Thursday, November 18, 2010

Get down with no sickness

I do not get sick very often. Every year I see people around me get sick; every year I see people around me enjoy their sick leave while I get stuck with just four weeks annual leave. In the three and a half years I have worked for my current employer, I have only taken 12 hours sick leave; eight of those 12 was maybe a “sickie”, but if anyone asks it was a “mental health day”. The other four was a headache from the stress of not giving a crap.

These might be dangerous words for a blog, but being only limited to annual leave, and in reference to a previous post “I work better when away”, my company is better for it (I hope they remember that in my next performance review). I still have my wisdom teeth; maybe I can take a week or two off so I can get them out... I wonder if I can push it out to two...

I saw on a documentary once – actually it was one of those American documentaries where they show the same thing over and over after every ad break, so technically I saw it several times – that having a high immune system makes me more attractive at a genetic level. But tell that to the bald spot forming! It is not exactly something you can use as your opening line at a pub, “Hey baby, I never have to buy tissues.”

There was a time back in my uni when I really was sick. It was a Saturday after a really big Friday night, and I thought I just had a hangover, a really bad hangover. Naturally I did not move from the flat.

My flat in uni had two bedrooms, probably still does, with a combined laundry/bathroom. As soon as you walked into the laundry/bathroom there was a laundry sink on your left, a washing machine, and then coming out perpendicular to the wall was a privacy wall with the toilet behind it facing the bathtub and shower at the end of the room. Across from the toilet on the opposite wall there was a sink and a medicine cupboard. It was not fancy, but I digress.

I was feeling the night all day, and I only had a few things to eat as I could not get myself to the supermarket. For dinner I had a tin of pea and ham soup, I tried to eat it, but it felt like knives on the way down. I then started to feel a turning in my stomach.

I stood up. I was dizzy and I could feel a creeping sensation getting higher and higher, my lips started to press and my saliva started to build; I was going to spew.

I made my way as quickly as I could into the bathroom. I pushed open the door, I jumped the dirty clothes, but I could feel it rise faster, my cheeks started to fill and I started to burst at the seams.

I would not make it; the closest thing will have to do...

It was a mess.

Those who have vomited pea and ham soup would know that the first choice receptacle is not the bathroom sink – in hind sight I should have chewed more – so naturally the sink blocked up as I tried to wash it away. So I started moving vomit from the sink into a bucket, and moving the vomit in the bucket, and the vomit still inside of me, into the toilet. It took a long time.

I was pale on Sunday, had another couple of spews. By Monday I was fine and I went to Uni. Would I have taken Monday off if I was working? I would like to think so, but I probably would have gone; I do have my reputation to think about after all.

But you do not, so stay home. Enjoy your sick leave, embrace it, embrace other people with it (they will thank you later), just do not waste it on Opera.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Investing in my time

I bought Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock two weeks ago and I have been showcasing my fret techniques since. I am by no means a fretxpert, but I do think occasionally that the amount of time that I have invested in Guitar Hero over the years; I could have learnt how to play a real instrument.

During school I learnt to play the clarinet. At first glance, it was an obscure choice for a 10 year old boy to pick, particularly since he never heard of one before. It did pay off in the long run; I was the only male woodwind student in my home town. It was me and the chicks for six years.

In fact I landed my first high school girlfriend after a music camp. Somehow I managed to convince a gorgeous year 10 flute player (I was in year 9 at the time... giggady) to put up with my awkwardness for a month. For the time I was batting well above my average, which was the general consensus at school, so it was never going to work out; a good result for Team Nerd.

Music and chicks do go hand in hand; ask anybody who is in a band. However nobody is going to date the dude that can play expert level in Guitar Hero. I know that Dragon Force song from Guitar Hero 2 was hard, but nobody cares.

The two gaming “instruments” that are even remotely close to real instruments are drums and vocals. For example, when playing the drums the neighbours will still tell you to shut up when you get into the grove and the vocalist will think that they are the most import person on Earth; just like real life! For there to be any real life benefit however, all difficulty must be set to “hard” or above.

The guitars, although not being anything close to the real thing, do have real life similarities. The bass, for example, is still so boring it is amazing that anyone picks it and people who choose the guitar think they are awesome no matter how shit they play. No restriction on difficulty level for either.

Even though I have practised more songs with fake instruments than I ever did playing clarinet, Guitar Hero will still be a staple part of my gaming life. Sometimes it is more important to have fun than to focus on what is more beneficial for real life. Real life will be there when you get back.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sweet dress up parties

November is here. The best thing about November is the coming moustache. The second best thing is the end of Halloween.

I guess people would have noticed by now that Halloween is forcing its way into Australian culture. Australia will soon be the 52nd United State; right after England. Why is that? Is it TV doing this to us? Is it globalisation? Is it the long period of time between Father’s Day and justifying Christmas merchandise that has shop keepers with empty display shelves? The later is probably more to the point; consumerism after all is what made the USA the shining example it is today... cough.

