Our build is about to begin

For those I haven't mentioned it to, we're about to do a major renovation on the house. We've lived here nearly 8 years and done a couple of little changes over the time, opening up the dividing wall between the kitchen and lounge room, re-doing the kitchen and bathroom, and adding on a little laundry out the back. But we've reached the limits.

We spent a few months looking around for somewhere with a bit more space in our area. The Sydney property insanity combined with how much we love the area meant anything suitable with 3 bedrooms was in the $1.4 million+ range which is just nuts. So we decided to extend.

Fortunately we have an awesome building designer in Tracy. She's probably spent an average of a day a week in our house since our first kids were born on the same day 5.5 years ago. She's managed to work out a really clever design that builds us two more bedrooms, creates a really functional and bright kitchen/dining space while maximising the amount of sun we get and heat it'll keep in. All while keeping to the same envelope of land use.

We're going up and down at once. The back half of the house will be demolished completely, then a new ground level much closer to the ground will develop. A bathroom will sit next to stairs down to the kitchen/dining and stairs up to the new first floor. Upstairs we'll have two bedrooms and another small bathroom. The back of the house will be a wide glazed view out to the garden. All the new windows will be double-glazed, providing great thermal performance and substantially reducing the impact of the ever-present planes going overhead. 

Excitingly, we're building with Hempcrete! It's basically walls constructed from the cellulose core of the hemp plant and some lime. The walls will be quite thick and providing good sealing as it's built into forms on-site. Thermal and acoustic performance is stratospheric, it's carbon negative and breathable to allow Sydney's humid Summer air a way to escape.

Pretty exciting! We move out today into my parents' place for 3-4 months, then it should be done. I'll post some "before" photos once we've finished moving all the boxes out of the bit that's going.

Recruiter hilarity of the week

I get about five calls a week where a recruiter finds my name in LinkedIn and call our company reception number asking for me by name. I can see this on my phone so I'm always prepared for them to be a cold call, otherwise they'd have my number.

It's got to the point where I ask if they're a recruiter straight up and then say "no thanks, not interested" and hang up. Anything else and I end up wasting a good half hour as they give me the spiel and expect me to give a detailed description of what my team does and our backgrounds, to zero benefit for me.

Sometimes they get a bit shitty about this and follow up with more calls or emails accusing me of being rude. Cos there's nothing more polite than cold-calling someone and wasting a bunch of their time trying to flog him a product he doesn't want.

Today's example was pretty hilarious. I'll change names to protect the innocent and not so innocent, but I want to point out that the name dropping she did was in italics which I thought was quite hilarious.

Funnier still, she claims to specialise in "Software and Web Development" yet her title in LinkedIn is rather clear: Recruitment Consultant - Business Transformation & Development

Well, it made me laugh anyway.

Hi Simon,

I hope this finds you well.

I just got off the phone with you after being cut off once you heard I was calling from a recruitment firm.

If given the opportunity, I would have explained that we have an existing relationship with the business having liaised with someone in finance and someone else in finance.

I have personally supplied to someone actually in my department as I specialise in recruiting across the Software and Web Development market. 

The reason for my call was to introduce myself, gain a better understanding of your role and your team, and become a potential point of contact for you should you require the assistance of external resources when it comes to on-boarding technical hires.

It was a professional introduction that was cut short and so I do hope that you are willing to speak at some point in the future.

All the best,

Recruiter McPimp


Nerd Dad does an experiment

On Saturday my nearly 5 year old asked me why the heat was going out of the room by him leaving the bathroom door open. He's not really ready for the Second Law of Thermodynamics just yet, so I thought we'd run an experiment.

We put a pot with hot tap water on the stove and started heating it until it boiled, then turned it off. Then we put a metal cup of cold tap water into the pot of hot water. We measured the temperatures of both at intervals.

Here's the resulting chart, and the raw data in a spreadsheet. My next step is to get some graph paper so we can go through the process of creating the chart by hand. I think that'll be instructive.

Not sure he really got it, but we both had a lot of fun doing the task. He really loved taking the measurements, which is helping with his reading and comprehension of numbers at least.

Healthcare spending: worst of both worlds

A few years back The Economist had a great chart on health care spending showing the split between public and private spending. What's interesting is the huge proportion of government spending from the supposed land of the free market.

The Wall Street Journal further illustrated this in 2011 with a chart showing the absolute numbers spent per capita (and life expectancy, but I think that's too crude a measure of health outcomes to be particularly useful). What's amazing about this is that the US government spends more per capita on healthcare than the UK, yet the healthcare consumer then have to chip in about the same amount again!

I thought it'd be interesting to include Australia in this to inform the current debate, and to update with the latest OECD numbers. The results are quite interesting and haven't changed especially. Americans are still spending way too much on healthcare, both publicly and privately. Australians are on course to do the same. Thanks guys!

I've shared the Tableau workbook on Tableau Public:

Awesome Q

For Mother's Day I did some racks of ribs in the smoker. Mostly followed this recipe but used a commercial BBQ sauce for the final basting. They turned out amazing. Lip smacking good. No leftovers.

Served with coleslaw, cornbread and a sweet potato and feta salad. Delicious. Will make the same again next week for my work colleagues.

