Friday, December 29, 2006

Last day at UBS

Yes, I complete my 6-month stint at UBS today. I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity that UBS provided me to move to Zurich, Switzerland and to work in the HR GCB department. I have learnt a lot. In particular, I have come across some of the core challenges being experienced by the IT departments of large organisations, such as:
  • engendering a particular culture
  • incorporating design, development, and architectural standards
  • maintaining (and enhancing) legacy applications
  • onshore / offshore consulting
  • organisation hierarchies
A very rewarding experience, hopefully I will stay in contact with some of the fellow work mates I have met at UBS (and the progress they make!!).

PS: I must admit though, I will look forward to using a US keyboard again; the non-alphabetic characters, at times, are difficult to find on the ol' Swiss keyboard :)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

World Cup close out

Triggered by an article in the SMH today, it lists two of Australia's World Cup games as the greatest (Australian) sporting moments of 2006.

So, I just thought I would wrap up my own thoughts of the World Cup that I attended earlier this year. Well, as a 2-week holiday, one couldn't ask for more - travelled very happily with my good mate Simon, I was able to see a lot of Germany (with highlights being Berlin / Leipzig), have never felt so Australian before than when we qualified, and post group games - got to spend 1 week holiday in Switzerland, just sitting around and watching soccer each day with my cousin Marco (bringing back childhood memories of 1982).

In terms of the games - Germany's run was fascinating (how do they do it every World Cup!!?), it was good to see Brazil beaten, and despite the last result, France was the team of the tournament in my eyes (the victory against Spain in particular was probably the best game of the tournament as they came from 1-0 down). Of course, it is history now that Italy won in controversial fashion, but well, the key to soccer as a spectator sport is that it is dramatic!

And just for posterity, the entire 14 day journey is here :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

No longer nerdy?

Yes, today I found out that Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' is all of us (basically anyone who has an Internet profile). A truly interesting article:

Time: Person of the Year

Time: Power to the People

All v.interesting, and now I am off to create a YouTube video :)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Working in Switzerland during the Christmas period ...

Well, a definite perk; each day I turn up for work, there is another collection of chocolates at my desk. A great mid-morning snack :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why Apple computers are better ...

This is a great innovative story of a software product for Macbooks:

Internet ~ Big Brother

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Going somewhere? tools for travel research ...

I recently have had some thought into planning my next holiday ... after all it has been 2 months! I was thinking that I may visit India. In doing some research on the Intrepid site (the best travel company in the world and based in Melbourne) I observed that there was a number of trips around India, but which direction to head (assuming only a 2-week hiatus). So interestingly, I asked a number of my work colleagues (who are from India) - straight away there were 2 key words: Rajasthan (the area) and Jaisalmer (the city), but how to find out more?

Well, these immediately were the resources I used:

Intrepid; for trip reviews, trip types, and maps of the general area
FlickR; for photos of the area; what other tourists are seeing; and a general snapshot of the scenery; here are some photos, it looks awesome
Wikipedia; to find out some demographics of the area; climate, economy, etc.

Now I just need to schedule some leave and find a travel buddy ;)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Corporate blogging

It has been described by a number of analysts that this would happen and this is the first corporate blog that I have come across in Australia - from pureprofile. Pureprofile is an Internet subsidiary of the Australia Post which essentially acts as a distributed market research tool. I enrolled a number of years ago. It works on a model where an individual defines a profile and then companies interested in market research will target questionnaires, web sites, promotional material etc. to the individual. For this, I receive a nominal financial reward. So why am I enrolled in this? well it provides an Internet based sms-based service. In answering a questionnaire every now and then I am able to get free Internet (and therefore I can type) sms'. V.handy from work.

I digress. The pureprofile blog is advertised on its homepage and is quite interesting; somewhat conversational (talking about the book Freakonomics atm), it also has insight into the development and marketing process of the pureprofile product (as it should being representative of the company). While I am probably interested from seeing it as an Internet business-model (I wonder if it will ever split from Australia Post), I must admit I am quite impressed, and from reading it I definitely feel some brand loyalty to the company. And I really like how proud they are of the what they have created. The first corporate blog I have read from Australia and a good one too :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Its the lead-up to Christmas!

I walked the streets of Zurich this afternoon - looking for some roasted chestnuts (of which, I am totally addicted to) and was caught up in the Christmas spirit - whoa! Traditional old European towns really go all out at Christmas, and Zurich is no different - lights everywhere; lots of Christmas trees, and the chocolate stores doing a roaring trade.


Friday, November 24, 2006

See the world, find an old-fashioned girl

Funny title, I know! just one of the songs from the album - Gomez 'How We Operate' that I have been listening to.

It rocks! hard to categorise, the sound is mature, diverse and the closest music I can liken it to is Live, but much better ;) see the plethora of 5/5 star reviews on iTunes Australia, and check out its review it is in-depth!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Opportunities for Australia?

The issue of the environment / global warming is starting to re-assert itself on the Australia political radar. I have some interest in this, and tonight, I read the summary of the report on nuclear energy.

The key points were:
  • Australia currently is known to have 38% of Uranium reserves; the largest deposit being the Olympic Dam site, currently owned by BHP;
  • Nuclear energy is a 'safe' energy source, as can be seen by its implementation in a number of countries, notably, France, Sweden, Hungary, etc. which nuclear energy for more than 33% of energy requirements;
  • Australia is an ideal continent (little or no seismic activity) for both nuclear power plants and nuclear waste disposal (e.g. Simpson desert!);
  • Greenhouse gases could be reduced by 15-20% with the broad-based implementation of nuclear energy
The Australian government, next year, will reap its third 15+ billion dollar surplus; I contend that this is an ideal opportunity to commission the construction of nuclear energy plants to, provide for both current and future generations. What it requires is just some foresight, vision, and drive. There is a precedent - this occurred in 1949 when Ben Chifley commissioned the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme (Australia's largest renewable energy source) and we all aware of the obvious advantages this brought to Australia (skilled workers, multiculturalism, 3.5% of Australia's energy requirements, etc.). It is a time for change!

And lastly, I read that in France they are going to commission a Nuclear Fusion energy plant - wow, this could be the first wonders of the world in the 21st century!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Time to get online

Ok, I just thought I would say - if you have a land line (telephone) and broadband at home - then you are losing money (no wonder Telstra - T3 listed on the ASX at a premium). Telephony has advanced; moved on.

I recently started using Skype and it is fantastic! With my Macbook Pro (with its in-built video camera), I can have a video conversation (for free) with anyone in the world. Just try it - it truly is an upgrade over voice-voice conversation that one has to pay for over a land line. Indeed, if anyone is contemplating traveling OS and wants to keep in contact with family, friends, etc. set them up with a Skype id.

So, I am lamenting the fact that while Internet communication is the staple here in 'old Europe', in Australia, the uptake of broadband is still poor (in terms of relative population using it, and bandwidth offered). Some of my friends still do not have Internet at home (and indeed only have a work email address - surely this can't be good for productivity!), or are on the lowest bandwidth plans. Seriously, I would not consider anything less than ADSL2, or cable for an Internet connection.

So everybody - get online! and if you get skype - give me a call 'markyjones'. And, it is interesting that if you are truly online all the time (especially with video conversation) then the ol' tracksuit pants and beanie may never get a guernsey ever again!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Quote of the year

I read this recently.
'In 10 years time you'll be the same person you are now, except for the people you meet and the books you read'
I couldn't of said it better myself.

Do I need a car?

I recently read an article from a new blog source I have: the 'Barefoot Investor' who specialises on providing financial advice for those not from the 'grey brigade'. The article was justifying why one would not own a car. I shared similar concerns when I sold my car earlier on this year and actually posted the costs associated with owning a car.

I have not owned a car for the last 6 months, although does it count if you are living in Europe? So what if I was living in Melbourne again? well - this is a thought I have tossed around recently.

