i-think Twenty-Two

Now with more coherency.

Are you a smoker? Why?

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This is the first in a series of articles on The Mill seeking to investigate the ongoing degradation of human society. Today, we’re targeting smokers and we won’t be holding back.

I can see why people have trouble quitting smoking, and a big kudos to all smokers out there actively trying to quit. An even bigger kudos to smokers who have successfully quit. And the biggest kudos of all to all the non-smokers out there who weren’t stupid enough to start in the first place.

I accept that there was a time when people believed that smoking was safe. There was also a time when people thought the Earth was flat, the Sun orbited the Earth and that left-handed people were evil (the Jury may still be out on that one!). In fact, the people of these times were so stubborn about their beliefs that they would persecute anyone who thought otherwise.

So why wouldn’t people listen to the logic that they were confronted with? Here’s my theory:

Unlike most animals, human beings start with a pretty empty slate. Basically we have to be taught everything. As we are taught we begin to form some strong connections inside our brains. If these connections are not laid down with enough room to move, they become very difficult to change.

I don’t really know much about neuro-psychology (if that is even the term used to describe it), but I think the idea is a start, and I am more that willing to here logical well though out suggestions and feedback regarding this theory. I also acknowledge that someone else might have come up with that theory first. Hopefully it wasn’t totally disproved years ago. (In fact, it is pretty much connected to the expression “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”)

Does this mean that there is no hope for anyone as we all become more stubborn over time? Not quite. If the proper initial framework is laid down with room for doubt, original connections may be able to be suitably broken.

Let’s look at the example I started with before I get too far off track. Smokers who started thinking it was safe and who are continuing to smoke have not entirely erased the original thought that smoking is safe (BOCTAOE ((But of course there are obvious exceptions))). Think about it. If you think something is safe, how likely are you to respond when someone tells you it isn’t safe? Particularly if you have been partaking in the “unsafe” activity for a long time.

So why do people start smoking when the dangers are clear and cigarettes even have a big label that says “Smoking Kills” on the packet? The initial framework was laid down by parents and possibly other family members that also smoke ((Jonathan B Bricker, Arthur V Peterson Jr, Irwin G Sarason, M Robyn Anderson, K Bharat Rajan. Addictive Behaviors. Oxford: Apr 2007.Vol.32, Iss. 4; pg. 740)).

To start smoking knowing the risks is idiotic. To allow your children to start smoking is idiotic. They need to be able to learn from your mistakes, so lay the framework.

Of course, I could be dismissing the thought that people aren’t too concerned with dying.

We're back

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There was a slight outage yesterday that was resolved this morning. You may have seen some strange messages about PHPbb. Of course, the site doesn’t run any active PHPbb boards, but due to a serious bug our web host shut down all sites (in their entirety) that had a PHPbb forum anywhere on the site.

I’m guessing it was a pretty big security vulnerability to warrant such extreme action. I suppose it reminds us all to keep things up-to-date.

Follow-up: When To Propose

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Back in November 2005, The Mill posted an article looking at when was the best time to propose. Now, over a year later that post has spawned a legitimate comment from James Mills posing the following questions:

  1. Is a year too early?
  2. How do you know she’ll say “yes”?
  3. How do you find her ring size without her finding out?

The Mill immediately enlisted the help of Paul to answer these tricky questions. So hopefully between the both of us we can give James some insight and hopefully provide a unique point of view as he contemplates this huge decision.

Is a year too early? Paul’s response:

Is a year of dating too early to propose : I would reduce this one down to prior experience. Have you both played the field before, so you’re reasonably certain you’ve found what you’re looking for? If not, maybe a bit more time. And have you tried living together, even for just a 2 week getaway - As Rhys suggested that’s a perfect test to see if you can stand living with them.

Also don’t forget sexual compatibility : it is possible for people to be allergic to each others fluids, even sweat, so it’s good to make sure this isn’t the case before you decide to make it permanent. (Ok ok, this is my argument for sex before marriage, but man is it relevant - who wants rashes after having a shag? And for the rest of your life?)

