Dec 27, 2016

Tech Life: Build, Test, Release Adventures

For the past year and a half I've been working for a small and smart financial software vendor, which I love. I'd been inching my way from financial services to "the other side" of the software fence for a few months before I made the change, and I thought at the time I had developed a solid understanding of technology vendor-ship and what that work would be like.

But of course, you only know so much until you get there.

Nov 25, 2016

Living in a Modernist House

I recently caught up with a great two-episode series on the ABC called Streets of Your Town, about suburban architecture in Australia. It's worth a look - you can catch it here until 30 November.

Watching this, I suddenly recognised the first home I remember living in. It was a brick box with sloping roof, exposed beams and bricks, floor to ceiling windows, a split level ground floor and an open staircase, all nestled in a native garden and surrounded with a ti-tree fence. Tick tick tick - all of these are features beloved of the modernist architects of the time.

We have always remembered this house as an oddity - weirdly designed, a menace to small children, plagued with hunstman spiders thanks to being nestled in that native garden. But now I realise it was actually a modernist masterpiece!

Nov 24, 2016

Illustrations of (My) Life

Hello, and welcome to another instalment in an ongoing occasional series I call Lazy Blog Posts.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some photos which I thought were a pretty good short-cut to saying something about life.  Or in some cases just my life.

So without further ado: photos!

Nov 7, 2016

5 Favourite Posts

How fortuitous that just when I dusted off my blog this week, along came a new Listography! Whether this marks a return of Listography or just a one-off thing, I'm happy to see it and immediately want to participate.  I loved Kate Takes 5's Listography when it was a regular thing - always so easy and fun to make a five-point list of anything.

So this Listography is Five Favourite Posts.

Nov 5, 2016

Halloween Party 2016

I don't blog much these days. But you didn't think I could ignore Halloween did you? A quick search on the word 'Halloween' on my blog turns up 22 posts (?!), including this one (2015), my first one (2012) and my Halloween poem - so it's no secret I love Halloween.

Aug 8, 2016

The Olympics

The Olympics are on! So I decided to write something about the Olympics.

I've written before how much I love the Olympics. I always have, ever since childhood, when during school any teacher who could commandeer a TV would set it up in a corner of the classroom for as long as they could get away with it.

Jul 11, 2016

The Movie Nut's Meme

Here's a short set of questions and answers about my movie history. I got this from Princess Pandora, who got it from Sunday Stealing.

Jul 10, 2016

In politics, I am extremely against extremism

Listen up, Australia. I am pretty sick of our recent political environment. We do not have to do extreme right, religious conservatism and introduce a sudden pro-gun agenda just because America does those things, okay?

Jun 16, 2016

Two App Ideas (please send money)

Dear Venture Capitalists, Developers and Marketers,

I have two great app ideas and would like these developed as soon as possible please.  Please note these are my intellectual property but I am open to sharing the millions of dollars we make on them under a reasonable arrangement.  Please let me know when they are ready.

Jun 12, 2016

The Art of Leisure

I just came across a post in my Facebook feed called The Lost Art of Leisure, which I didn't have time to read but which I have bookmarked for later. I think I know what it says though, and the title struck a chord with me.

May 15, 2016

Men and Women are Completely Different

It is obvious that men and women are completely different.

For instance, women love dressing up and reading horoscopes, and men love drinking beer and watching sports. But there are many other ways that men and women are different, and all of them are scientific fact.

The below well-known examples prove beyond doubt that men and women are very different.

May 7, 2016

How To Find Out About Anyone: Great Questions!

One of my favourite sites is Quora, where people pose questions and others post answers. It's a great different kind of social media, even if these days it is more overrun by marketers and promoters than it used to be (welcome to any social media platform, right?)

Tonight I was happily browsing my feed while procrastinating doing some work, and came across a set of really great 'meme' style questions, in response to a question that asked, "What 10 questions can tell you the most about a person?"

Apr 2, 2016


Today I went to a Tupperware party, the second one I have been to in my life. The first one was about 15 years ago when, if I remember correctly, I came to my cousin's house, drank some wine and admired some plastic stuff, and didn't buy a thing.

Mar 26, 2016


My friend Pandora runs a blog on which she assiduously posts every Sunday.  Once upon a time I had this level of discipline - okay, I didn't, but I did post every week - but I possess it no longer. However I do enjoy her Sunday meme posts, most of which come from Sunday Stealing.  Sunday Stealing posts are a good way to keep a blog up to date instead of letting it languish a month or more between posts - as I am wont to do lately.

