Names from the past

The neurosurgeon attacked at Footscray Hospital was Dr Michael Wong, aged 43. I went to school with a Michael Wong; presumably he’d be 43.

Digging around, I haven’t found any other detail to confirm or deny it’s the same bloke (there are tons of Michael Wongs, even just in Melbourne, and my usual method of trawling social media networks didn’t help), though I note he studied with a Professor Andrew Kaye – name of another fellow student at Melbourne High School.

Either way, I hope Dr Wong makes a full and speedy recovery.

VCE exams – good luck everybody

I was 25 when I first had kids. One outcome of this is that my eldest son’s education is running 25 years after mine.

The dates don’t match up completely — the main event, the English exam, for me was on 7th November 1988. For this year’s VCE, it’s today.

Daniel's VCE, 1988

Good luck Isaac, and all of the other 43,000 students sitting the VCE English exam today.

(Though if any of you are reading this before the exam, I’d question your priorities!)

25 years on – school reunion

The weather on Friday night wasn’t favourable, but I think we all had a good time at the 25th school reunion in any case.

Amusingly, it clashed with the year 9+10 social in the main building. When I first arrived (wearing a black suit) I was asked if I was with Security.

Melbourne High School in the rain

It was a mixed group of 25 years/1988 and 20 years/1993. I assume the Old Boys Association reckoned that was the best way to make it viable to run it. About fifty of each group showed up.

Things I learnt on the night:

Melbourne High SchoolI seem to have forgotten the words of the second verses of the school song Honour The Work, as well as Forty Years On and Gaudeamus Igitur

Apparently of the staff at the school in 1988, a staggering 15 are still teaching there 25 years later, including my year 12 maths teacher Mr Ganella, who was there for the reunion. He doesn’t look a day older, except his hair’s a bit greyer.

Likewise, as on previous occasions, many of my classmates looked the same… some a little greyer, rounder.

At least one hadn’t put his boys up for Melbourne High, in part because of the travel distance involved from Eltham (fair enough — when I was there, some students travelled from as far away as Mount Eliza, Launching Place and Gisborne) and because his friends had been scattered around Melbourne (perhaps I was lucky, as many of my friends were in the inner-southeast).

Some have been through some big challenges in their lives, but all those who came seem to have got through it okay with an optimistic viewpoint, and many seem to be living the dream — with things exactly how they want them.

I don’t recall looking at the 1988 honour board before, but I note a high proportion of people from my original year 9 (1985) class, which is kind of nice.

The most well-known last day prank in 1988 was a (lewd in parts) spoof of the school newsletter which was distributed to all year 12 classes. I finally discovered the anonymous students behind it.

A higher-profile incident was this one at Box Hill station, which other students volunteered to clean up — the description of the incident from the stationmaster is particularly amusing — and you can see from the uniform why we called them gumbies:

Finally, pranks obviously still take place… in one of the hallways of a newer building, I found this picture, supposedly of distinguished old boy Michael Gudinski:

Distinguished Old Boy: Michael Gudinski?

Before Facebook and Twitter, we did analogue social networking with paper and pen

Tonight I’m going to a school reunion. Almost unbelievably, it’s 25 years since year 12 in 1988.

To mark this occasion I’ve dug out something even older than that.

Once upon a time, before Facebook and Twitter, we couldn’t write on each others’ Walls or send a Tweet. On occasion in class, we’d pass a piece of paper around instead and write notes on it.

Here is one that survived, from July 1986.

Analogue Facebook wall, from a class in July 1986

As you can see, the chatter amongst myself and my friends at aged 15 was pretty moronic — a mix of tech talk (if you think the Mac/PC/Linux debate is heated, that was nothing on Commodore/Spectrum/Amstrad), Monty Python quotes and personal insults.

I don’t know if any of the other participants in this page of silliness are around and reading my blog… Most are referred to by initials only, so if they wish they can out themselves if they do happen to see this.

First school day

With most kids going back to school this week, Andrew was blogging about the first day of school.

I don’t remember much about my first day either, though I do have a photo that I believe was snapped that morning:

db-school

Long-haired hippy. It was the 70s though. And I was obviously in a good mood… or it may have been my usual “I’m being photographed” face — lots of kids have those.

What I do remember is that (possibly on enrolment day rather than the first day of term) I decided that I wasn’t capable of spelling “Daniel”, and went by the name “Danny” instead… that lasted for 9 years, until I switched high schools to Melbourne High and decided I liked “Daniel” better. (My surname changed at the same time.)

I also recall early in that first term of Prep an older kid bullied me about something (possibly race-related, or perhaps about the odd appearance of my right eye), but I can’t remember any of the other details. Hopefully I wasn’t too upset about it. Back then there wasn’t a school buddy programme, which probably would have helped.

But as far as I recall, no other issues in Prep, and most of my primary school years are filled with happy memories.

Laptop vs USB stick for school

Was chatting a while back to a colleague about his kids in high school. One of them ends up carrying an enormous amount of stuff to and from school, including books and sports equipment, but also a notebook (laptop) computer costing a couple of thousand dollars.

Giving students laptops makes no sense to me. Compared to desktops, they’re damaged more easily, they’re more expensive to buy (or less well specified), they depreciate in value much faster, and they’re Yet Another Thing for kids to have to carry around (which means more weight, and risk of theft).

I’m also wary of their portability, and the need to keep computers at home in a “public” area of the house.

My kids get given USB drives instead, so they can easily transfer their work from home to school and back again.

Admittedly you can’t put a laptop through the wash, as happened with one of our USB drives, though the data was recovered without problems.

I’d have thought in general having desktop computers both at home and school was a better solution than lugging laptops around the place.

Unless perhaps the laptop support contract comes with free chiropractor sessions.

The mathematics of school textbooks

It’s all easy in primary school. You send the money in, you get a box of goodies. There’s few textbooks, and almost all are kept at and owned by the school.

It gets more complicated and expensive in secondary school.

So here’s the scenario: Two kids, two years apart. The school has a secondhand book scheme.

At the end of the year, books are sold for two-thirds the retail price, with the seller getting three-quarters of that. So basically for cashing in your books, you get half the money back — assuming you bought them new in the first place.

So with two kids going through, I’m trying to work out if it’s worth selling them through the scheme, or holding onto them unused for a year before using them again.

If you bought $100 of books new at the start of year 1, you’d get $50 back for selling them at the end. If you bought them back again for year 3, it’d cost you $66, and you’d sell them again for $50. Total cost $100 – $50 + $66 – $50 = $66.

If you bought them secondhand originally, the cost is $66 – $50 + $66 – $50 = $32.

If you bought them new, and held onto them until the end of year 3, it’s $100 – $50 = $50.

If you bought them secondhand, and held onto them until the end of year 3, it’s $66 – $50 = $16.

The big unknown here is whether or not the school decides to changes the textbooks along the way, as new editions and better texts are published. If they change them before year 1, you can’t buy them secondhand in the first place, but must buy new. If they change them for year 2, you can’t sell them in the first place. If they change them for year 3, and you held onto them, you have to buy new ones anyway, and you missed your opportunity to sell.

I wonder how fast the turnover is. Perhaps it pays to sit down and be selective, holding onto things which are recent editions.

And just when I thought I’d figured out what to do, my sister mentioned she can get publisher discounts through her work.