Jun 12, 2013 - General, Parenting, technology    3 Comments

My child is addicted to playing games… help!










This email came through today:

Some friends have an 11 year old who is heading towards uncontrollable gaming addiction.  He plays Mine Craft,  and eg last night quietly got up after the parents went to bed and got the iPad before it closed down to the unknown pin and was found playing MineCraft at 3.30am by his dad. 
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?  Would you think that a “big brother” relationship with someone like you would help?  I gather he is already a wiz with the computer and it looks like being a career orientation. 
This is a preadolescent boy who is in the middle of the crisis of facing high school.

Here’s my response (edited slightly):

That’s a really hard question… I honestly don’t know an answer.  I can emphathise with him, having experienced that sort of pull myself in the past (and still do at times!).  I have some thoughts, I’ve separated under headings to try to make it slightly easier to follow.
General gaming addictions
Usually there is an aim, a goal, something that you want to achieve or get to.  You don’t play games simply for the sake of playing, there is something in it that compels you on.  It’s a lot like an addiction, in terms of stimulus / response.  You get to point A, you celebrate briefly, then the let down means you then want to get to point B, etc.  There is never contentment, never an ability to say “I have enough”.  The “best” games are the ones where there is pretty much never an ending, there is ALWAYS something else or someone else to beat.
The beginnings of a strategy to deal with this problem could be to have a conversation (probably a longer one over a series of conversations, not just a one off “sit down talk”) helping him to articulate what those goals are.  What is it about this particular game that compels him to play?  What is the end point?  Where does he want to get to?  What items is he trying to collect / empires build / enemies defeat / etc?  This will usually be either impossible to achieve, or only a subset of what it is possible to achieve in the game (ie, once he has reached that point, there will be another he will want to then reach).  Of course, an 11 year old may very well not be able to articulate particularly well what is creating the drive, but it should at least be a beginning.
Unfortunately, a game like minecraft is entirely a sandbox game (that is, it’s just a big world where you do whatever you want), and so there isn’t an “end point” as such (there isn’t really a “Starting point” either!).  He will probably have his own goals (probably inarticulate ones) that he is trying to achieve within the game.  However that flexibility can also be a part of the solution.  It can be used for example to recreate real world objects / places / machines.  I know of friends who do outings with their kids, and then go home and get them to recreate the outings on minecraft.  This helps create a slightly more healthy balance of interaction between real and virtual worlds.
I think its fair to say that it is too much to expect that he will ever quit playing games for good.  This next generation (and perhaps me included in it) has their brains wired in a different way… This is how they are, for good or bad.  The kind of stimulus they receive is what they expect to receive.  I wouldn’t expect there to be a way to get him to quit for good, rather the conversation should be about
a) managing life
b) learning the appropriate place and use for video games
Within that conversation I would ENCOURAGE video gaming. While that may sound quite strange, I think that simply forbidding or banning games ignores the reality that they will be a part of his life.  Furthermore, like all things, it can be good in moderation with thanksgiving.  Encourage and support him in his passions, while teaching him their place in life.
This approach may have some real benefits, however for it to be particular successful I would think that you need someone who can meet with the child in real life, as well as play games with them.  To have a purely virtual mentor (in the sense of only having online contact) to my mind would be counter-productive.
Way forward
Conversation: as mentioned, get talking not about whether he should be playing, but get him talking about what he is playing and why.  Make it a positive conversation where he tells you about his goals.  They will be awkward at first (not least because the parents won’t have a clue what he’s talking about), but should get easier over time.
Encouragement: Encourage him to play games.  Set aside time to do it, and support him in that time.  Make it a really positive time for him.  However, set firm boundaries, so that gaming happens in gaming time, not other times.
Play with him.  This is probably the strangest point, but potentially the most effective.  Having a conversation about it will be much easier if you know what goes on in the game.  Setting boundaries and achievable goals is much easier if the parents are part of that process – they can set common goals.  Minecraft is particularly well suited to this.  Have regular gaming sessions together, which are primarily about having good fun together, but in which you teach and train as necessary.  I would generally recommend this anyway as a child protection issue.
Aug 3, 2012 - General, technology    2 Comments

Australian legality of proxy/vpns to watch BBC Olympic coverage.

Someone asked me about this today, so I thought I’d post my reply up here.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way shape or form a lawyer, nor an expert in Australian copyright law.  This is simply my understanding from some basic research.  As far as I’m aware this hasn’t been tested in any Australian courts.

There seems to me to be two competing sides to copyright law in this issue.  I suspect that the first one that I’ll mention carries the weight.

