I wish you would…
My new favourite cover, here’s Chvrches with their cover of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ originally by Arctic Monkeys:
Also, you pretty much need one in this modern day and age. So… congratulations!
I will now attempt to impart some slightly less sarcastic and slightly more helpful advice on the topic of websites.
Actually first I’m getting a drink because I definitely need booze for this. Also a sexy soundtrack. Probably something with dirty guitar, because dirty guitars are pretty slutty and we are talking about websites after all. Websites are total sluts.
I think Band of Skulls is a good choice. Play Bruises if you feel like listening along.
Alright, I’ve got whisky and dirty, slutty guitars. The world’s slightly better.
Ok, the first thing you need to understand about websites is the same first thing you need to understand about writing or producing or editing or DSing a cycling team or being a road captain or any fucking thing where you make decisions. You have to be willing to:
Kill your darlings.
Your favourite idea? Gotta be willing to kill it. The part of the whole thing you like the most? Kill it. Your firstborn child? Kill it. That hot barista who eyefucks you so good in the mornings AND gives you extra coffee for free? Kill it.
I mean, only if it’s not working. If it’s working totally keep it. But the point is that it’s all just one big fucking experiment anyway so what works now probably won’t work in 2 years and you’ll need to change shit, so don’t get too attached to anything anyway. Treat every component like a character in Game of Thrones. You’re never sure which one it’ll be, but you know for a fact that one of these fuckers is going to die any second now…
Basically you need to be George and not JK.
But it’s not all bad news! Just because you and your website isn’t a happily-ever-after love story doesn’t mean there isn’t anything in it for you!
So the most important thing for you to work out is what the purpose of the website is.
Ideally you can distill this down into one clear goal for yourself.The answer can be all sorts of things, but it’s important to get this idea as specific and precise as you can because it will determine the type of website you need and what you need it to be able to do.
Some people want profile/professional bio type websites which explain who they are and what they do, often with a personal blog attached so they have somewhere easy to update.
That’s broadly the kind of website you showed me as an example today, although I’d argue that’s a perfect example of a messy and confused website. I couldn’t tell if I was meant to get news and updates, offer her work or look up election results on that site. Which is sort of ok because there was no clear call-to-action pointing me to a button to click or a latest update or anything anyway. It was just a mess of visual noise.
I’d heartily recommend you try to avoid the visual noise approach.
At a guess (and it really is a guess) based on some of our recent conversations I think you might want to explore something that partly profiles you but also gives you a chance to develop and build an audience for your writing. I’m (still) guessing that you are hoping to work towards creating a bit of a following for the kinds of stories (interviews and profiles?) that you want to tell yourself, without having to rely on commissioning editors who are as likely to steal your idea and let someone else write it for free as they are to actually offer you money for your work. But sometimes I’m cynical so that could be a really shitty guess.
So anyway, IF that is the kind of site you’d like to build then here’s my suggestion on the best way to do it.
Make it mostly a blog.
If the goal is to build a profile as a writer then put your writing front and centre. Choose a WordPress theme that is primarily about blogging. You can still publish photos and stuff in a blog, but make the writing the first thing people see when they hit the site.
WordPress has some really nice, classy and evocative themes…
Obviously in addition to the blog you’ll want/need to build out a bio page. I’d suggest two actually. The most important page is your current bio. Sort of a digital CV/About page. Keep it to no more than one typed page of info, but include a bit of history as well.
The second bio page would be a more formal history of your sporting career (if you wanted, but I’d recommend including highlights, some nice photos and stuff – people like that sort of shit and it probably helps the SEO too).
And, at least to start with, I’d keep it restricted to that. The beautiful thing is that you can always add more shit to a website later, but there’s no need to load it up now. I would definitely recommend avoiding putting in huge photo galleries. It’s unnecessary and time consuming and not really relevant to your purpose (unless your purpose is to put all your photos online, in which case may I suggest you get a flickr account instead? It’s much easier).
So yeah, I hope that all makes sense and is at least a little bit helpful (or entertaining). The main point is to keep the purpose simple and as much as possible make everything on the site serve that purpose. Also, that helps reduce the amount of details you need to stress about and stuff like that.
Most importantly, remember that you always have options. So don’t get stressed out. There’s always a viable alternative.
Look, there’s a reason elections only come around every few years. Actually, there’s several reasons.
- They’re annoying
- They’re full of politicians
- People feel the need to express their “opinions” on everything (yes, the hypocritical irony is intentional, why do you ask?)
