phocks a simple blog

Moving to SubStack

You may have noticed I’ve been doing a kind of a newsletter these past few months. The first three I have cross-posted from TinyLetter to my blog and here at Medium.

From now on I will be just consolidating this on SubStack.

Please subscribe for email updates.

See ya there!

3 / Know first who you are then adorn yourself accordingly

Originally posted via TinyLetter

“And right now he was feeling the weight of all those losses, and the weight of the years that were behind him, and the weight of the ones that were still ahead, however many there might be — three or four, twenty or thirty, maybe more.” —Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers

Welcome to lockdown

Double-click the folder above for your soundtrack to the newsletter. We are in lockdown.

The world is in lockdown. A virus with a crown of thorns jumped from bat to a pangolin (most likely) to human and now it has taken over the world. Who could have predicted this? Oh, right.

Animals packed in tight inevitably breed disease and spread pestilence upon the world. We never seem to learn. It has happened oftentimes. It will continue to happen. Unless?

Take me to church

It’s just hit 4am and Vada is asleep in her carrier still, hopefully until morning this time. The third episode of HBO’s The Leftovers has just rolled credits as “Amen amen amen / take me to church / I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies” plays through my headphones.

This is the episode that cemented the show’s brilliance in my mind when I first watched it, a few years back. The time seems right to begin again. Begin again.

For those unfamiliar, The Leftovers begins with an event in which 2 percent of the world’s human population suddenly and mysteriously vanish without a trace. The show deals with the fallout of this event and the lives of a handful of characters in upstate New York.

Seems sorta salient in today’s uncertain times.

Social (media) isolation

For the month of March, my wife and I went on a social media detox.

It was cold and lonely and I don’t recommend it. I didn’t even get that much extra reading done. This was primarily due to having a one-and-a-half-year-old to look after I think.

Mostly I found myself continually spamming the news and looking for loopholes in the term “social media”.

OK I admit there was a certain calm solitude in it (from the absence of twitter most likely).

But it’s good to be back.

Things to do with solitude

For those simply skimming this email here’s a list of things we’ve been up to during lockdown. (note: please don’t skim my email)

  1. We played JackBox Party Pack with friends over a live stream and group chat
  2. I finally got my electric bike back and we took Vada for a ride in her bike trailer
  3. My team at ABC released a few stories about COVID—19 while on lockdown
  4. I was finally able to continue my X-Files rewatch on Twitter
  5. All the tea in the house mysteriously ran out so I ordered some more from my friends’ tea shop down the road
  6. The night before all the restaurants were locked down we went to our good family friend’s amazingly authentic restaurant A-Thai-5 in Mitchelton and talked about uncertain times
  7. Vada and I have been going for evening walks along the Brisbane Riverwalk
  8. And like everyone else on the planet we bought Animal Crossing and lockdown life on the island is going well

The silver screen

The old Netflix and Prime Video have been getting slammed lately. The government even asked them to turn down the quality of their streams so it wouldn’t ruin our terrible internet connections.

If only there was some kind of competently managed National Broadband Network or something in place to deliver good internet to all Australians ¯_(ツ)/¯_

Anyway thanks to Letterboxd dot com for helping me remember all the movies I’ve watched over the past month. Here are some tiny reviews.

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: I can’t believe I only just realised that they are flashing back their relationship in reverse order from end to beginning so it starts out with all the bad memories and it slowly works its way to the good memories of their beginnings and then they decide to give it another go. They remember the good. I think that’s beautiful.
  2. Horse Girl: Wow. This was great. Probably don’t talk to me if you don’t like this movie.
  3. Knives Out: Enjoyed this. James Bond with a Southern accent was weird though.
  4. I Heart Huckabees: I remember seeing this at the cinema when I was younger and thinking it was really poignant and deep. Now it seems a bit silly. Still enjoyable though for what it is.
  5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising: So much better than I expected. Really took the concept in a new and interesting direction. Funny as!
  6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: I liked it when they hunted for the wilderpeople.
  7. Back to the Future Part III: I had this one on VHS as a kid so it was pretty nostalgic. I liked it when they went back to the future and when they kept saying that they had to go back to the future.


