11 December 2008

Le ras-le-bol

At the end of October, while wondering why I was at work, I wrote something of a manifesto to implore myself to figure out whether to start looking for a new job. The one I have now is boring me and wasting my time, and I wanted to know for sure whether or not things could be improved.

Some six weeks later, I am convinced that things are actually worse now than they were. Two supplementary tasks have crossed my desk since October - one wanting an Excel spreadsheet, one wanting a couple of reports added to an Access database - and even after several weeks of campaigning, neither of them can even begin. My contact for the latter task is at least trying, despite a total lack of working software or useful data. By contrast, my contacts for the former are no longer just jerking me around and have started blaming me for the delays. I had a meeting yesterday morning with yet another manager, in order to sort out the mess, but we shall see what comes of it.

Were that not bad enough, I have returned to Adelaide, after two days in Melbourne, to a computer that is now a mere inch from useless. We have moved to a new Windows domain and installed Office 2007, the net result of which "upgrades" being nothing but grief. It's taken me two weeks to get access to all my old emails, and everything is slow, slow slow. I suppose that I could be typing this blog entry on it while I'm still at the office (provided Notepad still works), but I've bringing my Mac to work most days and I'd rather use that for personal things while I've got it here.

There's been another reason I've been bringing the Mac to work recently. I started a new version of my curriculum vitae about two weeks ago, and I think it's now complete. No, I haven't exactly decided it's time to start looking for a new job, but I'm quite prepared to do so if these two supplementary tasks don't work out. My software engineering skills can still pay the bills, but if I am to leave, I'd rather get out of the defence industry if at all possible - it'd be nice to be working for the good guys for a change.

Obviously, this might end up putting me in quite a bind. Firstly, the state of the economy hasn't exactly stabilised, and I imagine that I'd find a number of jobs that can't be offered because the money to recruit a new employee simply isn't coming. Secondly, if the job that suits me is in an industry other than defence, it will mean leaving Adelaide in all likelihood, which, despite Adelaide's shortcomings, would be a heartbreaking experience. Thirdly, my skills and experience as a computer programmer are hardly applicable to my new-found passions for film-making and environmentalism. Sure, there's obvious scope for a project that can link all three, but I'm not confident that such an opportunity would arise very often - unless I take an entrepreneurial plunge myself, a nerve-wracking thought to say the least.

It's holding up the process of finding a girlfriend as well. I have met a few people who I'm tempted to ask out and who I think might be open to it if I do. That said, if my clearest career prospects involve being unemployed and leaving Adelaide, I can't really offer them my stability in my own life; in fact, I'm not always good company at the moment. I want to get back into the game again, but I can't help but wonder how long I could string someone along without hurting them. All of these things take time: a lot could happen in the next few months, and a major upheaval of my livelihood is certainly a strong possibility.

In the meantime, I can still look forward to a few pleasant certainties in my life. I went out last week with some old work colleagues for nachos and Sangria. The Crocs were here last night - although the less said about that, the better - and the office Christmas party is tonight. My family is staying with me over Christmas and New Year. I've caught up with a few long lost friends on Facebook. Plus, I've still got a bedroom to renovate, a Christmas tree to put up, and a few presents to wrap (and at least one to make).

These are the things to which I'm looking forward right now. Something has to keep me going at work, when the work itself has so little left to offer.

23 November 2008

VIDEO: a response to communitychannel's racist friend

I saw a video that Natalie (from CommunityChannel) in which she responds to a racist comment that she had received. Well, I've shot my own response, and I've finally had a chance to cut it together and publish it.

10 November 2008

plus ça change

Half-way around the world, another country embraces change. Upstairs at my place, things are more the same than ever.

The upstairs rooms are still in a state. I've been meaning to tidy up the bathrooms, but I got gastro a couple of weeks ago and I didn't feel like doing much for a few days. That set everything else back, so I'm only just getting back to it now. Admittedly, I've only got a few odd jobs left to do before I set upon my own bedroom, but getting back to them has been a bit of a struggle.

My parents and my brother are coming down for Christmas and New Year and not much else. They're only getting here the day before Christmas itself (so I'll miss Dad's birthday), and they're only here for a few days after New Year. Now that I've got plenty of places to put them up, that's not going to be an issue. Plus, I won't have many days to fill up with things to do. Still, I only get to see them in person once a year, an experience sadly not available on Skype.

I invited a few friends and relatives out to celebrate my birthday - not on my birthday, because nobody could go, but still, the celebration's the thing. I wanted to bring together people from different circles but that I knew would get along, so I invited them all out for dinner at one of the local restaurants. It all went off pretty well. Not everyone could turn up, including my lady friend who isn't my girlfriend; she did drunk-dial me to invite me out afterwards, though.

Since someone has already asked, I should mention that this time was much easier and much less awkward than two weeks prior. Sure, she got nearly as drunk and I was even more sober, but the pressure came off: the expectations were much more subdued, and having learnt what she gets like, I understand a bit better how I should treat her. Even the weird things drunk people say - which might be insightful unspoken truths, or which might be random crap - don't affect me as much any more. (Actually, they affect me a lot more than I care to admit, but I'm getting more graceful about it.)

Actually, on that note, I did meet someone a week ago. I was at a presentation about the limits to economic growth, organised by Economic Reform Australia. It was an excellent discussion - the presenter just about wore himself out with his own enthusiasm, and everyone seemed to hang on his every word. I hung around afterwards to join in the afterglow, and in the process, I met a young lady who had come from China to do her PhD in environmental accounting. We got to talking about climate change and peak oil - normally a good way to end conversations with the uninitiated, but not in this case. It was actually something of a novelty for me to talk to someone both intellectual and open-minded about the subject: most of the people I know either worry themselves sick about peak oil or refuse to acknowledge the problems in any way. I've sent her a couple of emails on the subject, so she's got plenty of homework to do, but I can't help but wonder if she'll get back to me. I mean, I'm happy enough to network for now, but I wonder if she'd like to continue the conversation over a coffee. Oh well, we'll see.

* * * * * *

The thing that's really bothering me at the moment is work. Things are going from the sublime to the ridiculous, and I'm still bored out of my mind. However, it has taken a turn for the worse in the past week or two.

We are working on a task that has turned sour before it has even started. I suspect my boss doesn't know what we're doing either and is just making it up as he goes along. This wouldn't worry me, normally, but not only is he holding me up by our not knowing, but he's working hard to pretend both that we do and that I can't see through it. Every time we talk about what's happening, I learn something fundamental about the project that I should have been told weeks ago, certainly before we started submitting documents about it.

I spent some time writing my boss an email, in which I collated the whole array of things I hadn't been told in a timely fashion, or hadn't been told at all, that have gotten this project on the wrong foot so early. The email turned pretty nasty pretty quickly, though, and I wasn't sure it wouldn't do more harm than good to send it. Normally, I prefer to write something a bit more positive and a lot more constructive, even if the nasty version says things that really need to be said. I don't know whether I can hold back this time. Maybe my patient really is at an end.

For all the time I've had wasted by having nothing to do at work, you'd think I'd be welcoming this with open arms. However, that's not the point. I'm sick and tired of being treated like a mushroom in this job. I've been so patient with him, and I've been consistently let down. This has to change now. The question remains: even if this will make things better for me, do I have the guts to do it?

13 October 2008

"welcome to my favourites"

Well, I've had a pretty full-on couple of weeks. It's been a real rollercoaster ride: the highs have been really high and the lows have been major catastrophes. I'm glad things are starting to calm down now.

Alright, where do I start?

* * * * * *

When my friend Janet visited a couple of weekends ago, we talked a little bit about fixing up one of the rooms at home. The room at the top of the stairs was basically a return desk, with random junk underneath and random cleaning products on top. (Kind of an ironic combination, now that I think about it.) Janet and I talked about clearing that room and she suggested turning it into a lounge room of some sort.

The first thing to do was to find a cupboard to put all the junk in. I found a pantry that doesn't quite fit in the room properly, but I've since had that moved into the spare bedroom and I'm slowly filling it up. The empty landing has been filled with a sofa bed and a coffee table - so I've now lost my Ikea virginity - and I've moved the TV, the Wii and a DVD player out there as well. It's all starting to take shape.

In something of a strange coincidence, just as I'd finished clearing the room, we got a knock on the front door from an art student who had some paintings to show off. He and I got to talking and I showed him the room that I was renovating. I ended up buying two paintings of Mediterranean landscapes, and he's since been back to frame them. The room itself is white walls with black furniture, but the paintings give the room a bit of colour. I've got a few more ideas about that, but I've got to move on to the spare bedroom now and put things away.

