It’s fairly commonplace these days for projects, events and endeavours to be crowd-funded. This involves raising a specific amount of money from (usually) a large number of people. It’s not a new idea, but has really taken off in the last 10 years or so. It’s allows artists, writers, developers, etc. to engage directly with their audience via fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and CircleUp and so on.

In simple terms, the entrepreneur – let’s call her/him Sasha – comes up with an idea (otherwise known as a cunning plan) and selects a funding platform. Next s/he sets a time frame and a financial target, factoring in the 5 – 7% fee that many crowdfunding sites charge.

Next comes creating a succinct and persuasive sales pitch. For the best outcomes, Sasha needs to have a clear message – one that tells a good story and makes people care about the developer and the product. This really means s/he needs to know the target audience and is prepared to use social media to effectively promote the project, create awareness, generate a buzz-factor around the product/idea, and then sustain that by posting regular updates.

Ideally, lots and lots of people then rush forward to pledge an amount towards the goal 🙂

Sometimes the pledges are simply a set donation, but in many cases it’s in exchange for some sort of promised reward – the larger the pledge, the greater the reward. No funds (or rewards) actually change hands if the target goal isn’t achieved within the set time frame.

In my experience, the rewards that are offered as incentives have ranged from a signed letter of thanks to a range of products/services. Many people choose not to select a tangible reward at all, depending on the project and/or their relationship with the developer. In the best of circumstances the projects go ahead, rewards are received, most ‘investors’ are at least fairly happy with the outcome – and the crowd-funding ball keeps on rolling.

Over the years I’ve noticed that other sorts of funding have emerged. One of these is Patreon, which is really aimed at funding ongoing content creation via monthly subscription. This helps artists and creators to focus on content creation, rather than trying to fit their art in around day jobs. It’s simply a modern take on the notion of arts patronage, where artists receive encouragement and financial aid from supporters / philanthropists.

GoFundMe is a somewhat different sort of fundraising. It allows people to launch funding campaigns for medical procedures, emergency help, charities, educational opportunities and so forth. In many instances, people are more than willing to help out wherever they can without expectation of reward. It often depends on what the fundraising rationale is and whether it inspires us or simply gives us a feeling of obligation.

For example, a friend’s sister periodically raises money for her ongoing medical needs this way. Someone else I know is raising funds for a trip overseas. Another needed help to pay emergency vet bills when her dog was hurt. How would I choose who to fund?

Some of these feel like a hand-out, rather than a hand-up. But others, such help with the vet bills, no so much. That particular person felt very uncomfortable asking for money – it felt very much like begging to her. But she needed the help. So she offered to make beautiful handmade earrings (or something similar) for anyone who pledged their help. This made it easier for her to ask for help – and for her friends/family/others to provide it without an overt sense of obligation.

This works for me. It feels like I’d giving a hand up, as though something positive and useful is being done by all concerned. I’d definitely have helped this young lady out if I’d known in time – and not bothered to take up the incentive. The offer would have been enough. Although she does make great earrings….

In a dim and distant past life I thought it might be a good idea to try to learn a general purpose programming language. Those in the know were keen for me to learn C, on the basis that it’d been around for a while, is easy to learn… and they were using it themselves. But, as it turned out, learning in a vacuum has low appeal for the object-oriented. When pointed at some C tutorials and left to my own devices, I found my interest waned fairly quickly. For best outcomes, I need specific, measurable goals – preferably ones that are useful to me in some way.

Many years later I had another stab at programmery-things, this time to meet a university unit requirement. The goal was to create a little test-website as part of a project, using HTML. There didn’t have to be much content, but it had to be seen to work. This gave me something to aim for and I set to with more enthusiasm than skill. Fortunately I had some in-house tutors in the quirks and mysteries of HTML when the wheels tried to fall off (the project). DaughterDearest and BoyChilde, each computer wizards in their own way, displayed remarkable patience when I yodelled for help with some of my more elaborate errors during the learning phase.

