Five Clocks

I was disheartened this morning to read in the Sydney Morning Herald that Sydney was on its way to breaking a record for consecutive days above 20 degrees during Winter. I was slowly being convinced that this is what August weather is like here.

I had today off work after trading my normal Thursday hours for the graveyard shift and my first application release earlier this morning. It went well enough, and it meant I could sit in the sunlight in a deck chair on my back lawn with a Pepsi Max and a copy of The Great Gatsby for the afternoon. I had to rotate several times as I read through the pages, other than that it was awesome. I walked back inside afterwards in a daze; vitamin D was painted on my fingers and face.

I have this very strong desire to take photos of birds lately. I wonder what it means.


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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.


Springlings

I saw two ducks together today, a boy and a girl. The girl was eating some grass while the boy kept watch. It was sunny. I thought, 'that duck is probably pregnant with spring.' The sun agreed. I did not have my camera with me.

Mondale III

It was almost midday. Dale crept cautiously into the office, eyes checking every corner. However, this Monday's late arrival time was not to do with laziness and apathy like it might have been. Rather, Dale had felt a positive vibe after lying down in bed on Sunday night following a sunny weekend beyond anything one could expect from winter. He'd procrastinated less during his morning preparations, not fumbled with any part of dressing himself and accidentally arrived at work half an hour early. He was smiling at a cup of coffee at his desk before some of his co-workers even arrived. It was then that something over his shoulder cast a shadow from the fluorescent lights above. Dale turned as his manager cleared his throat, and followed when he was asked if he could come into his office to talk.

It had only been that morning, but it seemed so long ago that Dale had been handed a cab charge and told that he was going to spend the next three months consulting for the new client, working on site at their office. Dale was taken aback after being told he was going to be representing the company's 'core values and technical expertise'. He could think of only a few things he would be considered expert enough in to educate others about, and they were things that surely the company would prefer he did not share. No matter how many unvoiced objections he had, the morning's momentum had quickly transported Dale to his new office and he was searching for the right suite among the ferns and glass doors while feeling thankful that he'd at least worn a long sleeve shirt this day.

Eventually Dale found the correctly printed glass door and - with no one with a door pass willing to let him tailgate - stood outside it while he rang the number of the contact he'd been given. Soon Dale's new manager arrived. He was clad purposefully in a pinstriped suit and a thick, silver tie hung from his neck that was only slightly more subtle than a tie with the words "IN CHARGE" written on them with black marker was. Following him was another man, who Dale found relaxingly more casually dressed.
'Joe,' said the second new character, extending a rolled up sleeve that led to a hand for Dale to shake.

After introductions, Dale's new manager Karl, walked briskly between cubicles while Dale and Joe trailed behind.
'You can work from this pod,' said Karl, abandoning Dale at the mouth of a jumble of cubicles facing inwards. 'If you need any help with anything, don't hesitate to ask.'
He immediately strode away.

Joe was more helpful; he cleared a space for Dale's laptop and showed where his desk was: next to Dale's.
'The team is looking forward to meeting you,' Joe said. 'We'll have an introductory meeting after lunch. In the meantime I actually will help you if you have any questions. Oh, and here...'
Joe produced a plastic card from his desk drawer.
'This will get you in all the doors.'
'That is very helpful,' said Dale. 'Thanks.'
'It's actually my job to help you,' said Joe. 'Well, part of it. Here HR gives every new starter a buddy and, well, you're my buddy!'

Joe did his best to live up to his name, finding Dale an ethernet cable; showing him to the Kitchenette so he could store his lunch and Pepsi Max; and providing honest answers to Dale's questions like 'So does everyone here actually start at 8:30?' and 'How acceptable is it to install third-party browsers on the computers?'
Joe showed Dale how to work the electronic whiteboard before the meeting with the other developers, to which Dale replied with a hint of mirth 'Thanks, Buddy!' Dale was surprised how well things were turning out. The introductory meeting went smoothly, most likely due to the post-lunch sleepiness of most of the new team. One developer, Miguel, asked him antagonising questions like a mature agent student in a humanities lecture, but beyond that he had no complaints.

