Sunday, March 18, 2018

Snake Oil 1: It's available in many bright colours

Kia have improved their reputation over recent years, as have many bottom end Asian cars. Remember the days when Toyota, Mazda and Nissan all produced cars which were commonly described with the unflattering and somewhat racist epithet: "Jap crap"? You don't remember? Well, I was there, believe me. My peers only bought big cars, usually Holdens or Fords, with big engines, and we derided Asian made buzz boxes for their low quality and poor performance. They were the antithesis of cool.

Hyundai was the next Asian manufacturer to enter the fray. South Korean "Jap crap". Look, when I was in primary school I thought Asia was a country. Anyway, Hyundai has now transitioned from lowly regarded buzz box to popular, high quality vehicles for everyone. 

There are many others of course. In Australia, you can buy cars from all over the world, but I'm getting off track. I wanted to talk about Kia, another of the South Korean vehicles available Down Under.

Image result for 2017 kia rondoKia has a current ad on TV for the Rondo. It's a new model, but evidently all the consumer needs to know about it is that it comes in different bright colours. Of course, it is very typical for car ads nowadays to focus on looks and lifestyle rather than unnecessary mechanical specifications.

The ad features a Rondo going through a car wash, and then being accompanied outside the car wash by giant dancing mops. It makes me laugh. I know it is only designed to get me interested enough to do some research online or go to a dealer, but I wonder how successful this ad has been/will be.

Advertising is a funny beast, but it got me thinking about my choice of car. I picked my current car because of its appearance. I trusted the Ford brand, so really I only cared about the price and how good it looked. Taste in car styling is an individual thing, but I suspect very few people buy cars which are visually unappealing to them. Damn, we really are a superficial mob, aren't we?

Why did you choose your current car? Have you ever purchased a car just for its good looks?

The Mirror 1: Selfless

Ryan Reynolds stars in Selfless: a 2015 science fiction action film about a billionaire who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, but takes advantage of some expensive technology to get a second bite of the cherry in a healthy, younger body.

Image result for selfless

Naturally, there are complications which result in some very intense and thrilling action scenes, as the protagonist discovers that his second chance has some disturbing ramifications. The film is not only an interesting variation on a well explored theme, but is also very entertaining and action packed.

The idea that as a person faces mortality they begin an earnest examination of their lives makes sense. Indeed, it is likely that everyone at some stage during their time on earth will contemplate the value of their existence. The concomitant notion is that one will also, as a consequence of this self reflection, find some cause for regret: things they would have done differently. Words and actions which they may add or subtract from their personal narrative, given the chance.

Unfortunately, we don't get a second chance at life. There is no rewind button. What's done is done. The romantic notion of being able to change the past perhaps partially explains the popularity of time travel and body swap films, as well as religious beliefs like reincarnation. However, the reality is considerably more sober. 

The bible says "It is appointed unto all men to die once and then face judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) We are born and we will all make mistakes, possibly some terrible ones, on our journey to the grave. I once thought I would have no regrets because at the time, I had none. Now I do, and I have even uttered the words "if I could go back, I would do things differently." But I can't, and neither can you.

The challenge for us is first of all to accept responsibility for our mistakes, and secondly to deal with the consequences of what we have done.

How are you going with that? Do you have regrets? Do you wish you could turn back time? If such technology as is depicted in Selfless actually existed, would you use it?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Celebrating teams #CTST

Last weekend I was dying of man flu. I had to take Monday off, but I was still battling the lurgy when I returned to work and through the rest of the week. And a busy week it was. I had four evening engagements planned. I made it to three of them. I want to tell you briefly about the two more significant ones.

On Wednesday night, I attended 'team night' at my church, C3 Darwin. Team night is a celebration for all those who serve in any capacity in the church: welcome teams, cafe teams, service hosts, parking attendants, connect group leaders (that's where I fit in), and the music team.

We ate together, then worshiped, and listened to a message of encouragement and thanks from our pastor. Well over a hundred dedicated souls were there, and it was a very uplifting and fun occasion. 

On Thursday night, I had dinner with another great team, albeit a much smaller one: my colleagues. We dined at Memories of India as we farewelled our longest serving employee. The departure of this very likeable and valuable team member, leaves me as the longest serving employee now. Management have decided not to replace him, so in his absence, our team of hardworking and dedicated staff will continue to do what we do best. To serve our students, and care for and support one another.

On the occasion of these two celebrations, I am grateful to be a part of two wonderful teams.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Service with Invisible Smiles #CTST

The intricacies of life, the myriad minutia, the devilish detail, (the annoying alliteration)...these are the things which complicate our existence. There are so many little foxes running through our gardens.

Of late there has been a population explosion of said feral beasts in my backyard.

