It’s all Greek to me

Robyn and I are taking on a few “extra curricular” activities this year. We’ve stepped back from leading Adventure Club – the Friday night kid’s club we ran with a great team last year, and our church activities are largely focused on preparation for bible college at some stage in the not too distant future.

We’re using this year to get a competitive advantage on people we’re studying with. That’s what bible college is all about…

On top of the regular preaching gig at church that I think I already mentioned (I’m preaching this Sunday morning) we’re also trying to learn some New Testament Greek – also known as Koine Greek – and we’re looking at one of the Presbyterian Church’s fundamental doctrinal statements (what the Presbyterian Church believes) – the Westminster Confession of Faith (that’s a link to the Confession of Faith itself). Last night was our first bite of the Westminster Confession cherry.

Here’s a snippet from the Wikipedia entry on the Westminster Confession of Faith

“The Church of Scotland had recently overthrown its bishops and adopted presbyterianism (see Bishops’ Wars). For this reason, as a condition for entering into the alliance with England, the Scottish Parliament formed the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament, which meant that the Church of England would abandon episcopalianism and consistently adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. The Confession and Catechisms were produced in order to secure the help of the Scots against the king.”

We’ve also had our first little Greek lesson from Dave Walker – so far I’ve learned the alphabet and Robyn is on to more advanced learning of words and stuff. She’s a pretty dilligent little worker. Here’s what I know so far…

Garage Sailing: Liveblog

The Map
We’re about to hit the road for our garage sailing techstravaganza. So that any of you following with interest know just where we’re going, here’s a map:

The Map
The Map

If you click through to the map page you’ll see a list of the sales and their advertised descriptions (if you scroll down).

First Stop - just around the corner
First Stop - just around the corner
A Compact Bow - with no arrows - just $15. Robyn said no.
A Compact Bow - with no arrows - just $15. Robyn said no.
She sells sea shells
She sells sea shells
The pieces fall into place
The pieces fall into place

Our first stop met with success – a brand new, old chess set complete with glass pieces. They offered $5, we offered 3 and the deal was closed at $4.00 – downward negotiations faltered on the basis of  a complete set with new box.

Pictures here

Garage sailing came to a close today at about 11:50am. You can check out geotags on the images in Craig’s album linked above.

I’m calculating my total spend from today – and will get figures from Robyn, Craig, Teagen and The total so far is $84.90 – but I still need to get a figure from Chris, here’s the purchase summary:

1. Glass chess set – Nathan – $4 (asking price $5).

2. Table – Chris – $4.50 (asking price $5).

3. 3 tealight candle holders – Chris – $2 (asking price 2 for $2).

4. Set of magazines/recipes/craft books – Craig and Teagen – 4 for $1 (asking price 3 for $1).

5. Four playstation one games (to be used on a playstation bought at a previous garage sail) – Nathan – $5 (asking price – part of a $35 bundle).

5a. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego PC game – Robyn (for educational purposes) – $0.20 (by negotiation)

6. Round plate/platter/dish – Chris – $3 (I’m a bit shady on that price) (asking price around $5).

7. Set of dominos – Craig – $0.20 (asking price unspecified but original recommended retail price $1).

8. Round the Twist complete episodes DVD bundle and A-Team DVDs – Nathan -$15 (asking price $20).

9. Craig got a $0.20 platter thrown in free with my purchase.

10. The guys selling the DVDs (and the platter) had a tub full of unopened Star Wars figurines from about three years ago for sale for $5 each. 13 in total. The gentleman in question used to collect Star Wars merchandise with a friend. His partner was clearly not as enthusiastic about Star Wars as he and his friend – so we took the collection of figurines off his hands to sell on eBay. We will list them after our Summer Holiday – but if anyone wants to make an offer in the meantime leave a comment on this post. We bought the lot for $35.

At this point we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and were on the home stretch. We made one last stop. En route to our home base. Where we found the best garage sale ever. Everything was for sale. Even the house. The neighbour was piggybacking on the sale – selling books on the street.

11. Two books – Corcisan (some sort of gangster thriller) and The Douglas Adams Dirk Gently Omnibus (a book I leant somebody years ago and haven’t seen since. You know who you are. Ben.) – Nathan – $2 (asking price $2. I offered $1.50 and was refused).