The sun was still shining through the many glass windows of the office park tower that afternoon when Dale made his return to the kitchenette for a drink. As he walked in he found Miguel waiting for him, leaning against the common table.
'I did not find your meeting promising, consultant' he said.
'Oh,' said Dale. His first instinct was to stand quietly and wait for Miguel to leave, but confidence suddenly surged through him and he opted instead for assertiveness.
'I think we may have got off on the wrong foot,' Dale started. 'You don't have to call me "consultant". You can call me "Dale". If you have any concerns about what I'll be helping you guys with maybe we can sit down and talk through it.'
Dale extended a hand, which Miguel did not take.
'My name is Miguel,' Miguel said, standing up straight. 'I am your enemy.'
'My enemy?'
'Here HR gives every new starter a nemesis, and I am yours.'
This seemed strange, but Dale was still feeling just a little confident.
'We don't have to be enemies,' he said. 'Who cares what the policy says?! I see you're drinking a Pepsi Max. I like Pepsi Max. Perhaps we have more in common than you think?'
'I like your Pepsi Max' said Miguel, glancing at the fridge.


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Bradism

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Give a man 30,000 fishes and you also feed him for a lifetime, plus you don't have to bother teaching him how to fish.

Milk, Eating

Some nights I lie awake longer than I want. Sleep is elusive, an oiled up concept that I can only grasp momentarily before it slips away through my fingers.

image 1041 from bradism.com


I just get so excited about breakfast.

Mondale IV

Joe stepped out of the elevator and around the corner found Dale standing an uncertain guard of the eighth floor glass security door. Dale gave Joe a furtive glance, followed after a second of processing with a conservative smile of recognition.
'Still no door pass?' Joe asked him as the two met. In a well-practiced piece of choreography he smacked his pocketed wallet against the sensor and was rewarded with a friendly chime and the clunk of bolts untangling.
'Not yet,' said Dale.
'And no one would open the door for you?'
'You're the first person who's come along. I did see Miguel walk past inside, but I think he pretended not to see me. Then he walked back a minute later dragging my chair behind him.
'It's a bit of a Wild West up here sometimes,' said Joe as the two navigated between cubicles. 'I hope it hasn't put you off.'
'I'll be honest,' said Dale. 'You have been a great buddy. But in general the people here seem to be on a secret mission to abuse my graces.'
'How?' asked Joe.
'Well, I realise I had it good in town with our fridges. I mean, I kept parmesan cheese in that fridge for weeks between spaghettis. Here I am lucky if a thing of yogurt lasts until my morning tea. I spent twenty minutes trying to make a phone call one morning before I realised someone took the cable while I was away. And last week I set my meal to heat up for five minutes in the microwave, walked back to my desk to check on a build and came back to a sheepish looking Egyptian guy taking my lunch out with three minutes left on the clock.'
'Oh,' said Joe. 'That's not good at all.'

Joe looked like he was deep in thought.

'Did you try writing a passive-aggressive note and printing it off as big as possible to stick on your desk, the fridge and the microwave?' he asked.
'Funny,' said Dale. 'I called up the Floor Coordinator and that's exactly what she told me to do as well. I just.. I don't think that's the kind of thing I am able to do.'
'Don't stress,' said Joe. 'You go look for another chair and I am going to call the head of HR and find out if he can help you.'

Five minutes later Dale returned, wheeling a sad looking office chair behind him.
'Check your email' said Joe. 'The HR Manager says he will help you.'
Dale opened his inbox; near the top was an email from the head of HR. It had an attachment, and was titled "Employees Passive-Aggressive Note Template v1.4".

This Shhh Is

I woke up five minutes before my alarm this morning and immediately sprang out of bed. The God of Hospitality Etiquette had been kind to me over the weekend; a guest to our house had brought bananas with her over the weekend and obeyed the commandment 'Thou shalt not take home food with you when you visit friends.' I've gained (and lost) many beers and some Paddle Pops to this decree over the years, but this is the first time I'd ever scored something as lavish as bananas. As someone who felt a little nervous carrying a red capsicum through the streets of Hurstville after dark this week, I was truly able to appreciate this serendipity.

