A voice crying in the wilderness

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Small Mercies

One thing I am really liking about getting back into blogging again is that because of my habit of typing everything into a word processor rather than directly into the blog feed, I like to take a couple of days out from posting so I can reread and review the article a couple of times first. Sometimes I need to revisit my writing as I wish to inspire and motivate people rather than having them immediately click on the “I’m offended!” button. I’d much prefer they go “Oh, I never thought of it that way” or “I’m glad to see this topic from someone’s point of view” than shout “Hate speech!” and block me.

Sometimes, however, it makes me realise that perhaps I have wandered off the point and turned the article into something else; that I need to stop, go back and rewrite the whole thing again or put that article aside and write about something else.

My evening walks are useful for this – if I’ve spent a chunk of the afternoon writing and editing, I’ll go for a walk and as I’m doing my mental ‘filing and sorting’ for the day, I might realise that there is something more important that I need to write about and I can come back to that first article later with a fresh point of view.

Social media has made us prone to the attitude of “reactions now, consequences later” – we don’t think of how many people will take the post the wrong way and see something that isn’t there. Of course, you will always have those who are looking for something to be offended by and will deliberately and intentionally read something out of context so they can bolster their already flawed perspective. But if you can do something to crack through that imperfect shield of theirs, you’ve made a start.

Remember the old (new) proverb – you can lead a man to knowledge but you can’t make him think.

Letting go of the past

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV

I’ve been spending a lot of time this year thinking about the past – visiting places where I used to live, replaying video games that I played during those times and generally spending a lot of time reminiscing.

Yet when I do go to these places, they are not the same as they used to be. I walk the streets that I walked 30 years ago and though the location is still the same, the feeling is not. The houses have changed, the trees have been removed, the people moved on and changed. I replay some of my favourite games of my youth and they don’t seem as fun, so amazing or innovative anymore.

It took me a while to realise what had happened – so much of what I missed was to do with freedom and innocence; we could face the day with energy and enthusiasm, all time to play and no responsibility. We didn’t have to face the drudgery of a day job, didn’t know about or fully understand the corruption of the world around us. We hadn’t yet discovered for ourselves alcohol, cigarettes, cigars and bidis. We still had an ozone layer. Recycling was something that happened to hippies. Farmers understood the seasons rather than relying on technology to tell them what to plant.

We had hair and it was still its original colour.

Then Something Happened. We grew up. We became Adults. We became responsible. We worked 9 to 5 jobs, met nice girls, got married, bought nice houses, started (hopefully) nice families. Somewhere along the way, we exchanged innocence for seriousness, playfulness for diligence. We could still have fun but as the years passed, we were allowed less as fun somehow became undignified and inappropriate.

One day we came to a point in our lives where we started questioning everything around us – Is this making me happy? What happened to the joy I experienced as a child? Why does nothing bring me satisfaction anymore? We realise that everything that the world tells us will make us happy does not. Instead, it brings us more stress, more frustration and more grief. If we aren’t happy, it is something wrong with us, not the ideals that are dictated to us by the media, The Corporations. Here, take this medication – it might make you feel better now though it will probably eventually kill you…

We started looking back at what we used to love and found that didn’t make us happy anymore, either.

It is said that the memory is a great liar – we think back to the times we thought were joyful and see that they are empty. We look back with fondness at what were difficult times and see the lessons learned, the experience gained and the character developed. If we knew then what we know now, how different would our lives have become.

Truly, if we are to be real people, we should remember the lessons of the past but live for today for tomorrow is not promised. How many people have you known to plan for the future, to work hard and save much with the plan to retire early and in comfort only to die unexpectedly of a heart attack or be hit by a bus? Those who invested in property, those who worked endlessly and sacrificed much with the expectation of retiring at 60 to travel the world but were taken out by cancer aged 47? Instead, live modestly, simply and carefully – reject the false icons that clamour for our attention. Close your ears to those that tell you material wealth is the true indicator of your character. One of the many reasons I prefer to live here in North Mordor is to remind myself to remain humble and not envy the surrounding posh suburbs with their cashed up bogans, their trash with cash. It keeps me Real.

