Dear family and friends,

You may (or may not) have noticed that I barely spend any time on Facebook these days. Today is the first time I’ve logged in for quite a while, and although I have definitely missed hearing what some of you have been up to and keeping up with your goings-on, I have to say I have really not missed “the Facebook experience”.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook… I know there can be some great stuff happening there, but I was increasingly finding Facebook as a huge time suck that was stealing more and more hours of my life for very little real return. I, probably like you, have spent far too much of my life liking and commenting on other people’s posts, watching inane videos, or observing some of humanity’s ugliest sides in many of the discussion threads.

I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole Facebook experience, so I just decided to stop using it. If you’ve read my blog you will know that I’ve got to this point in the past, where I’ve ranted about it, even deleted my account, etc, but I now realise it was far more about how I used Facebook than Facebook itself. (Although I still have many concerns about the way Facebook does things and the many unethical ways it deals with user data).

I do find Facebook useful as a single sign-on tool for other web services, and that is one reasons I have kept my account active. The other main reason is you… I am connected to many people here on Facebook, and I consider most of you friends. However, I’ve seen less of most of you over the last few years than ever before, and if that’s what it means to have friends these days, then it’s not enough for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of having friends in online spaces like Facebook at the expense of having friends in actual meetspace.

I have to say that since I have deliberately been avoiding Facebook, I’ve been happier, fitter, healthier, and have spent more time doing more things that I like doing. I’ve read more, exercised more, travelled more, and used some of that time to learn a new language. (In fact, the loading page in Duolingo actually says “15 minutes a day can help you learn a new language, what does 15 minutes on social media give you?”) It turns out that I was spending WAY more than 15 minutes a day on social media, and the truth is I was getting very little back from it.

I know some of you love Facebook and get great value from it, so good luck to you. Facebook is not all bad and for many of you it helps you remain connected with people you care about. I’m glad it works for you.

For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…

I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.

Crossposted to Facebook

Why Is This Even A Debate?

On TV tonight I saw an ad from some group that calls themselves the “Marriage Alliance“. I looked at their website which seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to be open minded when really all they want to do is oppose same sex marriage and maintain the unfair status quo…

Their site poses a number of open questions about marriage, and while they purport to being just trying to encourage a healthy discussion about the value of marriage in general, it’s pretty obvious what their agenda is. They are clearly in opposition to same sex marriage.

So, since they asked, here are my answers to the questions on their website…

Should children have the right to know their biological history?

Yes. As an adopted child myself, I should have the right to know my history if I choose to. Some choose to and some do not. But what’s your point?  So what if a child of a same sex couple knows their biological history and where they came from?  You think that will be a problem? You think a child will not be able to deal with that information? I believe you’re 100% wrong about that. Children don’t need to be protected from the truth, they need to be protected against those that think they cannot handle the truth.

Do we know the impacts of raising our children in a changed society?

No. And neither do you. But this proposed change to same sex marriage laws are about respecting people’s rights to acknowledge who they are as people and to give them the same rights that the rest of society already enjoys. If that means that society needs to change a few things to accommodate that shift then so be it. It’s not the first thing that has ever caused a “changed society” and it won’t be the last. The fact that you are so concerned about a “changed society” shows your true colours… you just don’t want anything to change from the way it is now. Sorry, but I have bad news for you…

Are you happy to have your family redefined as a social unit?

Yes. Perfectly happy. And by the way, I’m not gay myself just in case you were wondering. I have two children that were raised to be tolerant, open minded and respectful of others. My children understand that people are all different. They also understand that society changes. And they can cope with that. I’m a man married to a woman and I’m happy to be who I am. But I have many friends who are same-sex attracted and I want them to be happy with who they are, and to have the same rights that I have. I cannot think of a single good reason why they should not have the same rights as me, and that includes marriage if they so wish.

Are we asking the right questions about the proposals to redefine marriage?

I’m not sure what question you’re asking, since you haven’t really asked any good ones so far… but here’s what I think is the right question. Is it fair to deny same sex couples the right to be married? I happen to believe that to deny that right to anyone just because it doesn’t fit your own world view is unfair and unjust. If two people feel strongly enough about each other that they want to be married, who are you to deny that right? What higher authority granted you the right to be so bold as to suggest that you know best about who can and cannot be married?

Just Maui’d

I know I haven’t written much here on the blog lately. I’ve been a little consumed with some other things, like getting married to my sweetheart LInda 🙂

On May 20, Linda and I stood on beautiful Makena Beach in Maui and tied the knot in front of a few close friends. It was a lovely ceremony full of symbolism, fun and joy. Here’s a few photos (you can click them for a closeup)

Special thanks to Jennifer from Marbelle Photography for these wonderful photos (all of them!), to Derek Sebastian for the fabulous ukulele music, Joe Miles for his touching ceremony, and to Lori Lawrence from Tropical Maui Weddings for helping us pull it all together from afar.

