Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Handshaking Etiquette: Ten Survival Tips

What's in a handshake?  If you ask me (and I'm assuming you are asking seeing you're here), quite a bit.  The simple action of grabbing someone's hand and shaking it about the place can convey a lot about a person. Or lead to wild assumptions by an over-active imagination.

With ProBlogger just around the corner, I needed to get a post up so I thought I'd share some (questionable) handshake survival tips or as I like to call it...

How not to get punched in the face

1. The Vertical Approach
Quite simple really, go in with your hand in a nice vertical position.  This says to the shakee "I'm not here for a power trip".  You know what I mean, when someone comes in over the top with their hand horizontal and palm down. This is a clear sign they want to be the alpha .

Pro-tip: Don't do it, it's a dick move and if someone tries it on me I'll spend the next five minutes wrestling their hand upright.  It'll get weird.

2. The Turbo Shake
Again, pretty simple.  Get in there, shake, then get the hell out.  It's a social pleasantry, nothing more so don't be one of those people that makes it go on for an awkward length of time.  Two shakes ought to do it.

Pro-tip: If you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these stupidly long handshakes a good way to break it off is to give the over zealous shaker a little tickle in their palm with one of your fingers.  Sure they'll think you're some kind of freak but it's a guaranteed 'Shake Breaker'.

3. The Up and Down
This isn't a tug of war so this business of pushing and pulling, flipping and flopping has no place in the handshake world.  Up and down, up and down and break.

Pro-tip: Should you encounter a pusher and puller simply fall into them when they do the pull motion. It will confuse them enough to allow for an end to the shenanigans.  Be sure to protect your beverage as this manoeuvre can get messy really quickly.

4. The One Hander
Don't be tempted to bring your second hand into the shake. Even though it's supposed to represent sincerity all it really does is make you look like a condescending twit.  A well timed shoulder slap in conjunction with the shake can be acceptable but approach this with caution. If you mis-time this you could end up slapping the person in the face which rarely goes down well.

Pro-tip: If someone is a clasper (placing the second hand over the shake) you can go for the double clasp (place your second hand over their second hand); this is a bold move as it could quickly turn into a game of 'Handy-fisty'.  While not dangerous it can quickly escalate into the more serious game of 'Punchy-bleedy'.

Handy Fisty
Handy Fisty can easily get out of control

5. The Dead Fish
Nobody likes to squeeze a dead fish. Nobody. Most people have bones in their hands so there's really no excuse for offering up a limp, squishy hand.

Pro-tip: If you find yourself being given a dead fish shake the best approach is to crack a lame joke about fish-fingers, they'll be lost but you can chuckle to yourself at your witty banter.   

The Dead Fish Handshake
The Dead Fish
6. The Half Grip
If you're shaking hands then go for the proper full grip. I'm talking complete docking of the hands. Don't be getting all grabby and just squeeze my fingers. It's bad form and it's bloody annoying to have my finger bones ground together.

Pro-tip:  If ever you find yourself on the end of one of these you can do the polite thing and laugh about it and ask for a do-over pretending the whole thing is your fault or you can go for broke and grab their wrist with your free hand and break the shake, ask where they learned how to shake hands and demand a re-shake but this time done like a normal person. Note, the second method isn't advised if you are in something like a job interview.

7. The Pulveriser
You know what I'm talking about, those big boofy blokes who seem to think breaking all the bones in your hand is socially acceptable.  I'll give you the tip, it's not.  It's not impressive either, it just makes me want to slap them repeatedly with my not-broken hand.

Pro-tip: If you're unfortunate enough to be trapped by one of these you don't have a lot of options as your hand is reduced to a mess of bones in all the wrong places.  Your best bet is to try to laugh it off and quip something like "Damn dude, ease up on the steroids!"  If that fails, kick them in the nuts. Then run away.

8. The WTF
Ever gone in for a handshake and the other party has met your hand with the wrong one?  Traditionally, when you offer your right hand the recipient comes in with their right hand as well but when they come in with their left hand it's confusing and really awkward.  Of course the exception to this is if the other person has a broken right hand from someone who previously gave them a Pulveriser.

Pro-tip: You have to be quick but if they come in with the wrong hand quickly change hands yourself. It's a ninja move with a small window of opportunity but if you pull it off you'll feel pretty smug.

9. The 'Soul Brother'

No matter how tempting it might be never go in for the combo shake.  The elaborate, choreographed moves which take a good five minutes to execute might seem totally awesome in your head but unless the shakee has also memorised the routine there is very little chance things will work out as you anticipated.

Pro-tip: Don't do it. Just don't.

10. The Awkward Five

We've all seen it and cringed, someone decides it would be hip to go in for a high-five but unfortunately for them, the other person has no clue what is happening and caught is off guard so they either do nothing leaving you hanging or they go for the awkward grab of the incoming five which results in an uncomfortable and slightly weird mid-air holding of hands.  Either way, nobody wins.