Driving an Audi, BMW or Mercedes does not mark you as successful, it marks you as a fool who doesn’t know how to spend their money wisely.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
– Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Commentary on minimalist living and decluttering

I had written a reply to a post on CityCost that was almost longer than the original article – I thought it broad enough to warranty reposting since it makes sense even without the context of the original post.

Decluttering and minimalist living will always be an ongoing project.

Ever since I adopted a similar philosophy myself, it has become a continuous battle – brought on in part by living in such a materialist society where having more junk and clutter is seen as success, in part by family who persist in giving gifts of random “things” because they find it difficult to accept that you no longer desire stuff, and by others decluttering themselves and wanting to rehome things they want rid of.

Being a Natural Born Hoarder myself, I know the pain of putting things into the recycling only to find that you need that item a week later.

Some items you can work with a virtual sense – I buy almost all my music in digital format now, either kept on my computer or media center, or uploaded to The Cloud to stream on the go. My wife and I have acquired electronic versions of books that we don’t read often but didn’t want to get rid of – at one point we had a collection that shamed the local library. As much as possible, we also acquire digital versions of movies and games. All of this makes for more space and less dusting.

In terms of offloading things you no longer want or need, we often donate to local charity shops or advertise in our church community; for every item that you don’t want there will always be someone who needs it desperately but can’t afford to buy it. Nothing that is reusable need ever end up in landfill.

The Nostalgia Box

Cross posted from The Discerning Omnivore

The Nostalgia Box Museum
Shop 3, 16 Aberdeen Street
Telephone 08 9227 7377
Email info@thenostalgiabox.com.au
Website http://thenostalgiabox.com.au

For those of us who grew up in the Seventies and Early Eighties, the video games of the day hold a special place in our hearts. When Nekohime and I learned that a video game museum had opened up in Northbridge showcasing a range of first to sixth generation game consoles, we had to go along. So as an anniversary treat, we took ourselves off to the city to investigate and partake of a night on the town.

The Nostalgia Box is located next to the Central Institute of TAFE on Aberdeen Street, accessible between stops 6 and 7 on the Blue CAT line. Entry is $14 per adult or $10 per child although family and student discounts are available. The venue can be hired for special events and parties as well.

As you enter, the main museum is to your left with two long hallways lined with both consoles and packages sorted by age on display, with cards to explain some of the history behind the unit. Not all the information is absolute, some based on popular myth, but not all inaccuracies are widely known or understood.

Once you have meandered your way through the displays, an open area behind the main reception area has a number of classic consoles set up for play with the games of the day listed on a board. Older consoles don’t always work well with modern flat panel televisions, often highlighting the design limitations of the area – others whilst hooked up to older CRT televisions demonstrate that even the most carefully preserved console will still eventually expire. Some of the gaming museums in the UK have taken their original consoles off display and replaced them with emulated games hosted on a Raspberry Pi – though the games play well and display fine on a modern monitor, it feels like some of the rationale behind the museum has been lost.

On a Saturday afternoon, the the museum wasn’t packed but enough people were present that few of the demonstration consoles were accessible – a number of children and their parents made it clear that they had no intention of moving. The first system we tried was a ColecoVision running Donkey Kong. Nekohime recognised the game though she wasn’t familiar with the console. The console itself was quite advanced for its day and home computers with similar specifications continued to be made up until the Early Nineties. An upgrade cartridge known as Adam allowed owners to add Atari VCS (aka Atari 2600) compatibility to their system and expand their games library – Atari tried to sue Coleco Industries over this but lost their case since the VCS was largely assembled from off the shelf parts.

Whilst she courted Mario and his dungarees across the scaffolding in an attempt to bop Donky Kong with a hammer, in investigated a few more systems – a Vectrex, which I had not seen since primary school and was startled by the clarity and smoothness of its vector graphics, an original Telstar pong clone (with which I soundly defeated Nekohime 2 – 15 and then 0 – 15 but I’m not permitted to show that photo) and a number of third, fourth and fifth generation systems including the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64 and an Atari Lynx amongst many, many more.

