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Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pigeon hate


Even pigeons turn their back on you if you haven't got anything for them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Keys and stress

Now which one opens the postbox...

One of the most reliable indicators for the amount of ongoing stress in your life is the number of keys you carry. As you can see I am going through a time when I have more keys than is strictly necessary.

Tonight my major task is to go and clean the old flat as it is now empty and all the dark, dusty areas can now be reached. Other people have Christmas parties, I have to clean.

A lesson from moving: It is far more efficient to get removal men with whom you have almost no common language – almost all communication is then gestural and tonal and many of the possibilities for misunderstanding and disagreement are negated.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Defictionalisation...

...appears to be a particularly ugly neologism for the process of fictional things being produced in the real world. A few people I know used to have a Buddy Christ.

Leaving aside my horror that a more elegant word doesn't seem to have been found, some vague wonderings about artistic practice and theoretical embodiment, the feeling that reality is eating itself and the noise from the post-modernist philosophers "we told you we were right" party I have only one thing to say:

Where's my bloody lightsabre?!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bah humbug

As is traditional around this time of year I state that now it is December you are officially allowed to use the C word but not the X one and link to this post and tell you how many Americans reached it by searching for how long you cook a 24lb turkey - more than normal although still not as many as get here by searching for celebrity tongue, which I only rank 5th on for heaven's sake. It's an odd perversion, but a harmless one I guess.

This year, having bought property, I would also like to add that Christmas is officially canceled and that I'm afraid that if you had been expecting anything more sizable than a pint of beer as a present then you are going to be sorely disappointed. My apologies for this.

I have also just realised that it is my Grandmother's Birthday and I have utterly forgotten to send her anything, bum. Sorry Mum, you did remind me and, like the useless pillock I am, I forgot. At least being in her late eighties Gran might forget too...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Backwards busriders

Next time you're on the bus watch for the people that choose to sit facing in the opposite direction to travel. Not those who do so because all the other seats are taken but people that actively choose to do so, they're a bit different (rare too).

Going backwards makes most people a little queasy, these people are tougher than that. They are so accustomed to public transport that motion sickness long ago ceased to be a problem for them.

A lot of people don't always know where they're going or at least like to be able to see their stop to make sure they get off in time. The backwards people aren't worried by this, they have their routine and they know the route so well, they know it backwards.

The backwards seats are the only seats on the bus that force you to look your fellow passengers in the eye, all at once. Other seats grant the comfort of staring at a seat-back but not these. These seats reveal the bizarre theatre of people on the bus, in public but in a confined, unnatural state of locomotion. Sitting backwards on a Saturday night-bus is an operetta.

These people spend their journey looking from their point of departure watching the world go past them with their back to their destination, meeting it only when they choose to get off. In the mornings this means facing back toward home, watching it disappear into the distance. In the evenings watching work fade into the past.

Next time you're on the bus watch for the people that choose to sit facing backwards, they're a bit different.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kevin 07

Labor took the election early last night. I can't say I noticed as we were out and about and horribly sunburnt having been out all day.

It's about time I stopped with this politics tripe and got on with some real blogging...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Election day

My coverage of the federal election here hasn't been what I'd hoped but buying a flat and changing job roles seem to have got in the way of it a bit. However, it is election day in Oz and so I shall be going to go surfing all day and then to a party in the evening as I am not elligible to vote.

Australia's electoral practices are far more progressive than a lot of other westernised nations. All citizens have to vote, even if overseas a plane ticket actually has to be produced to avoid a substantial fine. Australia also uses a proportional representation system in which voters order the candidates to match their preference (a 1 for the first choice, 2 for the second etc.).

For some arcane reason that I don't really understand some seats in the senate are also being decided and for these you can either order the candidates or just put a 1 in a box for your party of choice. You can actually practice voting at the Australian Electoral COmmission's website.

Polls suggest that Australia is in for a change of government but it could be a nailbiter. There's been some great last minute wrangling including questioning the validity of 12 candidates applications with the promise of legal action andhanding out fake pamphlets supposedly saying that Labor support Islamic terrorists.

Honestly, I have no real idea what's going to happen.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

CyberPunkEm

CyberPunkEm

We've been at a charity event at the Hilton in Sydney tonight. We have come away with a teddy bear, the flowers from the table and some bloons.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Election 07: So where was I?

If you're worried about the lack of sanity evidenced by writing about politics at 3 in the morning don't worry. I was woken by a bizarre noise from next door that sounded like an entire skelton being dropped on a hard surface from a great height. Worry about that instead.

I was covering the Australian election from an TV/internet and ex-pat perspective when all of a sudden having a life got in the way. Oh yes, and the whole thing became really tedious.

We've had more of the same from both sides. Liberals first:

And now Labor:

We've also seen some genuine thinking by the two main parties. Liberals first, again playing to their economic record versus that of the oposition and doing so against the background of an interest rate rise (the first ever during a general election campaign in Australia):

Labor's latest plays to the uncertainty of electing a Prime Minister who will be stepping down soon (Howard said yesterday that he would probably be in office for at least 18 months):

To give you a taste of what it's actually like here if you're reading from outside Australia all of these video embeds are on television here. You can't get through an ad break without seeing at least two of them.

Street canvassers have been at a minimum and I am grateful that an English accent can give you the instant get-out of not being able to vote. I can't help feeling that with 10 days to go something a bit more dramatic ought to be happening. The fact that it isn't is probably because both of the parties set out their stalls pretty early on and have stuck to their guns pretty doggedly.

Some spending plans were announced on Monday from the Liberals but Labor doesn't seem to have done quite the same thing and in the interest of research and reasonable comparison I'll go through those later in the week.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why not?!


This sticker is under the driver's side window of all Sydney busses.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Elearning07



Live moblogging an award for slidecasting about moblogging - it doesn't get much more information age than that! Or does it...I also twittered the tinyurl to the organisers. I wonder if anyone will notice in time for tomorrow's session....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ferry

Ferry

The ferry to Circular Quay from Balmain

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Insert worm gag here

At the weekend a worm caused a storm in a teacup. The worm in question is not a political candidate but a screen graphic used by Channel 9 to measure public approval of candidates. It takes the form of a line at the bottom of the screen that changes colour and tracks up and down an onscreen graph based on the real time electronic voting of a studio audience of undecided voters.

The storm in a teacup was because Channel 9 did not have permission to use this under the rules the National Press Club applied to allocate broadcast rights of the debate between Kevin Rudd and John Howard. They used it anyway and the NPC killed their feed. Channel 9 then switched to rebroadcasting ABC's feed with the worm patched over the top and claimed that the Press Club had bowed to pressure from the Government in killing their feed and called it a violation of free speech.

Almost everyone is ignoring this non-story except the two broadcasters involved and the international press who love a claim of free speech violation. Channel 9 may not have had permission to use the worm but do they really need permission? The damn thing was more of a distraction than anything, particularly if, like me, you had absolutely no idea what it was.

Oddly though Channel 9 had a news crew inside the online production suite; not something you do without good reason. Might they have had an inkling that this was going to happen and have actually bent the rules deliberately in a cynical ploy to gain ratings? Surely not.

The worm was an issue because John Howard does not fare well under the gimmick. He had only been on screen 3 seconds when the graph(ic) went into a negative reading from Rudd's immediately positive reading. The worm being left out of the broadcast was almost certainly part of the negotiations to actually get a debate aired. Rudd had wanted 3 debates, Howard has cleverly agreed to only one.