It has been so, so many months since I watched Cyclone Yasi hit the north-east coast and scatter my breakfast plans for the rest of the year kilometres into the air. I ate a banana, Weet Bix and honey smoothie for breakfast almost every day before that storm, and today I was coming back home. Even if it was going to be only five degrees when I drank it I was still excited. Spring was just over the horizon, and perhaps it was bananas that the ducks I saw last week were pregnant with. I was so atwitter that I struggled to recall the recipe for banana smoothie after I made it to the kitchen.

As usual, when I start feeling excited about tropical fruits in August, the days left of winter were not kind. Despite wearing cuff links to the office the events of today's working rapidly unravelled to the state where I didn't leave until 6pm, with the unfortunate knowledge that all the work I'd done today had led to only the conclusion that I should destroy it all first thing tomorrow and start again. It was not a sunny day, and if I had taken a break I probably would have been rained on by the ubiquitous rain clouds of hump day. Also I believe the new earphones I bought to use on the train were designed by whoever invented the grappling hook.

I was eventually walking from the train station to my door along the dark, sodden streets. The light pollution from the city's many towers made the clouds glow despite the kilometres between us, and the soft rain that still fell tasted dirty on my lips. At this junction I felt aggrieved, and gypped by those bananas that had promised me a nice day. I thought about duck pairs and photojournalism and ideal train seat selections and more about bananas and felt that at this point the journal words in my head were want for a drink to decode them or at least take them on a more entertaining, unrelated tangent. Then, in the bend that brought it all back, the song 'Banana Split' by Mochipet came on random, and its funstep beat guided me home. And when I realised that this song, which I downloaded at random only yesterday, was about bananas I silently mouthed 'Oh my God' to the empty streets as I realised the extent of the universe's invisible storytelling. To the God of Hospitality Etiquette I believe. From then, the only drink I needed was a banana smoothie.

South for the Weekend

There are pros and cons to renting. Pro: I am able to live in a nice house within twenty minutes of Sydney for $500 a week instead of $800,000 over thirty years before interest. Con: I have been connecting to my router wirelessly instead of via ethernet since the day I left the nest.

My signal strength has ranged from "fair" to "shite" over the four houses I've lived in since then, but I lived with it up until the last week when I bought myself a new router. My old Billion router had been my internet champion for over two years. However, it took a few tumbles in the last couple of months and starting losing line sync and shutting itself down more and more often after that. I knew the time had come to put it in a home and find a new hero. I bought the Billion 7800NL and after a few tweaks I have it syncing at 9000/900kbs and only one drop out in the past seven days.

The bad news is that while I was able to connect to the old router wirelessly with no issues, connecting to the new one was a painful experience of high latency and unacceptable packet loss.

I'm an IT professional, but I am not able to understand the voodoo of wireless networking to any great degree. From what I understand my new router transmits on a powerful, new protocol that unfortunately all my neighbours are using too. In the past I had been avoiding their packets, but now their routers have awakened to my presence and I am caught in a digital crossfire.
After several days of laggy, teasing internet connectivity I did what any sane person would do: I dragged my computer to the edge of my desk, dragged the router to the middle of the living room and managed to stretch a 15 metre ethernet cable down the hall to connect the two. For the first time in three years I was connected by cable and I was giddy with joy. I never wanted that feeling to end, in fact. However I knew I couldn't live with yellow ethernet cabling hovering above my hall floorboards. So, I decided I would crawl under the house to evaluate my chances of running cables underneath the house.

At this point it's important to mention that I have no idea how install an ethernet socket in the skirting board, nor have I ever been underneath a house before. I was confident someone at a Bunnings Warehouse could teach me to be a licensed electrician in about five minutes, so I just had to conquer the second part.