- They’re expensive
- They interfere with whatever your preferred type of sportball is
So in September we had a federal election and I think it’s fair to say that it was the shittiest election in my lifetime. Basically Australia was faced with two terrible choices. Despite a successful legislative record including reasonable fiscal management during the global financial crisis, Julia Gillard was wildly unpopular. This was in no small part due to Kevin Rudd’s actively undermining her Prime Ministership at every opportunity, but was also significantly helped by the coalition’s sustained and personal vitriol directed at Ms Gillard, mostly because she happened to be a woman.
In fact, the most popular method of referring to her by the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott (now Prime Minister), was not to employ the traditional use of the title Prime Minister, but instead to simply refer to her over and over again as “that woman”. Anyone who doesn’t see that for the sexist and deliberately dehumanising effort that it is, is an idiot.
At the same time, despite being a very successful opposition leader (particularly in terms of making the government of the day unpopular, and in opposing literally everything the government sought to do), Abbott himself enjoyed no love in the electorate. In fact, polling showed that while the coalition was clearly the preferred government, Abbott often had approval ratings matching those of Gillard.
Even when he wasn’t the ostensible leader of the country, nobody liked him.
There are plenty of great reasons to dislike Abbott. For a start he was Howard’s go-to pitbull and preferred attack dog when the coalition was last in power. It’s an important political role, but it rarely ingratiates the said attack dog to the public. (Which is perhaps the only thing to be grateful for in terms of the deplorable Christopher Pyne now taking on that role – the best thing I can say about Pyne is that he’s clearly mindless enough for the job).
As opposition leader, Abbott remained largely unchanged. Still an aggressive, bullying man who believed absolutely in his entitlement and was furious at a world that refused to allow him to tell it what to do. It turns out this has been the measure of the man since his university days and so it’s understandable that these character traits would carry forward.
While in opposition Abbott also revealed himself to be morally flexible in the way that people are suspicious all politicians might be, only interested in what’s polling well with no real moral conviction. His sole measure of value was if a policy would win votes. So he changed his position on climate change, dangerously and recklessly and deliberately muddying the waters and denying science as it no longer served his political purposes. He set the country back 20 years in its movement towards the future on that one issue alone.
Investment and research in alternative power systems and technologies dwindled, the political will for tangible action on improving the health of our country dissipated and we are all going to suffer for the next decade at least as a result of this one man’s callow selfishness.
Not to mention the inhuman escalation of responses (from both major parties) to the “crisis” of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia. This is simply a cold-war style race to be the most racist party in Australia by demonising and vilifying literally the most vulnerable and desperate people in the world. At the moment the coalition is definitely winning the contest to claim the title of most racist. Hoo-fucking-ray.
Oh, I may have been unfair. There is one policy issue on which Abbott seems to maintain consistency and operate from a conscience-driven motivation. That’s on denying women access to healthcare and freedom of choice over their bodies when they’re pregnant. He’s anti-abortion (let’s not fall into the trap of saying he’s pro-life, anyone with his asylum seeker policies is most definitely not pro-life) and vehemently so. Although, he doesn’t make a fuss of it, because he knows it’s wildly unpopular and wouldn’t do him any political advantage. So, on at least one issue, Tony does have a conscience. I wonder how his wife and “hot” daughters feel about their dad wanting to tell them what to do with their bodies. Maybe they’re used to it?
And all of this shit is before the fucker got elected. It’s only worse now.
He’s scrapping taxes left and right, while simultaneously claiming that we’re carrying too much national debt (we’re not, we’re carrying about the right amount, arguably we’re slightly low as a percentage of GDP) and that we need to tighten the purse strings. Of course, tax breaks go first to those who least need them… the wealthy. On top of which, he’s signalled that he wants to sell everything off, because that’s what conservative governments love to do. Sell public goods to private companies (mates) who then run them into the ground and declare them bankrupt (while amassing personal fortunes) before the government bails them out yet again.
Now they’re trying to (again) remove funding from public schools to over-subsidise wealthy private schools, because if there’s one group of people the coalition hates almost as much as asylum seekers, it’s “poors” who believe they deserve an education.
And don’t get me started on the motherfucking NBN. Not only have they sold us down the river by refusing to upgrade the infrastructural network with the patently false argument that free-markets will update according to demand (Telstra haven’t updated shit in 30+ years despite constant demand, instead quite understandably exploiting their monopoly to fuck everyone in the country repeatedly). But they’ve also announced a confusing mixed-bag of hopelessly inadequate technologies in its place that won’t deliver even a tenth of the speed of a true network. On top of that, they’re now falling short of their own reduced targets for rollout and performance. Forget Australia becoming a knowledge economy any time in the next 20 years thanks to this fucking government’s destruction of education and networks.
