Thursday, April 24, 2008


Stop Press! - Naomi and Neil (2 friends of mine) have had a baby boy, Nick - a big public CONGRATULATIONS to you both. Lots of fun times ahead!

Alas it has been a short and largely unproductive week for me at work. After an RDO on Monday I went straight into a training course for 2 days on my return. If you didn't hear my exclamation - TWO DAYS - of Client Services Training. Now I find most courses which aren't technical based and therefore not of direct relevance to either my field of work or knowledge base, unnecessary. Those which I am 'obligated' to attend as part of 'middle management training' I have even less time for, as they are purely a means of fulfilling 'quotas' - in short a w__k.

So it was with great delight that I and 8 others of equally passionate service mentality, fronted the class on Tuesday. What could have been a dull course was made bearable by my compatriots who with huge levels of experience in the job (~21 - 31yrs) were told how to suck eggs and had great fun at asking how hard! Meanwhile I sat back and took everything in, in my quite manner, and observed the trainer. Beware the quiet ones! I was still participating in the course and was not overtly (let's hope my poker face was working) negative, yet even so I was singled out by the trainer.

Now this isn't the first time this has happened, and yet I still find it extremely interesting how it exemplifies how threatening some people perceive silence to be. The trainer obviously thought so - and decided he needed to befriend me to win over this girl from the mute side. Now for someone who does training regularly, (10 years he proported), and has a fair grasp on social interactions (if his training outline was anything to go by) - he should know better! So as I sat down after morning tea before the others had come back into the room, the trainer sidled over to me and planted himself down, smack bang in my personal space (issue 1 - closer is not necessarily better). With an intent air he leaned forward to show his willingness for a close exchange, and asked where I had studied (a question I had answered before in the 'ice breaking' session). I gave my short and courteous reply and gave him no room for expansion. Yet he persisted, telling me how much he had disliked entomology (which he'd mentioned during the 'ice breaking' session) and I said a very offhand single sentence in affirmation (issue 2 - people who don't listen). Looking at me intently as if I would feed him some great pearls of wisdom and grinning far too broadly for the exchange, he stared at me. Ah yes? I thought - and you would want what? A question on my part? Sorry but this fishy isn't biting and didn't want to be fed in the first place. Then looking lost for things to say and with no rescue line from me moved off as quickly as he had come.

Now you may think me rude, but I was not. I was polite and gave more than a single word reply to what was a lengthier exchange than I described, yet I was fuming internally. I knew exactly what he was doing and why, and I didn't appreciate it nor would it aid the class dynamics thereafter. I knew he wanted me to talk more during the course - and the man who had just prior explained his knowledge of psychology and the introversion/extroversion scales thought ambushing me was the way to do it! It may be one way but it certainly isn't an effective one - any deer, pig or bear can tell you that!

It amazes me how confronting someone who listens well, is polite and does not offer up huge chunks of either personal history or opinion, can be to others. Man the barricades here cometh the mutanous mutes! Now I'm no mute though - as most of you would be aware - and I certainly have no great problems interacting in a social setting yet I do enjoy my silence. Obviously I'm a bit of an elephant when it comes to the subject as I just remembered my grade 12 english 'thesis' was on "Solitude - Alone not Lonely"! Aaah the life of a hermit for me ;-) I can certainly understand how someone who is extrememly hard to engage in conversation would be frustrating to deal with - but someone who is genuinely eager to learn and just not overtly forthcoming when there are other more extroverted people around, I do not see as a problem.

So yet another dazzling lighthearted piece to ponder! I really am getting bad at this - blogger not soap box Jazzy Cat!

So I say adieu for now - off to sample the delicious delights of fair Melbourne for Andrew's birthday weekend away. I will come back with lots of tall tales but this time of much more digestible pursuits!

Lest we Forget - tomorrow and always.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bamaga and beyond..

Well the City Kid is back on the block! I had my excursion up country and into the back of beyond and boy was it a blast! I learnt so much and was so glad I had the opportunity to visit a place I may otherwise never travel to (yes you heard right, glad not bad) and interact with the locals of the Cape. It gave me a new appreciation and insight into aboriginal and torres strait affairs and highlighted how little I knew of Northern Qld - not only the flora and fauna but the general way of life.

While I may not think that I'm racist - when you discover how little interaction you have with anyone of non-european background, in my case aboriginal background, you also discover that you are indeed unwittingly alittle racist. I kept on remembering something I learnt during an anthropology course at uni - you experience, you don't insert your own view and beliefs onto others. That was certainly hard when it came to treatment of animals in Bamaga and other villages - there are so many dogs in poor condition it was hard not to think badly of the owners. However they don't view cats and dogs as pets as we might, unfortunately keeping them underfed so they don't misbehave and other such things I won't mention. Desexing is also not practised and the animals multiply rapidly and pretty much fend for themselves. Obviously this isn't the case for all - but it was hard to witness those who were so lifeless and underfed - especially one left in the bush which tried to follow us but we couldn't coax into the car to take back to town it was so mistreated. Apparently pig hunters take dogs with them out bush and if the pig gets away and only four dogs return out of five, they don't bother looking for the other one but leave it to find its own way back - if it can.

