Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ye Olde Pile of Vomite

The last two days have been blissful. No commitments; lots of reading; light cooking and generous eating.

I've almost finished Mick Wall's When Giants Walked the Earth, a biography of Led Zeppelin. The book is a journey from confidence to success to swagger and then to arrogance to the point of disappearing up their own arses. And lo, what arses they were! Don't get me wrong - the gap between art and artist doesn't degrade the art for me. When the Levee Breaks still sounds like John Bonham traded his soul for a messianic drum sound, but that doesn't stop him being a wanker. (You can just hear that messianic drum sound sampled in the video in this previous post...)

This afternoon was spent on a drive through the Dandenongs, which is when I realised I wasn't really old enough to enjoy the Dandenongs. Too many self-described "cottages"; too many Devonshire teas; Tooe Manye Extraneous Seconde Vowelles; too many spas, aromatherapy and massage opportunities. The hills and forests are, of course, verdant and beautiful, but Olinda was a car park for the middle-aged. From the back seat E said "It's very quaint... maybe too quaint...". I am very proud of my daughter...

We were escaping Death by Twee when I remembered the last time I was in Olinda when

Mark, Bianca and I visited Olinda Falls. Mushrooms and herbal tea; lots of giggling, magically disappearing Scandanavian tourists and Bianca and I laughing at Mark, who was changing size every time he walked behind a tree or turned a corner on the other side of valley. Very different to Ye Olde Afternoone Tea Cottage, Hemorrhoide Creame Upon Requeste.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Post rosbif and the perfect Christmas dinner. Standing rib eye, roasted perfectly, roast potatoes, Carrots Vichy and zucchini with garlic. We've spent almost the whole day here - my only excursion was to the paper mills to drop off boxes and wrapping. I suppose in the ideal world I'd wait until Boxing Day.

Last night was dinner with my family at Viewbank. Roast pork, turkey, champagne, mum and dad and my sister's family. Saturday night was at Chez Kew for a pre-Christmas do.

This morning was a most relaxed morning...

Given the perfect t-shirt...

Name-tag style it says, "Hello, my name is... Inigo Montoya... You killed my father... Prepare to die..."

Al, Emmy and Will were all perky in the morning and this lasted pretty much all day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today's kinder quotes

Two quotes for the day:
  • W (4), returning home to discover "Wallace and Gromit - The Wrong Trousers" on the teev:
"This is the show with the crafty penguin!"
  • E (11), washing dishes and coming across a Strange Device (a salad spinner):
"If I didn't know what this was for, I'd ask what this was for!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Radio radio radio

I've just returned from doing 45 minutes on a community radio program devoted to bike riding to talk about the Great Big Plan. A friendly chat, really.

Other than work, today has been spent trying to get movie editor software that handles .mov files - the one that came with the camera is rubbish (can't edit individual clips, can't edit music...). Will get there...

Monday, December 15, 2008

F's new camera

textileseahorse has a new camera. She took the above, wonderful photo of progeny W...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