So, this week I am going to try my hand at a meme post, this one called 'The Currently Meme', courtesy of Sunday Stealing.

Currently, I am...

Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King
Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben - the latest in the ever-growing genre of 'well-off wife finds she can't trust her seemingly perfect husband and her life has been a lie'
Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, by Johann Hari. I thought we should legalise drugs before, now I'm doubly convinced

Project plans; blog posts; a short story that is going nowhere

Fetch and tug of war with the dog every morning

Better Call Saul
Politics in Australia, with trepidation
The Trump Show in America, with horror

To keep up

A roast dinner every Saturday. I have just decided that this week. I did a chicken roast last Saturday which the kids loved and I quite enjoyed it myself.
But not this Saturday as I'm planning a family lunch for tomorrow.

Pinot Grigio 
Coke Zero
Lots of water to make up for the rest

The shots, when I can.

Hairstyles. Dream on, frizzy-haired me.

#Fairfax #fintech

Nothing. I have zero interest and less talent.

Too much and not enough. The modern existential dilemma.

On holiday to a little rental beach house on the Peninsula in two weeks - can't wait.

The free trams in Melbourne CBD.

Knee-jerk politics.

Season 1 of Fargo on Stan. I forgot how good it was. Every actor in it is fantastic.

Silly YouTube videos: The Community Channel, Everything Wrong With, and Brent Rivera.
Perfect weather in Melbourne last week, and a mild (late) start to autumn this week.

How to marry agile cloud-based small-vendor project management with big-client requirements. 
The implications of the current tech bubble (If even I spent 20 minutes this week considering building a service app then trust me, we're in a bubble).

Optimistic - despite the bubble, despite Trump.

Blog reading. Have to find time.

The Americans don't elect Trump - but also that they don't elect someone who turns out to be awful just to avoid electing Trump.

Clever :)

Too much Radio Nova thanks to the kids. Why was everyone doing covers of Justin Bieber's Love Yourself which is a terrible song? I don't get it. Thankfully some new songs hit this week. 

The fact we can afford to go on a little family holiday for the first time in two years.

Mould in the crockery cupboard again - time for a clean and those way-too-expensive damp-soaker thingies.

The state government for awarding the paramedics a pay rise. Everyone working in emergency services and health should get a big pay rise.

What the hell to get my husband for his birthday. He's impossible.

To relax after spending the day cleaning and preparing lunch and an easter egg hunt for all my family on Easter Sunday.

Mar 21, 2016

What Journalism Has In Common With Stockbroking

I'll dispense with the preamble. What journalism has in common with stockbroking is this:

An old model which was well established and profitable is transitioning with a lot of pain to a new model, which everyone is still trying to figure out.  

The old model was comfortable and cushy (for those at the top). The new model is a major change, culturally, psychologically and commercially, and it is not yet - but one day will be - profitable.

Sira Anamwong/


Another month in Australia, another horrible rupture for Fairfax. If I was a journalist I would probably write "the embattled Fairfax". After already pruning itself back in 2012 and again in 2013, this week the company announced it will cut the equivalent of 120 full-time jobs from its newsrooms.

That's a lot of journalists. It's hard to imagine the company even has that many jobs left to spare. (And according to staff, they don't).

And I really feel for Fairfax. Not only because I love The Age and am a subscriber who reads it every day, but because I think in very difficult circumstances they have been forging an evolution towards an online model quite well.  

New media is great. But blogs and tweets and news fragments do not fill the gap left by traditional newspapers. New media still needs journalists to write the stories, and "citizen journalists" just aren't as good.

Of course, we will get used to it. Just as we have got used to the passing of great puns in headlines (largely gone in favour of SEO), and elementary grammatical and syntax errors in broadsheet news (now that sub-editing, like everything else, is outsourced to cheap workers overseas). We got used to those things, and the world didn't collapse.

So, there is no choice - citizen journalists it shall be, and the real journalists will find work somewhere, somehow, in this new cacophony. Not all the ones being let go now, unfortunately, but future ones will.

Somehow I don't think either the paid subscription model used by most newspapers and journals online now, or the Buzzfeed model, will be the lasting profitable solution.

I wonder what it will be?


Stockbroking has always been a world of boom and bust, but ever since the 2008 crash and the Great Recession that followed (or still follows), it's been all bust. The stockbroking model as it was before then has truly broken and is never coming back. That's probably even a good thing.

