Friday, September 19, 2008

Money the money money

This Financial Crisis on Wall Street thing started me thinking.

Since we arrived in the US, I've been contemplating how strange it is that America seems more concerned with money than it does with people. And now, with a trillion dollars already handed out to high finance, and discussions about even more massive handouts, well - it's pretty clear who America loves the most.

For me to send my children to University here in the US will cost me about half a million dollars, assuming average current College prices. If I get sick, say with an expensive disease like cancer, I could be easily looking at 300,000 dollars a year in treatment costs. When it comes to preserving my personal health, or my ability to contribute to society, the United States wants to contribute absolutely nothing. And yet, the US Government will spend trillions of dollars - that's over a thousand billion dollars resuscitating businesses that have effectively done stupid, bad things. The kind of thing that you should go out of business if you do.

The injustice, at least from where I sit, is huge. This bailout money is not coming from a giant bank vault filled with cash. It's a promise. It's a repayment plan - a credit deal imposed on taxpayers. Indirectly, it's coming out of people's pockets over the next 50 years. And these people are the same people saving for college, and arguing with HMOs over their cancer coverage.

This is more money than has been spent to date on the war in Iraq.

Conservative estimates on the cost of providing health care insurance to cover every uninsured American would cost 90 billion dollars. That's less than one tenth of the money already spent on the bailouts.

Let's be clear here - America now has her citizens shoveling their personal cash - cash that they haven't earned yet into the pockets of rich Wall Street stock brokers and investment bankers, at the same time that they are struggling to pay for things that most other governments provide for free.

Is this really government for the people?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thinking of Illinois

I sit, pensively leaning over my keyboard, stilled for the first time in an hour.

The lilting piano music had caught part of my conscience. I stare out the window at the Virginia sunshine, fading in the afternoon. The green, filtered light falls dappled onto the lawn between me and the dogwood tree at the gate. An elderly gentleman pedals along James street, wearing a blue denim hat and a white T-shirt.

Somewhere, a fanfare announces the advent of something. Some kind of thought dances elusively as I stare abjectly into the world. And then it hits me. That the time spent is gone. That great intentions and potential are worthless. The future is also worthless. Green light is reflected from the trees in an instant.

I think about it now.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This life

I haven't seriously written anything here forever. I was re-reading some old posts, and realising that I really liked reading them. So, in the interests of posterity...

Living in America for the last two years has been a wonderful adventure. It's been strange, and entertaining, and frustrating and all the things that life probably should be, if you're trying to make a decent go of it. But, times change, and the lure of Australia is calling us back across the Pacific. So, me and the family are going to pull up stumps and head on home in October. (I still haven't figured out baseball. )

This brings a huge amount of stress, and excitement, and chaotic planning, and other things that life probably should be, if you're trying to make a decent go of it. I feel like I have two different todo lists - one for work and one for home. And when I look at each of them, I think - yeah, I can do that in two and a half months. The trouble is, there's two of them...

Cognitive Bias is a strange thing. When you look at the list, you recognize a huge series of strange ways of thinking - because they are underly the way you think.

I was musing the other day about the kind of person who re-defines failure as success. This is a pretty common scenario - typically arrogant, ego-centric folks who are afraid of failure tend to be very dismissive of any effort. Not so much because they actually think it can't be done - more that they don't want to risk being seen as committing to something that failed. These folks will often be so adamant that a project will fail, that they will subconciously sabotage a project - just to be sure that they can fold their arms and say - "I told you so."

That's not something I've experienced of late - just something that I recalled - given that I haven't really been in "the workforce" since Dean and I started Infovark. Working for a startup of your own with no customers is a wonderful experience! We've been working really, really hard - but the kind of focus that you get when you have one single thing to do is really motivating.

There's a lot of risk and anxiety in our project. Most startups fail. But I feel a huge kind of zen satisfaction that comes from grabbing an idea and wrestling it into existence. I'm not sure how it will be received - that's where the anxiety comes from - but I am completely confident that the idea is a good one, and the implementation has been done right.

My kids are on the extended Virginia summer holidays, and are musing about getting ready for bed. My precious wife has put up with so much of an absent husband through all this crazy working, and yet she still seems happy to see me when I come home.

It's a charmed life, this one. Just trying to make a decent go of it :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

That's SO Raven.

You know how it is - You're busy working , trying to get your startup to beta.

Then Little Headed Simon pops up and posts you some link he saw on boing boing.