Cleverly because Howard is a very professional and polished politician with 11 years practice at being PM. People know who he is and his extempore speaking seems natural, he appears to know what he's talking about even when he is winging it. Rudd is not a familiar face nor do people necessarily feel they know what he's about. There is an air of Blair about him, although he is much less creepy and seems more genuine. Actually on those criteria he's nothing like Tony Blair but you take my point.

Rudd used the time well outlining policy and using phrases like "what my party stands for", "what I would do in office" etc. but on balance I'd have to give the debate to Howard. The PM consulted his notes far less, seemed more composed and didn't make the error of breaking eye contact with the camera or the person posing a question when he had finished talking, which Rudd did. Phone polls by the broadcasters and the newspapers broadly agree with me. Political analysts though split the honours evenly, citing Rudd's better use of detail and Howard's slight hesitancy on reconcilliation with Aboriginal people and troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The worm firmly gave the debate to Rudd. If the audience really was composed of undecided voters then Howard may not be the totem he once was. This election is going to be a hard faught one in the marginal seats and if Howard provokes disapproval just by appearing on screen then he is going to need something extra. For me though the debate was proof that Howard is still tough and definitely more than a contender. [lazy joke about electorate being worm that turned goes here]

Friday, October 19, 2007

Naked PM?

I either have astonishing reach and influence or a talent for stating the blindingly obvious. Today’s video clip is the Liberal Party response to the Labor response to the Liberal unions campaign ad.

Look, it’s Howard and he’s perched on a desk (they must have sawn the legs off). In a bit to out-casual Rudd he’s also jacket-less; how outrĂ©! This is begging the question how far will they go? Until Vladimir Putin’s recent photo shoot and since Mussolini politicians don’t really strip off. The fat Italian fascist’s favourite political posturing involved going bare-chested and do manly thinks like mucking in with the hay balers. In a close election are Rudd and Howard prepared to bare flesh? Will we see Kevin in his grundies and a string vest? Will there, the Australian public wants to know, be Prime Ministerial nipple? According to the viral marketers the two are already prepared to change their hair.

As the dominant narrative of the moment the election has considerable use as a marketing too if you can get in people's heads. The election has been expected for so long that companies and their agencies have had plenty of time to prepare and as a media meme an election is all pervasive. Commercial ad campaigns are beginning to mirror the political one.

Apologies, I haven’t actually watched the video above, I’m at work and can’t be bothered. It’s probably Howard saying that he’s not scaremongering but engaged in informing the public about the potential unionist content of a Labor cabinet that would mean the thin end of the wedge for [small] businesses. He probably says something about flexibility in employment and industrial relations and taxes too.

I have noticed from the front page that the theme of embedding your rival’s advert in your own is continuing. Will we also then see this repeated so that by the time a government is elected you will be able to trace the story backwards by finding the adverts referenced in each clip? Has that actually been the case and are you reviewing this post 6 weeks from now tracing things backwards to see how Australia ended up with a naked PM? Interesting.

For speed, and appropriateness of response the Liberals score some points here but this is a definite ‘me too’ advert. It’s the same thing without a jacket (I reserve the right to change my opinion after having watched the video, but I doubt I'll have to).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First blows in the campaign

The first blows in the election campaign fell early in the week. Things are going to move quickly of necessity, 6 weeks is not long to win hearts and minds especially when people already have a well formed impression of your party. Possibly this is why I was a little disappointed with the standard of the opening salvo.

The Liberal Party, rather predictably, weighed in to Labor for its’ Union connections, as it has been doing for the last month.

The move was so predictable in fact that Labor had a reply ready to go which was posted on their website within half an hour of the Liberal ad going live.

Perhaps it is a little early to expect innovation. The Labor – yes, that is the correct spelling here as wrong as it looks – political movement has been linked to Unions since its’ inception (in Australia 1891). That the Labor front bench might contain unionists seems a little obvious.

Whilst the ad is very polished and hammers its’ point home with the requisite force it has opened up with a negative, attacking the opposition not starting from a positive. The Liberals have plenty of positive at their disposal, unemployment is at the lowest rate for 33 years, the Australian economy is booming and the Government is in a position to offer big tax cuts and arguably still manage spending. Why not remind people of that? The polls say they've forgotten.

Strange too that it was left to the Treasurer and deputy PM to launch the advert. Costello is a credible financial manager and is most likely to succeed Howard as PM in the medium term. Immediately before the election was called the Liberal party suddenly had a tizzy fit about who would lead, and for a while it looked like Howard might not be fighting the election as leader. The party eventually decided to hold on to Howard but what does that say about the election prospects of ‘Captain Smirk’? If Costello is not seen as strong enough to win an election and Howard has said he will step down in the not too distant future who exactly are Liberal voters voting for? And, more importantly, why associate this problem so closely with the opening of your campaign?

Howard is notably and noticeably absent from Liberal advert as is mention of any Liberal politicians or policies. Rudd’s response was concise - perhaps overly so - and personal. In a country still so conservative in outlook that any and all newsreaders appear behind desks for even the briefest of bulletins Rudd was perched on the front of a desk with a TV remote in his hand talking to the camera with an easy non-threatening manner (not that I suspect he is capable of being very threatening). It builds on the media created notion of the election as Rudd vs. Howard and it shows Rudd as the voice of his party. The image of the much shorter John Howard trying to perch on a desk flickered briefly through my mind. Rather unkindly I wondered if his feet would touch the ground. I expect Rudd on his desk to become a motif of the campaign.

Round one to Labor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Headphones

"You can bite my shiny metal iPod"

The doped masses, heads hanging, blank eyes badly hidden behind over-expensive sunglasses sit on the bus together, nodding to the invisible beat of the anaesthetic administered aurally via the white umbilicus.


"Yesterday, I swear I got to work and had no idea how I got there."

Every smart suit and pair of clicking heals living in denial of their symptoms. The brain-surgeon working on itself excising the horror of the daily commute asks only for a little music to cut by.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Election

The two countries that I have lived in for any substantial time are both gearing up for a general election; one definitely and soon, the other probably and not until next year. All being well with visas I will have the peculiar sensation of watching the Australian election, that I cannot vote in, from the perspective of living in the country and in the new year watching a British election which I could vote in, from the other side of the world.

In my native Britain the sitting Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, would be seeking the validation of having won an election on his own merits, having inherited leadership from Tony Blair, but has ruled this out until 2009 saying that he 'needs more time to lay out his vision'. Brown had considered an Autumn election and has faced criticism for leaving the country in suspense about his intentions, most notably from his deputy.

In Australia, where I currently live, the Liberal coalition will be seeking another term in office to return the 10 year veteran of the top job, John Howard, for only a few years before he steps down in favour of, who we don't quite know but probably the current treasurer, Peter Costello.

In both counties questions were being asked about when the election would actually be called. As the Head of State for Australia is in fact Queen Elizabeth II, John Howard is obliged to get permission from the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call an election; something he flew back to Canberra to do this weekend. I have just learnt from the BBC News website whilst doing a light bit of research for this post that he has, as expected, called an election to for the 24th of November.