We have a bit more celebrating to do yet, with a post-wedding party back in Sydney on June 20 and then another in Toronto on June 27.

A Labour of eLove

It’s always good to celebrate creative successes. This is one of those times.

eloves me, eloves me notWhen I first met my partner Linda she had started working on the novel she always wanted to write. That was six years ago, and the novel has certainly had its stops and starts over that time. Writing is not always an easy thing to do, and there were times when life just got in the way and it became difficult for her to keep moving that cursor to the right. However, I’m pleased to say that over the last few months she’s really pushed herself to finish writing the manuscript, and over the last few weeks it’s been through seemingly endless revisions and edits, fine tuning of words and sentences, and onto the final processes of typesetting and preparation for publication.

I’m proud to say that Linda’s first novel is now finished, published and available.

The novel, eloves me, eloves me not, is a contemporary love story in which 39 year old Kayte Wexford realises that she still hasn’t met her Mr Right and so decides to give Internet dating a try. As the story unfolds she experiences some hilarious, fascinating and occasionally scary insights into the pros and cons of finding love online. It’s a clever, wonderfully well written story, with interesting plot lines and an ending you probably won’t see coming. It’s got some really funny scenes in it, some others that get quite hot and steamy, and it cleverly weaves in a lot of useful lessons about finding love and staying safe in the age of the Internet. If you’ve ever tried Internet dating there will probably be lots of scenes and characters you will recognise and identify with!

I’m particularly proud of the fact that Linda decided to self-publish the book. As an independent author and publisher, she gets to have total creative control over the end product. She got to write the story exactly how she wanted it to be written. She came up with the vision for the cover artwork and managed a design contest through to bring it to reality. She leveraged a group of friends from around the world to read the first draft and offer constructive feedback. She got it typeset exactly how she wanted it. She managed the publication process through (Amazon’s self publishing division) as well as creating ebooks through Kindle Direct Publishing and

Of course, self-publishing is a double edged sword. While you get to maintain full creative control over the final product, you’re also responsible for creating awareness and demand for it. Right now, she’s working hard to spread the word that a) the book exists, and b) people should read it!

Needless to say, I’m incredibly proud of what she’s done, and would like to support her as much as possible. So, if you know someone who would enjoy reading an intelligent, funny and contemporary love story, please tell them about eloves me, eloves me not. It’s available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions, and on SmashWords in just about every other format, including epub and mobi. (It’s coming soon to the Apple iBooks Store, Barnes and Noble and the Nook Store, but SmashWords can provide all those formats right now). If you know someone who would like the paperback version, may I suggest they get it through her CreateSpace store… it’s exactly the same price and version of the book as Amazon, but CreateSpace offers the best royalty payments for independent authors.

You can find out more at

Virtual Busking her way to Japan

My daughter Kate loves to sing.  She discovered this ability a few years ago when she came home from school and announced that she wanted to try out for a solo part in a local performing arts concert.  Although we always thought she had a nice voice that could carry a tune, we had totally missed the fact that she was actually quite talented vocally and so her intention to sing solo at this concert was a bit of a surprise.  Long story short, she has discovered her voice and is working hard at developing it further.  She’s done workshops and music camps and is now working with a singing coach.  She really does love to sing.

She was recently selected to be part of the Talent Advancement Program (TAP), a program for kids with musical talent aged 13 to 18.  For the 23 kids selected to be part of TAP, it’s a pretty special group to be take part of.  They get to learn and grow by actually performing in front of people.  Tomorrow, they are all performing at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, next week they do a gig for some senior citizens, and so on.  All great experience.

From the 23 kids involved, 16 of them were chosen to take part in a cultural exchange to Japan later this year.  Our local city, Bankstown, has a sister city arrangement with Suita, a city just outside Osaka.  The kids will be going over in October, performing in local schools in Suita and living with a host family for 5 days. They also get to travel on the Bullet Train, see a bit more of Japan, and even perform at Tokyo Disneyland.  It will be quite the experience for a 13 year old girl!

As parents, you want your kids to have experiences like this.  The things she will see and experience on this trip will be amazing. To be immersed in a different culture for 10 days, especially one like Japan which has such different customs and food, will be awesome and unforgettable.

Of course, it comes at a cost. Despite the fact that the TAP program subsidises part of the airfare, there is still a significant cost involved in going. As excited as Kate was to have been selected, she was also quite apprehensive about accepting because of that cost. Despite that, her mother and I will try to find the money because we think it’s an experience worth having.  To help out, the TAP kids were encouraged to come up with ways of doing some fundraising to help contribute to the costs of the trip.

So Kate came up with an idea. She collected a bunch of videos of her singing and put them together on a website as a sort of “virtual busking” site. The videos were added to YouTube and embedded in the site so that viewers can watch, and a “tipjar” connected to Paypal in case anyone wants to make a donation to her trip. She asked me for a hand with some of the technical stuff, but the rest of it was all her idea.