It is true, the advantages of owning a car are predominantly subjective: (i) it can be enjoyable to drive (well I enjoyed driving my WRX); (ii) it is convenient (for shopping, etc.); (iii) it can be a part of your identity (status?). But, and this is a BIG but - a car is v.expensive! it does not make sense as an investment - by its nature it depreciates rapidly in the first few years of ownership; there are annual registration and insurance costs, and petrol is so variable - all these costs add up. Moreover, a car is not necessary - you can enjoy other aspects of traveling (e.g. reading in public transport), you can shop frequently (in small amounts) to avoid the need for a car, and even for weekend-getaways you can hire a car! There are also short-term hire car services available in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne - and your carbon footprint is significantly reduced.

So - I have decided - I am going to try not to own a car in the short / medium term. Like it is mentioned in the article - I am going to 'tread my own path' and bugger off status / perception.

Now all I need is that my girlfriend and all my mates to live near me ;)

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am not one to go on about the weather differences between time zones, but I couldn't resist this time. Today, it's snowing in Victoria, Australia to an altitude of 400m (in Spring!) and here today in Zurich, Switzerland (in Autumn) it is a balmy 15 degrees and sunny!

Of course it is night time here at 5pm - perfect time to go to the pub ;)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Its getting cold ... so now it is time to run

Yes, I started my running campaign last week. Maybe inspired by Lance Armstrong's own completion of the NY marathon, or maybe just because it is getting cold and wet (which is not ideal, and indeed downright hairy on a road bike), I am now trying to run 3 times a week (which I did last week!). I am also signed up to my first 'fun run' - Zurich Silvesterlauf; which I presume translates to the Zurich Christmas run. It is a 8.5km run and I have have registered for the < 48 minute group; my aim to run it in < 40 minutes.

So on to week 1:

I started with a leisurely somewhat painful 30 minute run at lunchtime on Tuesday. It hurt and it was not easy. Surprisingly, to do this in the middle of the work day was somewhat relaxing and I found that I was able to focus on work a lot better in the afternoon, although I was absolutely starving following, despite having a large lunch.

I followed this up on the weekend with 2 x 5km runs. Wow - I couldn't believe how much it continued to hurt! I have been cycling on and off for the last 3 months, despite this, after each run, my chest was extremely tight, and my calf muscles have been sore now for a week. Having said that, there was some conditioning as I seemed to just be able to manage 4m 30s / kilometres over 4 km. Now in the next 3 weeks I just need to extend that to 8km; sheesh.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Australia's cartel!

Ok, I must be thinking about my investments at the moment - this is no doubt related to the ASX's recent outperformance in October and the fact that I am now a couple percentage points below an 'ideal' 50% gearing ratio.

So, prompted by Macquarie Bank's research changing its bank preference from ANZ to WBC, I started thinking whether I should further invest in Australia banks. There are four major banks in Australia and, I believe, there is currently legislation maintaining the domicility of these banks to be Australian (i.e. they cannot be overtaken by larger, more competitive offshore companies). This leads to a cartel-like core distribution of bank services in Australia. Of note, most of the Australia banks have provided capital returns of 15%-20% over the last 10 years; ironically, it is better to invest in a bank's shares than in its core savings accounts!

I digress, so ANZ coming off a year of 28% capital return is downgraded and WBC is now the preferred pick of the banking sector. So before I invest, what do I need to consider? Is WBC affected by its exposure to the downturn (and potentially further decline) of Sydney real estate? what will the impact of increased rates be? and on the positive, WBC is at an 11% discount to its peers (I believe its PE ratio is mid-14s) and that the CEO was rather bullish in sentiment. On top of that the 5% dividend yield does look attractive. Decisions, decisions ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gearing ratio - follow up

Will add a few links here as I find them, but I thought Jem's comment on gearing was common sense, although he shied away from stating what amount he currently gears at! There was also a follow up on Enough Wealth on gearing - nice!

Jem's Blog
Enough Wealth Blog

Gearing ratio?

I have done some reading on investing (as most of us do). The consensus approach is that while you are young (define young!?), individuals should gear as much as they can of their income. The rationale is - when you are young, you have less financial responsibilities (e.g. no family, no rates, school education fees, costs of living are reduced, etc.). In addition to this, if you are completely wiped out, then you have x years to re-build and re-accumulate wealth.

So if this is true, what is the ideal gearing ratio of someone my age - 31 years ... young. A gearing ratio being a simple fraction between what investments / capital are owned by me and what investments / capital are owned by the bank. The higher the gearing the more you have invested and the more return, or loss you can make.

Google gives no answer on this; indeed the entire blogosphere seems to be slightly deficient when it comes to financial advice blogs although I just found a blog from Australia and seems to have some good things to say - Enough Wealth.

Well, after some 'cleaning up', I am now sitting at 48.6%; that is, of every dollar I have invested 51% is mine and 49% is the banks! It would be interesting to hear what other people think, and I will have a bit more of read around to see.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Google me!

Ok, recently, I googled my Internet identity - 'markyjones' and the entire first page is related to what I have been doing on the Internet. Of interest, it is typically my profiles on various web sites:, stumbleUpon, flickR, etc.. I was chuffed nonetheless as with a name like 'Mark Jones' it is difficult to have any sort of individual identity.

I am irked however, that identity 2.0 has not kicked in and that all of us can't have just one identity on the Internet, as I recently found out that I cannot have my favourite pseudonym for YouTube - someone already has taken it!

So what happens when you Google yourself?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Light snow showers?

WTF; following a 20 degree sunny (Indian summer) Saturday - signs of Europe's true weather are starting to manifest - yes a report of snow for Friday:
Zurich, Swizterland; Friday; Sunrise 07:10 (CET); Sunset 17:07 (CET)
Friday's predominant weather is forecast to be light snow showers.
Minimum: -7°C; Maximum: 5°C


Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Ok, I went for another painful pleasant 45 km cycle over the weekend. It was the second time that I ever have had a mini- 'blow-up'. That is, I felt completely drained, no energy left (most likely due to not enough food). It really is a tough feeling - you feel that you are pedaling normally but there is just no power. Still, it was heaps of fun - especially those downhill sections; there is just nothing like careening through those Swiss towns at 60 km/h + - that is adrenaline :)

And of course the photos ...

Rorschach, Switzerland Cycling - 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

And, the music I am listening to

Well, it has been one of those weeks. The music I was listening to was getting somewhat staid, so I went out looking for new music, and what did I found well, my current faves:

The Kooks - like The Vines / Artic Monkeys - new British rock is back; v.good!
Thom Yorke - lead singer of Radiohead, what else do I need to say

TV, I am watching

In a time which preludes the demise of mass media, it is interesting to see that TV shows have never been better! I say this because following a discusion at work, I started watching 'Heroes' - well after 5 episodes, what can I say?

It is fantastic. It is a story of how individuals deal with the sudden onset of 'super' powers (e.g. flight, cell regeneration, etc.). Yes, it draws heavily on X-Men, but also X-Files in that there are mystery government? officials, and 12 Monkeys in that there is a purpose for these people - namely to counter an apocalyptic event in New York. All I can say so far is - 'save the cheerleader'!

List of best TV shows over the last few years:

2003 - Battlestar Galactica
2004 - Lost
2005 - Prison Break
2006 - Heroes?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Ok, I missed Sunday completely but have now been to the gym @ 6am for the last 2 mornings - and boy do I feel better for it. Indeed I am thinking that I will try and do some exercise for every day this week - why not? what is stopping me, I might even get out for a cycle (although the weather forecast is ominous!).

It does, however, make me question my own motivation(s). The last 5 weeks I did nothing. So what makes this week different?

focus: a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity

Yes, I am once again focused; why? well I resigned from my job, and now know that in 3 months I think I will be back in Melbourne, Australia - either way, it is now all about 2007; the rest of the year I am a spectator - biding time. Of course, I aim to enjoy my final 2 months in UBS, but I think my career / relationships (for it will be summer if I return) may all be grounded in next year.