Howard had been expected to call an election before now and his reluctance to do so has caused some bitter acusations from the Labor opposition. The accusations are that the Australian Federal Government is using its' advertising privilidge to market government policies and the delay in calling an election was to allow these to run their full course before polling day. There does seem to be some weight to this argument given the noticeable increase in frequency of these adverts on the TV every time a poll comes out favoring Labor and a definite slant in the advertising towards selling the legislation rather than telling people how it works.

The major election campaigning issues which I may do further posts on are going to be:


  • Work Choices and employment law (unpopular - favouring opposition)
  • Australian involvement in Iraq (unpopular - favouring opposition)
  • Assistance for drought areas (popular - favouring government)
  • Cuerrent economic position (popular - favouring government)
  • Ongoing climate change preparation (varying but mostly favouring the opposition)
  • Aboriginal and indigenous affairs (varing and impossible to place also a latecomer to the party)
  • Howard vs Rudd - it might come to punches, which speccy nerd will you be cheering for?

The last and probably the critical issue is who can maintain credibility not just personally but throughout their party and their campaign. This is going to be tricky as Howard has probably the greatest credibility of any Australian politician and is a real political street fighter with a knack for finding vulnerabilities his oponents didn't know they had.

Rudd has weathered a few storms on this front with his wife effectively being forced to sell her interest in the Australian arm of the business she runs, and Rudd having a boozy night in a New York strip club in his past revealed. Rudd should not be underestimated though. He might, as Dame Edna Everidge(CBE) pointed out, look like a dentist but he is also a former diplomat with postings in Stockholm and Beijing. During the APEC summit Rudd was able to address the chinese delegation in fluent Mandarin. The night in a strip club story only made him look human and has actually strengthened his position.

This is going to be a tough fought election that has another interesting aspect to it. Every party has embraced the internet as a campaigning tool. Google are running campaign channels on YouTube for all the parties and have an Election 2007 tab for their very popular homepage. Both of the main parties have been using social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook for a while. This is going to be Australia's first real internet friendly election.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I was trying to work dammit!

I was actually doing some work on the internet, for a bit of a change, when there was a flash and a KABOOM and the connection fried. A very sudden and extremely powerful thunderstorm wafted through and interupted every transmitter for miles. Not even the phone worked.

The connection is now so erratic I am writing this in short bursts. This occasionally happens here, it's one of the hazards of living right on the Pacific ocean. A year or two before I came to Sydney there was a hailstorm that spat chunks of ice the size of a softball from the sky. It hasn't done that yet but I wouldn't want to be outside in it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Film festival special

Last night Em & I went to a session supported by the Sydney Film Festival that was specifically devoted to internet distributed short films hosted by two people Emily has worked with/for. This is great for a number of reasons, my favourite being that I can show you the three stand-out ones right here.

The first one is a Will Ferrell film (!) called The Landlord. It speaks for itself but if you are interested in how they got a child to do this then have a look at the Funny or Die site for 'the making of' and outtakes clips too.




The second film is too odd to describe so I shan't. It is distributed by atom films who support independant film makers through advertising. This means that there are some pre-roll adverts on the video but stick with it, it's weird!




The last video clip is a piece of machinima. Machinima - machine animation - for the purposes of this film, is taking the output of your computer and dubbing it as film. The artist in this case has built a Vincent Van Gough picture in the very powerful 3D rendering engine of virtual world Second Life, put some effects on and dubbed it then dismantled it in Second Life leaving only the video clip behind. It is a breathtaking piece of work when seen on a big screen, I'm afraid I can only do small on here.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One of those days

Everyone is in for it today.

I woke up at 5am, the internet depressed me with stories about arguing nuns and some idiot who kept his amputated leg in a smoker.

I thought I was about to pull through but have gone to the cupboard to make a cup of coffee to find that in a careless moment the coffee has been thrown away. Thrown away.

I now have to wait until I get to work before the first cup. I have to arrive at my workplace unmedicated. I haven't done that in years and have no desire to start.

I do hope my colleagues are reading this and can take the appropriate measures. Bribery with caffeinated goods and bacon sandwiches always works.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Birdcage in a fishtank


I like ideas that force a change in perspective. I came accross the image above randomly the other day and it has been troubling me for a few days. It shows a birdcage inside a fishtank.

At first I thought the image was manipulated but someone actually has created a birdcage inside a fishtank.

Something about this still made me uneasy. The thought that it might possibly be cruel to the birds bothered me, but how is this any less cruel than caging them to begin with (They still have a grill at the top of the cage to allow air to circulate)?

Something about the dissonant juxtaposition of two sets creatures, that in thier wild state would be free but here confined, draws attention to the unnatural state and wanton human interference. Particularly with the birds cage inside the tank where they look imprisoned and in danger. Somehow if the fish tank was surrounded by a birdcage it wouldn't seem as strange.

The last troubling thought was the reason for it's creation. I found the image without any contextual information. There's nothing to tell me whether the fishtankbirdcage is intended as a conceptual artwork intended to provoke those thoughts, just a visual oddity intended to make it appear is if birds were flying underwater or simply the product of someone with spare perspex, a tube of silicon glue, a twisted imagination and too much time on their hands.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Linkdump digest

With the rather pretentious high-minded ideal below I feel in need of some light relief, so here are some of my favourite things I've posted on the linkdump recently.

This is an advert for a New Zealand porn chanel stuffed with innuendo. It contains nothing you can't put on TV, it's all in your filthy mind! [posted 30 August]

A NASA satellite picture of the recent bushfires in Greece. [posted 30 August]

Staying awake by switching brain hemispheres. Remarkeable, but still stupid. [Posted 13 September]

A robotic presence at work. Genius, flawed genius but genius nonetheless. [Posted 10 September]

Ah, that's better.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Curators of a zeitgeist

William Gibson

The place of blogs in the media landscape seems to be constantly up for debate. The paper-published media seems to have been of hugely divided viewpoint and variously to feel threatened, empowered, to reject the technology before finally embracing it.

The Independent and particularly The Guardian newspapers in the UK seem to have taken the concept and moved a lot of their content online, as have The Telegraph and The Times to varying degrees (from what I experienced of The Guardian when I was back in the UK last month this was definitely to the detriment of the newsstand publication). Whilst this probably can't be described as blogging there are many blogs on the sites.

The Internet over here in Oz is slowly coming round as Internet connections speed up and the newspaper sites are publishing things online simultaneously with the day's first edition (The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald).

The US media has various levels of online access but mostly seems to be sticking to the pay for access model to at least some stories as per The Wall Street Journal - now with extra Murdoch - and The New York Times on the East coast, and a free to access model on the West: The LA Times, The San Francisco Chronicle. The Chicago Tribune seems to have a mixture and USA Today seems to have gone all out for online audience engagement.

Leaving aside that the newspapers are now becoming proto-broadcasters with mixed media online content it is quite interesting that almost all of them now have blogs after some fashion. If you believe in the concept and validity of Citizen Journalism then the lines between the the journalists and the bloggers seems to be becoming blurred, particularly on the level of journals covering specific areas such as emerging web technology e.g. Techcrunch (relevant article). The clear trendsetters in this space were Wired in the US and The Register in the UK, a personal favourite. Both of these two have been blogging as journalism since before it had a name.