...and what a week it's been

OK, time for a bullet-point list, if I'm to summarize the week:
  • Monday - we launched the Great Big Plan, which included a stakeholder launch by the Premier, followed up by a press conference. My team (a) got the words right; (b) got a few of our green initiatives adopted; and (c) organised all the events. A day of going nuts. This was also the day we collected number one son from an embarrassing locale...
  • Tuesday - Not a bad day, but ruthlessly long. A and I up at 5.00am to do the last cleaning at Collingwood. Three staff briefings on the Great Big Plan, again organised by folks who (laughably) call me the boss, followed by a drive to Prahran to return the keys to Collingwood. Sometime soon I'll find out if I cleaned enough to get my bond back...
  • Wednesday - The day was dominated by two department forums to about 700 - 800 people (in total), at which I both presented a film about the Economics and Transport Modeling team and, because the leadership team had to talk about themselves, spoke about myself for 20 seconds. I said (and this may not be word perfect):
  • "I'm 42, live in Chez Thorn with three children, three cats, two chickens and a Labrador called Bill. I'm also the token introvert on the leadership team. I have a great conceptual mind, but often wonder where I've left my car keys. This is the most fun I've ever had at work, and until they create the role of Philosopher-General, I'm staying here as long as I can."
  • I got two bits of feedback that made me smile. The first was from someone I used to work with who said, "you guys looked so relaxed on stage together - you obviously like each other", which is true. The second was a more personal one. James, who had introduced himself as the "baby of the leadership team" (and five years younger than self), was told later that I look ten years younger than he. It may not be true -trust me, it's not - but it made me laugh to hear it.
  • On Wednesday night, I was there to brief a community/local council group on the Great Big Plan. Almost two hours of light, aggressive questioning ("why aren't you greener? nicer? better?"), I was allowed to leave.
  • Thursday - I can't remember the morning, but the afternoon was spent at our division Christmas drinks. I spoke for maybe three minutes (I promised it wouldn't be too long) about the last few months and what we'd achieved etc etc... Jim, Brandon and Terry turned up, and one of our Ministers gatecrashed, which was flattering in a strange kind of way. It turned into a long evening which is, I suppose, the measure of success with a Christmas party.
  • Friday -I got a lot of paperwork done and met with the aforementioned gatecrashing Minister and a stakeholder we thought we had pissed right off with the Great Big Plan (because it wasn't big enough). Some friendly discussion later, the relationship was restored and we all returned to civilian life.
  • Saturday- I got my hair cut. Honestly, who cares?
  • Sunday (today) - The slow yet relentless march towards merging two households continues, although at the moment I feel like I am breaking more eggs than I will ever need for omelets. The pile of boxes is at least getting smaller, and one week after the major furniture move, I must be grateful for small mercies. An afternoon was spent at the Rod Laver Arena watching the Wiggles. The last time I saw the Wiggles was more than 10 years ago, having taken a young Alex. It was in the gym of a primary school in the northern suburbs of Canberra, a few years before they became the powerhouse they are now (*laugh now*). Now, of course, it's in a 16,000 seat stadium. A big stadium and big production values is actually a big improvement... Photos, and some additional words, can be found at textile seahorse.
What a week... Time for spleep...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last year's zeitgeist

Accessed here.

LOLcats aside, this does speak to me of recursion; this does speak to me of recursion; this does speak to me of recursion... etc

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Serenity to chaos

Serenity is sitting on a couch with glass of wine resting on its arm, Siamese on lap, watching telly quietly.

Chaos, on the other hand, is a Labrador racing into room, Siamese leaping off lap, knocking over the glass, leaving only a pool of broken glass and wine.

Fare thee well, Collingwood

The last few days I've been flat out like a flat thing that's just been run over by a large flattening device, having recently celebrated winning the "Miss Flatland 2-D Championship" by being particularly flat. Quite busy, in a word (or two).

Friday Dad helped me move all the furniture out of Collingwood and into Chez Thorn. A skip was ordered to remove 20 years of crap from the repositorial manor, much of which had been taken to Canberra in 1991, returned to Rosanna in 2000, moved to Chez Thorn (Mk1) in 2001 and on to Chez Thorn proper in 2002 and still resides neatly in boxes in the shed, spacious and unloved. An indictment on materialism, probably.

Saturday was spent filling said skip, before dropping kidlets off at mum and dads and going to A Day on the Green to see the Hoodoo Gurus and the Angels. For more detail, and some rather fetching photos, see textile seahorse's posting. I'm the one in paisley.

Betwixt stage and bar, I bumped into a former Ministerial advisor who is still fighting class battles that were waning when we were born. The points I won for attendance (honest, working class music) were stripped as soon as Raoul saw me off to the reserved section.

Today (Sunday) was spent removing the last of my goods and chattels from Collingwood and cleaning. Despite a relatively normal neurochemistry, I remain relentlessly cheerful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mark in HDR

Mark and I were talking about various photo effects, and trying to work out how many bracketed photos my camera takes. This was the same afternoon we were talking about the Orton effect, which led to this photo.