We probably spent an hour at this next house. Which had been lovingly renovated in a really classy way by a former surgeon who due to a horse riding accident no longer works. It was a really nicely furnished Queenslander  – and she’s selling it herself hoping to move to Mexico. Craig became a real estate photographer – and I’ll add a link to the listing when I find it.

There was some great stuff for sale from her collection of jewellry, kitchen appliances, clothings, shoes, antiques, furniture, glassware – you name it. It was for sale. Under the house there was this wooden box with two massive grindstones in it – it was an old grinder used by farmers to grind wheat and barley for their beer. She used it for bread. I almost bought it. But instead settled for my next purchase:

12. A hand turned chrome coffee grinder – Nathan – $10 (asking price unknown – price agreed on by negotiation).

13. A bracelet – Robyn – $3 (again price agreed on by negotiation).

14. A funky tealight candle tree thing – Chris – price unknown.

15. A set of coffee cups – Nathan – free on the basis of Craig’s photographic services.

Craig’s had so many freebies off my back that I thought it only fair to get in on the action.

Here’s the photo of our swag…

Our purchases
Our purchases

IT Crowd

I’m in Sydney at the moment at a conference for users of our work’s Content Management System. It’s not what I expected it to be. I was thinking there’d be lots of young nerdy guys drooling over code and wearing pocket protectors. I was wrong. It’s actually mostly pretty old people – and a fairly even gender split. Sometime during the last two years I became our office’s official geek – I don’t know how it happened. But a lot of the stuff the people at this conference are getting excited about is beyond me. I sat at a dinner table with the guy who is pretty much everyone’s hero for some work he did with AJAX (the coding/script thing that pretty much powers Facebook) and the Content Management Platform – he presented earlier today. People kept coming up to him wanting to buy his work. He told me he’ll probably put it up for free, silly him. Dave Hughes MC’d the conference dinner. He was very funny. He apparently gets paid over $10k to do that sort of gig. Clearly I’m in the wrong career.  

One of my favourite things about this conference has been the number of terrible tech glitches in presentations. Powerpoint appears to be the bane of even the technologically elite – although most of the presenters have been using Macs – and it’s beautiful presentation software. I decided the other day that I’d like a Mac. Especially one of the new ones with the funky touchpad. If my choice of luxury materialism comes down to a toss up between a Mac, a coffee grinder, an XBox 360 or a new TV – I’ll be in a real bind. At the moment I am probably leaning towards this option . Robyn remains unconvinced. It’s still cheaper than a piano though. 
On Tuesday night I lugged Sheila (my tank of a coffee machine) to a lady’s Wine and Cheese night event that our church held. I made quite a few coffees using some El Salvadorian beans I roasted on Monday. I’ve been meaning to write a little bit about coffee on this blog – and probably will later. Right now there’s a bit of a fight going on on the street outside my hotel – I haven’t adjusted to daylight savings time very well so it still feels quite early to me but most people appear to be asleep.     
I’m staying in a hotel called “The Dive Hotel” in Coogee. It’s very nice. A fairly large room in what appears to be a converted terrace house right on the beach in what I think is Sydney’s nicest suburb. Breakfast is a communal affair – and the in room brochure/manual thing warns guests (particularly children) not to pat the hotel’s aging dog – one of those little furry balls that only just passes as a dog – because in its old age it no longer tolerates children. Pretty funny stuff which adds to the homely appeal of the place. 


Fully sick

Is there anything worse than being at work sick?
Yes, there is, being at work sick on a deadline for your most important project of the year.
At least I have Ben, James and Paul’s emails to keep me company. Today we’re talking about the falling Aussie dollar and how it has ruined Paul’s Christmas because importing his presents is now prohibitively expensive. Good times.
Yesterday we talked about Ben’s inability to write analogies. Paul and James mostly talk about computer games. Which only mildly interests me because they’re not talking about the Nintendo 64 – which is the only console I’m currently playing. Just to keep you in the loop – I only have three 00 Agent levels to go. 1337 – is that how you write “leet” – I’m sure James will correct me. 

