Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My love hate relationship with Facebook

I love the overall concept:

Use this wonderful platform on the world wide web to connect with friends and acquaintances all over the world.

Keep in touch with new friends, old friends and family.

Find old friends you've lost contact with and get reconnected.

Learn more about your friends and family than you ever did before.

Sometimes things you didn't want to know!

Which can kind of change things a bit...

A few years ago I read Ben Elton's book "Blind Faith" which describes a dystopian future where people must blog daily about everything going on in their lives and the idea of having a private life is heretic, in fact it's illegal. It's when our need to share so much of our lives with others goes awry, when big brother starts using that "sharing" to keep an eye on you. When you are actually denied private thought and political correctness is the norm. It's a pretty scary possible world, and I can see Facebook right in the middle of this.

Being connected is so good for people. Even an online connection is better than no connection at all, and I'd argue that Facebook has brought me alot closer to many people I didn't know all that well before. Like my cousins Cara and Mardi, who live in Melbourne and I've hardly seen since we were all kids over 30 years ago. I'm watching Mardi's kids grow up, I'm enjoying Cara's photos from some of the markets she goes to and sharing a few funny jokes. I definitely feel closer to them than I've been for years. I'm also loving keeping up with the antics of my two nieces in Canberra, and their irrepressible puppy Ruby. And it's such little effort to do so. A few photos uploaded, a couple of lines of comment, job done!

I've found old friends, like Jo in England, my ex cycling buddy from the infamous "Berlin or Bust" month long cycling tour in 1990. This Scottish lass from the Orkneys is now married with three girls and a stable full of ponies. I don't know that we have much in common these days, but it's just nice to keep in touch. Kind of like my mum who still sends Christmas cards once a year to old schoolfriends and families she stayed with in the UK and Canada back in the 50s. She's actually corresponding with some of the next generation now, but the connection's still there. Facebook just makes it a little easier.

I've created and joined groups on Facebook, based around common interests. I like how you can create an event and then invite people, and they can also invite their friends. I've done this for Coastcare projects locally, and you definitely get new people involved utilising these networks. I mean if it didn't work, there wouldn't be any advertising right?

Which is the crap part, the advertising. Not only do you get the ads down the side of the news feed, they are also encroaching within the newsfeed itself. Despite me understanding that there's no such thing as a free lunch, they are downright annoying and intrusive aren't they?

Apparently they use your personal profile to target ads for you. According to my ads I am fat, wrinkly and in desperate need of a man. How to make a woman in her late forties feel insecure, lonely and depressed? Log on to Facebook!!

I have been having a bit of fun removing, or rather "hiding" these ads. My feedback on all the weight loss, wrinkly skin and singles clubs ads is that they are offensive, because frankly, they are!! I've also labelled a few misleading, and alot uninteresting. I'm currently working out what to do with the ad for eco worms, I might keep that one for a while...

I've been contemplating changing my status to married just to see what ads I get then. I figure "in a relationship" would start getting me all the wedding planner ads so best to jump straight over that minefield into marital bliss. Do you start getting baby stuff? School enrolments? No, I'm too old for that. Divorce lawyers?? Swingers clubs?

The other thing I've found with Facebook is the "other messages". These are for people who aren't your friend to send you a message. They're good for buy and sell pages and the like, but there's also quite a few men trolling for lonely ladies as well. Whenever I remember to check these message there's usually a few little missives of love and friendship from complete strangers. Delete!!

My complete ire however, goes to Facebook apps. Not only are these insidious ways to get your personal details, they have ads within ads, and messages within messages and sometimes even ask for your phone number!! I regularly delete apps from my page because they have a nasty habit of somehow inserting themselves just because one of your friends or friends of friends looked at it once. Which is where you've got to use your brain a bit.

I'm not going to wax on about security, but I do think it's important that people regularly check their security settings and ensure that who they want to share with is correct. And to think before hitting the share button on some of the funny sayings and videos that do the rounds, because some of them are not just a funny saying, they're an insidious tracking device. And there's some pretty sick puppies posting stuff on Facebook these days....

