Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dedication to work

Two emails I sent last week.
One to the deputy head of school who was promoted to Professor. He is a very good sort who has labs where I work on Level 6; and thinks I am hilarious. Graham is also tall and handsome - facts of which my boss (Phil) and I frequently remind him. The other people mentioned in the email are his PhD students and honours student.

From: Harry Simpson
Sent: Wednesday, 2 December 2009 10:18 AM
To: Graham
Subject: Congratulations, also: YOUR DESTINY!!

Dear Sir,

Since you have now embraced your true self it is time for you to realise your destiny. As we speak I am having the mechanical workshop boys reforge the shards of Narsil. This will of course set back the completion date for any number of jobs, but the hordes of darkness must be held at bay now that you have arisen to your True Station!

There are several things you must do:

Protect the hairy-toed one (known to you as Phil) as he goes forth to destroy the evil warlock XXX by tossing the ring made of his own stupidity and the tedium of wasted hours spent in meetings, into the fires of Administratium.

You must totally romance a hot elf babe;

You must call forth the walking dead of Level5 to regain their honour in your service;

and you must be totally awesome and kick arse! (You will receive help from a girly elf known as Blacklow and his rather fine elven sistren Youmie, Fran and Monique. The doughty warrior Casamento might be of some use, but I wouldn't count on it.)

Please start growing your hair long and practicing your smoldering thousand-yard stare (think pure jewels embedded in craggy ageless hills).

Harry Simpson
Technical Officer
University of Technology, Sydney


The second concerns our Christmas party which is tomorrow. One of the honours girls (who is a bit of a princess) asked me to email her the address of the party which is Haberfield Rowers Retreat.

From: Harry Simpson
Sent: Thursday, 3 December 2009 3:22 PM
To: fran
Subject: Haberfield Rowers

Dear Fran,

Undoubtedly you have beautiful eyes.
Such eyes have stirred men to noble deeds in the honour of their bearers for millenia.
Such eyes have been compared to moonlit pools of peaceful water, or the dark calming centre of the universe.
Such eyes have made otherwise cautious men recklessly expose their souls to their harsh regard and be destroyed.
And such eyes normally are more than enough to read the 34648 signs I put up around the place showing you where the Haberfield Rowers Retreat is!!!

Perhaps before you go to your job interview on Friday you could visit an optometrist. Wikipedia tells me that: "Like most professions, optometry education, certification, and practice is regulated in most countries. Optometrists and optometry-related organizations interact with governmental agencies, other health care professionals, and the community to deliver eye and vision care."

There are at least 17 optometrists in the Southern Hemisphere alone! So there probably is one near to where you live or shop. Please do not make the mistake, as my Great Aunt Hilda did, of visiting an Optimist instead of an Optometrist. He told her that everything was going to be fine and, thinking just that, my Great Aunt Hilda happily walked into the path of one of the first 436 buses. She was horribly wounded and walked with a limp for the rest of her days. Ironically the 436 bus is one of the buses you can take to get to Haberfield Rowers Retreat. Talk about a coincidence!

The UTS Haberfield Club Rowers Retreat is on Dobroyd parade. This road is otherwise known as the City West Link.

Harry Simpson
Technical Officer
University of Technology, Sydney

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Homeopathic solution to homeopathy

I worked out how we can cure the world of homeopathy.

Step 1: get all homeopathists in one room. Get an equal number of skeptics. Line them up opposite each other. Give each an empty glass.

Step 2: Open a big tin of poison. Put a fatal dose of poison water into each glass in front of a homeopathist.

Step 4: Using homeopathic dilution make a super dilute poison solution. Put this solution into the glasses in front of the skeptics.

Each side now think the other has the most deadly solution in front of them.


End of problem.

(Perhaps the only good solution is a psychopathic one?)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Had an argument with a friend about the current industrial revolution in China...

Position A: China is being exploited by the West and is suffering for it.
Position B: China is being exploited by the West and is better off for it.

I am reminded of a parable in a novel or biography that I can't remember - but I remember the parable and it goes like this.

A man on holiday is walking along the seashore. The previous night there was a storm and the waves picked up all the starfish - thousands and thousands of them - and dumped them past the high tide mark. There they now sit, a whole heaven of stars, helplessly and inexorably dying in the sun.
The man sees a young girl who is picking up handfuls of starfish and tossing them back into the see. He walks up to her and asks "Why do you bother? You can't save them all?"
To which she replies "I can save these ones. I can make a difference to them".

I related this parable to another friend. He suggested this instead:

A rich business man is on holiday in a tropical paradise. The previous night there was a storm and the waves picked up all the starfish - thousands and thousands of them - and dumped them past the high tide mark. There they now sit, a whole heaven of stars, helplessly and inexorably dying in the sun.
The sea is now calm - so calm that he thinks he could skim stones across it. But there are no stones, only dying starfish.
So he picks up a starfish and tries to skim it over the water. It sort of works but the arms dig into the water as you would expect. After twelve attempted skims he changes the game to seeing how far into the sea he can throw a starfish. After fifteen minutes a young girl comes up to him. She is crying because all these starfish are dying because nature is uncaring.

So, which of the above characters owns the factory in China?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Errr....they just worked this out?!

"Mr Hunt, who is also a director of Tourism Australia, said travellers were increasingly looking for out-of-the-ordinary experiences they could brag their friends about..."

"Generation Y and baby boomer travellers looking for a holiday "brag factor" are influencing a new shift towards weird and wonderful tourism experiences, a conference has heard."

Really? People like bragging about their holidays?
Knock me down with a feather.
Next they'll tell me that cars are often seen as status symbols.
And let me guess that his audience were Gen X. I can see them all sitting there nodding along at how shallow Gen Y and the Boomers are, because THEY in Gen X only go on holiday because it's good the planet and because it helps them become a well rounded personality overflowing with understanding, insight and compassion.
I know this is how it truly works for Gen X people because we're differnet to GenY and the Boomers, but mostly because I went to Borneo.

Nah, that's me just being sarcastic: I was awesome long before I went to that place that none of you have been to. Losers.

But, still the important thing to bear in mind is this: "sure, Fred went and stayed in an eco-village on the Masai Mara for 18weeks and drives a Peugeot but he's still a fuckwit."

So yes, "Generation Y and baby boomer travellers look for a holiday "brag factor"" but it's because they are, by in large, fuckwits.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Instant Bachelor

So Ellen went back to Melbourne yesterday and I became nutritionaly instantly a bachelor.

Part of my breakfast this morning was a packet of chips.
Dinner was pistaccios, some dutch almond biscuits and three beers.

Oh, and we've run out of washing-up liquid, so the washing-up is piling up.

Oh, and my fly's undone.

Fuck it: I think it's time to line up the shots and put on some real hair band rock.
(exits waving whiskey bottle and singing "Pour Some Sugar on Me")

Friday, October 16, 2009

Strawman - Eagleton v Dawkins

Terry Eagleton "is, among other things, professor of cultural theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His latest book is Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate."

For the London Review of Books he wrote Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching a review of 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins (yes, this was back in 2006).
It is a pin-up straw-man argument. Yet again I am astounded by how smart people aren't.
I recommend reading it.

It starts with this "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology."
Tadaa! The straw-man is constructed in the first sentence!

It is tempting to think that Eagleton's title was perfect irony.

My cousin, Dan, put it very well in his review of Eagleton's review:

"Richard Dawkins is a small man words words words words longword words words longword words words words words longword words words longword words words Richard Dawkins doesn't know much about what it means to be really bloody clever AND a Christian words words words words longword words words longword words It is okay to believe and not be really bloody clever, it is NOT okay to refute and be clever too Look over there! Ha, distracted you. Now you can't possibly disagree with me. Richard Dawkins is a small man words words words words longword words words longword words words words words longword words words longword words words. Dear reader, please ignore that Dawkins excels in a field of research that demands clear and eloquent demonstration and that religion is open to any number of permutations of interpretation. Please also ignore that theology and religion are not the same thing. Richard Dawkins is a small man."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Destination Sarawak

I have wanted to go to Borneo since reading Gerald Durrell's book set there. It sounded so pristine and wild and adventurous.
Then in 1998 a mate and I went to Kuala Lumpur for ten days and at the Royal Selangor pewter place gift shop we got into conversation with one of the staff and she said Sarawak was wonderful. That sealed the deal. I told her that next time I came to Malaysia I would go there - and I would hate to let her down as I am sure she is a devoted reader of this blog.

