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Canberra Floriade 2009

View back across the main flower bed to the ferris wheel

View back across the main flower bed to the Ferris Wheel

Yesterday I visited Canberra Floriade 2009, an annual flower and gardening show in Canberra, Australia. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so I only have Blackberry Pearlphotos to share with you. The Floriade website is actually a really well designed site, and definitely a must see before you visit the show.

The main reason I went to the show was for landscaping ideas, I am currently designing how our backyard will be done. There were a few landscaped areas with different themes that were interesting, but generally the show was a lot smaller than I expected. I guess what is difficult for me to appreciate is the sheer volume and density of flowers. Once you realise that each tulip (and there would be several hundred thousand) planted is an individually purchased, planted and cultivated bulb you can start to understand the amount of effort that goes into the displays. The fact that the show (and parking!) is free is also amazing, especially for someone who comes from Sydney where literally nothing is free.

While I was in Canberra I also visited the War Memorial and the National Portrait Gallery. Both were great venues that I hadn’t visited since the days of school excursions. It was interesting to see the War Memorial is definitely keeping up with the times and has gone for the sensory type experiences. This is particularly true in the post-1945 conflicts area, as well as the Lancaster bomber raid reconstruction (my favourite). I think the War Memorial has struck a really good balance between solemn spaces (like the tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and engaging interactive displays. For people my age who have never directly experienced a war it is difficult to comprehend the warped realities of war based on aging photos and equipment under glass. For me it was strange seeing the names of towns I recognised being discussed, because I was recognising the town names from Band of Brothers and Call of Duty. I believe that information transfer is the most important thing, and if it takes these experiences to do that then so be it. I think the War Memorial is walking the line between entertainment and education very precisely, experiences and blogs are engaging and effective communication tools.

While on the way down to Canberra we stopped at Goulburn. We had coffee at The Roses Cafe, a very nice little cafe that would give the best cafes of Newtown a run for their money for quality and selection of food. There are some good photos of Goulburn and the cafe on this weird worm blog. I actually really enjoyed the architecture and authenticity of Goulburn as a gold rush era inland Australian town and would definitely recommend it as a stopping point on the road between Canberra and Sydney, it is a great insight into the problems with freeway bypasses and McDonald’s service centres.

Sydney Airport Tour

sydney_airport_tourSydney Airport is one of only two airports in the world that operate tours around the tarmac (the other is in San Diego, USA). I went on the Sydney Airport tour today, and you can get yourself on the next tour through their website.

The tour goes for a little over 2 hours and covers the vast majority of the airport. It is definitely a tour for aircraft nerds, with a ton of statistics and history being relayed by the very knowledgeable driver the entire time. I do think that even non-nerds would enjoy the close up look at an amazing facility that, these days, many dismiss as little more than a big bus stop.

The most interesting parts for me were the hangers with vehicles under maintenance (including the huge Qantas Airbus A380), seeing a Boeing 747 take off at close range and seeing how friendly all the airport employees are. The tower controllers roll up their blinds and wave, all the pilots wave, the ground crew all wave and even maintenance crew are happy to wave while sitting inside a jet engine. It sounds kind of lame, but you really do feel privileged to be part of a close airport community (even if it has 32,000 employees within it’s fences).

I can recommend the tour to anyone, I did it as a Father’s Day present and I think it was perfectly suited to that. They offer daytime and nighttime tours. I did the daytime and it is probably the nerdier of the two (less food, more time on the tarmac). Enjoy and comment! 🙂

Long Weekend Garden Bed

garden bed

Originally uploaded by Scott Savage

My achievement this weekend was this fine looking garden bed! It consists of seven original river red gum railway sleepers, cut to size and propped up on bricks and pavers where necessary. I also had to move the rest of the dirt, probably about a ton in all. We had to get a trailer down the side path, the sleepers weighed over a ton in total so I didn’t want to carry them any further than necessary. Two tons in all, not a bad effort for a Sunday! Tomorrow I need to get some sand to lay under the pavers behind the bed, and some potting mix to combine with the organic mix. Yet more money sunk into the Bunnings empire, but it will be worth it when the first vegetables come out of the ground.

Microsoft Interview

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer

Sometimes people ask me, why do I like Microsoft so much? Most people think it is because of Steve Ballmer, but that is only part of the reason. Really I have loved Microsoft since early in my university days. I even have some content dedicated to myself on the domain! Wow what a fanboi.

In fact I don’t love Microsoft, I just respect them. Look at the number of markets they are in. Look at how fiercely they fight in those markets. You fear Google will outsmart you if they enter your market, but you fear Microsoft will destroy you by any means necessary. Are they overly ruthless? Even unethical?

