I outsourced my cooking

Any guest invited to dine with me is in for a treat. Maybe I’ll serve perfect xiao long bao (soup dumplings) as delicate and succulent as you can get in Shanghai. Perhaps a perfect pizza with a crust doughy enough to make a Neapolitan weep. Or maybe a perfect dal with a side of naan that’s still warm from the oven?

There’s only one catch. When you inevitably pass your compliments to the chef, I’ll have to add my own. Because if I’m responsible for the catering, anyone dining chez moi is likely to be eating takeaway.

Only the very best takeaway, mind you. Gourmet food cooked by recognised experts in a range of world cuisines. But certainly stuff I haven’t cooked myself. Continue Reading →

Forget mind-altering drugs – learn a language

Australians have grown lazy about studying languages while our own has spread inexorably across the world, but we should make it a national priority.

I’m regularly astonished by the multilingual skills of my Indian relatives. Their first language is Tamil, but they were educated in English, and switch between the languages constantly when they talk among themselves, sometimes forgetting that I can’t understand the Tamil bits because the mix comes so naturally to them. (Either they forget, or are joking about me – I’m not quite sure…)

They also speak Hindi because it’s the national language, and some Sanskrit, too, because it’s the language of the Hindu scriptures. Continue Reading →

How I invented the Asiavision Song Contest

Some things are worth waiting for. This week, Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in 88 years. Scientists saw the shockwave from a supernova for the very first time. And SBS announced plans to host an Asia-Pacific version of Eurovision.

I called for this in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald way back in 2003, and obviously my wise counsel set the ball rolling, albeit extremely slowly.

And yes, I am taking credit for this; and no, I don’t care how many other people suggested it, nor how incredibly obvious it might seem. Continue Reading →

Putting the ‘mine’ in mindfulness

This is the decade of mindfulness. The practice, which derives from meditation, is being credited with all kinds of benefits – helping with depression and stress, pain management and even physical fitness. It’s apparently the mental equivalent of going for gelato.

So what precisely is mindfulness? Hmm, or perhaps, omm. It’s not easy to pin down.

Wikipedia defines it as “intentionally bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment”, which is roughly as clear as mudfulness. Continue Reading →

We should share housing for longer

Unless you’re an impossibly wealthy plutocrat, or a smug baby boomer who bought in the 90s (much the same thing), browsing a real estate website is incredibly depressing. It’s like listening to Adele while watching this video of a sad kitten and peeling onions into the shape of Nicholas Sparks.

Until the bubble bursts – which may never happen – huge numbers of Australians below the age of 40 will struggle to buy their own place. For many of us, a house with a backyard, or even an apartment with enough rooms for a couple of kids, is out of reach unless we go to regional areas or live on the outskirts of major cities. Continue Reading →

Forget aged care. This is awesome care.

“Help the aged”, Jarvis Cocker sings in the Pulp song of the same name. “One time they were just like you.”

His examples of those similarities in the next lyric aren’t necessarily great – “drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue” – but it’s a sweet sentiment nevertheless.

The rest of the first verse is “Help the aged, don’t just put them in a home, can’t have much fun in there all on their own.” And that’s the part I’ve always wondered about. Continue Reading →

Sydney is too expensive for young people to take a risk on a good idea

The world is full of bright young people building spiffy websites and nifty apps. They’re skipping the stability of traditional employment to code in cafes and co-working spaces. But they’re probably not doing it in Sydney.

World Economic Forum research found that young Australians were poorly prepared for the digital economy, and faced intense labour market uncertainty. Fewer young people want to work for a start-up than in any other country surveyed – a mere 3.8 per cent.

Who can blame them for choosing a nice, safe bank job in expensive, uncertain Sydney? Starting a business can mean years of earning almost nothing, and just surviving in this city is fiendishly expensive, let alone funding a house big enough for kids. Continue Reading →

How to avoid tweeting your way to unemployment

Free speech is a fine thing. Unfettered self-expression is a precious gift. Some might say that in a democracy such as ours, it should have no limits whatsoever.

But in this era where we all carry portable publishing devices in our pockets, it should definitely have limits, and even if your employer doesn’t impose them on you the way the ABC does on people like me, it makes good sense to impose similar rules on yourself.

So, with that in mind, here’s some advice about how not to screw up on Twitter, the premier platform for laying social media landmines that explode beneath you at the most inopportune moments. Continue Reading →

Say hello to election mania – and I do mean mania

Guessing what’s in Malcolm Turnbull’s head. That’s what anyone with a passing interest in Australian politics will be doing for the next three months or so. In fact, it’s recently overtaken Pin The Appropriation On The Responsible Subcommittee as Canberra’s favourite parlour game.

No doubt the PM’s head contains many things – public transport maps of our major cities, including photogenic selfie locations, and more Thucydides than anybody outside of a university classics department could possibly need. I suspect there are more tasty stories about Kerry Packer in there somewhere, too.

But if you searched long and hard enough, peeling back the layers of legal arcana and shimmying around the complex corporate structures contained therein, you would find an election date. Continue Reading →

If crooks can communicate securely, why can’t we?

If we learned one thing from the drama surrounding Edward Snowden and his revelations about the National Security Agency, it’s that Russia is still the best place to go if you have US secrets to peddle.

But if we learned another, it’s that governments are able to access far more of our personal information than we previously thought.

Even before we heard about PRISM and the rest, we were on notice that what we keep on our phones can be vulnerable. Way back in 2005, Paris Hilton (remember her?) had the contents of her T-Mobile Sidekick (bet you don’t remember them) uploaded all over the internet.

It’s happened to a litany of celebrities in the years since – Paris always was at the cutting edge of fashion. Continue Reading →