Cashless Parking; No Change? No Problems.

A few weeks ago I was given a job that involved some work at Monash University. I was reasonably aware that I may need to pay for parking. I never carry cash, so I was ready to combat the cashless parking systems with my credit card. But, as it turned out this was not an option this time.

A Parking Problem

The first stop over I had was at the Peninsula Campus in Frankston. I was ever diligent looking for a free space, but time was a premium so I pulled into a spot and headed over to the pay box. Unfortunately, I never carry change and the few dollars I’d kept in the console of the car had mysteriously vanished. But, armed with a credit card I thought I had the system beat. A swipe with the card on the machine and selecting an hour, as it was the minimum, but NOTHING happened! I tried again, and the result was the same.

I know how ruthless the private parking army can be, so I checked the machine again. It turns out that if you pay with a card the minimum amount payable was ten dollars! Well I wasn’t having that, so I figured I would risk it and went about my job. After a about twenty minutes I returned to my car and happy to see no fine, but they could have made the pay system much easier, in my opinion.

Parking Problems, Part 2

The next stop was at the Clayton campus. Clayton is much bigger and busier that the Peninsula campus, and here they have security guards on all the parking. There was no way I was risking leaving the car without a ticket. I tried to find a spot that was free from pay parking, but there was nothing. Although I’m fairly certain private parking fines can’t be enforced, it was not worth the risk. I decided that if it would cost ten dollars to avoid a fifty dollar fine than it was worth it. After I parked I spotted a sign, something about using a parking app?! Now I love using tech to solve small problems, so I downloaded to app and poked about its innards.

Cashless Parking Solution

Cashless Parking App - Screenshots
PayByPhone Screenshots – Rob Williams 2019

The PayByPhone app was the answer to my cashless parking problems. There was no need for a minimum spend, beyond the usual 1 hour. It did not take very long to set up and I could see myself using the app in the future – I’m very wary of apps that seem to have a singular purpose.

I didn’t think my job was going to take longer than an hour, but some miscommunication meant that it did. The app gave me a warning that the ticket was about to expire and I had the option to pay for more time. This is something that is not possible when using a traditional ticketing system. This by itself makes the app worthwhile, as I have received many tickets purely because a meeting went longer than expected. As you can see in the screenshots, the app saves your parking history, which is excellent when it comes to claiming that parking amount on your tax return, no need to keep hold of those disappearing ink paper receipts!

While I was skeptical at first, as I never like handing over credit card details, I really enjoyed this experience and would happily use it again. In using an app like this there have been many times that I would have avoided a fine. I feel that the app could use some extra information, perhaps a map of paybyphone accepted places. I’m not sure how new this parking system is but I hope it continues to roll out in many more places.

Oh, and when I did return to my car the parking inspectors were in full force.

Feature Image: by Ali Morshedlou on Unsplash

Time Clock

Making the Most of Free Time

One element of poor time management is thinking, ‘this task is too big, it will take too long and I don’t have that much time today’. In times like this you essentially park the task in a tiny 2 DO L8R file in a dark corner of your mind behind the I HOPE IT WILL ALL GO AWAY section. This was my thinking on almost everything; then I found a juicy nugget of FREE TIME.

Making Free Time

In reality there is no such thing as FREE TIME, but rather a structuring of time, reallocating importance and getting value from the time that we have.  Let’s do a thing. Don’t worry it will be painless. Make a sketch of your day, a brief time line of what you need to get done on a daily basis and when you do it; don’t create a fantasy, this is for you only – feel free to burn it when your done.

For the record mine looks like this:

  • 0700 Wake up, lie in bed on phone to 0730.
  • 0730 Get up, do morning stuff – sort kids out for school, and drop them off.
  • 0845 Get home from the school drop off.
  • 0945 Leave for work.
  • 1815 Get Home from work.
  • 1830 Start getting dinner ready.
  • 2030 Chilling on the couch; Kids are all done for the day.
  • 2300 Bed.

When I did this I found that there was a time where nothing was happening, well a few, but lets focus on this one. From 0845 – 0945, was just me time and what was I doing with it? NOTHING! Usually sitting on the couch, coffee in hand watching half of a movie I’d seen ten times before. I was literally killing time until work. So I decided to use it, I took 45 minutes and started doing things. Every morning for about 3 months I worked outside clearing my garden and building a retaining wall, which had been a job 2 years on hold because I didn’t have the time!

Knowing The Time

Understanding how long a tasks takes is imperative to proper task management. In the example of gardening it did not matter, I just did a bit every day and that was that. But because I used a given time, now I know how much work can be done in that 45 minutes. I know how many holes I can dig, how much land I can clear, how fast I can empty a loaded trailer, and many others. This same reasoning can be applied to any task.

Make the Time, Use the Time

Give yourself a time frame, claw back some wasted time our of your day and set a task. How many words can you write in a 15 minutes? What about editing? How long do the dishes really take to do? Once you know these simple questions to tasks, you are free to work on ways to improve and get faster. I have done this same exercise with cleaning, painting, and writing. What do you think you could use it for?

Final Tip

I work best to music, and I set an alarm on my phone for the time period, and I work fully focused until the timer goes off. Then I bask in the glory of a completed task.

Feature Image: Seth Macey on Unsplash

UberEats food delivery

Dinner on the Run; An UberEats Experience

The Hangry Few

Every now and then I need to work nights. Not only do I work nights, but with only two of us there lunch (dinner) options can be limited. But a few nights ago one of my colleagues was talking about using UberEats. I personally had never used Uber for anything – I’m essentially a cave dweller… However, on this night I was starving and had a hankering for something other than what the local fare had to offer. I was skeptical, but I trusted the opinion of those I work with. So I formulated a cunning plan; well not really but you get the idea.

The Plan

I had downloaded the app a few weeks prior, but I had thoughts that told me the prices in Uber and the prices on the menu were quite different. In the end I decided that if a restaurant was going to charge a dollar more to cover their costs then it was probably worth it; if they didn’t then, that was obviously okay also, it is possible I never took note of prices before, but there you go. The $6.50 charge for delivery was reasonably standard, so that was a no-brainer. I opted for the delivery to be brought inside, instead of meet at the car, because I was at work and possibly could not meet them. All the boxes were ticked, and I was told a time – about 20 minutes.

