10 things I’d do with 10 million dollars

Why is it that some people are luckier than others? Do they just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time? Or is being lucky something you learn, knowing when to take chances and when to hold back?

Sometimes I’m lucky but most of the time I think we make our own luck… but then there’s a story like this one, where someone won $10 million playing Oz Lotto. They live in a town of just 4,000 people and the ticket was bought from the local news agency where another ticket won $100,000 just weeks earlier. That’s some run of luck!

Of course that’s great for them, but it’s made me wonder what I’d do if that ever happened to me (I can dream). The first thing I’d do is go crazy, but $10 million is a lot of money, enough to change my life and others… this is what I’d try to do with it.

  • Buy a house
    That’s the first thing I’d do. Just a small house, maybe three bedrooms, somewhere in Sydney but away from the crowds and noise. Plus some furnishings and a new TV.
    • Investments
      Next I’d pay off family debts and make sure we all had enough savings to live off comfortably. I’d give some money to friends and invest in a property for my parents to live in as well.
      • Self-publish
        I’d also put some money aside for when I wanted to send my work away. If it was repeatedly knocked back then at least I’d have the option to self-publish.
        • Donations
          I’d give 15% to charities and look at starting a scholarship fund for disadvantaged children; the interest alone could pay for several scholarships each year.
          • Pay it forward
            For this I’d draw up a contract, then find 3 people and give them $500,000 each to start a small business. They could keep the profits, but once they’d made $1 million they’d give $500,000 to help someone else. Hopefully it would keep being paid forward to help new people.
            • Start a bookshop
              This is something I’ve always wanted to do, start a secondhand bookshop somewhere in Sydney, with a small coffee shop and weekly poetry readings… it’d be a nice business to keep in family hands. How’s New Leaf Books sound?
              • Travel
                First I’d take my family on a vacation and then put some aside to see more of the world later on. Hopefully I’d get to see Egypt and more of Europe… and Wimbledon, of course.
                • Copyrights
                  This idea I’ve liked since I heard Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia mention it. I’d look at some of the old copyrighted works which are still under licence (texts, music) and buy them out to release into the community. Realistically a few million dollars wouldn’t buy much but it might help to raise awareness for Project Gutenberg and similar projects.
                  • Music
                    Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is to learn to play the guitar and piano. I’d set up an area where someone could teach me without bothering anyone else. I’d also buy all the CDs I’ve wanted over the years.
                    • Rainforest preservation
                      Finally I’d purchase several acres of land for habitat preservation and do more to support The Rainforest Conservation Fund and the World Wildlife Fund.

                    So that’s my list. I wonder what you’d do with $10 million? πŸ˜‰

                    Do You Get Enough Sleep?

                    Sleep Quiz

                    Do you remember the scene in Falling Down where Michael Douglas enters the fast food restaurant? He starts to order but the manager refuses to serve him breakfast because he’s two minutes too late. So he snaps, pulls out a gun and starts shooting into the ceiling. That’s what I’ve been feeling like for the last few days.

                    Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s not far off. I can’t sleep and it’s driving me nuts. I’m a night owl anyway but the last two weeks I’ve been getting 2 hours sleep a night. I’m not tired, not thinking, not doing anything… I just can’t sleep. And I’m probably not much fun to be around either.

                    My brain’s been too zapped to think of any meaningful posts lately, so I thought I’d post this quiz instead. It seemed like a good match. I’m hoping it’s right and it’s just a “sometimes” thing… if it’s insomnia I’m going to go crazy.

                    What about you? Do you get enough sleep? Any tips? I’ll take anything I can get. πŸ˜‰

                    How far is too far?

                    What do you say on a day like this? Heath Ledger dead at 28… it seems unbelievable. I remember seeing him in Sweat, his first major role; he had such a strong presence that it transcended the screen. There was no doubt he’d go on to bigger things… for it to end so tragically leaves me at a loss for words.

                    Most people will remember Ledger for his role in Brokeback Mountain but I’ll always remember a scene in Monster’s Ball. He played the son of Billy Bob Thornton, a correctional officer who is overcome as he leads a prisoner to the electric chair. Later he asks if Thornton hates him. His father answers yes. Ledger shoots himself, saying that he always loved him. It’s a torturous scene, sublimely acted… now it seems even sadder.

