Tuesday, 28 May 2013

I feel like a woman

Seems Shania is kind of on the same page.
The title of this post comes from the Shania Twain song, and great it is too.
However whenever I heard the hook line, I always answered mentally, "I feel like one too, in fact I'd like one right now."
Then again, I was once interviewed by ABC radio on the mid-north coast as a failed stand-up comedian and I told a listening audience of some thousands that whenever I see the sign on the door that says 'push', I think they want me to sell drugs and when the sign says 'pull', I think about masturbating, which shows you what a petty, small-boy mind I have had most of my life.
I might add, when I told people I was going to try stand up comedy they all laughed, a great pity I didn't appreciate it at the time as it was the only laugh I ever got.
All of this smutty chat is a curious lead in to this post which is about, I believe, my development away from being a sexist pig.
And said development had its most recent reveal to me, of all places, with my soccer team.
Wank first then sell some drugs.
If that surprises you, it does me an' all, but then you can learn things in the oddest places and there are really two types of learning, 'how to do it' and 'how not to do it'.
I can write about my soccer team because I am confident none of them read this blog. (actually I'm pretty certain some of them can't read period.)
This was probably best put on the Simpsons when Homer and Bart are running scams to get enough money to fix the car which was damaged when a fish, a sturgeon it was, fell from the Russian space station, Mir, onto Homer's car as he was driving home.
(Man, I would have loved to have been at the script editor meeting when they pitched that plot.)
Anyway, for various plot related reasons Homer father joins the scam team and says he has the best scam of all and "this was in The Sting II, so no-one has seen it".
Likewise, I can write what I like about soccer with impunity as none of them will ever read it.
I wrote last week about my great soccer coach, Alec, that I had as a boy and the way he eradicated criticism from the team and created a hard-running, high-morale unit.
My current team had a big problem with this, one player in particular.
So a couple of weeks ago, Steely (the coach/manager/captain) and I had a word with him before the game.
He responded well and he, and the team, played well and 'won' 3-3.
Then the next game he was back at his worst, sticking it to me at half-time.
He said that thing that never fails to AGG the living christ out of me, "I don't want you to take this as criticism, but...", and then went on to criticise me roundly for the next three minutes.
We were down one nil at half time in that game, but I collapsed under the weight of this criticism.
One great midfielder, Adam Goodes(l).
 He is better known for his attack,
but as this photo shows,
he didn't shirk when it came to defending. 
I was playing a position called sweeper, the main organiser of the defence, and so down was I that we conceded four goals in the second half and lost a resounding 5-0.
Then the last game we played, he went back to being good.
And here's the point that has been gestating for the past paragraphs.
I thought the problems with our team were all due to the negative talk, but with that removed I saw clearly that the real problem is that we are just bloody hopeless.
Laugh over?
More accurately, it is not that we are hopeless, but disorganised and worst of all, some players won't defend.
Back to Alec for a moment, apart from working hard on the psychological health of the team, he didn't do a lot of tactical work, because it wasn't really required, but one thing he was very hot on was everybody, from striker to goalkeeper helping with the defending.
Another great centre-of-the-park player, Bryan Robson(l)
of Manchester United. It is said of him that he covered
more blades of grass at Old Trafford
than the guy who mowed the lawn.
For the unfamiliar, soccer and Aussie rules are very similar sports in their way.
The guys in the middle of the team, the midfielders, have to run the most, they have to push forward to supply the ball to the goalscorers, and, in my and certainly Alec's opinion, they have to run back hard when the attack is over and help with the defending.
And this is our big problem, certain players will not do this, they like attacking (who doesn't?), but when it's time for the hard work, they go on the missing list.
I tried on the night of the game, when I realised how disorganised we were, to call players back into position, but once I'd said it five times or so I intuited that I was going to be ignored all night and so shut up. (we lost 4-2 by the way)
And here is the part where I finally gained some understanding of what women have been putting up with since time began.
I have to get the point about defending across to these players without it coming across as criticism.
I have to tiptoe around their fragile egos, just like women have been doing eternally.
So all the women throughout the world that have ever had anything to do with me, in a relationship or otherwise, "I'M SORRY".
I finally have a glimmering of what you've had to put up with.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

How to, and definitely how not to, coach a children's sporting team.

Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, when you look you can see the
madness burning off the screen.
As I write this I should point out I haven't been very happy recently.
I don't want this blog to be self-indulgent, but then I don't want Tony Abbott to be the prime minister, and as the Stones famously sang, "You can't always get what you want".
However I'll ask you to bear with me as I take my usual five hours and multiple discursions to get to the point.
I was quite surprised when I did a post in March in which I explained about my anxiety disorder, I honestly thought people would read this blog to be entertained with humourous anecdotes, but discovered that more people read that post than any other, I guess many of you who read it had/have trouble with anxiety yourselves.
Anyway, a few years ago Stephen Fry did a very good documentary about bipolar disorder.
It began with Stephen describing how he tried to kill himself after a stage show he put on in the west end of London bombed big time.
Thankfully he was unsuccessful and he is with us today, but the major benefit for him was finally being diagnosed.
Just for the record, bipolar disorder is what used to be called manic depression, Spike Milligan is one of the better known sufferers of this mental malady.
In Stephen's doco he visited with some famous sufferers of bipolar, the most stark example was Richard Dreyfuss, and if you look again at him performing in Jaws, you see his feverish, manic intensity burning from the screen.
Carrie Fisher was another Stephen described, when he interviewed her at home she couldn't sit still.
Then the doco went on to visit with other, non-celebrity sufferers and here the stories took on a more harrowing hue.
Mainly because as non-celebrities, the families and partners of these sufferers had little or no money to get the help they needed.
Then Stephen went on to say that in the end the only way these sufferers could be helped was to completely remove stress from their lives.
And here is the point I have been building up to, the moment he said that, I was riveted to the screen hoping he would explain how!
Sadly, only those with decent support can have a few weeks, or preferably months, of stress free existence.
And to close the this textual loop the reason I have been unhappy is mainly because I have been working too hard.
When I came out of rehab (booze mainly, but pot was part of it), I realised that I had to set up a sustainable schedule otherwise I would collapse like a deadstar.
So I set out to work four hours a day maximum, see my health professional Paula and not smoke pot.
I have generally been successful, but recently I've been working off a debt to my friend Pete and because the renovations on his place have been approaching a crescendo and I found myself round there for full days.
However, I got there, with indeed a little help from my friends and now am able to go back to my preferred four hours a day.
The other area of dissatisfaction I have been having is with my soccer team and so I want to record here how (in my opinion) to coach a sporting team, either adult or children.
And before I set sail on this tale of the seventies, I'll digress to say this.
As a boy I loved sport and in country Australia at the time this meant football, either rugby league or Aussie rules, depending on state.
My mother wouldn't let me play either of these codes and therefore condemned me to an adolescence branded a poof.
She said that these codes were too rough for her delicate boy, but now I realise that there were more devious motives afoot.
My parents thought that being middle class, whatever that means, was important. Those of you reading this who suffered through Bathurst in the seventies with me will no that no-one, I mean NO-ONE gave a flying fucking rat's arse whether you were middle, upper or any class.
You see, only lower class, yob types played rugby league and my mother couldn't have that as it would not fit her image as a refined person and mother of aesthetes.
I think what she really wanted was for me to go to the opera and then come home and spend my time practising the violin before graduating semma cum laude in Physics from Cambridge and walking around saying 'ectually'.
Anyway, enough of her.
Grudgingly I was allowed to play soccer and began my competitive soccer aged five for Bathurst City Redtops under eights.
The guy who coached the team who I won't name for legal reasons was really bad.
I don't know why he did it, as he hated kids, or maybe he just hated me, he was certainly one of the first adults I can remember telling me, at the top of his voice mind you, to "BE QUIET".
After some years I made the move to Bathurst Pandas and met someone who really knew how to coach.
His name was Alec Lamberton and he was a scotsman with, dare I say typically, three teeth missing from the front left side of his mouth.
He can't have inspired confidence in any parent who saw him and realised he was in loco parentis of their children for two hours a week, but he turned out to be the saviour of my young life.
With my parents smashing up, in turn, each other, the house and me, Alec was the first adult who treated me with respect. Often he would give me a lift home from training and would discuss tactics for the team with me as an equal.
Additionally, I believe now, he could tell when life at home was particularly bad for me because of how upset I would get in the game if I made a mistake.
He spent more time telling me "it's OK, calm down, just control the ball and it will be allright".
In retrospect he was my first mental health counsellor, and grateful I was, I can tell you.
Alec had very few rules for the soccer team, but they were simple and staggeringly effective.
I am still surprised, nay staggered, by adult men on sporting teams who yell at someone on their own team if they made a mistake.
Do you know of anyone who goes to play sport, or work, saying to themselves, "today I am going to make as many mistakes as possible and deliberately stuff as many things up as I can?"
No, I don't either.
But Alec's simple rule, once he got us trained to do it, turned Pandas into a really good boys soccer team.
If someone did make a mistake, the whole team would get behind that player and say things like, "head up", "let's go again", "it's Ok" and such like.
Additionally, for the technical, the way to tell a good sporting team, certainly one with good team morale, is if they can come back from behind to win.
This was demonstrated to me most forcibly in a semi-final that involved (from Kelso High) Adam Yates and myself for Pandas, against Churches Eagles, with Russell Meadley, Wayne Beatty and famous golfer, Peter O'Malley for them.
Late in the second half, Eagles scored and went to a 2-1 lead.
But when I talked with Russell and Wayne on Monday at school they said that all the goal did was make us, Pandas, come back harder.
We went on to win 3-2 and would not have done that without Alec's simple rule of support for other players.
There was no question of yelling at our goalkeeper or dropping our head's, just "time to go hard".
Another rule of Alec's that I wish, also, that modern players of any code would take more notice of was this. If you score a goal, don't run around pulling your shirt over your head and screaming how great you are, but instead find the player who passed you the ball for the goal and shake their hand.
Simple, but another cornerstone of playing as a team, not for yourself.
So enough, if you coach a team and you can install these two simple rules, you will have a winning team on your hands.
My next task is to see if I can get anyone on my team to take any notice.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How many men does it take to find a piece of software?