It’s Time

Well, after a two month hiatus I figure it’s high time I provide some sort of update for the google spiders – who are probably this blog’s only current readers. Today’s post will be brought to you by the prefix “ob“.

So, K-Rudd has been PM for slightly longer than my blog free period. In fact he was sworn in the day before my last post. So I blame him for my lack of inspiration. Really he’s just boring. Boring, boring, boring (coincidentally the prefix bo is the reverse of ob). Only slightly more boring is the obstreperous Mr 9% – Nelson and his hapless team. Anyone who the Courier Mail captions as Brenden Abbott – dig up a copy from the 31st of January – is in political trouble. K-Rudd’s problem is that he’s all symbolism and no substance – his response to any issue is to talk – form a committee, a war cabinet, a talkfest. His speeches are grand – and loaded with symbolic guff. His apology speech was well crafted – but not Obamaesque (I’ll get to him later). Two months in to his reign we’ve had a symbolic (some would say token) ratification of Kyoto (which expires in 2012 – hardly a long term solution) – and a token (some would say symbolic) apology to the obviously obscenely treated aboriginal people – an apology which explicitly ruled out compensation. I have mixed feelings about compensation – I think there’s probably a case for some form of compensation. Now that the government has admitted they did the wrong thing they should probably have to pay for that mistake. The proverbial can of worms has been opened.

Another reason I haven’t been blogging lately must be the disproportionate amount of time and resourcing I’ve been giving to my current obsession – coffee. Robyn would probably agree – although she’s enjoying the benefits.

Here’s the progression I’ve gone through in terms of my coffee “habit”
1. Discovered home roasting – through – I highly recommend their starter pack. But I’ve since been ordering through Ministry Grounds. I purchased a heat gun from eBay for the purpose of roasting my beans – with the view to building a corretto when I can locate a suitable breadmaker. At the moment I’m just using the heatgun and wok.
2. I was less than happy with our existing grinder – a little bladed number sold as a “herb and coffee” grinder. It was good as an introduction to the freshness of ground coffee – but didn’t produce a particularly even grind – so I purchased an EM0480 Sunbeam grinder second hand from
3. I recently shelled out $400 (plus freight) for a commercial Rancillio machine on eBay – it’s yet to arrive, but I’ll edit this post to include some pictures when my browser will let me.

Home roasted coffee is terrific. I highly recommend my new hobby.

Barack – the man I’ve dubbed “the new black” when it comes to US Presidential candidates – Obama has just won his tenth straight contest for the Democratic nomination. I’m nominally a Democrats fan in the US thanks to the West Wing. And I picked Barack a year ago – before he was cool.

Obligatory references to real life
Married life continues to be a barrel of caffeine induced laughs (see above). It really is great fun. We’ve recently filled our fish tank with a plethora of new marine life. We’re now leading the kid’s club at church on a Friday night – putting the kibosh on our social life during school term. An unwholesome amount of our spare time is spent playing Tetris on Facebook. Robyn has posted an almost blasphemous score of 946,000 or thereabouts.

Blog By Email version 1

This is the coolest invention ever. Cooler than sliced bread. Cooler than any of those other time saving devices dreamed up (somewhat ironically) by people with too much time on their hands. I can write an email from anywhere to my blog and it gets posted. Mattias asked why I thought that was cool. Well Mattias, let me tell you why it’s so cool. It makes writing a blog entry heaps easier. I can do it in about half the time. You’ll notice my reason here has changed since this was originally posted.

It’s 5.30 now, and I’m still at work. This is actually a test email because I’m not sure my emails are working. I guess there are other things I could be doing at 5.30 in the afternoon, because there are always new bits and pieces to write about Townsville. It’s a happening place.

In fact you should all move to Townsville. Every one of my readers (that’s right, all two of you). (I think that kind of feels a bit like I’ve done some work now).

I don’t really have a lot to blog about today… except the fact that I’m happily declaring myself a hypocrite. I knew all those years of bagging out couples for being couples would come back to haunt me.