Fleabag. That’s it. Watch it. It’s genius.

She is risen

Vada continues to rise at times before 4 in the morning.

She is risen once more. It’s getting light outside slowly. A repeat of the other morning is playing out. We’re walking around the house. I’m singing.

And soon enough she’s drifted off, like a koala in her carrier. Again I put on The Leftovers through headphones. Episode 5 this time. Gladys. They are stoning a cult member to death. A member of The Guilty Remnant. Intense. Compelling. Maybe I’ll go make a cup of tea. It’s 5:55 am.

I don’t think I’ll be sleeping again until tonight.

Hold tight

That’ll do for now. And how are you holding up? Tell me something I don’t know. Literally.

I might like to include some of your stories in the next issue, so please hit reply to this email. I’d love to hear from you. Or forward it on to a crush. Here’s a link to share:

Note: you are receiving this tiny letter because you either signed up or else I put you on the list because I consider you a friend. If you prefer however not to receive these words in future please unsubscribe below. I will be notified but I won’t be angry, just disappointed. Thanks for reading.

…one more thing

Thank you to Amy and Pema for signing up to sponsor my open-source projects last month and all previous sponsors too. A dollar and a kind heart can go a long way. Something new is coming soon 🙏

Previous letter: 2 / The good thing about UFOs is they’re real whether you believe in them or not​

2 / The good thing about UFOs is they’re real whether you believe in them or not

Originally posted via TinyLetter

You can’t get the truth. You can’t. There’s a larger truth, though: that you can’t harness the forces of the cosmos, but you may find somebody else. You may find another human being. That may be kind of corny and all of that, but that’s what it is: Love is the only truth we can hope to know, as human beings. That’s what Mulder and Scully found after nine years. And that’s a lot.

Greetings from planet Earth

Has it been a month already? Alrighty then. Click our lady of scepticism above for this month’s spooky soundtrack.

Most intelligent people will agree that The X-Files is the greatest television show in history. We’ve been rewatching it recently—yes yet again.

If you’re really bored you can search Twitter and see me review each episode one by one.

Happy Moonday

Look out the window right now. The moon is full once more in the sky and that means baby Vada is now 18 lunar months old.

Our daughter Vada was born on a full moon in August. And for her first 12 moons we would religiously keep count before finally letting the tradition stray when she was a year old.

Strange that a lunar month falls slightly shy of a regular calendar month. I had to work out this was her 18th lunar month by dividing her age in months by 0.970867. I’m pretty sure that’s about right. Any math genius savants wanna correct me?

So what on Earth have we been up to? The Moon has orbited the Earth yet again and this Moon month has been a blur.

Oh yeah I randomly won a fancy clicky keyboard from a Twitch streamer named tashnarr that is apparently worth over 300 bucks. Here it is in all its glory:

We also went to Chermside and Vada kept sliding down the fake grass hills on her butt and it was pretty hilarious. Parenthood is a blast. 🤣

Our Information is Beautiful laser-cut award arrived for when we won BEST IN THE WORLD at data visualisation and digital storytelling. Isn’t it pretty? (photo by Ben Spraggon)

We went to the newly renovated New Farm dog park and met a dog who looked almost exactly like Misty.

We started watching 3rd Rock From the Sun and Vada loves dancing to the theme song.

Aaaaaaaand we started our month-long and much needed social media detox.

(Sorry no more X-Files reviews until April).

Returning to Return of the Jedi

When I was a kid I had only one Star Wars movie on VHS and it was The Return of the Jedi. It would be a while until I realised there were other Star Wars films as well—ones that didn’t involve Ewoks. What a shock to my adolescent mind.

For Valentine’s Day we dropped Vada at her Grandma’s and took ourselves out to dinner for vegan ramen in South Brisbane.

