the only certainty is change

24 02 2014

hello world.  long time no blog, eh?  yeah.

i was reminded on the weekend of how much has changed, and that at least a few distant friends don’t have any other mechanism to keep up with my dizzying lifestyle, than this blog.

so, what’s been happening?  well, quite a lot, but over an excruciatingly long period, so on average, not much!

18 months ago I had a chance encounter with a dear friend in Melbourne who had just returned from a week-long NLP course.  she was casually flipping through the supplied course notes, and began an exercise on me, related to ‘what makes you happy’ or some such topic.  i was required to answer the questions with minimum thought and as quickly as possible (which is not my normal mental stance ;).  what came out of my mouth surprised even me!  to cut a 10+ minute Q&A session story short, basically I made the realisation that I’d never been so happy in my work/career as when I was designing electronics & small computer systems – my original first career throughout the 1990s!  WTF?  where did that come from!??

that realisation came just months after I lost my #1 client.  so in a lackadaisical manner, I began poking my head back into the career I’d left behind, curious to see what had happened in my absence.  the answer to that turns out to be both a lot, and no much.  not much, in that virtually all of the principles of electronics engineering haven’t changed a bit, even many of the same electronics components I was using back then not only still exist, but are still in common use to this day.  microcontrollers (small microprocessors with a bunch of ‘peripherals’ all on the same chip, forerunners to the modern ‘SoC’ – System On A Chip – that are used in all manner of mobile devices these days) are more or less the same, just  better, faster, etc.  it’s far more common to write code in C rather than assembler for these microcontrollers now – a new challenge for me.

and of course two other things happened in the 00s:  “wireless communications” and “the internet”, both of which have had a huge impact on the industry and the kinds of products / solutions now possible.  the kids these days have a name for the latter – IoT, the “internet of things” – gadgets given an internet connection and the ability to be controlled remotely and to ‘collaborate’ amongst themselves, via the internet.  zowee!

at the same time, as a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the loss of client # 1, I designed myself a website (the first proper website I’ve had other than mere place-holders), got business cards, and all done with a decent, consistent branding, colour scheme, artwork, etc.  and I attended “breakfast networking” many times over the ensuing year, to try to drum up new business.

regular readers might remember how I’ve said before I never had to lift a finger to acquire the clients I had in Melbourne – they literally fell in my lap from a variety of circumstances, and sometimes I felt a little guilty for that.  well, surprise surprise, that ‘dream run’ in Melbourne didn’t exactly prepare me for the hard slog of recreating a new stable of clients in cold hard Sydney.  i also think the market has evolved somewhat throughout the 00’s & into the 10s, and the expectations that small-businesses have of their IT support provider has risen.  being a one-man-band is now somewhat less appealing to a large & growing number of small businesses, no matter how much cheaper they can be.  ultimately that year long effort came to all-but-nothing.

throughout 2013 I was also spending a lot of time getting my head back into my old career of electronics design, my “first love”, using Freelancer.com to take on a select few jobs to push my limits in new areas of technology whilst leveraging what I already knew for the bulk of it, to come back up to speed in the industry in a relatively low-risk way.  although it’s been wildly unprofitable (and I could rabbit on somewhat about the pros & cons of the ‘global marketplace’ unleashed by sites like Freelancer.com and others), it IS serving its intended purpose.

with that as a back-drop, and the awkward cross-over of careers, the small-biz IT consulting side of things was dealt the final nail in its coffin with the loss of client # 2 in mid-2013.  since then i’ve been living on dregs, the smell of an oily rag, etc, and surviving only with the gracious generosity of J and my parents, whose been very patient in supporting me through this period.

so much for the new remote-working lifestyle I dreamed of a couple of years ago, especially when, for a short while, it seemed I was closer to it than I’d first expected!  gone.  poof.  financially dependent on others – a very new, unprecedented and uncomfortable reality.  and an old dark doggy friend has made an unwelcome return; not as much as years past, but definitely present.

but you know what?  it couldn’t have happened that way anyway.  my heart wasn’t in IT any more, & client # 2 were right to walk away (even if the way they did it – to suddenly lock me out overnight with no warning, no organised change-over – was not in their best interests, but rather the actions of a bean-counter who seems to think everyone else in the world operates as deceitfully and subversively as she does).  the mere thought of working in IT now is energy-sapping.  i’ve done it to death since 2000, and I’m now heartily sick of trying to bridge the ‘digital divide’ (between the ‘knows’ and the ‘know-nots’) that is inherent in a world of tech that’s forever advancing, but with clients whose notions are still too often stuck in 1999 (it’s not that it can’t be done, but it’s a tiresome endless slog against ordinary computer user’s desire to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them).  i’m tired of trying to hold back the tide of IT security threats and keep my clients safe, and the responsibility that comes with it, when there really is there’s no such thing as security when it comes to any sufficiently motivated intruder, where by just about any measure the IT industry is losing the battle of keeping their systems secure.  and I’m tired of spending most of my time reacting to problems, and too little of it being creative.  I walked away from creativity when I put electronics design aside to move into IT consulting.  it was fun for a while, but i’m just not up to the challenge any more.  someone else can do it now.  bye bye IT.  :)

what now?  that’s an open question.  i’m redesigning my website to put myself up as a designer of bespoke electronic & microcontroller systems.  i’m open to collaboration with person(s) skilled in the ‘I’ of “IoT” (Internet Of Things).  but of course ‘networking’ and getting known / a reputation & getting in front of people remains a challenge.  stay tuned…