 1) Access to (specifically in regards to copying and download, but I suspect it could be broadened out into all access) internet content is primarily regulated by expressions of limitation on the sites themselves (as per this fact sheet) .  In the case of the BBC’s online content, their terms of use state quite explicitly:

3.2 How you may NOT use BBC Online Services

  • 3.2.1 If you are outside the UK
  • You may not access, view and/or listen to certain parts of BBC Content (such as video or live television services) using BBC Online Services if you are outside the UK, although you may, in accordance with the Terms, access and view bbc.co.uk or other websites and listen to some (but not all) BBC radio content. The types of BBC Content that may be available outside the UK will usually depend on the BBC’s agreements with the persons who own rights in such content.
2) The only consideration I can think of that might make this at least possibly legal, is that Australian law allows bypassing of any regional encoding.  IF this restriction was considered some form of technical regional encoding, then it might be ok to bypass it.  However since it’s not so much a technical form of encoding, but rather a terms of use issue, I suspect that the preceding point would actually take priority.
It seems to me that the technical restrictions (blocking Australian viewers) is a means of enforcing the legal requirements (Terms of Use restrictions).
My verdict?  As Australian law currently stands, it’s illegal.
Jul 2, 2012 - Argentina    No Comments

We’ve made it to Resistencia. Bs As wrap up.

Rather than just not posting anything, here’s some final thoughts from our time in Bs As.

Days 4 and 5 were spent much like the previous week, hanging out with M (and her sister B), visiting Art Galleries, fending off pick-pockets, enjoying the amazing view from our flat and walking around Palermo, enjoying the architecture and avoiding dog poo.  The highlight was a tour of the Teatro Colon.  It really is quite majestic.  Pictures will come up soon enough, so I’ll leave off descriptions until then.

Bs As turned out to be not too diss-similar to Sydney.  Everyone spoke english well enough, it was a big, modern city, and we could easily get lost in the annonimity of it all.  It does however have a nostalgic, romantic air about it that is lacking in Sydney.  Bs As looks back on it’s heyday wistfully, lamenting the loss of years gone by, and suffering through the corruption which is endemic in it’s governments and the lazyness which is endemic in it’s people.

There was more to see, more to do, more to enjoy, but all good things must come to an end.  So we headed for Resistencia.  As the flight prepared to land, they announced the temperature was 28 degress (at 6pm).  Welcome to the Chaco.

Jun 27, 2012 - Argentina, General    1 Comment

Arg trip: days 2 & 3 + photos.

Day 2: The day began with a very civilized breakfast (tea & toast) followed by second breakfast at a cafe.


E spent the time there sketching the view. I spent it filming her sketch!
There were LOTS of buses. (We later counted 25 heading in one direction in 15 seconds)

The afternoon was spent with our friend M. She drove us (in her diesel peugeot 504 – jealous dad?) to MALBA. Some very repressed Catholic Art + some cool contemporary stuff.

More coffee at cafe Havana in Palermo SOHO.

Ham sandwiches for dinner. E says: there are so many dogs everywhere…

Unfortunately, all that caffeine means E doesn’t sleep a wink and baby B is wired. Lots of kicking and punching, often in time to E’s heartbeat!

Day 3: Up early due to E not sleeping, so get Skype working – video call with Dad.

Quiet morning after no sleep. E makes minestrone for lunch. We check out the view from the top of our building… wow. Photos still to come.

Went with M to La Boca and Puerto Madero.






Saw the Boca Juniors stadium at a distance. (Didn’t bother taking a photo).

We knew La Boca is a bit of a rough area, but how’s this for a steering lock…

No caffeine at the cafe this time, just OJ and chips.


Drove home through peak hour… And we thought Sydney traffic was bad! Here’s a video of the traffic on our way there (this was the light traffic – ignore the audio… 😀 ).  Traffic in BA.

Jun 25, 2012 - Argentina    No Comments

Arg trip: day 1 wrap.


Trip: 20 hours, 13000 kms, 2 hours of delayed flight, one crying baby and a crazy Chinese dude tapping metal chopsticks together in each drink. E did supremely well, found her quiet zone and settled in! Biggest let down: no angry lady doing the announcements at Auckland.

First impressions: it’s strange the things that trigger memories… obviously the driving (E said “they know how to use the horn here “) is one if them. The tiles on the pavement have been the strongest yet, blast from the past right there!

Had pizza for dinner from a place that was full of metal heads…

Apartment: it’s a really lovely place! We’re both loving both the apartment and the area.  Shame about the dog poo on the sidewalk.

Jet lag: we were both awake and hungry at 3:30, so had left over pizza. Went back to bed at 5, slept in till 10!