What did we do while she was away?!
Answer: No one knows 'cos they never look.
I would just like to say that I am not setting out, like Ben Elton, to show that all men are sexist except me, I used to be very misogynist, but I'd like to think that I have improved.
What happened was this.
The woman in the photo is our super-manager at Seabird Rescue, Kath.
Recently she left us to take a job with wildlife in Western Australia.
She was away for about a year working all hours and dealing with problems that made Fawlty Towers look like a functional establishment, eventually she pulled up stumps and returned to us, which many heartlfelt sighs of relief, mainly from Rochelle, our general manager, who was able to hand over 90 odd hours of weekly work.
Coinciding with her return was my work computer began to crap out.
The possums that ran round the wheel to provide power were getting elderly and it was taking half an hour to load a single application.
So I whinged to Rochelle until I wore her down and she bought me a new puter.
I was so happy, now I could listen to my favourite songs on the tube-of-you and look at porn sites in real time.
But with every computer upgrade there are issues and the wireless antenna from my old box wouldn't work with the new.
I needed the install discs for the antenna but instead of LOOKING for them, I whinged to Kath.
"You haven't seen any discs with Belkin written on them, have you?", I said as she whirred past completing her daily round of tasks.
She cocked her head and replied non-commitally but docketed it away in her capacious memory cache.
I went back to trying ineffectual things to get an internet connection and was vaguely aware of Kath rooting about in the background.
She then said, "did you say Belkin?", I replied, "Yes", and she then floored me by saying "here are the discs".
She'd found them.
So there you have it, Kath was away for a year and had found the discs within three days of returning to the building.
I have to break from writing here and make a work call, now where's my phone?


