Saturday, October 14, 2006

It's about time. But, hang on...

Finally, finally, they are going to show basketball on free-to-air television. Again. Well, sort of.

Here is the link to the story.

And here's the quote that raised my eyebrows somewhat:

NBL Commissioner Rick Burton said the new agreement with Nine [free-to-air TV station] would greatly complement the existing Philips Championship live coverage on Fox Sports [pay TV].

“This is another major step forward for the Philips Championship and we believe this additional coverage on Channel Nine will help significantly grow interest in basketball across the country” Burton said.

In years gone past, basketball was BIG in Sydney. People all over the place were seen wearing the team's gear, you'd hear of people going to games, you'd go to one or two games during the season yourself, you'd flick on the ABC to watch a game every now and then, you'd talk to others about the results, and at the very least you generally knew how the Kings or the Razorbacks were going in the comp. And the games were packed. I'm certain that at least part of this was due to the coverage on free-to-air television.

Then they made the interesting decision to only show games on pay TV. And coincidentally, the game virtually disappeared into obscurity. Particularly for us poor clods who cannot afford Fox Sports. Oh, are the Kings in the grand-final? Oh, OK, didn't know that.

About 18 months back Ali and I went to a Sydney King's game and it was a little depressing to say the least. Despite being held in the Sydney Entertainment Centre, there were very few people there, and many of the corporate and court-side boxes were empty. A terrorist with a bomb would not consider it a worthwhile target.

Now they are putting it back on free-to-air to try to undo the damage of the past mistakes and to "significantly grow interest". Grumble, grumble. All this is going on, and meanwhile every time I turn the telly on, I see a commercial from the stations exhorting us to support the stations in their fight against the Pay TV operators and the government to keep "free" sport on free-to-air. See this for a little further commentary.

While I am happy that basketball has returned to free-to-air, I am not happy that it has gone to Channel Nine. It is only a highlights package, and will probably by bumped for other content, particularly cricket or yet another dog-down-a-well-exclusive, at every available opportunity.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Who you gonna call?

Friends came over on the weekend to watch the big game. (Our team lost, unfortunately.) They brought along their daughter, and one of their daughter's friends, a lovely little girl of about 11.

Her name was Dana. All I could think of was the line from Ghostbusters: "There is no Dana, only Zuul."

[As an aside, Google is just brilliant. I wondered how to actually spell Zuul, so I googled Dana Zuel. It not only told me that I'd mis-spelled Zuul, but took me to this page.]

Now I don't have a problem with people naming their children after famous people they respect or admire. I've met Ellas, Elvises and a couple of Jesuses (Jesus' possibly? I never know how to pluralise), and quite a few Britneys. The last one I am not sure about, particularly the preface "respect and admire." I guess it might not be everyone in the world who will immediately think of a line out of Ghostbusters when they first meet someone. But SURELY the parents had heard of Dana Barrett and thought that people meeting her would think, "But she looks nothing like Sigourney Weaver."

Ah well I shouldn't dwell. It is hard to decide on a child's name. In fact I've touched on this subject before.

Please, people of the world, consider the future for your children.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Collective Names (and NOT Collectivism)

Last week I read Bill Bryson's very funny book Down Under (called In a Sunburned Country in the US). It embarassed me what this man knows about Australia that I don't. Nullabor is not an aboriginal word, for instance.

One thing that has stuck with me is that he points out that people who live in Sydney are called Sydneysiders, and that this is somewhat unique. Is it that unique? Surely there is another city that calls it inhabitants "-siders"?

Why am I called a Sydneysider? How did this happen? Did some editor of the Sydney Morning Herald wake up one morning after a particularly troubled nights sleep, make his way into work, and send off a memo to all staff? - "...henceforth, this publication will refer to the population of Sydney as Sydneysiders..."

Was it a disparaging term used by Melburnians (or Melbournians - I believe there is some debate)? - "...come on children, stop that. You're behaving like a bunch of Sydneysiders." Or possibly it was used by people from the North Shore of Sydney, referring to the poor people on the south side of the harbour.

For that matter, where does any city inhabitant name come from. Other cities don't seem to follow any pattern: Melburnian, Brisbanite, Canberran, Berliner, Londoner, Parisian, New Yorker, Mancunian, Glaswegian. Where on earth does all this come from? Who invented these?

Personally, I don't even know the terminology for this type of word - a word that refers to the inhabitant of a city. Dweller-nom maybe?

The mystery deepens further when you consider collective names of animals, for which numerous, conflicting lists appear on the internet (though personally I'll stick with wikipedia): a herd of cows, a murder of crows, a flange of babboons, etc.