But I am no sociologist, or a scientist. I can only pretend to prove my opinions; just like the millions of internet users who only sample entirely within their own demographic. There are enough blogs like that.

Halloween does have a good point – it is a good excuse to go to a costume party. Costume parties are awesome, and even the lame common themes can be fun (Pimps and Ho’s = sigh). For some reason we need an excuse for costume parties. Even though they are among the most fun types of parties – even more fun than ones with bouncing castles (less spew to clean) and LAN parties (less spew and nerds to clean). If they are so fun, why do we need an excuse? Ten pin bowling is not fun, but yet we still do that without an excuse.

Costume parties all give us something in common, and an easy first line for people who struggle in social situations/picking up. Plus they make that knob in the $300 designer jeans look ridiculous because he is not wearing face paint. That is handy for people like me who look ridiculous in a $300 pair of designer jeans.

I am never any good at getting a costume together; I generally leave it too late and mostly because I am lazy. My contribution to the party is below par, but I know a couple of people who go all out with outfits. Their costumes are always amazing and just blow people away – I am cool by association and I get away with leaching off their success. Are they coat tails? I will have me some of them.

More costume parties and less Halloween I say, you do not need an excuse, just trow one. And start growing your moustache people!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Insert sarcasm

When asked about what is the lowest form of humour, a lot of people would say sarcasm. I personally do not think that sarcasm is the lowest form; a good pun will alienate you from your audience and a bad pun will do worse for your chances at being citizen of the year than being pro climate change. Yes I know that was so funny.

This is my point, that last sentence was sarcastic, but how clear was it? Sarcasm is lost in writing because it is so hard to translate to an audience what the intention was. A good writer can do this, the rest of us struggle. Are you being cheeky or are you an idiot? Generally you are doing both, but it is hard to tell.

There are two types of people for which sarcasm is lost; drunks and Germans. Germans do not laugh in awkward situations and they are way too sensible with their Inspector Rex and the like to be concerned with sarcasm. Drunks on the other hand are lost to everything. Like balance, small motor skills, where they left their phone, a sense of hygiene (I know that meat has been sitting on the barbeque for the last six hours, but I’m going to eat it anyway without washing my hands). So it is no surprise when your sarcastic comment returns you a punch in the face.

Throughout history different punctuation marks have been proposed to indicate sarcasm. There were backward question marks, ~ tilde, /s, exclamation marks in brackets and sometimes upside down. Instant messaging and texting has recently given us a rolling eye emoticon, but in any other situation they are tacky and lost on people over the age of 35. If I was to use any of the above symbols in the first paragraph, there will still be misreads, misinterpretations, and people missing the point. None of them work because they are unknown.

What we need is a special way to alter the font; something like underlining or italics. Something people on the internet can take and run with, because that is how it will become popular and identifiable. Take an internet memes for example, how long has “lol” been around for? We all know what it means now and it took millions of people on the internet to make it possible. That is the key – get it started on the internet and it will spread like the plague.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm no pack horse

Earlier in the year I went for a five week holiday in Hong Kong and Japan. It was fun, I did some face sliding down a mountain in Niseko (gravity did not care if I had either skis or a snowboard attached to my feet – it still kicked my arse). I watched the 2010 New Year Sumo Tournament in Tokyo; that was awesome, you would not think it but nothing says “a good day out” like two fat men running at each other in nappies. I did try and lose my passport in Hiroshima, but despite my best effort, the horribly nice people of Japan returned everything, including all the money in my bag. Criminals of Japan must try harder.

Because we went in January, it was winter in Japan, and it got bloody cold. We left Adelaide on the tail end of a heat wave, and in Niseko it reached -20 degrees when we were learning how to ski. I had two pairs of gloves on and I still could not feel my fingers. And then the wind picked up.

There I was, an Australian tourist with not a whole heap of exposure to sub zero temperatures, and therefore I was wearing a long sleave t-shirt, a jumper and a rather large coat on with really big pockets; still feeling cold. The big pockets were great, because it was so cold outside every shop keeper in Japan set the thermostat to 50 degrees. Every time you walked into a shop you basically had to strip down to your undies so you would stop baking.

In one department store alone I could have heated up a roast chicken in each coat pocket. They were huge! Probably still are. It got so hot I stuffed my beanie, scarf, gloves (two pair), and whatever paraphernalia I felt appropriate at the time like into all the pockets available. Sometimes even my wallet, camera, or map.

