Suddenly, and Without Warning
I'm over bagels.
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I'm over bagels.
Not getting enough emails? Want to receive updates and publishing news in your inbox? Sign up to the bradism mailing list. You'll also receive an ebook, free!
One day many years from now, people will ask me, "Brad, why was there a ten week period at the start of 2014 when you posted no entries to your online journal? Was there important things going on in your life? What were they, these things that would stop you from writing?"
And I will reply, "I don't know. I didn't keep a journal of what happened."
Tomorrow will be a big day. It's my first day at a new job, I have a basketball grand final to play in, and on top of all that I have to remember to put the bins out.
I have dwelled on it, and I think Autumn doesn't actually exist. It's just a time of year when it's summer during the day and winter at night, until eventually it's winter during the day too.
Like my words? Want to buy one of my books? I think you'll like this one:
If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?
Chase: A Tomorrow Technologies Novella. Available Now for Less than a dollar!
Raymond Orteig Jr never went to trial. Informally, there was no doubt that multiple men and women had lost their lives because of him.
A website demanding justice for Francois Nungesser led with one of the last photos ever taken of the Frenchman. Raymond stood beside him, both men smiling and shaking hands for the photographers inside Nungesser's Paris laboratory. Looming high in the background was Nungesser's tï¿½lï¿½porteur magie, appearing to the world like a wardrobe-sized steel box. Every surface looked like the back of a century old refrigerator.
On the website, overlaying the photo, was a scarlet circle around Raymond's head. Below that in the same colour and in all caps was the word, "Murderer."
When the handshake had broken, that day the photo was captured, Francois had stepped inside his invention and sealed the door. The crowd's murmur was cut off as the machine powered up. It hummed and buzzed for almost a minute before a sudden drop to silence. The door slid back open and vacant insides were revealed.
Orteig and the crowd turned in unison to watch a live video feed of Battery Park, Manhattan where a crowd of scientists and reporters wearing tense facial expressions surrounded an empty square of lawn fenced off by orange bunting. One scientist stared at her watch face, her lips moving as she counted thirty-nine seconds. She looked up with panicked eyes, staring directly at the video camera.
The Orteig Jr Prize remained unclaimed.
I was a bit grumpy when I reached the self-checkouts at Coles tonight. There had been absolutely no ‘reduced for quick sale' tickets on anything I wanted. Florets of broccoli were going for $6.95 a kilogram, which made me scowl. Although I did buy one, I knew in my heart that this was not a price that had any connection to the cost of growing, transporting and stocking a broccoli floret and was instead tied to how much the Australian public are willing to pay for one. I wanted to buy some meat for a stir-fry, but I didn't see a single cut or fillet at a price I was happy to pay. Lately, since buying a house, I've felt like I'm always overpaying for meat. I feel like people, faceless people are silently judging me for this. Every time I spin around to cry out, or to ask them for directions to an economical butcher, they disappear in a puff of smoke. It's killing me inside.
I carried what I decided I would buy past a handful of idle, bored-looking checkout personnel and into the self-checkout corral. I scanned and bagged my purchases and paid with paywave, happy that 35 cents off the price per kilogram of broccoli had just had absconded. That's where the nightmare began.
The point of sale card reader displayed "APPROVED" on it's tiny screen and the self-checkout told me, "Thank you for shop." And then it cut out. I stood frozen, half in disbelief and expecting the rest of the salutation of would eventually come. Half in shock. No other shoppers seemed to notice my peril.
I need that useless farewell from the robot checkout. It felt like all the humanity in the world had been stripped away. Is this what civilization had come to? Was I the last person who still had some social conscience? And to think, I might not even have noticed the missed valediction if the song playing in my headphones hadn't just faded out.
The self-checkout supervising human was starting to become suspicious by my posture and facial expression. He asked me, "are you, like, okay?"
I said, "No, I didn't get my farewell from the checkout robot. I need you to make it do it."
He looked at the monitor of the machine, which was patiently awaiting the next customer.
