Consumerism Toxic Custard newsletter Working life

Does your super match your values?

The wave of climate protests (the Climate Strike a few weeks ago, and to a lesser extent the Extinction Rebellion last week) are a good reminder that although our current political masters (especially at the Federal level in Australia) are keen to do nothing, pretty soon a large mass of people who want action will be joining the electoral roll and voting.

Oh, the politicians may claim they’re acting. But the numbers speak for themselves: Australia’s emissions are rising, not falling, and some politicians’ love for coal (including building new coal power stations, even when it makes no economic sense) and the constant criticism of clean power and electric cars makes it obvious which way they lean.

Anyway, if you’re working, there’s something you can do.

Pretty much every working Australian adult has superannuation, your mandated retirement fund, and for most people it’s probably their largest, or second largest asset (perhaps second only to their house, if they own one).

For many people it’s Set And Forget. But you can choose to direct your super fund to put your money into ethical investments.

These can avoid your money going into things that you may be philosophically opposed to: for instance arms manufacturing, gambling companies, and fossil fuels. The precise definition of ethical varies by fund, but I suspect they’re all a step in the right direction.

What’s the financial cost of this? Probably nothing. In fact shifting to ethical might well be financially beneficial, as many of these investment options actually have very healthy returns.

For instance, for some years my own super has been half in an Australian Shares portfolio and half in an Ethical fund. The compound return on the Shares in the past 10 years is 8.8%; Ethical is 10.6%.

(Note: this blog does not constitute financial advice, past performance is not an indicator of future performance, etc, etc.)

The easy option

In many cases your current super fund will already have an ethical option, which makes it easy.

Just log onto your super fund’s portal, and find the setting for investment preferences. In mine it’s called “Future investments”, eg where any future deposits go to.

If you’re lucky, this will take all of a couple of minutes to do.

Australian Ethical Super: investments

Go harder

Different funds decide for themselves what is “ethical”. The above explainer is from Australian Ethical Super, but the bigger funds may not be as fastidious.

If you’re super keen, you can look around at the ethical super fund that best meets your values.

This Choice article is a good starting point.

If you decide to roll your super over into a new fund, this involves a little more work, but isn’t overly onerous these days.

I must emphasise that I’m not a financial adviser, and there is inherent risk in any investment.

But your super is (hopefully) a huge amount of money that is working for you. So why not have it match your values?

  • Note: I’ve got no link with Australian Ethical Super, but I am a customer of their Managed Funds. Managed Funds, if you’re wondering, are similar to Super, except the money is not tied up until you retire.

Toxic Custard newsletter Working life

Advice for job applicants

I’ve been really busy this week, and haven’t had time to prepare another blog post, so here’s some borrowed content for you.

This is from a good friend. She works for a company I won’t name, and is in a position where she does a bit of hiring — or at least, filtering through the CVs that arrive in response to job ads.

Dear Applicant, I’d like to interview you, really I would. You are interested in the role; you have invested time in applying, maybe you are visualising yourself working with us, chatted to your friends about it. I’ve looked through your CV, I can see your background and qualifications, I can see why you think it might work out. I’m sure you could make a contribution. But I have a pile of CVs here and I have to cut them down.

So here’s why I won’t be inviting you for interview.

Maybe it’s no covering letter. Has someone told you a covering letter is old fashioned? Have you applied for lots of jobs lately and can’t be bothered? But your covering letter is a chance for me to see how you put a piece of content together, as well as how your experience fits.

Please don’t give me a CV that says your objective is to gain a role in journalism, or event management, or PR, or editorial, when you are applying for a role in Marketing. It makes me think you don’t want this job. I work for a great company, we’re doing exciting things and I want someone working for me who is thrilled to be here.

Please don’t tell me you have a keen eye for detail. This is a very risky sentence to write – it pretty much guarantees a typo in that exact sentence. Instead, demonstrate your keen eye for detail. Give me a CV with no errors at all. Get someone ruthless to go through it and spot everything. WordPress is not Wordpress or Word Press. My company name only has one A in it!

Don’t list your mother as your referee.

Don’t list what you’ve been endorsed for on LinkedIn, it’s bogus. My friends keep endorsing me for stuff I know nothing about (thanks friends!)

Don’t explain in the covering letter how the job is really below you but you will accept it as long as the salary is OK.

LastPass is not a software platform that makes me want to hire you. Just give me the software you can actually use and that might be useful.

