Real Estate reality check – most Sydney houses are pretty strange

After spending two years searching Sydney for the ideal home, my wife and I are finally ready to delete the RealEstate.com.au and Domain apps from our iPhones. It has been an obsession that took us to dozens of Open Homes, hundreds of secret drive-bys and turned us into highly critical buyers and highly frustrated sellers. We also started cataloguing all the weirdest compromises people make.

Every home has something odd, if you look under enough rugs or check enough floor plans.

We found that over time, our standards dropped and our criteria loosened, but even still, some houses – even some we were considering bidding on – were beyond strange.

Here are some of the bizarro beauties we didn’t buy…

Barton Crescent Hurlstone Park

This is the house that got us thinking we should sell our home. Sure, it said five bedrooms but we figured that it was really 4 plus a study. Sure, it was hideous with wall-to-wall pebblecrete and would take years to salvage, but that would only turn people off, right? Sure, it was a good size block in a cul-de-sac near the train station, but if the agent says it’s affordable then… why did it get passed in for $100k more than what we were told it would go for? (To the agent’s credit, they refunded our building inspection.)

Here’s how we first saw it, followed by my own artist’s impression of how we may have saved it.

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Hampton Street Croydon Park
Again, we were on the lookout for 3BD homes but when a 5BD shows up in search results, you think you might somehow be on the only person to have spotted it. That is, until inspection day. This home had large living spaces, a pool, parquetry floors and off-street parking. And how many homes can offer you a fully-decked backyard! Every inch is ready to be oiled every year, allowing you to embrace the outdoors by standing, sitting in chairs, walking and chasing things your kids poke between the cracks.

Brighton Street Croydon
Despite my deeply held personal convictions, we even considered this 1980s McMansion. Miss-matched fences, seriously dodgy brickwork and a damp backyard aside, this ode to owner-builders had a sloping floor fit for Wet N Wild, plus more unfinished surfaces than a rock quarry. Plus, there were unfathomable decisions including a shower added to the rear of the kitchen. The kitchen! The laundry was nowhere to be seen but turned up hidden in the double garage – a garage to which there was no car access! Genius!

Higginbotham Road
Apart from the wood-panelled and windowed ceiling shown, this home had the strangest bathroom we’d ever seen. A fully moulded sky blue plastic shell, like a toilet cubicle from a 747. Easy to clean with no corners or crevices, but the feeling that the seatbelt light might come on at any time. And that was the ensuite.

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Barons Cresent, Boronia Park.
Even a driveway can make a house difficult to sell.
We really wanted this to work. We could get the kids into the great local school in this leafy suburb no one has heard of near Hunters Hill. This home ticked lots of boxes and then added a bunch more – bushy outlook, secluded property, north-facing, it even backed onto Lane Cove River which was visible beyond a mangrove boardwalk! Problem was, the house was on poles and the heavily sloping backyard was down 30 steps. The real dealbreaker came when we tried descending the narrow, steep battleaxe driveway in our new seven-seater. No guest would brave it, and I had palpitations just reversing out. No thanks.

Charles Street Petersham
Oddball from go to wo. It had enough character for me to ask for the contract while my wife was running for the door. This reasonably cramped semi featured the biggest walk-in robe we saw in any home. Outside there was an overgrown garden accessible only beyond a tree you had to limbo under. Their homemade glass atrium felt like an escape module. And then there was the garage, fit for a, err, shed.

Lyle Avenue Lindfield
The agent said it was an ‘idyllic bushland setting’, but being in Lindfield, that was a given. The house? It was a cool vintage number but the tree – a Myrtaceae myrtle – out the lounge room window was all we wanted. Yes, we genuinely considered buying a house way out of our area and out of our political and socio-economic comfort zone, all just to gaze at the most outstanding angophora we had ever seen. Its orange tones radiated like a bar heater. It was one of many on 1075 square metres. The house was a bit like Rose Seidler’s one up the road – with original furniture by the looks – and it eventually sold for less than $900k. Outrageous.