I know that the last few blogs have been discussing fitness - before everyone thinks that I am too narrow-minded, I thought I would say that I share the view of Michelie Jones (Australia's most recent Ironman triathelete champion), in reading this article, I was signficantly impressed (if only she would write a blog). Basically, she races because she enjoys it, and she appreciated the experience of being beaten (for what she learnt!). Unbelieveable - especially considering the loss in 2000, Sydney Olympics where she was swamped within sight of the finish line. So yes I do fitness, not to be a champion, but to enjoy it - to get outdoors, to push myself, to take the opportunity while I still can (although I may still have a few years left in me, Michelie is 37 years old and she is winning Ironman!).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wow; fitness-crazy

Ok, I don't know what has happened to Australia (although an early summer probably has a lot to do with it), but as my fitness in the recent weeks has dropped off considerably, a lot of my friends have been getting into running (Stephen B / Simon / Kate / Kylie / Jo / Rebecca), cycling (Adam / Pete / Jen), swimming (Karl) etc. and achieveing significant 'fitness' milestones (half-marathons, around the bay in a day). I don't know how to describe this - maybe as a 'reaffirming bubble' but as I head into Zurich's winter it is a significant motivator. So what to do?

Well, having thought about this for the last few days, and with only 74 days left in the year. I have decided to kick-off what I am calling a super-70; the aim? to be involved in some sort of fitness (of any sort) for 80% for the remainder of the year (for a brief review of why this is not 100%, read Martin Dugard's excellent blog) I will try and frequently report a rolling percentage, and more importantly will use this to motivate me into doing this. A few aims to achieve during this period:
  1. riding in snow-covered fields
  2. running through the city of Zurich pre-7am
  3. running around the Zurich sea up to 10km
  4. not being sore after Body Pump ;)
Lets see how things go!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm back!

Yes, after a 4-week hiatus which included a 2-week race around Europe, where I visited 6 cities (and my credit card got slammed). So how did the 'race' unfold - well after Prague, Czech Republic, I headed south-east to Bratislavia, Slovakia and then south again to Hungary, Budapest. Once there, headed to Vienna, Austria and then east to Amsterdam, Holland, and north to Copenhagen, Denmark! And at last, back to Zurich, Switzerland.

A great 2 week experience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple announcements!

Well, I enjoyed watching Steve Jobs (CEO) of Apple presenting the new 5th generation iPod video, 2nd generation iPod Nano, and 2nd generation iPod Shuffle (indeed I am streaming it, as I write this).

Ultimately, all the upgrades (brighter screens, games, smaller models, longer battery life, etc.) are not really that revolutionary and it does not preempt me to upgrade from my current (4th generation) iPod video and iPod shuffle. Noneteless, quite impressive the changes that Apple has made.

I am much more impressed with iTunes v7.0! (and its free) - the software which is a pseudo - Internet browser / music organiser / Apple shop interface is significantly improved. The demarcation of podcasts, video, music, etc. is common-sense, the iPod configuration options are sweet (e.g. downloading only the most recent TV shows), and the profile based identity is another very useful mod (at last synchronisation between work and home!).

And as for iTV - I already have that functionality in my Macbook Pro - but nice features for those that still use PCs ;)

Again, I am a complete Apple convert now (having my Macbook Pro - best computer ever with iPhoto, iTunes, Quiksilver, etc.), apart from Google they are the most customer-savy, moderately innovative company in the world.


And a postscript - I actually read about the features of the new Apple generation iPods on Bloglines before the live video presentation! - bring on the power of blogs.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yes another ride ...

Anyway, I digress; with holidays in mind, I thought I better take the opportunity and head out for my favourite 35km ride in the hinterland of the Zurichsee; surpisingly it was a v.easy ride today.

Riding / cycling is becoming such a part of my life now - I really start get an itch to go for a ride if I haven't been for 2 weeks or so. What exercise is part of your life?

It will be interesting if I am in Zurich in the Winter - as I have heard it is possible to ride on perfectly cleaned up roads amongst fields of snow - that would be an amazing experience!

'Holiday spirit'

Well I am now four days away from a 2 week holiday; yes a time to stop exercising (apart from the walking around cities, museums, etc.) and just live the traveller's life - seeing great sights, eating lots of food, idyling the day away! I know I am not alone in saying this, but holidays are truly precious - from 2002-2005, I did not embark on one holiday - a combination of work committments, a recurring knee injury, a philosophy of not travelling by oneself, and a lack of adventure. In 2006, I will now have spent 10 weeks holidaying after this one coming up.

I know which one I prefer!

I have met some truly interesting people, seen some fantastic sights, had some significant 'insight' time, and had a lot of fun. I wonder even when one has children - will it be possible always to holiday away from familiar shores? I sure hope so.

I am truly looking forward to this 2 weeks coming up - as I am trying to go 'Race Around the World' style; that is, apart from the weekend upcoming in Prague, Czech Republic (where I am booked into a hotel) nothing else is!! So come Monday next week, where do I go - Germany, Bratislava, Hungary, Vienna? this will either be an amazing adventure of spontaneity or a calamitous mis-calculation, or maybe like any adventure it will have a bit of both. I will be catching up with Georgia / Spence for the weekend and then travelling with Kate for the remainder - whoa! a crazy, unlikely story ... maybe - what happens next - who knows.

Anyway, I once again, will switch over to my Google Travel blog, so if you are interested in following what I get up to - you will have to subscribe here! Also, for any others contemplating travel - I have found Gridskipper to be an excellent resource (thanks Sarah).

I am also interested in the talk of one of my friends - Pete. He is postulating a TDF 2007 trip; the chance to ride some of the terrain of TDF is an exciting prospect! At least I would have had some hill training :) So there goes 2 weeks of holidays next year, and I still have to go to NY, USA to catch up with some mates; see the industrial revolution unfolding in Shanghai, China; walk to base camp, of Mt.Everest, Nepal ... and so it goes ;)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Switzerland is its own country II - the good

There is a lot of conjecture on the English forum (in Switzerland) of which I am a participating member as to what are the virtues, or not of Switzerland - so I thought I would create my own top 5 / and (later) the bottom 5 reasons for living in Swizterland.

Switzerland and Zurich flags
, originally uploaded by markyjones.

  1. 'Little Big Cities'; a term used to describe Zurich (and I presume it can be applied to Geneva, Basel) is very apt. Nowhere in the world (I believe) can you live in an international city of less that 500K people. What are the advantages of this? well one has access to all the major shop retailers of the world (e.g. Sony, Apple, Gucci, Channel, Benetton, etc.); international rock performances (in October - Jet, Snow Patrol) that play at much smaller venues; sporting showcases such as international athletic events / soccer matches (European Championship 2008) and cultural options such as opera, Kunsthaus, etc.. And despite all this, in most Swiss cities, it is a mere 5 minutes cycling to the outskirts of the city, it is not over-populated, and it is very well maitained (e.g. good infrastructure, cleanliness, etc.).
  2. Nature; Switzerland is beautiful - a combination of mountains, lakes, and a predominantly rural - based heritage / demographic. It may have amazing areas which are internationally well known such as Zermatt, Davos, etc. - but truly Switzerland is staggering wherever you are. Favourite scenerey - cows (bells on) scattered across green slanted fields of one of the many mountains (and they are everywhere).
  3. Euro-Cultural Diversity; Switzerland is not mutlicultural (e.g. like Australia), however, to me it appears strongly eurocultural - that is, it is full of people from all different European cultures. The Swiss genome is difficult to define - Swiss people are not overly tall or small, blonde or brunette. I don't what the reasons are for this - but then again - you have just have to count the number of European countries Switzerland borders! I find Swiss people vary from canton-to-canton and strongly across language borders (e.g. Swiss French are significantly different to the Swiss German). In a country which has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romanisch) it is a truly Euro ethnic country which ironically is not in the European Union!
  4. Politics; while I am not fully conversant with Switzerland's political system - it has to be admired (in a stubborn sort of way) that in a world moving towards globalism that Switzerland is still neutral! Combine that with a referendum-based political system where Swiss people go to polls every month and you have a very cohesive, slightly insular, and very democratical country.
  5. Tax / Quality of Living; most of the cities in Switzerland are rated as very expensive cities, however, the caveat to this is that the purchasing power of Swiss individuals is high - why? well incomes are high and tax is low! This combined with Swiss cities rating consistently very highly on 'quality of living' scales permeates to a very high standard of living in Switzerland.
And now on to the bad ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Switzerland is its own country I

Well, I am off on holiday for 2 weeks from next week on. But before, I go on holidays - I am have a half day off next week for the public holiday of Knabenschiessen. V.medieval!