Our last stop in Japan was Sapporo, which is on the North Island, and every year they host the “Winter Snow Festival”, because what people want to do when it is freezing cold outside, snowing, the wind is biting through your clothing, and ice paving the streets is to spend more time outside looking at ice sculptures. I am well known to not being the art world’s biggest supporter so let me make this clear; Leonardo Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a master piece because it can stand against the test of time. Ice sculptures on the other hand could not even stand up against a hair dryer.

Sapporo does have some good, indoor attractions, like a brewery and a chocolate factory. When people ask about holidays in Japan, the Japanese Tourist Board does not answer ninja, sumo, sushi, chopsticks, or the nation who has been on the receiving end of the most nuclear bombs; they say beer and chocolate.

The best and worst thing in Sapporo was in fact the chocolate factory. Every factory tour you go on there are tasting areas and cafes where you can eat, but this little ripper had itself an all-you-can-eat cake buffet. And it was awesome. I have never been that sick on sweets before, even in my childhood I did not get much of a chance. I must have had myself five or so plates of cake and tarts and two pots of tea. So good.

When the nausea set in we were leaving the buffet, via the gift shop of course, so I just shoved everything in my pockets that was on the table, rather than putting things like my video camera away. Every pocket was full.

Tea drinkers might be aware that when you drink tea, it just goes straight through you, and when you have two pots, you will spend the next three days peeing. I needed my first wee within five minutes of leaving the factory, and fifteen minutes later I found my first available toilet.

The odd thing about Japan, but not the only one I assure you, is how mental they are on their hygiene. They are so obsessed about not wanting to touch things almost every toilet you walk into has automatic everything. Therefore I was a little surprised, and a little shocked, that this toilet had the traditional western twisting taps. I was also a little surprised and a little shocked about the fact that the traditional western twisting taps had left hand thread. No longer was it “righty tighty, lefty loosey”, and it took me a while and almost a dislocated shoulder to work that one out.

Before I washed my hands I walked quickly to the toilet. I fumbled at my fly, but I had too much stuff in the way. So I then thought it was a good idea to unpack my coat pockets onto the shelf above the urinal; that way I would have better access to my gear and able to hold my jacket away from it.

So onto the shelf went my maps, gloves, scarf, used tickets and my video camera.

The unfortunate thing is that my video camera was facing to my left, towards the door, and at first I thought nothing of it, and then the moment I started making water a Japanese man walked in. He strolled up to the urinal on my left, unzipped, saw the camera, re-zipped and left. He did not say a word. Or wash his hands.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Reasons to stop swearing

A study in the UK has shown that people who swear have the capacity to endure pain for longer. After putting 64 volunteers’ hands in freezing cold water Dr Richard Stephens from the University of Keele in Staffordshire England, found that with swearing they could handle the pain for a longer period of time. It sounded like a little bit of a stretch to me; I was swearing throughout the entire article and it did not lessen the pain once.

My girlfriend has commented a few times on the frequency of my swearing and after watching the video of the ultra marathon I did recently, I can see why. It was a good 20mins of gratuitous f and s bombs. Granted that I was pretty buggered at the time, but it is not an excuse, but more so the point – have I lost the ability to communicate?

I did swear growing up, but my swearing problem developed from a long period of working away in a swearing dense environment. Even the women I worked with at the time would drop a c bomb without blinking – sometimes people were c’s that rhymed with punts, and there is no way around it. The time has come to fix it, so here are 10 reasons to stop swearing.

  1. It lowers the effectiveness of the curse. If I call you a dickhead, I want people to say “Whoa, that guy must be a dickhead” and not “meh, he says that about everybody”.

  2. It does make you more of a Bogan. Do you want to admire the view of an empty Commodore shell from the couch on the front veranda? Enough said.

  3. Swearing does make you sound more aggressive. As a guy with a smart mouth and a history of broken noses, I do not need any more reasons for drunks to hit me.

  4. Cheap laughs will only fill your soul so much. Think of something clever to say; people will not always be shocked like four-year-olds when someone utters a rude comment. Stick to fart jokes for that result.

  5. Swearing limits your ability to describe things; I understand that you are tired/frustrated/overworked/drunk/post coitus but is that any reason to describe it “fucked”?

  6. Professionalism aside, it will do your career a world of good to limit swearing. Unless you are a writer for People magazine for example.

  7. Swearing proves that you are down to earth and not stuck up, but gratuitous swearing shows a lack of respect for the people around you. Everybody deserves your respect until proved otherwise and you may have just proved otherwise to everybody in the room.

  8. In making you approachable swearing does help a fraction, but the relationship is not linear; the more you swear does not make you more approachable. Unless you are trying to attract police offices with capsicum spray. If you break your leg, drop a couple, if you stump your toe, toughen up.

  9. Swearing will limit the time you will be around children. Not in a weird do-you-want-to-see-the-puppy-in-my-van kind of way, but in limiting the time other parents would let their kid’s hangout with your kids. A young child has moved in next door to me, with his mother obviously, but I would not let a child go to his house to play, not with us cursing Bogans sitting on a couch on the veranda next door.

