hard times; easy choices

This is a talk I delivered at my local toastmasters club on Monday 17th July, 2017.

In the first four and a half months of this year I visited 10 cities in 4 countries, mostly for work, some for leisure.

In early May, in the midst of this whirlwind of movement, I visited my local library, as I often do, and I was drawn to this book: The Art of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere. I'm not sure why I was so drawn to the book but it ended up in a pile of books that I borrowed that day.

Continue reading hard times; easy choices

the opposite of addiction 

This is a 7 minute talk I presented recently at my local Toastmasters club.

Heroin. Sex. Facebook. Gambling. Working too much. Exercise. Alcohol.

What’s common about all these things?

They are all forms of addiction.

One of my favourite philosophers, Alain de Botton, once said: “almost everyone is an addict, when addiction is defined as a manic reliance on something as a defence against dark thoughts”.

Also, Russell Brand, a rather famous former alcholic and heroin addict once said “I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked the call of the wild is too strong”.

But is addiction this bad? Can we overcome?

There’s a common belief about heroin addiction that if you take heroin enough times then you will become a heroin addict.

This came from a series of experiments last century where they put a rat into a small cage and they gave the rat two choices: water and water mixed with heroin. What they found over and over again is the rat would drink the heroin water and then couldn’t stop drinking it, ultimately overdosing and killing itself. This same thing happened over and over again leading us to think what we think about heroin addiction.

But imagine you seriously injured yourself today. You’d probably be taken to hospital in an ambulance and you’d most likely be given heroin. It would be much like street heroin, only more pure and effective. And when you discharged from hospital, chances are you’d continue on with your life. You wouldn’t be a heroin addict. But this contradicts what we think about addiction.

In the seventies there was another series of experiments with rats. Instead of putting a single rat in a small cage alone, they built a much larger cage, called Rat Park, and put lots of nice things inside: ramps and amusements, fresh food and lots of rats. Rats could connect with other and have sex with each other, and they provided the same drinking options: plain water and water mixed with heroin. But what they found this time around is whilst some rats tried the heroin water out of curiosity, not a single rat became hooked, not a single rat overdosed, not a single rat died from the heroin.

It seems the original rats died from lack of connection instead of addiction.

But what about seemingly good addictions? Like exercise, or working hard all the time?

Can “good” addictions be bad?

These seemingly good addictions are bad because they are about avoiding inner thoughts of our mind. They’re not about connecting with others.

I’m a reader and big supporter of The Big Issue magazine in Australia. The Big Issue is a unique publication in that it’s sold on the street by homeless people who become street vendors, they each get to keep half of the cover price which is currently $3.50 of seven bucks.

But I’ve read numerous stories about the biggest difference being a street vendor for The Big Issue makes to a homeless person’s life isn’t the income, it certainly helps, but the connections that are created between the vendor and their customers. Having customers the vendors get to know mean they start establishing human connection: something that is missing for a lot of homeless people.

We may never overcome addiction, so the key is to choose the least harmful one.

Get addicted to connecting with and helping others.

Johann Hari once said “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it’s connection”.

I recently saw the sequel to the cult classic 90s film about heroin addiction called Trainspotting. I’ll leave you tonight with a quote from the sequel to that film:

“You are an addict, so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.”

Audience erupts in thunderous applause.

on being homeless

“I’ve seen a lot on the streets – there’s a lot of drugs and other stuff out there. Seen stabbings, people getting bashed, seen people jump on heads and break legs. Even found a dead body once – that kind of stuff sticks with you. But the other side of that is when you’re really down you’ve got nothing to lose, you can really only get better.”

~ Magoo – A homeless The Big Issue vendor in Brisbane

I love reading The Big Issue because it reminds me that when I’m having a shit day or a shit week that there’s so many people out there who have it so much worse than I (hopefully) ever will – and I should do something about that instead of worrying about this.

At the same time it sickens me we have Australian cities with a median house price of over one million dollars and still have people sleeping rough every night.

working from home 

I’ve been in my new job working from home for about six months now and people ask me what it’s like.

I can say it’s nothing at all like this song:

Kitty and I still can’t work out if they’re actually serious in that film clip or taking the piss.

scorpio death pattern

Not that much has been going on since I last wrote here, not that much good stuff anyway.