This was a test, which I later realised I could test out the HDR function in potatoshop. Not great, but worthwhile.

The answer was three, by the way.

Ice Cream Duck

Ice Cream Duck
Originally uploaded by Hopkinsii
We were having dinner with mum and dad and Alex helped himself to ice cream. When I saw him trying to make a snowman, I laughed and made a remark. He turned his back on me, and after several minutes of work, revealed The Ice Cream Duck...

Monday, November 24, 2008


Derek Guille was on the radio this evening talking to some cabaret artists.

One was talking about the importance of having a message, a point or at least some pain to convey with cabaret, and remembered an experience watching a cabaret in New York.

The singer introduced a song with a lament.
"The last few months have been very hard for me. I've been looking after my mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and watching her lose all her... *bursts into song* "Memories.... Light the... ""

Orton artichokes

I need a pretty flower today.

After the rush and flash of Saturday morning and the disappointment of Saturday afternoon, the rest of the weekend was more relaxing.

I caught up with Mark at Lygon Street on Saturday afternoon, and we came back to Collingwood discussing the Orton effect (hence the photos). Saturday night the kidlets and I had dinner at mum and dad's, and Sunday (23 Nov) we had yum cha (dim sum) at Doncaster, followed by afternoon tea with mum and dad, Anita, Roger and their small ones.

Today, on the other hand, has been less relaxing, albeit more productive. I'm feeling pretty productive, dealing decisively with issues from difficult feedback to staff (with great technical skills; crap relationship skills) to the economics of the divisional Christmas party (OFFS, FAD!*). Now off to dessert at Chez Thorn. I will then come home to (well deserved) flower therapy.

*Oh for Fuck's Sake; Fuck a Duck!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Orton Effect

I had coffee with Mark today at Lygon St and he dropped back to the house on his way home. We were talking about photoshop and the Orton effect, and I thought I'd have another go. I've tried it in the past, but you really need the right sort of photo. This time, I think I might have it...

The photo is a few years old, and is of a white helebore flower growing in the garden at Chez Thorn. It has the correct dreamy glow without an overall blur - pale colours on dark backgrounds seem to do well.

I'm pretty happy with this. A bit too romantic and cliched to want to use too often, but for the right photo it looks pretty damn fine.

An awful way to spend Saturday morning

The real estate agent wanted to let a few people through the house this morning. Scheduled to arrive at 10.00, while mum and dad were to pick the kids up and get them out of the house just before. Of course, people started arriving ten minutes early in droves. The agent let them in (which was understandable - the rain was belting down) and with the kids stuck in the middle about 40 -50 crammed into my tiny, tiny house. Not pleasant.

After a morning of chaos and rushing (dropping Lily off; collecting her etc), I've just discovered I've missed the registration deadline for the corporate games this afternoon. Texted team-mate to say "whoops, sorry...". Not happy....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

That's why it's called "Exhibition Street"

I went to a seminar/roundtable/workshop/thing this afternoon to try and answer the question, "how do we embed climate change consideration into our decision making". Putting aside the fact that the word "mainstreaming" was used by speakers without any apparent irony, the answer was "governance". Which was a bit odd, because I thought governance was the question. So now we have a Rumpelstiltskin problem - we don't know how to solve it but it least it has a name.

Walking back from the workshop, I passed a middle-aged man standing on the corner of Little Collins and Exhibition. He, and I had to look twice to confirm this, was scratching the underside of his chin with a wooden duck.

And that's why I live in Melbourne.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A convex self portrait

..as taken at Chez Thorn. The mirror, unadulterated by self, can also been seen here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tim's Farewell

I've worked with Tim on and off for a few years now. First as competing forces when I was (or least considered myself) a public transport lobbyist, and recently, for the last four months or so, he's been the head of my active transport group.

