Category Archives: Australia

d i a g n o s t i c s

19:54 tuesday 11 april – laura place , melbourne , australia

finally , after several false starts , i’m leaving australia . in four hours i shall board a flight for kuala lumpur , connecting with another to kuantan on the east coast . from there i shall travel north up the coast until i find a quiet village with a nice beach where i can spend a little while reflecting on the past six weeks in australia and looking ahead to a month in britain and the coming adventures in ghana . generally getting my thoughts together really . i aim to get back to britain in time for granny’s birthday on the nineteenth .

it was confirmed this morning that i fractured my right heel in my daredevil fence-top leap . it’s a week since i decided to speak to a doctor about the non-diminishing pain in my foot . the gp prodded at it and sent me for an x-ray .

the hospital to which i was sent was very quiet , very clean , earily empty . you could actually hear the air conditioning . despite the fact i had no appointment i was in and out within half an hour . the film came back with a brief analysis from the radiologist suggesting that the pain was nothing to do with my fence experiences but was in fact due to a tiny spur of bone growing on the base of my heel .

$80

yeah , right .

the gp shrugged her shoulders , prodded my foot a bit more , and said she didn’t know what to do . i could go to an orthopedic consultant if i liked but they were a strange lot , tended to be rather abrupt , too much time looking at bones . she didn’t know any , and gave the impression this was through choice more than chance . when i said that yes , i would quite like to see a consultant , she shrugged and pulled out a phone directory . started scanning her finger down the columns . maybe a female one would be friendlier . and one in a convenient neighbourhood . bingo ! a name was scribbled on a scrap of paper with an address and a phone number .

$120

i smiled , paid the bill and left , my faith in the australian medical profession somewhat diminished . with no intention of calling upon the gp’s random consultant i began to ask everyone i met if they could recommend someone . in the end it was charles young who came up trumps . during a meeting on thursday he called his father , a doctor , and within minutes he’d lined up an appointment the following morning with mr henry bryce . charles had some childhood memory of pushing this fellow’s rolls royce , which sounded encouraging so long as the medical insurance held good .

arriving at mr bryce’s consulting rooms i found them a little less grand than the harley street style leather and potted palms i’d imagined . in fact they were slightly seedy . a scarcely-converted office suite at the top of a tower in the centre of town , with concrete-blasted ceiling , flourescent lights , flimsy partition walls which actually seemed to amplify sound , colourful magazines on thin paper from a year or more ago and people in the waiting area who looked like they were having a bad time of it .

but mr bryce himself was splendid . businesslike and convincing with a very occasional deep wry chuckle . he seemed to have two patients on the go at any point , like an expert cook or a successful polygamist . somehow when he prodded my foot it felt more useful than when the gp did it . he held my x-ray up to the window in a professional kind of way , screwed up his eyes , hrrumphed and bade me look closer . he traced out a line which i could not for the life of me see . could be a fracture , he said . the radiologist’s verdict had been dismissed with a contemptuous grunt .

to be certain i’d need to have a bone scan . more phone calls . i’d have to be there in half an hour . flurry of taxi-hailing and route-finding . another expensively quiet hospital . seriously expensive machines with science fiction names . machines which filled entire rooms , entire floors . and not a hint of taxpayers’ money .

they injected me with something radioactive and stuck me on a trolley . they angled a big metal dish over my foot and i could see my blood sparkling on a screen . when my right foot went under it sparkled a lot more than my left foot .

$350

i returned to mr bryce this morning for his verdict . yes , there is a fracture . no , there’s no time to put a plaster on . yes , i can carry on to malaysia so long as i’m careful and i use crutches .

$150

so i’ve got some crutches , which i aim to exploit for every bit of sympathy i can wring from my surroundings . particularly if i can get an upgrade on my flights . the woman i dealt with at the chemist where they came from dropped them off about an hour ago . amazingly kind .

$20 ( including free delivery )

my faith in the profession is much better now .

i’ve got loads of digital photos from the last six weeks which i intended to stick together before leaving . but heck , i haven’t got round to it .

in about half an hour my thai friend pum will arrive to take me to the airport . we spent a great weekend exploring daylesford and the hills , and area which seems to be filled with rather smart , commercially-astute hippies .

for the next week i shall be disconnected , off-line , 100% tangible . then the mayhem begins again .

