The actions that define culture are rarely deliberate. Culture is, in many ways, an accumulation of accidents, small gestures and stumbles that somehow end up sticking together like a giant snowball rolling down a hill. Every successful band has the moment when they almost gave up just before their breakthrough; every artistic movement has its rejections, arguments, and fistfights; every book has a graveyard of characters and scenes that were killed to make way for the story. The end result may look neat — libraries of books ordered alphabetically, artworks organized into linear chronologies — but the process of making culture is anything but. - Matt Locke ‘The Hot List: The Rise and Fall of the Singles Chart’

I was recently inspired to read Clinton Walker’s Stranded – The Secret History Of Australian Independent Music by the deaths of Ken West and Chris Bailey. Over the years I have watched various music documentaries exploring Australian music over the years, including Autoluminescent, Something In the Water), Midnight Oil 1984 and The Go-Betweens: Right Here, as well as listened to Damian Cowell’s Only The Shit You Love podcast and Double J’s series on the Big Day Out. However, it occurred to me that although I might have heard many of the names, my understanding of the history of Australian independent music is rather patchy.

My introduction in the 90’s to artists like Tex Perkins, Dave Graney and TISM primarily came via Triple J, Rage and the annual ARIA awards. Although there were programs like The J Files which would provide some of the back stories to artists and their music, for whatever reason, I do not remember these retrospectives addressing the history. For example, it would seem that Perkins giving the bird to Scott Morrison was pretty timid to some of the things he did in the past.

Walker’s book provides something of a ‘thick description‘ of the Australian music scene between 1972 – 1992, the bedrock of much of the music I grew up with.

It took time before my analysis of grunge came together, before I could see what had been under my nose all along—that its roots were Australian as much as anything! That’s perhaps why it never did much for me, because I’d sort of heard it all already. Grunge, the defining Sub Pop/Seattle Sound of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, was basically the sound of Australia’s ’80s underground—the Scientists, the Cosmic Psychos, even the Birthday Party, and bands like Feedtime, Grong Grong, Lubricated Goat and Bloodloss—mixed up with classic early metal, classic early punk and, I’d now add, AC/DC and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.

Not only was Walker there for much of it, but he was a part of it as well.

Stranded is, for better or worse, simply my version of a history.

It goes beyond the world of Countdown, Farnsey and Barnsey, Michael Gudinski and the pub rock scene. Instead, it captures the rise of bands such as The Birthday Party, The Saints, The Triffids, The Hard Ons, The Beasts of Bourbon and The Go-Betweens. As well as the many other bands and artists who seemingly came and went.

Some of things that stood out to me were:

  1. How fluid, volatile and connected tge scene seemed to be. Often one band would demise only to have members pop-up in another band, if they were not already in more than one band.
  2. Hearing some of this music was incredibly hard. Whereas these days we might go online to listen or purchase new music, finding some of these pressings would have involved going to a handful of niche record stores.
  3. Place of covers. With so many bands forming on a whim, covers seem to play an important role in filling out a set or helping to define a bands sound. I feel that Walker’s latest book, Suburban Songbook, might have more to say on this.
  4. How many moving parts there were and are. It can be easy to think that success is all just about the music, but there are so many other parts at play. Whether it be the labels, the record stores, the local radio stations, the magazines, the venues, the promoters, the managers, the producers. Each play their own particular part in the rise and fall.

What amazes me about this book is that Walker was able to remember what he did. As he posits:

They say that if you remember the ’60s you can’t have been there. So much about the ’80s I can’t remember either. My journalism brings a lot back; I can’t help wondering if the rest isn’t best forgotten.

I guess the task of remembering is often ruefully aided with snipets from the artists in question that help provide further perspective and fill out some of the gaps.

There is so much more that I would love to know. This was the feeling I had after listening to Damian Cowell too. However, as Walker suggests, maybe sometimes it is best left forgotten.

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"Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return." Milan Kundera - Ignorance

Although a little late, here is the music that soundtracked 2021 for me and how it kept me surprised.

Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land – Marina

I always love serendipitous discoveries. Bored one day, I created a set of arbitrary rules on Spotify to decide what I would listen to. It was something like clicking on the fifth artist in the ‘Fans Also Liked’ three times. Doing this, I came upon Muna’s remix of Marina’s track Man’s World and I went from there.