I have some friends and family who haven't jumped onto the Facebook gravy train, and I respect that, and I've one friend who has removed herself because she is overwhelmed by the negative aspects of it.

I can still see more good than bad, but I'm keeping my eyes open and Ben Elton's dystopian future in mind.

But I will be sharing this post on Facebook!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

How does my garden grow?

It's the end of January, so here's an update on the awesome delicacies growing in my patch at the moment. I've been blown away by the way a bit a lot of TLC makes growing veg here in summer a productive pastime. Even with those blistering southerlies we've had in the last few weeks. I love shade cloth!!
eggplant stirfry, yum!

Eggplants have been a big part of my diet for the last month. Being creative with the cooking options is the only way to prevent boredom. Thai curried eggplant is a bit of a favourite, then there's a big bake up with pumpkin, carrots, tomato, onions and garlic, and lots of herbs. When the new batch of tahini arrives I'll be whipping up some baba ganough, and then there's my absolute favourite middle eastern dish called "The priest fainted" (but they mean imam not priest duh!): baked stuffed eggplant with cinnamon and sultanas. This dish converts any hardened meat eater or aubergine sceptic without fail! Manna from heaven.

There are a few beasties in the eggplant patch. Caterpillars have pillaged the lettuce seedlings and are munching their way through many of the egg fruits. I have a live and let live policy in my garden, as long as the blighters leave enough for me to eat, they can share the bounty. Meanwhile, I have oodles of wonderful birds visiting, who quite like munching on big fat juicy caterpillars thank you. I'm so used to all my bird visitors I only really notice their great abundance when my friends point it out. And when they decide to wander into the house from the verandah.....

okra seedling amongst the eggies
I collected a lot of lettuce seed from my last crop, and threw the rest of the seed stalks all around the garden, so I've huge patches of lettuce seedlings sprouting everywhere. Which is why I'm not fussed about the decimation in the eggplant patch. I'm harvesting the larger seedlings for my salad lunches as a way of thinning out the sheer abundance. I've also learnt that growing spinach any time but winter isn't possible. It really does need cold weather, not just shade, water and TLC! I've heaps of seed left, so I'll start sowing again in March or April.

I have chillies ripening in abundance. I've made curry paste, sweet chilli sauce, and the freezer is full of big bags of them waiting for my next recipe. I'd love to give some away, but it appears most people I know don't quite have my obsession to heat!
lotsa lettuce!
The cucumber plants are giving me a semi regular supply of juicy crunch, and I shall probably sow a few more seeds this weekend to get some new plants going. I've just transplanted a couple of zucchini seedlings and okra plants this week so I'm looking forward to harvesting them in a month or two.
cucumber plants heading skyward
Tomatoes are now fruiting, and the pumpkin plants are going mad with new growth, though I haven't seen any new fruit as yet. Just the greenery is such a lovely calming sight in the garden anyway, along with those happy yellow flowers and the bees buzzing around.
lotsa greenery, where's the fruit?
The passionfruit and grape vines seem to have put on a bit of a growth spurt, so they need tying up to the support so they can one day cover the vege pergola. Every gardener needs to practice patience...

The watermelon plants are growing happily, pushing out these quite cute little flowers, but no fruit buds yet. Again, patience...
self seeded cherry toms, my favourite!
The citrus are all heavily infested with curling leaf miner, which is proving a little difficult to control. A lot of leaf removal is about all I can do at the moment, because spraying with oil when the temperatures are so high will prevent leaf respiration, and I'm not about to kill my plants in the process! Yes I know it looks like I'm not practicing the live and let live policy here, but I tried that and they bloody took advantage so it's now time to redress the balance. You don't mess with me, little bugs....
capsicum, zucchini, okra, carrot, cucumber, parsley, lettuce, chives, and a lemon tree!
My TLC has resulted in the lime actually producing fruit this year, or rather, not ending up with fruit drop. I think when the first fruit is ready for picking I shall just have to force myself to make a Mojito to celebrate! And of course I'll use home grown mint..
this one's got mojito written all over it!
The kangkung continues to grow in its tub, and is regularly harvested for yummy stir fries. George (one of my neighbours) brought over a dollop of frog spawn last week and now I have hundreds of little tadpoles chomping away on the mosquito wrigglers. I've stuck a bit of wood in the tub so they have a way to escape when they get around to growing legs and lungs. Hopefully by then I'll have a real pond.

