…on the importance of being killed

I’m not sure what brought my mind back to that morning, but something must have set me off.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before here, but let me recap. Please note that this story is a few years old, but I am in a bit of a writing mood so I want to play with it a bit. It has been a while since I last told it anyway.

A few years back a friend and former flatmate moved out from my apartment. I knew at the time that he had some mental instability, however it was something that never really got in the way of our relationship.

Early one morning he buzzed the intercom and asked if he could pick up some stuff that he had left in the apartment. I said sure and let him in. I could smell the whiskey on him almost before I opened the door, and the man that stood in the doorway was clearly disturbed. He was wearing old pants, a back protector (kind of like an armoured vest for motocycles) but no shirt, and carrying his helmet. I had been working the night shift the previous night though, so I didn’t really give a shit.

I told him i was going back to bed, but he asked me to check his emails.

“The computer’s on, go nuts” I said drowsily.

“Man, after all the shit I’ve done for you the least you can do is log in for me.” There was something in his voice that made me think that arguing was probably not the best idea.

“Fine.” I sighed as I sat in the computer chair, which faced away from the kitchen. “What’s you user/pass?”

“XXXX@gmail.com,” he said, before mumbling something.

“What was that?” I asked, starting to swivel my chair.

“I said XX…” and then he was upon me. He put his left hand on my left shoulder, and I instinctively moved my left hand to brush it off – and it was my left hand that caught the knife. I can still remember the hot pain as the blade bit into my hand and neck, and the eternity of swirling counter moves that spun through my mind. It was probably only a second, but it felt like an hour before I remembered that my brother was crashing at my place. I screamed once, but the pressure was still on my neck and it was hoarse and quiet. I wriggled in the chair and grasped the knife tightly, cutting my hand more but removing enough pressure to call out my brother’s name.

In the police report, he said that I sounded like I was gargling water at the time, and almost didn’t bother getting out of bed (he was also working the night shift at the time).

There was a scuffle and eventually we got the upper hand. The guy left (he actually buzzed again 5 minutes later, before the police arrived, to ask if we’d let him in to get his helmet back), and after the police had gone we got a call telling us that he was locked in a mental hospital.

I think he was there for about 3 months at least – long enough that the police didn’t bother charging him.

Once we got that call we unlocked the door and wend shopping. I remember going to the supermarket and thinking “you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to buy some fatty bacon and enjoy the shit out of it.” I also decided at that time not to let myself play the “what if” game. Before that point, I used to beat myself up over everything. For example, I had a female friend that I really wanted to date, but like all nerdy teenagers, I always botched it and ended up in what would be known as the Friendzone a decade later. But after every meeting, or phone call I would keep doing the “what if I had said X, or done Y… then things would be different.”

It was paralyzing me to the point where I know that I came off as more than your average weirdo. Thankfully I was forgiven.

But after that day with the knife-wielding maniac (and he actually was diagnosed with Mania, so I can say that) I stopped playing the What If game with the past, and only did it with the future.

I think, in some ways, it has made me a bit callous. I know that when my Dad died my reaction was less screaming and wailing and more “Okay, so that happened, let’s go through the motions of getting the funeral sorted.” But in other ways, it means that I (think) that I am focusing my energies on more productive thinking, and more productive What If games (i.e. those looking at the future, or business cases etc).

Now, I don’t suggest that you go out an get someone to almost kill you. It is a risky game. However, I think that sometimes you need a kick in the pants to change your thinking. I was reading the story of Sophie Hayes  (http://sophiehayesfoundation.org/about/), whose story is terrible not only in what happened to her, but the fact that it is happening to millions of women across the world – and I suspect if I step outside my hotel I could find a victim within 200m (I also wrote about a similar book some time ago: Slavery, Inc).

To think that something as terrible as being trafficked can happen to someone and yet they are able to continue with their lives makes your day-to-day problems seem pretty insignificant. So if you’re bummed about how much school or work sucks remember that there are sometimes worse things that can happen. And, in all likelihood, there is someone who can appreciate your story and maybe give you some advice.

Okay. I think that is enough. I am quite tired yet hopped up on a strong, after-dinner espresso. I think that I will crash soon.

Oh, and there have been two AG chapters in the past week for those of you keeping score.

Today’s picture is a boat that got burned in order to help guide some spirits home…

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Dad_0061

Okay, so about a fortnight ago I posted something here but it appears as if it never made it onto the site.

I blame Indonesian Internet.

It may not have been an overly important post. It was mostly about an incident that I may have already mentioned here – how my ex-flatmate tried to slit my throat. I might re-tell the story if there is interest.

