Coming out of the Dark Closet

Nick in Shinkansen

In the midst of the 2010 Federal election, Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry has managed to place Mental Health on the national agenda. ABC’s Four Corners “Hidden Voices” dedicated a pre-election show to highlight depression, mental health: both significant factors in suicide.

Looking at the data, whilst suicide rates are falling – the rates in males 25 to 45 is still way above the norm. And more people die by their own hand in Australia than on the roads.

During the show, I tweeted the following: I suffer from Depression. There. I said it.

For me this has been a long journey. Thanks to excellent medical care, and can function in employment and society.

So, let me highlight: If you think you suffer from depression, are feeling ‘down’ – seek help. Start with your GP. Call Lifeline or similar service now. Do not be ashamed in seeking help. You are not alone.

Whilst there is still a stigma

Being depressed, and mentally unwell is still holds a social stigma.

Whilst public acceptance is on the incline: publically stating that you suffer from depression will have a negative effect on your employability. Whether working for a large organisation or as a single contractor: people around you will treat you with suspicion. Depression can be a disability that directly effects work performance; and the career prospects of individuals.

Or as is sadly all too common: no job at all..

Whilst remaining a supporter of various Men’s mental health charities. Personal donations. Growing moustaches, I am going to leave much of my personal thoughts to myself for the time being.

Not Missing, Just Resting.

I have been rather quiet of late.


  1. Day 5 of a man-flu. Just can’t shake it quickly.
  2. For the fourth time, I am taking a break from the Twitter stream. Funnily enough, life goes on without knowing everything else that is going on.
  3. Thinking. There is a rather lot of things to think about, if you permit yourself to mentally wander.

2010: Voting for Liberals

Fibre to the Dunny. For the Win!!1

In a G’day world podcast I appeared on in 2007 I stated I was voting Liberal. It should come as no surprise I am doing the same in 2010

At the beginning of Tony Abbott’s reign as leader of the Federal Liberals, I will admit I was uncertain of his ability to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Through this campaign, Mr. Rabbit has shown a wiser and more mature head. Having met Tony in person, spoken to him one:one and in 2004 manning an election booth – I am certain what we see with Tony is what we are going to get. Whilst I am no longer a member of the Liberal Party, I would consider myself a "small-L" liberal.

On one of the occasions where I met Mr Abbott when he was Minister for Health (2003 I think), we talked about the importance of Information Technology. He was no more a techhead as he was a Doctor; and was not convinced with my ranting on the power of the internet. A senior Liberal advisor stated firstly that all industries lobby about their importance to the future. Information technology is no different. Secondly, that once the politicians care about your industry, it becomes a political football. Increasing control, regulation comes with increased investment. Welcome to where we have been for the last 5 years.

This election Geeks have suffered a cognitive dissonance: vote Labor, get a government funded National Broadband Network (NBN) but with a coupled Filter/Censorship position. Vote Liberal, and you get no Fibre installed into your home but no Filter. Greens supporters will make the observation: "vote Greens". They’re too progressive and socialist for a country boy like me. Or, their attached policies are not to my liking. Larger Government, more public servants and more control of our lives by a nanny state rubs against my grain.

In the 2007 election, Rudd promised $4.7b for Fibre-to-the-Node NBN. This expanded into $43b Fibre-to-the-Home; spanning 93% of Australians as a mechanism for countering the GFC. Whilst there is no pure business plan to spend $5.37b per year over 8 years, Labor has failed to sell a complete social plan for the need for an NBN. There is no vision. Whilst the Minister in charge is shackled by the Filter debate, the geekerati will not help.

To illustrate the importance of internet access, this election Liberals are promising to invest $6.7b (I think) into internet connectivity. Not as generous on funding, and therefore speed – but within their budget constraints. To the Liberals, the largesse of the NBN is a place to grab forward committed funds to reduce debt. They have no vision for the use of the internet and how it has the potential to transform. The Liberals best warrior, Malcolm Turnbull, has been sidelined. I would hope that Malcolm gets re-elected and we find a pragmatic policy that is affordable. A cut down NBN; copper conduits purchased from Telstra with smarter negotiation. And with a vision for its use 30-50 years out.

Fibre, along with wireless, is the future. Both. This is not an either-or.

