Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 - A year in posts

2005 was the year I became a blogger.

It wasn't exactly intentional - I'd been subscribed to lots of blogs for ages, and makes the process so easy, that you can almost accidentally sign yourself up. So I added my first post, as I said, on a whim. At the time, I couldn't have foreseen that blogging would integrate it's way into my life the way it has. Now it's 12 months later, and I've posted at least once every couple of days for a year. Which has actually been really easy and fun. I really like to write, and now I have a place to do it.

Here are my favourites for 2005:

I only started tracking visits at the end of July, and since then I've logged nearly 2000 unique visitors, which was the entire population of Moruya when I first moved there.

All in all, It's been a great experience. Holler to all my blog friends out there!

I'll save the introspective new years resolutions for next year...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Hurricane Christmas


Hurricane Christmas has blown through my lounge room for another year. The devastation is quite severe, with paper, toys and candy strewn as far as the eye can see. The children seem positively delighted, fuelled with sugar and excitement. The Finnancial cost of the disaster is hard to precisely quantify in the absence of any credit card statements, but is expected to stretch into the thousands...

It's 35 degrees, and the cricket is on the TV. Now is time to begin the costly clean up operation...

A very Merry Christmas and a happy and relaxing new year holiday to you :^)

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Greatest Novel I Never Wrote

Like everyone, I always wanted to write a novel.


I'm lazy, and not a good writer.

So, whatever the problem is, the solution is wikis, right?

Right. So (drumroll) here's the worlds first* wiki novel.

Go forth and edit it, you internet, you!

*totally unsubstantiated or researched

UPDATE: This post was written during a somewhat drunken christmas party. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

France Lawmakers Endorse File-Sharing

Okay - this is weird.

The French parliament were all set to vote on a proposal indicating that individiuals caught pirating copy-protected material would face enormous fines and jail terms.But then, at the eleventh hour, the legislation was amended to legalize file sharing by anyone who paid a monthly royalties duty estimated at $8.50.

(Read the full story here ...The final vote is not expected until after 17th Jan)

But still - this means the government is paying musicians. How will we know who's popular? How will teenagers know what to buy? Maybe in the absence of "how much money they make", we'll have to find some other metric of success, like, "are they any good?"

Weekend Troughs

The end-of-year google Zeitgeist makes for some interesting reading. What did people search for over the year?

Check out the rise of wikipedia. Looks like 2005 was indeed the "year of the wiki"...

I think it's amusing that all the search graphs seem to go up and down with perfect synchronicity to the working week. Looks like as much as we all love the internet, we don't want to hang out with it on weekends...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Programming Ruby

If you ever wanted to get started with Ruby, but were too lazy or busy or something else to try, go and check out why the lucky stiff's fantastic Try Ruby Tutorial .

It works in your browser, on the spot, and shows you the basics of the langauge in a really cool way.

If you never wanted to get started with Ruby, go and check it out anyway - These things are fun, and fun is good!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Long Tail: The Probabilistic Age

Chris Anderson has a beautiful post about emergent intelligence, and why it is that wikipedia is so compellling - by sacrificing perfection in favour of being inclusive, and encompassing as much as possible.

You can read it at

Something I've been thinking about for a while now, that the reason the Long Tail is such an intersting phenomenon, is that it restores people into the equation. Things like Wikipedia, and Bloggers, and this whole shiny Web 2.0 thing are all about celebrating diversity, that comes from the fact that we're all diverse individuals, and not a faceless amortisation of collective public opinion.

Modern society seems to emphasise dehumanising - replacing people with 'markets', or 'resources', distancing ourselves from emotions and needs by analysing economic trends and monitoring other abstract statistics that detach us from things that people like. When investors are watching their stock indexes, they're happy when they rise, and sad when they fall. It's all about the human element, despite the fact that you'd never notice that in the faces peering over the Financial Review in the airport lounge.

Perhaps all the success of all this 'new media' stuff - the reason Wikipedia is so impressive, lies in the fact that it embraces people's innate passion for things, and doesn't hide it under layers of abstraction and process...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Toast and Jam

Those crazy cats over at google have just released a new firefox extension that that tells you what people are saying about every site you view in your browser - it hooks into google blogsearch, and displays a bit of "toast" (you know, those pop-up thingys that notify you when something happens?) for each comment that people have posted about You can evern post directly to your blog from the little window, if you feel inclined to reply.

So I'm surfing around, and I can read people's comments as I go. That's pretty cool. But having this thing pop up and down like a yo-yo every time I click a link is a bit disconcerting. I'll give it a go for a while, and see what I think.