Pro-tip: There's not much hope for this situation, just grit your teeth and hope for the best.

That's a good handshake right there

So there you have it, all the tips you'll need to successfully navigate the minefield that is shaking hands.

These tips may or may not help you so apply them at your own risk.  At the very least it might help you to become an awesome shaker of hands.

You're welcome.

Got any handshake tips of your own?

PS. I know I've been slack lately but I've been painting the house!

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Day I Lied to a Hypnotist

Have you ever been hypnotised? For entertainment purposes I mean.

I ask because well-known hypnotist, Martin St James, died yesterday at 80 years of age; a pretty good innings. His career was long and he was world famous but the most startling statistic was he had twenty children. Twenty! Still, if you’re a world famous hypnotist I imagine getting the household chores done would just be a matter of clicking the fingers and the minions would do your bidding.

Martin was a regular on the club circuit on the Gold Coast, especially in the eighties and nineties and his shows were always good for a laugh. I first saw one of his shows with my parents when I was about 16 and I thought it was hilarious when he got a thirty-something overweight white guy to dance like Michael Jackson. Then there were the people who spoke alien and others who could translate for them, the band conductors and even those who felt compelled to take their clothes off given the right cue. I remember thinking “Ha! I’d never get my gear off if I was up there.”

A few years later when I had my license and independence, I saw Martin was making a return to Twin Towns down Tweed Heads way, so I did what any independent young man would do. I asked mum if she could score a couple of free tickets for Andy and me. A few phone calls later and it was organised, we were set for some hilarity.

Being the show-offs we were Andy and I decided we were going to rush the stage when the call was put out for volunteers at the start of the show. The plan was to both get up there and be the stars of the show; even if we didn’t go under. We fed off each other and figured we’d be able to fake it and we were convinced we’d be hilarious. As I said, that was the plan.

Martin St James
We’d just sat down with a drink each when the volunteer call was put out so without haste we sculled the bourbons and took off toward the stage. We were a couple of mad men, weaving this way, darting that way, jumping over smaller people and dodging the security guards and scrambling onto the stage. We plonked ourselves down in the chairs and looked out over the sea of faces staring expectantly at us all. “Crap, that’s a lot of people” was my comment as the bravado started to waver. Always the showman Andy quipped, “We’ll be right, just remember to be stupid and back each other up.” His reply gave me some comfort. Then came the first blow.

Before the show really starts Martin would do a pre-hypnosis thingy to determine who stayed and who had to leave; presumably those who got to stay were more likely to do his bidding or something. We were told if we felt a tap on our shoulder we were to quietly exit the stage and resume our seats. As his voice got nearer to me I braced myself for the inevitable, but his voice moved right past me. “Sweet!” was my first thought but as I cracked open one eye for a cheeky look to Andy this soon changed to “Uh oh” as I saw Andy leaving the stage.

I started to panic, this wasn’t the plan at all! What should I do? Should I quietly slip off stage as well? I wasn’t confident enough to do this without my wing-man! Had I not wasted precious time wondering what to do I could have indeed just sidled off the stage and rejoined Andy but no, my indecisiveness was my undoing. He was ready to start the show. Crap.

Now the proper hypnotism was to begin so I figured I needn’t worry as I was sure I wouldn’t really be aware of what I was doing anyway. Again, that was the plan. What I didn’t count on was not being hypnotised. At all. Not even a bit.

I’m a classic introvert so this was not turning out like I expected at all. Had Andy been there it would have been fine, we were good at being stupid together but without Andy I had nobody to take the attention off me when I started to feel awkward. The panic was rising.

Part of me wanted to just run off the stage but another part of me felt sort of obligated to at least pretend, people had paid good money to be entertained, well most people had. So I sucked it up and proceeded to pretend to be hypnotised, all the while quietly wishing I could break my leg so I could get off stage without looking like a big fat fake. Of course there were other people who weren’t quite under and as they were spotted by Martin they were given a gentle tap on the shoulder allowing them to go back to their seats. Was I one of these people? Oh no, for whatever reason I thought it was better to keep the lie going.

When you’re not hypnotised, listening for all the cues that are planted and remembering the right reaction you’re supposed to have isn’t easy! At one point Martin asked me a question and I panicked and replied with, “boobies” to which I received uproarious laughter from the audience. I’ve never had to stifle a smile so much in my life. And no, I don’t remember the question but I do know boobies was not an appropriate answer. Maybe it was going to be alright, I got a laugh after all.

