Tag: things i think about

Fractional pants

‘The weather is warm,’ Damjan said gleefully. ‘I’ll wear my three-quarter pants.’

‘You know, in Chinese they’re called seven-tenths pants,’ I said.

‘Seven-tenths? Seventy per cent?’ Damjan looked astonished. ‘What do we call them?’

‘Three-quarters,’ I reminded him. ‘Seventy-five per cent.’

Damjan started laughing. ‘Why are they shorter in China?’

‘They’re poorer, I guess,’ was the obvious response.

Adult conversation

Every night, Damjan and I go through Mia’s bedtime routine: feed, bath, read a book, sing a lullaby, and into bed by 7:30pm.

Then it’s time for adult conversation, which is a real treat for me after a whole day of ‘Un gah gah’ and ‘A boo’.

Here are the demand and supply curves that Damjan and I drew one night, when we were trying to work out how is it that a regulated minimum wage does not lead to unemployment. Damjan argued that the mechanisms for this effect could probably be shown with conventional demand and supply curves. I wasn’t so sure.

Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees
Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees

Oddball series

You meet some strange people on public transport.

In one day, I shared my trips with three oddballs. The first one was on the train. He got on at Collingwood rail station with two boxes of food. I recognised them as Vietnamese beef and red rice with salad, which I love. He loved it too. He would take a bite then cry out, ‘Oh yeah! That’s great’ and ‘Wow, mmm…’ throughout his hurried meal.

The second oddball was on the tram. He was a young man with a Nokia dumbphone, which was blaring out tinny hip hop music. His views on the world were ‘The old ways were the best! Who needs a sh*t smartphone, the old ones were the best!’ and ‘Sisqó, I love it. Not this new music cr*p.’

The third oddball was also on a tram. He was dressed like a working professional. He kept telling everyone, ‘The platform at Flinders Street was packed. The platform at Flinders Street was packed.’

I wonder what happens when one oddball meets another? Do they recognise each other as kindred spirits? Or do they each think, ‘What a weirdo.’

Where are all the pregnant people?

I am in the late stage of pregnancy and am the biggest I’ll ever get.

Walking around town, I see perhaps one pregnant woman every day or two. In comparison, there are many people with babies and toddlers in prams.

Where are all the pregnant people? Surely there is one pregnant person for every baby?

My attempt to explain this observation is something like this:

  1. The babies I notice are probably between zero and 3 years old.
  2. Pregnant women are only clearly distinguishable from around 6 months pregnancy.
  3. The ratio of visible babies/toddlers to pregnant women is therefore 12 (divide 3 years / 36 months of visible babies by 3 months of visible pregnancies). That is, one pregnant person per 12 babies observed.

This seems to be in the right ballpark. Perhaps the incidence of visibly pregnant people is higher in summer because lighter clothing might make it easier for me to notice pregnant bellies.

In the last two or three weeks, I’ve stayed mostly at home. If other pregnant women do the same, then this would reduce our visibility by 25%. Yesterday I went to the pregnancy day clinic at hospital. It was a very busy morning and it was the largest gathering of pregnant people I have ever seen in one place.

Late pregnancy
Now that I’m clearly pregnant, strangers on the street are comfortable wishing me luck for the new arrival. It’s a risky thing for anyone to do before the 7-month mark.

Quiet town

They’re almost finished — two tall apartment buildings across the road from us, which have been under construction since we moved to our home almost two years ago.

I had the vague notion that once people start moving in, our whole street would be lit up with activity and cars. Thinking a bit more, though, I realise that this probably won’t happen.

My brother moved into his new apartment building just a few weeks ago. When we visit him, we hardly run into anyone. At street level, it’s as quiet as ever.

Even our own apartment complex, which is more than 20 years old and well and truly populated –  four out of five times that I leave my front door, I don’t meet anyone.

Strange, isn’t it?

I guess it means that even at high home densities (say, 60+ dwellings per hectare), the actual people density is still low. It’s not like Hong Kong or the Melbourne CBD at lunch time. You need to pack people into a restaurant or office before you start to feel the urban buzz. Two people every 70 square metres for an apartment is just not busy.