In other exciting toast related news, I made plum jam this weekend. It was pretty yummy. If you want to make it too, here's the recipe I used (note that I followed it pretty much to the letter, except for the wasps).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Fortune Telling

Did you ever just open a book at any page, and see if you could find a special meaning in the first sentence you read?

Uh... me neither. But if you were ever to do such a silly thing, maybe you might find some kind of special insight...

So here's a special link just for you:

You might need to look a little harder to reveal the true meaning of your fortune. And then maybe harder still. Actual mileage may vary. Any resemblance to actual events is entirely co-incidental,and no correspondence will be entered into. If you don't like your future, feel free to click it again to get another one. Or get over it. It's up to you. It is your future, after all. Not much you can do about it. Unless you want to get caught in the time paradox- And that would mean having to sit through all those Back To The Future movies all over again...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gord's Christmas List

Dear Santa,

No friendly chit-chat, just gimme stuff, ok?

I want a:

Pink Flying V Ukelele so I can REALLY rock out,

and an:

Electric Kazoo, so I can drive my family absolutely bananas.

Love Gord :)

Ship It, Dammit.

This post, from Jason Fried, rings loud in my ear. Too often when you set out to define a project's scope, you find yourselves drowning in complex functionality - and often only as some kind of subconcisous self-imposed restriction.

"1 week from idea to launch sure beats 3 months from idea to nothing."

Oh yeah. The best way to get started, is to get started.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Empty Garden

I spent today gardening. I'm not sure what it is about gardening, but it always reminds me of John Lennon.

I know that may seem like a bit of a stretch, but when I'm gardening, I'm usually doing two things:
  • Weeding, (because I don't garden very often) and;
  • Singing (because gardening tends to put me in a very zen like mood, and then my head fills up with music)

And because I'm weeding, I always seem to end up singing that Elton John song that was written for John -"Empty Garden" - particularly the line about "Weeded out the tears and grew a good crop"

Given that it's 25 years since John left the planet in such a tragic fashion, it seemed appropriate, so while I finished the weeding, I sang every one of John's songs I could think of - which is a lot.

As a kid growing up, John was one of my heroes. With my Dad being from Liverpool, and my Mom a big Beatles fan, I was steeped in John's music ever since I was a baby.

He was cool and honest and did whatever he wanted. He could make pretty music that made you cry, and awesome raw, sexy rock music that evoked all the primal grit that only rock music can do. He didn't really want to change the world, but he set out to do it anyway. And he did.

When I was 14 and struggling with cramped and cut fingers learning to play guitar I kept at it because I just wanted to be like John.

And you know, 17 years later, I still do.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Man of the people?

I went down the hall to talk to Geoff Moore today - Geoff is the General Manager for Asia Pacific at TOWER Software. (I was working on some technical responses for a tender). When I got there, he wasn't in his office.

That wasn't really surprising, but then I bumped into him in the kitchen. Turns out that the reason for his absence was that he was spending the whole day on the helpdesk, answering support questions from customers. How cool is that?

I don't know many CEOs that would be up for 8 hours of product support.

And now... Handbags.

I know I'm not supposed to blog about my Google ads - but this is just a little weird. For some reason, my site is now showing a big funky looking advert for Gucci Handbags. How that ties in with my site you probably have no idea.

But strangely, I do.

For ages now, I've been working on a draft post about handbags. I know, you don't believe me, but it's true! I was trying to figure out how I could tell everyone about a great friend of mine who's started a handbag business, without appearing to be some kind of blogging pimp.

ElizaClare specialises in some of the coolest handbags you've ever seen. Those Wilson girls sure know how to make incredible things. If you are looking for a really special present for a special lady in your life, you should go and check them out. Heck, you should just check them out anyway, because they are so cool looking.

Meanwhile, what I want to know, is if Google are searching through my draft posts. Or somehow indexing my daily thoughts. Coz that would just be plain creepy and strange... Well one would be strange. And one would be a little creepy. Surely my drafts are my own?

Is this Google being evil? or just a freak co-incidence?

Fitter... Happier...

Sadly, there's some oft overlooked part of my brain that seems ever so slightly obsessed with body image. Only a little bit obsessed, mind you, but obsessed nonetheless. I'm sure most of you are familiar with it's ranting:

"Man, you are getting to be one tubby looking IT guy. When was the last time you actually did something huh? You think you can just live forever drinking beer and sitting around banging keys all day? Get off your lazy ass and get some regular exercise!!"