We were headed towards intermission and during that time I’d done a very energetic impersonation of a washing machine, accused people of farting, danced like a moron, pretended to see stuff I couldn’t see and generally made a fool of myself. I was such a fraud but I didn’t want to make Martin look bad just because I had a stubborn mind.  I thought for a brief moment perhaps I was hypnotised and I was just really, really aware of everything.
I did a really good impersonation of one of these.
As intermission started, a song, or cue, was played for our exit. The instructions were whenever the music stopped we were to jump on the lap of the nearest person and start hugging and kissing them. I had been intensely surveying the audience mapping out the safest route back to my seat, sure it might not have been the quickest route but it would take me past some pretty girls (hey I was single at the time!) Despite my planning, when the music did stop I found myself face to face with a 200kg hairy giant; so I kept going until I was safely back in my seat where Andy had a bourbon and coke waiting for me, bless him.

“You weren’t under at all were you?” he probed. “Nope” I said while I quietly wished everybody would stop staring at me. Eventually the music signalling our return to the stage began, where we were supposed to start doing a strip-tease. What did I do?

I ordered another drink. And didn’t move.  I told you I'd never get my gear off.

RIP Martin, you always did put on a good show.

PS. I'm sorry I lied to you.

Have you been hypnotised?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Ballad of Shouty Merv

Merv Hughes was going to kill us. Well, not Merv himself but it was his doppelganger, his angry shouty doppelganger.

Sometimes I wonder if I had a sign on the back of the Mini inviting trouble, much like the Kick me sign stuck to the unsuspecting George McFly in Back to the Future. It’s not like we went looking for trouble, we were a bunch of yahoos according to my dad but for the most part we behaved ourselves.
George McFly
George McFly

It wasn’t long after The Great Chase of ’89 when we found ourselves in yet another sticky situation, this time with Shouty Merv baying for our blood. The truth is, we did nothing to invoke his rage, someone may have provoked him afterwards but that’s neither here nor there.

The usual crew were present, myself and Andy, Big Dame, Little Dame and Lucas, crammed into Morrissey driving around Kerrydale; which is now Robina South or something, apparently they didn’t like their original name. Sooks. As we were cruising around the suburban streets we happened upon a large field with dirt roads and in unison the cry came out, “Bush bash!” We loved a good bush bash so it was with much gusto that I mounted the curb and channelled Scottish rally driver Colin McRae.

After a bit of fun and lots and lots of dust we came to a row of bushes and decided to investigate what lay on the other side, perhaps there were even better dirt tracks! As it turned out there were but they were more suited to dirt bikes than Minis and this had been discovered by some youngsters having a grand old time. We sat, we watched, we got bored so we gave the kids on their bikes a wave and headed off. We didn’t think anything of the strange looks they gave us, turns out we should have.

Colin McRae
What I thought we looked like. We didn't.

Driving down Markeri Street towards Broadbeach I glanced in my rearview mirror and instead of the road behind me I see nothing but white metal. “What the hell is this guy doing?” I wondered as I turned around to get a better view of what was trying to get into my boot.

It was Shouty Merv in his Toyota Hiace van. Normally a Hiace isn’t the most intimidating car but when it’s mere millimetres from your car it tends to be a tad more menacing than usual. “Hold on boys, here we go again!” I shouted as I dropped back to third and floored it trying to outrun him. As one all the guys turned around to see what was going on all the while giving me a running commentary of Shouty Merv’s position.

Despite my best efforts there was no outrunning him and being on a straight road there was no room to outmanoeuvre him either. I was starting to get a bit concerned and wondered what I was going to do when all of a sudden he shoots up beside me and starts swerving his van towards the Mini, it was around then we realised that shit was about to get real.

“What the f*ck is his problem?” Andy yelled then Little Dame shouts, “Look out!” just as Shouty takes an almighty swerve towards me. I swear he was trying to actually hit us. As the Hiace is nearing impact I jump on the brakes avoiding the collision but with nowhere else to go I run off the road onto the dirt shoulder. As we all sit there thinking we’ve somehow been transported into an action movie Shouty pulls his van up about 20 feet ahead of us and gets out.

Shouty Merv
The real Merv, but Shouty was a dead ringer.

To say he was a big man is like saying Uluru (Ayers Rock) is just a red pebble; a massive understatement. He was huge. And he looked angry. Really angry. But why? What did we do?

As we sat there in the car, me at the ready to take off like a bat out of hell, he started his tirade which involved a lot of shouting, pointing, swearing and terms such as “I’ve been to prison before and I don’t mind going back for the likes of you!” I stuck my head out the window and yelled that I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.  Meanwhile Big Dame, Little Dame and Lucas are rummaging around looking for weapons on the floor of the back seat. Armed with empty Pringles cans and some smelly socks we were ill-prepared for an escalation.

