Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Bangers, Mash & Beer!!!

In Quick Mish-Mash, Semi-Paranoic Mish-mash on July 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Saturday lunch is usually a bit of a budget lunch. Recently we’ve found ourselves at the AB Hotel in Glebe for lunch a couple of times. Their specials are reasonable quality, reasonable price in good surrounds, not too far from home, easy parking – $2.20 per hour metered parking.

Great!! The AB is the chosen venue for today’s lunch.

Chris orders Pho and she wants to try their dumplings (on special) … I decide to go for an old pub favourite – Bangers & Mash.

Our calculations have the food at a total of $26 for the 3 dishes!!

I order a beer. I am not a beer afficionado and I spotted a brand that was not familiar to me. That was what I would try with my lunch!

The barman gets a branded glass, a goblet/chalice style glass, pours the beer – it looks good, really good, the head perfectly complementary to the beautiful tone of the beer.  It could have been a bigger glass but … hey!

It looked magnificent and I was already thinking about having another.

The barman turns to enter our orders into the POS terminal, he turns back announcing …

“That’ll be $52!”
“Whaaaaaat! … But, …”
“It’s the beer.” he casually informs us. “It’s 26 bucks.”

We gag.

Budget meal! Ha!

A second beer with lunch? No hope!!!

A single goblet of beer – exactly doubled the cost of our meal for 2.

By far the most expensive beer I have ever had!

In London in 2004, I had a beer that was 10 quid – but that was a pint!!

This one was closer in size to a middie.

This beer is one of only 7 beer brands world-wide that can call itself a Trappist beer. It is produced within the boundaries of a Trappist Monastery, by Trappist monks. Fantastic …

This one is a Monastery in Belgium.

To qualify as a Trappist beer. The Monastery must be self-sustaning and their products (including beer) are to be sold only to help the monastery and good causes.

This was a relief to find out. I am all for good causes and self-sustaining ventures.

But I doubt the publican relinquished his share of the $26 to the Trappist order, or any other order for that matter.

Anyway the beer that so elegantly accompanied my bangers ‘n’ mash was Chimay Draught. The brewery is inside Scourmont Abbey in the Belgian town of Chimay.

I sipped it delicately, savoured every drop, and made sure it lasted through the meal. God forbid what would have happened if I had to have a second!!!

Here is where it is made:

Scourmont Abbey - Chimay - Belgium

Here is the pub that sells it (though lose the reindeer …)

AB Hotel - Cnr Glebe Point Rd & Bridge Rd, Glebe

And here is the beer …

The beer to wash down my snags

I must say that I was a bit cranky (silently cranky) at the barman who did absolutely nothing to prepare us for the shock … there was certainly no warning, the beer does not appear on a menu, there is no price list, the price of this beer does not appear anywhere in the pub (not that I could find anyway) … and the barman didn’t caution us!!

My Birthday – thank you for (just) another day!!

In General Mish-Mash on July 27, 2011 at 11:46 am

It’s only another day … isn’t it?

Well, like the Merle Travis song says:

Another day older, and deeper in debt.

It is just another day but the implication is significant, even pivotal. Like any moment that levers our lives,  it is a catalyst for reflection and contemplation.

Even more so in an era when lost connections are so easily re-ignited. Like one of my old mates said to me when we re-connected through Facebook – “it is like putting the old band back together!”

Those adventures of yesteryear, the talents we showed and developed (or not), the dreams we had and claimed (or not), the hurdles and disappointments we were yet to face, and the unexpected joys of a future unravelling … all of it, and more, falls back into context and relevance.

The arrow of time is relentless, travels at high speed, and points always and inexorably towards higher levels of entropy.

Reflection is not about being absorbed by what the arrow has passed, it is about being moved by its path.

Reflection is an action for valuing the trajectory that your arrow has followed – the moments it has punctured, the colour created & released, the bubbles burst, the insights it crafted, the serendipity and the crossroads encountered, the chaos wrought,  the minutiae transformed to the momentous, and chains unlocked.

Another day older and deeper in debt.

It  sounds like a moment of financial despair but …

My debt is to all who have touched the flight of my arrow, deflected it, sharpened it, enabled its continuity – perhaps even picked it up, re-loaded it and with a twang! fired it off again, giving new momentum to a terminated flight. And sometimes, often, those owed the debt do so unknowingly – a fact that does not dimish either the quality or the quantum of appreciation.

It is somehow an uplifting debt.  Inspiring! It allows for standing in the dole queue while reaching for, and basking in the light of, the stars.

With all the wishes sent to me yesterday, once more, I am reminded of, and humbled by, the importance each of the authors – and those who author silent and hidden wishes.

