Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “Food”

The Bucket

This last weekend was my first wedding anniversary. This has nothing to do with this entry. However…

We went to a French restaurant. I didn’t remember ever going to a French restaurant until my sister reminded me that in Canada my parents had to stop my brother from ordering the snails. This restaurant didn’t offer snails. It did offer steak tartare. So that was my order of choice, knowing that I wouldn’t eat it normally. And then the waiter (cool French accent tinged with Canadian) told me the specials, which included…

banquetasterixWILD BOAR!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine on the same food as Asterix and Obelix, so steak tartare would have to wait for another day.

During the course of the evening I brought up the concept of a Bucket List. It seems that everyone has one. A list of things you have to do before you kick the bucket. I have previously brought up the idea of a post-bucket list – a list of things that I want to achieve after I have kicked the bucket.

But I haven’t really discussed the things that I want to achieve beforehand.

In a blog that deals (in theory) with the concept of success, this seems very remiss. And so, I present to you: THE FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST.

Some of the things on this list are a tad outrageous. Some are completely normal and there’s no real reason why I haven’t done them yet. I want to have a number of items on the list that are achievable. Otherwise, why have a list at all?

A very funny man by the name of Michael Workman (FBTW) made the point that our lives would be a hell of a lot more fulfilling if we swapped our bucket list with our list of daily chores. And so, if we had a bit of spare time left after learning Swahili, we might manage to get some washing done.

I want to do all of the stuff on this list. If I get something done, I’ll let you know. I won’t make it the main focus of the blog. There are hundreds of Bucket List blogs out there. But I thought it was worth a once off. The list will be maintained as a separate page on Finding Damo, and I’ll update my achievements there (for the one or two people that are interested). Until then, however, a look inside the strange wants of Damo, in his search for success in all forms.

finding damo bucket list FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST

 Fashion

  • Own a purple suit.
  • Make a penguin costume for each member of the family.
  • Make a troll costume.
  • Replace an eye with a computerised copy – an iBall, so to speak.

 Food

  • Snails
  • Witchetty Grubs

 Travel

  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • England (the rest)
  • France (the rest)

 bucket picturesCreativity

  • Publish a comic strip.
  • Write an app.
  • Make a short film.
  • Make a feature film.
  • Have an amateur play produced (outside of school) – 1 act or full length.

 Fame

  • Get paid to act
  • Achieve, or at least be nominated for, Teacher of the Year.
  • Be an extra
  • Get a novel published (I already have short stories published – thanks to Alfie Dog)
  • Have a YouTube clip go viral
  • Have a play produced professionally

 Learning/Reading/Watching

  • Pull a car apart and put it back together.
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get back up to speed on the piano
  • Read War and Peace
  • Read Gone with the Wind
  • Read Les Miserables

Family

  • Be involved in the creation of biological offspring

Obviously, I am a man of simple needs. Let me know if you can help me achieve any of the above!

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Parenting plates.

PsSo far, I’ve written an entry for every week that I’ve been doing this blog. I may not always write every week, but I’m keeping up with the quota. I’m glad I’m not one of my students. I’d be going home with a “work not done” sticker. Which I would promptly ignore.

This is a rant. A relatively light-hearted rant, but a rant nonetheless. A goodly amount of people will completely disagree with some of what I say, and as always, I have done no actual research before writing this post, so they may well be right. But it’s what I believe. Erm, what I believe today.

I’ll start by tellling parents they need to be more involved with their kids and end up saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have kids without a license. Stick with it, it’ll be a laugh riot!

Here goes.

Parental involvement

All the literature says that the biggest contributor to a child’s success in education is not the school they go to, or the expensive iPad they use, nor the wonderful teachers (shooting myself in the foot here) or the canteen food. Student success is directly linked to parents’ involvement in their education.