Finally I was able to convince Shouty I had no idea why he was so angry at us so he tells us in no uncertain terms that he didn’t take kindly to us chasing his kids in our car.  Now, we hadn’t chased anybody, we weren’t that stupid. “You mean those kids on the dirt bikes?” I asked in the politest voice I could muster. “That’s them” he sneered back.  I assured him that wasn’t the case at all, I don’t know if he completely believed me.  Maybe it was because there was now half a dozen cars stopped looking on at the dramatic scene unfolding. Either way, he gave up and started heading back to his van leaving us relieved things hadn’t gone further south.

I was doing a U-turn and giving a wave of thanks to the drivers who had stopped when Big Dame, in his ever helpful way, yelled a parting message to Shouty Merv out the back window, “Asshooooole!!!”

Ah shit.

Have you experienced road rage?

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Great Stagecoach Debacle

Ferris Bueller had the right idea. Even though I wouldn’t see this movie until I was in my forties (I know, I know), I still knew he was on the money.

It was 1988, the World Expo was happening in Brisbane, Australia was celebrating its bicentennial and my parents were going out of town leaving me and my best mate, Andy in charge. Two seventeen year olds left to their own devices, what could possibly go wrong?
More like Andy and Scotto's Day Off

“You boys behave yourselves” my mother said as her and dad were headed out the door. Dad looked on with a look that needed no words, the kind of look that says, “I’ll know if you get up to anything, I always know.” It was true, dad had this uncanny ability where he could tell by the dust patterns what had gone on from ten paces. If something had been moved even 1mm he knew. It was both impressive and terrifying.

“It’s fine mum” I assured her, “Andy’s parents are home”. Andy lived directly across the street and we’d hit it off pretty soon after he moved in. The first thing I said to him was “My parents like country music but I don’t“, as dad was often playing Kenny Rogers or Waylon Jennings records. Loudly. Andy wasn’t as concerned with the musical tastes of the house as he was about dad’s collection of replica Old West handguns and rifles proudly on display, he wondered if he’d moved in across from the Manson family.

Shortly after their departure Andy and I were ecstatic, we had the house to ourselves for a couple of days and I was particularly happy as my parents didn’t know I smoked then, they knew Andy did and being smokers themselves they never smelled it on me. The first thing we did was to make a giant cigarette pyramid on the coffee table, who needed packets when you had a giant pyramid?

The next couple of days were a hoot, in true Ferris Bueller style I faked illness to get a sickie off work (I figured why waste the opportunity?) We lived like kings, we watched what we wanted on TV, played the sort of music dad would scowl at, ordered pizzas and promptly scared the delivery girl off when Andy came bouncing out of the house in a dozen various sized inner-tubes resembling a hideously deformed Michelen Man. It took a lot of convincing to get the pizza shop to send her back out.

The look Andy was going for. It wasn't the greatest likeness.

Then, we made our mistake. A big one.

Dad loved the old west, I’m convinced he was a cowboy in his past life. Aside from his gun collection he had a hobby building scale models of stagecoaches, he really had a talent for it as they were quite simply, amazing. Their only weakness really was they were made from balsa wood. They were his pride and joy.

It was on the day they were due to arrive home and Andy and I had grown bored. We were trying to think of something to do and absent mindedly throwing coasters made of wicker to each other like teeny tiny Frisbees. This then developed into a game with each trying to outdo the other with trick shots. Bouncing off the walls, the roof, in between the ceiling fan blades.

You can see where this lack of foresight is headed.

I flicked the coaster up towards the fan, watching it glide through the air on its gentle arc when it was violently struck by the fan blade sending it drastically off course. Straight towards the prized stagecoach atop the wall unit.

We both watched on in terror as the coaster found its target with deadly accuracy with a sickening crunch, bits of stagecoach exploding outwards.

Not the actual stagecoach but exactly like the one in question.


Shit shit shit.

Both back wheels were busted, the door was nowhere to be found and the entire front axle was dislodged. I was dead.

Panicking I collected all the bits I could find while Andy looked everywhere for the missing door. Amidst all the destruction there was a miracle to be found, while the stagecoach was in pieces, none of the pieces were actually broken, it was fixable! But I only had half an hour before my parents were due to arrive home. And they were always on time.

Luckily for me there was always a tube of super glue to be found in the fridge so while I yelled at Andy the importance of finding the door I got to work. The axle was easy, that turned out to be a simple pin needing reinsertion; the wheels however were in a bad way. Sweat running down my face I painstakingly reinserted the dislodged spokes into place one by one

Ten minutes to go. One wheel done I put it aside to dry while I went to work on the other one. Five minutes to go and I’m fiddling with the rim of the second wheel, trying desperately to get the glue to hold everything in place without gluing my fingers together.

“I found the door!” screamed Andy as I was reattaching the wheels. Three minutes. He handed me the door and the best I could do was sit it in place and hope for the best, I couldn’t see how it had been connected originally, it would have to do.