Eventually, I'll get back to my own room. It used to be in quite a state, but now it's not only in a state but also looking a bit bare without the TV.

* * * * * *

My birthday has just come and gone. I've just turned 29 for the third time. :)

Saturday had all the makings of a terribly depressing birthday. A friend of a friend wants to sell a bicycle, and I took it for a ride in the morning, but I'm still not sure about buying it. I'm going to take it to work on Wednesday (and hopefully on Thursday as well), which is really what I want a new bike for. I did a bit of shopping, but save for a few details for my new lounge room, I didn't really buy anything.

I'd been at great pains all day to find someone to celebrate my birthday with; pretty much everyone I know was already doing something. My family back home called me on Skype, and when that was done, it was nearly 20:00 and I still had nothing fun to do and no company to do it with. I gave up and headed down to the pub.

As pubs go, the Mawson Lakes Hotel is pretty upmarket. Aside the poker machines at one end and the sports bar at the other, it's a pretty classy establishment. I've gone there to dine many times, but I've not been there much for a drink. For my birthday, I decided to to both, treating myself to a steak and a glass of shiraz, and then staying on for a beer or two.

It worked out okay as well. I just wanted to buy a few people a few drinks, and although it took a while for people to figure out that I was just celebrating my birthday by throwing money around in exchange for alcohol, we all understood each other in the end. In fact, I even got a few free pints out of it myself. When the sports bar shut, those of us who were left moved to the far classier end of the bar, where a wedding party had moved in. It was nearly 02:00 the next morning when things quieted down.

When I got up the next morning, reading the news and checking my email as I often do over breakfast, I got a whole slew of emails from YouTube. A couple of weeks ago, I put up a clip from Newstopia to commemorate its return for a third season. It turned out that a couple of blogs in the USA and Canada had picked it up, and thousands of people had clicked through and watched it. I've had a few dozen comments in the last two days, and several people were so impressed that they subscribed to my channel on the spot. About 150 have rated it, and about as many again have added it to their favourites. As I write this, it's one of the top 50 videos in Australia, and I'm currently one of the hundred most popular Australian directors on YouTube. I love surprises, sure, but this really came out of the blue. I've got a few more videos to work on, and if anything's going to get me to make the time to do them, that might just be it.

The only problem was that I didn't end up going for a bike ride that I'd planned to do that afternoon. It was a bit hot and stuffy that day, and I was valiantly fighting off a headache. This is what happens when I don't drink enough water - though I don't wonder whether the big night before had anything to do with it, of course.

* * * * * *

I've written a fair bit over the past few months, albeit rather obtusely, about finally getting into a relationship again, and I've got good news and bad news on that front.

The young lady in question works near where I work, and over the past six months or so, we've sort of gotten to chatting a bit over the counter. (She can't stop to chat very much while she's at work, so I've had to learn how to keep my conversations under a minute.) She's been very nice to me, but we haven't really had a chance to get to know each other. Eventually, I asked her out for a cup of coffee, and we've caught up on occasion after work, but that was about it.

On the long weekend, she and some other relatives were taking a cousin out for his 18th birthday, and she invited me to come along. It's a good sign for me that on the two occasions I've seen her socially, I've met relatives on either side of her family. We all headed off in search of drinking and dancing, and although she and I got separated from the rest of the group, there are plenty of places to party in the city. Things were going really well - for a while.

As we moved from one club to the next, it occurred to me that, as it is so often wont to do, the alcohol was starting to push things out of control. I'd driven into the city and had been drinking lots of water, so that I could sober up fast when it was time to leave. As it happened, I needed to be sober far more urgently than I'd expected. I won't go into the gory details in such a public forum as this: suffice to say that nothing really happened, but largely because of my intervention. I was going to take her home to make sure she was all right - and nothing more, before you ask - but she redirected me to a friend's place and I dropped her off there.

I was out and about the next day, but I thought I'd drop in to see how she was doing, since it wasn't far out of the way. It turned out that the place I dropped her was actually - gasp! - her boyfriend's place. He didn't know anything about me, and I didn't know anything about him, so it was all a bit delicate. I didn't talk much, but I had to get out of there before anyone made an even bigger fool out of me.

I was pretty upset that day. I'd had such a good night, and I'd had my hopes built up so much, that it was devastating to have them all crash down in such awkward circumstances. I've spoken privately to choice members of my family and friends, and that calmed me down a lot. I needed a few days to process things, and to take my mind off it, before I talked to her again.

When I called her up on Tuesday, she and I were able to talk frankly about what had happened. She didn't want to be more than friends and apologised if that hadn't been clearer earlier. In return, although I had had the wrong idea about us (particuarly on the night), I now know that she's already attached to someone else, and I needed to assure them both that I'm not going to be any threat to their relationship whatsoever. In that sense, as my brother had pointed out to me, the whole thing may have been a lucky escape; I might have gone on a lot longer, hoping falsely and harbouring that wrong idea.

It was refreshing to be able to talk about such grave misunderstandings as mature adults. I haven't always been lucky enough to have that around me - as anyone who has known me long enough to remember either the last job I had or the last relationship I was in will attest. Furthermore, where relationships are concerned, stealing someone else's partner is completely out of the question for me: I've been on the receiving end of that myself, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone else. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about trusting her, but then again, I wasn't sure how much she'd want to trust me either. Our little chat last week has all but convinced me entirely that that won't be an issue for us.

The bottom line is pretty simple. The good news is that we still want to be friends and still think we can make it happen. The bad news is that I still don't have a girlfriend. That said, I've still got plenty of chips left on the stack, and I'm not afraid to ante up and start playing all over again.

* * * * * *

It's weird. In net terms, I don't feel as though I've gained a lot in these past few weeks. Yet, I can't help but feel a sense of achievement, that things have changed now and changed for the better. There are still many things to be done, but it's been a long time since I've wanted to do them with this level of vigour.

I am tired but overstimulated. When this passes, I will just be able to take everything in and appreciate the way it has become. I can hope.

12 October 2008

Video: Newstopia explains the Reserve Bank

At the start of the year, I cut together a sketch from Newstopia about the Reserve Bank of Australia. With the show back on TV for a third season, I've finally put the video I made on YouTube.

I know I don't own the copyright to this, but there are plenty of other Newstopia clips out there, and SBS doesn't seem to mind. (Personally, I think they need all the publicity they can get for this show - but that's not to say they don't deserve it.)

I've gotten a pretty good response to this already, especially since a couple of liberal blogs picked it up. It's also been copied already, but if it wasn't mine to begin with, I don't think I'll kick up too much of a fuss.

28 September 2008

giving is receiving

Not much is happening at the moment. I had hoped to be busy enough to appreciate the calm, but really, I'm itching to disturb it.

I was paid a visit last weekend by an old friend from Townsville. Janet and I have only kept in touch sporadically over the past couple of years, but she came down for a wedding and stayed a few nights here. I was fighting off a generic lurgi from two different directions, so I wasn't ideal company, but made a good time of it. The Crocs lost, sadly, but we took a bus trip up to the Barossa Valley and spent most of the Monday shopping. Most of this I've done before, but I've never spent quite so much time with a $185 bottle of Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz; it cost me a tenner just to taste it, but it was superb, worth every cent.

Work is about the same. I've been on-site on and off for the past two weeks, so I have had at least some proper work to do, even if it's not really mine. Now that I'm officially on standby - a status change that, in itself, took nearly three months - I'm a bit worried about turning into a bit of a dogsbody, getting dragged in to do the dirty work on everyone's little pet projects that they never get time to do. I almost want someone to tell me that we really have run out of things for me to do, so that I'd know that they'd stopped kidding themselves. Actually, I wonder if someone is going to tell me something about anything; the jobs I've been lined up for keep falling through one by one, which is as much a curse as a blessing.

Things aren't getting any easier on the relationship front, either. I had hoped to set up my actual common-or-garden date for last night, but my lady friend hardly had time even to tell me how busy she already was that night. I feel that she's done a lot more favours for me than I've been able to return so far, and I'm trying hard not to be impatient about when I'll be able to restore the balance.

We're even coming up to another special occasion that won't go exactly as planned. My birthday is only two weeks away, and as usual, not only do I not know what I want, but the only things I can think of are too big and too expensive for other people to buy them for me, and I'm too fussy to let them do it anyway. Try this combination out some day: it's a sure-fire way of not getting the presents you want. (Not that I don't appreciate people trying, of course - and, unlike some of my friends, I do like a pleasant surprise.)

