Hiding From The Heat


Here are some notes from two days hiding from the heat in shopping centres.

First, bigger shopping centres have better air conditioning and better food courts. Marrickville Metro might have free parking but Broadway is a better hiding spot. It also has more stores for “window shopping”. The Australia Post outlet at Broadway is open 7 days, which is why I went there today.

Talking of parking, the man punching tickets at Hoyts will let you sneak in and get your parking ticket stamped for an extra free hour even if you haven’t seen a movie if your cool about it. I had my parking ticket in my hand and said “Excuse me, I just need to get my ticket stamped” and he let me walk the few feet to the machine. Oh, and I did it before I had my bags of shopping. I guess he doesn’t care if I’m scamming a few bucks off the parking company.

The food court at Broadway is pretty good, though I couldn’t find eggs on toast anywhere when I looked for breakfast. The large round tables and the long benches have USB and 240 volt charging underneath them so no problem keeping the phone and the Macbook charged if you’ve remembered the required bits (I keep a spare Mac charger, USB cable and 240 volt to USB gadget in a pencil case so they’re easy to throw into my bag when I’m going out).

A large frozen mango drink with lychee jelly from Chatime is not only a taste sensation (mmmmm, lychee) but stays cold for ages so you can sit at the table with one of those in front of you tapping on the Macbook for a good 45 minutes quite justifiably.

Notes From Watching People

Men, please, none of you look good in shorts that go down to your kneecaps or below. You just look silly, like you can’t be bothered to get clothes that fit. Women, the opposite applies, it is far too common for you to be wearing shorts too short. That much large thigh and cellulite isn’t the look you want. Only waif-like teenagers look good in those shorts.

Generally, what were you thinking! As my old friend Robin Adams (who was a fashion designer and incredibly stylish) always said, “Don’t they own a mirror”. Some of those outfits I wouldn’t wear to take out the garbage.

Speaking of looking; guys it’s not too bad to sit there watching the women walk past but it’s totally OTT to stare when they’re sitting at the next table.

It’s surprising how many little kids are eating sushi. Dozens of them. I guess the cut up rolls are small enough, it’s fairly healthy, filling and the tastes are varied. I wonder if it was available twenty years ago “white bread, no butter” Williams, the world’s pickiest eater, otherwise known as Jessica, would have eaten it.

Shopping

Surprisingly, H&M is better for buying socks and undies than KMart, better range and prices just as good, if not better. Neither have bulk men’s handkerchieves. I didn’t have to worry about socks and hankies, but then Jessie isn’t around to buy them for Xmas and my birthday anymore (old family joke buying them for me as gifts and cooking Pavlova for high days and holidays are things she inherited from her grandmother).

Good salespeople are worth their weight to a store. KMart, Myer and their like should learn this. The woman in “Cotton On” told she could check if the “factory” (which I’m sure is just a warehouse but we’ll let that little white lie go) had my size of a shirt in stock and they would ship it for free. That way she sold two shirts she wouldn’t have since they had neither of the colours I liked in my size, she just got me to try the sizes in a colour I didn’t want and then took my money.

Then in Harvey Norman the salesman wouldn’t let me hook the Macbook up to the TV via HDMI so I could check if it worked and what it looked like. In JB HiFi the salesman not only let me do it but offered to lend me a HDMI 2 cable to see if it made a difference. Then when it got down to the last two TVs (a Samsung and an LG) with identical price labels. I asked the difference between the two, he said “the colour on the LG might be a bit better but I bet you could adjust that away. We’ve got $150 off that price on this one so I think that’s your decision made.” So I bought the TV off him. It wasn’t even a big sale, it was only a 32” smart TV so the final price was $400 and he had TVs on sale for 10 times that.

Good sales people equal good sales.

I’ve found a great way for spending hours at the shopping centre without it costing me too much. First, I go with a shopping list. Today’s list was:

  • Socks.
  • Undies.
  • Hankies.
  • Two or three shirts for work, preferably under $60 each.
  • 32” Smart TV, preferably under $500 but definitely under $550.

