in our day

17 06 2012

2011 05 01 1304258118

a friend just forwarded me this chain email:

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another “older” person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

oh i just love the finger-pointing game!  can i play too?

by the logic in this grumpy old man’s missive, it wasn’t the fault of old people who “didn’t have the green thing back then”, but honestly, nor is it the fault of snotty-nosed brats coming into receipt of a ravaged, depleted, sick world full of the vestiges of thoughtless, selfish old people.  or is it?

maybe, just maybe, there’s enough blame to go ALL around, in retrospect, and in advance?
…to the older generation who didn’t just accept their lot in life so humbly and honourably as depicted below, but who also sought to make life ‘better’ and easier for their children, most of them in blissful ignorance of the impact it would have on the world and its finite capacity.
…to the current generation who continue to strive for an easier life and who perpetuate and expand the culture of consumption & disposable products despite the knowledge of its many and varied negative impacts and in continuing disregard for the future generations, bamboozled as we collectively are by media long ago bought out by powerful commercial vested interests who misrepresent fact, disproportionately highlight scientific debate, and cunningly swap the popular meanings of “believer” and “sceptic” in the sham climate “debate”.
…and to the future generation we inculcate with these same ideals, who will follow in our footsteps, laden with overinflated senses of entitlement that will crumble when the world finishes collapsing in an eco-heap (which started at least half a century ago), who will then be forced to make extremely difficult decisions about their future (the ones that we’ve failed to make thus far), and endure an environment, and a lifestyle quite different and measurably inferior to what they were promised, due to the selfish actions of those in past generations.  at the same time they’ll want to reject the wisdom of those damn fools from the older generations who fucked everything up and who’ll probably only ‘fess up after it’s too late to do anything about it.
maybe, just maybe, finger-pointing and blame isn’t helping.
“back in my day” – it’s a phrase used by old and not-so-old alike.  Gen-Y altered it a bit, “back in the day”, to make it sound a bit less grumpy-old-man-ish, but i even hear Gen-Xers using “back in my day”, as if their lives are entering twilight, a sense of impotence in their ability to effect change.  but what does “back in my day” really mean?  halcyon days sometimes, but usually that things were harder back then and that the younger generation have somehow got it easy – which they do in a material sense, but they absolutely don’t in a whole lot of other ways older people conveniently forget.  but i think there’s much more to it than that.
the older we get, the less we seem to care (as measured by our actions, as distinct from our words), the less we are willing to change our ways, and the less we are likely to put our foot down and say “enough is enough!”.  teenagers have their pre-programmed rebellious phase, part of the process of growing up and discovering the boundaries of society, until they finally accept the world around them to large extent and fall into line with the status quo.  the older we grow, the less we want to change the world.  there are exceptions, of course, but that’s what they are: the exceptions, the troublemakers, the misfits, the square pegs in round holes, the ones who actually change the world.
“back in my day” almost always refers to collective culture, even if it’s invoked with individual experience to illustrate a point.  but “back in my day” isn’t just brandished to mean “life was harder back then”, but often as a claim to virtuousness, or at least retrospective credit for past sacrifice as measured by today’s standards, that “we were so ‘good’ to have endured such hardships back then, the likes of which these younguns couldn’t imagine”.  it becomes an unspoken “back in my day, things were better, WE were better“.
i call bullshit.  i think it’s also how we whitewash the consequences of our decisions and chosen lifestyles, even if that choice is made from the narrow range society considers appropriate.
“back in my day, we were better”.  maybe, maybe not.  but how did we get to this point?  on the rare occasions such questions are asked, the response, the suggested causes, are often presented as external factors, collective cultural pressures, or maybe the actions of Others, rather than the choices of the individual.  we even blame corporations for our plight, forgetting that it was us and our forebears – by deed or inaction – who imbued corporations with power that often exceeds that of the individual, but without the conscience of one.  and as we get older we even believe it’s too late to change those rules by which we, as shareholders, demand those corporations operate, blind to our own conflict of interest.
we are all responsible for our past.  we are all responsible for now.  and we are all responsible for tomorrow.