Oh, and if Labor get back in, the Filter will arise. Games and apps for phones and other like devices will require expensive classification. With or without a wonderful fibre NBN, our creativity will be throttled at the borders. Even if the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, Mr Conroy (if Communications Minister) will find another way to implement his filter.

But the NBN is not the main game as far as I am concerned.

My concerns with Labor is its propensity to plough Australia into more debt. Bad management by both Rudd, but also Garrett et al have resulted in significant wastage of my tax dollars. Less sovereign debt will leave Australia in a better position to deal with the shock of a slowly collapsing US and Europe. The argument that a Government can always tax more to repay debt: this is on the assumption that business is healthy enough to be taxed (and employ staff to be taxed) and there is a healthy world economy that consumes Australia’s exports.

Apart from spending hand over first, Labor has a track record of wastage. Reports on the Building the Education Revolution (BER) state a low wastage %. This is certainly not the case with the Insulation program, another GFC program. Government purchasing should be efficient and not waste taxpayer dollars.

Interestingly, the most progressive policy that taxes the big end of town this election comes from the Liberals: Paid Parental Leave funded by a levy on large business. I think that it is important that women can both have kids if they choose, and continue to work if they choose. Within the economic realities of today, the Liberals have the most attractive policy.

Like all elections, those marginal electorates are receiving the most attention. This is our system working. You have to make your electorate a marginal electorate if you want the same attention. Simple.

I am not so concerned with the “men in smoky backrooms” or voting by random party members that control the levers behind our Federal politicians. It is the same on all sides of politics. Continuing greater transparency on donations and lobbyists would be nice. But nice never wins.

My wish is for all parties to reduce middleclass welfare, and reduce taxation. Or, at least, funnel money into places where the market will fail. Roads, Hospitals, Education.

And here lies the drum. Both parties are using the flow on tax to wrest constitutionally state-based concerns (Education, Health) into the Federal sphere. If this reduced the management overhead, I would support this. The model that seems to be created to increase bureaucracy. More wasting of money. Both parties need to not waste money on overhead.

Politics is never simple: A vs. B; black or White. It is grey with multiple dimensions. This leaves us all wiggle room to argue and discuss; he said she said style conversations. Promises kept; changes in position. Hypotheticals. Rhetorical constructs. It is great to live in a country where we can openly discuss, argue and most importantly: vote.

As I hold a portion of my wealth in US$ and locally in cash – higher interest rates and a lower exchange rate that a ALP/Greens Government is likely to induce. And Fibre to my home, paid for by you buggers at $5000, sounds good too. But it is not good for the future of Australia. That’s why I am voting Liberal. As I am now in Mr Rabbit’s electorate, he has a safe vote in my hands.

Absolute Power

From Richard Farmer’s “Chunky bits” in today’s

I know that Lord Acton had papal infallibility in mind when writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 but given the flaunting of their Christianity by our two alternative political leaders that perhaps just makes his words more appropriate:

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it."

You are being watched.


Only the paranoid survive. Even the paranoid have enemies. And the list of paranoid quotes goes on.

Within the last 18 hours, I’ve had two experiences with twitter that are worth sharing. If only for twitter bragging rights.

Firstly, whilst ABC1’s Media Watch was shown last night – what I considered a long “advertorial” piece about tablet devices and their impending saviour status for newsprint. I tweeted:

Someone should #mediawatch#mediawatch for 15 minutes of "Apple iPad" advertisement. NOT F***KING HAPPY MARK SCOTT

Within an hour, the host of Media Watch, Jonathan Holmes, responded:

@NickHodge ah! U work for Microsoft! Wondered why u were SO upset!

Oops, sprung. Well almost. My twitter bio is clear about my employer. As I had already responded to the iPad shills, I responded similarly to Jonathan. The ABC must be above spruiking products; it is a part of their editorial policy. I will admit that my tweet is tainted with the perspective of my present employer: for sure; no-one is truly independent from their source of income. But I do expect all commercial organisations: including Microsoft, to be treated equally in terms of publicity on our ABC.

A thankyou, Jonathan, for being concerned about your show and looking at “the stream of conversation.” This shows you care.