I feel like this album has a bit of everything. There are aspects of slick pop production, balanced with a mix of punk, all done with a touch of melodrama. Overall, it is shouty without actually shouting. As Damian Morris explains:

Anti-misogyny manifesto pop could easily become clumsy and overwrought, but the joy Marina invests into her mannered, quasi-operatic delivery makes sedition sound seductive.

Sixty Summers – Julia Stone

It is interesting how there are some artists that you overlook because you presume you already know what they are about only to discover a whole other side that you were unaware of. In 2020 it was Sufjan Stevens, while in 2021 it was Julia Stone.

It is easy to imagine another version of Sixty Summers at the hand of somebody like Stuart Price. Although it always threatens, it is always held back. Whether it be the tempo or the particular mix. Overall, I really liked the delicate and sparse nature of this album. In part this is a product of Stone’s voice, but I also feel it is result of Thomas Bartlett and Annie Clark production.

Deep States – TFS

There is a quote from Peter Goldsworthy that I come back to again and again, “cartoon descriptions, how else to describe a cartoon world.” I think that there is something to be said about TFS being the soundtrack for the current crisis. As Gareth Liddiard suggests, maybe the world has just caught up with a perspective they have been plying for years.

“With TFS, I think the world just caught up to our thing. We’ve been plying our trade for years and I think the world has finally become as anxious and neurotic as we’ve always sounded,” says Liddiard.

I must admit, there are times when I listen to TFS and I just feel kind of stupid for not following all the references littered within the music. Maybe that it how it is meant to be, not sure. Overall though there is something compelling about it that just keeps me there. There are moments where the clouds clear and clarity shines through, such as in GAFF.

I’ll take the wages of sin over the minimum wage I’d blow myself up too, man, it’s been one of them days But I’m not a kamikaze, I don’t wanna die a martyr I’m just looking for a latte and a fucking phone charger

Divine Intervention – Client Liaison

I remember seeing Client Liaison perform for the first time for ABC’s New Years Eve This Night is Yours concert. One cannot help be transfixed. Are they for real? I guess artifice comes in many shapes and sizes.

Divine Intervention is an album in search of higher power. There is something about their slick sound that leaves me both full and yet wanting more. In some ways, just as Roger and Brian Eno’s album felt like the perfect album for the start of the pandemic and the world wide lockdown, Divine Intervention seems the right album to shake out the blues and get out on the dancefloor again and the new normal, even if that dancefloor still may be alone in a kitchen with headphones.

Only the Shit You Love – Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine

Damian Cowell has a knack of taking a morsel of an idea to its nth degree. In the age where bands release a series of singles prior to the album launch, Cowell took this a step further releasing his who album on a weekly basis as a YouTube series, until finally release the album as a whole.

Only the Shit You Love is a snapshot of the modern world.

The modern world, product placement, continuous improvement, the culture of engagement, the diminution of language, the moronisation of television, imposter syndrome, subjectivity, my career demise, the heard instinct, popularism, the death of reason, nostalgia, love, lose, tolerance and friendship.

As always, it contains Cowell’s usual witty observations on the world. However, one of the changes to the first two Disco Machine albums was exploration of different dynamics and tempos. The usual upbeat tracks are still present, but they are contrasted by a number of slower numbers. Overall, coupled with a weekly podcast, this album was the perfect ailment for what felt like a perpetual lock-down.

One of the things that music offered me in 2021 was a sense of surprise. With so much of life in lockdown somewhat mundane, these albums each in their own was offered something new, unexpected and seemingly novel.

So what about you? What albums soundtracked your 2021? Were there any themes that tied things together? As always, comments welcome.