And this is the beauty of Switzerland - despite being: in the heart of Europe, internationally based with cities like Zurich, Geneva, and even Basel, a financial hub with companies like UBS, Credit Suisse - it nonetheless is a v.rural and traditional country proud of its history and origins.

And as you would surmise, I think I may go for a ride :)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Because the world is getting smaller ...

Ok, I have now been overseas for three months, and I feel that I am still in close contact with all my friends, family in Australia (as well as being v.busy making new friends in Zurich, Switzerland). Why is this? well, it is amazing how easy it is to communicate with anyone (who wants to be communicated with!). I find out what my friends, family are doing pretty much at the same time as I did back in Melbourne, Australia (Mum has just bought another BMW!!??). And I think we will all become a lot more accessible as time goes on (e.g. 24/7 email, video conferencing, blogs from mobiles, personal GPRS Google Maps synchronisation). But in the present, these are all the forms of communication tools, I have used, and am currently using, no relying on:

  1. Chat; unfortunately, my friends, family have been divided by those who have Google chat (e.g. Kate, Simon, Sarah etc.) and those who do not (Georgia, Pete, Tim, Karl, etc.); I intermittently catch friends online - with the always on Google chat - especially on Sunday afternoon (when it is Sunday night) Australian time. It is quick, efficient, and robust - I wish all my friends could use gmail (after all it is the best web email tool!) - and thank goodness most of my friends have listened to my advice and swapped over.
  2. Email; effective, especially with the difference in timezones and the mandatory group OS email - slowly being surpassed by other forms of communication.
  3. Telephony; ridiculously cheap (but still not free, unlike the other communication methods above); and in Zurich, Switzerland phone booths are in abundance still. Indeed, a v.futuristic glass telephone dome is 20m outside my apartment - ideal for the weekly Saturday morning phonecall home to Mum!
  4. Blogs / Forums; through my own blog and others who have started to write to the Internet about what they are doing (well done Bec, Simon!) - this is an invaluable insight into what people are thinking. Alongside this are forums where like-minded people communicate online on various (same-interest) topics; the English Forum (just click the Forums link) in Switzerland has been an invaluable resource since coming over here - and a good outlet for a night or two out ;)
  5. Mail; still required and v.ingratiating when one receives mail overseas! (so thanks Soz for sending over the bond form) and I have even sent the odd postcard - old school!
  6. Photos; establish contacts with FlickR (with your friends) and suddenly - wherever in the world your friends may be as soon as they take a photo and put it to the Internet you see it! The slide night is officially dead!
  7. Internet Telephony; yes I have skyped - twice; both times somewhat disappointing as there is lag, the audio quality is somewhat poor, and it is dependent on each of the persons broadband connection (e.g. too many variables); something to try again in 6 months.
  8. Video Conferencing; ok - haven't tried this as I need someone else to own an Apple and have MAC OS X iChat! when I fire it up on my side the Internet camera embedded in my laptop seems to produce high quality video images - now when is anyone buying an Apple?
Looking forward to communicating soon ;)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anyone for a ride - here is where we are going ...

I received a link to another Google Maps site recently from one of my mates who I cycle with (thanks Greg). So anyway on this site you can track the course, locale, and distance of where you are exercising - how cool!

So, this is ideal for organising cycling trips; basically a map is plotted out - posted to the Internet, discussed, agreed upon, printed out and then basically executed (ah the hard bit - getting out and cycling in 14 degrees and rain - like I did last Sunday).

I have cycled this course three times and believe it is an ideal 2-3hour ride out of Zurich and v.scenic and (in parts) exhausting ;)

Zurich - Egg - Zurich: 35km cycle

One site to keep for training for 'Around the Bay' - 2007; yes Jacinta - I am committing to this!

Friday, August 25, 2006


Like I said last post, I have been rather slow in using podcasts - I am probably on the tail end of the early majority (ie. mid 34% of the popultation using podcasts, but behind the innovators - top 2.5%, and the early adopters - top 13.5%) on Everett Rogers - theory of diffusion. Nonetheless, I have found that podcasts are ideal for the 15 minute train ride to/from work each day. I can listen to what I want and take in the scenery!

To give a sample, today I listened to:
  • Triple J's Megan Spencer (who is pretty cool) movie reviews - Miami Vice
  • Australia War Memorial address - 'Siege of Tobruk'; a recount of the role 14000 AUS troops aka 'rats of Tobruk' played in denying the 'Desert Fox' Rommel in taking over this strategic port in the second World War
  • The Economist - 'Wide World of Wikis'
A great way to start / end the working day ;) Does anyone know any other good podcasts I am missing?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Are you interested enough in the world?

Ok, so I just thought I would reiterate how in recent years technology has revolutionised the way people find out about the world (i.e. mass media).

And a related question how are you tapping into this to fuel your interests, expand your thoughts, and find out more about the world you live in.

So this is how I consume information at the moment (ranked in importance):

1. news print Internet-sites; with access to the world's newspapers (e.g. NY Times, the Guardian, the Age, etc.), I start my day by finding out what is happening in it - it is a cursory glance, 10-15 minutes at most, but provides me with an update of all news, special articles (to be read later via a tag), sports and weather.

2. blogs; unbelieveable, but blogs really provide a specific, finite focus to most individual's interests (e.g. whether it is software engineering, the environment, travel, friends, etc.). I don't believe it will be too long before RSS aggregators like Bloglines (yes it is excellent!) and blog profiles will be mainstream (maybe with the advent of Internet Explorer 7 - shudder ...)

3. email; yes still useful, but in terms of providing informational content; often too static, and more importantly I receive email involuntarily at the time the sender chooses to include me. Unlike a blog (which is read on demand, or subscription and organised implicitly), email requires some significant self-discipline / self-organisation to retain, read-at-a-later-date and process.

4. podcasts; phenomenally interesting . I am only a recent subscriber, but podcasts follow a similar paradigm to blogs: that is, an individual subscribes to informational content that he/she is interested in and then this is updated at regular intervals. Unlike blogs which are read, podcasts are listened to. So it is like choosing the favourite audio snippets of a day's tv / radio show (currently listening to 'the Economist' editor comments - v.good on the train in the morning).

5. news video Internet-sites; sometimes, it is necessary to see what is happening. And yes, most important information can now be streamed via the internet (e.g. watching last year's Melbourne Cup win ner Maykbe Diva, AFL, etc.).

So yes, I too will join the chorus to in saying that the trend for use of traditional media in the form of TV, magazines, and even newspapers (in hard-copy form) will be downwards. A recent 'The Economist' podcast likened the new media to the advent of the Gutenberg's printing press in the late 15th century. At that time, this led to significant social improvement (e.g. everyone being able to read literature) and upheaval (e.g. reformation). Unlike then, I believe the paradigm shift to new media (e.g. internet, blogs, wikis, etc.) will be rapid - by definition the Internet allows for distributed, rapid, mass-contributed, and concentric uptake of information (e.g. Google, Wikipedia).

And this raises a number of questions to me about new accessing media:
  • what can I learn from others? and other's interests? (looking at other's Bloglines, FlickR profiles are a fascinating view on a person's interests) what am I missing that other people are using? (yes I know, I should have a myspace ...)
  • what are companies doing to target individuals accessing this media (e.g. could there by product archetypes that are ordinary people rather than athletes, movie stars)? currently, most of the media I access is free, when will they start charging me to for all this information?
  • and finally, when are my friends / family going to join (as 'The Economist' says) this participatory media?!
So stop watching TV, and get out there and comment on the world ... there is enough to talk about thats for sure ;)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

92 kilometres later ...

