Why do we ask: are we alone?

Whilst camping recently I was staring up at the night sky and asked this: Are we alone? Fuelled partly by alcohol and due to the beauty and fascination of the universe of stars I could see. The question seemed to unravel for me in it’s complexity.

I came across a strain of thought that seemed to offer a faint hope of understanding.

Why do we ask, are we alone?

Why is it that so many minds have been dedicated to this idea of finding other life in the universe. The question itself seems a ‘Normative’ way to consider this problem. We are making a statement on how the universe ought to be. It is a consideration of one species without enough information.

What is it about the universe that we think it unfathomable that we might actually be alone? What is the thing that motivates us to WANT to have other life out there on other planets.

In the morning I observed a very small finch bouncing around exploring for food. The birds precise mathematical dance filled me with fascination. The bird took a second to stop very close to where I was sitting, for a long time it considered me and then darted off far into the distance looking for food in the bark of a tree. It was part of that creatures biology to search for food in new areas, to seek new foraging grounds to be curious, to look for mates to expand it’s world and survive and to be curious.

Humans are like this, we left Africa for new fertile lands in exploration to colonise every continent on this planet.  It is built within our psychology  to ask “Are we alone”  to explore the next valley, next river, next continent and eventually the next planet and again to be curious.

Humans have developed to be hugely social beings our co-dependency and collaboration is one stratagem for survival. It is most likely why the idea of being alone in the universe terrifies us. Simply because it threatens our views so ingrained to how we survived and survive as a species. Just think as a species one of our worst punishments is solitary confinement, essentially for one human to feel totally alone is a punishment close to death.

We seek to not be alone, however not being alone in the universe would imply that we are in reality looking for species very much like ourselves. What happens if we find sentient life and they are not like us? (A possibility). Or  finding that the only life out there are just micro-organisms?  Micro-organisms will only temporarily give us the impression we are less alone, after all we cannot communicate with a lump of goo. We may continue the search for sentient life regardless of results forever searching for it.

It is interesting to me this question ‘why do we ask, why are we alone’?  It supplied me with hours of contemplation while I sat around the campfire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading by the Torch Light

 

 

Reading by the torch light

Decades of debris

All along the roadside

Three weeks, dying grass & bee stings

….

Air bag then a white pause

Once a grey cloud

Looking out the long window

Incremental buffalo grass

….

Caladan indigo ocean

Concentric ripples

People strolling outside

Conversation mist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallout 4: Review

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I got really caught up in the anticipation for this game, I had an odd feeling like being a kid again and really wanting a toy and being reliant on things outside my means to get it.

I had a yearning feeling like I was missing out on something big. Friends where posting screenshots of their adventures on Facebook, while I moped around playing Fallout shelter game for the the tablet (Which turned out to be quite entertaining and enjoyable)

My best buddy had worked on the in-game animations, and many months before it was released we had had talked at length about the Fallout series, this and some of my friends also anticipating it’s release had me totally amped to play.

I was patient and eventually things turned around in my life and work and I figured a way to get a decent new PC, the moment finally arrived after the long 25 gb download.

The start of the game was great, the feel of the world unblemished, actually witnessing the most fascinating part of the game: Why was there a war,  what actually happened.(Small bits of padding are added to the main story) Then you submerge into the vault, as a bomb goes off you see the mushroom cloud: You were there!

Cryogenics, Frozen for 200 years, awesome!

Stepping out of the vault into the world is where some of the problems in the mechanics of the game started to appear. My computer went into overdrive, the CPU sounding like a Harrier jump jet taking off. This is a high spec brand new computer; I lowered the settings and game still ate up huge amount of resources.

I soldiered on, and worked my way through the main quest lines going back and retracing my steps and completing other quest lines: Minutemen, Railroad and the Institute (I didn’t get around to the brotherhood)

I enjoyed the main quests, although it is a bit usual in that what you choose doesn’t always work flawlessly or make a great deal of sense. (I guess that is the fallout series)

For example in the main mission for the railroad you have to complete nearly all the main missions for the institute to unlock the last missions for the Railroad, so you go to a huge amount of effort to get a reactor working only to flip over and then blow it up.

