Poetry: Alone by Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Battling the Black Dog: the trouble with not knowing when …

I have been silent on this blog this week and have been nearly as silent on twitter. I commented that I had “lost my mojo” when it came to writing and had been busy with work. That is true but underlying all of this is that the black dog that is my depression had flared up again.

I don’t write this post to garner sympathy or to self aggrandise. I write because writing helps. If you don’t like that then click away now.

What has struck me this week as the barking dog has overtaking me is the unmistakable feeling of helplessness that comes with not know when the dog is, on the one hand, going to start barking and, on the other hand, going to stop. For therein lies the problem for me: I did not know the dog was coming. Nor do I know why he is visiting this time because things in my life have never, frankly, been better. I am healthy, happier than I ever imagined I could be in my personal life, working in a job that I enjoy and have a roof over my head.

Why then is the bloody dog visiting? Maybe I will never know. I know I am sick of hearing: “you have to let yourself be happy” and “you have it better than most people” because I know those things already.

Unfortunately my brain is telling me other things though because it is flooding my sub-conscious with the negative slant on everything and blocking up my thought processes with procrastination.

I should point out here that I have excellent professional help when dealing with the disease that is depression and have some excellent strategies to help me through these times of blackness. Fundamentally though, as my friend and psychologist Daz has pointed out to me more than once: sometimes you just have to ride these times out like a summer storm.

It does not get me away though from the problem of not knowing when the black dog is going to circle me. Why can’t my depression be like the flu or a bad back and give me fair warning that it is coming? Why can’t I hear the thunder on the horizon like a looming summer storm?

I don’t have an answer and, frankly, that angers me. Actually today I am furious with the black dog: for not only invading my mind with negativity and procrastination but for not letting me know it was on the way.

Feeling fury is oft associated with negativity but in this context I am going to go with something my father said to me once “Son, you were always at your best and worked your hardest when you had a bit of the red mist going”. I am going to, unlike Luke Skywalker resisting the urge to give into his hate, harness my anger at the black dog and try to use it as a way to make it go away.

Being passive hasn’t worked and I am sick of “riding out the storm” and if I can’t tell when it is going to hit me maybe using my anger to fight back at it is the next best thing.

So, black dog, ignore the metaphorical light saber in my hand and run at me today. After a week of trying to avoid you I am ready to face you head on! Let the battle commence ….

Shumpty’s Punt: Sunday Specials

After a break even day yesterday on the punt and the Melbourne Storm’s loss killing the weekend multi I have had a look at the upcoming sport have and some Sunday wagers that I think will bring a solid return.

Formula 1:

After picking up the “First Driver to Retire” “winner” at Monza, there is some value to be found in the running of Singapore Grand Prix which starts at 10pm tonight for those on the Australian Eastern Seaboard.

First Driver to Retire Estaban Guiterrez ($16.00)
Points Finish: Sergio Perez ($2.30)
Podium Finish: Lewis Hamilton ($2.63)
Hatrick of Fastest Qualifier, Win and Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel ($3.50)

NFL Multi Bet:

Leg 1: Dallas Cowboys to cover the line (-3.0 points) against the St Louis Rams
Leg 2: Detroit Lions to cover the line (-1.0 points) against the Washington Redskins
Leg 3: Houston Texans to cover the line (-1.0 points) against the Baltimore Ravens
Leg 4: Miami Dolphins to cover the line (-3.0 points) against the Atlanta Falcons

This multi should pay 13.37 for every dollar invested.

As always:

1. All care is taken with these tips but I bear no responsibility for any losses arising for relying on same.
2. Please always gamble responsibly.

Domestic Cricket in Australia: time to look to England as the model?

I tweeted last night how impressed I was with the ECB after watching the draw for its 50 over competition in 2014. It got me thinking about the Australian domestic cricket set up and confirmed for me that a very real reason that cricket in this country is lagging behind the “old enemy” is the treatment presently being meted out to the domestic game by Cricket Australia.

We are all aware of the travesty that is the new Ryobi Cup competition for 2013. It has been made to be a 3 week carnival held all in the Sydney suburbs on non-first class grounds. We are all aware that Cricket Australia is chasing the dollars that comes from the Big Bash League. If you like hit and giggle cricket then you will love December and January in Australia. Finally, we are all aware that the Sheffield Shield competition is no longer a nursery for the next cricketers coming into the Australian set up. How could it be when the players in the test team do not deign to play in the competition? Or are not allowed to?

Something has to give with all of this: the reality is that Australia has become, in recent years, a second tier player in the international game across all forms. A thrashing in the Ashes, a thrashing in the Champions Trophy and being completely ineffectual in T20 are all the indications one needs to know that. I have already called for the head of James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia CEO, but it would seem that so long as the profits are rolling in no one at Cricket Australia Towers wants a bar of that. So what else then can be done?

Rather than filleting the domestic game in this country in favour of overseas tours that mean nothing and the BBL irrelevance, my proposal would see more domestic cricket being played rather than less. The ECB has set the benchmark for using its domestic competition to procure players ready for the top flight because they play more domestic cricket over there. That was Sam Robson’s reason for moving over there and, thinking about it in reverse, when was the last time an English domiciled cricketer played in Sheffield Shield? Graeme Hick for Queensland is the name that comes to mind.