  10. It will stop the boffins doing bullshit research and start spending their grants on things that matter. I'm pretty sure that cancer thing is still kicking around.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Locked in nut

As an engineer, it is a general policy that I do not handle tools. There is a reason why tradespeople do what they do, and there is a reason why I just stand around looking useless, because if you give me a screwdriver I am still mostly useless.

On the October long weekend last year, my Girlfriend and I were planning on going out to Monarto Zoo just outside of Adelaide. We met at my place, we got in my car – which I had for only a year at that time – filled it up with petrol and checked the air pressure. After making sure everything was shipshape, we set off on our 45mins journey down the Prince Highway.

Upon leaving the petrol station, I was hearing an odd sound coming from the car. I pulled into another petrol station and evaluated the situation trying to look as masculine as I could. I had picked up a text screw in my right rear tire and I was about to get a flat. There was a long period of swearing. My Girlfriend pointed out the irony of only just checking the air pressure.

After seeing the screw, I started emptying the boot and reassured my girlfriend that we would still be on our way. I got out the spare, the jack, and the tools. Luckily I have had plenty of practice in changing tires on my older cars and there was no need to contact the RAA.

First I got the tire spanner out to loosen the wheel nuts. It did not fit. There was a long period of swearing. I put everything back into the boot, and I drove to the nearest auto part dealer that was open on a public holiday (luckily car lovers do not like to spend time relaxing on a day off).

I bought one of the T shaped multi-sized tire spanner thingy’s, and it was awesome. Four out of the five nuts did not stand a chance, but the fifth one put me on my back. I had not seen anything like it before. All of my previous cars were circa 1983-1992, all with stock wheels and one or two hub caps still attached.

The nut was not hexagonal like a normal nut is. It was round with two little pits. There was a long period of swearing. I stormed back inside the auto part shop.

“What the fuck is going on? What sort of piece of shit nut is this on my car?”

Doesn’t the T spanner fit sir?” asked the shop attendant professional enough to be oblivious to my swearing.

“It fit for most of them, all but fucking one. This piece of shit is not a normal nut, it has round fucking edges.”

“Do you have mags?” asked a customer, “it sounds like a lock nut.”

“What the fuck is a lock nut?”

“A lock nut is used to stop people from stealing your mags. Is this a new car?”

By now I was starting to realise that I am still useless. “Yeah, I’ve only had it for a year. First time I’ve had to change a tire for it though.”

“There should be an adaptor in either your glove box, or around where you spare tire is kept”. The customer looked at me with a questioned look. As if assessing if my reason were a valid one and he had not just busted me in an attempt to join the lucrative stock wheel theft market.

My ego burst and flew about the room like a deflating balloon. I thanked both the customer and the shop attendant, apologised for my language, and scurried out of the store.

Sure enough, there was an adaptor for the cursed lock nut. It came off easily. I changed the tire, the spare was a normal non-mag rim, and therefore I used the normal wheel nuts that were stored with the aforementioned cursed adaptor. I found them along with another adaptor that would have let me use my original wheel spanner fit the nuts on the mag. There was a long period of swearing.

We took my Girlfriend's car to the zoo. And she drove.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This running thing is stupid

Running is boring. Very boring. A “Fun Run” is a contradiction in terms just like “military intelligence”. The fact that they have prizes makes it a race with a special rule: if you are not having fun, consider yourself disqualified.

After completing the City to Bay last weekend it was easy to determine who was having fun and who was hoping that their misery would end soon. Those that would talk to me as my mate and I dashed through the crowd did with malice and steely determination in their eyes; they were generally not having a good time. They are not charging the enemy lines they are only running 12 k’s. Too many people take running way too seriously.

Why do I run? Because there is nothing on tele. The comedian Danny Bhoy said it best when asked about running:

“Danny, do you want to go for a run?”

“Why? Are we being chased?”

And I cannot go around stealing his jokes, although I want to when I face a blank page, but it is true to an extent. “Exercise” and “feeling good” and “fresh air” are bogus. Running is a pointless pursuit because there are negatives to the positives. For example:

• It is hard on your joints and ligaments
• Exposure to the elements and UV radiation
• Dehydration is a killer
• People look at you weird and if its night time, they think you are going to steal their bag
• On long runs your body breaks down and consumes itself to fuel your screaming muscles. It is good to stop at that point.

Okay, so all of those negatives were levered out A Current Affair style so I can justify my selling point, but I do not understand why the ideas of long distance running to be the pinnacle of fitness. When people desire to “get fit” why do they associate it with running? Fitness like everything comes in all shapes, sizes, and abilities; a footballer who is not match fit would still run rings around me. You can do things other than running to improve fitness, like taking the stairs.