If you or a member of your family have an interest in classic gaming, The Nostalia Box is well worth a visit. Classic consoles can also be purchased here, though they don’t buy or trade in consoles, games or accessories themselves. However, outside of eBay and Gumtree, systems and accessories can be purchased from stores at Malaga Markets and Wanneroo Markets as well as trading fairs as hosted by Collector Zone Toy and Hobby Fair.

Nekohime and Erky at the beginning of our generation

Nekohime and Erky at the beginning of our generation

No Commodore Amiga on display but they did have the Amiga CD32, the A1200's evil twin

No Commodore Amiga on display but they did have the Amiga CD32, the A1200’s evil twin

It appears they have raided my home

It appears they have raided my home

Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision

Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision

2 to 15 - The other photo I'm not permitted to show

2 to 15 – The other photo I’m not permitted to show

Missed opportunities or just another day at the office

With my research project this year involving further studies of Christianity, studying the Shinto and Buddhist religions and renewing my study of Japanese, I’m finding myself distracted by an urge to visit Japan again and even take up a position teaching theology there.

If my wife were agreeable to spending some extended time there, what kind of employment would I pursue? I have little in the way of formal certification despite spending many years at college, not that many of those courses really contributed to my career – in the end, they were for my own interest. Even in my long employment history, there is little to make me seem appealing enough to inspire a foreign company to employ me. The most common choice would be as an assistant language teacher, but even that requires a University degree – something that I have neither time nor finances to acquire.

Usually when I consider this, I might normally become depressed that I didn’t pursue higher academic goals – many of the studies that I engage in now could have been a great career path if I had known in my youth how my life had turned out. But I’m not depressed or disappointed by the missed opportunities; I consider that I am in my early Fourties, in possession of fair health and a good mind, there is nothing to stop me acquiring the qualifications I desire through other methods.

I’ve signed up with free online courses to learn Japanese, I’ve enrolled with a free online theological University to study. Certificates can be acquired at the end of the course for a modest fee. When the school holidays are over, I will make contact with a number of Japan related organisations in the city. There is no end to the amount of resources that can be obtained online or from the library.

I’m hopeful, encouraged and inspired – I feel good things ahead.

Sometimes you have to approach a goal via the scenic route.

Learning to keep my mouth shut

Cross posted from Josyf
I have a bad habit of speaking before I think, or perhaps thinking with my mouth. Only once the idea is out in the world and exposed do I realise that it is a stupid idea and I’ve just managed to offend a great number of people.

In the same way, I have a habit of announcing big ideas before I’ve thought them through properly – or that I won’t carry out in any time frame deemed relevant to normal people. Be it a music demo that has been in planning for 21 years now (and is still in “vague concept” stage), drum lessons or a plan to move 400km to be closer to my parents.

I have other ambitious plans but I’m going to keep them a secret so I stop embarrassing myself. Such as opening a hipster café and a small community church.


One idea that has been sitting quietly in the background for the last 7 years is setting up a multimedia company that could permit me to earn a living out of my diverse range of hobbies – my music, writing, photography and even my limited artistic skills. Two years ago I took a break from playing guitar and bass at church in the lead up to my wedding. A change in logistics and increase in volunteers mean that other people took over and my assistance was no longer required when I returned. Consequently, I put my instruments aside and stopped playing altogether until recently. A burst of creativity has inspired me to not just start playing guitar again but also get those drum lessons I’ve been talking about for ages.

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing this year, mainly editorials like this but also working on stories as well. I’m adapting a manga I developed into a novel and am resuming work on another that I was endeavouring to release chapter by chapter but was disappointed by the lack of response after I showed it to my test audience. I feel the need to continue and complete the story now and challenge myself a little. My argument when I stop writing is that I get frustrated because I write like a 12 year old but I still write like a 12 year old because I get frustrated and stop writing. I’m not allowing my style to mature.