He's off to manage a team of geo-spatial researchers in another government organisation, so we had a lunch of Tiffins at work (Tim was reluctant to go out for lunch). A long table was set up, sitar music was played and curry and fizz were internalized.

Jenny talked about meeting Tim when she was doing her PhD in the early 1970's and produced a somewhat faded copy of his monograph on accessibility and urban density. I spoke briefly about the last few years, my admiration for him as a great policy brain and gentleman (not a term to use lightly) and, having spoken to his future Exec Director, assured everyone that I thought her intentions were honourable.

Tim, rather typically, then spent 20 minutes thanking pretty much everyone in the room.

Tim's the one standing in the middle left. Cameraphone photo heavily tweaked with photoshop...

Monday, November 10, 2008

How many people is a driver?

I read a draft document today which contained the beautiful sentence:
"There is approximately 1.08 people per vehicle - the driver."
...and his hamster, presumably. Or maybe he's put on weight.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jumping on eggs

This was posted in boingboing a few months ago, and for some reason it popped into my head today.

The highlight is the expression on the final presenters face. "And that's it, is it?"

Rage Against the Horn Section

I've just discovered the Apples.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Today's warning and ABC Science

Catalyst, ABC TV's current science show, offered the following warning to viewers:
"The following program contains scenes of fish harvesting that may distress some viewers."
Thanks for that.

But all is not totally stupid at Aunty's science department. Listening to RN on Monday night (I started this filthy habbit when the Olympics were on my normal station and haven't been able to give it up), Robyn Williams of the Science Show introduced Ben Goldacre, whose column in the Guardian, Bad Science, has been favorite reading of mine for a few years. The interview was mostly about the conspiracy theory coverage of the MMR vaccine and the damage that poor journalism has done to science and public health, but started with a declaration of interest. Ben Goldacre turns out to be William's nephew.

I know, it's not much, but as fans of both it made me smile. Bertie Wooster would have assumed eating fish must run in the family.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomorrow is a big day

Tomorrow I announce a new organisational structure at work. A part of me has been dreading this for a few months, but our structure doesn't meet our needs and it's not helping people. Not enough clarity of purpose, not enough clarity of responsibility. This feels like the most grown up part of the job so far, but I have too many people in the team to not feel a huge sense of responsibility. I've spoken to everyone who's going to be effected and I think it should be ok, but until it's over I'm going to keep worrying.

That's enough moaning. I have a job I love and it's a complete package.

I paid no attention to the Melbourne Cup yesterday. A horse won.

On the other hand, we paid a lot of attention to the US election today, dedicating a room to ongoing coverage. Adrian and Malcolm did their best Antony Green impersonations, flicking between CNN and the web. And lo, there was much rejoicing. A horse did not win.

Congratulations instead go to my flickr contact who is now the President elect.

Unfortunately, all day I've been imagining Barak Obama surveying the global credit meltdown with Bob the Builder, who asks, "can we fix it?" "Yes we can."

Good luck, for what it's worth. And if you need any assistance from a pathologically upbeat claymation builder who explains environmentalism to his anthropomorphic earth moving equipment, Bob's your man. "Can we fix it?" Errrr... I hope so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A few dot points

Short of organising my thoughts into coherent paragraphs, I offer a series of bullet points:
  • Friday was spent at an organisational planning day at Fenix, on Bridge Road. It was productive, but the thing that stick most in my head was the frank discussion a few of us had at the end about the toll the last few months is taking. Personal relationships are being tested, as is sobriety and patience. A uniform pressure is becoming a series of individual reactions, none of them constructive.
  • Saturday (yesterday) was spent at the races for Derby Day. I know nothing about horse racing, and while I will cheerfully admit to many vices, gambling isn't one of them. Fun, laughter, horses and crowds, bookended by a tram ride. Bernie (mon host) and I spent oooh, almost five minutes talking about work, so in that regard we were very disciplined.
  • Today Emily and I were supposed to go to the Whittlesea Show, but the traffic was banked up 10 km from Whittlesea so we gave up. Instead we dropped in to visit mum and dad, freshly back from South America; then marinara at Thornbury and now tapping away.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Uncontaminated by bike

Previous tenants in the house I live in warned my about the neighbours, in particular that they would expect me to keep my front porch swept (?) It's a tiny area (a couple of square metres, if that) that's right on the street and is always covered in leaves. I don't mind too much.

