Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taking the Aussie test

Question 7...

The Australian Government today released a 40-page booklet to be issued to all prospective immigrants. Inside, it summarises the history, people and customs of the country. Also for the first time, those that wish to become part of life down under must take a written test of twenty questions. If they score less than twelve correct, they will be refused entry (although only until they can re-sit and exceed the pass mark). "This is part of the government's emphasis that we continue to get that balance between diversity and integration correct in future, particularly as we now draw people from so many different countries and so many different cultures." said the minister in charge, Kevin Andrews. Well, I managed to get through the immigration checks when I moved to Sydney (i.e. I bought a visa) - but could I qualify if I had to...?

[correct answers in brackets. And no, I didn't cheat and use Google]

1. In what year did Federation take place?
Er, blimey. I have no idea. Not a good start.

2. Which day of the year is Australia Day?
I was only there for one Australia Day, but I'm pretty sure it's the 25th of January.
[January 26th]

3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
[Edmund Barton]

4. What is the first line of Australia's national anthem?
I know it's called 'Advance Australia Fair', and I also know that isn't the first line.
['Australians all, let us rejoice']

5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?
The floral emblem of New South Wales is the Waratah. No points for that though. The gum tree?

6. What is the population of Australia?
They must be able to read the booklet first, I would think. They can't expect potential immigrants to know this exactly, surely? And anyway, if you were applying for immigration it would mean the answer would shortly be wrong.
[approx 21m]

7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?
Canberra! I've been round it!

8. Who is the Queen's representative in Australia?
The Governor General, who lives in a very swanky mansion at Kirribilli opposite the Opera House. Don't ask me his name though.
[The Governor General]

9. How are Members of Parliament chosen?
Er...they get elected?

10. Who do Members of Parliament represent?
Their constituents. Or, when necessary, themselves.
[The people of their electorate]

11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?
The party that gets the most votes.
[The political party or coalition of parties which wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives]

12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?
Red white and blue. An easy one there.
[Red White and Blue]

13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?
The Prime Minister, John Howard (of whom I am not a fan - not that I would write that in my answer)
[The Prime Minister]

14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?
Um. Local, State and Federal?
[Commonwealth, State or Territory and local]

15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?
The first fleet arrived in 1788, I read a book on it when I was there.

16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian citizenship: true or false?
It is here, so I'll go for true.

17. In Australia, everyone is free to practice the religion of their choice, or practice no religion: true of false?
Sounds like a trick question, but I'm going to push the boat out and say true.

18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be an Australian citizen: true or false?
I would think so?

19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?
A lot of these are true, which makes me worried - but 'True' again.

20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol on the electoral register: true or false?
Someone told me when I was there that voting is compulsory, so it's another true. So...did I pass?

Thirteen out of twenty - one better than the pass mark required. After a year of living in Australia, I managed to accumulate only enough basic information to scrape through as one of them. Thankfully, they don't ask you these questions when your visa runs out to see what you've learned on your stay...

Australia unveils immigrant tests [BBC]
Citizenship test questions [Sydney Morning Herald]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's a dangerous job...

But what else will they give you...?

A few years ago I was in the Massachusetts coastal town of Gloucester, and on the seafront there stands a famous monument to fishermen who have died in the Atlantic waters over the years. Fishing is one of the world's most dangerous occupations - 454 British fishermen were lost in the 20yrs to 1995, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Figures from the US Dept of Labour have the most hazardous job there as woodcutting (they seem to have moved on from 'lumberjacks'), with 117 fatalities per 100,000 workers in the year 2002. The combination of large machinery, falling trees and remoteness clearly become an unfortunate set of circumstances. But if you look at the ICD10 coding book of every bad thing that can happen to you ever, there are no specific disorders attributable to these careers, so which job is truly more dangerous?

Being a Housemaid is the classic example of a seemingly dull job that can have painful consequences. Housemaid's Knee (M70.4) is now commonly called by it's anatomical name as the Victorian era of put-upon women scrubbing slate floors has long gone, although 'Prepatellar bursitis' isn't quite as romantic. Shipyard Eye (H79.2) likewise paints a picture of a bygone era (unlike 'Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis'), as does Haymaker's Lung (J67.0), Farmer's Skin (L57.8), and Brass-founder's Ague (T56.8), which is also known as Foundryman's Fever. Inhalation of metallic oxide particles stick to the lungs and cause severe malaria-like symptoms - something the careers guidance counselor won't have mentioned (and I bet they don't have a disease.

If you're collecting body parts to go with your Farmer's Skin and Shipyard Eye, then be on the look out for Tin Miner's Lung (J63.5) and Coal Miner's Elbow (M70.2) - and try not to get them confused, especially if you're calling in sick from your miner's hut as you fancy a day off. Shoemaker's Chest (M95.4), Baseball Finger (S63.1) also sound painful, as does something many people are risking in later life - Beer Drinker's Heart Disease (I42.6) (I don't know if this is any different to the normal heart disease). Baker's Cyst (M71.2) could be for the overly-excited kneaders out there, as could Student's Elbow (M70.2).

