Sausage Sizzle!

The sausage sizzle is a venerable Australian tradition. It is a staple of community fundraisers across the country. Whether it is the local sports team, fire brigade or interest society barbecuing sausages and onions; its product and purpose is universally understood.

Recently a Brisbane man has ‘completed‘ his search for Brisbane’s best chicken parmigiana, a pub food staple. He ate a chicken parma at a different pub each week for a year, and wrote a review for each.

Maybe I should do the same for sausage sizzles!

They’re not hard to find. It’s a safe bet that every weekend nearly every Bunnings Warehouse (and some other hardware stores) will have a sausage sizzle running; it’s part of their efforts to support local communities. Extend that to community events, and that’s potentially lots of sausages each month!

But why Ben? Why spend time and energy reviewing $2.50 food? Well firstly, thanks to reality television, everyone seems to be obsessed with food and its nuances. So reviewing sausage sizzles won’t be out of place in today’s discourse. Secondly, like almost every other aspect of life, there’s no such thing as a free lunch (pardon the food pun). If a community group consistently serves up bad sausage sizzles, why should they deserve our money? If a business neglects its customers, then it goes out of business. The same standard should apply to those who want our money for good causes.

But a sausage sizzle is just bread, sausage and onions! How much can you say about this delicacy?


Bread: One slice of white bread or two? Or have they gone fancy and given us a hot dog bun or bread roll? Or (on one occasion) brown bread?!
Sausage: How’s the taste? Served not cold? Also, is it served intact or cut in half?
Onions: Are they golden brown? How generous are they with the onions?
Sauces: What is provided? Tomato and barbeque are compulsory. Other choices are appreciated.
Price: Very important. As of 2016, anything more than $2.5 for the sausage sizzle and $1.5 for a can of drink is frowned upon.
Community group/cause: Who will receive the proceeds of the sausage sizzle? Be specific, because only saying “to charity” leads to suspicion and will be frowned upon.

Well, I’d better get started!

5 Year Reunion, Thank You!

[This is the last I’ll be speaking about the reunion, I promise!]

Have we all recovered from last Friday? Excellent!

Thank you for coming to the reunion. Bec and I have received many messages of thanks; we’re glad you had a great night. It was wonderful to see so many of you again, whether it was two days or five years since the last time.

A lot of you told us, “More bar tab!”. It did run out quite early, so I’ll keep that in mind for next reunion.

So about that ‘speech’. I had a few jokes lined up, but half of you didn’t see me and I was exhausted, so here is what I was going to say. (In fact, I think these jokes work better read than said)

Thank you for coming tonight! We thought we’d try a spot outside the city for a change. Seems like you all like it, plus no lockouts yet!

It is so great to see you all again. Looking at all the Facebook posts this week, I’m glad we’re all still so witty and funny.

So we’re about to start selling tickets for the 10 year reunion. The deadline is in November, but we’re extending it to next year.

Thank you!

Please, do have a look at the photos (here). The selfies turned out all right, but not as popular as A and T making out. You know, it’s not the first time I’ve taken selfies with a camera that weighs as much as a brick; I started 5 years ago!

To those who couldn’t make it: Please come to the 10 year reunion! We miss you. :-)

And for those who were there: I’m sorry that we didn’t have a proper chat. I took it upon myself to at least say hello to everyone, clearly, long conversations suffered. Please, I’d be happy to continue our conversations over lunch, coffee, or a drink. Maybe I’ll show you that photo. Keep in touch here.

What happened last night?

Two nights ago, I went to a party. And then after that party, I followed some people from that party to go have another drink somewhere else. It was getting late, the first time I remember checking my watch after the party, it was 1am. I wanted to leave, but something compelled me to stay. It was during that time that I learned a few more things about myself, and those who love their tipple too much.

1. I am still terrible at staying up late
I have never been able to stay up later than 12:30am. Never. I will fall like a stone on the bed, no questions asked. Obviously this means that ‘all-nighters’ are ineffective, and also late, late nights at the pub with mates are events where I can’t stay awake. In the rare times I do stay up very late, I don’t know how I do it, adrenaline maybe?