Well, with a detour to Buchs, Sargens after abandoning the mighty climb - me, Ian, Greg clocked in and finished our ride at 92kms; the weather held up (it was forecast to rain), the scenery awe-inspring, the route interesting and varied, the body - fatigued! Have not stopped eating since I got home, and will sleep heartily tonight.

And here is the profile ...

The cycle (dive?, plunge?) downhill from Wildhaus was phenomenal ;)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Another weekend; another long ride!

Ok, I just thought I would share in my excitement that I am going on a 65km ride over the weekend. The route is Ziegelbrücke - Kaltbrunn - Wattwil - Nesslau - Stein - Amden - Ziegelbrücke and reportedly includes a 10km climb of 600m (this is significant for an amateur cyclist!). So why do I blog about this? well with inspiration from Martin Dugard's excellent blog I look forward to the physical challenge before me.

I have only been cycling for the last 2 months - but whoa it really is enjoyable especially over long distances. You get to see wonderful scenery, there is no impact to old, sore muscles (like running, which I do enjoy also) and there is a some exhiliration when you are flying down a hill (current top speed recorded is 75km; man that feels quick). I also like the challenge of cycling. With cycling, it really is easy to cruise (especially with a good carbon fibre bike which weighs next to nothing - here is mine) ... and that is the crux - you can either stay within your range / cadence or push beyond. So whenever I can, I try to be a little uncomfortable when riding, especially on the flat.

All this is void once you start climbing! On my climbs of Birgenstock, Engelberg, you notice that in the lowest gear on a triple crank that there is no anaerobic impediment (i.e. leg muscles) to climbing, however, there is significant aerobic strain. So what does this mean? well I haven't been wearing a heart monitor (on the way - will blog about it when I get it), but it feels like your heart rate is resting at its top 10% range - and this goes on, and on for the entirety of the climb. And typically when I am in the lowest gear I am only averaging 10-15km/h so those climbs can take some time - but what a feeling when you get to the end of the climb - wow! To exert yourself to the limit and to achieve (this does not occur too often in daily life). I will hopefully have a profile of the cycle next week. Until then ...


So, I am sure I am not the only one, but I intentionally decided when I began my new job that I would not use Microsoft Word. Why? well in my occupation the need for written documentation is typically: taking notes, formulating design(s), FAQs, reverse engineering, technical specifications, white papers etc. and this means I need: dynamic references (blogs, homepages, design patterns, industry standards, etc.), inlining of images (all types of formats), varied formatting of text (eg. various code formats - xml, java, sql), some pretty-print widgets (eg. graphical buttons, etc.), and version control would be ideal. And so where I am heading with this ...

So yes, I use a personal wiki server for all my documentation. Currently, the personal wiki server I use is Confluence (a personal license is free) - it is v.good; I must admit if you use it daily, it does have its quirks (the WYSWIG is not quite advanced), but its feature-set for a software engineer is fantastic. And this area is hotting up, with Apple announcing a personal wiki server as part of Leopard! So why are you still using Microsoft Word - stop! it is inefficient, unwieldy, and doesn't scale (and Google office may actually retire it - here's hoping).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Google Maps

V.exciting, but tomorrow I finalise the agreement on an apartment in alt-stadt Zurich; anyway for all those who are coming to visit me, or are thinking of visiting me, or just want to see a cool use of Goolge applications, then:

Google Maps reference

Google Earth reference

Friday, July 21, 2006

Senior Java Developer, UBS

Europstrasse 2, originally uploaded by markyjones.

Well, it is not often I post about work, but yes for the last month, I have been working at UBS, Opfikon, Zurich, Switzerland. I have been significantly impressed with the IT department I have been assigned to, for a number of reasons:

(1) openness to new approaches / ideas! with a new project in scope, there has been open discussion about the technologies to implement, design patterns to use, etc.
(2) egoless developers who are involved in design, and architects who develop! a strong core set of senior developers who are professional, adept and continuous learners; most technical issues have been dealt with a fair amount of common sense
(3) good collaboration; use of online chat is pervasive; so instead of meetings, online chat, with multiple people is encouraged - this works suprisingly well especially when dealing with teams offshore (e.g. India)
(4) a license for IntelliJ v.51 and v6 - hello world!
(5) ability to stream the TDF to one of my 2 monitors; too good

Will try and post a better photo in some time ;)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Moments in sport ...

I don't know why, but I am fixated by world sporting events at the moment - maybe because I am in the heart of summer, or maybe because I am more active currently than I have been for quite a while.

Anyway, I just thought I would say that the next few days in the Tour de France (TDF) will be fascinating. To provide some background for the uninitiated, the TDF is in its final week - it is particulary interesting this year as it is sans Lance Armstrong (who won the last 7 TDFs!), and a cohort of other well-known / favourite cyclists who have been suspended from the TDF for suspicion of involvement with drugs (e.g. Ivan Basso, Jan Ulrich, etc.).

So what makes the next few days so interesting, well the 5 or so cyclists (including the Australian Cadel Evans) in contention are going to take on some of the highest mountains of the Alps (see this blog dated Sunday 16 July, for a great description). It starts with the L'Alpes d'Huez one of the most famous / infamous climbs of the TDF - if you are near the commentary don't miss it. I must admit I will be barracking for Floyd Landis, anyone who can compete for the TDF with no hip (i.e. he needs a hip replacement, he can't climb stairs, or run) must be admired in terms of pain-tolerance, drive, and ambition.

PS: On a side note, I went for a ride from Zurich-Bubikon on the weekend, a measly 75km which was v.enjoyable; but I was more impressed with the output from the Polar watch that my fellow rider was wearing (see below) - definately v.tempted to buying one duty - free.

And yes that last climb was tiring!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Zurich, Switzerland in summer ...

Well, I have spent 4 weeks now in Switzerland, my first European summer since my teenager years; whoa I'm impressed. It has averaged here 30+ degrees for the last 4 weeks, this has allowed me to get a lot of cycling in, you can see some of the photos I have taken here:

Switzerland Cycling - Beckenried
Switzerland Cycling - Bouchs
Switzerland Cycling - Engelberg
Switzerland Cycling - Stans, Stanstad

I also have been able to spend my first weekend in Zurich, and it is a very European city - no buildings over 6 floors tall, beautiful architecture, and lots of churches ;) Anyway, I will no doubt have a more insightful report on Zurich once I lived here longer, but I couldn't resist, publishing these 2 photos of the river Limmat, and the alt-stadt of Zurich.

Grossmunster, originally uploaded by markyjones.

Will contrast this blog with another one, once Winter comes ... he he

TAGS: Zurich Switzerland

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Inspiration ...

I just thought I would discuss the blogs; for those uninitiated blogs, according to the wikipedia are commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal diaries. So why read them? well because they are relevant and a dyanamic plug-in to one's interests. If you have no interests, then blogs are not for you ;)

I actually believe that blogs amuse me (thanks to a few friends with good, if infrequent writings), influence me, and even inspire me. How? Well what if you could read about the people's thoughts semi-daily of those that have made great achievements, or are trying to do so. To illustrate, firstly, most people would know (or maybe not) that Lonely Planet is a Melbournian company founded by Tony Wheeler 30 or so years ago - he has a blog and what a way to read about the spirit of travel (he is currently in Afghanistan!); secondly everyone knows Lance Armstrong, but what about Floyd Landis, currently second in the Tour de France, he writes daily about what he is going through and how he is riding with no hip (he has required hip replacement surgery for 2 years)! So one does not have to wait until the autobiography - one can just read about it online, everyday.

So who inspires you?

Friday, July 07, 2006

World Cup - the end spiel

I just thought I would put in my 2 cents re: World Cup final.

I think this will be an absolute fascinating game.

