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.


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.



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.

Hairy Legged Toddler

The other night, I awoke with the feeling that I had something under my chest. I look beside me and noticed that our youngest was in bed with us, and figured that she must be sleeping horizontally, as she’s been known to do, and I must have her leg under me.

So I went to move this limb from underneath me and reposition her, only to feel an excess of hair… this really confused me, a real “WTF moment”, as my 2-and-a-half year-old daughter does not have hairy legs… but it soon dawned on me that what was actually under me was my other arm, which had gone completely numb from me lying on it.

I was relieved that me daughter had not turned into a “goonigoogoobigfoot overnight, and that I had not crushed her leg in my sleep, but somewhat concerned that I did not realise sooner what had happened.

Yes, it was dark, and I was in a sleep-induced stupor, but I blame the pain killers I was on at the time (following my knee surgery). I’ve since ceased use of those drugs… unsurprisingly.

At The Beach

At The Beach

Was out with the clan a few weeks back, and went into a store to buy much needed replacements for my torn, tattered, patched jeans… I had no problem with them but someone was sick of patching them and said they could no longer vouch for the integrity of the repairs given the state of the original material to which it was being adhered.

Anyway, I succumb to the persistent suggestions and we went to take advantage of a 2-for-$109 offer, only to find that they were reduced to 2-for-$89… but that’s not important.

Having selected my two pairs of jeans, we were paying for them and the kids saw something on the counter promoting a photography competition being run by the clothing chain, and they suggested I enter.

I’m not a big fan of such competitions, but had an image in mind that I thought would meet the criteria. However, upon inspection of the “terms & conditions” I decided NOT to enter. The particular item I object to, and that is quite common in such photography “competitions” was this:

All entries become the property of the Promoter. The Promoter collects personal information about you to enable you to participate in this promotion but no further use of this information will be made without prior consent

That’s right… even if a photo does NOT win, the “Promoter” own the photo. I can understand (though, don’t necessarily agree with) the winner handing over ownership of the rights in exchange for the prize… there’s been an exchange of items of value… but to claim ownership of photos merely for entering a competition is a bit unfair. However, clearly the multitudes of people that entered either

  1. don’t mind giving away their photos to a corporation that may use it advertising without a single cent of compensation to the person that took the photo
  2. don’t read the terms and conditions

I’m betting most people would tick BOTH those categories… that is, until they DON’T win and then see their photo being used, and they’ve got NOTHING to show for it.

Me, however, would rather retain ownership of my photos unless I’m properly compensated for it, or give them as a gift to someone deserving i.e. not a multination clothing retailer that tricks people out of ownership of their own images.

About this image: This was taken 2 and a half years ago, out at Port Melbourne beach. Five of my six kids playing on the beach on a hot January evening.

F-22 Raptor

F-22 Raptor

Managed to get down to Avalon Airshow of Friday for a few hours, and I have to say that I was disappointed… disappointed because

  1. There were very few flying displays while I was there.  Compared to last time, where the Thursday trade day was treated to an almost full show, the only aircraft I say flying before the gates were open to the public was a military Learjet.
  2. The static displays were poorly arranged, making taking photos of them without distracting rubbish cluttering the background of the image near impossible.
  3. The F-22 was here for the first time, but the USAF were unable to provide a demonstration/airshow qualified pilot.

Other than that, it was a good airshow.  Tell you this much, I’ll not be attending the Friday trade day of the next Avalon Airshow.

Happy Binary Day – 10.01.11

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those that don’t.

Today is the second binary day of the year. The second of nine. There were nine last year too. There also were nine back in 2001 and nine in 2000… so today is the 29th binary day of the century (taking 2000 as the first year… some would argue that it was in fact the last of the previous, but let’s not get hung up on semantics). Twenty-nine such days in little over a decade would suggest it’s not all that special, but when you allow for the fact that after the last binary day this year on 11th of November (11.11.11) there won’t be another binary day for 88 years and 40 days… not until the first day of the year 2100 will be see another. So, 36 binary days each century does make it something worth celebrating.

What makes it especially worthy of celebrating for me personally is it happens to be my daughter’s first birthday. Yes, she happens to turn 1 on a binary day, after having been born on a binary day… i.e. was 0 and 1 on binary days… binary ages on binary days… while her 10th and 11th birthday’s won’t coincide with binary days, if she has the good fortune to make it to 100 or even 101, she’ll no doubt be one of very few binary baba’s (i.e. Ukrainian for grandmother), after having been a binary newborn.

So… anyway, if you’ve missed binary day today, I suggest you make the most of the next 7 this year, even if it doesn’t coincide with your child’s birthday… after all, there’s a good chance we won’t be around to celebrate them after this year.