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Unfinished graphics are a problem throughout the game

There are plenty of things that make you overlook some of the issues  in the game, the feel of the game is a huge factor, the dialog and companions are great, Deacon and Codsworth especially.

Some of the side quests are so interesting and fun. I wasn’t so much a fan of the settlement building side of the game. It’s fun but it doesn’t feel like it is going anywhere. It is quite clunky time consuming and you start to understand how the game makers made the fallout 4 world, which ruins it a little for the player.

Fallout 4 and the series as a whole are good but mysterious games, they all have odd issues that other games don’t. The feel is great but things are unfinished or very roughly made, the characters and story line is strong but the mechanics of the game work very badly. Some things look great but others look fairly bad (Water for example).

I love the series, but can you imagine this game if they ironed out some of these bugs?

It is a great game and series but it could be the BEST game and series if they worked a bit harder fixing small problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Career Path of Destruction

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It has come to that time of year again, when some of us come to ritually attempt to make sense of our lives; this is the time of new years resolutions. This year I have been churning over something, I am turning 40 in May and I have identified something that has become a trend in my life.

I am a job-hopper.

In the name of self development, I have decided to colour code my experiences. Green is good experiences Orange is average and Red is pretty awful

  1. Mechanics assistant (working with my dad) p/t (3 years helping)
  2. Work experience: Gough and Gilmore Mechanic  (weeks) 
  3. Alround Auto Electrics -Auto electrician apprentice f/t (4 years)
  4. Ingrams Townsville PTY LTD -Parts Interpreter f/t (1 yr)
  5. Gibsons Auto Electrics-Auto Electrician f/t (10 months)
  6. Sunnyside Auto electrics- Auto Electrician f/t (5 months)
  7. Frames Auto electrics- Auto electrician p/t (2 months)
  8. Cooranbong Auto electrics-Auto electrician f/t (5 months)
  9. Enfield Auctions- Production Auto electrician f/t (6 months)
  10. Straitfield Auto electrics p/t (1 month)
  11. Charlestown Auto electrics -Auto Electrician f/t (2 yrs)
  12. NRMA roadside -Auto Electrician p/t (3 yrs)
  13. Mountain ind- Yard hand and mechanics assistant p/t (2 yrs)
  14. Stationmasters cafe-Kitchenhand p/t (4 months)
  15. Editor student newspaper p/t (experience) (1 yr)
  16. handyman magazine -editoral designer p/t (6 months)
  17. Powerdown s– IT admin and graphic designer f/t (1 yr)
  18. Bimbadgen estate winery -Graphics designer f/t (1 yr)
  19. Volgrens -Production Auto electrician f/t (1.3)
  20. Downer EDI -Production Auto electrician f/t (3yrs)
  21. Westrac f/t  auto electrician f/t (3 months)
  22. Varleys f/t ( 3 months)
  23. Periodic IT work JavIT / ACT logistics p/t (2 years)
  24. Kia / Subaru Bradstreet  Car salesman f/t (6 months)
  25. Samsung brand ambassador salesman p/t (5 months)
  26. Ebay sales advisor: cash converters f/t (1 month)

I sometimes struggle to make sense of this mess, many of the jobs listed here no longer exist. Vast workshops packed full of eager trained workers now lay empty, whole steelworks that once thrived with industry are now desolate empty wastelands.

My career roughly goes like this : Left school at 16, did Trade in Auto electrics, decided after long period disliked it. Trained to be a graphic designer gained a diploma and a degree. Worked for a short period as a designer and enjoyed it and then returned to a lucrative manufacturing sector in the middle of the mining boom, mining boom eventually wore out and lucrative jobs dried out, and was forced along with many others into the retail sector and the world of money.

