Jun 27, 2015


Of all the wonders of the world, colour is one of the most perplexing and amazing. All the wonders of the world are perplexing and amazing when you look at them, of course. But colour is one of those things - like music, like beauty - that sings to our senses and affects the way we feel.

Our favourite colours may be a mystery to other people. When someone says "blue" is their favourite colour, most people will nod and many will agree. When someone chooses "red" you may instantly form an opinion of that person's personality. (Or maybe that's just me?)

I remember when I was a kid asking my dad his favourite colour and he said "orange" and I was thunderstruck. Orange? Who would choose orange? Orange was the most jarring, thirsty colour there was and I hated it. I could not fathom that someone could ever have that as their favourite colour. I told my mother and she laughed - she could not understand it either.

Nowadays, I quite like orange, and have a lot of it in clothing and accessories. But I still remember the horror I had for it as a child. I equated it with Fanta: horrible, glaring, hot, thirst-inducing.

On the other hand my sister's favourite colour as a child was yellow, and that to me was a very suitable, happy colour. I also had a bright yellow transistor radio that I loved - perhaps this was before the onslaught of little-girl pink in all things?

My favourite colours have always been some shade of blue or green.  An image like this is like heaven to me:

blue green

I remember in primary school in L.A. in 1980, all the girls were into baby blue and lilac. I loved both colours but didn't feel I was worthy to share lilac with the popular girls (with their blonde hair, lipgloss, painted nails and beautiful clothes in pastel colours), so I stuck with baby blue.

I also adored - and still adore - mint and pale greens. I had a pale green gingham dress my mum made me which made me want to twirl and sing, and that mint green that was everywhere in the early eighties was one of my favourites. Just today at K-Mart I lobbied hard and unsuccessfully for one of my daughters to choose a gorgeous mint green shirt that took me right back to that time. (It should be sold with a Walkman).

Best eighties mint green

mint gingham

The late eighties didn't leave me unscarred, so for a short time my favourite colour was electric blue.

electric blue

In high school I ventured into darker colours. I was the proud collector of cool shirts in bright colours. My favourites were hot pink, teal, tourquoise, aqua and zambezi green.


Zambezi was my declared favourite colour for a few years.

zambezi green car

In the early nineties I loved lime green and spring green - and I still love them (though no longer to wear). I do love my neon green Chux Super Wipes kitchen cloths!  (I alternate between the green and the blue)

My whole life I have also loved midnight navy: the inky colour of the sky after sunset. I had a beautiful dark navy satin shirt in the eighties (with a cowl neck and massive shoulder pads, of course) that I teamed with a grey-and-navy striped yoke skirt (calf-length, of course), and navy "court shoes" when I was feeling fancy.

glorious deep midnight navy

Growing up in Auckland, there was always the bay. Often it was glittery blue in the sunshine, but just as often it was dark and overcast, and I loved it best like that. My parents briefly had a holiday house in Pauanui on the Coromandel, where most times the beach was windswept and overcast. The stormy denim of the sea and sky of those memories is etched in my head, and my favourite colour of all time is probably a version of this.

Stormy Blue

What's your favourite colour? What memories does it evoke in you?

Jun 19, 2015

You learn something new every day: refrigerated minced meat edition

I learned a couple of new things today.

Firstly, I learned that I am getting too old and wussy for scary movies.  I nearly had a heart attack throughout almost all of Jurassic World, and actually got quite emotionally terrified when a flock of escaped pterodactyls flew across the island toward the crowds of unsuspecting tourists. (I actually got a lump in my throat, and when the pterodactyls started to swoop I for real started shallow-breathing and almost squeezed out some tears. The children! The children! What would I do if I was herding my kids through a stampeding crowd chased by raptors and pterodactyls?? What would I do, dammit?! The horror, the horror....)

So that was number one. I can obviously no longer go and see scary movies, or even enjoyable adventure movies with predictable character arcs and what I am sure is deeply inaccurate science.

But: despite all that, Jurassic World is actually pretty good and I did (kind of?) enjoy it. I am just an emotional idiot.

The second thing I learned was that managing minced meat can be a whole lot easier than I ever knew. I was making bolognese sauce, and you know how once you've heated the oil and sautéed the onions and garlic, you get the beef mince out of its packet and drop it into the saucepan, and it's basically a big red cold brick that you have to sort of hack away at with your wooden spoon, if you don't want to tear it into chunks with your bare hands first? And it's actually quite hard work chopping it all up and mixing it and turning the pieces until it's all broken down and brown and starting to cook?