I can guilt myself into running. After a bad food day – or a good food day some would think – I usually go for a run. When a major competition is coming up, I usually go for a run. If I need to catch a break in the traffic, I usually go for a run. If I need to catch a bus, there will usually be another so I generally wait. It is true I sometimes run by myself, but I would rather run with friends.

If you manage to find a mate who will run with you it turns a footpath slog into a catch up, a soul search, a problem solver, a brainstorm, and an opportunity to talk shit while they shake their head at your Bill Cosby impersonations. Those that do run already have trained themselves to zone out into music and most of us mortals cannot do that; so pair up people! You can utilise that same reason that makes it illegal to talk on the phone while driving, focus on a conversation and lose track on how far you have gone.

People become closer when they go through hardship together; soldiers in war, victims of disasters, prison inmates, and anybody who has had a rough night out drinking get closer as the stakes get higher. Running with people you know will help you get through the walls and the injuries to come, and take in the scenery with you as you go. Friends will turn a race into a fun run.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Losing control on the P

With the new South Australian L and P plate laws coming into affect there has been many announcements in the media. Even the likes of Hamish and Andy have done their part to make the Government look hip and cool in ways the Lycra of Lance Armstrong’s twitter could never do, but it did conjure mental images of Mike Rann in a sideways baseball cap and shiny baggy jeans busting rhymes...

I’m so hip hop that I’ll make you pop and roll
Kicking some ass in power and polls
Twistin’ the acts without a tax hike
On yer bike with Mike on the mic
Tour down under splitting libs asunder
How did we win is what the people wonder
When the farce of a new footy park
The bill decided with a game of darts
Comes into action, a new grand erection
Not to be found in a waitress's affection
The bill to rise higher and higher
From the State’s most renowned liar
Rolley polley slowly Kevin Foley
Will show the tax payers how much they will owe me
The greed overtaking need to feed
All the crows supporters too good for free
Buses provided they need not to drive
But rather just come out they whinge and jive
I tell you the hardest thing to do
Is to tell two thirds of voters to get screwed
But what do they know

Adelaide does not need a new stadium.

Sorry I digress. You will never be hip and cool Mister Rann. Trust me – it takes one to know one.

Speaking of not being hip or cool and on P plates, I got my P’s at 16.5 years old, and the day I passed the test I went mountain bike riding. I was never really that into cars, and I was never that good of a driver. The year was 2001, the state was South Australia, there was one driving test, and there was no such thing as P plate levels. After your stint on P plates it was easy sailing to get your full licence. All you had to do is not lose three demerit points.

I am not going to advocate that the new system is better or the system of yesteryear keeps more kids alive, because both systems are shit. One test does not prove anything; five million will not do much better. The only thing it will test is the Government wanting more money from you every time you have to upgrade your licence if you are persistent and keen enough.

I got a good score from my driving test. I got 96% and some of my friends got 100%. Did this make me a good driver? No it did not, because of the simple fact that the goal of this process, from an instructor point of view, is to produce results for the client. The easy way to show results is to teach how to pass the test and not to teach skills that will keep you alive. Yes learning how to parallel park is important, but I would have thought emergency evasion techniques to be more so.

Do L plate drivers know how a car feels when the back end starts sliding out? Have they physically tested the minimum stopping distance for their car? How about in the wet as well? You can show pictures, animations and actual video until your blue in the face but 50m behind the steering wheel looks different than in the class room.

My father had the wisdom to show me this. He took me out into the scrub in the family car and he let me run wild. He told me to lose control to learn what it felt like and how to get out of it without panicking. Panicking happens and that is the killer. When you panic you amplify your problems and cars are not merciful.

On my first long haul drive on my P plates I had an accident that could have been much worse than it was without this experience. I was driving through the country; Mum and I pulled out of a service station after our two hour break and got back onto the highway. I was eating an ice cream at the time (correction, I was licking an ice cream very slowly because it was bloody expensive) and as I was driving along the ice cream slipped in my fingers a little forcing me to fumble and not pay attention to the road.

Mum yelled at me. I looked up and only half of the car was on the bitumen. I turned to get back on to the road; the back end slipped away. I over corrected and the back went the other way. I corrected again with no luck. I stopped fighting and hit the skids. We skidded off the road, down the embankment, and into a fence. Mum was pissed, as you can imagine, but we and the car were okay.

I felt the car go and I did not panic. I could not gain control, I was scared, but I did not panic. If I kept fighting the car I could have saved it, or we could have flipped and it could have been worse.

Take your kids out and let them lose control under controlled conditions. An advanced driving course teaches skills that can save your life and money on your insurance. Petition for these skills to be mandatory to your State MP, and make sure your kids do not drive anything too much older than 10 years.

Yes your first car should be a bomb, as it is the car you are more than likely ding. But your kids should survive that ding.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Who are these arrogant knobs?

