Some Axes Rick is Happy to Grind

Having one's sixtieth birthday in the rear vision mirror should not necessarily mean brain death.  Not working full time means a lot of time on one's hands.  The curious thing is that many find they are busier in retirement than they ever were in the Trade.  It seems to be a common opinion that there is so much to be done that one wonders how one ever fitted work into the time available.

Occupational Safety and Health

OSH has been a driving force in my life ever since I became involved in the Trade Union movement.  As a Shop Steward in a small, country-town engineering firm I had to double as Safety Delegate as well.  My major success in that respect was to have the workers supplied with hearing protection.  The company, in the end, complied with a directive from the Ministry of Health with respect to providing the hearing protection equipment, but that led to a much harder battle - getting the workers to wear it.

If, to this day, I hear someone say that, after a while, you just get used to the noise, my immediate reaction is, "No you don't!  You go DEAF!  Did you hear that?"  Honestly, it was a harder battle than getting the protection in the first place.

When I left that company I moved to the New Zealand Steel Expansion Site at Glenbrook.  There, after a 200-tonne capacity crane crashed under load, we had a 13-week strike which resulted in the workers and the company devising the first Site Safety Agreement and Code of Conduct for a large project in New Zealand.  We did it from scratch.  There was no such thing as Worksafe, Western Australia to help us.  No precedents to follow.

At the start of the project it had been statistically estimated that five people would be killed during construction.  We lost one (and he on a satellite site, not the main site where I was) and that should never have happened.  If only the satellite people had been actually following the code as they kept telling us they were.

Suffice it to say that my commitment to the field has never waned.  Click on the OSH  tab to see some of the more important reading in the field, and some that is ignored by conventional wisdom.

Sundry Writings

When I moved to Murdoch University I made it clear to my supervisory team that I was not going to pursue academic publication until I had something positive to contribute to the body of knowledge.  My sojourn at Edith Cowan involved a lot of published papers, but I could see by then that they were of minimal adacemic merit - more journalism than scholarship.  I was determined that that was going to stop.

Although submitted to various journals, most of these papers were never published.  Journal publication is much more difficult than conference publication where the need for content is more desperate.  Unfortunately, referees view innovation in a dim light because changes in their field would force changes in their thinking.  They are happy the way things are and they do not want things to change.

Perhaps someone who is interested in how we go about teaching people will find these papers interesting.  Click on the Writings  tab to see them.  Please remember they are copyright to me.

Linguistics

Over time, and slightly off track to the main theme of my study, I made some interesting findings in linguistics.  This stuff was genuinely new.  People before me had dealt with very small samples of text, usually written by kindergarten children.  From brief samples of simple text my predecessors devised mathematical formulae to predict the effect of length and profundity on characteristics of the language.

I devised a computer program which would run an analysis on the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible, all three-quarters of a million words of it, in a few minutes.  It would then produce the figures to SHOW what had actually happened to the written language.  Repeatable, empirical evidence which would shut down the endless debate.

That, of course, is not what people in the field want.  Their positions at universities depend on their taking an active part in the debate.  Shut the debate down and they become irrelevant.  You can guess why my papers were never published.

Plagiarism

For one reason or another, I became very interested in the subject of plagiarism at one stage.  I did my research and produced some work on the subject.

Surprisingly, my research showed quite clearly that plagiariam is not an undergrad thing.  Far from it!  It appears that the finest exponents of the art are academics and professionals.

Once again, no wonder this work did not see the light of day.

Educationalists

Educationalists are one of my pet hates.  Sweet, well-intentioned people who never do anything useful - although, I must admit, I met one bunch who knew how to party!

I swear these people have an international competition each year to see who can produce the academic paper with the most references to other people's academic papers.  New facts, or informed opinion, are matters of little interest.  It's all about showing that you've read what other people think.

For example, I endured quite a lot of ASCILITE 2004.  Read some of these papers and make up your own mind.

Programming

If, in my undergrad years, I had gained ONE more mark in ONE of my programmimg units I would have averaged 80%.  I loved programming, and I still do,  However, as usual I am somewhat opinionated about the subject and I am a fully registered despiser of the whole spawn of 'C'.  I have used C, C++ and JAVA®, and if I never have to look at them again it will be too soon.  Anyone who is programming anything with any responsibility should be using Ada.  I make NO apologies for that statement and will cheerfully defend it.

Currently, and sadly not often enough, I write tutorial material for Ada Safe House.  Ada Safe House is a kindergarten for beginner Ada programmers.  There are plenty of places for Ada Geeks, but it is hard to find some place which concentrates on answering the pesky little things that drive tyro programmers round the twist.

Ada Safe House deals with programming in Ada 2005, and also with the Graphical Interface package GtkAda.  If you are just starting out in Ada it is worth a peek.

Australia's native dog/wolf

Australia's native wolf/dog

You find these fellas all over the mainland.  You meet up with them anywhere out of the metro area, the more remote, the more likely.

Unfortunately for the dingoes, as carnivores they didn't mind a feed of sheep, and that made them unpopular with the settlers.  In 1885 the settlers funded the Great Dingo Fence which is supposed to be longer than the Great Wall of China (though not quite as solid or longlasting).  Dingoes are so adaptable that it is estimated there are more of them now than there were when Europeans came to this place, so the fence wasn't much use.

Current wisdom says that the dingoes got an unwarranted bad name, a bit like New Zealand's native 'Kea' which was persecuted for years (but has been protected since 1986).  Dog Poisoners made a precarious (and somewhat harsh) living for years but there is not so much hoo-hah about dingoes these days.

If it looks like a dog, runs like a dog, and eats like a dog, then ...

There were always plenty of these critters around mine sites.  They find a good living at the dumps, although mining companies are paying more attention to them these days and the pickings are, consequently, slimmer.

Back in the days when most of the mining camps were residential, i.e. not Fly-In-Fly-Out as they are today, people used to take their family pets to the bush camps with them.  The dingoes killed the dogs and bred with the bitches.  Now, therefore, it is not uncommon to see what looks like a Border Collie running with a dingo pack.  It's not Dog from Footrot Flats, its just a throwback.

One came into my workshop one night in Telfer.  I flicked up my helmet after a welding run to find him very interested indeed - and in no way frightened.  I said to him, "Don't watch this, mate.  You'll go blind!"  He sorta nodded his head, and ambled off.

They are good looking animals, as you can see.