Becky and I found a solution
to the volume problem.
Elsewhere, I sorted it out with my coffee friend and we came to a compromise.
I would stop talking like I was trying to reach Mars without the use of a radio and she would wear the earmuffs I use for whipper-snipping.
Joke of course, however I will say that resolving this issue was quite a step for my own emotional development.
For reasons stated many times already I had a quite stunted development and grew to man's estate as stable as a yacht with no keel, as functional as a shovel with no handle and, to borrow from Blackadder, as cynical as a man who has just been appointed Professor of Cynicism at Oxford.
My usual pattern when confronted by a casual remark that had hurt me was to disappear, cease contact with the person who had hurt me and never speak to them again.
An overreaction?
Just a little.
However Becky had helped me greatly in the past and slowly I realised that I had to resolve this.
So heart racing and bowels dissolving I took a phone call from her and we sorted it out.
Good for me and a great credit to Paula and the long list of mental health care professionals that have had to endure me moaning over the years to effect some change in my underweight pygmy of an emotional intelligence.
Miked up and  'om-ing'.
Two of the haris at the rear
of the group carried
small Marshall amps.
But returning from the realms of my internal and seemingly eternal dark side of the mind.
As I was writing about Becky and my volume control I was accosted by a new sound growing outside the office.
Slowly the noise grew and conversations fell silent as it approached.
It eventually resolved itself into that most Byron of street theatre, the Hari-Krisnas.
However it seems that the Haris have a most un-Amish view of modern technology and have moved on from munching lentils while beating hand bongos  and have embraced the field of mobile amplification.
As can be seen in the picture the two leaders were miked up to lead the chant and the group carried enough hardware to sound Phil Collins at Knebworth.

So I'll close with this story from my teenage years, which some of you from Kelso High will probably resonate with.
When I was 13 or 14 I had quite a full schedule, school all day, then sport all afternoon till dark.
After school on Winter Thursdays at this time I would race down to Dag City (The Police Boys club) to play basketball, then on the soccer training at George Park till dusk.
Now one of the requirements of playing in the basketball comp was that each team had to provide two refs for the game afterward.
I had ignored this in my selfishness because of soccer training, my logic was impeccable, I have something I want to do so other people can do the less than fun task of reffing.
After one game however, the organiser of the comp, a teacher at South Bathurst Public called Ray, came over and took our team to task.
He said, "Hang on you guys, this fellow here (he was pointing to Graeme Hollis) has referreed every time I looked. It's about time someone else took a turn".
Graeme was a quietly spoken, popular boy who had moved quietly in the background and done the whole teams duties for some weeks without complaint.
The rest of us looked around uneasily, wondering if anyone would volunteer.
No one did.
I can't recall the sequence of events, but I ended up reffing the next game, more or less because I didn't move quick enough.
How I railed and fumed, "how could I have to do this?!, I have soccer training, what I want to do is clearly more important than anybody else's desires".
Of course it never occurred to me that Graeme, for instance, might have DESIRES OF HIS OWN!
Anyway, it was the first time I learned about selfishness, particularly, how selfish I was.
I'd like to say I changed my behaviour there and then, but teenage boys don't work like that.
However, the fact that I am recording this story here some 35 years later shows something and I'd like to think that slow as a glacier I have finally learned not to be so selfish.
Of course, what everybody really wants to hear is that I've learned to shut up, but that looks like being another three decades at best.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Naturopath in the bottlo and hula dancers in the yurt

