Friday, July 26, 2019

Why I was once fired from a State government bureaucracy

It has just occurred to me that I have never written anything about the time I was sacked from the NSW Public Service.  It has never been a secret.  It just didn't seem important in my scale of values.  But maybe there are some small lessons to learn from it.  Though it was over 50 years ago now.

When I had completed my B.A. degree with honours in psychology from the University of Qld. at the end of 1967, I decided I needed a change of scene from Brisbane so I moved South to Sydney.  Being Mr Frugality, I had a comfortable level of savings, no debts and a sky blue VW beetle -- so the transition was an unproblematic one.

I did however want a job.  So I went along to the Army recruiting office.  From my time in the CMF in Brisbane I was a fully qualified Sergeant in the Psychology corps so thought I might get work there.  They grabbed me.  An extra qualified hand was very welcome.  So within days of arriving I  was back in the Army!

I was not however interested in an army career so I looked around for an alternative.  So I took the selection test for the NSW public service.  Taking tests is one of the few things I am good at so I got an immediate welcome.  One of the tests I did was a test of computer aptitude.  Bill Bailey was the man in charge of that so he called me in for a chat. He revealed that I had gone off the scale for the test. I had got every single item right.  Bill wanted to see who this freak was!  The reason I did well, however, was not very freakish.  I was by that time already an experienced FORTRAN programmer.  When I told Bill that he was greatly relieved.  It meant that his test had given the right answer after all

I was assigned to the Dept. of Technical Education as a graduate clerk.  Their graduate clerk program was however a typical bureaucratic bungle.  The only work they had for me was filing, something I had done years ago as a junior clerk in the Queensland Dept. of Public Works.  I was quite miffed at being given such dumb work so I refused to do it.  And it was all downhill from there.

Eventually I was transferred to Head office where they gave me some slightly more interesting work. I did what was asked but there was not much of it so I had a lot of spare time on my hands.  I was at the time enrolled with the M.A. program at the University of Sydney so I mostly used the spare time on academic work.  The managers apparently felt unable to do anything about that.

But one morning, just after I had handed in my Master's thesis at U Syd towards the end of the year, I unintentionally slept in and arrived at work late.  That was it!  They had me. Lateness was something they could act on.  So I was promptly fired that day.  There would have been access to an appeal but I didn't bother. I knew I was going on to other things next year.

So I went and saw Harry Beanham, whom I had worked for at one time in Brisbane.  Harry had been impressed with my work in Brisbane.  I sold lots of diehead chasers for him, if anybody knows what they are. Few do. Anyway Harry promptly put me to work preparing his stock for sale.  So in the space of less than a year I had got 3 jobs, none of which were advertised!

Lessons:  Don't be late in a bureaucracy and finding a job is easy if you have usable skills and qualifications.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A natal anniversary and Timmy

What is the difference between natal and Natal?  One is  a province in South Africa and the other refers to birth. So a natal anniversary is what is normally called a b*rthday. We are advised by security people never to use the normal term because evildoers can google our writings and find out what our natal anniversary is.  And that is an important form of ID, enabling evildoers to impersonate us and perhaps steal our money.  The age of the internet has its own problems.

So on Saturday last we had an evening  party to celebrate Joe's natal anniversary.  The first thing that morning however was to bring upstairs another of my furniture purchases from Vinnies.  It was a rather magnificent sideboard that I had bought about a week before and had it delivered into my garage.  Getting it upstairs needed two strong men so Joe and the ever-helpful Aristides got it upstairs at about 9am.  Much furniture re-arrangement was needed to get it into place but it is now adorning Anne's bedroom.  Its front features some very clever veneer work.

The party  was a quiet occasion, as Joe wanted it to be.  There were only 12 people present in Jenny's backyard for the occasion -- Joe's old friends plus close family. The twins came over from NZ especially for the occasion.

There was no music, no dancing and only a tiny amount of alcohol.  I supplied one bottle of Seaview champagne for toasting purposes and that was it. It could almost have been a fundamentalist Protestant occasion.  But it wasn't.  Joe is a baptised and confirmed Roman Catholic but he doesn't believe in anything much at all these days.  So why was it such a Puritanical natal anniversary?  It's because what we like to do is talk -- and we have no difficulty talking to one-another.  For many other people, music and dancing are substitutes for conversation.

