so, hi

It’s going to take time to flex those writing muscles again.

I need to figure out what to do with this space. I’ve not touched it in so long, it’s almost imposing to have to think about where to take it and where I want to go with it.

The era of personal blogs is over; there’s no one out there publishing personal pieces without some motivation to be an influencer or an ulterior angle on what a web-exposed ‘diary’ of sorts would be.

But is the era of personal websites over, too?

38 weeks later

How time flies. You’d think if you’re counting the weeks, and you’re counting up 38 of them, you’ve got so much time. That’s 38 x 7 days, which is… (mental maths) 266…ish days? That’s a decent number of days!

The secret you learn after finding out is that these dates are approximations. No-one can quite pinpoint the starting or ending date, so there’s a rule-of-thumb that is applied, and it only lands on the actual date about 5% of the time.

Now, if you’re clueless like I was 38 or so weeks ago, what I’m talking about here is pregnancy.

I’m about to be a father. Indeed, any day now, it would seem. As of this week, from a medical standpoint, the baby is good to go.

No one asks the parents-to-be if they’re good to go, because frankly speaking, I’m not sure we are. There’s no textbook, no accredited course, no licence, no piece of paper they’ll hand you to say it’s ok, you can probably handle what is coming. We’ve done our best, we’re doing the classes, we’re working through everything we think we need, we have all the advice we could hope for & then some, but how do you actually know you’re ready to be a first-time parent? I’d posit that you just don’t. It happens and then you figure it out.

Kinda like life, only even more so, because now you’re doing it for yourself as well as for another life that’s entirely dependent on you.

Continue reading “38 weeks later”

Movie Review: Tenet

The movies are back! And who better to bring it back than Christopher Nolan. But how does one describe a movie like Tenet?

It’s like Christopher Nolan made a Bond movie, except with a more diverse cast.

It’s like Inception met Interstellar at a really loud party hosted by The Dark Knight Rises. It’s worth seeing it once in the cinema, but you’re going to want to watch it a second time at home some time later so you can (a) pause it to figure out what the heck is going on, and (b) turn on closed captions so you can figure out what the heck the characters are saying

I’m going to go spoileriffic from here. Read on if you’ve watched it – if you haven’t, come back when you have!

Continue reading “Movie Review: Tenet”


Hey so remember when 2020 started and the nation was on fire and we’d just had 2 years of severe drought and we thought, how screwed are we? None so screwed. Only then, February rolled around, and so did some ex-tropical storms bringing half a decade’s worth of rain to be the saviour, and whilst it was wet, lo, it was also good.

Only then, we kinda realised all this time we’d been thinking about our petty little problems in this country, and China had given a heads up about some bad stuff going down with some people who were getting sick in new and novel ways. And so it was that we learned of coronaviruses, and this how this one was to be called SARS-CoV-2, and the thing it caused was COVID-19, and oh heck we just called it coronavirus and stopped drinking that beer.

I think there was one good weekend in there, and we used it to look around at houses way beyond any kind of affordability. FML.

Wow has it been a long couple of months.

A key activity for me since early March has been doomscrolling. Super descriptive, isn’t it? Just scroll-scroll-scroll, try to absorb how doomed we are, try to understand what’s happening, seek happy, escapist thoughts.

I’ve learned way more about epidemiology than I ever expected. I’ve learned way more about infection pathways and the way these strange semi-living things interact, about how the medical system works, about how data should be presented and the logistic curve and how it makes sense that large volume bulk goods are the most visible in the event of a run and indeed just how to get on with things when it all goes sideways.

In hindsight, I wish I’d blogged more when it started, just so I can go back and reflect. I think we went into working from home from the 2nd week of March, or was it the third? Either way, things got weird. My wife too was working from home within days of me being there, and we’ve learned all kinds of things about how we behave at work, albeit in unusual circumstances.

Far too many video calls. The bane of my workday, and then people want to hop online for zoom calls after work? Bah humbug. I need to escape to the room for an hour at the end of the day just to decompress from dealing with these calls.

