Thursday, March 31, 2011


At my work there’s a high employee turnover.  In any given month there will be a couple of people leaving in search of greener pastures.  In the days leading up to the person’s departure there’s often a novelty-sized farewell card passed around the office for everybody to sign.

There are too many people at work to actually know them all well enough to write a heartfelt message.  There are also lots of satellite offices, and people working on site, so there’s a chance you’ve never actually met the person whose card you are supposed to be signing.

Usually the card is stupidly large too, so it’s impossible to fill up all the space (and everyone seems to write in super-small print, and try to tuck their message away discretely into one of the corners).

90% of the messages are along the lines of:

“Hi Prescott,
All the best for the future.
Dianne xoxo”

But I think that’s kind of boring, so I personally like to make an effort and try to create some kind of a meaningful message for the person.  Unfortunately it takes me a while to plan the words out at the best of times, and its especially bad when I don’t know that person at all.  And you can’t just pass the card on with our signing it; that would be letting whole the team down.

But what can you write to a relative stranger?

     “See you bro, I'll remember all those crazy times we had”
     “We’ll always have Paris”
     “Take it easy with Cynthia.  She’s a loose cannon”
     “Sorry mate, but I’ve never actually spoken to you”

I don't know, but I found an idea here.  I'm not sure I can use it at work, but I think it's a nice touch anyway.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I love SBS

SBS is an independent broadcaster, most famous for its television coverage of international football, carefully watched over by a couple of awesome self-confessed soccer tragics.  In between the mandatory 16 hours of football each day, the station manages to squeeze in a number of interesting programs (most of them subtitled films with generous amounts of nudity).  It's officially called the Special Broadcasting Service, but I prefer the affectionate name Sex Before Soccer.

While searching for a podcast on the SBS website, I found a program that aired last night entitled The Perfect Vagina.  I was naturally intrigued, and it turned out to be a fascinating documentary about a new wave of plastic surgery for women known as labioplasty, and even crazier, hymenoplasty.  It raised interesting and disturbing questions about the way we view our bodies, and how many misogynistic pigs are out there.  If for nothing else, it was amusing to see how many tv-friendly synonyms for female genitalia were  used, including twinkle, punani, yoni, flower, mary & foo foo.

Anyway, it got me thinking about television stations, and reminded me of an expression I used to hear when I was living in a house full of European exchange students in Copenhagen.  There were a couple of Italian guys who would describe particularly attractive women with the tag 'f---able'.  With their accents though, it sounded more like 'for-cable', as in 'that women over there is hot enough to be on pay-tv'.  This led to a string of adjectives to describe women in terms of different TV channels, and identify whether they were 'pay-tv', or only 'free-to-air'.  Yep, us men are bastards.

Edit: To keep things even on the genitalia front, I'd better watch this next.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Moment of Fame

Today at work I was listening to a certain Government radio station when the topic of scroggin came up.  The presenter was arguing with another guy about the difference between scroggin and trail-mix.  I chipped in my two cents worth via SMS, with the following insight:

"trail-mix is the poor man's scroggin"

I know this sounds pretty banal, but the presenter seemed quite fond of my comment, and thanked me personally as he read it out over the air on national radio.  He called me a few minutes later (off air), to get my address so he could send me a complimentary copy of the station's monthly music magazine.

I felt quite chuffed, as this is the closest I've been to the spotlight since having a letter published in Time Magazine (the South Pacific edition) 8 years ago, explaining the virtues of the Swedish and Danish soccer teams in the 2002 World Cup.

Simple things excite me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trains on the motorway

I love trains.  I live next to the station and I smile when I hear any train horns blowing.  There's something about seeing 1000 people and 400 tonnes of steel gliding down the rails that warms my heart.  Although in this case, the trains don't glide; they rumble and shake and moan.  Pretty much all of the railways in Sydney were built more than 100 years ago, and they have barely been upgraded since.  So your average train ride is a pretty bumpy affair, and staying on your feet without clinging onto something is about as easy as riding a mechanical bull after a couple of cold ones.