When most people visit Borneo they go to Sabah in the north east. It is a scuba diving mecca, apparently, and enjoys much higher tourist numbers than Sarawak. Since I am a rebel and say 'Fie!' to the opinions of hoi poloi I decided we would go to western Sarawak to try and be token tourists. And we were quite successful at that.
(Also, Ellen, wanted to go snorkeling and sit on a beach. Oh, and jungle would be nice.)

Even in the capital city of Sarawak, Kuching - a city of 300,000 people, there were only a couple of dozen white people. And we managed to avoid most of them because they didn't spend much time in the old part of the waterfront which was where we spent almost all our time.

I was originally looked at spending most of the time north of Kuching in Santubong, but reading around and the polite silence of a friend's boyfriend who knows the area gave me pause for thought.
I looked at the map again and saw that the road west ends at Sematan. That was why I picked Sematan.
There are two islands about 5kms north called the Talang-Talang islands that offer snorkeling sites, and there is a national park called Tanjung Datu (Where "Tg. Datuk" is on this map) that is accessible only by boat. I fugured we'd find some pretty authentic jungle there.
Finally, there is a resort there, right on the beach, that would allow us to be indulgent and lazy. Nine nights there please!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Safety First

Kuching, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, North Western Borneo.


Sematan. Fishing village 140kms west of Kuching. The resort we stayed at was 3km west of Sematan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Setting the bar so low it's become a floor board

*fart sound*


Hmm. Perhaps there ARE some things the internet simply can't do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Work Place Follies

Part 1: Chivalry is not dead. And neither is Chauvanism.

I saw a sign on Tuesday that referred to International Women's Day.
No date was included and I had no idea when it was.
Turns out it was the previous Sunday.
I went looking for someone and found Piklu (a woman scientist) and Maurice (a man scientist).

H: Piklu, do you know it was International Women's Day on Sunday?
P: No. I did not.
M: When is International Men's Day?
H: Dude! _Every_ day is International Men's Day!
I high five him, and then tell Piklu she should probably wash the toasted sandwich maker in their office.

Part 2: Proposed sign for the lab area.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Parallel Imports

Allan Fels and Fred Brenchley wrote a reply in response to people wanting to keep parallel imported books out of Australia.

(Wiki: Parallel importers ordinarily purchase products in one country at a price (P1) which is cheaper than the price at which they are sold in a second country (P2), import the products into the second country, and sell the products in that country at a price which is usually between P1 and P2.)

Peter Carey and others claim that parallel imports will destroy the domestic publishing market and thus prevent Australian authors from being published. Domestic publishers hold the copyright for overseas authors thus if you want to see those books in Australia they must be produced by domestic publishers. Non-parallel importing is therefore protectionism.

I am a wannabe writer. Reading is my number one past-time. I read widely. I give a lot of books as presents. I am university-educated middle-class fairly bohemian and pink. I should be on the battlements staving off parallel imports and supporting Australian publishing with my last breath.
I’m not.
I agree with Fels and Brenchley.
Carey et al are wrong.
Domestic publishers are lazy pricks who do not support Australian writers.

By saying that they can only be profitable by printing foreign authors under copyright the publishers are admitting THEY CAN’T SELL DOMESTIC AUTHORS!
Yet these are the only guys we are counting on to support said Australian authors?! Protecting them doesn’t make any sense.

The crowning argument of the anti-parallel people is this:
"But if Australian writers can't afford to go on writing (and Australian publishers can't afford to publish us) then there will be many fewer books reflecting our unique Australian experience."