The Delivery

My work is not that busy at night, and I had been watching my phone being mindful of the time as I knew delivery drivers of all types are under pressure and generally do not like to be kept waiting. But at the pivotal moment, I was called away from the front desk and I didn’t actually see the driver come in, but they left the food with a colleague. I was interested to see what the hand-off process would be, did I need to tap something on my phone to say received? I’m not sure, but it did come up with a rating review for the driver. So I did what was necessary and plowed into my pipping hot Schnitz.

The Review

I gave my driver 5 stars. Even though I never actually met her, my food was hot and the delivery was made. What else is there to rate someone on? She ticked to two most important (and only) requirements.

A Re-Do?

I think UberEats, and other food delivery services, are good for consumers. They can offer business who may not have a facility for delivery access to customers that may have otherwise spent their money elsewhere. I know on this certain night I would have. I feel that the service is too expensive to use on a regular basis, and this is something you might need to consider for yourself. However, as a means to get dinner when your options are limited or non-existent it is a brilliant thing, and provides competition where none may have existed before.

Final Thoughts

In our heavily active/working lives anything to make a thing easier is good. I have used food delivery when I’ve been stuck at work and couldn’t get home to feed the kids – they’re old enough to be home alone. I can order something slightly better than the usual takeout muck and have it delivered to them while I’m still punching out the clock.

This is not and advertisement for UberEats.

Feature Image: Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Automation in the Terminal

A few weeks ago I had to go to the airport. I had not been to the airport in a while and some drastic changes had been made! At least from my point of view.

Big Trouble at the Check-In

I was dropping my kids off and we were running late (airport late, not late late), which really didn’t help the cognitive thinking. So we got there with a few minutes to spare and to my surprise the baggage check-in is missing. There were lots of touch screens and conveyor belts and people seemed to know what they were doing. But the one thing missing was a person to ask. We had about 5 minutes until check-in was closed, I looked about and found a counter and a person to ask.

Waiting, waiting, waiting… and when she was ready, ‘Hi, umm what do I do here?’. And she just looked at me as if I’d just removed my own head. Based on her meager instruction, I took to tapping on the screen. It was so simple, press button and type in flight number. Oh yeah, well maybe if someone got their shit together to get here earlier…

The last time I was at the airport there was a person to do this for you. And now that job has gone? Sure it was probably reassigned or something, and maybe it wasn’t the most interesting thing to do all day, but it was a job! Now that has been allocated to a program and savvy engineers.

Automation of the Soul

I have written about AI replacing human jobs previously. And I am still looking forward to a time where AI replaces many jobs, but it does need to be handled properly, especially in a service industry. In the airport case, it was almost an assumption that you would understand the processes. The ticket said NOTHING about automated check-in, and there was no one to help. A simple ‘help me’ button somewhere would have done it.

Automation has been replacing jobs for a long time, but more thought needs to go into training people on how to operate under the new regime. I felt completely in the dark. We are all busy being swabbed for bombs, but someone can’t help me load a bag?

As I said I don’t go to the airport all that often and it does feel like the place is run on the understanding that you know where you are going and what you are doing. There wasn’t even a sign pointing to arrivals, only departures – one has to figure that out. However after one visit I’m confident that I know what to do now and the next time will not be as challenging. Unless in the next five years it is all drones and personal flight systems… OMG.

Perhaps it was the shock, more than the experience. It was not as I expected, and perhaps that is the trick to dealing with fast paced automation. Be prepared to learn something new, give it a go because it probably isn’t all that hard.

Feature Image: That Way by Kerry Lannert (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Not a New Years Resolution…

I hate the term New Years Resolution. It has come to hold little meaning when discussing personal change. But I do like the beginning of a new year to try and make changes. I much prefer the idea of challenge over resolution, as one shows that making changes are hard and that they should be difficult, where resolution just sounds like something drunk people sprout out at midnight only to be forgotten by the morning. A challenge means some sort of thought has gone into it, something planned and nurtured.

The Challenge Habit

Month long challenges are something that I have been doing for a while; mostly they have been personal and I have rarely told anyone. Usually, they are to break a bad habit, or something that I don’t like about myself. I wouldn’t call them self esteem builders or anything, but completing the challenges and being successful does make me feel better about myself. Probably the most successful challenge I completed was to make my bed every morning. Not really that hard… But I’m a messy person, always have been and always will be. Turns out I love making my bed in the morning, and although the challenge was completed a few years ago it is still something I do today. It seems such a cheesy thing to be proud of, but it showed me that I can make changes in my life, no matter how small.

A Year of Change

So back to this year. A year long challenge, but I think I’m up to the task. Something I do a lot of that I hate is eating take out food; it’s wasteful, expensive and does not satisfy. When it comes to food prep, planning and cooking I am lazy and unorganized. So this year I am giving up eating out… But wait there are a few rules:

  • Once a month I can have a reward of takeout, if the previous month was successful.
  • Not including the Fam, only I must suffer.
  • Takeout means mass produced food – proper restaurants are okay, but need to be planned.

So far I’m 10 days in and I am yet to buckle or cave. It has me thinking more about what I’m going to eat and when. I am really hopeful that this terrible habit that can be broken. It may even result in eating better and possibly some weight loss? Who knows but I am looking forward to the challenge and what changes it may bring with it.

I will update this challenge regularly through the year, so follow this blog to keep updated.

Feature Image: Exausted by KeWynn Lee (CC BY-ND 2.0)

How Effective are Requests to Turn Off Your Ad-blocker?

Probably one of the biggest threats to the reality of the internet and its integrity and stability is the fact that people expect what they find there to be free. If you have not enjoyed the onslaught of annoying and obtrusive ads then, like myself, you probably have an ad-blocker installed into your browser, and if you don’t, well you’re a stronger person than I.