I've a few papaya seedlings growing away in the tropical patch up the north side of the house, where I've a had a pretty big failure with planting some kiwi vines. The male plant still seems to be alive, but the female looks dead. I kinda knew I was pushing shit uphill on that one in this climate...

Win some, lose some, that's the gardener's lot

Friday, January 25, 2013

The trouble with being a windsurfer

It's tough being a windsurfer, even tougher when you're a wave sailor. Let me explain.

Windsurfing began in the 1970s, when someone put a mast and sail on a large surfboard and it progressed from there. Boards and sails got better able to deal with prevailing conditions and different disciplines developed, like speed sailing, slalom, waves and freestyle. The 1980s and 90s were the heyday of windsurfing but by the early noughties it was declining, due to economic issues and the fact that most of the world actually doesn't have enough consistent wind to keep people interested. Couple that with the rise of kite surfing, which allows getting out in lighter winds, and the future for windsurfing was looking pretty grim.

For those of us lucky enough, or prescient enough, to live in places where the wind blows consistently, there hasn't been a decline at all. Of course living in one of the top windsurfing places on the planet does help, there may well be a decline elsewhere, but it isn't that apparent here. Sure there's more kiters, but there's still lots of locals as well as national and international visitors jumping and thrashing our waves each summer. And despite the economic downturn in Europe, all the regulars still keep turning up...

I say prescient, because almost every "local" in this town is a seasoned windsurfer or kiter who moved here from elsewhere. We're actually a pretty multicultural mix from all over the planet. Not just Aussies from Perth, the east coast and South Oz, there's English, Irish, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Swiss, Japanese, American, Malaysian, Singaporean, and a few more nationalities who've moved here just for our wind and waves. There are a few home grown sailors, but surprisingly few actually.

Perhaps the difficulty is that learning to sail in Geraldton isn't all that easy. The wind tends to kick in with a vengeance and when you're learning it's nice to have a bit of flat sheltered water rather than a rip roaring shore break. We have a couple of beaches in town that suit, but there's no windsurfing school, so even if people want to learn there's no-one offering regular lessons.

It's pretty challenging to windsurf in Geraldton because it isn't really beginner conditions. With big swell coming in off the Indian Ocean, and wind that is consistently 20-30 knots, most of us who sail here are not shrinking violets. It takes balls to get out through big waves and to ride in on top of rollers from out the back, carving sweet bottom turns and slashing off the lip. Not to mention just sheer strength to hold on when the gusts hit 35knots!

But recently, the weather has been less than accommodating. Not only have we had very little swell, we've also had less than consistent winds, and when it does blow, it's more often over 30 knots than within the nice comfy wind speed parameters for a fun sail. My 3.5 m sail has probably been the best investment I've made in recent years, and given the amount of usage it's had, it may well need replacement before the 4.5 does!!

Fact is, I get bored when it's flat, and there's only so many times you can bash your body around in bruising over 30 knot winds. And it's supposed to be fun right?

Yep, it's tough being an elite sportswoman when the weather doesn't oblige to suit your lifestyle! Now there's a first world problem of epic proportions!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not an oxymoron after all

I stand corrected!

It turns out that with hard work, planning and some ingenuity, it is possible to have a productive vege patch in summer after all.

My summer that is, not yours. I'm talking about living in a seaside town where the annual rainfall averages 400mm and most of that falls between May and September. Seriously! say about 95%!! Then there's the filthy hot days when the mercury climbs above 40, even above 45 degrees, for days on end and the nights don't get below 30! And if the wind isn't blowing a dessicating fan forced easterly heat from the desert inland, it's a blistering 25-35 knot southerly, which although cooling, still dries out the foliage. Oh yeah, and the soil isn't soil, it's sand!!