Without you my moment, all my moments, would not be a moment(s) all – there would be no moment(um), there would be no path, no trajectory, my arrow would not sing or zing, it would come to rest and begin the inevitable process of decaying into dust.

Instead, while the physique may be limping along, slowing down and needing a zimmer frame – the spirit kicks and clicks its heels in joyful celebration of the way you each make my arrow sing.

The Ages – Body & Mind (or is it delusion?)

The Long Walk – Chapter 100, Freedom

In Mish-Mash of Books, Uncategorized on July 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Last night I reached Chapter 100 of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom – it is the freedom chapter, February 1990.

11 February 1990 – Nelson Mandela release after more than 27 years in prison.

It is a big book about big events and big issues … but it is has a quiet, calm tone. A tone that is nevertheless resolute and shows the strength of personal belief, principles, and integrity. There is much to discover between its covers – certainly plenty that is of historical significance. More importantly about human-ness.

One attribute that stands out is his [Mandela’s] recognition that even those who have the most despotic and anti-human behaviours nevertheless retain a core of humanity. It may be deep and difficult to see … but it is there.

I get the sense that Mandela sees almost all human failings as being a product of the system within which they have to work and live. He certainly believes it about those who are the workhorses of the system, those in the lower ranks of the system.

One of his jailers, Piet Badenhorst, had behaviours that were cruel and sadistic. Mandela describes him as being the “most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island”. When it came time for Badenhorst to depart Robben Island, he showed Mandela a level of empathy and understanding that was surprising.

Mandela concludes:

Ultimately … his [Badenhorst’s] inhumanity was foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.

It is a thought that is not unique or illuminating, but it is one we need to keep in mind.

It does raise a couple of questions for me:

How does a system that diminishes humanity become entrenched? Is it the leader that is responsible? Or the people being led?

And, how do some people, rise above the system?

Thinking about systems and structures and the impact they have on behaviours always brings to mind the youthful but sophisticated poem/song from Bob Dylan – about the shooting of Medgar EversOnly A Pawn In Their Game.

There are plenty who dispute the facts used by Dylan for this song. What cannot be disputed is the potent imagery and poetic analysis of a society’s system and the impact it has on individual action and behaviour.

The deputy sherriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Medgar Evers – being arrested, 11 days later he was shot in front of his home.

Now, this is a challenge for the sensible …

In Mish-Mash of Wisdoms, Uncategorized on July 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm

JIm Morrision, on The Doors’ The Soft Parade, a voice growing in sarcasm & ridicule, repeating the thought that you can “petition the lord with prayer” finally stops dead, silence … and then a full blooded scream of rage …

“You CANNOT petition the Lord with prayer!!!”  

Jim Morrison

The truth of Morrison’s rage cannot be tested by me or probably by you.

And there are millions upon millions, perhaps billions, who pray daily. Many believe they are praying to a “lord” of some description. And many have an adamant belief that their prayer is heard – even when their petition is (seemingly) ignored.

Is there any right and wrong in how you perceive prayer? Do we cower to Jim’s rant or revere the soft supplications of the many?

God knows! (he he he)

What follows may be disappointing to you, fair reader. If you have read this far you may be looking for some irreverence or perhaps a deep insight, revelations of the very core of meaning in life. No! (But if you want that can I recommend you go to Leonard Cohen’s Live in London, put on Tower of Song and listen right through to the very end … Dah Doo Dum …)

Leonard Cohen

No, my thinking about Jim’s rant was triggered by something far more pragmatic and profane.

The pragmatic – the concept of customer loyalty. Well, … any type of loyalty.

The profane – the anger that comes from the disintegration of such a noble concept as loyalty.

You see, in thinking about loyalty, I felt like screaming in Morrison-like anger, sarcasm, & ridicule:

You CANNOT petition loyalty by demand!!!

You CANNOT earn loyalty with payment!!!

You CANNOT be gifted loyalty when you offer reward!!!

With all three you may get behaviours that may look like loyalty, feel like loyalty … but, in most cases, are not loyalty. They are obedience, compliance, or a simple transaction

That feeling of frustration, that sense of something noble and valuable disintegrating behind the rattle of an demand, or the tinkle of a coin … that was how I got to thinking of Morrison’s scream. To me, Morrison is saying much the same thing – the act of praying is far too sacred and precious to be diminished by the act of petitioning.

But, this thought about loyalty also led me to a prayer. A prayer seemingly “petitioning the Lord” but really requiring individual growth, integrity, and responsibility. A prayer that contains (IMO) immense wisdom, and is spoken by millions around the world every night.

