At last! Our Census is going electronic

24 07 2006

Australia has a Census every 5 years. Usual stuff. An army of census people deliver tonnes of census booklets to every household in Australia over the next couple of weeks, we fill in the forms on the night of Tuesday August 8, then the army of collectors comes back and picks up all the booklets and off they go for scanning and analysis.

I remember back in 1996 and again in 2001 questioning why they didn’t offer an online option for the census. 1996 would’ve been too early as the internet uptake was pretty low at that time and speeds were achingly slow compared to today, but it would’ve made a lot of sense in 2001.

Well, here we are – it’s 2006, and this year Australians will be able to take part in the census electronically! Cool!

On reading the FAQs on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website, it looks like they’ve got the “I’ve already filled it in” situation covered ( So I hope it works well. It would be good to save a few trees and to get this data written straight to the database. Over time, this should not only save a lot of taxpayer money but provide more responsive feedback to city planners and the like as I’d expect that the demographic trends etc. will be available much quicker.

The good Dockers came out to play yesterday

24 07 2006

I tossed up whether to go to the footy yesterday. It was another gorgeous winter’s day – sunshine, almost cloudness, warm-ish (compared to Saturday when it was BLOODY COLD) – but Paul wasn’t playing and two of my nieces and nephews weren’t going to go. If Michelle and Craig had pulled out too, I wouldn’t have gone. Going to the game is a shared experience for me; I don’t think I’d enjoy it too much if I was sitting by myself surrounded by 4 empty seats.

So anyhow, I went. And Michelle and Craig turned up. And we had a great time. This time ‘the boys’ played like a team – you could feel their spirit, and the crowd responded in kind. It was a much more up-beat match than the one two weeks ago against Essendon which the Dockers won by 40 points, but which was as flat as a pancake emotionally.

Oh, and the Dockers won too, by about 30 points. So we keep our position in the top 8 with only 6 games to go. ‘Carn the Dockers!

Martha used “discombobulate” correctly!

22 07 2006

So, there I was last night, surfing the cable TV channels in the few minutes before turning out the light and drifting off into the Land of Nod… when I stopped in on the “Martha Stewart” show ‘cos she was doing some great stuff with a big old roast turkey. The stuffing looked and sounded sublime and I’ll have to hunt her website for it. (Found it! video here; turkey recipe; fruit and nut stuffing recipe)

Now Martha’s show is not one that I watch – I’ve seen maybe 5 or 10 minutes of her in my entire life. But this turkey roast thing was terrific. She had a guest (one of the guys from “Desperate Housewives”?) and the conversation about the turkey and what they were doing to it was full of double entendres. Martha was getting all flustered and finally said that she was becoming “discombobulated”.

I nearly fell over! It’s not often I’ve heard that word, and usually it’s come from the mouths of software developers. So I was surprised that Martha used it – and correctly too!

I wonder how many of her audience and viewers took a little trip to the dictionary after that episode.

(Oh, and the episode was part of her “30 Things Everyone Should Know” series.)

Someone wants to use my photos in a presentation

20 07 2006

I had a neat request the other day from someone from the University of Ottawa in Canada. They saw my pictures of the Ksan Village in British Columbia on Webshots and requested permission to use some of them (with acknowledgement, of course) in a presentation they were doing in China!

That’s not bad – a Canadian in Ontario requesting permission to use pics taken in British Columbia by an Australian for use in a presentation in China!! I love the internet!

BTW, if you’re interested, the pics are at: and were from the trip I did on my way home from the STC Conference in Baltimore in 2004.

Chittering Wine Trail

16 07 2006

We’d been meaning to try the wineries just north of Perth for a while, and today was it! It was an absolutely glorious winter’s day – and warm enough for just a T-shirt for most of the time. Off we went with another couple and headed north to Bullsbrook, then Chittering Rd where we followed the wine trail and tasted the wine at all bar one of the wineries.

First stop was Kyotmunga wines where the Classic White and the Grenache took our fancy, then on to Western Range and Stringybark where nothing stood out as being worth buying. We though of having lunch at Stringybark but the day was too nice to be inside in a dark dining area.. and besides the prices were fairly steep. So instead we drove on to Bindoon where we had the most fabulous pies (REAL steak in them!) at the bakery. We got extremely well fed for around $20 for the 4 of us… entrees at Stringybark were around $18 each and mains were close to $30 each, so I think we did well with the pies!

