Can you tell us a bit about your family? Do you have any pets?
I was married at a fairly young age. We were both 23 and had graduated from university barely two years previously. We met in first year university though, being terminally shy, it took me until second year of university to get the courage to ask her out. It took me five years in total to convince her to marry me.
I was back at university studying for my second degree when we were married. This time I was studying medical science so we waited until I was (nearly) finished five years later before we started a family. I was 28 and had no kids. By the time I was 31, we had four. Girl, girl, identical twin boys. Life was busy but good. The boys' developmental milestones were not as quick as the girls'. We brushed it off as a boy/twin thing but, when they were three, the boys were diagnosed with autism. There were some confounding factors - they were both very affectionate but they also were some tell tale signs. My wife was an occupational therapist so we we had some good tools and expertise to assist. We were doing OK, but on a family holiday in Cairns in 2000, my wife suddenly got sick. When we returned to Brisbane she was diagnosed with liver cancer which she was told would be terminal, and she passed away seven weeks later. The next four years were tough. The kids were 10, 9, 7 and 7. I was a single dad and I was busy. We got a dog, an Australian (what else?) cattle dog, and she eased a few pains.
In 2004 I married my second wife, an absolute saint who gave up a chance to have her own family to be with mine. She was a special education teacher specialising in Autism. I was a very lucky guy. Not only did I gain a friend I could share my life with but someone who understood the boys' needs. I was indeed fortunate to have been given the opportunity to have loved two women in my life. I managed to do this sequentially not concurrently as appears to be the current trend. The biggest blow we have had in twelve years together was our beloved dog died almost ten years to the day of when my first wife died. The poor dog died from liver cancer as well. Haven't (can't) replaced her but starting to think that now I can.
ozzz2002 skunkee pollucci19
You have travelled to quite a few countries, for work and play. Besides Australia (obviously!), what is your favourite country? And why? What places do you still have the desire to visit?
I have been fortunate to see a fair bit of the world, usually as some personal time added onto a work trip. We rarely travel for play - when I met my wife she had never been out of our state (it is a big state), but we have been to New Zealand a few times and I have shown her most Australian capitals on 3-4 day weekends. Three hours in a plane is about as much as her back can take (she has a chronic back injury from an accident), so anything further, I have been on my own.
Favourite places would have to be Spain (I have an adjunct position at the Univeristat de Barcelona), Poland and Japan. Everybody should have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz near Kracow and Hiroshima. If they did and saw how we can see how inhumanely we can treat our fellow man, the world would be a more peaceful place. There are a plethora of places I would like to visit, as usually, the places I go to are where my work takes me rather than where I want to go. However, places I really want to go one way or another, in no particular order (except I want to visit the last listed place last) are:
Cuba, Portugal, Estonia, Iguazu Falls, Sweden, Egypt, Iceland, Grand Canyon, Dubrovnik and Heaven.
Excluding Australia, best places (not previously mentioned) visited - Copenhagen, Vancouver, Dunedin.
MikeMaster99 pollucci19 skunkee
You have an extremely interesting and challenging job. Can you briefly describe what you do and how you got into this field?
Although this is one of the first questions listed, I left it until last to actually answer because its 1) hard to explain, 2) rather sensitive and 3) I am conscious I could be doing those I serve a disservice by treating it superficially.
So I will stick to the facts.
When my first wife died she wanted to be an organ donor. I knew she couldn't be one as she had cancer. Two years later I found she could have donated corneas. I should have known this. It was a bad time. Sue died in 2000. This was 2002. In 2006, I was about to celebrate 25 years as a medical scientist in a pathology lab. Someone told me about a position as the manager of the eye bank in my state. I thought I owed it to my late wife to at least try to get this job as one of the most important parts of the job was to manage the donation plan including training others how to speak to grieving relatives. So, with no tissue banking knowledge, but a solid medical science background, some management skills and an impassioned plea for the job, I did indeed get said job. It was a steep learning curve. The eye bank was actually closed: I had to get it open; manage the staff; and oversee the donation process including making absolutely sure those conversations with grieving families were meticulous, doing most myself. I shouldn't say too much here because it is not about us. We facilitate something special between a dying person giving hope, health and even life, to a grateful recipient. The work is confronting, challenging, demanding and rewarding.
Who have been the people that have inspired you or been your role models?