Other sectors in my life have remained relatively stable. Like the place in which I live in my home town in Newcastle. Staying put in one spot is also a sort of explanation for all the jobs, instead of following the tide of work all over the country I have stayed in Newcastle because I love this town and my house that I purchased here.

These changing experiences have promoted a great deal of self analysis, I am more philosophical about work in a sometimes negative way.

I have started to ask real questions about the relative nature of work, how it’s structured, why our system always seems to create these similar situations in workplaces.

For a long time I fooled myself into thinking  that low paid jobs, minimal wage jobs the employers did not expect a huge amount from people, that the wage said everything and that things would be a little cruiser in those positions.

This turned out to completely false, that many of the lowest paid staff are treated like privates in the army, if one falls out of line then they get screamed at so all the others are frightened not to fall out of line, I didn’t expect that on the bottom rung at all.

Sometimes in the jobs that I have had  I have seen workers laugh with joy, enjoying their job and working with their fellow comrade. They like the company and the job.

Yet many bosses treat this situation with utter suspicion and distrust. It seems that it is his job to impose his will on people and make them unhappy.

How can this be, that we are locked in a situation where nobody can ever be happy in their job, Is it because it is one persons job to make sure they are unhappy, or maybe they worry they are not working all the time because they are happy and laughing?

It is always a running joke in many workplaces ‘Don’t be happy at work, you will get in trouble’

People laugh, yet I always think. They said that in the last workplace too..why?

 

Throsby Bridge: Oil on Masonite

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I started this painting 5 years ago, I have never really painted a landscape in oils before this was my first.

The idea was to create something like a Jeffery Smart, Edward hopper or a Tony Peters…I wanted to see if I could paint like a landscape like those artists do.  I wasn’t interested in painting somewhere ‘nice’ or ‘beautiful’ I wanted an abandoned place a place nobody cares about…a place that is silent but dominated by man.

It is a iron built bridge spanning over a railway line that leads to a coal terminal near the old BHP works in Newcastle, it handles car traffic going over and underneath is usually coal trains going in and out every day and night 24 hours 7 days a week.

The bridge itself is very old, it looks like it was built in the 1940’s or even earlier. There is scattered garbage and weeds everywhere…nobody really goes on the road that goes underneath, not very often. When I took the photos the cars that came by looked at me like I was selling drugs or up to no good. It is that kind of place.

The painting wasn’t technically hard, it could realistically be completed in one or two weeks by a good painter, yet I struggled and was at pains with it. I left it untouched for so long just because I got caught on certain aspects and had no idea how to solve it. Painting never feels like a ‘hobby’ for me.

I started by painting a piece of Masonite with a couple of layers of white backing paint let it dry then rubbed in red oil to bring out red highlights while painting (that’s why the first panel is red) It was a trick that I found in an oil painting guide.

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I traced out my image from a photo, in charcoal then started to paint it in very lightly using lots of turps and just black, that first bit is always the fastest. I was constantly thinking what it could ‘mean’ I totally overthought the whole process.I painted and repainted whole sections, scrubbed out and redid parts over and over. Yesterday my wife asked me if I would ever finish it, it occurred to me then something that was supposed to be fun was turning out to be a symbolic burden of my life. Countless friends and relatives had asked when I would finish it over the years.

The truth is I really struggled,  maybe next painting will be easier. I am sort of happy with it..I am not sure what it means or what it is exactly to anyone.

But I completed it..that’s what is important.

The world of car sales

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I sat in the car sales office only four months ago, the interviewer: my future boss threw my resume up into the air, then proceeded to lay into me, he explained that my education and my list of jobs in the Automotive industry was of no interest to him and wanted to know why I wanted to sell, from the very first moments I felt like the Gestapo had their spotlight on me.

I went home dejected, but probably not really perturbed,  then two days later came the call –‘Welcome to the car sales industry’ At that point I had really no idea on what I was about to undertake.