Stuff the research. I spend all day with students and could point at each student and say “he rarely sees his parents after school” or “his parents read the English novel as well so that they can talk about it.” On parent/teacher interview nights, I complain that the only parents I see are those of the kids who are doing well. But that’s an indication. If the parents cared enough about their kids to show up to parent/teacher interview nights, I might be saying better things about them.

Of course, there are always the harried parents, shuffling from teacher to teacher, knowing exactly what they’re going to hear and dreading it. They love their child, and hate hearing teachers bad-mouth them over and over. Or offering helpful, sympathetic advice. Or saying “he seems like a nice kid, BUT”. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions. It may be that this child with caring, loving parents, will bloom after school: in their career, or as an adult. Or they might just be broken, and all of the love poured into them dribbles out through a hole in their damaged little soul.

Parents that are involved with their kids breed kids that are going to be interesting and involved adults. Not necessarily nice adults. But at least they’ll be involved in society. What’s more, nice, involved teenagers come from children who were cared for and had parental involvement from birth. Leading me to my next commandment:

Read to your kids.

This one I’ve seen from both sides of the equation – teacher and student. From when I first met Shereen, she would read to her daughter every night before bed. Picture story books, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Magic Faraway Tree and any number of others. We also had books on tape, that Ophelia could listen to as she was winding down in the evenings. Now she’s in Grade Two. I bought her How to Train Your Dragon for Christmas when she’d just turned six. At seven, she’s just finished Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy, The Amazing Maurice and is almost done with Wee Free Men. She’s read all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Esio Trot

She read Esio Trot in just over an hour. I smiled to myself and thought: “Ah yes, read.” And started to ask her questions about the plot. She could answer comprehension questions on every chapter. I was amazed.

Now I’m not saying that she is this good because Shereen read to her. I am saying that she wants to read all of these books because Shereen read to her. I am saying that reading to her gave her the curiosity and the drive to want to learn to read so that she could explore these worlds for herself.

And I see the students in my English classes. I can again tell the students who have been read to, and those that can recite whole episodes of the TV show Ben 10 but can’t tell you who Peter Pan is (“that’s a Disney movie isn’t it?”). The Three Little Pigs are slowly disappearing from our culture and Red Riding Hood has been relegated to a truly awful movie directed by the woman who destroyed the first Twilight movie. And seriously, making that book worse was an achievement!

All of my nieces and nephews have a love of the story. And they’ll all do well at school, one way or the other.

Read to your kids.

And stop feeding them garbage.

ADHD is a Myth

Man, that was a terrible sequeway. But I’m ranting. Expect shifts in topic.

I’d change the heading for this bit, but I want to be a bit controversial. Obviously, ADHD is a documented medical condition. I’m not a doctor. And as per normal, I’m not doing any hard research on this to try and disprove it.

ADHD is real. Most kids don’t have it.

Ow. Ow. Stop throwing things at me. Really. Doctors over-prescribe ADHD because parents don’t listen to the original diagnoses: your kids are eating too much rubbish. Your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. Your kids are watching too much TV and playing too many computer games and aren’t getting enough exercise.

You don’t care? OK. Here are some pills.

Food

mmm, brekky.

Diet is incredibly important to the growing child. Different foods and drinks have astounding effects on children. And probably adults as well, but we are better at masking it. I despair when I have to deal with a child who is diagnosed as ADHD and they come to school with a can of Red Bull in one hand and a donut in the other. Might this combination not have some effect on his behaviour?

No doctor should be allowed to prescribe Ritalin or any other ADHD drug before the parent can prove that they have put their child on a month-long balanced diet, free of processed foods and stimulants. Hell, make them put up with what I’ve had to: no dairy, gluten, sugar, red meat. Fresh vegetables, lots of fish, plenty of water and see me in a month. If they’re buying crap at school, don’t give them money to spend at school. Be a dictator. We’re not allowed to run the country properly, at least run the child properly. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Actually, no. They probably won’t thank you at all, but they’ll be healthier and lose less teeth from Ritalin poisoning.