My mother for her compassion for other people
My father for his work ethic
(I would like to think I inherited both these characteristics)
Prof. Russell Strong, pioneering Brisbane Liver Transplant surgeon who performed Brisbane's first liver transplant in an era (1980s) when the world did not embrace transplantation who, despite fierce opposition, persevered with what he believed in, and saved hundreds of lives doing so.
Reading about Australian pioneers like Howard Florey, John Flynn and John Curtin for their visions of a better Australia.
This is going to sound trite but every family I speak to as part of my work inspires me, these wonderful people, on the worst day of their life when their loved one has died, can somehow find the fortitude and courage to donate organs and tissues to unknown recipients so that others may live when their relative had died. These are the real heroes in our midst.
How does your work impact with your family life? What do you do to unwind?
My life is busy. There's work, family and not much else. I walk for exercise, usually in the early hours, but even then I am plotting my work day. Family life is full on but that's a good thing and I enjoy the "participation" if I can put it that way. I do not have much family besides parents and children. My wife has a large family so there is always someone doing something for someone. I have a truck and a trailer so I am always in demand for some chore. Daughters seem to move house every time their lease expires.
To unwind I enjoy music and funtrivia. Music these days is passive - I do not have time to stop and just listen to music but it is always playing when I am doing something else.
I actually joined FT as a form of stress relief. I am not talented at anything in my life but I knew a lot about nothing and a little about everything. Playing FT seemed a good way to blow off steam. The competitor in me saw all these little electronic badges, and intuitively I knew I wasn't going to be happy until I won all of them - I was right. These days I get to play very little as there are other aspects of FT I enjoy more.
I do not belong to any social media sites (other than to accept others' invitations) but there is a social component to FT I enjoy. I enjoy being a player in my team and I enjoy sharing time with other people I have "met", usually through quiz feedback.
I also enjoy writing quizzes. There is a creative element to writing quizzes as well as a factual element so it appeals to both sides of the brain. There is also a time component. I can write quizzes in small blocks of time when I do have such time so it can fit around more important things.
I also enjoy being an editor. See below.
My two regrets in life are:
1. Sleep is a necessary evil that stops you doing things
2. I do not get enough time to read. Big problem, no solution.
You became an Editor relatively recently. Do you enjoy the role? Any tips for would-be authors, now that you have seen both sides of the fence? Also, you have an impressive portfolio of quizzes- has editing eaten into your writing time?
I enjoy being an editor. I am at that point of my working career where I am more concerned with encouraging the people who work for me, rather diving gungho into making the scientific world a better, more knowledgeable place. It is similar with editing. Whilst acknowledging there is component to being an editor that recognises me as a competent performer, I enjoy nurturing new authors through the process so they can have a little joy about getting something published. I also enjoy the camaraderie of discussing quizzes and content with authors.
It has eaten into my playing time but that's OK - I am at the point of my FT career where I am probably not capable of winning many more badges (so I tell myself I have no time to play - self-delusion rules). I probably, if anything, look whimsically at my quiz output and think I should do more because I probably enjoy writing quizzes most - that's where I notice what editing has replaced as each required blocks of time, whereas you can do a few quizzes on a coffee break. I also enjoy the social aspect of working within a team. I try to avoid social media but I enjoy being on a small team and the social interaction that being part of Phoenix Rising entails.
Tips for first time authors:
1. Know your topic. Do all the quizzes associated with your topic. (If nothing else, you do not end up writing repeat questions)
2. If Criterion 1 is met, do not assume that you can write a good quiz: A good quiz is more about connecting with your audience than content. A good quiz is where a quiz taker feels like they knew a bit but learned enough to go and seek further information on the topic
3. Write in past tense - It addresses a lot of the time-sensitivity and time-stamping that is not allowed on FT. If you can't write the question and interesting information in past tense, it is probably either time-sensitive or time-stamped
4.If you don't understand time-sensitivity and time-stamping, read the copious amounts on this topic on this site
5. Write your quiz in a word-processing program then transfer to FT
6. Remember it's fun. If it's not change to something else
7. Understand basic grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you cannot work comfortably in this space, learn or accept that quiz writing may not be for you.
8. Interesting information is a minimum of 2-3 facts per question. If you want to add your opinion, that's OK but you still need 2-3 sentences of facts.