"It can't work like that," he said. He tilted his head slightly, trying to gauge by my face if I was serious. Concluding that I was, he offered to compromise: "I could say the farewell, if you want?"
"No, I need the machine to do it."
He sighed. "Man, I don't get paid enough for this."
"How much do you get paid?" I asked him.
"Like eighteen bucks an hour."
"Ah," I said. "So that's the true price that I should be paying for meat."
"No," he said. "That's my hourly wage. The price of meat is displayed on all the meat packaging."
There are times when I question my career path as an IT professional. Times that I wonder why I keep allowing myself to be assigned to yet another enterprise information technology project or support team and have to digest another series of system architecture documents and a six month history of service desk tickets, only to then sit and wait for something to go wrong so I can fix it.
While I wait for it something to break I drink coffee, or have regrets about why I didn't become a bagel baker or a music director or some other job that from a distance seems to be more rewarding. Sometimes I go to the bathroom, even though I don't really need to go right that moment. That scenario occurred today, when I could only handle reading software administration guides for so many consecutive hours. Afterwards, I washed my hands and silently questioned my reflection in the mirror, "Why do you even want to be an IT professional?"
I turned to dry my hands under the automatic hand-dryer. The sensor didn't work and no hot air came out. Purely on instinct I flicked the power switch off, waited a few seconds and flicked it back on again. Warm air commenced blowing against my skin, and I remembered, I didn't choose the IT life. The IT life chose me.
I was caught off guard by just how easy it is to buy a living thing and take it back to your house. No questions are asked, like "Do you have a big enough backyard?"
Maybe you don't have a backyard at all. It doesn't matter. You can just drive to the store one weekend with the right amount of cash and walk out with something that's going to need care and love, not to mention regular grooming for the rest of its life.
I was disturbed to discover this. I could have been anyone off the street. I was sure there was going to be some kind of psychological evaluation done at the checkout. A questionnaire that I could satisfy to not only give the seller but also the buyer some confidence that, hey, maybe you can succeed at raising a living thing. Maybe you are capable of nurturing something from infancy. Instead I now live with this gnawing fear that I'll screw up, that I'll arrive home from work, step into my backyard and find a lifeless corpse. It's been three weeks and I still feel this way despite how big and quick the growth is coming. Life seems unstoppable, and that only serves to make me fear failure even more.
And if that's how I feel about the new grass I planted, you can imagine how I feel about the puppy.
I went jogging yesterday. I headed west, ploughing nipples-first into the mandarin sunset of a winter solstice. I ran for half an hour, and things occurred to me out there. Poignant, epiphany like things. Journal entry idea things. Things I would ultimately never write flickered into existence and away again.
This is how it has been lately. Potential journal entries have been like loose eyelashes. They tickle me, but when I try to grasp them and pull them free from my head I lose my grip and they are swallowed back into my skull. I never see them again.
Last evening, however, as I walked through a bitter, spitting wind I was struck by one flare of meaningful brilliance that I would not let slip between my fingers. It... wait, what does happen to those eyelashes which float around on your eye and then vanish into your lacrimal canaliculi like a minifig torso up a vacuum cleaner? Is there like some giant pile of old eyelashes clumped together in my body somewhere? Or are they broken down into proteins and reabsorbed? Can they even be metabolised? Is there some plumbing that forwards them to my intestines like redirected mail. Godammit! have I been ingesting extra calories for every rouge eyelash that escapes my clutches? Do I only need to go jogging to burn off all that eyelash fat I've been gaining the past 29 years?
Wait, wait, eyelashes couldn't possibly contain that many calories. By the time the muscles in my abdomen have passed them through the whole digestive tract I've probably burned net calories. Surely? If anything I should be eating more eyelashes. My eyelashes, other people's eyelashes. A whole, packed fucking train carriage would be like an eyelash farm. Eyelashes for breakfast, then whatever I wanted for dessert. Yoghurt and cereal, probably.
Back to my point, my narrative thought so illuminating it lit up my walk back home... shit, I forgot it. Another slippery eyelash enroute to autocannibalisation.
