Magic Beard

Over the Christmas break I may have attempted to grow a beard. It didn't start of intentionally, just a series of serendipitous circumstances lead to me starting my break with a few days growth already. Given my lack of office meetings, general summer day apathy and the knowledge that my 30s would probably offer few if any opportunities to walk around with pubescent bumfluff on my face. I lasted about twelve days before admitting defeat and removing it from my face before 2015 started.

None of this is important. I mention it though because of what happened next. Doubtlessly you will recall in vivid detail my entry on June 21, 2011 where I described in detail my new shaver. The ES8249s is still going strong today, although sometime early last year it did develop a fault with it's LCD screen. All of the sprites in the LCD display would turn on when running and it meant that the time and battery level readouts were both incomprehensible. Seeing as neither piece of information is required for shortening the hair on my face I decided I'd just live with the risk of running out of battery mid-shave, and never knowing when I set a PB.

That's how I lived for months, then I grew a beard. Then I shaved that beard, and like magic the moment it was down the drain my shaver's LCD display works again! I assume it was a magic beard.


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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.


Deploying Spring

On the first day of spring I went for a walk at sunrise. It was a chilly morning, but bright, and the air was filled with birdsong and pollen. Of all the sounds, the loudest was the energetic squawking of a hooded plover. It was whooping around the park in quick, wide circles, so excited that it was spring. Like they'd been giving away red cordial on the last day of school.

Those events marked the end of a long winter. Definitely not a cold one; had I not taken a weekend off to visit Melbourne in late June I might have lost my perspective on the season completely. It was "long" because of the fixed, looming shadow of what's to come. The course isn't totally clear, but I can confidently describe what's to come as being a bunch of short, life-shaping events in a row. That's all I can really say. The future is always so much clearer after it becomes the past.

Anyway, later on during these first days of spring I was in Auckland. Auckland is a city where my winter would have had no problems disguising itself as a summer. It was much cooler there. During another of my sunrise walks I heard only a single bird call. This solitary chirp was a much shorter, pessimistic trill by some unseen sparrow. Almost immediately upon its conclusion the rain started.
"Significant," I thought to myself.

You may actually be interested in what I was doing in Auckland. My life is more than eating cereal and making observations about the weather and cities. When I filled out my International Passenger Arrival Card and selected the purpose of my visit I checked "Business", not "Experience trivial reflections about the weather." In a tribute to the bradism.com of last decade I will actually talk about something meaningful in a literal manner.

Lately I have been visiting Auckland to be the technical resource responsible for the local implementation of an integrated e-commerce platform, coded in Germany and deployed in New Zealand. That is, more succinctly, I download a zip file, upload it to a bunch of servers and install its contents on each one. Then I fix everything that was wrong with it. Within my line of work, there is usually a lot that needs a specialist to fix.

I have been paid a lot of money lately to do this and I'm pretty good at it. When I'm not fixing issues I write scripts to do all the things I just installed and fixed automatically. I'm getting good at that as well. I mainly use python. I used python so much this last winter that when I saw a news headline "python kills two Canadian boys in their sleep" I thought to myself, "My code would have raised and handled an exception well before things went that far." This latest project has had its challenging moments already, and I'm becoming better at handling those kind of issues too. By its very nature my role is to essentially make myself redundant and move onto something novel, then repeat. This is my third major project of just this year alone, each using different technologies, platforms and strategies. I'm a specialist in handling new things, basically. And what is spring other than a time for new things?


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Markup

Yesterday at work there was a call for a hero. There was a lot of unformatted, unordered data that needed parts of it stripped out and neatly arranged into the form of XML insert statements for a production system. Time was short.

When I was faced with this challenge I set to work using programming patterns I initially learned while working on this very journal. The year was 2006, a hard drive crash in a data-centre in Texas had taken with it five weeks of important journal entries. With no local backups the only method I had to resurrect them was to write a script that would churn through Google’s cache of the entries, rip the important HTML parts out, and then filter all the data into neat SQL insert statements.

I remember running that script on my journal. I’d tested it first, so I was confident it would work, but watching it run and re-create two dozen entries in the blink of an eye was a proud moment for me. I felt the same way yesterday as I watched six-hundred-thousand records zooming into a production data repository at the same sort of speed. I didn’t mention to anyone that my experience in doing this kind of thing came solely from bradism.coming using 0.00004% of the volume of data.
Now I know I'm ready though, ready for enterprise journalling.