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We've got the facts, but everybody's guessing We're being schooled, I think this pandemic is trying to teach us all a lesson Who knows, it could be a mixed blessing Ladies and gents, stop your engines Here's Cheers to the End of the World - Twinkle Digitz

Inspired by Kath Murdoch, I have long had an approach of selecting one word as a focus for the year. Last year, my word was ‘ideas‘. I think I had the idea that I would dig into different ideas. I started off reading Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy. Although this started many threads, life got in the way to tying any of them together. The year subsequently became a collection of beginnings:

Once you start grasping how deeply we are products of our time, you can almost invert the idea of genius. Maybe the genius isn’t so much in the inventor as in the age. When an idea’s time is ripe, maybe that idea is just gonna happen: The voltage is so strong it’ll course through several different people at once.
It’s great starting a project when you’re limited to these instruments and limited to this scale, and you’re working out what can you do with it rather than just, you know, everything being possible. I like to know what I can’t do and then work inside that.

In Graeber’s classroom, such questions of status had little weight. Even the big-name theorists he discussed — in Graeber’s telling, “they were just dudes,” said Durba Chattaraj. One of his Ph.D. students at Yale, she remembers lectures speckled with the personal foibles of the greats. Apart from the entertainment value, there was a message: These thinkers “were smart, but they were doing something that anybody can do if they read enough and think hard enough, which is creating theories about the world around you.”

The vaccine against monoculture is tolerance.
Many think of punk as a style or a category or a thing, but it’s much more interesting if you think of it as a process, a way of doing things, a disposition, a spirit.
CP: What always saves me is that someone will tell me a story, and I’ll spin this other story as a way of escaping that pain. No drug has ever got me as high as a good idea. You get that idea and, oh my gosh, you’ve got nothing else. You don’t need oxygen. That idea is meth. You don’t need sleep and you don’t need food. Because that idea is going to run you for a year. That little idea is your armor and it’s your savior. BLVR: I get that. The little idea is better than drugs because it has an engine.
Art, by definition, is artifice. It’s fake. It’s not “real” in the sense that a sunset is real, or a trout or a pomegranate. Art is a work crafted with calculation, forethought, and skill to create either the simulacrum of something real (a painting of a sunset, say) or to express an insight into, or attempt to bring order out of, nature or the experience of life.
There are endless arguments to be had when new ideas arrive. The challenge is in being clear that we’re about to take a side, and to do it on the effects, not on our emotional connection to the change that’s involved.
Whenever you are out of ideas, there’s someone, somewhere, with bad ideas that need to be corrected. But you don’t necessarily have to talk about the bad ideas, or take them on directly, you can just articulate the good ideas that cancel them out.
Feedback is oxygen for your ideas. It will help them grow and get stronger, starved of it, and your ideas weaken.
Those of us back here in reality must work together to enact a Gentle Awakening for our friends and loved ones who have gotten addicted to this video game. There is no man behind the curtain, no secret cabal controlling our destinies, no marvelous or nefarious plan driving Covid, vote counting, or global affairs. They need to awaken to something way way more frightening than politicians eating children: shit just happens, no one is in charge, and chaos reigns. There really is no scapegoat — never was. The only way through is to find ways of coming together, instead. One step, and one day at a time.
This sets pragmatic genealogies apart from evolutionary psychology’s conjectural depictions of hominin life in the Pleistocene. Pragmatic genealogies prove themselves not through the detailed accuracy with which they depict the actual historical development of our concepts, but through the way in which they help us grasp connections between our practical needs and our concepts. Imagine having to explain to an alien why your car has the shape it does. Instead of painstakingly walking the alien through the stages of the assembly line on which the car was actually constructed, you could explain how its shape answers to a combination of practical needs: the need to move from A to B, the need to stay warm and dry, the need to steer and brake, the need to have a good view of your surroundings, the need to see and be seen in the dark, etc. The best way to show how the car’s shape is responsive to our needs isn’t to work through the distractingly intricate causal process through which the car was actually constructed, but to reconstruct the car’s shape as a response to a series of needs – perhaps through a narrative or an animation showing how, if we start from some primitive shape and successively warp it to meet a series of needs, we end up with something recognisably car-like. The State of Nature does the same to help us understand the shape of our concepts and their relation to our needs. It offers us an idealised, uncluttered model that we can tailor to our interests and tinker with in our imagination.
Ideas only travel as far as the minds ready and willing to take them in.
One way to define our identity is to fall in love with an idea (often one that was handed to us by a chosen authority). Another is to refuse to believe our identity is embodied in an idea, and instead embrace a method for continually finding and improving our ideas.
Here is an idea I love that may or may not be true: Some books have a centripetal force— they suck you in from other books. Some books have a centrifugal forcethey spin you out to other books.