However, as I experienced in Vanuatu and Tonga, the people of Bamaga and Seisa (where we stayed) were so welcoming and helpful. The kids were inquisitive and so eager to learn what we were looking for in their back gardens. It was great to see how aware everyone in the Cape and Torres Straits were of Quarantine and what we were trying to do - much more so than anyone in Brisbane it seems!

So what did I do you may ask - as I did for most of the trip - basically I was a tag-along. I was with two very experienced scientists from Northern Quarantine who have done many surveys before in Northern Qld and Irianjaia and was absorbing all their knowledge. We visited villages around Bamaga which is located about 2 hrs south of the Tip of Cape York on the west coast. Over 5 days we went into people's backyards and looked at particular plants which are known to host exotic and unwanted pests and diseases ie. Mangoes, Bananas and Citrus. We also collected specimens (insects and disease samples) from other plants, which while they may already be in Australia, it is good to know the extent which they have spread.

I learnt a huge deal and was blown away by the beautiful countryside! I felt I was a true Aussie having stood on the 'Tip' as the lyrics "I come from a land down under" played in my mind. I marvelled at the towering termite mounds dotted amongst the tall bright green grass. I laughed along with a very exuberant entomologist with a mad sense of humour and a remarkable capacity for VB as he pulled fun of us poor plant pathologists and botanists and everyone in general. I also took back with me a new car game - "Did you know?..." - which was started by the ever entertaining entomologist nicknamed appropriately "Ant". Did you know that an echidna has a forked penis?!! Did you know that a fruit fly....well no one needs to know anything about blasted bugs!

Top tips from the tip - to know when you're a city kid:

1. You have no idea what 60 refers to on an outboard motor let alone if that 'is big for a dingy'.
2. Your idea of weekend activities include a trip to the movies vs a trip up the highest mountain in Qld for a relaxing bushwalk.
3. You drink a glass of wine vs a carton of VB in one sitting
4. You don't own a 4WD and have no idea how to drive in 4WD mode let alone what to do with a second gear shift?!
5. You have never seen or can not identify a - Cocky Apple bush, spear grass, snake weed or a taipan, at first glance.
6. You have a fear of picking up huge grasshoppers and do not engage in the pastime of pulling of their legs infront of aghast city kids (that may just be a personal one!).
7. Your greatest stories of wildlife gone bad are huge black 'killer' cockroaches which don't die vs loss of limbs and life to killer crocodiles!

Now I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Some fauna:

Views of the glorious coastline near our accomodation:

Traditional net fishing in crocodile infested water:

Where the rainforest meets the sea:

The 'tip':

Cairns - the little I saw from my hotel room:

The entomologist "Ant" (with beard) and botanist Debbie in action:

The plant pathologist (back view) in action and his inquisitive helpers:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Illuminations (of the week)..

Now that I've alientated at least half of my blogger readers (of which I no doubt assume there are vast quantities - hence leaving a sole/soul one) with such a philisophical and controversial previous posting - let's get light hearted. Truly! No thinking necessary - today is reflection and illumination..

Week of the 13th

High 5's (in order and merit of no intended consequence):

1. Andy Warhol Exhibition at GOMA = 7/10
2. Movie - Before the Devil knows you're dead = 8/10
3. Afghan family visit and 'learning' amazingly incomprehensible farsi phrases = 8.5/10
4. Discovering the 'stamping' craze (and I ain't talking dance) and simultaneously promoting myself to most desirable guest to have at a stamping party (ahh,because of my charm Andrew!)= 9/10
5. Bargain ebay shopping payoff - welcome one dining room table to our abode and thereby open invitations to one and all for dinner at our place = 9/10

Down Low:

1. Forthcoming trip to Cape York township of Bamaga for work, leaving Sun 13th. I shall be participating in survey work with NAQS (Northern Australian Quarantine Service), looking for lurgies of the mycological, entomological and botanical variety ie. fungi, bugs and weeds. NOT looking forward to this as much as I should be - the prospect of a week in the beating sun with my incompetence being outed to older, esteemed scientist funnily enough doesn't fill me with much excitement = 2/10.

To procreate or not to procreate, that is the (light-hearted) question...

..directed to us all as a human race!
Never fear I'm not turning the blog into a reality version of Big Brother and I don't welcome phone in votes on what our Friday night activity should or shouldn't be!!

