30 July 2008

Where have all the Red Dots gone???

"Seeing those red dots multiply (like rabbits) and grow larger (again like rabbits) was a sense of great pride to me...Had the Australian Goverment decided that red dots were 'Un-Australian'? "

Every now and then I visit my blog site just to see what comments have been left (or I should say look at the lack of comments!!). Yeah, I know, its egotistical but that sums up us Bloggers!! As you can imagine reviewing all comments received takes hardly any time at all - especially in my case.

I then look at my statcounter to see how many 'hits' I have had. For the uninitiated that is the number of 'blog pages' clicked on by visitors. Next I view the Feedjit visual feed which tells me where in the world I am getting 'hits' from. Finally, I check my Clustr Map that is situated on the right hand side of the blog site. This map registers a red dot for every 'hit' I receive. If a location accumulates a large number of hits then the red dot gets bigger. Over the course of my first year as a Blogger the red dots have grown to cover a large portion of the map.

However, when I looked at my Clustr Map recently I noticed that I only had two red dots!! I thought I must have been suffering from tiredness but after rubbing my bloodshot eyes and looking again I could still only see two red dots. I was puzzled as my statcounter said that I had more than 2,200 hits (from 60 countries and growing - shameless promotion time!). The question now was "where had they gone?"

My Blogger ego was in despair. Seeing those red dots multiply (like rabbits) and grow larger (again like rabbits) was a sense of great pride to me. Now they were gone. Had my site been hacked by a phantom red dot stealer? Had the Australian Government decided that red dots were 'Un-Australian'? or were they being held hostage by the Cookie Monster? Whatever it was I was not a happy chappy or a happy vegemite!

I decided to ponder on this while I checked my emails. Now this can be a time consuming activity as I have 4 active email accounts. Anyway, I had received an email from the good team that had created the Clustr Map. The email advised that they had decided to archive the past years red dots which can be viewed via a link on the map. I breathed a sigh of relief, my dots were safe!! True to their word, my 'old' map was there with all of my beloved dots. Therefore I wouldn't need to send a threatening email to the Cookie Monster requesting my dots back!

Now my intention is to increase my hits over the coming 12 months and try and cover as much of the Clustr Map as possible.

Stay tuned to see how successful I will be. In the meantime, here is the archived map of my red dots!

22 July 2008

A Pilgrims Progress

"She was quite excited (not due to consuming too much sugar either) and said "do you want to see the Pope on Sunday?"... I kept expecting the Pope to break into a karaoke session but alas for me he didn't"

There I was fully engrossed with work matters, for a change, when I received a phone call. It was from the wife aka 'No Worries'. She was quite excited (not due to consuming too much sugar either) and said "do you want to see the Pope on Sunday?" After a few seconds thinking I said "yeah, why not". "Cool" exclaimed No Worries. "I have tickets for us and the gals" I was quite excited as it's not every day that you get to see the Pope. Even though we were not Catholics it would be a great experience, especially for our daughters.

A couple of days later I picked up a leaflet about getting to Randwick Racecourse for Sunday's big bash (aka 'the Pope does Sydney"). More that 400,000 pilgrims were expected to be there. The information guide suggested catching a train to Central and walking 4 kms to Randwick. The only bus services would be for the elderly and frail. That was fine, but could you really expect a 5 and 4 year old child to walk that far?

I then decided to consult with my great friend Mr Google. Typing in World Youth Day I came up with the same information. What the heck? Had the NSW Government stuffed up again? Had they overlooked the needs of the young, especially their bowel requirements whilst undertaking a 4 km walk? I looked at my wife and said in a bad put on American accent "Houston, we have a problem". No Worries replied with a puzzled look on her face "we live in Sydney not Houston, silly!" Naturally my wife is not a big movie watcher!!

Once I explained the issue we both started to think of a solution. Further consultation with Mr Google, and our basic knowledge of the area gave us a potential resolution. We then had to work out the finite details of our 'covert operation' to ensure that we got to Randwick in time to see the Pope and witness the Final Mass. I have to admit that we planned it down to the 'nth degree. In fact, any military organisation would have been happy with our planning skills!

So what was the plan? Well on Saturday night I would drive to Randwick and park as close as possible to the Racecourse taking in account any road blocks. Then I would return home. Once home No Worries and I would pack a picnic and in readiness for the morning. At exactly 0700 hours we would wake up the gals, give them breakfast and get them ready for the pilgrimage. Next would be a walk to the local railway station, travel two stops, get off, catch a bus to Randwick, experience the Final Mass, leave the Racecourse, find the car and drive home. Easy really!

The big day came and all went according to plan. In fact, it was even better than what we had anticipated. We caught the train and bus and got into the grounds of the Racecourse as the Pope entered hooning around in his souped up Pope mobile. He literally drove within a few feet of us while dancing to Madonna (who else?).

We found a spot and laid out a mat and sat down to witness what was an awe inspiring event. I kept expecting the Pope to break into a karaoke session but alas for me he didn't. Mind you, seeing the Pope singing "I should be so lucky" would have been a lot of fun! Seriously, it was great to be part of 400,000 pilgrims from 170 countries.

