2017 in Review

So, 2017. It’s been a year of ups and downs. More downs than ups, but that gives 2018 a lot more room to improve.


My knee had a setback this year, but is slowly on the mend after a visit to a surgeon who suggested a new exercise regime.

I had a change in an immuno-modulating medication, from requiring an injection every second day for the past 12 years, to one every 2 weeks. So that’s a pretty significant  improvement.

Friends & Family

I was able to catch up with two of my dear friends in Melbourne this year. As nice as it was to see them, I was down to visit my father who’s battling cancer, so the trips were tinged with melancholy.

I still miss all my peeps in Sydney (and the amazing gozlame at Marrickville Markets). As nice as Noosa is, it’s somewhat isolating if your thing isn’t surfing. I’ve been going to a few meetups in the sunshine coast area for people interested in VR & video game development, I might just have to get used to travelling to neighbouring towns a bit more, which I did a fair bit of this year, taking day-trips out to various small towns in the area.

I balance that against the sheer natural beauty of this area. Earlier in the year, after driving 5 minutes from home, I was able to see humpback whales – an adult and a calf that had been overnighting in the bay. I didn’t have to go out in a boat, just walked a few steps from where we parked the car. I was able to see all kinds of marine life walking to the river at the end of my street. On Christmas day we had ducks from the river wandering about in our driveway.

We were also hit by the tail end of a cyclone, which was interesting. You get a real glimpse into the heavy-weather future here.

Art & Culture

I saw a bunch of interesting performances this year, standup comedy by Jimoin, an amateur musical version of Jurassic Park, a live performance of the British podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno, Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine, and while I was in Melbourne, a trip to the NGV to see a big Hokusai retrospective.

There’s a little rant building there, because this trip to Melbourne made me see a side of that city I’ve never felt before – an unjustified self-importance that manifests in a reflexive need to tell tourists from other parts of Australia that they’re finally going to be able to get some (cultural item), now they’re in Melbourne. The simple truth is that there’s nothing in Melbourne, not culture, not food, not interesting little bars, that can’t be found anywhere else with better weather. The NGV in particular, has a stupid “no professional cameras” policy, which means they try to stop you taking a DSLR into exhibitions. If a publicly funded gallery isn’t supposed to be a place for artists to investigate and document works of art, just what is its function?

I spent more time in Brisbane this year, and have developed a real affection for it as a city. It’s not crowded in the way that Sydney and Melbourne are, and the multitude of radically different bridges over the river, give it a quirkiness I dig.

A big event this year was an attempt to get one of my sculptures installed on the grounds of the local Men’s Shed. This was a significant professional undertaking, involving coordinating with the Men’s Shed leadership, and the local water utility who own the land. I photographed the site, created a pitch document showing how an unused scrap of land would be made into a feature for the entrance to the site, and laid out how it would all be done at no cost to either organisation. Everyone seemed quite keen, then the water utility told me that someone in the Men’s Shed leadership, who had been away when I was conducting initial meetings, had told them that the Men’s Shed wouldn’t be supportive of the proposal if it came up to a vote amongst their leadership. That’s left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

I continued to shoot photos throughout the year, my camera being one of the few creative instruments available in an absence of studio space. Updates for Surfing The Deathline came out, to a point at which all the niggling little issues I had with some of the older artwork appear to have been fixed. I also signed up for a TIG welding course, which will begin in February 2018, and should allow me to get my metal sculpture mojo back. It’s much neater, and can potentially be done at home, than the MIG process I’ve used previously.

The most effecting artistic endeavour this year however, goes to my first experience of freestanding VR.

Tools & Tech

VR is my new religion, it’s where I want to spend my computing time. Drawing and painting in a three dimensional environment is so profound, it left me almost in tears. Hand in hand with this, is a profound loss of faith in the ability of Apple to keep providing products I want to use. I’ve written about what a bad fit Apple’s hardware model is for VR, which requires regular user-upgrades of graphical hardware, but I add to that that nothing from Apple has improved my enjoyment of using their devices in the last couple of years – quite the opposite, every update they make, makes the products less reliable, less pleasant to use, and breaks compatibility with other products, forcing you onto this never-ending merry-go-round of upgrades, so that you never have a stable set of systems where everything works together. I’m left asking myself “what do I actually get from paying a premium for Apple gear, if it’s not any more stable, or pleasant to use than the alternative?”. More than the implementation, I find myself increasingly dissatisfied with the philosophy behind Apple’s products – more and more, these are products which reflect the decision-making people who create them – inhumanly wealthy, able-bodied people with unlimited bandwidth. That’s not me, and increasingly, Apple’s products are losing the ability to serve anyone who doesn’t want to sign up for a world of sealed, non-upgradable appliances, where the software is always a semi-functional work in progress.

It may be that my future is in Windows or Linux workstations, especially since all my professional software is cross platform these days.

The really big tech thing this year has been the arrival of the NBN where I live. We’ve gone from the fastest possible connection we could get – 7/1 (down/up), which would flake out and fail whenever we had sustained rain, to 107/44 which has been rock solid through the worst of weather. We also ditched our previous provider, Telstra, for a small company, who, for the same price, don’t offer any “unlimited” plans, so peak hour congestion is largely unnoticeable. Next to my change of medication, knowing I’ll never have to speak to one of Telstra’s “support” people ever agin, is one of the happiest changes this year has brought.

In photography, I finally bought a speedlight – something I’ve wanted for a while now, so that I could have lighting while I’m out and about. It’s an interesting piece of ahead-of-the-curve technology, using a lithium-ion battery rather than AAs, and having the ability to be driven wirelessly.

Closing out the year, I finally bought a travel tripod from a company I’ve been following for a number of years. They’re another small outfit, who try to engineer their way into punching above their weight. It hasn’t been delivered yet, but hopefully it’ll get here soon, and I’ll be free to do a bit more photography-oriented hiking.

So, that’s 2017 in a nutshell.