Someone needs to be held responsible for this mess.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Elevator Observations

I have a number of theories about people travelling in elevators. Perhaps observations is a better word than theories? See for yourself.

1. When people all exit an elevator, say when it has descended to the ground floor, they generally (but not always!) exit in the reverse order to when they got on. That is, the bloke from Level 2 gets off first, then the bloke from Level 4, then me from Level 8, and then the fellah from Level 11. This is particularly applicable when everyone is male, but less so when there is a mixture of males and females, as there is a tendency to allow females to exit first. Being male, I haven't observed the phenomenom when the elevator is completely female.

Common sense would indicate that of course this is the case, since the person who got on at Level 2 is blocking the exit of people from higher levels. However, I've observed this even when there are very few people on the elevator, say three or four. Even when the last person to get on has moved to the rear wall of the car, they are likely to be the first to leave when the door opens on ground floor.

2. Whether through a basic distrust of the means of transport or otherwise, people tend to balance out when there is a change in the number of people inside, with a slight bias towards the rear of the car. This applies whether the cahnge is people entering, or people exiting the car. With two people in the car, they tend to occupy the rear corners, three people move to the centre of the three non-door walls, four in the four corners, five would add one in the centre, with six there would be two in the centre, evenly spaced about the centre point. Und so weieter. When a new person gets on, or someone gets off, everyone tends to shuffle into their respective "natural" positions.

3. People who face the wrong way, ie, toward the rear of the car, make everyone else in the car feel slightly uncomfortable.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Wiggles

I saw the Wiggles this morning. Even Dorothy the Dinosaur was there. Murray's guitar is nice and shiny.

Walking to work through Martin Place, I passed the Channel 7 Sunshine Studios, which is glass-encased so people in the street can look in and see the show being filmed. There was a LARGE crowd of people, many with small children. The thing which drew me over was all the red balloons and the man with the Sydney Swans beanie. I thought the Swans must be in the studio and wandered over to watch. I'm a big fan you know.

But no, it was the Wiggles, the red balloons were for some other cause, the man in the Swans beanie was just keeping warm, and there was no football players anywhere in sight.

The thing which struck me was the size of the crowd, the number of people with small children, at that time of the morning, in that cold, windy, drizzling weather. Obviously people had known that the Wiggles were going to be on the telly, and made their way to the studio. Wow, they must be dedicated fans - it is just incomprehensible.

Mind you, if it had have been the Swans, I'd have been there.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Daughter's Father's Day Poem

It was Father's Day in Australia last Sunday (3-Sep-2006) and my children were over my place. Josephine my youngest made a card for me at school, and composed her own poem for it. She's eight years old.

Really, it's hard enough being a weekend Dad and only seeing your children every so often without reading a beautiful poem like this:

You are [a] person who is loving and kind
You are always on my mind
You help me whenever I feel down
And you take me to the fun playground
You are one of my very best friends
With you I can have a life that never ends
I am ever so glad
To have the world's best Dad

Beautiful beyond words.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My fellow train passengers

Two interesting people in my train trip in this morning.

The first was the Close Stander. The train wasn't overly crowded this morning for a change. Plenty of space to stand in the end compartment. This did not stop a well-dressed young Asian man from standing so close to me that every little movement of the carriage made him brush against me ever so slightly. First the arm. Then the leg. Then the shoulder. I looked around at the next nearest person at least two metres away, the empty space unheard of in peak hour, the many, many available grab poles, the vacant seat next to the fat, snoring guy. The Close Stander smiled shyly up at me. Good grief. Sexual advances from a gay man. I turned away, gritted my teeth, and ignored it as best I could.

The second was Sad Dresser. A largish woman was going up the escalators at Wynyard dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt that had no hope of ever meeting each other. Particularly at the back where I was positioned. Presumably she worked in a job where people couldn't see the bulging pink band of skin around her middle.

Did Sad Dresser know how ridiculous she looked? Thinking on this, I got off the escalator at the top and walked out into the street. I was much distressed upon looking at a reflection of myself in a building window, that owing to me forgetting to comb my hair this morning after leaving the shower, I had a hairstyle that resembled Tin Tin's. I looked quite ridiculous.

Hey! Perhaps the Close Stander thought I was Tin Tin?

And I bet the Sad Dresser was laughing at me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I know that one day I'm going to be put in jail for not being able to read Swahili. It's really not my fault, I've just never had the time to learn it.