Learning to draw again is scarier since after a long break, my style changes – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Again, its a matter of sitting down and practising, challenging myself again and again. I’ve tried to engage other artists to work on my stories only to have them attempt to hijack the story. All the main characters turned into artist proxies. They’re supposed to be author proxies!

Another small task I’m trying is getting my graphics tablets working under Linux – I bought a couple some ten years ago but they came only with Windows drivers, but there are ways of making them cooperate – sometimes not very elegant or practical ways, but workable. When I started developing an interest in art during my high school years, I became fascinated with surrealist art. I found a certain joy in the abstract style as well. I’m not much of a painter as I don’t have a very good eye for colour so I usually work in pencil alone. Rather than wasting paper and water colours, if I can learn to work with my tablet all I am really wasting is my time.

Maybe on my next day off, I should dig out my paints and revisit some old skills from high school. If the weather is up to the task.

But I’m going to take my time in all these things. I write during my lunch break and during flights, I practice my music when I’m home by myself. I review restaurants and hotels during the evening and practice my photography whenever the opportunity arises. There’s no hurry or pressure.

Its not like I have any other deadline than the one God sets. I work for Him.

One thousand forms of fear, or at least a dozen or so

Fear can drive us, or freeze us in our tracks. Push us onwards past our endurance or stop us making a tough but necessary decision. The fear of failure can be the most crippling of all.

After I took a break from composing on the computer to go acoustic for a while, I never returned to my editors even though I wanted to and had been receiving requests and commissions. I had forgotten how to use the editors and remembering how long it took me to learn them in the first place was extremely unappealing.

I reached a point where it was too much to be bothered with in case I could never get as good as I was before.

I used to cartoon all the time throughout high school – I had been developing two books collecting the better efforts; admittedly the first was too crude to pursure and has been hidden from view ever since, the second eventually developing a style of humour too obscure and abstract to likely appeal to anyone outside of our group. I kept developing it until the early Ninties before also putting it aside.

A few years later I developed an interest in anime and manga, and started drawing again, though it wasn’t until the launch of a local fanzine named Xuan Xuan that I began drawing in earnest. Inspired by the chance to have my work published, one story after another developed until I had fourteen plots on the go, ten of which were interlinked. But it turned out that my skill was too low to be considered. Some shorter cartoons were published in JAMWAF and on the JAFWA website before falling again into obscurity.

Ten years on, I feel the need to start drawing again but lack the focus I once had – since I’ve barely drawn anything beyond practice scribbles during this time, its likely that my drawing style would have changed again.

But I’m wary of doing so; I’d have to relearn how to draw and practice – requiring time and patience that I no longer have in abundance.

But therein lies the challenge – the put to use my multitasking and time management skills and group activities together. I’ve started carrying a notepad with me again like I used to do so many years ago because like music, poetry or photography, you never know when inspiration or an opportunity will arrive. I always like to have a camera with me as well.

Writing has been one of those tasks that have come and gone – I’ve been keeping a variety of online journals for many years trying at least to update monthly (though often a year goes by without so much as a spelling correction). Inspiration strikes at the most inconvenient moment so, again, I keep a notepad with me to at least summarise the ideas for later reference.

When I’ve found myself unable to draw a story concept, I’ve often taken to writing it out in story form but frequently been embarrassed at how immature my writing seems but would give up early. It leads to a chicken and egg scenario – do I still write like a 12 year old because I’m too uncomfortable to make an effort to develop it, or do I give up because I will always write like a 12 year old? Like my music, poetry and art, it will take time and practice for it to grow – but there is always the chance of getting a decent ghost writer to turn it into something legible.

As always, I shall put this aside for a few days to come back and reread it before publishing, usually resulting in multiple rewrites.


That moment when your brain goes…

Doing door security on the closing shift at work, brain is going “Ideas for essays! Ideas for songs! Ideas for comics! Ideas for poems!”

