Friday, 22nd May 2020

I wrote yesterday that I believed I would hear no more about the matter but, of course, I was wrong, well in part. As with most of life’s sagas, there is a resonance that can be followed up. This I did on the spur of the moment and discovered more that took my feelings one way then later the other.

To my regret, I missed something written to me weeks earlier and last night I found it, checking on a whim, and read it. The effect was to amplify an emotional state that was just forming, like a cosmic dust cloud becoming a galaxy. However, it remains far from stable and as usual, there are more questions than answers. The truth is a matter of perspective and impossible to know in totality.

Information too is a strange commodity. What I read last night had a profound emotional impact but was followed up today with more information that again changed the tone of my feelings. Understanding what happens across years of people’s lives can’t be achieved in a few sentences. But in a few words, a new view of things can be initiated.

Anyway, apart from not really resolving anything, if anything ever could, it did seem to change the reason for a particular outcome that to some people might be worth pondering. I believe now that for one person, the decision was correct and hopefully, they will flourish due to it. For the other person, the consequences sadly were the complete opposite and prematurely terminal.

It is one of those situations, where I reflect on how little I actually know and when it comes to people, what we think we know can be a delusion that simply masks our ignorance. Of course, even asking questions does not guarantee finding the right answers.

On the back of an envelope of a letter I received in August of 2013 there was a quote from McCullers. It is worth reflecting on McCullers life here:


I won’t include the quote but in a way it is pertinent to this current thread as was the whole letter to the future direction leading to this text. It is a pity I was never able to reflect on the letter in detail and discuss it with anyone, as the author’s position was certainly confirmed 3 years later under different circumstances.

So if someone ever reads this they might be inclined to ask, what is this about? Maybe by then I’ll have more answers but I doubt it.

Past Moments in Continuity: A Time for Reflection

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The past came rushing back the other day, leaping over a void of silent years to report on a sad recent event. This triggered memories and questions, more questions in fact the longer I reflected on it, but also confirmed that the decision I made those many years ago was in essence the correct one or perhaps more philosophically, the appropriate one at the time. To be more accurate however, that decision was predetermined for me by someone else 4 months earlier. Even then it was difficult to accept but right. It didn’t feel like it then and for a period afterwards, but I slowly filed the emotional bundle away and got on with my life. OK, so I hope you get it that this is going to be a very abstract entry.

The trouble with that experience was that it was filled with optimism at a time when I was sorely in need of it. It was, however very short on credible reality and I finally opted for the pragmatic direction and that proved, in part, to be manageable and to a degree, progressive for that time in my life. In some ways it was also the path of least resistance. I had unwittingly applied Occam’s Razor to an emotional issue.

Still, I was left with memories that hinted at what might have been. For a period of time I could imagine a different life, a new life, a better life, somewhere else. Rather than going back, it would be a kind of personal Renaissance, complete with a supportive entourage. There was however no detail to any of this and a lot of inescapable caveats floating around. It seemed easy to overlook the caveats (some of which were imposed upon me and rightly so) and look to a new future. It was all too sketchy, too nebulous and one-sided. It was my dream, not really shared by anyone else.

It came as a surprise to me that in a way, I had possibly, inadvertently, handed a situation to others and in the past few days, I had gleaned a bit of how that had all gone, and of course, it was Icarian. Up and then crashing down. Happy times eventually turning in the opposite direction. Paths diverging.

This may seem hubristic but I side stepped a moment, relatively quickly really, and that particular life direction was taken up by someone else. That moment, it should be noted was preconfigured some months earlier and not by me. Anyway, sort of like deciding not to take a flight, or catch a particular train on the spur of the moment. I just caught another one that was slightly different in outcome. This might seem harsh, or particularly insensitive but it certainly isn’t “schadenfreude” as I feel way to melancholy for that. The experience just seems like a personally poignant example of a particular life changing decision made that was emotionally charged. Thd direction that I foregone by me was taken up by others and that is what this is all about.

While this recent event I heard about was happening (about a month earlier), and I should say I actually only know the sparsest details about all of this even now, I was reading Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”. Kaufmann died unexpectedly at his home in Princeton in 1980 (9 years before I got there) aged only 59. In reviewing Kaufmann’s philosophical outlook and life at that time, I had no way of realising that I would need to return to thinking about that so soon. It helps, a little now, as I work through the emotions that I feel about my life those years ago.

