Thursday, December 13, 2012

Can't Let Go

It's been a while between blogs.

No excuse really, though in my defence the last 5 weeks of term 4 have been a wild ride of late nights, early mornings and days that pulsed like 5 espresso coffee breaks.

But in the words of Lucinda's over!

I have officially finished my first novel. A good friend of mine edited the manuscript and I have punched up a few weak passages. I'm trying to determine how to distribute the final product. I may self publish or perhaps just create a separate blog for the book, we'll see. It undoubtedly needs more work but unlike the words of Lucinda Williams...I can let go.

Speaking of Lucinda, she was the sound track of last summer, as my daughter and I golfed all day and bought crunchy salads and gallons of lemonade for dinner every night. It's a formula that works and I say we should stick with it.

Tonight is the last day of the term for the children at Canberra Montessori and I write this blog to the pounding rhythm of our school's year end "Disco". I cannot believe the moniker for the event has not changed over the years; I thought Disco's went out with fanny packs but not down here south of the lake, old habits die hard.

I'll treat myself to a rye and coke tonight and jump to the score book tomorrow when the Weston Creek Indians take on some team called the Bandits. It's Malcolm's last game before the mid summer break; the season will resume in February when the temperature has dialed back down to a civilised level and the population of Canberra returns from the coast.

Tomorrow also marks the return home of my daughter who has been away for a week at the coast with friends for some much needed R and R. Seven days without Mackenzie at home makes one weak - we miss her. I am incredibly excited that she has asked me to caddy for her at the Australian Women's Amateur this year. Mackenzie will be up against the top amateurs in the country and it will be fun to watch and be part of the event. Can't wait.

Hope to have more time to blog over the summer.

Peace out,


Monday, October 29, 2012

Dealey Plaza

I am off to the Montessori Foundation's conference in Sarasota, Florida. The first leg of the journey is Sydney to Dallas and I have decided to take a couple of days to recoup in Texas before heading to Florida. It would seem that with hurricane Sandy raging to the North, I have chosen well.

Dallas is a strange town. I have spent the morning and most of the afternoon walking, yet have seen very little. I have taken in the art district and a few gardens but there is an eerie quality to the city. It's Monday morning and there is no traffic, no one is talking and although there are huge office buildings there are no line ups at the cafes in the middle of the day. I am going to attempt some purchases tomorrow before hopping on my flight, though I'm not sure where I'll go to find this alleged shopping because I did not find one retail outlet in all of downtown Dallas.

The highlight for me was my trip to Dealey Plaza and the old Texas School Book Depository scene of the Kennedy Assassination almost 49 years to the day. The location was surreal, it exists today as it did 50 years ago - you can see the embankments where Abraham Zapruder shot his home movie, the Grassy knoll, the picket fence, the railway that borders the plaza - the only thing that wasn't here in '63 are the dozens of men who come up to you on the street and sell you memorabilia (like autopsy pictures for $10!).

For $16, I went up in the School Book Depository, into their 6th floor museum, which is a shrine to the legend of John F Kennedy and the events of November 22nd, 1963. As a bit of an amateur assassination buff myself, I felt the museum stays pretty close to the piece of fiction that was the Warren Report, whose conclusions have been successfully disproved by many people over the years. Still, it was an interesting exhibit and a slice of Americana. Apparently 1000 people a day come to the museum most like me who feel a need to be connected to the iconic images that we remember from our childhood. I was not born for 4 more years but my mother often told me that she learned of the tragedy while bathing my newly born sister in the tub.

I came away thinking that the Plaza was indeed a great place for an ambush. I am convinced that the assassination was a military style coup, so no surprise if Oswald (one motivated marine) was involved, but whether he was a trigger man or just the School Book insider (a patsy) is hard to say. The plaza is a perfect spot for multiple snipers all over the area and it seems pretty obvious that's how it went down. I think Oswald was told to go to the movie theatre after the event to meet his pals and got the shock of his life when instead of a getaway he was met with dozens of the most intuitive Dallas Police officers who with everything else going on, found him in a dimly lit movie theatre 2 miles away, 20 minutes after he was a no show for an impromptu post assassination roll call at the Depository.