There really can't be too many inpatient admissions to Scottish hospitals from people suffering from Pearl-worker's Disease (M86.8), File-cutter's Disease (T56.0), or Cork-handler's Disease (J67.3). And the absolute best of the lot - Milkman's Disease (M83.8) - notable symptoms include an irritating jaunty whistle - which now has been reclassified 'Osteomalacia', the highly common softening of bones due to a deficiency of Vitamin D. Lungs take quite a pounding in these various careers, with Slate-dresser's Lung (J62.8), Fishmeal-workers Lung (J67.8), Arc Welder's Lung (J63.4), Cheese-washer's Lung (J67.8), and surely the most specific job/disease combo in the medical world - Maple Bark-stripper's Lung (J67.6).

Having said that, Kew Garden Fever (A79.1) can't affect too many people (unless it means those aghast at paying £12.25 to get in), and Pituitary snuff-taker's Disease (J67.8) is one from the history books - possibly joining with Pickwickian Syndrome (E66.2) in a Dicken's style illness, with a side-helping of Dabney's Grip (B33.0). Parrot Fever (A70) would be something for bird enthusiast's to avoid, as would the old favourite Bird-fancier's Lung (J67.2). Little-Leaguer's Elbow (M77.0) I can only imagine is restricted entirely to the United States, and for obvious reasons Norwegian Itch (B86) would concern Scandinavians especially (although it's actually another name for Scabies).

So what's the most dangerous job? It has to be the professional pub-quiz attendees who know every capital city, can tell you which countries border others, and the various long rivers or highest mountains. They might know all the answers, but they also run the risk of contracting Geographic Tongue (K14.1)

Previous DUaB ICD10 posts...

How to come to grief
A one-way trip to the vet

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Beautiful Game

Roque Santa Cruz salutes the Rovers fans

Saturday's visit to Middlesbrough contained almost everything that I love about football, those small things that add up to one of those days you remember as a follower of a certain team for a long time. Right from the off, a 2hr train journey from Edinburgh to Darlington, which I managed to do in extreme comfort after finding a cheap first class ticket. I bet few Rovers fans on their way to Teeside began their trip sipping tea in a walnut-veneered train coach. Going to away games always involves plenty of waiting around, and standing on windy Darlington station waiting for the next leg was no exception. 40 minutes later and a knackered-looking two carriaged train to Saltburn took me to Middlesbrough, through typically Northern English countryside (vast Barrett Homes estates).

After indulging in the time-honoured tactic of walking the wrong way out of the station, turning around and following a few red-shirted home fans seemed to be the best way to go. Walking to the stadium is another moment - none of this driving to a vast car park and waddling to the game for us Brits. Turning the corner and seeing the floodlights is what it's all about, something easy to do at Middlesbrough as the stadium is surrounded by an industrial docklands wasteland and you can see it for miles (but harder at Blackburn, as Ewood Park is in a valley and you approach it level with the top of the grandstand). Everything else was there though, the bored looking policemen, burger vans, litter, seagulls.

Then the stadium rituals. Walk around the outside, have a quick look in the window of the club shop. Wonder what the home side's kit sponsor actually does (they make sat navs, apparently). Wander over to the statue of old time great and see if you've heard of him (not in my case). Check the ticket and find out which turnstile you have to enter in, as you spot a few groups of other away fans in the blue and white halves. Give the yellow-coated steward a quick nod, and in you go, through the clanking red gate. Always concrete inside, usually dark, and busy with men holding large plastic pints of lager. Go and find your seat and get a first look at the other team's stadium. Is it better than yours? (yes and no). More waiting.

As the pitch is finished being watered, the players jog out for warmups, with both sets of fans cheering - the away fans louder because that's what away fans do. The goalkeepers usually come out first, and you watch Rovers legend Brad Friedel going through stretches that he must have done thousands of times. He moves to the corner of the pitch and has two men volley balls at him from close range, as the outfield players trot out in warmup kits they only ever seem to wear for twenty minutes once a week. Friedel moves to the Rovers fans and signs autographs, posing for a photo with a young lad in a replica goalkeeper jersey. The others do sprints, the substitutes holding back, the older players even more so, Turkish playmaker and elder statesman Tugay barely jogging. He must not be in the lineup. As if on queue, the teams are announced (he isn't), and you cheer each name, stopping at the substitutes (for some reason). The players go off again.