That said, as presents go, if there's nothing you want, maybe there's something you need. Trouble is, what I need more than anything now is to give. I've even thought of calling my birthday off this year and using that time to do something for someone else. I've even got a few ideas already about who I can serve and what they might like. Maybe that's was missing. The serving, that is, not the other people.

01 September 2008

Crash

Last night, I watched a film called Crash, which you may remember as the dark horse that pipped Brokeback Mountain for the Academy Award for Best Picture a couple of years ago. I'm not going to get into the controversy of the Oscar nod, particularly because I haven't even seen Brokeback Mountain to comment on it. Crash, however, despite its low budget, is something special: it's a powerful and emotional piece of cinematic storytelling. I'm almost ashamed to have only just found it on sale for ten bucks; it deserves much better.

The movie deals a lot with one's sense of faith in other people. There's a lot of segregation in the film - among races, among classes, among professions - but overall, it's more about people coming together than it is about separating them. The drama comes from the trying coincidences that bring these people together and the decisions that they make when faced with these problems. From a philosophical standpoint, it's fascinating.

I'm faced with a few moral dilemmas myself at the moment, and I'm having a great deal of difficulty deciding on the right things to do. More to the point, I keep wondering whether even any one of these dilemmas might, dramatically and at short notice, change something important in my life. Here are a few examples.

* * * * * *

My housemate and landlord has shuffled some money around, and he's in the market for a photovoltaic installation for the house. He hasn't spoken too much to me about the details; I think he wants to get it started, taking advantage of the government rebates on solar electricity in the process, and do what is obviously the right thing. It seems pretty straightforward.

Now, you'd think that a greenie such as myself would support such a plan. Yet, I don't know whether I do; nay, I don't even know that it's not a really stupid idea of which I want no part whatsoever. How can this be? How can it not be as simple as that?

There is a lot to like about this house, but from the perspective of long-term environmental sustainability, there's a lot to hate as well. Like most houses in the suburb, it has paper-thin walls and no insulation, thanks to the blasé assumption that all interior climate can be solved with a big enough air conditioner. Furthermore, the main living areas have those horrible recessed halogen downlights. Although pitched as low-voltage, they consume enormous amounts of electricity, they each have a transformer that consumes even more electricity, and, according to an uncle of mine who is himself an electrician, they're a fire risk.

If that weren't bad enough, the house is full of electronic gadgets that are continuously either left on or left in standby mode. In fact, my housemate's hi-fi cabinet - which doesn't contain a television or a computer - consumes more electricity on standby than every appliance I own combined. I can only guess what it's like in parts of the house I haven't measured.

For me, the dilemma is that for all of the electricity that his proposed PV installation would provide, he could save far more energy just with a few minor adjustments here and there. The thousands of dollars he would be spending on solar power would be better spent on replacement downlights, ceiling insulation and canopies for the north-facing windows. If that in and of itself doesn't cover the difference in electricity use, the simple habit of turning appliances off at the mains when they're not being used - or getting timers for those power points that are hard to reach - would put him over the top. To look at the problem in reverse, he'll be spending money on electricity he either doesn't even use or doesn't have to have.

Of course, not everyone sees these problems the way I do, and that means I've got to be very careful how I explain it. Certainly, my way would be a far better investment of his time and money, since, importantly, it might actually have a chance of changing his way of thinking about energy use. (Besides, were he really so keen on Mother Earth, he'd be getting rid of that surrogate penis he drives everywhere.) It's really the change in mentality that's required here.

I'm not against him investing in solar power - I do believe it's a worthwhile investment - but I want him to know what he's getting himself into. I want him to be able to quantify what he's spending his time and money on. Perhaps the biggest questions, and the ones I'd ask first, are why he's doing this and how much of a difference he thinks it will make.

That said, I hope he's just as well prepared for my answers. Ideally, I would want to test him, to set him some homework, and make sure he knows what he's doing. On the other hand, if he can't understand that he might just be wasting his time, he's got no chance of understanding how he'll be wasting mine. I'm used to the idea of people not necessarily appreciating my help, but perhaps he is not.

* * * * * *

I'm in something of an odd spot at work as well, and have been for longer than I'm comfortable to admit. Anyway, here goes.

The project I'm doing at work is drawing to a close. Well, apparently, it is, anyway. I pretty much finished everything I needed to do at the end of June, and I've been figuratively twiddling my thumbs ever since. During this time, I haven't been game to take the bus or the bike to work, just in case I get dragged up to the clients' site at short notice. However, I have started taking my Mac to work, to pass the time editing movies rather than playing cards.

In the meantime, my betters have been talking to me about the sorts of projects that I might be working on next time. Every upcoming project seems to be in a different city, so I'm less worried about the work itself than I am about where I'm going to be and how I'm going to get there. Maybe I'll still be here; maybe I'll be here sometimes and flying back and forth to Canberra; maybe I'll have to move temporarily. I just don't know yet.

None of this is really on my mind while I'm at work, though. I'm far more interested to know how I can get rid of the project I've got now. Even after the weeks at the start of the project that were essentially wasted arguing about what we could and couldn't do with the resources we had, I'm convinced that I finished everything I needed to do in the last week of June. It's now September and I've barely done a week's work in that time. I'm getting the impression that this project is never going to end, and it's little consolation that my supervisor is nearly as frustrated about it as I am.

It's a depressing situation to be in, but I wonder whether it wouldn't be worse to say something. At the moment, it's just embarrassing to me; if I speak out, it will be embarrassing to me, to my supervisor, and probably to his supervisor as well. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I embarrassed my bosses in my previous job by speaking frankly about their obvious incompetence. Unsurprisingly, they were very defensive about it and very vindictive towards me, and things ended very badly as a result. It doesn't help when you are dealing with people whose self-image of being problem-solvers is little more than a crude disguise.

Although this isn't exactly the same situation, I don't really want to risk causing the same problems. That being said, I don't know what else to do about it. As it is, I don't know how much longer I can keep coming to work, knowing that every day is going to be a little bit worse than the one before. I should, by rights, speak out and at least stick up for myself. The problem is how to point out a grave problem delicately to someone who might not react in the most gracious fashion - which may have more of a detrimental effect than I was hoping for, and not just on me.

* * * * * *

Two months ago, I wrote in this blog that it was time to find a young woman to bring into my life again. I've been pretty coy about this, but only because this has taken a bit longer than I'd hoped. You know that patience is a virtue, because being patient is really hard.

Well, there is a young woman in the picture now. I'd talked to her a few times where she worked, and she was always really nice to me, as fleeting as our conversations were. Shortly after I wrote about wanting someone special in my life again, I summoned up the courage to ask her out - and although she didn't know when she'd have time to do it, she said yes. We've slotted in some short conversations after work, but even these have been few and far between. It's tricky to talk to her at work, even if it's only to ask whether she can hang around for a chat afterwards. (The last time I talked to her at work, I hung around a bit too long and I think I might have gotten her into trouble with her boss. Actually, I think I might have gotten myself into trouble with her boss as well.)

What I'd been hoping for was a chance for us just to sit down and get to know each other a bit better, which is something on which I put a lot of value. That said, it might also have been a chance for her to chat with me and not to have somewhere else to go in a hurry straight afterwards. It was time to ask her on a proper date. I would have done it, too - had she not gotten in first.

She was taking her mother out bowling on Friday night, along with a few other relatives, just for a bit of fun. When I saw her on Thursday, she asked me if I wanted to come along. My date idea would have to wait for another time, but I was thinking more about trying not to be overcome with how flattered I was to be invited.


It's hard to see any of this as a bad thing. Okay, so she couldn't get a booking at the first bowling alley she tried, but she found another one and booked a lane there. Everything else on the night went off without a hitch. Bowling was fun, even with the bumpers out for those of us who had never bowled before. Better, though, I got to meet some of her family, who were all quite warm to me, and I hope I came across the same way. Everyone had a good time.

I'm the first to admit that things haven't progressed as quickly as I'd hoped with this girl and that I don't know her very well yet. Still, I like what I've found out so far, and I'm trying to be patient with it, waiting for a chance to learn more. She's a fairly straight talker, and even being a few years younger than me, she seems to have a strong sense of responsibility, both for herself and for others. (Having spent six years working among people who have neither of these qualities, you can see how much I'd appreciate someone who exhibits both.) As if the way she carries herself weren't attractive enough, she made the bold gesture of inviting me out to family get-together. Something must be going right. Indeed, nothing much seems to have gone wrong yet.

So... what's the problem? What's on my mind? What am I afraid of?

