Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zero is a number...

Wow. It's really really cold here in Newfoundland. And by really cold, I mean really, really cold. The forecast low today was zero, and the forecast high was 1.

Now normally, when the weather man is off by a degree or so, nobody really minds. But when it was the only degree we were going to get, I must admit I felt a bit jilted. In the end, the high (and the low!) today turned out to be just zero. There are flurries of snow blowing around, and it gets dark at half past four in the afternoon. My poor bald head is glowing red - I know, bring a hat.. Noted.

Meanwhile, my anti-colleague, Simon (I do actually have some friends who aren't called Simon) , just rang me from Miami, where it was 28 degrees Celsius, and he was watching the sun set from his air-conditioned hotel. Nice...

Monday, November 20, 2006

We Gotta Wii!

Well, after a bunch of sleeping on the sidewalk in subzero temperatures, we finally managed to secure a Wii.

Sleeping outside of a department store has never been on my list of things I wanted to achieve, and I don't think I would recommend it to anyone I liked.

But, (and I'm sticking to my story) - I never really planned to sleep outside. Patrick and I drove down to our local Wal*Mart to try and persuade them to sell us one at midnight, to save my other plan of getting up at 6am and trying to find a console. Of course, when we arrived at Fair Lakes Mall, there were people camping out all over the place, at 11:30. The Wal*Mart guy laughed at us, and said - "Maybe if you arrived here at 8 this morning, like the guys out the front!" So, we unwittingly found ourselves in the line outside of Target.

"Hang on", I Thought. "This isn't the kind of line that moves. We will be here all night..." But by then, four other people had already sat down behind us...

Resigned to our fate, and unwilling to entertain the concept that we might not get one, we bought some 8 dollar sleeping bags from Wal Mart just before it shut, and pulled the back seats out of the car, and settled down into what may have been the worst night's sleep I've ever had.

Patrick was out like a light - I didn't hear from him until about 6am, when they handed us all tickets that ensured we would get a system. All around us, nerds talked nerd talk about video games, and programming, and other tech stuff until the wee small hours. There was a particularly enthusiastic game of Risk going on behind me until about 5:00 ('You pesky fricking Mongolians!..')
But by 8:30 Sunday Morning , we managed to secure ourselves a family Wii, together with an extra controller and The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess.
Since then, there have been some pretty exciting games of Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling among our little family of Miis. The new generation of gaming has begun, and I'll save my impressions of the system for later.
Right now - I niid some sliip!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We wanna Wii wanna Wii...

It's extremely cold. I feel like I've reached a new level of fanboydom. I'm sitting outside target at 1am, with my son, rugged up in sleeping bags, waiting for the Nintendo Wii, which is released tomorrow morning. At our last count, Pat and I were the 51st people in the line, for the alleged 80 Wii consoles. Blogging via Blackberry hurts my thumbs, so I'll post the outcome later...

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Vista from here...

Okay, so I'm not exactly immune to picking on Windows vista...

But - I just installed the Release Candidate 2, and I have to say - I'm impressed.

The installation process was so smooth and so easy - it only asked me two questions -

  1. what time zone are you in?, and;

  2. what desktop background would you like?

These are easy questions. I like them. So far... so good...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On the pursuit of the approval of strangers

Sometimes I wonder which is the more noble pursuit:

Providing structured social commentary on the complex artifacts of the human society we live in, This includes things like keeping abreast of new technologies, discussing long-winded and entirely artificial constructs like records management, or:

Reporting the simple delights of nature. The things that make me smile, that ring with all of us. The underlying humanist principles that don't need to be hugely detailed, or have whole industries built around them, because they are so built into us all that we appreciate them anyway.

I've lost some of the piqueness I had when I set out to write this post, because I have spent the last few hours in a crowded bar in Dallas Airport, watching commercials(in between a game of American Football). Inspired by Wordsworth, and his boundless enthusiasm for the natural world, I idly both wandered and wondered the terminal, which is absolutely massive, and could almost be seen as a monument to the more contrived human behaviours, and yet - I found natural behaviour everywhere.

From the children, wide-eyed and enraptured at giant sundaes, to the young air hostesses, intently discussing their potential boyfriends in between flights. (I imagined two cave dwelling girls, 10,000 years ago, discussing their nuptial relationships with each other away from the campfire.) The struggling and almost certainly unnoticed triumphantly pathetic blooms of the shiny indoor plants. Family Reunions. Grandparents chasing grand-toddlers into amused strangers...

These things that are innate and understandable hold tremendous appeal and romantic lore, and yet the contrived complexities that human society creates also amaze and astound me. In a way, it was the difference between these two things that brought me to America. I know for a fact that I hold a deep and revered solace with human nature and the natural world. And yet, America is the home of every contrived complexity ever known to man. It is a shrine to human progress, and invention, to capitalism and progressive commerce. Whatever unnatural pursuit that ever there be, for sure you can find it here, celebrated.