We left as the fireworks started and headed towards where our car was parked. After struggling against the tide of pilgrims travelling the other way we were politely told by the Police to turn around. Even when we explained where our car was parked they didn't budge. We had to go back and eventually take a 2 kilometre diversion to get to the car! Great flexibility shown by the boys in blue!!

Once in the car we drove to Maroubra beach for a 'Youthacino' and an afternoon snack before heading home happy in the knowledge that our meticulous planning had paid dividends! As for the Pope, well he headed back to the city for a well earned cup of tea (made with Holy Water) and a rest.

17 July 2008

Holy See - dney!

"Methinks that the Catholic Church must be using an egg timer to define how many hours there are in a day!... It's a fair bet to assume that the Pope will win the 11.50 race by a head!"

Sydney is in the middle of an attack. This is not an ordinary attack either. Don't panic, dear reader, it's not by a military force wanting to take over Australia's number one city. It's not even by the Bogong moths who, like clockwork, hit the city in their millions every year and it's certainly not by accountants attending a tax convention. It is in fact by Catholic pilgrims from all corners of the earth!

Sydney is currently half way through the World Youth Day celebrations. To most people a day is 24 hours. For this event the 'day' lasts 6 days. Methinks that the Catholic Church must be using an egg timer to define how many hours there are in a day! Anyway, there are approximately 200,000 pilgrims currently in Sydney. I have this week seen a few clergymen and nuns getting totally lost in the Sydney CBD. Obviously a GPS (God Positioning System) would have helped them with their directions!

All have come to join together to undertake a whole range of religious festivities including seeing the top man of the Catholic Church (well, second really) the Pope himself. Bishop Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI is in town. Naturally there is great excitement in the air, from a pilgrims point of view.

Since being in Sydney the Pope has been chilling at his retreat on the outskirts of the city. Rumour has it that he has been break dancing to 50 Cent, doing a number of sudoku puzzles and karaoking to Radiohead. There again, it could just be a rumour!

Meanwhile the pilgrims have been traipsing all over the city with their brightly coloured World Youth Day attire. Virtually all have a smile on their face and are exuding positiveness. I wonder what really is in the 'Holy Water' to make them so happy. Could it be vodka? who knows. Whatever it is it should be looked into by the authorities.

Anyway, the 'Day' finishes on Sunday when the Pope (wearing ray ban shades and sporting a Koala earring) will give the final mass at, of all places, Randwick Racecourse. It's a fair bet to assume that the Pope will win the 11.50 race by a head! Divine intervention will see to that. After the Pope has finished his service to 240,000 pilgrims he will get into his revved up Pope Mobile and head to the airport while listening to AC/DC on the CD player.

The pilgrims will party on for the rest of the day before making plans to leave Sydney and move on to their next port of call (or calling). Then us Sydneysiders can get back to normality.

10 July 2008

A Dilemma of the Restroom variety!

"that's a thought, do the Wiggles have 5 year old groupies?...I am sure that passing my driving test many many moons ago was less stressful than this dilemma"

A dilemma is an interesting word. It's one that we use to describe certain situations especially if they are of the uncomfortable variety. If you Google it you will find a definition such as "a situation that requires a choice between options that are or seem equally unfavourable or mutually exclusive".

Well, recently I experienced a dilemma that really was a no win situation. It's not the first time I have had this dilemma arise. In fact, the first time was in London two years ago at the London Eye. Anyway, I had better explain. So if you are sitting comfortably then I will begin....

A couple of weekends ago I decided to take my two daughters to the local shopping centre to see a Disney stage show. They were both excited as they are of that age when all things Disney mean a lot to them. Fortunately for me they haven't really gotten into Barbie or, the Olsen Twins (hurrah there really must be a God!). Anyway, I treated them to a babycino and doughnut prior to the show as I didn't want them getting hungry while it was on. As parents will know its a real skill balancing your child's hunger pangs against an activity.

The show started and there were literally hundreds of children there. As for the show itself, it was really a glorified advert for an upcoming 'Disney on Ice' tour. Normally I find these shows quite interesting but this one was definitely very boring. In fact I would have got more enjoyment if I had clipped my toenails or listened to a Kylie CD (well, maybe not).

Afterwards my youngest daughter uttered those immortal words that all parents hear generally at the wrong times "I need to go to the toilet, Daddy" said my youngest. This was something I was prepared for. As there was a children's toilet nearby we made our way there. When we got to it I was amazed to see the line up. There were more children there than you would expect backstage at a Wiggles concert! Actually that's a thought, do the Wiggles have 5 year old groupies?

My mind quickly analysed the situation. Obviously a large number of children were wanting to relieve themselves especially after a 45 minute show. It was akin to grown ups going to watch a footy match and at half time making their way to the restrooms all at the same time.

We made our way to another level of the shopping centre only to find that there was another big queue for the children's toilet. By now I was thinking there was a conspiracy working against me. My last chance was to go to the Food Court and use the one situated there. My youngest daughter at this stage was getting very desperate. "Daddy, I really really need to go now!"