Legally obliged

Sometimes when I get to a pedestrian crossing, I press the button for the crossing signal without thinking about it.

At this stage, there is a lone car slowing down to stop as I walk across. I realise that I could have let the driver go, then slipped over the road without a green ‘walk’ signal.

‘I feel guilty about pressing the button,’ I said to Damjan. ‘We didn’t have to stop the car.’

‘Well, you’re entitled to use the pedestrian lights,’ Damjan said.

I thought about it then added, ‘In fact, I’m actually legally obliged to use the lights.’

‘True,’ Damjan agreed.


Damjan and I are going ‘pescatarian’ for a month. Pescatarians are vegetarians that eat fish. My reason for trialling a new diet is to reduce the environmental impact of my food.

It’s been hard to take this step — not because I love eating meat (I quite like it) or that it is a staple of my diet (I don’t eat much), but because I worry about inconveniencing people with dietary preferences.

However, my friends and family are supportive and interested in this trial. ‘Tell me if you find some easy tasty vegetarian recipes,’ my mum said.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about: I don’t have any logical reason for allowing fish in my trial diet. I’m consistent with a lot of people, who do seem to draw a line between meat and fish.

I suppose fish seem a bit alien, possibly stupid and unfeeling. However, I understand that fish do feel pain. There are also lots of environmental issues like overfishing and bycatch.

I have no answers, really.

To give you an idea of how things are going:

  • Day 1 — Chips during the early morning Olympics ceremony, home made Eggs Atlantic, fabulous vegetarian dinner courtesy of friends Xing and Chris
  • Day 2 — Knedle soup (made with okara from our soy milk maker), omelette with fresh bread
  • Day 3 — Black bean and pumpkin stew, Thai butternut squash curry

Tomorrow is our first restaurant visit as pescatarians. Ordering should be straightforward with cut down menu options. We’re lucky in Melbourne that almost every restaurant has vegetarian and fish options.

Frustrating types

There are (at least) two types of report readers in the world.

  1. People who want to follow you as you work through to the answer
  2. People who want to know the answer straight away

This causes much frustration in report writing because each type of reader thinks, ‘Obviously, you need to give me the “so what” first’, or ‘Obviously, your report doesn’t make sense unless you build it up from strong foundations’.

Type 1 people

  • Scientists and anyone with Dr in their name
  • Public servants

Type 2 people

  • Lawyers
  • Architects
  • Chiefs

I used to write Type 1 reports. Then one project involving lots of lawyers turned me into a Type 2 report writer. This has worked well for me recently, as I’ve been working with architects and urban designers.

Right now, though, I am now turning a Type 2 report into a Type 1 report because the client is a scientist plus a public servant. Sadly, we actually want Type 2 people to read this report but can’t say no to the Type 1 client body.

(There is a halfway house on this — long executive summaries. But it’s not a perfect solution.)

The line between cosmetic surgery and everything else

I was listening to this talkback show on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters — Fixing Your Face. It was an informative programme about the practicalities of going through medical cosmetic procedures for the face, like Botox, fillers and lifts.

This reminded me of a discussion I had with Damjan. I have a gut reaction against what I consider to be invasive procedures to make people look better. In this, I include teeth straightening through braces, skin lasering/abrasion and even some of the teeth whitening with heavy duty UV.

I can’t explain why I don’t approve of these procedures. Part of it is that I’m judging people for being so concerned about their appearance.

Yet, I too like to look nice. While some people spend thousands on orthodontics, Botox, upper face lifts, liposuction, I will over my lifetime spend thousands on gym memberships, make up, nice clothes, hair cuts.

For some reason, I would be more critical of someone spending hundreds on Botox than I would of someone spending hundreds on a miracle cream. I think, perhaps, my understanding of risk my be affecting my perception.

I expect, though, that Botox is very safe now. Would my feelings on this be different when it gets to the point that you can buy Botox in the department store and inject it yourself, the way you can with teeth whitening kits?

I think I need to re-evaluate my views on surgical cosmetic enhancements and orthodontics that are relatively safe and inexpensive. Either that or come down harder on make up and weight loss programmes.