Whilst the programmery-skills I picked up remain in the minor-league, I’ve retained just enough HTML to do some low key fiddling about on a couple of websites I’m contracted to update, although my involvement is largely content management rather than programming of any sort.

One of these sites was set up for a local community centre by a small media company in Perth. Frustratingly, with many of the mysteries of the Joomla set-up and templates restricted, any changes to the site structure currently have to be done by the set-up guy. I find not knowing how it all hangs together or how to change things myself a source of continual low-key irritation. I concluded some time ago that only way I’d be able claim a higher level of website management control would be to learn how Joomla works and then take it from there.

Glyde-In Community Learning Centre has a contract with the same media company and has had similar concerns regards to access to their website. Having come to similar conclusions with regards to site management access, the coordinator decided to organise a couple of Joomla training sessions and invited me to join in. Since Joomla has been on my to-do list for a while, I accepted with alacrity (thanks, Ann).

The sessions were informative, although more an overview than a hands-on. We looked at different levels of access and what they enable people to do on a specific website, recent changes to that website and how they were made, and managing file systems and template structures.Our tutor, Lorenz, was well prepared (always a plus!) and answered our questions clearly, using relevant examples to show what he meant. By the end of the second session I felt a renewed sense of purpose.

It’s pretty clear that if I want to learn anything of substance, I’ll have to get stuck in and poke around in the gubbins  of Joomla, creating and breaking things to see how they work. I’m thinking of mirroring one of the sites I work with regularly to see what happens when I change things. It’s as good a way as any of figuring things out, I reckon, but I’m open to suggestions from those of you who’re already Joomla-savvy.

I’ve taken the first steps by installing Joomla and XAMPP locally, both on my laptop and on my Mac (because, reasons). This took up a large portion of my afternoon yesterday and was intensely frustrating. No doubt you’re thinking, as I did, Ah yesinstallations… that fun-filled circular pastime, abundant with satisfying outcomes… 

joomlaadventures1I am getting there, but must admit to loosing heart to some extent after spending what feels like a ridiculous amount of time on the installation two-step so far. Still, once it’s all installed (!!) and running (!!!), I’ll be able to start playing (theoretically, anyway). Woe betide the offspring if it isn’t working soon – their combined computer-wizardry may be called upon!

My ears woke up before the rest of me yesterday, filled with the sounds of rain splatting on the tin roof. Big juicy drops bouncing and rolling, rushing down into the overflowing gutters, gushing out to form gullies in the dry sand. It was still to dark to see, but I heard it all. It was the best sound in the world to wake up to at the end of a hot, dry summer.

Cocooned inside my sleeping bag I wriggled back down, smiling in the silvery predawn. I’m spending the Easter break at Gallifrey, house-cat-fowl-and-plant sitting for Daughter Dearest. Although I knew I might have to trudge down to feed the chickens and guinea fowl in the drizzle later on, it’d only be a minor inconvenience. I couldn’t help feeling a bit like it was my birthday – with the rain an unexpected and glorious gift. The plants were being watered without any help from me and, even more importantly, at least some of the water I’ve used while I’ve been resident has been replaced.


Over the past few years I’ve come to realise how easy it is to take water for granted in our first-world city life. The simplest daily actions, such as washing one’s hands or rinsing a cup or flushing the toilet, are all done on the assumption that there’s a plentiful supply of water. But not just any water. We naively assume that it will be clean and bug free, i.e. potable water,  and that it will be piped into our homes without fail. And it’s these assumptions that lead us to be blasé about our water use and to waste litres upon litres of this diminishing and most precious resource.

T and I try to be water-smart at home, using low flow shower heads, limiting the sprinkler time, keeping showers brief and checking for leaky taps regularly. So I was surprised to find Australians at the top of the list of per capita water consumers in the world, with a quarter of our daily water use (26%) literally  going down the toilet.

Although modern water efficient toilets are required to use no more than 5.5 litres of water per flush, a standard flush toilet uses 12 litres (!) – every time it’s flushed. With an average of four flushes per person per day, that’s about 10,000 litres of water each of us is flushing away every year. That’s a whole lot of water, particularly (but not exclusively) if you rely on rainwater for all your water needs.