The tree was worth at least a million.

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A case for tweeting what we read, not what we think

A friend who works for Twitter asked me why I run a Twitter account that simply lists what articles I am reading on any given day.

Now I have considered it, it’s not unlike the ‘see what your friends have read” feature behind the News Corp paywall. But I just never feel comfortable sharing like that. But my @buckleupreads account is operated solely by me. In fact, this automatic feed of what has caught my eye is even more revealing than my neatly curated tweets of thoughts, links and photos that you’ll find on my main profile, @buckleup.

It’s a text version of what “The Narrative” camera seeks to do, following me everywhere on the internet, except that my @buckleupreads only records what really makes me pause.

What is worth sharing?

Twitter is a marvellous medium for sharing. The best, by far. But having an audience ready to listen has me forever contemplating, what is WORTH sharing?

My general rule has been to make every tweet educational or entertaining, preferably both.

But as my use of Twitter has developed, I have realised that’s all too restrictive. It may be a good place to start, but life has more variety, twitter needs more diversity and rules are meant to be broken. Even my own rules.

For example, I had left no room for opinion, the views that create or add to a debate, the banter that can lead to new ideas and a wider perspective.

And secondly, the sharing of links to articles – offered without any comment – is one of twitter’s greatest services and is a genuine timesaver. Simply type any topic and t.co into the Twitter search bar, and you will receive a stream of tweets pointing you to recent articles on the topic. If I spend even ten minutes walking or on public transport, I grab a few links, save them to reader (I mostly use Pocket) and then paste the text into a voice-to-text app so I can listen while still remain a visually engaged citizen of the universe.

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Based on this routine, I decided to make a twitter feed of those articles, mostly for my own record-keeping, but also for anyone interested in seeing – without any moderation, wit or judgment – an RSS of what I come across in a life in Sydney influenced by faith, family, design, technology, intolerable traffic and world class weather, coloured by a job tied to the media, social networks and emerging trends. A bit of unedited life-blogging.

Many news sites feature a ‘most read’ list, but unless I know and relate to those people it holds little value. I would love it if all my friends had a twitter feed like @buckleupreads, so I could easily follow a list of what they had been reading. It would be like my friends had curated Google News every day and shared it.

The biggest downside of this idea is that some articles I choose to read are a total waste of time. Some articles promote me to act, others to laugh, many to say “meh”.  Only those that make the Buckle-cut will get mentioned on @buckleup. Think of that account as the premium experience. And there isn’t even a paywall.

Yet.

5 Predictions for social TV in 2014

Social TV is going to be more than a buzzword in 2014, it will become the essential element many TV viewers need to complete their viewing experience.

Only now do broadcasters have access to the tools that will reach many of the expectations their audiences have built up since Twitter and Facebook began encouraging levels of engagement the networks themselves could not deliver.

Working on the cusp of this is what makes me want to get up in the morning.

Here are 5 ways I see the landscape changing in the next 12 months:

1. Deeper program integration.
As broadcasters become more familiar with social media trends and terminology, expect comments and other content appearing in TV shows to be more useful, seamlessly integrated, less visually intrusive, and, with improved moderation, more relevant (ie. intelligent). The era of seeing Sally from Blacktown’s tweet on screen is nearing an end.

tweets qanda

2. Platform tools
The broadcasters won’t be the only ones evolving. Twitter is sharpening it’s live TV tools –  from targeted ads to trends to ratings. Twitter and Facebook are racing each other to the prize of realtime TV co-dependence. Twitter has an early lead and is eager to have people link the hashtag with the little blue bird. But if Facebook figures out filtering at scale, bringing you useful comments from people you know of or people nearby – all grouped around a hashtag – then the number of people who have never used twitter but have a Facebook account will suddenly understand what TV conversations are all about.