In the end, I actually ended up committing myself to a return to reading (or listening to books). In part for ideas, but really for solace.

Therefore, having felt like 2021 was something of a right-off in regards to achieving my own desired outcomes, I was not sure about 2022.  Like Austin Kleon, I feel dormant. I therefore thought having a focus was not a priority. I thought then that instead of having a word with particular outcomes perceived, I would instead return to a meditation on a theme or topic.

One of the strange things about the current malaise is that I feel like I both have too much time to think and too little time to do anything. Listening to Damian Cowell’s podcast associated with his album involving diving into his early years, I was led down my own rabbit hole. Associated with this, I started reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. This only furthered my reflections on the past. I therefore decided that my word for 2022 would be memories.

Whether it be reading more memoirs, such as Tony Martin’s Lolly Scramble, writing reflections of my own, such as my post on Changing Tracks, or simply diving into the idea of memories in general. I am going to dedicate this year to letting go of setting stringent expectations on myself and commit myself to letting my mind just wonder. Start often, finish rarely?

So what about you? Have you got a word or any thoughts on memory. As always, comments welcome.

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I’m not a programmer so I have to find ways to get things done until I learn more. Tom Woodward ‘Text Acrobatics in Google Spreadsheets’

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about how to improve my processes. Here is another example.

I was recently asked to review the setup of a number of schools that I am a part of supporting. At the moment there are nearly three hundred schools. Once upon a time when there were only fifty or so schools. Back then, such a task was tedious, but not that time consuming. However, as the numbers increase, such reviews start to become a cumbersome affair.

The focus of my analysis was understanding the rollover rules for each semester. This started with the creation of a unique list of all the schools in the data set using the UNIQUE formula. With this list, I also created an additional number column in which I numbered each school. I then used a VLOOKUP to add this information to the data so that I could visually break-up the data using conditional formatting with the custom formula.


For the next step, I created a data validation to help categorise what sort of setup a school had. In addition to this, I created a data validation for the issues column produced from the column itself. To do this I created a separate UNIQUE column, summarising all the issues. I then referenced the UNIQUE column and simply chose ‘show warning’ for an invalid responses. This way, if there was an issue I had previously entered, I simply selected them from the dropdown list.

Once complete, I created a series of queries MATCHED with the various issues and then used a JOIN to summarise all the schools associated with each issue in one cell:

=ARRAYFORMULA(JOIN(", ",TRANSPOSE(QUERY(A3:J202,"SELECT A WHERE J matches '.*Description of the issue.*'"))))

On reflection, I wondered how I could cut down on this manual process. My intent was to create a template in which I could load the raw data and then have it broken down for me using formulas.

After spending a lot of time trying to reverse engineer the output I wanted using various IF, FILTER and UNIQUE formulas, I realised that rather than trying to embed everything in one formula, I maybe better suited in creating an additional table to help further organise the data.

The first step was to pull the data into this helper table using a QUERY. This means that once loading external data into sheet1 (the default first sheet), I just needed to refresh the query for everything to work.

In addition to this, I created a unique reference for each line by joining together the different pieces of information associated with each line to make a unique reference.


In a new tab, I put together an analysis of the schools. I started this by generating a UNIQUE list of all the schools.


Using this data as a reference, I then created a query for each school, joining the different rollover rules together.

=(JOIN("|",QUERY(DATA!A$2:I,"SELECT I WHERE A = '"&A2&"'")))

I then used this data to produce a summary of the data. This began with a UNIQUE list of combined rollover rules.


Using this as a reference, I queried all the schools with the same rule and joined this data together.


I also created another columns in which I used a SWITCH formula to describe each of the sets of rules in a more meaningful manner beginning with a category: “standard”, “two semesters” and “needs to be fixed”. Associated with this, I created a column which pulled this category and then used this information to create a series of conditional formulas in order to visually differentiate the different setups.

For anyone interested, a copy of the template can be found here.