First let me clarify what I said about the internet having integrity and stability. I realise this statement may in itself be slightly laughable. However, producing content takes time and money, and if the information is being given away for nothing then there is little time for fact checking, or writing properly or anything.

Imagine for a second a paper with all that ads removed. In fact, go and get a paper, a pair of scissors and remove all of the ads, and then go find a wedding with the hand full of confetti you’re left with. Writers and editors may drive the information bus, but without the advertising wallet filling up the tank it wont get very far. While we may not like it, advertisers pay for the majority of the content we’re reading.

Most ad-blockers operate just to remind the visitor that the ads you may be seeing are there for a purpose. Sometimes you can choose to ignore them, and other times they block access until you ‘white list’ the site. This one, encountered at Inside Retail, blocked access.

Screenshot: Adblocker – (2019)

All of the requests I have seen have been professional and polite. Usually when confronted with a message, I take a mental exam of the site in question:

  • Am I here for a purpose?
  • Is this content I really want?
  • Is the content laid out in a functional way?
  • Do I trust the information from this site?

If the answer to these are yes, then the ad-blocker is turned off. However, once it is off, it depends on how the ads are displayed if it gets turned back on and the site closed; the main culprit for this are the scroll following ads.

I find the request to be highly effective and if your site needs the revenue from advertising streams to keep plugging out valuable content, then I suggest you keep using them. It is a simple and clever way to keep readers aware that online content is valuable and needs to be paid for by someone. I doubt there are too many people that would be shunned by a simple request to do something that costs them nothing.

Feature Image: Sign: No Entry by Matthew Paul Argall (CC BY 2.0)

Can I Share Links for Streaming Content?

A while ago I bought a product online, to be more precise it was a rented film. When I paid my money I was given a link and access to the film for two days after I started playing it. Now currently my family is away and I thought, could I share the link so they could enjoy it also? This brought up an ethical conundrum for me, is this legal? It prompted a bit of a google and the answers I found were surprising.

The answer simply seems to be, yes. And it looks like they don’t care. Obviously if you are sharing with lots of people they may look into it. But for the most part it’s all okay. But why is this? Essentially when you share a link you are advertising the company and this is a good thing. You are endorsing the site where you got the content from and this is more valuable than the thing itself. You’re being the influencer for them; an employee of little cost.

Imagine for a second if these companies cracked down on people sharing content. Many of my purchases are via one company, say if they get upset at me for sharing something and decide to send out cease and desist letters, what am I most likely to do? Well in a near saturated market place, I’ll most likely close my account and go somewhere else. I could even return to buying the DVD from the store!

They need our custom, and if looking the other way for a second allows them to succeed then they are willing to do it. So share away, advertise your steaming service of choice – it’s what they want you to do!

Feature Image: Watch (328) by Doug Waldron (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Box Theory of Communication

When it comes to passing on information I believe there are two types of people; those that can talk and those that can show. While they are not mutually exclusive, but usually a person is better at one than the other. So what does this have to do with boxes?

The Box Theory Explained

The Box Theory is how you can determine in which category a person falls. Imagine this, a person is presented with a box and are asked, how do I open this? Your target (victim) will either tell you or show you. Think for a moment about yourself, what do you prefer to do? When someone asks you something, is it easier to tell or to show?

While neither has benefits over the other, understanding how a person likes to explain things can go a long way in better communication; especially if you are the opposite. If you like people to explain things verbally, having someone show you might appear demeaning. However understanding that this is just the way that person operates, you know there is nothing sordid behind what they are doing. They are just conveying the information in the best possible way they know how.

I feel that understanding this can have further benefits in many instances; for example, during a job interview. Not everyone is comfortable with a sit down talking interview. Many people think better on their feet, and walking through an environment can give them the chance to show you something rather than just talking about it. A perfect interview should have a mix of the two, as an ideal candidate would be relatively balanced.

Understanding in which category you fall gives you the opportunity to improve. Are you the person that can brilliantly explain what object A is and what it does, but the moment you need to demonstrate you’re all thumbs? Or, are you the person who built object A, but when asked to explain how you did it your eyeballs roll back and your tongue falls out?

The key is practice, understand which type you are and practice the opposite. Personally I’m a big shower, but I’m taking steps to improve on my verbal communication skills. I start with a simple task and work my way up. Something easy, like opening a box…

There are times when both forms of communication are needed and the more balanced you are the better results you will have.

Feature Image: Project365-Day21 by Farouq Taj (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Procrastinators Guidebook; How to Free Up Your Time

I am just brilliant at so many things, but what I am best at is PROCRASTINATING!! I love it so much (pause for effect) that I’m probably doing it right now…

// I actually went looking for a video to insert and dropped into the pitfall of YouTube //

Hold on while I pack away all this vicarious living that YouTube has brought me. Anyway, back to the point. Procrastination is basically, as I view it, the avoidance of work. It is the bane of those moments when we are relaxed and feel the need to fill the void with something other than staring at the walls. It’s a pause, a break or just a stop gap measure. But, it becomes a problem when it can’t be shaken off and you loose precious minutes (or hours) to the black hole of the procrastinated life.

The best and probably easiest way to slay the procrastination beast is to fill your day with things to do. And while that may be sound advice some days are just going to be empty, there will be times when you literally have nothing to do, so what then?

Well, your time has value and you need to ask a question, what value am I getting from this activity? You are giving up your precious time to some other thing, and you need to decide what exactly is it giving back? If it is giving you nothing, then it is not worth your time. Here, how about an example?

Often I find myself watching, or re-watching television to fill time. I get bored and flick channels until I find something that I’ve probably seen before, but it will do for the moment until I find something better. But what value am I getting from this seventh viewing? Nothing. I don’t even laugh at the jokes anymore. I’m not even getting a minutia of entertainment, the thing is just on so my brain can go bye byes for an hour or so. Now, when I find myself in this type of situation I peel myself off the couch and force a job into my head, something that needs to get done, something that is going to improve my life. Currently I’m growing a veggie garden (although it’s mostly fruit) so I can be a bit self sufficient. So my job of choice is watering or just going out to check on it. And then I have turned my wasteful procrastination into something productive. Then when the day is close to over, there is some sense of achievement. I don’t feel like I have wasted a large part of the day. Any time that I am able to step back and look at something I have done in that particular day, I feel good. I have used time effectively, and instead of feeling like I wasted time, I can reflect and take note.

