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The Spirit of Continuous Improvement

Tuesday August 9th, 2016 in Knowledge, Office, Reading | No Comments »


Apparently a lot of people make New Years Resolutions. I am scornful of this. Don’t they know this doesn’t work? I think. What’s so magical about 1 January? I scoff. They won’t last a week. I snicker.

However, I think August is the perfect to time to report on key projects and assess progress against KPIs all as part of reaffirming commitment to the spirit of continuous improvement.

It is in this spirit that I am reflecting on my progress this year.

1. Reading

Have you read all of Dickens? I imagine myself saying every time someone is doing something I don’t approve of and consider a waste of time. Like watching television shows that I don’t watch or playing golf.  To be fair, I have not read all of Dickens either and I often watch Neighbours and sew cloth napkins. Actually, let’s not read all of Dickens. I won’t judge if you don’t.

2. Flexibility

Earlier in the year I decided I would not watch Neighbours unless I was doing my stretch and strength exercises at the same time. The goal was to be able to touch my toes and not feel my brain. It hasn’t worked. I still can’t touch my toes and my brain thinks all kinds of nonsense and some of it hurts. The good news is that Karl and Susan’s marriage seems solid at the moment. This proves that anything’s possible so I will keep chipping away at it.

3. Milk

I feel terribly guilty about milk. Those poor cows.

But cheese! And flat whites! (I don’t like soy milk, it tastes like beans. And the first time I had an almond milk coffee I couldn’t believe they were allowed to charge money for it because it tasted like sick.) I have cut back on dairy but I haven’t cut it out. It’s yet another example of my self-serving and inconsistent ethical framework.

Leaving aside whether half-measures are evil, there are definitely still some low hanging yoghurts that I could pick off my dairy consumption tree. I’m going to start having oat milk on my cereal. After all, oats and oat milk are old friends.

This still leaves a fair bit of dairy in my life, however, mothers don’t mind giving up their babies to slaughter if it’s contributing to the production of Camembert.

4. Clicking

A few years ago a friend of mine said that she never reads trash mags. Not even at the hairdresser’s? I said. No, never. She did not know who the Kardashians are.

Inspired, I also stopped reading trash mags. I stared resolutely at the pot plants in waiting rooms and took out a novel. I waited for the knowledge to leave or at least stop flooding in. But it didn’t. I still found out that the Duchess of Cambridge never has bare legs in public.

It is the internet’s fault. Particularly, the naughty Age website. I go to the site planning to read about new crop rotation techniques and political affairs but I actually click on swimsuit articles and famous faces (particularly if they look funny). So, I am resolved to find a truly worthy news site and only visit that when I’m not reading Proust.

You’re welcome to snicker, she won’t last a week, any time you want.


Tuesday April 12th, 2016 in Knowledge | No Comments »


I’ve been to a fair few Trivia Nights and attending one is always an emotional roller-coaster. I’m finally ready to talk about it. There are six emotional stages of Trivia Night that I always go through.


I start the night feeling hopeful. I envisage, that much like in Slumdog Millionaire all the answers will be obscure facts I have picked up in my journey through life. I listen with great attention to the first questions, poised to frantically spitty whisper the correct answers to my team mates. ‘How do you know this stuff!’ they will gasp. ‘Oh -‘ I will say, ‘I read Ulysses by James Joyce while on maternity leave.’


By the end of the first round I realise that the only questions I will know the answers to are the ones that everyone knows like, ‘Name 23 Kardashians whose first name starts with K’. If there is a question on Ulysses by James Joyce I will not know the answer because I didn’t understand it when I read it and have subsequently forgotten precisely 100% of what I read (when I say I ‘read’ Ulysses, it’s probably more accurate to say that I looked at every word on every page).


Boredom sets in after I accept that there will be no questions on the life of Richard Feynman or Phar Lap and I also accept that my useful role in the Trivia Night is strictly that of chips eater and doing my darndest in the heads or tails competition (I always choose heads every time in homage to Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead). My interest in the evening wanes and the evening waxes. Trivia nights last for approximately 100 hours if you’re the type of person like me who’s confused about where the Pacific Ocean is and hasn’t seen many films.