99 Days - New Record!

For those who don't know, I celebrated an important milestone this week. That is, I finished the last flake in the final box of the full series of Uncle Tobys Plus that I started eating on June 1st. It has been a winter of pluses. The final box to fall was, predictably, Essentials for Women. It's not that I feel girly eating it, I just don't really dig the dried berries clusters. Also it makes me cry during sad parts of Cougar Town.

To make up for eating a big bowl of Essentials for Women this morning I commenced my new habit of blow drying my hair before work. Wait, that's also girly. I didn't blow dry my hair because of the cereal. I used the hair drier because I've started using Vanessa's shampoo and the heat activates the chemicals in the conditioner. Ah, shit. This is spiralling badly. I did go to the office today with close to 48 hour beard growth, which in terms of boundaries is the equivalent of the West Bank of acceptable stubble. I last shaved on Sunday night... so that I would have stubble for eating Essentials for Women on Tuesday.

Man, cereal, stubble... this entry is a Lego Phocumentary reference away from being a killer entry for anyone playing the Bradism.com drinking game.

Almost Never

George Street, Sydney is the commercial heart of Australia. All its connecting streets — major roads with names that were given before Australia was even official — are host to countless department stores and shopping arcades. If anything can be bought on the island, you can find it near George Street.

Towering above the microcosm of the Australian retail industry are the skyscrapers. The head office of every major Australian company and brand. The banks are all accounted for, competing office towers that eye each other guardedly. The mining companies are there too, plus there’s the Vegemite Building, Hahn Square, Bonds Plaza. Anyone who does business in Australia is on George Street, and last Sunday I was there too.

This didn’t actually happen, but I was walking down the street with my wife, touching butts, when a woman with too much makeup and dressed in the most precise of grey suits approached us. She introduced herself as Leslie.
“I represent the head of research for a big five cereal company,” she said. “You’re Brad, right? Of bradism.com”
I nodded.
“Brad, you’ve been identified by our marketing department and our breakfast engineers as a highly commended candidate. How would you like to design your own cereal?”
“What kind of cereal?” I asked, not questioning the legitimacy, only thinking of the combinations.
“This is a greenfields project. You can come up with anything you desire. We want you to come up with the perfect cereal, the next iconic brand.”

As always, Vanessa encouraged me. That afternoon we sat in a workshop at a table lined with executives, engineers and scientists all in expensive suits adorned with silk ties or scarves. I was intimidated, but Vanessa’s reassuring look gave me the self belief I needed.

We began to speak cereal. We covered flakes, oats, bran and fibre. Dried fruit versus protein pieces. Different kind of nuts. The balance of healthiness versus flavour. We went late into the night, refining, revising, drinking coffee after coffee. Vanessa fell asleep on the couch and still we persisted. The city around us, all George Street’s institutional skyscrapers blinked out and went dark as the Earth beneath us blocked the sun’s light. On Monday morning, when the birds were chirping in Hyde Park and the breakfast show hosts began arriving at Martin Place we finally had a design. I called it, “Brad Cereal.” The artists from marketing started sketching drafts of the box. The new recipe was taken to the kitchen-lab where the first ever test batch of Brad Cereal was to be made. It was only appropriate that it was served to us at breakfast time.
Thirty-something executive lined up along a boardroom table, many of the men with their ties flipped over their shoulder. The bowls were presented, covered. The jugs of milk brought in. All waiting to experience the perfect, ultimate cereal.
The CEO was the first to unveil the contents of his bowl, the rest of us waiting politely. His eyes widened. The rest couldn’t handle their suspense. They scrambled to open their bowls, to behold the cereal inside. Some gasped, some cursed. Leslie looked at me, speechless, unblinking. The CEO stood, his wrinkled face pink-red under his thinning silver hair. He huffed in air, preparing for a rage. When he’d sucked in enough oxygen he bellowed, “You idiot! You’ve designed Weet Bix.”

I roused Vanessa and she smiled at me. We held hands as the lift traversed down the fifty-four floors and we walked out of the lobby of the Uncle Tobys Tower and into the near-spring morning sunlight.