Misquoting Einstein and the FUD that follows every new technology

14 10 2013

Got an email from Mum today, another meme that I just couldn’t help debunking.

It starts with a series of pictures (see below), showing youngsters with their heads buried in smartphones, followed by a quote attributed to Einstein:

“I fear the day that our technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.”

The near meaninglessness of the quote immediately raised my suspicion that it wasn’t a quote of his at all, so I spent 30 seconds googling and discovered I wasn’t the first one to question this attribution.  This one neatly sums up the situation.

This is what I replied to Mum:

Einstein actually never said that, or in fact anything like it.

It is an “internet meme” concocted by people who hold the view along the lines “this is what we [or at least some of us] are, so this is all we can be”, and I think it’s rubbish.

fear, uncertainty and doubt – FUD – have followed on the coat tails of EVERY technological advance.

Fearmongers claimed that the gramophone would put an end to public performance of music; that movies & cinema would end live theatre; that TV would make our eyes square; that computers would make us dumber.  and that’s just some of the relatively rational claims…

no.

live music is alive and well.

theatre lives on, aided in many ways by technology.

eyes continue to be round, and countless billions educated, informed, and entertained by it every hour of every day.  no one claims now that all TV is bad because of what people choose to watch, any more than they claimed with any credibility that all books were bad because of what some people choose to read; remember, Mills and Boon was a product of YOUR generation! ;)

computers give us, among many things, the ability to type a few words into Google and find out if Einstein really did say those words, and discover in a matter of seconds that in fact he didn’t, and then pause to wonder at the mind(s) and intent/motivation behind those who claim that he did.

Einstein and his peers discovered and invented something that still threatens our survival as a species on this planet even now.  but that’s not all that opening that door of inquiry did; many secrets of our physical world are still unfolding since crossing that threshold, and many tangible benefits have come from it that out-number the deleterious risk of its original application in just about every way you care to measure it; and we continue to have the option, if we are sufficiently motivated, to cease using that original application of nuclear technology.

each step of the way, our collective culture has to take each of these new technologies and experiment with them, learn what they’re good for and not-so-good for, and adapt it to human needs and wants.

having “the internet in your pocket” (or in your hands while seated at a cafe table with your closest friends) is so utterly new and novel and empowering that our culture hasn’t yet settled on new norms and etiquettes for dealing with the social ramifications of these new tools.

prior to 7 years ago when business executives or True Geeks pulled out an internet-connected smart-phone and tapped away at it while in the company of Normal People, they were looked upon with a bit of disdain, but it was mostly tolerated; “their interests are specialised” the ignorant folk conceded.  back then smartphones were an insignificant blip on our collective radar.

then Apple showed us how to make proper smartphones and tablets, and everyone else (manufacturers) followed.

now everyone wants one and wants to use it in all sorts of ways and places and situations that were never possible or practical before.

some other people want society to jump to some imagined conclusion point, some “this is how and when and where smartphones should be used in public, BUT NO FURTHER!”.

well, they can keep wanting, because it will simply take time, not withstanding that there will never be one universal etiquette on the who/what/when/where/how of their use, any more than we can agree on a pan-cultural, universally acceptable use of, and behaviour within, a public toilet.

i’d like to think that Einstein would just shake his crazy-haired head at these pictures and accept that technology is a continuum, and say that people will sooner or later rediscover what’s most important, and re-define the limits of what is acceptable and not acceptable for the use of each technology for themselves, and leave others to do as they wish.

but then, Einstein probably never said anything of the sort ;)

 

 

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there are no coincidences in toilets

15 09 2012

“The concept of randomness and coincidence will be obsolete when people can finally define a formulation of patterned interaction between all things within the universe.” 