For the last 10 years I've made a half arsed effort to grow veges in the summer months but usually the plants just spend the time either barely surviving, or giving up altogether. They certainly don't put on new growth or fruit for me. So I kind of gave up. And just said summer gardening was an oxymoron...

But this summer it's different. It isn't because the soil has suddenly morphed into loam, that the climate has changed along with the rainfall, or that the wind didn't blow. It's me. I've changed!

Firstly, I sorted out my water supply. Now although we are allowed to hand water any time, and water restrictions are only for sprinklers, I personally prefer rain water on my vege patch. I don't drink the local scheme water at all, it tastes horrible, why would I put it on my veg? Also, aside from the initial investment in tanks, rain water is free! And as water prices continue to climb, it's a canny investment indeed.

I have 3 tanks. I'm afraid I can't give you their capacities, except to say that none of them are small. I've got a fair sized block, so there's room for them. One is steel, and is my primary tank into which all water from the roof collects. This is the one I replaced this year, is plumbed in to the house for drinking water and also to an outside tap. It has a pressure pump connected which means I can use it to fill up the other two tanks to avoid waste when all that rain does fall over 3 measly months in winter.

The key is to fill the excess tanks and keep the primary tank's capacity not quite full so if a big downpour suddenly happens I don't lose it down the drain. Then I water my garden from the secondary tanks.

One tank is up the top of my block, and sits on a stand, so it has enough pressure to gravity feed to the vege patch at the front of the block. I've been meaning to reconnect the drip reticulation to this tank and put it on a timer, but I haven't got round to that yet. Instead, I've been hand watering from the other tank, which is connected to another pump which I just turn on and off as required. Sure this doesn't make for "free" water since there's electricity involved, but it isn't much, just 10 min a day isn't going to break the bank!!

I've been hand watering daily from this second tank since my return in late September, and had almost emptied it when the skies opened up last Sunday and we got a deluge! There was me, soaked through, up the ladder inserting a hose into the tank and transferring water as quickly as it could accumulate. No wastage and the green tank is now half full again. So the top tank still doesn't need to be called into service yet!

I like the hand watering. It gives me a chance to see how the veges are growing, to pull out weeds and keep an eye on infestations. There's alot of happy caterpillars eating my lettuce plants at the moment, and citrus leaf miners are also going crazy! Some judicious caterpillar and snail collecting, weed pulling and leaf removal doesn't go astray on an almost daily basis, and helps keep the intruders at bay. Since I have alot of visitors to the patch - birds, lizards and predatory insects - keeping chemical free is important. I also love seeing how big some fruit can grow in just a day, daily monitoring allows me to harvest before they get too big.

I've spent quite a bit of time improving the soil by adding compost, particularly when planting new seedlings. It's pretty hard to make compost at home here, because the weather is so dry nothing rots, it just dries out! So I buy bags from Bunnings as needed, and since I only buy the cheapest bags, it isn't a huge expense. But I still need to water daily, the soil isn't that good yet!

I've heard that there's a product you can add to sandy soil that has clay particles in it, so it helps the soil be less water repellant, and it's organic. But expensive! I'm not a fan of alot of the other water retention products, as I've heard they are potentially toxic to microorganisms as well as the big guys that feed on your insect inhabitants. I have a friend who put it through his new garden last year so I shall have to ask him how it's performing. You still need to add organic matter though....

Then there's the elements! Well I manage this through perimeter planting with natives and an ingenious, though not particularly attractive, set of temporary screens and shade cloth. Although the blurb says "full sun" I can assure you that in this climate your veges will not survive unless they are shaded. All day! They get quite enough UV through that shadecloth to grow, produce fruit, and yes thrive! No shade cloth? It's like Death Valley, nothing alive within days!

I can't quite believe it myself, that my garden looks so bloody good at the moment. It's thriving, it's happy, and I am too. I'll let you know what's growing in my next post.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Now let's just back up a bit why don't we?

In the last few posts I've been talking a little about where my creativity has taken me. Whether it's nurturing the garden, building a wall, or getting into photography, I certainly haven't been getting much windsurfing done. Wind and waves have been a bit scarce over the last couple of months, but in the last week that has happily changed and we are now looking forward to a few days of consistent wind and decent waves. I'm hoping for some lovely rides up at Coros with my mates, and soon I'll be the proud owner of my new bumblebee!