Naturally we can’t make big sweeping changes to our lives. But just one small bite at a time and it will get better. Remember it is all about value! Get good value out of your procrastination and then it is not time wasted but rather earned and banked to use later.

And because I had to:

That video is 15 mins, but what did you learn? Coyote is wildly entertaining and informative. If your going to watch YouTube make it something that you can take back from, make IT pay for giving them your time. Then your time will come back to you. After all I got back into gardening by watching a few gardening videos, it inspired me to go out and achieve on my own, so in that way I don’t feel the time was wasted, instead it worked for me.

How do you free your time, and slay the beast? Comment below.

Feature Image: Posters Vintage by Camila Leite de Oliveira (CC BY 2.0)

How to Find Your Passion for Work

Words that are often spoken when finding a (new) job are, ‘Follow your Passion’. I’ve always thought of this as a ridiculous idea, and here is why.

What if my passion is sitting on the couch watching Red Dwarf reruns? Not too many job titles there… I mean, I could write a blog about the show, but is writing my thing? Reviews? Nah, they take away some of the fun.

What if I am yet to find my passion? The one thing that drives me onward regardless of success or, dare I say it, failure…

Some might say that the only way to find your passion is to try out many things, have a go at all sorts of things and eventually one of them will stick and EUREKA! You’ve done it! Your passion has been uncovered like the rough uncut diamond that it is, now go find that chisel!

But can that really work in a workplace environment? Unlikely. I’d suggest that a large majority of people work to pay the bills, there is little passion but rather just a set amount of time given up in order to gain money so they can live. Wow, that’s all a bit depressing. Well it is if you think of it like that; let’s alter that thinking slightly.

Instead of doing what you are passionate about, instead choose to be passionate about what you are doing. I’m a big believer in life being totally controlled by what we think. If you feel that you are stuck in a mundane and thankless work-a-day job then guess what, you will be. But with a tweak of our mindset, then regardless of what our work may entail we can be passionate about doing it in a spectacular way.

Even if it doesn’t lead to better things at work. You will be going home happier and with a better sense of accomplishment then before. And nothing drives creativity better then that; it makes you want to do more, learn more and achieve more.

Oh, and just so you know, I mop floors like an absolute legend!

Feature Image: Passion Fruit by Tara Severns (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Social Media and the Anonymous Society

There is little doubt that social media use has become ubiquitous in modern societies. So much so that it is almost impossible not to have some sort of online presence. With just a persons name you can find out an amazing amount of information, and with face recognition software, we will soon see the disappearance of the anonymous society. But is all this necessarily a bad thing?

Enter the Fixers

Currently there doesn’t seem to be a week that someone isn’t caught out doing something deplorable by social media; such as the Starbucks Arrest or the Racist Lawyer Rant. In the past both of these, and many more incidents, would have gone unnoticed, brushed under the carpet of our anonymous society. But now they are viewed, shared and judged by a social media consortium.

One additional aspect of incidents such as these, is that it helps others share their stories, and we are reminded that sometimes these are more the norm rather than the unusual. It can demonstrate a point of view from the outside of a persons social network.

Crime & Punishment

With social media being the judge and jury to these crimes one question remains, who is the executioner? For this I rely on the adage, live by the sword, die by the sword. Many of the punishments dealt out are self imposed, or reflected back onto the parties by social media. Starbucks held ‘anti-bias training‘ closing stores to do so, and The Lawyer has lost contracts and had his business rating lowered by angry consumers. The outcomes for both of these incidents will be different, one will do something and make changes while the other will most likely try to ride it out in hiding.

What about Freedom?

Some might say that freedom of speech is vital to a society regardless of size. I believe this is true, but not freedom from consequence.

The way that information is being created and shared on a daily basis. It is becoming harder and harder to keep things inside a circle of tolerance. The people in these examples have had their opinions and ideas festered and protected by those they surrounded themselves with. While it may not have been done on purpose, it has been the outcome. But now with social media, it is much easier to show people the effects of what they say and how they act; especially to people and communities of limited voice.

Social Media Gets Results

The fear of being outed on social media can keep people from doing things that they know is wrong. Everyday in the park, across the road from my house people are littering (car batteries was the latest). I wonder how fast it would stop using a camera and social media feed to expose the culprits?

Feature Image: Ryko naktys by Zoi Koraki (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Short Fiction: Reconveyance



Alden Mills rested his hands against the fence. It moved under the slight pressure as if it would collapse at any moment. Some years ago, the fence was the target of vandals but now even this was fading into obscurity, only patches of pink and orange mixed with the original white remained. Alden ran his finger along the front of the fence as he made his way to the gate. The gate was locked with two padlocks and he only had one key, but it was enough to unlock the chain. The chain was covered in cobwebs and Alden used the bottom of his shirt to wipe them clear. He grabbed the padlock that matched the key.

‘We don’t have to go in.’ Sensing his ambivalence Doctor Lola Hume placed her hand on his shoulders and kissed his neck.

Alden turned his head to the side but didn’t look at her. ‘It’s been long enough,’ he said and pushed the key into the lock. With a sharp twist the lock fell away. Alden shoved the gate open and they stepped in. The yard was an explosion of greenery. It had held up well despite the neglect. All except for a dank depression at the far end where an old septic tank had been.

It neared the end of summer and a boy ran his toy, polished blue and magnificent, around his cement playfield. At the far end he had built a ramp out of wood scraps secreted from his fathers shed. He rolled the car back and forth, then with one final push he let it go. The car flew over the ramp and disappeared into the long grass, beating out all past records! Victory was short lived as the car was swallowed by the lawnmower. It sparked and churned and a chunk was ejected from the body and ripped through his cheek. His screams were loud and painful, but his father continued to cut the grass. The boy ran inside the house leaving nothing but a trail of bright red blood.

