Beach Bum

I managed not to eat and drink myself to death over Christmas, but it was a near thing. Christmas day at my mate’s consisted of prawns, mango salad and turkey, washed down with copious quantities of plonk. The next day it was right back into it with a barbie at my brother’s place. I had travelling friends come to visit the next day, but luckily they were already into their post-chrissie diet and only wanted to eat apples.

lunch
Christmas Lunch courtesy of Fiona

Been getting my money’s worth from Coogee Beach lately. On both Christmas day and Jan 27 there was actually a catchable body break, which is pretty unusual. Granted it was only the shore break at the north end of the beach, but it packed plenty of punch and had a pretty nice run in.

Apparently the backpackers made a terrible mess at the beach on Christmas day, but I was out all day and on Boxing Day, so I didn’t notice. Although to tell the truth, after living in Berlin for 5 years, I am struggling to understand what all the fuss is about. This year they’re putting on New Years fireworks at the beach for the first time. The show’s at 9pm, should be fun. Have to do my drinking at home, though, as there is an alcohol ban.

Took two lots of friends to lunch at the Coogee Legion Club restaurant over the last few weeks. Was supposed to be three, but the afore-mentioned apple diet got in the way of one lunch. Quite a good restaurant, reasonably priced, and the view from the balcony is terrific. Member discounts on the booze contribute to the good feeling!

Bought myself a keyboard as a Christmas present. A Yamaha PSR-E433, with 755 preset voices and all the knobs and buttons a boy could want.

kbd
The new toy

Got it nearly new on Gumtree at a reasonable price. Seller lived in Maroubra, so I got to ride the 353 bus to Eastgardens. Of course the bus was late, (the 353 is always late), but it goes past Maroubra beach, and it reminded me I should go there more often. The surf is so much better.

At some stage I’ll have to get a USB cable to connect the keyboard to the laptop and run my midi software. I also need to get some headphones, or the neighbours are going to get seriously pissed off. Even at half volume, my version of Loch Lomond using the keyboard’s bagpipes sound blows the roof off!

pipes
Sounds like this!

Great night out last night seeing the Khanz and Mabel at the Newtown Social Club (formerly the Sando). Mabel sounded like a cross between George Michael and Elvis Costello, while the Khans played a very groovy kind of electro-pop. Two of the band members looked like Princess Leia and Chewbacca, which was kinda spooky.

khans
The Khanz. Note Princess Leia and Chewbacca on the left.

Before the gig we ate out at Dean’s Diner, the undisputed home of the best burgers in the Inner West for many years. Burp!

For a change of pace, tomorrow I’m off the Sydney Speedway at Granville. Vroom vr-o-o-o-o-m!

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Santa Is An Alien

What else could he be? He must come from an advanced race of extra-terrestrials. Here’s the evidence:

  • capable of mass surveillance and big data (he knows if you’ve been bad or good) (a bit like Google, really)
  • obviously has matter replicator (a.k.a. Santa Claus machine)
  • and a matter-transmitter/teleporter (you don’t really believe he comes down the chimney, do you?)
  • he needs to live in cold temperatures
  • he can travel at enormous velocities in a flying machine

alien_santa

Obvious, isn’t it. Must have crash-landed on earth in the middle ages. Probably comes out once a year because his ship requires a certain astronomical alignment to function. The elves are clearly extra-terrestrials, with their pointy ears. Santa is probably furry all over, a kind of yeti, which is why he lives in the North Pole. (Not my idea. See Jeffrey Vallance, Santa Is A Wild Man).

But the most interesting thing is that he’s not into taking over the world, he just wants to give us presents. But perhaps he’s trying to lull us into a false sense of security until his mates get here. Or maybe he’s trying to wipe us out by making us eat and drink too much. (See this alarming piece – Overeat at Christmas? Be careful – your stomach could explode) Hmmmm. Bad Santa.

bad_santa

The End Of The World – Yay!

