Falling away…

February 27th, 2013 Comments off

And… down to earth again.

This weekend past, I went on a lead climbing course. Indoor rock climbing is usually what is called top rope climbing. When top roping, the rope goes up from the climbers harness to a pulley at the top of the face, then down again to the belayer, who will pull it through a belay device that generates friction. If your belayer is doing their job properly, when the climber comes off the wall, they will fall at worst, up to a meter, depending on rope stretch.

Lead climbing does away with the pulley. In this system the rope goes straight from the climber to the belayer, and the climber clips the rope into a series of carabiners called quickdraws anchored to the wall as they ascend. This means that if the quickdraws are two meters apart, and the climber falls just as they are trying to clip in the rope, they will fall at least four meters, plus whatever slack they had, plus rope stretch. Five or six meters is not uncommon.

This is of course, far more dangerous than top roping. For this reason, climbing gyms often require far more stringent tests before they allow you to lead climbing – hence the course.

Which I failed.

The given cause was that my rope handling was not up to par when ascending. The real reason was that I freaked out. Again. And this time I couldn’t blame the promethazine. I was fine until I hit the overhang, where upon my mammalian hind brain noticed the signals coming in from my inner ear that indicated I was nearly upside down with nothing below me and told my forebrain driven consciousness to go to the back of the line and started dumping adrenalin in my blood stream like a drug smuggler being pursued by the coast guard.

This is not the correct response to hanging on to precarious holds with one hand and trying to clip a rope into carabiner hanging on another rope with the other. In fact, it’s pretty much the worst thing possible. My hands shook so much that I was unable to clip the rope into the carabiner. After the fourth or fifth attempt, with legs cramping, my forearms full of lactic acid, and my hands shaking and sweating so much that I couldn’t even get the rope to touch, let alone clip into the carabiner, I was forced to announce that I was falling – and let go…

Categories: Life Tags: , , ,

365 Days of Australia

January 30th, 2013 Comments off

Today marks my one year anniversary of arriving in Australia. In that time, I have found jobs, made friends, and more. I have tried and dropped various hobbies, rediscovered old ones, organised and let groups go. I cursed the time zone differences, travelled back and forth to New Zealand twice, and have spent more time in Airports than is healthy.

It’s been a busy year. I know that more than a few people wondered what happened to me. I already knew that I was terrible at keeping up with people, worse when they didn’t live in the same city as me, as it turns out, more still when the distance and time zone differences add up.

So was it a good idea? Was uprooting my entire life, and jetting to a city with no job, no place to live, and no support network to fall back on a good idea?


Part of wishes I had done this sooner. Part of me also knows that I didn’t believe in myself enough to do so.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. I’ve forced myself to do things that scare me. To walk into a room of people I don’t know and make friends, to make plans that will probably fail and try anyway, and to actually get into my bed and go to sleep when I know there’s a medium size unidentified Australian spider under it somewhere.

I knew I’d made a breakthrough in my own personal confidence and determination (some would say stubbornness) when I managed to finish a three pitch outdoor climb while suffering from drug-induced* anxiety and vertigo.

I figure if I can do that, I can do anything.

* Promethazine, aka. Phenergan. Ironically, for most people it can be used to treat these ailments, and help with insomnia. In my case, it apparently makes them worse and keeps me up until 3am.


September 14th, 2012 Comments off

I have a job! Actually, I’ve had a job for the last six months. I’ve been working crazy hours at Equiem, a startup. But more on this later.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about being depressed. While many of the things I discussed in that post helped, a bunch of my problems never entirely went away. I was better, but I wasn’t cured. I’d still have cycles where I dropped into a funk for a week or so. It wasn’t depression, but I was not myself.

A few months ago, I bought a bike. Some people like to run, I like to cycle. Hours and kilometres will go by, and to me it’ll feel like twenty minutes. I started structuring my weekends around my rides.My shiny new bike.

Since then, I noticed the my mood swings had disappeared. Sure, I’d have my off days, especially if I didn’t eat properly, get enough sleep, or got stuck at work till eight o’clock, but I no longer crashed for a week or more at a time. If I stopped riding, if I stopped climbing, it would start to come back. Constant exercise was the final piece in the puzzle to keeping the monkey off my back.