3. New apps and mergers
TV apps that aggregate social content and aim to complement your viewing continue to emerge. Apps can already control getglueyour TV, set your PVR to record and rewind. Zeebox continues to add features and may be snapped up in the next year having made good ground, especially in the UK. In January, Dijit acquired Miso, then  i.TV purchased GetGlue in November, bringing greater legitimacy to the entire category of apps. Cable TV and free-to-air operators will keep developing their own apps – hopefully joining forces where possible so viewers don’t require a new app for every on-demand service. Streaming apps e.g. Netflix, could be the big ball-buster for networks, especially if deals are drawn up directly with cable networks and production companies.

4. Increasingly social newsrooms
As more news desks employ social media editors, engagement experts and audience leads, the last remaining barriers to viewers having a role to play in realtime news; access and verification; will disappear. Some journalists still see this as a threat. The best journos have already embraced it. Expect to see particular users given elevated status to report news. As the lines between on-air and online have already blurred for consumers (think streaming news, tweeted video snippets, shared gifs of realtime sporting moments) media conglomerates will continue snapping up video content tools and agencies to complement their editorial teams. Likewise, web teams will be further blended with news producers so stories and contributed content can be shared ay direction efficiently.
The future - as per Fox News.

5. Big data to smash it all out of the park
In 2013, Twitter bought Bluefin Labs and Apple purchased Topsy. Each acquisition is aimed at providing realtime insights to the owner and surfacing the most relevant content to the consumer. Either way, TV viewers win – there’ll be less guesswork by producers and more accurate coverage, commentary and graphics. Transparency will also rise as the real sentiment of viewers can now be shown in reality shows and during political debates.

TV and sports are widely regarded as the two most popular topics on social media, and with that in mind, Facebook has just got its hands on SportStream. The numbers around much of the success of social networks have themselves been furry so it’s encouraging to see everyone looking to sure up their own turf with hard data. Data will convince the bean counters of a business case for integrating social, while also bringing more useful graphics to the screen for viewers and realtime stats for those using devices. Because no one loves stats during live events more than a true sports fan. Now imagine if these were personalised, changeable and updating live.

For social TV, the future is bright – because the science is only now becoming clear.

 

This article first appeared on TV Revolution

The tale of my selfish urban vanity (SUV)

BUCKLEUP!

Light rain was spotting across the hood of my friend’s Alfa Romeo. The rain started coming in waves and might have even put out the fire flickering in the bush nearby – but considering what had just occurred, my friend wasn’t taking any chances.

He pulled my unconscious frame from the now burning wreck. All windows had been shattered and the windscreen was gone, allowing him to drag me over the dashboard and across the crumpled bonnet. The tree that had put a stop to our trip down the mountain was now skewering the back half of the car. I imagine I also looked like a wreck, bleeding from the ears, arm and with a serious seatbelt burn that had left parts of my neck skinless. The whiplash was severe enough to put me in a neck brace for a fortnight but it was the contusion to the side of my brain that would cause doctors the greatest concern.

My skull had made impact with the pillar beside the passenger seat. Ironically, this reduced the stress on my spine from severe lateral movement, the doctors told me some days later. Without that pillar, they believe my my neck would have snapped.

That was fifteen years ago. These days, some vehicles come with side (curtain) airbags.  Last month, I was in a used car dealership weighing up a truckload of factors; price, fuel efficiency, warranties, baby seat anchor points, cupholders, and curtain airbags, asking myself, “Am I seriously going to pass that up?”

—————-

suvs everywhere

The decision of what to drive sees personal responsibility ramming right into various measures of safety, convenience and economy.

That horrendous day I was in a crash was fifteen years ago. I can’t actually recall any of it – beyond getting into the passenger seat minutes before the accident – but it weighed on mind last month, I was in a used car dealership weighing up a truckload of factors; price, fuel efficiency, warranties, baby seat anchor points, cupholders, and curtain airbags, asking myself, “Am I seriously going to pass that up?”

As of December 27, three Australians have died in cars each day since Christmas Eve. This is appalling but it is actually less than the average for Australia  (3.5 deaths per day). On the list of countries by traffic-related deaths, we are 11th best. (By comparison, Canada is 22nd and Russia is 57th.)