Never Entries

As life speeds up I struggle to find the time to update my journal as daily as I would like. Part of the cause is a lack of time, not only to write the entries and insert them into the internet, but also time to think of things to write about now that I’ve fully covered the low hanging fruits of cereal, music and sources of protein. The other factor in the decline in posting output is my increased focus on quality over the years. I mean, a lot has changed since the lazy days of yore when I pumped out shit like this. I focus on quality more than quantity nowadays, and it takes extra time to add value to everything.

That said, there have been entries both lately and historically which I have thought about posting one day, but as time passes it becomes obvious to me that I never will publish them. These are ideas that kick around in my head or in half finished word documents, but have never made it any further. To commemorate posting and not posting, I’ll now share a list of some of the entries that never were.

Enyadine
At one point I had the idea to create a series of photos taken in the New South Wales suburb of Engadine, with each photo named and inspired by a track title from Enya’s 1995 album The Memory of Trees. Upon the brainwave I thought it was brilliant, but I never took a single photo for this project. My sequel phocumentary, Hurstvillage People, also never got any traction.

My New Galaxy Note
The process of upgrading to a Galaxy Note earlier this year was not smooth thanks to issues with both Australia Post and Optus. I wrote a very long rant about it, got sidetracked while justifying that the Galaxy Note was just like a normal sized phone for tall people, and then somehow got onto another tangent rant about Holden Dealers.

Name that Weed
I have a horrified fascination with the sheer variety of weeds currently growing in my landlord’s garden. I considered doing a photo series of all the different weeds, and asking for people to ID which ones were which. Instead I put the lawn mower on its lowest setting.

Blackout Part 2
There was a blackout at work when I was on the toilet. Finally, justification for never going in there without my phone. Plus some poop jokes.

House Penises
I was going to do a whole photo series of houses in different suburbs of Sydney who all have adornments like this.

Cheese and Mars Bars
A long time ago I went to a birthday dinner in Adelaide one Saturday night. I ate a schnitzel with about a kilogram of cheese on top of it, which was oddly enough the catalyst for a long and amusing adventure that led me to the Mars Bar for the first time. The adventure, which I started to write up a few days afterwards, had a lot of cheese puns and I gave up on it after the third “it doesn’t sound funny now, but if you were there.”

Other Stuff


  • An analysis of Kanye West’s 2007 album Graduation where I quoted him saying “All the songs are inspirational; every single word means something.” and then pasted in the lyrics to the album’s song Drunk and Hot Girls.
  • A rant about Scramble with Friends.
  • A depressing recount of saying goodbye to someone who was about to die
  • A study into the different ways that city people walk when they’re in a hurry but don’t want to look like they’re running.
  • An entry where I list all the entries I’ve thought about writing, but given up on ever finishing.

Assignats

A polite panic hung over the cubicles of Level 19. There was a shortage of paper towel in the office. Trilling phones made people jump. As the days went on and it became clear that the stocks would not be replenished, the intensity and overall blood pressure of the collective spiralled higher. No one could have predicted the carnage that the omission of such a simple staple would bring.
Handy towels - extra absorbent - were a necessity of office life. Their firm, flexible presence was what held the very fabric of our habitat together (stronger when wet). We used them ubiquitously, as coasters for our coffee; towels to dry our hands; wipes to clean away the sauce of our lunch or the juice from our apples from the surfaces of our desks. It was policy, the note taped to the microwave proclaimed, that reheated meals must be covered by them. And afterwards, when we rinsed our Tupperware and avoided the long since laundered tea towels it was their paper brothers we turned to for drying.

While the shortage persisted mornings became unbearable. Coffee mugs with yesterday's stains couldn't be refilled with instant coffee mix, making procrastination harder. Boxes of donuts, supplied every Monday and Friday, were eyed wistfully. Tempting, but with nothing we could hold them with, nor to wipe our mouths on after.

The rumours spoke of an issue between management and the supplier. It was a rumour only; there had been no official correspondence distributed under company logos on the official email template. Not one executive seemed to appreciate the growing worries. Paper towels were what separated us from the blue collar. What they would treat as indulgence or admire with novelty we bourgeoisie took for granted. When they ate their sandwiches they'd sweep the crumbs to the floor. After our baguettes we would shepherd the crumbs and loose shreds of romaine lettuce onto the canvas of paper towel and deposit it into our individual waste baskets. That was what made us upper class.