Before I started I had my reservations, I mean we all have our ideas of car salesmen right- Well i was about to ‘become one’ and I wasn’t exactly comfortable.

Upon entering the first things that struck me about this industry, is just how different it is to other sectors I have worked in, there are rules and formalities, language and ways of behaving that just don’t apply to the majority of jobs out there.

For example, the industry takes balloons very seriously, and where a key is hung on the key rack can result in the silent treatment for days. There is a ‘Wooduck” a “Plum” and other coluorful phrases consigned solely to the car industry.

I like hundreds of other trainees that came into the industry was woefully under prepared, in an information session I attended a trainer gleefully explained how the sales industry was in his estimate constantly churning over 30% of its workers mainly trainees, how in nearly every dealership he went to all over the country there was nearly always a trainee that had been there only three or four weeks, it was no surprise it just seemed part of the territory, that’s sales.

There are parts of the job that are enjoyable depending on your personality, there is no greater feeling than knowing it was your personality that sold a car, and when the customer actually explains that you where the reason why they bought that car. That is the fuel that keeps you going.

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Other salesmen are a little like a group of cats to work with, they are all the same species and like cats there are territories. If you go into their territory there is a fight. The way it works is that if you meet and greet a customer, explain and run through the car, build up rapport – but the customer does not buy on that day but comes back later to make a purchase. If the salesman records that person in their diary or on the computer program then that commission is theirs. Some salesman even go further believing that if the customer just comes in asking for a particular salesperson then that is his or her sale.

Many senior sales people take advantage of new trainees ruthlessly ‘snipping’ as many sales as they can before the trainee works out how it all is supposed to function. I roughly had about 6 sales snipped by senior salespeople.  The sales manager can often acts like a judicatory deciding who deserves the sale or who put in the most effort, or in some cases just which salesperson they like the most on the day and just awarding them with the sale because they feel like it.

As you can see this industry functions differently to others, while watching a training video on air bags and safety one day I had some light shed on why. The engineers in the video seemed honest people who wanted that product to be as safe as it possibly could, the job was their life’s work and the culmination of years of training and study, the brand had developed that product spent millions and millions on advertising and distribution that was real.

Yet I watched it with squinted eyes, I was looking through the fog of the salesman, it didn’t feel real- I had seen the same kind of videos on the last brand of car I sold…they can’t all be ‘the safest car on the market’. Honestly it was all down to if I really believed it or not, or if the customer believed it or not.

And that’s where the individual salesperson comes into it, it seems if a salesperson knows his product and more importantly bonds with the customer then sales do happen. Yet, it is very difficult to control that process, because you can’t control the people coming in,  it isn’t like learning to do something like say design a magazine, or repair an engine. it isn’t even like other forms of retail because many people come in focused on just how much they can get the car for.

So the industry is fueled with the salesman’s personality,  its no secret that getting along with the customer is crucial to making the sale, however it would be a surprise to most people that much of the focus in car sales is on how to control the car salesperson.

So much focus is placed on how to control and train the salesperson, some other crucial factors are forgotten, like product knowledge for example, training to use the computer programs, and even the paperwork that needs to get completed, there is a fair amount of legalities in a sale that takes a while to understand and explain.

When a sale was actually happening and I was center stage, it was either fun or excruciating depending on the sales manager, it is a high pressure environment everybody knows it.

But it is another thing altogether to actually have lived it.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914

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I remember when I was in primary school I was fascinated by a book my father gave me about the world wars, in the first chapters I would stare at the comic like pictures of the Kaiser taking a bite out of the globe, I remember the little picture of the car in which Franz Ferdinand was killed, the whole thing just seemed odd, just one person the killing of Franz Ferdinand lead to the events that kicked off a massive world war costing millions of lives, how?