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The push for more safety features in vehicles has clearly helped reduce fatalities, as have road safety campaigns, for which our nation is well known. One five-minute montage by Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission has been viewed 15 million times.

So the message appears to be getting through. Yet, I am still baffled by the decision of many people to purchase larger cars. Larger cars are not necessarily safer than smaller cars. SUVs are more likely to rollover.

Clearly, owning a jacked-up road-hog is no big deal for many Australians. A high-riding soft-roader is now the choice of many people over the old 5-door monsters of the eighties with SUVs remaining the fastest growing segment of the Australian market in 2012, with sales up 25.3 per cent over the previous year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

I have railed against these north-shore tractors for some time – even in this very blog – so the choice creates a contradiction in my life bigger than a 2.7 tonne Lexus LX.

Climate change is real, humans influence it, and these gas-guzzling leviathans are certainly a detour on the road to cleaner energy. Plus, this is an issue of safety – for those travelling outside your heavy-metal cocoon; your limited visibility, greater weight and longer stopping distance, doubles a pedestrian’s risk of death in an accident. The size of SUVs also make them a menace to smaller vehicles, bikes, motorcycles or scooters. What risk am I happy to put other road users at?

WE WERE DUPED

In many ways, the car industry pulled an enormous swifty on buyers with the marking of such high-powered battle wagons. Just as petrol prices jumped and we all began to ditch larger family cars, and manufacturers were finding ways to pull greater performance from smaller engines, we were all sold a new fantasy that SUVs (Stupid Ugly Vehicles) could help us escape the monotony of standstill traffic with the option to go off-road at any time. It was as absurd as it was successful.

The do-gooders yelling, “Wait! Didn’t we spend the nineties mired in a hellish war over oil?”, were easily drowned out by the aspirated rattle of new SUVs leaving dealerships all over the world.

Take a moment to consider that a car ctegory that did not exist in the 1980s, now has seven sub-categories: Compact, mid-size, large, crossover, hybrid,off-road, and 3-row SUVs.

Many popular small SUVs fail a critical crash test (link below)

I would have preferred a station wagon renaissance – functional, practical, five seats and room for a late-night romp at the drive-in theatre – but no, we had to have more mountain-range Tonka toys. Thanks, Detroit.

HEY DUDE, WHERE’S MY CARGO SPACE?

The stupidity of most SUV designs is clear; more people equals more stuff, but manufacturers seem to think fifteen cup holders will do the trick. It does not. As a result, many SUVs now carry luggage pods on roof-racks. It’s madness. While no middle-class mother needs a 3-tonne vehicle to carry their kids to soccer practice, they do need more space. Families are buying an increase in height and weight – and nearly always a loss of fuel efficiency – along with much less boot space than a traditional family wagon or even some hatchbacks would have provided.

Bootspace in SUVs:

  • Volkswagen Tiguan (SUV): 395L
  • Mazda CX-5 (SUV): 403L
  • Subaru Forester (SUV): 422L

Bootspace in Non-SUVs

  • Mazda 3 hatchback: 430L
  • Commodore Sportwagon: 895L

This left me with three remaining issues.

PEOPLE MOVERS

The Honda Odyssey, The KIA Carnival, the planet-sized Mercedes Vito all offer at least seven seats but in the case of the Honda and KIA, the bootspace is sadly lacking and bizarrely, access to the Odyssey’s third row is restricted if you have kids in the middle row. This is akin to buying a bigger TV with an immovable sticker in the middle of the screen. Great… but, c’mon!

SEVEN SEATERS

So you want five seats AND a boot big enough for five people? I decided the best way around this dilemma was to get an extended SUV that has a large boot when you lie a third row of seats flat. I wish it were a seven seater station wagon but such models usually include after-market seats that face backwards. If your kid is blind, this is perfect. If they are not, they soon will be. I like to think of it as more of a people mover.