Alden rubbed his cheek. The feel of hard knotted tissue eased his mind. Then with a flurry he dropped his hand back to his side. He glanced at Lola and she looked away pretending not to have noticed.

‘Shall we go inside?’ Lola suggested.

Alden retrieved a second key from his pocket as they approached the pale green front door. The colour had been his mother’s idea and it reminded him of an infectious sneeze. One time he was foolish enough to mention this to her. That was six months before he left the house permanently; after his leg had recovered.

The door opened suspiciously easily. The smell of the room entered his nose without invitation. He thought it would smell rotten and old, but there was something different. Perhaps a rear window was open and native frangipani were contaminating the room. The smell did not match the décor. Wallpaper was peeling off in sections and the carpet once pure white was now the colour of mud-rolled dog. At some point in the past something had fallen through the roof and in the middle of the room a pile of debris had spewed into the room. Alden was sure if he poked about he would be disturbing the rat civilization of his nightmares; he took a wide step around.

Lola watched on as Alden put his back to the wall and scuttered around the room. She took a notebook from her jacket pocket wrote in it. Then she slipped off her shoes, left them at the front door and followed Alden into the property. ‘Alden how are you feeling right now?’

‘Good, I feel good,’ Alden replied, as he rounded a corner and out of her view.

She made some more notes and then put the small book away. There would be time for more later.

Alden entered the kitchen. He braced his hands against the door jamb and refused to go any further. This was his mother’s territory. It was in immaculate condition, almost as if she were still alive. The only thing out of place was one cupboard door hanging open. Alden closed his eyes and wished the door close, but when he reopened them it had not moved. He took a breath and stepped into the room. It was only three steps but the journey felt far longer. He reached out to close the offending door when it rocked on its hinges and slammed shut.

Why are you here? She screamed. The boy looked up, confused. Had she not just called him for dinner? Answer me! The boy held out his hand and put it to his mouth. Words were not coming yet, walking but no words. Why! Why did we have you? The boy dropped his head. She reached down and grabbed him by the pants. His bottom itched but he’d learnt better. Get out and fix it! She carried him to the door and tossed him into the garden. His eyed welled with soundless tears.

Alden was frozen in a minefield of fear. His hand remained in the air where the door once was and he struggled to keep his bladder from leaking.


Lola’s voice snapped him back to reality. Obviously, it had been the disturbance of the air that made the door close by itself. Slowly he lowered his hand and turned around. Lola was standing in the doorway. Purity in the darkness of this house. A house, yes, but never a home. For a moment he stared at the young doctor. She had done so much for him. Six months ago, he was on the verge of ending it all. Diving into the blackness of death with willing arms. And now here he was facing the demons that had plagued him most of his life. He had tried everything, but nothing had stopped it – heroin, weed and whiskey had all done nothing. His past was always waiting on the exit ramp from euphoria. Lola was different, she had listened to all his stories and offered to help without payment. He twisted the metal ring on his finger and thanked a god he didn’t believe in.

‘Alden? Is everything okay?’ She stepped in closer.

‘I think so. Just. It was something that happened right now.’

She placed a hand on his shoulder and reached in her pocket. The book, she was always at that book. One day maybe she will let him read it. He glanced down, something was odd, he looked up into her eyes.

‘Where are your –’

His words were cut off by a sudden pain that swelled in his stomach. Alden thought he was going to throw up, but this was different. Hot and intense. His eyes rushed to the pain. But nothing made sense. Lola’s hand was pressed into his side. Then she pulled her hand away, and thrust it back again. Blood gushed out of his wound and over the knife she held. Alden lost count of the time. He fell back against the clean bench. Marking them in red. He tried to stand but his feet wouldn’t allow it. He looked up at her as she cleaned the blade that took his life.

‘You have an excellent property here Alden. I’d bet it’s worth every cent.’

Alden watched her walk away, as he lay there desperately trying to stem the bleeding. Then above his head the cupboard door opened.

Feature Image: Pershing Square by John St John (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A Short Guide to Plan Anything and Achieve Results

Having a plan, regardless of how simple, can be a massive time saver. How many times have you had a job to do, but instead of getting on with it, you find yourself staring at it waiting for inspiration to strike? Only to eventually give up and see what Netflix has waiting for you? If your reading this, then I guess this may be the case. Hopefully some of the simple ideas that I use every day can help you.

The Perfect Time to Plan

Picking a time to plan is a personal choice. I find that the best time is when your mind is at rest. I like the quite of the morning, but if my day hasn’t gone as planned I will create one before going to sleep. When failure happens, it’s best not to dwell on it, as only fools get things right the first time every time. Failure occurs due to a poorly made plan. When this happens you need to reassess if the plan was actually achievable and start again.

Steps to Planning Success

  • Set the Goal

A goal can be anything, but it will be nothing unless it is defined. What is it? What needs to be done? You can call it different things, such as a task or an achievement, but I find that goal suits better as it reflects an idea of something tangible. Try to make the goal as simple as possible, if you can’t fit it into one short sentence then it may be too complex.

  • Break it into Smaller Parts

Even though a goal may be simple, it could still be herculean in scope. In this stage examine if the goal can be broken down into smaller parts. This step is pivotal if the goal has already failed to be completed once before.

  • Set a Time for Completion

Give the task a time frame. This step can be difficult if you are not aware of how long things can take. If it is the first time you are completing a task, set a timer and see how much can be achieved in a given time. I find that thirty minutes is a solid block to start. Once you are aware of how fast you work, you can begin to set more reasonable times. Timing your work is also beneficial in self evaluation.

  • Reward Yourself

Everyone loves getting a pat on the back. If you achieved your results then you deserve something for it! Self-rewarding is a valuable part of slaying the procrastination beast that dwells inside us all. Eventually you will see sitting down for a bit of Netflix (or what ever feeds the beast) as the reward, instead of the distraction. Just make sure the reward fits the task, so no trips to Paris for cleaning out the car!