As I mentioned earlier, things are a bit up-in-the-air at work. The thing I'm most worried about is the idea that I might have to leave town at short notice and that I might not be back for many months. I'm worried about getting so close that I might hurt her if I have to be away. How I might feel is a worry as well, of course, but I'm more worried about how she might feel if things end before they really start. I don't really know what to do.

I was talking to my best friend back home about this. My instinctive response is to tell her what's happening at work and how something interstate might just pop up. My friend wasn't so sure it was the right time to tell her: there's a chance that it might scare her off, and there's a chance that this might be an "issue" that scares her off. I don't know whether any of this will happen yet, but at this early stage, talking about what might ruin things might send the wrong message, as though I was looking for a way to avoid her, or as though I didn't care whether it hurt her or not. As I put it, I'm concerned that something might happen with work before something happens with her, and I'm concerned that something will happen with her and then I'll get sent away for work.

One thing I love about this job is the breadth of opportunity - that if I stay on long enough, I might get to work all over the world in all sorts of different areas. (That's also helping me be patient with the project I've got that I don't seem to be able to get rid of.) That said, it might just be my undoing as well. It all seems a bit delicate at the moment.

I'm pretty sure I like this girl, and I'm pretty sure that she likes me - and yet, somehow, this isn't entirely a good thing. It's difficult enough for her to make time for me, since we rarely see each other outside of her work, but this is a minor hurdle by comparison. This is a complication that I don't need, and one that I don't want, but also one I don't want to give up on.

* * * * * *

Crash opens with a voiceover from "Detective Graham Waters" (Don Cheadle), who laments that in the city, paradoxically, people are so close together, and yet so isolated from each other, that it's only the most dramatic aspects of society that people notice. Everything has to be in black and white. It's either good or it's evil. It's either perfect or it's nothing.

I can see this happening among other people, but I'm not sure it's true of me. I'm proud of how flexible and tolerant I can be and how much of life's subtlety I can appreciate. As I'm finishing this off at work, my boss's boss has stuck his head through the door. I hardly even notice that he's seen me doing something that doesn't even look work-related. He says he hasn't heard about the Perth job: we may not have won the tender, but then again, the whole thing might just be running late. Another story with two sides, and neither of them is easy to explain.

Suddenly, I'm transported into the movie again. I'm sitting here typing all alone, still surrounded by people who I don't know whether I can trust. I don't know how they see themselves, nor how they see themselves tested every day. All I have is myself. The test is one set for my own faith that other people will do the right thing for the right reasons. I've failed this test before, but I'll do better this time. I have to.

17 August 2008

Cleanse

Once again, there are lots of things to talk about, but through all of them runs a common theme: cleansing.

I'm only just getting over the flu. I starting feeling a bit rotten last Sunday, and I took Monday and Tuesday off work to slack off and recover a bit. (If only there had been something on TV - some sport, perhaps - that I could have watched while I was at home in bed.) It turns out that about half the office had done the same, for the same reason. We all blame the work experience girl: she left us this week after finishing a report, but if anything comes of it, she might be back for more.

Two of my friends share a birthday today. One is an old friend from high school and uni who I don't think I've seen since I moved away from Townsville. To be frank, I had a bit of a thing for her at school that I was always too much of a wuss to do anything about - so it was a bit weird to find her on Facebook and discover that she was married! I guess this is what happens when you fall out of touch with people for years at a time. Oh well. My other friend whose birthday it is today is currently flying around the world, and I'm not. I don't lament this any more, either, and I'm certainly not bitter or jealous that so many of my family and friends have gone overseas recently without me. Yes.

I spent some time over dinner tonight watching and reading news reports out of South Ossetia. It's good to see that some people aren't falling for the western media's hit job on the Russians: the Georgians started this, with the blessing of western allies, and the South Ossetians actually want the Russians there to keep the west out. It's embarrassing that "Russia's invasion of Georgia" has already entered the vernacular of many of us in the west, by way of the disinformation that our own media is using against us. The best commentary I've seen so far was Mike Whitney's Putin's Winning Hand, although I did like this comment as well:

"The appropriate parallel would be for Canada to offer to have Russian missiles located in Canada to protect everyone from any possible Rogue States. We have one next door."

That's it for now. Still no news about work, and still no news about... anything else, but I'm working on that.

30 July 2008

So much news

It's been nearly a month to the day since I posted anything, but so much has happened that I've had trouble finding the time to tell people about it.

At the start of July, I was whisked away for a week to attend a C++ training course. It was a good course, and it's been very useful for me to brush up. It also meant I could walk to work for a week, since the training course was just on the other side of the lake. If we'd had some decent weather, that would have been a good thing.

Thanks to the course, I missed the iPhone launch. I've decided not to get one for the moment, and have opted for the far cheaper option of a little prepaid Nokia 6300. I haven't quite set it all up the way I want yet, but unlike my previous phone (which I've had for four and a half years), the battery's good and all the buttons work.

Two weeks ago, we had a bit of a fundraiser for the granddaughter of one of the managing directors. She has a rare form of juvenile cancer and requires ongoing treatment. For us, it meant lighting the barbie and getting the guys together, chipping in a few bob for a good cause. While we were at it, we also had a Wii Sports Tennis tournament, to cough up a few more funds. Incidentally, I did win the tournament - but that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

With regard to my actual work, my current project is winding down. There's nothing major to do with either the software or the documentation, so it won't be long before we just hand it over. The big question is what happens next: I might not be in Adelaide for the next one, and in fact, I may not even be in the country. There are a lot of options open at the moment, and it remains to be seen which of them will stay open.

As for the subject of my last post... Yes, something has happened. It hasn't seemed like the right time to follow up on it yet, but I'm hopeful. Stay tuned.

01 July 2008

c'est l'heure

Ces derniers jours, je me suis senti un peu renouvelé. Le jeudi passé a marqué une année depuis mon départ de DSTO, et je reviens à tout à l'heure d'une sensation de libération.

C'est l'heure.

La solitude pendant cette période m'a offert beaucoup d'occasions de découvrir ce qui reste «en moi» (merci une fois encore, CC). Il s'est passé plein de choses - quelques bonnes, quelques mauvaises - mais finalement, je suis content de moi-même. J'ai eu depuis longtemps l'impression d'avoir quelque chose à offrir de moi-même, soit à donner à moi-même, soit à donner à tout le monde. Cela dit, c'est seulement à nouveau que je me suis rendu compte du besoin de l'offrir - et je parle de l'offrir à quelqu'un de spécial.

Ça fait trop longtemps.


Et je crois que je le mérite. Je suis fier de moi, de ce que j'ai accompli, de mes ambitions et mes rêves, et même de mes fautes. Ce qu'il me faut à nouveau, c'est le partager; c'est trouver quelqu'un qui me comprend et que je peux comprendre, qui m'apprécie et que je peux apprécier:

I'm praying to be
In a generous mood -
The kindness kind -
To share me...

Ça m'a manqué.

Cette dernière année, j'ai fait beaucoup pour moi-même, et j'ai fait beaucoup pour les autres, bien qu'ils ne se soient pas toujours rendu compte de moi. De toute façon, dès ce moment-ci, je suis à la récherche de quelqu'un en particulier, de quelque chose à faire ensemble.

Ça fait trop longtemps.


C'est l'heure. C'est tout.

26 June 2008

Tim Flannery proposes voluntary global dimming

I'm a regular reader of a Yahoo group called Running On Empty Australia (ROEOZ), which is primarily concerned with environmental sustainability in a post-peak-oil world.

A few days ago, I posted some links conveying the news that Tim Flannery - yes, the 2007 Australian Of The Year - was actually advocating covering the atmosphere with soot as a possible solution to global warming. It seems that Flannery has gone quite mad - or, at least, he hasn't realised that we're already doing this, with fairly adverse consequences to humans and hardly any effect at all on global warming.

I was going to make a video about this, but a
fellow ROEOZ reader has posted a pretty good summary of the discussion here.

10 June 2008

Video: An open letter to Ireland regarding the Lisbon Treaty

As I promised myself, I've recorded a brief video about why the people of Ireland should vote No to the Treaty of Lisbon on Thursday, 12 June. I don't know whether this will get through to anyone, but I really need to warn people about how important it is to stop this going ahead.

Watch it here.


UPDATE 2010-02-14: I have deleted this video because it's no longer newsworthy. Ireland was forced to vote again and conceded to the EU. However, I haven't removed the link because I don't know how "deleted" the video is; perhaps there is still a way to watch it.

