Being Somebody – My Musings During the Melbourne Cup

Yesterday Melbourne was in a grip of a racing fever. There’s been a lot said over the past few days about the Melbourne Cup all over the internet and traditional media, so I’m not going to talk about it. I’ll leave it to others to talk about the winning horses, or talented trainers, or incredible jockeys.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

I want to talk about something completely different. At about the time when Race 7 was stopping the nation, I was in a middle of my own race – on a treadmill in my local gym. Coincidently, there was a lot of people around me, who cared very little about the races, but who cared a lot about deadlifts, bicep curls and reps. While running, I was listening to  Lay Me Low – a great song by an extremely talented Nick Cave. I must’ve been hearing this song for the hundreds time, but for some reason, this was the time when something about the lyrics attracted my attention. In particular, these lines:

They will interview my teachers (Lay me low)
Who’ll say I was one of God’s sorrier creatures
They’ll print informative six-page features
When I go

 

This made me think – how many of us will merit a six-page feature when we go? How about a one page? Or even a single line? Too many of us go through life without really doing anything outstanding, without caring about what’s happening around them, without being a Somebody.

Freedom of thought

Engage your mind.

I remember years ago, as a young man I was working with a cynical old-timer. He used to tell me “Never get a reputation”. I asked him once, “Don’t you mean never get a bad reputation?” “No” he said, “never get a reputation of any kind. You will be expected to live up to it”.

Now decades later, listening to Nick Cave, I remembered this conversation and thought that I would rather, in a words of a song, Make a Stand. I would rather get a reputation.

Be known for something. Be known as someone.

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Social Dis-service

Yesterday my wife volunteered to help her mother and make few calls to some government departments – Social Security, Human Services, Aged Care….

Pension and Aged Services

Pension and Aged Services

It wasn’t anything complicated – she wasn’t asking government agency to divulge any secrets, or assign Member of Parliament size pension to a regular Australian, or anything like that.

All she wanted, was to have some information brochures and application forms to be mailed out to us. Simple, right?

Well, it might be simple for someone who doesn’t understand the complexity of the bureaucratic machine, but after listening to my wife, I now realize how complicated and self-important those departments are.

For starters, before she even had a chance to talk to anyone, she had to endure some horrible hold music, with a total “hold” time of close to 2 hours. Next, she was transferred from one department to another, person to the next. Each time the story had to be repeated, names and other details provided and an oath given, just in case….

At one point of this process, she got told that the material we requested is not being printed any more, and everything is available on line. When asked if he can e-mail us the documents, the bureaucrat on another end replied that it’s not their process to e-mail documents. Fair enough we thought, how about a link to where the document is on their web-site? Apparently, link isn’t available, and we have to search for it.

What I found even more amusing (amusing because I wasn’t the one who had to listen to this rubbish), was the fact that apparently, there were some changes in rules and legislation affecting aged care. These changes came into effect on July 1st, 2014. All this was happening on July the 8th and guess what – new documentation wasn’t available ANYWHERE – not in printed form, not on-line not etched on cave walls.

If I was just as incompetent at my job, I would’ve been fired years ago, but I guess there is a benefit in being a government employee.

Speed Cameras Save Lives, or Do They?

While checking on some facts for my previous blog, I came across a lot of data related to speed limits and speed laws on our roads, about how speed cameras save lives. What I found strange though, is that there was very little data coming up related to how much safety improvements to the new cars affected road statistics.

If we are to believe our government, “Speed cameras make our roads safer. They’ve reduced crashes at intersections by 47 per cent and have helped cut our road toll by a third”. At first glance, this statement is pretty self-explanatory and non-controversial, right? Wrong!

Speed Cameras - Revenue Raisers

Speed Cameras – Revenue Raisers

Read it again: “and have helped cut our road toll by a third”. Notice – speed cameras didn’t cut road toll by a third, they have helped to cut it. What it really means is that the actual number attributed to speed cameras could be as low as 1%. Just think about it….if speed cameras really saved lives, and our government had the numbers to prove it, they would’ve come up with a statement that reads something like this: “Speed cameras make our roads safer. They’ve reduced crashes at intersections by 47 per cent and 30% of all lives saved is due to speed cameras”. See the difference?