2. I don’t get along too well at parties with alcohol
A bit of background: I don’t drink, and haven’t done so since two months after I turned 18. So while everyone is drunk (or pissed, whichever you prefer) at the end of the night, what am I left to do? Nothing really. Just watch people try to string together sentences to mean something? Actually it’s not as bad as it sounds, but things get so boring after people have less idea of what they are doing. At 1am, you can still probably make out something, by 2am conversations go around in circles. 3am? Locked out in Sydney city.

3. I am very good at not drinking alcohol
As I said in point 2, I haven’t drunk alcohol for a long time. But even through that long night, I politely declined every time someone offered me something. Also, I think that I am fortunate to have friends who accept the fact that I don’t drink ‘just because’.

4. Never question a drunk person’s (non-violent) actions
One of my friends that night took a number of jackets when we left the bar that night. Now they have realised their mistake, and it will be fun seeing what they do with the other jackets. So why never question a drunk person’s actions? Because it will be funny watching what they do afterwards.

Keeping In Touch

A few years ago, English professor Robin Dunbar wrote in a study that the brain can only manage up to 150 friends. Dunbar found that if a person tries to maintain more than that number, the relationships would deteriorate. At the time, many online articles compared this with Facebook’s friend limit (of 5000) for profiles; it was the big beat-up in tech news.

Today, I am finding it increasingly hard to stay on top of the connections I make. Sure I’m likely to remember who someone is, but it’s less likely that I will be interested in how they are going, or what they have been doing recently. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I can’t be bothered keeping up this friendship any more”? The easy thing to do is to forget, and move on. Reestablishing contact is hard, but it should be done.

When I started my Facebook account in high school, I had thought that the friends’ list would be a great way to keep track of how many ‘real’ friends I had. Now, the friends’ list is really now a ‘connections’ list; a way to keep in touch with people I meet.

I categorise all my friends on Facebook using groups. It helps me remember how I met them. Some groups are more important to me than others. There are groups that you constantly care about, then there are those which you don’t check up on as often. Most of those I ‘neglect’ are great people who I only meet/associate with once, and unfortunately nothing else.

The longer a friendship is left alone, the harder it is to revive it. So what can be done to keep friendships fresh?

Dunbar defines a ‘meaningful relationship’ as one where you know how the other person relates to you, and to others you are closely associated with. He goes on to suggest that contact with a certain friend at least once a year would be enough to maintain such a relationship. But with social media supposedly bringing people closer together, and young people and professionals becoming more time-poor, what is the least we can do to maintain connections?

Is an occasional like, favourite or retweet enough? I don’t think so. What about a ‘Happy Birthday’ post every year? If it leads into a short conversation, that might be fine. For now, it seems a brief IM conversation is good enough.

If there was some way for someone to be notified each time their friend smiles or laughs at a post, without them having to write ‘:)’ or ‘lol’, then we would feel a bit more appreciative of our friends, as well as know how many people read what we post.

Year 4

I noticed that I wrote a post about my thoughts of starting at Macquarie Uni in 2010 and Sydney University in 2011. I didn’t write a post for 2012 for whatever reason, so here now is one for 2013. Consider the goals of the year my new year’s resolutions!

2013 marks my third year at Sydney University (USyd) and fourth year of university overall. It’s now the time to plan for the future and get serious about which direction to go professionally. This means planning to apply for summer vacation positions, plan for grad positions, gather information and network (*shudder*). I aim to do almost all that this year, as well as plan an exchange and lift my marks*.

Let’s start with the exchange. It has been a goal of mine to go on an exchange during uni. Why? Well, the usual reasons why: new experiences, travel, and new perspectives. The plan is to go somewhere is Scandinavia, most likely Sweden, or Denmark. But it starts with lifting my marks. I’ll need a distinction (75%) average this year for any chance to apply. Last semester I barely passed all my subjects! So, here lies the path ahead. Doable? Of course.