01 June 2008

It's been a long couple of weeks

I haven't posted for a few weeks, partly because I haven't had a lot of time. I've had two eBay auctions go through, both of which worked out pretty well. I've had my first performance review in my current job, and I'm really happy with how that went. I've got a few things to sort out with my fabulous wealth (which is really neither), but things are going OK.

One thing I want to do is get a message to the people of Ireland regarding the Lisbon Treaty. Ireland is the only country that is having a popular vote on ratifying the Treaty; the other 26 countries in the European Union aren't going to because they don't care what ordinary people think. These are dangerous changes to the way the EU works; these are major constitutional changes that threaten democracy for all Europe, the previous EU Constitution disguised as a mere Treaty so the voice of the people won't be heard. There may be a video in this, but with the vote happening in less than two weeks, time is running out. I would recommend any swinging voters watch End Of Nations, which describes in great (but admittedly laborious) detail the changes that the Lisbon Treaty are forcing on the sovereign nations of Europe. Get this message out to everyone you know in the EU, whether they get a vote or not.

I went to the Eco Living Expo at the Adelaide Showgrounds yesterday. It's good to see something a bit more practical that I can do for the environment, if only for my (rented) piece of the world to be setting a good example. I think I'm getting close to the point where there is very little more that I can do for the environment in my current living situation; I need to treat my imagination to something more hands-on. I didn't see much of Earth-repairing significance at the Expo, but it's clear to me that when I eventually need to ask questions about the shape and form of my own place, the answers will be waiting for me.

05 May 2008

One more working week without a car

About a month ago, I wrote about trying to get to work for a whole week without using my car. With a renewed sense of adventure, and with convenient new bus timetable coming into effect, I thought it was time to up the ante.

There would be a few important differences this time. For example, instead of subjecting myself in the worst heat wave in recorded history, I'm now facing the onset of the South Australian winter, with random showers and sea breezes sending the temperature to the floor at a moment's notice. I also don't have any public holidays this time around: I've got to keep this up for the full five days.

More importantly, I made liberal use of the trains last time, so I would have less riding to work in the morning (although I still rode home afterwards). Now that I've finally found somewhere I can have a shower at work, I want to work up to riding all the way from home to work by the end of the week.

This is going to take a bit of planning. I'm not going to take food and clothes to work on the bike every day, so I'm taking the bus on Monday to take some clothes to work, and again on Friday to take them home again. Tuesday through Thursday, I'll be riding, but I'll still have to pack food for the day. On the Sunday night, I already had everything packed: deodorant, clothes for the week, soap and towel for the shower, leftovers in the fridge for lunch; and my umbrella, of course, for the walking in between.

That's not to say, though, that I couldn't also suffer a minor setback before the week started: it was bucketing down with rain outside. Before I could take a 15-minute drive to work, I had to endure a 15-minute walk to the train stop; if it's still raining like this in the morning, I'm going to wonder how I ever survived it. For now, there's little more I can do but hope for the weather to ease before tomorrow morning.

Monday

It's always a shock when my mobile phone wakes me up at 6:15 in the morning. Let me sleep in until 6:20, at least. Make it 6:25.

With a quick twist of the blinds, I peer outside to what appears to be a break in the weather. Hopefully, this will hold until I get to work. Despite not having wanted to leave the warmth of the shower, I collected my backpack and my travel bag and headed off.

My daily detour to the local bakery was met with a few spots of rain, which I hardly noticed at all. By the time I'd bought breakfast, the rain had started anew, and with umbrella in hand, I braced myself for the walk to the interchange. When I reached the footpath, I saw a bus coming - the only bus that runs from the shops to the train at that hour of the morning, no less. I hadn't planned on catching this, given the reliable tardiness of buses - particularly when I need to catch one at a particular time to make a transfer further down the road - but it stopped right in front of me and was going the right way.

The Mawson Lakes railway station itself does its best to shield waiting passengers from the elements, with wide metal roofs and an enclosed lounge for city-bound passengers. The elements were winning today, though: with the strong easterly wind, you had to stick to the west side of the stairs not to get wet. Across the track, the city-bound passengers anxiously awaited their vessel, a rainbow to the south marking its destination.

There seems to be a marked difference between the people travelling north and those travelling into the city, with the latter group seemingly better endowed with attractive women. Sure, they have nicer clothes and accessories - or, at least, more expensive clothes and accessories - but they have nicer faces as well, or at least there is a greater proportion of nice faces. Do these people have good jobs in the city because of a better genetic predisposition? And what does that even mean? Perhaps it's my longing gaze across the tracks, my wondering about the inner-city lifestyle only matched by my disappointment that they best-looking ones are never going the same way as I am.

Then again, perhaps I'm also disappointed that I'm going the same way I am. The defence sites can be pretty drab, especially if your office is as isolated as mine. I'm glad I don't work for the Department any more, but working in a private company for the same industry is often just as taxing on one's moral compass. My current project is at something of a crossroads, but since none of us knows with path to take, the whole thing has come to a grinding halt. I've got a few things to work on today, but I can't help the impression that I'll be entertaining myself for half the day.

Getting ready to go home, I had a quick glance at the news. This morning's cold snap broke temperature records across the state, and it wasn't so long ago that South Australia was suffering the longest heat wave in national recorded history. I also noted that the crew from The Chaser's War On Everything have all had the charges against them dropped, news which brought a knowing smile to my face. I grabbed my backpack and headed home.

I've certainly appreciated the change in bus timetable, which got me arriving at work ten minutes earlier and leaving five minutes later - just enough leeway to put in a full eight-hour day. Outside, the intermittent rain has made way to sunshine so brilliant that it almost hurts to look where I'm going. Not that I need to, mind: there's not much traffic to dodge, and I've only got Muse on my iPod to keep me company until I get to the bus.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I took the bike out tonight to get some food to bring home. The bike's still going strong, but the evening air was freezing. It's going to be worse at 8:00 tomorrow morning. Fortunately, I won't have anything to carry except food, since all my work clothes are already at work.

Tuesday

The plan today was to ride my bike to the train, take the train to Elizabeth, and ride back to work. I've done this a few times before, and both stretches on the bike are pretty leisurely.

I once saw someone riding across the bridge at Elizabeth at the same time as me. He was riding on the road, and I stuck to riding on the footpath. Now that I've ridden on the road, I don't know how anyone ever put up with it. On top of the constant flirting with rush-hour traffic, the bitumen is cracking at the seams, which makes for one hell of a bumpy ride on a bike. Next time, I think I'll stay on the footpath.

The good part about this stretch of road, though, is that the way from here to my office is a sealed road that is, for some unknown reason, closed to all car traffic. There's a section of East Avenue that's blocked off, starting at Bellchambers Road at the northern end, and ending at an assortment of offices of Defence contractors. Actually, the road runs from there all the way through DSTO, but much to the chagrin of the early-morning commuters, the north gatehouse is very rarely open.

As is so often the case, it wasn't until I'd gotten to work that I realised I'd forgotten something. Word to the wise: if you aren't going to wear your work shoes on the way to work, /leave them at work/. So I was in my good work clothes, and a pair of sneakers. Really, there wouldn't be anything wrong with wearing my work shoes on the bike: they're little more than black sneakers, after all, and I've walked many a mile in them already. The problem is deciding whether to wear them to work every day or whether to take them to work once and leave them there all week - and sticking to that one plan. I didn't bring a belt, either, but I've got no excuse for that.

I'm starting to look forward to the ride home each day now. Leaving at twilight, you see the colours change over the Edinburgh bushland. On Tuesdays, you get to laugh at the people queued up for cheap petrol; on Wednesdays, you get to laugh at the people who forgot to fill up their cars on Tuesday. It's not that I'm not a sucker for the gas-guzzling lifestyle: I still own a car, after all, but I drive so little in it that I feel that I'm making that evolutionary leap beyond oil with every day that I choose an alternative. Remember, peak oil is largely an economic phenomenon, so the weaker your dependence on oil is, the weaker the effect of its price will be on you, particularly in the long term. Almost paradoxically, I consider what I'm doing such a good investment that I will neither need nor want whatever money it returns to me.

I felt as though I was making record time on the way home today, but it turned out not to make any difference. It still took me 40 minutes to get home, and I didn't feel any more or less tired and sore than I usually do. Normally, I would be inclined to rest on the laurels of a day like that, but I'm determined to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Wednesday

I'm putting the stakes up a bit higher today. Instead of riding from the Elizabeth interchange to the office, I'm getting off at the Salisbury interchange and continuing from there. In real terms, instead of riding 3km to work, I'm now riding close to 7km. I'm still planning on riding all the way home as well, which is still more than double that. This is all part of the build-up for this week.