After completing this exercise, I have found that I can easily adjust this template for any other data I wish to analysis quickly. It is also testament to the power of making your own tools. I am left wondering if I could use macros or scripts to improve the process, but for now my formulas all duct taped together is working for me. As Tom Woodward sums up:

I’m not a programmer so I have to find ways to get things done until I learn more.

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If you’re trying to understand complex formulas, peel the layers back until you reach the core (which is hopefully a function you understand!). Then, build it back up in steps to get back to the full formula. Ben Collins ‘Use The Onion Framework To Approach Complex Formulas’

I was recently asked to have a look at spreadsheet that listed all the guides and videos located in a support folder as a reference. This folder also included a number of folders within folders, which created a level of complexity.

The current workflow involved using an Add-on File Cabinet from the developers behind Awesome Table to generate a list. The problem with this list is that the exported data was not in the desired format. Whereas the output focused on file, folder and link, the list produced using File Cabinet included other information such as owner, creation date and file size. In addition to that, there were some folders and files listed that needed to be removed. Therefore, it had become manual heavy exercise to refresh the data and update the directory meaning it did not happen that regularly.

After looking at the list and the current finished product and the list produced using File Cabinet, I realised that rather than displaying the sub-folder, that the directory was showing a top level folder. Therefore to manage this, I used a SWITCH formula to create a new column updating the folder name to the overall area it belonged to.

To create the SWITCH, I created a UNIQUE list of all the folders and then pasted them as values so that I could delete those not required to be displayed in the directory. After culling the list, I then added the area in the cell next to each folder. Once I had these two columns complete, I used this formula to add quotation marks to them all:


I then copied this list into the SWITCH formula and added in the commas:

" EOY 2020","EOY",
"Absences and Attendances","eSIS",
"Class Maintenance","eSIS",
"Crystal Reports","eSIS",
"eSIS - Information Sheets","eSIS",
"eSIS Navigation-Overviews","eSIS",
"General _ Misc","eSIS",
"Managing Community","eSIS",
"Managing Student Lifecycle","eSIS",
"Staff Maintenance","eSIS",
"Student Medical Maintenance","eSIS",
"eLearn General ","eLearn",
"eLearn QRGs","eLearn",
"Accounts Payable","eFIN",
"Create New Staff","eHR",
"eHR - General","eHR",
"eHR Materials","eHR",
"Employee Self Service","eHR",
"Employee Self Service (ESS)","eHR",
"End of Year 2020 - eHR & Payroll Guide","eHR",
"ICON General Information","General Information",
""," "

With this addition column, I then used a QUERY to capture the title, area and link to present as a directory in a separate spreadsheet to share with a wider audience:


Ideally, if creating this solution from scratch, I would probably have started each folder with a prefix indicating which area it belonged to, therefore avoiding the need for the SWITCH formula. However, that horse had long bolted. I also like the idea of using the SWITCH formula to manage which folders are displayed. It is definitely easier to pass on to somebody else.

I feel that it would be plausible to find a different script (see for example these examples from Alice Keeler, mesgarpour and Spreedsheet Dev) that might do some other things, such as run the process as a cron job or pull only the desired data. However, that is beyond my current skillset and patience level to dig any further at this point.. Therefore, I will stick to using various formulas to filter out the data for me.

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I am blood in the streets, the catastrophe you can never forget. I am the tide running under the world that no one sees or feels. I happen in the present but am told only in the future, and then they think they speak of the past, but really they are always speaking about the present. I do not exist and yet I am everything. You know what I am. I am History. Now make me good.

There are some novels where you get to the end and are left thinking more about yourself and the world you live in than the actual plot of the story or the characters. The Ministry for the Future is one of those novels. Kim Stanley Robinson imagines how we might save ourselves and the planet from the perils of global warming. This is not a blueprint with all the answers laid out neatly, but rather a provocation that asks many questions that need to be considered.

The story itself is loosely tied together by Mary Murphy, head of the UN Ministry for the Future, a group set up in accordance with Article 14 of the Paris Agreement.

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement shall keep under regular review the implementation of this Agreement and shall make, within its mandate, the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation. It shall perform the functions assigned to it by this Agreement and shall: (a) Establish such subsidiary bodies as deemed necessary for the implementation of this Agreement

It follows her journey in putting in place a number of steps and strategies to turn the tide on climate change. Associated with this is Murphy’s relationship with Frank May, a survivor from the extreme heatwave in Uttar Pradesh, the event which dictates the necessity for change. 