Two minutes and Andy is standing at the door ready to intercept my parents while I put the stagecoach back in place but I realised that wouldn’t be enough, “You can see something’s happened up here” I yelled, “the dust is all messed up”. "It's too late! Just put it up there!"

We hear the car approaching, I'm shaking with adrenaline trying to place the stagecoach back in exactly the right place when the bloody door falls off! I leave the stagecoach, jump down and grab the door then scramble back up and carefully put it in place. All I could do now was hope.

Jumping off the ladder and scooping it up in one motion I raced outside and threw it in the bushes then burst back inside just as mum and dad walked in with Andy in tow. Dad was glancing around and I’m sure his gaze paused on the stagecoach but he turned his eyes back to the cigarette pyramid raising an eyebrow. Thankfully we had forgotten about them so they provided the perfect distraction. “Those are Andy’s” I said. A phrase I used many, many times when it came to cigarettes. He just nodded and headed to the bedroom to unpack, we had managed to get away with it! We couldn't believe it!

Years later after I had moved out I went around for a visit and noticed the stagecoach was gone. I asked where it was and dad told me it just fell apart one day. He then went on, "It's the funniest thing, I found a coaster up on top of the wall unit, I wonder how that got there..."


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Great Flying Mini

“Man this road is smooth!” It didn’t seem possible given what we’d just done yet here I was thinking this to myself. We looked at each other in disbelief, trying to comprehend what we’d achieved, and indeed what lay ahead. After months of careful planning and research we’d managed to do what we thought impossible. All that hard work had come down to this moment, we had the Mini airborne.

Actually there was no planning, it was one of those stupid spur of the moment things we often did and somehow managed not to kill ourselves. Between jumping cars and our epic skateboarding adventures it’s a wonder I’m alive today. With the punishment I used to inflict on myself I was sure I was going to be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40 but I’m glad to report I’m not, in fact I still get out on the skateboard when I can. I’m a little less daring these days because the ground is a lot harder than I remember and I don’t bounce quite as well as I used to. Older skaters like me are referred to as ‘relics’, I can live with that.

As a skater you learn very quickly how to fall, if you don’t then you’re in trouble. Falling with style helps avoid a lot of injuries however there are the unavoidable ones such as the hippers which are a badge of honour. Painful but if you didn’t get the odd hipper you weren’t pushing yourself hard enough. A hipper is when you come off your board and slam into the ground hip first usually resulting in a large impact bruise and gravel rash from your hip (or sometimes bum) down your thigh. The bigger the hipper the more respect you got.

Skateboard injuries were also known as ‘beefs’ and variants thereof, the bigger the beef the more elaborate the name. If you were unfortunate enough you might experience a ‘roast beef’ or ‘rack of lamb’. I gave myself a double pork chop a few times when I broke both my wrists at once, fun times.

My younger skating days. I miss my hair the most.
So you see we weren’t averse to risk or injury but that had nothing to do with bravery or maintaining a tough guy image, it was all to do with a lack of common sense and a daring but somewhat misguided sense of adventure.

This particular day started out normally, the Mini had its customary full load and we’d been driving around to different skate spots we’d heard of. Word on the street was there was a half-pipe in someone’s backyard near Bond University so naturally we had to find it. Driving through the uni we hit a speed bump a bit faster than the recommended 20km/h which saw us all bounce around laughing like idiots drawing the attention of the hordes of uni students mulling about the place. Lucas suggested we have another go but this time we go a little bit faster and not being one to turn down a challenge I obliged.

We did this a number of times, each time a little bit faster than before, each of us hitting our heads on the roof but still we wanted more. By this time we had a bit of an audience of curious onlookers wondering what this group of yahoos was doing to the poor Mini. I can’t remember who suggested it but one of the boys came up with either the brightest or stupidest idea ever, “Let’s take a run up from the top of that hill and see if we can get some air!” Being skaters getting air was something we were always trying to do but dare we try it in a car?

We dared.

White knuckled I sat atop the hill looking down toward the speed bump. The students sensed something was happening and looked on in anticipation. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins as I mentally prepared myself to make history. The engine revved, the boys were cheering, the moment of truth was at hand.

I popped the clutch and took off down the hill, the engine begging for mercy I threw my trusty little Mini into fourth and gave it all it had. Time moved slowly, I became acutely aware of every bump and deviation in the road as the speed bump loomed closer. I glanced at the speedo as we passed the point of no return and realised the one flaw in our plan, we were going too fast, way too fast.

What we probably looked like beforehand
I resisted the temptation to jump on the brakes which would have been disastrous so I braced myself and pushed on. Twenty metres from the speed bump and we were barrelling along at close to 80 miles per hour, I guess that’s about 140kph, I’ll admit I felt a moment of panic but I had no time to dwell on that as the front wheels hit the speed bump.