Quite a few months ago, when Kitty first announced she was pregnant with Space Prawn, I told a guy at work who for story’s sake, we’ll call old mate. I told quite a few people at work, but old mate’s response was the most odd. He happens to be very much into astrology & numerology, so he quickly asked the due date and told me Space Prawn will be a Scorpio.


At this point, being slightly sceptical, I didn’t really know what to expect from a Scorpio, but what he told me next was when it got weird. “There will soon be a death in your family” he said, “it always happens before or after a Scorpio is born”.

I didn’t think too much about it again until my Grandma died last month, aged 96. What makes it a little strange was that Grandma was still quite healthy, a doctor even recently gave her the all clear to make 100. But she suddenly died.

So it sorta stuck in my mind a bit. I have since done a bit more research about Scorpios, and what makes them what they are. I have a brother (of three) that is a Scorpio, and he is exactly how they are described. To completely honest, it’s a little scary, if Space Prawn is like my brother then we’re in for a treat!

I spoke to old mate at work after my Grandma’s funeral to find out a bit more detail. Apparently Scorpios are very fascinated by death, and that the intensity of a Scorpio’s mind means that a family member must pass for them to be born.

The strange thing is my Scorpio brother is fascinated by death.

Odd times.

a quarter life crisis

One of the problems I have with modern life is how fast we grow up. We are told to make so many crucial decisions at a very young age that determine what we can do with our lives.

For example, I was making decisions about my life when I was twelve years old. I was quite young in high school and so in Year Eight I was choosing Year Nine/Ten electives that would impact on my Year Eleven/Twelve electives that determine what course I could do at University. Quite obviously, what you do at Uni dictates what you do when you finish Uni. So effectively I was choosing a job in IT when I was twelve years old at school because I liked computers and I was the ‘smart kid’.

A problem arises after you’ve been in the workforce for a few years and realise you don’t actually like doing what you thought you would like doing when you were twelve. Enter the quarter-life crisis:

From wikipedia:

Characteristics of quarter-life crisis may include:

  • feeling “not good enough” because one can’t find a job that is at one’s academic/intellectual level
  • frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
  • confusion of identity
  • insecurity regarding the near future
  • insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
  • disappointment with one’s job
  • nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
  • loneliness
  • desire to have children
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you.

I am not an expert but I thought this shit normally happened when you were going bald and approaching forty, but now it’s happening when you’re in your mid to late twenties. See what I mean about growing up quickly?  They’ll soon redefine ‘over the hill’ to be over twenty-five.

One of the things that I didn’t learn until recently is that is healthy to change your mind. It’s one of the things that growing up quickly makes us forget. When I was young it was okay to change your favourite colour from one day to the next, but now its hard to admit that you changed your mind about what you want to do in life.

It’s hard to tell someone close to you that you’ve changed your mind, especially when you’ve been vocal about your opinion/decision in the first place. Back in the days I told Kitty I would never own a mobile phone and that I hated them (with passion!). But I changed my mind, and I still remember meekly having to explain why to her when I bought my first Nokia. I felt like a hyprocrite.

So maybe its better to take life slow and change your mind regularly. That way, hopefully when you get to a particular place in your life it is where you want to be, not where you wanted to be.

junior pixels

Introducing junior pixels…


These pixels show the inside of Kitty’s belly.  They also sorta show what junior pixels, also known as space prawn, will look like when he/she arrives. It’s apt that all we know about junior pixels is what we can see in these pixels: pixels really have come to represent the very first stages of life.

We’re both crazy excited. The arrival of junior pixels will be a big milestone for our relationship, and will be the beginning of many adventures and good times ahead. I just need to ensure I don’t bore people too much with talk about babies.

We fly to Los Angeles on Friday morning. I just hope we don’t get swine flu when we’re there 😦

redefining wealth

It’s definitely a confusing time for many people at the moment. I’m sure that a lot of people have started to realize their so called wealth during the boom years was really just an illusion, and like any illusion, it can quickly vanish. Many people who used to feel wealthy no longer actually are. Many people have started to question why they’re working longer, doing less things they enjoy and spending less time with their family and yet they’re no better off.

Most definitions of wealth are about abundant valuable material possessions, all of which are worth a lot less now. One of the positive outcomes of these times is that I think we’ll see a better definition of wealth emerge, wealth meaning we can lead a better life instead of just having a lot more shit.