If it’s your secondary school results, or more than 10 years ago, I don’t need the detail.

So here’s what I’d like you to do. Tell me what you can do for me. You’ve got my detailed job ad and position description – give me a couple of sentences talking specifically to that. Have you got the skills and attitude I need, have you picked up the main points in the job ad, have you had a quick look at the company website.

Oh, and you’ll never guess what I do with the applications that begin “Dear Sir”😃.

(Reproduced by permission)

  • Footnote: by default it’s impossible to spell WordPress with a capital W but no capital P when publishing in WordPress. Turns out WP automatically corrects it. There’s a plugin or fool the software to override this behaviour.
  • I don’t normally accept blog posts from other people. I certainly don’t accept them from the astounding number of marketing types that write to me offering me blog posts on topics I have no interest in.
Clothes Working life


A bit over a year ago I stopped wearing a tie to work, mostly because nobody else at work wears a tie.

When you wear ties, they can be the distinguishing feature in your work attire. When the tie is gone, it’s harder to get away with, for instance, wearing white shirts every day.


So I’ve bought a bunch of different coloured/striped/checked shirts. Stocktake sale time is a good time to stock up. Van Heusen do quite a nice “European” cut, which is a bit slimmer than their normal “classic” slobby look, but not so slim every belly bulge shows.

I’ve got mostly blues, I have to admit, though recently I’ve branched into a few other colours; for instance a couple of hopefully-not-too-dull greys, one in lavender, one that is white with stripes of pink and a couple of other colours. Groovy.

News and events Working life

Why today is a holiday

It’s Labour Day today in Victoria, marking the reduction in working hours during the 19th century to 8 hours, and the relaxation of working conditions, which in the 1840s were strict:

Conditions of the time were governed by the Master and Servant Act. Employees in Australia in 1840 who left their employment without permission were subject to being hunted down under the Bushrangers Act. As little as one hourโ€™s absence by a free servant without permission could precipitate a punishment of prison or the treadmill.

Wikipedia: Australian labour movement

Thus this monument at the top of Russell Street in Melbourne marks the achievement of 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest.

8-hour day monument, Melbourne

8-hour day monument, Melbourne

If it were created today, it’d probably be called Work-Life-Balance Day or somesuch.

And it would probably be something more like 7.6 hours work, 2 hours commuting, 6.4 hours housework, babysitting and recreation, and 8 hours rest.

Geek Working life

The lifts

Lift buttonsThe other day some colleagues were having a little rant about the lifts, which in recent weeks have been performing badly.

I blogged about this ages ago — in many buildings the problem is not the position or size of the lifts, but how they’re programmed. Evidently in 13 years, not much has changed.

Apart from simply responding to the call button, lifts should have a few basic assumptions programmed into them:

Before 10am, and between about 1pm and 2pm, lots of people will enter office buildings and want to go up, so the lifts should default to the ground floor.

The ground floor is where most people enter, so the system should not assume that because one lift has responded to a call, it can cope with everybody entering. More lifts should respond, and they shouldn’t make people play that game of waiting for the first lift to depart before being able to press the call button again.

It would also be useful to have lifts default to the non-ground floors (perhaps evenly spaced, and even ignoring unoccupied floors) at peak exit times such as between 11:30 and 12:30, and after 4pm.

Optionally, they could get a little smarter, for instance learning the patterns in the building, which floors are quiet and busy at which times of day.

Really, how hard could it be?

Culture Working life

Dilbert archive search

The Dilbert web site now has a full archive and a keyword search, and even an embed feature, which has allowed me to find and embed one of my favourite Dilbert comics ever:

…and this one, of course:

Health Working life

The health check

Apparently there have been some alarming results from the workplace health checks underway at the moment.

Victorian workers have been given a scare by a State Government-run health program which has found a high percentage donโ€™t exercise enough with a number of people asked to see a doctor within 24 hours.

We’ve had ours on Friday (everybody opted-in, I think), and we seem to be a pretty healthy workplace.

At least, nobody’s been carted off in an ambulance.

My own results were all okay, with one exception.

Some of the points are self-assessment; others like cholesterol were checked by the nurse on the spot. I’ve summarised the take-home brochure, and my results below.


2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables (per day) should be your target

I’m on 3 serves of fruit, and 2 of vegetables, so need to increase my vegetable intake. It was noted that a variety is good. I probably eat more spinach leaves than most, as I know the kids will chow them down.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how achievable 5 serves of vegies per day is for me, but I can try.


