Archives for May 2014

Work from Home Employee Sick of Self


With the increasing prevalence of ‘work from home’ options for a lot of employees, new social customs are evolving as people adjust to the more isolated working environment. Some love the arrangement, others less so. We found one person who isn’t enjoying the solitary working life.

Dwayne Forthwright is a business analyst for a tractor logistics firm and has been home-based for more than four years.

AA022179“When I first started working from home, I loved the increased freedom of eating lunch when I wanted and being able to use a toilet that didn’t have someone else’s body excretions smeared on the wall. But the novelty of that soon wore off.”

Dwayne claims the lack of social interaction and the requirement of daily self-discipline extracts a deep psychological toll.

“Others had warned me that within three months I’d be sitting at my desk in underwear, touting a beard. In reality I’ve devolved to that and worse. At 10.30 each morning I get the trembles of excitement at being able to walk into the kitchen and share my morning with the budgie. I’ve started echo-proofing the toilet so I can sit in there on teleconferences without giving myself away.”

When asked if he could see a resolution to the downward spiral he seemed to be on, Dwayne was fatalistic.

“I’m on a first name basis with the Jehovah Witnesses that canvas my street. I’ve started bagging and boarding the Watchtower magazines they supply and am buying back issues via Ebay. I can’t see how much lower I can go.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

OmniFocus 2 Always Asking for Sync Password? Here’s the fix

Screenshot_30_05_2014_2_05_pmI decided to try out OmniFocus 2 to try and get a bit more structure in my life. I’ve downloaded the trial version and am impressed with it so far. There was just one frustration: every few minutes I get the dialog pop up asking me to enter my Sync username and password (which you set up when you register with Omni).

It was driving me bonkers and after some trawling I found the solution that worked for me (on Omnifocus 2 for Mac):

1) Quit OmniFocus.
2) In the “Utilities” folder on your Mac, launch the “Keychain Access” app.
3) Enter “omnigroup” in the search field in the upper right of the Keychain Access window.
4) Click the header of the “Name” column at the left of the window to sort the results alphabetically.
5) Scroll down to the entries that start with “sync” (in some cases, you’ll see something like “sync3” or some other number; that counts too.)

Delete all the entries, then quit Keychain access. Tell OmniFocus to sync, enter the login information one last time, and you should be up and running.

Worked a dream for me and I hope it works for you.

Apple Buys Beats Music and Beats Electronics..

beats-headphones.. for $3 billion. The software side makes a lot of sense to me, the headphone / earphone side less so as I’d be very doubtful they objectively produce any better quality stuff than anyone else. The brand is strong though, so there’s that.

The press release from Apple:

CUPERTINO, California—May 28, 2014—Apple® today announced it has agreed to acquire the critically acclaimed subscription streaming music service Beats Music, and Beats Electronics, which makes the popular Beats headphones, speakers and audio software. As part of the acquisition, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple. Apple is acquiring the two companies for a total of USD$3 billion, consisting of a purchase price of approximately USD$2.6 billion and approximately USD$400 million that will vest over time.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” said Jimmy Iovine. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”

Iovine has been at the forefront of innovation in the music industry for decades, and he has been an instrumental partner for Apple and iTunes® for more than a decade. He has produced or collaborated with some of the most successful artists in the history of the iTunes Store®, helping make it the world’s number one music retailer. Iovine and Dr. Dre are sound pioneers, artists and entrepreneurs.

Beats Electronics has brought the energy, emotion and excitement of playback in the recording studio back to the listening experience and has introduced an entirely new generation to premium sound entertainment. Beats Music was developed by a team of people who have each spent their entire career in music and provides music fans with an incredible curated listening experience.

“Music is such an important part of Apple’s DNA and always will be,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The addition of Beats will make our music lineup even better, from free streaming with iTunes Radio to a world-class subscription service in Beats, and of course buying music from the iTunes Store as customers have loved to do for years.”

In just five years since launch, the Beats “b” has become the brand of choice in the music and sports worlds, and is the market leader in the premium headphone market. Music superstars including Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj have designed their own customised Beats headphones and speakers. Fashion designers and street artists such as Alexander Wang, Futura and Snarkitecture have collaborated on special limited products, while renowned athletes including LeBron James, Serena Williams and Neymar use Beats as a critical part of their training and game day process. Beats has quickly become part of pop culture in the US and with the acquisition the Beats product lineup will be offered in many more countries through the Apple Online Store, Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorised Resellers.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Apple expects the transaction to close in fiscal Q4.