So what did we talk about?    We just covered a lot of ground.  Mr Trump got a mention, of course.  Von sat with me for a while, as did Jenny and Joe, but we didn't talk about anything specific.  Paul's Susan once told me that talking about family matters was gossip, which was rather hard to refute.

I shouted us a number of pizzas for the food and Jenny provided several side dishes and canapes.  Pizzas are humble food but Jenny ordered a variety of them so they went down well. I asked Joe the next day what was his best memory of the occasion and he said that it was just seeing everybody together.  He has very good friends but the family does not normally see much of them. It was actually quite a jolly occasion and Joe had a good share of the laughs.

I left after about 2 hours there -- which is my usual socialization capacity -- so I missed the cake.  Jenny had asked me what sort of cake Joe would like and I hazarded a guess that it would be icecream cake. And that was apparently well received.  I hear that the party wound up not long after the cake ceremonies.

Then on the Sunday nothing much occurred -- though Joe and I had our usual leisurely bacon 'n eggs breakfast at the pie shop.  We talk continuously for about an hour there every Sunday -- mainly about American politics.  We both follow closely the many crazy events there.

Then on Monday, we welcomed Timmy back from his travels. Jenny put on a dinner of butter chicken and many accompaniments for the occasion.  Timmy and Rachel got married recently and did a lot of travel in Europe for their honeymoon. Timmy had some rather strange girlfriends in the past but when he met Rachel he recognized quality so he did not waste too much time before he married her. She is a pretty and sensible Kiwi dental nurse and is slowly getting used to our strange family.  Timmy these days is a bank Johnny. He has what has always been seen as one of the best jobs in Australia -- a job with the Commonwealth bank.

A significant part of our evening was a wedding present for Timmy.  I had said that I had an ideal wedding present for Timmy when he invites me to a proper wedding celebration.  His actual wedding was a minimalistic affair. He too doesn't like a lot of fuss.  The news that I had a mystery present for Timmy did get around so I suspect that Jenny put on the dinner in part to find out what the present was.

Before I delivered the present I told the story behind the present.  I told how the 4-year-old Timmy always raided the jar of choc chip cookies the moment he arrived at our place in Queen Bess St. I gather that Ken and Maureen didn't allow many cookies at their place so I understood Timmy's practicality.  The jar holding the cookies was a rather distinctive hexagonal one and was still in good condition many years later so that was my present to Timmy -- filled with Arnott's premium choc chip cookies.  So it was a link to Timmy's 4-year-old self and Timmy greatly appreciated it.

We always adored Timmy when he was a little kid because he was so smart.  So in all the many family dinner invitations I sent out over the years, I always included a special shout-out to Timmy. And he is a really nice guy now that he is grown up.

During the rest of the dinner I periodically piped up with stories about the young Timmy. I even repeated the old story about two cents for blood -- as Kate had not heard it. And the marvellous curative powers of the "red stuff" (Mercurochrome) were also mentioned. With a two cent coin and the red stuff I could dry all tears from all of the kids.  I used to plaster it on and Tmmy in particular loved having big patches of red on his limbs. And the story about Timmy as a 4-year old lawyer was a classic. Von greatly enjoys the old stories even after she has heard them many times and I noted that she did this time too.

So it was a great dinner and we broke up after a couple of hours or so.  Joe drove Anne and me to the dinner and looked after me generally.  I am a bit unsteady on my feet these days so Joe walks with me on uneven ground in case I trip over.

Dusty and Hannah playing  in Jenny's back yard

Friday, July 19, 2019

The arrival

It was difficult to get our New Zealand families over for our birthday month because of clashes with school times for the kids. So they couldn't get here for everything. But they prioritized Joe's birthday. And on Thursday night they arrived with Jenny and me to welcome them: Von, Suz, Hannah and Dusty. Sahara got left behind in Invercargill in the care of her father for some reason.   Ken picked them up from the airport and transported them to Jenny's place.  Maureen was there too

Von was looking gorgeous as usual -- in her woolly singlet -- and even Suz had made an effort at dressing up, something she is not much inclined to do. Von was in great form  -- as happy as a lark -- and Hannah was full of beans too.  Dusty was quite serious at age 7.  Hannah has grown quite tall and quite confident at age 8 and was full of feminine mannerisms as she talked.  She is already the lady you would expect of Von's daughter. At one stage she said -- to general surprise -- that she likes flies.  Ken then said that he did too.  It's amazing what can be genetically transmitted.