Second incident. Only a few hours later, in response to Tony Abbott appearing on ABC TV’s Q and A: a promising TV show that has fallen below my expectations. Tony, in response to a questions on Catholisism mentioned that another leader, Kristina Keneally – the NSW Premier, being not so harangued about her faith. My tweet:

ooh, @KKeneally is at least a serious Catholic as @TonyAbbottMHR ..#opusdei !!!

Very early this morning, 5:47am Sydney time, the Premier responded:

@NickHodge hi Nick this is an old and false rumour. I’ve never been a member of opus dei. My area of interest is feminist theology. Cheers

Oops, sprung again. My response to her was a public, hopefully graceful mea culpa. I doubt that I would vote ALP in the next State election – but that fact that Ms Keneally took time out to respond to mine – and other questions on twitter shows a level of care. And she spelt rumours correctly.

So, two famous people responded to my rather cheeky, specious and snarky tweets. In both cases, apart from the individual tweets these people do not know me. Nor the somewhat satirical/childish nature of my tweets.

In the context of “social media” for organisations – can personally responding to individual tweets like mine scale? Whilst NSW has 6 million residents, only 4000 follow her on twitter. If twitter goes mainstream like Facebook, one could expect a Premier of NSW to have up to 2 million followers (30% of Australians are on Facebook) . No one, magical person can respond to them all.

Here at Microsoft in Australia, a few product groups have been experimenting with social media monitoring tools. Watching the conversations, and responding where appropriate in a formal way. This also involves an escalation process for response to queries that include PR, Customer Service and Evangelism. I know of other organisations doing similar for their products and services – Internode, for instance.

So, be careful out there. You are being watched. And if your comment is not satirical, hopefully responded to. Personally.

Long Love Affair with Lego

Most Perfect Lego

In Toy Stories, James Maybuilt a life-size house out of Lego. It was awesome. On the DVD of the TV series, he skulks around the basement storage of Lego HQ where there is a box set of every box set Lego has ever made. He pops open 1973 and shows this London Bus set, which he details as "the most perfect Lego set". Someone gave me this set in 1973.

I remember this set well as it accidently ended up at the pawn/second hand shop in Lobethal, South Australia. Being of a tender age, I had carefully packed my Lego with other items I thought were going on a trip. Nope: they were old items what we no longer needed. My treasured Lego bus was gone! Thankfully, some brave adult retrieved the bus. I remember the incident, and this kit well.

Saint Shenanigans


I was born a Protestant. I will more than likely die one, too. Intense excavation into family history has shown me that my genes are Protestant for at least 8 generations on both sides. Baptised and confirmed a Lutheran, I was taught a thing or two about the most successful (not the first) split from the Catholic Church by Martin Luther.

During public school mandated “religious education”, I was taught by the local Catholic Priest. He seemed nice enough; kindly taking us through the New Testament book Romans. It took many years for me to realise that this was an attempt at turning me from my heretic ways to the true canon. If I recall, he didn’t even use the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Yes, Peter and Paul: the fathers of the catholic church.

After travelling to Europe in 1997 and 2004, I saw enough Saints’ relics: shrunken heads, fingers, toenails and shrouds to last me a lifetime. Large cathedrals raised in the name of the Virgin or some Saint across the cities of Europe show the folly of man, attempting to reach for terrestrial god status. The veneration of Saints and other popery not only rubs me the wrong way: I am sure my ancestors turn in their collective graves.

So as Mary MacKillop has moved through the man-made process of canonisation within the Catholic Church, my genes quiver.

We hear that the church wants old and young to travel to Rome to witness the canonisation ceremony. That will fill the coffers of the Romans.

I also heard many discussions on the “brand” of Mary MacKillop being valuable. Like a product. Even our ABC both on radio and TV seems to have caught the “Mary MacKillop” fever. So much for editorial independence.

And that is exactly what this canonisation is about. Money. Never get in the way of a large corporation and money.

Luckily the Catholics re-admitted her to the church. Otherwise they would have missed out on their cash.

This tradition and hunger for money is not new. Sainthood and pilgrimages have created many a city in the world as supplicant masses crawl on their knees to assuage their mortal sins. Paying money for Indulgences, as done in the Middle Ages, and more recently with special visits to random virgin sightings.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not anti-personal faith.

But please separate Mammon from Mary. She was, and I highlight was, just a notable Australian woman who did more for the downtrodden than any group of Cardinals, Abbotts or Bishops ever did. And I would argue, ever will.