ABC Open: Macadamia Thief

Australia has some of the most unique and beautiful wildlife. Growing up surrounded by eucalypts, I awoke to the sound of myriad birds every morning.

Whilst people seem united on the evilness of the magpie, one bird that divides people, is the sulphur-crested cockatoo. Many find their screeching annoying and fear that they will nibble and gnaw on their timber railings, whilst others find them cute and comicAl. I think that they’re absolutely gorgeous and I love to watch them. This photo (submitted by Backyard Zoology on ABC Open) perfectly captures their personality and I couldn’t help sharing it.

They’re kooky, they’re majestic and they really know how to crack open macadamias. We have a macadamia tree outside our unit and the way that they break through those nuts is unbelievable. It puts humans to shame.

Bespoke, Organic, Artisan Hipster Ingenuity

Recently at a market in Sydney I came across a stand for Joco. I had never heard of the company before but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw what they were selling.

Quite simply, they seem to have invented the flask. Yes, the flask…

We seem to live in an age of needless, overblown reinvention by hipsters. Like the time when Uber essentially claimed to have invented the bus, we’re witnessing the bizarre promotion of pretentious products, all of which are sold under the exaggerated (and often inappropriately used) labels of ‘bespoke’, ‘artisan’ and ‘organic’.

How such products survive without any kind of unique value proposition is beyond me, particularly when they’re sold at ludicrous prices. Frankly, I believe that it all comes down to rampant consumerism and personal obsession with status.

Choose Your Own Adventure with Café Signage

One of the most confusing things that patrons tend to encounter in any new café is whether they should wait at the door for someone to seat them, proceed to the counter or find a table by themselves. Clear signage at the entrance is key to avoiding such doubt.

Every now and then I encounter a situation where conflicting information is displayed. Take the example below; each image shows a different sign in the same café.

The particularly hilarious thing about this example is that the signs are in separate rooms, facing different entrances. Not only are patrons likely to be confused—especially if they spot both instructions—it’s also possible that staff will be uncertain as to which people have already been greeted and served. It’s a mess.

I continue to be flabbergasted at the total lack of common sense in the most banal of social circumstances.

How (Not) to Enter Clubs in New South Wales

For many years, I have been perplexed by the archaic sign-in system at Returned and Services League (RSL) clubs in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). Governed by the Registered Clubs Act 1976, which is based on even older tripe, there is a strict procedure for entry, which stipulates that all visitors must declare themselves as members, temporary members or guests. There are even further definitions, such as ‘honorary member’, ‘life member’, ‘full member’, ‘ordinary member’ and ‘provisional member’. Anyway, the idea is just to pay to become a member and do the fancy swipey-thing with your membership card to earn discounts and win meat trays.

In addition to the categorisation of all visitors, there are also restrictions on who is permitted to enter as a certain type of member, based on the location of their residence. This is explained on page 18 of the legislation:

(3B) A person whose ordinary place of residence is in New South Wales and is within a radius of 5 kilometres from the premises of a registered club (in this subsection referred to as the host club) is not eligible for admission as a temporary member of the host club unless the person is:

(a) a member of another registered club within similar objects to those of the host club, or

(b) a member of another registered club who is attending the host club as provided by subsection (10).

Got that?

Whilst it isn’t really ever difficult to enter RSLs, the fact that one has to show a driver’s licence or sign up for membership when entering isn’t exactly the most welcoming way of saying ‘hello’. Particularly for those who are visiting the state or country in general, this would give quite an odd impression. I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever I visit an RSL club with friends or relatives who are members. These days, more ‘modern’ venues have ditched the sign-in book for a licence scanner. The entrance ceremony is largely the same, with a somewhat lofty ‘G’day mate’ from an all-powerful guardian in black (called ‘Cheryl’ or ‘Shane’), followed with the slap-down of the licence on the scanning pane. Upon completion of the super-advanced card analysis, a receipt is spat out of the machine. Quite often, ‘Martin John William Feld’ is replaced with something like ‘Martn Jonn Wiliam Field’, alongside a barely legible, completely pixellated scan of my signature. The receipt must be carried throughout the club in case anyone asks to CHECK YOUR PAPERS. (This never happens unless you act like a fool.)

Beyond the bizarre sign-in procedure, all visitors are greeted by ridiculous signs that specify the required dress code. Many of the requirements fall under basic decency and common sense, however there are always a few fun inconsistencies to be spotted. Let’s go on this little journey together; take this sign, for example…

Of course, there’s the simple logic that if a sign is up somewhere to say that you shouldn’t be doing something, then that thing has probably occurred in that place before. According to this sign, torn clothing and leotards must have been worn in the past. It almost sounds like a post-apocalyptic remake of Flashdance.

