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...



Full moon over Opera House


Candles and revelation together at last...

Dead eyed dawdlers, the place is full of them. They have artfully untidy clothes and facial hair. None of them paid to get in, none of them paid for the sugary alcoholic drink in their hands and they certainly wouldn't have asked for a beer especially with the taps covered in tin foil. Is it okay to wear aftershave if you clearly never shave? Maybe but you should definitely dial it down a fraction - my eyes! Yeaahhh, classy. I guess that's what passes for the music press these days.

Pose and preen, we all watch the carefully constructed pop poppet prance with her skintight PVC suited dancers. This is pure display, a show for the media to earn your article. Lips are synced and cameras played to but we're just here to provide some atmosphere. I get a little angry - this feels like a stage managed lie and I don't really like the music that's being used to lie to me.

I look carefully at one of the bar's decorative features in search of some perspective, a birdcage filled with melting church candles, and the context becomes clear. An easily constructed, stylish and safe ornament out of reach of the idiot punters. A hint of fire to catch the eye concealed by bars to prevent any burns. You wouldn't have it in your home but it's not bad on a night out.


Door handles

in: Daylesford VIC, Australia

...on a glass door

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone



Speechification: James Ellroy

If you don't subscribe to Speechification please listen to some of the older posts and consider it. This is just one gem amongst many. I post this one because it will provoke strong reactions - possibly.

Embedded below is James Ellroy on Studio 360. I'll let it speak for itself I think.


Dust storm

This view would normally be of Botany Bay, only there's a dust storm over Sydney this morning.

I haven't coloured this shot either. It's a bit weird.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


And we have convergence...

in: La Perouse NSW, Australia
End of the iPod era

I wanted an iPod but why didn't I buy one? Oddly it seemed like an extravagance at the time and I suppose it still would be. On the other hand I didn't hesitate to buy an iPhone which is several times the price of a top-end iPod even if it is spread over the course of 2 years.

The reason I bought an iPhone 3GS the instant it was available to me is pretty simple. An iPod just plays music. The iPhone is a pocket computer with a phone, camera and an iPod built into it. You can run your life off it surprisingly easily. That only covers the native functions on the device too, the real killer function is the ability to install software from other developers so I now have access to Wikipedia, a dictionary and thesaurus and books in electronic form as well as any number of other useful things. Which is what I wanted but considered unattainable in a mobile only 2 years ago.

It seems rather obvious that once something like this is available that the idea of a regular iPod is going to lose its lustre and that's exactly what's happening. Apple aren't selling too many of the original type iPods. The iPod touch, which is essentially an iPhone without the phone that can connect to the internet via WiFi and run many of the same applications is selling very well.

Geeks like me call this device convergence. The terminal in your pocket is becoming the single device that you need and it is going to keep collecting functionality. This is both good and bad.

Every time I go past a schoolkid with a rucksack groaning with textbooks I can't help but think that it should be replaced with an iPhone-like device and very easily could be. If that were the case kids would then have always on, on-demand audio-visual learning on a location-aware device. Once you have one of these devices and you begin to think about the possibilities of the thing they become truly staggering. We're only beginning to see the possibilities of the location based technologies in particular. These things are going to change the way we behave and largely, I think, for the better. Mobiles are the information service of choice in developing countries and if access to even low-end versions of this kind of device could make big changes in how information flows around these areas. These are big visions for a small, very expensive thing and it won't happen soon or in an easily predictable way.

There is an obvious downside too. In Japan there is a payment system built into many phones that works like a smartcard that allows you to pay for taxis and other services using your mobile. That's a big jump for a cash-based culture and it will only expand in application. But imagine if you lost it or had it stolen.


in: La Perouse NSW, Australia

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm bored and I've gone off the boil.

Going on holiday seems like such a good idea but eventually you have to come home and go back to work. Whilst I'm enjoying work at the moment there are always frustrations that get inside your head and cause trouble.



in: Middle Cove NSW, Australia
This is actually a photo of a painting. If you look at the lower right
you can see where I've not held the camera quite straight and you can
see the edge.