I got home last night to discover it was certainly less cluttered than when I left for work. Some bastard has decontaminated my porch of the stain that was my bicycle. Sigh.

Collingwood: Beautiful one day; hey, who's pinched my bike?

Church graffiti

Seen last night:
Going to church makes you a good person in the same way that standing in a garage makes you a car.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Opening a bike cage

Last Wednesday was Ride to Work Day, and we opened a new bike cage at work.

It looked like this.

The front row from right to left is Emma, Glenyys, me, Liz, Annie, somebody, Karriane, Michael, somebody and in the back with orange shirt is Vincent. Vincent is also father of the evil Amanda, the only woman who can cheerfully call me a c#$% and know she will get away with it.

This was the day a conspiratorial journalist from the local tissue described the most effective cycling lobby group as a essentially a tool of my evilness. I met with said group the next day and said that if they were the tool of my evilness, they should submit to my demands. Their CEO joked that he was only there to receive orders... The head of the branch in my team that usually deals with the lobby group said "I thought I was here to get YOUR orders...". Ahhh... government..... We're all just getting each others orders...

Cement Museum

Today's discovery - a quote from the Geelong Advertiser, 22 September this year, pg 17. The caption under a photo of a beautiful Victorian Gothic bluestone building read:
"The Geelong Cement Museum will be open and has 27 rooms of history and memorabilia to peruse. One of the rooms (right) has an extensive display
of stones."

This weekend

This weekend has been a slow, relaxing one. I went to the market at St Andrews with Mark and Bianca on Saturday morning. We wandered around discussing previous times we had been to the market, only then after very late nights, sweating and with mad eyes staring out of pale faces and a compulsion to buy decorative rubbish. Sitting in the shade drinking coffee, we bumped into Annie from work who had cycled to the market from Hurstbridge (!) with a group of friends.

Much time was spent mooching at home, cleaning and watching the Dune mini-series that I'd be meaning to see for years. If I'd have known it was going to be as bad as it was, I'd have waited a few more. Bad acting, direction and the silliest effects - at one point a little desert mouse (which has some significance in the story if you didn't know) was given life as a CGI muppet, looking like Tutter from "Bear in the Big Blue House".

Worked a little, making comments on the latest version of the grand plan, having been woken before 6 by the neighbors playing eurotrash techno.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More Patti Smith

Photo taken last Sunday night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Balloons low over Collingwood

Excuse the rubbish photos, but there were a few hot air balloons out this morning, seemingly very low. Certainly low enough for an intimate peek through windows in the Wellington St flats.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No longer the funniest Palin

Nuff said, as by a childhood hero.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Patti Smith

E and I had a late Sunday night (especially for her) seeing Patti Smith at Hamer Hall. I'd gone with moderated expectations, half expecting a quiet night of poetry and perhaps a mostly acoustic set. I also expected lots of grey hair in leather jackets, and there at least my expectations were precisely met.

The venue didn't help - I'm sure Hamer Hall is a great venue for a chamber orchestra, but the last couple of times I've been there the formality of the place has been a distraction. We saw Dweezil Zappa and his band there last year, and although the band was breathtakingly tight and exuded fun from every sweaty pore, watching them from perched up in the balcony felt like watching a football game at the MCG - detached, but knowing that somewhere, someone was having a lot of fun. A few weeks ago we saw Bill Bailey, which wasn't so bad, partly because we were sitting closer, but also because he had an impressive set. A one-man performer knows he can't personally fill the stage so builds in a bit of visual fat - surreal stage decoration and rock-show lighting.

