April 27, 2009

For Sale

Following items for sale. Contact xzackly at gmail dot com for more info.

1991 Nissan Pulsar Q, 163,000km, with road-worthy. Automatic. Fuel gage is faulty and the CD player has trouble ejecting discs, but otherwise it's in great shape, no dents, no rust, runs excellently. $3,600.

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Combo Kenwood FP220 Series Blender / Food Processor works perfectly, near new. $150


Breville Toaster $40 and Breville Kettle cordless, with magnetic lid, auto-off for $40. Both 2 yrs old. (not available until June)


Kambrook Jaguar Vacuum Cleaner with attachments. 2000 watt, HEPA filter, extra bags. Turbo Brush not working. 2 yrs old. $100


email zack at gmail dot com for more info

Posted by xz at 6:21 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2008

sweet and sour

last night, we ate some dinner with sleepyhead cheryl and the postman. cheryl is over from the americas because the postman expedited her delivery. for this, we are grateful.

they met at burning man. now cheryl's in melbourne. ah. young love. it does warm the cockles so.

eating veggie food we did the goss and got to know the postman some. discussing life back in san francisco, the contrast between what's acceptable in melbourne v. sf comes into contrast.

cheryl went to a wedding where some woman with a three-adjective name decided a thong and a fishnet shirt was the right attire in which to dance. with the family present. here in melbourne, malawi's labmates get uncomfortable if she says something uncouth, like say, "penis." and they're biologists. different standards, i guess.

we talk about burning man and the hippie-rave-dance-cult and self-improvement-newer-agers and man, does it all seem like mass insanity from this side of the world. sure. i dig a big fiesta. i like burning man. (or i did last time i went). i even like some self-improvement-newer-agers if the self-improvement part makes me feel itchy. but boundaries, people, boundaries. if someone showed up to my wedding in a thong and a fishnet shirt i would have soiled myself.

now, i suppose i don't really know what this wedding (or this family) was like, but it seems from far away that the old "time and a place" rule applies. as if san francisco is so permissive and alternative that a segment of the genpop has stretched the bungee beyond its elasticity. can one spring back from that? i wonder what ms. three-adjective would do if she had to spend a month in lansing or worcester; would she telescope back into herself while dr. who music rattled her head? or would she just keep on keepin' on and face the consequences?

on the other hand, i have to admit that of late i've found melbourne to be, well, dull. i try to start up things, but they never quite take off. film night, say, or a writing group. people show up. it's nice. but nice is two alert levels below what i'm hoping for. i'm hoping for enthusiasm. i'm hoping to build a mad band of goofballs who will come up with weird things for me to be part of as well. two years in, it hasn't happened. and that's dull.

we think about the future; is ours in melbourne or in san francisco? will we eventually find the enthusiasm here or will we move back and just be careful which weddings we go to?

Posted by xz at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2008

blog from the dead

yes hello friends now!

I know, i have not been to blogging for long time. but am back!

today is a blustery spring melbourne day. it's hot. it's cold. it's sunny. it's raining. there's some dude with a thick scottish accent using an angle grinder on my lanai. normal times!

yesterday was my third anniversary. to celebrate, we piked on the plans we had and ate dinner at Rumi, where they served us skewered quail in orange sauce. this i recommend eating. then we watched the Incredible Hulk which was almost perfectly wretched. tonight, cheryl is in town. some guy she met at burning man flew her out here for a few weeks. i knew there was still a reason to go to burning man! i would have guessed it was "prolific nudity" and "filth wallowing" but i was wrong. it's free airtickets to australia. damn. i should have gone!

also, our new australian accountant has told us that we only owe 60% of what we thought we'd owe. this means we have more than no money! perhaps it also means we will come home in february for a wedding. or at least one of us will. if we had gone to burning man and got free airtickets, then we could both go. as it is, the future remains hazy with a low chance of prolific nudity.

since i last blogged, i've started doing cinema jejune again; a regular film viewing thing at our place. here, most people have not seen many great films. like Brazil. the Wild Bunch. 8 1/2. unseen! will there be enough time to show all these great movies? no. no there will not.

with the news today, i feel like i should cancel this weekends scheduled feature (the Apartment) in favor of Trading Places.

everyone loves a market collapse! i'm going to invest heavily in orange juice futures. if you see clarence beeks, tell him i'm looking for him.

Posted by xz at 5:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

i made it there

i got an email today that i've been waiting for for a long time.

the New York Times will be publishing one of my Sunday crossword puzzles.

it's kinda making my head spin. i've only been trying to sell them one for two years.

Posted by xz at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 7, 2008

LA, baby

In a couple of months there will be a crossword puzzle in the Sunday Los Angles Times entitled "Sail Away."

I know, because it's mine.

My crossword. In the newspaper. Finally.

I'd like to thank my wife, my team of assistant-editors, and Nancy Salomon.


