Saturday, May 31, 2014

Uni survival tip - be exceptional for the right reasons

I'm getting cranky - it's late, but:

If you're the student who's been told to submit an assignment through an online portal but "have a little trouble" and just email it to the lecturer just realise two things. 1/ Your assignment is currently in the ether and 2/ you couldn't do a thing that dozens of others managed to do. You're an exception, and not in a good way.

This is the most polite way I could reply:

"...this won't get into the marking system if it doesn't go in through myUni. It won't be lost, but it will remain a loose end until I compile the results after the exam. You still have just under a week to get it in through the system if you don't want it to languish - a dozen students have managed it that way so far."

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Guest post: The Habels of Adelaide - Social Chameleons

My brother Chad has agreed to do a guest post for me here, which is cool. I don't know about the photo of me with a mullet, though. But seriously, Chad, thanks for digging that one out - nobody believes me when I tell them I had a mullet (and liked it) even before they were called mullets!

When I meet people from overseas (particularly the US) they are often surprised at the lack of mobility Australians experience. In the US it is extremely rare for someone to grow up, study, and then work in the same city: it is a rite of passage, almost expected, for people to move across the country several times for study, work, and family. However, it’s also possible to move a long way and still stay in the same physical space.

The Habels of Adelaide, back in the day (circa 1988)

The danger of immobility is being locked into one social group and not broadening one’s horizons with the challenge of meeting new people in new contexts. This is the classic ‘stuck in the village’ syndrome of the pre-industrial era, which people escaped by moving to big cities for work. Many people will know that the three of us (Cullen, Kirrily, and Chad) grew up in the northern suburbs of Adelaide and despite plenty of travel all over the world continue to work and raise families in this City of Churches. It’s a pretty great place to live.

The three of us these days, absurdly backlit

However we are lucky that our strong upbringing and the support for us to follow our dreams has given us the interpersonal skills to mix it with almost anyone from any background. Linguistically this is known as code-switching: the ability to take on the spoken habits of people from other backgrounds. When Jamie Lannister is caught on the road by enemy soldiers, he speaks like a commoner to disguise his upbringing; when Trainspotting’s Sickboy finds himself in court, he speaks ‘up’ to appear more respectable. His friend, Spud, is not so adaptable, and ends up in prison.

It seems that we three Habels (well, two plus a Burton) are uniquely placed in a moment of social transformation, able to adapt to various social settings with confidence and grace: not only to fit in but put others at ease in our presence. This has helped us all in our academic and business pursuits, but only really came home to me the other day when I was flipping between working with tradies and meeting with high-end solicitors in the same day, for my new venture (which has just launched an Indiegogo campaign). This can be a double-edged sword – belonging is elusive – but it does have its benefits.

There are those from both sides of the tracks who aren’t so lucky.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Old Man Willis" is a shocking song about domestic violence

I can't believe this hasn't been discussed before. In the light of recent events in the US where an angry white male went on a killing spree against women, I thought I'd mention it.

One of my favourite albums is "The Best of Tony Joe White". Best known for "Polk Salad Annie", the guy is the coolest dude I can imagine.

In 1968 he wrote a funky swamp rock song about a crazy old man. A guy who had four racoons, a cat an a hound dog that ate from his dinner table, drank from his water bucket and slept in the same bed with him.

A crazy old man but probably harmless enough. Tony Joe's brilliance is how he lures you into complacency. As you're enjoying the song you almost don't notice the final line each chorus. "He used to chase his young'ns and his wife, with his double bladed sharp knife".

Here's a version that shows how easily it creeps up on you

Now, you won't find this anywhere on the internet, but I recommend you get hold of the Tony Joe White song (buy it in iTunes or the Play Store). You'll hear Willis chasing his family with more and more dangerous weapons and then this disturbing finish:

"He finally caught his young'ns and his wife, and slayed em with his hunting knife"

I've heard this song hundreds of times and I still feel cold sickness and embarrassment at the end of it. For a guy who writes cool songs, Tony Joe put a real sting in that one. Sadly, the world has chosen to only go with the bubblegum versions.

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The art of giving up: let it burn

Sometimes it just makes sense to simply pile up one particular set of dreams, set fire to them and put your effort where it will have an effect. It first happened in 1990 when I left a "good enough" job and a friend said "but that's giving up" - I suppose it was, but it was the right move.

"What good's a bridge to somewhere if you know you can't return? Strike a match, light it up, let it burn"

It reminds me of a buddy who said "Don't burn bridges behind you, blow them up! Going backwards is going the wrong way". I'm not sure I agree. It's gung-ho, but I left the bridge behind me when I left skydiving twelve years ago and I love having gone back to it. Perhaps the "let it burn" idea is just about not clinging to something that's not working - throwing good money in after bad.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

An answer to an exam question

If you can make sense of this you're a long way towards being able to say why a brand grows by getting more customers than by selling more to existing ones.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tha Jacobin Impulse: NOW I know what I hate

This article is agony to read, both in its unnecessarily complex language and its misuse of words. But it does let me know what I hate - the idea that "we have it so well worked out that everyone who disagrees is an idiot, and must be made to agree or be destroyed"

"Make something worse — add Robespierre
The Jacobin impulse is to take the moral purpose and social understanding of one’s project to be so complete and all-encompassing, that no divergence from it is to be permitted and no restraint in action needs to be entertained. It is total politics–both in the ambit of its social reach and the means it is willing to employ. Adding the Jacobin impulse to any political project makes it (much) worse."