                    My thoughts go out to Ledger’s family, his young daughter… this must be so difficult and to live it through the media’s gaze can only make it worse. The coverage was live as Ledger’s body was being taken from his apartment and you could hear the cameraman saying “I’ve got the shot”, others crowding round. Not to mention that apparently Ledger’s parents first heard of his death through a radio report… death isn’t entertainment. Can’t they show a little respect?

                    Sometimes the media just goes too far. We see it every day with a story about Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or a dozen other celebrities; there are no boundaries and we just need to look at Anna Nicole Smith to see how it can end. I hope that hasn’t played a part here as well but if it has, shouldn’t we bear some responsibility? We’re attracted to it like a train wreck. At what point do we look away and say they’ve gone too far? Or don’t we even care?

                    The thing which disturbs me the most is that Ledger seemed distressed by his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. He called the character a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” and it left him mentally exhausted. Perhaps sometimes actors can go too far in pursuit of their art, get so lost that they can’t find their way back. … surely no role is worth that.

                    No matter how many films I see, in my mind he’ll always be the 16 year old just starting his career, with so much promise… rest in peace, Heath. We’ll miss you and remember you, always.

                    Songs of my life

                    Have you ever thought about the music in your life? We all have our favourite songs and albums but then there’s the music that we remember because of what it meant to us at certain times in our lives, the soundtrack to our lives.

                    I wrote a post a while ago about the soundtrack to my life but I thought afterward that it felt incomplete; it was a list of songs I remembered playing during my life but they weren’t all my favourite songs, the ones that really mean something to me.

                    So I thought I’d do a second list. These are the 10 songs I think best reflect my life, who I am up until now. It was harder to do than I thought but it was a lot of fun too. I wonder what your list would be? πŸ˜‰

                    Fall At Your Feet
                    Crowded House

                    The finger of blame has turned upon itself
                    And I’m more than willing to offer myself
                    Do you want my presence or need my help?

                    The Scientist
                    Coldplay

                    Running in circles, coming up tails
                    Heads on the science apart

                    Big Yellow Taxi
                    Joni Mitchell

                    Don’t it always seem to go
                    That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
                    They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

                    Under Pressure
                    Queen & David Bowie

                    And love dares you to change our way
                    Of caring about ourselves

                    Forever Young
                    Alphaville

                    Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune
                    The music’s played by the madmen

                    Hard Sun
                    Indio

                    Bound down and flew away the hours
                    Of her garden and her sun

                    {Explain}
                    Sarah Blasko

                    You say that our love can’t be a pattern in your palm
                    You say that our love, you say that our love, is only mapped

                    Landslide
                    Fleetwood Mac

                    If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
                    Well the landslide will bring it down

                    Waiting On The World To Change
                    John Mayer

                    We just feel like we don’t have the means
                    To rise above and beat it

                    Where The Streets Have No Name
                    U2

                    I’ll show you a place
                    High on a desert plain
                    Where the streets have no name

                    A blogday mystery

                    Does anyone else have a problem remembering dates? I always used to have a good memory but for some reason recently I’ve just been going blank. I forgot a couple of birthdays last year, was late for several appointments I shouldn’t have forgotten, and the last few weeks have got into the bad habit of using the wrong date when I sign my signature.

                    But this has to beat all of them. My blog turned one a few days ago – and I completely forgot! I see the date every time I look at my profile but I couldn’t remember. Maybe I should start doing more crosswords or sudoku or something. My poor blog deserves better.

                    The only reason I remembered at all was because I’ve had a bit of a mystery to solve over the last few days. I’ve been seeing a notification that my domain mapping is about to expire as it’s been a year and I went to purchase the credits for the upgrade again… only there were already 10 credits in my account. For a moment I thought I’d forgotten buying them but I know I didn’t; I went back through my PayPal receipts and the last time I bought anything on WordPress was in November and that was for another domain.