If you don't believe in Citizen Journalism then you probably believe that there is still a defined and specific craft to writing and a duty to truth in journalism that it is very hard for your average Joe to recreate (the wikipedia link probably won't have much use for you either). You might find yourself in a minority here, everyone thinks they can write. This doesn't necessarily mean they're right , but it does mean 'me too' writers like me proliferate and litter the Internet with dubious opinion and often unchecked 'fact'. Personally I think this is a moot point and blogging is still an emerging phenomenon that is more interesting in a social context than it is in a journalistic one.

Web logs seem to have begun as link lists of interesting sites with diary elements creeping slowly into the logs as online publishing became easier (strangely pictures of cats seem to have played an important part in this). Many bloggers continue this trend posting links and diary snippets daily, sometimes hourly. Those that do tend to hook into certain trends and, if looked at as a whole, seem to have a kind of Jungian collective unconscious that identifies certain themes and ideas that have the attention of the Internet as a whole, which increasingly means the westernised world.

Oddly the best of this types of blogs seem to be by science fiction writers. I can only surmise that, watching the things they wrote about come to pass, these writers are watching in awe and extrapolating further to another unforeseen future.

What got me thinking about this was an interview with William Gibson in today's Sydney Morning Herald in which Gibson says he has switched his focus back to the present as it is far stranger than anything he could imagine (also see this one in The Washington Post). In fact the present frighteningly close to what he imagined. It is almost impossible to read Neuromancer now without compiling a mental timeline of how this future will occur.

As an example, in Neuromancer Gibson describes a past in which a war is waged as much in cyberspace as it is in base reality. Somewhat presciently the war takes place between Eastern and Western powers. This is dangerously close to happening:


The quote below is attributed to Gibson though I can't immediately track down its' provenance:
"The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed."

It's hard to argue with that.

Back on the point I had somewhere; bloggers like this are the reason for the title of this post. They both catalogue and define the milieu of an age that is increasingly about a 'lensed perception'. In an age where information arrives more quickly than it can be processed it's not so much about what you see as the viewpoint that you see it from and the way that you arrived at it that defines what you understand of the world around you.

For me blogging is this curatorial act/trusteeship where individual examples are probably not significant but a categorised broader view will be much more revealing in anthropological kind of way and over a long period of time. Of course cat pictures are always good too!

3 Recommendations with links from the sites below them.

William Gibson
Bruce Sterling

Warren Ellis

"...dread and ecstasy at one and the same time, this is the modern condition."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

20 cents short of a beer


I don't want that! It's bloody kiwi. Too many currencies.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Harbour Traffic

in: Balmain East NSW, Australia

Harbour 2

There's a huge amount of harbour traffic today. I presume everyone's trying to get in or out of port before APEC.

There's a huge amount of police launches patrolling out there too.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bleeding edge news and Tuesday blues

"I could use a hug about now"

With the APEC summit about to happen in Sydney and an opportunity for Australia to showcase its' position as a real economic and political player on the global stage the biggest news story over here at the moment is obviously going to be about a drug taking rugby player.

Last weekend Andrew Johns was arrested in London with an ecstasy tablet in his possession. That's right, one tablet. This is surprisingly convenient for him as if you get caught with one tablet in the UK you can say it's for personal use, if you get nicked with even only one more than that you get done for possession with intent to supply. A man of Johns' size, and apparently considerable experience with controlled substances, will probably want more than one pill to get his rocks off all night. Someone, possibly someone wearing a blue uniform, has done him a big favour and stepped on the rest.

Johns has pleaded that he has been battling bi-polar disorder and that he was using alcohol and drugs to self-medicate, something his doctor almost certainly told him not to do. For a start alcohol is a depressant and won't really work, the drinking experience would feel hollow and shallow and make the problem worse, especially if you drink predominantly filthy Australian beer.

As a second point MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, whilst effective immediately, with even casual use has the side-effect of a nasty comedown when it wears off. With continued use you get delayed comedowns that take place a day or two from the high. These exhibit themselves as a rather dark and tearful mood a few days later - commonly known as the Tuesday blues.

There are a couple of points here that I don't like:


  1. Johns' symptoms are as much a result of his self-medication as they are anything else. Given the length of time he's been using it will now be impossible to distinguish between these and the original depression. This doesn't matter however, the treatment will be the same.
  2. Successful intoxication of any kind requires knowledge. Johns should have done his homework before stealing the key to the medicine cabinet.
  3. Self-medication my arse. He did it to get wasted, just like the rest of us do.
  4. This isn't exactly news now is it.

A sportsman exhibiting risk-taking misbeaviour? How unexpected. Amazingly he also has a ready excuse designed to provoke sympathy rather than a backlash, gosh I couldn't have predicted that either. Channel 10 has a rather unfunny sketch comedy called The Wedge in which there is a character called Mark Warey, a generic sports star who is constantly apologising for his bad behaviour. If bad sports star behaviour and subsequent apology and sob-story is such a staple of the social cannon that it appears in a slightly sub-standard comedy show as a weekly event then this can't be considered particularly shocking or revealing no matter who that sportsman is.

In a country about to host one of the world's most significant economic summits where the government is using anti-terror legislation to monitor protestors, where the country's largest city has had the central district fenced off to prevent protestors being able to get within 500 metres of anyone significant, where the federal government has stepped in to Aboriginal communities and effectively rolled back previous native land title legislation for a 5 year period there are much weightier things to talk about that are directly in the public interest.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eclipse ambivalence

Tonight's total lunar eclipse made me think two things:


  1. Wow look at that, amazing!
  2. Er...what's all the fuss about? Yes, the moon's gone red, but it was upside down anyway so no big deal really.

On the first point it really is quite astonishing to watch the Earth's shadow fall across the moon and the scattering effect of the atmosphere make it appear a rusty blood red. Once you know that's what it is, it does make you feel sufficiently small. Of course if you didn't know that, it might make you feel something untoward and bizarre had happened and that you really should go and work out your frustrations on the peculiar lady down the road and her sizable collection of cats and brooms. Dammit she was probably the reason your turnip crop failed, get the kindling.

The second point is a bit harder to nail down. Once you do know the reasons for the moon turning red, should you really be that impressed by it any more? If you happened to be in the right spot on each occasion you could see this twice a year. Being amazed by it when you know that as well doesn't seem too far removed from standing in a muddy field howling at it, which some people were actually doing.

This is possibly why the majority of people left after ten minutes of staring at probably one of the most beautiful natural phenomena they will ever see to go home and stare at the television for a few hours. Weirdos, how can you ignore that? The moon went red for heaven's sake; it was incredible!

Apologies for lack of pictures, the phone wasn't quite up to the task. I'll steal from the newspaper websites tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A long way home

36 hours door to door; not bad for a journey of 17,000 miles plus, but as always the last 8 hours were the hardest and I was close to suicide by the time the plane finally landed.

I’d been doing relatively well having sat next to a couple a bit younger than myself from London to Dubai who kept themselves to themselves and tried very hard to pretend they weren’t kibitzing at my completed crossword. I tried very hard to pretend their public displays of affection weren’t making me feel ill, probably with an equal degree of success.

A few tips for those travelling through Dubai airport:

  • The best value duty free is the Bombay Sapphire Gin: $11 US for a litre and it’s a proper strength at 47%.
  • The hotel bar takes 8 different currencies and makes a mean double espresso.
  • Avoid talking to cross eyed Americans – they’ve taken huge quantities of Xanax and are unaware of the consequences of drinking large amounts of beer in combination with this and prescription sleeping pills.