Knowing this is not the same as living it. I’ve found that as a (temporary) resident at Gallifrey I’ve become hyper-conscious about water use. I’m suddenly personally aware of the fact that there’s no scheme water on the property, that the house and garden are dependant on the water in the tanks and, when that runs low and rain doesn’t come, the remaining option is to purchase water and have it trucked in to fill them. An expensive undertaking.

Every time I turn a tap on, I think about the water tank levels. Every time I use the composting toilet, I’m conscious of the water that’s being saved. For a two-person household, this system is saving about 20,000 litres a year. That’s water that can then be used in the house and for the animals and orchard instead. A real, practical step to water management.

As water becomes scarcer, this system is becoming more mainstream. Instead of being seen as another ‘hippy-eco fringe’ idea, it’s gaining traction with the broader public. According to a recent ABC report, more people are looking at it as an option for new homes – and I know I certainly would.

Listening to the rain as I fell asleep last night, surrounded by the smells of rain and soaked earth, I was content.


raleigh bike.pgI was given my first bike when I was eight years old. It was shiny and black and a source of endless delight – not to mention unrivaled freedom.  It had no gears or hand brakes, but as I didn’t know any better, neither of these were an issue. What it did have was rather nifty mudguards (soon removed for convenience and speed) and simple back-pedal (or coaster) brakes that were dead easy to use. That little Raleigh bike was my most beloved possession from the very first day, despite crashing headfirst into a hedge down the road on my initial solo attempt at riding it!

From thereon out I had any number of adventures, big and small, wherever my wheels could take me. One of the more dramatic of these adventures started out very low key. My friend Felicity and I were about 10 years old at the time and, unlike many of the youth of today, we were assumed to be both capable and independent. Parents weren’t informed of our movements, we just trotted off on our merry way. As long as we were back by dinnertime and there was no obvious damage to explain, we were left to our own devices. In this instance we had planned a trip to the local shopping centre to hunt for Christmas gifts. It was a distance of about 2.5km and we knew from experience that this took about 30 minutes on foot, about 10 minutes by trolley bus, or about 12 minutes by bicycle. Ever the staunch Scot, I opted to save the bus fare and rode my bike up the (very steep!) hill to meet Felicity as she hopped off the bus.

Some time later, after purchasing what knickknacks our pocket money could afford and enjoying an iced confection in the park, we headed for home – Felicity hanging out the back of the trolley bus and me in hot pursuit on my trusty bike. I’d grown quite a bit in the couple of years I’d had the bike and it had become a little worn in that time. My brothers had taught me to fix punctures and how to put the chain back on when it inevitably came off, but they still did the tricky things like adjusting the seat height since this involved enough physical strength to tighten the nuts and bolts. Or so I’d always assumed…

As I careered down the hill in hot pursuit of the trolley bus, laughing like crazy and taking the sorts of risks that ten year olds do, it never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. Not until the trolley bus stopped a little sooner than I expected and, when I tried to slam the brakes on by back pedaling desperately, my feet came off the pedals!  The seat had tilted back rather dramatically as I applied emergency pressure on the brakes and it was pretty obvious that the saddle was, in fact, not properly secured. I was left clutching the handlebars, my behind only centimetres from the back wheel, my legs akimbo to avoid the chain and the wheels.

coasterbrakeNow, the thing you need to know about back-pedal brakes is that pushing back on the pedals forces a set of brake pads to expand inside the hub on the back wheel. Friction then slows the wheel down very efficiently. The downside is that your feet actually have to be on the pedals for this to work – and there’s no backup plan if they’re not. My feet were nowhere near the pedals at this point, having slipped off when the saddle tipped backwards and tried to deposit me on the rapidly rotating back wheel. All I had was precarious balance and a grip of death on the handlebars.