One thing I know for sure now, is that I didn’t really know those involved at the time, and over the years since, I know them less. That’s just the way silence is. What I do know is that it was an experience that didn’t seem to have closure then and now I’m just curious as to what happened in those intervening years. Closure seems irrelevant, even indulgent. But of course, it is none of my business and while the Internet has revealed some information that I have to interpret, detailed first hand accounts have not been forthcoming. And probably never will be.

Those involved directly in this saga will have to endure the consequences of a fateful moment years ago that I had some agency in. Of course, I am not responsible for the actions of other people but I did create an opportunity and it was embraced. I can only surmise that for at least the first two years everything was rosy. Perhaps, those memories will triumph eventually, over the others of that time.

As I will likely never hear of this matter again, I wish the future well to those remaining.

Five Months In

Saturday, 16 May 2020

I wrote here in late December 2019 that I hoped the coming year would be more productive. Well, was I at the wrong end of the hope spectrum with that sentiment!

The first 6 months of 2020 have been, for virtually everyone on the planet, beyond belief. The world has been so shaken and unsettled that it is currently hard to imagine what life will be like in 6 months time let alone a year. I’ll stop here because there have already been billions of words written on this and I’ve really nothing to add generally.

The question remains though, what’s the future? Actually, that is for me. I don’t know. How do I return to “productive”? I guess I don’t or as productive as I was late last year. I think it is the wrong question. The question really is, how do I live from now?

Around February this year I was walking along the path beside the Yarra. It had been raining heavily and the banks were littered with the usual trash that floats down the river. At a certain point, my attention was drawn to a yellow round object that sat on top of a pile of debris. For some reason or other, I decided to look at it more closely so reached down and picked it up. I was initially disappointed as I thought it might have been more substantial than it was but as I rotated it around in my hand, I realised that the number on the toy ball was propitious or at least coincidental. Numbers rarely, if ever strike me that way but finding this object with the number so brazenly printed on it struck me as very weird.

So as the world was just beginning to sense a totally unnerving future, I at least was humble enough to think that it was only a number with a positive or negative significance to me. It still is. This year, however, will live long in the memory of everyone on this earth.

3 Time Machines

Saturday, 21 March 2020

There are things that you keep and things you don’t. Why you keep things is often not a matter of logic or laziness but emotion and history. I’m extrapolating for sure, but of interest here is 3 such objects (images below), actually “machines” that I have managed to hang onto for more than a quarter of a century. They are all audio related, two explicitly, one indirectly but also the most powerful in terms of audio potential. They all work fully and are in remarkably good condition.

I call them “time machines” even though the time travel is retrograde only, well perhaps they, in their stillness, kind of say something about my future, a place yet traveled, who knows. They have now become historical vehicles describing, in a way, my state of mind 25 years ago and how that had changed from a decade earlier in the 1980s. That’s another story for another time I think.

Order of presentation here is not significant as I can’t remember which I acquired first, etc., and I have placed no priority on them, although, perhaps there is for me personally. Some I achieved more with than the others, some meant, at the time more to me than they did a little later or even now. So considering them is simply to reflect on a variable experience.

So they are from the 1990s and represent my fading enthusiasm towards the promise of computer/digital music, at least, here in Melbourne. They were all acquired in Melbourne, one from a retail store the others on-line. At the time, ironically, I was living in the still but fading “hipster” suburb of Fitzroy where my Studio space currently is. In the last 25 years that suburb, and the neighbouring Collingwood, have changed almost beyond recognition. Again, ironically the suburb is full of digital creatives…like the rest of the planet.

And the hardware is:

  • Yamaha 03D Digital Mixer with ADAT extension module
  • QUASIMIDI Rave-o-lution 309 Synth/Drum machine with all extension modules
  • BeBox Computer. Dual 133MHz PowerPC 603e processors and extensive I/O

Now, at this time, these machines have to go. Ideally, to a good home. I can’t justify keeping them anymore and probably will never seriously use them other than to check they are working. That doesn’t see right but I suppose that is why they are still around. The BeBox OS (BeOS) is rev-locked. It can’t be officially updated any further as the current version is the last of that era. Although compiling later versions of the OS for that hardware might be possible.