With this we swiftly made our way to the Food Court only to find that the toilet was not operational. Now my dilemma kicked in. On the one hand I had a daughter who was about to relieve herself, and on the other hand I had the option of taking her to the Ladies or Gents toilets.

Now this is where being a Dad with daughters becomes a huge issue. I cannot really walk into the Ladies toilets with my daughters as any women there will find it strange. However, if a Mother takes a son into the Ladies restroom then that is deemed to be okay. Similarly, if I take them to the Gents toilet someone might think I was being a pervert or worse. Also, I wouldn't want to expose my daughters to how dirty and smelly the Gents restrooms can be.

Beads of sweat were now dripping off my forehead. What could I do? My heart was beating faster and funnily my mouth was very dry. I am sure that passing my driving test many many moons ago was less stressful than this dilemma. I looked at my daughter who was nearly doubling over and made my decision. It was off to the Gents toilet. After all it was the lesser of two evils. I said a quick prayer before I entered and luckily for me it was deserted. We quickly found a cubicle and the smile soon returned to my youngest daughters face. As for me, I was still sweating. We promptly washed our hands and left the restroom.

Once back in the food court I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like I had won the lottery. I had attacked my dilemma head on and won! We quickly made our way home after that. At least the toilets at home are unisex!!

I suppose the moral of this story is that if you go out with young children ensure that you take your wife or a female relative with you when "I need to go to toilet" is muttered by your offspring!

01 July 2008

School Disco Tales

"arranging a school disco is akin to a military operation on the scale that is normally undertaken by the United Nations...My mind quickly thought about the sugar hit that was just about to hit more than 70 children!"

Friday night is one of the best nights of the week. It signifies the end of the working week for most of us and means that for the next 2 days we do not need to be ruled by the alarm clock! Most people will use Friday night to go out for a drink, visit a restaurant, spending time with family and friends, playing ABBA songs at full volume or going away for a weekend in the countryside.

As for me last Friday was quite different. I was acting as a bouncer at my eldest daughters' school disco. I was on patrol with a co-parent. We were both wearing black jackets and looked every inch a couple of pseudo bouncers without the steroids. As some of you may recall my wife and I are on the school social committee alongside the 5 J's (all their first names begin with the letter J).

Anyway, I was assigned two very important roles. The first one was to collect the pizzas from the local pizza parlour. I was advised by one of the 'J's' that the timing and co-ordination of the delivery of the pizzas was crucial. It became very evident that arranging a school disco is akin to a military operation on the scale that is normally undertaken by the United Nations.

After synchronising my watch I set off in the car to pick up 6 pizzas. I was ably assisted by my youngest daughter who came along to ensure that the pizzas were delivered on time. We had to drive to the neighbouring suburb and I could feel cold beads of sweat appear on my brow as we encountered some traffic. I was starting to get worried that the children might riot if they didn't get their pizzas soon.

Anyway, we collected them and headed back to the school. I decided to take a few back routes to get there asap. I was greeted by a few helpers when we arrived at the school, including my wife. The main 'J' had arranged for the pizzas to be collected before I parked the car. The food was whisked away to the kitchen when a number of helpers were ready, knives in hand, to cut up the pizzas into bite size portions. I had to admire the organisation skills that were on view.

I had a few minutes to look at what was going on at the disco. Sure enough, the DJ was belting out the hits from yesteryear and the teachers were playing games with the children. I made my way out to the back where this part of the military style operation was in full swing. All children were having their names written on plastic cups so that they could fill them up with cordial. My mind quickly thought about the sugar hit that was just about to hit more than 70 children!

With that chilling thought in mind I made my way to the entrance of the school. There I met my fellow bouncer and we started talking about many things as bouncers do. Our role was to stop the older school children from 'gatecrashing' the disco. The school had to split the night into two with Kinder to Year 2 going first and then Year 3 onwards from 7pm.

I had visions of knuckle dusters and airport style x-ray screening for the elder children but it was only my mind playing tricks on me. I ventured back into the hall and saw that all children were sitting down while a phalanx of helpers were distributing food and drink to all. It really was a great display of how well organised the event was. The main 'J' was on the phone. Presumably to ask for backups if the sugar hits from the cordial got out of hand.

My fellow bouncer and I were given our instructions - don't let any children leave via the entrance and ensure that the older children don't invade the hall.

The first part proved quite hard as I stopped two sets of adults who were escorting children. Both times I was informed that they were teachers who were escorting some of the children to the bathrooms. My fellow bouncer confirmed this to be the case. I felt quite embarrassed as I only know three of the teachers!

Stopping the older children was easy. Most of them were keen to play soccer or basketball before it was their turn to boogie the night away. I check my synchronised watch, the disco was coming to an end.

The main 'J' advised me that the teachers would tick off the names of all the children in their classes before they would let the children leave with their parents or guardians. My role was to stop any child leaving via the exit on their own. This seemed easy but wasn't. Some children were hyper from the night's activities and quite often were running away from their parents.

Finally, all children were accounted for and I was able to collect my two daughters and wife and head home. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that my shift had ended. As we left, I saw the main 'J' on the phone again. Presumably she was putting the army on notice that water cannons may be necessary for the second part of the night!

However, I was reliably informed later that they were not needed!