Just another Tom Hallam Blog

29 09 2009

Just another Tom Hallam blog. I’ve had a few of these few the years.

Livejournal first, then Blogger, then MSN Spaces a couple of journal software programs then wordpress (free) then wordpress hosted on my own domain…

I might just try to consolidate them all here – so at least I have a reference of everything.

Wah? A few Thailand photo’s

8 04 2006
One or two people have said they wanted to see more travel photo’s. I want to show them too – theres just the tiny problem … my poor little piggy bank is pooped and wont be taking me anywhere soon..
Answer – Here are a few photo’s from my trip to Thailand. Back when i was experiencing my first quarter life crisis ( i’ve been fortunate enough to have a few since then). I’d just finished up working for 6 months at IBM as a Data analst (aka number-crunching slave)and during that time i decieded pulled out of my scholarship and went traveling after finishing up at IBM.
Far to much to write about. among which rather than just have a few people view my rantings i’m writing for the student magazine at uni now. So my writing procrastination  has a new focus!
Random updates from time to time…hopefully..

I’m Back (blogging that is)

18 01 2006

That’s right people I’m doing a Darryn Hinch -just when you think it’s finally over – he’s
back -annoying you with more of his opinionated diatribe.

I’d been wanting to blog for a while but just seemed to be
putting it off. Ironic really – I’ve been procrastinating about doing my favorite
procrastination activity.

I was even considering stopping blogging if it were not for the
persistent imploring of a few. Thankyou
to those people, your comments and emails are touching. Big shout out to bonnie
especially – without her persistence I may
not have continued blogging. So you know who to thank/hate now for the
continuation of this blog. Bonnie I promised to make this blog entry of a
slightly higher standard than the previous one however in my current state this
may be a challenge – as the current caliber of my thoughts is how many more
times I can use the word ‘blog’ in this paragraph…. Damn only once.

Yes people – I’m
obviously very tired. It’s 3 in the
morning and I haven’t had more than 3 hours sleep a night for the past 7 days.
This segues into my main excuse for not writing. I don’t have time for sleep – let
alone burdening the world with my rambling introspections! Although of course I’ve
still found time for procrastination.

I’ve got my old job
back caring for kids who aren’t able to live at home and have been spending a
lot of time doing that. I’m also doing a university subject over summer which
compresses 13 weeks worth of study into 13 days… Which means a helluva lot of
study every day.

So to give you an impression of my life lets take the last
24 hours.

3am (the day before) – working at a residential care unit
(started the shift much earlier in the evening.

8am – finish work
and drive over to a friends house to get a few hours sleep –

11am – after getting 2 and a half hours sleep (maybe) I
drive to uni for a tutorial

12 tutorial

3-5 lecture on project management

5.30 sleep for one
hour in my car at uni

6.30 head back to work start at 7 and go through till 2 in
the morning.

3am (now.) arrive
home decide to check favorite blogs and find that i’m still getting asked to keep blogging – and  decide to relent and  write this.

It’s been like this for the past week.

It’s been draining but it’s been very efficient. Theres been
heaps of study to be done and I’ve managed to do all of it whilst getting
working and so have completed 6 weeks worth of a university subject (including
all required and a lot of suggested reading) and made $1400 in under a week.

The reason I’m doing this?
Simple. I’m reacclimatising myself to the ‘I shop therefore I am’
mainstream culture and hence getting right back into the working hard to buy
things I don’t need mindset.

But seriously 6
months of traveling and only stopping at length in one of the most expensive
places on earth (London) hasn’t
done wonders for my bank balance.

Needing to buy a car didn’t help either. I’ve just aquired
a very nice VS commodore for 5 grand. I really like it , and it was a bargain price – but it’s
another 5 grand gone and now I’m in serious DEBT! I really don’t want to borrow
from my parents ever again – this has put me in serious debt to much less
accommodating lenders – ie. The banks. So I’ll keep this up for another week
and then ease back into a less hectic lifestyle. I would say ‘more normal’ but
life just doesn’t seem to do the whole ‘normal’ thing for me.

Speaking of lifestyle – the change to being back home has
been…’interesting’. My mum and dad read this blog (hi Mum!) so I’m not going to
elaborate too much further on this point and I appreciate the love and support
(free accomadation) of my family -but anyone who has moved out of home probably
understands to a small degree how I’m feeling. My personal space and freedom
has gone from the expanses of Europe and choosing whether to travel to Paris or
Vienna based on the weather, doing what I liked, when I liked, where I liked
with whoever I liked – to fitting back into the shoebox that is my room at my
parents house. It’s a little cramped.

