Friday, 20 August 2010

Zen and the Art of Camry Maintenance

This is what I've written to help my son maintain his Toyota Camry -

You are now the proud owner of a Toyota Camry - built by Japanese technicians who are schooled in the art of Toyota Zen. The word "Camry" has no meaning in English. It was invented by Toyota's marketing department because they liked the way it looked and sounded.

Principles of Toyota Zen -

1. This machine is not a motor car - rather it is a household appliance.
2. You must please it - otherwise it may become suicidal.
3. Like all machines it runs on smoke.
4. You must not let the smoke escape.

Household appliancism

The machine will not need extensive maintenance, but it is programmed to accept a level of respect. Gaijin who ignore this do so at their peril. The machine will not allow itself to be used without the entry ceremony. The entry ceremony consists of pressing the button on the remote twice before entering the machine. Once is not sufficient. Once will let you enter the machine, but will not allow it to be started. No amount of bad language will change this simple fact. The machine demands respect*.

Upon leaving the machine press the button on the remote once. This will lock the machine and prevent disrespectful Gaijin from entering it. Do not use the key to open the boot. In most situations, the machine regards this as disrespectful and the alarm will sound which annoys your neighbours. Use the lever beside the driver's seat to open the boot.

Pleasing the Machine

Always put the machine in "Park" and engage the handbrake when you leave the machine to its own devices. This is especially important on sloping ground. Never rely only on the handbrake to secure the machine. Should the machine become depressed, it may roll away and destroy itself on a solid object - or worse still, some Gaijin's valued solid object. Conversely, always disengage the handbrake before driving off. Neglecting to do this will allow the smoke to escape.

Running on smoke

The smoke can be contained in the following manner. Observe the temperature gauge from time to time and learn its habits. Generally it should remain out of the "Hot" zone. Should it venture into the Red zone, cease to proceed immediately. On the other side of the speedometer from the temperature gauge is the fuel gauge. Confusingly, unlike the temperature gauge, it is better to keep the needle towards the top of the dial to ensure continued procession. This will cost money.

Not letting the smoke escape

This is best achieved by checking vital fluids routinely. In order to do that you will need to find the motor. It is located under the bonnet at the front of the machine. These fluids are the engine oil, (black) the transmission oil, (cherry red) and the coolant level (green). The transmission oil is best checked when the machine is running, but ensure you are not wearing a scarf, or that you have had your hair cut before opening the bonnet. It is also prudent to check the tyre pressures, if only by looking at all four tyres before driving the machine and ensuring that they are round - the recommended shape to ensure successful forward procession.

* Read page 1 - 144 of the Instruction Manual if all else fails.

Thursday, 19 August 2010



This has been a great week so far, with the first three days spent working west.

Just getting away from all the pre-election hype and spin has been a relief.

I'm working at the moment with the family of a little girl who live on their cattle property about 400 km west of here. Their nearest neighbour is 5 km away, the nearest small settlement 40 km to the east, and the nearest town of any substance is about 100km west. Access to the property is via a four-wheel drive track which is impassable after a few showers.

I've posted the mud map the little girl's mum sent me to make sure I didn't get lost when I visited their home. Like everything else this mother does, she draws a good map. I didn't get lost.

This child is four years old, and has undiagnosed condition which makes caring for her a 24 hour proposition. She has seizures which are dangerous if there isn't someone with her when it happens, and it can happen at any time.

She spent the first 18 months of life in hospital, and since she has been at home with her family, her mum has had one break away from her for a few weeks when she (the mum) fell ill and had to be hospitalised.

Her house has been turned into what can only be described as a therapy centre for the child. No expense and time has been spared by her parents in giving this little girl the absolute best chance of securing a good quality of life.

I can't begin to describe the courage, endurance and resourcefulness shown by the family. They're bushies of course - and don't see what they're doing as anything special.

The situation confounds the health and education bureaucracies. Their highly centralised rules and regulations weren't set up to deal with supporting a child in these circumstances. The accountants who set up this stuff know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing. Much of what needs to be done requires cooperation between a range of agencies - some government, some not - and they seem to find difficulty in working outside their corporate silos.

I sometimes find it hard to be civil when told why something can't be done because it doesn't meet guidelines. I can see battles ahead in setting up a school programme for this little one. These same guidelines are usually thought up by someone who hasn't been west of the divide. BSBs* is what they're known as out this way.

Whilst I enjoy this work immensely, I'd probably still be doing it even if I didn't,  simply because of the inspirational effect of working with parents like these.

It's humbling.

* Bastards from Brisbane.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

On Symbolism

There's been lots blogged and written recently about the proposed building of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York.

Even my old mate Andrew Blot has got in on the act.

On first impressions, it seems a pretty insensitive thing to do. The right wing blogosphere has gone completely ballistic. Mind you, that's nothing new.

Let's dig a little bit deeper. In the first place - where exactly are they planning to build it? Enlarge the map. The address is 45 - 47 Park Place Manhattan (A). The Address of Ground Zero (B) is bounded by Vessey St to the North, Liberty St to the South, Church St to the East, and the West Side Highway (logically) to the West.

If you use the New York trip planner to work out how to get from one place to another, you'll note that it takes a good five minutes. The two locations are adjacent, but this thing is not going to be built at Ground Zero.

So it's close, but it's not appropriating sacred ground.

So what's the problem? It's largely symbolic of course. Funny thing about symbols - their meaning exists purely in the human imagination. You can look at this building in one of two ways - either as a symbol of reconciliation and tolerance, or as a terrorist group posturing about their monstrous behaviour.

There is a slight - very slight possibility - that some good may come of the first interpretation.  The second interpretation leads to further conflict and sorrow.

I attended a service for Vietnam Veterans' day this morning. One of the guest speakers was a young woman talking about Dr Bob Hall (ex-8 RAR) and his research team from UNSW@ADFA identifying from our military records the burial sites of 3700 VC/PAVN soldiers killed in action against Australian troops.

This is also symbolism.

It sends  a simple message that what unites us is much more significant than what divides us.

A Pinch of Common Sense

Courtesy I found this posted in Facebook a few weeks ago, when the faux outrage about mandated vaccination first began to ...