The book starts with an excellent introduction, detailing why the book is worthy of some contemplation, with philosophical points raised by Clarke, namely “Is any war really inevitable”  in the conclusion Clarke also cleverly distances himFeatured imageself from pointing fingers at any one party and generates some philosophical contemplation about the broader problem:

The outbreak of war in 1914 is not an Agatha Christie drama at the end of which we will discover the culprit standing over a corpse in a conservatory with a smoking pistol. There is no smoking gun this story; or rather, there is one in the hands of every major character.

It is a curious way to think about things, that each party seemed to blame each other, hence mutually assuring its own destruction, a sort of ‘Mexican stand off’ of nations.

Yet standing back, from Clarkes rather ambivalent conclusions, I felt that he often set to point out something else entirely.

From the very beginning Clarke sets to outline how violent and turbulent the Serbians could be even to their own monarchy, how violent nationalist elements inside their own country were actively supported by the Serbian government, how the country never really attempted to hide its contempt for Austria for annexing Bosnia Herzegovina in 1908.

In today’s world, these kind of things are called terrorist activities and are looked on very dimly indeed. Entertain for a second that a nationalist element somewhere in the world assassinated Prince Charles, if a country was found to be clearly behind the actions there would be massive ramifications and investigations to who was behind it, if it was certain to be linked to a nation then there would be a proper independent investigation and then action taken against by the UN and then other nations.

But back in 1914 there seemed to be little interest in following up the links between the Black Hand and the Serbian nationalists.  Many knew they had links to senior military leaders and politicians but never really put any effort into proving it as true. If they had done this logical thing then the cause for the war would of been extinguished, or at least the alliance may have even sought to punish Serbia or let Austria just take its revenge and keep the dispute local. It was this simple following through that could of made so much difference.

Yet in the situation that unfolded, Russia, France and England all came in defending Serbia against an Austrian invasion. This was something of a revelation to me, I had never really thought that the so called ‘good guys’ of the war could of potentially been defending a country that had essentially poured petrol on and lit the fuse to start it.

During the slow lead up to the war the mind begins to boggle at the many possibilities for peace, it seems all parties, France, Germany, England and Austria all tried but failed to secure any effort at peace, individuals had a good go at it, but all seemed to sort of give up powerless at the bureaucratic mess that unfolded.

It is also confusing that histories nominated bad guy – Germany seemed to want to avoid the war altogether right up to the very last moments and clearly thought it could be localized to the Balkan region, this is not the history that we are taught in school.

As a history book, this was tedious but rewarding, there is no doubt I have a much deeper understanding of prewar conditions including a very detailed account of the assassination itself and the events leading up the court case afterwards which made fascinating reading.

This book was a mammoth undertaking just one page of the in depth analysis of pre-war European political landscape had the effect of setting me off to a good nights sleep. There were a few times I nearly gave up, but then out of the blue an astonishing episode in history that I was previously unaware of would keep me glued to the page.

As for understanding of why it happened, I think this is a task that historians and thinkers will have difficulty really understanding for a very long time, however I am glad this book exists because there are plenty of unexpected events that unfolded that just don’t fit into any nationalistic history of the war.

Morrissey Autobiography

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A thought bubble appeared in the hours after finishing the Morrissey autobiography.  ‘Is Morrissey the world’s best salesman?’

It’s not an obvious reaction to the book, nor have many other people come to anything close to this conclusion about Morrissey, and yet I still have that feeling as if I have been hoodwinked.

Morrissey’s autobiography is like Morrissey himself -in no way typical, I felt cautious while reading it, in that being a fan that I was being lured into forgetting that he is a superstar, forgetting that the book is now a Penguin classic.

I have always seen myself as a Morrissey, Smiths fan, his music has been a huge part of my life. I never have gotten sick of his music, it never becomes dated and has an uncanny property to transpire trends, he is a musician and a writer on the level of intellectual that many other popular artists never even come close to.