Well enough with the conspiracy theories, I'm just glad to off that 15 hour plane ride and back on land. Hopefully I'll find a few interesting spots to comment on during my adventures.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How big is your IPAD

Colin Grant Clark took a break from his lecture circuit at Oxford University in the summer of 1938 to take a family vacation to Australia with his young wife Margery. It was while visiting Brisbane that he was charmed into becoming the Chief Financial Advisor to the Premier of Queensland, Forgan Smith. Despite being lured away occasionally as a visiting scholar he continued to return to his home in Queensland. Today the Economics Building at the University of Brisbane rightly bears his name and his 9 children and 40 grandchildren can further testify to his prodigious nature.
Clark was an innovative Economist and perhaps most famous for a publication in 1950 which described the "Clark Sector Model", a simple graph that shows the growth of an economy and the proportion of the population that works in various industries. Clark showed that in most nascent economies most of the population works in Primary Industries (fishing, farming, mining, etc.); then as industrialization grows the proportion of people working in Primary Industries declines. However, the number of employees in the Secondary or Manufacturing sectors does not fully explain the decline in the proportion working in Primary Industries. In fact at some point manufacturing becomes increasingly efficient and it is the Tertiary Sector, a broad category sometimes referred to as the Service Industries that contain the majority of the workforce. Tertiary industries provide services to businesses and families and contain such sectors as Education, Law, Consultancy, Financial Services, IT, etc. Taken to its conclusion, Clark predicted a future state where in a modern economy upwards of 90% of the population worked in Tertiary Industries. In 1950 some said he was crazy, yet it is precisely where we are today.

As Sir Ken Robinson suggests, Education has always had two functions. One is cultural and that purpose of education has been prevalent since the beginning of time. After all, one needs a manual for "how we do things around here". But the second reason to educate people / children is economic. A mechanism must be put into place to ensure that we are preparing children for the new industrialized economy. Hence in the past 150 years we have witnessed systemic educational institutions all over the world designed to serve this economic purpose. I imagine for a while this all worked very well, school passed on the cultural traditions and conveniently sorted out those who were management material from the labourers, by how well the children pretended to enjoy classical literature and deductive reasoning.

Of course we all know intuitively, without ever having to consult the Clark Sector Model, the notion of the industrialized economy is a historical relic. Today's prosperity is punctuated with volatility. We can no longer predict with great certainty the economy of next week, never mind 20 years out. Modern Economists will take their place beside weathermen as the fall guys for the great unknown.

The good news is that in every nation in the world education is being reformed, precisely for the reasons that I have outlined. Unfortunately, the machine of systemic education continues to throw a boot in the production line of progress.

Case in point. I toured a school the other day that installed 25 electronic whiteboards at their school (at $15K per) in an effort to become more current.  That same day I went to a seminar where a school lauded itself for its program of giving each of its year 9 scholars IPADs with apps. How cutting edge! Good grief, do we not realize that we have reformed nothing! Is all this about content delivery? In Grade 9 I also received an IPAD - it was called a text book. The truly revolutionary effect of IT and Globalization is the very fact that I can learn anything I want, anywhere I want, anytime I want. In a millisecond I can access the ten greatest lessons on how to solve a quadratic equation instantly delivered by teachers far better that I ever was, and for free! The fact that schools still believe their purpose is content delivery is ridiculous. The fact that students own a tablet, rent a tablet or bring their own isn't the question. The question is, why do they come to school at all? That is the question that must lead educational reform but in every school and every classroom around the world we are afraid to ask the question. I confess I don't know the answer but for me the question is obvious.

I think that the answer might be that since we cannot predict the economy of tomorrow, and that the question of content delivery has been solved, schools of the future will need to deal with the old cultural questions that they used to ponder a long time ago... How will we do things around here when we live in Canberra and work in Hong Kong? ...How will we solve a problem through divergent thinking rather always relying on deductive reasoning? ...And since, as history has taught us, most great ideas are collaborations how will we work together to create the future when technology increasingly allows us to work alone?

