Thursday, February 24, 2011


Reading this piece about Obama manning up over Libya, I had to get my nit on.

Obama is quoted as saying:
The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable.

This is all too common these days: a writer or speaker will use a singular verb with a compound subject. Because the two things, suffering and bloodshed, are yoked together, Obama feels they are one singular subject. This is incorrect in English, of course, and he should have used "are", as he continued to do with another compound subject in the same sentence:

So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters

That this construction is wrong can easily be demonstrated by replacing the nouns with proper nouns, thus:

*John and Mary is outrageous...

which is quite clearly wrong.

The article was in any case poorly subbed. It's clearly American agency copy that some poor sod plonked into the page with barely a second look. This is apparent because "neighborhoods" is misspelled and in a couple of places, the phrasing is infelicitous and a good sub would have fixed it even if they were doing a quick runthrough.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's not personal, it's just business

I hate the way people do business these days. They can't just do you an honest service at a fair price. They see you simply as a money cow that they have to milk.

I use Optus for my mobile phone provider. They have mostly been a pain in the arse to deal with and I wouldn't recommend them, but the deal I was on was what I wanted and I had used them for prepaid (because it's easy to recharge with them), so I could easily switch to postpaid.

So my contract ran out and I didn't know, because who keeps track of that stuff, and I was shocked by my bill this month. I don't use a mobile much, so I have a $19 cap and my bill is usually just the $19. It was much more so I checked it out online. My value on my plan had disappeared so I wrote them and asked why they had done that without telling me.

So some chick rings me and she is actually very unpleasant and unhelpful. Her line is basically "I don't know what you're talking about". She doesn't know what my plan was, what the new plan is or whether the T&Cs have changed. "You would have got some T&Cs," she said. Well yes, I probably did, so likely it was buried in the fine print that they would fuck me once my plan ended. But I don't recall anyone telling me that when I signed up for the plan and certainly they did not let me know the contract had ended.

My business is obviously not worth much to them, so it won't hurt them much that I move on to another provider. It would have been nice if they had made a token effort to keep me but I guess a customer who actually checks his bill instead of just paying what they demand is not what they want at all.

So I wrote them a message, which will obviously be ignored, and Optus can join my list of businesses that will get reverse word of mouth from me.

I feel really dissatisfied with your customer service. Someone rang me and was not at all helpful. She did not explain why I suddenly lost the value on my plan or where I could find details of the plan I have been dumped on without being told I would be. She could not tell me where in the terms and conditions it says that would happen. It doesn't in the current T&Cs but she said the old ones must just have been different. She did not explain why I wasn't told you would be taking half the value of my plan away so that I could decide to move on or choose a new plan. She could not actually have been less helpful if she tried.

She could for instance have retrieved and sent me a copy of the T&Cs that applied to my plan, so that I could see where it said you would remove half my value when my contract ran out. Can you do that? I haven't kept a copy so I'd appreciate it if you could email me the T&Cs that applied to that plan. I'm fairly sure it wasn't actually mentioned on your webpage, but I accept that businesses hide things in fine print and that you hope people won't actually read their bills but will just pay. It's a bit like "interest free". You offer a good deal up front but hope to make more money by sneaking customers onto worse deals without letting them know.

I know I'm not a high-value customer and you probably don't mind losing my business, but I feel you effectively cheated me this month. I guess that's how you do business though and certainly, if your representative is anything to go by, you don't care about keeping your customers happy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cursed all the same

There's always another side to the coin, of course. You sober up and in the morning your head hurts and you're still tired.

You are reminded often how bad you are at being a father, how like your own dad you are, how long the years stretch before you, that you will have to try to be better than you are and fail, how many years you will have to be reminded how poor you are, materially and spiritually, how trapped you are by circumstances. You hear yourself angry over something small and you think, so much for the positive parenting. Whoever wrote that stuff did not ever feel stressed or unhappy, or had the wherewithal to compartmentalise life sufficiently not to allow one thing to spill over into another.