Felicity’s face told me that she fully expected me to slam into the back of the bus at any moment and, considering the rate at which I was bearing down on it, this seemed extremely likely. Immediate evasive action was called for and instinct took over. I swerved out from behind the bus – narrowly missing both it and the on coming station wagon, then swerved back onto my side of the road just as the bus started off again. All this time I was trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to haul myself back onto or over the saddle so that I could get my feet back on the pedals.

I whizzed down the steepest part of the hill and into the long sweeping curve towards the intersection, hoping with every part of me that the traffic lights would be in my favour and that there would be no oncoming traffic. My luck held, the road started to level out, and my speed dropped enough for me to risk the rapid dismount. I leapt clear of my bike whilst keeping hold of the handlebars and running alongside it. It was, after all, my treasure!

We careered to a halt, narrowly missing being clipped by the bus as it trundled past, and fell into an inelegant and only slightly grazed pile right near the bus stop. Felicity made a flying exit from back  of the still-moving bus and rushed to my assistance. Between us we managed to drag my bike to the verge, and then collapsed in a heap, laughing and whooping with the joy of being alive and being 10 years old and invulnerable. There being no actual damage, the parents were never the wiser – but I closely supervised any maintenance of my bike done by others after that!

Bicycles have been part of my landscape since that very first machine. I’ve had racing bikes, mountain bikes, a BMX bike, static exercise bikes and a hybrid bike. They’ve varied in colour from black to pink; silver to blue – but all (except the static bikes) have provided me with unsurpassed levels of independence, adventure and enjoyment. I still ride whenever I can – and every time I see someone else on a bike – whatever their age or gender, whether they’re wearing cutoffs or lycra, barefoot or in expensive cycle shoes – I smile. Rock on, riders, be free!


On a borrowed racing bike, 1975

A number of our overseas friends keep up to date with our adventures via a family website I set up many years ago. I usually put more information up there than I do on any of the social media, but have been a little lax in updating the site of late  –  and complaints have been building up in my inbox. So a few days ago I thought it was probably high time to add some photos and a brief overview of  what we’ve been up to over the past few months, such as acquiring a new puppy.

Then came the moment when I went to log in to the site and started to try to figure out the user name and password combination …

Unfortunately, although the mental archive turned out to be full of assorted user names and positively overflowing with possible passwords, none of them seemed to have any relevance in this instance. I made a cup of tea, thinking that a Eureka! moment was bound to come upon me while I was busy with that.

No such luck.

I drank the tea, made more tea, tried a few of the archived options – same result.

In the process of trying to ensure that the logins I use for various sites are unique, reasonably random and of adequate length – and thus fairly ‘stronloging’ – I’d also managed to create a tiny black hole in my memory in to which some of these had evidently disappeared. Discovering that I’m not alone in creating password overload and that there’s even a term for it (Password Overload Syndrome) was of small comfort.

Some months ago I actually did try to address this issue by starting to use a dedicated password memorisation tool. Instead of using a stand alone password app to encrypt my passwords in a file on my computer, I chose a web-based option. In theory, as long as I have access to the internet, Lastpass  will allow to retrieve my passwords to everything pretty much anywhere and on any of my devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet). Allegedly this simplifies my life, secures my data and speeds up my access to sites (no messing around trying to remember logins, etc).

The theory is sound, but it does require that I either manually enter the login/password combination on Lastpass or allow them to be harvested by it when I login to existing and new sites. In my wisdom, I had of course chosen to limit Lastpass to just a few sites and to manually enter the details for those. Naturally, when I finally figured out my Lastpass login (!), my family website turned out not to be one of those I’d entered.

More brain wracking and tea drinking ensued, followed by more blank slates being drawn. Then, just when all hope appeared lost, an epiphany: I don’t have a login for the site!

Early on in the piece I actually chose to update the html on my desktop, using a very simple edit tool (Programmer’s File Editor), and then  using a free ftp client  to shunt them across to the site, which is 1GB of web space that piggybacks on our broadband account.

So it turns out that the problem – in this instance at any rate – was never a problem at all. That mental black hole, however…