A quick word on a tragedy

At the back of my parents’ attic, in a box marked “Ed,” is my first year 5 assignment, an A3 poster titled “All About Me.” In the middle of the page my eleven-year old self had written, by way of introduction and in handwriting not all that different from today’s, a line repeated by millions of Australian children.

When I grow up, I want to play cricket for Australia.

As a kid, like so many other Australians, I lived for the game. When it wasn’t a match it was a net session, or a hit in the backyard, or in the kitchen, or in the bedroom with a little autograph bat signed by the New South Wales team. If it wasn’t a game it was catching practice, or training, or sitting around with the old man discussing tactics and field placements, or helping my grandpa roll the pitch and paint the lines for Christmas Eve. At other times, of course, it was lying in bed listening to Jim Maxwell and Henry Blofeld and Peter Roebuck and Harsha Bhogle, or sitting and reading until memorised that little blue bible, The Laws of Cricket.

There were thousands of us, and he was one of us. Every player who has ever gone on to play for Australia, any player who has gone on to play Sheffield Shield, was one of us. The game is so complex, so rich, so imbued with history, that you can’t just play it. You have to live it. Phil Hughes lived it, as so many of us have lived it. He was better than us, he was braver, he was more determined, and he was the one who made it, and was going to make it again.

His death hits me hard because he remained, till his very last day, one of us. As good as he was, he remained defined by how good he could become.

That eleven year old kid wouldn’t have cared for celebrity girlfriends, fancy cars and a free ride from the selectors. He would have wanted be brilliant, to be unique, to be strong, to be loved by his teammates, to be respected by his opponents, and to score runs for fun. He would have wanted to be Phil Hughes.

Another letter to the PM

Dear Prime Minister,

Last week I received an invitation from your education minister Christopher Pyne to sign a petition about the cuts which your government has caused at the ABC. Mr Pyne’s contention was that the power of the people ought to be listened to by the people in power, and that a petition signed by a significant number of people should have been cause for the ABC to reconsider its planned cuts to its Adelaide staff. Mr Pyne’s petition had an original goal of 500 signatures, suggesting that he thought 500 signatures to be a number sufficient to cause a rethink on the part of the ABC executive. As the petition attracted more and more media coverage and attention, Mr Pyne increased the goal of his petition to 1000, then 1500, then 2000, then 2500, then finally to 5000. So far he has achieved just under 3000 signatures.

On Nov 19, Mr Pyne tweeted, “We’ve hit 200! Thanks to all for kindly helping to promote my petition to stop ABC Board from cutting SA production. ”

Later that same day he tweeted, “Great response! 1000 people have joined me in wanting ABC production to remain in SA.”

On Nov 20, Mr Pyne tweeted, “.@mscott hasn’t responded to my 2 letters from Aug & Oct.Maybe James Spigelman will respond to the 2100+ petitioners?”

Today, Mr Pyne wrote to Mark Scott and James Spiegelman AC QC asking that they reconsider their recent decisions, noting as evidence in his favour that “over 2500 people have joined me in supporting ABC South Australia’s future.”

In light of the above, my questions to you are as follows:

1. What does your government think of the petition at https://www.change.org/p/the-liberal-party-of-australia-reconsider-your-plan-for-a-fttn-nbn-in-favour-of-a-superior-ftth-nbn? Just in case Joe “eleventy” Hockey is doing the maths, or Malcolm “inventor of the internet” Turnbull is driving the mousey thing, I’ll copy and paste the number of signatures into this email, to make it easier for you to read.

272,034

Just in case you are actually reading this yourself, and not having it read to you, I’ll spell it out in words in case they are a bit too big to understand.

Two hundred and seventy two thousand and thirty four.

2. Are you excited at the prospect of being voted out at the next election, and becoming the first first-term federal government in forty years?

3. Does it make you happy to have to employ extra public servants just to read letters like this?

I would particularly like a reply to question 3, as it will help me decide how to frame my future correspondence. I would appreciate a reply via Australia Post, because I would be proud to own something with your signature on it, and because while we’re throwing money at the miners, the polluters and the tax dodgers we may as well throw some at the posties as well.

Kind Regards,

Ed

I want to write about the war

Australia’s at war again, they say
But you wouldn’t know it.
You can’t see it on the streets
In the pub
At the park
On the train
Anywhere, really
It’s a silent war
A newspaper war
Goodies and baddies
A war we’re not meant to feel.

A million miles away bombs drop from high above
Some controlled by computers, some by Australians
Noble warriors of this patriotic team

There is blood.

Whose war are we fighting?
Who are we killing?
We don’t know.
They don’t know.
As it should be.

Back home, and morning doors are opened; plastic swords are sheathed
High definition cameras enter private spaces
Constructing a threat

Ten years ago we marched.
Half a city spoke
When (un)Australians still had voices.