There's so many days lately where I can't explain why my humanity membership card hasn't been revoked.
First issue, I don't recognise anyone. It's not a race thing. Even when I take my time I struggle to place the faces I see. Recognition surely is the first step to any level human interaction.
I suppose right now it's a challenging time for me to succeed at countenance comprehension. I live in a new neighbourhood, I'm riding a new train line, I take my dog to a new dog school and I'm working on a new office floor. I simply can't track that many new faces in my life, especially with 30 NBA rosters currently in flux. Worse, just when I think I'm starting to recognise people I come in on Monday and everyone's grown a beard or had a haircut and my confidence is shattered.
Second Issue, at some point in my life (I think when working at Woolworths) I decided that "How are you?" as a greeting was a useless platitude that didn't justify a full answer. For over a decade when people say to me "how are you?" I usually reply, "Hello," and leave it at that. Quite often these diads occur in transit. That's acceptable, I guess, when I pass someone in a corridor. When the form of transit is a recently-closed elevator it's a little different. Actually, this kind of strategy worked for me in Sydney, but in Adelaide it's not going quite as well.
Last issue, I feel like an absurdly high number of strangers seem to know me. This might be just an Adelaide thing, or maybe it's because my Mum had the biggest social circle I've ever seen when I was growing up. I'm not completely certain that all these strangers know me, but sometimes they do say to me, "How are you?" And sometimes they look at me like they expect me to recognise them. Although that could be the schizophrenia slowly developing.
One day this week Vanessa came home with a brand new haircut. It’s a lot shorter now. I think it looks great.
She was a bit worried about making such a big change, and she asked me how I was about it.
“I’m good!” I said. “I think it really suits you, and it’s made me happy.”
If there really is such thing as a superfood, something which it turns out makes you healthy forever, I hope it's low fat yoghurt. This I hope because I have eaten so much low fat yoghurt in the last decade that I would now be so full of these magic antibody cell rejuvenators that I'd live forever. Why would I want to live forever? So that I can spend my days eating low fat yoghurt, obviously.
Earlier this year, for some reason, I decided to track just how much low-fat yoghurt I was eating. I initially wanted to know the amount of time it would take me to eat my bodyweight in yoghurt. So, for a while I kept a spreadsheet. During the reporting period I consumed over 25 litres of yoghurt. Based on this I predict it would have been about six months for me to eat 85 kilograms of yoghurt. Alas, after a few weeks I struggled to remember to record my yoghurt consumption every day and I had to add another column, which was "how much I don't give a frick about recording yoghurt."
Finally, after years, the humans have started acting nicely towards me.
They don't make loud noises so much when I bark, or if I fart when they're eating.
I have even trained them to bring me toys to play with. They are very obedient and loving.
It has taken extreme patience on my behalf, but finally they are kind to me and pay me a lot of attention.
They love me so much they even sit quietly on my couch with me when I'm sleepy.
I think the fact that I'm so polite and friendly towards them has helped improve their behaviour. I can't think of any other explanation as to why they've become so lenient and attentive lately.
I mean what other reason would there be for them to treat me so nicely now?
Because they're going to surgically remove my uterus and ovaries tomorrow?
Why would they even do that?
After working way too many hours during a sunny winter weekend I worked from home today. From the moment I woke up the entire sky was blanketed with grey, ambling cloud and I didn't see the sun once. It was cold. So, rationally, I decided to catalogue the pantry and find things to eat so I could increase my blubber like an elephant seal.
What did I find behind a packet of long life tortillas? A single-serving size of Lucky Charms that I stole from a breakfast buffet at a motel in Cambria, California.
I sampled many foods in America, but for my own sake resisted trying any American cereals for fear I would not be able to make myself board the plane back home. This sachet of morning candy was all I allowed myself to take. I'm glad I saved it for today. While outside was overcast and gloomy inside my cereal there were rainbows!
It was only after I finished drinking the leftover milk from the bowl that I wondered how long it had been since I had pocketed this cereal on that much sunnier morning last year, which I saw elephant seals on.