Perhaps you're not completely with me. Swahili is my term for the near incomprehensible "Terms and Conditions" you see everywhere on the web. Even if all you want to do is just buy a shiny new mouse pad on-line, there is almost guaranteed to be a huge box full of Swahili somewhere on or near the final purchase page, just waiting to trip you up.

My issues with Swahili are twofold:
  • It takes too bloody long to read all the stuff
  • Once it has been read, you are usually none the wiser

What the Swahili translates into is probably not all difficult to understand, which is undoubtedly the second-most frustrating thing about it. The most frustrating being of course that one day I'll end up in jail because of it. So why don't they just write the simple stuff instead of the Swahili. Are they deliberately trying to confuse us so that we blindly click through and so expose ourselves to jail terms? I'm sure there is a tally board somewhere in some high-rise office block with a couple of blokes standing around it: "Heh heh, another three inside today, Earl."

Some of the simple things it says includes:

  • What you are doing MAY be illegal.
  • If you use this software and it breaks something, tough luck.
  • If you use this software to break something, don't expect us to care or be in any way responsible.
  • This software is going to send all your private details to our servers. Sorry about that.
  • Don't expect this software to solve world hunger. It only solves simple calculations in one dimension.
  • We wrote this software/built this hardware. It is ours not yours. So please don't steal it.
  • We've got your credit card details now. If we lose them or let some Eastern European hacker obtain them, we apologise for this in advance.

There's probably more things, but I don't want to be writing Swahili myself.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Definition of a certainty is...

Broken ticket-vending machines at the train station on a Monday morning.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lost in translation

I spent some time this week in Bangkok on business. I stayed at the Radisson Hotel which served my purposes quite well. I must say though, the internet connection was just appalling.

On Thursday afternoon, after I'd come back from the office, I needed to write a report and decided rather than holing up in my room for two hours, I would drag my carcass and laptop down to the pub and have a couple of beers while writing the report. In the end, this was a mistake, as the constant "refill-your-glass" service meant that the report was less coherent than it needed to be, and I was already well on the way to inebriation by the time I was picked up to go to dinner.

But in the meantime though, I was happily tapping away and sipping at the cold beer. After a while, the management decided to put a movie on the big screen. It was one I hadn't seen before, and admittedly from the snippets I did pay attention to, it's probably one I won't ever see. It was called Apocalypse or Armageddon or something like that. Starring Beau Bridges as Mr President. (Ok I just found it here on IMDB, it is 10:5 Apocalypse.)

One thing that caught my eye was the subtitling. Now being in Bangkok, I would've expected the subtitles to be in Thai. But they weren't. This English Language movie was subtitled in English. And it was this subtitling which was at least partially responsible for a major part of my distraction. It was atrocious.

One of the characters was named "Brad" or "Brent" - even I have trouble with American accents sometimes. But he was variously titled, Brad or Brent, but most often Brat. Obviously he had a troubled childhood.

Whole words were left out. At one point, it had obviously got too hard for the translator and the translation just stopped mid-sentence. Phrases were completely wrong, not even close. An easy one like: "What's the situation?" might end up: "What is his face on?"

A lot of words were mis-spelled. My favourite was "skeewad", which was (what else?) "squad". This mistake was interesting because it was spelled correctly not 30 seconds later.

But this one was my favourite. They'd just pulled someone from a pile of rubble and the paramedics or whatever they were are crowded round him. One of them says: "I can see him breathing!". This was translated as, "I am see him freaking!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reflections on a train

1. On older carriages, the ceiling in the downstairs is less than 187cm high.
2. Schoolboys have no knowledge of deodourant.
3. You can never tire of looking at Sydney Harbour in the morning.
4. If you get your bag caught between the closing doors of the carriage on the left side of the train at St Leonards, and the train does not stop at Wollstonecraft and Waverton, you do not have a chance to retrieve it before getting off at Wynyard.
5. Other passengers are more likely to enjoy watching you try to force hydraulic doors open rather than help you.
6. The person that eventually helps you force hydraulic doors open will invariably be the roughest and scariest looking person in the carriage.
7. If your head is bent at an angle for about twenty minutes, your neck will get sore.
8. Newer carriages make creaking sounds that are vaguely similar to Space Invader sounds. This is strangely comforting.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Alternate Spice Girls

My mate Mal Partridge is a wonderful Philosopher and a good source of good humour. He's responsible for The Mal Partridge Theory of Joke-Telling, an outstanding theory that should raise the interests of sociogists and anthropologists alike.

