Just buy the CD, old man

Tickets for the Ben Harper concert have suffered from a similar fate as Belle & Sebastian:

The concert is on a “school night”
expensive at $79.95 plus booking fee
Stuff it, just buy the CD, old man.

(And wait to see if they schedule a second concert on a better night.)


Personal branding

Speaking of branding, what about personal branding, eg your name?

Perhaps in the western world it’s not really an issue for most men, though I was born Daniel Quinlem, changing to my mother’s maiden name, Bowen, when she divorced. I have the option of changing back, but don’t really want to, partly because it’s hard to spell, partly because it would be too much hassle, but mostly because I and countless others are used to it now. I wouldn’t pretend to be famous, but the brand of Daniel Bowen is established in the minds of friends, family, colleagues, past employers and others.

Mind you, I bet I could get if I wanted. (No way I could get, but I did get, and of course

How about if your name clashes with someone famous? There’s a Harry Potter who works for Channel 10 as a journalist. Less famous, there’s a Jonathan Creek at Channel 7. I know a Peter Parker.

For women getting married, the surname thing must be a quandry. At least in this day and age they can make the choice, I suppose, without incurring the wrath of the traditionalists. (At least, the wrath may be incurred, but ignored.) My sister stuck to her name when she got married. Rae switched hers when she got hitched. Some people will hyphenate. I hear some American women move their last name to the middle, and take the husband’s name as their last. No right or wrong answer, really.

Then you get the kids, and this is where the traditionalists really make the most noise, particularly if they’re of the view that they desperately want their name to survive into the next generation. It would seem that where the parents have different surnames, the kids slightly more often take the dad’s surname instead of the mum’s. Or where they hyphenate, dad’s name comes first.

Again, no right or wrong answers. Though I reckon hyphenation in some ways is just deferring a final decision to the next generation, who surely can’t keep hyphenating. My nephew is Leo Bonomi-Bowen… what happens if in twenty years he gets hitched to a Ms Baden-Powell? Kids called Bonomi-Bowen-Baden-Powell? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

(I suppose you can also count your haircut and clothes and other things as personal branding, but perhaps that’s a topic for another day.)

If Daniel was emperor of the world music

Number one

For a while earlier this month one of the hot email memes going around was a Number One In History web site, though it’s been taken offline now. Happily there’s another site which is online, and even better, it can tell you the number one hits in Australia, the USA and the UK.

Like many others I checked what song was number 1 (in the USA) on the day I was born. It was “War!” by Edwin Starr. Ah, now there’s a good, worthy hit record. I was so inspired by this that I invested A$1.69 and bought it off iTunes. (The Australian number 1 the week I was born was Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa”, which I have somewhere on an old S&G compilation CD.)

Sadly my kids’ birth week number ones are rather less inspiring. Jeremy’s was some sappy Celine Dion number (“My Heart Will Go On” — puke-o-rama). Isaac’s was Merril Bainbridge (“Mouth”), the name of whom is familiar, but I can’t place the tune. (And it’s not on iTunes.)

The site from the email was taken offline by request from Billboard, which owns the US chart data. They want people to pay for archived chart information. If I were in charge of the record industry had any brains, they’d put up an official free “Number 1 this week” archive web site with direct links into iTunes and other online music retailers so you could buy the song with a few clicks. Precisely this kind of thing is what iTunes is designed for.

But hey, a lot of stuff would be different if I ran the world.

Consumerism transport

The value of branding

I’m no marketing expert, but even I know that branding is a powerful and valuable thing. If you’ve got a well-established brand, you have to be careful if you tweak it or change it. As far as possible, you’d have to make the transition as smooth as possible, for your users/customers, including the once-a-year ones.

When I moved my diary from to, I used what in geek terms is an Redirect. Anybody who used the old URL would be forwarded across before they could blink. Search engines like Google and RSS aggregators would shift across automatically. A lot of people still haven’t updated their bookmarks and blogrolls. I could nag people to update, but it doesn’t really matter. Many probably didn’t really notice; the name of the blog stayed the same, as did the overall look. Easy transition.

National Australia Bank, after years of trying to avoid the obvious NAB acronym, have embraced it, with a friendly lowercase “nab” label next to their familiar star logo.

Commonwealth Bank are doing a lot of work on renovating their branches, many of them now looking completely different from how they did before. But the old familiar black and yellow, and chopped-off diamond logo is still there. They’re keeping their name, though they’re no longer owned by the Commonwealth Government.

Dick Smith sold out of Dick Smith Electronics back in 1982, but his name is still on the shop fronts, because it’s familiar and valuable to the new owners. As the company itself says: …when Woolworths bought out the company, it also bought the rights to the familiar black and yellow logo which incorporated the name and face of Dick Smith. Research showed that the public felt comfortable and secure with a company that had become one of Australia’s retail success stories. This is still true today which is why the face and name of Dick Smith is still strongly connected with the company.

When Telecom Australia became Telstra, they first changed just their logo and corporate colours but left the name alone. Then a couple of years later, when everyone was used to the new logo, they took on the Telstra name. That’s all remained in place for nearly 15 years now.

The message here is that if you have an established brand, it’s valuable. You don’t throw it away. If you really have to change it, then you move off it slowly, keep the most familiar bits. Allow time for people to get used to it.