Perhaps I'm seeing it in the current government's approach to economics, but I am certainly seeing it in the politics of green and a little in the response to the latest federal budget.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This is why a brand will grow by penetration more than sales per customer

6 Ways You're About to Get Screwed by the Job Market

A little depressing, but a brilliant essay from David Wong. Required reading for all grads. It's not all bad, but by the time you're saying that you're a COPFAT and have arrived at #1. Still somebody has to pay the bills when the protesters trash the place.

#6. There's a Good Chance Your Degree Is Useless
#5. Trying to Change Careers Later Is a Nightmare
#4. Your Success Depends on How Much Work You'll Do for Free
#3. Someone Less Deserving WILL Get Hired/Promoted Ahead of You
#2. There's a Good Chance You'll Get Fired and Never Know Why
#1. At Some Point, You Will Find Yourself on the Dark Side

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hilarious misadventures in marketing has put some great ones together. My favourite:

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Consumers are mentally lazy - me included

A look in my pantry reminds me. We consume a lot of tuna, I do our major shopping mostly at Coles sometimes at Woolies.

Apparently I buy the "own label" brand in olive oil, which both retailers have helpfully made the "light blue with a bit of yellow" and put in the same sort of place - bottom shelf in the tuna category. I'm lazy and the person selling to me helps me be.

Not glamourous but - often - that's marketing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No pension for me - until 70

The first budget I really paid attention to was when Keating reintroduced fees for higher education (yes, it was labor). I was livid - how dare they? But life went on; I went to Uni, got a debt, kept working and one day my tax agent said "you don't need to do that now, the debt's cleared". It ended up being no big deal.

Same here. Pension age increasing. Another reform Labor started and this govt ran with. I was born in 1967 and these numbers screw me. No biggie. To be honest I'd love to be in a labour market where people are demanding that I work. My whole working life has been filled with employers who act as if they didn't care if I was there or not.

Yeh right. Like I'll ever get a pension. Whatever.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Whatever happened to "night fill" in the supermarkets?

I know the retail hours are expanding, but when I shop on the weekends I am forever pushing past people who are stacking shelves.

Good on them, making an honest living and doing it at weekend rates but there was a day where supermarkets did sonething called "night fill". But perhaps they need a midday fill. Who knows.

You know you can't win..

I was once surprised by how twisted some social interactions can get. Now I just feel jaded. Being no angel I often go to certain get-togethers telling myself "now don't be an asshole" and at times find myself "out-assholed"

But the best is when you're invited into someone's home and given all the hospitality possible - on the surface - but you know the crap is just around the corner.

Being invited to someone's house and making nice - thinking I might get out without some shit. The hosts (and guests of honour) offer me food and I politely sit down to eat. Forty minutes so far and I haven't behaved like an asshole. Doing well so far.

Only for somebody to sweep in with "how about you guys stand back and let the guests of honour eat first!" and then a "relax, it's all just banter" when I respond.

I get paid good money to (sometimes) suffer fools and socially inept people in other walks of life. The payback is not enough for me to do it on weekends as well. I've come to realise that some people don't just like to get together - they thrive on social drama and fuss.

So never ask why I'm not at a function; if you don't get it then nobody can tell you and if you do get it, nobody needs to tell you.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My "dollar shave club" message of love

As I'm back into the rhythm of heating our house with a wood fire, this one is relevant.
Love my dollar shave boiz. Last month was pretty good too. And I feel so empowered with a slab of them there. I _will_ be able to change my blade more often.

And I just got a personal thankyou from someone called Cassie J at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

If we're wondering about budget cost items

Vessels carrying asylum seekers. People who need to be processed as immigrants to Australia, and that costs money. There are lots of arguments around this very touchy topic but if we're wondering why our budget is where it is, this might give a hint:

The first lesson is the high cost to taxpayers of governments acting in undue haste for short-term political gain. After spending $2.45 billion on ceiling insulations, a third of which appear to be faulty or dangerous according to a review of almost 14,000 homes earlier this year, taxpayers will be forced to pay another $424 million, if not more, to sort out the dangerous mess. Julia Gillard and her cabinet cannot risk any such margin for error in their $43bn National Broadband Network, which is also being rolled out in haste without the benefit of a proper business case or cost-benefit analysis.

It's tempting to believe that the Libs got in and screwed up the NBN. But I'm inclined to think they were handed a stinking "Poo baby" as they were with the costs of all those extra boats and this:

THE NDIS was “like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air,” says a highly critical review commissioned by the agency itself.

But we'll never know, and tribal opinion will rule the day, I expect. I know that one day the Abbott's chickens will come home to roost and I'll be whining about him. But at the moment it looks like Abbott and Hockey are just chewing on Gillard and Rudd's shit sandwich. Still, he wanted the job.