From Dubai to Bangkok I sat next to a woman who must have been in her 70’s who couldn’t work out the touch-screen entertainment system. Once I’d shown her how this worked she watched Spiderman films for 6 straight hours. Maybe she just liked young muscular men in skin-tight lycra, maybe that’s why she was flying to Bangkok where a small amount of a UK pension will probably purchase many muscular young men in skin-tight lycra, the mind boggles.

A few tips for people travelling through Bangkok Airport:

  • Do not compare this airport to any other in the world, it will only depress you.
  • The moving walkways are talking to you, they are telling you that the walkway is about to end and are triggered by IR beams across the path. This might seem obvious now but after flying for 16 hours or so being at Bangkok Airport feels like you’ve been dropped into a scene from Bladerunner, if you don’t know small details like this you might start trying to figure out which of your travelling companions are simulants.
  • Smokers should kick the habit before getting on a plane. If you haven’t the smoking rooms will make you wish you had. I gave up smoking years ago but even from the outside they look like an experiment in "pressure and stress" from Guantanamo bay.

As so many westerners can say "my luck ran out in Bangkok". I returned to my seat to find that septuagenarian Spiderman fan had been replaced by a man whose shoulder breadth was probably greater than his considerable height. We had a new pilot, a Dutchman who thought he was funny. If there is one thing the world doesn’t need it is airline pilots with a sense of humour, specifically Dutch ones. The child in the seat in front of me who had been a source of considerable amusement on the previous leg of the journey had run out of patience and become a screaming machine with no off button and had been joined by two more of the same. I drank as much alcohol as I could persuade the attendants to give me to try and knock myself out only to be woken every 20 minutes by the ‘please fasten your seatbelts’ announcements, the Arabic version of which sounds like someone clearing a particularly painful obstruction to their airways, or a fresh bout of screaming.

By the time I reached Sydney I was in such a state of unshaven disarray that I was twitching involuntarily and charging about the place with a slightly haunted look on my face in search of my luggage and the duty-free that would bring the blessed ease of unconsciousness once I finally got home. Every airport security officer in the world has been taught to look for that kind of behaviour and so I was stopped about every 20 metres by a uniformed, and sometimes armed, official who asked me where I’d been, where I was going to and details of the flights I’d been on. These questions are intended to make sure that you aren’t about to set yourself on fire shout "God is great" and detonate your shoes but after more than a full day of travelling it’s quite hard to be chirpy and give concise accurate replies. Nonetheless I made it out of the airport in record time only to find that it was raining heavily. I got in a taxi to find it being driven by a young man who looked like he was about to set himself on fire shout "God is great" and detonate his shoes. I set aside the racial stereotypes and chatted to him all the way home to keep myself awake.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve had a gin and tonic at 9am, but it was definitely the only time I’ve actually needed one at that time of day.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

6 degrees of separation

Silly me, I thought social networking meant a trip to the pub (this may be why my boss has described my networking skills as "pretty modest" but he seems to treat networking as a trip to the pub as well so I suspect this is something else). Apparently the web has changed much of this and social networking is now achieved by technological means as well.

To try and get a handle on what I might use these for I have been trying out various "Social Networking" websites. Some over the past couple of months/years some only very recently. I am now on twitter, Linkedin and Facebook as well as MySpace, Flickr and just about anything else with a crap name. I stopped short of Bebo, I don't want to be part of a social network that sounds like a teddy bear (although I am on Orkut, which sounds like a character from terrible Eighties cartoon He-Man).

There are hundreds of these bloody things, they can't all be useful. I can understand when they have a set purpose like Linkedin (business connections) and Flickr (photos), but Facebook, although enourmous fun for the first 5 days of membership, seems too broad in application to be useful, as is MySpace which seems to have become infested with musos as well as aggravating teenagers. MySpace also has the distasteful honour of being owned by Uncle Rupert, it is also poorly designed, hard to use and forces you to put your name and photograph next to adverts. I don't use that much.

The biggest problem for these sites is that each one seems to want to be the master account; it assumes that you will be logged in to that site and that site alone to update your personal details, status, photos, what you had for breakfast etc. I spend a lot of time online but even I draw the line at being logged in to a website pumping adverts at me all day.

One of the main reasons I use Google's services for the majority of my online life is that it is all behind one login all the time and that I can update most things from one place or go to the exact spot I want with a single click and get everything I want to do in my personal online world finished before I finish my morning coffee. This is slowly becoming more and more possible as each site publishes an API and I know for a fact that some online service providers are building software that will aggregate all these things to a single spot. This is a spectacularly difficult endeavour and as a result there aren't any plans to turn this into a product as yet - but you can bet anything you like there will be, because I'd use it.

I had hoped that by looking on each of these sites I would discover which was more used by people I know and could stick with that. Having uploaded my contacts into each one and searched the databases I have discovered that everyone is hedging their bets; everyone uses a few of them infrequently. This tells me that the whole thing is either a waste of time or that this is a space that needs not just consolidation but a good idea of what it aiming to do and a better idea of how people do it. Might I suggest some offline time to facilitate this process? There's nothing like actually socialising to teach you how people network socially, or trying to find a new job to teach you just how much easier this could be made.

Despite myself I quite enjoy the online social networking thing. The sites use the '6 degrees' principle to great effect. Once you have made a connection with someone you can see all their connections and send 'friend requests' to them. It's slightly nauseating in a primary school 'will you be my friend?' kind of way but it can serve to put you back in touch with people you haven't seen in quite some time and has the addictive collecting and slightly competitive feeling to it that football stickers used to have before I grew up (had Watford not lost that FA Cup final to Everton in such a terrible way I might still be collecting them).

These sites also allow you to make a very public tit of yourself and give other people enormous scope to do the same. Posting photos of yourself and others wide eyed and legless allows everyone in your network to see them unless you are very familiar with each site's privacy settings and use them carefully. I am not the kind of person who thinks their social life should need tight administrative protocols and I react badly to having to use them. Also the confluence of professional and social is a tricky area for me, it can make me uneasy and it takes me a while to shake the feeling that I should be behaving in a manner that 'isn't me'. Social networking sites are starting to blur the boundaries between a social networks and professional ones and that makes me uneasy for the same reason.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Digger


Diggers like beaches

The recent storms - in addition to killing 9 people and causing shipwrecks - spread most of Maroubra beach accross the road or plastered it against the concrete walls that border the sand. Earth moving equipment was brought in to re-level the beach after the storms and only today has it been silent

I must admit I had a temptation to joyride the thing in this photo. Sadly at time of taking it was mid-morning and I couldn't see the keys anywhere. Now it is late afternoon and I've had a few of Australia's finest I'm tempted to try again. Look out for news of my arrest.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Pets

"For pity's sake HELP ME!"

I grew up with pets; 2 cats and 2 dogs, the occasional fish, horses, my sister had a hamster that went very quiet one day and was found, toes in the air stiff as a board with no further use for his annoyingly squeaky wheel. I pleaded not guilty and was duly acquitted.



"I'll kill you all, when I get loose!"

As an adult I do not feel the urge to have pets particularly. I am on my own on this particular point; the threat "dog or baby" has been used on more than one occasion and is starting to sound like a bit more than an idle threat. However Dog has recently taken a back seat to Toyger. No I haven’t misspelt that dyslexia or no. She wants a Toyger.

Yes dear, very pretty.



