief.

The other shove I got was from a saying by Sengcan:

The great way is not difficult
if you just don't pick and choose.
As John Tarrant explains it in his excellent book Bring Me The Rhinoceros, the koan shows you two conditions for your mind: a with and a without condition. What you are either with or without is your map, your cherished beliefs, your story about how your life should be at the moment in which you find yourself.

The with condition is what, in an unexamined way, I believe to be true. Beliefs have consequences; they build their own fictional world.

In the without condition I see the world without wanting it to be different from the way it is. The koan is suggesting we live in the without condition, when we don't pick and choose.

This has all been percolating and floating around in my brain for a while and it has informed my response to George's implied question (how do I exist in a world where my dad doesn't?) and to all other members of the Dead Dads' Club. It's my way forward and my way is very peculiar to me.

It's important because without a way there is dukkha (suffering, pain, discontent, despair, unhappiness, sorrow, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration).

George's use of language is quite interesting (and deliberate I think). He doesn't say, "how do I live in a world without my dad?" Of course he will keep on living in a world without his dad. There's no suggestion in George's words or character that he is considering anything other than living. He says he doesn't know how to exist (to be) in a world that doesn't contain his dad.

I think the resonance to Hamlet is there in the background - 'to be, or not to be, that is the question'. But ultimately George isn't going through the same crisis as Hamlet.

Yes Hamlet has joined the Dead Dads' Club and he struggles throughout the play to be in a world that doesn't contain his dad. In his famous soliloquy he is considering whether to be (live) or not to be (die).

From that thought he considers what it might be like to die and the thinking leads him to the conclusion that the great unknown of death is too much to bear so he determines to 'rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of'.

But, again, George isn't Hamlet. He simply feels his compass, his way to be, has been removed and he no longer feels on solid ground. It's a jarring feeling losing your dad and a thing that does make you question your place in the world.

To be honest, that's how I felt upon joining the club myself (like George, not like Hamlet), and it's something I still feel from time to time at 2.55am.

That was a lengthy preamble but I needed to explain those things before the next bit so that it doesn't come across as too sentimental (even for a sentimental old fluff like me), too didactic, too sad, too open, too personal.

For what it's worth here's how I do my best to avoid dukkha and live in the world without wanting it to be different from the way it is:

• I consider my father (what would he do? is an examination I use). That way his compass is present.

• I listen to a lot of music.

• In my own way I communicate with the people I love and I send my love out to them like little lovebirds. Sometimes they are aware of this, at other times they are not. That's okay for me.

• I reflect and examine my own feelings (the unexamined life is not worth living according to Ralph Waldo Emerson).

• I allow myself to feel sad sometimes and happy at other times. If I laugh I laugh in other words. If I cry I cry in other words.

• I remember the maple leaf poem (search the blog - you'll find it) and I often recite it in my head.

• I think of myself as a Jedi knight with the force flowing through me.

• I am here now.

• I take one here now day at a time.

• I write posts like this one and I hang it out there in the blogosphere.

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's cool for cats (Squeeze)

I was not a cool kid. Horror shock gasp revelation probe!!

It's true (I know, I know - hard to believe innit?).

As a kid I wore glasses from the age of 15. The migraines I'd been getting while playing football resulted in an eye sight test and lo and behold - I needed glasses! They definitely slowed the migraines down, without eradicating them completely, but they did nothing for my cool quotient (a minus number is still a minus number but it did not help).

It was even worse in summer. Dark glasses weren't an option before I got contact lenses in 1982. Instead we had to either add clip-ons to our nerdy non-designer glasses or else use graduated lenses. I went for the latter but...that's right - they subtracted from my cool quotient as well.

From 1982 to 2009 the contact lenses worked fine and I could use dark glasses with them. All fine - until I went to Qatar and the desert heat just ate the lenses. 

By this time technology had caught up with me and prescription sunglasses were possible. Not only that but I could also pick from some gnarly designer frames. I chose Police frames after finding out that curved blow-fly style lenses did not work (when I tried some all was good as long as I always stared straight ahead without ever using peripheral vision, otherwise I became dizzy as a chook). 

Those Police frames are pretty cool (check out my profile picture on the right column - cool huh!). But when I bought some new glasses last week I also got a 50% discount on any other pair of glasses so I figured I would go with new prescription sunglasses.

I have a very particular taste when it comes to watches as you know (again - check out my post in the popular post section called Time time ticking in my head). It's the same deal with glasses, but tougher.

A couple of key considerations - most obvious is my Purdzilla snozz. Let's address that puppy reet quick. Some frames just enhance the concept yunnerstand. I can do without that!

Second is what SWMBO lovingly calls my 'pixie face'. I have to steal myself when buying glasses, or...anything vaguely fashionable actually. I'm very much yer typical bloke. Bog standard some might say.

I need Her Indoors to suss out how I look in glasses (I do the same for her and don't even get me started on that tortured procedure - I dread the times we start looking for new sunglasses for her). That's what we get married for right - to have that critical unjaundiced eye whenever we need a brutal opinion. SWMBO loves these moments.

Umm Keegan's critical gaze and shake of the head are legendary. I'd love some John Lennon round frames. I try some on every time I go in to the optometrists. Every time. She just patiently shakes her head and I know she's right.

Anyway...the frames can't be curved because of the prescription element (see above for dizzy spell explanation).

I only suit black (I had the white sunglasses in the 1980s - my students at Macleans will remember them I'm sure - but this ain't the 80s anymore). I don't like mirror glasses. I need them to be fairly dark (not any of yer slight dark tint nonsense). And plain. This is sounding a lot like that list for my watch purchase huh? I have simple tastes really.

They, of course, need to be comfortable...

...and cool!

This meant a lengthy process of elimination (Brian's watch buying procedures which established a world record in considered procrastination was not beaten - ha ha yeah right, that'll happen - but I did come close), but in the end I bought some new RAY-BANs.

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin about! Look who just got a whole lot cooler...

Love and peace - Wozza