Edit: I've now got a closeup to show the brushwork on this



Breakfast companion

Breakfast companion

Cool shoes

Cool shoes


Potato economy

Working on puns check back later.

Mushy peas to be minted
Gherkins so pleased they went out and got pickled, potatoes also got mashed [help me my brain's melting]
You'll never go hungry but you'll always be poor.



in: Annandale New South Wales, Australia

Have you any idea how hard it is to buy just one pen? No, you haven't, because you pinch them from work. Not just because it's cheaper but because it is nearly impossible to buy a single pen from anywhere once working hours are over.

I wasn't looking for anything special either, no Doctor Who pens that automatically write in alien languages, just a simple ballpoint (black for preference). I went to a service station and remarkably there were no pens at all. As many toothbrushes and razors as a guy could want and considerably more porn but no pens. I could have cleaned my teeth, shaved my nuts and wanked myself silly but the suicide note would have to wait.

I tried two supermarkets both of which were happy to sell me multiple pens but not a single one. I could have 3 pens or I could have 17 pens for the price of four but not one. The bookies would lend me a pencil but there were no pens I could take:

"Too sharp mate. Mightier than the sword. Can't give weaponry like that out after dark."

Eventually after a suitable amount of cursing I found myself in a third supermarket where I could buy one pen - with four colours. It's too big, too blue, it has oil-based ink and I hate it but any port in a storm.


Music and movement

About 6 years ago I joined a comedy goldmine of a gym not far from my place of work next to Tower Bridge in London. Situated at the point where the financial district joined Tower Hamlets it was a place of extraordinary contrasts where East London wideboys and stockbrokers slugged it out both in the weights room and the squash courts in an oddly jovial manner - they had much more in common than I had expected.

When I left the world of regular exercise some 4 years ago the gym soundtrack was the kind of "popular dance" music that is played only in gyms and the 'pack 'em to the rafters and sell 'em rubbish" meatmarket chain nightclubs - one of the songs is even called "I'm a cheap drink kind of girl". On returning to gym membership I have discovered that little has changed, except maybe the girls in the music videos now wear even less. The music itself combines a repetitive synth track with with minimal repetitive vocals in a high register (normally female). In the intervening years the only thing that seems to have changed with this kind of music is the use of a vocoder. It's not an improvement.

The comedy at most gyms is to be derived from the extremes of humanity on display and just how oddly people behave in a situation that is essentially public but where selected social mores are ignored. This is probably more pronounced to me because ai find that the Aussies tend to be quite a private bunch however uninhibited and easy going they may seem. In the gym in London the showers were communal and it was all the rage to flop about the changing rooms wearing nothing but a cheeky smile until actually ready to leave. In the very nice newly built gym I go to here there are separate cubicles and the towel round the waist is the post-shower garment of choice.

There is one very notable exception; a body-builder so large that looks like someone shaved a silverback gorilla and didn't quite finish the job. The gorilla likes to stretch out post workout in the steamroom. To do so he stands on the first platform, which is about 75cm high, in the nude. This puts parts of him that no-one in their right mind would want to see at eye level. There is a large mirror opposite and simply nowhere to look when he's doing this. Having finished stretching out he then stands in front of the mirror and performs a variety of flexed poses. When the "fitnesss manager" called me the other day - his name is Brad, obviously - and asked me about my goals I told him that one of them was to be able to tell this freak what I think of his eye-watering behaviour and then be able to run fast enough to survive doing so. Tellingly Brad didn't laugh.


Phone indecision

My phone, which has served me well enough for about 3 years, is starting to show it's age along with a few battle scars from too many long drops onto hard surfaces. Essentially I am rationalising the profound urge to buy a shiny new toy.