Come home and I have an hour to play with before my wife gets home, brain goes:

“. . . . .”

2015 – The Year of Getting Stuff Done

Everything you know is wrong

Black is white, up is down and short is long

And everything you thought was so important doesn’t really matter…

– “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Everything you know is wrong”

Stress and depression have a tendency to arise when the brain attempts to devise complicated solutions to simple problems.

The events of the last few weeks have left me wondering where I am heading in life – all the plans I had made and the life goals I had set suddenly were rendered worthless and meaningless. I suddenly found myself at an impasse, unable to proceed in any direction without tearing myself free of my moorings and returning to my starting point. I have done that once already in my life and have no desire to do it again if I can avoid it.

Part of my predicament stems from both career frustration and family obligation. I find myself needing to be able to fulfil both duty to my wife and to my immediate family, and seek a career that permits both. One that also permits me to be simultaneously in two locations 400km apart.

Unable to sleep last night, I arose and entered into a couple of hours prayer and meditation. I thought about all the tasks that I have undertaken over the years – composing music and songs, writing short stories and poetry, writing and drawing comics and cartoons, preparing and taking photos. Some of these tasks have been published and earned money.

I would be the first to say that I’m not particularly good at any of them, though – I became good enough to be satisfied with my competence and then lose interest.

But I consider that God gave me these talents for a purpose – not to taunt me with my limited competence but to forge a new way in life. My inspiration recently has been for writing articles dealing with my Christian faith (as well as my associated political and social views). During my prayers, I wondered if I should renew my artistic pursuits and combine them in a way that I could earn a living. It will be a slow process – I’ve not done any substantial drawing since JAMWAF (the JAFWA newsletter) and Xuan Xuan (a Perth-based manga anthology) ceased publication over 10 years ago. I’ve not spent much time playing music since I stepped down from the church music group two years prior to my wedding. I do still partake of photography and writing though.

So, since 2015 is My Year of Getting Stuff done, I propose to renew my creative activities as well as write more. Moreover, when I write articles, whether it be about Christianity or computers, I plan to post them in forums more visible and accessible rather than just my obscure blog.

I’ve enquired about drum lessons as well, so prepare your ear plugs.

Man Therapy dot ARGH

One of the most daft attitudes a man can take during his life is that of the butch, masculine man’s man – he who is all about strength and courage and bravery in challenging times.

This attitude has no part to play when it comes to health and wellbeing.

Whether it being dismissing a persistent cough that eventually transforms into lung cancer, or toughing it out through a cold and systematically infecting the entire workplace, men need to take greater care of their health; for the sake of their family and friends if not themselves.

This attitude has been brought home to me with extreme prejudice over the last couple of years – first my father attempting to laugh off a stroke despite not being able to talk or move, and more directly in the last couple of months after an ultrasound confirmed what I long suspected.

I have a hernia.

Its ridiculous to think that I’ve been putting up with a hole in my intestinal wall for what is probably over fifteen years – back in 1998 I was working on a computer, bent down to pick something up off the floor and experienced a pain in my groin like I had never encountered before. But what did I do – did I ask my brother to take me to hospital to get it checked? No, I crawled into bed and stayed there until the following day when the pain had subsided. What was really stupid is that following this incident, I was aware of a bulge in my groin but just ignored it because I was too embarrassed to speak to my doctor.

Over the next few years, I would go through stages where I might sit down awkwardly and be nearly crippled by pain, barely able to walk – this has happened twice that I can recall whilst out with friends at the bowling alley. As I write this, I can remember more than one evening spent sitting in front of the television with an icepack on my crotch waiting for the mysterious bulge to disappear.

But I would never mention it to a GP.

During 2007 and 2008, I took many a day off work due to stomach cramps and overpowering feelings of nausea – even during the last couple of years I’ve nearly left for the day after almost vomiting on a customer. I would dash to the toilets, retch alarmingly and feel something go bloop in my stomach and then be fine for the rest of the day.

But the symptoms would pass for months at a time and I’d forget to ask my doctor about it.

