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Monday, October 17, 2011

Bmag Oct 18th 2011 - Two cars, dayight saving vs TV tweeting

We always said we wouldn’t but, for the past two years, the Howsons have been a two-car family. We never planned it that way. But when my sister-in-law decided to spend some time living and working in the UK, she needed somewhere in Brisbane to park her belongings. Now we face the moment of truth. Carly tells us she is coming home at the end of November and, funnily enough, she wants her car back! We must decide whether to go back to one vehicle or purchase a second car.

Where Nikki works, public transport isn’t an option, so she has always taken our car. I would be the one going back to taxis and buses. I do enjoy using public transport. I find it relaxing – as long as you can get a seat – and I believe in public transport as a way of keeping cars off the roads and reducing congestion and pollution. But there is something to be said for leaving work when you want to, having your own space, calling in to your favourite CD shop on the way home, and not having to walk from the bus stop!

And yet, we don’t need a second car. It’s an indulgence and further proof that materialism is out of control. We’re as guilty of this as the next person. When we bought our last television four years ago 32 inches seemed a decent size. But a couple of months ago, 55 inches became just a little too tempting. We now have two TVs. Last time we replaced our computer, we bought two identical ones and put them on a wireless home network. Sure, our son Jack is using one at the moment, meaning I can type this on the other, but did we really need two computers? Probably not. Just like the second TV and second computer, we don’t need a second car. We want one. But we don’t need one. Of course, the ultimate material want is a bigger home. I like the one we’re in but that doesn’t stop me browsing the real estate pages. The trouble is whatever you buy, you’ll always want bigger. Or newer. Or a better view. Quite simply, we are never satisfied.

I’m sure this isn’t an original thought but these words came to me the other day: As soon as you realise that you can never have everything, you give yourself permission to not want anything more. I’m not claiming to be the Dalai Lama or Confucious, but I think I’ve hit it on the head with that statement. It takes a while to come to that conclusion. No 20-year-old is going to agree with it. But as you get older – I’ll be 40 next time – you learn to be at peace with your lot. No promises, but hopefully you won’t see me buying a second car. I’d like to think that, instead, I will top up my go card and hand over the car keys.

Light or wrong? Finally, a word on daylight saving. As someone who moderates radio talkback discussions about daylight saving every six months, like clockwork, I offer the following conclusion: If you like to get up with the birds so you can surf, write, read or garden before getting on with your day, chances are you are happy without daylight saving. A 5am sunrise, as it is at the moment, makes more sense to you than 6am. If you’re not an early riser. If you’d rather use that extra hour at the end of your day, you probably support Queensland joining the southern states in having daylight saving. For you, a 7pm sunset would be preferable to the current 6pm.

There is no right and wrong answer. There are “morning people” and “night people”. Yet every April and October, those pushing for daylight saving get on their high horses and attempt to convince everyone that their way is the better way. As someone whose radio show starts at 5am, you can guess with which camp I currently sympathise! The only argument I see gaining any traction is the frustration felt by those wanting to watch television whilst Tweeting (or Facebooking, etc) along with their friends in the southern states. At least some interactive programs – including Q&A on ABC News 24 and Australia’s Next Top Model on Fox 8 – are broadcast into Queensland at the same time as the other states.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bmag October 4th 2011 - Spencer's advice to high-schoolers

My attention was recently drawn to the amount of work that must be completed by Year 12 students in term three. A concerned dad emailed me his daughter’s assessment list which included seven 1000 word essays and seven in-class exams.

Discussing this on my ABC radio show, the consensus from teachers and parents was that term three of Year 12 was the toughest period in a student’s life, often much harder than university. All this prompted me to pull out a speech I gave to Year 10 students at Aspley State High in 2004. Show this to anxious teens in your life if you think it will inspire them as they begin term four.

Year 10 was a shocker for me. I barely passed. And yet I left Year 12 with a T.E. score of 990, now known as an OP1. The reason I did well in Years 11 and 12? I knew it was time to get serious but also I chose subjects which I enjoyed. At university, I could have done anything but I wanted to study journalism. So I did. Again, I chose a course which I knew I would enjoy. And, from then on, I’ve been having a ball!

I know what you’re thinking – it was easy for you, Spencer! You knew what you wanted to do! I was lucky in that regard. But, if you don’t know what you want to be doing at my age, it doesn’t matter. What do you want to be doing right now? Work towards that. Your goals will change.

My wife Nikki started off studying anatomy. After a year, she switched to journalism and ended up working as a TV reporter and producer. Her anatomy year wasn’t wasted. She was able to take credit points into her journalism degree and she learned that anatomy wasn’t for her.

A friend who works at The Courier-Mail, Michael Lund, started out in a mathematics course. Then he worked out that what he liked about maths was taking complex models and explaining them simply. This led him to a job at a newspaper, where he was taking complex news stories and explaining them simply. He never regrets studying maths, otherwise he might never have ended up in journalism.

What I’m saying is pursue your current dream with all your energy. As long as it doesn’t involved sitting under a tree somewhere, or watching daytime television while the dole trickles in. You do need a job. And you do need money. But you don’t need a great job. And you don’t need lots of money. It helps to find out about jobs before they’re advertised. Do this by mixing with people in your chosen industry. If you don’t know any, do some unpaid work – anything to get your foot in the door – and to build relationships with people you would like to work alongside.

Once you’re inside an organisation – as a casual or intern – there are three things to remember. If you’re asked to do something, do it. Secondly, do it well. And thirdly, be likeable. I don’t think enough is said about likeability. It’s certainly never mentioned in job advertisements, although sometimes you see “team player”. At the ABC in Brisbane, I see casual staff and interns come and go. They’re all capable and reliable. But the ones who go the distance, and end up with full-time jobs, get on with everyone.

There’s a well-known saying that Bill Gates likes to repeat. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you will end up working for one. What I would say is be nice to everyone because you could end up working for them! At high school there are people you like and people you dislike. There are people who like you and people who dislike you, but when you leave school shake hands with everyone and wish them all well for the future.

Life just keeps getting better and better. I have a job which I enjoy. I’m paid money which I enjoy spending. I have a wife and son, whom I love very much. If you’re having a tough time now, it does get better! And to those who are already having fun, that’s great. It gets better still!!