                    So where did the credits come from? I’m still not sure. I thought it might have been a gift but wouldn’t I get an email about it? Or perhaps it was a glitch and some of my old credits reappeared? That could happen but to cover the exact amount for the domain mapping? The only thing I can think of is that perhaps staff did it, but that doesn’t make much sense either… anyone else have any ideas? There might be something simple I’m missing.

                    Anyway, the mystery made me realise it’s been a year since I started this blog, so Happy Blogday! We need music. Where’s Madonna’s Holiday? I know it’s on my iPod somewhere… πŸ˜‰ It really doesn’t feel like a year; the community around WP is wonderful and the time’s gone so quickly. If anyone’s interested in the stats, so far the blog’s had 10,854 views, with 145 posts, 401 comments and 3,333 spam. My most viewed post is this one; this is my favourite.

                    The blog’s changed a lot since it started; originally it was a mix of a portfolio and a column, but now it’s really a window to my thoughts on life and society… there’s more of myself in it now and I never imagined receiving such wonderful feedback, meeting so many interesting people. So here’s to the next year! Let’s hope it’s even better than the first. πŸ™‚

                    Would you want to know?

                    Here’s a question for you. Imagine you’ve spent years trying to find the love of your life; you’ve dated and fallen in and out of love, but never found that special someone. Then finally you meet someone and you just click; it’s not something you can explain, you just feel an immediate attraction and it’s like you’ve known them all of your life. Soon you know it’s love and you can’t imagine being apart. You get married and start planning to spend the rest of your lives together… and then you discover that you are brother and sister.

                    That’s the story which has been coming out of Britain over the last few days. It’s so sad and what makes it even sadder is that they’re twins, which is why their connection was so strong. Their birth was normal (not in-vitro) and they were adopted by separate parents and never told that they had a twin. It wasn’t until after they were married that they discovered the truth. Now their marriage has been annulled and it’s sparked debate over whether children should have more access to the identity of their birth parents.

                    Supposedly this is very rare and you’d hope it is given all of the circumstances that would have to occur, but here’s my question. Imagine you’re in their position, a day before you’re about to hear the truth… would you want to know? If someone offered you the chance to know the truth but you knew it would destroy everything, would you still want to know?

                    I’ve been wondering about this since I heard the story, and I would. I believe it’s always better to know the truth, even if it’s incredibly painful. But I’ve read a few blogs which haven’t been as sure and honestly I can understand that too. It’s an incestuous relationship and if you knew you’d be repulsed, but for several years they (and you’d hope their families) thought they were a normal couple. It certainly would have been “easier” for them to go on in ignorance, if not “right”.

                    They must be living in their own kind of hell. To have formed that connection, then suddenly have it broken without the possibility of it being restored… I find that almost unimaginable. Not to mention it’d be impossible to see each other as brother and sister, so they’d actually be losing two relationships… the only good thing is that they didn’t have children. There was a case in Germany where a man served a two-year prison sentence after fathering four children with his sister; they’d been separated at birth.

                    It’s made me wonder about something else as well, though. Here I’d rather know, but what if I could find out the day I was going to die – is that something I’d want to know? Honestly, I’m not sure… a large part of me says yes; if I knew, I’d have time to say goodbye, time to live my life. But I think as well that I’d be more afraid of death if I knew; I’d know what I was losing, feel time slipping by… I’d rather value each day as it comes and I can only do that by not knowing… just as I’d rather not know if I’m supposed to meet someone, so I can value the relationships on the way.

                    If there’s one thing I want to take away from this story, it’s that. It’s so easy to take everything we have for granted; our homes, relationships, health… I’d hope something like this wouldn’t happen, but still, one day we might find it all gone. Better to cherish what we have now than have regrets later.