Sleep

Teenagers need more sleep than adults do. Their bodies are war zones of hormones and emotions and even if they’re only saying “mawaiunno” to you when you ask them a question, their brains are whirring with a thousand seemingly vital problems.

If I make a random statement about Game of Thrones, which starts at 9.30 and a Year 7 pipes up with “Yeah, that bit was great! She had nice boobs, didn’t she?” then that Year 7 student is either stealing TV from the Internet or not getting enough sleep.

And they have nice taste in boobs.

However, that aside, it isn’t a bad thing to say “no computers in the bedroom”, “no TV in the bedroom” and most importantly “no phones in the bedroom”. My iPhone is almost more powerful than my computer. It is by far more useful for instant communication and retrieval of information. And it connects me to my friends and work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I do have my phone in my bedroom. I don’t sleep as well as I should. But when I do want to sleep, on goes Airplane mode and away goes the power of communication. There is no way that a student is going to do this. So, to be prepared for the following day (or whatever they will believe), phones are all on charge in the kitchen before bed.

And lock ‘em in. Stuff the fire safety codes.

I didn’t say those last two sentences. That would be incredibly rash.

Stimulation

She doesn’t deserve to die!

This one should be a no-brainer. Grand Theft Auto IV is rated MA15+ for people aged 15 and above. If a Year 7 student is telling me how he cut the throat of a hooker to get his cash back after the trick, someone has dropped the ball on following the ratings system.

But that’s not the point. The point is that playing computer games hyper-stimulates your brain. It tricks the body into thinking that it is participating in a fight-or-flight scenario and fills you with lots of lovely chemicals designed to help you avoid the tiger or pillage the neighbouring village.

Without the accompanying exercise – frantically climbing a tree or setting fire to a grass hut – all these chemicals do is give you a pleasant buzz and a desire to KILL SOMETHING NOW AARGH ARGH.

Television and computer games are specifically designed to provoke emotional responses. That’s what makes them popular. Letting them loose on your children without checking them out for yourself is … how much trouble do I get in for calling that irresponsible? It’s a rant, I’ll risk it.

It’s irresponsible. And then you send them to us, the teachers, and wonder why they aren’t doing any work at school, hopped up on Red Bull, jonesing on 4 hours of post-gaming sleep and spoiling for a fight.

For the most part, we love your kids. Why else would we do this job? We want to see them achieve their best and become useful, productive and interesting members of society. And for the most part, we do our best. And in most (?) cases, we succeed.

I just don’t want that success to be in spite of what the parents are doing. I would love it to be because of what the parents are doing.

And I’m probably not talking to you. The parent who is doing everything, or most things right. And I get that raising a kid is hard. As I say, I’m on both sides now. And have been before. And sometimes, no matter what you do he still goes out and sets fire to the tennis court, or smashes down a toilet door.

And I get that sometimes it’s just too hard to cut up the vegies, when Maccas is around the corner. I’ve been there too, and have the extra 20 kilos to prove it.

And really, probably, the people I want to read this don’t read. Or won’t read. Or can’t read.

Oh damn. I really nearly finished this off then. I have one more thing to say. Something Pippa and I have been advocating for years. Something most teachers would probably get on board with:

When you hit puberty, you have to give up your reproductive organs. I’m sure there’s a safe way to do it. Keep ‘em in a jar beside your bed to remind you of what you’re aiming for.

When you decide that you want to become a parent, then you undertake the parenting test. There is a theory component and a practical. It would be competency based. You prove that you are fit to usher a new life into the world and shape it into a productive member of society.

Then we give you your P plates – your Parenting license. And you can breed like rabbits and the world will be a better place.

My only sneaking suspicion is that parenting licenses might bring on the rather speedy extinction of the human race.

OK. Done. I think I managed to insult or offend almost everybody on the face of the planet. Sorry.

PS. I was looking for a P plate for the start of this post and found the following picture, which now has a completely different connotation:

Look, she has her Ps!

