A Grey Zone Life

Watching an old 2019 episode of ABC Foreign Correspondent about the growing intolerance of Danish society, The State of Denmark, Ellie Jokar, a Danish Muslim comedian/rapper/actor said something that really resonated with me… something that made me think of my childhood… my life.

“What is it that is so important for us human beings that we feel like we have to claim a country and say, “This is my place?” I define myself as a grey zone kid, because people like me are not accepted by the Danes and not accepted by the Muslims or the Persians.”

When I’ve thought about my life, and what thread or theme might persist throughout a recount, one that often comes to mind is “not fitting in”, “always feeling like an outsider”, or, as Ellie describes it, being “a grey zone kid”.

I have always felt like an outsider. Little blonde boy with the wog name that nobody could pronounce (or could be bothered learning how to pronounce), but didn’t want to be called by the name most others with his name went by because “that’s not my name”. The kid in the bottom reading group. The kid who was good at maths, except for his times tables, and therefore a liability in the times tables races. The kids of Ukrainian heritage, but not Ukrainian enough for the other Ukrainian kids. The kids whose parents were born in Yugoslavia, but isn’t Yugoslav, or Serbian, or Croatian, etc. The kid who was the fastest on his soccer team, but played goalkeeper. The kid who tried to like Australian Rules, but felt rejected and excluded by the game and those that played it, but then was further alienated when he lost interest in the game. Australian-born, Ukrainian heritage, with a Yugoslav name. I didn’t fit in anywhere properly. It’s like if you had to get into a tiny clown car, and no matter how you contort yourself into the car, something sticks out and is exposed to damage.

Even though I looked like a little Aussie kid, tanned, blonde and blue-eyed, I wasn’t accepted by the Australians. I wasn’t accepted by the Ukrainians because my name wasn’t Ukrainian, the Ukrainian I spoke was different from what others spoke (was a mix of the Ukrainian spoken in western Ukraine/Galicia when my ancestors left there for Bosnia in the late 1800’s (or early 1900… I’m not sure… just know it was before WW1), with the occasional Yugo word thrown-in… but I didn’t know it was a Yugo word). I wasn’t a Yugo or one of the ethnic groups that made up that country. Too Yugo to be Ukrainian; too Ukrainian to be Yugo; too wog to be an Aussie. Easter was celebrated with the Greeks, but I’m not Greek… nor Orthodox for that matter. Christmas was celebrated in January, but we’re not Russian. Because of people’s closed minds, and their need to pigeonhole, I didn’t fit neatly anywhere.

I remember going to Little Athletics when I was about eleven, and talking to one of the boys there. He had no idea where or what Ukraine was. When I explained, he said, “So you’re Russian”. “No. Russia is another state within the USSR… Ukraine is its own state. It would be like me calling a Victorian, a New South Welshman.” He didn’t get it… and he wasn’t the only one.

This feeling extended beyond my name and heritage. Sports, education, interests… something about me always stuck out… something always made me unacceptable to the majority. I was “a grey zone kid”.

Thankfully, I stopped caring. I knew who I was. I knew others within my family and community had similar issues… some accepted the Anglo name assigned to them because their name was too difficult, but I didn’t and others didn’t. Some picked an ethnic group to cling to, go full Skip or Yugo, or Ukrainian, and ignore their families journeyy that brought them here, but I and others didn’t.

I could have accepted a name not given to me. I could have accepted a pigeonhole assigned to me. However, I chose to be true to myself and to my heritage. While I grew up feeling unaccepted… the truth of the matter is, the only acceptance I need is that of my family and myself… and I’ve always had my families acceptance… just took me some time for me to accept myself, for who I am.

Real Indication of Olympic Greatness Revisited Again – BTUSAF 2021

Another Olympics comes to a close, and Tokyo 2020 (aka “Tokyo 2021”) has been been a great success despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, the stadiums were without crowds, and it was a year late, but the fact that it went ahead at all is amazing. Many naysayers were poo-pooing the Olympics… Tokyo 2020 is specifically for going ahead in the middle of a pandemic, but also the Olympics in general for the financial burden it usually puts on host cities/nations. While I acknowledge that the criticisms of the IOC are well deserved, and the concerns are valid, and am disappointed by the over-commercialisation of sports… whenever the Olympics come around, I prefer to put a pin in my cynicism for two weeks and enjoy the sporting spectacle that I’ve always loved about the Olympics.

Beaches

In a binary world, a world were the only options were thumbs-up or thumbs-down, I’d have to give beaches a thumbs-down.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about beaches… the beauty, the serenity, the sound of waves gently lapping the shore or crashing on the rocks. The cool waters, and cool sea breeze offer sanctuary from the oppressive heat of summer.  There are plenty of reasons that beaches are popular with locals and tourists. However, there’s plenty that I, personally, dislike.

