The Sick Day Corollary

I have been off sick from work today and have taken a sick day. As I have sat here undertaking a cross between dozing, answering emails, racing to the bathroom and watching Skyfall again on DVD I have been pondering a quote from, of all shows, Fat Pizza being “Come on Dinkums, who do you know that actually takes a sick day when they are sick?” The character of Paulie in Fat Pizza has a point, albeit one not as overt as the one in the quote.

I do not know whether it is a quintessentially Australian thing nor whether it is a male thing but it strikes me that both “camps” have a distinct abhorrence to taking a sick day when they are actually sick. I know that during my first career I either had to be under sedation, anaesthesia or locked out of the building to not come to work when I was sick. My theorem at the time was a mixture of not wanting to seem weak and because I thought I was so vital to the operation of my firm that I just could not miss a day.

To say that I have learned the error of my ways in this new career would be an understatement. When I am unwell I take a sick day. To be clear: I do not mean when I have a sniffle or a scratchy throat here; I mean when I am unable to see out of my right eye because of a migraine or, like today, when I am having significant balance problems coupled with a vomiting.

So that is that and I have learned a valuable lesson about looking after myself … BUT is that really all of this topic that requires discussion? It is in the second line of this post that holds the answer. I have spent a large part of today answering emails and, it is easier to say, actually working. So that begs the question: am I actually just working from home today or am I convalescing in the hope of returning to work tomorrow?

Therein lies what I think is a new corollary about the taking of sick leave: even when we (and here I am referring to those of us in professional services or any vocation that provides one with a smart phone) are on sick leave we are still working. Smart phones, tablets and secure log ons from home computers all make us still contactable and, if we allow ourselves to be, still working. I make no criticism of my employer here: it is my choice to sit on my lounge juggling my two iPads and answering my iPhone. Indeed, I tell myself, I will not be sufficiently relaxed to actually let myself heal without keeping my eye on work and engaging with my staff and other stakeholders who form part of my daily work so in fact doingthis work is an important part of my day off.

Much has been written about the so called “crackberry” syndrome. I am unsure as to whether I am a sufferer in the true sense because I am simply using the ability to check my emails as a self destressing mechanism. I do not propose to traverse all of the issues that surround the said syndrome.

Suffice it to say though, and getting back to the point of this blog, it makes me wonder whether we have reached a point where, in some industries or professions, the offering of sick leave is meaningless? If, when one is sick, we are still, in effect, working if only to check our emails and respond accordingly why is it necessary to take sick leave? That is still work isn’t it? Or has the connectivity of the work place moved so far that the act of checking emails is considered just a part of life rather than work?

I am not going to lie: there is a part of me that wishes I could turn that part of my brain off that compels me to ensure nothing is in my emails that needs urgent or detailed consideration. As I can not the question remains: should I request sick leave for today or just mark it down as a working from home day?

NRL and ASADA: when did this become about unfairness?

I was listening to the Triple M rugby league show with Matthew Johns, among others, On Sunday afternoon and was more than a little irritated by the statement that ASADA’s proposed questioning of players who are alleged to have taken illegal substances was unfair particularly around State of Origin time. I was also irritated by the statement that the ASADA investigation was unfair on the Cronulla Sharks and that that was a reason for their poor start to the season.

This is not the first time I have heard these comments. Indeed from the rugby league I do watch and the commentary about it that I listen to and read it seems to be the prevailing opinion that ASADA has been grossly unfair in its investigation.

Firstly, I am in no way a defender of ASADA or the Crime Commission. I believe that the report issued jointly by them should have come AFTER an investigation into the use of illegal drugs in sport was finalised. This did not happen and now ASADA is investigating.

Secondly, it must be remembered that ASADA is a federal body investigating the illegal use of drugs in sport. If guilty the users will be suspended and, worse, condemned as cheats and worse still a game will be tarnished for years to come. They have not targeted anyone with malice or forthought, rather they are simply doing their jobs.

The stakes are obviously high and equally obviously ASADA needs to get its investigation right. If there is an allegation that is backed by some evidence then it is obvious that ASADA should, and in fact, must investigate. How is that in any way unfair? If the allegations are false then the players and club are cleared. If the allegations are true then, I repeat, the punishment will be severe.