And if the answers to those questions are; please buy all your students IPADs and stay for the free drinks and snacks provided....I will cry.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I am one of those people who can name the host city for every summer and winter Olympics for as far back as I can remember and indeed even further. This past week, our family has dispensed with the dining room table and opted for tv trays, as we recline in front of the foxtel waiting for the next event from London. Somehow we don't feel hypocritical of our new found love for water polo and javelin. We realise that if either of those sports were to grace the screen apart from these 16 days every four years we wouldn't pause a millisecond without scanning for a Seinfeld re-run, but I suppose that is the magic of the Olympics. A lot has changed over the years, I hearken back to the days when the Olympics were a pseudo-amateur contest; it is difficult to see Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer - mercenaries who have sold their bodies for obscene wealth over many campaigns- attempting to fit in with female pole vaulters who toil in anonymity for the single opportunity to try to scale 4 meters for 45th place at the games, proud as can be that they are representing the highest ideals of their nations. It's hard not to feel nostalgic about the games.

I also get sentimental about the places the games were held. The first Olympics I remember as a child was the 72 games in Munich, cheering Mark Spitz on every time he dove in to the pool. I did not understand fully what went on at those games until years later but I knew from the telecast that something sinister had occurred. I was so proud that Canada stepped up to host the games in '76 and people who know me well will be well aware that I will suffer no teasing about the games in Montreal - I feel as though those games in many ways saved the Olympic movement. It wasn't the first time that Canada showed the world how to get along and I know it won't be the last. The '84 winter games in Sarajevo also make me sentimental, I remember how beautiful that country appeared on television and how amazing Katerina Witt was at those games. Later I was appalled to witness the atrocity of war and genocide that Yugoslavia became. It still makes me sad to think of it. Sydney in 2000 was my first introduction to Australia. I remember how hot Sydney looked; I remember watching the triathlon for the first time and seeing Simon Whitfield from Canada sprinting for the Gold Medal - I also remember Cathy Freeman running the 400m wearing some hooded sprint gear as if it was cold. She was amazing and Sydney looked spectacular, hard to believe I would move to Australia 10 years later.

For a family as sport crazy as ours, the stories from the past week in London will form the basis of tales amongst us for years. I imagine I will be telling Malcolm's children about Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis and with any luck a gold medal for Australian women's basketball (fingers crossed)!


Friday, July 20, 2012


The Rice family's southern hemisphere road show continued last week, with a trip to Fiji. At least that's what it says on my passport; more accurately it could be said that I spent my time in a country called "The Sheraton". Not to say the visit was anything less than satisfying - 6 days escaping chilly Canberra mornings and getting away from it all, was time well spent. Still, I don't feel that I can enlighten my readership on anything remotely Fijian. Unless $20 cocktails and ping pong by the pool has its origins in the south pacific.

I can say that people from Fiji or at least the ones that work in the resort territory of Denaru Island, are very friendly and impeccable hosts. It took me a while for me to realize that a word that began with the prefix  "Bulla" is a warm welcome and not an expletive, but once I did I got right into the spirt, drinking Bullajuice and listening to Bullamusic on the Bullabeach.

We took a cruise to a remote Fijian island, attempted snorkeling and kayaking, while channelling our inner Tom Hanks from Castaway. My snorkeling session lasted about 15 minutes with my face mask fogged up, my snorkel tube broken off and floating away and my mouth full of saltwater. Yes, the coral is pretty and the fish are colourful; back to boat for more rum please.

The golf course at Denaru was directly across from our villa and the proximity made for a quick 18 holes. All participants were outfitted with golf carts and I hopped in and sped off for my round. The first five holes take you away from the clubhouse and once I got to the furthest reaches of the property I experienced the most pressured situation I have ever faced on a golf course. Radically alone, my stomach began to gurgle with white hot intensity. Unable to sit back down in the golf cart for fear of...well, you know.... I scanned the area for anything that remotely looked like the "gentleman's". Unfortunately all I could see was a ram shackled building named "Security" and it was either that or I would need to convene with nature in the middle of a patch of coconut trees. I waddled to the security edifice which looked like a Cuban Military Installation and I surprised 2 uniformed female officers with a meek yet desperate plea to use their facilities. My request was received with a smile, nod and a finger pointing to the most remote confines of a darkened corridor. Having received the answer I was looking for I never looked back. Once relieved of my burden I took the time to look at the walls of the hallway on my return to the door and on them were posted pictures and descriptions of Fiji's most wanted. Thankfully none of them resembled an aged, stocky white man wearing slightly feminine Oakley pants and a geeky looking Cleveland golf hat. I thanked the two officers profusely and resumed my appointed round. The rest of the round was typical. a one under par front nine followed by a disastrous inward side or as I would later characterize it Bulla$*&%; though nothing a $15 gatorade and a $30 slice of pizza couldn't cure.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Inspector Called