A Toyger is a domestic cat specifically bred to look like a miniature tiger. Which sounds excellent apart from the fact that they are horrendously expensive at $1000 a go. Why would you need to breed a domestic moggy to look like a tiger anyway? They all believe they’re tigers, why bolster the fantasy?

"I'm thinkin about eatin you..."



I have said no to a Toyger on the grounds that they too expensive, too steal-able and we go on far too many holidays to have a pet. I have been receiving these pictures of Toyger kittens by email. Stupidly I made the mistake of showing them to my colleagues (all women). I am not getting much support. Sadly things have since escalated and Toyger quickly gave way to Kinkajou and Sugar Glider. Heaven help me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dear Microsoft...

Let the fun begin!

Being just an ignorant end-user I was under the impression that the updates that my computer periodically downloads from you were meant to make my computer more secure and work more effectively. In this first regard your most recent set have most certainly succeeded. If I can’t do anything with it how could it ever get malicious software on it?! It is a stroke of genius, a triumph of lateral thinking on which you are to be congratulated. Little was I to know that the update process was also a game of deduction and reasoning to educate users and keep us on our toes. Again I congratulate you on going well beyond what would normally be considered customer service to provide education and entertainment, as well as just a reliable and thoroughly useable product.

At the outset, I must admit, I had some small concerns about the second point above. The effectiveness of my computer post installation was initially somewhat reduced, in as much as it would give the appearance of working as normal and indeed for the first twenty seconds to a minute of use would operate much as before. Unfortunately, after this time it would pop up a warning window with an incomprehensible message on it referencing some abstract section of code that it was attempting to use and that it could not locate. Distressed, I attempted to come to its’ aid, alas to no avail. I found that my computer, plucky little thing that it is, had struggled to its eventual demise.

I will confess to being a little disheartened at this point. I began to wonder how I was to reinstate my poor PC without being able to access the internet, or run any of the restore functions or check the hard-disk for errors. So began the game! Feverishly I hunted for information, I consulted with friends and colleagues, I scoured the internet for information at work, I read countless articles detailing where I might find the error - many of them saying that no further updates or support would be available for my machine. That was a cunning move, and one I hadn’t seen coming! Surely, I thought, they can’t want everyone to upgrade to Vista already. Therein lay the solution to my problem! Self evidently this could not be a cynical ploy to force people to install a new operating system, that would be marketing suicide. Why would any company cripple its’ most widely used and compatible product to try and make people buy a new version of it, a ridiculous notion!

More fantastic updates!

I set about finding an answer, keeping my wits about me. If, as was seemingly the case, the crippling update was, as it could not be, a fiendish scheme to make me upgrade my software, then perhaps these articles telling me there were no further updates to be found were a double bluff and there were in fact additional updates to download. It hit me, a cry of elation escaped my lips and my colleagues cast wary glances in my direction, but I cared not for I had my answer! I had merely to wait and the solution would come to me. There were updates, useful ones, still to come and all I had to do was make sure that the computer had space for all the temporary files it needed. The instant I got home I deleted all the useless bloatware that I had installed – you know the type of thing, photo management software, the suite of software that makes my mobile telephone work with the computer (how could I have installed that hopeless frippery? After all it wasn’t a Microsoft product how could I have expected efficacy?). This cleared space for my poor computer to download its necessary updates and attempt to install them, something it achieved at only the fifth crashed attempt! Remarkable.

Imagine, if you will, my delight today to find that my work computer is now asking me download and install fresh updates. I can hardly wait! What delights of research, what twists and turns of analysis and logic am I to experience now, what intricate subtleties of compatibility am I to learn now? I could not be more pleased, though I wonder if my employer shares my glee. I suspect he may wish the process was perhaps a little less entertaining, the spoilsport!

Keep up the good work!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hospitals I have waited in

It appears to be a fundamental truism that on average one must visit a hospital at least every 18 months (obviously a bit more often for health care professionals). On this occasion you must sit and wait for a period of no less than two hours. The most recent of these for me was at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick. The staff were excellent the best of them being the attending doctor, despite looking about 12 years old, it was a privilege to watch him work. However...

I despise waiting and I'm not fond of hospitals. Eventually, no matter how serious the reason for being in a hospital, you attempt to alleviate the anxious tedium of the waiting room by entering into an advanced level of schadenfreude in the form of a guessing game:

"Ooh, look at the one in the pink dressing gown! Bloodshot eyes, barely able to stand and carrying a bucket of puke. The dreaded lurgy or a cry for help?"

This is particularly true of accident and emergency wards where there is an additional element added to the game necessarily added by the triage process. Patients are rated into [it'll all end in] tiers to denote how urgent their treatment is and to allow the staff to prioritise the right people:

  1. About to die. Intensive care required with the possibility that bits might need to be sewn back on.
  2. In immediate danger, could be a bit messy, attending doctor should be prepared to get sticky
  3. Pretty bloody urgent but not in immediate danger. They'll be OK for 10 minutes but keep an eye on 'em
  4. "You nailed what? To where?! Ate/drank what? You dipstick."
  5. Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning
  • Anything else - sticking plaster with mickey mouse on it and Mummy kiss it better.

You rarely see tier 1 or 2s in the waiting room. The helicopter/ambulance crew generally having scraped enough of them together for a delivery direct to the ICU (I wonder if the same rules as pizza apply here; if you wait more than half an hour do you get your treatment free?). You do see some tier 3s and some very funny high-end tier 4s. The best of which this time round was a very south American sounding man who was dragged in across the shoulders of his girlfriend, his eyes not focused and not quite capable of standing on his own.

Eee ate a mushroom in the bush and now ee is intoxicated!
A magic mushroom?
No, jus a mushroom. In the woods.

The idiot was dragged away to have his stomach pumped. Sadly my first thought was "we are interfering with natural selection and I'm not sure we should have on this occasion".

Whilst I understand that the position of triage nurse calls for an extremely grounded and pragmatic personality the two on duty here could have used a gentle reminder about privacy. One poor girl, brought in doubled up in pain, was shut in the consulting room to preserve her dignity, but not before the nurse had bellowed out that treatment would be "stuck in your bottom". I presumed it was an intramuscular injection but who knows, a dill pickle suppository may be more effective.

Probably the stand-out moment though was when we actually sitting in the ward waiting for everyone to be in the same place at the same time again. A & E wards are terrifying places at the best of times and this one has good road links to most of the eastern side of Sydney, and a helipad on the roof. The majority of patients were elderly brought in with suspected heart attacks but there were some in there who had clearly been spread across the road only an hour or so earlier.

The unseen octogenarian in the next cubicle over was having a tough time of it. The doctor returned to him and explained that he was going to have to do a rectal exam; "what that means is...". There was a rustling of sheets and a short, utterly silent pause. And then, "ooooh, aaaaarghhh, oooh!". I would have laughed out loud had they not been talking about a full blood transfusion to keep him alive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beans


You know you're drinking too much coffee when your barista gives you a sample of the new beans to try out! Thanks Tim!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

At last real beer


Mmmm beer...

Just had my first taste of proper English bitter in nearly 2 years. I didn't realise how much I missed it. Good thing I've made 23 litres of it!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just pants


My car insurer has just sent me this tasteful pair of undies. Still no policy document though...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For you Mr Blair


It's a good thing I can't get on the net to vent my spleen. I would like to rail against Tony Blair but I can't. Instead I shall simply remind everyone that it was a man calling himself a socialist that enforced student loans and ignored 2 million people on the streets of London to go to war illegally. He has today said that he thought he was doing the right thing.