This is fatuous on two counts.
a) If I wanted to read about The Australian Experience..... why would I read a novel?
Surely I would read about real people?
Like Robyn Davidson: a woman who walked across 1700km of desert with four camels. That was a cracking read. Entertaining, touching, transporting and inspiring.
Or I would read biographies of Diggers surviving the Bataan death march or fighting in Tobruk. Or I’d read straight history. 'Leviathan' by John Birmingham is a triumph of a writer being authentically Australian. Birmingham’s style is a product of his personality. His personality is in part due to being Australian.
If the reason for having The Australian Experience is to either Tell-us-who-we-are or to convey that experience to foreigners then convey the REAL experience. Don’t try and manufacture it.
Simply having a novel set in Australia doesn’t automatically make it more worthy. To claim otherwise is nationalism, and there is very little that is more stupid and childish than nationalism.

b) Australian authors will not stop writing: they will get a job and still keep on writing.
Y'know, like 99% of artists in all fields.
Fulltime writers tend to disappear up their own arseholes, anyway. There is a reason why your old stuff is better than your new stuff - you were mining your life experiences in the old stuff. Your new stuff is written when you have become a full-time writer and you simply aren’t that interesting any more. This applies equally to musicians.
'Oh listen: a song about being on tour!'
'Oh, look. A novel where the protagonist is a writer with writer’s block.'
Spare me.

Main rebuttal.

1) Books are simply too expensive. How much money do they think readers have? Are readers going to pay $35 for one book, or are they far happier to pay $35 for two books or even three if you use the Penguin model. The $9.95 Penguins are proof right there that Carey et al are wrong. Why are people buying these Penguins and not another print? Because the other print is $25 perhaps? These aren’t new books. They have been out for a while now, and if the people buying them *now* didn’t buy them *back then* there must be a reason for it. Join. The. Dots.
This is a no brainer.
I am not going to impulse buy with $20.
‘But it costs so much to print books in Australia….’
So don’t print them in Australia. Ta daa.

1b) I buy remaindered books from England for about $6-8 each. As a result I have read any number of books I would never have even looked at if they were $20 let alone $35.
Any number of my friends buy books from Amazon because they are cheaper than getting them here; they are unavailable here; they are actually in stock.
Aside from print-on-demand, it is hard to think of a more direct way to get a book.

2) If Aussie publishers are making foreign authored books then they aren’t making domestically written books. QED. Not only that, but it is cheaper to bring in the foreign print books than to print them here, so it doesn’t make economic sense to do so except for reasons of protectionism.
How much sympathy do you expect me to have for a publisher who makes only $6 instead of $10. That $4 difference is MY money.

3) Editors. Where are the editors? Editors are there to ensure the quality of writing. Since publishers became more hard-nosed they demoted editors to the point where the quality of writing has suffered. Do you know why books are bloated overly-long lumps of filler these days? It’s because they cut editors off at the knees. It was the editor’s job to reign in the author. It is very easy to see which books had good editors and which didn’t.
Where, then, is our ‘proud and needed’ Australian Experience?
If it isn’t of good quality, should we be proud of it? Should we treat it as the ambassador of the nation? Of course we shouldn’t!!! Why are we celebrating mediocrity?!?!
The obvious conclusion is that Publishers don’t care about quality. They should therefore not be protected.

4) Anyone who defends the publishers defends Matthew Reilly. Since he is indefensible, their position is untenable.

5) If they truly cared about finding Australian authors and The Australian Experience they would make an effort to market them.
How many one-off authors produce really good stuff? Lots. They say everyone has a book in them, and maybe many people only have the one. And maybe those books are short.
Better to have seven one-off's than seven Tim Wintons I feel. Particularly if you are wanting The Australian Experience. Does Tim Winton speak for the nation? Of course he doesn’t. He speaks for a microcosm. To speak for the nation you need many voices.
And that means many writers.
Publishing houses have stables of authors. What this means is that they have a set number of established authors whom they publish. They put their effort into keeping these authors rather than finding untested ones because it is easier. Obviously it is easier to feed an established market with a new Peter Carey book than with an unknown.
Publishers buy shelf space in bookshops. New release books are on these shelves for six weeks. After that time a few go to the shelves for older books and a new title fills the New Release shelves.
Publishing is a business. Do not protect business – demand more from it.