Posted by xz at 4:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2008

solas so long

as near as i can tell, i have won almost nothing.

i wrote this article last year that was too long to pitch to most magazines and too depreciating for most travel outlets. it's about ethiopia and how miserable it is there.

so i entered it for a Solas Award. Traveler's Tales Publishers gives out some cash awards and publishes a "best of book" each year. it costs $20 to submit an article, which was sort of depressing -- to pay to have someone read your stuff.

well, i "won".

my article Vampires from Venus was selected as one of the three "funniest" stories of the competition. so i get a free copy of their Best of 2007 book (i'm guessing retail value of about $19.99) and a certificate. i didn't win one of the three "best of show" awards which are $1,000 to $500. it doesn't look like my article is getting printed in the 2007 best of book either.

so, uh, for $20 i get a certificate and free postage of a book a don't particularly want. except since the competition is only really open to US residents it's getting mailed to my folks in SF.

i'm trying to be happy that this editor liked my story, but it's not really happening. i mean, basically i paid him to have free rein to publish my article whenever he wants. or not. if it does get printed, i get a $100 "honorarium." so basically i bought a book and gave away my article.

i do think it's a really good piece. so that's something. if anyone wants to read it, just let me know and i'll send you a copy. it's one of the three funniest travel articles written this year!

Posted by xz at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

April 8, 2008

weird kid

we had us a little indian summer here today. after a week of brr brr brr, it was sunny and glorious.

to celebrate, i took the lappy out to the front patio and pretended to work.

i would like to tell you what i saw.

next door to us, on the right, we have the Odd People. on the left we have dorje and john and, yes, they're pretty odd too, but in a good way. on the right side, though, we have some sort or garbage mutants.

they have the most disheveled house on the block by a wide margin. their fence has more holes than posts. their yard looks like arkansas. once or twice i've seen into their place when they've left the front door ajar. i shit you not it was nothing but plastic bags stacked on every flat surface, including the floor, as if they had just come back from the grocery and bought enough food for pakistan and hadn't yet gotten around to putting it away. all down the hall and into the kitchen, plastic bags.

except it was probably not food. i can guess this because of the piles of crap on their porch. games that are missing 48% of their pieces. half a bicycle. furniture that is no longer sure if it's chair or bureau. a stack of empty tins.

once, a few months back, a couple of women from some local society came around to help the woman of the house try and get things into shape. they dragged endless crap out of the house, filled up a few dumpsters worth, and then gave up. as far as i can tell, there nothing changed. it must have been like shining a beacon into a black hole to try and liven the place up. when it was "big trash night" a bit ago, it was very tempting to just drag everything on their porch (and the porch itself) out onto the footpath so the nice men could cart it all away.

i didn't. idiot.

the woman talks endlessly once she gets your attention, so we pretend to receive mobile phone calls when we see her. the husband looks like a pair of curtains that have been hanging in a pub since the sixties and which have not been cleaned. the son...

the son, today, was also outside. i could tell from the noise. at first i thought it was a possum or something. it was this "skrtich-skritch-skritch" noise that wouldn't stop. i put down my lappy and took a peek. he was sitting on the edge of the porch doing something odd with one of his mother's precious empty tin cans. he had his phone bud in his ear and was presumably listening to the rock music. he also presumed to not notice me, which was okay fine.


it was a big can. the kind Milo comes in. like a family-sized tin of cocoa, if you will.

skritch-skritch-skritch. ignore-ignore-ignore.

then, in a dramatic upgrading of entertainment possibilities, he walks out onto the footpath and surveys the land. he sets his be-skritched can down and rolls it. he walks backwards ahead of it, as if it is some toddler learning to walk or something. it rolls straight for a bit and then veers off to the left. he harrumphs. he tries it again in the street. i stand up, wondering what the fuck he's doing. he does not see me. he only has eyes for can.


he tries it again, this time directly in front of our place (which, by the way, does not look like a near-condemned disaster area). this time the can rolls bit to the right. i give him the head-nod that means "hey, how ya goin'?" but he is distracted by something that is not quite exactly where i am so doesn't notice.

i wonder what he was up to. i wonder what the hell it must be like to live in a house where you can't see the floor because it's covered in bags full of crap. i wonder what it's like to have parents who must be the most embarrassing people on the face of the Earth when you're a sort of pudgy, disheveled, grey kid. i feel a bit bad for him in a Patricia Hearst sort of way.

if i woke up one day and the entire house next door had collapsed in on itself, i would not be surprised at all.

Posted by xz at 9:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2008

notes from prairie island

i just dropped rachel and matt off at the airport. after two weeks visiting, they've decided to move here. as should you all.

we had such a great time i'm too tired to write anything coherent. we cruised town, hit the zoo, went horseback riding for two days, ate fine food, went to the coast for a long weekend, drank ourselves silly, and had many a fudge parade.

you don't know what a fudge parade is? you're missing out.

there are photos on my picture page if you're curious. these represent just a wee fraction of the great photos matt took.

now, i do believe i need a nap.