Then I take a limited amount of cash. Today it was $30 in my wallet and about $10 in my change purse. Only things on the list get paid for with my card, everything else comes out of the cash. The cash paid for breakfast when I got there, my frozen drink from Chatime, a New Scientist from the newsagent and my lunch. I was going to buy a book but then I wouldn’t have had lunch.

The TV is a big purchase, for a big purchase like that I have rules. No impulse buying. I have to shop around then go home and check online, finally I wait a few weeks before deciding to add it to the budget. Big things like that have to be bought from the money left over at the end of the month. I’m saving hard for a trip to the US and Canada.

A Smaller Life


Today’s Daily Prompt is “The Things We Leave Behind”.

Over the past four weeks I have left behind a grat deal.

I moved from a three bedroom house to a small bedsit and many years of accumulated “stuff” had to go.

Letting go of furniture was easier than I thought. I had several pieces from my parents that I thoughtI had an emotional attachment to but when the decision came it was easy to let them go. They are just objects, large ones at that, and memories persist without them.

A number of smaller objects stayed because they strongly invoked not just memories of people but memories of them at a particular point in time or space.

I also decided that a great number of my tech books could be left behind. They are indeed left behind. In this day of constant net access and sites like Stack Overflow the need for tech books as reference material disappears. I personally like books for learning but no longer as reference.

The other pile that was left behind in a similar way were almost all my DVDs. I kept a few and a fair collection of Blu-Ray discs but most of my media is now on the computer. Another technology left behind, anyone still playing VHS tapes?

I discarded a lot of toys. I don’t know what it is about us nerds but we do love our toys. I kept a few like both my Rubik’s cubes. One’s usually unsolved and the other is displaying some pattern or other (‘cube in a cube in a cube’ and the ‘T pattern’ are my favourites). Way back in my late teens I spent months looking at the theory of the cube (blame Douglas Hofstadter and his “Metamagical Themas” column in Scientific American for that) and developed my own solution. It wasn’t a good solution but is was mine. I have it documented somewhere and if I really try I can still use it to solve a cube but I have to be really careful getting the last, bottom slice of the cube done as the transforms get long and ugly. I instead use a much better solution when I’m solving a cube just for the fun of solving. If you’re looking for a decent method then the one at the official cube page is excellent.

T

T Pattern

cube3

Cube in a cube in a cube

I also kept about three “magic snake” puzzles. Marvellous way to keep my brain occupied while watching TV or a movie is to play with them. So far I’ve discovered five different ways of spiralling one.

magic snake

Magic Snake

Left behind was a need to be surrounded by stuff. I had a woman help me from a declutter service and I don’t know what it was but just her presence there made the decisions easy. At one stage she said to me “You’re doing extremely well. You’re being quite decisive” and I felt quite complimented. It was an unusual me in a lot ways.

I may have left behind a lot but I’m looking forward to a smaller life.

Summer Storms


Today’s Daily Prompt is “Storm”. The moment I saw the word I thought of the summer storms of my childhood. The Newcastle “Southerly Buster”.

A day in the summer school holidays. Scorching hot. The air would be hot and dry, the sky clear. It didn’t slow down my friends and I, we would continue playing with sweat pouring off us, though if one of the yards had a sprinkler going it was hard to resist playing in the water. If no sprinklers were available then perhaps we would climb into the huge oak tree in the empty block of land near the start of the street, perhaps we would retreat into the bush behind the houses on one side of the road to find a cool corner.

Some time after lunch you could start to see the Southern sky becoming darker and darker, starting to threaten. Then late afternoon it would come. First the cooling southerly wind the a few minutes later the pouring rain. Huge drops of water splashing into the quickly forming puddles. Gutters already running full.

We would stay out watching the storm approach and when the rain started pouring run for home, often soaked by the time we arrived there.

The simple joys of a bunch of young boys.

Home, Sweeter Home


One of his best known works, a product of his ...

One Mondrian’s best known works, a product of his De Stijl period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – A garage door in Newcastle, NSW perhaps!

Today’s Daily Prompt was “What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.”

I have no memory of the absolute first home I lived in, the family left when I was only one and moved into a brand new home in a quite new suburb. I lived in that house for almost eleven years.