While Joanne hulaed in
 the yurt, I trimmed the Wistaria.
When my client Joanne asked me to be at her place by ten a.m. as she was going to Hula in the yurt, I was again reminded why I love this town.
Nothing as mundane as "I'm going to the shops" or "I'm going away for the weekend", no, in Byron shire it's "I'm going down to the yurt to hula".
Hula dancing is great meditative exercise (apparently, I've not donned the grass skirt yet), somewhat like doing Tai-Chi to music.
Joanne lives at Possum Creek (and isn't that the quintessential Australian place name?) which is referred by most as the 'roof of Byron'.
As you can see in the picture, there are not many better 'offices' than this.
The other part of the title, the naturopath, refers to my friend Mick.
He runs the main bottle shop in town and is a very handy guy.
We have worked on a deck project at his place together and when I want any advice about glue, screws, paint or hammer he is one I turn to.
I naturally met him in my drinking days and when we could get a shaved second edgewise into our conflicting busy schedules, we would have a lunch together.
We were in a local having a counter lunch when Mick floored me by saying he had studied naturopathy for two years.
For mind the image of a bottle shop worker is a beer-gutted, red-faced tippler, but Mick, and indeed most of his staff, are among the healthiest people in town.
Gabby who works there is a surfer, Keith is in his sixties and he regularly rides his bike up to Bangalow. The critical part of the ride is a one-in-ten climb that would make Tour de France riders think twice, but Keith manages it, if not effortlessly, at least smoothly. (or so he tells me)
I haven't been in my local since New Year but even then the health paradox that is Byron goes on.
One of the barstaff, Carrie, was studying nutrition and she gave me lots of good diet advice when I realised I needed to lose weight.
Travis, another bar worker, is so fit that the Hotelier Association regularly tests him for performance enhancing drugs. When not behind the bar he does the Tough Mudder three or four times a year.
The Tough Mudder is a gruelling 20k slog through trenches, up ropes, over walls and down men's trouser legs.
It is based on military training and even completing it is worthy of great accolade, doing the sorts of times Travis does means fast-tracked recruitment to the SAS.
Once I'd bought my drink from Carrie, Trav would stop by my table and give me exercise advice.
All greatly received and helped me drop for 101 to 87kg. (30 pounds in the old money).
Actually, when I see the promos for that weight loss show on commercial tv, the title of which accurately describes anyone who watches it, I want to contact the show and say "all your contestants would be better off heading down to my local in Byron Bay, you'll get better advice there".
Mind you, I don't think that excuse would float with your boss, "sorry I'm late, but I was down the pub getting fitness advice for the last three hours".
Pharmacist Fleur-one of the few legal drug
sellers in Byron Bay.

Just down the plaza from the bottlo is our local pharmacy.
I get my anti-depressants there and also good advice on my various soccer, work and surf injuries.
Following the theme of this post our local pharmacist Fleur surprised me by revealing she has an honours degree in Visual Art, I texted her back like the smartarse I am to ask "is there any non-visual art?"
Apparently there is, her text reply reads as follows, "Certainly some that have no visual interaction".
Do you go into a dark room and wander about with your arms out till you find some art?
Scott, who manages the accommodation centre where I write this each week is near finished a degree in Enviro Science.
Even I fit the dual-life category, most people that see me hanging on the end of a whipper-snipper or lapping the back yard with the mower are generally surprised to find that I have a science degree and work one day a week at Australian Seabird Rescue as a marine biologist.
A marine biologist?! Looks more like I stole my
 clothes from one of the Leyland brothers 

Also, for the record, I am trying to put less photos of me on this blog. The problem I am having is that most of those mentioned in this post didn't want to be photographed.
Mick the naturopath-bottlo manager for a start.
I only got that fuzzy Fleur pic by creeping up behind her and clicking my phone camera before she had time to say 'no'.
I know the photo you all want is Joanne's Hula class weaving their way across the floor of the yurt, but I didn't even ask for that one.
Mind you I will check if they have a class publicity shot of some kind and get that to you next week.
Time to go, I've got to get round the gym and get some advice on drinking.