Formally established in 2008 as the brainchild of legendary artist and producer Dr. Dre and Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics (Beats) comprises the Beats by Dr. Dre family of premium consumer headphones, earphones, and speakers as well as patented Beats Audio software technology and streaming music subscription service Beats Music. Through these offerings, Beats has effectively brought the energy, emotion and excitement of playback in the recording studio to the listening experience and has introduced an entirely new generation to the possibilities of premium sound entertainment.

Beats Music is a subscription streaming music service that focuses on providing a personalised music experience for each user through a unique blend of digital innovation and musical passion. Programmed by a trusted team of well-respected music experts with over 300 years of experience across all genres, Beats Music delivers the right music for any situation, any time, and any preference, personalised to your tastes. The result is an artist-friendly digital music service that does more than simply offer access to music, but one that establishes an emotional connection to it as well.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Star Wars Episode VII Caterer Feeling The Pressure


With shooting underway on Episode VII of the Star Wars franchise, the pressure has started to build on all involved. That pressure has already started to show for catering assistant Jeff Revan. A Star Wars fan of more than thirty years standing, Revan is not living the dream he’d envisioned as an employee of Lionel Savant Catering Services.

“Back in 2007 when I quit my job as a lawyer to get my catering qualification, it was part of my long-range plan to be involved in this movie.Who wouldn’t do that for the chance to be a part of history. What I didn’t realise was the direct impact I’d be having on the movie, and it’s scaring the hell out of me.”

Visibly shaken and emotional, Mr Revan outlined his first two weeks on set.

“The first couple of days it was great, seeing the smiles on the faces of production staff at the end of a nice lunch. Then one of the actors with a walk on line or two  made some off the cuff comment like ‘I hope those nachos are top notch Bill, my scene is shooting this afternoon’. It’s then I realised that if the nachos weren’t good, he may only give 95% in his performance and I’ll be responsible for it forever.”


Never has one stir-fry counted for so much

Revan went on at extreme length outlining the depth to which the original three movies had been analysed over the decades, with PhD theses on topics as varied as ‘The Epistemology of Bespin Political Oligarchy in The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Stormtroopers and Ewoks: Comic Relief or Fundamental Pedagogical Construct?’.

“My biggest fear is that I have one of the central characters come in for lunch when I’m serving. One less-than-stellar quinoa stroganoff supplied to Harrison or Carrie, and I spend the rest of my life seeing my work excoriated online. The caterers who worked on The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith have never worked in the industry again.”

When asked if he’d considered leaving the caterer, Revan’s answer was immediate.

“It’s too late for that. I spent the last year building up a Facebook page and Twitter profile as Sith Chef of Death Jeff. I’ve just got to make sure I do the best I can with the food. If someone gets food poisoning I just hope it’s one of the Gungans from the scenes they’re shooting next week.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

College Fun

On the first day of college, the Dean addresses the students, pointing out some of the rules.

“The female dormitory will be out-of-bounds for all male students, so too the male dormitory to the female students. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $50 the first time.

Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $150. Being caught a third time will incur a hefty fine of $350. “Are there any questions?”

At this, a male student in the crowd inquires “Err… How much for a season pass?”

Review: Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr

bob-carrEveryone has their mental picture of Bob Carr. For me he was the animated Premier with the great speaking voice (a strength Mr Carr acknowledges repeatedly throughout the book). For others he was the guy who looked like Ginger Meggs’ dad. For anyone, he should be at least acknowledged as one of the most significant ALP figures of the past forty years. And it’s from that perspective that Diary of a Foreign Minister is written.

This doesn’t mean it’s an egotistical perspective – although some in the mainstream media have painted it that way. It’s more that Mr Carr has a highly developed self-awareness of his place within the ALP and the then Government – and that he sees that place as involving a full and frank account of his time as Foreign Minister. That account covers a huge range of issues, which for sake of simplicity I’ll split it into three main areas: foreign affairs, domestic politics and personal observations.

Foreign Affairs

Even a more casual observer of politics tends to know Bob Carr had always had an ambition to be Foreign Minister, which he’d put aside when called to lead the ALP in Opposition in 1988. When he was parachuted into Mark Arbib’s casual Senate vacancy, the realisation of that ambition was understandably savoured by Carr. That said, his initial learning curve and fear of a misstep are documented clearly – again someone aware of their stature but not assuming that it’s enough to get through those first few months.