And that leads into my next piece of news – Having been back
home – I’m moving out! I’ll be moving
out with my mate evan and my cousin brad in the not all too distant future.
Meaning yes we’ve set a date to move out but i’m averse to publishing it in
case it doesn’t come to fruition at that time. I hate saying I’m going to do
something and then not doing it.

There are so many people who talk a good game but never actually
do it. Whenever I speak with these people they tell me all the exciting things
they are going to do and then I catch
up with them a 6 months later they’re in exactly the same position they were
last time. . There are so many who talk and
so few that actually do. I
hate saying I’m going to do something and then not doing it. So yes at some
time in the not too distant future I’ll be out of home again.

Ok so I’m going to go to bed now. This is the first night in
a while I’ve got home before 8 in the morning and I don’t want this blog entry
to stop me getting a few more precious hours of sleep.


3 01 2006
What an awesome start to the year…

Airport Race

18 12 2005
I had a 7.05am plane to catch from San Francisco to Los Angeles and was then supposed to transfer to a plane to sydney. Being such an early flight – and with my scottish flight in mind (the one where i woke up at my hostel after the plane had left), and given that this the last available flight to australia were before chrismas, I decided not to take any chances and just stay up all night and catch the first shuttle to the airport in the morning – just to be safe.
I went down to jack in the box(best fast food ever people! – put it on your list of places to go before you die) and then to a diner – then back to the hotel, given there were people sleeping in my room and i didn’t want to wake them i sat in the lounge at my hostel – where despite coffee and my best intentions my eyeliids became unbearably heavy and suddenly.. – I woke up… HOLY CRAP  – that means i’d been asleep! How did that happen!? I looked at my watch CRAP!!! (actually i didn’t say ‘crap’ but this is a pg rated blog and it was a word to that effect). It was 5.55 the flight was at 7.05 – i was nowhere near the airport-. CRAAAAAAAP!!!
I raced out to the reception dude and told him i needed a shuttle to the Airport – NOW!
Fortunately the hostel i was at just so happened to be serviced by the best shuttle company in the world. I raced upstairs and grabbed my bags and when i got back to reception – the shuttle bus was waiting. Damn thats quick! I threw my bags in and away we went – unlike the egyptian airport race – i didn’t even need to bribe this guy to speedily cut  through traffic. Also fortunately for me san francisco has some of the best motorways in the world. And this driver knew what he was doing – we caught 2 red lights on the whole trip and then i was there at 6.30.
Bags I’d read my ticket which said "bags must be checked in 45 minutes before flight". Crap. I spotted an express check in and raced  towards it (actually with my 3 big bags a more accurate description is lumbered towards it) but to my dismay it was only for domestic flights and my flight wasnt eligible. I pleaded with the guy and he took pity on me- taking me inside the airportm where my heart sank. Even though it was 6.30 in the morning, there was a MASSIVE check in line  – a steady stream of faces showing annoyance that despite their early rise -they still had to wait for ages to check in.
The Airport dude bless his soul took me right to the front of the line! Booyah! I threw my massive bags on the weighing scale and ignored the hundred or so death-stares i could feel boring into the back of my head from the indignant great unwashed behind me- who’d been there for close to an hour. 2  minutes later i’m checked in -i look at my watch 6.35 and i’v still got to clear customs.
This involves queing up to have oyur hand luggage and stuff x-rayed. Again there was a long snaking que of tired looking travelers and business men. I steadied myself for a que-jumping felony so big it would land me in a detention centre if i’d done it in australia, took a deep breath and walked parralel but alongside the que past the hundred or so people waiting – straiht up to the x-ray machine staff. Trying my best to ignore the new wave of resentment emanating from these queing yanks  that was so thick i could almost feel it. "I’m going to miss my plane!" i said in my best frantic voice – the staff took pity on me and agreed to inspect my stuff straight away! Booyah!
One thing about me and flying though – Every flight i get on i get special attention from the security before board. I get ‘randomly selected’ by airport security almost as much as the muslim guys do. ie.  I ALWAYS get ‘randomly selected’ to have the special checks – where they take x rays of you from 3 different angles and then make ‘friendly conversation’ about where you’re going and where you’ve been. Seriously – I could wrap a towel on my head and i wouldn’t get more airport security attention. I wonder if i’ve  got a mark next to my name for some ‘unaustralian’ act i’ve commited – like visiting refugee’s  – and now on some secret airport database it says "potential terrorist" next to a picture of me. And the whole time i’m nervous about missing my plane which to security probably looks the same as nervousness for smuggling bombs or drugs.. So afther a thourough ‘friendly conversation’ and extensive checks i’m through the security and  performed a half-power-walk-half-run-all-unco movement (which i normally reserve for when I have diahrrea and am trying to find a toilet) to the gate. They were just starting to check in. I MADE IT!!!!!
So after a two hour flight to L.A i waited around in LA for 4 hours and then got on a plane for Sydney.
It was when i got on the plane to sydney that i suddenly realised something that should have been obvious.  I’m going home… After 6 months of galavanting around europe and the middle east, i was going home.
Of course on an academic level i knew this but it was a  weird feeling to be making that decisive move away from my adventures and back to my life at home. I’d been in such a rush to get to the airport i hadn’t really thought about it – and all of a sudden –  ‘whoa… im going home….crap!..’.