Hannah is a very lucky girl in this day and age.  Because she and her mother are so alike, she has a mother who understands her readily plus she has a father at home who adores her.  You don't get much better than that and it's becoming rare these days.

A lot of the talk was about New Zealand and the trip over -- to fill in our Brisbane people about the other lives in New Zealand.  Von, Suz and their kids seem to be regular New Zealanders now.

Fortunately they do not seem to have acquired the strange New Zealand accent so far.  The Kiwis are the only English language group to have lost an entire vowel.  Cockneys have lost a consonant -- Theta -- but losing consonants is fairly common.  Only the Kiwis have lost a vowel.  They replace the short i sound with the grunt vowel.

An amusing story was about their reception by the immigration authorities when they arrived in Brisbane.  Apparently the officer asked the girls whether they were they closely related.  Dusty piped up saying they were twins.  He was ignored even though he was right.  No surprise that he was ignored though. The  girls  never did look at all alike and these days the differences seems to have grown.

I got  a few expressions of sympathy about my prostate diagnosis and they all seemed to be surprised that the treatment was so simple.

The arrival was at dinner time so Jenny put on spag bol for us all plus a big bowl of salad. Jenny timed it well as we sat down shortly after the twins arrived.

On previous visits to Brisbane by the twins, we have made a point of going to a nearby restaurant that did good dosas, a South Indian offering.  Such vists were much enjoyed.  Sadly, that restaurant went under recently and there is nobody else nearby that does dosas.

The Dapur Dahlia has however acquired similar popularity with people I know so I wanted to get the twins to experience them as well.  So I took them there, plus Jenny and their kids on Friday night (tonight).

The first dinner to arrive was for Dusty. It was a nice wire basket full of chips plus some chicken nuggets.  As soon as I saw it, I said, "I want Dusty's dinner".  The others agreed with me. It was quite a big lot of chips so we all had a few to taste.  There were still tons left for Dusty and he did in fact polish them all off.

Suz and I had Nasi Goreng Pattaya (below) but I forget what the others had. It is basically fried rice with chicken plus an omelette on top.

We talked about various family matters and reminiscences.  Von was still upset over a memory from wayback.  This was at Gordonvale where we often took our dinners down to the Gazebo to have. One night we were having spaghetti and all took our plates of it down to the gazebo.  On the way, Von's dinner slipped off the plate onto the ground so became uneatable. Spaghetti is very slippery stuff so it was not really Von's fault but she was understandably upset at the time.  And she is still mourning that lost plate of spaghetti.

Once again, everybody spontaneously commented how good the food was so it did turn out to be a good replacement for the dosa place. Hannah got a full-size meal but ate only about half of it so Von wanted to doggy bag it.  The restaurant accommodates that but to do so sells you a nice container for a small sum.  The container has Dapur Dahlia written on it in large letters.  Knowing how Von collects mementoes I am betting that that container will be going back to New Zealand.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The celebrations continue

On Monday, Joe was off work in the morning to allow him to deal with some bureaucratic matters so we had breakfast together at our favorite coffee lounge.  Bacon and eggs for both of us.  I forget what we talked about but it would probably be about Mr Trump's latest tweets.

Then that night Anne made me a dinner with things I particularly like:  Sydney rock oysters to start followed by meatloaf and finished by fruitcake.  She made the meatloaf and cake according to her own recipes.  And both worked out very well.  We washed it down with a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne" Anne likes.

And on Tuesday, yesterday, I hosted a big dinner for close family and friends at the Dapur Dahlia, a Malaysian restaurant I often go to these days.  They are particularly good for hosting a group.  Their tables for two are largeish and can easily be pushed together to make one long table.  There were 11 of us so we needed that.  And people always make appreciative comments about the food.

I made a special request for Geoff to come down from his perch in the near North for the dinner as it was a long time since I had seen him.  I used to see him about monthly when he was my handyman.  So I wanted to hear how he was going these days.  We had a good chat and he did seem to be in better form now that he has retired.  Some stresses have been taken off him.

George was there as he always is when I am doing the invitations.  Lewis and Jill were also there and Lewis had never met George so Lewis asked a lot of questions to figure how George fitted in to the family.  Lewis has still got a keen and enquiring mind even in his advanced years.