He told me yesterday about the "Alternate Spice Girls". His mate, Leigh Galvan and he concocted this one, obviously over more than a few beers. It's the name of the five alternate Spice Girls. The absolute only reason I mention it is because after not having heard of them for years, yesterday there was not only Mal's reference to them, but also a question on Temptation about it.

The Alternate Spice Girls are:

  • Herbs'n

  • Old

  • Sugar'n

  • Pine Lime

  • Lostin

For those who don't understand the "Pine Lime" reference you might like to check out this link and select Pine Limefrom the drop-down selector.

Most of us would recognise this though:

Malcolm Partridge thank you once again.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I've been very bad

Today was my first day off the Diet.

For those not in the know, Alison and I have dieting for the past twelve weeks. It's the CSIRO Total Well-Being Diet, and by all accounts, it's quite successful.

Our figures are as follows:

Alison Michael
Start 69.40 88.10
Current 62.70 79.10
Loss (kg) 6.70 9.00
Loss (%) 9.65 10.22

Not too bad for twelve weeks. Although we weren't huge heifers in the first place, I for one am glad the extra kilos are off: I'm fitter than I've been for decades, am notching up my belts, and can justify having kept all those old incredibly-skinny clothes.

Now while we haven't been saints on the diet, we have done it fairly strictly, and there's been countless times when I've just wanted to lie in front of the telly, eat a whole kilogram of potato chips, one of those quarter kilo blocks of the cheapest or drink twenty beers in a row.

I knew today was going to be a "release" day though. Here's my tally of the bad stuff, so far:

  • One mint-cream-filled chocolate cookie (for breakfast)

  • One original glazed Krispy Kreme donut

  • One cream-filled chocolate-glazed Krispy Kreme donut

  • One chili chicken burger with sour cream

  • One server of fried chips

  • One creamy pasta salad

  • One schooner (c. 400mL) of Tooheys New beer

  • One coffee with two very real sugars

I feel decidely unclean - and just a little bit bloated.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Material Safety Data Sheet

I just had to share this with someone, and surely at least one of you will understand exactly why I had to share this when you read it.

I have come across Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) before. For those who don't know, they are a brief doc that tells you all the good gumph about the potential hazards associated with a product. I have seen MSDSs for stuff like fibreglass, casting resins, solvents, etc. From these, one can learn, for instance, how hazardous it is to breath in powdered resins, or the correct gloves to wear when handling caustic sodas, just how flammable or explosive something is, or even what to do if you swallow some toluene-based product.

Today, while cleaning my coffee mug at the kitchenette at work, I saw a new one sticky-taped to the cupboard above my head. It was titled:

"Spree Dishwashing Detergent"

It's good to see that my employer is looking after my safety.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The result of the Ferrari?

Oh yes. I forgot to mention (about this: The MJ shoes are lovely on the court. I'll sell them and their sleek Ferrari lines to anyone.

Shouting in the streets of Sydney

I enjoy working in Sydney, there's always so many interesting people and things to see. Sometimes I wonder though.

I do NOT enjoy the fact that about the only place you can get some peace and quiet to do some reading at lunchtimes is in a dingy pub. Although I love my pubs, especially the dingy ones, I also love my beer, and that is just too much of a temptation for me while I'm on a diet. (Yes I'm on a diet.) Also they frown on you bringing your own little meals in, particularly when said little meals are wholemeal salad sandwiches. "Are you absolutely sure you won't have pie, chips and gravy with that beer, sir?" Steady. Steady...

But I digress.

Today, I went hunting for a pharmacist to buy some contact lens solution, as my left lens felt gritty and needed a clean. A colleague informed me that there is one near the corner of Market and York Streets. So off I go in the mid-afternoon.

As I was waiting at the corner, there came up behind a couple of young ladies, one carrying two half-full garbage bags, and the other pushing a wheeled spectacle display stand, minus the spectacles. I wondered for a second, then let it go, crossed with the traffic lights and went into the pharmacists. Within one minute I had chosen the lens solution and was preparing to pay for it at the counter.

The spectacles stand pusher appeared at the entrance to the store, in my wake:

(shouting loudly at the sales assistants in the store) WHERE ARE THE BLOODY KEYS TO THE BACK DOOR?

Then ensued a LOUD argument over my cringing shoulder about the location of the keys and what the bloody-hell the woman was doing without them anyway and I don't know you must have the bloody things, etc. I meekly went ahead with my purchase and resolved never to return to this particular shop. My resolution was doubled when the assistant attempted to charge me $18.75 for the product when it was clearly marked $15.95. Small amount, big principle. But he may have been distracted by the Third Battle of the Somme going on.