My parents could probably have been described as a young, upwardly mobile couple with a couple of kids. That could apply to several of the couples with new homes close to us. Nobody knew the term “yuppy” and Australia was full of young couples riding the post war success of the country. This was the time that Prime Minister John Howard used as his yardstick of the “lucky country”.

When I returned to the house after an absence of many years the first thing that struck me was how short the street was. In my memory it extended a long way with a huge hill for billy carts. In reality the hill was only a hundred metres long or so, the whole street less than five hundred. Continue reading

No, I Won’t Post Once A Week


WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

There is a large bunch of bloggers who have put a graphic on their blog proclaiming that they will post once a day or once a week for the entire year.

I’m not one of them.

Sorry, but I like to publish posts that have value and meaning. I can’t do that every day or every week. When I post I like to think it is worth reading and there are times that this depressed, worn out writer can barely manage to drag himself out of bed and put in a day’s work.

Lately I’ve been suffering. Four weeks ago I stopped taking my anti-depressants and stopped seeing my therapist and the one real change was that my energy levels dropped. Getting to work was hard enough, writing and editing a blog post impossible.

One of the things I decided a while ago was that I’m not going to make any promises about posting to this blog and I’m not going to feel guilty when I don’t. I think quality is more important than posting too often.

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Markdown Comes To WordPress


markdown-example-w-preview

markdown-example-w-preview (Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

I have a confession to make. I’m a total nerd when it comes to text and text to HTML conversion systems. You see plain text is just so easy to type and plain text files never cause problems years later when save formats change. Then you just need a way of encoding format in the plain text files.

If you work in a good command line environment there are also a large number of tools that work on plain text files. Unix was actually developed as a document management system – that was how Thompson and Ritchie got the funding to do it from their bosses at Bell.

It was a Unix system, man and mm files, that was my first introduction to specifying formatting in a text file. The drawback of systems such as those that we used under Unix was that they were hard to read – here’s an example of a man file:

\&\fIperldoc\fR looks up a piece of documentation in .pod format that is embedded
in the perl installation tree or in a perl script, and displays it via
\&\f(CW*(Cpod2man | nroff \-man | $PAGER\*(C'\fR. (In addition, if running under HP-UX,
\&\f(CW\*(C
col -x*(C’\fR will be used.) This is primarily used for the documentation for
the perl library modules.
.PP

This is a particularly convoluted example but you get the idea – not easy to read.

When web pages came along several projects struggled with a way of making it easier to write web pages with systems that allowed the user to write in simpler syntaxes that were easily translated into HTML. BBCode, from the Universal BBS, was one of the first.

Continue reading

In The Name Of Love


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Today’s Daily Prompt, “Tell someone you’re proud of just how proud you are.”, comes for me at an opportune moment. In a little more than a month my daughter Jessica will be turning 21 and I will be giving a couple of speeches. These will, of course, be tales of love and pride.

I am immensely proud of Jessica and have been for many, many years. Read my post ‘Person of The Year’ for an example of my daughter’s capacity for love.

I look at Jessica now and see a strong, intelligent, capable young woman whom I love deeply.

It does seem a little strange to feel pride at her and her achievements. What did I do? Dictionary.com defines pride (in one instance) as “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself” and I think it is the reflected credit we are talking about when we say we are “proud” of someone.

Is my pride a pride in achievements? Jessica has achieved many things in her 21 years, she has been a success in such things as debating and dance aerobics and I am happy and pleased at these but my pride lives at a deeper level than achievements.

Is my pride a pride in actions? Jessica acts as a good person, a good friend and a loving daughter and grand-daughter. I am happy that this is my daughter but my pride is more than this.

I see the whole person in front of me and it is this image that fills me with pride. Despite she has not lived with me since she was 3 I spent many years doing a lot of driving between Sydney and Newcastle so that we could spend time together and I would like to think that during those weekends and holidays I had a fair amount of influence on Jessi. I tried to show her a wide and varied world, I tried to show her an accepting, caring and loving person.