I am an engineer with a bachelor of engineering, or as my friends refer my job as “nerd by trade”. Unlike the rest of the world, in Australia does not hold engineers with much esteem. This is because of many slurs and misrepresentation of our name and the complete failing of educational facilities and industry to meet standards.

The biggest problem for engineering is bad engineers. As with any other profession, you get good ones, and you get bad ones. Every professional engineer has a level of arrogance; it is just the type of people they are, just like strippers are exhibitionists. Do not get me wrong, not all engineers are egotistical bastards, but you will never find one without some proportion of their head up their arse.

The thing that pisses most engineers off about our bad reputation is the misrepresentation. For an example, I will refer to the movie Kenny where he refers to himself as a “sanitation engineer”. He is a plumber. He is a tradesperson. Kenny would have done an apprenticeship with a few TAFE modules. Kenny did not go to University; he cannot call himself an engineer. Or at least that is how some of my peers see it.

A common definition among us is that an engineering degree makes you an engineer, but I guarantee you that every tradesperson you talk to would say that an engineering degree just makes you a knob, and they would be right. A lot of engineers I have met with degrees are in fact knobs stemming from the fact that they are arrogant.

“Engineering” has many different definitions. Some mention qualification, not what level, but all have something in common; an “Engineer” is someone who uses knowledge to find solutions within the constraints of a problem. It is simple as that. An Engineer finds solutions, but solutions to what?

Engineers live in every aspect of our lives. Be it mining, manufacturing, traffic control, etc; you name it, and I bet you an engineer was frustrated designing it. Some of the best creations of the human race were not created by people with degrees; tools, the wheel, iron, roads, communications, etc; the list is endless.

Engineering should not be an elitist society, but nor should we hand out the title willy-nilly. A fair proportion of the best engineers I have worked with have come from trade backgrounds, and they do not have a bachelor, but they have what matter most to clients; experience and practical knowledge. This is what makes them good engineers – effective and practical solutions.

Graduate engineers facing the workforce now find themselves in a tough position. Not only has the double dip global financial crisis de-valued them, but they face an ever expanding industry that relies on many things to support it. Even now, there are specialities that did not exist 30 years ago. Some not even 10 years ago. For example, I have a bachelor in mechatronic engineering - even Microsoft Word does not even recognise it – it was created in Japan in the mid 80’s for a more efficient marriage of mechanical and electronic equipment in industry.

Now we have robotics, pharmaceutical, petroleum, mining, software, communications engineering, and even now the University of Adelaide has a “Sustainable Energy Engineering” degree. It has been going a little mental, some would question the universities about their true motives, but these young people will get out into the work force and ask questions, like they should. Their older, and more experienced peers will turn to them and ask “what the hell are they teaching at universities these days”.

The work place is demanding more and more from graduates and universities to squeeze more and more into their courses. But how about they help with solutions instead of pointing out the problems? The best thing for them is to get out into the work force and gain experience. I’m not talking about “work experience” because at times that is not really working, nor am I talking about a “graduate program”, because that is the sure fire way in gaining an over qualified photocopier.

I believe two to three years of courses, part-time, in conjunction with a traineeship position in industry for four years like a trade. That way they will get the best balance from both worlds and less head clogging up the tail end of their digestive system. More importantly, it will free up space within Universities, help fight the student poverty line, and provide that light at the end of the qualification tunnel. Most importantly, education should be free.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Note: I’m not a snob and I think organic food is an excuse to whack an extra 100% on the price. Say what you want; it is not healthier for you and it would be better for the environment if they did not poison the shit out of the land before they turned “organic”. But I love that organic pizza place in town; the pizza is awesome.

I took my girlfriend out to dinner late one Saturday night and we sat on a table looking out the windows onto footpath. Around 10pm (it was a late Saturday night after all) an extremely drunk well dressed young lady stumbled out of the pub a few shops down and collapsed into one of the alfresco chairs. What looked to be her boyfriend, sat in the chair opposite her talking on his mobile loud enough for me to hear in the restaurant; he sounded like a knob.

She laid her head down and struggled with her inebriated condition while he laughed and carried on merrily. It was a beautiful contrast to behold; one will look back on a night with fondness, the other will look back and not remember a thing.
Then I saw her sit up suddenly. Her eyes rolled and her checks clenched working for saliva. She wound up, she pitched and...

BARRRRRHHH!!! Threw up all down the front of her pretty dress, all over her legs and shoes. My girlfriend was horrified. Oh how I laughed.

I went to the counter to pay the bill and the waitress asked if I had a good meal.

“Yes I did,” I replied, “but you might want to move that young lady sitting out the front.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because she just threw up all over herself on one of your tables, and I don’t think it was organic.”