The shiny new toy in question might well have to be an iPhone but there's another contender the HTC magic which is nearly as sleek and beautiful in design and comes with the added bonus of being much easier to connect with all the Google services I use constantly. However my spies tell me that the new iPhone coming out next month will actually replace sliced bread in the most hackneyed of cliches.

Hmm, this is a wait and see moment but I really don't want to have to wait longer than I absolutely have to. Documented below, and largely to get them out of my head are my reasons for each one:

HTC Magic
  • Oooh shiny
  • Google services very easily
  • Open source software means better long term techno hippy smugness
  • Touch screen
  • Oooooooooh shinier
  • There's an app for that
  • Multi touch screen
  • iTunes etc.
  • Every other bastard has one and I want in even if they are over-designed toys for posers

By the way, yes I do know that all you use your phone for is sending text messages and phoning people and that this makes you happy enough. I don't care gimmethtoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoygimmethetoy!


Sydney Comedy Festival

I've been to a few things at the Sydney comedy festival. A video of one of the more offbeat ones is below:

(some) Puppets can tell the truth without getting flustered...


4am thought

in: La Perouse NSW, Australia

It's strange what can trouble one at 4am. Woken up by work thoughts my brain rapidly decided it didn't want to stick with the topic and wandered off on a random digression:

Normality is more extreme than you imagine, this is why the news is almost always bad.

Normality is consensus concept and so is maintained by general perception and is not a tangible or given, neither is it measureable, evenly distributed or universally available. People's experience of normality is vastly different based on location culture and life experience.

As you live in a mediatised culture your expectation of normality is most likely set by a mixture of media representations and social expectations/experiences. Unfortunately media content is saleable and is largely sold on the premise that it is news or new information. This selling needs to takes place even when there is little or no news or information and so minor information is hyped as important and even when it isn't. This is much easier to do with bad news than good news as our innate survival instincts have a greater push away from risk than they do a pull toward benefit (risk might kill you but a benefit is likely to be marginal except in rare cases where it could provide a competitive advantage - this would refer to basics like sex and food really).

Note to self: This is an incomplete thought and needs work.


Hot stuff

Turned all of these into chili sauce last night. The sauce is so hot it has symptoms.


Less interesting but more useful

in: La Perouse NSW, Australia
There seems to be a general trend on the internerd summed up by the title of this post. As technologies and techniques come to the mainstream and gain general acceptance they start to look less like toys and more like tools. This means that (some) people start using them well and that people that don't use them so well either stop using them and switch to a more appealing medium or just go away and do something else.

Since the rise of FaceBook and Twitter - 2 services on a collision course - there has been a marked downturn in interesting writing on the internet. Why write a 200 word blog post when you can do 140 characters 7 times a day and achieve much the same thing? The move of applications like word processing and spreadsheets into the online space and the sheer amount of time people spend using software as a service applications (I use 2 fairly constantly at work) has meant internet use for fun is also regarded less as a toy even though more people are spending more time using it this way than ever before.

There also seems a general acceptance that online interactions now have consequences and aren't harmless. Everyone seemingly has heard a story about a FaceBook status setting or picture causing trouble, both apocryphal and true. However both NZ and Australian lawyers can now serve court documents via FaceBook and only last week a man was acquitted when his defense lawyer used as evidence data collected from the arresting officers online social networking activities.

The overall effects are by enlarge to make people quality filter what their published online actually activities are, even though they may be doing more, and make sure that there actually are filters in place both incoming and outgoing - activities suitable for a select minority have security settings that restrict them to that community. The incoming filters are also more accessible and more widely applied - if I don't want to hear about your latest move in scrabulous or your last.fm plays I don't have to.

However the easy sharing and filtering of information and social activity in established services has meant that the blogosphere is noticeably quieter and startups are more obviously useful. Those who have been doing it a while and doing it well are still around. Those who didn't do it so well or whose heart wasn't really in it seem to have found another way to express themselves that is closer to their hearts. A time of economic downturn is probably going to heighten this effect with money and time being concentrated by service providers on building things that people use and that providers can make money from. The downside of this is that the random elements, the runaway esoteric successes are going to be short lived or quickly assimilated into a bigger entity. The internet is going to be a bit less interesting but more useful for a while, but it really was time for it to grow up again anyway.



in: La Perouse NSW, Australia

Why did I wait so long to get one of these?