A few weeks ago I mentioned a defamation case involving a NSW politician Michael Costa. He’s suing a radio station for airing a claim that he paid a visit to a lady of the night. That case got a mention in the papers yesterday – but a new and different case piqued my interest. TV host Ian Turpie, the luminary host of such classics as The Price is Right. Apparently Machiavelli was right, every man has his price*… for Turpie it took a few dollars to claim that he was suffering impotency – he was taken to court for faking it. My question is – does he now launch a defamation action to defend his impotency? Sounds like he’s between a rock and a hard place… or not. Sorry. That was bad. In fact this whole post was fairly gratuitous. I’m just enjoying my new toy (actually it’s not really a toy – more a convenient shift in technology).

*as quoted in A Man For All Seasons

Promises, promises… oh and an apology…

So when is a promise a promise? Some unnamed politicians (who will probably be named later) would suggest only “core” promises are promises. Consider this hypothetical (and by hypothetical, I mean real) dilemma:

In a job interview, in order to impress the interview panel, a potential employee suggests he or she will stick around for a lengthy period of time. The potential employee gets the job. Was that promise a core promise? Who knows.

Then for the sake of argument, say a job with substantially better pay is advertised and the particular employee believes they have a fairly high chance of securing the other job – should they stay or should they go?

Disposable promises are an insipid social malaise. No one wants to be bound by these promises any more. And it’s all because of politicians. Here’s an article posted on one of the Herald’s blogs about another form of apparently disposable promises (the marriage vow).

While I’m on the subject of politicians and what they say – I’m betting that following the Prime Minister’s apology on the interest rate rise there’ll be at least one letter to the editor asking why he can apologise for that but not for the treatment of aboriginals.

Well let me give you my insight into apologies. A topic on which I’m an expert. You can’t apologise for something that you didn’t do – you can say I’m sorry for the way you feel about it… that’s every kid’s favourite trick. The government can’t admit responsibility for the actions of previous governments. That would open up all sorts of litigious wormholes.

On the other hand. I’m sorry for all the… and by that I mean for my excessive use of the elipsis…

And now for some real news…

Here’s an update on some actual things that are going on in my life in Townsville…

Work – work is great. The people I work with are fun. My role is interesting and challenging. I get cool perks (reef fishing trips, a regular pay cheque, and stuff like that). You can read my press releases here.

Home – home is good. Tim is fun. He’s about to go to PNG for a month though so Dave will have to provide me with all my home based entertainment. Are you up to that Dave? Bring on the pranks I say.

Church – Church continues to be great also. My grade 12 boys – Dave and Isaac – are a pleasure to spend time with. Even if they’re wimpy and nerdy (I hope you’re reading this boys). Dave is Donna’s little brother, that creates a whole lot of issues as I’m sure you can imagine. Donna is a rarity in that both my Townsville and Brisbane readers know her. I should write about those sorts of people more often. I had a funny experience where I saw old photos of Laura Kennedy in a church photo album the other day… and I was talking to one of Kendra and Geir’s school friends the other day… that was an interesting conversation. I’m writing a series of studies on 1 Peter for our young adults bible study group. That’s been good fun. When I get some sort of web hosting space I’ll upload them and some other stuff I’ve been writing. I’m not sure why anyone would actually want to read them, but just in case… I led the singing again last week. I have never ever claimed to be able to sing – except for a little while in Maclean before my voice broke. I’m aware that most of the time I can hold a tune – but I think that’s largely due to the amount of practice I do in my car. I’m one of those freaks you see singing at traffic lights.

Soccer – Our mixed indoor team is on fire at the moment – the new season started a couple of weeks ago and we’re currently undefeated. The girls we get to play for us are better than most guys on the other teams (particularly our American import, Kasie, who’s better than all the guys on our team). We won 10 or 11 – 2 last night. I lost count. It’s good fun, but I miss the MPC outdoor team.

I think that’s all the important areas of my life covered – except the girls part that Serge asked me to talk about – but I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing it’s wise to be posting on the Internet – or anywhere for that matter.

I’m heading down to Brisbane for Maddie’s coming of age celebrations this weekend- that’s right my second littlest sister is becomming an adult on the 9th of June. I arrive on Thursday night – start booking times in my busy social calendar now.