Ten minutes later they are back. Now the stands are almost full, the stragglers making their way up the steps. Both teams walk under a pointless Premier League banner and stand facing outwards for a mysterious anthem. Someone up the back starts off the first chant of "Mark Hughes's Blue and White Army!!". A few home fans look over to where you're sitting, wondering how many Blackburn have brought, and how noisy they will be. The announcer reads out the teams again over the PA System, and you watch as they move to take up their positions in the 4-4-2, easily spotting Robbie Savage from his trademark blonde mullet. You scan across each player familiarising yourself again with what they look like - Friedel, Warnock, Samba (unmistakeable at 6'5''), Nelson, Ooijer (Emerton must be injured), Gamst Pedersen, Savage, Dunn, Bentley, Roberts, McCarthy. You barely know half the Middlesbrough team. The referee blows his whistle.

Rovers are on the back foot almost immediately as the home side press forward. The fans try and help them out, though. There are probably 1,800 compared to 24,000 Middlesbrough fans, but it's always away fans that make the noise. But Boro are playing really well, missing an open goal with a misplaced pass. Moaning starts from the Rovers fans (no change there), but we're making a lot of noise. On half an hour our Congolese giant Samba gives away a foul and their player whacks the ball through a gap in the wall into the bottom corner, putting the home side 1-0 up. At last, their fans start chanting - "You're not singing anymore!", they gloat. The score stays the same until halftime, and the players troop off, Savage arguing with the referee about awarding the freekick (which was entirely correct, not that he would admit).

Only fifteen minutes at the break, time to push through the crowds and go for a piss - they even have a steward in the toilet, I've not seen that before. Back up to the stands as the announcer reads out the other scores - Bolton are losing 3-0 at home to Newcastle, great stuff. But up here Newcastle are the enemy, not Bolton, so the home fans whistle and boo. All too soon, the second half starts, and immediately Rovers improve, ears stinging from a halftime rant from the manager. The chants continue, at a player if he does something good, at the lack of noise from the Boro fans, and at our rivals Burnley - "Your Mum's Your Dad, Your Dad's Your Mum, You're Interbred, You're Burnley Scum". Rovers miss an easy chance. Then the turning point, as star forward Benni McCarthy collapses after a clash of heads and is stretchered away in a neck brace, with both sets of fans sportingly applauding.

On comes Blackburn's new signing, the 25 year old Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz. He's never played in England before, having arrived from the German giants Bayern Munich for £3.5m. After only two minutes on the pitch, Bentley swings the ball in, and up rises the new boy to head Rovers back level. It's just fantastic, you're jumping up and down and screaming, it's really hard to describe just what it feels like. Roque runs over to the area in front of you and punches the air, having become an instant hero. All the Boro fans are staring over, there are plenty of gestures going both ways. Goalscorer Roque runs back to the halfway line and waves at us, as a new chant starts - "You'd better watch out, You'd better beware, He's good on the ground and he's good in the air, Santa Cruz is town". Belted out, it sounds like the entire stadium is singing, although of course 95% of them are glumly looking over at you.

The players are rejuvenated - with the Rovers fans in full voice again and the home side rattled, it's all Blackburn. Another change, as Roberts goes off, and on comes 21 year old Blackburn-born striker Matt Derbyshire. Before the game he was chatting to friends in the stand, and as he runs on we chant his name. Amazingly, moments later he scores too - a wonder goal from the edge of the penalty area, lifted into the far corner of the net. All the players pause, not quite believing it, as it's Derbyshire's first contribution. In an instant, he starts running over to his friends as you go mental again, jumping up and down in the arms of the bloke next to you. All ten outfield Blackburn players are down celebrating with Derbyshire, who falls over trying a fancy celebration. It's tough to describe without sounding corny, but at that moment it's all you're concentrating on, and the group of people around you are ecstatic, punching the air and screaming. Nothing else seems to matter.

But it's not over yet as the long injury break means there's many minutes of added time. Buoyed on by the home fans, who in their desperation have become louder, they mount attack after attack - winning 13 corners over the course of the game. But Rovers hold on, and the feeling of relief when the whistle goes is almost unbeatable. More jumping around and cheering, and waving at the Boro fans as they make for the exits. Manager Mark Hughes points to us, telling his players to go and give their thanks - but many are already on their way. We mimic them as they applaud us, hands above their heads. As each one arrives, we chant his name, pointing at Brad Friedel as we do so, in a 'we're not worthy' style. It must look amazing from their perspective. Matt Derbyshire waits for his friends to come down, and he gets a great reception. Wait until the last one of them leaves, and then make for the exit.

Outside, huge crowds of people walking in every direction, most of them bitterly disappointed. But not you. The 4hr journey home doesn't seem so bad now, and your hands are still shaking, voice slightly going, as you join the throngs of red-shirted fans heading for the station.