After yesterday's stellar weather, the showers have finally come. However, it was only Adelaide rain, which was too faint to see from inside. When I ducked outside to see just how hard it was raining, I could barely feel it on my hand. I can live with that, I thought, remembering that there is indeed hot running water at work. I made sure I had the shoes and belt I forgot to leave at work on Monday, and grabbed the water bottle I forgot yesterday.

It turns out that the sleet is considerably more noticeable when you're riding through it that it is when you stick your hand into it from under the cover of the front porch. By the time I got to the bakery, I was starting to regret not having worn contact lenses today; waiting for the train, I used up the last tissue I was carrying with me, getting as much cleaning and drying out of that as I could.

Salisbury Interchange is interesting. The railway line crosses the highway, high above the underpass of regular traffic. There's also a foot bridge into the northwestern suburbs, from which you get a unique view of the highway; at rush hour, you almost get the impression of living in a major city. The foot bridge connects with a paved track that appears to run between a school and the main roads. I've taken this path once before, but I couldn't remember where it ended up, so I was navigating based almost entirely on my sense of direction, heading in the rough direction of work, picking up the suburban backstreets on the way. It's a shorter distance, but I'm not convinced it's any quicker, especially when you end up turning across heavy traffic afterwards.

Salisbury, as its name suggests, is high up on a plain, whereas Mawson Lakes, formerly known as The Levels, is quite close to sea level. There are no steep hills along the way to suggest such a difference; moreover, it's a steady incline that gains some 50 metres of altitude over the 7km voyage. Heading west into Edinburgh, the climb continues; and with the rain still falling, I'm talking to myself to keep going. It's not much further. There's hot running water. Just a little further.

I get into work bang on 9:00. Of course, I'm in daggy clothes that are soaked from both directions, so I can't much hang around the office like this. One of the buildings here is equipped with a proper change room, presumably recalling the days when actual military personnel were here and had to keep fit as a matter of duty. Really, though, the difference is only that my duty is to a higher calling than Queen and country.

In any case, that shower was worth it, without question. I can feel my legs stiffen up, now that I'm only using them to stand on the spot. I can already tell that I'll spend half of today doing squats and going for random walks around the office to loosen up my knees.

Having spent 15 minutes getting cleaned up and getting changed, I'm starting to calculate in my head how long it's really taking me to get to work. I left today at about 8:10 to get to the office at 9:00. I reckon I could ride in that amount of time: it takes me 40 minutes to ride home, and the climbing wouldn't add that much time to the total. The only problem is that I should really be at work and in a working capacity by 9:00, so really, I should be leaving ten or twenty minutes earlier. That said, we don't get many visitors here, and none of them ever wants to see me, so unless I'm specifically meeting someone, I don't think anyone cares if I start and finish a bit later, as long as things get done.

As you can probably tell, work isn't really capturing my attention today. My boss called me at around lunchtime to try and arrange a meeting with me, and again about an hour later to cancel it. We'll try and meet again tomorrow morning and see what progress we can make. I've scribbled down some ideas regarding a direction that I don't really know we should be taking, just in case that's what we end up deciding.

I left a little bit earlier today than yesterday, catching a break in the showers, as well as wanting to get back to the shops before the bakery shuts. I didn't buy much, and there wasn't anything I needed urgently, but the bakery was offering me free stuff and I wouldn't have gotten it home before the weekend otherwise. The things we do, I suppose.

To cap off a pretty trying day, I thought it would be a really good idea to do a stir fry when I got home. After eating that in front of Spicks And Specks and washing up everything, I wasn't done with it much before 22:00. At least I don't have much that I need to do to prepare for tomorrow.

Truly, I'm tiring from this, and not just the cycling. On the way home, I felt that the cycling was getting easier, but my legs were like jelly through the night, and I can't run all the way up the stairs as easily I could a few days ago. Maybe organising this is getting easier as well, although I wouldn't know it today, without an array of frozen meals that I can just grab on the way out.

None of this has stopped me wanting to continue, though. Seeing petrol jump to 154.9c/L today helped a bit, and I now find myself heckling people with my bell as I ride past petrol stations, so I can always look forward to that. We might get more rain again tomorrow, so I'll have to see what I will be able to do. I'll be interested to know how I feel physically and mentally as well.

Thursday

I wasn't sure what I'd do today. I had noble goals of riding all the way to work, but I had three concerns about whether I'd manage it. My first problem was that the Bureau of Meteorology had forecast showers for the morning, and I could only hope that they don't coincide with my ride to work. My second and third problems were that my knees were aching like anything.

I had my alarm set for 6:20, in case I bailed on the bike ride and had to take the bus. The weather was moving in from the west, seemingly blowing the rain clouds away, and I could see what I swore were blue skies over the horizon. The bike ride was on, and I was back to sleep for another hour.

Leaving at 8:05, I could feel my knees arguing with me before I got to the end of the street: they're going to hate me for this. I had thought about taking the elevator at Mawson Interchange rather than riding up over the bridge, easily the slowest part of the whole journey, but some roadworks had sprung up overnight, and taking another detour from the one they had established wasn't worth it. Anyway, the bridge is quite an apt metaphor for peak oil: the climb is much easier in a car, but the descent is far more satisfying on a bike.

Navigating Salisbury Highway on a bike, you notice it's only straight and true on a map. The quality of the road surface varies wildly from smooth finish to seismic anomaly. The bike lanes are either generous or non-existent, so the trip combines peaceful, uninterrupted cycling with the white-knuckle terror of mingling with rush-hour traffic. In some parts, I'm not convinced it's safe to be on the road at all - and it's bad enough taking my chances with oblivious pedestrians on the footpath, thank you very much. Maybe I need a bigger bell, but then I'd have people chasing me to buy ice cream.

The meeting with my boss has been postponed again, and it might not be today at all. Since I still don't know what I should be doing, the frustration is setting in. You'd think this would be discouraging me from making an effort to get work, and I'd be lying if I were to say it wasn't having some effect. It's just as well that riding has been so much fun and so satisfying. The key, I think, is to persevere with work as much as I do with the bike: just as I know that some parts of the ride are more difficult than others, I know that the current inactivity will eventually make way, and I'll be off at a frantic pace again. Still, the slow points on a bike last minutes, not weeks. That's kind of a downer.

Today was classic autumn weather: bright and sunny for a while, then raining, then sunny again. In most parts of the country, this phenomenon is referred to as "Melbourne weather", but Adelaide's weather is not much better at this time of year. I got a few spots of rain on the way out, but I could still see the brilliance of the sunset through the bush to the west, at least for the first few minutes. That said, the sunset lasts a bit less time every day, and I left a bit later than I'd hoped today.

I was pretty hungry by then as well, so rather than get there and start foraging, I stopped in for junk food on the way home. It seemed that everyone else in the entire city did as well: I've never stood in line so long for "fast" food. To make matters worse, everyone in the queue ahead of me seemed to be catering for a family reunion, except for the couple ahead of me, who spent ten minutes disputing an order because they got something more than what they ordered. At least someone had a busy day at the office.

It was nearly 20:00 when I got home, and I could feel the air getting cooler. I couldn't wait to have a hot shower, get rid of my dirty clothes, and just stop for a moment to rest on my laurels. A colleague told me today that you can well be surprised by what you can do when you're committed to it, and of course, he's absolutely correct about that. A few days ago, I could have seen myself regretting an experiment such as this - arriving at work one day, for example, and being so weak and tired that I couldn't even walk, let alone concentrate on work. Now that I'm on the home stretch, all that remains is to get the stuff I've left at work this week, bring it all home, and wash it - perhaps even in preparation for next week. I can taste the finish now; not even fried chicken and cheesecake could mask that.

Friday

Well, this is it: one last early start, one last dash for the train. Followed by a weekend of washing clothes, no doubt.

On the way to the bakery, fittingly, I caught up with the friend of mine who lent me the bicycle that made this little experiment of mine possible. I let him know what I'd been doing and that the net result of it may be my purchasing of a new bike. I'll try to catch up with him and pick his brain about what I should be looking for. I can't see there being a paradigm shift from what I've already got; it's more about designing something for me and for my needs.

When I got on the train, I saw one of my old bosses from my previous job at Defence. I don't know whether he saw me, and frankly, I don't much care either. He and I had a falling out when one of his yes-men, who was scared to death of me (and possibly still is), tried to blame me for screwing up a project, and when he stepped in, he turned out to be no more honourable than the coward he was defending. Usually, I just act as if I don't know them; they should be so lucky, in reality. Fortunately, he didn't change to the bus today.

