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I am disturbed 17-September-2000 Sunday

I'm a little bit disturbed. I think I'm beginning to enjoy the Olympics. I went to see the men's epee finals last night, to see the top four epee fencers in the world, it was pretty amazing. The city is really alive, there are people everywhere smiling chatting talking about the games. On the way home four people asked me directions, it didn't even bother me. In the lift on my way to my room I talked to some guy about the games.

"seen anything"
"Yeah, I have just been to see the mens epee finals, it was amazing"
"yeah fencing, saw the top four fencers in the world"
"yeah I loved the whole atmosphere, the cadence of the fights, the speed with which they fought, the spirit, the way each individual's personality shows through when they fight, it was fantastic"
"uh-huh", he gets this funny look on his face
"yeah, and the crowd were wonderful, people cheering for the underdog, or against the French guy, little kids making funny comments about power ranger costumes … * chuckle *"
"yeah and … "

I don't think he heard the rest of my rant as I wandered out of the lift and the doors closed behind me. Stupid Olympics, it's turning me into a social leper.


What's in the case? 16-September-2000 Saturday

The city is so full of secrets. I find myself standing in a beer pit, surrounded by happy revelers drinking $5.00 cans of VB. I'm chatting to Blaise as we shuffle to try and find a place where we can stand so the beer tent isn't obscuring our view of the big screen. It's typically Australian that a beer tent dominates the view in martin place, but I'm not complaining. Blaise is talking to me about the vibe, I can hear it in the noises she is making, see it in the way she is moving, its difficult to hear actual words, but I understand her feeling. I reply with appropriate gesticulations and noises. We are happy, squashed in among the many. Normally I freak out when I'm in a crowd, but normally crowds always seem to be going somewhere, shuffling towards some distant goal, while I'm often buffeted and distracted from my own tasks. But here things are different, people are standing around getting happy. I'm entranced by the way people are smiling, chatting drinking and having fun. The mobile phone system is overloaded (too many phones in one place I suppose), but still some people are able to make calls directing people to their location using the phone, hand waving and the occasional shout "GaZZAAAA!!!!" to which the reply is inevitably "WAZZZzzzzaAAAHHH", I'll never understand Australian nick names, in Sydney or the coast everyone's nick name ends in Arrrgh, in Canberra nick names end in Oh.

Blaise and I still can't see enough of the screen, or indeed hear enough to make our stay at Martin place worthwhile, so we decide to wander down to the bridge to see what is happening in that part of town. We get sidetracked on the way and end up in Chifley Towers, a swanky shopping centre in the middle of the CBD. We crash out on the floor, glad to get off our feet. They have a big screen and the crowd is subdued but at least we can see.

The opening ceremony of the Olympics was pretty amazing, despite my cynicism I couldn't help but get caught up in the atmosphere of good will. It's a strange feeling to be in the middle of a city full of young drunk people all incredibly happy, something I never imagined would happen anywhere in Australia let alone Sydney.

After the event we continue our journey down to circular quay (the opera house, bridge and a million drunken yobbos). Blaise keeps getting stopped by drunken revellers who hand her their cameras and get them to take photos, it takes us 30mins to walk 10mins distance. She must look like a photographer.

Once again we get caught up in the group vibe, and we wait expectantly, staring at the bridge there is a rumor that something is happening at midnight. Midnight passes, we turn to wander home.

I look at Blaise on the way back, she looks tired, but I sense she is happy. It's moments like these that I start to wonder about the secrets and stories that people hold within themselves. Looking around the crowded streets of the city I see hundreds of thousands of stories being written. I wonder how many of those stories I will ever hear. I guess that's why friends are important to me. Occasionally you will get to write a short story like this one together, other times they will reveal to you tales and secrets from the past. Once given to you these snippets of past lives flow into your own, flavouring your reality.

On the way back home, two incidents stick in my mind. The first was a slow motion event that breaks my heart. I hate slow motion events, because I know my brain is attempting to capture pure emotion, its reading body language, facial expression and sounds at a million miles a minute. Here in the midst of a cities collective happiness a woman approaches a man on a street bench, he doesn't look at her. Her face portrays one of the saddest expressions I have ever seen. There is raw emotion there, all social graces stripped away by the alcohol she must have consumed. She is devastated, and sinks to her knees in front of the man, bows her head, her face crinkled with and puckered with crying and holds his shoes while she pleads with him. I try not to care, this is happy time, but the images of those freeze frame moments as she collapses in front of him are going to haunt me, sadness juxtaposed over a river of joy.

