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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.


The Aftermath

I went to sleep in 2021 inhabiting a vastly different reality to the new year I fell asleep into 366 days earlier. Mostly self inflicted. The way things are going, I'll be cleaning my cornices every day of the year.

Book Review - Dynasty by Tom Holland

In 2020 I managed to read 24 novels, 3 Novellas, 4 Anthologies and 2 Non-Fiction books. I'm happy with that effort in the age of ubiquitous, distracting, pocket-sized glass rectangles.

I thought I should put more effort into capturing my impressions and learnings from what I dedicate hours to reading, particularly non-fiction. Here is my summary of Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland (read by Mark Meadows).

Review

I picked up this audiobook hoping for a comprehensive, enlightening overview with regards to Ancient Rome. In hindsight this was an extremely optimistic expectation for a single book. Dynasty is not a history book as much as it is a history ride focusing specifically on Augustus Caesar and his descendants. Holland follows narrative themes rather than chronological ones, translates dialogue into sensational, modern English and rarely makes comments about his sources. Initially, as narrator Mark Meadows smoothly narrated the first few chapters I struggled to absorb the richness of detail and understand the important characters from the less important. This was made doubly difficult because ancient Romans had a habit of giving each other new names based on other's old names.

Eventually I settled into the cadence of the "story" and began to trust Holland to highlight and foreshadow the critical pieces of information, while letting tangents and bit-playing senators not make it into my long term memory. Holland's roots as a fiction writer give him good tools for telling this tale right. If I'd had a better background in ancient history this might have been a more engaging experience, but given the source material - the drama, politics, assassinations and conspiracies - I was happy to be washed over by the wave of information from Julius to Nero, and if I do decide to pursue any further my interest in Roman history this will prove to be a good anchoring point.

What did I learn?

Other than a lot of historical events, the thing that stood out most to me about life during the golden years of the Roman empire was how eerily similar life was then and now. Of course, we are all human beings, but I hadn't expected the level of sophistication and what I'd thought were 2020 issues to have been so prevalent in ancient Rome.

There were small things, like cults of personality, fake news, postponed Olympics, apartments with ground level retail, and plenty of graffitied memes. But there was also the push for trans rights, controversial property developments and literally "Making Rome Great Again."

My favourite modern day reference though, was when, under the weight of yet another political scandal Caesar dismissed the senate's concerns by saying that this would all be forgotten when the next inevitable scandal came up.

Highlight

With their wealth of religions and superstitions, the ancient Romans took symbolism very seriously. When, shortly after Nero had his own mother killed (one of many horrific deeds he spun as pious) a comet appeared. A sign known with much certainty to foretell the death and disaster, Nero's Imperial Advisor Seneca somehow managed to spin it as a sign of positivity, and that on top of his other achievements the Emperor had redeemed comets from their cosmic stigma.


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2020 Feelings

I had a lot of feelings during 2020. Here are some of the more memorable ones:

Humidity

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The satisfaction from reading the end of a novella while savoring a delicious craft beer.

The echo of a wood-framed sofa hitting the pavement after a three-story drop.

The paranoia on public transport.

Finding my balance on a bicycle for the first time in twenty years.

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Pricklings from a COVID beard I didn’t need to grow.

Stretching of my stomach after completing another giant Vanessa dessert.

The smell of freshly manufactured olympic weight plates in an enclosed space.

Age of Empires 2 Ranked queue adrenaline.

That first sip of fresh coffee after weeks of closed cafes.

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The cold, winter air fighting to reach the fingers inside my pockets.

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The tickle at the back of the throat after stupidly eating raw almonds right before walking to the supermarket.

Tikka kebab, breast kebab and bolani.

The tension in the bladder during back to back to back Zoom meetings.

Saltiness of that first mouthful of lettuce, hummus and 4 bean mix after days without it.

One side of my body warmed by the fire.

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The grit from a layer of sweat and basketball court dust covering my palms, and the support around the ankles of the Kyrie sneakers, produced in Team USA colours for an Olympics that wouldn’t come.

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Itches of mosquito bites interrupting outdoor salad eating in the garden.

Hiss of gas and the charring of meat filling the air.

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Cheap hand sanitizer’s aroma and the stinging that it brings to the skin.

The ache in my shoulder as the sweat cooled.

The scent of Jasmine on early spring breezes.

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Shampooed dog fur on the inside of my calves while preparing dinner at the official Bradism Raised Cutting Board for Tall People.

The sweet taste of the mulberry that fell from the branch directly into my mouth.

The tingling of my blood, hoping nobody noticed me putting a face mask over my eyes like it was a sleep-mask on an aeroplane.

The heat of a northerly wind on my back, post-sunset strolls on the beach.

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Pulsations from the Compex as it stimulated my hamstrings

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Never-ending water trickling down the fountain.

Interference

The vacation mode that I slipped into so easily last week has not been found post Christmas. All I wanted to do with my extra time over the past days was edit some photos on my NAS, get cheesed in Age of Empires, and generally be able to connect to the internet without disconnects as frequent as a batsmen getting out in the cricket. Alas, after a week of working fine my Netgear A7000 USB Network Adapter that I had to spend $90 on after I decided not to spend $50 on a wifi-enabled motherboard for my new computer stopped connecting to my WIFI.

I dedicated a few hours to this last night, tweaking the 5Ghz channel and signal strength in my router, downgrading drivers, stopping unrelated services, trying the adapter in different USB ports (2.0 and 3.0) and trying it without the dock. I forced myself to go to bed last night frustrated and disconnected.

Waking this morning I decided that Netgear hardware must be the problem and sank another $44 dollars (and another Office Supply Store Amazon 5% price beat - sorry sales lady). The new hardware did give me a moment of joy as it detected and connected immediately to the 5Ghz network, however it too disconnected and suffered the same symptoms as the Netgear. Some gremlin - it seemed - has infected my home WIFI 5ghz network and it seemed all I would be doing with my free time today was solving that problem. I am, after all, an IT Professional and if it was working before then this should be something I could fix.

After hours of debugging, diagnostics, configuration changes and turning things off and on again I had myself a bricked PC (and still no internet). This was not the "easy" setup I'd expected when buying a pre-built PC. At some point (around 7pm) I had to concede that I had completely wasted one of my twenty-four days of summer holidays and had nothing to show for it. Well, nothing except a better understanding of wireless protocols, channels, channel widths and frequencies.
Oh and how to create a wireless networking status report in Windows 10 using netsh wlan show wlanreport
And the model of my motherboard, which I'm sure will be handy later.
Plus how to identify Unknown PCI devices in Device Manager and find the right drivers for them (the hard way and the Radeon automatic way).
And what disabling legacy USB and Legacy USB3 Support in my BIOS does (don't do it).
Then I learned how to find and check boot error codes during computer start up.
And that I do still have a PS/2 to USB adapter in my box of cables
And how to clear a CMOS to restore motherboard settings to factory defaults
And how to remove my graphics card from my new motherboard
And how to remove the battery from my new motherboard
And finally how to set the time in the BIOS of my new computer, and get it to boot to Windows again.

The networking still doesn't work.

So maybe this proves why I am an IT Professional. I can't solve my problem, but I'm good enough at learning lessons from computer things that I can afford whatever it will cost to pay someone to install a 25 metre ethernet cable down the side of my house and into my router.

Merry Christmas Internet 2020

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It was nice to own a full size tree for most of a year.