But fuck expectations and crash through the formality of the venue - she just rocked it up. She shook and danced through the first half of the set, her hands twitching and shaking, shedding a mad excess of kinetic energy. By "Rock and roll nigger", the second or third song into the set, the band was pumping and had brought the audience with them. She finished the (pre-encore) set with a couple of covers: "Smells like teen spirit" and "Gloria".

A couple of times I said to a tired-looking E, "Do you want to go now?" She looked at me like I was slightly barking and, frowning, said "No, I'm good", and we stayed for the final encore.

Next time she's here, I'm taking Al.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Breakfast in the sun

E, W and I walked down to the place a few doors down to have breakfast. It's becoming an enjoyable habit every couple of weeks. We sat outside in a courtyard under a frangipani , shielded from the hot north wind (in October?) and laughed. E and I are going to see Patti Smith tonight, so possibly some late night posting.


Friday, October 10, 2008

The Wiggles offer no protection

W has a mask of the new yellow Wiggle, Sam. It's pretty creepy, and looks like this:

It's made of cheap and flimsy plastic - the sort you could easily fold in half. Which is why, no doubt, someone with a taste for the obvious suggested the need for the disclaimer.

I wonder what sort of protection they had in mind. Protection from nuclear fallout? "Do not use as a motorbike racing helmet"? "Offers only meager protection from the legal profession."

Council Committee Room

Two hours unnecessarily spent in a committee room at Parliament. And all I have to show is this...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Set Metaphizer to "mix"

Mixed metaphor of the day goes to.... me, admittedly for a deliberate one. I was describing the challenge of doing what we'd be expected to do with only the meager resources available as "making a silk purse from the smell of an oily rag". Not my best, but not bad...

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Moving forward into the future"

... is a phrase I heard many times today. To be fair, I hear it a few times almost every day, and it never fails to give me the complete and utter shits. "Moving forward into the future"?! What the fuck??

The existence of a future is inevitable, at least as far as I know, or indeed to anyone who isn't taking anti depressants or believes they will be rapturized in a glow of holy light. To get to the future I just have to wait. No moving forward, backwards or any other direction necessary. Just sit still and wait. Try it - go on.

See? The future arrived without any moving forward into it. Now try it backwards. Still works...

The next person who says "moving forward blah blah blah" in earshot will get a lusty round of me singing "I'm walking backwards for Christmas" by Spike Milligan, which makes slightly more sense to me than moving forward into the future. And yes, that's despite Article 117b(ii) of the Geneva Convention which prohibits me from singing within 500 metres of a populated area.

OK, rant dispensed, today's highlight was sitting unexpectedly in a meeting with three Ministers, half a dozen mayors and hearing the word "Winkipop" uttered by a Minister in reference to a court case. You can only smile. And repeat: "Winkipop". "Winkipop." Wonderful....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Daylight savings begins

Sunday night, the first night of daylight savings. Work seems to be going surprisingly well - I usually feel things are out of control, but I seem to be on top of things at the moment. Let's see how long that lasts. It helps (unfortunately) that I spent a couple of hours working today; partly in the office, partly at home, but I did manage to spend much of the day at Chez Thorn. Completed another Myers-Briggs test (third in 18 years; not too bad I guess), made dinner for all (Vietnamese chicken and corn soup) and started thinking about my next house move.

I will miss here (a little), and I will miss the peace, but some things are worth a little chaos.

Last week I gave a presentation (see here) of which some video evidence was created. A few seconds to remember the gig...

I spent an hour today editing the first draft of the document I'm talking about in the video, and preparing a presentation on our latest data. Lots of work still to be done...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Name change

After F made the suggestion, I've decided to just accept the compliment and rename this "Urbane Scrumping". So there.

Thursday night

...and I'm stuffed. Home late, delivered curry. A day debating the relative merits of projects from within my own division. How do I compare transport social policy (ie transport disadvantage) with the need to make our transport network more sustainable? And first thing in the morning I'm expected to talk about how we make Melbourne safer.