Something else that makes sense is the observation that the older people are, the faster the engagement. So for people in their 20’s, it seems that more time usually passes before the decision to marry. But for people in their 30’s, I’ve seen a few marriages after less than 6 months (ahh Coles people; always amusing). I would hope this trend is based on having the experience to know that their partner is “the one… at least for now”. Otherwise it simply skews ones perception.

I think it all depends on just how far the relationship has come during that time. If you are contemplating marriage, then chances are the relationship has progressed substantially. The trick comes down to this: Is this the person you want to spend the rest of you life with? (An oldie but a goodie). Other good questions to ask yourself include:

  • What would I be prepared to give up for this person?
  • Is being with this person better than not being with them?
  • How many sides of this person have I seen? Would you still be happy if the worst side was the most dominant?
  • What if divorce wasn’t an option later down the track?

This is more about putting yourself into a frame of mind of thinking whether the marriage is right for you. Your next question continues in the right direction by asking whether marriage is right for your partner.

How do you know she’ll say “yes”? Here’s what Paul had to say:

Well if the topic of marriage has come up before you should have some idea. Talking about kids might help too, as if she wants to have kids and also has the whole “Children out of Wedlock is evil” idea then it’s just a matter of knocking her up.

If you’ve never even discussed marriage before, then dude, I suggest you do before you ask her. She may be dead set against the concept of marriage (and fair enough given the divorce rates, but I digress), and feeling this information out before hand is essential Intel on the battlefield of life.

If you can’t get this sort of information out of her, then personally I’d be worried about proposing, because this is pretty basic stuff a couple should talk about who are contemplating a life together.

This comes down to two simple questions (and it is important to look at this objectively and not take it too personally):

  1. Does she want to get married in the near future?
  2. Does she want to get married to you?

These questions may seem fairly obvious, but it is easy to forget about these basic principles when emotion takes over. Certainly let emotion play its part (it is certainly most important), but be sure that the emotion is long-term.

Paul has it right on the money. You have to ask. By now you probably have all the information you need to answer these two questions. If not, it might be worthwhile taking the time to find out. Consider family upbringing, religious beliefs (if applicable) and overall how you feel she thinks about you.

How do you find her ring size without her finding out? Paul had this to say:

This is, naturally, hard. You can “borrow” one of her other rings and get a jeweller to try and estimate the size of her ring finger from that. You can try and measure it while she’s asleep. But another thing you can do is get her a betrothal ring - a pre-engagement ring - that doesn’t have to be perfect but you use it to propose. And then after the proposal she can choose her own ring and get it measured properly full well knowing what’s going on, and she still gets the traditional proposal with a ring - Win Win. When I did this the betrothal ring was only about $150, and had to be adjusted after purchase to fit her. Which was fine. And then when we got the engagement ring she got all the input she wanted (ie all of it); and the best part is with this approach : The man can’t be blamed for spending thousands on a ring she doesn’t like. Think about it

As an extension to what Paul has suggested above, it might help if you can see if any of your fingers are the same size as hers. Then you can try on rings and know exactly how it will fit.

Paul’s betrothal ring suggestion is good, but you need to make the intention very clear. If she wants to marry you this shouldn’t really be an issue. If you do buy an expensive ring, make sure you get it resized quickly to prevent it from being lost. Remember, you can always return/exchange the ring if it isn’t to her taste.

I hope that this information has been useful and has provided you with some tools to assist in your decision.

Next in The Mill we will discuss the degradation of human society and reveal a solution to attempt to fix it. Stay tuned.

Saving the world one cartridge at a time

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At my work we use a lot of toner cartridges. Unfortunately we’ve tried to get them refilled but often they end up leaking and are of poor quality. So eventually we gave in and purchased brand new toner cartridges. Unfortunately this left us with a problem. Old cartridges that needed to be disposed of. Fortunately the post office across the street was able to take our cartridges. Of course, they were in no mood to keep this up forever, particularly as I started making very regular appearances dropping off cartridges. One day they just stopped taking cartridges.

Since then I have amassed quite a collection of empty cartridges, hoping to find somewhere who will accept them and take them all in at once. On Friday I called Office Works at Garden City to check they were still accepting cartridges. But were they? No! The box had just disappeared.