Since 2008, it's been impossible to squeeze money out of traditional stockbroking. The margins are too thin; no one wants to pay for brokerage and research when they can get what they need online.

In Australia the ASX has piled more and more compliance obligations on brokers, and ever-higher liquid capital requirements to guard against insolvency collapses. In classic Law of Unintended Consequences style, the result has been an explosion of "shadow brokers" - small and nimble dealing and advisory businesses that range from serious, ethical companies with management and due process, to guys operating out of their loungerooms with, let's just say, less than that.

In the last decade that I worked in broking operations, I watched these companies come and go, the same people moving from license to license and company to company in a never-ending scramble to find some way to make money. Most of these people are straight up, love broking and just want to make money for their clients and themselves - but the landscape is unforgiving.

So now everyone knows the future is "online". The future is "robo-advice" (less risk of non-compliant customer management or advice), and "fintech".

But what is the best kind of company to run? What's the best service to offer: advice to customers, or services to dealers? How do you innovate and create a solution, and not be copied by a thousand imitators with the same access to the cloud that you have?

Time will tell.

I'd love to step 5 years into the future and see what's happening in both journalism and financial services. My guess is both will be profitable, but not exactly in ways people are building them now. The future will come up with something else.

Disclaimer: I work in FinTech and love it.   :)

Feb 18, 2016

How not to be annoying on Facebook

There are four kinds of people on Facebook:
1. People who post happy braggy stuff about their kids, spouses or holidays, and kind of annoy everybody
2. People who post inspiring or melancholy quotes in script font on meadowy pictures, and kind of annoy everybody
3. People who post political rants and opinions, and kind of annoy everybody
4. People who post an engaging mix of news, articles, jokes, current events, personal life, family tidbits, occasional celebrations, completely on-point social observations, witty and relevant opinions and a bit of self deprecation, and who never annoy anyone at all, ever.
I am obviously in the fourth category!  I just know I'm never annoying to anybody, ever. *

So why can't everybody else manage this as effortlessly and gracefully as I do?

Ha ha. Do we all see ourselves, and Facebook, this way?  I suspect we do.

This is quite funny - it's a little dated now as most people have by now self-corrected for the most annoying stuff that used to plague Facebook (I haven't seen a "vaguebook" status for awhile, or a humblebrag), but I'm sure we can all recognise our Facebook friends - and ourselves - in at least one of these: 7 ways to be annoying on Facebook.

And yes, I do actually enjoy reading what my friends are up to on Facebook!

* I might sometimes be guilty of mommyjacking. And unintentional one-upping when trying to express empathy. And using stupid immature words like "OMG". And sharing news stories that validate my personal viewpoint on something with a comment that basically means "I always knew this!"  Other than that, I'm not annoying at all.

Feb 14, 2016

Minecraft Part 2: Getting Banned

Last week I wrote about Minecraft online gaming, known to non-parents as pvp (player vs player) - an arcane universe inhabited by ten-year-olds and their demonic alter-egos, where good times can turn to crap at the tap of a birchwood block.  

At some point in their recent Minecraft career, my kids discovered the shock and horror of being BANNED.

At this point you may want to refresh yourself with the PvP glossary presented in Minecraft Part 1.  

Being BANNED is worse than being KICKED. Being KICKED just means you've been kicked off the game (disconnected from the server), and you can get back in another time. Being BANNED means the Admin (owner/moderator) has BANNED you from the server, probably forever! (At least in most cases).

To cheer up my kid and out of curiosity, I googled "reasons for being banned in Minecraft" and the result is very funny. You can be banned for all sorts of reasons, from legitimate ones like griefing or trolling or killing other players, through minor infractions like speaking in all caps or asking for "OP" one too many times, to baffling ones that apparently involve saying or doing the wrong thing in front of the wrong Admin.

Most of the ones below came from this Minecraft forum thread.  They made me chuckle.

Some reasons for being banned from a Minecraft PvP server

Upsetting an Admin

For being impatient

For unintentional destruction

For following your architectural dreams

For not obeying the laws of gravity

For being too badass

Because you peaked

For solving a game challenge too quickly

For asking an annoying question too many times - like once

For possibly being a Brony

For saying Hi

For wanton destruction

For committing two horrible crimes at once:

For unrepentant warmongering

For being American

For annoying the French

For being called Dylan

For swearing

For hate crimes against art

For inverting a Minecraft element to reference a pop culture trope

As a result of a complex battle which ended with mutual respect

For killing everyone and taking their stuff - actually this ban sounds pretty legit:

For inadvertently playing against someone's political beliefs 

Just because

And perhaps saddest of all: FOR NO REASON

These cheered up my kids and gave me an entertaining evening's reading. 
But I still don't quite know how to play Minecraft. Wallpaper 15

Feb 7, 2016

Minecraft Part 1: What the hell are you talking about, kids

I thought I was a very tech savvy parent and secretly felt pretty smug about my preparedness for my kids to gradually enter the fray of online life.  Then along came Minecraft.

