Friday, October 31, 2008

Contrail shadows

I was supposed to be in Canberra, but I'm glad I stayed in Sydney. It will be yet another day of rough flights between the cities. Today is very hot and the air is grey with the haze of high humidity, reminscent of the Asian tropics. A perfect day for ice kacang and limau ais, for lazing beneath a ceiling fan beside and watching the world trundle past outside under tropical thunderheads.

While today I do not wish to be up in that sky, it is a good day for watching others fly, silhoutted against the pale high cloud. As I sat in the train I watched an aircraft leave a contrail far above Sydney. High enough that the long thin cloud of ice crystal suspended far above this pre-summer heat left a shadow on the clouds below. You can see the effect in the photos below.

B finished work yesterday. This morning she is ensconced in a hospital in Kogarah, undergoing regular tests on herself and the baby. We have had so little to do with hospitals until this pregnancy and it's a shock to see how run down the public hospital buildings look. Much of Kogarah seems devoted to medical services and the nearby parking is either expensive or too time limited to be of use. Walking some of the streets can be a little scary as there are mental health and drug dependency clinics nearby. Still, not long until it will all be over.

I'm actually forward to it. After our final antenatal class on Saturday I realised how much I will fall in love with our child. Playing with it's tiny foot poking out from B's belly makes you understand that there's another life inside of her.

Hopefully, the baby can hold on until we have finished the seemingly endless task of cleaning up the nursery. Of course, cleaning out one area of the house leads to tidying another room to make space for the shifted items, which means cleaning out other spaces... It's endless!
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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Hogwash School of Communication

Dear Sir/madam,

I would like to invite you to consider your future in the marketing and communications field. Here at Hogwash, a prestigious non-accredited School for Communicators, we have a range of courses available to develop your skills.

Lead by the esteemed Allofus Dumbitdown our courses include:
  • Parceltongue (Selling snake oil)
  • Herbology & Potions (Viagra alternatives)
  • Transfiguration & Arithmancy (Inventing sales figures)
  • Charms (Customer/Employee relations)
  • Apparitions (How to sell non-existent products)
  • Quidditch (Accounting for sunk costs)
  • And many more!
By the end of the course you will be an expert in communicating with muddles via a range of media, such as email, and current affairs and late-night television.

Some of our notable alumni include:
  • Hairy Pothead
  • Herwiney Grange-Hermitage
  • Ronald Weaselwords
  • Loosius Mouthboy
To join this prestigious list all you have to do is reply to this email with a copy of your bank details.

Kind regards,

Tom Marvelous Riddle

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moving Earth before the Sun strikes

In around 4 - 5 billion years time the Sun will expand and engulf the Earth. How do we survive?

NewScientist has an interesting article entitled Moving the Earth: a planetary survival guide. They propose two possible methods to move the Earth away from the Sun's expanded surface: gradual nudges to the Earth's orbit through flybys of icy Kuiper belt objects or with a giant solar sail.

For some background and references on the future of life on Earth read my essay 4 billion years AD (pdf).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Liver deliver

The last few days have been quite stressful for us. B discovered that she has obstetric cholestasis, a condition of pregnancy where bile is prevented from flowing from the liver into the intestinal system. Cholestasis causes very itchy skin in the mother and can also cause problems for the child.

B latched on to the statistic that the possibility of stillbirth rises up to five times with cholestasis. It's important to realise that this is still a small number and that the risk is greatest for babies carried to full term. In most obstetric cholestasis cases delivery is induced between 35 - 38 weeks.

On Saturday we had our first antenatal class at the hospital. There we went through the process of delivering babies and were shown a really bad 80's video of a birth. The midwife giving the class keep pronouncing dilate as "diletate", which was very annoying. She must have heard it pronounced correctly so many times in her career.

Despite a break for morning tea B, who has no fat reserves, felt very nauseous. The classes tend to run into lunch and dinner times, depending on the session, which would make it tough for pregnant women who need their regular meals.

After the class we were booked in for some monitoring of the baby. The attach monitors to the belly and chart the baby's heart beat and movements as registered by a clicker in the mother's hand. B ended up staying in the delivery suite longer than anticipated as the medical staff were concerned about her feeling ill. Then on Sunday the obstetrician (Dr Ho, who has so far been fantastic) called us to request an appointment today and that we were looking at an inducement within the next two weeks.

His urgency made B very nervous and I have to admit, me as well. The whole past couple of days B was worried whenever the baby was quiet and not kicking as vigourously as it has tended to do. Thankfully, when we met the doctor today he managed to reassure B that the results were not that bad and that the baby was in all likelyhood quite safe. B and her mum wanted the baby out ASAP, but as the doctor said, there is a higher likelyhood that a bay's lungs are not developed enough before 35 weeks and that you are risking it in another way by removing it too early. Anyway, we both feel a lot happier now.

One thing that the last few days have made clear to us is that we are rapidly running out of time to prepare for the birth. We had the car seat fitted today and fortunately the shotgun seat isn't as squeezed as I feared. There are so many other little things left to do before the big day comes!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lekking: the manager as an ape

I learned a new word today: lek. It means a gathering of males for competitive breeding displays. My discovery was triggered by Jeffrey Braithwaite's paper Lekking displays in contemporary organizations: Ethologically oriented, evolutionary and cross-species accounts of male dominance (DOI: 10.1108/14777260810898732), published in the Journal of Health Organisation and Management.

The topic of the paper will come as no surprise to anyone who has met with management. To quote Braithwaite's findings:
Within the organizational lek male managers display mainly by power dressing, positioning, and exercising power and influence via verbal and behavioural means.
Who would have thought that all that management sophistication was just a primitive mating display!

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