Above the floorboards my house is, as mentioned, quite nice.
Below it is extremely scary.
I crawled through the trapdoor and discovered that the underneath had rooms that had the same floor plan as above the floor. Unfortunately the entry point was far from both the living room and the study, so I started crawling through the inverse-laundry and into the inverse-kitchen, which contained some rusted out lanterns, old bottles and a large pile of young girls shoes from the turn of the century.
This disturbed me, but driven by my connection fevour I crept further along the dirt towards the inverse-hall.
As I dropped to my belly to deal with the decreasing height my torch started to flicker out on me.
At this point I decided that a yellow cable running down the hall whenever I felt like playing Starcraft 2 was better than this. I slowly reversed out.

A Dale EPIC

Passers-by would describe Dale's awkward half-sprint up the stairs into the office as an indication of his keenness to start the work week. This was not the case. Ten minutes earlier Dale had opted out of the chance to use the train station's toilet and it was the potential remorse that spurred him through the glass doors early Monday morning. After, as he washed his hands, he glanced at his reflection and noted the dark-ringed eyes. He regretted his sleep the night before, first the procrastination and then the restlessness; the only true reclamation of energy he felt had come moments before his alarm, and the moments after it. This triggered a chain reaction that had forced him to delay his morning wee until after he arrived at the office.

'You like tired, Sport!' said Harold as Dale dried his hands.

Harold had just started zipping up his fly but felt no bother initiating a conversation in the narrow washroom. Harold felt no bother initiating conversations anywhere, anytime. He was a tractor-beam; he would make statements that deserved no response yet not break eye contact at any cost to artificially lengthen the natural life of a conversation.

'Why the fuck does Harold keep trying to start conversations with me?' Dale wondered.

'You're probably wondering why I'm so chipper on a Monday morning!' said Harold as the two walked into the office.

Dale kept silent.

'I'll tell you my secret,' Harold said, assuming Dale's wary blankness was permission to continue. 'Every Monday morning, and only Monday mornings, I eat cake and ice-cream for breakfast. It's the best breakfast! Gets me all energetic and enthusiastic for the week! ...What's the matter sport?'

'Didn't sleep well,' Dale loathed admitting, afraid of the fuel he was adding to the discussion.

'Some nights before work I can't sleep...' said Harold. 'I just get so excited about breakfast!' He yawned, then grinned sheepishly. Dale fought his instinct to yawn back. He forced his lips together tightly, turned himself a full 180 degrees away from Harold to face his desk and willed the dialogue to combust. After a minute he turned to look back and Harold stood there, waiting for the talk to continue. The only sound was the two breathing. Finally Harold turned and walked away towards his cubicle, but with not even a grunt to indicate the conversation was done.

It wasn't.Continue Reading Mondale V...

Dear Brain

Alright brain, some serious questions:

How come whenever I see cake you try and convince me that food might be in short supply in the coming days and that I should replenish my stocks of fat in case I go hungry? I have a whole bag of almonds on my desk at work, and nine different types of cereal at home. I'm not going to go hungry. Stop lying to me every single time..

Why did you choose to buy a hand sanitizer that requires no water to clean my hands, and then let me store it next to the sink for months?

Why approve of certain songs when I load my phone up with MP3s, only to immediately reject them as unlistenable the first time they come up on shuffle? What do you have to gain by doing this?! Why not just put songs that you like on my phone?

Also if you could turn off all the flashbacks for a while that would be great too.

Thanks,
Brad's Body

Weeds

On Sydney's rail network a Tangara motor carriage has seats for 112 on the middle six cars, and 98 in each of the driving cars. I counted them one trip. That's 840 seats plus approximately 10-25 people standing around the doors of each carriage during peak hour when every seat is taken. That's a total of ~1100 people per train at 8am on a work day morning. That means that on every rush hour train there's - on average - three people who are having their birthday and feeling like they at least deserve a seat.

I caught a 6:45am train into Sydney on Friday morning and took one of the last seats that remained by the time the carriages reached Hurstville. The population caught me by surprise; I was expecting it to be a lot less crowded at that early point of the day. Thus, a lot more people than I was planning experienced me eating soggy cereal out of a tupperware container with a tea-spoon on my way to work. I couldn't tell if all the looks were of disgust or jealousy. I think the only common denominator that floated behind their brows was the phrase "South Australian..."