The second was the appearance all over the city of little yellow suitcases, I'm being driven insane, I need to know what is in a case. Eventually I stop someone and ask… he opens his case and shows me the souvenirs from the opening ceremony. Somehow seeing into that bag as he proudly lifts up each item and lets me look, gives me a closer connection to the events of the night. The people, the sights the sounds all mesh together in the happiness of this man as he shows me he was there, physical proof of his story. For some insane reason I feel incredibly happy for him, his memories can be stored in a box, and brought out for his grandchildren to share, to experience the feelings he had on this night. Even if I didn't thank him last night, I want to thank him now for letting me glimpse into his story, his joy.


Work rant - Conservatism and creativity 15-September-2000

I woke up this morning and realised I was inherently conservative. Sounds odd for someone working in new media doesn't it? Well I guess it really boils down to the fact I like things that work. Conservatism really is a holding onto structures and processes that have worked in the past. They are safe, useful perhaps not efficient, perhaps they don't use the latest technology but they work. My work revolves around making things work for people. Finding out about how they see the world, what language (subdialects of English mostly - Jargon) they speak, how they do things. Its fascinating, one theme that does come through strongly is that people are conservative. We don't like change.

I guess this worries me a little, I mean I always thought I was pretty open to change, that I liked the idea of form being an adjunct to function. My work seems to be drilling into me that function is and should always be dominant over form. I, as an information "architect" will set out to organise and map an information space that makes it easy for people to find their way through whatever thing I am building. We do that by going and finding out what people want and need, and what the business owners want to give them. Then we marry those two things together. Sometimes, I get lost in the feeling that what I do doesn't look at designing spaces beyond pure function. Then again people like web sites that let them do what they need to do as quickly as possible, without the fuss and bother of "designed" information spaces (spaces we make just seem to fit users). I guess it all comes back to that idea of the discordant… we really only notice design when it sits outside that which is useful to us, how then does one marry that need for conservatism with the undeniable urge to create?

Marcos Novak's Manifesto of Transarchitectures
Brian Carroll's electronic architecture project

Oh and hey the Olympics have started, it just seems like background noise, but despite myself I can't help but feel a squidge excited about actually going to see some of the events (fencing). Woohoo!


Ouch - brain squash 14-September-2000

I woke up so hard this morning I seemed to have jarred my brain. It's one of those serious headaches that distorts your vision and make you want to puke when you move. The most annoying thing is I didn't have anything to drink last night. Imagine, a hangover without drinking, hardly makes having a sober night seem worthwhile does it? So I have taken a bunch of tablets that seem to separate my body from my brain (some funky type of cold and flu tablets). And I'm sitting here revving myself up for today's work, two browns already (coffee and a coke), and I'm still nowhere near buzzpoint. I think this is going to be one of those really long days. I watched television for about two hours last night. Now I realise why I wasn't really missing it that much, after that I finished Jeff Moon's pixel juice, and interesting book with some really good ideas, though the execution was perhaps a little too cute for my liking. I suppose I could ramble all morning but rather than inflict that on you...


I'm such a dick sometimes. 13-September-2000

Have you ever spent six months of your life bitching moaning that something is broken only to find that in reality it's your own fault?

Background: I moved to Sydney in May, got a really swish apartment it was great except that the telly reception was bad. I could go into gory details about how I wired up my telly set through the video, because that is the only remote control I have and it's easier to channel surf with a remote rather than getting up and changing channels, but as you will see there was a flaw in this masterful plan. So after I move into my flat and find the washing machine had disappeared (it was displayed but not actually part of the place?!) I decided that television would be my protector and company. I grew up on television it is (sadly) one of my best friends, I love television advertising, don't ask me why I just do.

So I hook up all my gear and try to tune the video to a station. The best I could do was some sort of artic hell. It was alright to listen to the television and interpret the vague shapes moving about as some sort of ghostly parody of moving pictures. I spent hours playing with the damn reception using the autoseek, trying an internal aerial, standing on my head, you know all the usual things you do to try and get good reception.

I call the real estate.

"Hi I'm having problems with my television reception"

"I'll check it out for you"

Two weeks later

"Hi I'm having problems with my television reception"

"I'll call you back"

Two weeks later

"Hi I'm having problems with my television reception"

"Maybe you need one of those booster thinggys"

"Maybe I'll go check it out, thanks"

After an embarrassing encounter at the Tandy store involving some pimply youth who looked at me like I was an idiot and stated to all and sundry, "we don't have booster aerials, but we have signal amplification boxes." Actually I'll never understand the attitude of those Tandy weenies… it must be something about how shite their job is that makes them so grumpy.

I walk out of there without spending any money.

"Hi, I'm still having problems with my tele reception"

"Oh we aren't managing your property anymore, so ask your next realestate"

Two weeks later my landlord has a baby, the realestate lets me know they are selling the flat from underneath me and asks if there is anything wrong with the place.

"Nah, I am however having problems with my television reception."

"Okay I'll look into that for you"

A month of house inspections later (I wonder how many dirty feet tracked across my lino in that time?)