Working With Others

It is very easy to let yourself down and not get that thing done. Having others that rely on your input can be a brilliant motivator and can be the flint that lights the fire. Collaboration comes in many forms and you don’t necessarily need to work with people, find an online group that you can share your work with. Support from peers can lead to dramatic swings in achievement.

Keep on Trucking

Best of all don’t get down on yourself if you fail the meet your goals. Review the plan and have another go!

Feature Image: Jetty Sunset by Lenny K Photography (CC BY 2.0)

Selfie Culture; What a Bunch of Posers!

One of my secret pleasures is looking at random selfies. I have found that many subjects, mainly those under 25, have a few poses to pull ready for the shot. When looking at these and I often wonder how did they decide on that  pose? How many photos did it take to achieve such photographic confidence?

Kids Today

When I compare the way my kids, especially my daughter (6), handle themselves in front of the camera it is clear that the ability to pose just comes with experience. Although she doesn’t ask to delete photos that she’s not happy with, I am sure that this is not that far away! When taking photos I can ask for a variety of expressions from her and she hits it almost every time. A part of this success is that she wants to see the photos straight away. Could this be an aid to memory? I believe so. With the immediate result it’s easier to see if the pose had the desired effect. If not then a new photo can be taken in seconds.

You Lookin’ at Me?

Generally, I don’t enjoy getting my photo taken (despite a recent post), or even looking in a mirror. It was something that I was never used to as photos were mostly taken to mark a special occasion. They were not especially expensive, but there was a cost and time involved. Film was sometimes developed weeks after the shot and there was no second chances to capture the moment. Occasionally a roll would come back and some photos were taken over six months ago! I didn’t give too much thought as to what I looked like in a photo at the time it was taken; it just happened. But with modern devices it’s possible to have reflective considerations on how you look in photos and this can prepare you for times when you’re not in total control of the camera.

I’m No Model but…

I don’t believe taking a selfie is vain, and knowing how to handle yourself in a photo is an ever increasing important skill. Imagine going for a job and the interviewer takes your photo (this has happened to me three times), do you want your one chance to stand out to be a good one? You can’t ask to see the photo – well you could but that’s not going to go well – and you need to be confidant that you look your absolute best to stand out of the slush pile.

Selfie Skillz

Like most things taking a good selfie requires skill and patience. Find out what works best for you. However there are a few tips that I’ve picked up in my travels.

  • Look up to the camera and not down.
  • Avoid the front on shot, a slight angle is more interesting.
  • Don’t look into the light, find some shade if possible.
  • Take many and pick the best one.
  • Delete as you go, don’t wait until the memory is full.

These work for me in most situations, but not necessarily for everyone. Figure out what works best for you; but also remember not every photo needs to be a selfie.

Feel free to comment below with your own selfie tips!

Feature Image: Posers by Mick C (CC BY 2.0)

Why I said ‘Goodbye’ to Facebook Groups

Groups on Facebook are a way that like minded people can come together and discuss topics of interest. Anyone with a Facebook account can start a Group, and dependent on the settings others can find it and join. Once accepted the new member can make posts and comment on other peoples posts. All of this is great in theory, but it relies on the premise that people are accepting of the ideas of their fellows. In the end I found groups to be more divisive than inclusive, again showing that ‘social media’ is a fallacy.

I’m right and you’re wrong!

Many Facebook Groups appear to follow the mantra, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong!’. However, this is flawed thinking. A Group by its definition is supposed to be a place of shared ideas. People of different backgrounds join or are invited because of a common theme. Listening and understanding the thoughts of others is how we learn. We don’t have to accept the ideas of others but it is not that hard to listen, and engage in sensible debate. I found that too many times a person started a Facebook Group with the intent of shouting their messages and ignoring or abusing all others. But that is more akin to a Page rather than a Group.

So what happened?

I was a member of several groups that were about a similar topic. However, I found that many people were just arguing all the time, mostly over rules and how it should be played. But the funny thing about this particular hobby is it has very few rules on how to play, as set out by the creators. Some of the arguing was so bad that a few members had split and formed new Facebook Groups. But even in these new Groups a lot of the talk revolved around which Group was right and why they don’t talk to that Group and so on…

It was all very depressing and it made me start to dislike something that I had loved doing. A few times I had  commented that maybe these things were not worth worrying about, only to find myself at the bottom of a dog pile. So instead of trying to weave my way through the clouds of hate that these groups produced, I pulled the plug and exited all of the groups. I’d had enough. I didn’t care which faction was right. Why should I let some toxic individuals ruin my fun? It was something I didn’t need in my life. It was all very sad (as in pathetic).

How I feel now…

After ditching all the groups, I felt a massive wave of relief. I got back into doing what I thought of as an enjoyable pastime. I began to see it for what it was, and was less concerned about what others thought of it or each other. I started to follow people that seemed to enjoy it as much as me. They were making videos and periscopes and running blogs. They talked about the hobby itself rather the who did what or where. It was a much more interesting time. I feel that Groups are really for the few individuals that start them, and not necessarily for other people to join.

Would I try them again?

All of this happened some time ago and just recently I have joined a couple of different Groups. I am much more diligent this time and I read a few posts and see how people respond. Also I found that a Group that has clear rules about what it accepted and what is not, has made for a better time and an active community (such as this Hiking & Camping Group).

What I learned…

Basically, if something is happening in a Group that you don’t like. Don’t hang around, get out! Odds are many others feel that same way. As I said before, anyone can start a Group, but to run a Group? Perhaps that takes something more than the average Facebook user is willing to commit. Before starting something, have a think. What will the Group be about? What should the discussion revolve around? How should the discussion take place? How should people that don’t follow guidelines be dealt with? Maybe then social media will become more social rather then a network of closed door rooms.

Feature Image: Goodbye. by Lucy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Family Gaming Debate: Should You Restrict Kids Access to Gaming?

Now I don’t have any problems with my children playing video games and I am a gamer myself. I believe they are a form of entertainment and I don’t believe they have many negative effects beyond that of any other entertainment. But as with everything, moderation is best and over use can lead to problems.