Afterwards we returned to my childhood to see a screening of Return of the Jedi at the Brisbane Convention Centre with orchestral backing by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. It was out of this world!

Music to code to

I’ve found that movie soundtracks are really great to have on in the background while coding. Lately I can’t get enough of the Braveheart Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Give it a go (and yeah I know Mel Gibson is cancelled but yeah this music really hits those nostalgic notes).

Close your eyes and picture the Scottish Highlands.

God is other people (or planets)

I finally finished re-reading Solaris. I think I can now safely say it is my favourite novel—besides Moby-Dick of course. I usually find translations a little awkward to read—and previous translations of Solaris were English translations of a French translation so even Stanisław Lem called them terrible—but this new Bill Johnston translation is all kinds of beautiful (currently available only on Kindle and audiobook).

For those unfamiliar with the storyline it involves a dude called Kelvin who arrives at a station afloat on the ocean planet of Solaris and finds that there are mysterious “visitors” seemingly created by the planet itself.

Okay after writing that last sentence I realise it’s virtually impossible to distil this book down to a few paragraphs. It deals with the nature of consciousness. It explores the unknowableness of intelligences apart from our own. It delves into how memory creates and influences perceptions and how we are all different versions of ourselves in the minds of others. And it describes a fallible and evolving proto-god reaching out for influence over the endless expanse of the universe.

Anyway if that sounds like your kind of thing give it a read. If not then don’t 🤷

Oh the places you’ll go:

  1. We released our Bushfires from space story to much acclaim
  2. I did an angry tweet about the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and everyone should read this article about pilot-wave theory that explains why quantum weirdness is totally unnecessary
  3. For those of you still not Feelin’ the Bern here’s a good article for you about Elizabeth Warren suspending her campaign
  4. I started playing chess online again because of this story about Magnus Carlson showboating multiple chess games while drunk livestreaming under the name DrDrunkenstein
  5. This old Buzzfeed News longread is also well worth a look: “Down The Rabbit Hole I Go”: How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers’ Lies To Her Death
  6. And lastly—keeping with theme—if I were to join an alien cult (and honestly I’ve thought about it more than twice) I’d maybe go with this one: I Went to a Raëlian Cult Protest for Titties

Farewell dear friends

Well that just about wraps it up for another month.

Feel free to reply to this email. I’d love to hear from you. Or please forward it on to a friend. Here’s a link to share:


It’s just ticked past 2am and I’ve managed to get Vada to sleep again at last. The old hey Google play some “classical sleep music” trick seems to be working.

The moon rises and falls as the world turns. It shows and hides its different faces to us as it makes its revolutions around us all. We all go through our phases.

Until next time around.

Goodbye moonchild. 🖤

Note: you are receiving this tiny letter because you either signed up or else I put you on the list because I consider you a friend. If you prefer however not to receive these words in future please unsubscribe below. I will be notified but I won’t be angry, just disappointed. Thanks for reading.

…one more thing

If any of yall have a dollar and a kind heart my open-source sponsors page is now up and running here where you can quickly and easily add your name to a growing list of friends helping to make amazing open-source things online 👨‍💻🙏

Previous letter: 1 / The journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within

1 / The journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within

Originally posted via TinyLetter

Nostalgia—it’s delicate, but potent. In Greek nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It let’s us travel the way a child travels—around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.


Inspired by Colin and Simon from work I’m starting my own semi-regular electronic newsletter. Tap the synthwave sun above for some nostalgic background music while reading this. And if you are reading this congratulations and welcome to the family.

The story so far for those who need catching up is that it’s 2020. Planet Earth is getting warmer. I’ve been doing code at ABC News for a few years now. We’ve been winning a few awards lately. My wife Amy & I now have a daughter named Vada who has all but taken over my Instagram. Velociraptor played our 10th Anniversary Show recently. And I recently celebrated my 4th veganniversary. 🐮

What we’ve been up to

Lately life’s been mostly work and looking after a small child. Here’s a brief rundown of some things we’ve been up to recently.