The end of voluntary student unionism

14 12 2005

I wrote this as a comment to Darpies blog who holds a conflicting but measured view on this issue- got a bit carried away and before i knew it had written a rant – so i may as well have it on my blog. 


Hi Matthew,
Firstly thanks for commenting on my blog – i’m glad you enjoyed it especially as you’ll probably be among the minority in enjoying such a long and dry entry. But i wanted to write it anyway because its an important paradigm shift for me. Thanks also for letting me know that things should improve in the years ahead, it’s comforting knowledge.

However i could not disagree with you more about VSU. The end of compulsory student unions is a dark day for tertiary education in australia.

 The student unions are what makes university fun! Without them university is just a degree factory. A true means to an end, something endured rather than enjoyed. University experience should be about more than jus tgoing to classes and reading the subject material and then doing exams and graduating. University is the time to have some fun and meet interesting people. This is exactly what the student unions facillitate – through the many clubs and functions which they hold – which i think you are implying are a waste.
I’m guessing are experiences with student unions have been different. One’s opinion probably depends on the experience of effectiveness of the unions at your university and one’s willingness to participate in their activities. They are only a waste if your not going to them.
Student unions facilitate fun and interaction with other students trhrough clubs and barbeques.
When first starting university and not knowing anyone university can seem daunting. Thestudent union had oranised camps for people to meet other students.

These are wild affairs where you really get to know your fellow students well. People you only met a few hours ago are suddenly dancing on tables, playing drinking games, running naked through the grounds and a whole lot of other crazy stuff –  and generally having an awesome time getting to know one anotherat the end of these you go home knowing that when you start uni there will be a few friendly faces waiting for you.

Otherwise how do you meet people at uni – contact with people is so fleeting it would be much harder to form anything more than aquaintances. Everyone has different timetables and lectures are very large in the early years – so its hard to really make friends.

They continue to faccilitate meeting and continuing friendships with people through clubs of common interest. I poersonally was heavily involved in the clubs – they provide for example scuba diving equipment which a student could not otherwise afford – so a group of students who enjoy scuba dinving can go out on the weekends and enjoy this activity.

This is now going to come to an end because even though unions provide a large overall benefit,students will think ‘why should i pay when i will not see direct tangible equal or greater $value benefit to myself’. It will not make financial sense to be in the union, it makes more sense to try and free load on the services it provides whilst not paying any money. A Because whether oen person pays or not will not make a difference – and following this common logic no-one will pay. And so overnight the unions will vanish.students aren’t going to pay if they are given a choice. This will be the end of the student unions – or if not they wil be merely a pale shadow of their former versions.

It’s true the unions squandered money. My favorite club has not passed an audit…  ever! But my experience of the arts society wasa plethora of free bbq’s, parties, booze cruises, tram crams, camps and other activities so that people can socialise at uni.  THey facilitated the friendships and good times for me and hundreds of others which far exceeded the monetary value spent. Can you put a value on friendship and a wonderful university experience? It can’t honestly be measured in monetary terms. Money given to the societies cretes these social connections for students and is money well spent.

