Since 2010

Creative engineering

Tissue box covering PIR sensor at work

My current office is in one of those building that tries to be smart. Environment zones, clever air circulation, automatic blinds etc. One of the things it does is turn the lights off in each room when nobody’s there. Now the rooms also have light switches, so you can turn the lights on or off by yourself if you need to or want to.

Except my room. The lights are controlled by a PIR sensor in the ceiling, and that’s it. The lights come on when someone is in the room, whether you like it or not. And there are 8 light fittings, each with 4 bulbs in the room: 32 light bulbs + gallons of sunlight for one person seems rather excessive to me.

The solution: an empty tissue box and four sticky dots.

Instant messaging

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never used Skype in anger, but I’ve been playing with it over the last couple of days, practising for “the move”, and it works really well. My ADSL connection at home sucks, so it struggles with a video call, but switch video off and all is dandy.

I’ve started to slowly introduce Dad to it as well: had him messaging me on it yesterday, and I’ve got a headset here for him, so after a brief training session on that we’ll be good to go!

I’m also really impressed with some of the things Skype can do in the joining-VoIP-calls-to-landline-phones area. Clever stuff, and good to know when I need to get a hold of someone here who doesn’t use Skype: they charge a fraction of the price that regular telecoms providers do.


I’m writing this up with the hope that in a couple of months I’ll be able to go back through some of these posts, and chuckle at just how ridiculous I was being about panicking over some of this stuff.

I had another blub today about all the things I’m giving up. I’ve been hitting eBay, and hitting it hard this week, and have managed to sell quite a lot of stuff. I also finalised plans for getting rid of my car: that one feels big. Partly because it’s such an obviously expensive item, but also because having a car in Inverness is the primary way of getting anywhere, so it feels like I’m giving up a huge chunk of my independence.

So anyway, it all built up, and there were tears. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s only stuff, and I can easily get more stuff in Australia if I want it. I’ve also started reminding myself that it’s only important to me here because it’s what keeps me entertained. Will have a whole city to explore for Pete sake!

Our obsession with stuff

One surprising, but very enlightening and refreshing lesson I’ve learnt from this move to Australia is that I now realise just how much unnecessary stuff I have. I always thought I was quite good at not holding onto things that I don’t need/don’t work, and I stand by that. But then I came to my CD and DVD collection. Why, in 2010, do I still have all those CDs and DVDs on display, taking up a vast amount of room??

Now keeping old CDs is fine with me. Even though they’re all in my iTunes library, and properly backed up, legally I still need to keep the CDs. Otherwise, in the eyes of the law, I won’t own the music and that’s the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night.

DVDs however. What is this obsession we all have with buying DVDs? You buy them, at great expense, watch them once, then put them on a shelf and never go near them ever again. I am disgusted at how much money I have wasted doing just this. From now on I will definitely be renting DVDs: pay a relatively tiny amount of money, watch the film, and hand it back so someone else can enjoy it.

So, my CD collection has been preened and put into storage: it’s all about buying music online for me now. My DVDs are, with a few exceptions, being punted out to whoever will have them, before hoisting the rest onto a steaming pile of landfill.