Mostly Clueless (Curious George II)

I looked at my wife. Her face had turned to stone. I immediately understood that in her eyes George Earl had just committed intellectual suicide. And it was just like watching someone jumping from a basement window killing himself.

What had happened:


In 2006 the ruling conservative party under John Howard introduced Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) as a scheme to weaken the unions. Their political selling argument to the general population was that every worker can negotiate his/her own individual contract. The euphemistic term was WorkChoices. Of course, the overall (planned) result was that companies exploited this and imposed ridiculous working conditions. Which, I guess, makes sense as Australia has to compete with China.

In the same year Bond University had ceased to talk to the unions on campus and started to offer (only) those AWAs:

From: Professor George Earl, Acting Dean

The University invites interested academic staff to discuss replacing their current employment contracts with an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA). The change from individual contracts to AWAs is offered in the context of providing a new pay offer and alterations to the terms and conditions of employment.

Life at Bond University did not seem fair to George as he was always assigned to the odd jobs. First Head of the IT School (sort of-ish) and now contact person for AWAs (sort of-ish).

Anyway, I reckoned that changing my work profile from no future teaching academic to something else (anything) can only be an improvement. So I thought I should give it a try.

In a first, ultrashort meeting (George had to leave right after the beginning) he was completely desinterested in the individual proposals for improvement I had. Instead he confronted me with a workload model. That was basically a score-chart where for every activity you get some points.

George could not really explain what all these things actually meant. So he sent me to Iain Morrison to discuss the details. Which told me that this list must have come from the white-haired man in the first place.

The white-haired man, on the other hand, pointed out that all this were part of an AWA negotiation and would have to be written down in the contract. Clearly something to discuss with George.

George, on the other hand meant that operational details how the workload model are to be interpreted are matters at the level of the school and that was in the hands of the head.

But Iain then said that he would prefer if I would stay on my existing contract.

This was fun for me as it was right from The Book. And - me being me - I played along this ping-pong game until the weakest player finally gave in and agreed to another meeting.

The weakest player being George, obviously.

In that second meeting I went through a list of inconsistencies within the proposed contract, and through some inconsistencies with Bond's own policies which they have been so eagerly setting up in the past months.

It turned out that George hardly knew what this was all about. After some minutes I strongly suspected that he had not even read the AWA template himself, because he appeared genuinely surprised about the issues raised.

This would have been all quite normal, but then George stepped over an invisible line. He started to claim that "this and that surely is the same at other universities".

Bullshitting would normally work with australian academics, but not with someone who has done his homework. Or has a well-informed wife. After each of his claims she handed me the appropriate documents to refute George's wishful thinkings. This repeated itself a couple of times. Eventually George visibly retreated into his own shell, silently taking my beatings. He leaned back in his chair, smiling.

I was annoyed, very annoyed. Someone was wasting my time. Not only did some orc appear to be completely clueless, he did not even seem to care. And I was suspecting that the whole "AWA negotiation" was just a farce.

I pushed through my list, not any longer expecting a serious response. At the end I formally assigned working tickets to George and meant that - once he has figured out the details - that we could meet again. And George himself proposed that maybe it would be wise to have a meeting together with Iain to sort all things out.

After the meeting my wife and I stopped in the middle of the campus. She could hardly believe that I work for people that incompetent.

I countered that stupidity is indistinguishable from maliciousness. At least this is what my mother always says.

But, honestly, I was embarrassed.

George never worked out the details. And there was no further meeting.

After a landslide win in the Elections 2007 Mr. Howard was voted out of office. On 19 March 2008 the labour government abolished AWAs.

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1. AcademicAWAContinuing_Template_19_June_2006[1].pdf120.78 KB
2. Letter_from_Dean_continuing_academics_acceptingAWAs.pdf32.53 KB
4. AWA_employee_info_statement V2 March 06[1].pdf0 bytes
Posted In
MC (not verified) | Mon, 04/14/2008 - 01:43

Re: Your mother is Robert Hanlon?

At it is claimed that Hanlon's Razor was coined by one Robert J. Hanlon....

It says there it is claimed. In reality the quote is from my mom and everyone got it from her. Including Napoleon.

Ah, and truthfulness is an overrated term anyway. And I am also getting tired of the entropy vector always showing in the same direction. Boring.


rho | Mon, 04/14/2008 - 06:42

Your mother is not Robert Hanlon!

First, having met rho's mother and knowing some properties of Robert Hanlon, it is very unlikely that Robert Hanlon is rho's mother. Of course you can never be sure. Comparing the DNAs of Hanlon and rho should provide the required evidence for my hypothesis.

Second, the version attributed to rho's mom is different from Hanlon's epigram; it is a refined version maybe drawing on the experience gathered since Napoleon's times.

Rho's mom: stupidity equals malice.

Hanlon: The label "stupidity" takes precedence over "malice", if both could be applied (a kind of default logic [1]).

Due to its simplicity and mathematical elegance, the first version is probably easier to apply in practice.

[1] R. Reiter (1980). A logic for default reasoning. Artificial Intelligence, 13:81-132.

Anonymous (not verified) | Tue, 04/15/2008 - 11:31

Re: Your mother is not Robert Hanlon!

...Comparing the DNAs of Hanlon and rho should provide the required evidence for my hypothesis.

Yeah, let's cut him open! But, with all due respect, is this not a bit offtopic?

Rho's mom: stupidity equals malice. ... Due to its simplicity and mathematical elegance, the first version is probably easier to apply in practice.

Correct. And even Bond university head of schools understand what it means.

rho | Tue, 04/15/2008 - 14:22