They also provide free counseling for people who need it, and arrange other serives to make university more bearable for most people. You cannot measure the social capital which is going to be lost through this move. The mental health of students and the quality of university life will decline, whilst isolation and thedrop out rate will increase as a result of this decision. They help with student housing. Essentially killing the student unions kills alot of the fun in university.

I feel sorry for the students to come who will miss out on this. This is a dark day for australian universities.

Purely academics

13 12 2005
I am writing now from one of the most beautiful libraries i have ever
been in. The Doe library at UC Berkeley. The high ceiling is a
romanesque style woodcarving, reminiscent of Santa Maria Magiore
Bascilica in
Rome ( which i think i have pics of in my Rome photo album), the
intricate side panels are inscribed with the names of academic greats
such as
Goethe, Darwin, Kant etc.

San Francisco: one of the most intelligent and educated locales in the
world. Unfortunately i’m only hear for a couple of days.
I have decided to use my very limited in san francisco in a different
manner to the rest of my travels. Rather than see the city i am
dedicating my time to seeing two of the best universities for
psychology in the world. Stanford and University of California,
Berkeley where i am now writing this. Both these universities are in
proximity to San Francisco and are ranked 1st and 3rd in psychology in
the US and are both in the top 5 in the world. Given there are
literally hundreds of US universities this is no mean feat. Also
considering australia does not have a single psych department in the
top 300 it is worth seeing the disparity.

 However although this library is grand it’s still a library, it has
the same function, and the same potential for me to fill that function
as the monash uni library.Coming here and seeing the place with my own eyes has robbed Berkeley of the romantic and  almost mystical reverence i
held it in.
It’s made me realise that it’s still just a university. At university
what is more important than the surroundings is the ideas – which means you spend alot of time (supposedly) reading, and one of the
wonderful things about reading is that you can do it anywhere. I
remember reading at Humboldt university in Berlin at the same park as
karl marx once studied and formulated his ideas.. It felt like reading
a book anywhere else. Ok so the library here at berkeley has the
original texts of mark twain – whoop de doo.
I can gain the same insight by reading a copy  – and its much less
hassle to gain access to. Romantic notions aside post-grad study in melbourne would be just as beneficial. Although in practice the intelectual calibre of both pupils and staff may not match up to these Ivy-League institutions, after a clear eyed weighing up of the utility of both options, post-graduate study in australia (melbourne?) seems a clear winner.


It is not long now until i return back to melbourne and whilst the
travel has been a remarkable experience i am keen to get back to
australia. I’m beginning to focus on what lies ahead of me when i get
back, and what i will be doing. Hence the checking out post graduate
options . Although these two particular institutions may be hard to get into there are other less prestigous institutions with powerhouse psych departments like – university michigan, anne arbor or purdue or penn state. I’m already keen to get back and throw myself into life back
in Oz.  . It’s good to know that i don’t want it anyway – as it means i’ll never have to look back and rue a missed opportunity. That said (and in spite scottie’s experience) i do seriously regret not studying at least a large part of undergrad at a US university.

Leaving aside Business systems (horrible) and my other arts subjects
(wonderful), in psychology, I’ve spent my undergrad fairly
understimulated by psychology and have not really been
pushed intelectually.
Psychology at monash does not  reward creative ideas or new
approaches, or even academic curiosity but instead rewards how anally
one can
follow the set proforma of a lab
report. A monkey with a labotamy knows what the answers to ther
lab report are within half an hour of reading the material, and all
classes report on the same material. Therefore everyone has exactly the
same answers, and just copies off one another meaning their is no difference in the essential content of these lab reports. This is an arbitrary
proforma which changes every few years.  Their is no room for
creativity or true expression or insight in the restrictive setting of
a lab report. The most important thing about a lab
report (i’m not joking or exagerating – really!) is the formatting.

That is, the margins, the text spacing, the font used, when italics are used,
having indents for the secound line of any references and the use and
placing of comma’s and full-stops in the bibliography. i’m not joking
it makes the difference between a credit and a high distinction ( i
know from experience!). The labs are so simple that the content for
every report will be identical. So rather than being able to read more
in psychology i have had to try to spend mundane time trying to
differentiate my essay from the thousand other identical essays.
 This is hardly the academic setting which fosters an academic
curiosity for the wonders of
psychology and nor does it stimulate a creative mind and it provides
minimal room for the expression of new ideas. It sets lab reports where
i know the content and concepts within half an hour and the report will
take 15-20 hours because i am competing with obsesive-compulsive
perfectionists. So i look forward to the exams where i can at least
differentiate myself from the great unwashed by remembering the
theories we are supposed to have studied all semester (not the 2 days
before). But how does this show creativity, and intelligence – it
simply shows that i can mindlesslyparrot someone elses ideas with more
accuracy than the next mindless parrot. A necessary skill and what
exams are supposed to test but what about intelligence and creativity?