As a corollary, I loathe running. Nor am I particularly good at most team sports, so I tend to avoid these. But if they work for you, great! When it comes to exercise, do something you love, and it won’t feel like exercise, it’ll just be fun – and I bet you’ll feel better.

Categories: Life Tags: , , ,

Hacking the Kerberos

February 14th, 2012 1 comment

In the spare time I’ve had in Melbourne, I’ve written a small Ajax app called kpassweb to do Kerberos password changes. Configuration on the backend is pretty minimal. As it turned out, the backend PHP Pecl library kadm5 doesn’t work with current versions of Kerberos, so I’ve also written a patch to get that working.

It’s not quite finished, since compiling with the patch still produces a bunch of deprecated symbols from the Zend PHP interface, but it makes it usable.

As a side note, this was all done on my venerable Atom CPU netbook with a whole 8GB of storage, with connectivity snaffled from the Melbourne city library, McDonalds, and over an epically slow cellular connection. I really don’t recommend this.

Categories: Tech Tags: , , , , ,

Melbourne: Wine, Fish and Hospitals

February 6th, 2012 2 comments

I woke up this morning in hospital. Long time readers may recall my habit of injuring myself overseas. Yesterday, I went on a wine tour, had a wee snooze and went to find some dinner. I had the flathead fish recommended by the head chef – which was delicious  and incurred the relatively minor problem of getting a fish bone lodged in my throat.

The restaurant staff insisted on calling an ambulance – which then took nearly two hours to arrive. I was shuttled to Alfred Hospital, sat in the waiting room for another hour, and was then ushered to a bed in the emergency room, to be looked at by a doctor, who after pumping an incredibly foul local anaesthetic down my throat, said that he couldn’t see the offending item. An hour later, after some some gentle snoozing, I had my X-rays, which were not helpful. The Ear-Nose-Throat specialist was called who said that it wasn’t life threatening, and would look at it the morning. In the mean time, I slept some more, had CT scan at some unmentionable hour of the morning, followed by being put on a saline drip with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in case surgery was needed.

Thankfully it was not. At around 0745, the ENT team turned up, had a peak using the same foul anaesthetic, had a look at the CT scan, then return to spray even more of the same retch inducing drug into my throat to calm my gag reflex, before reaching in with a very long pair of forceps and pulling out the very small bone. All was clear, and I checked out about five minutes later, where upon I took a wrong turn, and walked the 4km back to my hostel.

Touching on my previous post, there’s something about gratifying about being miles from everyone I know, and yet still having a dozen odd people commenting and messaging me to let me know that to know they cared and that they’re thinking of me. That kind of thing almost makes me want to get on a plane back home. But I won’t, I’ve got an interview tomorrow.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , , ,

Melbourne: Landing

February 4th, 2012 1 comment

My first memory of Melbourne, post immigration and customs (which were, respectively, almost non-existent, and pleasantly short), was the wall of heat outside. With four of sleeping dogging my every step, 30 degree heat, and 27kg of luggage and climate-inappropriate clothing – I took a Taxi to my hostel rather than trying to navigate public transport in my sleep addled state.

The first day is not particularly memorable, except that I managed to secure access to a sim card and my bank account, before returning to the hostel to collapse in a sweaty heap and drift off at the incredibly late hour of 9pm.

Having been here for a little under forty hours, the enormity of what I had done started to finally sink in. I was in a large city that would cheerfully chew me up and spit me out if I didn’t get things together, with no support network, no real concept of how to navigate the city, on limited funds till I managed to find a job – and no-one to talk to.

We often don’t appreciate how much things mean to us until they’re taken away. I’m used to a constant stream of people I know in my life saying hello. From flatmates to work mates, dance partners, fellow team members of sports past and present. And that’s not even including the friends and family that I regularly talk to, hang out with, go drinking with and randomly run into on the street.