Now the positions with accounting firms. The smart thing to do is to gain experience by working a summer vacation position, and then parlay that into a grad position straight out of uni. This year I shall apply for these, and plan when I would be doing this (if successful) around the exchange (if I get to do that).

Finally, the task I don’t like the most: networking. I’ve always dismissed networking because I never considered it useful. As with anything we do, starting (initiating a conversation) it is hard, but once you get going (continuing that conversation), it becomes easier. This year it’s time to man up, go to these networking sessions and talk to people. It’s the connections made that count.

Here’s to a great 2013.

* – I blame my lower marks on an ongoing personal issue that has been happening. Of course some of you are going to say “Sure Ben, everybody has issues, grow a pair.”, but I don’t care. Close friends of mine know what I’m talking about.

Sydney Universities Dates: Semester 1 2013

Happy 2013!

DATES S1 2013

Notes: As reported by the university, therefore weekends may or may not be counted. If you have additional information, please email me.

S1 Start Mid-Semester Break Study Vacation Examinations Winter Break S2 start
MQ 25 Feb 13 Apr to 28 Apr 11 Jun to 28 Jun 29 Jun to 28 Jul 29 Jul
UNSW 4 Mar 27 Mar to 7 Apr 8 Jun to 13 Jun 14 Jun to 1 Jul 2 Jul to 28 Jul 29 Jul
USYD 4 Mar 29 Mar to 5 Apr 10 Jun to 14 Jun 17 Jun to 29 Jun 30 Jun to 28 Jul 29 Jul
UTS 25 Feb 22 Apr to 26 Apr 8 Jun to 28 Jun 29 Jun to 28 Jul 29 Jul
UWS 25 Feb 15 Apr to 21 Apr 3 Jun to 7 Jun 11 Jun to 30 Jun 1 Jul to 28 Jul 29 Jul
ANU 18 Feb 29 Mar to 12 Apr 1 Jun to 5 Jun 6 Jun to 21 Jun 22 Jun to 21 Jul 22 Jul


Sydney Festival 2013

Happy New Year everyone! I’m rather happy to be involved in the Sydney Festival again this year as a volunteer and marshal. This year’s festival is jam-packed with events, and is the first to be directed by Lieven Bertels. Some of the main events include the Arrival of the Rubber Duck, Concrete and Bone Sessions: a dance-theatre act held at a skate park and the music events at Paradiso, the Festival Bar in Town Hall.

This is my third year volunteering for the Festival, and I enjoy meeting and talking to all sorts of people that pass through the city. I’m usually at the information booths, collecting about funny questions people ask me, as well as telling people about what they can see at the Festival. It’s pretty obvious that I love when friends and all pass by where I’m stationed, so below are the dates that I’ll be at booths.

Thurs 10 Jan: Martin Place booth 3-7pm
Tues 15 Jan: The Quiet Volume, Mitchell Library 12:30-4pm
Fri 18 Jan: Martin Place booth 1-7pm
Thurs 24 Jan Circular Quay booth 1-5pm

I’m also marshaling at the Arrival (rubber duck) this Saturday 5 January and at the Parramatta opening and closing parties on 19 and 26 January respectively. Do say hello if you see me around, but first and foremost, enjoy these free events!

Old Ads – Part 2

I was going to write about the adverts of McDonalds. However, it is hard for me not to sound like a hater; must be because of the ‘fatty foods’ reputation. I can assure you, from eating Maccas for years, that their food is decent.

Instead, the other day, I came across a fanvid of a rather unknown song. This video cut some old British TV ads from the 80s to the beat of the song.

And the ad I want to talk about is this one:

The history behind the ad campaign is as amazing as how the ad goes about selling the product. In the late 70s railways in the UK were not privatised like they are today. Then, they were suffering from a poor reputation and a lack of funds. Something needed to be done to revitalise the network, and to make train travel fashionable again. Luckily at that time, high-speed services were being introduced. A new ad campaign fronted by Jimmy Savile with the slogan “This is the age of the train” was launched. The campaign was a huge success, with performance and perception of British Rail improving greatly.