I got nothing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Generations of music

Nothing can polarise generations the way music can. I can remember family trips to Sydney where every person in the car wanted to hear something different. Dad wanted Jimmy Buffet; my sister wanted Hanson; mum wanted Elton John, and I was dead set keen on Billy Joel at the time. A truce was called; we would listen to one album each in turn. It was a great idea when it was your turn, but after that, sitting through the next three albums sucked.

When you are young, the old music sucked, and everything new is awesome. The top 100 rocked my world early in high school, but now I could not tell you who is at number one, or even care. It is not that I do not enjoy new music, I have just recently bought a new album, but it is because it all sounds the same in the charts. I distinctively remember the moment when I sounded like my father. It was my second year at uni, I was living away from home and I could not find a bloody thing that I wanted to listen to. It was a sad day indeed; my father had been right, it did sound all the same.

I was afraid that I would be listening to the same music for the rest of my life. My parents love music from their youth. It brings back memories of a more care free time for them, when they had more movement and less tablets. Every now and then they did find something new that they liked, for example Michael Bubble and Savage Garden, but thank God they thought that listening to an Andre Rieu was like being stuck in a smirking elevator for 50 mins.

What I needed was something new, and not the same R&B beats back over with a different singer who is way too talented to hold onto notes (insert sarcasm), but something arty farty new. So I turned over to Triple J, but even the melancholy and all the electro songs they are playing now got to me. I understand, I am getting old, and I have heard it all before.

To fix my need for new music, I am going old, and I am going diverse. Some Tool here, David Bowie there, and then straight back into some Led Zeppelin, The Who. I have rediscovered stuff that can make me think, songs that still can make me dance, and songs that I will never forget the words (Peter Comb, I am looking at you).

So just wait for that fateful day, when you realise that Lady Gag-a is a new Madonna, Fallout Boy is just The Police with a longer fringe, and the new ACDC sound is still the same as the old ACDC sound – just with more wrinkles. All I ask is that you do not look at me weird when I can remember all of the lyrics for any Hanson song. It is a long drive to Sydney after all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Operation BP

Fencers have to wear a bit of protective equipment. Women in particular have to wear a breast plate, also known as a BP, which looks like the front part of a sports bra made from a solid plastic. Complete with moulded boobs.

At the time, I was the armourer at my fencing club, which basically means I was responsible for the equipment and safety within the venue. One of the female members of our club was going to enter into a competition on a particular weekend, and forgot to pick herself up a BP. Being the armourer and having access to the equipment, she asked if I could pop in on Friday after uni and pick one up. So on Friday I went to the club lockers, grabbed what I thought would be her size, put it in my bag, and went to join my friends in Rundle Mall.

That particular weekend was also the 21st birthday of a female member of our friends group at uni. For reasons that will be left out of this story, we decided that a good present to buy her would be some wine, chocolate, a teddy bear which we could all sign, and then wack a g-string on it. Hilarious I know.

We got the wine, the chocolate, and even the bear after a little hunting and all that was to do was to buy the g-string. My mate Dan and I walked into Target, picked a suitable candidate that would fit the teddy bear, and joined the line at the check-out.

After a lengthy wait, Dan and I were finally served. The check-out chick raised her eye-brow briefly when we handed her the lacy black g-string, but with corporate efficiency she scanned it and placed it in a bag. She asked about Flybys, we said no. Then she asked to check our bags. I put my bag on the checkout and she looked inside. There, unobscured was a pair of plastic boobs starring at her in the face.

She looked at the boobs.

She looked at me.

She looked back at the g-string, then at the boobs, and then back to me.

All I could do is smile and give her a wink.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Whopping big hole

In 2009 I spent a few months commissioning the Prominent Hill mining site outside of Cooper Pedy in the middle of whoop whoop. The camp was only a few kilometres from the plant where we worked so a group of us would walk back on the tracks provided once in a while. Or at least we thought we would because in the great, fly oppressive landscape that is the desert around Prominent Hill, it was very red, very dry, very dusty and fucking hot.

After a particular hot dusty day, a group of us decided that we would finally walk back to camp. It felt like a good idea. We started off towards the tracks but to get there we had walk next to one of the access roads that lead to some of the site offices. At the end of the road we came to a T intersection that connects with the main road back to camp and the walking track was in sight just beyond. A bus came up from behind and stopped at the intersection before us. There was no traffic. We stopped and waited on the side of the road for the bus to pass, but it just sat there at the intersection.

We waited.

It did nothing.

We waited some more.

It did nothing still.

Finally we said “fuck it, let’s cross”.

We crossed the road and on the other side there were 10 or so meters of desert to get through to the walking track. As we stepped off the road the bus, still at the intersection, opened the door and with it came a loud screech.

“Excuse me! Where do you think you’re going!?” we turned around and out from the bus popped a highly wound lady with her hair pulled back way too tight.