Anyway, as this city grows, it's fairly widely accepted that we need more trains.  The problem is that most of the potential rail corridors have been sold off by the Government over the years.  That's where my idea comes in.  We have plenty of wide roads, and a couple of motorways in places where trains don't currently operate.  If we simply lay track on the existing roads, we have a ready-made rail network.  Allow me to illustrate.

Existing M2 motorway

New train-friendly motorway with the help of Photoshop

Of course it means some of the cars get shafted when the motorway gets narrowed.  But after all, the average occupancy rate is 1.4 people per car.  An 8-car train can carry more than 1000 people.

The main problem I have is fitting the stations on the road too, so people can actually get on and off.  The other challenge is getting the trains to climb the steep sections of the road.  Our trains are only rated to climb slopes up to 3%, and a motorway could be twice as steep.  In an ideal world, we could use these little beauties which have no problems with hills, but I don't see that happening.

I suppose I'll just have to keep dreaming.

Edit: I forgot to acknowledge this site where I found the actual train in the images above.  If you like trains, this site will make you happy:

Also, I stumbled across a brilliant discussion where people were suggesting improvements to metropolitan train and subway networks around the world here.  The proposed CityRail suburban network is pretty awesome.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Axis of Evil

I live in a hilly part of town, and there are three television transmission towers located nearby, making use of the high ground.

These towers have a pretty significant impact on the skyline, and after I moved here I started to see them everywhere I looked.  They are arranged in a triangle and I had a feeling that there was a sweet spot, equidistant from all the towers where strange things could happen (I don't mind the occasional conspiracy theory).  I was sure my apartment was right in the middle of this Axis of Evil.

So I looked at the satellite imagery of this area and found that although it's close, I'm not actually in the middle of the towers.  But I do ride my bike through the very centre of the axis every day on my way to work.  I'll keep an eye out for any strange activity

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Washing Machine Sings

I'm used to cleaning my clothes in fairly old washing machines.  They don't have fancy back-lit displays, and they don't have doors in the front where you can see the clothes.  My parents' washing machine is one of the ones that tries to escape from the laundry during every spin cycle if its contents aren't perfectly balanced.  I like to think it is trying to get to the kitchen to hang out with the dishwasher.

Anyway I moved into a new place a few months ago, and my flatmate owns a pretty swanky washing machine with fancy lights, lots of moving parts and three different sections to put washing powder.  For a device whose sole purpose is to make my socks clean again, I think it's a little bit over-designed.  It makes beeping noises whenever I touch it, and sometimes the door locks for no reason after the load is finished, and a Mexican standoff ensues between man and machine.  I threaten to disconnect it from the power and water, and it suggests I go to work wearing only my belt and shoes.

The thing I like about the machine though, is is plays a little tune as it finishes its cycle.  It's almost like the little engine that could; he's battled with those clothes for a full hour and forty minutes, and now he's triumphed by bringing them back from the dark side.  I would sing a song too. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bristol Stool Chart

Last week I was rogaining with a friend of mine in the Snowy Mountains.  If you aren't familiar with rogaining, it's basically running around the bush for 24 hours trying to find as many orange flags as you can.

At the start of the event you are given a map like this:
The flags are represented by the red circles, each with a different point value shown beside.  All the competitors frantically draw on their maps with a quiver of highlighters and pens, trying to find the optimum route to reach the highest score.  The competitive teams manage to cover 70-80km in 24 hours, which seems reasonable until you realise how few roads there are.  Needless to say, I've not yet been part of a competitive team.

Rogaines are usually held in fairly remote areas, and competitors are expected to bring their own water.  For this particular event (because we were in the mountains), the organisers told us the water in the creeks was fit for drinking, without boiling or filtering.  We had the option of taking purification tablets with us, but we opted for a roll of toilet paper instead, laughingly calling it a 'bad-aid solution'.

About 12 hours into the rogaine we had racked up a tidy score and drank plenty of creek water, but my team-mate's stomach began to protest.  The toilet paper became our most valuable commodity for the next 12 hours.  To give you an illustration, I present the Bristol Stool Chart:

I have it on good authority that my friend's deposits ranked very highly on the chart.  The lesson to take away from this: carry one of these items next time you want to drink from a dirty creek: