Saturday, 26 March 2011

One, Two, Keep A Few, Ninety-Nine, One Hundred

I know I have some habits that could be considered mildly compulsive.

I like the colours of clothes pegs holding up one item to match.

I like to write journal items in blue ink, fiction or lists in black ink and diary/planner items in pencil.

I like even numbers.

That's essentially it.

They're not rules, it doesn't bother me to break them but I prefer to have things match when convenient.

I was a little worse when I was a kid.

I would actually go out of my way to avoid cracks in the pavement, not because I really believed that stepping on them would break my mother's back but not quite willing to take that chance.

All that said, every now and then I'll do something a bit odd and not know why.

Like this.

This is 197 cider bottle caps.

One day a few years ago I left a cider cap on the draining board next to my sink overnight.

The next night when I had another cider I put the second cap next to the first.

They were joined by a third.

I swept them into a plastic container to get them out of the way.

And then for some reason I just kept adding to them.

I didn't drink more often or more beverages in order to add to the pile, I just added to the pile when I happened to have something to add.

Over a few years, a few summers really, I kept my caps.

And then one day I just stopped.

I really don't know why I started.

I don't know why I stopped.

I don't know why I kept the collection for a few months after I stopped.

It's particularly perplexing because I don't keep collections of anything else.

I didn't care about it in any significant way at the time and it doesn't bother me to pour them all into the bin now.

It's just something I did and now I'm not doing it any more.

So if you ever worry that you're a bit weird, don't worry, me too.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dash Dash Dash Crash

The other day I was driving down the highway when somebody coming the other way flashed their lights at me.

I don't know about any of you folks living in other countries but in Australia when someone flashes their lights at you it means one of five things:
  1. There is a kangaroo or other animal near the road.
  2. There is something else obstructing the road.
  3. There is a police car, speed camera and/or booze bus up ahead.
  4. I'm a big douche who is messing with you.
  5. 'The fifth one' which I'll explain in a minute.
So anyway, this person has flashed their lights at me.

I'm already doing the speed limit and I haven't had anything to drink so if it's police presence they're warning me about, I'm not worried.

But just in case it's an animal or obstruction, I slowed down to give myself more time to react.

After a certain number of kilometres when nothing had presented itself I assumed that the light flashing had been to announce a Reason 1, that had resolved itself by the time I got there, or due to a good old-fashioned Reason 4.

This morning I realised that I had forgotten Reason 5, when parked facing a glass door I noticed that I had a headlight out.

The thing is, everybody always seems to forget about Reason 5*.

I know I've flashed my headlights at people because one of their headlights is out, in the hope that when they get home they'll check and confirm this fact.
And I can be fairly certain that in most circumstances they've done what I've done and continued pootling around with their busted headlight until they've managed to catch a glimpse or somebody in a position to do so has mentioned it to them in person.

I started wondering if we could devise and disseminate some kind of national-wide system of flashes that would allow us to differentiate between Reason 1 to Reason 4 (the response to which is simply to slow down**) and Reason 5 (the response to which is to get a new headlight as soon as possible as to avoid potential trouble with the police).

But multiple flashes of lights can be difficult to manage in the time between approaching and passing another car, or may not be fully visible depending on conditions.

So I started thinking about devising a system that would allow you to flash just one headlight, thus clearly indicating that you have noticed the other driver has one headlight out.

Maybe you could flash one headlight to indicate busted headlight, flash the other to indicate obstruction on the road, and flash both to indicate police car.

The more advanced and ambitious of us could develop a sort of car headlight Morse code.

But how would the electronics and controls of these wonderful new cars need to be altered or redesigned to achieve this goal?

And what if you're flashing your lights at somebody for Reason 1 through Reason 4 and they assume it's for Reason 5*** because you have a headlight out?

Then of course you might end up with cars running off the road or into the back of each other as they squint and try to follow or remember the significance of various blinking patterns.


Maybe I should just remember to check my headlights.

Occam's razor and all that****.

*Reason 5: Your headlight is out.

**And in the case of Reason 4, to feel miffed about it later.

***Or possibly don't see it at all, depending on which headlight you're flashing.

****I can't think of Occam's razor without thinking of Dr Standish from Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Take No Prisoners, Show No Mercy, Leave No Witnesses

I know everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress and troubling emotions.

Some people exercise.

Some people drink.

Some people knit.

Some people clean their weapons* or do maintenance on their car.

Some people turn on the TV.

For whatever reason, I clean.

When I get super stressed out, I roll up my sleeves and attack.

I guess it might be something about not wanting to think about whatever is making me sad/anxious/angry because whenever this mood grips me, I acquire an intense focus that allows me to power through tasks that I usually have to drag myself into doing and there is no room in my brain for anything else.

It's also good to know that even if I'm using the cleaning as a way to procrastinate or distract myself, I'm doing something practical.
There's a tangible real-world effect.
I've achieved something that improves my surroundings or situation in some concrete way.

If you did an undergraduate degree in psychology, you could probably also argue that being able to organise and control your external environment may help you to begin attempting to organise and control your life.
Or help you deal with the fact that you have absolutely no hope in hell of managing to organise or control your life, at least at this point.

Whatever the myriad of reasons, I find wading into a room fists first and cleaning the hell out of it incredibly satisfying and soothing.

There's a system.
There's a sequence.
And it's wonderfully physical so you can work off anything that's bothering you.

The Procedure
  1. Clear off all the flat surfaces.
  2. Clean them down.
  3. Throw away anything that you cleared off the flat surfaces which isn't needed any more.
  4. Use the flat surfaces to organise those things you've decided to keep.
  5. Empty out the cupboards or storage areas.
  6. Clean inside the cupboards or storage areas.
  7. Throw out the dross.
  8. Use the flat surfaces to organise those things you've decided to keep**.
  9. Clean off the things you've decided to keep, if necessary.
  10. Put all the things you're keeping back into the cupboards or storage areas in an orderly fashion.
  12. Make a list of anything you may need to replenish or replace now that you've gone through everything.
  13. Sweaty and dishevelled, stagger off for a cup of tea and a collapse before a hot shower and further collapsing, exhausted but content.

At the end of all that, I may have realised that whatever was bothering me wasn't so bad after all, or I might feel closer to being able to deal with it, or I acknowledge that whatever is bothering me is still a poop sandwich but I don't care for a while because check out this freaking spotless room and/or house!
And, honestly, some days that's good enough.

*Not with the intent of doing anything to themselves or others with said weapons, they just find the act of maintenance meditative.

**At this point you may need additional flat surfaces in the form of card tables or similar.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Just to round out this summer of music, I also went to Soundwave!

The highlights of which I shall now sing!
  • Introducing my friend to Stone Sour, which she immediately fell in love with, and hearing her describe Corey Taylor as punk-rock Prince Harry.

  • Seeing a guy in a wheelchair crowd-surfing, wheelchair and all, when Queens of the Stone Age were playing and Josh Homme ordering the crowd to pass him up on stage so he could rock out with the band.

  • Rob Zombie singing a weird little song about how the big lads in the crowd should hoist the little chicks up onto their shoulders so that the 'Zombie girls' could see that had grinning guys turning to offer their backs to girls throughout the crowd.

  • Being completely bewildered by the clothing and masks on the members of Primus.

  • Rocking out to Slayer and being glad that I hadn't been at the Sydney show instead where Slayer had to cancel because Tom Araya had an ear infection or something.

  • I got to see Iron Maiden again! Iroooooooooooooooooon Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiden!

  • Giggling like an idiot when Dimmu Borgir were on because of Dimmu Burger on Metalocalypse.