Let’s move on to some of the linguistic errors. Regarding spelling, two possessive apostrophes are missing where it says ‘MENS SINGLETS’ and ‘MENS HEADWEAR’. Furthermore, three sentences are missing full stops and a number of common nouns are regarded as being so important that they have been transformed into proper nouns, such as ‘Club’, ‘Dress Rules’, ‘Dress’ and ‘Behaviour’.

My favourite linguistic error is the interesting use of a comma in the penultimate sentence: ‘OBSCENE OR OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE, OR CLOTHING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED’. The comma before the second use of the word ‘or’ splits the sentence in such a way that the sign actually suggests that if one does not agree to use obscene or offensive language, their clothing must be removed before entering the club. (It doesn’t say anywhere that total nudity is prohibited.)

Moving on, let’s address some of the other inconsistencies on this sign. The specific reference to men’s wearing of singlets and headwear suggests that women are in fact permitted to wear singlets and headwear, which makes no sense at all. The mention of no offensive shirts (rather than no offensive clothing in general) suggests that one may wear offensive pants.

The small white amendment over the baseball cap circle—in case you can’t read it— states that ‘HATS ARE PERMITTED IN THE CLUB, THEY MUST BE REMOVED IN THE BISTRO AREA’. It is unclear as to whether a hat (in the eyes of the club) only refers to baseball caps or actually refers generally to all headwear, in which case this would cancel out the later restriction of men’s headwear. What is a bistro ‘area’ anyway? Does this include some mysterious no man’s land that extends beyond the specified border of the bistro itself? Is there a customs check or airlock of some kind?

I’m also puzzled as to what would happen if someone were to enter the club at say, 7:25 pm, with the last restriction stating that overalls are not permitted in the club after 7:30 pm. Must a person who was permitted to enter with said overalls prior to 7:30 pm then leave the premises very shortly afterwards, or are they permitted to remain in the club, provided that they refuse to use offensive language and then remove their clothes, as stipulated in the sign’s aforementioned penultimate sentence?

Last of all, I do wonder at what time the restriction on overalls is lifted. One could assume that it resets at opening time the next day, however I am disturbed by their failure to address this point, given the specific nature of their other demands.

If you’ve made it this far, then surely you agree that all of this is a tad ridiculous. I’m being quite pedantic here but NSW has insisted on establishing the confusing RSL equivalent of Checkpoint Charlie at all entrances. No other type of venue on the planet offers paying visitors such a bizarre welcome and recipe for entry. Do they even want our money?

I hope that the NSW will improve its club sign-in procedures and dress code explanations in the future, so as not to treat visitors like a pack of dullards and criminals who may or may not be permitted to enter naked.

A Testament to Human Laziness

Throughout history, humankind has done some pretty remarkable things. Amongst many examples, you may consider the following:

  • the printing press;
  • modern medicine;
  • the computer processor; and
  • landing people on the Moon.

Amazing, right? These were huge milestones. No other animal on the planet has managed to achieve any of these. Yet with all of this power and all of this potential for further greatness, we are presented with situations such as this…

Whilst at a robotics competition on the weekend (as a spectator), I spotted these two bins. They stood in the doorway to a room full of super-intelligent competitors; one was overflowing whilst the other (emptier) one was right next to it. As you can see, it was only slightly obscured around the corner.

What caused this? Dimwittedness? Poor eyesight? Suboptimal arm reach? I think not. It all comes down to laziness. On and off during the day, I watched numerous people—young and old—approach the overflowing bin with a look of hesitation and disgust. Most decided to carefully balance their filth on top of the pile rather than look around the corner. Some even performed the classic crushing ritual. Others let their rubbish drop onto the floor. The picture above was taken towards the end of the day, when the emptier bin was slightly closer to being full. Yes, I could have acted but then I would not have been able to report my observations to you.

In an age when everyone is losing their minds at the prospect of a new age of tech disruption and artificial intelligence, built on the brilliance of automated Gen Y and Z start-ups whose founders are innovative, digital natives raised on nothing but kale-and-ginger-based vegan snacks, I think that we should adopt a much more realistic outlook. Humans are lazy and nothing is going to change that.

Perhaps the dawn of our new age of artificial intelligence will lead to solutions for this… consider a new robot assistant that could manage such refuse (or at least point humans to the nearest empty bin).

Napkins

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the word ‘napkin’ as follows:

a square piece of cloth or paper used at a meal to wipe the fingers or lips and to protect garments.