There are certain things that as a fan I just take for granted (and love) about Morrissey, and I found those things in his Autobiography, his narrative setting starting in Manchester was so masterfully written that I had to put the book down for a week or so, it had that sort of hard emotional impact. It was so intense that I had to go back reassess Morrissey and his music, I felt for years that much of his lyrics were him being…well lyrical. But it turns out in a song like ‘The Headmaster Ritual” it seems to actually worse than the song permits.

There is something powerful underpinning this Autobiography that kept my mind ticking over while reading this, here is someone who everyone thought would fail, who record companies failed to sign up, who’s personality did not play into the business model of the recording industry, who’s talent was underestimated by the press, who’s demeanour did not fit comfortably to what people class as a successful artist, yet he was a success…he overcame all odds.

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His years with the Smiths which recordings people still listen to every single day, he admits where short, and I was surprised how little detail we have about Marr or his friendship with him. In many ways Morrissey is a closed book, forever an enigma, always a labyrinth to navigate, this struck me as being odd as we are invited to learn everything in his autobiography.Many things where missing from his his narrative, like how his family reacted to him becoming a superstar for example, or about  his battles with depression which we know with all respect that he has had, or how success had changed him from that innocent Manchester kid who showed up backstage at Roxy music concerts,  to multi mega-star whisked away to the sounds of adoring fans.

In his modest way he seems to be amused by his success befuddled, surprised by it.

Morrissey, spends a huge amount of time clearing the decks and attempting to set the record straight, he takes myriad swipes at people never forgetting anything, it is one of his many indulgences that as fans we forgive him for. Yet in this format it does become very tiresome, especially when we encounter his trial with Mike Joyce that goes into the intimate legal details for many pages.

Morrissey has a terrific turn of phrase, some of his passages are pure poetry, yet it is fragmented, a hotch potch recalling of his career, he lingers far from things we want access to, the last quarter of the book reads more like his touring diary with notes rather than a sophisticated wrap up of his whole working career.

The autobiography was intoxicating at times yet I was left with my face pressed against the glass window watching him walk by from afar.

 

If you don’t love it…breathe

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There has been much ink split about this t-shirt which was pulled from a Cairns Woolworths, both 2GB shock jock Ray Hadley and Clive Palmer party Jacqui Lambie came out in support of it staying on shelves.

Many times have I been in a traffic jam behind a Ute or 4WD with bumper bar covered in the bogan holy trinity:  ‘I fish and I vote’ or “Fuck off we’re full’ and ‘If you don’t love it LEAVE’

The slogan is an effective piece of propaganda, as good as ‘Loose lips sink ships’ or ‘Keep calm and carry on”. The slogan condenses larger complex issues into a smaller and easy to digest bundle. It is intentionally vague, the sort of people who wear it have a particular message they want to send to new immigrants to this country. It is intimidating, aggressive but in its vagueness a little bizarre.

It attempts to appeal to the reader’s raw emotional state, asking you to love your country or leave it, an all or nothing scenario. Australia takes out the position of someone you are in a relationship with and you have any doubts about that person, then its over.

Every time I see the slogan I get a little angry: Why is this bumper sticker even threatening me anyways? Maybe I don’t love parts of Australia maybe I think parts of Australia are a total shithole, isn’t Australia a free place, why can’t I not love it sometimes?

Where does forcing someone to love something become what is to be Australian? I was under the impression the moment the convicts landed they were sitting around bitching about being sent to a hot, dry island full of insects and reptiles that bite and kill, forced to carve out some kind of meager existence from what was then a very harsh landscape.

When you love something you nurture and look after it, cherish it, wrap it up in cotton wool. How does cutting down thousands of hectares of native bush-land, wiping out flora and fauna, digging massive holes in the ground for mineral resources and killing aboriginal people, destroying thousands of years worth of culture fit in to loving your country.

Why do the very vocal spruikers of this slogan feel it is their personal responsibility to remind people how much everyone should love this country?

It should read “If you don’t love it, Breathe” just chill out a bit-nobody has to love every bit of their country! Have a beer, go for a surf; enjoy life!