Nicknames – nominal determinism in reverse

There’s a theory that’s been doing the rounds for many years that your name will determine the path your life takes. Thinking about it, this theory has possibly been around since Christ, or even earlier in Genesis, where names are given based on particular characteristics of the person they’re given to – eg Esau, which means Red… funny that these days in Australia’s ironic culture Esau would probably have been called Bluey. There are examples of nominal determinism out there in the real world – in the microcosim of Maclean there were several examples of this determinism in practice, or even in practise. The funeral directors were named Baker, and Dugmore. The electrician was named Watts. It’s not just confined to small country towns where people don’t necessarily think all that hard about their career paths. The head of Steggles Chickens was someone Poulter. A casino chief’s last name was Gamble. It’s been documented in lots of places I couldn’t find in preliminary efforts on the net.

I just saw an ad on TV for “Everybody loves Raymond.” I don’t love Raymond. I never have. He has a whiny, nasally voice that makes me want to do aggressive things and generally be a not very nice person. This goes to show that nominal determinism does not work in naming television shows.

Anyway, someone suggested I should do a “blog by request” on nicknames. I should note at this point that someone has suggested Mattias should start a similar column/regular entry on his blog doing pretty much the same thing. I’m all for competition. Everyone needs more choices for things to do on the internet. There’s really not that much out there once you’ve checked out all the good news sites (or the good, news sites [or the good new’s sites] – what do you reckon grammar nazi? have I got this right?) . Other than a quick dalliance at Homestarrunner or any of the other recommended internet comedy sites there’s just a truckload of unverified tripe, pages of useless wikis and copious amounts of unwholesome “fun” (I use the word fun very loosely).

But on to the topic at hand. Nicknames. According to nicknames have nothing to do with anyone named Nick.
“Etymology: In Middle English the word was ekename (from the verb to eke, “enlarge”; compare Swedish öknamn). Later, an ekename developed into a nickname when the “n” shifted through junctural metanalysis.”

So there you go. I would argue that nicknames are the procrastinators form of nominal determinism. I do wonder if they also play some part in some form of character development. I would contend that if you’re nickname was “Encyclopedia” you’d be a pretty boring person. The reasoning behind that suspicion is that if your friends are stupid enough to call you “Encyclopedia,” without any irony attached, your friends are likely to be quite boring – and if you were any more interesting you wouldn’t be hanging around with them. With any nickname there’s the danger it’s a chicken v egg question. Were you given the nickname because you’re boring, or are you boring because of your nickname.

And now, let me turn to my own “nickname” and examine whether it has played some role in determining my character or personality. I think nicknames are an important part of life in Queensland – probably more so in southern Queensland. But there are people like Scooter, Beebs, et al up here who would suggest that it’s a cancer that’s spread far, and wide. The week I moved to Brisbane I landed myself a new nickname… and consequentally a new personality. Once upon a time I was a shy, reserved lad who wouldn’t go out of my way to get noticed and most certainly wouldn’t ever think to, let alone dare to, refer to myself in the third person (ok so that was only once, and it was ironic). I arrived at a new school and a new church, and suddenly “Nathan” wasn’t good enough. No. I had to be given a new name, like some missionary moving to a tribe in a remote village. Queenslanders lack the irony, or subtlty of their southern counterparts. There’s no blueys around these parts. It surprises me that there aren’t more bignoses, or fatheads… because in a masterstroke of brilliance I was named after a facial expression… and so Smiley was born. I’ve always been slightly ambivalent to the name Smiley. There are worse nicknames. I’m thankful I wasn’t called “ugly” (although obviously that would have been ironic) or something like that (I originally used a much ruder word but Caitie vetoed it). My family (and particularly my father) have never really liked, or understood, the name. Apparently I’m not always happy afterall. Dad’s main concern is that people won’t take someone named Smiley seriously… and he’s probably got a point. But again – it’s a chicken v egg thing – would I be taken more seriously if I acted more serious? Probably. Would I have been called Smiley if I’d acted more seriously? Probably not. Was I a much more serious person before I got the name? I don’t remember but it’s unlikely. So now when people find it hard to take me seriously – I know who to blame.