By the fifth day things had gotten desperate. Stocks were dwindling. Every cupboard of every kitchenette was barren. In the bathrooms disgruntled lines formed to use the gimpy blow drier and its lazy, gentle breeze. Mike, one of the Service Support technicians, was microwaving the rest of last night's stir fry under the cover of a network access request form. You could tell who had half a roll left in their desks by those who had keyboards and monitors with no dust.

After eight days you couldn't pass a water cooler without overhearing the discussions on why we didn't go out and buy our own towels. It was principle, mainly.
'Why should we buy our own towels when they used to supply them?' Martha asked. Martha was now banned from the Nandos in the plaza downstairs. She'd tried to take more than her allocation of napkins, been refused and ended up slapping a junior manager who didn't hesitate to invoke his junior authority.
'And now my photo's on the wall there!' she said.
We all had excuses: inflation, taxes, Porter's Five Forces model. In the end we didn't need to justify our action. It was our right to have paper towels provided for us.

Jon Wu developed a sniffle as the season changed. After two days of blowing his noise on the recycled toilet paper, he resigned. He did not serve his two weeks and forewent payouts.
By the third Friday, when the donuts arrived, they were placed by the still unfinished box from Monday. A sorrowful gathering began in the kitchenette to gaze at them and murmur discontentedly. Finally, Taylor, one of the apprentices who always had whispers about him, stepped forward with youthful impetuosity and selected a sugar powdered pastry. We observed silently as he raised it towards his teeth. Three, four, five bites were made. It was all but gone. Strawberry filling leaked and grains of sugar left their legacy on his fingers like sandy feet leaving the seaside.
Taylor looked around nervously, examining each of our blank faces. With no support he licked each of his fingers clean then tried to wave them dry in the air. The last time we ever saw him was his surrender; he wiped his hands down the back of his pin-stripe pants and left the kitchenette sullenly, never to be seen again.

The whispers about Taylor ended that day, but another series started.
'Rose,' Marcus passed on, 'she has towels stockpiled at her desk. Stacks of them!'

At a quarter to eleven that morning Rose moved to the ladies room. Marcus was keeping lookout, and he signalled to us all. We stormed Rose's cubicle, turning over stacks of files, knocking over ornaments and pulling out drawers.
'There!'
We all stopped, gazing in glee at the pyramid of rolls Rose had in the bottom of her drawer. Hands flew, plastic wrapping was ripped and we gorged on paper towels. Some went to their desks to clean up crumbs or mug rings and flakes of dead skin and hair. Most ran straight to the kitchenette, grabbing donuts, gloving them in paper and relishing their messy sweetness. Each took joy in the simple act of wiping the crumbs and glazing from their lips and cheeks.
Rose stopped walking as she passed us returning from the bathroom. We froze. Nothing was said. We all stared at her staring at us. She closed her gaping mouth and walked away.

'She'd bought them herself' said Marcus the next morning, as in the background Rose placed a shoeprint marked photo of two grand children into her box of belongings. 'Herself, with her own money.'
Normally when someone left there would be a celebration and we would all say goodbyes and get cake. In this climate that wasn't possible. Also, Rose did not say goodbye.

After Rose left we all became more defensive. It was no longer our office without paper towels, it was every deprived individual for him or herself.
Dale was acting suspiciously. First he went into the janitor bay and returned with an aluminium bucket filled with water. Then from the mailroom he pilfered six mail trays. Finally, he emerged from the kitchenette brandishing the sharpest looking bread knife that wasn't in the dishwasher at the time.
Dale had two Golden Pothos shrubs in pots by his workstation. The idea to reduce the level of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde in the recycled air above his desk had come from the weekly health email he distracted himself with every Tuesday. The idea to pulp them into paper towels was his alone. Carefully Dale pruned the tiny trees, binning leaves and shredding stems into the bucket. During the Thursday amalgamation meeting he brought with him a branch and meticulously filleted flakes into a pile until there were no further issues. The NRE team in Malaysia made a complaint to VOIP technical support that during Friday's teleconference there was a reoccurring background noise on the line that sounded like sloshing. By the time we left for the bar, at a quarter to five on Friday afternoon, we glared shiftily at mailbox sized sheets of freshly pulped paper being hung to set on Dale's notice board, drying slowly in the glow of his monitor.