DIESEL POWER

I love diesels. They have less parts, travel further on a single tank and will last longer than your average petrol engine. Annoyingly, I am pretty sure that the week i bought my first diesel, the price of diesel fuel began creeping above the cost of unleaded and it ids often 5% above it.

Thankfully, How Stuff Works says “the diesel is hard to beat, delivering as much as 25 percent more mileage (on diesel fuel) than a gasoline engine of similar size” – something I have found to be true even when driving a car in the inner suburbs 80% of the time.

Diesels also offer our best chance of bio fuel becoming a viable option. There are some concerns about carcinogens in diesel fuel you should know about. If you think the smoke is brown, there is turbo lag or the engine noise is much worse than petrol engines, modern diesels have done away with all these.

More reading:

Your SUV uses more fuel (per person) than a Boeing 737

How to Buy A Fuel-Efficient Car

Diesel Emissions Spark Health Fears

American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015 – Bloomberg

Bicycle sales overtake CARS for the first time ever in Europe

Popular small SUVs fail critical crash test

Cutting your car use

National holiday road toll falls by nearly half on last year

 

Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, MP3s, streaming… and back to vinyl!

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Music is changing. I don’t often buy albums anymore. When I do it’s a special treat. It’s become like a visit to the cinema – overpriced and you only expect to enjoy half the experience. And if you can stream music, why buy it?

I just read that digital music sales dropped for the first time since iTunes was born. But vinyl is coming back! (Slowly!)

Streaming cannibalising sales is, apparently, not such bad news for musicians. Execs say the growth in streaming revenue has been offsetting the decline in digital sales revenue.

Some stats:
• In 2013, digital track sales fell 5.7%.
• Album sales suffered an 8.4% decline.
• The CD declined 14.5%.
• Vinyl continued its ascension and is now 2% of album sales in the U.S; digital albums comprise 40.6% and the CD is 57.2% and cassettes and DVDs 0.2%.

In 2013, only one album sold more than one million units, Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, with 2.4 million units. By comparison, ten songs hit the million mark in 2012.

I’ll be sorry to see CDs disappear, if they eventually do. But if vinyl can survive, I will keep buying LPs, keep replacing those pesky needles and wiping the dust out of the grooves even if it has no effect.

Read more on the stats at Billboard.

And here is evidence DVDs are also in decline. Better buy that Blu-Ray player quick smart.

Photo from hankblog.wordpress.com

U2’s latest song? It’s made up of old U2 songs

I am watching closely to see what U2 produces next. It’s my prediction that this will be their make or break album.
With this in mind I have been eagerly awaiting the song they have written for the forthcoming film based on the life of Nelson Mandela. It should be a precursor to the direction their next album is headed.

The good news is the film looks great. The bad news is, if this song is any indication, the band’s next album will sound like  a rehash of U2’s greatest hits.

Here is the start of the new U2 song, Ordinary Love

Listen to the intro of 2002’s Electrical Storm

Now, listen to the intro of Saints are Coming (recorded in 2006 with GreenDay)

For a band that has been around for decades and is well capable of reinvention,  the similarities are embarrassing.  As the song continues, it bounces along optimistically but never emerges from a samey traditional U2ishness, falling back on Edge’s guitars and Bono’s non sequiturs.

On a side note, U2’s track record for releasing quality songs that never appear on an album remains intact.

For example:

  1. Lady With The Spinning Head (1992)
  2. The Sweetest Thing (1987)
  3. Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad (for Frank Sinatra – 1997)
  4. North and South of The River (1997)
  5. Electrical Storm (2002)
  6. Window In The Skies (2006)

I guess I’ll just spend my years listening to the 90s version of U2. God knows there was a lot of good stuff.

Quick tour of the quick tour of Michael Jordan’s $28m house

Michael Jordan is selling his home – you know, the one with his number on the gate, his name on the indoor basketball court, and his symbol on the golf flags.