Now that you spotted the difference, let’s see what the original statement actually says. It says that the road toll has been reduced by a third. It has been reduced by COMBINED efforts of car manufacturers making our cars safer, by improvements in road constructions making roads themselves safer, by improved algorithms of traffic management and by constant education campaign.

Improved Car Safety Saves Lives

Improved Car Safety Saves Lives

We all know that European cars have a reputation for being safe. It comes as no surprise than, that the vehicle safety is identified as a key strategy by the European Union towards addressing the EU-wide goal to reduce deaths by 50%. Again, take notice – not by putting more speed cameras on a road, but by improving car safety.

I would like to finish by quoting the boss of Mazda Australia, who has accused road safety authorities of creating a nation of “distracted drivers” by forcing them to watch their car’s speedometer – rather than the traffic ahead – because they’re scared to go 1km/h over the speed limit.”

Tinglers and Tampons

This post is more of a WTF category, just a couple of things I’ve come across recently that made me stop and take a second look…

The first one was at a truck stop somewhere between Melbourne and Canberra.

Boldly Glow Where No Man Has Glowed Before

Boldly Glow Where No Man Has Glowed Before

While washing hands in a toilet, I’ve noticed a vending machine that was selling Tingler Rings.

Looks like our truckies have become more sophisticated, more adventurous. It’s not enough to just grab a plain old condom from a machine for a quick “pit-stop” on a way. Now they are looking for the Tingler Ring – a product promising you to “Boldly glow where no man has glowed before”.

It also promises to “Prolong The Pleasure Of Sex” – I always thought that our truck drivers work on a tight schedule, they would be more interested in a product that will allow them to get maximum satisfaction in a shortest time possible…you know, “in, out, back on the road again”?

 

The second thing that made me go “hmmm” was the banner in a local health shop.

What's In Your Tampon?

What’s In Your Tampon?

For a reason that escapes me, they posted a question “What’s in your tampon?”

Now, I’m not too sure what they are trying to achieve here… If they want to know what tampons are made of, they might be better off directing the question to the manufactures. If they want to know what’s in a tampon after it’s been used, I don’t even want to go there.

Being a health shop specializing in all things “natural”, I suspect they wanted to make people aware of some different type of tampons made of natural, or recycled ingredients.

What I find hard to swallow, even harder than a tampon staring in my face, is the fact that they sell those horrible drinks there, they call it “coffee” but it’s made from the soy milk and dandelions. No human should be allowed to suffer through drinking that horrible stuff.

Maybe next they should put up a poster asking “How to make real coffee?”

My musings on joining a gym

This week I celebrated my second anniversary. Second anniversary of going to gym that is. Yes, I belong to a gym now. Well, let me rephrase that: I don’t belong there at all, but I go.

For the whole 2 months I was coming to this place, doing things to my body that no body should ever endure. I was making it run, lift weights, bend into weird shapes. I hope one day my body will forgive me for making it do all these crazy things.

Zap Fitness gym

Inside one of Zap’s many locations

Some would say that two months is not a big deal, that people are going to gym for years. Well, it is a big deal for me. You see, when you are on a wrong side of 40 years, on a wrong side of 100 kilos, and when the only exercise your body knows is lifting a fork full of herring salad and a glass full of vodka, any additional effort can potentially become that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back.

When I was shopping around for a gym, I looked at about half a dozen of them, most within walking distance from me. One was too “boutique” for my liking, another one too “hardcore”, yet another one too expensive… But one struck the right balance – it was reasonably priced, seemed nice inside, the fact that it’s open 24/7 was also a factor. But what really swayed me over was the location.

Grilled, Zap Fitness, Cellarbrations

Perfect location for any gym

Talk about perfection. Such thoughtfulness, such attention to detail. On a way to gym you can pop into Grill’d, get one (or two, or three) of their “Hot” Mama burgers, move next door in an attempt to lose just acquired calories at a gym, fail miserably, leave the gym disappointed and move on to the Cellarbrations to drown you sorrows in alcohol – all without having to cross the road or move your car.

I guess there is a lesson in this. All these things can co-exist. One can eat out, have a glass (or two) of alcohol, and still be a gym-goer. There is nothing wrong in indulging in life’s little pleasures, as long it is done in moderation.