Embarrassment can arise in a couple of different ways.  Chemistry questions are usually mortifying as I have a degree in Chemistry but no knowledge of the subject. The other way I can be humiliated is when suddenly, joy!, I do know the answer to a very daggy music question that no-one else knows because they are not daggy enough.


There’s always one question that I do know the answer to but because I am by then staggering under the accumulated weight of my previous ignorance, I don’t have the courage to speak up, and as a result, my team gets it wrong. For example, I might not cry ‘No sir! You are wrong!’ when a team mate says that Phar Lap won two Melbourne Cups. (Actually that’s a bad example, I would fight to the death with righteous certainty over that one, but I did once remain silent while a team mate attributed a quote to Adam Smith that was clearly Karl Marx, which I should never have let happen.)


The final stage is elation, which either comes from the night being finally over or, and you might be surprised by this, because my team has won! Because despite having very little personal knowledge I have been on many winning tables due to sensible friend selection. Once we’ve won I care very little about not having done anything to contribute to the team’s success and am overjoyed and very happy to take home the free wine.


Mistakes I appear to be incapable of learning from

Monday March 21st, 2016 in Knowledge | No Comments »

CIA_WorldFactBook-Political_world.pdfLast week I wrote about Anne of Green Gables, who was a role model of mine when I was growing up. I related to her because I liked reading and had a temper on me. In one important respect we are very different, however. Anne of Green Gables prided herself on never making the same mistake twice. Whereas I act like if a mistake’s worth making it’s worth making every day.

Here are some of my most frequent mistakes that I have never learned from.

1. Spelling hierarchy and bourgeoisie

I know it looks like I’ve nailed it here but Spell Check helped a lot. These were my first attempts: heirachy and bourgeouis. Sometimes I spell them so badly that Spell Check refuses to dignify my attempts with a spelling suggestion. I then have to try random combinations of vowels until it takes pity on me. There have been times in my life when I wrote the words bourgeoisie and hierarchy a lot (I’m a really fun pen-friend). For a couple of months in 2007 I actually knew how to spell them unassisted but that knowledge could not last and and now I get it wrong every time.

2. Knowing where almost anything in the world is

Like Bridget Jones, I am hazy on the location of Germany. It’s fun to laugh at Americans who can’t find Afghanistan on a map but I laugh in fear that someone might ask me the same question. At various times I have tried to rectify this knowledge chasm. A few years ago for about a month every time a country was mentioned I looked at a world map to locate the place hoping to aid memory. This has had no long term benefits and my knowledge of geography is abysmal. To be honest, Brisbane is not where I think it is.

3. 6*8 = ? and 7*8 = ?

I know all the rest of the my times tables, but my first thought when asked either of these is ’42’, which I know is wrong. I have to work the answers out in my head using addition. There have been many, many times in my life when I’ve needed to know what 6*8 or 7*8 equals but this repetition has not helped and my mind is blank each time the question comes up.

4. Eating too much directly before a run

I once learned the lesson that eating a big container of muesli and yoghurt an hour before a run will make me feel sick. The next week I learned the lesson that eating a massive muesli bar and an apple shortly before a run will make me feel sick. The next week I learned that eating two pieces of chocolate cake just before a run will make me feel sick…it’s an ongoing learning by doing process that appears not to be working.

5. Forgetting to add muffin ingredients

I make a batch of muffins about once a week. I have a standard recipe that I know by heart and the flavour depends on what we have available in the cupboard. The quality depends on whether I remember to add all the key ingredients, which I probably do about half the time. On multiple occasions I have forgotten: the sugar (they look pasty but I think they taste okay if you put honey on them, my partner acts like they’re poison), the eggs (they come out a bit flat), and the butter (they are rubbery and disgusting).

So good on Anne of Green Gables for only drowning a mouse in the pudding sauce once. If it were me I’d have gone on to drown a rat, a hamster, a mole and then looped back around and drowned another mouse. I’ve got no idea where Prince Edward Island is either.