Pursuing photography has, for me at least, meant watching some podcasts and reading some books about the subject. One eBook in particular, called The Photographers Workflow, by Gavin Gough, is IMHO a must read for anyone who has struggled with the task of getting order into their filing of all those digital photos they've taken. That sit in multiple files on multiple hard drives that you never really worked out a proper system for, and when you want to find an older image, well it takes a while. Or worse, you can't find it. Or even worse, the hard drive you saved it on has failed!

Over the Xmas/ New Year period, because I wasn't living it up in the sweltering troughed out conditions up the beach at Coros, I spent a week or so at home getting very hot under the collar discovering pretty well every bad news story could, and was, happening to me all at once. I'll start with the ridiculously stupid one first, and let this be a warning to people that if it isn't causing you any headaches, don't change it!

You may remember my love affair with my new Macbook Air which I bought a little over 12 months ago. It's true to say that we're through the giddy heights of infatuation and now settling down into a relationship of mutual love and respect. I've learnt how to navigate my way with him, and he remains one fast operator. He's instantly ready to go, if you know what I mean (nudge nudge wink wink!). But I'd been delving a little deeper, and one day managed to accidentally remove my administrator rights, and with Macs wanting you to use a password for almost any action on your computer - like downloading apps, using your printer, oh lots of things - it was a bit of a disaster. I needed to pay someone to show me how to recover my password - it was actually pretty easy - but when you start playing with the disk utility and recovery files you need to know you are doing the right thing and not deleting anything useful. You know, like all your files and applications. Anyway, what I learnt out of that little exercise is, leave things be in the user groups. But at  least all my passwords work now, PHEW!!

Anyway, back to Gavin's excellent book. He's a professional photographer based in Bangkok and has written this easy to understand eBook that gives you a system for managing your files. Now I've watched quite a few tutorials on managing files - the correct term is Digital Asset Management BTW - and have gone away understanding that it's really important to have a system that is consistent, particularly as regards naming images, that using keyword tagging makes it easy to find your images, and a consistent workflow makes the task of processing all those images more manageable.  Versus insurmountable! 

After learning how important it was  to have one, my next task was to build my own workflow, which of course I didn't do! I downloaded some keyword list presets from a freeware site, I named the folders I used to manage my images within Lightroom and I very inconsistently named some images. I certainly didn't add metadata like location or keywords to images in any more than a handful of cases, which means finding them using metadata searches isn't helpful. And then there was my backup system, we'll discuss that later....

Gavin's book, OTOH, explains what his workflow is, how he creates as many presets as possible for each action required within the workflow and uses smart collections to progress files through the workflow. Bear with me here OK? 

When you import a photo into Lightroom, you can name it, decide what folder you want it in, include copyright information, and decide whether you want to keep another copy of the image in another location. You know, for backup! Then you can decide which images need to be immediately trashed and which ones to keep, add location information, and keyword tags, both items that don't come attached to the file in the metadata from your camera. Then once you've named and tagged the living daylight out of your image, even added a description or caption, you then need to do your magic in the editing suite, then export the image to whatever use you wish. It sounds insurmountable doesn't it?

When you buy Gavin's book, you also get all the presets he uses and his smart collections so you can import them into your catalog (yes he tells you how!) and customise for your own use. There are presets for almost every process of the way through the workflow, which speeds up the time it takes to do all those tasks. And he shows you how to make your own presets too. Instead of having to build a workflow from scratch, you merely have to tinker with his to customise it to your own particular circumstances. I mean I'm not a professional photographer right?

So after a day of reading his book, tinkering with your Lightroom settings, and of course importing his wonderful presets and smart collections, you have a fully working workflow. That works! Beautifully! Dare I say it's a joy..

But Gavin's book isn't just about workflow, it's about protecting those precious files from loss, whether through misadventure, natural disaster, or disk drive failure. Or all of the above. At first I thought Gavin's view was perhaps a little paranoid, but after doing a little more research on the geeky forums I realised he's merely one in a chorus of people chanting "make multiple backups", of EVERYTHING!!