Which is why the renaming of Spencer Street Station to Southern Cross Station is so stupid. Apart from the fact that the new name is meaningless (where the old one was meaningful), they’ve done the name change at the same time as the renovation.

So for any occasional users, there’s no link to the past. Their train arrives there, and they have no idea where they are because the name has changed and it looks completely different. The old name had been in place since 1861. That’s a lot of valuable branding they’ve purposefully thrown out the window.

But it should be no surprise — these are the same people who have presided over my local train line being run by The Met / Bayside Trains / M>Train / Connex, all in the past 10 years.

News and events Sport

Bye bye Games

Bye bye to the Commonwealth Games.

I’m not normally that enthused by sport, but going to see the athletics at the MCG enthused me somewhat. I also saw the big fish thingies on the Yarra on Friday night, and enjoyed wandering amongst the big crowds. I watched some of the TV coverage, and noted that there were possibly only two sports that I could not even attempt without risking immediate and serious injury to myself: gymnastics and diving.

Two thirds of the team from Sierra Leone have gone missing, presumably wanting to stay in Australia. Anyone would think they didn’t want to go back to their war-ravaged poverty-stricken country.

Anything to escape the sight of 1000 Dame Ednas, I suppose. Jeez, gimme a break.

Ah well, the Games have finished now.

For just ten days there were heaps of people roaming the streets with huge Games ID tags with undecipherable acronyms written on them.

For just ten days you could catch a train after 7pm without waiting for half an hour, and a bus home from the station in the evening. Barely a single cancellation in that time, yet this morning the old familiar beep beep of an SMS train cancellation alert was back.

For just ten days, some of the world’s best athletes were wandering around town. Some of the Canadian team on Friday were intrigued enough to explore the esoteric and exotic realm of TieRack in Collins Street. Earlier I observed one of the Botswanan team chomp down a burger. (Hopefully it was after his event.)

For just ten days, you could blame anything that went wrong on The Games.

For just ten days, no matter how crowded the streets were, or how long it took to get anywhere, everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

Now it’s all over. I think I’ll miss it.

Consumerism Home life


When I was growing up, we always used Redhead matches, made at the Bryant and May factory in Richmond. I don’t honestly know back then if there were any other brand matches available. Manufacturing has gone to Sweden (half-surprised they haven’t been renamed “Blondes”) but I’ve kept buying them.

I think the quality is dropping markedly. I’m sure it used to be easy to strike a match and get a flame. These days half the time I get a spark but nothing else. I’ll try 3-4 times then chuck it away and grab another. Or I get a match that is ludicrously thin and snaps in my fingers. Should I switch to lighting the stove with a lighter, or a different brand of matches?

Melbourne Photos


Spotted last Friday night:

Man on rollerblades being pulled by dogs

Well, it’s one way through the traffic. He got up to a fair speed zooming down Elizabeth Street, too.


The pros and cons of savings plans

Years ago an Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) fund was established for the kids. It seemed reasonably convincing at the time; that you’d put in a bunch of money each month and it would accrue interest and pay out when they went to uni, to pay for their expenses.

But after some years in it, I’m no longer totally convinced of its benefits, and I’ve stopped it and withdrawn the money. There are some issues with it, at least in my view:

  • The return isn’t very good. You could put the money into a high interest account and get a better return. Which is what I’ve decided to do.
  • It makes assumptions about what the kids will do, and what they’ll need for their education. While I could reasonable assume that my kids will work their way through high school, and then into university, some kids don’t. They might need specific education expenses sooner than uni. (School costs a fair whack too. As it happens the plan is my kids will be in a couple of good quality government schools, but even they don’t come cheap.)
  • It (partially) locks up the money until they’re starting tertiary education, when me, the poor suffering paying parent, might be able to use it more effectively right now.

Certainly ASG has benefits. The primary one seems to be that it’s a pledge to put away a bit of money each month for future use in your kids’ education. It gets paid by “set and forget” direct-debit every month, which makes it easy to pile the money up. And it seems to work very well for a lot of people… but not me, I’ve decided.

This is not the only area of my finances I’ve been considering. With private health insurance premiums jumping yet again, I’m pondering (a) cutting my insurance back to the minimum to not incur the government tax surcharge (which is the only reason I joined) and/or (b) self-insuring (though it appears not many people do this in Australia for personal health insurance, so I don’t know how successful it would be.)

driving Melbourne News and events

Delays expected – Blame the games

Blame the Games

Okay okay, it hasn’t really been that bad. But I had to laugh when seeing about five of these signs in a row going up St Kilda Road the other week. One really did say “Avoid inner suburbs.”

See also:

(Note March 2016: originally this was a Flash animation – it has been remade as an animated GIF.)


Tropical cyclone Larry

Amidst the awfulness of the impact of Topical Tropical Cyclone Larry, one of the side effects will be the impact on bananas. Apparently about 80% of the crop has been wiped out, perhaps causing prices to double, and a dire shortage expected for the next 9-12 months.

In my family we chomp our way through an enormous number of bananas every week. On a typical weekday, the three of us take one each to work/school, and they often get distributed liberally in the breakfast cereal, on icecream for dessert, and in the evening serve of fruit (generally accompanied by apple and sultanas).

Any that go mushy before being eaten end up being made into banana shakes. By my calculations the typical banana consumption could well be 20 or more per week. It might be time to diversify.

Given the seriousness of the storm, we should be grateful, of course, that the only impact is a rise in the price of fruit.