That was lucky!
I've never told anyone this story.
Earlier this year I found myself in Auckland, again, and I wasn't happy. A combination of work stresses, life stresses, and niggling joint inflammation were putting me in a funk. On top of that the introverted side of me was screaming in agony, working elbow to elbow on a big desk with my project team for long days with no natural cover. I mean, I was seriously exposed there. I worked in an open plan office building which lacked not only walls but also half the floors and ceilings. Somehow I ended up with my back and my monitor visible from four different storeys. When each day ended I would amble back to my hotel room with nothing to do but kill time until the next day started. It was depressing.
At least by this stage it wasn't winter in New Zealand anymore. It wasn't hot, or anything close to that, but I could at least go for a walk at lunchtime and not get rained on or freeze. And so one lunch I found myself walking in Victoria Park, and then I found myself sitting under a tree on a bench in Victoria Park. In hindsight the tableau was comical: me sitting, scowling in the cheery sunshine surrounded by lush flora and smiling, exercising people on the lunch breaks. That's how it was, though.
The sun felt good, really good, and I didn't want to move. I pulled out my phone to kill some more time in the way I killed a lot of time then: playing Pokemon Diamond on a DS Emulator. I was taking out some hapless trainer with my Crobat when the breeze kicked up and the brushy branch of the tree above brushed me about the head.
It wasn't a painful blow. The tree was no sapling, but its branches were thin and leafy and it really only tickled. Still, I scowled deeper and shoved the branch away. Another gust later and the branch came back, stroking my face, clawing at my shoulders. It didn't just glance by. The wind swirled in some unpredictable way that made the branch feel like it was tousling my hair, embracing me, pulling me in for a hug.
"No, tree," I said. Haplessly, it proved. The branch would not relinquish its cuddling grasp of me. I slid a foot further down the bench, away from the tree and into the warm sun. The branch followed with its exploring, fiddling fingers and before I could stop it I was being tickled under the chin, batted, you might even say clumsily groped.
Before I knew what was happening I was smiling. I couldn't help myself. This tree was like an incorrigible puppy full of nothing but innocent affection and energy. I gave myself up to the moment, to the tree and let it pat me, let it have me with no resistance. I let it love me.
As quickly as it started the wind died down again. The tree stretched back up to its original position. The sun struck me, and I realised I needed to get back to work. Still, there was an extra bounce in my stride back to my shared desk. And I was still smiling.
By the end of the day, alas, any renewed optimism had been eroded. I slunk back to my hotel in anticipation of stewing sourly, putting off running on the treadmill, and then another night on the soft and lumpy hotel bed. After I'd turned out the lights I couldn't sleep. Not an uncommon situation for me when I'm in an airtight hotel room, but this was different. I kept thinking about the tree. I knew it had been nothing, just a serendipitous suck from a high pressure cell in the atmosphere when I was in just the right place. The tree didn't really like me, or have any feelings for me at all. I knew that. It didn't stop me from thinking about it though.
A point came in the night where I'd passed the threshold of no sleep. Down on the streets I could see nobody, Auckland is not a city that never sleeps. A police car cruised slowly down the hill, otherwise nothing.
I dressed quietly but quickly, jeans and the same t-shirt I'd worn the night before. I rode down the elevator and passed the desk staff who smiled at me, but said nothing.
It was a short trip back to Victoria Park. I walked quickly, not because it was cold, because I wanted to see the tree. I wanted to reach the tree before the rational part of my brain realised what was going on and ordered me back to bed. The rationality never kicked in, though. Not even when I passed through the park gates and onto the path that looped around the ovals.
"I'm almost here, tree." I thought, one united thought. Tonight I wasn't going to find myself anywhere, this moment I was going somewhere instead. I had purpose, although I hadn't worked out exactly what I was going to say to the tree when I reached it. Small talk to start, probably, play it safe and...