How much should the paramedics be paid, or the perks of a shift worker

Anyone driving around Melbourne would’ve seen Victorian Ambulances, all covered in signs indicating that our Ambos are the lowest paid in Australia. It is all part of an ongoing dispute between ambulance workers and Victorian government. Ambos are claiming they are the best trained but lowest paid for their duties in the country.

Victorian Paramedics - the lowest paid in a country

Victorian Paramedics – the lowest paid in a country

Yesterday, as I was letting one of the emergency vehicles overtake me, I decided to check out how much they actually get paid, and what do they ask for. Figures themselves are not too exciting. There are dozens of articles on a subject, some in support of the paramedics, some are clearly pro-government. Depending on the source, ambos are getting between $73,000 and $93,000 a year including overtime, and they want a 30% raise, to make their pay line up with that of their colleagues in other states. As far as I am concerned, this sort of demand is not unreasonable, these men and women work day and night, sometimes up to their elbows in other people’s blood, guts and vomit.

But what really got my attention was an article in the Herald Sun that went on to describe to its readers how good the ambos have it. The author was throwing in numbers, examples and quotes, all to prove that ambos are only working 11 days a month and therefore their claims of being overworked and underpaid are “not an emergency”.

What the author failed to mention was the hidden “perks” of being a shift worker. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with what the word diurnality means (go ahead, google it). Or maybe he should have a look at a study published in the British Medical Journal last year, which concluded shift workers were 41 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Or maybe, while he is having his soy latte in a morning, he would check out the study from Office of Road Safety of Western Australia – the one that determined shift workers are six times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related vehicle incident. Alternatively, I can suggest he visits Victorian government’s Better Health website, where he will find that Shift Workers get, on average, two to three hours less sleep than other workers. They often sleep though the day in two split periods, a few hours in the morning and then an hour or so before going to work at night. Night workers can find it difficult sleeping during the day (particularly in Australia). It’s difficult to keep the sleep environment dark, free of noise and relatively cool.

Hidden dangers of shift work

Hidden dangers of shift work

Now, I am not a whinger, but the author of that article not only having a go at our paramedics. By insinuating that they don’t work enough days, he offends, no-he disrespects, each and every one of Australia’s 1.4 million shift workers.

I wonder if his opinion will change one day (or night) when he would have to use his mobile phone (24×7 service) to call Police or Ambulance, Fire Brigade or Nurse on Call (all 24×7 services)?

My Mum Gave me Drugs, or Why Our Athletes Choose to Cheat

Australian sport is going from one drug related scandal to another. In a last few months we’ve heard all about Cronulla Sharks, Essendon Bombers, and now Sydney Roosters looking down the barrel of the ACC’s investigation. I don’t think anyone’s really surprised anymore to hear about yet another drug scandal in sport.

Of course, nothing’s new under the sun. We all remember Ben Cousins’ drug scandal in 2007, Shane Warne’s ‘My mum gave it to me’ saga (did anyone actually believe that one?), Tour de France’s greats Lance Armstrong shocking allegations of 2011, and Floyd Landis before him, back in 2006. One good thing that came out of drugs scandals in Tour de France, is the numerous jokes it generated. Here are just a couple: “Amsterdam is like a Tour de France. Just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.”

Drugs in sport

Drugs in sport

All this got me thinking. I understand the motive behind the decision to cheat. For some, it’s the ambition to be number one, for others it is the temptation of money, for yet others it’s the promise of fame. So when did it all start? When did the sport lose its purity?

The sad truth is, it all started millennia ago. In ancient Greece, the original Olympians used extracts of mushrooms and certain plants to create performance enhancing mixtures. During Roman period, gladiators were given drugs to make their fights more “spectacular”.

Drugs in sport

Cheat to Win

Once again, I am not a whinger, BUT… Here’s what I don’t get- why would anyone with half a brain risk taking drugs? Forget about the issues of morality, honesty and integrity. I’m talking about the health risks that associated with drug use. It should be obvious to anyone that long-term negative effects of drug use outweigh any dubious short-term “benefits”.

And just to finish it off:

A female athlete is preparing for the Olympics. She goes to the coach and complains about the tablets he is making her take.

“They are causing hair to grow on my breasts.”

“Ah whats the problem, a little bit of downy hair. everyone has a few little hairs’

“They are not downy and they are not little and they are not a few’

“Well exactly how much is there?’

“They grow all the way down to my balls, and that’s something else I want to talk to you about’