The central theme, however, was that sometimes it takes a shock to the system to get you to realise that dwelling on the past too much is not a good thing. Sure, you should learn from the past and from your mistakes (and the mistakes of others), however endlessly running “What If…” scenarios for past events is not always healthy.

I was then going to counter that with the other side of the coin, whereby you separate yourself too far from the past and think “Oh well, that’s happened now. Time to get on with it.” That is kind of how I have been running in the past couple of years, and on occasions it catches up with you.

Anyway, I have a few precious baby-free hours, and I hope that I can use these (and a strong cup of tea) to write the next AG chapter. I feel that we are coming closer to a conclusion here, and whilst I had picked out an ending already, I am wondering if maybe I should change it…

We shall see…

 

 

Update!

Okay, for some unknown reason, this got posted as a Page and not a Post. Something in fuxxy with WordPress over the last few weeks… I will repost the document shortly. Also I will be posting Chapter 27 of AG shortly.

Hmmm….

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Fireworks

Another year over. It has been a roller coaster, with dizzying highs and frighteningly depressing lows. I think that there are a lot of things about this year that I will remember, and a heck of a lot of lessons learnt.

I am hoping that those lessons will equip me for the year ahead, as 2015 looks to be no less challenging.

I want to thank you all for sticking with me. WordPress just send me the obligatory “Your Year In Blogging” post, and whilst half of the hits on this blog are still pointing squarely at A Runner’s Afternoon, that still leaves a few tens of thousands of hits elsewhere. I will admit to the occasional bouts of fear that my writing is very one-hit-wonderish, but then again, who cares? Even if people only read A Runner’s Afternoon, they are still reading something of mine, something that I created.

I like writing and photography. I’m not very good with an actual pen (those more adventurous of you may wish to visit the KS Shimmie and search for me), but with a keyboard or a camera I feel like I am actually contributing… to something… to anything.

I love consuming art of all kinds, especially in the fiction sphere, but I always feel guilty that I am only consuming and not contributing.

KS wasn’t the first time I tried to write seriously, but certainly it was the first time that I had finally stepped across that line between consuming and actually contributing. And yet, that will never be enough. There is always that little gnawing voice in the back of my head, reminding me that I wasn’t the for the last 14 months of the project. I know that it was the right decision, and I also know that I contributed a hell of a lot to the project as well, but I do always feel a little guilty to be included in the “KS Dev” group. I guess that is just how confidence works!

I would love to stand before you and state that Arctic Gale will have at least a full first draft written by this time next year, but I know that life will seriously impede my progress. Still, there are a lot of airport lounges and hotel rooms planned for 2015, so if I can avoid the temptation of streaming Family Guy or South Park then maybe, just maybe, I will be able to finish that story for the thirteen or so of the thirteen thousand people that visited here this year. I see you guys and gals as the fuel that keeps me up at odd hours, eyes bleary, considering Kate’s next move or Oscar’s next sneak attack… but I shouldn’t get into spoilers for something that doesn’t exist yet.

I am hoping that you will allow me to entertain you for another year, and I hope that 2015 will be a great year for all of you.

So please, charge your glasses and have a sip on my behalf. You have all earned it, and my thanks.

See you in 2015!

Forgotten Anniversary

So, as I whittle away and extremely long transfer in Bangkok, I realise something – today it has been 2 years since I started working on Arctic Gale again.

At 24 chapters, I am currently working at 25% of the pace that I had originally hoped (of one chapter per week) but that is still better than not moving at all!

I only realised this today when I thought that I should update the feeder page for AG and noticed that it had been published on the 13th of December 2012. Of course, the idea is much older – I started writing it pre-KS, in about 2006.

And it is nice to see that it has some attention. Sure, the number of people that have made it most of the way through the story are still only in the mid-double digits, and yet that probably isn’t too bad for an unfinished first draft. I am a little scared by the amount of work that it needs, but I think that I will keep on plugging away at the script, and then maybe do one “polish” pass on it before leaving it alone again.

Flying over Thailand

Flying over Thailand

Okay, I’ll admit, this is a bit of a stretch for a post. I have 45 minutes to boarding and I have exhausted almost all of my options for entertainment. Jetlag is well and truly setting in, and the three timezones that I am currently trying to operate in are not helping.

I’m not sure if I’ve explained jetlag before. I’m sure that everyone has a different experience, but it feels like half-way between being drunk and being asleep. It is a physical sensation, like someone has put a net across the front of your brain and is trying to pull it out through the back of your neck.

The good news is that this is the last trip that I will be doing before picking up my bags and moving to Tokyo in March. I have a lot to do between now and then, and I am sure that there will likely be the need to jump on a metal sky bird and go somewhere, but for now there are no more plans.

This hopefully also means that I can swing a few more days (instead of hours) of writing time over the next few weeks.