So I went straight to the cartridges for ark website and discovered that any business could collect cartridges and arrange to have them recycled, for free! Seeing as we were “any business” I quickly signed us up and soon we’ll be receiving a large box to put our cartridges in!

Over the weekend I began to wonder if there were other ways we could recycle at work and what options were available. The most obvious resource that we throw away plenty of is paper. Surely someone was collecting paper for recycling, ideally for free. Unfortunately despite the website saying it was still free it seems as though you now have to pay for this service (which is fair, after all, you pay for your usual waste disposal).

That said, the prices weren’t that bad. There was a $22 setup fee and $2.20/week for a wheelie bin to collect the paper. Then it was $11 get it picked up. Alternatively you could get two cardboard boxes for $5.50 each (and they are then yours to keep).Paper that is recycled was then supposed to go to companies including (and this is what their website lists):

  • Kellogg’s
  • Kleenex
  • KFC

Am I the only one who spotted that the paper is going to the KKK?

All jokes aside, it’s a pretty good idea and hopefully I’ll be able to convince management of that. Or at least get them fighting with Mater to provide some sort of recycling service.

Critique of Sydney

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Recently I had the pleasure to visit Paul in Sydney. My experience of Sydney prior to this was many years ago on a boat, and two years ago when my brother and I drove down the East Coast (where Sydney was a short stop-over for lunch).

The Plane Ride First up was an exciting plane ride with Virgin Blue. I say exciting because that seemed like the thing to say. It was too early in the morning and I felt sick (before getting on the plane) so it wasn’t exactly fun. Everything was all very serious too which was a touch disappointing.Nevertheless when I landed I was feeling a whole lot better. After a short wait at the carousel for my luggage (and a quick tour of the Sydney ((I find it hard to say toilet))) was heading towards the train station at Sydney Aiport.
I should point out at this point that my experience with finding “ammenities” in Sydney has been very poor. During my previous visit we were unable to locate any. I concluded on my last visit that people in Sydney simply hold it. Perhaps airport was equipped with ammenites to assist traveller’s not as accustomed to “holding it in”. (More on this later)

I then took my bag to the train station, which was where I discovered it was incredibly easy for the bag to go up on one wheel ((Think Ski Mode in Knight Rider)). Unlike David Hasselhoff I was unable to control it very well and it ended up going from side to side. I soon discovered that a solid kick would set it straight on two wheels again.

The Train Ride Waiting for the train was dull. Really dull. I phoned Paul from the train station to say I had arrived in Sydney, but after that, pure dullness. Eventually a train came and then went and the screen saying when the next train was coming didn’t know what it was doing.When the train did come (and stop), Paul’s description of the double decker train materialized before me. I had trouble locating the Voyeur booth, but that wasn’t a huge problem because I was in no position to make use of it anyway with my bag.
Arriving at the train station where I arranged to meet Paul I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I gave him a call but he was going through a tunnel (an actual tunnel, not the metaphorical kind). Despite this we managed to meet up and headed to Paul’s place of employment to drop off my bag in preparation for a real trip through Sydney.

Paul’s Place of Employment At Paul’s place of employment I had the opportunity to inspect the ammenities, which received my seal of approval, particularly for the stainless steel soap dispensers fitted into the vanity top. Urinals were placed at the proper height and mirrors were used to make it (the room you sick bastard) look bigger without making it feel like someone was watching. I also got to see Paul’s spiffy dual monitor set-up to which I thought “I’ve got to get me one of those”.
Holy Crepe Batman! At this stage we went and had crepes for breakfast. I only mention this because I was able to take advantage of the fact that I didn’t adjust my watch for daylight savings time throughout the entire trip. Paul and I were able to score a free juice as per their morning special (which ended about 30 minutes prior).
The Monorail Ride Following the tracks to the station and singing the Monorail song from the Simpsons we ventured aboard the monorail, which was surprisingly busy (surprising to me and my limited monorail experience ((The only recent monorails I have ridden pior to this was the monorail betwen Conrad Jupiters and the Oasis shopping Centre on the Gold Coast))). Fortunately after the first lap we had a seat and continued to sit for several more laps until we started to get hungry. Our hunger was soon to be satisfied in the David Jones Food Hall.
The David Jones Food Hall In all the David Jones I have ever been in, they tyically have pretty nice restaurants. It seemed that this Food Hall was taking it to the absolute extreme. It can be best described as a fruit shop/deli where they have set-up “bars” to sit and eat. But no samples here, full food. My nose sought out the “Grill Bar”, but I decided to have the Fish and Chips instead of a steak, because over the next three days I was going to eat steak on each one. Other bars included The Oyster Bar and the Cheese and Wine Bar.
The quality of the food was exceptional, but the wait for a seat was frustrating even though we didn’t have to wait that long. The fact that there isn’t really a system, but rather a case of fighting it out when a seat becomes available. Despite the dis-order of the seating arrangements I was able to maintain my composure and enjoyed my meal while watching the chef cook up some yummy looking meals.

Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children! After our meal, we proceeded on foot to a local cinema to catch a flick. Along the way I was accosted by a girl who I can only assume was in the child slave labor market.
“Hi, How was your Christmas?” she asked in a bright, cheery and confident voice. I was so taken aback by her bravado and confidence that I had to answer. “Good” I replied. This was obviously a mistake as she gauged this to mean that I have spare money lying around. She then started to talk about how a male stripper was trying to get people to buy children in Africa. “All you have to do today is choose between a girl or a boy” she said as she attempted to lure Paul and I over to look at some photos. She also commented that she was involved in this scheme and she only wished she could afford more than one child.

We then headed off saying that this was a big decision to make and we’d have to sleep on it.

The Outback Steakhouse Where better to take me on my first night in a strange city than a restaurant with the name of my favourite meal right there in bright neon lights above the restaurant. Despite a big lunch I was feeling quite hungry when we got to the Steak House (indeed, writing this is now making me hungry despite having just finished my lunch). Service was pretty poor, but the quality of the steak was tops, although a bit too peppered for my taste (making it harder to truly taste the meat). The pumpkin soup though was superb, but had a bread roll that was about twice the size of the soup. Fortunately it was a very light bread roll.
Prelude to the Ferry Ride (the next day) Wow. The number of people amassing to get on the ferry was tremendous. It was also a pretty hot day so the Sydney Ferries company was handing out free Spring Water. At first I was a little suspcious, but haven’t noticed any side effects effects. Standing and waiting surrounded by hundreds of people was hardly pleasant, but at the end of the unpleasantness would be a ferry ride followed by the much talked about Ribs and Rumps.
The Ferry Ride We managed to get a seat up on the deck and could look out at the sites along the way. It was on this seat that a question of etiquette came to my attention. I didn’t mention it at the time, but now seems as good a place as any. The girl opposite me who was with her male companion was having trouble with the strap on her dress not being straight. In this scenario is it acceptable to get up and help? What length of time should you wait before offering assistance. A similar issue was noted when another girl (also with a male companion) was having difficulties tying a knot behind her neck that was supporting her swimming suit.
Oh yes, and the views across the water were good too.

Ribs and Rumps After a big steak dinner the previous evening I was looking forward to another and Ribs and Rumps were up to the challenge. This time, both the meals and the service was exceptional. The only regret I have is not getting a bigger steak. Curiously the steaks were served on a wooden cutting board, which was a bit different from what I’m used to. The steaks weren’t heavily seasoned so the full flavours of the meat where able to come through (and now I’m hungry again). We even managed to fit in a dessert which I feel suggests we didn’t order enough steak.
The Taxi Ride Because Paul needs his beauty sleep I caught a taxi to the bus terminal where I was to depart for the next leg of my journey. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, but this was the first time I’ve had a taxi driver whose English was very poor. Thankfully my destination was clear enough (Central Station) that we didn’t run into too many problems and managed to find the right spot the second time past.
Ammenities at Sydney Central Station It was when using the ammenities at Sydney Central Station that I discovered why Sydney-siders hold it in. Toilet paper and faecal matter was everywhere. It was quite sickening to think that people would actually do that, but the evidence was in front of me in plain site. It still haunts my dreams.
Closing Remarks Sydney was an interesting place to visit for a few days, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It has a nice harbour, but really that seemed about it. I enjoyed my steak while in Sydney and enjoyed and appreciated the accommodation provided by Paul and Trish. Will I return? Probably.