Next stop was Briery Estate just west of Bindoon, where we sat on the verandah in the sun enjoying the wide range of wines, talking to the owners, and feeding the lamb!


Next we lobbed in at Riseborough wines, which, unlike the others so far, was very high tech/modernist. And just look at the colour of that Rose!


Finally, we stopped at Jylland Wines about 30 minutes before closing time at 5:00pm. Another place where you could sit out on the verandah and enjoy the winter sunshine. So we did.



And here’s where we went…



Comfort food 1: Chilli

15 07 2006

I did some batch cooking today – chilli mince, a favourite! Cheap meal with LOTS of goodies in it… and a lot of chilli. Here’s a sort of recipe, but it’s one of those home cooking/comfort food dishes where you put in a bit of this and a bit of that – whatever you have to hand at the time.

  • 1kg lean beef mince (2lb ground beef for the Americans)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 or 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 4 large-ish mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 red capsicum (red pepper), chopped
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 1 can chopped/diced tomatoes
  • 1 packet chilli con carne mix (I use “Old El Paso”)
  • 1 good shake of McCormick’s Spicy BBQ spice
  • 1 good shake cajun spice
  • 1 big dollop of a fiery chilli sauce! (if you’re not a big chilli fan, leave this out)

In a large pot (I use a soup pot), lightly fry the diced onions in a squirt of olive oil. Add the carrots and celery. Crumble in the mince and brown it. Stir in the can of tomatoes and the cans of red kidney beans. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and red capsicum. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often so that it doesn’t stick. Add all the spices and the chilli – mix in well. Simmer for about 40 mins, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

While it tastes good straight away, it tastes even better after a day! I usually put the mix into takeaway containers and freeze it in meal size packs. This recipe above created at least 5 meals for the two of us.

Serving suggestions:

  • over pasta as a Bolognese sauce
  • with rice
  • as the base for Shepherd’s/potato pie
  • as the meat part of nachos

Chilli mince

Commuting by ferry

14 07 2006

This morning I had a breakfast meeting in a cafe on the edge of the Swan River near the ferry terminal. I could’ve driven in to town and hassled with paid parking (even though the meeting started at 7:30am and parking shouldn’t have been a problem), but instead I decided to do something I haven’t done in ages – catch the ferry in to the city. At that hour I was able to park for free in a South Perth street close to the ferry terminal, then take the 7 minute ride across the river to the CBD.

It was glorious! The sun came peeking over the horizon as we left the South Perth terminal and with the ducks, pelicans, gulls and even a black swan or two in the distance, as well as the early morning sunlight bouncing off the windows of the fancy apartments on the South Perth esplanade, it was delightful. I realised how much I missed the stillness of the river, and its ever-changing nature. A few times when I’ve had contracts right in the heart of the CBD, I’ve commuted by ferry, but these days, my work takes me further afield, so public transport is not a realistic option.

But if I was working in the CBD again, I’d do that ferry trip every day in a heartbeat. It’s a great place to meditate on the day ahead, or the one just finished.

The breakfast meeting finished just before 9:00am, so I walked the one minute back to the ferry, hopped on, repeated the process back to South Perth – then jumped in my car and drove to work :-(. That ferry trip was darned good for the soul.

The *best* Blueberry Muffin recipe

9 07 2006

In 1986 I had the pleasure of living and working in Canada for some 13 months. One of the delights of that year was discovering muffins! Especially blueberry muffins…

Blueberry muffins cooling as I wrote this post

Somewhere along the way I picked up a little spiral bound muffin cookbook, which I have used ever since. It has THE most delicious muffin recipes in it, and our favourite is “Marilyn’s Blueberry” muffins – which I made this afternoon. I reckon I’ve made thousands of blueberry muffins using this recipe – it’s so quick and easy, and they taste delicious.