The home is a luxurious 7-acre property, replete with a stocked pond, PGA-grade golfing green, a weird grassy knoll surrounded by a moat and a cigar room with secret ducts to remove any scent of cigars.

The video itself is well worth a watch. This must be the peak of real estate video production. A drone to get aerial views, clips from history – as if you needed reminding of Jordan’s greatness – and interviews with the owner’s Chicago Bulls team-mates.

To celebrate the auction of this extravagant house, I have captured the best moments of the estate agent’s high-falutin video tour together with some words of wisdom from His Airness (parodies) on Twitter.

[tweet https://twitter.com/__MICHAELJ0RDAN/status/353285678567657474]


[tweet https://twitter.com/itsMichaelJ/status/383408336965611520]

[tweet https://twitter.com/itsMichaelJ/status/381909165884452864]

[tweet https://twitter.com/__MICHAELJ0RDAN/status/352185217877950466]

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[tweet https://twitter.com/__MICHAELJ0RDAN/status/339879113584164864]

[tweet https://twitter.com/__MICHAELJ0RDAN/status/398665087361499136]

[tweet https://twitter.com/itsMichaelJ/status/387394029802897410]

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[tweet https://twitter.com/itsMichaelJ/status/395339660815130624]

VIDEO: http://vimeo.com/77760571

STORY: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/11/nba-michael-jordan-house-video-auction/

Sent from Evernote

BLOG: Standing up for something … like six months

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You’ve been sitting for the last few hours, or so. You’d go visit Alan in accounts but you really want to get this final TPS report done. You might get up if your bladder gets really insensitive, but you’ve broken through that barrier before. Did you even have lunch? Didn’t you have a meeting at 11am?

You say you are in "the zone" but you are actually in a funk. And that twinge is back; when you slide down in your chair, your back begins to hurt. It hurts in an annoying way that reminds me of the way seagulls at the beach are annoying; you’re eating chips, so of course a seagull will come squawk at you, that’s what they do. It’s one of those things we come to expect in life.

Coke rots your teeth.

Accountants are called Alan.

Wearing stripes makes you look fat.

You sit down for too long, your back gets sore.

Alan gif:

Imagine now that you could avoid this pain forever, and the other annoyances of sitting – e.g. breast or colon cancer, bowel cancer and diabetes and heart disease who knows how many other ailments that keep worker’s comp lawyers in Audis.

This is where I was when I decided to have a go at standing to work. My current role is in a large organisation a sports media company in a functional building with the requisite rows of desks, grey carpet, minimal noise. This predictability was a risk to my health and visual consistency is a downer in any creative environment. Furniture, music and wall art can help, but they’ll only take the edge off it. And in an open plan office, not everyone likes my selection of eighties dance hits and nineties grunge.

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I needed a game changer, something to feel more alive but also to help spur my mind, get my circulation going. A meeting at YouTube in Google’s Sydney offices introduced me to a standing desk for the first time. Initially, I couldn’t even fathom it. Was it a compact work station for temp staff who aren’t worth the floor space a chair demands? Capitalism is so crude, I thought. Google ain’t such a great employer, I thought.

(Flashback to my brief stint spent working at McDonald’s – "WHY LEAN WHEN YOU CAN CLEAN!", the managers would grin — at this I could barely restrain my McNugget tongs from wrenching their clip-on tie from their body.)

A bit of research lead me to find standing up has multiple health benefits, most of which make immediate sense. You move more, you walk around more. Your blood flow improves. Your heart rate increases. You sleep better.

The collective result of this is more calories burned. But this didn’t interest me nearly as much as two other findings I made; your ergonomics improve and your mind is more alert.

It’s bizarre to think our bodies were designed to sit for eight hours a day, (then two hours more on the couch at night laughing at celebs busting their guts on Dancing With The Stars).

And this isn’t about furniture or ergonomics. Believe me, I have sat in some awesome chairs. I once visited Denmark where I dropped in on the Trapholt museum, a simple shrine dedicated to the Danish love of the seat. I love sitting. It’s a comfy, relaxing thing to do, I admit. But in every chair, regardless of its beauty, I can slump like an oaf on a couch.