And perhaps that is where I love and hate advertising. Right at that nexus where the commercial world tries to tap into human nature in order to generate more profit. Advertising, and marketing in general suffers from a near impossible challenge - the ability to manipulate the innate natural-ness of all people, without appearing disingenuous. And you can't fake human nature - it's implicit in every human. Your audience will always know.

And as I've looked in turn at each shiny fluorescent billboard, the underlying attempt to pull at the heartstrings of the intended viewer seems so transparent - all coming down to simple, basic human emotions - sex, comfort, food, and overwhelmingly, the approval of strangers.

So much advertising is trying to make people feel inadequate and sad. That you won't be a good person unless you buy this brand of speakers, or this brand of face cream. That you need an enormous house in order to impress people you do not know or care about the opinion of.

And for all our ingenious inventions and boundless talents with resources, it all seems a little shallow from my late night viewpoint here on a hard plastic airport chair. To have replaced our innate natural desires with fluorescent advertisements, Shopping Magazines, invoices and Profit and Loss statements seems profoundly hollow.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


You know, you have to keep a constant watch on the sneaky blogosphere.

Sometimes your friends will just start blogging - without even telling you!

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to find them. Technorati knows all (well, some stuff anyway...)

Take that, Big Headed Simon! Subscribed :)

(You know, six of the top eight hits on google for the phrase "Big Headed Simon" are actually about Big Headed Simon. I think he is the only one in the whole world!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Join the Conversation!

I'm proud to announce that TOWER Software (my employer) has recently unveiled it's new blog ( the RSS feed is here.)

The plan is for TOWER to share some of it's insights and experiences developing TRIM Context, and solving Enterprise Content Management problems from around the world.

I know, most of you are probably thinking.."that sounds really, really boring!", but hey - it's my life! You should check out some of the posts before you jump to any premature conclusions - I certainly plan to contribute a post or two, and feel free to drop by and leave a comment.

The web is a two way medium, after all :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Firefox 2 CSS Secret...

I just accidentally pressed Ctrl + Shift + C in my new build of Firefox 2.0 for Windows. Check it out - a separate tab just popped up listing every style used on the page I was viewing, including a direct link to the CSS files themselves.

Now, that's extremely cool. Stealing designs from people just got the tiniest bit easier!
(Not that I would ever condone such an activity, of course :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Democracy in Action...

I have to vote in the US Senate Election Tomorrow. Okay, I don't have to vote, but being an Australian American, voting is something we do.

Australia has compulsory voting, which I am overwhelmingly supportive of.

People often assume that the point of compulsory voting is to somehow educate people about politics - to force them to have an opinion. The reality has nothing to do with voters, and everything to do with ensuring good governance - By forcing politicians to care about every voter, rather than just the ones who can be bothered to go down to the poll both and vote, it means that politicians are consequently forced to address the needs of all the citizens in the country. Under a non compulsory voting system, it's mainly the wealthy and educated who vote. I was a little shocked to find out that part of the aim of the campaign advertisements that have been confusing me for the last month on TV is not to encourage voters to vote for one candidate or another, but to discourage people from voting at all.

Nonplussed, I'm going down to the local poll booth tomorrow (along with an estimated 40% of the population) to exercise my democratic right as to who represents the state of Virginia in the Senate.

The problem here is that I really can't find anything at all appealing in any of the candidates. I know that the Republican is an alleged racist, and the Democrat is an alleged sexist. The independent green lady seems to be a bit short on any policy not involving trains (and her website doesn't work in Firefox) ...

If anyone can offer me some compelling arguments before polling day, I'd sure appreciate it!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fall In Virginia

Despite the traffic and the population, Virginia is really an amazingly beautiful and fertile place. Here's a few fall snapshots taken from my front yard, (except for the last one, which believe it or not was actually taken in my lounge room ...)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


My brother Grae just launched his photoblog, at the enviable (well, for some of us), domain of

EDIT: Oh, and speaking of things that are purdy, you should check out: for some transcendental web flash magic,..

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How do you buy the internet?

One startup at a time, I guess...

Google just announced the acquisition of one of the coolest little wiki engines ever, JotSpot.

I've always been quite a fan of the technology and the approach behind JotSpot. (Any company that has a regular hackathon is okay with me!)It will be great to see what google can do to bring the wiki to the masses.

Wikis are definitely my favourite collaboration tools. All those other "big C" collaboration, joint editing instant messagey things (like Groove) all seem to be a bit intimidating.

are easy to use, and they have instant appeal - people can see the value really quickly.

Which is kind of like Google, really...

Punk Capitalism

From the random links department, two things that took my fancy, from opposite ends of the ethical spectrum:
  • The Punk-O-Matic lets you compose a variety of authentic sounding cool punk tunes using Guitar Bass and Drums. Rock on!.
  • mmmzr is an unpronounceable, yet maybe a little bit brilliant site which uses a pyramid style scheme to extract money from advertisers. Right up there with the million dollar homepage and 'wash-your-own-car' for ideas you wish you had thought of.