It's weird, actually. He's a keen cyclist, he uses public transport whenever possible, he's multilingual, he buys organic produce, and he's got a positively evil sense of humour. Before the disputes came up, we got on famously. Afterwards, he decided that pecking order of his subordinates was more important than their ability to work together, and the disputes got out of hand. Now, I'll never speak to him again. It might seem like a shame, but I don't really want to be associated with people that harbour such resentment of me, and I'm just glad I don't have so many of them in my life any more. I am, admittedly, morbidly curious to know how these people think of what happened, but only as much as a passing driver slows down to look at a car accident: you might want to know, but there's a good chance you won't like what you find out.

The office is always very quiet at 8:15 in the morning, which allows me to concentrate better on my work. That is to say, it would allow that, if I actually had that much to do. In the absence to a solution to any of my problems, I'm trying to find ways of filling up my days at work, and I always feel guilty about doing that, even if I didn't cause the problems in the first place. It makes it difficult to appreciate your own ability to do something worthwhile with your life, to leave on the world a mark that is truly yours, to be a person you can improve stuck in a place that you can't.

To cap off a particularly trying week, I nearly missed the bus on the way home. It seems that not everyone at Adelaide Metro got the new timetable, and as I was trying to cross a busy street at rush hour, I could see the bus turning to drive away. It's at times like these, when you're running across a congested roundabout to a bus stop, that you notice how much heavier wet clothes can be than dry clothes.

Even so, I couldn't stop congratulating myself all the way home. A couple of friends invited me out to dinner that night, and I had to order something decadent and expensive as a reward for my efforts. It would be especially ironic if that meal undid all the healthy things I've done for myself during the week, but I don't really care.

* * * * * *

What I have done is to prove to myself that, in spite of my obvious physical unpreparedness, I could still do it with little or no ill effect. My legs still ache, but that will fade over the next day or two, and what will remain are the memories of what I have achieved.

On that note, I wonder how many people will read this and fail to imagine themselves undertaking such an exercise. I can only respond in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

I have no special skills in this department either. To me, this was simply one more exercise in building a plan using very basic tools and materials. The rest comes from my passion, my commitment to leaving a mark on the Earth of which I can be proud. See the Earth in a different way, and consider all she has done for you, and you too will be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

28 April 2008

Celebrating a jihad on The Chaser

The infiltration of September's APEC summit by the boys at The Chaser's War On Everything was one of 2007's greatest moments of popular culture, on TV or anywhere else. Originally a prank that got a bit out of hand, it sent jaws dropping across Australia and achieved worldwide acclaim on YouTube.

If it weren't funny enough already, all charges relating to the incident have been dropped. The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions called the series of security breaches a "reasonable and honest mistake" and has conceded that there is little to no chance of conviction against any of the ABC staff involved. The link above shows, unsurprisingly, ABC's coverage of the news of their own show, along with, perhaps more surprisingly, a reaction from Osama bin Laden himself.

There's plenty of footage on YouTube of the original broadcast, but this video purports to have the whole thing. Being a big fan of The Chaser myself, I had fun today reminiscing about it. In any case,
it's good to see that satire at the expense of overbearing government incompetence isn't actually a crime in this country. At least, not yet.

27 April 2008

Random bits and pieces

While I've got a few half-finished things to write about, I thought I'd write an update so that people wouldn't think this was another abandoned blog.

I've been pretty busy for the past few weeks. Mario Kart Wii is out and I've hardly had a chance to touch it - although I'm liking what I've seen so far. I've got some new music to listen to - Absolution and Black Holes And Revelations by Muse, and Friend Opportunity by Deerhoof. Regarding the latter, while looking for the cheapest music video ever made, I stumbled upon a Deerhoof song called The Perfect Me, whose filmclip is a pretty good candidate. However, this song is perhaps the most interesting music I've heard in years. That said, my taste in music is pretty weird.

Another piece of news is that I've got my first sale listing on eBay. My first experiment is going to be the sale (hopefully) of my copy of Brain Age for the Nintendo DS. I'm not sure of all of the available options and what will work best for my very-small-time operation, but I'll see if it's right for me. I've got a steadily increasing pile of things to sell, so I hope this works out.

Finally, I hope to embark on another working week without my car. It has rained a bit here in Adelaide over the weekend, which is always welcome, but it makes me wonder a bit about all the walking I'm going to do. It may be a remarkable return to pedestrian power, or it might just have to wait - stay tuned.

06 April 2008

More working weeks without a car coming up

The Adelaide Metro - the blanket brand for Adelaide's trains, buses and trams - has released a number of new bus timetables that will come into effect at the end of April.

The big change for me is that if I choose to get the one bus to work in the morning, and the one corresponding bus back again in the afternoon, I'll be able to stay a bit longer at work, and probably even get in a full eight-hour day. This may make things easier for me if I'm not riding my bike, which I may not want to do in the winter because it will be too cold, too dark, and probably too wet.

Of course, by the merest coincidence, the day before I found out about the new bus timetables, one of my colleagues showed me where there is a shower at work, in one of the adjacent buildings. And I was all geared up to give the bike another go, now that I've got the tyres fixed again. Still, even with daylight savings finally over, there's still time to try again before what South Australia calls the winter really sets in.

Visit the Adelaide Metro web site here.

Quote Of The Year

Barack Obama may only be slightly ahead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but for mine, he's way ahead in the Quote Of The Year honours:

Chris Matthews ('Hardball', MSNBC): At any time in this campaign, did you have a chuckle that you just couldn't get rid of - something weird that happened that was so crazy that you just went to bed laughing about it?
Barack Obama: I think that happens once a day - but then I stopped watching cable news.

Imagine this, if you will. I'm sitting on a crowded bus on a Saturday afternoon, watching
The Daily Show on my spiffy new iPod Touch. Suddenly, Obama completely and utterly destroys Matthews in all of two seconds. Here I am, cracking up laughing, surrounded by a bus full of shoppers who have no idea what I'm doing, biting on my knuckles to try and stop laughing. I've only had the damn iPod for two weeks, and it's already embarrassed me once in public.

You can watch The Daily Show's coverage of this priceless moment in political news coverage here.

30 March 2008

One working week without a car

I've written before about getting to my new job without a car. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I gave it a shot.

Since I started my new job in January, my car use has gone up from about 7000km to about 12000km per annum. Getting to and from my new workplace constitutes 90% of my driving, but it is simply unrealistic to avoid it - or, at least, so it would seem.


I've thought a lot about getting to work without using my car. The rules were simple: get myself to and from work every day for a week, without driving my car, without getting a lift, and without calling a taxi. Sounds easy enough. This was the week that I decided that I would actually do it.

The difficulty is that there aren't too many other options where I work. The only bus that goes anywhere near my office runs twice in the morning (and one of these times is too late to be useful) and once in the afternoon. The nearest railway stations are a good half-hour's walk away. It's not so far that I couldn't ride, but I don't think any of the buildings near me are equipped with showers, so this would have to be restricted for the wellbeing of my co-workers. Oh, and nothing anywhere near my office is even remotely catered, so I have to bring my own food as well. If only to increase the level of difficulty, the bulk of our clientele works a few kilometres up the road, which "necessitates" driving rather than walking.

Really, I picked a real humdinger of a week to try this. Although it was a short week, due to the Adelaide Cup public holiday, South Australia is in the midst of the longest heat wave in Australia's recorded history. To make matters worse, the air conditioner in my building has blown a fuse, and it won't be fixed until next week. Somebody out there doesn't want this to work.

In the end, I settled for two approaches. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I would take the bus, getting to work at around 8:15 and leaving at around 16:15, working through lunch to squeeze in a full eight-hour day. On Thursday and Friday, I would ride my bike to my local railway station, take the train to the nearest station to my office and ride from there, riding all the way home in the evening.

It almost sounds like a plan. Let's see if it works.

Tuesday

It's a bit of a shock to the system to be up before dawn. I had set my alarm from 6:15 and, not being a morning person at the best of times, was far from impressed to hear it. Stocking some fresh sandwiches, a slightly bruised apple and my Akubra, I left the house at 7:00.

When you're embarking on something so inspiring to oneself (albeit so foolhardy to others), it pays to do a bit of groundwork before you start. For instance, I often feel sick if I eat too early in the morning, particularly if I haven't had enough sleep. As such, it's worthwhile knowing that both my local Woolworths and the adjacent Baker's Delight open at 7:00 during the week. Either choice would allow me my standard morning snacks of a croissant and a Farmers' Union Iced Coffee, so as long as I give myself a couple of minutes before the bus arrives, I'm set.