The academic psychologists have set up an institution to remake
themselves – the dinosaurs who espoused behaviourism for more that 50
years, and would have
continued to do so if it were not for someone outside psychology (a
linguist called Noam Chomsky) who showed them how obviously full of
crap they all were. To know how great an indictment this is against
psychology i’m going to simplify it:
Psychology is the study of what goes on in ones head. Behaviourism is a
theory which said that NOTHING goes on inside ones head – or nothing
important anyway – instead a person does in not because of thoughts
they have EVERYTHING is due to external events and previous
experiences. Ie. Humans are simply creatures of stimulus and response
incapable of their own actions. Now think about that for a moment..
isn’t it inherrently obvious that there is something going on inside
ones head? Well this was the most popular theory in psychology for 50
years. – I think this is the the type of psychologist monash is trying
to create- a stimulus/response automaton who could believe in such an
inadequate theory as behaviorism if that was the crap he was spoonfed
and told to

Rather than make psych interesting monash has made it a tedious and
mundane labour which is simply a means to an end.
I know it would have been harder at a US uni but i think i would have
enjoyed the extra stimulation of being asked to actually think. Also in
case you think this is a rant of sour grapes –  I have a High
Distinction average in psychology,  i’ve been sent letters of
congratulations from the vice-dean for my academic excellence in
psychology. I say this
not to big-note myself but to show that this is not just a sour-grapes
biased rant of someone who couldn’t work within their tedious
system.It’s not
because i haven’t been able to conform to their orthodoxy that i
complain but because their system could have been so much better and
made study so much more interesting.

I’m going to stop the digression there even though i haven’t
articulated it properly- its a sore point which i could harp on about
for hours.  Post-graduate education should not be like undergraduate( I

On another academic note i re-realised a discouraging prospect which i
had somehow
managed to supress from consciousness whilst i’ve been traveling- it’s
still 2 years untill i undertake postgraduate study. And then it will
be another 2-6 years of study after that. This means that if i want to
become a doctor in psychology (which i do) i’m looking at another 8
YEARS of study!!!!  All the sponteneity i’ve been enjoying these last
few months, choosing what country i’m going to be in on a whim is
coming to an end and now i know what i’m going to be doing for the next
8 years. Thats juxtaposition gives me a feeling i cant quite describe –
like anxiety which sits in my belly. Heres my life for the next 8 years

2006 –     Finish both Business Systems and Arts(psych) Bachelor
2007 –     Honours
2008-2012  Phd or DPsych.

That is  sooooo long! I mean  i wouldn’t finish till i’m nearly 30! 8
years ago i was 14.. I just hope that the style of education
drastically improves as i move into post-grad. This would mean i spend
the rest of any remote
semblance of youth at a university. I wouldn’te get out ‘into the
world’ until i was already middle aged! What about doing other things
in life? Why have they made it such a long and arduous process! My
father only had to do the equivalent of 1 year post grad to begin
practicing psychology! And his tertiary education was FREE. I’d have to
come out this and then pay back tens of thousands in deferred tuition
fee’s. So yes a bit of a crisis going on but i know i’ll do it anyway.
What it does mean though is that i can’t wait until i finish university
to look at other life goals. I’ll have to get a move on with these
whilst still at uni.

Moving on.. yes i will soon be returning to Melbourne.
Someone once said something like: "you shall reach the end of your
travels, when
you return home and know this place for the first time". I know what
that means now. Traveling europe has given me insight not just into
cultures and forieghn cities but also given me perspective on
melbourne. It is near impossible to judge a city when you cannot
compare it to anythhing in your own experience. So before traveling to
other cities i was unable to accurately guage my native city. Now
however i have traveled to many of the famous cities around the world
am now truly aware of how lucky i am to live in melbourne – one of the
greatest cities on earth. Melbourne with its warm sunny summers, sandy
beaches,  oodles of festivals and culture, high standard of living,
clean, cheap – just an awesome place to live. Granted it has some
shortcomings – but overall i will come home loving melbourne more than