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

6 06 2012

Some feedback I just sent to

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!
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!


Australian Book industry, retailing & parallel import restrictions (PIRs)

5 01 2012

the Australian Book Industry Strategy Group released its report a couple of months ago, and Bob Carr, board member of Dymocks, lays down a baseless dismissal of it on his Thoughtlines blog, and while he’s at it takes a few snide shots at a few book industry types, including Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe Publications, who rises to the bait adequately (I get the feeling these two have been barking at each other from opposite sides of a flimsy fence for several years now).

Bob’s suggestion:

Here’s the better course. Let the market work. Allow Australian bookshops to purchase books from the cheapest source, an overseas or a local publisher. Liberate them to compete with overseas sites that don’t pay a GST when they sell books into the Australian market.

as i said in part 2 of my ‘Seeing REDgroup’ posts, i agree, it’s naive folly to ask for the Australian government to drop GST on book sales. (instead, in this era of rapidly growing citizen importation from offshore online retailers, Australian Customs should be drastically lowering the duty &/or GST exemption threshold (from its current $1000?), back to similar or lower levels prior to the introduction of the Liberal Party’s GST, and slapping a GST invoice of every box that comes into the country from offshore retailers.  in other words, welcome to Part 6278 of Globalisation.

but the most infuriating aspect of Bob Carr’s argument is that he has no answer to the reality that a substantial proportion of the income that Australian publishers – and their authors, and printers, etc – derive from the parallel import restrictions would be lost by their abolition!

i posted a comment in reply to Bob’s post, and another commenter summed up my argument nicely (if a little incredulously).  check it out.  i wanted to reply, but for whatever reason further comments on the post have been disabled.  i don’t like my argument either, but my point is, what’s the solution?

ideologically i hate the notion of the PIRs (which if you don’t know, force Australian retailers to buy books – be they Australian or from overseas – from Australian publishers, rather than directly from overseas publishers, resulting obviously in a substantial increase in the shelf RRP), just as much as i hate the notion of territorial copyright, but it’s not as if PIRs on books is unique to Australia.  The USA and UK, who have similar restrictions, would just love it if Australia dropped its PIRs and all our book retailers bought directly from them – its one less middleman in the RRP equation that gives them more cream on top.  They’re not even thinking about dropping their own PIRs, btw!

undoubtedly books would be cheaper in Australia if we didn’t have the PIRs.  but at what cost?  at what consequence to Australian publishing and authors?  many, if not most, Australian-authored books serve mainly an Australian audience.  as such, throwing them to the ‘wolves’ of USA-based authorship deals, whose figures are based on the assumption you’re aiming for the USA or UK-sized markets, rather than Australia’s comparatively minuscule market, just doesn’t add up to a viable income.

having lived through, and successfully come out the other end of REDgroup Retail’s administration period, i’ve become keenly aware of how easy it is to destroy a business – even a profitable one, and how difficult it can be to re-establish it.  my involvement was merely as a minor creditor, a supplier of IT consulting services to one small business within REDgroup.

despite being a viable entity, the liquidity it needed to see through its next 12 months disappeared last February, never to be seen again (and, surprise surprise, none of those ultimately responsible for REDgroup’s pathetic failure, nor those who owned it, were held accountable or liable for is major debts – everyone else, including me, had to pay for their failure as supposedly competent capitalists).  what followed was a nervous six months of limbo and delicate negotiations to find a new owner for this theoretically profitable business, so long as their pockets were deep enough to fund it over the hump of its annual income cycle.

but it wasn’t just the REDgroup group of companies threatened (and most of them liquidated), and not just small-fry creditors like me effected – it was the entire Australian and New Zealand book and calendar retail ecosystem effected.