9. Writing crosswords is as much fun as writing quizzes. After you have written five quizzes and worked through 100 crosswords, try writing one. Different skill set - Same joy
10. Your editor is here to help. Be guided. Be polite and have fun
As a crossword editor, what advice would you give to those considering writing their first crossword for this site? (I'll be taking notes)
I need to be careful here Mike, as there is Fun Trivia Policy and there are my own views. I will distinguish between the two:
Fun trivia requires you to fill 60% of the squares - FT calculates this for you. if you stop as soon as you reach 60% you will have more black squares than you would have in say, a newspaper crossword.
FT allows 2 and 3 letter words but each must be crossed twice
FT required you cross each word (No. Letter/2) rounded down. (Except 2 & 3 letter words)
Two letter danglers are allowed but generally discouraged
The crossword does not need to be symmetrical.
You can uses initials, acronyms, idioms (as long as you specify in the clue) and even three letter airport codes
You need to specify British or American spelling if there is ambiguity.
The functionality FT has, in building the crossword, makes it quite easy to construct one. You do not need to number clues. FT does this for you
The following views are my personal views and are not used to edit crosswords but I try to stick to them myself when writing crosswords myself.
My advice is to do as many newspaper or elsewhere-published crosswords as you can to get a feel for what is required. Study templates. See how words fit together.
Practice writing unambiguous clues.
I (personally) would draw my grid first and write general crosswords where you are not limited by a theme. I see so many quizzes where authors have a few good words on a particular theme. They get their 30-40 letters in a crossword using a grid that is constructed as you go to fit the words. Then authors have to add a further 40 letters to meet requirements for a small crossword, and it is here that things start to unravel a bit. Words become contrived. Three letter airport codes are OK but when the rest of the crossword is easy and you throw in a really obscure airport code, it throws out the quiz a bit. My advice (and it is my advice, not FT policy), find a template you like, make a general crossword (at least for the first few) so you are not hampered by a theme. And don't forget to have fun. If it isn't, do something else...
I know that you have met many FT-ers in person. Any plans to catch up with others?
I have been fortunate with my work to visit places that are close to where FT people are. I have enjoyed get-togethers in Sydney and Melbourne where I have met many FT people. I go to Sydney and Melbourne a few times a year and I would never not contact Ozzzz or MikeMaster to see if we could meet up. I have also met most of the Brisbane contingent of the Australian Players' team. Because Australia is a big place sometimes close enough is good enough - When in Adelaide it was close enough to redwaldo to get a rental car and see him. It was an 800km round trip to Whyalla but I was able to do this in an overnight trip. Similarly when in Perth for work I went a day early, hopped in a rental and had lunch with Pollucci19. From my side of the world Toronto and Chicago are not too far apart, so when I went to Chicago for work, I got a weekend off so I was able to visit skunkee, leodavinci, kyleisalive there but missed out on seeing spanishliz on the same trip.
As for meeting others, I would love to meet others I have shared time with on funtrivia. It's difficult because I am so shy (you can hide behind a computer keyboard) but also a scientist so I am naturally curious. I have enjoyed meeting everyone of the people I have met with the exception of one but I knew that meeting was never going to go well.
In terms of meeting others, there are heaps of people I have "talked" to online so naturally I want to meet them. The people I meet though is governed by my work and where it will take me. Sometimes especially when I go overseas, I can crib a couple of personal days and it is these times I can track FTers down.
However, I do need to find a way to meet rossian. (She is the only one of my five nominated interviewers for this interview I have not met). I do not get to go to England much but one of my daughters is moving to Britain for a year or so to work (she's a nurse) so, if I could swing a trip to see her, rossian, the Beatles' Museum and a bridge or two, I am there.
I also need to find a way to meet my teammates. They are spread out across the globe
I can not promise to meet anyone but there are a lot of anyones I would like to meet. If work can get me close, I will do the rest.
You have mentioned to me that you have an unusual way of playing my crosswords, can you share that with us?