Can I have a moment to think about these things?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Purple Haze

Tonight we saw Bill Bailey tonight - fantastic.


Quote of the day, at least until before we go to see Bill Bailey. W said , "old people sometimes have to walk with a handle."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Collingwood Children's Farm

Lunch at the Abbortsford Convent would have been much more fun if I wasn't so worried. We'd been to the Children's Farm, and while visiting the goats Emily said "Ow!", and showed me four symmetrical puncture wounds/insect bites on her wrist, laid out in snakebite pattern. She couldn't say what had caused it; insect, reptile or sharp plant? Because we were just around the riverbend from where Mark was bitten by a tiger snake a few years ago, resulting in weeks in hospital and more than a year of recovery, I couldn't let it rest.

A quick phone call to Mark and he assured me we'd know if it was a snakebite. Of course, Emily was completely relaxed about the whole thing and couldn't understand the fuss.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A short (yet long) week

It's Thursday night and I'm exhausted. Was at work from 8.00am to 7.00pm, which is not my normal day by any means, and I'm not someone who is impressed by long hours. But we are working on a once in a decade (I hope) strategy with the promise of significant funding at the end, so I'm keen to keep moving with the promise of rest soon. It's school holidays so I'm not working tomorrow, or at least not working in the office.

I gave a presentation today to 150 or so people from the organisation I work for; a presentation that I think I've now given almost a dozen times to various audiences. A handful of regional and metropolitan round table events with Ministers; some local forums led by backbench government MPs; and now twice to my colleagues. Why do we need a transport plan? What's the context? What will it do? How do we as a society allocate funds to transport needs against other competing needs? I've been really pleased at not only the willingness for people to engage, but the breadth of vision, tempered with realism, that most have shown.

I got home late, ate a scratch dinner and in the background there's a documentary about Kim Peek on the teev. What I found most interesting about it is the suggestion of trade-offs in mental abilities that we (as a species) have had made for us. While Kim has an almost photographic memory as a result of his condition, he does not have a well developed theory of the mind, and the implicit suggestion is that there is only so much brain we have available to devote to the tasks we perform to survive and prosper - an economic argument of scarcity applied to our mental resources. But, unlike economic decisions about the allocation of scarce resources, we have no choice. We get given an ability to understand other people and what they might be thinking, or we get a photographic memory. No opportunity for trade in; no choice. You get what you are given and you deal with it.

During the transport plan consultation exercises, occasionally the suggestion of an "independent commission" to determine our land use and transport planning decisions is raised. The idea is that these decisions are somehow too important to be left to politicians and must be made by independent wise heads. But although I'm a public/civil servant/potential wise head (ok, stretch there...), the notion that people like me should be making these decisions is staggering. I can think of nothing more political than decisions about whether we invest in trains or beds in a cancer ward. There is no formula to answers these questions - this is a judgment call pure and simple.

Sure, benefit-cost ratios are an attempt to answer these kind of questions, but the assumptions that support them are ultimately political in that they put a financial value on things that either cannot be valued or are valued wildly differently by different people, or differently by the same people at different times. Cancer ward beds are incredibly valuable to those whose loved ones are dying, but less so to the young and invulnerable. Trains are really important to those of us who work in the city, but not much value to plumbers with a 20-a-day habit.

So this, to my mind, is the value of a politician. Someone has to make the impossible trade-offs; someone has to make the most appalling decisions and live with them. How much prosperity now? How much later? How much healthcare? How much education? Who is going to divide the cake when everybody wants a big slice with extra icing right this instant? Only an idiot would stand up and say "I want to make that decision."

And that's why we have democracy. So we can get rid of those idiots. And replace them with other idiots.

But don't worry - we'll get around to getting rid of those new idiots the next time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday afternoon at Thornbury

Lily on the windowsill

This time last week

...we'd walked up to Retro on Brunswick Street for a late breakfast.



...and Eggs Benedict. For the record, I had the vegetarian breakfast.