  

First, a negative without any positives… the sand.  I hate to sound like whiny Anakin Skywalker, i.e. “I hate sand. It’s coarse. It’s rough. It’s get’s everywhere.”  Personally, I don’t have any issue with the texture of sand… I quite enjoy playing in the sand, but at the beach, in combination with the water etc. it does get everywhere. While Anakin had an issue with the texture of sand, he failed to mention the little matter of the heat that sand retains. Have you ever walked barefoot on the beach in the middle of the day… not the wet sand… that’s okay… not the sand that one needs to traverse to get from car park to water. George Lucas should have had Anakin fall onto this dry, hot beach sand, rather than lava, during the Duel of Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith… it would have been more poetic (with Anakin’s aforementioned hatred of sand) and perhaps more accurate (i.e. who in their right mind duels in a lava field, but a fight on the beach… they’re common in history and film).  While the thermal properties of sand can be mitigated by wearing shoes, sand gets into shoes… slowly filling them to the point where they need to be removed to empty the shoes of sand… thereby exposing the bare feet or buttocks to the searing hot sand. “What about thongs (aka flip-flops)?” you may ask. That my friend is yet another reason to hate the beach… footwear that isn’t footwear… the single point-of-failure-footwear, the “flip-flop” sound… the discomfort as the skin between your big toe and its neighbour blisters and then form calluses.  

Next, the amount of effort required to visit the beach.  For example, sunscreen, which is a significant contributor to the aforementioned sand issue.   You can’t go to the beach without applying sunscreen, especially here in Australia where we’re affected by the hole in the ozone layer.  Merely spending a handful of minutes in the direct summer sun will result in sunburn, and put you at risk of developing skin cancers. An alternative solution to sunscreen, rashies, may be acceptable for toddlers and little kids but look ridiculous on adults. Or you could just spend your whole time under a beach umbrella… but that makes it very difficult to enjoy one of the major drawcards of the beach, the water. Speaking of umbrella… that is yet another thing that needs to be packed into the car, and lugged down to the beach each and every time you go to the beach… along with towels, esky, changes of clothes, beach toys, and whatever other paraphernalia you’ve bought so you can “enjoy” yourself at the beach. 

Then there’s the matter of crowds.  Beaches are either overcrowded or remote and desolate.  They’re rarely something in-between… definitely true for the beaches near large metropolitan areas, and especially true on the hottest of days when one is most likely going to require the cool waters and breeze.  On these days you’re likely to be battling with everyone else from the city and suburbs for a slither of sand to put down your towel… then when you venture down to the water, you try to avoid the syringes and broken glass hiding in the sand, or the dead puffer-fish whose venom can still kill you… then when you make it into the pollution-ridden water you’ll have to keep an eye out for the jet-skiing hoons, seaweeds, stingers/jellyfish, and blue-ringed octopus.  “All clear”… you’re in the water… enjoy yourself a little, but make sure you swim between the flags, avoid the rips, battle the undertow etc. Time to get some sun, you head back to your towel, reapply the sunscreen (because it’s probably time to reapply this toxic substance full of nanoparticles), and kick-back and relax to the serene sounds of the sea, assuming you’re able to hear it over the screaming jet-skiers you avoided while you were in the water, the screaming kids nearby, the mother screaming at the screaming kids to be quiet, or the screaming Bluetooth stereo pumping out tunes nobody, other than the speaker’s owner that is, wants to listen to.  Oh, the serenity.

If you’re willing to put in a little more time, money, or effort, you might be able to find yourself an isolated, clean, peaceful beach, away from the unwashed masses populating the beaches near the cities.  And if you’re lucky enough to have access to a beach house on a quieter beach you can avoid many of the logistical issues of a trip to the beach. But there’s still the sunscreen, and the sand, and sandflies… 

On a 5-star rating system, I’d probably give the beach a score of 2.5… a pass.  Lots of beaches would get higher… maybe as high as 3.5, or even as high as 4 if we’re scoring in 0.5 increments and rounding, but there are beaches I’ve been to, swimming beaches, that I’d give a zero to (or 0.5 if a zero rating isn’t allowed/recognised as a rating)… but on a binary scoring system, there are just too many negatives to the whole beach experience that would allow me to round that 2.5 up… so… beaches, get a thumbs-down from me.

 

 

Writing, Drawing, Creating

Another New Year… another attempt to re-engage with writing… with blogging, actually.

Truth is, I’ve been writing a fair bit, and drawing a little.  What I’ve not been doing is sharing these here.  Why? Not sure.  A number of reasons come to mind:

  1. Public vs Private Writing – The appeal of my writing being available to the wider public has waned.  I largely write for myself, and when there’s reason to share wider, the other digital mediums available to me, like Facebook, has seemed to meet minimum requirements.
  2. Digital vs Physical Writing – I’ve always had a thing for stationery, and I made a conscious decision a few years ago to start using the many cool diaries and journals I’d bought or had received as gifts from people that knew of my affinity for such things.  Personally, I find the act of physically putting pen to paper, especially quality paper, is extremely therapeutic… and there are many studies showing the cognitive benefits of this multi-sensory approach to writing.
  3. Backlog of Unprocessed Photos – My other creative outlet, and content generator for this site, photography, has also been neglected for a number of years, so it’s not been a fallback option. I’ve got thousands of photos that I need to process from our time in the US and travelling through Europe… but I’ve not had the time or the tools to give them the attention I feel they deserve… and how can I justify spending 15 to 20 minutes blogging, for me, if there’s other stuff that needs to be done?
  4. Everyday Stuff – On the topic of “stuff that needs to be done”, there’s always heaps that needs to be done around the house, or at work, or for someone who needs a hand… blogging doesn’t even rate a mention on a priority list.
  5. Other Creative Outlets – As well as the aforementioned physical media taking me away from this site, my efforts in the podcast realm take up a chunk of the little spare time I’m able to create each week.

