the back

Given my back pains of last week, I have been trying to keep away from the computer as much as possible. Additionally I sought my GP’s advice last week. Most of my computer workspaces are ok, though I’ve been a little slack in recent times, particularly with regard to sitting upright and facing the computer directly. I’ve made a few changes, though I’m waiting for a new chair at work, plus the GP recommended I take up Pilates. My back, while not 100%, is substantially improved over the agony of last week. Interestingly, while I was at the GP, I finally got to see the results of the spinal x-rays I had done in April (never quite got round to getting the verdict). I’d had a nasty fall down some steps in Northern Greece leaving me with a rather sore upper back. That’s all good now but the April x-rays revealed:

“There is anterior loss in height of an upper thoraic vertebral body, approximately T4. There is also a sclerotic line traversing the upper body of this vertabra, and the findings suggest an impacted mild compression fracture, probably involving the superior endplates.”

My doctor thinks that will have healed properly of its own accord; my description of the pain lessening over a couple of months and disappearing altogether, was consistent with healing expectations for this sort of injury. I’m sorta glad I didn’t get the verdict at the time, but wish I had, in case it had been more serious.


Many moons ago I was at uni; it’s actually been around 9 years since I last studied anything in that sort of context. This will amaze most who have known me over a decade as I spent around 12 years at uni altogether. Most of it on a BA, followed by a Master’s of Information Management (Librarianship) to commemorate my 10th year of uni. I got into Honours in History & Philosophy of Science (HPS – one of 3 majors – it helps justify how long I was at uni – the other 2 being Computer Science and Philosophy) and promptly burnt out halfway through.

Throughout it all, like many students I reckon, I made lots of photocopies. Sure, I tried to abide by copyright as best I could, only doing 10% of whatever, or sticking strictly to the reading list, which occasionally took me over the 10% barrier. And, in a couple of instances, I’ve even photocopied whole books. I did feel a little guilty at the time, and justified it somewhat by the idea that when I had a decent job with a reasonable salary, I’d buy some of those books, I copied so religiously, or felt influenced by. Honest guv.

Funnily enough, I have occasionally grabbed titles as I saw them over the years. In particular when browsing a quality second hand store (Cornstalk) in Newtown a few years ago with Dad, I came across Brian Easlea’s “Witch hunting, magic, and the new philosophy : an introduction to debates of the scientific revolution, 1450-1750“. Actually, that’s not quite true, Dad had picked it up and commented that this looked interesting, I turned, read the cover, recognised it as the tome for which I’d long been searching, and instinctively ripped it out of his hands – he was a little shocked to say the least. This was one of the major texts when I was studying HPS and part of a short list of titles that I absolutely, at all costs, had to have. I didn’t photocopy all of it but I reckon I wasn’t far short.

One title I did photocopy in full was Paul Feyerabend’s “Science in a Free Society“. I remember reading bits of Feyerabend and thinking, this is the stuff that is most in tune with what I’ve been looking for. Part philosophy, part shit stirrer, Feyerabend seemed to be someone who had genuine fun with ideas and tearing down ivory towers. He appealed to the cynic in me, the person looking to understand science beyond some clinical separation, trying to work out how it fitted into society. It was radical and anarchic and for Feyerabend, often misunderstood, he seemed to be more about creating circuit breakers so that folk could think freely rather than destroying institutions altogether. This one book I have long sought, I spied it once at a massive bookshop in Cambridge in 1999, but failed to buy it as I was trying to save my pennies. Never seen it since. I’ve occasionally seen it available secondhand online but never got round to ordering it. I no longer need to. My lovely girlfriend entered the chase, engaged in the hunt, and procured a first edition (1978) for my birthday. It’s in really good nick and we reckon it’s probably sat on an academic’s shelf for much of the time. I’m rather staggered that it’s in my collection at last, and can’t quite believe it’s real.


It seems I’ve fallen into bad habits once more, getting some discomfit in the lower back and a bit of stiffness in the neck. I reckon it’s too much time sitting stationary in front of the computer, even worse, I regularly hunch forward. I used to force myself to sit up fairly regularly but have fallen out of the habit. I have good computer chairs (both home and work) but I reckon it’s the lazy slouch that’s getting me this time round. Computer is about the right height as is the chair, doesn’t help that I often fidget. I’ve been googling sites here and there, looking for useful exercises and advice.

watering holes

At last, there’s a war heating up over the lack of casual drinking spots in Sydney. It’s long been the case that if you fancy a tipple, a glass of wine with mates, or a spot away from sportcasts and pokies, then Sydney is not the place to be. Wellington, NZ, has a host of little nooks and crannies with a thriving wine bar scene. I had local friends take me to places warm, bustling and full of life, places that have no hope of existence under the current regime in Sydney. The high cost of a liquor licence is often cited as a primary reason for the dearth of wine bars in Sydney. This discussion has come up many times over the years, only to peter out as other issues arise. This time round, it seems to be getting close to achieving critical mass, inspired at least in part, by the shit stirring comments of John Thorpe, NSW prez of the AHA:

“We aren’t barbarians, but we don’t want to sit in a hole and drink chardonnay and read a book.”

While I don’t know whether John was serious or just taking the piss, I’d like to think the latter. It has the sense of a good ol’ aussie stir about it and it seems to have stirred up a whole heap of folk, all to the good so far. If, as a result of such comments, the laws are relaxed and we start to see the rise of wine bars and wanky drinking holes, then the wine lovers of Sydney will probably have to drink a toast to Mr Thorpe.