This is how I got to know Polluci19:
I had shown only mild interest in crosswords prior to FT. I guess I was driven in FT by the promise of little electronic badges (because they were there). I decided I would do crosswords in my favourite two categories: Geo and Music. I did a Geo CW -it was a shocker, both in content and in construction. I switched to Music. The first one I did was one of Pollucci19's. I really liked his CWs as I knew and liked a lot of the music in the CW and the range was so eclectic. I started playing youtube clips of unknown music suggested by Pollucci19's clues as I did his crosswords. It is still is my favourite activity on FT. I sent a compliment to Poll every time I finished a CW and usually commented on the music. To my surprise, he started writing back. We have kept in touch ever since. In March 2015, I had to fly to Perth (on the other side of the country, 5.5 hours by plane) for work. I took a personal day, rented a car and drove the two hours to Poll's town where we had a pleasant lunch before I had to drive back. The irony is I was invited to be an editor in May that year, then a crossword editor a few months, later, so now I edit Pollucci19's crosswords.
I have got much better at writing my own crosswords both through experience and by learning from other authors' submissions. However, I rarely write Music CWs as, in my opinion Poll is the best music CW author on FT bar none.
As a proud ambassador for Australia on FT, which three 'hidden treasures' would you recommend to visitors who want to see more than the usual tourist locations? And only one per state!
OK I will stick to the one per state rule but there will be more than three!
I always try to see different places through the human connection rather than tourist attractions per se, so it becomes the people you share the experience with that enriches the experiences.
Queensland. Everyone should see sugar cane burning on a winter's night - it's pretty spectacular. As a kid in Cairns, I used to sit on the back deck overlooking the cane fields. Every year the cane fields were set on fire prior to cutting the cane. The smell of cane burning intermingled with the smell of eucalyptus from the ever-present gum trees are my favourite smells, deeply grounded in my childhood. And Cairns of course is sooo close to the Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest.
Northern Territory. This could be Qld as well but the outback occupies both places as well as much of WA and SA. The outback is not a lot of nothing as many describe but it is actually a state of mind. I started to understand this in a previous job where I had to visit every hospital in Qld. Some were not much more than a shed in a tiny settlement of half a dozen people. On one trip I was at Duchess near the Qld /NT border. We were waiting for the Flying Doctor to fly in from Charleville 900 km to the South east. I spent the day with an aboriginal health care support worker who, because we had time, took me into the bush, it wasn't far and he explained everything to me. There is a inter-connectedness between land and person and that land is to be respected and revered. It's timelessness and everything. It's spirituality but not as we know it.
New South Wales
Australia is a federation of six states so In Australia I identify as a Queenslander first and an Australian second. New South Wales is the more populous state to the south. They do not like Queenslanders - we're cowboys and unsophisticated. So when there is a State of Origin football (Rugby league) match it is a war of attrition between the "Haves" (NSW) and the underdogs. Consistently, Qld will punch above its weight and win more often than it loses. So you need to take your six best mates and go to a SOO match in Sydney. You will be one of very few wearing a maroon (Qld colours) supporters' jersey but you will get to hear the deafening silence of 95000 misguided NSW supporters who thought their team was going to win.
The peaceful serenity of the Bellarine Peninsula. The quiet, the bay and the blistering seascape in the bite of winter with the wind roaring in from the Southern ocean.
Sharing a table of freshly cooked food in the vineyards of the Barossa Valley with eleven of your closest friends quaffing a glass or two of the local red stuff.
The sheer unspoiled beauty of the walking tracks around the Bay of Fire.
A day on the water of the the Mandurah estuary fishing for crabs and cooking same over a fire on the beach watching the sunset over the ocean.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian War Memorial. Its records yield the reason we a proud and fair country.
I know that you've always been an active person. What sports have you been involved in and do you still find time for them today?
Rugby League (School) Australian Rules (Club), Basketball, Cricket, Hockey (field), Cycling, Cross-country, Orienteering, Archery, Squash, Volleyball, Weightlifting
Australian Rules, Kayaking (State title), Basketball, Cycling, Fencing, Jogging, Archery, Volleyball
Late 20s Early 30s
Nappy Changing, Nappy scrubbing, Floor mopping, Grocery marathons, Cycling to work, Chasing kids
Late 30s Cycling, Archery, Slow jogging holding a compass pretending to be orienteering, Monopoly, board games
Weight loss programs, Walking the dog, Bushwalking, Cycling, Geocaching, Darts
Hiking, Cycling, Volleyball pinch hitter (Master's Division)
Last year I completed the Noosa Triathlon (I usually don't tell people it was the disability section as the boys had to be escorted), but nevertheless all three of us finished. (Send email address for photo us all in a "finishers" T-Shirts).