There are supermarkets every other block here, so we popped into the closest one for some essentials. Showed E ades, maybe she’ll understand you more dad 😉

Today: caught the subte to cabildo, ran into some major Portuguese festival before heading down to the pink house.  Took obligatory photo for E’s Evita obsessed friends.  Proceeded to walk down toward the San Telmo markets.
What do you know! You know how they warn you about mustard spraying thieves? Well… they squirt mustard on you alright.  Yeah, sure, pigeons really poo that much. All the way down your back. Both your backs.  Thankfully, caught on quick enough to get E out of there. She did the right thing, just held onto her bag. Savora (argy mustard) really stinks, but we ploughed on to the markets anyway.

Markets: pretty things (E bought some), leather things (all G rated), knives (no, didn’t buy any), street performers, rhythm bands and people walking around towing eskies trying to sell you food out of them.   We had fun.  Although the stink finally got to us, so we went home to wash.

Called Mariana to find out what time church is.  Woops, it was this morning. So we went to Palermo SOHO for dinner instead. E bought a dress.

Had dinner in a nice restaurant (basically an upmarket Burger joint- own bakery, Patisserie, etc). E mentioned it was the kind of place her sister J thinks of when thinking BA eatery.

Walked home, E stopped to look at architectural features every block or so. She likes pretty buildings.

Oh, and we took a photo of a substation.  Just for you Father Richard.

Jun 19, 2012 - General, technology    No Comments

I don’t normally re-blog, but this one is worth it.

Re-Blogged from TheTrichordist

“Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically

Rather, fairness for musicians is a problem that requires each of us to individually look at our own actions, values and choices and try to anticipate the consequences of our choices.”


Wow.  What a well written piece.  A must read for Gen Y and below.  Topically relevant again with the explosion of spotify.

It’s long, but it’s well worth it.

Jun 4, 2012 - General, Reflections    3 Comments

Muslims are liars.

Al-Takeyya: I’d never heard about it until I heard it mentioned last night. It’s an intriguing concept that includes the provision to lie if it is in your own, or Islam’s best interest.

A couple of summaries of this teaching I found informative are here and here.

The biggest lie currently on the agenda?  “Islam is a religion of peace”.  As an example, following the September 11 2001 Terrorist attacks, The Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council made a statement.  The statement included the following:

“[Islam] forbids killing of civilians even during times of war”


“Muslims have to deal in good faith with those who live beside them in all societies, since Islam does not discriminate between humans: for they are all brothers.”

Now, it’s possible we’re reading a different Koran, but I thought that Surah 9.5 was pretty clear: “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”  Kill or convert pagans, none of this “brothers” business.

I really want to give Muslim people the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe some of them truly do believe that Islam is a religion of peace.  Maybe some of them aren’t setting out to purposefully lie for their own gain and benefit.  Maybe.  But the truth is, Muslims are liars.

May 31, 2012 - General, Reflections    2 Comments

I have a problem with Anglicanism.

I preached on Christians and the law a few weeks ago. Based largely on Brian Rosner’s work in the AMCL last year, I suggested that Christians are in no way bound by the law as law (legal code). Rather, Christians live by the law of Christ, which is the work of the Spirit in us, propelling us to love God and one another.

In this context, I have two problems with Anglicanism. Firstly, Article VII: EVERY Christian is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

Secondly, those orders of service in which Christians are called to reflect on the 10 commandments, and then to confess their sin in light of not keeping the law: Christians are free from the law. It no longer condemns us!

Disclamer: I thing anglicanism is a great platform, especially in Sydney (the last 3 churches I’ve attended and been a part of the leadership at have been Anglican) – I just don’t agree with all it’s doctrinal points.

May 29, 2012 - General, Reflections    1 Comment

Pretty girl said hi – I smiled and walked on by.

So I was walking back to Redfern station yesterday, when a pretty young girl smiled at me and said “Hi, how are you?”. I smiled politely and kept walking right on by.

While it could be that as a happily married man I’m not in the habit of chatting up ladies, in this case, there’s no such righteous reason. Quite simply, in the space of 2 seconds I evaluated her as a salesperson of some sort and rejected her product.

It only took 3 or 4 steps before the incongruity of this struck me. I had no knowledge whatsoever of what she wanted or was offering. Maybe it was a product she was selling, but maybe she was trying to save whales or something. Without a clue what she wanted, I made a snap judgement for the worse, and moved right along.

Furthermore (and perhaps more importantly), my response to her made me reflect upon Christian cold-contact strategies (walk-up, door knocking, etc). I usually get quite nervous when engaging in them. Could it be because I expect to receive the same reaction I give? What sort of ambassador for Jesus am I, if when someone else wants to spend some time talking with me, I brush them off and walk on by.

I walk past salespeople of some sort quite regularly (through Sydney Uni). Will my response to them change? I want to say yes, but it makes me anxious.