: cH

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c e n t r i f u g e

22:44 saturday 1 april – port campbell , victoria , australia

two pine bunk beds . grey walls . a hardwearing carpet . a single bulb fixed in the middle of the ceiling . the gunshot soundtrack of cheap tv from the lounge next door . middle-brow jazz from a nearby restaurant . occasional twang of a guitar .

i lie on the lower bunk by the window with my powerbook on the pillow . across the room stef ponders today’s edition of the australian and barbara sleeps . it’s been a long day .

this is my first taste of hostel life since i was last in australia . the familiar check-list springs back into action . mattress = good . linen = clean . inmates = free of psychopathic tendencies . obvious ones at least .

i left ross’ flat in sydney and flew down to melbourne last monday . since then i’ve been staying with stef and barbara in their house in fitzroy , the city’s funky/organic/bohemian quarter .

the dull pulse of a commercial house track joins the gentle mellee of sound . where’s it coming from in this little backwater ? stef reckons it’s somebody’s car . i think it might be the video jukebox in the pub we visited earlier .

i like melbourne . it’s more or less flat so cycling is a breaze . the ubiquitous tram tracks are a new challenge though . the vehemence of melbourne’s rivalry with sydney is incomprehensible to anyone outside those two cities . but the contrasts are obvious . sydney lives in primary colours , melbourne in subtle secondaries . it’s more relaxed , less brash , not so beach-centred . the grass is literally greener . i’ve been carrying on with my work but also getting about and meeting people .

this morning stef , barbara and i hired a car and drove west along the great ocean road . a dramatic effort which follows the coast through a succession of landscapes . steep sandstone cliffs , wide-beached bays , temperate rain forest , scrubby savanna . we stopped at various points to explore and watched the sun setting from a deserted clifftop with sage-coloured brush around us and the pacific surf rolling against the rocks far below .

finally we arrived here in port campbell , a small settlement whose economy is , i presume , largely dependent on the tourists who come to visit the nearby apostles , a series of tall rock pillars standing just off the coast . there are six restaurants and three motels on port campbell’s main drag and little else . we ordered fish and chips in a neon-lit room where visitors’ business cards and photos were arrayed beneath the plastic table covers . the proprietress handed us numbered tickets . when i took my seat i found a ticket with the same number as my own ( 84 ) amongst the cards for concrete pourers and munich hairdressers beneath the plastic in front of me . a small co-incidence .

a greater co-incidence last thursday . i joined stef for lunch with a couple of friends of his who are interested in digital community infrastructure . what rapidly emerged was that one of them , vaughan , who’d trained in medicine before getting involved in the web , has been thinking along uncannily similar lines to me . he too is in the early stages of setting up a venture , one which is potentially complementary to trampoline rather than in competition with it . we experienced a depth of common understanding which was unexpected for us both .

we spoke again last night at the drinks to mark his departure from looksmart.com , australia’s most prominent web firm . it ended up with the two of us huddled over a table gabbling intensely . i’ve extended my stay in melbourne til the end of next week so we can talk more .

i’ve been hobbling a bit , having locked myself in stef and barbara’s garden on wednesday morning and resorted to jumping off the fence , barefoot , to escape into the back lane . it provided a good excuse to spend much of wednesday afternoon static on a beach . but i feel very silly .

it seems much longer than two weeks ago i was walking in the blue mountains with duncan . a lifetime since i arrived in sydney .

: cH

c e n t r i f u g e

12:58 friday 24 march – mundarrah street , clovelly , sydney

onelist.com , the service i’ve been using to host this mailing list , has been assimilated by its main competitor egroups.com . since there was already a list called wanderer on egroups i’ve been compelled to modify the name . so it’s goodbye wanderer and hallo worldwanderer . it’s grossly cheesy , but heck , i couldn’t think of anything better .

i’ve been here in sydney a month now . the days have alternated pretty equally between sun and cloud , for which i’m grateful as it’s made it much easier to maintain a balance between work and shameless lounging . it also means i’ve got a modest tan rather than terminal skin cancer .

last weekend i escaped up to the blue mountains for a couple of days with duncan , a fellow brit i met a couple of days earlier . it was great to be amongst the trees , the aromatic air , the never-silent hush .