  1. We began ballet lessons and we were extremely cute
  2. We went to the Newmarket pool and had a swim
  3. I helped make an interactive story for 4 Corners about the Australian bushfires
  4. We went to the Brisbane Vegan Markets in West End
  5. I had a chat with the newly formed Animal Justice Party Queensland
  6. It was Vady and Amy’s first time visiting the Brisbane Bookfest
  7. We helped friends move to Teneriffe and had a swim in their pool

Come gather round people

Reading is good. Some days I hop across the bridge at lunch to the Brisbane Square Library. Mostly I raid their graphic novel collections. I’ve been getting into Swamp Thing lately. He’s a lot like me.

In my ear on rides to and from work has been Russell Brand with Revolution on Audible. I quite enjoyed it. Very funny and insightful. More than the pipe dream many people might dismiss it as. But you may say I’m a dreamer.

I also finally finished re-reading The Cider House Rules. Fantastic. Full-on. Very long. An important book that everyone should read, even (and especially) if you don’t want to.

Feast your eyes

On odd occasions we manage to get Vada to go to sleep early and are able to watch a sneaky movie as a treat.

We saw Joker the other day and I had a slight existential crisis when I started empathising with Arthur a bit too much. Especially because I too had dreams of becoming a stand-up comic when I was younger and I also never knew my biological father. But no! Joker was a very naughty boy!

Joaquin Phoenix however is a very good boy. If you haven’t seen his best actor acceptance speech yet. Do yourself a favour. I cried.

But it was Jojo Rabbit that really did it for me. Best picture I’ve seen in ages. Gonna have to go and watch all of Taika’s previous movies now for sure.

Ear candy

If you’re looking for a new podcast to listen to check out The Missing Cryptoqueen about the founder of a cryptocurrency called OneCoin (a bit like Bitcoin) who suddenly and mysteriously disappears without a trace. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Aaaand as much as I loooove Billie Eilish—first vegan to top Triple J’s Hottest 100—we all know Lana Del Rey had the best album of 2019 (if not the decade) and deserved that Grammy. If you haven’t listened to Norman Fucking Rockwell! yet then get on that here.

It’s pure genius.

Joe met me down at the training yard
Cuts on his face ’cause he fought too hard
I know he’s in over his head
But I love that man like nobody can
He moves mountains and pounds them to ground again
I watched the guys getting high as they fight
For the things that they hold dear
To forget the things they fear

The road ahead

The days roll on. Years too. It’s just past 1am and I’m carrying Vada around our living room in the hope that she’ll once again return to sleep.

Outside the city sleeps. The city dreams. But those of you reading these words may be awake somewhere out there with your own crying child.

We each roll through our lives. We journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within. But for now it’s another goodbye.

Feel free to reply to this email or forward it to your friends. I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure they would too.

And here’s a link to share for future letters:

Thanks for reading. Until next time. 🖤

React hooks explained as simply as I humanly possibly can

Hooks let you do more things with function components.

You can use state with the useState() hook.

eg. const [count, setCount] = useState(0).

Now count equals 0.

Update count with setCount(1).

Now count equals 1 and the component will update.

You can also trigger side effects with the useEffect() hook.

eg. useEffect(() => console.log(count), [count]).

Now it will console log every time count updates.

hint: use [] to only trigger the side effect once when the component is mounted and just leave off the second argument to trigger the effect after any state change.

hint 2: if you return a function from your side effect it will run that function after the componet unmounts.

Here’s some code.

import React, {useState, useEffect} from "react";

function Counter(props) {
  const [count, setCount] = useState(0);

  useEffect(() => {
    document.title = count;
  }, [count]);

  function countHigher() {
    setCount(count + 1);

  return (
    <p onClick={countHigher}>

And that’s pretty much it.

If you want a more in-depth look read the docs.

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