I'll admit, gaming has been a bit of a black hole for me. What little I know about gaming I have gleaned from 9Gag and Gamergate (which, you know, both make gaming seem super awesome).

I am, however, a technophile and ambitious to know it all. I mean, I switched from an iPhone to a Samsung two years ago, so I'm like, pretty cutting edge.

Now that the kids have an Xbox, I fully intend to give up some Netflix time to learn how to steer the goddamn Need for Speed car down the middle of the highway instead of careening from barrier to barrier and getting stuck in reverse, and I am looking forward to trying a first-person shooter game to see how violent it makes me.

But commanding the Xbox controller is, like, hard. Why are kids immediately so dextrous at this stuff? I cannot get all my fingers plus my brain to work in unison. I cannot get my car or skateboarder to go more than a couple of metres without crashing. This is a good way to immediately feel like your own parents as your kids try and keep the laughter out of their voices while they show you how to use the technology. Karma.

Back to Minecraft...

The kids have long loved Minecraft and spend a borderline unhealthy amount of time glued to their screens building stuff and playing interactive games.  And here's where I (also) got caught napping. I had no idea you could play Minecraft online.

When my kids started having run-ins with online etiquette and trolling, they came to me with complaints and lengthy descriptions of online interactions I could barely understand. And I thought I knew about online interactions! I was a bit shocked and had to have some quick tutorials from my ten year olds on what the hell they were talking about.

Here's the deal: you can join servers run by other people and build stuff in their world, or play battles or racing games where you are playing against, and interacting with, other players. This whole world is subject to a whole lot of arcane rules and etiquette the kids pick up fairly quickly, but is also obviously subject to the whims of the people running it.

There are also the usual dispiriting online spats between friends where someone gives some people access to a game but not others, or kicks one person out for bad behaviour but lets their best friend behave worse, etc. There are days when this seems to be happening all the time and I have to tell the kids to take a break from it and do something else, and sometimes they even listen to me.

The thing with online play is that your kids can be sitting calmly in the lounge room tooling around on their iPod and you can be sitting a metre away, and a whole world of turmoil can be going on where they show no sign and you have no idea.

For me (and I'm trying not to sound smug here, as I know I don't have this solved) the answer is to try and be involved enough to understand what's going on and be interested in the games and the online world so they will talk to me, and we can talk about the problems as they come up.

There are millions of kids playing Minecraft. Most Minecraft players these days are probably under 13, but there are a lot of adults too.  My kids and I have talked a lot about this, what it means and what they need to keep in mind. We've had a couple of ugly moments, but for the most part, it's been fun and educational and the girls have been handing it well.

There are Minecraft glossaries and guides online you can Google if you want to know how redstone is used, or what a creeper or an Enderman is - this one is a good place to start - but they don't have the words my kids and their friends are using when they talk about interactive play.

Here are the Minecraft words I hear all the time and what they mean:

Minecraft online play words and meanings 

Seed - the code that Minecraft uses to generate terrain and content in worlds you create. There are online directories where people have shared good seeds or people pass them on through word of mouth. The reason these are valued is that without a good seed you have no idea where you will "spawn" to start your game: it could be awesome terrain, or it could be "a bland, uninspiring world full of flat grassland and the odd chicken(that sounds familiar as that's what I got the one and only time I tried to play Minecraft on my own)

Server - any Minecraft player can set up a game on a Minecraft public server and others can join if they have the IP address of the server (which is passed around by word of mouth or found in the Minecraft public server directory)

Admin - person who runs the server, gives access to players and polices behaviour

OP - "give someone OP" - full access to all the available commands. The Admin as someone who is already OP gives OP status to other users. If you are given OP, it is generally bad form to give others OP without permission from the Admin.

Donate - Admins will sometimes ask players to donate money to the server, which is fair enough when it's a couple of dollars to help with the cost of an established game, but can be a bit rich if players are asked to donate as soon as they join, or if it's more than a couple of dollars, or if it's in return for getting a ban removed, etc.