In my opinion, being wealthy isn’t about:

  • owning heaps of shit and having to work 70 hours a week just to afford to pay for it all;
  • working so much that you need to pay others to care for your family whilst you work;
  • having a hugely expensive house that requires multiple incomes just to pay it off and constantly worrying about how much it is worth;
  • using your home equity as an constant ATM because it is suddenly worth so much;
  • owning the biggest and latest SUV to drive your children around in, polluting the planet and ripping up the roads whilst doing so;
  • having absolutely no savings, but heaps of assets (and debt) that supposedly only ever go up in value;
  • having no control over your life because all the decisions you make are financial and are about getting ahead.

To me, being wealthy is actually about:

  • having just enough to live comfortably;
  • having savings that enable you to make decisions about what is right/wrong;
  • being generous with your time and money, to make others lives better;
  • being able to spend time with your family;
  • being able to do things you enjoy as much as you like;
  • not trying to continually compare how much you own to others, just being happy with what you’ve got and what you do;
  • being happy that the value of your house stays the same, so you only make improvements for yourself rather than what you think will make it worth more to others.

So hopefully out of these tough times we will see  a new definition of wealth emerge, and once the dust settles, we can actually work at becoming truly wealthy, the kind of wealth that can’t disappear overnight.

Photo by Hamed Saber (Creative Commons)

i wanted to be a dentist

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a dentist. I don’t particularly know why, but I think it was because I wanted to be rich and the richest person I knew was my dentist. It didn’t help that I was considered the smart child in my family so my parents had expectations that I would go to Uni when I finished school and move into a professional job.

I took my dental intentions right through to junior high school and not long into year ten I had to decide where I would spend a week doing ‘work experience’ to glimpse inside the facets of the working world, to which one day I would belong. Predictably, I chose to spend a week with my dentist.

After a week of standing next to my dentist and peering into the mouths of many people all day, I, surprisingly, no longer wanted to be a dentist. And why? I really didn’t like the grossness of some mouths (like cars, most people only see a dentist when there’s a problem) , but I thought I could get used to it. I didn’t like the mandatory small talk either, but again I believed it would somehow become easier with time. The thing that absolutely killed my dental dream was that most of the mouths I peered into for a week belonged to people who didn’t want to be there. Most of these people loathed going to the dentist, and I really didn’t want to be someone who people hated coming to see.

The Unscrupulous Parking Inspector

A few weeks ago I had to drop some things off at work so I drove in about seven am in the car. I gave Kitty a lift in as well, and so I pulled off a busy city street into a loading zone to quickly drop K off (sans kiss). Little did I know that the half of the loading zone I stopped in was a commercial loading zone; only the other half was reserved for passengers. An unscrupulous parking inspector was hiding nearby and took the opportunity to pounce. There’s no measure small enough to express the time from when I pulled in til when he began creating an electronic parking infringement. I quickly pulled out of the spot but it didn’t stop him having a go at K and ruining her morning.

I see parking inspectors up there with taxation auditors and dentists in the professions that people hate dealing with. I’m not sure you’d have a lot of people talk to you at a party if you said you were one. But it’s no wonder that people hate parking inspectors, considering their behaviour. Parking in a disabled spot without a permit is definitely never ok (it’s NEVER OK), but accidentally pulling into the wrong end of a loading zone on a busy city street for less than 30 seconds to drop off a loved one surely doesn’t warrant a parking infringement. This guy isn’t making the world a better place by fining me and ruining Kitty’s day.

Walking into work a week later I saw him in the exact same spot doing the exact same thing. I couldn’t help but walk past and have a word with him, whilst I was on foot. I can’t repeat those words here but I can say they’re not dissimilar to what Bernard Fanning once called Ben Lee.


I ended up studying and working in Software. Working in a corporate office setting has meant I have been able to establish some close work friendships; sans small talk.

I try my hardest to make sure that people I work with don’t hate me, and want to see me. Otherwise I would have just studied dentistry.