The starkest image to come out of this book is the relentless pace the role of Foreign Minister involves. It’s difficult to gauge if Carr was travelling at the level expected as Minister or whether he had stepped the pace up a notch given his awareness of how brief his role was likely to be given the ALP’s electoral fortunes. Either way, it’s revelatory as to how a person tries to perform optimally within some of the timetables discussed in the book. If he’s stayed honest as a diarist, it appears Carr does perform and covers the gamut of issues presented to the “Foreign Ministers Club” that he enjoyed being a member of so thoroughly. Whether it’s China – US relations, the emergence of Myanmar from an era of secrecy and sanctions, the relationship with Indonesia, or making progress in the Middle East, there’s detailed insights into current thinking internationally and a nuanced approach to each issue as it arises. There’s plenty of sources cited directly, which provides some further meat to the narrative.

For Carr, the variety of policy challenges to tackle is savoured, and he’s also surprised at what turns out to be one of his biggest foreign policy passions in the job – and it’s not any of the ones mentioned in this review. One of many interesting themes throughout is that of relationships and their importance. As you’d expect, the rapport built with Ministers from other countries, ambassadors, NGOs and key interest groups are critical to dealing with new challenges. Carr repeatedly illustrates how regular contact with his contemporaries on the foreign policy playing field delivered results. One specific point worth mentioning here: Carr’s mentions of the ‘Melbourne-based Israel lobby’ that received so much attention on the book’s release, are marginal and primarily used as a contrast on wider opinions about settlements and Palestinian status in the Middle East.

Domestic Politics

The book covers the last fourteen months of Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership and the dozen or so weeks of Kevin Rudd’s return. As you’d expect from a diary with a focus predominantly on the world stage, Carr paints a picture of himself as senior ALP statesmen floating above the majority of the leadership tensions and day-to-day grind of party machinations. There are regular interactions with Sam Dastyari from the party machine, and less frequent meetings with key Rudd agitators, but it’s all portrayed as a frustrating process taking away from precious time in achieving goals in the job itself.

What’s more interesting is Carr’s relationship with both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Nearly all the interactions mentioned are in context of foreign policy, and in the case of both Prime Ministers it appears Carr perceived a decent working relationship albeit with a number of respective frustrations. He’s measured in his criticisms of both individuals but they’re still forcefully put and you’d be a little naïve to think that there weren’t deeper concerns that haven’t made the book. There’s a handful of mentions of how better judgement calls may have been made by Carr if he’d been sitting in the PM’s chair. Given the history of the ALP over the past five years or so, it’s a claim that’d be hard to refute.

Carr’s relationship with the ALP is painted very much in context of the stump speaker still engaged with branches, with much more reluctant interactions with the ALP machine. There’s some understandable self-interest in that portrayal in a book designed for general consumption, as every politician lives or dies by the public’s judgement on their accessibility. I have some doubts that the ratio of local campaigning versus internal party discussions would be the same if it were a diary written for a select few. That said, it’s still one of the most forthright discussions on the internal workings of the ALP I’ve seen from a political diarist, particularly given the focus of the book is on the Foreign Minister role.

Personal Observations

Any diary or political memoir needs to illustrate the personality of the subject as much as the outcomes of their endeavours, and in this regard the book deserves acclaim. Sure, a non-smoking happily married man with an obsession about keeping healthy eliminates a lot of the awkward disclosures that other politicians might agonise over when debating what makes the cut or not. Even so, we get a well fleshed out view of Mr Carr’s passions for food, culture and friends.

The mentions of exercise routines and the seeking of ‘edible’ food are constant companions throughout, but not to the extent of being irritating. There’s certainly some scathing criticisms of the Australian Parliament House (its food, design, social amenity and location) and no shortage of biting comments on a range of accommodation, bureaucrats and functions. It’s done in a way that mostly avoids coming across as prepossessed and provides some humour as well.

The most interesting section of personal observations not surprisingly falls around friends and contemporaries. The relationship with the Kissingers in referred to repeatedly and appears a mutual source of enjoyment. There’s high regard for Indonesia’s Marty Natalegawa and the US’ Hilary Clinton and John Kerry. With the focus of the book being so broad, there’s not a lot of insight into Carr’s close friends, although this could also have been a direct side effect of the constant travel. Even so, the level of personal observation of the role, life and politics is of a standard to keep the book fresh throughout.

I want to throw in two key quotes that I particularly enjoyed. The first occurs in the last days of the second Rudd Government, where Carr is representing the Prime Minister at the G20 in St Petersburg.  On looking around at those assembled, Carr has judged the contributions overall as pedestrian, and he makes some observations on getting to this level of influence:

The Australian Foreign Minister in his navy-blue tailored suit and his Hermès tie – he grew up in a fibro house on a sandhill where bare feet wore out old lino and fried eggs on fried bread would pass as Sunday-night dinner. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia is like all his ilk: making it up as he goes along, improvising and thinking out loud and hoping it all hangs together.