Surely then those espousing the “unfairness” argument surrounding ASADA’s investigation would want them to investigate in their own time to ensure that: a. they get the investigation right; and b. if the club and players are innocent they are able to declare as much. An elongated investigation assists no one and only adds to the rumour and innuendo surrounding the code, the clubs and the players.

Would similar statements of unfairness be making made if the Sharks had have started the season 7-0 rather than 2-5? I am pretty sure the answer to that is no. There is empirical proof to back this: one only has to look at the conduct of the Essendon AFL club who are 5-0 and have been even more publicly embroiled in the drugs in sport controversy and the ASADA investigation. I mean the Bombers coach has been directly and personally implicated for goodness sake and they have continued to win.

I think the NRL and its players should consider themselves very lucky. In other jurisdictions sportsmen are stood down immediately upon an allegation of misuse of a banned substance made with the due process surrounding the investigation taking place AFTER the “ban” starts. The fact that the Sharks (and other teams’ players) are still able to play whilst under investigation should be seen as a postive for the NRL and indicative that they could be in a much worse position then they are now.

I believe that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. I equally agree that due process must be followed. The NRL’s “supporters” of the argument that ASADA is being unfair are seeking to change the rules of engagement by publicly arguing that the ongoing investigation is such. This victim mentality must stop because it is not serving anyone; NRL, players, media and ASADA alike well.

In fact I will go one step further: the NRL and its players MUST stop with its campaign to convince us that this investigation is unfair and they are victims in all of this because, simply, it is not and they are not. ASADA has a job to do and they should be allowed to do it without this unnecessary intervention.

The Social Media trap: “is that tweet / blog about me?”

I have been pondering this blog post for a while and wondering, on the one hand, am I being stupid and, on the other hand, am I to blasé. Here is the background: in the last week on a more than one occasion something that I have either tweeted or posted in one of my blogs has been read by a follower and a friend as a personal attack on someone. I have re-read over and over the offending posts I see nothing offensive in them and other than the fact that someone has taken offence they “offending” posts are innocuous in the extreme.

My stupid thoughts are for this reason: I keep saying to myself that this is not a big deal, will be a boring blog that no one will read (not much change from the usual there) and really represents a storm in a tea cup.

My blasé thoughts are for this reason: I also keep saying to myself that this might be a bigger deal than I, or anyone else thinks, and there is a whole group of people out there worried sick about a tweet or blog post they have read on there timelines when they really shouldn’t be.

So why then am I writing about it? Well this whole issue this week has gotten me thinking about the vagaries of interpersonal communication and the fact that in the past decade to fifteen years the way we communicate has moved forward at light speed. All the while the human condition and our ability to assume, hypothesis, fantasise and wonder has not changed. As human beings we all have feelings and we are the only real controllers of said feelings.

Social media has swooped in and, coupled with SMS messaging, the time of picking up the phone and calling someone has passed by in the blink of an eye. Therein lies a problem as I see it: in textual form it is impossible to determine with 100% certainty the mood of the person, the “tone” of the message and, indeed, if the message was sent in anger. Social media only enhances the problem: suddenly one is expressing oneself in a public forum to a poultice of people one knows and does not know and none of these followers have any ability to gauge the underlying circumstances of each particular post.

We have all been guilty of this: tweeting / facebooking / SMSing when angry and saying things that we did not mean and, indeed, speaking directly ill of people. These are not the interactions I am talking about here. What I am talking about are the posts that have no intention behind them whatsoever but are read by those who read your posts in a different way. Let’s face it: everyone interprets things differently based as diverse range a qualities as mental state, effectiveness of reading and focus. If a blog one posts is read by say 100 (one day big fella!) people there could be 100 different interpretations some of which could escalate in the readers mind a negative opinion about themself, the writer and even the topic.

I have myself on occasion read a tweet / blog post and thought “is that talking about me?” I generally got a bit miffed at this and often resolved to not talk to said poster for a while. This is precisely what happened to me this week and it is just out and out wrong! The tweets I was reading and agonising over were not about me and nor were the tweets of mine that were read by others to be about them. Yet in all cases a negative impression was made of the tweet / post which lead to a reduction in the repoir between the two parties involved as well as some fairly hefty self loathing.

