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.