In the office, relaxing doesn’t seem to provoke action. It could even work against it.

Sitting in an office, I know that as the hours wear on, my shoulders will curve forward and my spine will gradually compress until I am delaying any body movement at all, as I strain to keep my mind on the urgent tasks at hand.

In this zone, I struggle to break the monotony. It has to stop – and it often did with a child-like sprint to the toilets that must have appeared as if I was the only person who had heard a fire alarm.

Doesn’t it hurt?
Two weeks in and my body had become used to the new arrangement. Haven’t felt a (bad) thing since. It’s actually easier to stand in other places now, like on the train, at concerts, in queues.

Isn’t it exhausting?
To be honest, I slept better from day one. Not longer, just better. I think I actually have more energy throughout the day and I now go to sleep a little later at night.

That must be good for your core.
My what? Oh yeah, great.

Office reaction
I had read from other people’s accounts that colleagues are often amused at seeing someone standing and take a few weeks to get used to it. For me, this is still a daily occurrence. It may never cease. Thus could be because there are many people at my workplace who I have only talked to via phone, email or twitter, and eventually they come by my desk. The exchange usually goes something like this:

Them: "WOAH…. What ARE you DOING!!??"
Me: "I stand sty my desk now. You should try it."
Them: "You aaaaare joking, right? That. Is. Ridiculous. You are insane."

(I work in the media. People are very frank.)

Standing desks
Standing desks are a thing and if you believe some reports, the number of office staff using them will explode in coming years. I’m sure some longitudinal stories will be needed before the benefits are confirmed, the deniers are silenced and we start seeing witty posters in the kitchen saying "Stand Up for Something" or "Sitting is for the weak!"

In a cool twist, my HR department noticed what I was doing, wanted to support the vision and had soon built me a desk tailored to my exact height. Two others in the company have since tried it with others planning to do the same.

This is the WIRED-inspired IKEA version I use. It costs $25 plus a few screws, and as I have found, raising the monitor actually makes for a cleaner desk.
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If you’re into this by now, check out some options: push-button up-desks, build your own electric desks, ugly hacks, the ‘ergotron‘, whiteboard desks and the hack I ended up using from IKEA.

Isn’t there another way?
Sure there is. "All it takes is getting off your bum a few times every hour…" says Australian professor and ‘physical activity expert’ (Seriously, when I’m a professor, don’t make me sound like I inspect playgrounds), David Dunstan who says that you could simply disrupt your work flow every quarter hour or so with a strut around the office. Easy!

You could also try an exercise ball. I did and I found a way to slump on that too.

And if you want to go a steep further, don’t think there are not people working, at a desk, while on a treadmill.

More articles on the dangers of sitting and the beauty of standing.

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More photos of standing desk options, from the practical to the plain stupid.

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Clooney made me cry

The first thing I ever looked up on the internet was a photo of Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know what to do next, so I printed the picture out.

So baffled was I by the thrill of it all, that I didn’t know how to react.

Watching the film Gravity is a similar experience. However, it also requires the suspension of a few things.

1. Your belief that, due to escalating prices and reduced service, the era of attending cinemas is over.

2. Any opinion that Sandra Bullock should appear only in rom-coms.

3. SPOILER: You could not possibly enjoy watching George Clooney die, even after his Nespresso ads.

Clooney loves a pre-packaged coffee of no particular origin or ethics

Flat white acting

When I left the cinema, I had the usual pow-wow with my brother and we agreed that the film was excellent but also overrated. (Much of the world seems in awe of it – the film has an incredibly 97% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

I did not think the film had the legs to be a classic, let alone pull an Oscar or two, as some are predicting. It was pretty much Speed in Space – both films featured Sandra careening into things while struggling to maintain control of a vehicle she is ill-equipped to pilot.