In fairness to myself it's because they have really wanky marketing which is borderline misleading. I've always resented the way that they are so obviously appealing and disliked the fact that they cost an absolute fortune for what they are, that people that do use them tend to bore me about how good and how useful they are. They are also fetishised by productivity geeks who write in them in different colours for different things and separate them into sections with tabs.

What changed my mind? I realised how many notebooks were getting shredded by just being carried around and that was wasting ideas and important notes. I haven't carried or used a paper diary/organiser for more than a year, though this seems to be a cyclical thing. I have had to admit that a Moleskine plus a cover for it has resulted in a big rise in retaining thoughts and ideas - I'm even considering trying the multi-coloured ink thing to see just how annoying it actually is or whether it's a good idea, though I suspect the personal and work aspects of my life would argue about who got the black ink and who got stuck with blue (my neuroses might be too deeply seated to cope with that). The pocket at the back is so damn useful once you get used to carrying the notebook around with you.

So here I am moleskined up so the inevitable list of productivity hacks that must come last:

  • Business cards in the file pocket - run out of business cards in your other stylish accessories? Oh look a spare!
  • File cards/spare paper in the file pocket - you wouldn't want to tear a page out would you?
  • Symbols - I haven't got much past my normal @ for action or task but I'm rapidly also getting towards $ for items to go on my wishlist and an information symbol for things to look up or research. I might need one for ideas too...


Byron Bay

in: Myocum NSW, Australia

Gottaluvit. Full of hippies, self included.



in: Balmain East NSW, Australia

Normally I spend 3 hours a day traveling to and from work. This is essentially dead time in which I do nothing; I listen to podcasts, I read books. I recognise that these are possibly luxuries that other people would struggle to make time for but the point is I can’t do anything else. Also I exhausted my fairly small library quite quickly, I don’t spend much money on music and whilst the internet has made it easier to find things *cough* quite cheaply *cough* I still haven’t really bothered.

The solution seems pretty obvious i.e. buy a car. However [insert environmental whinging here] and [insert ongoing cost whinging here] so I wasn’t that keen. Until I did the following bit of thinking.

Everyone values their free time but they never put a metric on it. Everyone says they wish they had more time to spend [insert activity or in the company of family here]. So I thought about the spend part of that sentence and actually put a cash value on it. For the sake of argument I valued my time at a reasonably modest $35 an hour. This means I spend $105 of my time each day traveling. Owning a car would give me back 2 of those hours on average saving me $70 of personal time per day. That’s $350 of personal time a week, or extrapolated to 48 working weeks a year, nearly $17,000 of personal time. Getting a car now seems like quite a good idea, an investment even.

Caveat and note to self: This is a gross over-simplification and does not mean that getting a car will make you richer in cash terms unless you can convert those hours into money, which you won’t. Rates are subject to change without notice.

Residual thoughts: What other effects might giving your time a cash value have? How else might I value my time? Given this value what would I do with the extra 2 hours a day?



Strange experience for this week:

Sat in the waiting room of the path lab waiting for a blood test. Lots of people sat around trying to keep the worried look off their faces looking through glossy magazines full of glowingly healthy people.

When I arrived I was the only man in there. This I suppose is down to women's far more intricate and complex plumbing, wiring and maintainence cycles.

Waiting rooms are always peculiar liminal spaces that are neither one thing nor the other and engender a limbo state of mind. Go here, wait. Be tested, wait to find out your results and then find someone to tell what it means.


Photos from Borneo

in: Malaysia
Well January was a dead-loss as far as this website goes but to get me going in February here's a quick slideshow of the best of Emily's photos from Borneo.