Ignored, they returned to their houses
Now who is left to speak?
As left and right link hands and send us off to battle
Who is left to fight?

In Team Australia, dissent lives at the margins.
At times subtle: lone woman, midday sun, sacred flame, our flag (and hers).
At times intense: Brothers and sisters, split by a fence
In their hundreds
Denounce the West.
Rightly, yes, but how has it come to this?

The problem with job interviews

I had a job interview last week. It didn’t go too well. This post will be another self-indulgent rant, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, return to Facebook.

Before I begin the rant, I need to acknowledge and accept the obvious:

The problem with the job interview was that I was rejected.

Just in case someone wanted to come along and accuse me of only complaining because I didn’t succeed. Well duh, that’s the point. If they decided I was the ideal candidate then I would have decided theirs was the ideal interview process.

But they didn’t. So now I’m going to complain.

The interview in question was for Teach for Australia. To provide a bit of backstory, I applied three years ago and got as far as the “selection day”, a swanky affair at a big corporate office in Melbourne with free tea and coffee and pastries (I foolishly bought breakfast on the way there, a n00b mistake) and sandwiches and a whole lot of people saying nice things and offering friendly advice and then asking questions like this:

Tell me about a time you have failed.

I was stumped. I don’t really do failure. I cruised through uni with the cushy and perfectly acceptable WAM of right-on-the-cusp-of-HD, drunk some beer, made a lot of friends, watched anime, travelled around the world a bit, destroyed my knee, took some courses here and there and you know, got by.

If I’d ever failed I must have forgotten about it and moved on. What’s failure, anyway?

The other question I stumbled over was even simpler:

Do you use a diary?

Good question. Not exactly. Kind of? I write lists. I have a notebook, I plan shit. I don’t forget my appointments. I know when I have to do something and I do it. Do I have a diary, like with all the dates and days marked out and everything? Well, um, no. Not technically. Not one with a black leather cover and the word Diary in shiny gold letters on the front, if that’s what you’re asking.

I failed.

I called them to get feedback and they said I was great at achievement but lacking in organisation and humility.

I now had an answer for the one about failure.

A few months later some genius took my note taking system and decide to market it as the bullet journal. An answer for the one about the diary.

***

So a few years later I’m sitting at the table waiting for the phone to ring, ready to go. It’s a phone interview. I’ve been through this stage before so I know what to expect. I should be fine, especially if they ask about failure. Or diaries.

But they didn’t. They didn’t even ask me the same questions as the phone interview last time. Not even similar questions. It’s basically that selection day all over again, on a broken phone line from across the world.

(I appreciate that I changed tenses for no reason and thus maybe wouldn’t be a very good teacher after all)

The nice man, whose name was either William or Liam and thus went unnamed for the rest of the conversation, got right into it:

Tell us about a time when you had to lead a team to accomplish a shared goal.

We were off and racing. Sure, I said, I can do that. I had a job at UTS where the aim was to ensure that nothing got too fucked up. I supervised half a dozen staff, we did our jobs, nothing got too fucked up. We went to the pub after work, had a beer, and did it again the next day. After a few weeks without fucking anything up, we took a couple of days’ leave and went to sleep.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the outcome of your leadership?

Well yeah, sure, I mean, I was the leader, and we didn’t fuck anything up. What am I, some sort of self-promotion guru? Not every job has metrics and KPIs and all that jazz,  and besides, I thought you were after humility. We just did what we had to do, got home at midnight, went to bed and started work at 7am the next day. Anyway I waffled on for a while about perfectly true but mundane things like writing new procedures and reports and having less fuck-ups than the year before but not having any numbers to prove it because, you know, that’s how the real world works.

In hindsight I probably should have mentioned diversity, but I’d already rambled on for long enough. Eventually I stopped digging and asked for the next question.

Tell us about a time in an academic or professional setting in which you had to overcome a difficult challenge in order to achieve a goal.

The Teach for Australia website tells me this question is designed to assess one of eight core competencies, resilience. Sadly, being a resilient person and being able to impressively answer this question are not quite the same things. Out went years of resilient activities that I did just because I bloody well wanted to:

  • Living in Singapore, Nepal, Canberra, the USA
  • Swindling visas
  • Riding around Lahore on a motorbike
  • Traversing India in a rickshaw
  • Travelling alone across Asia
  • Hitchhiking across Europe
  • Baking cheesecakes till my back broke
  • Falling in (and out and in and out and in) love
  • Fighting with the Indian police
  • Living in villages you won’t find on Google Maps
  • Being groped, more than once
  • Arguing with strangers on the internet

And so on. All out, to be replaced by ten minutes more waffle about the difficulties of writing an Honours thesis and managing my time and how, well, you know, technically you’re right, I haven’t even achieved my goal.