                    What about you? What would you do? Is there anything you’d rather not know? I’d be interested to find out. πŸ˜‰

                    The Garden’s End

                    Image from Stock.Xchang

                    The Garden’s End
                    CJ Levinson

                    Unlock the chains around your heart
                    Let me find a way inside
                    Let me see where your thoughts begin
                    And where your hopes and dreams die
                    Everything you wanted means nothing now
                    No one noticed you but me
                    I’ll dream of you Β· tonight

                    If I could raise the dead with words
                    And see through your lonely eyes
                    Find you again at the garden’s end
                    Would you still occupy my mind?
                    Cast out from everything you know
                    There is nowhere you’d rather be
                    I’ll weep for you Β· tonight

                    Once I dreamt of another world
                    Of the sun and moon and stars
                    Walking beside you, I was a better man
                    But all dreams fade with time
                    And this place could never have been our home

                    Do you lie awake next to him
                    Surrounded by your sorrows in the night?
                    No one wanted this after so many years
                    But your heart knows it’s the only way
                    It’s too late to start again
                    And too hard to say goodbye

                    If I could hold you now
                    Look upon your face
                    There’s so much I would say
                    My heart goes with you Β· tonight

                    Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

                    Show a little respect

                    I went shopping in the sales the other day. It was murder. They’d already been on for a week but the crowds were worse than before Christmas. I’m not a good shopper at the best of times but the sales bring out the worst in me; I wander off and end up buying things I know I don’t need. And my cursing the queues doesn’t make me much fun to shop with. Maybe it’s just that I’m a guy and can think of a dozen ways I’d rather spend a Saturday afternoon, but looking through Myer with thousands of people just doesn’t appeal to me.

                    But I needed a couple of new shirts, so off I went. And soon regretted it. As soon as I was in Myer the sales people started coming over, wanting to know if they could “help”. Well, I don’t know if they could have helped or not, because they didn’t give me enough time to work out what I wanted. “Do you want to try that on?” Try what on? I wasn’t holding anything! When people bother you that much I think they’re not concerned with “helping” you as much as wanting to make sure you’re not shoplifting. Why don’t they go judge some other book by its cover. πŸ˜•

                    Anyway, it must be Murphy’s Law or something because nothing went right. One reason I went up was to return a shirt from before Christmas; that went fine, and I finally found a couple of shirts that fitted properly. Then I didn’t think about it again until I got back home and started unpacking. And found they’d put the shirt I’d returned back in with the others! It felt like Groundhog Day. How do you do that? They’re separate transactions; the first thing you do is put it in the returns chute. No big deal, though; I’d just find the receipt to prove I’d returned it and take it back when I went up next.

                    Except they didn’t give me the frelling return receipt. Suddenly I was having visions of doing the right thing and taking it back – only to be arrested for shoplifting. It would be so typical. So I did the sensible thing and called Myer. Luckily there was no problem, but their response surprised me. They accepted my word for it and didn’t even check their records. If anything they seemed stunned that someone would go out of their way to help. Most people don’t apologise for mistakes in case they’re sued, but they apologised five times in two minutes – a record for me.

                    I took it back earlier and again had that same reaction. It reminded me of when I helped someone with her pram a couple of weeks ago, that same unexpected but grateful look. It seems strange that such a small thing might be appreciated so much, but in a way it makes sense. Standing somewhere for hours at a time, making the same sales and returns, taking the same abuse, must be tiring. Perhaps coming across someone who isn’t complaining and is just trying to help is noticeably different; perhaps they’re so used to people keeping things after a mistake that someone returning it seems unusual. Either way, it was better than I was expecting.

                    It’s funny the places we find respect, isn’t it? I remember when I was studying that respect seemed quite common; respect between students, between teachers and students. It seemed like a natural thing to be respectful and something I thought would be true later, but respect is something we seem to be losing in society now. It’s the same as showing people common courtesy; it’s become unexpected and stands out when it happens. Strangely respect has become less important in the workplace. Between colleagues it’s there but people work hard and if something isn’t their duty, it’s not their place to do it; that’s not necessarily wrong, but it says a lot for how aware they are of what’s happening outside of their environment. A handyman is expected to do his work because he’s being paid for it; there’s no need to pay him respect as well and say thanks, nor for the handyman to pay you respect and clean up after himself. Someone can choose to smoke while they’re waiting for a bus to work, but it’s not their place to show respect and stand back so everyone else doesn’t breathe it in; we can always move, after all. It’s that kind of attitude that, in my opinion, is why respect and courtesy are becoming rarer.