Shannon and I took the family to J.B. Priestley's morality play, "An Inspector Calls", on the weekend. The kids thought it was a little pedestrian. I always enjoys the production for what it says about the connectedness of human existence and the way we get through life by "positive pretending". Priestly chooses 1912 as the setting, 2 years before Europe set forth to destroy itself and just a week before the Titanic hit an Iceberg in the Northern Atlantic. I sometimes think that the Titanic foreshadowed the next thirty years of European History, it was as though civilization itself went down with the ship. The fact that Priestly wrote the play in 1945, looking back on the turn of the century, makes me think he felt the same way.

Downunder, winter has camped itself in Canberra. The frost is thick every morning and it made for a miserable day on the golf course on Sunday. It was Mackenzie's last regular season match play confrontation and her team needed a win to make it to the grand final. Mackenzie didn't have her A game, but in the end sank a gutsy 6 footer on the final hole to help send the Federal Golf Club to the championship in 2 weeks against their nemesis, Royal Canberra... it should be good.

Malcolm and I take a decidedly more indoor approach to winter than Mackenzie by focusing our attention on the Baseball Tonight show and all of the daily news from MLB. We walk around asking each other what our "Natitude" level is - I'm thinking that doesn't happen in other homes. How we follow our favourite games from 30,000 kms away is amazing, thank goodness for satellite TV.

The Fiji trip has been booked for July. If you would like to visit us, we will be hanging out at the Sheraton Villa's starting on July 13th. If anyone wants to catch me before I lay into the Mai Tai's I would suggest heading there very early on the 13th or to be safe perhaps book the same flight.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

First Draft

It's been too long since my last blog. Not that I haven't been writing. I have just reeled off 70,000 words which may or may not form the basis of my first novel. I say that because the tome is in first draft condition and now I need to start the editting process. I fear correcting the many grammatical errors and inconsistencies might be more gruelling than I am up for! I have purchased several books on grammar; a topic in school which obviously did not take the first time through. What I really need is someone that was educated in Britain anytime between 1935 and 1972, who has the rules of syntax and diction emblazzened into their subconsoius to edit it with a red pen. Any takers?

Mackenzie continues to hit the golf course every single day and endure the ups and downs of the silliest game every invented. Malcolm and I have joined a badminton club and attempt to chase and hit the most ridiculous looking feathered object ...with varying results. Shannon is now working full time teaching a grade 1/2 split, and like always has poured both her heart and soul into the enterprise.

We are half way through second school term here in Canberra. I have just started to look for our next vacation destination. A walking tour in Tasmania or a quick flight to fiji (or feeeeeegeeeee as it is pronpounced in 'stralian), is currently on offer. I'd love to do the tour of Tassie but fiji might look pretty good in July (that's winter folks).

Can't wait to get home and comendere Malcolm's IPAD for a game of scrabble. I play only a modestnumber of games every day (like 5). I have to do something while Malcolm obsesses over Baseball tonight - you'd think he had inherited a defective gene that leads him to be obsessed with the game (nah).

Monday, April 9, 2012


I've taken a couple of days of leave and I'm spending it with Mackenzie up in Queensland while she plays in the Australian Girls Amateur championship. It will be lots of fun, I'm sure. We are staying near Carbrook which is half way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It is also equidistant to "Cleveland" which makes me smile every time I see the name on road signs.

Malcolm did win his Grand Final in Baseball, he was the winning pitcher and had 2 singles in a hard fought 3-2 victory. Congrats Malcolm.