Around mid-2008, I started experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing at work so I managed to get an evening appointment with a new GP that I hadn’t dealt with before. Admittedly, one of the frustrations I found with living in the city was that any doctor that would bulk bill to Medicare (meaning that I didn’t have to pay a fee of $60 or so per 12 minute consultation) was so overworked that they didn’t have time to do a proper examination so I didn’t trust them with anytime more complex than a sick note for when I had a cold. Consultations reached a point of being little more than “What do you think is wrong with you, what do you think you should take for it and how much time do you need off work?” I started going to a private billing doctor and paying up the fees so I had someone who might take me a little more seriously.

I was shunted into an examination room, parts of my chest shaved (much to the amusement of the lady I was endeavouring to court at the time) and I was hooked up to an EKG. All signs appeared normal so I was sent for an X-Ray. Thankfully that came back clear since I was starting to smoke cigars quite heavily at the time – it was the beginning of my descent into self-destruction.

I finally thought to speak to the doctor about the stomach pains I was experiencing so was booked for an ultrasound which, again, revealed nothing – I never mentioned the bulge and the doctor never looked down that far.

Eventually I came to wonder if I had sprouted a third testicle – people would ask me how I manage to have a broad vocal range, easily moving from bass up to tenor once warmed up. I would say “Look up ‘polyorchidism’ on Wikipedia”.

But my wife knew right away that something was not right. Three months after we married, I woke up with a bad stomach ache and she ordered me down to the doctor’s surgery on a Saturday morning. The doctor poked and prodded and concluded that I needed to have another ultrasound, this time for the correct area.

A week later I’m lying on a bed in the clinic with my pants around my ankles with the technician looking at the bulge making concerned noises and exclamations of “Ooohh…” A report comes back saying that I have a non-reducible inguinal hernia and that part of my small intestine has taken up residence in my scrotum. The random stomach cramps that I used to suffer were most likely the hernia strangulating – parts of the intestine twisting around and blocking – and this was A Very Bad Thing. In severe cases, it could even be life threatening.

I had been trying to ignore it for 15 years…

There’s a possibility that the bout of gastritis I had in June that put me in hospital in June of this year was a result of the strangulation – but its also possible that the seven hours I spent vomiting that morning had merely aggravated the hernia and made it more prominent.

So after consulting a specialist last week, I’m booked in for surgery in about 12 days time. An overnight stay during which the doctors make a small incision, poke my intestines back into their appropriate location and then cover up the hole with something not dissimilar to fly-wire and close up the gap. As soon as I am awake, they want me up and about walking though I have to take two weeks off work to recover. And then for four weeks, I can’t lift anything heavier than 5kg – and that with extreme care since it won’t take much to pop the stitches open again.

I’ll be taking the time off to read, study and write as much as I can since I’m effectively banned from gardening or housework until November. Might even learn how to drive a more modern music editor and start composing again.

Of course, three weeks ago I managed to get a paper-cut on my right cornea and every time that something causes me irritation in that eye, my wife still needs to force me to see the doctor by utilising a sharp voice and, if I’m feeling particularly contrary, a sharp stick.

I used to work for a company who had no tolerance for people taking time of for sick leave. Their attitude was “Even if you are really ill, you should still put in half a day’s work – the customers will respect you for it!” I fully expect this man to come to work on the day of his own funeral. And then be buried with a notebook and wireless broadband connection just in case.

So here’s the deal, folks – if you aren’t well, stay home from work or school until you have recovered properly. Don’t be tempted to soldier on and infect everyone in close proximity. This is how epidemics start. And if you have concerns or doubts about anything to do with your health, in the name of all that is Holy, please see a doctor about it. See two, if you think your enquiry isn’t being taken seriously. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – just don’t sit down with a medical dictionary or a web browser opened to Wikipedia in an attempt to self-diagnose. You most likely aren’t qualified.

This has been a Public Service Announcement brought to you by Your Annoying Christian Friend (incorporated)