At one stage I was talking to a couple of people and pointing out how much of their religion the Muslims had stolen off the Jews -- even down to "Allah" being originally a Hebrew word (Eloah in Hebrew).  Lewis looked a bit uncomfortable about that but he knows I am a fanatical supporter of Israel so he was probably wondering about the attitudes of other people there.  For me Israel can do no wrong and I put my money where my mouth is by occasional donations to Israeli charities.  Israel has to spend so much on its defence that the government does not have much to spend on welfare work.

Anne spent a lot of time talking to my brother and his wife Kym. I put up some teases to Kym about Aborigines to which she responded well.  She does welfare work with Aborigines. I talked a bit with my brother about motorbikes, getting the latest on English motorbikes, an interest we share.

Joe spent a lot of time talking to Lewis which he enjoyed and when I asked him afterwards how he found the dinner he said it was "fun".

Kate was her usual social self and talked mostly to Jenny.

I had pretty well healed up after my Friday surgery so could enjoy the occasion.  I talked to George and Jill and most of the people there.  At one stage, I announced to Jill in my usual cheerful way that I had recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and Jill remarked that she had never heard me complain about anything, which may be true  My instinct is to look at the positive.

Everybody liked the food as usual. It was both filling and tasty. I provided a couple of bottles of Seaview champagne to help wash it all down.  Below is the docket as a memento of what we had.  The overall cost was embarrassingly small. I actually could have paid it in cash

Figure that lot out!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cold calls

Almost every day around mid-afternoon I get a junk phone call --   Sometimes on my mobile, sometimes on my landline;  Most are are polite, some are threatening;  Some know my name, most do not; some claim to be official from the tax office or the telephone company and others have all sorts of introductions.

I can usually decide within 5 seconds that the call is a scam and simply hang up immediately without saying a word.  I guess that is impolite of me but I have no qualms about being impolite to crooks.

The interesting thing is that -- as far I can remember -- all the callers have had a strong foreign accent. Being a bit deaf I don't understand foreign accents well at the best of times so that alerts me from the first word they say.  So they are optimistic.  For best results they should put someone who is a native speaker of Australian English on the line. That would be more likely to get attention.  So they are all evidently just small-time crooks from somewhere abroad taking their chances.

I understand foreign accents over the phone so badly that I really have little idea what they are saying.  So I am occasionally in doubt about the call.  I think it might be legit.  So in those cases I am perfectly frank.  I tell them that I cannot understand a word they are saying so get a native speaker of Australian English to call me back.

They rarely go quietly.  They keep jabbering.  So I then hang up.  Occasionally, that frustrates them so much that they keep calling back -- often in angry voices. Having their pronunciation condemned seems to frustrate them more than losing the call.   Which amuses me. Once again I hang up as soon as I decide the call is a scam.  Some call back a few times.  They are determined that their English will be understood.  But it isn't.

Monday, July 15, 2019

An excision and a dinner

On Friday I visited my usual skin clinic for an excision on my left temple.  I normally go there just for biopsies and cryotherapy. So this was a first. The lady doctor -- Sandy -- who normally attends to me did the excision. Most of my excisions in recent times have been done by Russell, a brilliant plastic surgeon who gets exemplary results, so I was a bit concerned about how well Sandy would go.

She was meticulous and it went very well:  No subsequent pain and no inflammation. The result was in part because it was an easy job with enough loose skin at the site for an easy post-excision joinup.  If it had been a tricky job needing flaps etc I would have gone to the plastic surgeon.

And Sandy's post-op care was extraordinarily good.  She gave me her personal mobile no. and said I could call her at any time if I had any concerns about the excision.  And she said she would home visit me if there were any serious problems.  And the morning after the procedure she rang me personally to see how I was. 

I actually took advantage of that to ask if I could come in to have the dressings minimized as the existing ones were itchy. She agreed and within 20 minutes she was attending to me.  I had no idea that such a level of service was possible.  She says she usually does about four surgeries a day so she is just a very capable lady. And she is a great communicator too. I would recommend her to anybody with bad skin bits.  She is only a little thing but is 100% quality.

So my recovery was very rapid and by Sunday I had only steristrips on the wound.  I was already hardly aware of it.  Which was a good thing because I could enjoy my dinner that evening without distraction. 