Gravity is just Speed In Space

Gravity is just Speed In Space

But here’s the weird thing; when I went to explain a few pivotal plot points to my wife, I was overcome with tears. Twice I found a salty residue streaming from my eyes at the retelling of the corny yet believable story.

The movie had moved me much more than I had realised. Something about the moment of being faced with your mortality, with George in a dream, with yet another incredibly challenging life-threatening scenario.

 “I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work. ”

 – Jack to Annie.  Speed (1994)

Some people have been moved in other directions. One Christian professor has said the entire movie points to a creator, with undercurrents of sacrifice and redemption, while the writer/director Alfonso Cuaron is more interested in his film’s Darwinian leanings.

jesus is an astronaut

Heavens above the stratosphere

WIRED magazine, rather than rejoicing that a film based around scientific breakthroughs is breaking box office records, has instead gone to town on its inaccuracies.

It’s a film, people. It is not Kubrick. It is not the messiah. But it may make you cry.

My most loved architectural shots by me from my car window

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Architecture affects your mood, your sense of wonder, your ability to get through the day. When it’s good you won’t notice it. When it’s great you may not even realise that it’s given you a certain lift. When it’s bad you’ll feel it niggling like an itch or a distant fire alarm that won’t let you find peace. Because what’s done is done. That is, until someone comes by with a good mind – and budget – for rethinking what’s been done.

When I step into many buildings I immediately think ‘Oh no, disaster.’ And for me, that’s where the engagement usually ends. That’s why I enjoy driving around surveying what people build as their home – sometimes I’m alone, often I’ll have kids asleep in the back.

Unlike the enjoyment of Grand Designs, seeing what’s inside a building tends to unravel the mystery too much for me. I much prefer to judge the book by its cover, as it were, standing in front of a house and imagining the people inside, their jobs, guessing at what motivated their choice of bricks, that colour paint, such enormous windows or no windows at all.

For some years, I’ve been compiling a gallery of photos taken out the front of the houses of everyday Australians who love in Sydney. I began a Facebook album with the goal of capturing the most inspired and most typical. And in recent months, the album has become a topic many people raise with me. I’ve even had several submissions from people who spot a good house and photograph it, thinking of my album.

(I have also had requests for it to be published as a coffee table book, but that won’t happen as the quality of my photos was never a concern.)

This week, using a new Facebook feature,  I opened up  the album for contributions. If you submit an appropriate pic to me via my Facebook page I will gladly add you as a contributor (background checks, permitting).

Here are my favourites.

The McMansion Mothership

The McMansion Mothership. The Shire.

The McMansion was a spawned by a widespread demand for affordability, function and privacy amid the shrinking blocks of urban sprawl. I’d like to think this monolith was the original, with broad shoulders, an eagle chestplate and a doorway big enough to sprout small houses.

Grand Resigned

Grand Resigned. Dural.

So many of us dream of a countryside mansion set among fields of green. This house would have had it all, that is, if something had not gone terribly wrong. She now stands alone in a field, scaffolding still attached as if holding out hope that builders may return to finish her off before the encroaching bush does.

Cathedral windows and a angel watching over me.

Cathedral windows and an angel watching over me. Loftus.

Being caught for the first time is always a special moment. For me, it happened one sunny day as I drive a sleeping baby around the southern suburbs of Sydney. This home of weatherboard and louvred windows captured me as the owner captured me capturing a photo.

A home with such simple lines it could have been poured into a single mold.

A home with such simple lines it could have been poured into a single mold. Five Dock.

Of all the architectural styles I have noticed and photographed, I can’t get past the simplicity and artfulness of art deco numbers from the twenties and thirties. After that, I most enjoy the angular roofs and enormous windows of the sixties. There as always a single vision, unlike modern homes with their eclectic materials, varied textures and look-at-me rooflines. Sure, they have more fun, but something is lost in all the revelry.

I must be getting old.

Let me know if you also think architecture is captivating or if you think this is all bonkers.

me tweeting

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