I thought I’d be more productive with all this time saved and nowhere to go and nothing to do. That certainly didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted. Sure I’ve saved on commute time, but now I need deliberate time for physical activity.

Oh yeah, I’ve been walking, a lot, and regularly. I’m posting my progress for others to see to keep me honest, otherwise I’d cut corners. It’s worked just great until today, but as it gets colder and darker, it gets harder and harder.

Other than the walking and the doom scrolling, the world of video games has been a welcome escape, especially the ones where you’ve got (mostly) omnipresent control. Civilisation, Simcity, and then The Battle of Polytopia, just sucking time away as I find the little strategic moves to own the world.

Tomorrow, the lockdown eases a little, allowing us to visit two at a time for social calls. It seems to have come too soon, and I despair that it’s not been long enough for the world to change, and yet it’s been too long for people to have survived it unscathed.

I don’t know how to describe this situation adequately, it feels like I’m too scatter-brained right now to keep a narrative straight. I’ve struggled to watch movies, struggled to keep focus on a book. I’m not sure if it’s the stress and distraction or if it’s just the constant being-in-the-same-four-walls that’s getting to me… I deeply desire change and yet there’s a strange comfort to the routine I’ve surrounded myself with right now.

Strange times indeed.

The Web of Broken Links

I went to link to this today, because I thought it was hilarious and insightful and speaks to something within me as a frequent traveller: “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sleeping Positions on a Plane” from The Washington Post – and since I found it especially perfect a post, I thought I’d put it here on my blog.

And then I got to thinking: I have a whole lot of links here… how many still live to this day?

It’s truly depressing to explore.

Many of those links that landed on personal sites are broken entirely; people don’t maintain their websites for decades, they move on and find new homes for their worlds, if any. You’re not always there to notice until it’s years too late, a site you read every day that someday stopped publishing and you didn’t realise.

And equally, on the sites that survive, the rubble of broken links litters their sites.

These ones were perhaps those hosted on long-lived entities like Blogspot, and somehow still remain, a once-populated site that no longer updates. A favourite blog to read for me, Tequila Mockingbird, published its last post 12 or so years ago, at the tail end of 2007, a post like any other that gave no idea that the author wouldn’t return.

If you try to go anywhere outwards from there, it’s just as likely as not to lead to a broken link. How would we ever piece the web back together? Do we need to default every 404 to fall back to a web archive search?

The impermanence of the web is perhaps as much a feature as a bug; the ability for these words to be removed from the web with a push of a button perhaps a blessing for some, history that is erasable in a way that doesn’t even leave a physical trail.

On the other hand, pity the poor historians and archaeologists of the future, finding a web of broken links that hinted at something more vast and interesting than they can ever grasp, like Fermat’s last theorem fitting in the margins of history but the original pages never found, simultaneously mundane and profound.


The year is now 2020.

14 years ago, I started this site as I was planning a move from Melbourne to Sydney. Previously, I’d been publishing on a friend’s server, buried in a subfolder, but that’s when the site came into its own. So now, with this post, I’ll have published items in 3 different decades – ain’t that a thing about getting old.

Right from the start, this site has been about my own political observations – one of the very first things written here was about the Cronulla Race Riot in December 2005, a decidedly unwelcome event for someone just about to move to the city.

It seems to have been an isolated incident of sorts, in hindsight, as we never quite got to something so nakedly racist on the streets of Australia again, but it left a high water mark – a new edge for the Overton window to nudge up against. And to some degree, you’d think over the years we’d nudged the Overton window the other way, with things like the Apology to the Stolen Generations, but that turned out not to be the case. We go into 2020 with the Conservatives in power across the US, UK, Australia, India, Russia… so many places of influence holding back and pushing towards a long-lost golden age without really understanding why that golden age existed in the first place.

Australia is on fire. I mean it in the worst possible way; at the time of writing, some 5.8 million hectares have been burnt, more than the Amazon fires of 2019, millions of tonnes of CO2 unleashed into the atmosphere just as we don’t need it, an estimated 500 million wild animals dead, a government in disarray as to how to respond, towns on the coast being evacuated by the Navy because there’s no other way out and the only safe place is to shelter on the beach because nothing can burn there after all.