Toba Beta, Betelgeuse Incident

actually coincidences happen all the time.  technically, mathematically, in an open system of overwhelming variables for which it’s impractical to quantify all those variables, coincidences are normal.  we refer to it as randomness, and humans are notoriously bad a misattributing meaning or cause to them.  whilst we can think we’re smart by saying things like Toba did quoted above, that one day we will be able to ‘know everything’, that day isn’t today.

but there’s a multitude of pockets of knowableness (i just invented that word) in the world, relatively closed systems whose variables are knowable and whose behaviour can be predicted to high accuracy.  it’s been a driving force in human evolution to create them everywhere we go and in everything we do.

like plumbing.

when our toilet started gurgling with air bubbles coming out the other night, clearly something was wrong.  one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was “I wonder if the neighbour’s bathroom renovations have anything to do with this?” (we share a common wall & set of plumbing).

the problem got worse, the plumber attended, and after cutting out a foot of 6″ black water plumbing somewhere downstream from our toilets to clear the blockage, he informed me that it was a piece of tile – presumably fallen into the system from the neighbour’s renovations.

there’s are no coincidences, just lots of situations where we don’t have enough information.  and now a bathroom & laundry floor to clean.





how not to win friends and influence people

2 08 2012

recently @ozdj blocked me on Twitter – not just unfollowed, but blocked.  neither of us can see each other’s tweets now.

blocking someone on twitter is something usually reserved for someone who really pisses you off, or for ‘trolls’. oh dear :-(

his blocking came fairly shortly after this ‘exchange’ (from bottom up):

Twitter OzDJ 1

context:  the link @ozdj refers to is this post by Malcolm Turnbull (Federal MP for Wentworth, shadow minister for communications & broadband), bemoaning how the ACCC has “abandoned competition in favour of government monopoly” in relation to the NBN and the payments to Telstra and Optus by the NBN (aka Fed Gov’t, aka tax payers) to shut down their copper last-mile networks to make way for NBN fibre as the primary delivery of broadband.

some people who knows me might have some idea of my underlying thoughts on this matter, and the original sale (privatisation) of Telstra that started in 1997.  i hinted at it in this post a few years ago.  regardless, that’s not what this post is about.

whilst i stand by the rationale behind my little outburst, i regret the tone of it.  a random person would have no idea of my thoughts behind that series of tweets.  i regret firing off a one-way unengaged missive, it’s not how Twitter works best.  as frustrating as short 140char tweets can be in trying to convey thoughts of substance, patience is necessary.  if i’m to be completely honest, i do sometimes have a tendency to make brash declarative statements or outbursts, rather than engaging in a two-way dialogue.  and i know it’s sometimes not particularly endearing :-(

it’s not how you win friends or influence people.  i’m sorry, Derek.





Vivid Sydney 2012 – “clever” Opera House projection is BORING AS BATSHIT!

6 06 2012

Some feedback I just sent to VividSydney.com:

Dear Vivid Sydney Organisers,

Before I let rip, I’ve really enjoyed almost all of Vivid Sydney 2012, and been having a lot of fun photographing it.  Thank you!

However, the Opera House is BORING AS BATSHIT.  You have made the most terrible mistake of commissioning someone to be “clever”, at the expense of making the Opera House look beautiful.  Colour is almost nowhere to be found in most of the THIRTY FRAKKING TEDIOUS MINUTES of “clever” but boring projection that fails utterly to show off the Opera House, as has been done in previous years.

How do I know it’s 30 minutes? Not because I stood there to watch, no.  A more patient-than-I photographer friend recorded it in video for 30 minutes until it repeated, and then sped it up 8x faster and posted the 3m45s video to Facebook – which is the only way to watch the whole sequence without feeling like you’re watching a game of cricket.

For shame.
Please don’t make this mistake next year!
Anthony
Dulwich Hill  NSW

——————————————

…and if you want to see the kind of beauty and art that was able to be painted with light across the sails of the Sydney Opera House in 2011, check out my friend Peter’s website (direct link to Vivid Sydney 2011 on Smugmug).

I’ve posted a few of my own photos of Vivid Sydney 2012 on Instagram & Facebook, so if you follow me there you’ll have already seen them :)

 

 





a place to call home

15 01 2012

ever since i arrived back in Sydney, friends have asked me variations of “so, how are you finding Sydney?”, the question loaded with the understanding that I left Sydney nearly 12 years ago, never intending to return without a very good reason.

i’ve explained to some that i’m viewing my unexpected return to Sydney as a transitionary step, wherein all the things that I hate about life in Sydney will serve to motivate me to keep this step a short one, say, two to three years, until I finally make it to the one place in the world I actually want to live.

it’s worth noting here that some people can’t fathom why I have no desire to go do the ‘live and work overseas for a few years’ thing, as Jon is planning to do.  well, likewise, i can’t fathom why some people would prefer to live in Sydney.  fine, whatever.  most of the time i just roll my eyes or smile amiably and STFU, because frankly the differences are relatively minor, compared to so many other places in the world.