I know you're a passionate sports fan. If you could influence the outcome of just one sporting event throughout the year so that 'your team' or favourite individual won, which event would this be and why?
My beloved Brisbane Broncos lost the 2015 NRL (Rugby League) grand final 17-16 in extra time. I was inconsolable. At least they lost to another Queensland side - The Cowboys.
Dame Fortune has smiled on you and you have an unexpected bonus of one million dollars. What would your priorities be with this cash?
Take half, buy a block of land, build a four bedroom custom made house for disabaled adults (I have drawn the plans). Let four people live there on the condition that when my wife and I die or are too old to look after them, the boys can go there to live. Invest a further $150000 to cover the care of a support worker, which will be needed to provide care in lieu of parental care. Give a hundred thousand to each of our daughters as a deposit on a house. Give a hundred thousand to the four charities we try to support. Take the whole family to Disneyland for a holiday and have a second honeymoon in NZ (my wife's favourite) as our first was only a week. Let my wife work part-time. (She needs a break from me now and again and like me she would find not working difficult).
You've been invited to take part in a television reality show. What shows would you most like to be in, and which would be your idea of hell? (Saying 'no' is not an option!)
I would go on "Survivor" in an instant. Not to win a million dollars (I did that last question) but to demonstrate how you could win without compromising your integrity. I probably wouldn't last too long but I would be going out with my head held high. The Amazing Race also appeals because you see different cultures but it's probably getting repetitive and it is contrived because airports bring everybody back to the same level
I would never, ever go on one of those shows involving relationships: The bachelorette, married at first site and other shows that are not worthy of capitals or quotation marks. They spell exploitation with a capital "e"
I know you have an extremely impressive knowledge of world flags. How did that interest arise?
I have always been interested in flags as they give an insight into a culure of a country which which is what fascinates me about Geography - the cultural aspects rather than the physical aspects of same. About ten years ago I decided I was going "to do flags properly" so I started doing research on every country's flags (BTW there are more than the 195 countries in the world, besides the ones FT recognise in the Bus Ride). I even built an Access database, fed all the characteristics into the thing and started writing queries on analysing groups of countries (The main colour on flags is red which nearly always means "blood" or "struggle". This compares with white which comes a poor third and is usually associated with "peace" or "hope" This is how I got into FT the first time. I came across the site through a search engine looking for flags. I created a login, did all the flag questions and quizzes and moved on. (If you are wondering where my FT user name comes from, it is my logon to the work IT system which are my initials followed by a "1". When I joined FT for "real" in 2012, I was peeved to find that "nn1" was not available [I did not realize then it was me 8 years previously] so, liking palindromes I just stuck a "1" in front of my initials). I still like flags. I bargain with the World editors to let me write the occasional flag quiz as it is a closed category.
You're going to be marooned on a desert island (a well equipped one, with a tv, dvd player and electricity). You can take one book, one album, one film DVD and one box set of a television programme. What would you choose for each?
I would trade the TV box set for another album but if I had to take a box set, I would take all five series of "The Wire" because, it was the most realistic show I ever watched and the city (Baltimore) was another character in the series. (I tried watching "ER" via box set as it was my favourite show in the 90s but it's dated now).
A film: "One Flew Over the Cuckoos's Nest". Hands down. Saw it when I was 14. It changed my life. My girlfriend at the time was not impressed and left me for a jock who took her to "Jaws". It was a small price to pay.
Book. The next Michael Connelly Harry Bosch novel. If there isn't one then any "Wyatt" novel by Australian Garry Disher. (Due 2017 - How much prior planning do I get for this trip?). If neither option is available then "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" novel by Mark Haddon, a book that every adult should have the opportunity to read in their lifetime. Probably sneak in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Wyndham's "Day of the Triffids" though I could recite both books, I have read them so many times.
One album? Only One? Impossible. A toss up between Steve Miller Band's "Greatest Hits", anything by Heather Nova, or everything by the Decemberists or Brisbane's own Go-Betweens' 2005 Album "Oceans Apart". As I get to to take a DVD player AND I get to plan, I would burn 74 mins of all four onto one burnable CD. If pushed: Go-Betweens.
Are you sure I can't trade the TV box set for more music?
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed
Thank you to my FT Friends who took the time to write the questions that made me think
And if you are reading this thank you, dear reader for getting this far.
Editor - Animals & Sci/Tech