14 years ago, I didn’t think that was coming. I knew global warming was an issue, but I didn’t know that we had such little time to turn the tide. I hoped that someone in charge knew what needed to be done; I voted along the lines that I thought would make a difference, but 14 years on, we’re still where we were, a brief flirtation with doing the right thing now six, seven years ended, and a government apparently in utter denial about what it takes to get it right.

A lot changed in that time.

A lot needs to be done still.

How do we start? Plant a tree. Speak to your neighbours about the issues. Figure out how you can reduce your impact. Talk to your family about what is coming, and how we can act to overcome that. Call your local MP at the state and federal level, speak to your councillors. Ask them what they’re doing, because we’ve seen now what it means to have warming truly come home to roost, and if we don’t want to live in a Mad Max world in our lifetimes, then we need to start changing it now.

Let’s make 2020 the year that you make a difference.

Three and a half years on

Three and a half years ago, in a fit of madness, I decided I had enough of having free time, and signed up to go back to university for an MBA.

Boy, did I underestimate how much time that would take up.

Even more so than that, I didn’t think of how much might change between starting & finishing that degree. And change it did.

Just over three years ago, I met someone – talking to her on a whim, taking the chance, and found myself entranced. I’ve mentioned obliquely here about her, but truly, she became a part of my world in a way that I’d never thought I would encounter. The other half of my soul I didn’t even realise was missing. She is passionate, caring, filled with humour and hope and a drive that pushes me to be better and do more than ever. She is an embodiment of what I hope people would be more like; I’m besotted by my love for her.

Little surprise then that I married her not long after meeting her, and now we’re a year married and settling in to life together. This singular event of committing to spending your life with another person has been something that has shifted my perspective in ways I could not have anticipated, and I want to go back to Karan from three and a half years ago and tell him what’s coming so he could embrace it even more quickly than I did.

I thought three and a half years ago that I knew a little about the world, and hoped that I would be able to make a difference – grand dreams of changing and shaping the outcomes. Now, those grand dreams remain – but I find myself knowing more than I ever did, and in doing so, finding the challenge greater than ever.

The world has changed for the worse in my view over the last few years. It’s enough to make one give over to selfishness when you see that people act in those ways. The Australian election in May 2019 felt like a pivotal moment, a rejection of the things that would help us move forward and solve generational problems, and it did indeed make me despair for some months. But… in the end I’m still convinced that things need to change for the better, and it takes work to make that relevant and possible.

Change – truly transformational change – takes longer and more work than I had ever thought. If I’m to make change happen, I need to start more locally, more specifically, build coalitions, build momentum, and use those things I’ve learned in the last three years in ways I had never understood or anticipated. I hope that I keep my motivation to do so over time.

What do I plan to do with this website?

I have thought for some time about whether to maintain this site, an exercise from an era that pre-dated social media and all the services that emerged in the past decade to cater for the desire to share thoughts. Indeed, I spend at least an hour a day on Twitter, largely sharing thoughts piecemeal, so what purpose of this site?

In the end, I came to the conclusion that the site is part of my identity; part of the record of my history, a record of my thoughts that I had been willing to share publicly, and there’s value in that. I consider how we learn the history of centuries past from the diaries and letters of individuals, and I hope in some small way my reflections here contribute to the future – or indeed the present.

So my plans for this site is to return to it as a focus for me to write reflections, thoughts, opinions, and sharing things of interest that I suggest have some more permanence than the little iterations of thoughts on social media from me.

I plan to write up reflections of the past three and a half years of learning; I plan to share more developed ideas and opinions that I think merit sharing; I plan to build my writing skills through sheer volume, and hopefully restore some sense of purpose to this space in pushing the boundaries of what is around me, my family, my community.

For those of you who have read this site for many years and have stuck around, I thank you for your time & attention in following my ramblings. Whilst I write for myself, it is through the comments and feedback and the words of others that I get that I learn more about things than I can ever hope to do so on my own.