Yamaha 03D Digital Mixer (1995)

I bought with Steve Law (Zen Paradox) who also bought one from Allens Music when the store was on the Southside of Bourke (It has been on Bourke St a few times I think) around 1995/6. Steve wore his out through extensive use; gigs and studio work. Mine simply rested. Well, I did learn a bit about mixers and I even reverse engineered the MIDI output commands to drive the mixer from a computer. There was interesting potential there but the MIDI commands were long and complicated because just about everything on the mixer could be controlled through MIDI.

QUASIMIDI Rave-o-lution 309

The “Rave-o-lution 309”, an TR-808 or perhaps more closely, a TR-909 copy the 309 with advanced synth technology, was a curious purchase for me. It looked interesting, flexible and extensible. I bought it,for some crazy, about the time I bought a “Sherman Filter Bank” and that device was legendary. I sold the “Filter Bank” that in a second but couldn’t as easily sell the 309. Anyway, the 309 still works after 25 years! And still looks OK. I changed some of the knobs because they overall weren’t that interesting or functional but apart from the extension upgrade it is original.

BeBox Computer (1995)

The BeBox was my purchasing homage to the NeXT machine. I had a NeXT “pizza box” bought in the US in 1991 but it was old and slow, and NeXT no longer made hardware, so when Be came along I went for it. BeOS, like NeXTStep was a great OS and promised to be a great media machine. The history of Be is interesting and like CP/M it failed to get the future it probably deserved. NeXT/OSX won out with Apple.
This machine is interesting because it still has the original software on it and in particular, an audio app by DAK (David A. Karla). The App is called Rack704 and was basically his version of a drum/synth machine. I remember that we did gigs on Brunswick St (Punters Club and Binary Bar). Of course, David bought a BeBox too, so that is how the software developed. It still runs on my BeBox today.
While tinkering with the BeBox in the late 1990s, getting a CD writer to work, etc., I transitioned to Linux where I stayed until academia required me to use Macs (OS9!) in 2002 and I have been an Apple user ever since.

Final Thoughts

There is one other device: a portable DAT machine (Onkyo?) which has not been included in this list and it also dates back to around 1994. It is small, a so called ¾ DAT system and it still works I think. As I have a few DAT tapes I would like to perhaps access one day and it’s not that big, I guess I can still hang onto it.

I have hung onto this stuff for so long without doing anything fun with it that clearly now it is time to pass it on, as in part with it. Psychologically, it’s probably the right time too. So I’m comfortable with that.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

There was a strange red sunset last night which did not bode well for the next day. And it turned out to be a long time since the air quality over Melbourne was this bad. It has been classified as hazardous and will probably last all day. Hopefully, tomorrow it will clear.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

In the few remaining days before the new year and the start of the last year of the decade, I’ve been reflecting on what has been a frustrating past 6 months. Apart from some health issues of a rather minor though inconveniencing sort, the period has been curiously misaligned, to put it one way. I generally brush these things aside and just get on with it but reflecting on the whole period, it has been particularly debilitating from a fundamental living perspective. There’s no point in going into detail but the end of the year, I hope, marks the end of such unproductive events. So, as I put together my “Flatpacked Distractions” cutout of Pellegrini’s Bar (The Famous cafe on Bourke St that every true Melbournian knows intimately and with profound sadness) I started to reflect on how great it is or rather privileged it is to live in Melbourne at this time. And, it is not easy to live here either, like most influential and recognised cities of the world, Melbourne has grown very fast since I returned from the U.S. in late 1993. That has been both good and bad, of course. So I think my two images of the City from Abbotsford, kind of put it in context.

Monday, 18 Nov 2019
Carillon project installed in the Canberra Centre. I really enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to work on a project in Canberra again.
Thanks to Charles Martin and Ben Swift for contacting me about the project and Terry McGee and Suzanne Hannema for making the experience so much fun.

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019
First week back in the Studio. New Studio, new ideas…hopefully.
It’s quiet. No one else in and it has been a chance to tweak the situation and sort the clutter out.
Too much stuff! And it is a worry. But also there is more open space.

Weather has been variable but not the cold of Winter anymore. And perhaps hayfever time is coming to an end?

