The City on the Swan - from the south
Rick at his desk

In the beginning ...

I gave my first bleat as Keith Warwick Duley in Rotorua way back when dinosaurs walked the Earth.  That's right, Rotorua, the home of Pohutu Geyser, pools of boiling mud and the continual smell of sulphur.  Right in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.  Nothing's changed, there's still a dinosaur in New Zealand - a little fella called a Tuatara which has three eyes (No kidding!)

In the mid-fifties the family shifted to a small country town called Pokeno an hour or so south of Auckland - and an hour Northwest of Hobbiton ;) - and by the sixties I'd left home for boarding school at Mt Albert Grammar School in Auckland itself.  Five years of that ruined about all the social graces I was ever likely to have so it was something of a miracle that a demure young lady by the name of Philippa decided to set a snare for me in 1971.  She was successful and we married in 1973.

By 1985 I was established as a metalwork tradesman, heavily involved (solid but not militant) in the Trade Union movement and a Dominion Councilor of the third largest political party in the country.  I didn't have much time to be a husband and a father and it showed.  At the end of 1985 the young lady - now not quite so demure - decided she could live without me.  She was right and the next few years were one continuous experience!  I jumped the creek to Australia with a one-way ticket in April of 1986.

They're a wierd mob!

Working Labour-Hire in the cities mixed with mining and petrochem up in the bush is one heck of a way for a journeyman to do his journey.  It was back-breaking and exhausting much of the time, boring most of the time but peppered with moments of sheer exhilaration.  All up a great experience which came to a grinding halt in the middle of the 'recession we had to have' in 1991.  I was in Fremantle then and there was absolutely no work - even the Seven Dwarfs had stopped whistling!  A local social service called Skillshare allowed the unemployed open access to their computers and I became part of the furniture, learning how to use a Word Processor, a Spreadsheet and a Database amongst other things.  One of the counselors suggested a short night-time study course and the tutor suggested University and getting a degree.  That elicited an uncouth gale of ribald and derisory laughter at the time but two weeks later negotiations were under way with the Bursar at Edith Cowan University and the rest, as they say, is history.

One thing led to another and I graduated with First Class Honours in Computer Science in 1996.  It was time to make use of all that hard academic slog, settle into a job somewhere in the computer game in air-conditioned comfort and get moderately wealthy.  Alas, it was not to be and the beginning of 1997 saw me back in an underground mine fixing pumps (this time at Telfer on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert about 600Km from anywhere at all - and there's not much there either).  Not much in the way of air-conditioning in that job - at least one day saw 49ºC in the shade and you can add at least 10º more at the bottom of the pit - and there was no cause for tears when the job fell through in '98.  Still no work in computing so it was back to Uni and aim for a PhD in '99.

Education, Educators, Educationalists

I hitched my wagon to a star and drove like John Wayne.  Unfortunately, the wheels fell off.

You see, universities specialise in teaching you what you can't do; they tell you what is impossible.  Because of that, I firmly believe that it is more productive to go into postgraduate work in a field for which you have not received specific training.  You go in free of mental baggage.

If you don't know that something is impossible it is likely that you will just leap in and do it.  I just wasn't allowed to.

Don't get me wrong.  There were things in six years of doctoral work I would never have experienced any other way.  There were three trips to the United States in three years; a string of publications and conferences; some very satisfying work.  One of the more interesting things that happened was that, as a result of conference attendances, I got involved with the people who were producing the International Curriculum for Computer Science, most especially the people who were working on the Software Engineering section of the curriculum.  As a result, my name is in the SE book and a member, albeit in a very minor way, of the team who designed it.  It was a real priviledge to work with some of the top CS minds in the world.  Not bad for a mere student at a third-class university in a backwater like Perth!

Unfortunately, my relationship with my senior supervisor at ECU went sour so when, in 2003, a suggestion was made that a move to the School of Engineering Science at Murdoch University was possible I took up the offer with some glee!  Unfortunately, that didn't work out either.

I had, in my time at Edith Cowan, become a little concerned about the way we evaluate the education received by students.  I started to ask myself if students these days leave university as well educated as did the students of prior generations.  I am sure that I am not the first to ask that question but I might well have been the first to set out to find an answer.  I decided to find a way in which the learning of the students could be objectively assessed.  That is important because all the techniques used these days are subjective.  That's right, all assessment techniques in common use - examinations, assignments, even surveys - are subjective;  they depend on someone's opinion.  I put a lot of work into devising an objective method - one based on a standard - so that we could, for example, measure the effect of a change in curriculum or teaching technique.  That way we would know whether we were getting better or not.

Well, it was a good idea - or so I thought!  Sadly, Murdoch lost interest.  Such a procedure would have placed the adademics in the intolerable position of being accountable for what they do - something from which they remain mercifully free.

Effectively, the inaction of Murdoch University destroyed all I had worked for.  It was a pretty bad time, I can tell you.  However, that was not the end of the world and life must go on.

Life after education

This old woodsman still has a few axes to grind:

Occupational Health and Safety

As long-term tradesman, and, furthermore, a qualified Safety Advisor, I am concerned about a lot of things that happen on a site.  Some of them are direct dangers to the workforce that I do not feel are paid enough attention in any safety OSHMS I have seen used; others are matters of company policy with which I disagree.  I am looking to express my opinions in appropriate journals.  Maybe I can get some people thinking about things.

(Home->Interests->OSH or follow the links in the sidebar.)

Sundry Writings

I wrote a lot of material while I was at Murdoch University which has never been published.  It appears that many academic journals are wary of material which presents new, empirical facts.  These represent a clear and present danger to the cloistered livelihoods of academics who are comfortable with the world with which they are familiar, and dread change.

(Home->Interests->Writings or follow the links in the sidebar.)

Programming

As far as I know I am the only Ada programmer in Perth.  For many good reasons it is my programming language of choice and I spend many hours happily toiling away on some application.  I enjoy writing undergraduate-level assignments and tutorials.  These usually turn up at Ada Safe House which is a site for beginner Ada programmers.  Perhaps some stressed-out Ada teacher will find them useful.

(Home->Interests->Programming or follow the links in the sidebar.)

It is not all Ada stuff.  There is material on GtkAda (a graphical User Interface package) and there will soon be information on writing web pages.

I'll keep you posted...

Furry Grasshoppers

Believe it or not, most Australians don't have one of these out on the back lawn, but once you get outside the city you're liable to see some at any time - usually when you least expect it.

I was once responsible for keeping a Joey (that's a very young one of these) alive for the trip from Plutonic (a mining camp) to Meekatharra (a mining town).  It needed to be kept warm (no problem up North) and to have regular feeds of sweetened, diluted milk.  The office girls at Plutonic suspected that a bunch of rough miners would just chuck the little beggar out the window once we got around the first corner.  Suspicious lot!  They didn't have any faith in us at all!  Someone rang the wildlife haven in Meekatharra to let them know the Joey was arriving.  Oh ye of little faith!

Anyway, most of the 'roos you'll see on the road are motionless and attracting flies.  Now you know why they put those massive bumper-bars on trucks.  Pretty good reason to not drive on the Nullarbor at night!