PvP (player vs player) - term refers to interactive play with other online players, but my kids and their friends (in which case others they play with online as well) are using it as a noun to mean the server/game hosting the play, e.g. "I was on an awesome pvp yesterday but I updated my iPod and now I've lost it"

Grief (verb), Griefer (noun - person who griefs) - destroying things others have built, generally causing trouble in the game

Lag (verb) - perform moves that cause the game to lag - a major infraction that can get you banned. Eg flying.

Kick - to be "kicked" is to be kicked out. Not as bad as being banned because you can usually get back in, but it is done as a warning, or in a fit of pique

Ban - you can get banned for griefing, lagging, trolling, speaking in all caps, using annoying phrases like "lol" or "yolo" or... all sorts of things really! I will cover that in Minecraft Part 2...

Wallpaper image by dkjjr at Minebook

Jan 3, 2016

Zoo, Brooklyn Nine Nine and other equally great ways to waste time

Golden Age of Television. It's a great time in history, is it not?

There's more good TV than you'll ever watch (Mad Men, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Fargo, Broadchurch, The Killing, Sherlock, The Thick Of It, Homeland, Narcos, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and more)

There's more kind-of-good TV than you'll ever watch (Orange Is The New Black, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation, The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Doctor Who and more)

There's TV I still haven't watched but which I know is at least kind of good, and likely very good or great (The Fall, Jessica Jones, Master of None, Girls, Transparent, Veep, and more).

There's TV I tried some time ago and have no interest in it so stop talking about it, internet, as if it's as good as the good stuff! (Entourage, The Good Wife - get out).

But, thanks to Netflix (or Stan, or Presto), there is always something at least passably good, and most often actually very good, right at your fingertips. For people my age who grew up on decades of lame to woeful network TV shows, it's amazing how good most of it is, and how much there is.

It's not all "great" television but it is stuff the Golden Age of Television probably makes possible nonetheless, because there's room for every niche as long as everything has high production values and a fast turnaround time.

Here's the stuff I've been enjoying - a mix of good, great and silly:

Better Call Saul
Who didn't love Saul in Breaking Bad?  This is very different but didn't disappoint.  I love him even more now. Plus he's kinda hot. I know!!

The Delivery Man
Really pretty silly. Cop becomes midwife and reverse-sexist shenanigans ensue.  Also has Jenny from Cold Feet (remember Cold Feet?) Mildly funny and easy to watch.

6-episode doco series with melodramatic narration, each episode re-enacting 3 stories of people who survived horrific animal attacks. Includes interviews with the survivors, and representations of the animal bites using x-ray-style graphics of teeth and skeletons, complete with blood and bone crunching noises. Shamefully awesome.

Finally! Season 2!! I love this show. I love it more than Jake obviously loves Amy. Which is a lot.

Some movies:

The Awakening, Case 39, Let The Right One In
Good supernatural horror

Passengers, Unknown, Chloe
Ridiculous but enjoyable psychological suspense/thrillers. 

Just saw this and loved it. Awesome (I mean I was actually awed) movie. Not really what I expected and left me thinking (unlike most of the other things on this list...)

And back to TV: my current show of choice:

Oh this is so good. It has an awesome premise (the world's animals have had enough, and are en masse turning on people), but is not great in execution.  It could have been a lot better - or maybe the story is just a bit too silly.  It is fun to watch though. It has a predictably evil global corporation, some beautiful settings, beautiful animals, and it has Billy Burke (the only hot man in the Twilight movies)

It also has Bess Armstrong - remember her?? I think I last saw her in Jaws 3D. But it came back to me, watching her scenes, that she was never a very good actor.  In fact, once I saw her name on the opening credits and started looking for her, that was how I recognised her.

Zoo also has some silly dialogue, cliched characters, leaps of flawed logic and what I believe is probably very inaccurate science (but, you know, I could be wrong). The scenes with animals are also a little weird, because you don't actually see any animal attacks, and the animals are obviously just standing or running as ordered. (The scene with wolves attacking a prison was a scary idea, but looked a bit too much like a group of dogs loping happily towards their off-screen trainer).

There is a thread on Reddit with a link to this review on YouTube which pretty neatly skewers this show. But whatever, it's silly schlocky fun and I'm enjoying it.

My favourite piece of dialogue so far:
"I don't know which was worse, being attacked by lions, or finding out my sister was sleeping with my fiance."

And re-reading this, I think I may be spending too much time watching TV.    


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