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March, 2009:

Bush Fire Moon

With the recent Victorian Bushfires (Bush Fires, Update, Contained) we have had some wonderful sunrises and sunsets. I managed to get this photo from our back steps, just above our next-door neighbour’s roof. 

Bushfire Moon

The only good vantage point I had for a sunrise was through the kitchen window. The fly-screen meant that I ended up with strong strobe effect, so no joy there.

Councils Issue Banned Jargon List

It looks like the Local Government Association (LGA) is having another crack-down on the English language.  This time it does look like a real attempt at improving communication, rather than the previous attempt to rout us of nasty foreign words [^].


The LGA’s banned jargon list [^] identifies what can only be described as management-speak and weasel words, phrases and terms that are used to obscure meaning. Some of the terms include “predictors of beaconicity”, “procure”, “potentialities” and “coterminous, stakeholder engagement”. And good riddance I say to them.

A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman said to the BBC:

 “This gobbledegook has to go. Jargon has its place within professions but it should not be allowed to leak out to the public, as it causes confusion.”

Technical terms do have a place in the professions where they clarify meaning, or identify specific situation. But “predictors of beaconicity” and “coterminous, stakeholder engagement” are just down-right confusing. Such terminology reduces the effectiveness of the message, rather than improving it. This is sloppy use of the available tools, in this case language.

It is like saying that a student “is no longer permanently affiliated with” a school rather than expelled (Skins Series 2, Episode 5). The problem with this is that there is a significant mental shift that is required mid-sentence to interpret the phrase, rather than instant understanding. That is a lot of verbal gymnastics to go through just to remove, or obscure, one undesirable word.

As any student will tell you any form of communication should be tailored to the intended audience. No audience wants to have to rush off to the dictionary to discover that “coterminous” means equal in scope, or sharing a boundary! We are all “stakeholders” in the activities our governments, let’s hope that this is just the beginning of dialogue that establishes communication norms.

The Cult of Done

There is an interesting variation on getting things done in the “The Cult of Done Manifesto[^]. Pretending to know what you are doing, or making it up as you go along, is something that I have subscribed to for a long time.  And there are a few other points that I can identify with.

1.  There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

The Cult of Done Manifesto

Unlike many other treatises on the subject of getting things done this has a healthy dose of pragmatism. It’s worthwhile clicking through and reading the rest of this wonderful manifesto.

English Nurse Forced to Take English Test

This just tickled my fancy. 

A British nurse has been forced to take an English language test before she can work in Australia.

TimesOnline - Strewth! Briton must take an English test 

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Board introduced new language proficiency regulations for all migrants on 1st January.  This rule even applies to the 33 year-old Birmingham born, Bristol educated Ms Julie Dutton; despite her being fluent in English, and holding a Nursing degree  from an English university.

There is an undoubted need for a nurse to be able to communicate effectively with other hospital staff. But is this a case of “bureaucracy gone mad” as the NSW Opposition claim, or just a lack of commonsense?

More frustrating was the fact that the next test that Ms Dutton could sit was in June. With government intervention, a place has been found this weekend at Macquarie University’s International English Language Testing System Centre.

David Harris from the testing authority said “If it was to be decided that people should be exempted from the test, on the basis of what evidence would they make that decision?” That indeed is the question, the one that should have been determined prior to the regulation being introduced.

Interestingly, it must be noted that Australian nurses in the UK face the same profiency requirements.

Via: ABC News [^] and TimesOnline [^]

The Victorian Bushfires are Contained

A day of heavy rain has meant that the last of the bushfires [^] that raged across the state for five weeks is now controlled. The fires have claimed 210 lives, more than 2,000 homes and burnt 421,000 hectares.

Two weeks ago we drove up to the farm, along the Melba Highway. On the way we passed close to the Kinglake township and through Yea, some of the areas most effected by the fires. The change in the landscape is almost unbelieveable; stark burnt trees and bare earth have replaced the lush, overgrown forest floor. 

Life Returns to Kinglake: Neil Creek

Life Returns to Kinglake: Neil Creek

From the highway there are signs of frantic fire-fighting efforts, especially around Glenburn, and around odd farmhouses.  But, the human-scale of the loss, lives and houses, is hidden from view.

Neil Creek, a Melbourne photographer, was invited into the town of Kinglake [^].  He has the story of his visit, photos  and some details of how the town was affected, as told by a local, on his blog. 

Neil has also written an article on the Digital Photography School site [^], called “Photographing a Tragedy [^]“. The post emphasises the need for respect and tact in this situation, and fills in more of the Kinglake story.

Photo Credit: Neil CreekCreative Commons License