Optical Illusion

Two weeks ago I was at a forum/consultation exercise at Docklands and saw one of the best decorated modern buildings in the city(the one in the photo below).

It was a few months ago when I standing in the foyer of a nearby building with Graham, admiring the sight of this wonderful optical illusion. I pointed it out, and made some remark about how well the optical illusion has been incorporated. He looked at me blankly for a few seconds, looked back at the building and finally looked back at me with a quizzical look. "What optical illusion?"

After a few minutes of explaining I gave up... He was sure I was kidding.

Thursday, September 18, 2008



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday morning

Excuse the twitter-esque beginning to the day, but it's early, I have the doors open (listening to the birds, then the traffic) and I'm about to walk to work. So far, living is here is what I'd hoped it would be.

Unlike this, at the Large Hadron Collider...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things not to do when anyone's watching...

This is from the old blog - dragging a few things over that were important enough not to leave behind. Yes, I do think this was worth bringing - draw your own conclusions....

This one doesn't come anywhere near the top ten of things not to do in front of children (unlike say, genocide which is probably at number one) but as Jeeves might say "I couldn't advise it Sir." Accordingly, the following instructions should come with some sort of warning or qualification. They don't.
  1. Prepare to cook fish.
  2. Use aerosol olive oil to grease pan.
  3. Accidentally make brilliant flame.
  4. Deliberately make brilliant flame.
  5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.*
  6. Cook fish, wondering how the stove got so oily.
*Yes, it IS still fun after the fourth go.

Meet a black person!

Love the gentle (but still pointed) humour of this...

Meet a Black Person from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

"Goose writ large"

...was her mother's description.

Public Affairs

Up until a few months ago, I ran the Public Affairs area of a state government department - communications, media management, web, speeches etc. Media conferences, Q&A's, doorsteps (a "press conference lite") and the occasional tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy-theorist journalist often make me wish we'd had one of these...

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

Years ago I had to do my first live radio interview - the organization I worked for was relocating patients from a hospice at very short notice (for their own safety). The announcer asked:

"the patients in the hospice - are any of them suffering from serious medical conditions?"

I stuttered a bit and said "well, yes" (politeness turned up), rather than "yes, the people here have serious medical conditions: it's a hospice. People come here to die". Some sort of intelligent mechanical device might have been useful at this point, preferably one with weapons and a low stupidity threshold.

But fuckwittage is not the sole preserve of journalists. A year or two after the hospice conversation I accompanied a former boss to a function involving all the Lord Mayors of Australia's capital cities. Melbourne's then Lord Mayor wanted to focus attention on the number of heroin ODs in Australia at that time, and the meeting was dominated by discussion of harm minimization. At the press conference after the meeting, Lord Mayor Peter Costigan of Melbourne stood up before the city media and offered an inadvertant bonnest of all possible mots:

"...if we want to do something about the problem of heroin and drugs in the inner cities, we need to roll up our sleeves and expand our minds."

No apparent irony; no second thoughts. Fantastic.

A new beginning

Why "Urban Scrumping"? In his show, Part Troll, Bill Bailey talks about growing up in the West Country of England and "scrumping" - stealing apples from trees, which he described as "basically fruit larceny." "I mean, you can't steal a stereo and call it urban scrumping."

I moved to Collingwood this week, within walking distance of the Melbourne CBD (and work), having spent the last twelve months in the northern shires, about 35km from the city (more than an hour in the morning). Lots of emus, kangaroos and cockatoos, and rolling hills as far as the eye can see, although that's not very far because we were in a valley...

I started a blog a few months ago and it tailed off into nothing pretty quickly. This time I have enough headspace to devote to this, or at least at this particular time I do - let's not make promises too far in advance. This blog will be a by-product of my life rather than a machine that I will be slave to. Some personal reflections will definitely appear, although probably very little of the most pressing things on my mind. Perhaps that will change; no guarantees.

A few of the early posts will be dragged over, kicking and screaming, from the old blog. This is so I can let that one fade away without the need for links.