this is why i get rather pissy when ideologues like Bob Carr (and several “you tell ’em, Bob!” fans on his website) blithely condemn Australian book publishers, authors, and printers to dire and immediate threat, simply to achieve a “free market” economic ideology (removal of the PIRs) – despite existing in an industry where there is no such level playing field to start with, without coming up with an actual, demonstrable solution or alternative means to support Australian publishers and authors.

sure, eBooks and offshore online retailers (of physical books) are taking an ever-larger bite from Australian publishers & authors lunches anyway, and will – probably within 5 years – kill many of them.  but what’s the point of abolishing the PIRs, other than to THEORETICALLY lower Australian book RRP prices (far from guaranteed, given the New Zealand experience)?  who in Australia benefits from forcing this change in one short sharp shot, when the passage of a few short years will afford at least the opportunity (admittedly no guarantee) of a more organic adaptation of the industry to the quickly shifting landscape of book retailing?  why not give the Australian book industry the opportunity to get its eBook shit together, and allow eBooks several more years to overtake paper books sales, in a way that’s viable for Australian publishers and authors within the scale of Australia’s market?  by then the PIRs will be irrelevant anyway, but the industry will at least have had the years needed to transition.


dodgy mechanics – trust your senses!

27 09 2011

about a year ago I need to have the catalytic converter in my car replaced, a not uncommon scenario for a car of its 13+ years age.  they’re expensive buggers, many hundreds of dollars at least, potentially a lot more if you buy (VW) genuine spares.  so i went with the non-genuine.

a new catalytic converter – or at least the one i got – had a very distinctive chemical smell for at least several weeks after it was fitted.

for the last couple of months, i’ve noticed the exhaust getting progressively noisier – that airy hole-in-the-exhaust sound, and in the last couple of weeks a mechanical rattling of something that had presumably come loose.

so last week i booked the car in for a service & also to investigate what was wrong with the exhaust.  at the end of the day the mechanic reported that “the cat had to be replaced, under warranty” (because it was less than a year old, i guess).  beauty, i thought, fixed for nix!

but on the drive home from the shop (and several drives to/from work the rest of the week), it was obvious this supposedly new ‘cat’ was just as airy-noisy as the old one, just without the mechanical rattle.

and there didn’t seem to be the unmistakable smell of the previous replacement cat.

being preoccupied with life, i didn’t think too much about it, and just resigned myself to having them look at it again when it was scheduled to get 4 new tyres this week.

well it would seem i ACTUALLY have a new cat – it’s quiet, AND it smells like a new cat.

i’d previous judged my now-former mechanic to be fairly honest.  their prices have always seemed reasonable (unless spare part prices dictated otherwise).  sometimes they’ve been a bit flaky, but not discernibly dishonest.

this morning when i dropped the car off, the owner/manager was clearly having a heated disagreement with what appeared to be an insurance assessor, assessing a claim seemingly involving an accident in the manager/owner’s now-former business-partner’s car.  he was trying to bulldoze his way past the assessor’s job of working out if the insurer was liable or not, and doing what seemed like a pisspoor job of it – it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

every now and again you get little glimpses into other people’s lives, and sometimes get the impression that their life’s walls are crumbling down before your eyes.


p.s. i AM moving to Sydney!


All good things…

17 08 2011

my next blog post was originally going to be a “hey, J & I just celebrated 1 year together!”, due about a month ago.  but life got in the way of blogging it.

now, I’m faced with the decision of whether to follow him to Sydney, or not.  WTF!??

you see, J, in his disenchantment with his now-former employer, started applying for jobs, particularly targeting places he actually wanted to work (as distinct from simply applying to places who just happened to be advertising on Seek or whatever).  in the interim, he accepted a 3 month contract with an agency, which he’s a few weeks into.

one of those leads was with a major globally-recognised web-based software company, BASED IN SYDNEY.  after a lengthy courtship, including a trip to Sydney at his own expense, he’s been offered the position, including significant assistance & reimbursement of relocation costs.  and now after several days of deliberating & number-crunching, he’s decided to accept it.  ignoring the bigger picture it’s almost a no-brainer, it’s a great opportunity that should directly facilitate his desire to live/work overseas in the web world a year or two hence.