Here’s the recipe (just multiply the quantities for more muffins!); you’ll need three mixing bowls for this recipe:

TEMP: 400F (I use 180-200C)
TIME: 20 mins
MAKES: 12 large muffins

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (Australia: plain flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or 1 can if you don’t have fresh)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar


  • 1/4 cup = 60 ml / 2 oz
  • 1/2 cup = 120 ml / 4 oz
  • 1 cup = approx 250 ml / 8 oz
  • 1.5 cups = 350 ml / 12 oz


  1. In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk and butter.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and the 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Stir the liquid ingredients in the small bowl into the dry ingredients in the large bowl.
  4. In the third bowl, mix together the blueberries with the remaining sugar and flour.
  5. Gently fold the blueberry mixture in to the ‘cake’ mixture in the large bowl.
  6. Fill muffin cups and bake at 400F (200C) for approximately 20 minutes.

BTW, I found that you can still get the book online from at least one secondhand bookseller. The authors are Bidinosti and Wearring and the book is “Muffins: a cookbook”; my copy was published in 1982 by Muffins Publishing, Inc. and is the 9th printing (1984).

Blueberry muffins made with frozen blueberries

Update (8 August 2007): Picture of very ‘bursty’ blueberry muffins sitting in the late afternoon sunlight made yesterday. These were made with frozen blueberries and had been out of the oven about 5 minutes when I took the photo.

Update (16 July 2009): Added metric and imperial measures for cups

Update (26 May 2010): Added PDF versions of this recipe for you to print out:

Where’s the passion?

9 07 2006

On Friday night, the Fremantle Dockers beat Essendon by nearly 40 points. It was a win that the Dockers needed, so they got the 4 points and some percentage gains. But it wasn’t pretty football… again. In fact, for most of the match it was pretty darned boring. The players don’t seem to have the passion that the Club has as its motto, and the crowd of 34,000 didn’t seem to have too much passion on Friday night either, even though we were winning.

While not all games can be as exciting as the derby against the Eagles earlier in the year, or the Round 21 game against St Kilda late last season, it would be nice if we had a few more games where both players and supporters could feel a bit more of an adrenalin rush.

The cost of Microsoft Word

6 07 2006

I was having a discussion yesterday with some work colleagues about how Microsoft Word wants to think for you, and unexpectedly does things you don’t want it to do – like rearrange the indentation on auto bullets and numbering. And the cost of this “bug” to employee and employers alike.

Word is fairly ubiquitous throughout the business environment. Why? Because it makes it very easy for complete novices to create a document.

But that same ‘ease of use’ is also Word’s downfall, and what makes it so productivity-sapping.

As an example, I was talking with a prospective client last week. The CEO of this small company told me that he’d spent a week writing their new 74-page business plan… and TWO weeks reformatting it and fighting Word to get it to all look good. That’s two weeks of a CEO’s time (…and why they’d asked me in to help them!). Put an hourly rate on that two weeks for that person and you’ve got a lot of money wasted just because Word wants to take control of your document.

Of course, Word makes a lot of things easy for the novice – such as the auto bullets and numbering mentioned earlier. But just these two things are hidden with dangers that novice users don’t know about or understand. And these dangers cause them untold grief, a lot of wasted time, and huge amounts of frustration. Add to the mix the default “Match formatting” option, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Especially as Word doesn’t enforce the use of styles, which means that most of the world creates documents that are “Normal” with manually-applied character formatting.

If you tried to do the sums on what it costs the business world every day for people to fight Word into submission (a valiant but unwinnable cause), you’d come up with a staggering sum of money – enough to run a small country for a few years, I’d guess. EVERY DAY.

If Microsoft spent only a small fraction of Bill’s billions on fixing the frustrations in Word, they’d have happier customers who would be much less likely to bad mouth them. Ordinary Joe Bloggs in an ordinary office probably couldn’t give two hoots about Windows security (though the tech community gets pretty agitated about it) – they just want Word to work!

BTW, I gave up fighting Word a few years back. I rarely use it to create personal documents any more, and never use it for client work. Instead, I use AuthorIT and publish my paper-based documents to Word. The styles work, the bullets and numbers work, the Table of Contents works, etc. and I don’t have to deal with Word on a daily basis. Once I’ve set up my Word template, that’s it – I’m done!