I suspect Summer will be hot.

University House, Canberra. 29th Oct 2019

As I sit here in the “Boffins” garden at University House, the ANU Canberra, I’m feeling a positive wave of nostalgia. It is a glorious warm day, so typical of days in Canberra and it is simply hard to be negative about this return visit. In fact, it has been a good outcome and a memorable experience. I’m here through the National Capital Authority (NCA) and have been working on a project temporarily located in the School of Music. This project has now been completed and everyone is happy with the result.

It has been my great pleasure to work with:

Terry McGee (
Charles Martin (
Suzanne Hannema (National Capital Authority)

Many thanks for Dr. Ben Swift and Dr. Charles Martin for bringing this project to my attention.

I’ll return to Melbourne tomorrow but for now the ability to reminisce is a great joy and luxury. I will return to Canberra for various family reasons in the future but my life at ANU seems such a matter of history that I’m so enjoying the revery. Canberra has changed so much since I left.

In late December 2002, I sat here after a day of job interviews chatting with colleagues and others while waiting to fly back to Melbourne. 4 days later I was offered a job at the ANU and subsequent spent 12 years here which were anything but dull.

It has been a great visit and probably the last under such circumstances but who knows.

October 2019
A Return to Canberra Project

I have connections with Canberra that go beyond my work experiences there (1973 and 2002-2013). Family connections and more personally, a history. It’s a complex history scattered across a few decades, the usual sort really but mine for better or worse. It’s not anchored and continuous like my Melbourne history but fragmented. Perhaps incomplete.

So, when the Carillon project came up, it was a wonderful opportunity to return to Canberra with a purpose that aligned with my expertise. Sorta.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Canberra for a briefing on the project and my overall impression from the beginning was very positive but melancholy. I left a rainy gloomy Melbourne to arrive in a wonderfully sunlight city that seemed sparklingly new. I spent most of my time immersed in the project details but did managed to wander around a little and anticipated doing more of that on my return at the end of October 2019. The Canberra project has also required me to return to the Studio and work. I spent a week there which was rare for the past 2 years and really enjoyed the time and focus. I initially cleaned and tidied up, getting ideas for further stuff organisation and space management. Then I settled into constructing the hardware for the project.

As of writing this, I’m stuck on a software issue but not really that worried. I’ve experienced such conditions before and there is always a work around or solution. Time is a problem but these days that’s normal. At home, it has been more than 2 months since leaking into the apartment from the outside terrace was discovered to be very serious. That’s fixed but getting new carpet laid has taken ages. Hopefully this coming week will see life return to normal after a couple of months of disruption.

Interesting times.

Studio renovations 1
Studio renovations 2

September 23, 2019

It’s a time of change here. Actually, more rejuvenation as there are two spaces which are changing around me. Home is chaos while waiting for new carpet. A consequence of water damage from a leaking terrace. Fixing the leaks took a month and now the wait is on for new carpet in two rooms.  This though is a first world problem, as the disruption is the crisis, not money.

The second change is the studio which is undergoing wall renovations to increase the overall size and internal configuration, for a variety of reasons. This is positive mostly and probably should have happened 5 years ago. Now it seems faintly cosmetic but the new experience will hopefully inspire new projects and use of the space. See photos.

If there were a theme to this Winter, it would be change. Not that change is unusual or undesirable but that this time it seems so concentrated and overwhelming. It’s too much. When it clusters like this, and I’m not adding in the other “changes” here, the feeling is fundamentally unsettling.

I’m sure it will quieten down. In the meantime, the core elements remain the same; work, studio and Melbourne. I mention Melbourne because I cannot get over the changes to the City I grew up in. The contrast here is the people. Some many that the dynamics of the CBD are simply staggering compared to 30 years ago. Well, actually 20 years ago. And with the pressure on infrastructure, everyone is talking about how and why this has happened in such a short period of time. If you have a comfortable middle class life it is an exciting time. If you don’t rise to those fundamentals, then you are in trouble and it ain’t going to get better. There are so many homeless people around the city now as constant reminders of the changing economic landscape.

Melbourne remains a great city though. You just need the right lifestyle.


May 5, 2019

It seems to be that time of year when things start to happen. CSI New York is taking off with a launch on the 24th May. Work in India continues and there’s been meetings with Ithra Dubai about a project there. And life at Foy’s continues with work resuming on the tracking project. Fun times.