If, for some stupid reason, back in Wellington, I had lost my job, my flat, or all my life savings, I would have literally a hundred people I could fall back on while I sorted my life out. Here, in Melbourne – I have one facebook contact, a person I’ve never met, and have only exchanged precursory messages with.

In the exceedingly unlikely event that I fail to find work here in Melbourne, and the money runs out – I have standing offers for jobs in other cities, but that’s not an option until I’m well and truly financially desperate, which I’m not even close to. Finding fellow people to talk to though, that’s going to be the hard bit.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , , ,


January 31st, 2012 Comments off

About three months ago, I bought a one way ticket to Melbourne for the 30th of January. I don’t know anyone here, nor have a job lined up, nor have anything pre-arranged except a bank account and a weeks accommodation in a back packers. Heck, I’ve never even been to Australia before.


Briefly – I’m on the edge of thirty, and I wanted a challenge. I was starting to dread the thought of being forty-five, and wondering where my life had gone, and why I’d never done anything difficult. So, I sold all my stuff – and left.

More to come, later.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Buying New Zealand made: Five minutes of terror – Ignite Talk – Aftermath

November 10th, 2011 3 comments

My Ignite talk when off without a hitch. A huge thanks to everyone who came to support me and laugh at my lame jokes, and much appreciation to Kristina D.C. Hoeppner for her coaching, feedback, and being my test audience over and over again.

I’ll link to the video on youtube as soon as it’s available.

If anyone considers doing one of these, please don’t underestimate how long it takes to prepare. Two weekends were lost to the preparation of this. Given the opportunity, I could have talked for half an hour. Slicing and compressing all that content into five minutes with a merciless clock ironically takes quite a bit of time.

Buying New Zealand made: Five minutes of terror – Ignite Talk

October 9th, 2011 Comments off

In one of those sterling examples of where the full implications don’t sink until much later – I volunteered for an Ignite talk about my year of only buying New Zealand made clothing.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’ll be speaking for exactly five minutes in front of close to five-hundred people at Ignite Wellington 4, at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday 8 November, 2011. An allegedly fun contest will run from 6pm, and the talks, including yours truly will run from 7:30 pm until approx 9:30 pm.

Do I have five minutes worth of content? Will my somewhat sarcastic baritone become a wavering soprano, or will I simply freeze up on the spot and have to be carted off like Han Solo in carbonite? Register, and come find out! If you don’t, the organisers will put up everything on youtube, and you can watch it that way.


May 29th, 2011 4 comments

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what makes me happy, and what does not.

Something that makes me unhappy is connectivity.

This is surprising. I live in Wellington. Live here long enough and you won’t be able to go about your daily business without bumping into someone you know. I like that this happens, but the constant barrage of text messages, IRC, Instant messaging, skype, emails, facebook, and who knows what else* has led me to spending evenings and weekends ignoring text messages and leaving everything else turned off.

I think a large chunk of what drives this is the feeling of anxiety that instant text messaging inherently creates. Pre-cellphones, it was a given that if you rang someone, it was entirely possible that the person you wanted to talk to may not be there, and that you would simply have to call back later. If you email someone, it’s a given the recipient may not get around to reading that email for a day or two, and that it may take even longer for them to sort out their life and thoughts out in order to generate a germane reply. Furthermore, email allows a length of reply that can be well thought out and properly phrased to avoid giving offence or the wrong impression.

At the other end of the scale, mobile messaging has forced us into the opposite paradigm. Instant responses are expected, and forced into a length that is practically guaranteed at some point to be misunderstood. Having replied, the likelihood is high that I’ll have completely lost the mental stack of what I was previously working on. Phones are the perfect method to destroy my focus.

So, here’s my rules for communication to keep me sane. Text messaging is to be limited to organisational duties only. If you send me a text message, and it’s general conversation, I’m not going to reply. “Coffee at 3pm?” is fine – “How are you?” will be deleted. Furthermore, IM conversations of any personal significance whatsoever will be limited to people** to which I don’t have to explain myself to.

* Thankfully, I never signed up for twitter, and now I never will.

** If you haven’t known me for at least ten years, you probably aren’t on this list.