Well, it turns out you don't have to do that. Today I dropped my red brick of cold minced beef into my saucepan, then turned away momentarily to read a couple of pages of a book I am reading, then got lost in the book and completely forgot about my saucepan... until a faint cooking smell wafted over, and I hurried over to resume. Voila! My minced beef had all "melted" into the pot, broken down and almost all browned, and only needed a couple of easy stirs to get all mixed in and ready for cooking.

So there you go.

Cute Dino Pics

Jun 14, 2015

Great idea!

My daughter M has a cunning sort of cleverness about her that I am sure will serve her well in life. When she uses her powers for good, she comes up with some smart stuff.

Here are three of her recent ideas - two just from today - that I think are pretty good:

  • Sweets van:  Like an ice-cream van but selling sweets, like lollies (candy) and cakes
  • Digital devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) that are charged by the energy in your body
  • A high-powered hot-air fan that dries and warms your body as soon as you step out of the shower

I told her today that she comes up with some pretty good ideas. She said, "Well, that's because I want a lot of things in my life that I don't have."

I guess all inventions come from wanting things that don't yet exist.  The more I think about it, the more I want the third one too.

Jun 12, 2015

Belt-tightening 101: the answer

I've been thinking about the question I posed yesterday: why don't politicians trying to convince the public on the need to cut spending cut some of their own salary or allowances to win hearts and minds?

And I think I know the answer.

In a parliamentary system one of the hardest jobs the leaders have is to rally, control and maintain unity among their MPs. These may include members who've worked very hard to win marginal seats, members on the back bench not earning big bucks, members already getting disillusioned or embittered and members on the rise looking for any excuse to either jump ship or try and take your job.

Most governments try and do the cost-cutting early in their term, aiming to get the pain - and public anger - out of the way early and betting that the electorate will have forgiven and moved on by the time of the next election.

So the most important hearts and minds the leaders need to win during this sort of program are those of their own MPs.

And of course, from a purely budgetary standpoint, cutting MP allowances won't deliver the same millions or billions beckoning them temptingly from the list of public benefits and subsidies, so they probably don't see it as worth the pain, considering the factors above. To sell a belt-tightening program and help you through all the hard work of your pet reforms, you need your MPs on-side and energetic, not bitter and angry.

Politics, eh?

Jun 11, 2015

Belt-tightening 101

I guess it's not news that Joe Hockey is out of touch. 

The man who insisted that "poor people don't drive" is now coaching first home buyers through the property bubble with the advice to get a well-paying job. Good idea Joe! I mean, why do so many people stick with their low or average wage jobs when they should just get a well-paid one? It just shows, people are not rational.

But more to the point.

As fascinating, in a train-wreck way, as these gaffes are, Joe Hockey's are usually explicable by remembering that instead of talking like a savvy politician, he usually talks like an economist, which can seem insensitive to a regular person. ("If housing were unaffordable in Sydney, no-one would be buying it," he said.)

What I find more interesting is how governments never - inexplicably in my view - offer to tighten their own belts while they claim the need to cut back on public spending.

It's quite amazing how many of our parliamentary leaders - one is tempted to say "all of them" - claim every monetary allowance their jobs entitle them to, even while: 
(a) they are rich 
(b) their claims are not really in the spirit in which the allowances were intended, and 
(c) the same politicians are operating a nation-wide belt-tightening manifesto and do not hesitate to chastise less well-off people for claiming less ambiguous entitlements.

Let's let point (a) slide, as I know, everything's relative. The richer you are, the more expenses you have, so sure, none of these guys feels rich I am sure.  And they work hard for us, right?

On to point (b). Sorry to harp on Joe Hockey, but I will anyway. Thanks to Nick Xenophon, we learn that Joe Hockey, like many other MPs, claims a $270 per day travel allowance while he's staying in Canberra, and uses that money (as he is allowed to), to pay off the mortgage on his Canberra home. 

Obviously, travel allowances for MPs to go to Canberra make sense. And maybe even this usage of them does too - when you get into the detail, it's hard to draw a line in the sand on these things.