"Hi I'm still having problems with my telly reception, but hows the sale of the place going"

"Didn't sell, we will have to do a bunch of ad hoc showings from now on, oh and your telly reception should be good"

It's almost the Olympics so I decide to give it one more try, because well, I admit it I want to be able to watch at least some of the damn games on telly.

"Hi, I'm still having problems with my telly"

"okay I'll check it out for you"


The next day. I'm telling you the next day, I get a phone call from the real estate.

"Oh hey checked it out seems the body corporate aren't going to do anything about it, cause noone else is complaining, so I called the owner of the place (the last tenant) she said she had problems tuning the tele until she tuned it into UHF. If that doesn't work ring me back and we will get an aerial guy out there"

"oh okay thanks"

So last night I get home at about 24:00 and unplug the cable from the back of my video (which doesn't scan a wide range of UHF frequencies), and spend about 20mins messing around with my television until I find a button marked vhu I push it twice until a little U appears in the top left corner of the screen, then I hit the scan button.

Five minutes later I'm watching television. Pristine, crisp, beautifully clear pictures flick in front of my nose. I see wars, starving children and violent protests.


A little help? I got a problem with my time. 12-September-2000

I discussed this theory of time with a few friends a couple of weeks ago and I'm still not sure about it. When I excitedly told Damo of my discovery he didn't look at me funny, so I figure it must have some speckling of truth. But then again I was probably staring off into the distance above his head as I always have to do when I am thinking hard. People's faces distract me, I get so much information coming into my brain read straight off a persons face that it seems to damp the flow of thoughts in my noggin.

So when I'm thinking, I stare off into space about 6 inches above peoples heads, or to the side of their face, it must be very distracting for them, because when my eyes eventually land back on their face (mostly towards the conclusion of a thought), I see instant relief. It's a bad habit but one that seems impossible to break, because if I don't do it I can't string concepts together in a coherent form. I secretly dread the day when computer interfaces become more human than human, then I will have to look away from the computer while I work, hopefully I'll have an office with a view by then.

So the theory of time goes something like, pleasurable experiences seem to last for a much shorter period of time than really boring ones. Physically… I mean temporally … hmmm I mean, in the "real world" that we pretend to live our lives in, two things can take the same amount of real time. While in our heads they take completely different amounts of time. Now how can that be? How can say a 1.5 hour lecture from an economist be any longer than say a 1.5 hour kissing and snuggling session?

Now lets say some smart people learn to unlock the brain chemistry of these states, imagine if you will being able to suspend moments of pure bliss (stop that! that's not …* sigh * … okay now we have all stopped day dreaming come back to me … that's it). If we could suspend moments of happiness, like lazy days lying on the grass watching the clouds form and reform above our heads, extend the length of your weekends away way out to infinity. Imagine if you will a wonderful Sunday afternoon bath with a good book and some wine that in the real world takes 3 mins, but in your headspace took 3 hours. Imagine how much living you could pack into a day. Furthermore, you could skip over all those boring bits of your life, the tax forms (uh I still haven't filled mine in … bum), the dishes, the cleaning of the damn flat when prospective buyers come around every Thursday and Saturday mornings, by making them really exciting.

I wonder if time compression and extension would be at all beneficial to the world?

I mean wouldn't it be bad if people just stopped their time somewhere that seemed perfect? Those moments when you feel happy, watching the smile of a child, feeling the warm breeze on your face after being cold, holding a new lover in your arms, or savouring the flavours of a homecooked meal.

It scares me to think that I might one day be able to pause my life like that. Somewhere in the real world my real life is continuing, but my brain gets lost back there enjoying and reveling in that single moment. It's the ideal of capturing and living a point in time, wanting it so much, for it to be forever.

I wonder how many shadows of myself I have already left behind, clinging to fragments of perfection in my life? I wonder how many more I shall leave? I just hope that wherever I have lost him, he's as happy as I am.


My desk a disaster movie? 11-September-2000

I guess my question is what is the psychological reasoning behind people with messy desks? Is it just that we can track more bits of paper, or do we have an innate sense of time and space within which our piles o crap filing system works? I mean every time I have had a clean desk it has taken me 20 times longer to search for something than it would normally. Then again, we have this cleaner at my office who likes to pile up the messy stuff on my desk (I suspect he does it to scrape off any chocolate residues I might have left on the tabletop), It does take me five mins to get the desk back to a messy enough state to make it useable again.

The other question I have is how come some people have clean desks? Where do they get time to shuffle papers into order, to line up books in rows? Do you suppose living in the midst of organised chaos like this desk is symptomatic of disorganised life? I'd like to think it represents an ability to be flexible in work practice, to take things as they come, with the ability to track multiple issues and information domains. I suspect I'm just a little lazy sometimes.