The jolt was huge as we hit and the Mini groaned in protest but then I had that thought, “Man this road is smooth”. We didn’t realise we were sailing through the air but we did soon enough as we slammed back down to earth and the car began to slide out of control. Swerving left, then right, out of control I tried to wash speed off by going down through the gears, eventually bringing the car to a screaming stop after a 180 degree handbrake skid.

Artist's impression of the event. Many thanks to Andy MacKenzie for his illustration of the Mini!
We sat in stunned silence as the crowd stared at us. We stared back then they burst into applause and cheering and the boys all started laughing hysterically and slapping me on the back. Somehow, the Mini was still alive and running so we drove back past the crowd soaking up the adoration and driving off into the distance never looking at speed bumps the same way again.

Was this the last time this happened? It was not.

Were you daring and/or stupid when you were young?

*For the record I acknowledge the stupidity of those actions and how things could have gone horribly wrong and I don’t condone this sort of thing. I was young and stupid.

Linking up with Grace from With Some Grace for FYBF

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Great Chase of '89

Is it possible to get air off a speed bump?

Ordinarily I wouldn't consider such things however this was 1989, my mates and I were young, daring and stupid in equal parts. Our fringes were long and our cognitive capacities were still developing and I had my first car, a 1967 Mini. It was a good time to be alive.

My little Mini was an amazing car, it cost me $200 and I could do anything to it and it would always forgive me and keep on going, it was a little trooper. Nicknamed ‘Morrissey’ by a mate, Andy, that little car ferried us everywhere and opened up freedoms we had only dared dream about.

Morrissey! Well, this is what he looked like, maybe not quite as shiny.
Most days would see five of us cramming ourselves and five skateboards inside and setting off in search of adventure which, for five larrikins of 17 to 18 years old, wasn’t hard to find. Especially when one of these mates had a habit of mooning people through the back window.

It was a normal night and we were minding our own business, cruising along the Gold Coast Highway just north of Surfers Paradise when one of my mates, known as Cookie, decides his pants have been on for far too long. There was a lot of snickering going on in the back seat so I glanced in the rear-view mirror and notice Cookie, awkwardly poised on the back seat with his bare bum pointed towards the back window.

“Cookie!” I shouted, “Put your bloody bum away!” Meanwhile Big Dame and Little Dame are scrambling to get as far away from the protruding posterior as possible when I notice a hotted up Commodore packed to bursting with angry looking blokes looming large in my mirrors. Surprisingly they hadn’t taken kindly to Cookie’s greeting. The chase was on.

I slammed the Mini into second gear and took off like a bat out of hell but the Commodore kept up easily. Knowing I could never outrun it I had no choice but to attempt to out-manoeuvre it instead. The corners came and went in a flash, left, right, left and left again, it was as if I was channelling Bo Duke driving the General Lee. My strategy was buying us some valuable space but poor Cookie was bouncing around the back trying desperately to get his pants back on; without much success and much to the two Dames’ annoyance and amusement. Andy was in the front shouting out directions as well as acting as spotter. Everybody was laughing nervously, eyes dancing about skittishly and my mind was trying to think three moves ahead.

The General Lee, it was in Morrissey's veins that night.
I pushed the Mini to its limits that day, everything I demanded of Morrissey he willingly gave, his little tyres squealing, his little engine bellowing, never missing a beat all the while this menacing Commodore was barrelling along behind us. This was a good old fashioned car chase, the likes of which are rarely seen. I was in the zone but I had to find a way to shake our tail, it had been twenty minutes up and down the tourist strip and the fuel gauge was getting dangerously low. Then I spotted it, salvation!

We were in the back streets of Broadbeach when I spotted a small roundabout, I knew this was my chance so I headed straight for it, slowing down so the Commodore would be right on my tail as I entered. “What are you doing Scotto?!” the boys shouted but I didn’t hear them, I was completely focussed and I knew the Mini would fare much better on the roundabout than the lumbering hulk.

What I imagine it might have looked like from the Commodore.
The Commodore was sniffing at Morrissey’s exhaust pipe as I entered the roundabout, I dropped back a gear and floored it. Round and round we went; it must have been a dozen times or more while people on the street stared in bewilderment at this comical scene unfolding in front of them. My bet had paid off, thanks to the nimbleness of Morrissey I started to pull away and the hunter became the hunted as I managed to gain enough ground to land myself behind the Commodore. It was total confusion as its occupants stared back at us in disbelief. The time to act was upon me so I pounced; as soon as they passed an exit I quickly darted off down a side street, swung a hard right, tyres squealing in protest then ducked into a long driveway and skidded to a halt in the shadows. I switched the car and lights off and everybody crouched down and we waited.   Nothing.  Check and mate Commodore.

And Cookie finally had his pants back on.

As for the speed bump? Well, that’s a story for another day.

What car based adventures have you had?