Italy (who have played the best game in the World Cup so far to down Germany) with a very non-Italian offensive style have been technically brillant. The passes they set up are tight and quick; they have a midfield with offensive style in Totti, and sturdy defense in the 'angry man' Gattuso. And even with the smallest central defender ever (in the wily Cannavaro), they are looking strong.

France, have been moody, enigmatic, and brillant. The best game they have played was against Brazil (where they should have played against 10 men, but for one of the worst umpiring decisions I have seen this World Cup), nonetheless, some of the moves of Zizou were a throwback to younger days. France also has possibly the player of the tournament in their team in the scarred face Ribery. The defense has been strong led by Thuram, and with Zidane, Henry, Ribery up front, they have the class for something special (just remember the goal Zizou scored in the European Championship league final).

So who do I go for? Well the story is for France, and just like I always went for Brisbane Lions (as they played the best form of AFL), I will go for France - if this team wins, it will 2 World Cups, 1 European Championship in a 8 year stanza and possibly one of the greatest soccer teams in the last 30 years with the likes of Zizou, Thuram, Henry, etc..

Can't wait.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Moved to Zurich, Switzerland!

Ok, a retrospective post; but nonetheless it deserved its own entry. So on Wednesday, June 26, 2006, I moved into my temporary flat in Zurich, Swizterland. Located on the third floor of 139 Seefeldstrasse, Seefeld 8008. Me and all my bags were taken to here by my cou-cousin Nicole - thank you very much!

So, what did it feel like? well - v.strange. I went shopping at the local Coop - you wouldn't believe it, but whammo - my first cultural faux pas - I had no shopping bags! In Switzerland, it is definatley a BYO only option, so completely overestimating the goods I had, I purchased 4 shopping bags! Also realised that you pack your own, and rather quickly because people are waiting for their goods to be put down the lane - phew, made it, only just! I then went to the local kiosk and bought an English newspaper.

V.impressed with flat, a nice 65 square meters, 1 beddie, and balconie on both sides - whoa hold on ... I can see into apartments - very Vertigo like; briefly transfixed at cute blonde neighbour having a smoke, and other neighbours having a chat - weird!

Bunkered down with 'International Herald Tribune', a steal? at only 3.60 CHF, and watched, the rather boring only-English-TV-channel CNN TV (think business news 24/7).

Started to get v.anxious about going to work the following day, but equally was excited to find the locations, meet everyone, see my desk, etc.. Nonetheless, distinctly recalling going out to the balcony and staring out into the red-blue sky ... thought to myself - what the hell have I done?

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup - and what it means to me ...

Ok, well I am about to head off to see every Australian game (yes, me and my mate got tx!) for the soccer/football World Cup 2006 in Germany and I thought I would recollect the experiences in my life that relate to this, this is a long blog! (well it is covering 20+ years of memories!):
  1. first memory 1982, Buochs, Nidwalden, Switzerland; staying at my Aunt's house, I remember playing soccer with the local Swiss children - everyone wanted to be on the Argentinian team - me included! In conjunction with this, I collected a sticker book with all the teams, and stadiums in which the games were played. I didn't actually watch any of the games (as there was no TV in Warsaw, Poland where I was living at the time, but to those who are interested, here are the details of World Cup in Spain 1982) Not surprising, the next year in 1983 when I returned to Australia, I started playing soccer at school (with some handy skills on the left wing).

  2. second memory 1993, Canberra, Austrlia; the attempt by Australia to qualify for World Cup 1994 in USA. Not a very vivid memory except I do recall that defensive midfielder Paul Wade (Australia's captain of the time) had to tag Diego Maradona! of Argentina (at the time, Australia's opponent to qualify for the World Cup). On aggregate, Australia lost 2-1 - I'm surprised in hindsight that the scores were that close.

  3. third memory - 1997, the one that everyone remembers the second leg of Australia v Iran, Melbourne - the score being 1-1 from the first leg in Iran. Now, I had just finished Honours at the Australian National Univeristy (ANU) and was celebrating with my girlfriend at the time (Naomi) in the region of the NSW coastal town, Batemans Bay. And guess what, there was no SBS (the Australian broadcaster who had the rights) TV coverage in the area!!!! So, I ended up listening to the most important game of Australia's soccer history on the radio. Anyway, all my friends were revelling it up for being the end of the academic year, and at 2-0 (Australia winning), I stopped listening and went and joined them, happy in the knowledge that Australia had made it through to World Cup 1998 in France ... oops! (for the record, Iran made a remarkable comeback to 2-2 and won on the away goals rule).

  4. fourth memory - 1998, Melbourne, Australia; having just moved to Melbourne, to study at the University of Melbourne, a good friend of mine (Adam) invited a couple of classmates to his house in Elsternwick to watch a previously video-taped game from France (I recall it was Brazil v Scotland); those who attended - Adam, Georgia, Simon, Jacinta are still my best mates today - gold!

  5. 2002, Melbourne, MCG, Australia; again at the final qualifier for World Cup 2002 in Japan/South Korea, being at the ground and watching Australia win 1-0 against Uruguay with a penalty - you can imagine the crowd went off! These celebrations were premature - later Australia got thrashed in Montevideo, Uruguay 3-0 in the second leg.

  6. And lastly, 2005, Elwood (random pub), Australia; watching with my touch football team Australia grimly hang to a 1-0 scoreline for the majority of the match, and subsequently winning it on penalties - the pub heaved that night with the celebrations - well briefly at least, as I had to go home and go to work the next morning ;)

So now to the World Cup; if I get a chance to get some internet time, I will post here to my World Cup travel journal!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A friend recommended a book ...

Last Friday night I was out in the city with a few friends at the Phoenix bar, on Flinders Street (probably my favourite bar for catching up with friends in Melbourne, although Cookie bar, on Swanston Street comes a close second - both have excellent ambience, drink selections, and food selections!).

Anyway, an interesting discussion ensued about books. You know the one ... where a person that you respect talks about a book that he/she read and then offers a brief description about what the book is about and why you should read it.

Argh! now a couple of days later, I find that I am trying to recall the book, the title, who the author is. Let alone if I actually remember the book, how will I ever remember to read it?

Now this is the important - if a friend has recommended a book, isn't it one of strongest compliments to pay he/she the respect of his/her opinion and read the book! I know, I know, time considerations, etc. but given that I am holiday - it is probably now or never in terms of doing this - so I have created a tada list.

Now to track down my friends and ask them to reiterate what book they mentioned on Friday - yes too many beers were consumed ... for me to recall the exact title ;)

Who moved my blackberry?

Ha! I ordered this book 'Who Moved My Blackberry' Lucy Kellaway, a couple of months ago and I was reminded about it tonight when I was reading another blog. I read it a while ago and give this a book a distracted 10/10. That is, it won't change your life, but if you are seeking some light reading and work in a coporate culture - it is absolutely fantastic. Basically, it is told in first-person email. You only see the emails that manager 'Martin Lukes' writes to his boss, fellow managers / workers, family, friends, etc.. It is a complete satire and a book that will make you cringe every time you ever receive an email on 'culture change', 'hedgehogs', etc.. If you have some time, a caption is here ...