So… all of this being true, and still relevant… why am I even attempting to re-engage?  Because I miss it, and there are aspects of the physical writing that frustrates me, eg. not being able to easily search through my writing.  So, I’m going to continue to write, and draw using my stationary, but many of those will be also shared here.  I have a website, I should use it.  I’ll also continue to use Facebook because that’s where everybody is… and I’ll keep podcasting, because that’s the non-family related highlight of my week each week…

We’ll see how successful this attempt is.  But even if it doesn’t last… what have I lost by trying?  Here’s to my endeavour back into the world of blogging.

 

The Statistics Always Lie – A Look At The Socceroos WC2018 Chances

I stumbled upon a link on the ABC News website titled “The stats don’t lie: Australia’s gargantuan World Cup task” which took me to James Maasdorp’s article titled “Comparing the Socceroos to the giants of world football through goals, appearances and social media”.

Unfortunately, for James, he seems to have forgotten that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  There are a heap of statistical misrepresentations (I’m reluctant to call James a liar) in the analysis presented, and I hope to address just some here.

Now let me first state that while I do not necessarily disagree with James’ point that the Socceroos have a tough road ahead in Russia; I merely have an issue with his poor use of statistics to try to support it.

First, his use of Number of Players in the ‘Big 5’ Leagues.  This ignores the quality of players going around in the other leagues; one could argue that the top players in other leagues such as Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil or Mexico, are as good as or better than the average in Spain, England, Italy, France & Germany.  Also, while, yes the number of players in the ‘Big 5’ is an indicator of the depth of talent the selectors had to choose from, in the end, each team at the World Cup only gets to select 23.  Similar issue with presenting the Appearances stat.

Next, the use of Goals Scored and Combined Goals & Assists in these ‘Big 5’ leagues is a fundamentally flawed measure because it doesn’t allow for the number of players from the countries in those leagues.  Obviously, a country with way more players in the ‘Big 5’ will score & assist in way more goals.  If you allow for the number of players, i.e. Number of Goals & Assists per Player, Australia ranks 8th which is pretty good compared to our Group C opponents Denmark, France and Peru ranked 11th, 22nd and 24th respectively.  (FYI – Egypt is ranked #1).

Now, just for shits-and-giggles, let’s look at the Appearances per Player… Australia is ranked #1 on this measure.  Peru is 5th, Denmark 6th and France 19th.  What does this tell us? It could be argued that it shows the quality of the players in the ‘Big 5’ from the country, i.e. that they’re actually playing in the leagues more regularly, and this also allows for quality defenders and goalkeepers who would be under-represented in the Goals and Assists figures.

I could slice and dice these stats a few other ways, but in the end, all I would prove is what I’ve shown above, i.e. STATISTICS LIE.

Stock Image c/o https://www.pexels.com/photo/grass-sport-game-match-47730/

On the other stats James presents… FIFA18 rating, Social Media Following (SMF), and Transfer Market Valuation (TMV).  The SMF figure is completely irrelevant… yes, there may be a correlation between the quality of the player and his following, but correlation is not causation… otherwise, Kim Kardashian would be playing at the World Cup (but then again, USA didn’t qualify).  FIFA18 ratings and TMV are historic measures of the individual, Russia 2018 is a one-time event, now, and football is about the team.  If past World Cups have shown us anything is that great player and teams often fail when the world is watching, minnows often topple football powerhouses.  How many people expected Cameroon to beat Argentina in the opening match of 1990, or Costa Rica to beat Scotland later that same tournament?  How many predicted Senegal to defeat France in 2002?  Or Switzerland’s victory over eventual winners, Spain in 2010? What were these players EA Sports FIFA stats?  What were the TMV of the Cameroonians, Costa Ricans, Senegalese & Swiss?

I have hope for the Socceroos.  At their best, even with their current squad (which seems to be lacking the calibre of past Socceroo World Cup teams), they can beat Peru and Denmark… and what gives me hope in their opening game against France, is Le Bleu’s ability to self-destruct… despite its strength.

All that said… I won’t be holding breathe on a Socceroos victory…. Because I’ll probably be screaming at the TV, barracking for the Green & Gold.

Planes Aren’t Stocking

Michele suggested that I invent something that will keep up her stockings that doesn’t irritate her skin. I told her, I’m not that type of engineer.
“Hey, you can keep planes up in the air, why can’t you keep stocking from falling”.
Can’t really argue with that now, can I.

Design History of the Keks Blog – Part III

For almost 3 years, this blog has been using the YAMINTH theme, but as of this weekend, it’s entered the world of Responsive Design with the purchase and implimentation of Readolog… the look and functionality of this design will no doubt be tweaked in coming days and weeks, but once established, this will be a design that will be around for a few years.