unexpectedly, this relocation to Sydney – provoked by Jon’s job offer – has brought me a bigger step closer to not just the NSW Northern Rivers, but the ability to live anywhere whilst still doing my work, than I had first anticipated.  by coming to an arrangement to continue providing tech-support to two Melbourne clients simply as a means to ensure continuity of a base-level income until I establish some new clients (presumed to be in Sydney), in one step I’ve laid a big part of the groundwork toward having location-independence already.  previously I’d always assumed that location-independent income would have to come from something else (eg. iApp development).

two leads/introductions facilitated by a close friend for further Sydney-based work/clients have fizzled out to nothing, both incapable even of saying ‘sorry, nothing we can do to help at this time’ even via the impersonality of email.  i just don’t understand that.

a third lead morphed into a far more tangible opportunity to work for another IT support organisation, if i were willing to put aside my self-employed independence and, sooner or later, hand over my clientele to it.  having just made the realisation that I’d partially achieved location-independent income status, I wasn’t about to self-sabotage that any time soon.  nor would this job afford me the time or headspace to continue this process.

so I’m left hoeing my own path.

Jon’s new job is going as well as hoped, which is a relief.  i’m glad i made the move with him up here, to continue our path-of-uncertain-length together.  i like the place we’re living in, even though it’s not a direct 1-to-1 conversion of ‘Socio-Economic Location Value’ from where we lived in Melbourne.  for that privilege of living in, say, Newtown, we’d have to pay an extra $150/week rent, at least.  or live under a near-perpetual flight path.  fuck that shit.

i *hate* myself for the way I’ve put on so much weight in the past comfortable year, having somehow allowed myself to not choose a new gym when we moved in together in a new area too far from my old gym.  naturally i don’t expect or get any positive encouragement from the Sydney Establishment there.  but that is about to change, i guarantee it.  (rest assured though, some Sydney people will misinterpret this as some desire on my part to be more Sydney-like.)

and, despite not having any previous desire for pets, we now have two gorgeous ginger kittens adding a surprising amount of joy and entertainment to our home.

with all this so far, i’ve apparently lost my personal integrity (for moving back to Sydney, i assume), had my masculinity questioned (by uber-house-proud gay men living in Sydney, no less), my financial status looked down upon (“oh, you’re living in Dulwich Hill, the OUTER inner west, that’s not really the inner west, you know!”), and a bunch of other gratingly superficial judgements presented as substitute for conversation, all from people who, frankly, I know can be better than that.  of course the flip-side is that i’m probably just being teased a bit and need to grow a thicker skin – a skin thickness I never seemed to need in Melbourne.

so it would seem my viewing life back in Sydney as an uncomfortably motivational transitionary step is working just fine!

 





abyss

14 04 2011

a month ago the situation with XXXXXXXX XXXX was looking buoyant.  a management buy-out plan was being hatched by the business’s original founding MD, and if successful, there was every reason to expect the company to be viable.

by the time i got back from holidays, the silence was deafening on all of that.  turns out that plan turned to dogshit.  other plans may be afoot, but no ones sayin’.  deadlines for placing orders for calendars for next season are looming, and if missed, severely compromise the entire retail effort, and possibly the entire business, as well as many of the smaller local publishers whose sales come significantly from XXXXXXXX XXXX’s retail season.  one of those local publishers is my client#2.

the Voluntary Administrators aren’t going to sign purchase orders for several million dollars worth of calendars for a business that might not exist in 6 months time, so if a new owner with a plan doesn’t come to fruition fast, XXXXXXXX XXXX, several smaller/local calendar publishers, and me, are in dogshit too.

suddenly i’m staring into an abyss of “what the fuck will i do if this all turns to dogshit?”.  i can’t easily survive without client#1, and client#1’s failure might have repercussions on client#2 (more than they already have), which might have additional repercussions on me.

options:  find new clients of a similar vein; or do something completely different.

despite 11 years of self-employment, i’ve barely had to lift a finger to get the handful of clients that i’ve maintained to this day, so finding new ones is just as daunting an option as doing something altogether different.  regular readers will remember i pondered these issues almost exactly 12 months ago, as part of a plan to relocate to Byron Bay.  i’m ashamed to say, i’ve done nothing toward that goal, lulled into complacency & distraction by the rekindling with J.

coincidentally, J is facing the same decision, but for mostly different reasons: tired of his status quo, frustrated by colleagues who don’t share his progressive ideas on UI/UX, but so far not finding a new job opportunity that would satisfy his desire to work in a manner, and with people, who share his views on UI/UX.

we’ve both been reading/listening to various people – industry ‘elites’ even in their own modest way – who’ve risen above similar situations and created for themselves situations where they, for the most part at least, have true independence from the vagaries & occasional stupidity of bosses/clients.  i suspect we’re both mulling over options on how to emulate their success.  it’s times like these i regret not getting into web technologies at any time over the last decade – if I had, we’d probably make a great team (professionally speaking) right about now.

i don’t suffer from real insomnia very often at all, but tonight would be one :-(