Excessive Gaming Issues

I have noticed that at times my son can become aggressive when gaming. To counter this we have recommended that he go and do something else for a while. It could be assumed that this behavior is tied to the games, however this is more the catalyst rather than the problem. Usually when he is ‘losing control’ it is due to sleep deprivation and caused by him not going to bed. Recently he, at times, has been staying up late playing, and this has resulted in his sleeping patterns being disrupted. As he is playing games online, and with players all over the world, there is no down time and he can find a game to play at anytime, and this is the main problem.

Restricting Access

In order to assist him in maintaining a healthy playing structure, we decided to limit the consoles access. At the start we set times for two breaks, one at midday and the other at six, both of these. We picked these times so he stopped at meal times. We also set it to clock off a ten, and return at seven the next morning. This worked well for a few weeks. After a while he asked for the daytime’s to be switched off as it was interrupting his play with friends. The fact that he asked, rather than moaned, and ha proper arguments we agreed and removed the block for the day, and we let the night one out to eleven, which was the time that his friends seemed to leave as well.

Is it the Real Solution?

Turning off the console can create new issues as, you are doing two very different things. The first is removing a form of entertainment and the second is you are restricting communication with friends. So when you are taking away the gaming console, you are also saying that they can’t play with their friends. The gaming console has become a personal safe place for them to hangout. It’s the mall of the current generation.

A Better Way?

Recently I have become more mindful that when he is ‘playing’ he is actually interacting with friends. When I want to talk with him, I ask him to turn off the mic, so I don’t embarrass him in front of his friends. I needed to realise that this is his place and I am an outsider. Our communication became better when I learned what he thought of as acceptable. For example, he is fine being called to dinner and other general family business, but talking about anything personal needs to be approached more carefully.

I guess it is about respect and privacy. Sometimes he is okay with me watching and talking about the game and other times he is not. I need to read each situation and act accordingly. If I get a bit of a stare-down I know that he wants to be left alone. Obviously I can choose to do so or not, but if I don’t need to tell him something then usually I leave him be and if not we have worked out signals so he can ‘opt out’ of the game for a second so his mates don’t hear what I am saying.

Learning to Deal with New Tech

Sometimes I feel that these are issues that my own parents did not have to deal with. But of course they had, it was just slightly different. Even though the console still turns off at eleven, and he usually goes to bed at a reasonable hour, I feel that he was right and the day times were a bit excessive.

If you’re having problems with excessive use perhaps try limiting the console’s access to the internet, but as with everything a discussion that involves all parties can result in a smoother transition.

What are your thoughts on restricting kids access to gaming? Feel free to comment below.

Feature Image: xbox controller. by Adam.James (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Is Ghostbusters (2016) Really that Bad?

Ghostbusters came out in 2016 among a flurry of (mostly negative) internet chatter. Some people hated it and some people were undecided and others supported it as an important step forward in cinema. However, most of this early talk was around the casting choices rather than the actual film. If it is judged by the first trailer, it seemed like it was going to be disappointing, but is this the actual case?

I like to give things a chance and the second trailer made it look much better. So I took my kids to see it, and my opinion didn’t really change. It’s not a perfect movie, but then re-watching the original 1984 one, that is not a perfect movie either. From Venkman using his position of power as a professor to seduce a young woman in the opening scenes to the amount of smoking throughout the film. Is the original a film that kids should be watching? I saw the original in the cinema as a ten year old and it scared the pants off me. I still get the jitters watching the library scene.

At its core Ghostbusters 2016 is a kids movie. It’s aimed at children and not nostalgic adults. If you’re not sure about that here’s a tip. If the movie has bodily function comedy, you’re watching a kids film. The film was never made to replace the old one, but rather reintroduce the old story and concept to a new audience. If you love the old film and are able to chuck on the rose tinted glasses so all it’s flaws seem inconsequential, then you don’t want or need to see this film; and thus your opinion of it is invalid.

So what’s good about it…

The representation of struggle on the part of their professional careers. It showed real problems faced by people trying to move past their previous endeavors.

The element of danger was more real, and they showed thought and ingenuity to solve problems. The development of new weaponry beyond the all-purpose proton pack.

The battle scene on the streets demonstrated overcoming their vulnerabilities. This was vastly superior to the ghost capturing montage of the original.

And what’s bad about it…

All the cameo’s from the original Ghostbusters, they were nothing more than distraction. If people wanted them in the movie, they should have made a fresh one with them in it.

A few of the jokes were flat, and didn’t come across well, but then again it is a kids film.

Should you watch it?

If you are looking for something similar to the original one, then no. These films are not linked beyond the concept and theme. If you are after a fun kids movie that is not too scary, then this movie is a good safe option. Not every movie is made to be some spectacular masterpiece, many are made to be fun. I feel that with many so called ‘classics’ the larger audience just remember key scenes and not the film as a whole.

Feature Image: Science Eyes by Tom Woodward (CC BY-NC 2.0)

How to Get Kids into Cooking

Getting kids into cooking can lead to many benefits. As a parent one thing I have always struggled with is getting them to eat good food. A short Google search and it is clear that I’m not alone. Just reading recently I found an article that talked about hows children are losing the ability to cook. This was due to our busy schedules and the rise in the consumption of ‘ready’ meals.

So… what’s the Problem?

My daughter hates fruit and vegetables. When presented with one, she cries, pretends to choke and takes an inordinate amount of time to chew them. I think for her it is more about the mouth feel of the offending item rather than the taste. While my son eats veggies okay, when it comes to getting himself something he will live on weet-bix and biscuits. If it is anything more complex than milk in a bowl then it doesn’t happen.

A Possible Solution…

So I decided to get them cooking. The first time I allowed them to choose what they would make. The girl, who is up for anything, wanted to do the rice. The boy picked the veggies. I know my daughter can help as often in the past she has wanted to help. She is just at that age so it will wear off soon. My son was happy to help. He has really been making an effort in his attitude and is maturing well for a fourteen year old.

And the Results?