Linking up with Grace at With Some Grace for #FYBF 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Beware the Apple-Watchie

I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist at heart, not to the point of lining my walls with tinfoil or fashioning a stylish hat to match the walls, but I have been accused of being irrational in my thinking once or twice. To tell you truth I’m very suspicious of anyone who accuses me of being irrational, actually I’m just generally suspicious full-stop.

Now I’m not here to upset Apple fanboys or fangirls, I’ll readily admit Apple has some of the nicest looking gear on the planet but I have to question what their motives are, world domination perhaps? Apple is the most valuable company on earth and has squillions in the bank (although apparently in this country they don’t make any money otherwise they’d pay tax here right? Right?) Being the biggest and most well-known company they are well primed to take over the world on a whim.

You may be thinking, “Here he goes on one of his rants again” and I suppose you’d be right in assuming that but that’s pretty much one of the main areas of this blog so you can’t say you weren’t warned.

You were warned!
All tech companies are guilty of built in obsolescence and the unnecessary upgrade path forced upon us but I’m singling Apple out because I don’t own any of their stuff so they can’t trace me and make all my toys suddenly stop working*.

The release of the iWatch has triggered the conspiracy theorist in me, here’s another device to keep tabs on us. Sure it’s marketed as the smartest watch ever and it’s going to improve our lives but I think the reality is here we have a tracking device that is always on us, always! Not content to track our movements and whereabouts via the iPhone or iPad or iSomething-or-other we now have a watch, probably the only thing more ubiquitous than the mobile phone.

But I don’t think their plan is complete, they’re nearly there and they only need a few more iProducts and then it will begin.

I'm onto their evil plan - but I think they're onto me as well!

The iTakeover

Keep your eyes open for these products from Apple in the near future**

The iHat
This stylish piece of tech will know what you’re thinking and notify advertisers when you’re in the mood to eat or thinking about purchasing a new TV and conveniently send targeted advertising to your iPhone/iPad/iWatch.

The iFridge
Knows what’s inside it at all times, will receive information from your iHat when you think about eating and will let you know via your iPhone/iPad/iWatch if you need to restock

The iOven
Will receive notification from your iHat that you’re hungry and knowing what your eating history is will turn itself on to the correct temperature ready for you. The iOven will communicate with your iFridge and if your favourite food isn’t there will notify you via your iPhone/iPad/iWatch.

The iToilet
Designed to track a different sort of movement the iToilet will collect information about your diet and what you’re lacking in and will check with the iFridge if there is any food rich in what’s lacking and instruct it to suggest this to you via your iHat next time you think about eating.

The iPacemaker
Will monitor your heart rate and will adjust accordingly. If unhealthy eating is detected it will communicate with your iHat to discourage junk food via neural impulses. It will tell your i/Phone/iPad/iWatch to track your movements and will generate chest pains when you walk within twenty feet of a burger joint.

The iHouse
The ultimate iProduct. It will communicate with all the other iDevices and if it detects you are ignoring them will self-lock and not let you out until it detects a change of attitude via your iHat.

What happens when all this tech becomes self-aware and goes all Skynet on us? Our houses will actively try to kill us or at the very least, enslave us all.!

Where did I put that tinfoil?

* I fear they may be on to me already, I had published this post before then my laptop died a horrible sudden death. Seriously. It’s now no more than a stupid looking paperweight. I’ve had to re-post this from Pinky’s machine! Still think I’m paranoid?

** Probably won’t be coming to you soon.

Do you think they’re taking this sort thing too far?

Linking up with Grace at With Some Grace for #FYBF

Friday, 6 March 2015

Technology: The Good, The Bad and the Stupid

This year on October 21st, Marty McFly is due to arrive from 1985 in the Delorean (yes, that is the correct date, on this you can trust me) and this momentous occasion got me thinking.  Technically speaking we are living in the future and I started to think about how it’s turning out compared to what we were promised and what we dreamed of.  

The future is nearly now.
It’s a hard call because on one hand we don’t have hover boards (although a company has got working prototypes and this one isn't a hoax), our cars don’t fly, we don’t have robot servants, we don’t have automatic doors that make a really cool swooshing sound and we don’t live on Mars or Uranus (stop giggling).  We don’t have light sabers either which is pretty disappointing.

On the other hand we do have giant TVs, the internets, 3D printing and automated cars are progressing pretty well although how trustworthy they’ll be is anyone’s guess.  Computer technology is getting smaller and faster and we are indeed moving ahead in leaps and bounds and some of the stuff out there is pretty gosh-darned exciting. 

Light Sabre
Why don't we have these yet?

Take wifi for example, something we take for granted these days but really stop and think about it, you’re moving stuff from one place to another place – over the air! I mean, it’s kind of like matter transportation!  When you stop and think about it you kind of have to go, yeh, that’s pretty bloody amazing. 