Here’s hoping…

The Killing Fields

Ossuary at Choeung Ek. 9000 skulls, all arranged by the age of the victim, and marked with the cause of death

It’s been a long day, but finally I start to descend into Phenom Penh airport. I stare out the window and I’m a little taken aback by the lack of light. I took off from Bangkok a little under an hour ago, and there, on the King’s Birthday, the skies were lit up with fireworks as far as you could see.

I adjust the glasses on my nose’s bridge – something that I’ve picked up as a slight mental tick. Even though I have only been wearing glasses for about two years, I now find myself trying to push up phantom spectacles whenever I try and concentrate.

Suddenly, a rush of panic washes across me – I have remembered the stories that I first heard as an early primary school student – those of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge – stories of a time when simply wearing glasses would see you end up in a shallow, boggy grave. I know that this dark chapter of Cambodia’s history has long since been closed, however part of me can’t help but worry that I’ll be led off into a back room at customs and summarily executed.

The slight undulations are the remains of the mass graves - about 80 of them in a few hundred square metres...

The slight undulations are the remains of the mass graves – about 80 of them in a few hundred square metres…

The stories of the Killing Fields only started hitting the western media when I was about 5. As the Cold War came to a close, we finally started listening to reason and stopped treating the Khmer Rouge as the leading party of Cambodia. Stories of Pol Pot’s “Year 0,” re-education camps and the failure of communism flew out of the country, and then as the memorial ossuary was constructed, the image of thousands of skulls lined up started making the genocide a very visible reality.

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As a small atheist child, I was a little petrified. I was also an avid Sci-fi fan, and at the time I was reading books of the ilk of The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffery. I tried my hardest to conjure up armies of soldiers every night to surround my house and protect my family.

Thankfully, the Khmer Rouge never found their way to my little country town in Australia a decade after they were ousted from Phenom Penh, and thus I am here to regale you with the crazy fantasies of a 6-year-old.

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But the killing fields are still very real. It is a sombre place, something I can liken to Hiroshima or Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin. However, there is no escaping the reality of what happened at Choeung Ek – nine thousand empty eye sockets burn the reality into your brain.

The bog-like mass graves have only been excavated of large bones – meaning that there are still bones underfoot. I am used to bushwalking in Sydney, where you often see desiccated roots or lumber poking out from the ground, so it took me a triple-take to realise that this familiar site was actually bone fragments, not ancient roots systems.

Bone Fragments and rags continually bubble forth from the ground, left to be collected by caretakers and added to the ossuary

Bone Fragments and rags continually bubble forth from the ground, left to be collected by caretakers and added to the ossuary

However, i wasn’t aware of the level of torture imposed upon those victims. Bullets were expensive in communist Cambodia, so the executed were dispatched with farm tools, bamboo, and some even had their throats cut with palm fronds. Some weren’t even dead when they were thrown into the mass graves – they were covered in chemicals like DDT to help mask the smell, and this was their final demise.

Visiting sites like these is important. It puts your shitty life problems into perspective, and it gives you a much needed kick in the arse to think deeply about the world that we live in. I was just a little disappointed to see that the only people that bothered to visit were white westerners…

Khmer Rouge soldiers would bash children younger than 2 against this tree until they were dead, then throw them into an adjacent pit.

Khmer Rouge soldiers would bash children younger than 2 against this tree until they were dead, then throw them into an adjacent pit.

It is easy to pay these instances off as people in the grips of mayhem, and that this will never happen to us, but as a parting blow, I’d like to remind you of the Zimbardo experiment, wherein Stamford university students simulated a prison within test conditions. Within no time at all the kinds of anti-social behaviour that you would link to the Nazis or the Khmer Rouge started to surface. We are not so different from those that wreak genocide on other people. It will only be through reminding ourselves of this kind of lunacy that we may help prevent it again.

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Happy Birthday to Me

Okay, so I know I should really be posting a photo of a rising sun, but that would require getting up too early.

Wow.

So the weekend before last, on one of my many plane rides, I blew an eardrum due to a bit of a headcold. I cannot recommend this to anyone.

Thus, the time that I had dedicated to writing out the next action scene in Arctic Gale was dedicated to swallowing mind-bending antibiotics, as well as meeting with my company’s Board to get the wheels set in motion for the next phase in what has been an already hectic life.

I’ll hopefully be writing Chapter twenty-something for AG in the next couple of days, complete with all the requisite bloodshed.

However, I was surprised to see that this week, thanks to Reddit, I have had the most hits in a single day ever – including when “A Runner’s Afternoon” appeared on 4chan. So I guess that settles that debate; 4chan is only half as power as Reddit in my eyes. If anyone wants ot post about how awesome AG is on Reddit, well, don’t let me stop you…

If any of you have managed to stick around after that spike, then thank you. I hope I haven’t bored you.