And my dinner was a special one.  July is birthday season for Joe, me and Nanna.  So as usual, Joe and Kate cooked me a seasonal dinner to have on our verandah.  It was a dinner of devilled sausages.  As I am something of a sausage freak it was a very well-chosen offering.  It was greatly enjoyed.  I supplied Seaview champagne as usual

Most ladies have a special dinner they do for special occasions so I think Kate could well use that dinner as her special.  Now that she is a married lady she will probably be doing a bit of entertaining.

It was a good opportunity for me to have some relaxed chats with Kate.  As Kate has recently got her psych degree, we talked a lot about issues in education and the parlous state of academic research in the social sciences and medicine.  The replication crisis has shaken a lot of people -- though I personally thought it was long overdue.  The glaring holes in most research in those fields were obvious to me from wayback.  I even had a lot of critique articles published which said so. Journal editors don't like publishing critiques so I was obviously making strong points.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

An interesting day

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a large table-height sideboard  from Buranda Vinnies.  It was a very attractive piece with lots of drawers etc.   Anne liked it.  About a week ago a similar one popped up in Stones Corner Vinnies.  This one was normal sideboard height but was otherwise a little smaller.  But it also looked good.  So I bought it for Anne but left it to Anne to arrange delivery.

And it arrived today. So when I turned up at Anne's place at 7pm there it was.  Anne had done some big furniture rearrangements to fit it in to her living room but it did fit in very well.  She was of course rather worn out at that stage so I took her to dinner at nearby Tingalpa.

When we arrived at Tingalpa we noticed that the Japanese restaurant had been much done up so decided to try it.  What I ordered and what we got seemed very different but it was very tasty nonetheless.  We will return.

After the meal we went for a short walk to see what else was new at Tingalpa.  A Thai restaurant had some leaflets out the front so I took one and sat down to read it.

I sat on one of the flimsy stools that the restaurant supplies.  Both the stool and I fell over.  I must have sat further back on it than I should.  So I ended up flat on my back on the concrete floor.  As the stool was only about 18" off the floor I didn't have far to fall so did not injure myself.  Old fellas like me should NOT fall over, however. We tend to break things.  My fall must have been much observed because people leaped up and came from all over to help me.  I needed it as at my age I have difficulty getting off the floor by myself. 

So it was good to see how many kind people were there. I don't think I have sunk to the level of Blanche in "Streetcar named Desire", though.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A pre-birthday dinner with Lana and Peter H.

July is birthday month for me.  It is my birthday plus there are two other family birthdays. And there can be more than one celebration of a birthday. So this July is shaping up as busy too. So I thought I might fit in a dinner with Peter early on in the month. So I took us to the Dapur Dahlia Malaysian restaurant again tonight.

I get a feeling of real satisfaction from Dapur Dahlia dinners.  Their dinners all seem to have a lot of rice so that may be at work.  Rice is very filling.  About 2 billion people find it so anyway.

Anne and Lana spent a lot of time talking, including discussion of the role of soy sauce in cooking.  Both ladies have their own uses for it.  Peter and I talked about many things, including about his eminent father whom I knew from his writings. We both studied psych at UQ in our student days at about the same time so some reminiscences about that also cropped up.

A pleasing discovery was that Lana is a keen Chaucerian.  We joined in a recitation of some lines from the Canterbury Tales for a short while. We used the original Middle English pronunciation.  It just does not work otherwise. We both share a keen appreciation of Chaucer.  It is a pity that people are put off getting to known him by the very old form of English he used.

The food was as good as expected but a surprise was when Peter ordered a dessert. It was a sort of Malayan trifle -- only with about twice as many ingredients as a normal trifle.  It is called Ice Kacang.  There is a description of it on the menu.  Peter gave me a taste of it and it was Yum!

So it was a good dinner all round.  As a memento of it I reproduce the docket, showing what we had.

I cannot resist mentioning something very few people realize about Chaucer. He lived during England's Plantagenet dynasty about 600 years ago. At that time most writing was done in Latin or Norman French. So when he chose to write in the English of his day, he largely had to invent his own spelling. So he simply wrote down the sounds he heard. So Middle English was phonetically spelled, unlike modern English. And, to a remarkable extent, we still use Chaucer's spelling, even though the pronunciation has changed. So in our English word "knight", both the K and the GH were originally sounded, not silent as they are today. We still write English largely as it sounded 600 years ago. Chaucer was very largely the founder of English spelling.