So when I look at Jessica and see a fine woman with a strong sense of self, a loving heart and a fine mind with much promise and the energy and skills to carry herself forward to anywhere she wants to take herself I feel a strong sense of pride. More than this I know that no matter what she chooses to do and where she goes in the years to come nothing will shake my love and pride.

Rubbish Retail


dick smith

dick smith (Photo credit: sensesmaybenumbed)

All you people who complain that it’s the GST and the Aussie dollar that makes us all buy online, I’ve got a story for you.

I broke my Kindle. I tripped on the back step and, as well as collecting some bruises, I slammed the Kindle on the floor and got coffee all over it. I thought it was going to be OK, but two days later it refused to charge.

Wednesday morning I gave up and went looking to buy a new one. Unfortunately Amazon only sells through a small number of retailers locally and none of them offer overnight delivery.

Dick Smith does carry Kindles, but my favourite Dick Smith store was out of stock. The young man on the phone suggested I try “Click and Collect” — where I buy on the web site and it tells me which stores I can pick up from. (That might be why it’s my favourite Dick Smith: good staff there.)

“Click and Collect” told me that a nearby store had them, so I paid my money and set off to the shopping centre for my morning errands and shopping.

Continue reading

Déjà vu


English: WordPress Logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess it has to happen. Coming up with a Daily Prompt seven days (or is it six?) a week must be a hard thing to do and a constant strain. I don’t envy “michelle w” the task.

Today’s Daily Prompt is “If you had the opportunity to live a nomadic life, traveling from place to place, would you do it? Do you need a home base? What makes a place “home” to you?”

Back on the 7th, just two weeks ago, the Daily Prompt was “If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?”

Not identical but quite similar.

While we are looking at prompts lets go to the site ‘Plinky’ which also offers a prompt every day. Scroll down and have a look at the prompt for July 14. Look familiar? Yes, there it is, our Daily Prompt for today with exactly the same words.

I’ve also seen this happen in the opposite direction where Plinky “borrows” a prompt, sometimes changing a word or two, from our Daily Prompt.

I’ve seen the similarity on a few other occasions, though this is one of the few times I’ve had a look at the date stamps to attempt to sort out exactly what happened.

I wonder if what has happened here is that after the first Daily Prompt about the nomadic life Plinky borrowed the idea, changing the words a little, and then Michelle saw it and thought “That’s a great idea” and in her hurried state didn’t recognise her own handiwork?

What do you think? Is it OK for this borrowing to be done, particularly without credit? Did you notice the similarity? Do you think my theory might be right?

Oh, and by the way, I answered the first nomadic Daily Prompt here.

Experience


Bill Clinton talking at TED conference 2007. H...

Bill Clinton talking at TED conference 2007. He won TED Prize 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “If one experience or life change results from you writing your blog, what would you like it to be?”

The heart of today’s question is what is the one life change I’d like at the moment. I have a whole list of them but the chances of this blog triggering most of them is slim at best.

Falling in love would probably be at the top of my list, I’m a romantic and always enjoy being in love, not to mention that when you’re suffering depression one of the nicest things to get is a good cuddle – makes you feel much better.

A full time job would be nice. At the moment I’m making do with short jobs for old colleagues and past customers but something more stable and lucrative would be nice.

I don’t think either is a likely result of my writing here.

I write here because I enjoy it, I find writing a relaxing pursuit. I also find it helps with my depression to let some of the thoughts inside my head out and onto the screen. So I don’t do it to change anything or gain a life experience.

That said if someone from TED was to read my posts about depression and invite me to talk I wouldn’t say no. That would be an amazing life experience, giving a TED talk.

Of course everyone who writes would love a book contract so I would be over the moon if some publisher reading this blog was to decide to offer me one.

But let’s inject some more reality. Neither of those is likely to happen. How about a more likely outcome?

The life experience that I’d like from writing this blog is to strike up a conversation with my readers. I really enjoy every comment I get here and would love to hear more from you. If you are prompted by one of my posts to write a few sentences I’d enjoy reading them. If you don’t want to make a public comment then feel free to drop me a note at tonyw at honestpuck dot com.