My whole world is falling apart. My TV has died, as has my electric razor and my toe-nail clippers (not to mention the fact that my big toenail fell off this morning!) I was watching an episode of Dr Who from a few years ago where the Tardis is severely damaged. Some of the damage must have leaked through the temporal/dimensional barrier, because the next day my TV wouldn’t turn on. Power supply is kaputt. Now I’ll have to wait forever to get the replacement which I bought and paid for online, because it is so close to Christmas. Damn Santa!

tardis
Dr Who broke my telly!

Restaurants are becoming unaffordable. Corner 75 in Randwick cleaned me out and Kerasma in Newtown doubled the damage. Both great restaurants, of course. The main problem is the expensive wines (Tokaj and Agiorgitiko respectively). Luckily there are still all the BYO Asian restaurants in Kingsford  (e.g. Albee’s Kitchen).

Speaking of wine, my liver seems to have gone on strike. After dinner in Newtown at Kerasma (see above), went to the Bank Hotel to see fun rock band The Dead Love. Band punchy, crowd very cool (see pic). Next day I was totally wasted for most of the day. Note to self: drink even more water.

bank_fan
A fellow reveller at the Bank

Paint. The windows in our block are being painted, and the last week has been dominated by ladders, overalls, paint-fumes and yelling and loud singing in Korean.

dali

The postman is dislexic. He delivers mail for unit 4 no 3 (4/3) to unit 3 number 4 (3/4) and vice-versa. I first noticed this when I received a package containing a dress from Hong Kong, which for some reason was not my size. Hmmm…. However, both my uni textbooks were correctly delivered.

You see, I have resumed my on-line studies through Open Universities after a 4 year break. The materials are, if possible, even worse than they used to be – out of date, references missing, links to irrelevant TED videos and Steve Jobs interviews. Aargh!

And just to add insult to injury, it’s been raining the last few days.

But none of this matters. Why? Because I got a job! Yes, one of my bosses from the old days (hi Ray!) encouraged me to apply for a job and put in a good word for me and I start in Jan. It’s a good job too. It’s been a long long time since I suited up for the office. My life is about to change, drastically. But I’m really looking forward to it!

work
Me soon

Actually, even if I hadn’t got a job, there’s almost nothing a visit to the Coogee Swamp won’t cure.

swamp
Nice, huh?

I’m Back!

Yesterday I had to do a bit of archaeology. Seems that when the garden was put in a few years ago, the landscapers helpfully buried the water meter. Heinrich Schliemann  would have been proud of my efforts, as I located, excavated and prised open the entombed artefact and recorded the inscription. Some way will have to be found to prevent the excavations from collapsing and reburying the whole thing.

troy

Afterwards I went into town for a job interview. As I’ve been out of the workforce for more than ten years, this exercise bore more than a passing resemblance to the Return of the Mummy. At Wynyard station, I got to ascend the magnificent wooden escalators to the York St exit. On the walk up Clarence St to my appointment, I was struck by the elegance of the Grace Building.

Don’t really like my chances of getting the job, but I was pleased to get a interview and it was a chance to show my face. Had to iron a shirt and put on a suit and proper shoes for the first time in a while. The shoes were exceedingly uncomfortable – now I remember why I always wear slip-ons. The interviewing committee were absolutely charming and the interview went better than expected.

In the evening, I attended a do at the Australian Institute of International Affairs, where 6 of the Institute’s interns presented on a subject which interested them. The topics were varied: Yemen, geo-engineering to counter climate change, lies and social media, nuclear waste sequestration and Australian policy in the South China Sea. Sandwiches and wine were served before the proceedings. The presentations were pithy and thought-provoking.