Look, she has her Ps!

Excuse me?

yawn

yawn

I honestly don’t know how to beat last week’s blog. Thanks to everyone who commented. I’m glad it had such an effect. However, in the interests of continuity, I’m going to pretend it was a season of Dallas: “Wow. That was an incredibly vivid dream! Everyone loved my blog. Oh Gods, I’m late for work!”
The PTB (Powers That Be, not Psycho Teddy Bear) beamed an incredibly vivid dream into my head last night. Completely different from anything I’ve dreamt in years. In it, I was in a massive house and. . . did you just yawn? I can’t believe you just yawned! That’s incredibly rude!

Is it? Apparently. I was at a student radio session this morning and the local radio guy was making comments on how the boys had performed during the show. He kept picking up on the fact that one of the boys was yawning. “You shouldn’t yawn in public. If you have to yawn, cover your mouth. It’s extremely bad manners!” I don’t know. Yes, it’s bad manners, but is it extreme? And should there be some allowance made for the fact that it’s only eight in the morning and we’ve all been up since five? But why am I defending the lad? Manners have gone completely out the window since my day!

Gods I feel old.

Call it Manners Evolution. What was completely inappropriate when I was a teenager is now commonplace. And it might be family based, or region based, but I’m surprised at some of the behaviours students and strangers don’t consider to be even mildly rude. For example, mealtimes were always sacred. You wouldn’t answer the phone at dinner time, and the world didn’t end. This was before mobile phones (cell phones for the weirdo foreigners – sorry, was that rude?) but the concept remains the same. Unless you’re an on-call professional or worried parent, there is no reason to answer a phone during a meal. Don’t even get me started on people who have the phone on the table throughout the entire meal, or those who hold text conversations during dinner!

Aside from dinner, mobile phones in themselves are a curse of modern society and something we just have to get used to. I personally love listening to other people talk loudly about their medical conditions and secret affairs on the number 55 tram into the city. Gives me something to write about. So by all means, keep it up. If I attempt to strangle you with my headphone cord, it just means you’re either a) boring, or b) severely limiting my ability to concentrate on the book I’m reading.

My fiancé’s bugbear is road rage. Vans and urban 4WD lunatics in particular. I love watching tiny angry people in massive vehicles taking out their frustration on other drivers by tailgating – nay, LOOMING OVER – their victims. It’s like BattleTech. Inside the “safety” of their giant robots they feel invincible. If I can’t see the wheels of the driver behind me, I slow down until they either get the message or get out from behind me. I’M TAKING BACK THE ROAD PEOPLE!

I actually enjoyed a column by Andrew Bolt where he talked about manners and basic common sense. Of course, he was leading up to the fact that if you are a teacher, you really shouldn’t make porn videos with ex-students and allow them to be leaked online. By “allow” I mean “don’t put a password on your phone so that anyone can steal it and copy the files onto their own drives”. But his initial comment was that we now need signs in the toilets of businesses telling us not only to wash our hands after going to the toilet, but how. He goes on to say that once upon a time, it was a sackable offence for a teacher to be caught gambling. I’m not sure what you have to do to get sacked now, but apparently, making porn doesn’t count.

I’ve been wracking my mind the entire time I’ve been writing this trying to remember why I wanted to write about manners in the first place. I’ve finally remembered and can now stop waffling.
When did it become ok for individuals to start eating at restaurants before all of the meals come out? More importantly, when did restaurants start to think that it was acceptable practise to bring meals out staggered over the course of ten-twenty minutes? It used to be that meals for a table were kept in a warmer, or prepared so that they all came out at once. If one person at a table hadn’t received their meal, it was because the waiter didn’t have enough hands. For the last few restaurant meals I’ve experienced, the arrival of main meals has been almost random. I’m naming names here, because I really like Thai Nee Café on Lygon, but our last couple of meals there have not been pleasant experiences.