Publishers are betraying readers. They patently aren’t doing what their defenders claim they do.
Their argument is condescending in the extreme.
They are an adult saying “If you don’t do it my way, you will not get dessert” to a child.
Don’t fall for the idea that if the publishers go they will take Australian Literature with them.
It’s a load of crap.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Yourdictionary.com crapness

I have never used yourdictionary.com before.
They are special.

"Einstein quotes

As Einstein once said, ordinary life in an ordinary day in the modern world is a dreary business. I mean dreary. People will do anything just to escape this dreariness.

-Pepys, Samuel"

Samuel Pepys was the famous diarist of the 1600s.

Also, the person to attribute the quote "ordinary life..." to is, surprisingly enough, Einstein.

Also: douchebags.

"Tell us what you want:

1. What features would you like us to add to YourDictionary?


Is accuracy a feature?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year

I had my 'Kung Hay Fat Choy, bitch!' all primed for Hilary the stores woman but she pre-empted me with a shril 'You suck monkeys balls!' which is also a traditional greeting for the time of year, but less geographically ubiquitous.
This saying is, of course, usually confined to the South East of China and loses a little something in the translation.
It is more 'Happy New Year' in flavour (if you'll excuse the pun) than it seems.

In her expanding feelings of New Years benevolence Hilary recruited Stan and Jason to also wish me well.

To which I was able to reply by email:


Well, after a busy morning I have finally finished sucking all the monkey balls.
So many monkeys.

All that's left now is the penises and arseholes.

Stan, I have put you down for the penises.
And Hilary, you get the arseholes.

Happy Sucking!

Sir Harry Simspon KA

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Christmas retro

I hosted two Englishmen for Christmas lunch or, as I explained to one of the girls at Uni, I was hosting some orphans. Her face softened and she obviously thought I was a good person. I explained it was just a figure of speech; they weren't real orphans, just guys away from home.

So, there were three wise men at Christmas aaaand we were Tom, Dick and Harry.

Jesus was happy and so were we.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grab bag

Dubbya Bush talking about his last weeks in office and the incoming president on C-span:
"I would hate to have the next to last and last day of the presidency be one giant hug-fest … But I anticipate with great interest watching an historic moment, the swearing-in of the 44th president, who happens to be an African-American male. And that's a big deal for America. And I will have a front-row seat."

A bit revealing that. "African-American male" is how cops describe perps.

Apparently the email survey I replied to the Managing Director with the below *was* serious. I honestly thought it was a joke.
Oh well.

Dear Mr Pxxxxxxx,

Thank you very much for your email.
We _have_ outsourced the IT helpdesk to Uzbekistan.
The new IT helpdesk jockey is more jockey than help, but he is a world class shepard. His name is Balga.
He is a direct decendant of that great Uzbek warlord Tamerlame* who killed seventeen million people during the mid Fourteenth century, and Balga has a similar attitude to IT enquiries.

No, we have not just 'handed out' his IT qualification - we had it presented to him by the nearest Australian Ambassador.

Balga is not in the office at the moment because currently driving his sheep across the southern steppes in search of pasture, but he does have intermittent satellite contact.

We think is a convicted arsonist but I'm sure it was only a small fire.

Harry Simpson
(soon to be ex-)IT Helpdesk

Edit: *Should read as 'Tamerlane'. Tamerlame only killed seven people and most of them was due to a donkey accident near Samarkand.

I just walked into the office at my other job and my boss greeted me with "Harry, I'm disturbingly obsessed by ammunition."
It was a statment of fact, not a cry for help.
He then started singing "Ammo's always on my mind. Ammo's always on my mind."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lazy New Year

Song for the new year: Sons of Butcher Possibly the greatest song ever.

Why hiphop is excellent part 1 DJ Format

Part 2 Beardyman beatboxing in the kitchen