I was reminded of it recently when it was listed as the favourite quotation in the Facebook profile of a good mate of mine.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

How could this connect with pursuit of customer loyalty … well, I will come back to that another time. Meanwhile, it is at least worth of some thinking.

Who knows, think enough, and standing next to Sun Tzu on podiums of business philosophy, you may see the author of the The Serenity Prayer – whether it be Aquinas, St Francis, Cicero, St Augustine, Reinhold Neibuhr … or whoever.

Niebuhr - Serenity Prayer Author.

Now, wasn’t that a mish-mash.

War! What is it good for? Part II

In General Mish-Mash on July 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Ok! Ok!  (See today’s Daily Telegraph: NRL Tackled on pokies profits.)

The combatants keep ramming home their positions on the mandatory pre-commitment for people who want to play poker machines. It’s a knock ’em down, drag ’em out battle where each side questions – nah! insults – the integrity and veracity of the other.

The passion is wonderful – well, it would be wonderful if it could be used constructively.

Mr Xenophon has laid down the defining gauntlet. His goal is the complete eradication of poker machines from our society. It’s his legitimate right to take that position and fight that fight. He is a smart man, though, and he must realise that prohibition is a dangerous road. Not dangerous for him but very dangerous for those he wants to protect – those affected by problem gamblers.

In saying that … in a way he has it right – eradication of gambling will cause the eradication of problem gamblers. The ultimate harm minimisation measure of those who operate under prohibition is – eradication. If you had a problem arising from gambling in Chicago in the 1920’s, your problem would be quickly and effectively attended.

The Harm Minimisation Team

So, does Mr Xenophon really want poker machines deleted from our society? Well, he probably does – he has adopted the role of the patron saint of the problem gambler and his belief is that the machines create the problem. It is a deeply held belief.

I think he has a genuine concern for those affected by problem gambling, yet every (recovering) problem gambler that I ever met (and it has been many) knows full well that the moment they focus on the machines (or bookmaker or casino or …) as the cause of the problem, their recovery is in jeopardy.

Andrew Wilkie, I dunno about him … and probably never will. He claims his stance is steeped in his personal integrity – after all, he is prepared to lose his job over it! But really, is he just taking a giant punt here? Is he really dedicated to problem gamblers or is he just using the issue as collateral for his play for some sort of power? Questions I can’t seem to answer.

Jenny Macklin? I wonder will she insist that the Labor Party take a stand and demands the immediate removal of gaming machines from the Labor, Workers, & Union clubs dotted around the State. A starting point and leadership position.

Now, what about the other side of the argument?

The other side is defending, even their attacks have a defensive ring. Venues and operators feel they are being attacked – and defence is the natural response.

But have they recognised that some of their own behaviours have been provocative.? These behaviours may well be forced upon them by economic imperatives … nevertheless it is what the public witnesses, it is what they have to interpret.

The public, in general, regard machine game operators with some level of cynicism and scepticism – not because they operate machine games. No! But because of the way they operate machine games – the way the machines have become the focal point of attention.

At the venue I worked in for many years, the over-riding philosophy was one of generosity, a generosity of offer, a generosity to community, a generosity towards those in trouble and in need of help, a generosity and respect toward individuals and the value of people.

If you could encapsulate its philosophy in a single sentence it would be – to provide a venue where people could be entertained in a myriad of ways, at low cost, often without cost.

The prime objective was to ensure people enjoyed themselves and received value, irrespective of whether they played the poker machines.

As operating costs became tighter and tighter, as regulations became more stringent and more costly, as taxes rose … something had to give. The generosity receded. Events, venues, & facilities that offered distractions at low cost were reduced or cut and, naturally, the profile and importance of machines loomed larger to both the operator and the customer.

The community’s respect and admiration for this local icon (and many other venues) plummeted. The people in the community believed that the primary focus had become machines. They came to believe that because that is the behaviour they saw.

As you focus, so you behave.

So, both sides of this battle are focused on the machines. And no-one is focused on those that are suffering. (Nick, no matter how much you postulate that machines are the problem, every problem gambler knows that the real problem lies within and the machine is just an instrument.)

So, my question to all the combatants, and all affected by the combat, is –

“What would happen if all the resources, attention, and intelligence that are being applied to this war were diverted to attend to those who suffer (and those who could be identified as having a propensity to suffer) from the cruel and invisible addiction?”

Stop your bickering and politicising, stop focusing on the machines, start focusing on the job of making our world a better place for more people, start broadening the offering and being more generous … and especially spare a thought or two or three or more for those people who need help but you are using as political footballs.