It is most definitely ok for diners to tell their companions to “start without me, it’ll get cold”. It’s the choice of the diner, and shows consideration to the others in his or her party. It is most definitely NOT ok for restaurants to take that as complicity in the seemingly standard practise of not serving an entire table at once.

Pick up your game, restaurants. Manners still matter. People shouldn’t have to choose between a cold meal and a cold shoulder.

Now excuse me, I have a commuter to strangle.

Food glorious food?

I love to cook. I love to cook and I love to eat. Some of my great happy moments involve Duck Risotto from Fifteen, an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet at a hotel in Sydney and Coles Christmas Pudding-flavoured ice cream while watching Stargate. I will happily spend a day in the kitchen preparing meals for friends, especially when I get to try out a tricky new recipe.

I’m not a master chef. My food rarely looks pretty. But I rarely get complaints from anyone over the age of ten.

So imagine my chagrin when I visited my naturopath and he gave me a list of foods I needed to avoid. All of a sudden, my forest of food was reaching out to snare me in its allergen-filled stinging tentacles.

chips and currywurst

potatoes, no, tomatoes, no, red meat, no, curry NO!

Here’s a sample:
– no red meat, gluten (that means BREAD people!), sugar or dairy.
– no curries or chillies, potatoes or peas (seriously, peas?)
– no lentils, tomatoes or chickpeas. Lentils and tomatoes! Because when you get rid of red meat, the go-to replacement foods of choice are never lentils or tomatoes!
– no nuts. And for that, I apparently have my blood type to blame.
– oh, and no citrus or acidic food. Fish is ok, but everything any chef ever put on a bit of fish is off-limits.

That’s fine. I love a challenge. But although in these days of mid-life health-consciousness, I expected to avoid ice cream and pizza, I never thought I’d be staring longingly at a jar of peanut butter, or salivating over spaghetti bolognese.

Italians hate me. They’ve built an entire cuisine around food that I can’t eat. I went out for lunch with friends on the weekend, looked at the menu and almost burst into tears. It looked so good!

Fine. It is good for my health. I’ll suck it up. And I’ve found a number of superb recipes, expanded my repertoire of meals and discovered that gluten free, sugar free, dairy free fruit cake doesn’t have to be disgusting.

But why are there so many fantastic gluten-free recipe sites on the ‘net? Everybody I talk to now seems to be coeliac or lactose intolerant or has a severe reaction to peanuts. Case in point: I went to my friend Cate’s son’s first birthday party. There were snacks and goodies galore! And every snack was specifically designed for a person at the party who was intolerant of some food or another, either physically or morally. These treats were glucose free. Those were free of sucrose. The lollies were specifically chosen to avoid certain food colours. There was a fort around the peanut free area to prevent unauthorised nutty access. No dairy, no onions, no eggs, no badly treated animals. This party demonstrated:
1. The boundless inventiveness of humans in creating suitable foods from weird and wonderful ingredients, and
2. That something is wrong with the modern human and/or modern food.

Of course, it could be that these allergies have always been this prevalent, and suspicious deaths and belly pains were attributed to witches. But it seems that even since I was a child the instance of peanut and wheat allergies has grown exponentially. I am not the type of blogger to look stuff up. Looking stuff up kills conspiracies and more often than not proves me wrong. So I’m just going to rant based on suspicions and half-formed truths.

They’re putting something in the food. They’re genetically modifying wheat and nuts to use as weapons. We’re more than usually rapidly evolving to no longer need food. But we haven’t fully managed to live off happy thoughts yet…

But until then, I’m happy. The multitude of food intolerant people out there provide me with boundless recipes to let me dine in the standard to which I have become accustomed. I can order sweet potato pizza from Crust with a gluten free crust. I can make a chicken bolognese with GF pasta and a pumpkin base. And risotto is my new best friend. The staff envy my lunches as they trudge off to the canteen, and I’ve dropped 10 kilos in just over a month.

So I say, bring on the food allergies! Now, where’s that epipen?

A likely Scenario

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