My feet had carried me to within view of the tree, it's white bark lit up by the reflection from the moon under the cloudy night sky. I didn't take a step further. I couldn't believe it. There, under my tree was another man. He was dressed in business pants, a buttoned up shirt. The tree's branch wrapped around him. His arms were around the tree. That was a freeze frame, but they were a flurry of motion. I couldn't tell where he ended and the branches began.
"Slut!" I screamed at the tree, which stirred a few homeless people nearby.
"Go back to Australia, mate," the man enveloped by the tree yelled back, muffled. He put extra snarl on the 'mate' part.
I ran back to the hotel, but I didn't cry. Eventually I found myself asleep.
I'm glad I don't need to go back to Auckland again.
I don't want to rehash too much about my annual springtime arousals, but today was a good day. I saw ducklings and cygnets, both early enough in the season that the stragglers of the flock hadn't been devoured by predators yet. The sun shone steadfast most of the morning. At lunch I decided I'd earned a break and I went for a stroll through the sunbeams along North Terrace.
With this picture painted you can imagine my surprise when I passed through a pocket of trees and one in front of me dropped a fat, brown leaf which drifted slowly to the footpath.
"Um, tree, do you know what month it is?" I muttered only half in jest.
A moment later, a deep voice from behind asked me, "Do you speak to the trees often?"
"No!" I thought instantly, but then recalled the last journal entry I'd posted.
"I guess I do, sometimes," I said, turning about. "It's not something I want to be known for, though"
Behind me there was no one listening. Just another tree, a bigger one, watching me with bemusement.
"Well, I'm 30 now," started a Journal entry I wrote like two years ago.
I spent much of the past few years feeling like I was already 30. I couldn't pinpoint exactly why, such mental imprecision was just one of my symptoms. There was the general aches and pains, my desk surface a growing lichen of invoices and bills, every time my email dinged it was another meeting request or superannuation update. I'd also just bought a new red car. Nothing in my life seemed to match what I saw 20 year olds doing on TV. The regularly occurring music festivals at Olympic Park drew my ire. It was too loud, everything was overpriced.
Did I mind being 30? Not really. Except for the obvious - the unstoppable retracting of my chronological pull-cord - being prematurely three decades old didn't seem so bad. I appreciated the finer aspects of life, like sunlight, quality wine, exercising moderately, fibre-rich cereals, peace and quiet. I was full of wisdom and work experience, yet still young enough that I could sleep less than six hours a night, understand new technology and I never had to worry about defecating in my pants. I figured I was in my golden years. I guess it's easy to feel good about being in your 30s when you're still actually in your 20s.
Now I really am 30, and since that draft was wrote, there's been land purchasing, international travel, dog ownership, carbon tax repeals, more injuries and about a hundred more trips to the hardware store. How much maturing can you shove into a human without the oldest stuff coming out the other end? I feel like I'm going to find out.
The thing is, now that I am legitimately 30, I still feel 30. That's pretty good. I'm quite happy with my life, my ability to buy groceries when they're on special, my basic understanding of mortgages, my family, and my ability to say no to people. I think I was born to be in my 30s. Like, if Heaven exists (because someone at Apple designs it as a feature for the iPhone 50) and everyone who dies appears there at the age that most suited them, I'd be 30.
I was kind of afraid that this week would be the first week I felt 40.
Today at work it was my job to take this photo of ducklings.
At 11 in the morning I was walking down a sunny avenue, camera in hand, getting paid to search the river for baby ducks. This was a teamwork workshop that was turning out better than I expected.
Earlier, immediately prior to this Springtime stroll, I'd been in a windowless meeting room with 20 peers from the application services teams talking about teamwork. We were randomly split into four teams with a task to take photos of "friends", "family" and "teamwork" in some kind of Amazing Race style challenge. Immediately I recalled the family of ducklings I'd passed on my run last week, and I proposed we go find them. That was the extent of my teamwork for the session, as my next suggestion was that we split up.
I found the ducks in less than ten minutes. I kind of impressed even myself. Also, at work "knowing where to find ducklings at any time" may become my legacy.