But best (i.e. worst) of all, is his government’s amazing foreign policy performance. So far he’s managed to piss off Indonesia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Indonesia, Syria, Indonesia, Iran, Indonesia and Indonesia again. We’ve done everything from invade Indonesia’s sovereign territory (multiple times) to reducing the Syrian civil war to “Goodies and Baddies” (the actual quote is basically – “it looks like baddies and baddies, one of them should become the goodies, that way we’ll know who to support”). Actually, let’s add the USA to the list of countries pissed off because despite our absolute cooperation with EVERY military initiative they embark on, we’re probably making them look bad by associating with us.
In short, this government is a fucking disaster and we’re all going to hell. I’ve been in a bad mood for longer than I thought (as per previous post). Turns out it’s been since September last year and by the looks of it, I’m going to be in a progressively fouler mood for the next two and a half years or so.
I’m in a mood and I have been since mid-December. Fuck it all, fuck it to hell.
Week two of the roadtrip was pretty epic in several ways.
Day one was 800km roughly. Starting with 450km to Dubbo for a meeting. Crossing the Blue Mountains was refreshingly cool and great, but once I got to the Central Plains the heat was apparent. As was the fact that it’s harvest time. Harvest brings out the full mix of things. The smell of crops freshly cut, mixed with the abundance of insect life that feeds on the grains spilled to the ground. About 100km from Dubbo and I’m grinning grimly on my bike as I have become Shiva Destroyer as bugs and insects splatter across my arms, jacket, jeans and face. One big one ricochets off my right knee and into my chest making me laugh. The next one hits my teeth.
I close my mouth and keep riding.
After the meeting in Dubbo, I re-mount and ride a further 350km because I’m “in the neighbourhood” of my aunt and uncle’s farm and it’d be rude not to stop by and stay with them for the night. It’s a very pleasant evening and I’m glad I made the trip.
The next morning it’s warm when I leave the house at just after 7am in order to quickly knock over the 150km to Wagga Wagga for my morning meeting. Once that’s done it’s another 400km (or just under, I’m losing track now) to Shepparton in Victoria. By the time I leave Wagga it’s 39 degrees and as I ride south the temperature creeps higher still, into the low 40s.
As I stop at Glenrowan for fuel, I ponder the significance of Australia’s greatest folk-hero and what it says about us as a nation. Ned Kelly was a bushranger and after surviving an amazing shootout in Glenrowan (wearing plate armour and a steel helmet) was captured and hanged. His recorded last words, “Such is life” capture much of the Australian ideal of bitterly accepting that the world’s against you and getting the fuck on with it anyway. Of course, there’s only one song that comes to mind along with thoughts like this. I think Mark would approve.
I get to Shepparton and I’m tired, but feeling good. Things are on track and I’m looking forward to the next couple of days. Glenrowan really should have made me much less optimistic.
Wednesday morning it’s pissing rain in Shepparton and there’s a cold front moving across. The temperature is below 10 degrees today. My meeting in town goes well, but the 3 hour window I’ve left for the 200km ride to Melbourne is looking doubtful now.
I grimly start riding and have to pull over twice to get enough feeling back in my hands to operate the controls. The traffic in the city is horrendous and slows me down even further. I arrive at my Melbourne destination horrendously late, utterly soaked through and mortified.
The meeting’s ok, but I’m stressed, tired and literally dripping a puddle onto the floor. It’s clear I’m not making a great impression, but there’s nothing I can do about it so I soldier on and make constant self-deprecating jokes to take the edge off. I think I’ve won them over in the end. Cruelly I walk out of the meeting into mild sunshine as I leave the office and head to my hotel. Such is fucking life.
Thursday morning I start the ride back home and overnight it’s snowed to 1000 metres. It’s fucking December in Australia and it snowed. Of course, I only have summer gear with me because I like to travel light and it is fucking summer after all. I ride today between two rain fronts with a strong southerly pushing them both north with me. I wait for the one behind me to catch me and as the rain starts to fall, I mount up and ride north until I catch the one ahead of me, where I pull over and wait again. Repeat all day. The with wind-chill to take into account, the temperature’s close to zero and I’m determined to stay dry. Today my belligerence and stubbornness pays off.
As I arrive at my motel for the night, I just get parked undercover and the storm hits in full force.