Sunday, June 04, 2006 part 2

So, listed on Friday; from what I could see it hit the ASX boards just above $3 and finished the day on $3.32 for a 66% premium to its listing; not bad capital gains for 1 day!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tomorrow leading online o/night overnight accomodation Internet site lists on the ASX following its IPO. So what is well it is essentially a broker between consumers and accomodation providers. It details what accomodation is available when, for what locale, and for what price. This is displayed through a price matrix of accomodation / price. So what about the financials?
  • some comparisons have been made to SEEK which listed on the ASX last year at approximately $2.00 and is currently trading at $4.60 and a price earnings (PE) ratio of 42! (wow, only found this out tonight - it must have some exponential earning per share in the pipeline, although this would be nothing compared to the PE of Google)
  • has a 35% of market share of o/night accomodation in Australia; with some capital behind it, brand flooding may occur such that its market share is substantially increased (and typically with e-commerce, branding is 'winner takes all' - for example, Amazon, SEEK, eBay, Google, etc.)
  • is offering a 4.5% dividend yield; not bad returns even before any capital gain is factored into the equation!
So, WTF (yes I know v.funny) lists at 12.00pm - if you have some spare investment monies lying around, it might be worth an investment; this is the preliminary commentary on the IPO pre-listing:'s (WTF.AU)

A$172 million IPO has closed heavily oversubscribed with the shares priced at A$2.00 - the top-end of the indicative range. The general public has missed out with institutions scaled back to as little as one fifteenth of their requested allocations.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Boot Camp

I am now participating in my third boot camp. Ok, so what is boot camp - essentially it is a regular group-based fitness regime. About two hundred people (at least in the Paramount Boot Camp, that I am involved in) turn up three times a week to different locales in Melbourne to complete a aerobic, anaerobic, and a team challenge. The times are Tuesday - 6.00am, Thursday 7.30pm, and Saturday 7.00 am (the tough one). In conjunction with this, there is some advice on what to eat when, and why. So why am I blogging about this - well I am just sitting at my desk warming up after a 6.00am start this morning with near-zero temperatures in Melbourne! And I thought it would be a good idea to jot down some of the 'mantras' of boot camp:
'If nothing changes, nothing changes'

'To achieve you must first attempt'

'The only easy day was yesterday'

'If not now, when?'
Ok, my feet now almost have some sensation returning; time to go to work ;)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Google Calendar

I know, I know another post on Google! I was demonstrated by a colleague of mine of the power of Google calendar and as always I am impressed. Ok, so what is good about it:
  • simple, easy-to-use interface and the ubiquitous Google-like drag and drop
  • ability to have multiple calendars (i.e. one for friend's birthdays, one for personal appointments, one for work, one for holidays etc.)
  • integration into Google maps
  • an exposable API, such that you can use other people's calendars (e.g. loading a FIFA World Cup fixture list!); I created a Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2006 Fixture list for all the Hawthorn supporters out there ;) - just search for 'Hawthorn Hawks' in the public search option for calendars
So yes the strategy to move 'office' like functions to the internet continues; so when is Google going to release its wiki/word processor?

PS: I lost my car key for 2 hours yesterday so couldn't collect my Macbook PRO - unbelieveable!
PPS: If anyone needs a gmail account to access the Google calendar function - just email me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Macbook PRO - its arrived!

Ok, just got the call; my Macbook Pro is here. V.excited - suddenly all social committments may be put on hold!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Must see movie ...

Ok, I am not the first, nor will be the last, but I thought I would join the blogosphere to support the upcoming movie - 'The Inconvenient Truth'. I had just read about the 'Climate Crisis' in last month's Wired and recently in the Age. This is a movie about the global environment and what humans are doing to the planet (let alone what is going to happen when China and India become industralised over the next 10-20 years!). It is presented from the eyes of Al Gore who I honestly don't know much about, but having read some background about him, I think he is truly inspirational.

What I am frustrated about is Australia's ambivalence to these issues, principally:
  • why do we not hear from the Greens (third strongest political party in Australia and supposedly biased to environmental issues)
  • why is Australia not part of Kyoto?
I have been impressed, however, with the speed that the nuclear energy argument has arrived on Australia's political scene, it is this (and hopefully many other) environmental debates that Australia should demand of its politicians. Rant over ;)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Following a stock broker or DIY investing

Ok, ok, I have been investing in the stock market for a couple of years now. Through this time, I have been assisted by a stock broker from Macquarie Bank; now there is a lot of conjecture as to the cost / value of using a stock broker over do-it-yourself (DIY) self-service share investing (e.g. e-Trade, Comsec). Ok so what are the costs?
  • 1.25% on every trade both buying and selling
Yes thats it! Note, there are no management fees, ongoing maintenance fees, or commission related fees if the investments outperform. So where is the value in having a stock broker?
  • Latest, greatest Macquarie Bank research (e.g. Daily Bulletin)
  • Offers to other financial products, and other types of investments
  • Comment from the stock broker in terms of market direction, good companies to invest in, investment strategies (e.g. dividend stripping)
  • Communication / partnership with the stock broker in terms of obtaining financial short-term, medium-term goals
  • Exclusive rights to Macquarie Bank led IPOs (indeed I just been offered a parcel of, something for this weekend's blog)
  • Access to Macquarie Bank customer events (ok, not too many have been held, but the last one was hugely fun at NGV)
  • And lastly, having fun shouting 'buy, buy' on the phone while you are at work ;)
So I would definately advocate having a stock broker if you are going to invest in the stock market - it definately enriches the experience of investing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ouch - batten down the hatches - its going to be a rough day

Wow; woke up today to see the following world stock markets performance o/night:

FTSE -2.9%
DAX -3.4%
CAC 40 -3.2%

Ouch - maybe some of the shares I have been watching will finally become affordable. Its definately going to be an interesting May/June. And ... I hope this is only a correction ;)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

You can do it :)

I have a developing cold (i.e. sore throat) at the moment and it is a miserable rainy afternoon in Melbourne today, so I am staying in, keeping warm, and obviously writing too many posts! I just thought I would say that I have become interested in personal development/motivation over the last couple of months (probably because I have been assessing/re-assessing what the hell I am doing at the moment). I think I have been lacking some direction/goals, recently. This has significantly changed in the last 6 months (and definately will do so in the near-future!), here are some of the sources I have found for personal development/motivation:

(1) Family/Friends/Partners; the best advice anyone could tap into (indeed, I was recently termed a 'sounding board' by one of my friends); these people are your mentors, peers, and influences. Don't keep your ideas, hopes to yourself - share them with your friends so others can share in your experiences, adventures (e.g. a good friend just completed the 100km walk - this was a great achievement, but even more so because she had shared her prpearations, fears, and expectations with all her friends).

(2) Environment; I try and surround myself by people, activities, stories that are empowering; there are a lot of people which you can be inspired from. Books like 'Its Not About the Bike' - L.Armstrong (the cyclist) for the rewards of unbelieveable discipline, and No Opportunity Wasted - P.Keogh (the Amazing Race guy) for the rewards of travel , and lists (I now have a life list)! I like plans - I am a planner - plans bias one to look forward, lead to hope, goals, motivation, drive, and *potentially* acheivement. And if that ain't enough watch 'Touching the Void' - simply awe-inspiring.

(3) Personal; have goals, tell others, toss them about, and then go for it. 1 year ago I had significant knee surgery (all I could think at the time was that I wanted to attend my first boot camp as soon as I could walk again). I did it, and have now attended 3 boot camps in the last year. Sure my knee hurts, indeed there is not a day when I don't notice the reduced flexibility, the stiffness, etc. however, whenever I want to go faster all I think of is - there was a time that I thought I would never run again - so take this time that you have now and push through!

And now as a result of writing this blog - I am going to create my life list (what a bloody good idea) - if you are interested you can look here (remember it is a work in progress and I was getting hungry and needed some lunch).

David Gray - 'Life in Slow Motion'

Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to David Gray's concert (I was offered a free ticket) and I must admit that having owned and rated 'White Ladder' in my top albums that I enjoy listening to, I was unexpectantly looking forward to it. Well, it was v.good; Dave didn't say much, but the performance was v.enjoyable. It was also a good chance to listen to some of his other songs - and using Apple's iTunes I purchased Dave's 'Slow Motion' album this week. It is fantastic! excellent, intelligent lyrics (it mentions Elysium in one of the songs - cool), and v.good melodies.

Delays, and more delays ...

Well somewhat disappointed with Apple at the moment. Last week, I went to my local Apple reseller and to purchase a Macbook Pro 17' and was told that there are none in Australia!!?? So now, I have been put on a waiting list and it might not be until end of May until any stock arrives - annoying!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Environmental investing in Australia?

Ok, some people know that I am interested in ASX. A thought that has bubbling in the background for a while now is whether I want to start investing in the environment.