However, The Ministry for the Future is really a bricolage of many different voices captured through various texts, whether it be riddles, meeting notes, interviews and accounts. A kind of docudrama. These all combine to provide different perspectives for how things could get done. The reality confronted throughout is that global warming is bigger than a single person or a particular place. It is everywhere and a problem that never really settles. Something Timothy Morton has described elsewhere as a hyperobject.

Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects”—entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place.

In an interview on the Marooned! on Mars podcast, Robinson describes The Ministry for the Future as a novella between Frank and Mary with everything else hanging off it. Therefore, as a structure, it challenges the conventions of the realist novel as it can never really be folded into a particular character. Instead it provides a perspective about how things could get done collectively from a number of perspectives and voices.

In the end, The Ministry for the Future is an example of near-future anti-dystopian science fiction, what Robinson has described as a shot ahead of a moving object that is the ever present. It is therefore an urgent book for now. A piece of modal schizophrenia that challenges the reader to consider what is and what ought to be. It raises many questions about topics such as violence, sacrifice, wealth, responsibility and what is actually possible. This challenge not only comes through the content grappled, which even at the end of the novel nearing the year 2050, still seems present, but also through the structure of the writing, whether it be the use of riddles to aid in thinking and reflecting or the fractured nature of the narrative that requires the reader to fill in the gaps as they go. I guess this is why Barack Obama included it in his books for 2020?

For a different and shorter perspective on the novel and the challenge of global warming, Kim Stanley Robinson presented a TED video recounting the story from the year 2071.

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If I can't quite be my own good mother, Ill find one in music. Her name is Enya. Chilly Gonzales ‘Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures’

I have long been encapsulated by Chilly Gonzales and his ‘musical genius’. Whether it be his work with various artists, pop music masterclasses and minor christmas album, I have been enamoured with the way in which he manages to break music down to capture what is essential. I was therefore intrigued by a book on Enya.

I purchased the Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures in good faith with little idea what to expect. I thought it might be some sort of technical breakdown of Enya’s work. Although I am always interested in what Chilly Gonzales has to say about any sort of music, I was not sure how interesting an extended breakdown of Enya’s music would actually be. What I had not expected was the way in which Gozanales used Enya and her music as a frame for his own memoir on music.

It was almost a joke that rose up from my unconscious. But it was my way in. With Enya as a constraint, I could finally write a musical memoir, the very book the publisher had asked for years ago.

Fine Gonzalas spoke about the Enya’s lullaby quality, the guilt often associated with liking such music, her use of the pizzicato strings on the Roland D-50 synthesiser in lieu of a rhythm track and the way in which she has managed her career by continually say no. However, often these references are merely jumping off points for Gonzales to reflect upon his own memories and experiences with music. Whether it be the relationship between harmony and melody:

Harmony is melody’s bitch, with no life of it’s own.

His desire for music that can be both serious and drop into the background:

This is what my Enya book is about. This idea of music that sounds good while you eat or party or take a bath, versus music that you give your full attention to. And you guys are having the wrong argument. It’s not that all music falls into these two categories. The goal of music should be to function on both levels. It’s like with people.

Disdain for loud voices:

Vibrato is a bit like my formerly beloved jazz fusion: technically very difficult to learn but even more difficult to listen to. But to sign with no vibrato at ll, to let the music itself do the emotional work is the purist’s choice.

And his preference for the music over lyrics:

Wordlessness works for me. I was never a lyrics junkie outside of my affection for listening to rap. Rap lyrics are direct, playful and journalistic, standing in contrast to the impressionistic, poetic style of singer songwriters. With some exceptions I listen to music where the lyrics are in the passenger seat. No one really hears or cares what the Bee Gees are singing about, and I doubt that a single Bee Gee would even dispute that.

In some ways Gonzales’ reflection on Enya reminds me of Damian Cowell’s Only the Shit You Love podcast. Like Gonzalas’ constraint as a guide, Cowell uses his video series as a starting point from which to reflect upon music past and present. They are both musical memoirs of artists engaging in artifice. Maybe the real purpose of such texts is not to uncover the author but to provoke the reader (or listener) into considering their own thoughts and finding their own good mother in music.