I barely drink (perhaps a one standard drink per month if I’m lucky), and the nurse decided this was closer to no alcohol of the three options on the questionnaire.

I’ve never drunk a lot; it’s reduced even more since the cluster headaches arrived on the scene, as alcohol can help induce them (though just at the moment they’re not around).

Phsyical activity

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all days

I might not play sport, but I do a fair bit of walking. It’s generally three 30 minute walks a week with the kids, and one or two 60+ minute walks with Marita and her dog on the weekends. Add to that the shorter walks to/from the train each weekday (12 minutes x 2 x 5, though no doubt that doesn’t have the same benefits of the longer walks), that’s 270-330 minutes of walking per week, or at least 38 minutes a day.

So I think that’s fine.


There is no safe level of smoking

No problemo. Never smoked, sure as hell not about to start.

Body shape

Normal — Men: 94 cm or less. Women: 80 cm or less

I’m 86 cm, have been since I was a skinny yoof. Do have a little bit of a pot belly, but nothing major.

Blood pressure

Normal — Less than 120/80

The brochure explains that the first value is systolic — the pressure in the arteries as your heart squeezes blood out during each beat. The other is diastolic — the pressure as your heart relaxes before the next beat.

Mine’s a little high: 113/83. On this basis there’s a recommendation to review it when I next see my doctor, but the nurse emphasised that there’s no real problem.

This seems higher than usual for me. Normally when I give blood it’s lower — it was 117/76 the last time I noted it in my blog. In fact this time round the nurse thought it might be unusual and did an average out of four readings.


Normal — Total cholesterol 5.5 or less, HDL cholesterol 1.0 or more

Mine is 4.8 total, and 1.8 HDL, so that’s good.

Diabetes risk

Diabetes risk score — low risk: 5 or less. Medium risk 6-14. High risk 15 or more
Random blood glucose levels — normal: less than 6.5. High 6.5 or more

My diabetes risk score is 2 points for my age, 3 points for my sex (that would be male), and 3 points because someone in my family has it — my Dad has type 2. So 8 points makes me a medium risk for diabetes, and worth reviewing with my doctor at some stage.

My blood glucose level was 5.4, in the normal range.

Overall then

I’ll enquire about blood pressure and diabetes risk, the former isn’t a big problem at present, and the latter I can’t really do much about other than keep up the exercise and improve the diet.

I suppose there’s no big surprises for me in all this, but in terms of preventative health measures, I can see how this kind of far-reaching basic health check might help others to think about their lifestyle choices and modify them if possible.

And of course it’s only a fairly superficial check. I’ve still got headaches, Bowen Belly (much less so recently) and other minor ailments which hit me from time to time.

Anybody else do the check? Any surprises?

Clothes Working life


I have a love-hate relationship with ties.

When I started my working life in 1993, almost all white-collar male workers wore ties. Over the years this has dropped somewhat, and I’d hazard a guess that perhaps around 30% now do so.

I still wear a tie. I switched a few years ago to a Windsor Knot, and this is what I’ve taught my kids to use now they wear ties in high school. Apparently some of the other boys don’t know how to tie them at all, and just leave them tied up all the time. (The girls wear them only in winter.)

Ties can add some colour to an otherwise dull shirt and suit. And when chosen and presented well, can look really good. I think they can give one an air of authority. Such as on TV!

On the other hand they are fiddly, and I don’t find them particularly comfortable to wear.

Ties apparently originated in the 1600s. I wonder if they’ll eventually disappear from common use.

music Working life

The Loud list

At work I have a “Loud” play list, for when things are noisy in the office and I need to concentrate on something.

Loudness helps, but an all-encompassing sound is even better for when I need to drown out other noise.

Most artists in my collection have at least a few loud songs, but some which have more than others and are more prominent on the list, such as:

The Living End
Led Zeppelin
Spiderbait, obviously
Hoodoo Gurus, especially their live album
Ocean Colour Scene
Green Day

Who else would be good?

Food'n'drink Working life

I hate the music

Message to owners of coffee shops in the CBD and other business-oriented areas:

Because of the closeness of related organisations, your venue is a de facto meeting room.

So, at least 9 to 5, turn down the music. Your clientele is happy to pay you to serve us beverages, but we really don’t want to be shouting across the table.