But - point (c) - politicians don't find it hard to draw a line in the sand when it comes to entitlements paid to other people. Things like maternity payments, single-parent allowances, Newstart allowances, pensions, schoolkid bonuses, and all the rest that are paid to the leaners and double-dippers and bludgers of this nation, who neglected to secure themselves a well-paid job and a chauffeur and travel allowance.

In a liberal democracy where votes are bought with tax cuts and spending programs, the tax system and the government transfer system always get messy. Periodically a review is done over the whole system and changes are proposed, and by and large they never happen.  That's one of the drawbacks of the system and it will probably never be fixed.  Likewise, whether a particular payment is "middle class welfare" or "tax justice" for bracket creep, to what degree payments are undermined by rorting and to what level benefits should be paid, are all never-ending debates. 

But people are fairly reasonable. They won't buy a "budget emergency", but they will agree on the general necessity to limit spending and maintain a working budget. Disregarding the diehard left and right, most people agree that governments should not tax unreasonably, should support the needy and provide basic services, and should maintain a strong economy. 

So here is what I don't understand. If governments want to get people to accept spending cuts and a "belt-tightening" regime, why don't they ever reduce their own entitlements?  I mean just a little??  In my living memory, only Mark Latham ever did anything along these lines, when he cut MP super entitlements to match the public rate. (Maybe only the more... ah... out-there politicians attempt this stuff).

I would think that if Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott got up and said, "Look, we're cutting all these things, but also, we're cutting these travel allowances / placing a moratorium on any MP study tour that can't be managed with a couple of Skype calls / freezing MP salaries for three years", that they would win a lot more hearts and minds.

So why don't they do it? Just a little? Cutting just a few things would at least show MPs are tightening their belts too. They wouldn't even need need to cut that much - just offering SOMETHING would arguably only reduce their total compensation by a little, and yet would pay off hugely in the form of much-needed public support.

Seriously, I don't understand why this is never done. Can anyone enlighten me?

"Politics" according to a 9gag user

Jun 8, 2015

New job

I have a new job. 

After 15 years working in stockbroking operations, I am now working for a software vendor and loving it. The vendor's product is fantastic and the company is small, nimble and growing - everything I've been looking for. 

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in agile and cloud-based business and I decided a little while ago that was where I wanted to be. In my last job I worked closely with a couple of very good vendors and it really opened my eyes up to this whole "new" world of agile methods and business in "the cloud".

I've also become a bit disillusioned with much of the financial services industry. I know! It seems like such a good, honest industry, right?! Actually, what I meant by that was, the last few years have just become a bit of a downer. No one is making a lot of money, clients are understandably leery, and as a result of everyone trying lots of different things to try and find new ways of making money, the landscape is constantly changing and there is a lot of "work" but not too much excitement or optimism to go with it. I love the people I worked with - some of them for many, many years - and I did like and will miss many things about my last jobs, but it was definitely time for a change for me.

The new job has been a learning curve for me. I'll admit my first week left me absolutely exhausted. By the end of my second week I was merely fatigued. So by the end of next week I should just be tired! Full steam ahead!

With a change of workplace comes also a change in location. I've worked at the eastern end of the CBD for nearly 15 years, and am now all the way diagonally across the city, at the north-west end.  Many years ago I worked down this way and always did like it. It's a nice part of town.  It's also much, much handier for public transport, and much, much worse for driving - so after only two weeks I have thoroughly broken my previous bad habit of driving to work.  My commute now takes no longer and is much, much cheaper!

The only downside is I am too far away to meet former workmates for lunch. But I'm sure we will work something out.

So, some photos.

My last photo from atop the Herald Sun building on Flinders Street. A little sad to lose this daily view:

My last iCaramba wrap from the Blue Bag cafe on Exhibition Street :(

You can also see on the right of this photo, the iPad loaned from my old job, which I spent my last lunch break restoring to pre-me condition to return it to work - deleting my daughter's Minecraft, Instagram selfies, photo edits, apps and webpages only to remember at the end that there is a one-step "delete iPad" option in Settings.

... And so to the other end of town:

Flagstaff Gardens:

King Street:

Some of the old buildings and remnants of old Melbourne:

And I have no idea what this is, but I love it:

A change is as good as a holiday, right?

I hope so, because I won't be getting a holiday for quite a while.


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