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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Most Important Questions.

Himalayan Moonrise By Swamysk

If you're really interested in the answer, read on! To those people who I get annoyed at when you interrupt my train of thought (you know who you are) please forgive me. I want to be a better person.
Three Questions - by Leo Tolstoy

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.

What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.

One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given.

After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man's dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, "I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?"

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, "You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that." The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, "Why don't you rest now? I can take over again." But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, "I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can't give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home."

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, "Do you hear someone running over there?" The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man's clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit's bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, "Please forgive me."

"But what have you done that I should forgive you?" the emperor asked.

"You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn't met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness."

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man's property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. "But your questions have already been answered."

"How's that?" the emperor asked, puzzled.

"Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life."

Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What are you passionate about?

Life is short.

We're often told by self-improvement gurus to pursue the things we're passionate about - and spend our life doing the things that count, rather than things that don't matter.

But to do this, we need to think about what makes us excited, what arouses our passions, what's really important to us.

So I'm doing a simple experiment. I'm asking the world "What are you passionte about"? I think considering what excites other people is a good way to get you thinking about the things that are important to ourselves.

So please tell me.

If you're too embarrassed to post a reply publicly, just send me an anonymous message.

I'll publish the best answers here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cruising with Jonathan

Here's some slideshows and videos of our recent trip on Dawn Princess.

The thing I enjoyed most about it was being able to share it with Jonathan, see him experience the magic of his first cruise.

Thanks for being a great travel companion, Jonno!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fun on Dawn Princess

I've got a load of photos and videos to upload from our recent cruise on Dawn Princess.

Jonathan and I had a great time. It was his first cruise, and I really enjoyed sharing the experience with him.

For those of you who haven't been following my updates on Twitter and Facebook, here's a few pictures and videos you might be interested in.

By the way, I found it really easy to post photo and video updates via twitter using my mobile phone. Last cruise I tried blogging but that needed lots of keying via the little keypad on the phone, and ended up taking ages. Tweeting was much easier.

Awesome Sailing thru the heads. Beautiful!Approaching Sydney by sea. Looks fantastic :) A ride in the atrium elevator on Dawn Princess today.

Sunday morning @ sea And away we go!! It's a huge ship!!! Cruise ship stranded in river by tide.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bach Fugure in G Minor (BWV 578)- my jazzy attempt

For the last couple of weeks I've been working on this rendition of Bach's Fugue in G Minor "The Little" (BWV 578).

I've driven our entire house crazy with it, and now my poor wife, Liz, can't get the tune out of her head. And I can't stop whistling it and humming it as I walk around.

I think I could do better than this, but I'm sharing this with you because if I know someone listens to it, I'll try harder next time. Despite my clumsy attempts and the slow pace I took it at, I love this piece. Bach is a genius. This music is just as enjoyable now as it was hundreds of years ago when he wrote it. I love the way the different phrases echo from each part.

This arrangement is in four parts, for four saxophones. I recorded each track separately on my WX5 using the Floboe for Soprano and Alto parts, Trumpet for Tenor part, and Baritone sax for Baritone part. At one place, when the trumpet had a two bar sustained note, I was really tempted to throw in an improvised jazz lick, but in the end I decided not to because I need to play it better before trying something like that.

It's hard to play this on a wind instrument because you have bars and bars of semi-quavers, and no room to breathe.

Anyway, if you listen to it, please let me know. I'll try hard to play better next time!

Lilly - our long jump champ

Congratulations, Lilly, for coming second in long-jump for under-seven year olds yesterday at the school sports day. We're very proud of you!

Lilly - Our long jump champ! on

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Harrison - our shot put champ

Harrison, we're really proud of you for coming second in the school shot put competition for 9 year olds. Well done mate!

Harrison - our shot put champ on

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beautiful afternoons

The winter afternoon sun in Lawnton this week has been glorious. I went outs into the front yard around 3pm today and took these photos with my mobile phone, and didn't want to come back inside!
Winter SunWinter SunWinter Sun

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Here's a simple lullaby.