In all of the cases I advert to above the situation quickly resolved itself but left all parties with a clear understanding that from here on in we will actually talk to each on the phone, or in the case of someone I know only from twitter a direct message enquiry will immediately be made, before jumping to a mistaken conclusion and let our brains run wild.

There is another subset to this issue however that also requires ventilation. It arises in the context of this argument “if you are not too busy to tweet and blog, why are you too busy to reply to me?” This argument is deceptively in the same ball park as the principal problem because the reader and maker of the argument has determined that you are ignoring them because you have not yet replied. There is no simple answer to this one save that, again, surely it is easier to just pick up the phone and communicate than spend hours with negative thoughts festering about the other person’s motives.

Therein lies the principal message of this blog (crikey: I wrote a blog with a takeaway message?!?!): do not let yourself be swept up in the negative thoughts that come from reading a tweet / post that you think is about you or that makes you think that the sender is ignoring you. 99.9% of the time the posting WILL NOT BE ABOUT YOU nor will the person be actually ignoring you. If you are worried a simple enquiry should answer your internal questioning and self doubt. If you do not take that step you could find yourself, like me, unfortunately, at the end of a friendship because the negative thoughts surrounding one’s motives became too difficult to erase.

For the record, one of the two “combatants” in this weeks drama about the “social media trap” will be reading this and know that I am writing it. The other has severed communications. Aside from the use of the facts in issue this blog is not about them and, for safety, is NOT directed at anyone else.

The answer is simple, and I repeat it, NO the tweet / post is not about YOU! If you are in doubt ask the poster and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Ashes: Ryan Harris injured? Calm down everybody!

Fans of the Australian cricket team awoke to the news on Thursday that Ryan Harris was returning home from the IPL due to an achilles heel injury. Actually, scratch that, on Thursday the news about Ryan Harris went something like this:

* Ryan Harris is injured.
* He is returning home 1 day after he was named in the Australian Ashes squad.
* He is out of the Ashes series.
* Yet again the Cricket Australia board of selectors have stuffed up.

Unfortunately for journalists of print, web and social media only one of those four “facts” were correct. As we found out AFTER the idiotic headlines (kudos to the Courier Mail for the picture of Harris with his head in his hands wearing a Queensland cap lamenting him being out of the Ashes campaign):

* Ryan Harris has an injury to his achilles heel.
* He left India on Tuesday; viz., one day in advance of the naming of the Australian Ashes squad.
* He is expected to be fit, in his words, in “a couple of weeks” OR, in the words of Cricket Australia, in six weeks. Neither timeline put him out of the Ashes squad.
* He was selected by Cricket Australia in the full knowledge of him returning home. Indeed he has returned home so that his injury can be managed by Cricket Australia doctors.

Now I know that:

* I have been a very harsh critic of the Cricket Australia selection panel and in particular John Inverarity; and
* We are all very excited about the forthcoming series: well one part excited and nine parts worried

BUT can everyone just calm down for a minute? I fully understand the social media explosion that goes with something like this happening: indeed on other occasions I have been stoking the fire. However, for the print media to beat this up the way they have smacks of another agenda or, at the very least, an attempt at expectation management of Australian fans (in the expectation of a comprehensive loss).

It seems that the print media in this country has already written this team off: having pillored Cricket Australia for the team they selected for India with the benefit of the hindsight of a 4-0 result (the same print media were very enamoured with the team before it departed these shores as I remember it) said media are now pilloring a team that has been selected seemingly solely with an eye on winning. Such writing is reminiscent of that of the English press when Australia were belting the Poms in ’89 and ’93. I never expected it from our press.

Am I missing something completely here? Cricket Australia have picked a team that is experienced in the conditions and, in my opinion, can win the Ashes. The Poms are cocky and think we are crap. What better time to get behind our team and bask in the glory of beating them? The reporting of the naming of the team and that of Ryan Harris’ injury suggests another agenda: I for one hope that changes sooner rather than later so that we can focus on getting our urn back!

