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 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 travelling 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 be come 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.


Smith St. Fitzroy

Studio from Smith St. Towards Gertrude St

Jim’s Hong Kong minitures will possibly be at “45 Downstairs” next year (2020).

Keep you posted