The three possible responses to Heartbleed

There really are three things you'll see from vendors about Heartbleed:

  • We don't update our packages very often. (i.e., RUN AWAY RUN AWAY)
  • We use a Microsoft stack for all our web stuff (i.e. RUN AWAY RUN AWAY)
  • Our install was vulnerable, and here's what we've done to fix things. (correct response)

Bunnings: the Soviet hardware store

One of the most frustrating things about living in London was the supermarkets' reliance on Just In Time goods delivery, which more often than not ended up being Just Too Late. Rocking up to the Tesco in Kennington up the road from our house after work you'd find acres of empty produce trays and empty shelves. If you asked staff, they explained there is no store room and there would be no new stock until the next truck arrived. Of course the giant retailers had long killed the little corner stores where you might pick up a carton of milk or a loaf of bread, so you were stuck. London truly is a 3 day truck driver strike away from food riots.

Bunnings have brought this model to the hardware market in Australia, only with a twist that makes it far, far worse.

I've been trying to get the pieces together to repair our screen door and build a new fly screen. For this I need the edge aluminium extrusions in white, corner connectors, cross beam connectors, screen and the spline. You'd think you should be able to pick up these components in one place. Wrong.

I've tried my local Bunnings twice in the past month and each time they've had none of the corner pieces, just empty boxes. They don't even seem to have a place for the cross beam component, and availability of the extrusions in white has been hit and miss.

So I took a day off work to get there and see if I could find them. The photos above show the results. Nothing. The shelves are like Soviet Russia. The staff, when I can track them down, tell me the stock is replaced by reps from the supplier! So not only are they using a Just Too Late model with no storerooms, they let someone else handle the supply chain. Ridiculous.

I ended up going to the other Bunnings up the road with the same result. Finally I went to Mitre 10 in Newtown and managed to get what I need, along with some helpful advice from the knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately their product range is more limited, but at least they keep the stores filled!

Roll on Masters. I'm not keen on monopolists getting in, but this is a monopolized market already and could use some disruption. If there's one thing you never see in a Woolworths, it's row after row of empty shelves. These people can manage a supply chain. Now hurry up and open a Masters in the inner city of Sydney already!

2013 was the year I finally kicked print

I got a new Kindle for Xmas and I'm absolutely loving it. The backlighting is so smooth and subtle, I can read in the dark without disturbing the other half. It's a brilliant piece of technology connected to an endless supply of reading material.

I've been on track to phasing out print media for a long time. My original Kindle arrived in 2010 and I pretty much immediately stopped reading printed books, at least non-reference works. The Kindle experience is so smooth and the device so versatile, it's hard to beat. I experimented with getting newspapers pushed to the Kindle via email for a while too, so stopped reading print there.

I bought one of the first Android tablet computers back in late 2011 and started switching a lot of my reading to that straight away. I stopped my Guardian Weekly subscription after I found myself rarely taking it out of the mailing wrapper. (I renewed it later when they ran a just-ridiculous offer, which I suspect was some kind of sneaky way of boosting the internal business case for Guardian Australia.)

Since then I've been through a couple of tablets to settle on the Nexus 7 which has proved to be the ideal form factor and power level. I now spend most of my reading time on this. Interestingly though, I find the Kindle better for long-form, even though the same books are available on the Kindle app.

I also began last year using it and Evernote for taking work-related notes. I've now mostly migrated away from scrappy notebooks for this task. I still use paper notes for short-term things like daily to-do lists but not much else.

The last time I picked up a newspaper was grabbing a free one at some event late last year. Not to read, but to clean the barbecue. The date on the last page I used before picking up a new one was 2008. Though I've avoided Australian newspapers, digital and print, since moving back from London. I just couldn't stomach the low-brow jingoism and poor quality.

The last holdout of print for me was Make magazine. I've still been subscribed to it until late last year. Again, though, I've found myself not really reading it. Not because it's poor quality, just lack of time.

I bought a laser printer back in 2008. It's still on the toner cartridge it came with, and only its second ream of paper. It only ever gets used to print out things like event tickets, a business still firmly stuck in the paper era. (They'll sell you a "mobile ticket" but they charge more for it and last time we used it, it didn't even work!)

So 2013 was the year print went out for me. Don't see it changing. I imagine I'll still buy The Economist or something similar next time I take a long haul flight, solely because of the in cabin use restrictions. Otherwise, I'm done with print.

I'm somewhat nostalgic about print. My first real job out of school included doing cut-and-paste layout work on the People and Picture magazine display classifieds. Old skool. And much of my early career I earned money writing for magazines and newspapers.

That said, I don't miss the bad things about print. Being limited in what content you could consume by what was available. The weight of books, magazines and papers weighing you down. The fact that if you lost your bookmark, you had to hunt through to find your place. The ink rubbing off cheap newsprint onto your hands.

Exxopolis by Architects of Air

Yesterday we took the kids in to see Exxopolis, a giant inflatable scupture sitting out the front of the Sydney Opera House. The first photo is one I took on Tuesday while walking down for the Matmos gig. The rest from yesterday. You can see there's a really odd light inside, that's sunlight coming through the plastic.

It's an amazing artwork and must have enormous amounts of clever thinking and engineering behind it. The kids loved running around and exploring it, getting us "lost" inside.

Afterwards we had pizza overlooking the harbour. Lovely afternoon and evening out and the kids had a ball. We're very lucky to have this kind of amazing stuff happening in Summer.

Security too weak

The password I was trying to use? Why, the common dictionary word "bBFFI$&Q^UAH". But if I add a 1 to the end, no problem!