I can announce that, all regulatory approvals pending, that I should finally be moving to the land of the rising sun from March next year. It will be a busy time initially, so my apologies if the updates become even more sparse than they are now. However, there are many topics here that I hope will interest a broad range of people, from the basic culture change between western and Japanese culture, right through the pain of getting visas, through to setting up a legal entity in a foreign country.

I would hope that I can share these topics well enough so that any one of you that have to make a similar move will not have to learn the same mistakes that I will inevitably make over the next 12 months.

However, one thing that I know for sure is that I will have to make sure I look after myself, so on this most auspicious of days (my birthday) I have retired into the mountains of Yamagata (I am, as always, away from home on business).

And, after many, many years of trying, I have finally managed to take a couple of “Mountain and Sunset” shots that I actually like. I would like to thank Canon for taking aaaaaaall of my money and making this possible.

Now I am going to get back into the onsen with the quite obviously Yakuza group that has decided to stay in the same remote hotel as I have OTL

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Another “not-so-rising” sun photo..

The Big Move

I have always been a bit of an over-achiever. I was a smart kid in a small town beyond the vast limits of Sydney City, and there were maybe 250 kids in my Primary school, total. So my childhood was full of accolades and people thinking I was great. It didn’t really set me up well for life in the real world, because I came to expect those kinds of congratulatory remarks by default. I was able to sail through high school and university with only the most cursory of efforts. My marks were okay, but certainly not as high as they could have been if I had actually applied myself. Then again, I guess this is common to all teenagers of any level of ability.

About eight years ago I started really studying Japanese. At the time I was working as a technician at a very large and well-known building, but I was just one of many faces in the crowd there.  I had already been in the workforce for about 5 years and the reality of having to actually work had hit home. I had slowly clawed myself from nowhere to somewhere, yet it was nowhere near the levels of appreciation that I thought that I had deserved. So, after slacking off in the education department, I realised that I really needed to get another language under my belt if I really wanted to get out there and noticed.

During the three and a half years of after-work classes, I consoled myself and the apparently slow progress with the fact that one day I might actually be able to do business in Japan. Little did I know just exactly what that would entail.

Since then, I had actually made a name for myself at my old employer, and became known to practically every department. The CEO and the Directors often called upon me to provide advice, and I was the youngest head of department there. I was picked up by a new company, initially as a pre-sales engineer and then as a GM. I also have completed a Master’s degree and have had a baby. I’ve been to Japan about 10 times in the last 2 years, have met with suppliers, distributors and customers, and have found myself doing exactly the kind of work I had hoped for in the tiny classroom eight years ago.

 

These shifts, however, have all seemed pretty organic. It is hard to notice that sometimes those things that you have been wishing for have actually happened. And then, when you look back on them, it seems like it took no time at all.

 

I have recently been asked to consider another large move. The details are not 100% worked out, and as I know that there is the possibility that my professional and personal life have crossed over I will not go into details yet, however it seems to be the next logical step in the growth of myself and also my company. Once confirmed I will hopefully have a lot of topics to cover in this blog! It will be a challenging assignment that will require me to learn a lot of new things (some of which I am starting to study now). I am looking for a place to do a brain dump of this learning from time to time, as that is one way that does actually help me learn things; reading, understanding and then re-synthesizing the information for other people’s use.

 

There have been a few discussions in comments about these kinds of topics, so if you would like me to comment on personal development in the “posts” and leave the creative writing to the “pages” please get back to me below. I am hoping that from Mid-November I will be able to comment on my upcoming transition more freely. My work is mostly as a business person, with lots of travel, dealing across cultures, and ultimately finding out how we can supply our customers with something of value. I hope that I can write something here that will make any of you that are following a similar path have a less turbulent journey.

 

 

Or  I can go back to posting Hanako fan fics. Honestly, just tell me what you guys would prefer!

 

Today’s photo is from the Shinkansen museum in Nagoya. It is a great place to spend a few hours between Tokyo and Osaka, and it actually has a lot of information in English for those that struggle with Kanji (myself included when it comes to technical matters). Interesting point; a Shinkansen train hits the platform at 70Kmph (about 43Mph). Considering that Sydney trains rarely get about 50Kmph I think that is pretty damned cool.

 

Oh, and of course there is another Arctic Gale. Apologies for not writing so much, but the wife is heavy with Number 2 at the moment so this means that I have to look after Number 1 on the weekends, meaning almost no free time.

 

 

The four "modern" Shinkansen - N700, 300, 100 and 0-sen types

The four “modern” Shinkansen – N700, 300, 100 and 0-sen types