one of the main objectives in coming to autralia was to advance another stage in my mobile working endeavours . it’s twenty months since my first step in this direction , when i spent july/august 1998 roving around the isles of scilly , cornwall , gloucestershire and cambridge whilst continuing to work on a website for decca records with a team in london . back then it was just me and my little psion , which restricted my interaction to email except when i was able to hijack someone else’s terminal . i remember being enraptured by the novelty of lying on a beach and being paid for it .

my next step was when i came out to australia in december 1998 . i borrowed a computer out here and carried on working with a couple of clients in london . but my input was still essentially text-based . i didn’t get a whole lot of work done , to be honest . but i learned a lot .

after that came the experiment of spending a whole year in the isles of scilly . this time i had my full battery of equipment with me and was able to participate in a much wider range of activities . i was principally doing work for the school for social entrepreneurs , including consultancy , web production and print production . whenever i left the islands i relied on my psion to maintain email contact .

then in january i got my powerbook , opening up the prospect of being able to continue working on a full range of tasks from anywhere in the world , so long as i can get occasional access to power and telecoms . this trip to australia is the first trial of that theory . after a month it’s working well . i’ve put together a brochure for the sse , which i can send to printers in cornwall via email . i’m much of the way through producing a new website for the sse . i’ve been continuing to play a development role with the scillonia digital workshop , and will be producing a website with its members . i’ve also taken the first steps towards setting up a software development venture , whose working title is trampoline , based on my research over the last eighteen months into dispersed collaboration , learning and decision-making .

in all of these activities i’ve been working with groups of people in different places . these interactions have been structured in ways which enable me to feel i’m involved in ongoing discussions , that part of me is there with the other participants . these are delicate psychological considerations . the potential for misunderstanding , paranoia and defensiveness is much higher in a dispersed collaboration than in a conventional one . the development and sustenance of trust is critical . so in a way these experiments have been about trust , exploring different interactive structures and strategies , seeing where trust flourishes and where it perishes , where i feel like an active participant and where i feel remote , where i feel stimulated to contribute creatively and where i feel inhibited .

trampoline is the result of everything i have learned . i have come to see clear patterns in what works and what doesn’t work . from these insights has emerged a concept for a way to organise communications which will enable organisations , especially information-based organisations , to increase their creative potential .    i am particularly eager that the non-profit sector should benefit from an infrastructure tool like this . charitable organisations are typically under-resourced , thinly-spread and dependent on a wide network of influence and support . they are also blessed with high levels of commitment and shared purpose . trampoline will enable such organisations to marshal their resources more effectively . i am hoping to establish the venture in such a way that non-profit organisations will have access to services on a free or non-profit basis .

these plans took a significant step forward a couple of weeks ago when warren langley , ex-president and ceo of the pacific exchange in san francisco , offered to help guide the project through first-stage financing . there’s an amazing story behind this . at the start of may last year i was on st agnes , packing my belongings into boxes , preparing to move out of tamarisk farm . it was a fresh spring day , plump thrushes hopping about and flooding the breeze with song . there was a knock at the door and i saw a fellow clutching a laptop . warren introduced himself and explained he was staying with tim and sue hicks down at troytown . he was having trouble picking up email and they’d suggested he drop in on me in case i could do anything .

i was completely useless of course , fiddling about for a bit before sheepishly suggesting he should call the support line . but it turned out that warren was interested in social entrepreneurship , particularly social invesment , and we spent the next hour or so in conversation . we’ve remained in touch since then .

as for what brought warren all the way to st agnes , his wife ann had visited many years before on an archeological project and had been returning ever since . fate is indeed a remarkable beast .

oh , i’ve finally organised some photos from my previous trip to australia . nearly two hundred of them in fact . start at
http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/oz98 .

: cH

s u n c h a s i n g

13:07 friday 3 march – mundarrah street , clovelly , sydney

lots has happened since my last transmission . the main thing , though , is that i’ve shifted myself out to sydney , where i’m staying with my friend ross near clovelly beach for a few weeks .

some pics of the journey here , and of my new surroundings at
http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/sunchasing .

i’m continuing to access email via my usual addresses . whilst i’m in australia my phone number is + 61 415 985794 .

: cH