When I was a kid the height of technological innovation was the Nintendo Game and Watch gizmos, if you had one of those your popularity stock went through the roof.  Kids today are spoiled for choice and wonder how we coped back in ‘the dark ages’.  Tell them you were alive before the internet was around and they’ll struggle to comprehend it.  They take for granted their smart phone is a tool allowing them to look up anything, anywhere in the world, at any time, all the information in the world at their fingertips. We couldn't even begin to comprehend something like that as kids, that sort of thing was beyond even science fiction!

Donkey Kong Game and Watch
If you owned one of these, you ruled. For what it's worth, I still have three. 

But for every good idea there’s the idiot cousin, the ideas that seemed great on paper but just didn't turn out quite so well.   You can’t accuse me of being out of touch here either because I am a total geek, maybe not King of the Geeks but I reckon I’m somewhere in the royal family. 

You want examples?  Righto, here we go…

Curved TVs:  Fine if you sit dead centre and enjoy sitting four inches from the screen.

3D TVs:  I just don’t get the point of them.  Admittedly I am stereoscopically blind so that may have something to do with it.

Smart TVs: Talk about a misnomer.  They’re useless, stupid and have been the cause of many rage incidents involving remotes embedded in screens.  I could write a whole post on how silly they are.

Tablets (Not the medicinal ones):  What’s the point of them?  As far as I can see they’re just really big phones without the phone bits or under-powered laptops without a proper keyboard.

Google Glass: Only good if you like getting punched in the face.

Smart Watches:  Why? Really, why?

Fit Bands (or whatever the hell they’re called):  Just take your damn pulse the old fashioned way. Or let the paramedics do it.

Roomba Robot Vacuum: Robot my bum. Ours just sits there beeping at us and refuses to dock. Idiot.

Nutri-Bullet: Because apparently our bodies can’t extract nutrients simply by eating food.

Windows 8: Nuff said.

Artificial Intelligence: Uh, Skynet? 

Given the plethora of both awesome and questionable technology that is around I'm both excited and terrified about the future.

What technology do you find stupid? 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Should You Watch TV on Your PC?

A while ago I decided that it would be cool to be able to watch free to air TV on my PC, I've since decided that it really is a silly idea. By the way don't be scared off thinking this is a technical review, it isn't, I promise.

Review: Compro VideoMate T750

This review is a few years old now, in fact I don't think this model is available anymore but I think it's still valid given these pop up on ebay from time to time. Call it a community service if you like.

Let me start by saying that I was very excited to receive this little piece of electronic wizardry in the post. It certainly looked the goods, well as much as a circuit board with some plugs on it could. My hopes were high.  Installation was quite painless, chuck it in the PC, install the software and away you go.  Plus I was going to be able to switch my PC on via remote control!  Groovy but essentially useless.

The manual claimed that setting your channels was a simple procedure and for the most part it was, except I had to do it a few times but I'm not going to be picky about that. Once the channels were in the picture from the digital broadcast looked simply stunning. I kept annoying Pinky saying "Look at this! But LOOK!!! It's so clear!" It was certainly feature rich, time shifting, Picture in Picture, Picture Out of Picture (whatever that is), scheduled recording etc so at that point I was rather happy with my purchase.

Unfortunately, that was where the good bits ended.

The easiest way to watch TV, using a TV

It became apparent I would never again be allowed to turn off my PC, for if I did the Videomate would helpfully forget it was installed. Every. Single. Time. Now I'm a patient man, actually I'm not really but I tolerated this the first half dozen times. Becoming slightly perturbed I went through the troubleshooting steps and put it down to a hiccup. The picture was finally back.

Next day arrives and BAM! Same routine, it needs MORE drivers so I let it go again but now I can't scan for any channels!  After much fiddling and muttering I came to the conclusion of a bad install so I started again. Repeatedly.  The next three days was a battle royale and eventually an email was fired off to support. When I finally got a reply it was as helpful as a punch to the groin. Did they read my email at all?  Another email was sent worded slightly more tersely but in painstaking detail. Again, I get a cryptic reply which basically suggested I reinstall the drivers. Bravo.

He's got that cranky look about him
Fighting the rising rage and trying not to traumatize Celine (our Mini Foxie), I pulled it all out and started again only to get the same results, it kept insisting there was no card installed. On the rare occasions I could get it to work I was too afraid to touch anything because even changing channels was enough to make it have a conniption.

I spent the better part of a week trying to sort this rubbish out but in the end I did what I felt was the best option at the time. I ripped it out of my PC and hurled it into the river. I admit that may have been a slightly hasty and poorly planned course of action but what can you do?

Ross River
It's a lovely river for throwing things in

In hindsight my card may have been faulty and perhaps I should have returned it but you live and learn don't you?  Rating: 1 Egg.

Share your hasty overreactions!