The County Competition is played between the middle of April and the end of September and they manage to fit in 16 first class games within that span. All whilst (in 2013) fitting in 12 40 over games (to be 50 overs in 2014) and 10 T20 games. Conversely in 2014, Australia’s domestic cricketers will play a maximum (if not making the finals) of 10 first class games, 5 50 over games and 7 T20 games in a span that runs from October through March.

It is simple to say but it is striking just how little cricket is available to Australia’s domestic cricketers when compared to those plying their trade in England over a not dissimilar period of time. I know that historically cricket in this country has tried to wedge itself between the start and the end of the AFL and NRL seasons however, if that is the reason for Australia’s truncated number of domestic games, surely the English experience shows just what a fallacy that approach is. In England little care is given for the fact that Premier League Soccer has already started and still the domestic cricket season chugs away.

I, for one, see no reason why, noting the weather in Australia in September, the Australian domestic season could not start in September and hinge upon a Sheffield Shield program that runs for 15 games rather than 10. Now before I hear the mantra “that is too much cricket” consider this: even allowing for a 42 day carnival of irrelevance (BBL) a 24 week season window would still have 18 weeks in which to play proper (non carnival) cricket. In 18 weeks why shouldn’t professional cricketers be tested with playing 15 games of FC class cricket with an extra day of play tagged on for 50 over cricket?

We have the climate and the wickets to play more domestic cricket in this country. We also have the time to do so. An obvious flow on from playing more domestic cricket is the greater opportunities playing so much would present to those already in the Australian team to return to the Sheffield Shield and play for form or to nurture the next lot of talent coming through. All of this raises the question: why not play more domestic cricket? To that the only answer I have is that it costs money.

Historically cricketers in this country have made light of the County system and yet some of our best players continue to spend Australia’s winters in England playing the game and developing into test standard players. It was good enough for Messrs Chappell, Border, Waugh, Hayden, Langer and Hussey afterall. Now is the time to look at what is going well in English cricket and a big part of that seems to be the amount of cricket they play domesitcally.

Unfortunately, I am talking about a “perfect world” scenario here where the river of money flowing into Cricket Australia’s pockets is no impediment to the structure of the domestic game in this country. We all know that Cricket Australia will not do anything to effect its bottom line so this strategy will never see the light of day. How long though must Australia stay in the doldrums before the dollar is not the principal KPI to success? One can only hope it is not too long. Otherwise the current malaise over the game is going to last for a while longer me thinks.

Bad Customer Service: way to cruel a perfect meal and a restaurant’s reputation

I dined yesterday evening at one of my favourite restaurants, Moo Moo, in Brisbane. Let me start by saying this: I have never had a bad meal in the at least 15 times I have eaten at Moo Moo. I love the food and I love the restaurant.

Unfortunately though, for the second time in two dinner visits, I received the message from the staff that they really didn’t want me there. And here is how:

We will need you to be finished by 8:30pm as we have a busy night and will need your table.

That is the message that was delivered as we announced that we had arrived for our 6:30pm booking. Talk about a way to make your guests welcome: the experience of the restaurant started with a surlily delivered message that we had to eat quickly and get out.

Now I have no problem with a busy restaurant trying to push through its diners. Therein lies the rub of my complaint here: when I went to the bathroom at 8pm the restaurant was half empty. This was after being reminded by our waiter not once, not twice but thrice that they were having a very busy night.

Needless to say that after desert finished at around 8:45pm and as my pen hovered over the tip section of the credit card receipt my feelings of charity towards the staff were gone.

If this had been a once off I would have been more charitable but given that the last time I had dinner at Moo Moo I received the same message at the same time in the evening and again it was not lost on me that the restaurant was half empty for the totality of my meal I was, frankly, more than a bit irritated.

I am not sure if it is a restaurant policy to tell diners to eat quickly or a bad habit that particular wait staff have gotten into but it is nothing short of the height if rudeness.

I will repeat: I love the food and the setting of the restaurant. So much so that whenever I am asked for a recommendation for a restaurant I always point them in the direction of Moo Moo. Well, at least until last night that is.

Frankly I do not like eating where I am made to feel like a hindrance or a burden and whilst the food is brilliant the next time I feel like a steak I will go to my butcher for some and cook it on the BBQ and save myself a couple of hundred dollars in the process.

It is a shame that yet again bad customer service has ruined my experience of a restaurant that I had previous loved.

Player Behaviour: Well said David Shillington!

Canberra Raiders Co-captain David Shillington was quoted as follows in the press this week:

“Depending on how the coach handles you or how the club handles you, sometimes you create the devil in players.

”If a player mucks up and you don’t drop him from the team or you don’t have some sort of serious consequences … I think that’s when you create the devil in players.

“It makes them bigger than the club, and I think we saw that at our club this year with a few players.”

I applauded those comments when I read them and, despite Shillington being fined by the Raiders for making the statements, I applaud them again now. I mean is Shillington saying anything that the fans of the game are not thinking every time another player of any code finds themselves in trouble?

I, for one, wish more players were as honest as David Shillington and, indeed, hope all coaches and administrators take heed of the sentiment in the comments.

Pandering to bad conduct IS NOT AND HAS NOT WORKED. Now is the time for a renewed focus on discipline: I hope it happens sooner rather than later!