but there IS a bigger picture.  those who know me know my thoughts on Sydney, and why I left there 11 years ago bound for Melbourne, and would understand my reluctance, or at least extreme ambivalence, to return, and in the process jeopardising my Melbourne-based client income.  (and for those who don’t know, no, it wasn’t for any of the classic reasons one usually flees a city (love/hate, STDs, parking fines), it was just, to cut a long story short, being totally over Sydney Life & needing a big change).

and there’s J’s youngest brother who lives with us, who’ll need to relocate – somewhere.

J starts at the new job in Sydney in mid-September, less than a month away.

suffice to say i’m a little shitty at J’s lack of consequential thinking.  although I was aware he’d applied, there was no “what if?” discussion if he were to be offered a job, and naturally need to start there within a month.  partly that’s because of his lack of self-confidence at landing a job with a high-flying company.  but partly it’s the reality of our ‘partnership’.

as you might remember, after I returned from Byron in April last year, I started hatching a plan; a plan that perhaps would’ve seen me living up there by now, perhaps continuing to service my clients remotely (with the assistance of a local pair of hands for on-site work), or perhaps doing something altogether different.

you might also remember that, shortly after I announced that intention, J “changed his mind”, and we rekindled what had begun & quickly ended 6 months earlier.  acknowledging that lightning doesn’t usually strike twice, there was still more than enough mutual attraction, interest & respect to “enjoy the ride together for however long it lasts”; which put my half-made plan to migrate north on hold.

well, now i need to balance “however long it lasts” with the financial feasibility AND desirability of moving back to Sydney.  don’t get me wrong, the last year with J has been totally joyful.  but, a man’s gotta pay the bills, too!

as far as my willingness to leave Melbourne, nothing has changed.  many of the friends I made in the first 5 years have left (or died), and 5 years of social stagnation from depression did nothing to rectify that situation.  whilst there’s still a few people here I’d really miss, there’s even more back in Sydney who are already rallying for my return!

it’s more than geographically closer to my intended destination, it’s a rut-busting move of similar proportions to the one that got me down here in the first place, and if there’s anyone who needs a comfortable, financially subsistent 11 year rut busted, it’s me!  1 to 2 years in Sydney (before J finally fulfils his overseas ambition, and I mine) could be just what I need to unsettle, stress and stretch me in hopefully positive ways, getting rid of some of the old, to make way for some of the new.

or am I just being a pathetic lapdog?


Dear Dell, You Are Several Kinds Of Idiot

21 07 2011

An email I just sent to Dell:

Dear Dell,

You are several kinds of idiot.

You also appear to think I am an idiot too, which I suppose makes sense given your idiotic disposition.

When I recently asked to buy a caddy for a hard-drive I wished to add to my Dell T410 server, you refused, cowardly hiding behind a  non-technically based “policy” preventing sale of a caddy-only (an item costing around $40), stating they could only be bought with a hard-drive.  So you quoted me one of the more expensive possible SAS hard-drives to accompany my caddy, $590, even though YOU KNEW I didn’t need a HDD and you could have quoted on the cheapest possible SATA HDD.

When I questioned this idiotic requirement, you hide behind “it’s Dell policy”, but are totally unable to explain or justify the policy.  I requested a phone call to discuss this situation, but all I received was another email from a difference faceless name repeating the Dell policy propaganda.  Hiding behind inexplicable policy is the last recourse of a dishonest business model, in this case one based on coercion & exploit of potentially ignorant customers.

I have since sourced a suitable caddy from an eBay seller (brand new, sealed in a box, which suggests Dell caddies CAN be bought without extortion from somewhere), and installed the extra hard-drive (which was originally from another Dell server).

Your idiocy and greed means you now get NOTHING, instead of something, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for supporting this policy.

Yours sincerely,
On behalf of [REDACTED].