                    It’s sad that they are. Our interactions say so much for who we are as individuals and as a society; paying someone respect can change the way they feel about themselves, and others, and who knows what difference that might make in their lives? Just as important, I think, is showing respect between cultures. It’s always been important that we learn about other cultures so that we can appreciate both their uniqueness and their similarities, but perhaps it’s even more important now that the ‘net has made the world so much smaller. We’re interacting more regularly, both through personal relations and through governments, and if we don’t show respect and a willingness to learn about each other, there’s always the risk of a misunderstanding.

                    What’s interesting, though, is that there’s a time to be respectful and a time not to be. We can go so far in the other direction that our interactions can become stilted and formal, which is just as bad as then respect means nothing. And likewise, sometimes you need to be brutally honest with a person or to be rude to convey a greater message. I’ve received some of the most wonderful feedback from people like Greg Bear and Jodi Picoult, and several amicable rejection letters. But the ones that have really made a difference to me are the most brutal rejections I’ve received. Some of them said horrible things, particularly to a sixteen year old who was just learning to write; some of them literally tore me to shreds and compared me as being much “less of a writer” than writers I’d never dream of emulating. But after a day or two I stopped being angry and read through them again, and I actually learnt a lot from them, particularly regarding presentation and the weaker parts of my writing style. I made largely cosmetic changes to those stories and most were subsequently published, if in smaller markets. They were lessons I had to learn and while I’d rather have had a different messenger, I doubt I would have learnt as much. Sometimes being respectful isn’t always the best option, if it hides the truth.

                    But in most cases I believe showing people respect and courtesy says so much about who we are, who I am, that I try to make a difference where I can. I think showing someone a small kindness is priceless and can mean so much to them… that’s why I was stunned to see what happened to timethief. I don’t want to go too much into what happened again as there are other accounts, but TT was the most active volunteer in the WordPress forums; she has helped countless thousands of bloggers on WordPress, but has now been rendered inactive. The WordPress staff paid her little respect for her service; disrespecting her and options in public, then being made inactive and for days every comment timethief made on blogs started going to Akismet. I never imagined TT’s volunteering would end like this, and much as I have defended and recommended WordPress in the past I’m angry about this. It’s no way to treat your users and it’s damaged the community around WordPress, which is its greatest strength.

                    To timethief, thank you for your time volunteering, and for helping me and many others when we first arrived. I’m sorry it came to this. Sometimes I think people forget we’re human beings because of the way we communicate online, and this would not be acceptable in the offline world. All I can offer you, and all of the volunteers, is my respect, and I hope it’s enough.

                    In a previous post I said I wanted to start doing something kind for someone each day as a way of showing that courtesy isn’t dead. Well, now I want to add something to that. I want to show people more respect as well, to thank them for their friendship, and to not take them for granted… that can start now, with the people reading this. Thank you. And if you’ve actually managed to get to the end of this long post, thank you again. πŸ˜‰

                    Nature’s Fury

                    Sydney Surf

                    If there’s one thing I’ll never get used to it’s the weather. Sometimes it has a mind of its own. The last few weeks have seen some bizarre weather conditions across Australia; it was pleasant in Sydney over Christmas, but the other cities sweltered in 45Β°C heat and for the last week or so we’ve had wild storms sweep across the eastern coast.

                    The rain’s been intermittent but annoying; it’ll stop quickly, but you’ll get soaked if you’re caught in it. What’s been amazing, though, is watching the gigantic waves crashing against the beaches. I’m not sure how well the picture shows it; some of the waves are up to four metres high. Most of the beaches have been closed for the last week, but they’re still attracting people to watch.

                    Foam

                    Even stranger has been this sea foam that’s washed up on a couple of the beaches. I’ve seen it once before and apparently it’s a lather of crushed up plankton and seaweed; it almost looks like yeast. A few people tried swimming in it; not sure I’d want to, but it’s amazing to look at. This guy looks like he’s had the bath from hell. πŸ˜‰

                    The weather’s caused a lot of damage but it’s still strangely beautiful. Just reminds me that with everything we can create, there’s nothing more beautiful than nature’s fury.