Shannon and Malcolm will be heading up to the Gold Coast for a few days of beaching with us as I am at a Montessori conference there on the weekend. I have never had all that much fun at the Gold Coast but I'm holding out hope for this visit. It all depends on the weather, rainy days on the beach aren't a whole lot of fun.

My book is coming along well. I have written 30,000 words. I'm about half way through the story. I have not gone back and re-read it yet, I'm sure its a disaster but it has been a lot of fun to write. I tasked the students at my school with all kinds of writing opportunities this year, so I figured it was only right that I do a little myself.

...well off to the course, practice round today!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I have started writing a book. I have two chapters complete. It's about golf, Canberra, redemption, bad poetry and good scotch. I'm giving myself until the end of 2012 to finish. So many people have told me they enjoy my blogs that I was inspired to do some extra typing.

I also got very close to auditioning for a play in Canberra. Some theatre group needed a mid 40's, bidnessy, boss type, stooge. Unfortunately it was a musical. Lesson learned - read the fine print.

Malcolm goes for the perfect season on Saturday. His baseball team is 13 - 0, and playing their final regular season game. Stay tuned.

Mackenzie is back to playing match play this weekend and all going well will be in the grand final the following weekend. I'll be on the bag.

Our new sofa set arrived. Well at least I think its ours. It bears little resemblance to the one we painstakingly picked out in the store. But the issue is; its better.....shhhhhh.

School continues to hummmm along, the 3rd year might be the charm.

I had a quick trip up to Sydney last week which included an overnight. I was so tired I left the bar before 1 a.m. , with apologies - I know my readership will be shocked by my early end to the evening.

I have the Syracuse Orangemen making a deep run in the NCAA tournament, I suggest those that know my history bet the other way.

The Masters coincides with Easter Monday this year in Australia. This is huge, the torture of being at work Monday morning while the tournament is finishing is too much to bear.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Year

Only by the grace of the 29th of February have I been able to keep up monthly blogging. Term 1 is always a little busy, what with school start up here in 'stralia. I have been spending my weekends watching Malcolm tear up the local baseball league. He's 5W and 0L with 1 Save on the mound and batting a lofty .720 at the plate. Mackenzie has been grinding away at her golf and every Sunday tees it up match play style against the local junior competition.

Shannon and I now have bicycles and took our first ride on Sunday morning...down to a local restaurant for breakfast. That trip is probably not in the Scarsdale manual, but boy, it was tasty.

On Saturday I exchanged Christmas gifts with a good friend who purchased me a bottle of Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, a delicacy in these parts, and yes I can confirm that the seal has been broken. In exchange she made us a roast beef dinner. Come to think of it, I'm not sure what the exchange part was all about; I had a second helping of dessert if that helps.

Next weekend Mackenzie and I are off to Wagga Wagga; the town so nice they named it twice. On the official city website in describing the metropolis it actually says "Wagga Wagga (or Wagga for short)", I wonder how long it took to come up with the nickname?

It has been raining in Canberra on and off for about 2 weeks, but today it dispensed with the off and just kept a coming. When it rains here it doesn't mess around. It is also the loudest city in the world when there is a shower because every roof is made of steel. Tonight the downpour is Brahms in A minor.

Last week I went to Sydney for the day. It was a fly in, fly out affair. On the way back to town I rubbed elbows with Tony Abbott (leader of the Federal opposition party, and soon to be Prime Minister), he was buying licorice in the domestic terminal. He's a raspberry swirl guy, you heard it here first.

I went to a seminar yesterday on social media marketing, unfortunately the presenter's Internet connection failed and he had to explain the many uses of twitter with finger puppets. When he got back on line he had received 3 tweets from audience members suggesting he try a new line of work. Sweet.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Moves Like Ebert

What the hell did I do this summer? Tasmania: Check. Golf: Check. And in addition, I did quite a bit of entertaining. Not martini lunches, high tea and catered affairs; more like parental entertaining where you make sure that the party doesn't stop and everyone is enjoying their summer to the fullest. It can be a little "full on" but it ensures that no one is going back to school saying...geez Dad, we never did anything.

