This Week #7

The kid goes sartorial as the flowers come out.

Spring is starting to break through the interminable Melbourne Winter. At the end of the month we’re heading to Japan and I’ve decided not to return until it is warm again.

Kate from McMansion Hell details What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture? Many of the things she points out are essentially the kinds of problems I have with domestic architecture at large in Australia: no balance, no rhythm, and an awkward weighting and proportion that leaves me feeling uneasy.

Rune Madsen is writing a (free) book about the increasingly muddled boundary between design and code. I’m guessing it’s an extension of the material that he’d already made available on his same-named course Programming Design Systems, which I’ve been recommending as required reading for anyone getting into the field of design and/or programming. There’s a whole heap of great content tucked into the lectures — you should really go over there and read it.

For 33 years, Patagonia has provided on-site child care — a mandate from our founders, who believed it was a moral imperative. Even in times of economic struggle the program was never cut, because they believed in providing a supportive work environment for working families.

Patagonia’s CEO breaks down how providing on-site childcare for their employees more than pays for itself. They’ve also recently released a series of videos that encourages other businesses to provide parental leave and childcare services for their staff. What Patagonia is doing really is wonderful, and that they’ve managed to do it for 33 years is almost unbelievable. I can’t help but feel though that there’s something there that’s analogous to the disastrous way that decent healthcare is employer-funded in the United States. While I like that there are competitive reasons for companies to offer these kinds of benefits to their staff, we’d all be much better off if there was a reasonable safety net for everyone. You shouldn’t be tied to your job by the fear of losing your health coverage or childcare, and removing the barriers around occupational mobility can surely only increase the happiness and efficiency of the workforce at large.

Childcare in Australia is kind of a disaster. There is a reasonable Government subsidy, but it’s not exactly generous — we get about 60 days each year. It’s also a mess of opaque bureaucracy and terrible systems at every level: it’s hard to get places, waitlists get messed up, claims are never processed, and it’s almost impossible to understand what subsidies you’re actually eligible for. I’m fairly sure the only reason we ended up with a place at a centre we liked was that we took the kid for a tour on a day that he happened to be extremely cute and well behaved, and so they bumped him to the top of the list. Maybe we should move to New Zealand where childcare is free for anyone working or studying.

The kid decided that he really, really wanted to get up at 2am and stay awake for two hours to watch the Laser-class sailing in Rio. I wasn’t totally sold on this decision, but it turned out to be the most exciting sailing race I’ve ever seen. And while I might have only seen 3–4 serious races in my lifetime, this was legitimately great. To take the gold medal Australian Tom Burton had to engineer a race where his Croatian opponent came last while he finished at least 4th. Which seems ludicrous, and yet he managed to force the Croatian into taking a penalty at the start and then he worked his way through the field from 9th up to 3rd.

Sidenote: I used to race Lasers when in my Pacific-located tween days. They’re a really fun boat for kids.

Like any good nerd I have moderate paranoia about losing the 13 or so years of photographs I’ve taken since I got my hands on a digital camera — particularly so in the last 18 months as photographs of the kid have overwhelmed the storage on all of my devices. And so, while they’re kept on a mirrored setup on a NAS box in my study, I’ve been syncing them to an offsite backup in various incarnations over the years: straight to S3, on the much-missed Everpix, and lately to the crappy but cheap Glacier. This week I decided to change it over to Amazon Cloud Drive, which seems to be the closest alternative to Everpix I’ve come across. It’s a reasonable fee for unlimited storage (which gives me more comfort than free offerings) and you can access your files through (fairly rudimentary) web and iOS apps. It’ll be interesting to see how it copes once all 33,000 of my photographs are uploaded. Given that’s happening at about 1-megabit-per-second over my shitty ADSL connection you can check back for an update in 3–4 years.

Each of the 10 projects I examined failed to meet expectations and all ran over budget. On average, projects will have more than doubled in cost by the time they are finished. Two of the projects will have more than tripled their original budgets in order to reach completion.

Melbourne may be the most liveable city in the world once more, but our IT projects are just as terrible as everywhere else in the world. The Victorian Ombudsman released the findings of a self-initiated investigation into the cost and effectiveness of ICT-related projects and it is absolutely scathing.