I have not always been actively interested in the environment, but like many others, I am starting to be aware that it really is time that individuals (prior to corporations, governments, etc.) take some responsibility for how we live and our environmental footprint (anyone interested in this may want to look at the May 2006 issue of Wired - it has some fantastic articles on the subject).

Anyway, I digress - so how do I invest in the environment in the ASX. Well, a v.good candidate which I heard about a 1-2 weeks ago is Babcock + Brown Environmental Investment (BEI). BEI has interests in a number of companies: Denco, Natural Fuels, Southern Oil Refining, Earth Power Technologies. So what do these companies do, well there is management of:

Bio-Ethanol Plant(s) - produces ethanol (E85 - ethanol 85%); ethanol can used as a fuel for automobiles (indeed in Brazil, 40% of fuel is provided by bio-ethanol); it is based on the principle of extracting ethanol from crops such as sugar, corn.

Bio-Diesel Plant(s) - produces diesel; based on the principle of extracting diesel from vegetable oils (e.g. soybeans) and animal fats (e.g. lard).

Waste-Energy Plant(s) - produces electricity; based on the principle of converting organic food waste to electricity/fertiliser (via bacteria - anaerobic digesters)

These plants are based in US, and Australia. In the long-term, this may be one alternative to investing in renewable energy.

The price of BEI is displayed below:

I have not purchased this yet, but definitely one to have on the watchlist.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Google again - this time, the translator - it ROCKS!

Ok, this weekend my mother who lives in Canberra emailed my relatives in Switzerland in High-German (carbon-copying me in the email); some of the transcript is below:

'Mark ist natuerlich gluecklich'
I having never studied Swiss-German before had no idea what was being said. So what did I do, well as always when confronted with a problem I turned to the Google - and voila babel fish produced. Google language tools were able to translate German-English and vice versa. Result I was able email my Swiss relatives with a full-German email (see below; indeed it even corrected my Mum's spelling errors!) ... now if only this was mobile ...

'Natürlich glücklich - ich mag den!'

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Macbook PRO 17'

Wow! woke up this morning to (1) an email from Parkes stating that the Macbook Pro 17' has been released and (2) this being confirmed by Google Homepage - Appletalk Australia portal. Well, I had planned to purchase a Macbook Pro in early May (to leverage off Duty Free GST concessions and to reduce my taxable income - will talk about this next blog) - so suddenly which model do I buy?

Alternatives to consider:

candidate A - (aka workhorse)

15'4, 2GHz, 1440x900 resolution, 2.5kg: a v.handy laptop which is not small and not large. Up until now, it was the only spearhead of the Macbook Pro family - a ream of Macintosh software. Advantages - good, reliable, work-man like computer, ideal for generic use (eg. Microsoft Office); disadvantages - not many, 1680x1050 resolution is standard for laptops (so its resolution slightly sub-par); $4400 with 2.16GHz

candidate B - (aka behemoth)

17', 2.16Hz, 1680 x 1050 resolution, 3kg: alternative to a desktop. I must admit I prefer larger laptops - why? well I am not highly mobile with work, but occasionally need to travel to work with a laptop, travel interstate to visit family, or indeed just want wireless connection on the weekend getaway. With a larger laptop one can watch TV/DVD on it, have ++ real estate for applications (eg. IDEs, multiple applications, games), and they are typically fast (i.e. have fast processors, etc.)!

Well upon investigation, some differentials which are appealing with the 17' model - 120GB HD (+ 20 GB), 3 USB ports (+ 1 port), 5.5 hours battery life (+ 1 hr), 800 firewire port (ok stretching it with this, as I presume I will never use this), and default (+.16 GHz processor).

candidate C - (aka project X)

It is inevitable that Apple will release an iBook/Macbook Pro which will be a lightweight laptop (i.e. 12', less than 2kg). I wish it was out now, but since not, I cannot consider it - I saw the 12' iBook and thought it was ridicuously small (thats not going to fit me watching episodes of Prison Break!).

Currently, favouring candidate B, as I have only 5 weeks to purchase ... will visit Apple store mid-week to investigate.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bye, bye blue

DSC00642, originally uploaded by markyjones.

Well, it is a sad day - 24.04.2006, I sold my Subaru, MY05, World Rally Blue, WRX. Owned for 19 1/2 months (purchased September 10th, 2004) and sold for $33K.

Interestingly, I read an article in Smart Investor, April edition, 2006 which quantified the cost of a car, in terms of the loss of its value (i.e. depreciation) daily. From the article, the cost of other cars (and the cost of what my car ended up being) were:

evils of depreciation ...
Porsche 911$111.23/day
BMW 330i$49.59/day
Holden Commodore VZ$37.12/day
(my) Subaru MY05 WRX$15.17/day
Hyundai Accent$14.77/day

Some interesting concepts are raised by this including what a car actually costs? This is what I broke it down to being:

and more costs!

Sheesh! so according to this my car cost approximately $25 a day - thats more than what I pay for rent - that is a fairly expensive total cost of ownership (TCO) - and I haven't even mentioned the environmental costs - something for a later blog.

I will say this, however, it was a great ride - see you later subie ;)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Web 2.0 ~ beta site

Ok, for those non early-adopters the second movement of the Internet is here (Web 2.0) - but how can you tell? well these are the characteristics of a Web2.0 site:

Rule 1 - if the web site doesn't have beta in its description then it is not Web2.0! According to beta relates to preliminary or testing stage of a software or hardware product; 'a beta version'! I can't wait until business adopts beta projects. As mentioned in this 37 signals article, beta mode is where new companies want to be. That is, focusing on core funcion and then delivering it quickly (with the possibility of errors). Phew, I can't wait - no more deliberation on the correct colouring of table border X, text box Y; I wonder what the requirements gathering/documentation artefacts are for a Web2.0 project - no doubt there is a project collaboration tools (aka Basecamp, Writeboard), central repositories (aka Wikis) where all content is stored dynamically, and sophisticated issue trackers (aka Jira). Bring on this paradigm shift!

Rule 2 - very quick response user actions, and UI functionality not associated with the web (e.g. drag-and-drop); underpinned by AJAX, asynchronous request/responses. I haven't developed an AJAX web layer, but are we all going to become procedural Javascript developers (yuck!)

Rule 3 - an inability to bookmark any page apart from the initial page

List of Web2.0 sites I use: GMail, Google Groups, FlickR, RememberTheMilk, Ta-da Lists,, and the latest Google Calendar!

I will have a look at Google Calendar over the next week; now when will Google Maps be available for Australia!

TAGS: Web 2.0, Google, Ajax

Monday, April 17, 2006


Ok, so I am a full member of FlickR; which is an awesome photo web site/repository. I just thought I would see how it integrates with Blogspot for my upcoming travels - not bad eh? now if only I could take as good photos!

end of the road, originally uploaded by Rikki

TAGS: FlickR

Google as my homepage

Firstly, I am a HUGE fan of Google (GMail, Google Desktop - will discuss these in future posts); I know this is not saying much as most people are. Nonetheless, I thought I would talk about using Google for your homepage as I have swtiched over from The Age (possibly the best newspaper in the world!) to this over the weekend. The advantages? well a homepage should be a portal where customised information can be accessed. This is what I like about Google as a homepage - it is somewhat customisable (always impressed when there is drag-and-drop on a web page) and the way I have configured the page, it displays:

  • a stack of recent email messages from GMail
  • information on news/interests
  • weather
  • no ads; not even Google ads!
This has saved me at least 3 clicks a day and I still have my 'Newspapers' favourite on Mozilla Firefox!

TAGS: Google

Saturday, April 15, 2006

version 0.3

Third time lucky? yes this is my third attempt at writing a blog - so why will this version work? Well, I have decided that it will not have any topic, but rather be a diary of some of my thoughts, occurrences, and observations. The audience I am targetting? - myself; something to look back on when I am older and wiser ;) - of course if some of my friends read this every now and then, it will save me writing a lot of emails!

So here we go again ...