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The challenge to me is to go beyond the question of instruction and understanding of different languages. Beyond debates about fitting it within an already crowded curriculum. Instead the focus should be on creating the conditions in which students are able to take action and create new possibilities. Maybe this involves Minecraft, Ozobot or Spheros, maybe it doesn’t. Most importantly it involves going beyond worrying about training or competency, as Ian Chunn would have it, and instead embracing the world of making by leading the learning. - Aaron Davis ‘Did Someone Say Coding?’

In my work, I recently had an issue with absence data where the system had generated some duplicate data. Short of creating an actual report within the system (which I neither have the time or access to do), I decided to have a go at creating a reusable template that I could easily share with anyone. The idea was to take the data and produce a number of specific outputs, including the duplicates and a specific set of ‘All Day’ duplicates.

I started the template by creating a spreadsheet with three tabs: Sheet2, DUPLICATES and ALLDAYDUPLICATES. Sheet2 contained a summary of the ID, event data, name, absence type and event type.


I then made a column of unique data by combining the ID and event date. To do this, I used Ben Collins’ trick using formulas in a named range as a means of capturing the variability of the data.


With IDS named range being:


and DATES named range being:


I then used the column of unique data to create a TRUE / FALSE column as to whether the absence might be a duplicate.


With the UNICON named range being:


I borrowed this formula in part from Collins who used something similar to use Conditional Formatting to highlight duplicates:


In the DUPLICATES tab, I created a QUERY that brought in the duplicates ordered by date


While in the ALLDAYDUPLICATES I created another QUERY which focused on ‘All Day Absences’


With all this in place, to query any data, I make a copy of the template. I then import the absence data exported from the external system. Although I could possibly copy and paste the data, I have found that this is fraught with dangers. In regards to the ‘Import Location’ I select Insert New Sheet(s). This then loads the new data into Sheet1. I then click on the formula in Sheet2!A1 and press enter to refresh the QUERY formula and populate the rest of the spreadsheet.

For those interested, a copy of the spreadsheet can be found here.

Growing up, I never really went deep into the world Microsoft Excel. It was not until exploring Google Sheets that I started appreciating the power and potentials. One of the consequences of this is that a lot of the habits that I have learnt are not applicable in reverse. For example, Ben Collins has a site discussing the power of moving from Excel to Google Sheets. This includes a discussion of IMPORT features and the QUERY function. However, there is nothing that I am aware of that goes the other way. I guess this is the nature of coding in general. Every language has its own set of affordances and we work within these constraints. What the situation has taught me though is that sometimes solving problems is about working with what is at hand. I guess the challenge is developing our box of tricks so that we do have something at hand. In some ways, this reminds me of something Amy Burvall once said:

“in order to connect dots, one must first have the dots”

So what about you? What small tools have you created to solve a particular problem? What are the strategies that you use to continually add to your toolbox so that you are always ready when a problem may arise? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.

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When I was doing a bit of coding every day, I found I could much more quickly grasp key concepts. But if I stopped for a few days or, every so often, a few weeks, when a crush of work in my day-job and a load of personal-life responsibilities arrived, it was like wiping the slate clean. I’d come back to work on a coding project and I’d have forgotten a shocking amount of basic stuff. Clive Thompson ‘Ten Lessons I Learned While Teaching Myself to Code’

The current pandemic has led to many changes in habits. One of which is that I like to be prepared when I go to the supermarket, especially when doing a big shop. Fine I may not last out the two to three weeks that Zeynep Tufekci flagged early on:

For food, you can just buy two or three weeks’ worth of shelf-stable food that you would eat anyway, and be done; this could include canned food like beans and vegetables, pasta, rice, cereals or oats, oils/fats, nuts and dried fruits. It’s really not that hard because we’re talking two-three weeks, so whatever you get is fine. It doesn’t have to be expensive or super healthy or specialized ready-to-eat meals in camo boxes guaranteed to survive the meteor strike! Rice, beans, salsa, ramen, some sort of cooking oil, oatmeal, nuts and dried or canned fruits and vegetables enough for two weeks can be had at relatively little cost and take up fairly little space.