On Problem Solving

I caught myself today acting a bit strange. [Ed: you finally noticed?]

Ok ok I mean stranger than usual. [Ed: how could you tell?]

Conversations with imaginary editors [Ed: oi] aside, I found myself sitting in my car, having returned from a busy day at work, playing a game I found yesterday called Really Bad Chess. It’s an interesting little game where, in order to level the playing field for people who kinda know enough to play chess but are – frankly – really bad at it, the playing pieces are mixed up. You still play by the same rules, but instead of having an AI that plays dumb – because a grandmaster-beating AI is easily available in your pocket these days – you get different proportions of pieces to make the game interesting.

It’s a fascinating game, and especially so for me, because I’m… pretty bad at chess. I tend to think far too reactively or tactically, or I recklessly lose patience and try to slam home an advantage that usually quickly evaporates.

So here I was, on my way home, a hundred little things to do, and instead I’m sitting in my car, trying to solve this particular iteration of the game. I’m solving this game dammit before I go home.

And that’s when it hit me: I spent the whole day solving problems at work, and then during my zone-out time on the train home, I chose to spend my time solving a problem – a virtual one, entirely of my own making and inconsequential as I chose to make it – because I’m addicted to the hit of solving an intellectual problem.

It’s not just this particular game – I’ve done it with games like Threes or Alto’s Oddessey recently. These are defined problem spaces where I can largely figure out the rules and get to the solution in a reasonable amount of time, and it fascinates me and holds my attention way longer than you’d expect.

I wonder if there’s more productive ways to spend my time than getting dopamine hits from solving games. Anyone else experience the same?

Sonder through public meditation

If you’ve not experienced sonder [ref]”The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.” (wiktionary)[/ref] before, or not done so in a while, here’s a neat public meditation exercise that you can do that’ll open up new worlds:

Pick any person sitting, or standing, across from you. Someone you can stare at without seeming creepy. Focus on that person and get a good feel for their energy and who they are.

Shift to a soft focus on that person and picture them in their happiest moments — Hugging a friend, picking up their kids from school, reuniting with someone they love, celebrating after some good news.

Now, picture them in their saddest moments and imagine what they would look like when feeling low. Feel their sadness and despair with them.

Channel your most loving energy, and thoughts, and put it on that person. Make them feel the love and happiness you’re projecting onto them. Imagine their remaining life feeling fulfilled, whole, and finding peace within themselves.

Ok maybe the “make them feel the love and happiness you’re projecting” bit might go over the creepy-random-stranger line. But y’know, boundaries. (via)

Ceteris Paribus

Change one thing at a time, and hold all others equal – ceteris paribus.

It’s a core of science – to do an experiment, you look at cause and effect by making a cause happen and observing for effect.

Except, just about anything that happens in the real world is not easily explained by a single cause, and so we work backwards from effect to try to puzzle out the causes, because that’s the way that gives you the most truth – the effect is observable and known, but the cause isn’t always clear, not until you repeat and retry and figure out how many strings you need to be tugging on at any one time to get the puppet to dance.

So why do we still believe in the idea of Ceteris Paribus? Why is it useful? Is it because our monkey brains are yet to evolve to the point where we can keep track of explanations that need more parameters, and we figure from there that it’s the best way to do it?

I think I’m asking why humans can’t do multiple regression in our head, except there’s times when we do, we just can’t explicitly explain the steps along the way. Maybe that’s why the people who do best at this stuff get paid the proverbial big bucks to be data scientists, when 10 years ago those people were doing the finance thing, and 10 years before that the internet thing, and 10 years before that the greed-is-good finance thing, and 10 years before that the moonshot thing.

Getting to the moon certainly wasn’t ceteris paribus, in the end. Maybe that’s the lesson to take from all of this – that as much as the idea is useful, reality is more complicated.

p.s. how is it that we’re some 1700 or so years down the line from the peak of the Roman Empire and their language is still the best most succinct way to explain something? Will we see 1700 years hence some quote of the milkshake duck meme will still be the best way to point to a person and go “this dude is problematic”? That’d be mind-blowing.