Personally I don’t think so, I think they are not afraid of competing and competing hard. Their haters might say their staff are “injected with blue blood”, but wouldn’t you like your company culture to be that strong? Wouldn’t you like to get market dominance, even if it means trench fighting your competitors? What’s so wrong with wanting to be the best? Surely this isn’t just my ego talking. 🙂

New Roses

New Roses

Originally uploaded by Scott Savage

Today we added 4 new white iceberg roses across the front of the verandah. They were on sale from Flower Power, 25% off. They are ok to plant outside of winter because they were potted, but we can’t move the other ones until July when they are dormant. We also put some lavender plants across the front of that garden bed, so hopefully they spread over the bed and the chip bark keeps the weeds at bay. The pile of soil is getting much smaller now. On the upcoming long weekend I will be doing some paving and putting in a vegetable patch!

Dirt + Rain = Mud

The backyard blitz work on our front garden is going well, despite the constant drizzle and ambitious nature of the project. At the moment all the grass has been cleared and the garden beds are being built. Tomorrow morning we are heading to Flemington markets to buy some more roses, hedges and hopefully some edging sandstone to complete the project.

Then I have to re-lay all the turf that I dug up around the back. With another day or rain promised (in fact a whole week) it should continue to be a very messy process.

Gen Y Views

Generation YThere are a ton of Gen Y related articles being written these days, it seems everyone is trying to grapple with this ‘problem’. I read an article today on the MyCareer website which I thought was more perceptive than most, probably because it actually had quotes that I could relate to. The key quotes for me were:

(Gen Y) have always had security, shelter, money and they are
expecting the same things in their work,” he says.

“You find gen Y is choosing employers based on the types of training and development programs in place, but more importantly on the types of leaders that are in an organisation.

I guess my take on it is that although we take some things for granted (you only have to look at the unemployment figures to understand that), what really makes us tick is a clear development path. Keep challenging, training and giving responsibility and we will provide larger and faster ROI than you have seen before.

I guess the downside is that this progression has the ability to corrupt as well, and spoilt brat syndrome scares the pants off some employers. Clearly some writers have had bad experiences, but I would like to think that this was the exception rather than the norm. So don’t spoil your Gen Y with salary and cute projects, give them real challenges and keep up the communication and respect. Is that so complicated? 🙂

Can Spam Improve SEO?

Scott Savage Akismet StatisticsFor some reason I seem to get a heap of spam on my blog. Even since I first started blogging spam somehow seemed to be drawn to my blog site (and I don’t even mention V!agr4 that often!). At the time I took the screenshot to the right 8,368 spam comments and trackbacks had been caught. That is a pretty ridiculous number. Akismet has managed to catch 99.764% of these, which is a testament to it’s effectiveness (and a major reason why I use WordPress). I sometimes wonder whether maybe allowing a few of these spam comments (which usually link to link heavy pages) would actually help my search engine ranking.

I found an SEOBook article that contained a lot of interesting findings that unintentionally supported my theory. Firstly the highest risk item is that your blog will itself get tagged as spam, however “A few bad inbound links are not going to put your site over the edge to where it is algorithmically tagged as spam”. In fact you can push this even further; “If you can get a few well known trusted links you can get away with having a large number of spammy links”.

The next step is to understand what kind of links spam comments etc. provide.  Again from the article “Spammers either use a large number of low PageRank links, a few hard to get high PageRank links, or some combination of the two.”. So how do you weed out the low PageRank links and seize the high PageRank ones? Well if everyone is running the same Akismet filter (it takes resources to build a blacklist/heuristic filter, how many are there?) then perhaps the high PageRank comments are those that are missed by the most common filters?

Therefore should I leave the Akismet filter on, but approve everything that gets through it even if it is spam? Or if I wanted to be more scientific should I analyse the PageRank of each link in the spam comment and accept those with high PageRanks? Surely in these 8000+ spam comments the spammers hit gold somewhere, the question is how do I find it?

Thriving in a Crisis

Rahm Emanuel talks to President Obama

President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, told an audience of economists just after the election: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.”

Personally I think this is the best quote to come out of the current financial crisis. These are the times that people look back on and think “I wish I had the confidence to take this action back then”. The question is how do you confront these confidence problems without getting overwhelmed? I think the secret lies in having complete faith in a well researched long term strategic goal. It is always the short sighted people that suffer in a crisis.

Roof Replacement

Tiles going on

Originally uploaded by Scott Savage

Today our roof is being replaced. I have uploaded a few photos of the work in progress. Work includes removing the old tiles, removing the old timber battens, the builders jacking up and supporting the roof beams in a few sagging places, putting in pink batt insulation, putting on the sisilation, putting on the new battens, putting in the new valleys, trimming the barge boards to fit the new tiles and finally cutting and laying the new tiles! It feels cooler in here already, and hopefully no leaks! The next thing is to look at fixing up the iron on the back of the roof, but this will involve putting in some more timber in the roof and unfortunately more expense. This year has to be a big year of saving!

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