After that I walked with my nephew to have dinner in Chinatown at my old haunt the New Tai Yuen. As the evening was balmy, we ate outside. The salt and pepper squid was washed down nicely by the bottle of cheapo Mudgee Semillon Sav Blanc we picked up at the Star Bottle-oh. Half of Chinatown was cordoned off by the Police and Firies, as there had been a gas explosion an hour or so before. I showed my nephew the Trades Hall and shared a few labour movement stories.

kheops-pyramid
Not really Sydney Trades Hall

After dinner we wandered up through Haymarket, checking out the Capitol Theatre and downing a few ales at the Chamberlain Hotel, where an excellent Thai band was serenading a birthday party. The selection of beers was good and the mostly young asian crowd was having plenty of fun.

Afterwards back to Coogee, where I lay down in my sarcophagus and awaited developments…..

The Customer Vanishes

I rarely go to McDonalds. Firstly because I don’t approve of its market dominance, preferring small-to-medium-sized businesses, particularly in the restaurant area. Secondly, I don’t like their burgers – they’re too bland and something (possibly in the bread), gives me indigestion. This is partly because I grew up on Greek-Australian hamburgers, which are much spicier, and in fairness I must add that the chips at Maccas are usually good. But I’ve always made an exception for breakfast, because their US-style hotcakes and their coffee ain’t half bad. They are the closest I can get in Australia to my dream breakfast at The Original Pancake House in Bethesda, where I used to go when I lived in Washington. Besides, beach-side cafes have to charge so much in order to cover their swingeing rents that I can’t afford them.
hotcakes
Waiting in the queue, I was impressed with the self-service kiosks and the brilliant digital menu displays. The self-service kiosks, like supermarket self-checkouts, are a clear example of the current wave of replacement of human workers by machines. This is the future, no doubt about it, despite what McDonalds says.

kiosk

I ordered hotcakes, hash browns and a flat white and was served with a perfect McDonalds smile.

When my order number flashed up on the screen, I picked it up and headed to a table. After having buttered my hotcakes and nibbled at a hash brown, I realised that I hadn’t got any milk for my coffee, so I went back to the counter and picked some up. To my utter consternation, on my return I discovered that during my 60 second absence, a server had cleared my table and tossed out 3 untouched hotcakes, a full cup of coffee and one and a half hash browns! After I had berated the very young lad responsible (keeping my protestations within civilised bounds), the staff were very apologetic and I was directed to the counter to get a replacement meal. Unfortunately their coffee machine had just that moment been put on the cleaning cycle, so I had to get a refund for that. The replacement meal and my refund came quickly and the manager tossed in a couple of free coffee coupons to make up for the inconvenience.

McDonalds is famous for having pioneered the use of comprehensively-designed work-practices and for their excellent staff training. What could possibly have gone wrong?

The main cause of the problem is probably just personnel – the insouciant clod who did the deed was probably running on autopilot while he planned his school holiday activities. I know all about that, having been a bit of an airhead myself at that age, so I can’t really hold it against him. But does it say anything about the business too? I rather think it does.

One of the effects of comprehensive work-practice design is ironically to break down the integrity of the various tasks in the business. One person is fully concentrated on efficiently doing the frying, another the checkout and yet another the tidying and cleaning. While this certainly gives rise to a well-oiled machine (to use a pre-digital metaphor), the focus on the customer becomes fragmented. The guy clearing the tables doesn’t know that I just ordered my meal and have gone to pick up some milk. Metaphorically, and in this case literally, the customer is absent.

I also suspect that one effect of minutely-regulated work-practices and corporate-speak staff training is to give rise to cynicism and disengagement on the part of at least some staff. Work becomes like a video game, a sequence of moves, with the customers having the status of digital extras.

This, my friends, is the kind of future we are already living in. We are no longer customers, in the sense of human participants in real business activities, we are [CUSTOMERS], a vanishing locus of digitalised transactional flows. Michel Foucault famously wanted to eradicate ‘man’ from history, announcing ‘the death of man‘, so we can see behind the humanist veil. In order to understand the modern corporation, we need to eradicate the concept of ‘customer’ so we can get a clear view of the atomised exploitative reality in which we really live.