The second quote is aimed at those seeking a career in politics. Carr has a pretty succinct message on how to do it well:

That’s all. Look them in the eye. Fling the words out in an energised voice. Make connection. Personalise. I know this community, I know this crowd; it’s confidence that lends resonance. Fling the ideas out like an athlete throwing a discus; don’t mumble apologetically.In the end, psychology shapes the message – do you like your audience, like your story, like yourself in the role? Sometimes the medium is the message.


Diary of a Foreign Minister is a readable, entertaining and substantive look at a fascinating period in Australian and international politics. Bob Carr as a diarist manages to tease out somewhat complex foreign policy issues in a way that makes them both digestible and interesting. Like any diary it provides as many questions as answers, but Mr Carr’s level of disclosure is enough to be able to finish the book satisfied that any omissions haven’t fundamentally undermined the intent of the book.

If you struggle with well developed egos, you may find the book a challenge, but a challenge worth taking all the same. Anyone looking for some useful insights on the foreign policy challenges facing Australia over the coming decades could do a lot worse than reading this book. I found it an absorbing read from an experienced diarist with little to gain from airbrushing key events, and that in the end is the sign of a good diary.

Wife Buys A Gun

A woman goes into a sporting goods store to buy a shotgun.

“It’s for my husband” she tells the clerk.

“Did he tell you what gauge to get?” asked the clerk.

“Are you kidding?” she says. “He doesn’t even know I’m going to shoot him!”

Missing Dog

An old farmer is inconsolable after his dog goes missing. His wife suggests he take out an ad in the newspaper, which he does.

But two weeks later, there’s still no sign of the pooch.

“What did you write in the ad?” his wife asks.

“‘Here, boy,'” he replies.

Game of Thrones Fans Create Anti-Death Fund for George R.R. Martin


In what’s considered the biggest collaboration in human history, millions of Game of Thrones fans have kicked in money for an Anti-Death Fund, designed to maximise the life expectancy of creator George R.R. Martin.

The ‘George R.R. United Fighting Fund’ or GRUFF for short, is the brainchild of Jamen Staff, who outlined progress to date.

“The real Game of Thrones fans, those who’ve read the books before the show arrived, have traditionally seen the casual TV show fans as minions of the Seven Hells determined to distract George from his true mission in life. It’s their vacuous squealing over each episode that’s meant George has been distracted with the TV shows at the expense of the books. As a group, the true fans have generally agreed to put that behind us, and to work with the TV fan kidlets to protect the future of both the books and TV series.”


GRUFF founder Jamen Staff

Staff’s colleague, GRUFF treasurer Leanne ‘Iron Bank’ Williams, provided a thirty slide Powerpoint presentation on the money raised, which is in excess of five million dollars. “It’s been pretty easy to raise to be honest. With the show rating the way it is, random phone calls to people on a Monday morning work well. We state we’re calling from the Government and that we’ve noted the Sunday night Bit Torrent downloads they’ve been making. That tends to see spontaneous and generous donations.”

When asked why Mr. Martin needs the money given his success as an author, Ms Williams was frank. “He doesn’t, but we’re going to use the money to buy every business in his hometown. Each business will be staffed by members of the fund, all with access to George’s details so they can be sure that he maintains his health optimally. Just think of what we can do. We’ll control all food, transport and energy – we project that within six months he’ll be feeling the best he has in years. If that’s not fans caring, I don’t know what is.”

When asked what Mr Martin would think of this strategy, Jamen Staff was emphatic.

“It’s not about him – he’s just the currently unhealthy vessel for the eventually completed book series. If he finishes the last two books, he can do what he likes after that. Although there’s some who feel a prequel series would be nice, so I won’t rule out an ongoing campaign. Either way, once it’s all done we’ll sell up all the assets and donate them to the slaves of Westeros. It’s a great win-win situation.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

Philip Rosedale Addresses Silicon Valley VR, Demos High Fidelity

Philip Rosedale has delivered a pretty interesting presentation to the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality group. Aside from giving a decent demo of High Fidelity, Rosedale has a bunch of interesting points to make and even throws up a new definition of virtual reality:

Virtual Reality: A Sensory Experience in which the results of our actions are consistent with our past experiences

It’s an all-encomassing definition, but it’s one that works well in context of the other points he makes. Have a watch for yourself, but do note this is a pretty rough recording and apparently there will be a better version supplied down the track:

What’s your take? Would love to hear your comments.

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