However, I at least try and limit how often I go out. That is usually the intent of lockdown measures (Melbourne is currently in its fifth lockdown at the point of writing) used to hammer the virus. One strategy I have used is to be clear about what I might need at the shops split into different sections. As a part of this, I wrote out a list of essential items and have been using this to create the weekly shopping list. Today, I decided to have a go at turning this into a spreadsheet using Google Sheets that I could use to generate the list. Here then are my steps:

List of Items

I started by writing something of a complete list of items. Associated with this, I categorised each item in a separate column. To save from writing each category each time, I created a separate list of unique categories and then used this with data validation to create a dynamic drop-down list. This meant that if I added a new category it would then be added as an option. In a third column, I added a checkbox for each item to be used to produce the weekly list.

Switch the Category

Added to the category, I used the SWITCH formula to create a sort order.


Generating the Summary List

Once the items required were ticked, I wanted a summary that I could copy into a message. My initial iteration was a simple query: =QUERY(Sheet1!A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE D = TRUE ORDER BY A") The problem with this is that it did not put each item on a new line. To fix that, I used the JOIN function and the New Line character.


Although this put each item on a new line, I then wondered about adding an emoji for each section to break up the information. To do this, I combined the new line and emoji characters, with a separate query for each category.

=""&CHAR(129477)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 1 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(127822)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 2 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(129385)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 3 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(129472)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 4 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(127838)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 5 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(127851)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 6 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(129387)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 7 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(129482)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 8 and D = TRUE"))} &""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(10)&""&CHAR(129531)&""&CHAR(10)&""& {JOIN(CHAR(10),QUERY(A2:D,"SELECT C WHERE A = 9 and D = TRUE"))}

Resetting Selections

The last task was to add a script to reset the checkboxes. For this, I added a script via app scripts I found here and created a button as a trigger. You can make a copy of the whole spreadsheet here.

When it comes to coding, Clive Thompson talks about learning to code by doing something every day and doing so with purpose. Here is another example of a solution that is as much about learning as it is about the solution itself. Comments and recommendations on improvements welcome.

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If you have a stupid idea, or a hurtful idea, the solution is not to stop thinking. The decision is to have better thinking, better ideas. Kevin Kelly ‘On Why Technology Has a Will’

Reflecting on my year in space last year and my theme of ideas for the new year.

For a few years now, inspired by Kath Murdoch, I have been choosing a word to focus on each year. Last year I made a change, where rather than thinking about outcomes, I instead turned to inquiry.

Inspired by a few reflections, I wondered if maybe I was approaching it all the wrong way? Rather than having something with explicit or implied outcomes, maybe I needed a new approach, one focused on an open-ended concept? Although Kath Murdoch talks about nudging you along a path, maybe the nudge that matters most is an inquiring mind?

This is something that CGP Grey touches upon with the idea of a yearly theme that is ‘broad, directional and resonant’. Although this focus may not have a direct impact on my work and relationships, for me it helps keep me focused when life becomes so busy. Last year I explored space. After my focus on flânerie, I had wondered about the space that helps make such practices possible. I had a heap of books I intended to jump into, such as The Production of Space and Assemblage Theory. However, then the COVID-19 hit and ironically changed the space. Instead, my collected reflections seemed to became about online learning, remote work and social distancing. Still thinking about some of these things, I felt that an interesting theme to dwell on was the notion of ideas. Here then are some of my initial thoughts:

  • History of ideas: How are ideas developed over time?
  • Ideas in space and time: What is the impact of context on ideas?
  • Bad ideas, good ideas and the way ideas produce other ideas: What is the difference between good and bad?
  • Musical ideas: What does it mean to have an original idea in music?
  • Assemblages and ideas: What is an idea and how does this differ from an assemblage?
  • Creating the space for ideas to fester: What are the conditions required for ideas to prosper?
  • Ideas and manifestos: What is the difference between an idea and an ideal?

So my journey continues from capacity to communication to intent to flânerie to space to ideas. Appreciate any thoughts or ideas about resources on the theme of ideas.

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