Official Blackburn Rovers website
Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn Rovers 2 [BBC]
Video of Matt Derbyshire's winner [with Turkish commentary]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Royal Mail - you've made the list

What does this mean to some people? Kerr-ching!

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and they were saying that this blog is always positive and full of the good things - but what about the negative? I guess most regular readers would know that I like travelling, pies, and so forth, but not what pisses me off. Well in a week where the Royal Mail have been dicking us about by not delivering mail - especially those of us waiting on birthday cards and important football tickets, they have been quite rightly added to the list. Why do people think "stuff gets lost in the post all the time. Hey, it's unfortunate, but what can you do?" I tell you what you can do, you can stop using the bloody Royal Mail, that's what you can do. I paid £25 for the ticket for Saturday's opening Rovers match at Middlesbrough and it mysteriously fails to arrive. Shower of bastards.

What else annoys me? Pointless film remakes. There. Hairspray is out now in the UK, a re-working of the musical from 2002, that was based on the original film of 1988. Why? What's the point? The new 2007 version cost $75m to make. Seventy five million dollars. If it had never been made, would the world be a worse place, even in the slightest? Not all all. A screenwriter redrafts a 19yr old script, John Travolta parks his 767 at the fat-suit modellers, and 117 minutes of vapid 'entertainment' is lazily transferred onto celluloid. And I don't just mean to pick on Hairspray - do we really, honestly, need a new Superman? A new King Kong? What about a new Evil Dead, a new 12 Angry Men, a new Bullitt? How can they possibly be any better? This is why I don't go to the cinema.

TV adverts that are on every commercial break make me want to throw things. "What do trees mean to you?" I must have seen that a dozen times tonight and I still couldn't tell you what it's selling. I tell you what trees mean to me - clearly they are intrinsic to the functioning of a balanced ecosystem, they provide food, shelter and numerous other products to humans and animals, they look rather nice, sometimes things get stuck in them, I fell out of one once, some of them flower in the summer, and others get decorated in the winter, they make a hell of a sound when they fall over, and I always seem to get my golf ball stuck behind one. That's what trees mean to me, you ponytailed advertising morons. And while we're on the subject, who puts greek yoghurt on their Weetabix? Who?

What else? What about....people talking on phones on public transport? I know many people hate others wearing headphones and tinny music - but I wonder if those people had ever thought that the entire coach/carriage/bus doesn't really care what you got up to at the weekend? I'll be happy to listen to my iPod and forget you can even speak, you vacuous idiots. If you're meeting up with your friends tonight, why do you need to tell them now things you're going to repeat later? And don't read Harry Potter if you're over 20, for god's sake. Read Moby Dick or The Big Sleep, or something. Oh, and if you like to walk out of shops into busy pavements and promptly stop without warning, don't be surprised when you get crashed into by pedestrians who actually know where they are going and yet can think clearly about other things at the same time. And don't have a go at traffic wardens, they aren't the problem. Wankers who park illegally and get annoyed when they get caught are.

I'm going on a bit here, so I'll summarise the rest. Sick people smoking - every day at the hospital I see them lined up outside the cancer centre puffing away, getting ever nearer to becoming a statistic on my database...People who speed up to nip through traffic lights, as if they can't spare twenty seconds of their fabulously important existances...Currys Digital - it is seriously the worst shop known to humanity - I never thought I'd find somewhere that makes PC World look like Selfridges...Fernando Alonso, who left Renault F1 because he wanted a challenge and now can't handle it, nine races in...Charity collectors who come in pubs - controversial maybe, but I give money to charity, I shouldn't be cornered in a pub...Pretentious Edinburgh festival pillocks...Mixing raisins with nuts - fantastic on their own, but who dreamed up the idea of combining them in bags? And in chocolate?...The Premiership 'big four', there are 88 other league teams you know, as much as I like reading about Chelsea and Man Utd every day...Shitty badly talented musical artists landing record deals when far-more talented people I know have not...Anyone who reads the Daily Mail...Rugby...Dogs...I think that's it. Thanks for listening...

[edit - definately not on the list are the good people at Blackburn Rovers FC, who I phoned about my missing ticket. They have faxed Middlesbrough and asked them to print me a duplicate ticket I can pick up at the stadium on the day of the match. See Royal Mail? That's called Customer Service.]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Another year...

Thanks for all your birthday wishes and cards, I've taken the day off work today - I really think your birthday should be a free holiday if it falls during the week (someone start a petition!). I'm out doing some of the finer things in life - golfing in the sunshine, drinking with friends, that kind of thing. A far cry from 2006 when I was in Boston for my 30th and melting in the heatwave; or 2005, when I was treated to a fancy lunch by my Sydney workmates. But 2007 can be special in other ways - like the Queen, I've decided to commission a painting of myself. Only instead of Rolf Harris, I got my old mate Matt Groening to immortalise me...