Today I was also paid to convert our existing middleware environments into source controlled config files that could be deployed automatically to new and existing virtual machines using system administration automation frameworks. That was fun too.
Someone once told me, and I'm paraphrasing a little, "Brad, your journal entries are terrible but sometimes the last line is good."
Could this be correct? Is almost everything I write simply dross that delays a fleeting, tingly nugget of brilliant literacy?
To find out, I wrote a program to take the last sentence from 15 random entries and to combine them into, apparently, what will be my greatest journal entry ever.
The Last Sentences
What an empowering and humid day.
I may not have a nice whiff for the next few weeks, but today things have stunk as good as ever. I will get there, eat Sizzler, catch up with cousins, watch Bulldogs, eat more sizzler, drive home. Hopefully I didn't just earthquake jinx myself.
I microwaved my lunch in the office kitchen today like I was James Bond. It took me about five minutes to fill the sanitary bag with shampoo, but it should be at least five weeks before I've emptied it again. Oh, and did you know it's possible to talk on the phone for 30 minutes? The shell... it's actually a beard!
"A Mochary," he whispered.
Coffee and sunset has become like red and purple clothing, I like both, but never at the same time.
Good work you fucking moron.
So there I was, down $125 but happy at least in the balance of the world. And as I lay there, with practically the cooked contents of a children's petting zoo in my stomach, I realised why it was that the animals don't like Christmas, and why I do.
Last night I slept the uneasy sleep of someone who knew they would be disturbed by an early call. Sunday was maintenance day, and my system administration duties were going to require me to be involved in a server shutdown at 6AM.
Juxtaposed with this commitment was the awareness that Nash, the puppy who spends 75% of her life sleeping, has entered a phase where she wakes up with the 5:30AM first light and doesn't stop barking until someone takes her upstairs (so she can immediately fall asleep again). So during my slumber I wasn't sure which was going to wake me up first, Middleware or my dog. At some point that night - before Nash started barking and my phone started ringing at almost the exact same time - I realised: I am Nash's system administrator.
The more I thought about it the more it made sense. I restart her each morning, I deploy food and entertainment and I clear out her temp folder on a regular basis. I constantly monitor and perform health checks.
Maintenance day continued on, things went badly and I ended up doing a lot more maintenance than I'd planned on. Nash took it well enough, sleeping on the landing as I fucked around with SSL certificate chains and hypervisors who abruptly lost their network storage layers. At some point I took a short break and sat next to Nash on the landing to perform a patting health check while I waited for someone to restart an external service. Boston's More Than a Feeling played in the background. While we sat there thinking about the sunshine we should have been in we heard a bang and then some fluttering from downstairs.
Nash bolted down to investigate and I followed close behind. It turned out that Nash wasn't just sleeping patiently during my work, at some point she'd dragged her food dispenser toy into the back living room and then abandoned it. A pigeon sniffed it out and had walked through the crack in the back door to eat it. The pigeon froze when he saw Nash round the corner, tail up and eyes full of playful hunger. The bird attempted to find the way back out, but in its panic became disorientated and crashed into the wall. Nash and the pigeon then had a thirty-second burst of static that ended with feathers everywhere and me holding Nash by the collar as the bird tried to escape. I opened the door wider and the pidgeon managed to hop outside and fly away. Nash watched it go, heaving and grinning. Then she coughed up a gooey mouthful of feathers and muck and then lay down and curled into a ball to sleep.
I didn't have a systems administration analogy for that.
I'm three decades into life. I have a house now. School is long over. Homework is now literally work on my home. And yet, I still find myself starting the weekend's planned home repair or improvement at 10pm on Sunday evening.
All yesterday I couldn't shake the niggling feeling that I was forgetting something. When I opened the fridge this morning I was like, of course! Peach and mango yoghurt expired yesterday. So did my skim milk carton and my whole milk carton. All of them had an expiry date of 11/11. How could I have been so absent minded?
I finished off both the milks in a cool banana smoothie for breakfast, and then I ate half a kilo of yoghurt for morning tea.