Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Limerick

Back on April Fool's Day I demonstrated some rhymes for "orange" and "Australia." Tonight I cram both difficult words into one lame poem.

A limerick that rhymes on Australia
Must employ verbal paraphernalia,
Then when you add orange
The rhymes become quite strange,
But it's still a success, not a failure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

War On ...

I was irked by Time magazine's cover this week, "How to Win the War on Global Warming." The phrase "War on [problem]" was bad enough when applied to drugs or terror, but at least those crises could be blamed on small groups of "enemies." There was a clear analogy to a military campaign.

In contrast, global warming is caused by everyone on the planet, and averting that catastrophe will be very different to warfare. Many aspects of our society (energy generation, transport, manufacturing, etc.) will have to change in order to avoid global warming; the appropriate image would be revolution, or maybe renaissance. The combat metaphor doesn't make sense, and encouraging a martial mindset doesn't help.

Could we all declare a ceasefire on emotive misuse of language?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rugby League Heritage

Yesterday I went to my first rugby league game since the 90s, watching the Tigers hammer the Rabbitohs at the Sydney Cricket Ground. My cousin Jeff was going with some friends, and it was a good chance to catch up with him. The SCG used to host the big football games before newer, purpose-built football grounds were built in the last few decades. This game was played at the historic ground as part of the "heritage round" celebrating the centenary of Australian rugby league, and we were even allowed to wander out on the ground after the match.

Jeff and I had a good chat, discussing work, travel plans, family news etc. I found that a footy crowd isn't the best place for a conversation; my voice got a bit strained from talking over the general noise. Still a good afternoon overall.

Some of Jeff's friends knew my brother Joseph and were able to see the family resemblance. They said it was much stronger when I took my glasses off, one person even comparing the effect to recognising Clark Kent's true identity when he removes his specs. I'm sure Joseph will be pleased to learn that we no longer look as similar now that I wear glasses, and particularly gratified that he gets the Superman half of the analogy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mmmmm, Shark

Tonight I tried out the local fish and chips shop, and found that they do a excellent, greasy job of frying up their wares. I also appreciated the chance to eat shark, which is the default fish in Sydney if you don't ask for something more expensive. I can tell that shark has a slightly bitter and unpleasant taste compared to other white fish such as cod, but that's what I grew up eating and that's what fish should taste like. Plus, there's no chance of stray bones surviving the filleting process.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Programming to Relieve Frustration (!)

Normally computer programming aggravates me, but recently it's been rather therapeutic. For a couple of days I've been in a lull with no interviews or temp work, so I decided to upgrade my computing skills.

I took a question from a finance textbook which should have been solved using software on the accompanying CD-ROM. Instead I wrote my own code to solve the equations, using C++, a programming language that was new to me. It took a bit of research on the internet, but I produced a working program and answered the question. The underlying mathematics wasn't all that hard, which helped.

It was a good little project to keep me busy, but throws up an interesting ethical question: can I now list C++ on my resumé? My answer is yes.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Waltzing Matilda as a Limerick

Limericks are usually amusing, even when they start with a sad subject. To demonstrate, here's a reformatting of Banjo Paterson's classic national song.

A jovial, sheep-stealing guy
When caught by the cops chose to die
In a small billabong,
Where now his ghostly song
May be heard by all passers-by.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Body-Surfing at Palm Beach

The autumn weather and the ocean are still pretty warm, so this morning I visited Palm Beach for the first time. The northernmost of Sydney's beaches, it's a very pretty spot, just remote enough to feel like a holiday town rather than a suburb.

I was able to body-surf for the first time in years. Until a month ago my sea and ocean swimming was in Massachusetts Bay or the Mediterranean, which are both pretty flat. I tried, but the waves there didn't have the power to pick me up and push me in to shore. This morning I was able to catch some metre-high waves just as they broke and take a quick turbulent ride back to the beach. It's a wonderful feeling as you lose control and move as part of the water for a few seconds.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fortuitous Computer Problem?

I had an odd computer problem over the last week. Last Saturday the computer froze and gave me a message that it needed to be rebooted. Then it wouldn't reboot and just gave me a blank screen. So I took it in to the repair shop, where they kept it a few days until they had time to examine it and give me a quote. However it worked just fine when they switched it on, and seems to be OK again.

This wasn't a bad week for it to happen, as it meant fewer distractions from my finance textbooks. I thought today's interview went pretty well, and I displayed a reasonable knowledge of the technical aspects of the job. Maybe I need to go offline in the lead up to all interviews!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Casual Work: Better than Expected

Finding a position in finance will probably take a few months. As with any senior white-collar occupation there are multiple interviews and a lot of careful vetting. To bring in some money and make sure I don't run down my savings too much in the interim, I signed up for casual work with Manpower.

I've been working 2 or 3 days a week at various odd jobs: unloading boxes in a warehouse, or helping run an assembly line for bacterial test kits. Today I donned a fluorescent yellow vest and did some street sweeping for Mosman council's contractors. My Dad should get a kick out of this, as he worked at Leichardt council for over 30 years. I found that sweeping is quite pleasant when you have a cool day and occasional harbour views.

It's been good for my spirits to get out and work. When all I do is look at ads for permanent jobs and send out applications, I naturally think about my life and wonder where it might be headed. This dreamy activity leaves me rather anxious and despondent if it's the only thing happening. On days when I have some casual labour as well, there's less time to worry about the future, and I finish the day happy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why are athletes violent drunks?

There's been a lot of media coverage in Australia over a late-night brawl involving one of Australia's swim team. And if this had involved a footballers rather than swimmers, it would scarcely qualify as news.

Why sportsmen so often get violent when they're binge-drinking, when most people just get sleepy? I wonder if it's an interaction between alcohol and performance-enhancing drugs. An elite athlete is likely to be taking recently developed drugs which haven't had time to be discovered by drug-testing agencies and included in the latest tests. These substances wouldn't have gone through much in the way of safety checks or clinical trials, so who knows what the side-effects might be.

On the other hand, the new swimsuits and any drugs the swimmers might be taking seem to help them break a lot of records. I guess they'd say it's worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Nonsense

Here are two poems for April Fool's Day, which pull off some difficult rhymes. The practical joke on you is that they're limericks, but they aren't very funny.

A clever young man from Australia
Wrote a limerick that was no failure,
Though in the last line
He didn't decline
Abstruse verbal paraphernalia.

The subject, a small juicy orange,
Inspired a limerick most strange.
Though the meter was great,
It could not compensate
For half-rhymes that made the reader cringe.