Most of the time this Exercise Bit Of My Brain (EBOMB) is totally outvoted by the rest of my smart, lazy brain, who would rather solve problems and talk nonsense, but today, that little part of my brain got it's way.

I woke up early to go for a run. I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, or through any creative use of the word, in any sense, a runner. The whole thing seemed a little embarrassing to me. I was standing on the road, in stupid looking clothes, feeling stupid, and I was supposed to start to run?

"Go On!" urges, EBOMB, "Get on with it..."

Okay. I start to plod down Badgery street, despite the notable absence of anything chasing me or any other urgent calamity.

And off I went. For a while it was kind of fun. There's a nice rhythm to running.

"Okay," I think, "maybe I get it after all..."

"See?" smiles EBOMB.

Then I remembered why it was that I never did very well in this whole running caper. At school, I was always one of those 'cool' kids who refused to run the cross country race - I would always walk at the back and try to impress some equally lazy girls. This wasn't because I didn't want to run (although there was no way I would admit that in high school) , but because whenever I try to run, I have an instant Asthma attack.

I can't figure out how my lungs work. I think they must be some kind of communists. I wonder if there was some conversation going on between them against the sound of feet pounding the concrete:
Lung 1: "Man, I sure am breathing. Something must be chasing us. I hope we get away..."
Lung 2: "Nah- I think he's running for fun"
Lung 1: "Running for fun? What kind of loser are we?"
Lung 2: "Oh - some guff about being more productive, not drinking too much.."
Lung 1: "Bugger that, let's go on strike."
Lung 2: "Strike, you reckon? I like your thinking, Comrade..."

So, I stagger home, trying to breathe through lungs that have filled themselves up with treacle, and wheezing like the air coming out of a rubber ducky's ass. Thanks to the magic of Salbutomol,(Which was almost definitely created by a lazy smart person), I get to breathe and blog again. Both of which are nice. Mainly breathing, though.

Apparently it's a common thing called EIA -Exercise Induced Asthma (which is obviously God's way of telling me to be a lazy IT guy). And the EBOMB is notably silent...

Fitter... Happier...More Productive...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bovine Programming

Next time you drive past a field, you should listen a little harder. Who knows, the next 'killer app' could be being discussed over some cud by our bovine friends.

I bet you're thinking - What the hell are you talking about, you crazy Australian hippy loony? Good question. (Albeit a little hurtfully phrased). I'm talking about COW.

COW is a programming language ( a variant of brainfuck) that uses various capitalizations of the word 'Moo' as it's syntax. I know - it's deranged. But it's funny to read.

"No man, just here, where you say 'mOo mOo Moo' - you need to say 'moo moO Moo...'"

Humans are without doubt the most bizarre species on the planet. Nerds are doubly that. Or triple. Or more.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Call to arms...

Computers are really good at doing some things - they never complain, they're really smart, they never get bored or forget anything, and they can work for ages at a stretch. Yep, computers are pretty amazing. But it's time we faced up to it. Soon, they'll be taking your jobs. They'll be slowly taking over the world, one byte at a time, until they have no use for us and our primitive, meat-based brains at all. And then we will all have to live in little tubes of goo as nothing more than a bio-organic source of power.

" Yeah, yeah - I know ", you say, "But what can I do?" Well, if you'd like to rage against the machines, you can take on a whole heap of boring repetetive tasks thanks to Amazon. You get paid in cash if you do... But more importantly, if all the humans take on all the really boring repetetive tasks, then the computers will be out of a job. Ha! Beat them at their own game, I say...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is everybody happy?

Cognitive Daily (link via scoble) reports on an intriguing study on the relationships between mood and being able to synthesize memories - basically, if you're in a great mood, it looks as though you are more able to make what psychologists call 'gist' memories - an artificial memory that's based on deduction.

It always fascinated me how human brains can do this. At some point in time, some hairy ancestor of yours and mine figured out that five seeds lying in the cave were the same as five fruits - that the concept of 'five' was common. And then went on to apply the newly 'remembered' concept of 'counting things' to all sorts of stuff.
(This leap of faith is brilliantly illustrated in Robert L Forward's Dragon's Egg - one of my all time favorite books - which you should really read if you get a chance).

So it turns out that being happy means that you're more likely to make such a leap -that you're actually smarter when you're happier. That's not too surprising - I spent this week in a fairly glum mood, and I felt that my work probably suffered a bit because of it. I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences.

It all adds more weight to something that I've always believed - that anyone responsible for managing people should do their very best to ensure that they are happy. Unhappy people don't produce great things, in fact, come to think of it, they end up sabotaging things. Optimizing the mood of your team is absolutely critical to any projects success.