And then he says that the link isn't really that interesting, but the way he misread the headline was actually much more interesting.

So then you say - "you should make a game out of that..."

Yeah, yeah I know- that's like every other day, right?

Except that this time, He actually did.

LHS - you are seven different coloured lasers of awesome.

My highest score is 2.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Here's a first. This post has a soundtrack.

The reason this post has a soundtrack, is because this mp3 is a recording of the music I was playing with my band on the weekend, when I came to this realization. And somewhere in the middle of a somewhat self-indulgent but very satisfying twelve-eight blues progression, this weird notion of immediacy hit me. So, I thought I'd attempt to share it. Press play, if you didn't already, and see if you can follow me on this one...

The realization comes from this notion that when you're playing music, as soon as you play a note, it's gone. I know that's kind of obvious, but when you're playing with people who are much better than you (which is always a good thing to do) you really have to concentrate. And I found myself concentrating on which note to play, and which change to make, when. But once I had "made it", and played the right note, it was gone. It might as well have never been there.

There were other changes coming up, but they were a fair way away. Part of my brain was keeping an eye out for those. And part was feeling kind of proud of the fact that I'd managed to keep it together so far.

And then it dawned on me, that all of this past and future stuff was kind of a distraction. The only thing I really needed to pay attention to - the one thing I needed to do right - was to play this note. The next one. The one right now.

Which led me to question my internal motivation. Mainly. I just wanted the music to sound great. But, part of me was keen to avoid the 'knowing glare' from my bandmates, if I messed up.
People have evolved a natural tendency to evaluate each other. Sometimes intentionally, othertimes almost subliminally, you're evaluating the people you meet in your life. As an extremely social animal, humans have a very complex reputation management system, which helps us decide who we should engage with, and for what. This is an extremely important skill, and it's one that may be the cornerstone of all society.

But this Reputation Mangement System also sucks. Reputations are easily damaged. Sometimes they are percieved as damaged, when they're not. It can lead to feelings of low self worth, and anxiety. (This is why people fear public speaking more than death.)

Your reputation is really just a weird arbitrary evaluation that starts with people who have met you. It's based, almost totally, on your past activities, and your future potential. So, I thought that maybe, just like the music, that it too is a distraction. That the only thing you really need to be concerned with is right now. How you were in the past is gone. And how you will be in the future is completely irrelevant.

I found it to be an amazingly uplifting thought. You should give it a go. Just focus on your actions right now. Pretend that there is no future, or no past.

You don't have to rely on those things to "average you out".

Anyway, this is all getting a bit deep. But, it really stuck with me.

And I wanted an excuse to share some of Carl and Tommy's awesome guitar solos.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Did you know?

That NetVibes let's you create your own page title?

Cool huh? They really let you type a lot of stuff in there. That's very nice of them.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Groundhog's Day


Simon was picking on me the other day for not being a good blogger any more. (Part of me was all offended - "You are incorrect - I'm teh awesome!", but mostly I was thinking - "That must mean that he thought I was a good blogger once - which is still pretty cool.")

Alas, It's been a really long time since I've had much interesting to say, and most importantly the time to actually say it. Running a startup business is hard work, it takes a lot of time from you, and most of my precious blogging time has been spent on getting stuff together over on the infovark blog. It's a good site, and I'm very proud of it, but I admit that it does lack the kind of personal-ness that I like to read in blogs. Reading over my old posts here, I tended to write very honestly, and I didn't need to have a topic - I'd just waffle on about any old crap. Corporate blogging is quite a bit less freestyle, and more structured.

So, in an effort to recapture my blogging mojo, let's take stock of the things that are in my head today.

I like to play music. I've been getting together with an old friend from TOWER each weekend and rocking out playing in a band. We're pretty bad, but man - it is such a fun thing to do! filling your whole self with music is a wonderful experience.

Quitting TOWER was a really good thing for me to do. Life in the USA as an IT consultant is perhaps the most tiring and time-consuming thing I can imagine. I spent way too much time focussing on my job, and not enough time on my family. My job was interesting, but my Family are much more important. Now my job is great, and I have more time and flexibility than ever.

My kids are obsessed with FancyPants 2. It's really fun!

And, on that note - I have to go and fix the toilet. That will surely be at least as fun...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Nerdiest Video Ever

Have you ever seen one of those 'viral internet videos' and then said something like:

"You know, that's the nerdiest thing I've ever seen."

Well, Be prepared to eat your own words:

Eat them! Tasty Wordy Goodness. Right?