The outbound 225 bus is hardly the most convenient way to get to Salisbury Interchange in the morning. It winds its way east through Pooraka and what used to be Salisbury Downs (which was re-branded a few years ago as Gulfview Heights), turning what would be ten minutes on the road into nearly half an hour. The good news is that the same bus used for the 225 also makes the run to DSTO and the RAAF base, the latter being very close to my office. If you're catching both, you can just stay in the air-conditioning and wait for the connecting train from the city. (Come to think of it, that might be more convenient for me as well. That might be worth a look.)

In the end, we had a fair wait anyway. Thanks to some combination of rush hour and the fear of rails buckling in the heat, the trains were running a few minutes late. More iPod time for me, I suppose.

The net result of that was that instead of arriving at the RAAF base entrance at 8:06 and walking for ten minutes to get to work, it was actually closer to 8:30 that I arrived at the office. Great. If I have to leave at 16:20 to get the bus home again, I can't realistically get in eight hours at the office - eventually, someone is going to notice all these 10-15 minutes rushes adding up. You'd think having a good excuse to leave early would be every worker's dream. I guess it all depends on whether anyone notices.

That said, I did get to work, and I did get home again, although it did cost me a minute's job - seeing a bus stop from a distance, and finding the bus already there and idling, is still a little disconcerting.

Wednesday

I could actually get used to this 6am start business. It's dark when I get up, but it's dawn when I leave the house, and the suburb takes on a palette that so few of us ever get up to see.


Everyone keeps to themselves at the bus stop. Actually, at this bus stop, there is usually only one other person waiting - a young blonde, who looks perhaps younger than me, concentrating on a cigarette. She was here yesterday as well. For me, the cigarette is almost as much of a do-not-disturb sign as the headphones, particularly because my immediate reaction to smokers is to ask rhetorically, "you know those things'll kill you, right?", which is less than ideal as a conversation starter.

It's weird that it's been ridiculously hot - maxima consistently over 35 degrees, and not dropping below 30 until just before sunrise - and yet, I have no second thoughts about getting out and walking. My colleague and I are still walking at lunchtime as well, to which end I'm grateful to have brought the Akubra and not one of my legion of baseball caps. I remember being back in Townsville over Christmas and walking ten minutes to the local shopping centres. That felt a lot more uncomfortable than it does here; the higher temperatures are more than offset by the sub-10% humidity. Just get a long drink of water when you get to where you're going.

The bad news for is that the combination of low humidity and daylight savings time means that the hottest part of the day is about when I'm walking to the bus back home. I've hardly noticed the heat wave at 8:00, but at 16:00 it really grabs your attention. What I have noticed is how much of a difference it makes simply to be in the shade. As I'm often travelling on foot, I've gotten into the habit of tracking from one shady spot to the next, walking on the north side of the street, even sticking to streets through which the breeze is blowing, in an effort to cool off a bit. I've also started preferring sneakers to sandals when it gets really hot, as I've found that my reefs don't soak up sweat the ways socks do. You don't want your feet to slip around inside your shoes, and you can always throw sweaty socks in the wash.

All in all, two nearly successful days of taking the bus to work. I'll probably dock myself a few minutes because the buses have been a bit later than I'd hoped, but it's not so much that it can't be recovered when I have my own transport all the way home. It's been a while since I used the bicycle, so I made sure the chain was oiled and the tyres pumped, ready for tomorrow.

Thursday

After two days of 6:15 alarm calls, I certainly appreciated sleeping in until after 7:00. Once I'd gotten a change of clothes together, as well as my typical packed lunch of sandwiches and yoghurt, my backpack was pretty full - and I hadn't had breakfast yet! This might take a bit of tweaking; it may be possible to leave clothes at work, for example.

I didn't even leave the house until well after 8:00 and I still didn't feel as though I was in a hurry. In the end, I had to stand around waiting for the train to come. I caught up with a friend of mine from DSTO, who I hadn't had much to do with since I quit my old job in June. She was glad that I'd landed on my feet. I was glad to hear that things at DSTO were still much the same as they had always been - yes, I know I shouldn't laugh, but I still do.

When I got off the train at Elizabeth, I had hardly crossed the bridge towards the Defence sites when my front tyre blew out. Strangely, I hadn't noticed riding over anything untoward. I pulled over to have a look, but when I pumped more air into it, it receded within just a few seconds. Briefly, I thought about the discussion I'd had on the train and how glad I was to be out of DSTO... and that if Schadenfreude is real, its timing is impeccable. I decided to brave the rest of the journey, wondering along the way how exactly I was going to get everything home that night.

Looking at the Yellow Pages from work, it turns out that there's a bicycle shop just across the road from where I got the puncture. Very suspicious, no? Well, not really. A colleague drove me to the shop so that I could buy a couple of replacement tubes, which was nice of him. I didn't get to look at the tyre until it was time to go home, but I got the tube changed easily enough - and, in case anyone was wondering, a Swiss army knife and a set of house keys are hardly the ideal tools for such a job.

It was well after 18:00 when I left. A former colleague passed me in her car, for which I later berated her on Skype for the sense of panic and danger that I told her I had had but hadn't. (To be fair, I did include lots of sarcastic :P emoticons.) I was already ravenous with hunger, so I promised myself dinner on the way home. I stopped in at Red Rooster for a chicken dinner, although I later regretted the blackcurrant Powerade that went with it. In all good conscience, though, I should have been sorry enough for knowing such a beverage existed, long before handing over the money.

What followed is sure to be my favourite memory of this bicycle for a long time. By the time I had dragged myself away from the air-conditioning, the sun had almost set below the line of the buildings in the west. Between the weakness of the sunlight and the motion of the air as I rode, it actually seemed quite cool riding home. The rush hour traffic having all but vanished, I was alone with only my ambition and the satisfaction of achieving it. To ride such a distance was not a new experience for me, but to do so with such a purpose made it all worthwhile.

I returned to the hothouse I call my room, to prepare for one last day. Well, actually, I just checked my email and watched TV, but that's hardly in keeping with the theme, now, is it?

Friday

The last day of the week. I was all geared up for the home stretch. I didn't want to wake up so early, but I was on a mission. Quick shower, work clothes, new sandwiches, fresh apple, water bottle. Up goes the garage door, and I'm ready to go.

And the front tyre on my bike is flat. The tyre I changed yesterday at work, the one I pumped up and upon which I rode home quite comfortably, is dead flat. Usually, my tyres go flat with a sudden thud and a telltale flap-flap-flap sound as you come to a halt, and I'd gotten home on it yesterday without noticing any such problems.

Desperate, I dragged out my housemate's floor pump to see if it had just leaked, but I couldn't get it to stay up. I could hear the air hissing as it escaped. It doesn't look good.

Resigned, too late to catch public transport or to replace the tube again, I went back upstairs, changed into my work clothes and took my car keys from the bedside drawer. I had failed.

Okay, so the anticlimax wasn't really that dramatic. I've since had a look at the tyre, to find a thorn not unlike those on plants we've had to prune in our own front yard. I suppose this is the problem with not sweeping up your garage. That's taken the edge of the disappointment that I felt that Friday morning. I came so close, and I enjoyed doing it.

It was an experience that I felt that I had to do, just to see for myself how viable it was. It's difficult to overstate the importance of the end result: that I'd do it again, and much the same way, in a heartbeat. I don't have an ideal system, but I'm sure it's a workable one. What may be required is little more than fine-tuning - a straw hat, a more reliable bike, and perhaps some other things that are similarly minor. If I've made any progress by this experience, it's the recognition that the hurdles are so minor. There might not be an easy answer to this, but the variety of not-quite-right answers that I tried this week might be a viable result in combination.

That in itself may be progress enough for now. At least I've proven to myself that getting to work, which would be an unthinkable commute without a car, is in fact more than accessible without a car. There are so few places that I go for which I really need a car, and travel to and from work was by far the most significant. From here, I can make progress towards bigger goals, and I feel great for knowing that the things I can do to make progress towards them aren't so bad. That is my reward.

That, and I finally bought that iPod Touch. For the bus ride, of course.

[Updated 2008-04-06: There is a shower at work - just one, in one of the adjacent buildings, but there it is. Also, the Adelaide Metro has just released some new bus timetables, to take effect at the end of April, that will mean I can take the bus and still get in a full eight-hour day. See this blog entry for details.]