The most important word here is the verb ‘wipe’. When one wipes something, one intends to clean that very thing. In order to achieve this objective, the napkin itself must be free of detritus. If a napkin has been soiled prior to its intended use, then it would perform the task of wiping very poorly indeed.

For quite some time, I have been observing what I consider to be utter nonsense in cafés. Observe an example below.

The brownie looks delicious and has been presented beautifully. The napkin, on the other hand, has been placed underneath the brownie, thereby soiling the napkin. The reason for this is unclear; a wooden board has already been used to support the brownie, so why must a napkin be placed beneath it? Surely the napkin could have been folded and placed neatly to the side instead. Would that have been so offensive?

Whenever I’m confronted by this super-first-world predicament, I have no choice but to use the soiled napkin, which compromises its ability to clean my fingers. In addition, attempting to unfold the napkin to use its cleaner (inner) surface area presents other problems, such as the spilling of crumbs off the edge of the board or plate.

Furthermore, I could request or find another napkin, however this would lead to the unnecessary waste of additional napkins over time.

Don’t even get me started on the idea of protecting one’s garments with such a napkin, as is suggested in the definition. Would you put this napkin on your lap? I think not.

I implore café owners to reconsider their presentation of napkins with food, so that we all may use them as they were designed to be used.

Thank you.

Wollongong in Transformation

For some time, the city of Wollongong has been changing… and for the better. We’ve always had gorgeous beaches and a picturesque escarpment but elements of our city have needed updating.

The most notable shifts in recent years have been improvements to the Blue Mile coastal areas and old tramway, the refurbished Crown Street Mall, new GPT shopping developments and the annual breath of life that is the Wonderwalls Festival of street art. Not to mention, the city council has undertaken the massive task of overhauling the streetscape, with new footpaths bringing greater consistency into the place. I applaud them for this.

There has always been disagreement, like how how the mall should function. I disagree with the idea that it should have reverted to allowing traffic and am glad that it remained as a pedestrian strip. Around the world, we’re seeing a shift back to pedestrian-friendly areas that enable safer movement, outdoor activities and events such as markets. That’s why when you visit countries like Italy and Germany, you come back with romantic memories of their amazing respective piazze and Fußgängerzonen. These open spaces allow the creation of culture, with locals with visitors mixing and mingling. Cities are for people, not cars.

The thing that does puzzle me about the mall, however, is the lack of eateries on the strip, particularly those that can provide al fresco dining. At night-time (other than on Thursdays with the Eat Street Market), the place is dead. The insistence on having almost entirely daytime retail is strange and totally cuts off the bustling Keira Street restaurant strip from the similar setup on Corrimal Street. We basically have two entirely different nightlife zones.

Recently, I’ve been wondering about another development that was completed farther down Corrimal Street, on the old Dwyers site. The fantastic decision was made to keep the footpath very wide, enabling improved pedestrian access and avoiding the creation of a huge wind tunnel with the new Oxford development that stands across the road.

Except the only issue is, nothing is happening here. It’s dead space. Sure, the Coffee Club has just moved in up the road on the corner, but other than a few chairs outside, everything is indoors and behind glass. One restaurant has already failed and other spaces are offices or have remained for lease since construction was completed.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s actually a long-term vision that drives all of this. Cities should feel lively and inviting; this area, unless there’s some future plan of which I am unaware, does not display those characteristics. Why not add a coffee cart? How about news or fresh produce stands, like in Sydney? How about a place for street artists? The same can be said of Civic Plaza in front of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, which is often empty unless the Spiegeltent is in town.

As unpopular as this suggestion may be, what about something like the sandstone and palm tree art installation in the mall? Whilst some people hate that design, at least it’s distinctive and children can be seen climbing and jumping from sandstone block to sandstone block. It’s a great combination of form and function, as the blocks function as family seating during the markets and also break up the greyness of the mall. Remember, Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it went up and now it’s an icon. I’m not saying that the palm tree is our Eiffel Tower but at least it’s unique, memorable and makes you stop to observe your surroundings.

Wollongong is a beautiful place that’s full of diverse, interesting people. Fortunately, as a regional centre, we don’t suffer the same level of congestion and air and noise pollution that Sydney has. In many ways, we have it really easy here. I’m so proud of the improvements that have been made over the last decade but occasionally you see something like this and wonder… ‘Why?’. I want to see Wollongong CBD become an altogether exciting place, not a mish-mash of food and retail.

If anyone has any clue about the intention for this dead space, I’d love to know about it.