Friday it’s still cold but thank fuck it’s no longer raining. It’s a 450km slog back into Sydney and I’m chewing miles steadily. I hit the city a couple of hours earlier than I’d budgeted, so being some kind of idiot, I head into the office.
Now the week of flights starts.
It’s finally a beautiful day, the sun is shining and the road is in great condition, my only commitment for the rest of the day is to get these 500km done so I twist my wrist and open the throttle up until I’m sitting comfortably beyond the speed the law tells me I’m allowed to ride and I enjoy the shifting countryside around me.
Australia doesn’t really make sense as a country until you do a serious road trip, and by serious I mean in excess of 2000km, less than that and you’re just “travelling” from point to point. It’s only over the course of distances like this that you get to see the variety in landscape and trace it against the similarities and differences from place to place. Like most countries, our mythology is wildly misleading. Over 80% of our population lives in coastal cities, we’re far less rural than we imagine ourselves to be. The Outback (with a capital O) is farther out the back of the country than most people realise (about 1000km inland from the east coast) and the vast majority of Australians have only ever seen it on tv and in postcards.
I’m at the end of my first week of epic travel for work. 15 cities in 17 working days. Weeks one and two will see me rack up a total of 4000km on my motorbike. It’s only in a country like Australia where nobody bats an eyelid at the distances. Week 3 involves flying to 5 cities too far to ride to and week 4 is split with a flight to far north Queensland and one last road trip. Then it’s Christmas.
Day one pretty much sucked. In theory the 600km to Coffs Harbour should have been fun. The forecast said there was a 20% chance of rain and because I like to pack light I decided to take my chances without wet weather gear and riding my open-face helmet (you get better peripheral visibility and it’s summer, so being a bit cooler is definitely a plus). It turns out that the weather gods like a joke as much as the next pack of bastards and so it rained from just south of Gosford to just north of Kempsey. About 450 of those 600km.
I’ve learned a lot about riding in the rain this week. If the rain’s light enough that you’re using the intermittent setting on your windscreen wipers, then it’s possible to ride at 110 with an open-face helmet. It stings but not so bad you can’t keep it going at speed. When you get to the first steady setting on your wipers then I’m going to need to slow down to 90, partly from the pain and partly for visibility. Once you’re on the full speed setting I’m down to 70 and any heavier than that, fuck it, I’m pulling over to wait it out.
Still, I carry my friends with me when I travel and I can’t help but notice my thoughts wander to Jen/Gav (or should that be Jen-Gav?) as I race up the Pacific Highway, even though I’m pretty sure she doesn’t live near the PCH and you can’t see the ocean from ours. (Pro-tip: If you want to have some of the best beaches in the world, build your highways at least 10km inland). The PCH is one of those roads I’ve always wanted to drive, but still haven’t managed to yet. One day.
Day two and I leave Coffs late because my meeting ran long. It went well though and I’m in a good mood. It’s cloudy today but not raining and so I slather on the sunscreen and hammer on up to Brisbane. I’m a bit curious to see what it will be like when I cross the border. Queensland’s a special kind of state. It’s kind of like Texas, Florida, Kentucky and Vegas all rolled into one, without the good bits… Anyway, they recently passed some amazingly draconian laws in Queensland allegedly aimed at “dismantling criminal motorcycle gangs” (the actual language in the acts passed is fascinatingly open and non-specific). They’re extreme and insane laws that almost certainly won’t survive the inevitable high-court challenge but for now motorcyclists face intense scrutiny in Queensland. Already I’ve read news reports of charity rides being disrupted (with one example of police confiscating the donation records to copy the information down of attendees/donors).
I’m a big guy and I ride a large American V-twin motorcycle. I’m expecting to be pulled over every single time I see a cop while I’m north of the border. I don’t anticipate any actual trouble, but I’m ready for the inevitable delays. Over the course of the three days I’m in Queensland, I see three police cars and I’m pulled over exactly zero times. I guess even though I’ve got the bike, I don’t exude the right energy. I’m sure it helps that I’m riding alone.
Day three and it’s a short ride of just under 200km up to Toowoomba. I have a complicated history with Toowoomba, this is the town that I grew up in. Today I’m thinking of Sarah and how she loves to tease me about it because she knows I hated it growing up there. It’s not a bad town per se, but it really didn’t suit me as a kid. Too racist, too prejudiced, too narrow-minded. I was glad to leave and don’t miss it at all. Thinking of Sarah reminds me of how she always wants me to take photos for her, especially of kangaroos. Every time I pass a bit of roadkill I resist the urge to pull over and take a photo of the dead ‘roo for her. Even I think that would probably be a step too cruel.