I love this quote from the excellent book titled Your Money or Your Life:

The word is ‘enough’, At the peak of the Fulfilment Curve we have enough. Enough for our survival, enough comforts. And even enough little ‘luxuries’. We have everything we need; there’s nothing extra to weigh us down, distract or distress us, nothing we’ve bought on time, have never used and are slaving to pay off. Enough is a fearless place, a trusting place. An honest and self observant place. It’s appreciating and fully enjoying what money brings into your life, and yet never purchasing anything that isn’t needed and wanted.

– Page 25

There’s also some other gems:

And thus a rat race was born, leading to our excruciating balancing act between working more to buy luxuries and having enough leisure to enjoy them.

– Page 17

Clutter is anything that is excess – for you. It’s whatever doesn’t serve you, yet takes up space in your world. To let go of clutter, then, is not deprivation, it’s lightening up and opening up space for something new to happen.

– Page 26

It’s worth a read.

it’s the end of the album (as we know it)

For the last couple of years, Radiohead has refused to allow its music on iTunes on the principal that it allows its listeners to purchase both individual tracks as well as whole albums.


Radiohead backflipped last week and agreed to release its back catalog on iTunes, which means users can now purchase individual Radiohead tracks.

It makes me a bit sad because it confirms what I’ve thinking for some time: it’s the end of the album. The reason I’m sad is that there are so many good albums that aren’t good as a collection of individual songs, but as good albums in their own right.

Many of my favourite albums have some really good songs, but also some not so good songs. The not so good songs only make the really good songs better: if they weren’t there, the really good songs wouldn’t be so good. And this is essentially what happens when you get rid of the concept of an album.

It sounds a bit random but so I’ll try to explain this concept with two different stories.

I recently read a great book called Fat, Forty & Fired and one of the stories was about going camping and buying jubes. Apparently, for ages, jubes were only sold in a big bag of all different colours: red, green, orange etc. I think the red ones were the best, and no one really liked the green ones so they were the last to go. Anyway, recently the author went camping and was joyous to discover they now sell a bag of just red jubes, the best ones! Towards the end of the camping trip he realised the bag of jubes was hardly eaten, when normally the mixed bag would have been chewed up at the start of the trip. There weren’t any not so good jubes, you see, to make the good jubes good!

When I first started digitizing my music collection I thought it was great as I could make playlists of all my favourite tracks from all my favourite albums. I made a few based upon genres (dance, chillout etc.) but after some listening I realised somehow the playlists weren’t that good: the tracks didn’t feel right out of the album context. I’ve since reverted to predominently listening to complete albums. Occasionally I even rip a whole album as one large mp3, so that I can’t ever play it in the wrong order or listen to it in the wrong context.

This theory applies to life as well. The not so good bits make the good bits good. How good is a holiday when you’ve been working really hard, or when you don’t really like your job!

So, even though you can now download individual radiohead tracks on iTunes, it doesn’t mean that you have to. The choice to listen to whole albums is up to you.

Image from Wikipedia by Kollision (Creative Commons)

wired is rethinking what it means to be green

Wired Magazine has just released a very thought provoking article titled Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green, accompanied by ten green heresies:

  • Live in Cities
  • A/C Is OK
  • Organics Are Not the Answer
  • Farm the Forests
  • China Is the Solution
  • Accept Genetic Engeering
  • Carbon Trading Doesn’t Work
  • Embrace Nuclear Power
  • Buy Used Cars — Not Hybrids
  • Prepare for the Worst

Wired Magazine Article On Being Green

It’s well worth a read, if you’re into that sort of thing.

home or a loan?

There was an excellent debate between Simon Castles and Karin Derkley in yesterday’s Sun Herald about buying vs renting homes in Australia.

Simon is a writer for The Big Issue and Karin is the author of Buying and Selling Your Home for Dummies and Getting Started in Property for Dummies.

I am quite opinionated about this topic but I was interested in what both sides had to say nonetheless.

Simon Castles quickly dismissed the ‘rent money is dead money’ fallacy:

…renting makes financial sense. The old argument is that “rent money is dead money” but in truth, you either rent a home or “rent” the money to buy a home. Isn’t that, in effect, what interest is? And, boy, aren’t home buyers paying a lot of that right now. Interest must feel an awful lot like dead money when you keep having to pay more of it.

and finishes brilliantly:

A home, we too easily forget, is not something that you can buy. A house you can buy but “home” you can only feel. I’ve felt at home many times – and it has never come with a big mortgage attached.