Mark also wanted me to talk about people who give themselves nicknames. I think doing that is about on par with talking about yourself in the third person. Pretty sad. Unless absolutely necessary. There’s a funny story about a particularly hard working lawyer I worked with once… in a firm that will remain nameless to protect the guilty… who was not necessarily the most socially able lawyer in the world. He worked long hours and often had conversations with the cleaner… who it turned out took great pleasure passing on information to other members of staff. This lawyer had decided he needed a nickname and decided that henceforth he’d be known as “The Train.” So my rule for giving yourself a nickname is: make sure it’s not lame. That’s the only rule. I’m pretty sure it should be either appropriate, or ironic, and not named after a prominent body part.

Piece offering

Some anonymous people apparently don’t like my long winded posts – so I’ll kick off today’s entry with an update on life in Townsville and follow that up with the second blog by demand entry. Today’s topic comes courtesy of CB Jr.

But before I go off offending anyone by writing about something that I might want to write about I’ll write about myself. No wonder people think I’m arrogant (I took that survey that Matt advertised on his blog and in the comments page – the one identifying potential personality disorders apparently there’s a chance I’m narcisstic but other than that I’m a pretty low chance of having any personality at all).

I’m currently reassessing my sleep patterns. I’m sick of being tired. I’m thinking I might start going to bed earlier so that I can get up with enough time to do productive stuff in the morning – I’m even planning to take up swimming when a new lagoon complex thing opens up around the corner from my house in a few weeks.

Church is cool. People here are nice. My grade 12 boys are a refreshing change from the previous groups of younger people I may have been involved with in the past. Our young adults group took a week off for the State of Origin. I feel no need to gloat about the State of Origin – I’ll just continue to let the results speak for themselves.

I do miss people from MPC – so don’t feel like I’ve just gone out and replaced you all. I’m coming back to visit in a couple of weeks and if Steve decides to relax his team regulations I’m keen to make a return to the Baptist League for one week only. There you go Steve – now everyone who reads my blog will blame you if I don’t get to play. Did I mention that Steve is cool, mature and devastatingly handsome (and single as far as I know). That ought to do the trick.

Work is also fun. My manager has returned from maternity leave and is currently ensuring that I know exactly what I’m meant to be doing. My stand in manager is back doing her normal thing, which has relieved her of the pressure of doing about 6 different jobs at once. Sitting between two fairly dominant female types in an office where males are in the minority is a challenging prospect. I do keep a steady supply of M&Ms at hand to purchase good will and that seems to be working.

Other than that there’s been no significant progress made anywhere else. I am going fishing (and not the metaphorical type) this Friday morning at 3am with the people from Channel 10’s I Fish. I should get to be on their nationally broadcast show at some point in the future.

Ok… enough about me. Ignorant people can stop now. I mean who complains anonymously and uses an exclamation mark anyway. Some people have no class.

Cam requested I make some comment about the pros and cons of our non-round 50 cent piece. Australia’s 50 cent piece is a dodecahedron. That means it has 12 sides. I suspect 50 Cent the rapper knew this. My theory is that when he tried to decide on an MC name that encapsulated his street heritage he wanted something edgy… and what has more edges than a dodecahedron? Apparently lots of polygons do. Anyway, bad theories about US rappers aside, there are some pros and cons to a non-round coin.

I’ve heard somewhere in the past that our coins have distinctive shapes and weights so blind people don’t get confused and I think that’s a pro that should certainly be added to the discussion at some point. No one likes confusing blind people. Except this guy in a comedy sketch I saw once who crept up behind a blind man at a set of traffic lights and made the DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOT noise that they make when it’s safe to cross. Having an edge also means that if you pelt muggers/bad singers/Collingwood football players with 50 cent coins it’s more likely to draw blood and that can only be a good thing.

On the con side – flat edges mean that it’s hard to roll a 50 cent piece down the aisle in a shopping centre or boring church service. They don’t spin very well on table tops either. And I imagine there are aerodynamics issues when you flip a dodecahedron rather than a circle. So it probably plays around with the probability involved in the process somehow.

So there you have it. I’ve spoken my piece on 50 cent pieces (not including the rapper… I’ll leave that for another day).

If you saw this blog earlier you’ll have noticed it was cut off rather abruptly when I left to play paintball. I was playing with some people from WIN news. Seems there might be some jobs there soon (like tomorrow). I’ll put a picture of the bruise on my neck up at some stage in the next couple of days. I’ll wait till it looks less like a hickey. I’m not looking forward to explaining it at work tomorrow.

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