Remember, this was the 80s, and the advertising style was very different. In the ad above, there’s a lot of descriptive language of the service. I cringe at the amount of times the word ‘business’ is said. It sounds like the dialogue does not flow. But that sort of prose sold things back then!

These days, you don’t hear too many ads with meticulous descriptions. You’ll more likely see a product described in a very abstract way. Imagine, if Coke ads consisted of a voice over like “a drink for enjoyment on the hot days…”!

What I do like about the ad is the corny jingle, and the man pouring tea and coffee. The use of the jingle becomes more strange in the ad below, when the singing of the slogan is combined with the spoken words. And what about the man with the tea and coffee? It’s something of a lost symbol now. I used to see a lady at my local Maccas years ago refilling tea and coffee during breakfast time. She was always chatting with customers, and showing that flavour of personal service that now seems to be restricted to planes and fancy restaurants. Where has friendly personal service gone? I’d say the bean counters cut it out a long ago.

Second ad after the jump.
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Old Ads

I’ve been fascinated by old television advertisements recently. Just to be clear, I’m talking about ads from the 1980s, but there are some which aren’t from that time. What is great is that lots of these ads are posted on YouTube, (I guess) for posterity’s sake.

I think why I’ve been so interested in old ads is that the style of marketing is very different to what it is today. Plus I wasn’t around in the 80s, and I seem to have a liking for that time period (I was quite crazy for this exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum a few years ago).

There’s quite a few ads I want to talk about, so I’ll be writing a few posts all up about them.

First up: Cadbury

Julius Sumner Miller was a physicist well known for his children’s television shows about physics and science. He had a unique presenting style, and enthusiasm that was also seen in ads he did for Cadbury in the 80s.

Here’s probably the most well known ad at the time:

All of the ads in the series feature Miller demonstrate a simple scientific concept and then segue into something about the chocolate. The ‘Atmospheric Pressure’ ad above was particularly annoying, because milkmen very often found eggs in the bottles. It was, of course a nightmare to get the eggs out of the bottles.

[Aside: The easiest way to get the egg out of the bottle is to form a gas inside the bottle. I’ll let you figure out the rest!]

When was the last time you heard the word ‘nourishment’ on an ad?

A large proportion of ads in the 80s had a lot of dialogue and/or a (hopefully) catchy jingle in them. Nowadays, we only tend to hear a short jingle or slogan. Or lame recreations of classic songs.

More Cadbury ads after the jump.

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Sydney Universities Dates: Semester 2 2012

As usual, dates for Sydney universities. Enjoy!

DATES S2 2012

Notes: As reported by the university, therefore weekends may or may not be counted. If you have additional information, please email me.

S2 Start Mid-Semester Break Study Vacation Examinations Summer Break S1 ’13 start
MQ 30 Jul 15 Sept to 1 Oct 12 Nov to 30 Nov 1 Dec to 24 Feb 25 Feb
UNSW 16 Jul 1 Sep to 9 Sep 20 Oct to 25 Oct 26 Oct to 13 Nov 14 Nov to 3 Mar 4 Mar
USYD 30 Jul 24 Sep to 1 Oct 5 Nov to 9 Nov 12 Nov to 24 Nov 25 Nov to 3 Mar 4 Mar
UTS 30 Jul 24 Sep to 1 Oct 10 Nov to 30 Nov 1 Dec to 24 Feb 25 Feb
UWS 30 Jul 24 Sep to 1 Oct 5 Nov to 9 Nov 12 Nov to 1 Dec* 3 Dec to 24 Feb 25 Feb
ANU 23 Jul 10 Sep to 21 Sep 3 Nov to 7 Nov 8 Nov to 24 Nov 25 Nov to 17 Feb 18 Feb

* UWS has not confirmed the end date of exams.