Posted by xz at 3:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008


i went to my first cricket game this weekend. james and gobbo took me down to the MCG on their bikes so we could watch the one-day India/Australia game. this was a short game. it only lasted eight hours.

in case, as is likely, you have no idea how the hell one plays cricket, i'll try to explain. it's taken me about a year to reach a point where i can say that i know what the hell is going on in the sport. i'm sure i'll get some of my terminology wrong, but this is close enough.

cricket is similar to a baseball except there are always two batters up, every base is home plate, and you "bowl" instead of pitch. is that clear?

first off, go outside now with a tennis ball and try to hit something large, like say a car, by swinging your arm backwards up and around over your head while running and releasing the ball so it hits your target on the bounce. that's bowling. the pros do it at 150 km/hr.

you've got a big oval field. towards the center there are two wickets facing each other, each behind a line. the wickets are three sticks stuck in the ground with a small piece resting over the top of them. if this piece gets knocked off by the bowler, or by anyone when you're not behind the line, you're stumped. which means you're out. unlike baseball, you never get up again once you're out. each team gets ten outs and then you're done. you can also get out by having a ball you hit get caught on the fly, or by only saving the wicket from getting knocked by the bowler by putting your leg in the way.

each side gets their turn (or turns, if it's a 5-day test) to bat, called "innings". the fielding side has their guys spread about the oval playing "slips" and "square leg" and "other weird positions" plus they have one dude bowling. they can swap bowlers in and out more or less however they damn well please. the batting side always has two batters up, one protecting each wicket. the bowler will bowl six balls towards one wicket in each "over" and then they'll swap and bowl towards the other wicket. the batter who's being bowled to is trying simultaneously to protect the wicket and to score runs. runs are scored by running back and forth between the two wickets while the fielders are off chasing a ball you've hit. frequently, balls will be hit weakly and no one will run at all. sort of like hitting a foul ball in baseball. you can hit weak balls all day and never score a run and never go out.

still with me?

the batters will hit and run, sometimes swapping ends (if they score an odd number of runs) and sometimes ending up back where they started. if you hit a ball all the way to the "boundary" (the lip marking the edge of the oval), you automatically score 4. if you hit a ball over the boundary in the air, that's worth 6.

and that's cricket. the batting team will bat until they've lost all ten wickets (got out ten times) or, if it's a limited-over test like the one i went to, until the predetermined number of overs have been bowled, which ever comes first. in this case, it was 50 overs. then the teams switch and the other side gets to bat. in the long tests, each side gets two "innings"; meaning each side gets to bat twice and the cumulative score decides the "test."

because it's played this way, you never know who's winning. it's either unclear or it's over. in the game i saw, Australia batted like crap. they were up first and a mess of their batsman went out with meager scores. the captain, Ricky Ponting, scored 0. he didn't score a single run before he lost his wicket. the Aussies didn't last the full 50 overs, instead going 10/159. that means 10 wickets lost, 159 runs scored. the Indians, up second, could play it safe as they only need to score 160 before they'd be declared winner and the match would end. to put that in perspective, in 50 overs there are 300 bowls, so the Indians only needed to score about 3 runs an over. which they did so they won. in test cricket, when there's no limit to the number of overs in an innings, it's frequently a draw. if both sides don't go out twice, too bad. draw. five days for nothing.

there are other rules to cricket which i'm picking up. for instance, if you catch the ball while fielding, you must immediately throw it up in the air, whoop joyously, and let your teammates crowd around you for some man-love. if you get out, you must immediately walk off the pitch without any emotion or you will be ponce. if you wait for the umpire to tell you you're out, you look like a petulant brat. if you scull an entire beer while the bogans scream "scull", particularly if you're large, have your face painted with the orange, white, and green stripes of the Indian flag, and are actually wearing an Indian flag, then they will reward you by chanting "you are a legend!" if you do this twice in a row because you have bought two beers, then your wife will get up and lead you out to be scolded. you are still a legend, don't worry. if you let the cops grab the very dangerous beach ball you were about to knock about, so they can pop it, then you are not a legend. you are wanker. this will be chanted until you are suitably humiliated. starting the "mexican wave" is grounds for dismissal and fines. as the crowd knows, however, "you cannot stop the wave." you can, if you are a policeman, drag bogans out by the neck, however.

and that's cricket. it makes a hell of a lot more sense then Aussie Rules Footy. you're on your own with that one.

Posted by xz at 9:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2008


i just sold my first crossword puzzle.

Simon & Schuster will be including one of my 21x21 puzzles in their next book of crosswords, Mega Crosswords 4, currently being edited. not sure when it will hit stores.

after over 18 months of trying, i am now officially deserving of the title of cruciverbalist.

hoo-ray for me!

Posted by xz at 2:31 PM | Comments (0)