On Monday morning our weekends were absorbed into office reality and we came across destruction. The bucket was tipped over. The mail trays lay cracked and broken. Those miscarried towels had been stomped into the ground.
The message was clear: If all of us couldn't have paper towels, no one could.

Dale did not quit. However he did relocate to Laura's cubicle to avoid a carpet that smelled of tree sap and mildew. Laura did quit. She had a family and the sight of office sabotage had been an overwhelmingly stressful beginning to another week.

Without coffee, napkins, clean desks or dry hands what was once a picturesque office plan took on a more dishevelled appearance. Where a reduction in snacking and hallway chatter had been good for production initially, things were now taking a turn for the worse. Kai was called upstairs to talk about the leaving clients. Kai was the floor manager. He'd received this position after Ken, the old floor manager, resigned because he loved spaghetti bolognaise but only owned white shirts.

Despite the isolation being cultivated on Level 19 Kai did speak to Dale after the meeting. Kai sat next to Laura's old desk.
'They have them, the managers' he whispered.
'Paper towels,' said Dale. 'You saw them?'
'Well, no. I didn't see them. But their monitors aren't dusty, their donut box was empty and I heard their microwave running.'
Dale nodded to himself. The two went to Warren's cubicle. What was once a prized, multi-viewed corner location was now a fortress. Behind an upturned desk Warren crouched, hiding shirtless with his laptop replying to emails. Discarded behind him was a cotton-polyester button up with French cuffs doused in grease and glass cleaner.
'It ends now,' said Dale.
Warren stood up, brushing carpet fluff from his pants. The three walked the cubicles like wardens, extracting recruits.

That afternoon the crowd gathered in the lobby where the lifts were locked. Warren produced his access key and the army moved away and up the stairs. As they emerged in the reception of Level 20, Jane, the switchboard operator who had not been able to reapply make-up in three weeks, buzzed them through.

Upper Management was not a crowded space until filled with us vainqueurs. Quickly we clamoured through the heavy door frame and onto the more luxuriously carpeted floor between the wider partitions of Level 20.
'You can't be in here!' said a startled Frank, Asia Pacific Service Executive.
Before we could outlay our demands, Elliot - a forty-three year veteran of the accounting team - swung the keyboard he'd carried upstairs into Frank's neatly shaved face. Blood and NumPad keys sprayed through the air. Unprepared and aghast, we watched in slow motion Frank's buckling knees and his slump to the floor. There was silence. Elliot pointed at Frank's hand. His grip fell apart as he slipped into unconsciousness. From between his fingers the clutched paper towel unrumpled and rolled onto the carpet.
The scene became one of action. Rob, who signed our Christmas bonus letters, peered out from his office and performed a startled yelp. Dave B and Dave M from IT showered him with a volley of hubs and line filters. He cowered behind the water cooler and surrendered. The Daves tangled him in Ethernet cable and buried a wireless mouse between his teeth.
Alexi, from the print room, was pummelling our financial director with ink cartridges. Warren and Kai shepherded the rest of the executives towards the boardroom, brandishing telephone handsets like lassoes.

Dale stood and watched as the door was blocked shut, then walked to the manager's kitchen. There, on the shelf above the microwave, stood three rolls of paper towels. He clutched them to his chest and carried them back. They were thrown into the air to the sounds of cheers.

Mary, the CEO, was taken from the other managers and dragged to the copy room by Alexi. We laid her down across the bench. Her eyes darted around, her face confused yet still. Her neck rested on the paper guillotine. Though her vein pulsed she seemed to accept her destiny. Her eyes resting on Dale's hands and the paper towels he held, ready to wipe up spills.

Assignats is a short story I wrote in the spring of 2007. It was the first story I ever submitted to a real-life publication and the source of my first rejection slip. I always planned to improve it to the extent that one day its submission would lead to an acceptance slip, so I never posted it online. Hindsight has shown me that people aren't ready for the fantasy-office life genre. Also, I realised that brilliance wasn't inherited. I published this old story on bradism.com as a symbolic gesture to remind me that a rejection slip is actually quite high on the list of rewards that come from writing.