Edit: How will history judge Blair? - more on this later.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Presence (feedback I didn't need)

Apparently presence is an issue for me. At work, at home, in my life in general I seem disinterested to the point of total absence.

My life goes on around me nonetheless. The driver is not just asleep at the wheel but has stepped out for a swift half and left the handbrake off. The lights are on but...

If things continue without my attention it would suggest that my attention is not really required. Was it ever? Have I got this far without effort or even a guiding influence? How should I measure progress if I've been coasting?

If the life continues without the person living it, the body a husk and the eyes dead then what actually am I? Some Derridian nightmare; the walking signifier of my own nullity. A semiotic paradox placed in life by a quirk of spacetime/joker deity - the actual presence of me signifying my total and utter absence.

Don't look at me for an answer, I'm not here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Lucky Shag

in: Perth WA, Australia

Just popping in for a quick one; drink, that is.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Perth, Rottnest Island

Perth skyline

Being from the UK it seems a little odd to fly for a shade under 5 hours and land in the same country as you started in. If you flew to the same height as we did going from Sydney to Perth you could probably have seen the majority of the British Isles, we couldn't see much other than the southern coast of Australia which you could see the perfect map outline of. This country is so huge that I have trouble properly comprehending it. At one point we flew past what appeared to be 'quite a large town' in the middle of absolutely nothing, it was Adelaide (though to be fair to British eyes the South Australian capital isn't much more than a town).

Perth itself is a peculiar city. The CBD is tiny, comprising a total of about 5 city blocks. From the air it looks even more like a model than cities normally do.

Quokka

Quokka/Rott

There are a few good things to see around Perth, noteably Freemantle which is a seaside town with a great Sunday market which we didn't go to and Rottnest Island (or Wadjemup in the local Aboriginal dialect). Rottnest means rat's nest in dutch and it was dutch explorers that gave the place its name. Why would you call such an idyllic place a rat's nest? Because of the quokkas. Take a field mouse, cross it with kangaroo and you have a quokka. They seem quite unafraid of people and will happily eat or drink from your hand (not that you should really get them drunk...). They curl up into a ball when threatened, leading to a now eradicated local sport of quokka soccer.

Rottnest is a beautiful place, we rode around the whole island in about 2 hours on hired bicycles stopping to swim at a near perfect beach (it's also quite hilly so the ride wasn't particularly easy on the prostate). Sadly we didn't take enough pictures here and I need to be edited out of the ones we do have so they might be a while in arriving on this post.

More later...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Quokka

in: Rottnest Island WA, Australia

A funny little thing I found on Rottnest Island, and a Quokka.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Holiday

This could turn into one of those annoying memes that people use on their blogs but I'm going to do it anyway; you know you've had a busy month when:
  • You've used up half a box of business cards
  • You look at things that would normally scare you with their urgency and decide that they aren't that bad really
  • A full day of tasks is addded to your diary for the week and you think, "ah, oh well no one else can do it..."
  • You are clipping things out of the Sunday paper to go into your presentations
  • You wake up on a Saturday thinking, "I should probably have delegated that to someone else..."
It's time for a holiday and me & the Mrs are off to WA to see Ningaloo reef, the Margaret River, Rottnest Island and Perth. Naturally because we both need a nice relaxing holiday we are trying to do as much as possible. This will include snorkelling with whale sharks, which might be a little intimidating. I'm taking the mobile with me so there will be occasional picture posts on here, though I'm not sure how well it will do underwater...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A mistake realised

First there's the moment of realisation, the open-mouthed shock. This is swiftly overrun by the hot prickling up of sweat from your scalp that instantly cools to an icy chill. Starting as a trickle down the back of your neck it gains momentum and becomes a freezing torrent that rushes down your spine before diving into your guts and viciously squeezing the life out of your stomach. The blood squeezed from your viscera is pushed to your face causing a hot flush and the cycle begins again.

If the mistake is bad enough this feeling won't just be a temporary one but a near continuous loop that makes it difficult to fall asleep and impossible to stay that way. It will last as long as it takes to fix the mistake.

Shotcode

dataphage:shotcode

Sometimes technology moves more quickly than you really like to think about. The picture to the left is a shotcode. With the aid of a download to your phone from the shotcode website you can then take a picture of these graphics and the phone will automatically direct its browser to the site that it represents. The one to the left is for here.

Personally I find that a little creepy but I'm going to have fun leaving these all over the place, though I might not go this far.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Various things

Central Sydney in a storm

Whilst I wait for the coffee to bring me back to life and before I engage on some of my long-planned but never acted on writing projects, one of which is now a sprawling epic of seven paragraphs, a quick update. Unbeleivably I have been doing things and not writing about them.The picture to the left is a shot from a friend's balcony accross central Sydney, in a thunderstorm. We went to her house to play poker, we left at three the next morning. The prize was a hangover and I won it in style.

The hot seat

The Laneway Festival was great fun and I can recommend looking up almost all the acts on the lineup as they each have something different (there are links to YouTube and MySpace on the laneway site if you feel so inclined). A small section of Sydney, just a block back from Circular Quay is shut off and turned into a mini music festival on the streets with two large stages, one dj stage from the back of a pickup and one club venue in The Basement. The sofa in the picture was a doomed seat. At first it seems to be the best placed in the entire venue; not far from the least crowded bar, soft and comfy, close to the relaxed music coming from the dj etc. However it was a warm day, a very warm day. I played tennis that morning and when I finished at ten it was 43 Celsius on court. This seat had the highest turnover of occupants. I was watching and timing, nobody lasted five minutes.

Grow my pretties...

We have begun to grow herbs and the like on our back balcony. We have Chives, Basil, Coriander, Thyme, Parsely and Oregano growing from seed. After considerable success with it in London we also decided to see if we could grow Chillis. You can see the result of scraping out the seeds from a chilli straight from the fridge into the compost and a week of watering and sunshine, we have about 30 seedlings!

When we were given a couple of chilli plants in London we lived in a house that had a terrible mouse problem and the little bastards completely ate our plant right down to the woodiest twig. We had to nurse the small stick that was left back in to leaf and eventually fruiting. It now resides in Hertfordshire and is doing very well I'm told. I will forever be wondering about that mouse. I had mental images of a rocket-propelled rodent that made me giggle like a toddler.

It was this incident that ultimately spelled the end for the mice. The non-aggression pact was rendered null and void and the use of force authorised, if not completely encouraged. One week of peanut-butter baited traps dealt with the incautious and letting our neighbour's cat into the house seemed to have dealt with the rest. I'm not particularly sure how effective a hunter Wonky the boss-eyed moggy would have been but we didn't see many mice after that.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Top Gear vs Alabama

Hicksville Alabama



I have lots of erudite and witty observations to make but right now I am hung over; subtlety is a forlorn hope and wit a forgotten dream. Watch this instead, it's very funny indeed.

Soft as shite shandy drinking broadcasters.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sydney harbour fish


Oh, you can catch it; but you might want to think twice before eating it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Amsterdam in Sydney

in: Circular Quay NSW, Australia

Amsterdam in Sydney

It's a rare occasion that I take the ferry to work any more. I miss the quiet moment this gives me before work; the cup of coffee and danish whilst I watch the world go by, and the view, I miss the view.