And you write to the people who give you work and beg for more, and none comes, and each month you wonder how you will pay the rent the next. There is always something else to pay for and you could manage it if you had money coming in and knew how that was, but never knowing whether you can meet your obligations wears you down. Each month the worry grows that you will not get more work, that they don't rate you any more but haven't told you, because that happens and it's not something you can smell in the wind. Or sometimes you do smell it in the wind and have to ignore it because you cannot despair.

And you are stuck with it because you never were happy go lucky but the burden of responsibility has sucked you dry of optimism. You can't just make your meagre living from poker because something tells you that if you try, you will never make it. You can't just write your pirate novel because a little voice says, huh, why bother? No one will want it, just as no one has ever wanted anything you've had to offer. You have nothing at all anyone wants, so give up, drive a bus, work in an office, die as what you were: an ordinary fool with ideas above his station, no one special.

And every time you meet someone you are thinking, let this be the one, let this be the person I will love and who will love me, and you do not know which flaw will be the one she hates enough to let you go, but how can a person as simple as you are have so many flaws! How is it so impossible for anyone to think that whatever there is good about you is enough?

The worst thing is, curses are self-fulfilling prophecies. You expect the worst and that's what you get. Sometimes, I wish I still suffered from mania. At least I had times I felt like life could be wonderful. Now I'm stuck with wondering whether I will even have a life at all.

Friday, February 11, 2011


In some ways I am very contented and cannot think life is so bad.

The biggest thing is I now have my kids and even though I'm useless at it, I am learning and it works in a haphazard way. Zenella comes out to cuddle me when she turns her light out and my heart just bursts and I feel like it is just worth it. Even Naughtyman I get to touch him and feel I won't fuck it up completely.

And I have a new gf who it blows my mind that I'm so into her, and I tell myself I wanted someone so slow down and don't get ahead of yourself. But if she was meh, I'd be meh; I haven't become foolish. I still know what is real.

And A was saying to me today, you hang in there with work, and for years I have. I have had a lot of stress but I still make it. I can eat, drink and be merry, even though I'm not sure how I'm paying for it.

I know how to count my blessings. I don't have a depressive cycle any more. I have times when I feel numb and even facing the day is tough, but I don't feel like I'm labouring under a black mist or so manic I can't feel my feet. Sometimes I even feel like contentment is not totally beyond me.

I am completely drunk btw. My three babies are fast asleep in my house, safe and happy, and I'm ready to sleep. I know how to count my blessings, one two three. I know how to be blessed; I don't doubt it.

Pressed in a book

If you were walking on a lonely path, and you saw a leaf among the litter, rare and precious, would you pick it up? Would you take it home and press it in a book, so that you could keep it?

But wouldn't its colour fade, and everything that made it lovely leach away, so that in time all that you had pressed in your book was the memory of beauty, the idea of the living leaf? And what if you were to forget your leaf, put the book back on the shelf and never think that you had captured the moment you saw a beautiful leaf within it? What if your children, or their children, or someone else's children's children even, sorting through your books, let the leaf flutter to the ground, so that once more it was just litter, undesired?

You could just walk by, let the moment rest there, the warm sun, the smell of eucalypts, the sound of birds calling to each other, whispering songs of love and alarms to let each other know that you are lumbering through the woods.

You could just let it lie, never disturb it, as it faded.

But when you see a star, don't you wish on it?


Last night, Naughtyman called me into his room. Look, he said, at that gecko hanging. I took a look. A gecko had another by the tail, and it swung gently, unable to find anywhere to put its feet.

I think they're courting, I said, although I'm not sure that that's how geckoes court. It just seemed to make sense, because why else would a gecko dangle another by the tail?

And why would they do that? Why would a gecko like to swing powerless in the breeze? Well, we know, don't we? But I couldn't tell Naughtyman why, because he's going to have to find out for himself what it's like to be swinging in midair, no longer the master of his own fate, helpless and dependent.

But we know, if we have ever lived.