The minute of silence: how hard can it be to show some respect?

To say my blood boiled on Thursday when I heard not once but twice at televised sporting events held to commemorate ANZAC Day that some sports fans could not restrain themselves from making a spectacle of themselves during the minute of silence would be an understatement. I mean: how hard can it be to show some common decency and respect for those that have fallen to protect our way of life and shut your mouth for 60 seconds? I do not care whether these people, I guess I am forced to call them people because maybe calling them scum is too harsh, thought they were being funny or were inebriated or simply were just trying to look hard in front of their mates or a combination of all three there is simply no excuse for such conduct. For the record (assuming you can read): you are not funny, you are not hard and you are a disrespectful idiot if you are one of those who breaks the silence during a minute of silence.

I can not understand what makes someone conduct themselves in such a fashion on the solemnest of days. This is not a “back in my day rant” nor am I going to blame the “younger generation”. Simply put, I am left to wonder whether times have changed so much that a group of people who have come together to commemorate one of our most important days of remembrance simply can not remain quiet during the most important part of said remembrance?

The lack of respect shown by those who hoot and holler during the minute of silence and, indeed, during the silences that form part of the last post and those who reply to them in kind just baffles me. It would be easy to say that the police should simply throw the offenders out but in a crowd of some 40,000 or 90,000 that is never going to be possible. Vigilante action against those who break the silence is not appropriate (no matter how good it might feel) because all that would lead to is an assault charge and an escort from the ground. Are we at the point as a society where we are going to have to decide whether we should hold such sporting commemorations on ANZAC Day?

You can not tell me that those who deigned to denigrate the minute of silence with their shenanigans would have done so at a dawn service or at any other service to commemorate the ANZACs. It seems to me that maybe the answer to ensure that due respect is shown for those who have fallen defending this nation and those who continue to still fight for us is to cease the ANZAC day ceremonial part of the sporting events held on that day. I know this smacks of punishing the many because of the conduct of the few but if people can not show due respect at such events they should not be given the opportunity to ruin it for everyone else.

I confess that I have heard such appalling conduct take place on other occasions when a minute of silence has been sought to commemorate the passing of a dignitary or in memorial after a disaster of some description and whilst I have also been appalled on those occasions I have never really turned my mind to the lack of respect it shows to those being memorialized. I hope we are not at the point where a minute of silence can never be mooted at a sporting event again however the hand wringing that followed the passing of Baroness Thatcher and some proposed minutes of silence suggests that we may very well be already be there.

I have written previously about my disdain for those who do not sing our national anthem nor stand and remove their hat for same ( and I feel similarly strongly about those who conduct themselves in the appalling fashion that we saw on Thursday as must be obvious from the foregoing. I hope one day we can get back to a place and time where a minute of silence can be observed without a “person” showing a callous lack of respect by breaking the silence.

Shumpty’s Punt: Another multi?

I know I proclaimed via twitter that I was retiring from tipping a sports multi each week. I lied! I can not resist thinking about sport during the week and I have again found myself focused on finding a winning multi bet this week. I promise that if this multi falls again at the first hurdle I will retire. I hope that I do not put the mocker on your team this week by selecting them in this multi:

Leg 1: Manly Sea Eagles to cover the line (-2.5 points) against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL at $1.92.

Leg 2: Queensland Reds to cover the line (-6.5 points) against the Auckland Blues in the Super 15 at $1.92.

Leg 3: Boston Celtics to defeat the New York Knicks in the NBA at $1.66.

Leg 4: Central Cheetahs to cover the line (-11.5 points) against the Southern Kings in the Super 15 at $1.92.

Leg 5: Canterbury Crusaders to cover the line (-22.5 points) against the Melbourne Rebels in the Super 15 at $1.92.

Total payout: $22.55 per dollar spent.

Declaration of interest: I have wagered $25 on this bet.

Warning: Please gamble responsibly. If you do not have the cash do not have a bet: it is as simple as that. If you feel like you have a problem please stick your hand up and seek assistance.

Have a great weekend: there is plenty of sport to watch afterall!