Okay, that's enough metaphorical language. I am celebrating the capture, and in some cases death of a few of these little problems. All the small irritations we encounter are invariably beyond our control, especially when up against the might of major corporations. The person on the phone says they understand your problem, but unfortunately they cannot help because that is just the way the system works. Put your hand up if you've heard that one, and gnashed your teeth in frustration.

To Jackie at Bank SA. You are a champion. Thank you for creatively solving my problem: quickly and happily. You cared not with words, but with actions.

To Vicki at Optus. You are a legend. You spoke to me as a person. I actually believed you cared, and although you weren't able to totally solve my problem, you demonstrated genuine empathy. What you were able to do for me was more than satisfactory, as were your customer service skills.

To the lady whose name I forgot at Westpac. Ditto to the above and thank you for reassuring me, and making me trust you.

Three conversations which not only killed some of my little foxes, but also reminded me that people are capable of being not only professional, but empathetic and polite, in the execution of their work duties.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lie down in peace #CTST

Over the years, at different stages, during the various seasons of life, I have had many sleepless nights. However, the 'many' pales in comparison with the majority in which I have slept soundly. Even in the midst of some emotional trauma (separation and divorce being one of, if not the worst), I have been blessed with sleep.

Sleep is a gift.

Every one knows the importance of sleep and rest, but for many people thorns of anxiety prevent sleep. I know it. I've felt it. When I lie down to sleep, but my mind will not shut down despite the weariness of my body. How do you turn off the mind? How do you shut out the worry? The fear? How do you close the door on anxiety when it feels like an incurable infection?

Three words have been running around in my head for days now. Since I had the noisy church dream through which God gave me a word of encouragement, I have begin to filter out all the voices in my mind. Especially those which cause me to doubt and to worry unnecessarily. There is only one voice I need to listen to...the voice of Truth.

What are these three words? Let it go.

I'm reminded of a line in a Creed song. "The sun shines and I can't avoid the light. I think I'm holding on to life too tight."* Sonny Sandoval from POD sings, "I think the hardest part of holding on, is letting it go."* This is a great paradox.

I sleep in peace. If I can let go of anxiety or at least not hold on too tightly to what I have, I believe I can walk in peace as well. I thank God for the gift of sleep.

*Goodbye for now - POD
*Weathered - Creed

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sinner's Lament #CTST

I am officially a Territorian now: I have a Northern Territory drivers' licence and NT plates on my car. This makes me happy.

Students returned this week, and it was wonderful to actually teach again. I have a new group comprising two of my students from last year, some who have come up from the pre-intermediate class, and three brand new students. It's a nice mix, and I feel happy to have already fostered a relaxed learning environment. It's a good blend of personalities, and I'm looking forward to a fun and successful term.

After six days of monsoon, we saw the sun in Darwin on Thursday. That was nice, but the truth is I like the rain too, and the storms are impressive, albeit a tad destructive.

I had a dream the other morning, as I was oversleeping, through which I believe I had a word from God. This has happened to me before on a couple of occasions. The dream featured an overcrowded church in which I was the only one interested in worshiping God. The message: how can you hear me when there are so many other voices in your head. My desire is to live a life pleasing to God and beneficial to others. I need to focus on listening to the Voice of Truth, and filter out the noise.

Wondering why I called this post Sinner's Lament? What's the connection with the content? Sorry to disappoint, but there is no connection. As I write I am listening to the album Sinner's Lament by Brisbane based heavy metal band, Taberah.

I hope you had a wonderful week. I did.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sideswiped #CTST

There are occasions, and I expect there always will be, when Dad comes to the forefront of my thoughts. I had one recently whilst I was standing at the counter of Repco exchanging the wrong headlight globe (the cheap one) for the right headlight globe (the expensive one). I related to the sales assistant Dad's words to me when I bought my first car.

'Are you ready to always have your hand in you pocket son?'

I said yes, without having the vaguest idea of how much it would actually cost me in the future to buy, run and maintain cars.

So I paid for the expensive globe, then take it home and fit it myself. (I was going to make this post about this awesome first time achievement of mine, but I didn't want to sound boastful.)

The headlight globe was only one of the 'unknown to me' problems which prevented Mr MVR inspection officer from passing my car fit for registration. The other was two front tyres-worn on the inside. But wait, there's more: a brake light globe, which I replaced only to have the brake switch fail, necessitating the calling of an auto electrician.

Bottom line? I spent what I had budgeted for the registration fees on repairs to get it registered. I can hear your voice Dad. I can't say I wasn't warned.

All that came on top of my car, under the care of another driver, being sideswiped by another vehicle under the complete absence of care of a third party. That was last week. Thankfully, insurance will take care of that one.

(smile) (big smile) (bigger smile).