I am hoping though for some interesting debate on the topic, which I half heartedly tried to initiate on Facebook. It could however be seen as quite confronting, particularly if you do have children already. I do not intend this to be derogatory to anyone who has a family but merely want to ruminate on some points raised by environmentally aware workmates in one of our stimulating (yet quite depressing!) morning tea climate change conventions ;-).

As a friend so rightly stated - There are so many issues and philospohical struggles in exploring the question, let alone attempting to answer it - but I hope some people do! To get your minds cogitating I have used the quite brilliant response of a friend to this very question on procreation - as a stepping stone for others thoughts and opinons....I think he covers everything I would have liked to discuss and more!!

1. What is the implied link between impending doom and procreation? You specified global warming. Does this mean the link is that less people means less (polluting) activity and therefore less warming? Or is it that even though the dire warnings about what will happen by the "end of this century" don't seem so far away for a newborn, and you don't want to commit someone else to a life living through such circumstances.

2. Selfishness V Proceation. I'm intrigued by the not-having of children being defined as selfishness. This seems similar to the reasoning of the Catholic church decades ago when they frowned upon contraception as effectively being a pre-emptive abortion, as it was preventing life from occurring. The trick is when this theory is expanded, then any married person of child-bearing age would have to be either pregnant, or "actively pursuing" pregnancy to be deemed anything other than selfish. I find that a bit harsh (especially once a family gets to it's 15th child).

3. Selfishness AS Procreation. I sometimes see people whose main goals in life is to raise some children. While it's necessary to have a desire to have children (to avoid extinction) i feel that some people fall back on that as a psuedo main purpose for their life. I sometimes wonder if procreation in this case can be some self-indulgent, if not selfish, in that lives are being created just to fill a void in someone else's life. Contrastingly, we have people like the deputy PM who have foregone the opportunity to have children to serve the country (and been criticised by a certain senator for being 'barren') and i think it would be more selfish for her to rob the country of her skills (presumably she is the second best leader in the country) so that she could have the joy of taking kids to playgroup.

4. Right to life V Earth's resources. The question use the phrase "allow a life to enter the world". That in itself is an interesting topic. Who is in charge of who can and can't come in to the world. It's an issue a friend of mine faced. He is genetically blind, so does he choose to have children, knowing that he is passing on the possibility of the condition? It's a hard call to make, to seemingly decide whether someone "deserves" a life (echoes of the "supreme race") or whether the quality of that life would be worth living. This is where the earth comes in. Clearly there is a maximum number of people that the world can sustain (eg. with food) but in the past this was not a problem because we were nowhere near it. But now that we adding a billion people every decade or two, it's becoming more of an issue. It seems cruel to "not allow" life to enter the world, but it would seem equally cruel that thousands of people die each day from starvation.

5 Train tracks dilemma. This is the one where a train is heading uncontrollably (ie no brakes) towards a village where it will kill 100 people on impact. You are in the engineer's control box and you have the option to flick the switch that diverts the train to the other line, where it will do the same to 10 people. Do you flick the switch? Essentially the issue is what is the best solution, versus what one's conscience feels easier about. Some people choose to let the train go, on the basis that by taking action they would be "killing" 10 people, whereas the other 100 are seemingly dying of "natural" causes, and it is not our fault (even though we had the power to stop it). There's a variation where the 10 people are friends and the 100 are strangers - often our conscience is swayed by the "closeness" of the damage. There's another where the 100 are very seriously injured, but the 10 would die. Sometimes the severity affects the decision. All this may sound vague, but the connection is that adding more population is like sending the train to slightly inconvenience the 100 (or in the earth's case 6 billion) for the sake of 10 lives (or in the case of a family, maybe 2). Of course the difference with global warming is that the train does have brakes, if only we would apply them soon enough.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

In these great footsteps I doth follow...

Okay so I'm no Robinson Crusoe, no Burke minus the Wills but I do dare to go where every other man/woman and Facebook friend has gone before me...into the blogger's brigade!

The inclination was there but alas Facebook took my Wills. Now with plenty of procrastination time on my hands, since I've given up the educated pursuits of reading and other self improvement endeavours - it's onto Blogger I must go.

The thrill of Facebook is waning and after collecting an inenviable amount of virtual bosom buddies, arming myself with enumerable applications of self agrandising neccessity, and having no other avenue left with which to relate/collate/compare myself to others - I must move on. Now the prospect of actually writing more than a post-it note message is quite daunting, yet quite thrilling at the same time.

Never one to let my thoughts be managed into concise statements, blogger seems my ideal outlet (you lucky things!). So basically, that's it - I'm here and happy to be!

Be alert but not alarmed - I'm about to blog!