5 Reasons Why I Blog

April 10th, 2007

I’ve been tagged – by two people in fact – John Mueller (softplus) and JLH (John Honeck) – By the way, all people tagged in this ongoing meme are detailed here.

Softplus asked me to confirm my real name –  and whether I use it on my blog – no specific reason i don’t use it on my blog, John – just find theDuck more catchy 😉

I’ve also been asked why I blog, and what are ten things about me you may not know.. so, here goes..

5 Reasons I like to Blog

1. Only so much can fit into my peanut sized brain. I got annoyed with having to go back and search for something I knew I already knew, but had forgotten, so I figured I’d start writing down what I learnt. UtheGuru became that place, and it just happens to be mostly about search as that’s what I’m fascinated about at the mo.

2. I’ve got a scholarship to do a PhD – it’s all about organising data from an industry (sugar). During my Masters Degree (computer and comms engineering – making gadgets) I made a gadget that could collect and send all sorts of data about what a sugar cane harvester was doing to a central point for processing.

It’s a huge long story, but basically I did really well at that Masters (90% plus – it was largely coursework), the silly buggers thought I must have been a bit bright (since my undergrad was science and I’d just blitzed an engineering degree) and offered me a PhD. At the time I accepted because we had some great industry partners.

The PhD was about how to organise the data in such a way that we could combine it with data from the sugar mills and start paying the harvesters in a way that better rewarded the quality of their job – ie, taking quantitative measurements from a disparate range of largely unrelated / competitive sources and trying to distill the data into a quasi-quantitative measure of a qualitative ideal (the quality of the job done) to come up with a payment scheme that will pay participants in such a way that the industry has a long term future. Sounds a bit like Google’s task – except I have a staff of one. Feeling flustered? Yep – me too.

PhD’s are all about bite sized focussed research. Originally I was just going to concentrate on the ‘how’ of getting the data back from my little black boxes in real time in rural areas (I was thinking of using self healing wireless mesh networks made up of cheap 802.11g PCMCIA cards).

The problem is, since I had worked in the Sugar Industry as a Scientist, I also have a really good understanding of the mechanics (political, financial etc) of the industry, so there has been a growing pressure for me to advise other researchers / the industry about how to utilise the data and let the other propeller heads sort that out – but we had a major industry partner pull last year, and so I’m now left with the baby and a limited prospect of success – their is only so much that one person can do.

So I’ve taken a leave of absence while I think about the PhD, and while I’m on the LOA, I blog… Since I have an obvious interest in the how of organising data using qualitative measures, obviously search engines (and particularly Google) fascinate me – so that’s what I blog about.

3. To make contacts – the sum total of people studying anything remotely related to what I am in my University is 1 – me. Whilst I’ve spent alot of time working alone (as an Ag consultant – see some of my work at www.jaisaben.com).

I’m a gregarious person, I like working in a team, and sitting in an office alone isn’t my favourite activity. I like to hear about what other companies / folks are doing – gives my ideas about a) either jumping ship from PhD to real employment and where that might be or b) finessing the PhD and getting it back on track to serve a real commercial purpose, perhaps for a different industry.

4. To keep sane during my leave of absence to consider the above..

5. To make a few dollars helping other people handle website problems / modify code. My first paid programming stint was a football stats package written in basic when I was about 10 – so this is kind of like falling back to my first trade 🙂 While I am decadently enjoying my ‘time-off to think’ I still have to pay the bills.

There! Prob not such a quick simple answer as others – but that’s why I blog.. 🙂

10 (actually, 11, sorry, 12) things you probably don’t know about me..

  1. I, like Vanessa Fox and John Mueller, love coffee – I have a special blend I make from Papua New Guinean Arabica Beans.
  2. I am a director of a lingerie business, and I know all about mobilon, different grades of lace and what effect the ratio fo cotton and elastane will have upon the durability of a pair of knickers.
  3. I love the outdoors – passions and skills of mine include horseriding, skydiving and orienteering – I have gotten as high as the state championships in orienteering, and I’ve made over a hundred jumps skydiving.
  4. I have travelled or lived all over Asia, the South Pacific and Europe, and LOVE cooking – especially Indian and Chinese Cooking. When I travel, I usually stay in backpackers – not because I can’t afford a hotel, but rather because I find backpackers have all the good tips for places to go that ‘only the locals’ know.
  5. I was once held ‘hostage’ by a Japanese crime gang in Shanghai – but made my escape by leaving my shirt behind (long story).
  6. I starred as an extra in the Harry Connick Jr / Glen Close remake of ‘South Pacific’ – my American accent was crap but I can still sing ‘ain’t nothing like a dame’ :).
  7. 95% of people rate public speaking as their greatest fear – I love it – the bigger the crowd, the better – gives me a buzz.
  8. My favourite food is lasagne and I think that the words ‘too much garlic’ shouldn’t exist in the english lexicon.
  9. I love red wine and single malt scotch whisky.
  10. I speak a little known south pacific creole fluently, even though I am an Australian born caucasian 🙂
  11. Special bonus thing you didn’t know – I do (occassionally) passionately argue a contentious point of view I don’t actually believe in myself. It’s a great way to engage the 80% of people that usually stay quiet in any discussion and get their views heard. I can be a fink ;).
  12. My dream job would be to become a Googler – that company has the diversity, support (both financial and intellectual) and broad focus that would really suit my aptitudes.

What about the other names?

Why am I called theDuck?

It’s detailed in my about me page, but to cut a long story short, I paid my way through my undergraduate (agricultural science) degree by being a DJ. My manager thought DJ’s had a tendency to take themselves too seriously, so he suggested I do something ridiculous to keep the atmosphere in my venues a bit fun – so I bolted a rubber ducky to a hat, and wore it every night. It wasn’t long before I was known as the Duckman.

Why am I called Dockarl?

I like reading – alot – and do pretty well at trivia nights etc. I think it’s fair to say I tend to learn new things pretty quick – I have a thirst for knowledge – I’m a knowledge-a-holic. I like to learn about anything and everything and get a buzz out of explaining all about what I’ve learnt to other people – like it or not 🙂

There is a well known guy here in Australia by the name of Dr Karl Krusielniski who has various degrees (I think Astro-physics, Medicine and Surgery amongst others) and spends his time appearing on radio and TV promoting popular science in a fun way – one of his best ‘popular research’ pieces was about Belly Button Fluff – where it comes from, where it’s been and what it does. He won an ignoble prize for that tome – read more about it here.

I had a girlfriend that thought that I reminded her of Dr Karl – she used to find it funny that while most people would be reading paperbacks at bed-time, my read of preference was new scientist or something in-depth about my latest hobby.

She was a great girl, and liked to poke fun. As such she started giving me a playful jibe (so where’d you read about that Dr Karl?) every time I started talking about some weird off-topic thing I’d learnt about recently. It all ended up being an in joke between us and our circle of friends and she gave me a hotmail address – dockarl – for me to use with pride 🙂 It stuck – I like using the name because it (like theDuck) is playful and takes-the-piss.



Entry Filed under: General Discussion

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Alex  |  June 15th, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Your 5 reasons are ok. But what about fun? Do you enjoy blogging? I think it is needed to enjoy this kind of activity.

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