I was happy with their choices as I felt that it suited their abilities. Dry rice and water, was perfect for her. There was not much to go wrong and we had a good laugh later when she got some peas ready, and pead all over the bench and floor. I was able to teach my son how much he needed to cut off the sweet potato and carrots. On his first go he tried to cut about 5cm off the top of the carrots, a quick explanation and that was resolved. Having patience here really helps, and I reminded myself that they knew next to nothing. During this I also found that he did not know how to use a peeler, he was using the edge of the blade instead of the cutting surface in the middle. It took him a few goes, but he soon got the hang of it.

In the end I feel they both enjoyed their time in the kitchen, and the next night we tried something more technical. We are also experimenting with dinner at the table, however this is all much easier when one hasn’t worked all day. I think that reminding myself that doing this will help them become more independent and have less fear when that day of moving eventually comes. No parent likes to think about that but not doing so and you are doing your children a disservice. We will see I I have the discipline to continue this plan in the future, I hope so because cooking two different meals a night by myself is REALLY boring.

Feature Image: Morning Brew by Derek Buff (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Star Trek Discovery ‘Slides’ Back onto Netflix

When Star Trek Discovery made its debut on Netflix in September 2017, I thought that it was a perfect step in the right direction. Now, I have been a fan of the series since watching ST:TNG on VHS (I know right, what are those?), hiring them weekly from my local VideoEzy store. As far as I’m aware it didn’t have an airing schedule in Australia, perhaps it shifted around or used as night time filler(!). I tend to feel that many studio executives have little idea how to market these programs to advertisers and they end up being scrapped early due to poor ratings (eg. FarscapeFirefly).

From the very first episode I was hooked, I liked that the show was being released weekly rather than all at once, as this allows time to properly digest the show as opposed to rushing through it. I like all of the characters, especially Cadet Tilly, she isn’t the hyper-confident personality that seems to dominate the Star Trek universe. I especially like how all the characters seem like individuals and none of them are perfect, they are like real people instead of people puppets. Their motives are different, they talk differently to different people, and there is clear conflict between some of them, and this is more in line with real life.

However back to the episode in question. I really enjoyed it, I found that toward the end of the mid-season break, they had started to get a bit out of focus. Actually watching the new episode I discovered that I had not seen the last few minutes of the previous episode. So I was playing a bit of catch up, and after the show ended I went back and took care of that last five minutes – if only they had paced that entire episode that way.

The idea of parallel universes is not new. However the crew take way too long to catch up and I suspect most fans had it pegged right from the ‘I don’t know where we are.’ line. Watching it was a bit like, ‘yes we get it, you’re in a different universe – get on with it!’

I love the idea of the displaced crew, but I’m not a massive fan of the extreme opposite ideology that they find themselves in. In the Star Trek universe these episode are known as the Mirror Universe, and I find them ridiculous – the way the characters behave is unsustainable. I will be interesting to see how long the Discovery crew remain in the mirror universe, but I feel that any more than four episodes it become tedious. I really hope they continue with the excellent work they have been doing, and scrap any ideas for more nostalgic story lines.

Even though I don’t like this particular take, I have a connection with the many universe theory. It plays to one of my personal concepts of living a life with no regrets. This being that what ever decision I make, the alternative choice resulted in a worse outcome. Thinking like this allows to move on from certain choices I have made in the past that I seem to dwell on – I mean we ALL have those right?

Feature Image: Science Eyes by Tom Woodward (CC BY-NC 2.0)

And now for something completely different…

For some time I have been considering what to do with this blog. A part of me wanted to make it work related and another part wanted it more relaxed with no general theme. It all leads into the question of who am I? And often that is a very difficult question to answer. I have never felt that I fit into any sort of standard personality. I also often question my own mental state. Does everyone do this? I don’t know, and I guess it is impossible to determine. It is actually one of the main questions that I fumble whenever going for a job interview; the old ‘so tell me about yourself’. I know that this question is a ruse, generally the interviewer is trying to see if you will fit with the group, do they like you, how personable are you, are you going to be one of the gang? I was once told that anyone can be trained for any job and it is more about your personality than your abilities. Perhaps this is why I struggle so much in interviews, maybe I don’t know myself as much as I think I do. Indeed what makes me… me?

I know what I love to do. I love to create, taking things apart and seeing how they work, putting them back together (sometimes) successfully. I enjoy trying to find faster and more efficient ways of doing tasks. I love change and progressive ideas, even if it effects me in a negative manner; a challenging opportunity to find the positive in every outcome.

I enjoy consuming media of all sorts, I love analysing and discovering new ways of thinking about particular topics, what motivates the antagonist. Why are we not hearing their story? What is the author/director trying to say with their work, are they saying anything? How about sensationalist journalism? Are these real stories or nothing more than advertisements masquerading as social injustices? I absolutely love going to the cinema, and while I not a first week out person – hate the crowds – I will usually see a movie every few weeks. I like to take my kids along, so the films I see differ wildly in theme and rating. But there is usually something worthy about the film in question… sometimes the car ride home can elicit striking conversations, as I challenge my children to think more deeply about what they just watched. What did you think of… and why did they do that? It can be enlightening to hear their responses and add to my own enjoyment of the film.

Anyway… so onto the blog. What will it be? It’s going to become something that I do for myself. I will still publish to the world, ideally it will be about what I do in my life. But what can we expect! I hear the empty crowd cheer. Well it could be anything! I feel that I am a free thinker – I like to approach topics with an open mind. At the moment I have a schedule to work with, I think the best approach is to assign topics to certain days. But this is more to help me with thinking of something to write about. I plan on writing content four times a week as a minimum, but it may be more if something happens that day that I feel I need to discuss. All my posts will be open for comments for about a month after it’s published, I encourage any comments and will only moderate spam.

For now that is about it. Feel free to follow along, I hope this will become what blogs started out as being, nothing more than an online log. I’m not here to sell anything. Any advice I offer is just how I personally solved a problem, it may work for you it may not. I like to think I’m funny and I hope I may be somewhat entertaining. Now join me and together we can rule the… um yeah.

Feature Image: Sunset Drive-In by Nicholas Erwin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)