I’ve been working with the MAIX GO Development system and getting into micro-python. Interesting ‘bare metal’ hardware that nods towards AI with facial recognition, hardware encryption, WiFi, a battery, touch screen, etc. All in the palm of one’s hand. Amazingly inexpensive for the technology. 

Here’s a bizarre thought. Imagine Australia, for its landmass, had relatively the same population as the UK. That is, assuming Australia was as fertile and productive as the UK and internal travel was not an issue. A rough estimate would have Australia with a population of 2.11 billion people. Of course this is a ridiculous correlation because it just cannot and never will.

Currently the population growth of Australia is a hot topic and probably it is for most countries around the world. Australian cities seem increasingly crowded and of course the infrastructure hasn’t really kept up. This experienced definitively in the logistics of city commuting. When reflecting back 40 years commuting wasn’t so great either but it was less congested with people at those peak times. The population of the world though has been going up for centuries. What were we to expect then? Cities will simply have more people, and in fact they are far more cosmopolitan which is exciting for some and worrying for others. Of course, in Australia this diversity was thanks to Whitlam, Grasby and the “multiculturalism” agenda of the 1970s. Overall, it is what makes (the cities of) Australia a great place to live.

Australia though, for the most part, is an empty place. An inhospitably vast landscape for non-ingenious people. People though, to other people are infinitely interesting. So emptiness has a kind of philosophical dimension where we become prone to introspection and the coastal regions are where we shape the world we want to live in.

Talking about people and places, I’ve been watching “Bald and Bankrupt” on YouTube. Mr Bald’s (not his real name) travels around Eastern Europe and India have prompted positive responses from his thousands of subscribers because his approach and spontaneous banter is essentially that of the “Every person” with a commendable mix of humility and humour. His path is not the path of the privileged or elite, on the contrary he gets down to where “real” people, those who struggle or exist in tough environments, live. Is watching this a kind of vicarious penitence for us privilege YouTubers? Maybe, but it is interesting and clearly many people connect with that kind of travel experience rather than the luxury resort kind.

As an Englishman with a global perspective he sort of follows on in the tradition of the great English travel writers like Aurial Stein, Wilfred Thesiger, Robert Byron, Freya Stark, Eric Newby, Colin Thubron and Bruce Chatwin to name a few of the better known ones. But Mr Bald uses video and YouTube. He glides through a diverse range of environments either walking, by motor bike or other forms of local transport, chit-chatting with us and the people around him in ways that are almost banal yet sprinkled with gems of observational insight. His is the adventure mode probably closest to Byron’s and Newby’s. “We’re gonna do this.” “Let’s do it.” “Let’s just go there.” There’s often no profoundly meaningful rationale to traveling anywhere except to talk about it when there. Interesting things will happen or we won’t see it on YouTube. But what is interesting? It turns out that it can often be almost nothing because the video says a lot.

The “Travel Vlogger” idea is not entirely new but his interpretation is compelling. He has confidence and a modicum of gravitas, and it works. Others have done it, in particular Harald Baldr, not to mention the many who slink around Asia in a far more questionable manner.

Mr Bald is different. He exposes himself to situations that few would really like to be in if traveling as a tourist. He also speaks Russian and Hindustani to a degree that allows him to engage with local people in those to regions at a grassroots level. In this he rises above base tourism.

It all makes for interesting viewing in a strange way. At times nothing really happens. His commentary is enthusiastic if peppered with incomplete or inaccurate or naive information. His chatter infuses the viewing experience with a certain charm and humanity. I imagine if one had to listen to it all the time in real life, the novelty would quickly wear off. The question will be whether he can maintain his style even begin to down play it somewhat rather than getting overly carried away with his growing subscriber base. A good example here is the evolution of videos by Anthony Bourdain. In the later part of “Parts Unknown” he seems to let people around him speak more, I thought. I could image him getting weary of the style after so many videos, in so many places.

If his intention was to become a youtube “celebrity” then he’s on the way, if not there now. But I doubt that anyone would do what he does with that aspiration only. He does it because he likes doing it and he has a natural talent that distinguishes him from rabble of Travel Vloggers out there.