I’m very proud of her, not just for being part of a group like TAP, but also for her initiative in wanting to find an innovative way to raise some money to cover this cost.  She’s telling family and friends about it, but I said I’d also try to help spread the word about it via Twitter and the blogosphere. I hope you take a moment to check it out, leave an encouraging comment on the discussion tabs, and possibly even drop a small donation in her tip jar.  I know she would appreciate it greatly.

The site is at

Wrapped in Cotton Wool

As a parent, it’s a fine line we walk sometimes in knowing where the boundaries are for your kids. We want to protect them from danger and shield them from hurt. At the same time, we need to allow them to experience the world and learn to interact with it in meaningful ways. This paradox of safety versus experience is a tricky balance to get right, but I’m convinced that we are probably the most overprotective generation of parents in history. A recent post here listed a number of tongue-in-cheek example of how much we seem to overreact to things that would have been much less of a drama a few years ago. How many of you went out playing all day when you were a kid, and the only rule was to be home by dark? No “Call me when you get there to let me know you arrived ok”… just “Bye dear, have fun playing!”

This video from the TED Talks series, called “5 Dangerous Things you should let your Children do” makes a similar observation that maybe we need to just lighten up a bit on our kids. Take a look…

In our schools I find we are developing the same, if not worse, overprotective behaviours. My last school insisted on having staff members walking the children across the road after school (it’s a high school!) – I found this laughable… we have them in class all day teaching them to be mature and independent thinkers and then we won’t let them cross a street without assistance. Our excursion (field trip) program became impossibly hard to work with over the past few years due to all the excessive safety regulations and the need to “guarantee” a safe environment outside the school. You can never get a total guarantee that a situation will be 100% safe – of course you want it to be as safe as possible – but when you start to compromise the creation of situations and environments in which to learn because there may be a small risk involved… I don’t know, that just seems silly to me. Life has sharp edges. Deal with it.

No one wants to see children get hurt, that’s for certain. Regardless of whether your role is that of teacher or parent, I’m sure we all want to see our children stay safe. My own daughter was bitten on the face by a dog a few years ago and the feeling of sheer panic and distress I felt as a parent as I looked down as the blood streaming out of the huge gash torn in her cheek was an indescribable anguish. But would I say to her to now stay away from all dogs? No way. She loves dogs. She’s fallen off a bike and skinned her leg a few times, but that doesn’t mean she should never ride a bike again. In the process of living, sometimes you’ll get a bit knocked around. That, quite literally, is life.

Kids – just like adults – need to occasionally go through some of the painful parts of life if they are to experience the wonder of what it means to live.

Cracked Pepper?

One of the runaway success stories of Australian television is a subversive comedy show called The Chaser’s War on Everything. This very funny show takes constant potshots at every conceivable social and political norm, often drawing attention to the many stupid and inconsistent things we do. During 2007 the show aired every Wednesday night on ABC TV, and was also podcast via

My son Alex is a huge fan of the Chaser, and one of his favourite sketches was one in which the show’s host, Chris Taylor, rants about how annoying those waiters are that interrupt your meal to ask you if you’d like any cracked pepper. The sketch goes on to look at a variety of interesting situations in which a pepper-toting waiter might interrupt to offer his wares… if you’ve not seen it, here is the clip…

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So the other day I took Linda and the kids for lunch in Coogee. As we strolled down the sidewalk past all the funky little restaurants and bars, both Alex and Kate noticed that the Chaser’s Chris Taylor just happened to be sitting at a window-side table with some friends having a drink. “Dad, that’s the guy from The Chaser!” said Kate excitedly.

We kept walking and ended up sitting at a nice little restaurant a few doors down. Once seated however, my 15 year old son Alex started musing on the idea of how funny it would be for a waiter to offer Chris Taylor cracked pepper. Never one to pass an opportunity to make people laugh, Alex decided to borrow a pepper mill from our restaurant and, you guessed it, go next door to offer Taylor some cracked pepper of his own. I followed him up the street as he wandered into the restaurant with the pepper mill behind his back, walked up to Taylor and interrupted him with “cracked pepper sir?” I was standing on the sidewalk with Kate, intending to capture all this with my mobile phone’s video camera but was laughing so hard all I got to do was watch it unfold. Taylor was a good sport, and just smiled at Alex and said “No thanks”, to which Alex responded with “Are you sure sir?” Perhaps you just had to be there, but it was very funny.

The thing that amazed me the most was to see just how brazen Alex can be when he needs to be. He is normally a pretty quiet and introverted kid, but he had absolutely no trouble wandering up to this well known TV personality and turning the tables on him. I know it’s not exactly a paparazzi moment, but it was pretty funny.

Of course, trying to decide what to include in Alex’s Christmas stocking this year was easy… yes, he got his very own pepper mill. Cracked pepper, Santa?