On exiting the store, I crossed back to where I had first met the laden ladies, and there were two older woman discussing in not so flattering terms a work colleague. I didn't deliberately overhear the women. I couldn't help but hear, as they were standing at least five metres apart and shouting the conversation to each other over the traffic noise. It was very, very surreal.

My eyes feel better though.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pick which one is the real Ferrari

OK. Examine these two photographs.

First this one:

Now this one:


I gotta admit it is hard to tell. But here's my clue: Ferrari's are usually painted red.

I guess I better explain this.

I've been complaining about my current basketball shoes for some time now. Everytime I come off the court my ankles are sore and sometimes also my arches. Alison has quickly gotten sick of my whinging and on Saturday she finally cracked. "Alright, we are going to buy you some new shoes!" She hunted around on the net and found a shop which specialises in basketball shoes, so off we went.

At the store, there are at least 30,000 different shoes on the wall, all ugly, all gaudy, many not really recognisable as shoes. Josephine is having a great time picking out the most disgusting ones, "Dad. Dad. DAD! Buy these. Pink and green. They've got little plastic springs on the bottom."

Torn equally between the thought to leave the game altogether for much younger people and the desire to strangle my second-born child, I eventually manage to find a pair that I can stomach, mainly because they have a high back which may help my ankles. Helpfully, they are labelled "Retro", which of course aids in bolstering my self-esteem.

"Can I try a size 11 in these, please." The young bloke alarmingly brings back a 10-½ and some 11's in a different model, same brand. I tried the 11 with my right-foot only (it is a size bigger than my left) — disastrously small. He measures my right foot: "I'll bring you back some 13's."

But they fit, and they are comfortable. Ignoring the feeling that as I get older, my feet really shouldn't be getting bigger, I try a few small jumps in them to get a feel, and it feels very strange. I look at the floorboards suspiciously, thinking that they must be deliberately sprung or something so that the shoes feel more comfortable than they really are, but the young bloke assures me that the shoes have a carbon-fibre base which spreads the impact throughout the foot rather than just concentrating it in the toes. And then he gives his line that he's certain will clinch the sale:

Look at these shoes. They've been modelled after MJ's [Michael Jordan's] Ferrari. See the intake. The shape of the moulding. The same sleak lines as his Ferrari. Beautiful, aren't they?

I must admit I'm speechless. I can't really think of a way of expressing my thoughts without swearing volubly in front of my children.

I ended up buying them regardless. Size 13.

Oh yes, and before you think my girlfriend's just too good to be true, finding the place to go, taking me there, putting up with me spending 30 minutes trying to find shoes that didn't look like grafitti, I should mention this: she bought a pair of shoes herself. Hmmmm.

I'll let you know how the Ferrari's work out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Shopping habits

[Yes it has been a long time. I can only blame it on the effectiveness of the previous and current job in ensuring that they occupy my entire brain, leaving little else for me personally. A bit sad, isn't it?]

There is a fundamental difference in the way men and women shop for presents.

Women continually shop for presents throughout the year, even if they are not aware of it. Passing a trinket shop they will automatically file the thought in their brain that that trinket would suit Uncle John or Jan or Jason. Three months later when Christmas comes around, straight to the trinket shop for that present.

Men shop usually at the last minute, and with their pathetic little (though carefully thought about) list in their hand. Most of the presents they can rush around and buy in the space of an hour within the one store, but there will always be one or two that just don't happen. This turns into a last minute panic to desperately think of something else and usually results in buying something not quite right or completely different or generic ("I thought you'd like this apple corer, sweetheart. It's yellow, like your apron.")

Speaking of aprons, and I know how this is going to sound, but I bought Alison a kitchen apron for Christmas. Don't hassle me — It's what she wanted! But going into the stores, you would not believe the crappy selection you have. And trying to find the blasted things?! The only resort is to ask one of those cranky old woman:

"Could you please tell me where the aprons are?"
"Certainly sir you chauvanistic pig. They are over there [pointing] near the tea-towels. Would you like me to point out where the shackles and whips are so you can use them on your poor unfortunate, opressed girlfriend?"

Or something like that. I mean I can't remember the words exactly, but what she said and the looks she was giving me amounted to the above. Sigh.

I have a new combined Palm Pilot/Phone. A lot easier than carrying around two items and I invariably left the old Palm at home for the sake of space in my jeans pocket. I'm going to pretend to be a chick and write down things that I see as I see them.

Maybe... If I remember.

I'll let you know my results January next year.