Karin Derkely’s argument is mainly around financial security pointing out that the Australian economy, and tax & social security laws are built around the idea that people own the property they live in. She also points out the capital gains tax exemption and encourages “trading up” which I believe to be one of the main contributors to our housing affordability dilemma in Australia at the moment.

Karin also discusses the benefits of having a mortgage with equity in your home. She says you can use the equity in your home to borrow money for depreciating assets: overseas trips, cars etc. The problem I see with this is that this equity makes people feel “rich” so they go and buy these things with a “rich” mindset and without thinking of the consequences. Although interest rates on home loans are lower than credit cards, home loans usually have a long repayment period so the amount of interest is still large.


Innately, I am a worrier. Whenever I start to worry I try to recall the following quotes.

The first is about the two rules of life:

Rule Number One: Don’t sweat the small stuff
Rule Number Two: It’s all small stuff

The second is a quote I heard in a film at the National Museum in Canberra in 2004:

“As long as I’m breathing, I’m having a good day”

The third is a part of an Underworld song, Born Slippy .Nuxx:

“Let your feelings slip boy, but never your mask, boy.”

blog action day part three – avoid bottled water

Today is Blog Action Day so I plan on providing some of the small things that contribute to reducing my impact on the environment.

I try to avoid buying and drinking bottled water as much as I can. This is because:

  • Creating and transporting plastic bottles containing water is not environmentally friendly.
  • Transporting water from one side of the world to the other (eg. Evian, San Pellegrino) is just plain ridiculous.
  • Empty plastic bottles end up in landfill.
  • The cost of creating a bottle of water uses about 16 times its volume in water.
  • Tap water is drinkable. For those who don’t like the taste, water filters are available.
  • Spending money on bottled water is a waste of money.

Bottled Water

Picture by cowgummy

blog action day part two – use your local library

Today is Blog Action Day so I plan on providing some of the small things that contribute to reducing my impact on the environment.

I try to use my local library as much as a I possibly can. Using the library has many environmental, economic and social benefits:

  • Most suburbs/areas have a local library. This means you don’t need to travel very far to borrow books.
  • Libraries are free to use and therefore economical (I understand libraries are funded by council rates, but you do pay these whether or not you borrow from the library!)
  • Borrowing books is the ultimate form of recycling. I usually only read most books once so it makes sense to borrow them. Less books would need to be printed if more people borrowed books from libraries.
  • Libraries have a large variety of books across the various branches, much larger than a retail book store. You can easily find some old lost gems for loan that are well and truly no longer for sale.
  • Every time you read a really good book you can be happy to know that many other people before you have read that exact same book.
  • Libraries offer social clubs as well as an environment to enjoy without material or commercial solicitation.
  • Reading books makes you smarter and more of an interesting person.
  • Libraries offer more than just books: cds, dvds, magazines.

Library Book

blog action day part one – shop locally

Today is Blog Action Day so I plan on providing some of the small things that contribute to reducing my impact on the environment.

I try to do as much of my fresh food shopping as I can at my local farmer’s market. These are held at the Powerhouse in New Farm on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

The reasons I do all my fresh food shopping at the local farmers markets are:

  • The supply chain is shortened. If food travels a shorter distance, less carbon dioxide is created during its transportation.
  • The food I buy does not use fancy plastic packaging (I use green bags), nor does it require long term retail refrigeration.
  • The food I buy is so fresh that it lasts a full two weeks in my fridge. This means less food is wasted.
  • Because the food lasts two weeks, I only need to do my shopping once every two weeks. This means I travel less frequently to the shops.
  • Most of the market vendors I shop at do not have plastic bags so this encourages people to use environmental bags.
  • The food tastes more intense and is better for my body.

Take the example of garlic:

Chinese Garlic

Exhibit A

  • Grown in bulk in China.
  • Unknown growing conditions.
  • Has traveled 8000+ kilometers before it hits your belly.
  • No idea how long it has been in transportation.
  • White in colour, artificial tasting.
  • Costs $0.99

Australian Purple Garlic

Exhibit B

  • Locally grown in Australia by an Australian farmer.
  • Organically grown, no chemicals.
  • Has traveled less than 100 kilometers for you to eat it.
  • Beautiful purple in colour, fresh and flavoursome.
  • Costs $3

You decide.