I picked out the simplest chord progression I could find, (I IV V) threw in a simple bridge (ii I ii V) and played a few different parts on different tracks. (Air Sax, Floboe, Bass Clarinet). The piano accompaniment is a what I got when I plugged the chords into Band in Box).

It's amazing how something beautiful can come out of something so simple.

The pics are of my sister, brother and me as babies.

Hope you like it


Monday, June 08, 2009

Fun at Southbank Parklands

We had a wonderful day at Southbank Parklands yesterday.

After checking out the "Machines of Da Vinci" exhibition, we headed down to Chez Laila to enjoy some fantastic Lebanese food, and thick, muddy Lebanese coffee. I thought I might have seen a young Ozzy Osborne there.

Then we hopped on the huge Ferris Wheel, the "Wheel of Brisbane" as the sun was going down. The view was spectacular, and we all agreed that Brissie is a much prettier city than we give her credit for.

Afterwards we went to the free comedy concert at the Piazza and watched The Kransky Sisters, Tripod plus a host of other comedians debating whether or not Queenslanders have more cause than other Australians to be happy. (Of course we do!)

Incidentally, the Kranskys are hilarious. Check out their website if you haven't heard of them. Tripod are so funny you forget how talented they are as musicians.

All in all, a fantastic day! I hope we have many more days like this.

Liz loves Ferris Wheels Brisbane River & Ferry The Wheel of Brisbane Brisbane River Brisbane River & Ready to go
Getting Ready for the Ferris Wheel Lebanese Coffee Ozzy Osborne as a 6 year old girl Mona Lizzie Da Vinci's Parachute

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Jhon and the Tooth Fairy" by Lilly

Once upon a time there lived a little boy named Jhon. Jhon really wanted his tooth to come out but it wasn't going to come out. He tride and tride to pull it out but it still didn't come out.

But one night when he was eting dinner he felt somethink wead (wierd) in his mouth, His tooth came out. He was so iksited. When he went to bed he put it under his pillow and the tooth fary came. She gave him two dollas.

The next day when he woak up he saw that his tooth was goan (gone).

He saw his two dollas. At school he spent it on tuckshop. He bort himself a slush puppy. It was dallishus.

The End.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Music - Live and Raw

Here's some more live music from our jam session this morning.

As with previous sessions, Brian picks the chords on the guitar, and I improvise on the WX5 playing whatever music seems to fit.

The end result has plenty of mistakes. We could have tidied it up post-mix, but the aim of the exercise is to create something fresh, and real, rather than make something tidy and manufactured.

Life, Friends and Music mean more when they're real - when you can see the flaws, but you know that what you see is what you get, and you like it anyway.

I hope you like them

1. Happy Day (Floboe and Guitar)
We just started warming up with this song at the start and didn't intend to record it, but we were having fun with it, so we decided to record it. Every Saturday is a happy day for me - it's a lot of fun to sit down for an hour and make music.

2. Almost Knockin' (Floboe & Guitar)
This one was an exercise on a known chord progression. The chords on this song are the same as "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" except we've thrown a bridge in the middle. The hard thing is NOT to play the tune you're used to hearing, but to create something new.

3. Little Boy Blues (Clarinet & Guitar).
I love what Brian does on the guitar on this one. It's a delight to learn with such a talented musician. I don't know how he can do so much on one instrument.
This one's cheeky. I think the blues teach you not to take yourself, or life too seriously. Kids teach you this too, so perhaps Kids and the Blues are related some way?

4. Minor Tears (Air Sax & Guitar)
The Air Sax has a haunting quality about it. It's ideal for slow minor blues. You might notice it "squeaks" a bit in the high register. That's not through bad fingering. The tone generator is programmed to "break" when it goes up high. I suppose whoever created that voice thought that something so sad should have a few cracks in it.

5. Evensong (Trumpet & Guitar)
When I close my eyes playing this, I'm sitting on a hillside, playing a smooth trumpet, watching the sun go down.