“We’re just going to the walking track,” said one of our bravest.

“You can’t walk through there, use the access path.”

“Access path? What fucking access path?”

“Over there,” and where the lady was pointing, we could only see dust and dirt. The lightly painted yellow bars were lost against a sun set lit red desert background. She had to show us.

“Why can’t we just walk across there?” oh how brave the stupid were.

“Because you will ruin the environment” she said silhouetted against a whopping big hole. From behind her the faint smell of chemicals wafting in the breeze without a sense of irony. We pointed said irony out to her, it did not help. “Who do you work for?” she asked. We covered up the logo on our breast pocket and said BHP. Looking less than impressed, she jumped into her bus, and it took off.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I work best when away

In the news this week a report about Generation Y not being as slack as we originally thought was released into the wild. This is good news for me being within the age bracket – it turns out I am not lazy; I just can’t be stuffed. The report looked at statistics with the work life balance in Australia and who it sucks the most for. Turns out, it sucks to be anyone within the community services, professions, and management type roles. Oh wait, I’m in that bracket as well.

Every day is a struggle for me at work. It is not because it is hard, or that it is too easy, but that at times I would rather be standing outside central station asking anybody who walked past if they had some spare change for the train while scratching at my beard. A lot of the time, I suffer from CBF syndrome, and wonder why I got into my field as it is; except when I come back from holiday. The first day back at work after a holiday is the most productive day of my working year. I blow away every bit of work put in front of me out of the water, but the following couple of days, my productivity level starts to decay.

I found that Productivity, P, decays over time relative to how much productivity there was initially, ignoring external stimulus such as corporate piss ups.

Therefore Productivity decays relative to the amount of P initially and therefore modelled like that of radioactive decay


Where P is the Productivity, t is time since holiday, and k is a constant dependent on the work love/hate relationship

Since the derivative of P is proportional to P, mere year 12 maths tells us that P is the form of an exponential function.

i.e. P(t)=e^(kt)

as dP/dt=ke^(kt)=kP(t)

Or as a general solution

i.e. P(t)=ce^(kt)

To solve for c, observing that after a good holiday this year (five sweet weeks)

t_0=0, P(0)=100

therefore P(0)=ce^0=100



To find k, my holiday enthusiasm has a half life of approximately 48 hours. Not as bad as nuclear waste, but shorter than a season of Ladette to Lady. (If it was around a unit of a Spick and Specks season, I would have been a CEO by now.)

P(2 days)=P(172800 secs)=100e^172800k=50


then ln(e^172800k)=ln(1/2)


therefore k=-4.011×10^(-6)

This is ignoring, of course, outside influences that can have an effect on Productivity, like moral for example. By investigating how a different stimulus affects the Productivity equation, managers would be able to find an optimum balance of work and holiday regardless of annual leave.

Everyone would save money and time, and I might be able to go to sleep without grinding my teeth. But do you think managers would give me that time off? Not on your life, so now the only option is for me to find a job where I can get paid for something I love to do.

People talk about when they start making enough money from their hobbies that they suddenly start getting "paid for something they love to do". At the end of the day, whenever something becomes a fulltime job, when you are forced to sit down and work, when the wellbeing of your family depends upon you, it becomes a burden. And that thing you once loved to do is full time job 2.0.

This is why I always take a poo at the office outside the designated break times, because that way it’s doing something that I love and I’m getting paid. Not only that, I end up saving (wait for the pun...) a butt load (zing) of money for using someone else's toilet paper.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Be aware

One thing that strikes me as odd is when people do things to raise “awareness” for a cause. Do not misunderstand me, I think it is a good thing that people dedicate their time for charity, or to strive for a better world, but sometimes I cannot help but to sit back and think “what a bloody waste of time.”

The one that made me laugh yesterday is the group sailing from San Francisco to Sydney in a boat made entirely of empty plastic bottles in aid to increase awareness of garbage in the oceans. Call me stupid, but isn’t that a little like setting fire to people’s homes in aid to raise awareness of bushfire? Assisting the problem and not the solutions? I thought the idea is to stop crap from getting into the ocean, not to sail through it, and on it.

An advertising campaign brings awareness. It costs a bit of money, but so does sailing a boat made from materials stolen from the homeless and keeping it supplied for a 130 days at sea. What are the real reason guys? Your wives found out, and instead of looking stupid by telling them the truth, you told them it was for charity? I mean, come on, you named it “Plastiki”!?

Education is important, but raising awareness is not education. Sailing Tupperware around the world is not a substitute for schooling. The only thing I will learn is that you are a knob. More bins in the street will more than likely have a better effect on waste getting into storm water drains then seeing your dumb-arse on the news. I appreciate your effort guys, but next time some awareness on what might actually work would be better for you and everyone concerned.