Site Modifications

I’m working on a new layout for the site, larger fonts, three column layout, easier navigation, and I’m keen for comments when it appears.  This should happen over the next couple of days among some other changes.

I’ve implemented the Google Maps API and a Drupal module to insert maps into posts etc.  Hopefully this will enhance some of the more local posts about Newcastle or NSW for readers form overseas.

Overall, things are busy, but I’m enjoying the challenge! I’m also working on a newsletter and possibly a weekly video or podcast to accompany the Urbanworkbench blog format.

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Newcastle Art Gallery Revitalisation

Newcastle City is facing an identity crisis. Parts of town are great; cafés, live music, bars, restaurants, the harbour, the beaches.  Other parts are drab and even derelict.  Somewhere in between are two buildings that we regularly frequent, the Newcastle Library and the Art Gallery.  These two public buildings stand side by side at the slow end of Newcastle’s busy café culture on Darby Street, off on a beautiful tree lined side road.  A public park is across the road and the Baptist Tabernacle stands next door. Needless to say, indirect pedestrian traffic is rare, these two buildings are tucked away, a hidden treasure for parents of Newcastle children.

However, this weekend, the Newcastle Herald published an article about the proposed $35 million dollar redevelopment of the Art Gallery Site, aiming to rejuvenate the civic precinct.  The gallery houses an impressive collection of artwork, much of it not visible to the public, stored in earthquake, weather and temperature resistant vaults.  The proposed construction would use the existing gallery as a framework around which a new building would be created, housing reference rooms, restaurants, educational facilities, and most impressively, retail space fronting the ever popular Darby Street face.

All well and good, but what about the rest of Newcastle, will it suffer to pay for this extravagance?

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How to Run a Mobile Office for under $1500

I am a Bedouin, a Nomad deep down inside, I long to be freed from the constraints of the office, of the cubical, of the bondage of a desk and swivelling chair.  As a consultant and an Engineer, there are plenty of times that I do need to be in the office, but when it comes to crunch time and I need to get work done, there is nothing better than weighing anchor and saying farewell to cubeville. I’ve written about these desires deep within me before, but today I thought I’d offer a how-to on this.

Bedouin WorkshopBut, to do this you have to be prepared, these are my tips to keeping productivity high while out of the office.

The Tools:
A widescreen wireless laptop, with all the software needed to stay productive.   I usually pack a mouse and spare mousepad depending on the surface I’ll be working on.  If I’m going to be out for longer than my battery will last, I’ll either pack a spare, or a power cord.  I also pack a headset for VOIP with Wengo.
In my case my software list includes;
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  • OpenOffice – opensource MS office equivalent, free,

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Working With Your Hands

As a boy, I loved to watch my Pop working in his shed, he was a carpenter by trade, and a good one at that. The skilled handling of timber and tools to create usable or functional items, or homes for people to live in was a skill I was in awe of. The smell of the sawdust, the feel of the ear muffs, the whir of the table saw, it was a joy to watch this strong man use his hands to create. I loved the fat pencils used with a square to line up cut marks, and the fact that he would let me into his working world. I would travel to worksites, sitting in the old Kingswood stationwagon, ham sandwich in a bag along with my Pop’s, packed by his loving wife. He was great with his workers, everyone respected him. I never aspired to be a carpenter, but I respected his ability, and the skills of the trade. His skill was far superior to the labourer on modern day subdivision housing sites, which barely represents carpentry as an art, rather more like painting by numbers.

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Business Meal Etiquette

I thought I’d heard it all, until while listening to the Manager Tools Podcast while laying out a residential intersection, I was somewhat suprised to hear that there were a set of “rules” for how to behave at a business lunch.  Obviously many of the managers I’ve worked for have never thought that these were important. 

However, many of the tips given in this great two part series are pretty much common sense, some are mainly directed mainly at a North American audience, but there is lots to learn when the meal is secondary to the meeting, such as where to sit, when to talk business, tipping, what not to eat, how and when to pay and how much to drink.

Good business practice demands good relationships – with customers, suppliers, team members, and bosses. And good relationships usually means breaking bread together. So, are you up to speed on how to have a business meal? Or even worse, HOST the meal yourself?
You are? GOOD! Then you already know when to start talking business, and whether it’s different at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You know how much alcohol to drink, and how many glasses of wine there are in a bottle. And the ideal way to pay for a meal, or what to do when the check comes. If you know all THAT, then we bet you also know where to seat your guests, and yourself, whether there are 2 or three of you. And, of course, what to order, and what NOT to order. Soup, you say? NO.
And if you’re not sure… that’s why there’s a Manager Tools podcast covering all that and more.

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