I did start to count dead kangaroos just so I could give her an indication of how many there are, but I stopped after I got into double figures on the first day. The total would just be too depressing. Plus, I know gs will judge me for counting dead, furry animals even though she won’t admit that she has a thing for furries.
I’ve got a bit of time before my meeting in Toowoomba and so I ride past the old house, seeing what’s changed and remembering the things my brothers and I used to do in the neighbourhood. The hill we skateboarded down on an old PVC banana board. The park we used to play football in (and where we took the baseball, glove and bat Dad brought back from America for us). The spot I had my first car accident. It makes me smile but I don’t feel particularly nostalgic or fond. It’s just part of the past now.
Day four and my job today is to get to Armidale. This is the aformentioned beautiful day and every time I pass a house or business or building covered in solar panels I grin and think of Josh and how the world’s changing, even though it’s slow. The landscape up here is still lush and verdant, though not as overtly sub-tropical as the coastal part of the NSW/QLD border. I’m reminded of gs’ recent US road trip and I wonder what the landscape was like for that. I loved driving in the US, although the Interstates are infinitely more functional than our highways. Our highways are like the state highways in America, open and winding and full of nature. I remember driving with Mark and Megan and Tip to go camping with Antoine and Rob and Tom and the rest.
That was seriously one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. The kindness and generosity of internet friends is great. I daydream about hosting a similar holiday here and realise that if that’s going to happen I need to do more research on great camping and riding (real bikes) options. I then have a super-secret daydream that I’m on a road trip holiday with Mark and Antoine, all riding our motorbikes down this spine of regional Australia. It makes me smile.
I look at the shifting nature of the landscape and I’m struck by its beauty. Australia tugs at my heart the way no other country does. I look at the signs of humanity and I marvel at how they’re simultaneously insignificant, barely scratching the surface of land so old and constant, and also so destructive. You only have to look at the bush growing naturally between the edge of the road and the fence that marks the paddock that’s been cleared for crops to understand how different this land must have been even only 250 years ago. I wish I could go back and see that land.
I moo at the cows grazing in the paddocks alongside and I think of Will, wondering if he’d be impressed by them. Thinking of Will makes me think of Jens and I’m a little surprised by how many people I want to share this ride and this glimpse of my country with. I wish I had brought my camera so I could take great photos and share them, but it’s not a big wish because I’m not actually that good a photographer. I’m certainly nowhere near as skilled as Sarah or Mark or Ed (whose name isn’t actually Ed but who generously puts up with Anglos calling him that anyway). Ewoud’s landscape photos always impress the hell out of me. He has such great composition. I see another kangaroo and I think of Vik, who has no idea how lucky she’s going to be this Christmas but I’m hoping it’ll be a good surprise.
It’s near the town of Deepwater that the land starts to turn dry again. I wonder if that’s irony or if the water has all literally soaked so deep that there’s little of it left to sustain things at the surface. It’s a bit rockier through this last stretch too and now I’m counting kilometres, working out if I need to refill or if I can make it to Armidale on this tank. I decide to chance it, I should be fine and what’s the point in undertaking risk-taking behaviour if you don’t double-down every now and then?
I arrive in Armidale tired, happy and eager to tell my friends about my ride, so I wrestle with the wifi and start jotting down ideas in Evernote. When it fails to sync properly and loses my notes for the third time I do what I should have done immediately and go to the pub.
Day five and it’s overcast in Armidale. I had planned to have a slow start today but the sky looks threatening and I’ve got 520km to get home, I’d prefer not to hit rain again so I skip breakfast and get going. 10km outside of Armidale it starts pouring so heavily that I’m instantly soaked through and my speed’s only 70. I regret skipping breakfast.
I stop for an hour in Tamworth hoping the front will move, and eventually I give up and head back out into the rain. It rains all the way to Sydney. Mercifully it eases slightly and I cover most of it at full speed, but I’m soaked and I’m cold and I wish I was there already. The rain slows me enough that I hit the edge of Sydney at 5:30pm, which means that the last 25km home (which would normally take about 40 minutes) takes me two hours of crawling through peak hour traffic. More than once I wish I could switch to my real bike and get home faster.
I get home and get dry and get unpacked and it’s all ok now. Well almost all. It turns out that my arms are sunburnt. Apparently Australia is the only country in the world where it can be raining so hard that any sunscreen you apply instantly washes off and the sun is still strong enough to burn you through the storm clouds.
I love road trips in this country.