Worth a look.

March 12, 2019
It’s March, in fact near mid-March and it is clearly evident I’ve been procrastinating with entries here. Has nothing happened? Well, of course not. Lots of things happen. Perhaps it is just a question of where to begin and in truth I don’t like writing about myself. OK, that’s a conceit but it’s true up to a point about not writing something boring or at least not interesting about myself or something else I’m interested in.
Reluctantly in a somewhat negative vain, I’m in a hiatus with (creative) work in the Studio. That bothers me. In fact I much prefer reading and doing some programming to actually building things as that seems to have become harder or at least more challenging when I only get there 2 days a week. That’s right, I now head into the City 3 times a week and find work there challenging and diverse enough.
In fact, working at Foy’s presents different perspectives on things outside my normal sphere of interest and also raises opportunities for, at least reflection on situations that I wouldn’t normally engage with. The question is how will these evolve? This is not a question that is of immediate critical urgency but floats a certain curiosity about living/working in the contemporary world. I’m not sure I’m conversant or indeed motivated enough to tackle that at the moment.
Went to the “Remembering Chris Mann”event at Wesley Anne last week (7th March and many thanks to Caroline Connors for her work on that) and found it a sobering experience. We have grown older and the whole momentum surrounding “experimentalism” as we knew and practiced it has faded it would seem. I don’t practice it explicitly nor feel compelled to anymore but I think I understand my feelings about it better in retrospect and my historical contribution with some clarity now. While what we did will largely be forgotten or incompletely understood (and that includes those of a “transactional” disposition), I know it had a value in the moment, perhaps even longer at least to those who produced it. In fact, on further reflection, I don’t think I’ve every stopped being “experimental”, so I was somewhat hasty in my earlier comments. I’ll think about it some more. Anyway, it was wonderful to hear Chris’ voice again in public, doing what he did best; reciting his own texts. I wonder if there will ever be a comprehensive archive of his works.
Oh, and been watching youtube vids of Christopher Hitchens talking about his book on religion. A remarkably informed and skilled raconteur. Amazing to think he has gone now too.

December 9, 2018
Everything is the same as I wrote here last time with the expected exceptions (one would hope) of new project directions and activities. Foy’s (CSI) work has shifted to Internet security and privacy experiments, I’m still working on the Creative Algorithm text and progressively becoming more creative, a new project direction with Andrew has arisen (along with the other one which is still in progress) and recent contact with an old friend James has brought the prospect of a new audio project. So the year draws to a close with some interesting prospects for the future. The recent deaths of two people I regard as important in the context of my world both surprised and saddened me. My perception of Melbourne is largely nostalgic. As the city undergoes massive expansion and change, very little of what was a formative place for me, seems to remain. I often wonder if I should have returned to Melbourne at all and simply been brave enough to journey somewhere else for a new start. I’m completely ambivalent on that point. In fact, doing both would be the ideal in hindsight but how would I have done that? Would that still be possible? I think if there was a will, it would be. Oh, and with an adequate supply of that other essential stuff.

September 2018
Still hanging out at Foy’s continuing to work on the indoor tracking system but at the moment drone swarm programming. The Studio project is still a work-in-progress but more or less working. The case needs redesigning and the battery system need integrating but apart from that, it needs a purpose. Oh, started writing about Algorithmic composition. Not sure where that is going but I was surprised that I found something to say about it after all these years.

March 2018
Working at Foy’s Arcade for CSI ( which is interesting, educational and fun.
Also, started working on another project with Andrew Sorensen. This is going to be different and I think pertinent to today’s connected world! Images will be updated frequently.


Partially working with colourful LED display lights.

Nearly complete. Missing on rotary encoder. Still a bit of wiring to do though.

Preliminary case. 0.6mm thick aluminium mesh. Perhaps a little fine but looks interesting.

This size was really coincidental but turned out to be just right for the final material.

Front panel draft in cardboard.

VU Meters controlled with Internet data and red/blue LED controlled from other ESP32 core

Two WiFi modules

Teensy and ESP8266 WiFi on one board!

Interestig working with these different meters. Resistance is necessary.


The Studio, from the corner of Peel and Smith Sts.

Studio from Smith St. Towards Gertrude St

The quietness of Smith St is possibly ending.