Epic fail.

Thank you for attending your recent phone interview with Teach For Australia. We enjoyed hearing about your background and experiences.

Unfortunately, after carefully considering all of your interview responses, I regret to inform you that we have decided not to progress your application to the next stage of the selection process. The reason for this is that the evidence you provided in the interview was not as strong as other candidates who we spoke to.

So the point of this rant is that they must have been asking the wrong questions, or looking for the wrong answers, because I’m the person they need, and they didn’t get me. I can’t be broken, because I’m the one writing this blog post, so I get to decide the rules. I’m also really tired and I’ve been staring at a screen all day and starting this post at this time of night really wasn’t a good idea.

And in any case, it doesn’t really matter. Teach for Australia’s market is people in a hurry: people who want to teach without spending two years learning to teach and people who want to do something more useful before they start their careers but don’t want to do something more useful badly enough to let it interrupt their careers.

That’s fair. Maybe the point of this blog post is that, unlike them, I’m hardly in a hurry. And maybe it showed.

A review of the “conscious box”

This post is going to be a bit of a deviation from my normal posts, so if you don’t want to read it, don’t read it!

A couple of months ago Grace and I both got sucked in by a Facebook ad for this strange product called a Conscious Box. Basically it promised to be a box full of goodies that you might like to try but usually wouldn’t, and most importantly it promised to send the first box for next to nothing. Anyone who’s been to a market with me knows that I don’t mind a good free sample, so we signed up on the promise that we could cancel before the second month and never have to pay for a box.

Well, we fucked it up. We went to Puerto Rico and when we came back we had emails saying our second box was on the way, and we’d each had $20 – that’s no small sum – taken from our bank accounts. We had a look around on their website and it seems like this happens to a lot of people, judging by the disclaimers and extensive explanations of the process (they bill on the first day of each month, so if you sign up at the end of the month like we did you only get a couple of days to cancel).

Because one of my favourite things to do on the internet is to write reviews of products, and because I couldn’t find a very good place to write a review of this one, I’m going to do it here.

And the summary of my review is: what a waste of money!

Seriously. As far as I can recall here’s what we got in the first box:

  • A shot of some quackish medicine that claimed to cure some kind of illness, but came with a disclaimer insisting that it wasn’t meant to cure anything at all
  • A banana and chocolate bar, which was delicious
  • A small packet of concentrate which could be turned into a lemon drink to soothe a sore throat
  • A few random teabags (I mean really fucking random: one had no explanation but we looked it up and it turned out it was for people who were trying to quit smoking! Another was a savoury tisane made from spinach and assorted herbs which also said you could use it to flavour your rice!)
  • A wet wipe or two (I haven’t opened the pack to be sure) made from bamboo
  • A small pack of a chocolate-like substance that claimed to help you sleep, but on closer look wasn’t chocolate at all (I can’t comment on the sleep because I get to sleep easily enough already, thank you very much).

There might have been a couple more things but that was about it, basically a bit of a laugh for $5 and probably just about paid for itself with the banana chocolate bar and some of the other bits and pieces.

But. This month’s box is getting judged to very different standards. Here’s what’s in it:

  • 1oz (that’s 28g) of “pasta chips”
  • Two shots of “Florax DS diarrhea relief” (remember that we have two of these boxes, so double everything) (also what a random place to discover another American misspelling!)
  • Some more random teabags (four to be precise, none of them as quacky as last time, which was kind of disappointing)
  • Two “Kramp Krusher vegetarian electrolyte chews”, clearly marked “FREE SAMPLES NOT FOR SALE”
  • A one-use sachet of “Via Nature Soothing Skin Lotion with antioxidant omega essential complex”, also clearly marked “SAMPLE – NOT FOR RESALE”
  • As above but “Moisturizing Skin Lotion with argan oil and hyaluronic acid”
  • Two individually wrapped squares of organic free trade chocolate
  • A tiny but cleverly shaped sachet of “Lotus Moon vitamin B hydrating gel”
  • An organic lip balm (okay this one is actually cool, properly sized and I will definitely use it)

Wow. I can’t believe I just typed half the words in there. If I had to add up the value this box will contribute to my life I’d go with about $3 for the lip balm, 10c each for the chocolate, the chips and the teabags and bugger all for everything else. If I were the type of person to get excited about beauty products I might get up to $4, and maybe a dollar more if I happened to regularly shit my pants (then again I’d probably already have medicine for it).

So there you go. If you somehow randomly found this page on a google search, here is your takeaway: You can order the introductory box and cancel straight away without feeling bad, you will get about what you pay for.

If you came here from Facebook, you may now return.

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