Somebody said: There are two types of hard drives. Ones that have failed, and ones that haven't failed, YET!

Ah there's truth in that...

So it appears that one day my beautiful boy is gonna fail to get it up. I'll try and turn him on and he won't be interested. It'll probably happen out of the blue without any warning, and I'll feel pretty lonely and depressed and yes, DEVASTATED! 

But Gavin and the geek forums have shown me how I can clone my boy, so when he fails to get going I'll have a nice little identical twin who'll be ready to go. He'll be a little slower than the original, but he'll more than satisfy. He certainly won't leave me wanting.

So lets get away from the sexual references and get back to my private disaster, which started as a quite minor (didn't feel like it at the time!) password mistake and slowly morphed into a progressively deepening tragedy. I do like to go on don't I?

Armed with my newfound knowledge I decided to chart where all my image files are, which is mostly on a hard drive on my Windows PC, with some backup images on a second external hard drive. Some, not all, were backed up on the external drive. I decided to copy them onto a couple of external drives I had and then reimport them into my new Lightroom catalog on the MBA (Macbook Air) once I had all the necessary hard drives available to have a fully backed up system. Which, BTW, requires 5 external hard drives. Don't believe me? Then you haven't got your files backed up well enough!
what my fully backed up system should look like!
I've been busy purchasing hard drives, both from local retailers and from Amazon, so I have a little lag time till I can get my system up and running fully, but I have built the clone and backed up my system in Time Machine. That's 2 separate drives BTW! But I still had to retrieve the image files for reimporting when the hard drive on my Windows PC, well, FAILED!! You now see the disaster unfolding??

That PC hasn't actually been used for much except editing of video and pictures. It's not connected to the internet and isn't used at all for day to day stuff. It's plugged in to a surge protector, because we get brownouts around here fairly frequently, which is thought to be the reason why my previous computer's hard drive failed. I now know better....

So did you notice that? Previous hard drive failure. You'd think I'd know better! Admittedly, a good deal of my photos were indeed backed up on the external drive, but not all of them. And I still have some photos on that old PC that I'd quite like to recover. That I only recently discovered I'd lost when I went to make a presentation for a conference detailing our 10 years running a mobile health clinic in the Murchison. And then I  went and dropped yet another external hard drive with all my video from NZ on it, yes, the heli-ski footage! And it stopped working, apparently something not uncommon when you drop a hard drive according to the geek forums. Well at least I wasn't alone, it had happened to thousands of other people besides me. That made me feel so much better, NOT!!

My PC has 2 internal hard drives, there's the old PC with a single hard drive, there's the dropped hard drive, and there's one more rather old hard drive that I'm unsure what data it has on it. All these have failed. What's still working are the backup external hard drives, my MBA, and an old laptop. Now you know why I've been busy on the Amazon website!!

I am lucky to have a geeky friend who will come to the rescue and try and recover the data for me, so all isn't completely lost. In the meantime I set to making the clone and Time Machine, so at least I'm now protected against disk failure on my MBA. My Lightroom catalogs are backed up to my Dropbox account, and I've discovered there's 5Gb of free Cloud storage available from Amazon as well. And when all the hard drives arrive I can start importing images and progress through the workflow. I'm starting to feel better already.

Then I try one more time on the Windows PC and it boots!! I copy every bloody file I can find off both hard drives and studiously ensure that it's all there before I turn it off, on the assumption that it may never boot again. 650Gb of data recovered!! It's waiting on 2 external drives and a flash drive to be reimported as soon as the working hard drive arrives. I'm a little nervous though, because while I'm waiting for the fast hard drive that I'll use for my working files to arrive I've got data backed up on aging external drives that probably need to be pensioned off. Before they fail too! Cross fingers, and toes.

So there you have it, my little tragedy. All avoidable of course, but so easy to see in retrospect. And hopefully there'll be a happy ending. Even if I am now probably a geek too!