This weekend I've had to struggle with first world problems like weeds invading my (landlord's) lawn and spam bots posting junk to my personal website.

Gardening and PHP are pretty unrelated, but the realisation I had while on my bottom ripping apart tangles of Oxalis pes-caprae (with my only goal being to give the grass underneath some light) was this: Wether it's Nigerians or plantlife, all living things are just greedy for resources. Sunlight, seats, money, Vespene gas. My trip to Costco this morning also seemed to back this up.

On the plus side, I was fortuitous enough to see eels in the wild today. And I bought 14 wholemeal Lebanese pitas for $1.89.

Mondilbert

Today I drove to work, facing Sydney's peak hour rush head on (almost). It wasn't actually that bad - probably because I started and finished work with a two and a half hours offset to most people. There is something powerful in the feeling of reaching the end of your trip after navigating Sydney's maze of roads and ramps at rush hour. Well, when you over-dramatise the mundane parts of your life there is. I was a hero twice today.

The main drawback of driving was that I didn't get to write a Mondale story on the train on my commute home. Fortunately I wrote one two weekends ago in case I ever needed an emergency Dale story. And SO:

Mondale VI
'What are you doing?' I queried.
Dale looked up from his screen, the sound of mouse clicks pausing.
'What time is it?' he asked in reply.
'10:30.'
'Good, I've still got time.'
'For comics?'
'Yeah,' said Dale as another set of panels floated by. 'We're still in that grey area between the weekend and work. No one is going to judge me harshly for starting slow on a Monday.'
'I don't think that grey area extends two hours into the morning.'
'Oh, no, it's ok.' Dale reassured me. 'I only just got in.'
There were more clicks, then a chuckle.
'What was funny?' an agitated voice asked through the cubicle wall. 'Was something funny? Forward it to me if it's something funny. You gotta.'
'Dilbert..' Dale muttered, only to himself.

For another ten minutes I watched as Dale drilled through the Dilbert.com archives, searching for some objective that he wouldn't share. He rarely laughed. I figured this was because there'd hardly be a Dilbert he hadn't seen before. It was impossible not to see them all; Dilberts were posted in every print room, in the kitchenette, the break room, even by the fire exits. Everyone had a Dilbert in their cubicle. Well, everyone except Dale.

'That's it!' he exclaimed. 'This one is the one.'
I stooped to speed read the strip.
'That one? It's not even funny.'
'It doesn't need to be good,' said Dale. 'I mean, seriously, how is reading about someone else's office job even supposed to be entertaining? This is just for identity management.'

He hit print and explained:

'You remember Sandra? After they made her the only developer on the SHOW system and she was forced to be on 24 hour support for four months straight? So, she stuck that Dilbert up in her cubicle about how Alice was always on call and was never going to see her family again. Everyone who sees it feels sorry for her. No one remembers that SHOW is only used during business hours - sparingly - and that not only does Sandra see her family every night but she's paid on call rates to do so.
'And there's Ralf,' he continued. 'Who has that series posted next to his desk about Asok's job being outsourced to Elbonia. Ralf is just a code monkey, so sure, that seems like a reasonable way to chuckle off the fear of losing your work to someone overseas. Remember though, that Ralf was born in Germany and studied in Munich and the company paid his moving costs to bring him here so they could replace Ravi when Ravi wanted that payrise. And Ralf was just as competent as Ravi, but cheaper and younger.'
'So this Dilbert thing is like some ironic flag that you wave at the ignorant to misdirect them from your flaws?'
'Yep, and now I have mine! Although I was hoping that reading Dilberts would help me procrastinate all the way 'til lunch.' He said, a little sadly.
Dale retrieved the comic from the printer, and solemnly pinned the strip above his terminal.
'Coffee time?' suggested Dale, closing the browser.
We stood and moved toward the lifts. Over our shoulder's Dale's cubicle walls grew smaller. On one of them now hung three panels, throughout which Dilbert delivered an irritated monologue about being the only one who bothers to arrive at work on time.