The family split up this summer, Shannon and Malcolm went one way and Mackenzie and I the other, and over the last couple of weeks Shannon took off with Mackenzie and her best friend and Malcolm and I indulged in bachelor glory. And through it all, I watched a lot of movies. It didn't seem excessive at the time but the count back makes a total of 7 feature films in which I partook over the school holiday with various members of the family. As a public service I detail each of the motion pictures below with my personal critique. I dare say my ratings are all but meaningless as I have yet to meet the human that approaches "art" in the same twisted way as I. In the final analysis, movies are merely a delivery device for popcorn, hence they rarely disappoint.

Onward (on a five star rating scale):

1. Mission Impossible ***

It boggles me as to why they bother numbering Mission Impossible movies. Every scene is so over the top I end up getting fairly blase about the whole thing - and it all just runs together... Now he's going to scale a 50 story glass building - sure why not. Still I get sucked in because I think that there is a twist and I have figured it out in the first 10 minutes and I wait for the whole movie for the chance to tell my family how smart I am by revealing the true identity of the real villain - oh, OK they are rolling the credits and that guy I thought was evil never did turn bad, don't I look silly. Speaking of silly, watching Tom Cruise run is worth 2.5 stars just on its own - so there's that.

2. Moneyball **

It's long. Real long. I was once a real life baseball scout, I never thought a movie could be made about the topic because it was just such an esoteric field. It turns out I was right. I love how they made the entire billion dollar baseball industry look like it is run by a collection of fools; because it is. Did I mention it was long.

3. Descendants ***

I wasn't really watching this movie, I was more picturing what was going on at the set while they were filming. Here is what we have: a great setting, poor screenplay, weak acting and George Clooney. I am picturing George on the set saying to himself, "good god how am I going to save this scene", and like a battle scarred old warrior he comes to the rescue almost every time. Any other actor and this baby is a one star, double popcorn yawner, but somehow George makes you almost care. And speaking of Tom Cruise running scenes, George running down the street of his Honolulu suburb almost made me cry / wet myself with laughter...Mackenzie and I looked at each other and simultaneously said - that's not real is it...hehehehehehehhehehehe.....

4. Tower Heist *

Um, yeah.

5. J.Edgar **

I am sucker for a biopic. If I know a little about the topic I get all "into" the historical inaccuracies. I thought Clint Eastwood did a great job telling the story of J. Edgar Hoover and the Titanic brat did a real nice acting job.  But unfortunately it turns out the Head of the FBI wasn't all that interesting. Who knew.

6. Iron Lady*

Have I ever said that I am a sucker for a biopic? Well I got suckered at this one. They skip over the good stuff and dwell on the mundane. Painful.

7. Sherlock Holmes ****

There are so many things that I hate about this movie. They have the casting all wrong. The guy playing Watson, should be playing Holmes and the guy playing Holmes would be a great Watson. But the true tragedy is the lack of Rachel McAdams. If I'm writing that movie - she's in every scene; maybe she could play Holmes! OK that's a stretch, but she is one of the very few actresses that I would give up popcorn for - there is no higher honour. In the end, though I would do things differently, I wouldn't change much. It's pretty clever, pretty funny and I will go to see the next installment. The movie ends with a tremendous impersonation scene that I was ready for and I still didn't see it coming. Well done, Holmes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Mackenzie and I had an interesting week. We hosted a professional golfer visiting Canberra to play in the Ladies Classic at Royal Canberra Golf Club. The young woman was a delight; she plays on the European Tour and travels the world playing the sport she loves. Mackenzie was able to caddy for Beth in the pro-am tournament on Thursday, an eye opening event for Mackenzie who assumed that an amateur playing with golfers in a pro am would know how to play...nope. Instead Beth and Mackenzie spent the day trying not to get beaned by wayward Titleists. I enjoyed attending the golf, and was impressed with a few of the players that clearly know how to play the game that I play "at".

The end of January is coming soon, and with it comes the end of the school holiday. Still, we have Australia day this week and I will continue the Aussie tradition and probably be on a beach somewhere, not singing "Advance Australia Fair", or whatever they call the National Anthem these days.

February will also see the resumption of Malcolm's baseball season and I am looking forward to seeing him back up on the mound on Saturday mornings.

So it's all back to routine soon enough after a splendid summer.