Here's something I don't normally do, and is appropriately geeky of me. I'm including a few links if you want to read more. I've done the research so I may as well share:

For info about cloning and Time Machine (for Mac people) start here 

If you want to know about Gavin's book you can find it here, and no conflict of interest BTW,  I'm just recommending it because there's some trash out there and this book is a bloody gem. And there is a 33% discount off the price until end of Jan if you use the code: photowork33Jan
I'm just saying, why pay $30 when you can pay $20?

If you want some Lightroom plugins for exporting files to Picasa, Smugmug, Flickr, Twitter and a few more, try here.

And for a few other Lightroom plugins, try here

You're welcome!

G'day 2013!!

Welcome to 2013. See ya later 2012! It was a damn good year...

Next week I gotta go back to work, something I am honestly not looking forward to. My heart just isn't in it anymore, which is a pity, but my six months off has at least shown me where I stand financially, made me think about what does interest me, allowed me to indulge in some creative pursuits and given me some serious quality time with my favourite smelly old pooch. Yeah that's you Hazel, I know you read my blog, you don't wipe your dirty paws!!!

Despite my wish to travel the world for extended periods, I've come to realise that I also cherish where I live, in particular my tiny piece of real estate here in Drummond Cove. With a great climate, awesome ocean views from a wraparound verandah, a garden I love to nurture, and a stone's throw from the beach, my life here is something most people could only dream about. And I'm not talking it up, where I live truly is pretty close to paradise.

Except for the yearly mouse plague that is!

My initial plan was to retire in 2014, but I don't believe I can financially set myself up for that by then. I don't want to bust my gut writing a travel blog like some people do to finance their travels (as if I'd ever make money out of it anyway!) because it just doesn't look like fun, it looks like work!! Alot of work. I love writing about my trips, posting pictures, talking about the people I meet, the places I see, but I don't want to HAVE TO do it. Or play the affiliate marketing game. It just looks like work that I don't want to do. I love being an amateur blogger, I hate ads on sites I visit, so if I can finance my travels some other way, I'd rather.

Instead I'll work a little longer in my current job, but take at least 3 months off every year to travel or just chill from the stress of my work. I've also been well and truly told by one of my friends that I'm a total shit when I work full-time, so not to even think about working full-time as a strategy to fill the coffers sooner. She's got a point, why kill oneself (and others!!) in the process?

Those of you who don't know, I'm a doctor working with the Aboriginal people of Australia. They have some pretty appalling health statistics, coupled with social and economic problems that are not an easy fix. It's tough work, but I love it because the people are wonderful and the work is challenging. If I had to swap it for a job looking after the worried well and pap smears I'd go crazy. Better the devil you know...

Earlier I said my heart's not in it. Going into work each day and performing the drudgery of a job is what my heart isn't into any more. I'm still as passionate about issues relating to Aboriginal Health as I've always been, it's just the day to day drudgery that I'm not looking forward to. Oh I'm so bloody precious aren't I??

I've really enjoyed the lack of routine of the last six months, of pursuing different goals, going off on tangents, and living a fairly basic day to day existence. I've been able to achieve a lot, even if not as much as I'd planned, but I've also found room for creativity, which I've cherished. And I hope I can take this space I'm in right now into the future.

So because it's a new year, I'm going to put down a few goals for my next 12 months. I've always written to-do lists, but this is more big picture.

1. Look after my physical health. Goes without saying really, that if I'm not eating well and exercising regularly then anything else is a waste of time. And there's a ski trip to NZ planned so I gotta be fit and strong!

2. Make time for creativity. This means not cluttering my life with the mundane and petty, it may mean taking time to meditate, or actively pursuing a creative activity, like taking more photographs or editing my videos, or continuing the great tyre wall of Drummonds!! Of course it also includes pottering around in the garden.

3. Plan for redundancy. This is perhaps more work related, and is about succession planning, not taking on extra responsibilities and delegating when possible. It's also about making my house fit for renting out when I get around to throwing in the towel completely. And about building a secure digital asset management system - but that's a separate blog topic altogether!!

And that's it! Do you think I should add "try and enjoy work"???