The ferry from Circular Quay to Balmain goes past the ocean liner you can see here, which has the opera house on the opposite side, left under the bridge and round the corner.

On a sunny day it is a superb journey. You get to look at the idiots on the bridge climb, see the kids going to Luna Park and go past the cargo terminal that butts onto Sussex street. You see everything that happens in the middle of Sydney and be apart from it with your coffee and your Danish. A priceless moment of peace to contextualise your thoughts before arriving at work. I miss that.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dodo, dodo, internet that dies!

If you were a brand consultant what might you tell a client that came to you with the idea of naming their service after an extinct flightless bird?

"You got here just in time! Sit down and we'll think of something better in even just the first five minutes of the meeting."

genius

But no your client is in a dizzying frenzy of marketing fervour believing themselves an absolute genius.

"No, no," they might say, "we've had so many good ideas around this. We've got an ad campaign with a REALLY annoying jingle and a brand mascot that looks nothing like a Dodo. We're going to hire people to wear a fuzzy suit that makes them look a bit like a very misshapen version of the mascot and harass people about broadband connections on their way to work, where they have a fast connection all day! It's going to be brilliant!"

I know what I would say at that point:
"Get out of my office you cretin! People will think you hired me and my name will be forever besmirched with your idiocy!

Why are you here anyway exactly...?"
I don't know what Dodo Internet are thinking with that as a strategy. I can't speak as to the quality or consistency of their service as I was so thoroughly put off by their brand identity that I wont be going within 15 feet of their mascot and wouldn't be caught dead using them as an ISP.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

England take on the Windies


On Maroubra beach. Amazingly we won. The teams are all retired internationals. The downside is that the beach is that bit crowded, and the seating banks are complete eyesore.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Whoops...

I appear to have inadvertantly imbibed the entire contents of my hipflask whilst watching A Better Tomorrow (honestly there is no way you can watch this film sober (though my cantonese has improved maarkedly)). To attempt to counteract the deleterious effects of about 4 double measures of finest Irish whiskey I have just drunk the first of two 750ml bottles of water. It's going to be a long night.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia day...

...was fantastic fun and whilst the hangover is still a little in evidence this morning has been one of those mornings that makes you glad to be alive.

I've been sat at Coogee beach watching someone's border collie jumping at the water from the showers. There are the usual hard-core of ocean swimmers ploughing their way accross the bay who won't be out of the water for an hour yet, not even the shark alarm phases them. I've finished a much needed bacon and egg roll and am trying to drink the coffee that my addiction craves but that is simply too hot for such a sunny morning. The bus I wanted home has just left behind me, I've decided to walk anyway.

As I'm scrawling this in my notebook it's 7:30am and the sun is already so powerful that I'm squinting with my sunglasses on. Without exagerating, the light has a unique colour that makes the world appear as if drenched in golden syrup.The pacific, for once living up to its' name, is glittering and the beach squeeking under my bare feet is already warm and unusually deserted.

One of the things you are never told about Australia is the smell. The eucalypts give the country a uniquely distictive odour. In the moments before a rainstorm they have the rank reek of a tomcat's favourite alley, territorially marked. After the downpour they give off a a sinus clearing mentholated perfume that makes you take enourmous lungfulls of crisp morning air. After a big storm the scent can last for days.

A lot of the hard edges to Australia, whilst they remain on many of the people, have come off the country itself. Bushfires still wipe out huge areas of the country and drought threatens the livelihood of everyone inland but as a whole Australia is in a boom time. The greatest resources here being the country itself - more or less a licence to print tourist dollars - and the people. The reason that Australia punches so far above its' weight in so many different ways is because the people here will back themselves to take on anything or anyone and will honestly give it their best shot.

Whilst walking back accross the clifftops, beaches and the rocks, scaring crabs back into their pools, getting indignant looks from skinks and seabirds alike, I realise something that has probably been very clear to everyone else; I'm going to be staying here for a while.

My Country is the poem probably most quoted on Australia day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vibrating condoms


All I wanted was a soft drink and look what I found! Bonus.

Anchor, what?

in: Balmain East NSW, Australia

Surely that anchor is too big for a boat that size.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Apple announces iCandy

Steve jobs today unveiled the latest in Apple's suite of digital technology, a sweet, or rather a sweet dispenser. Apple is bravely stepping into a market arena long dominated by PEZ and seen by many as one that is ripe for a serious hardware manufacturer to bring high-end functionality into. The announcement brings to a denouement months of speculation in the confectionary press that Apple were about to make inroads into their market – famously there were even mock-ups of what iCandy might have looked like published in Chocolatier Today.

According to Mr Jobs this won't just be any sweet dispenser but the one sweet dispenser anyone will need or want. “iCandy is a total confectionary solution in a single, desirable and easy to use device for grown-ups that does away with ugly and cumbersome front-end,” said Jobs. “iCandy combines the functionality of other sweet dispensers with the ability to pre-select the flavour and texture of the item dispensed as well as order new sweets online through the iSweets software that comes with it.”

It seems that whilst iCandy will dispense many other forms of previously available sweets, sweets that are purchased via iSweets will come in a sealed container that can only be opened by placing it in the iCandy device. Speculation has started that this will mean that the previously much vaunted business model of partnering with manufacturers such as Haribo to produce a significant new channel will not gain the market share predicted. “People won’t really bother with the iSweets store outside of the occasional curiosity purchase,” says Richard Laybrook of Toffee and Butterscotch News, “probably preferring to put sweets from packets they already have into the device”.

The unveiling of the actual iCandy device received astonished gasps from the audience who despite their journalistic objectivity couldn't get enough of the rounded corners and shiny effect on the interface. One of the questions from the audience focussed on the design culture at the company and whether this device had reinvigorated what had been seen as a stale and stagnant process at Apple. The criticism has been that new devices and new versions of devices are simply given more rounded corners, a shiny effect on the interface and released to market in a new colour. The iCandy with its shiny effect and rounded corners was clearly a huge departure for Apple available as it is in black, white and silver on the same device and will soon be available in nearly 4 colours but remained true to the Apple aesthetic. "Yes," quipped Jobs, "the strongest flavour of iCandy is Apple."

A technology blogger in the front row, who was clearly a week late, questioned Jobs on whether or not this was in fact anything new at all and wasn't he guilty of lumping together many technologies that were approaching obsolescence in a very thin, very shiny new case, giving it good packaging and sticking the letter i in front of a generic name to make it sound cool? Wasn’t this, he continued, a symptom of over-investment in product design, marketing and the miniaturisation of old technologies in favour of genuine innovation? Unfortunately Jobs reply was never heard as a several burly Apple PR execs reminded the blogger that he had an urgent appointment elsewhere that wouldn’t require his press credentials which he gladly surrendered to them after almost no struggle at all. Another question asked if Apple HQ was really the most appropriate place to release the product when the Confectioners Association of America was meeting only a two hour drive away, but everyone pretended they hadn’t heard the journalist and nothing more was said.

Further speculation as to Apple’s future direction was ignited this week as a company lawyer contacted the estate of Isaac Asimov to enquire as to the trademark status of the iRobot name.

iCandy will be available in America in July 2007 once it is fully feature complete and will be rolled out into Europe and the world by May 2008.



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