Autumn - A Retrospective

Today was mostly sunny with a maximum of twenty degrees. The main thing giving away that it was winter was the porridge I made for breakfast, along with the fact that as soon as the sun went down my nose and other extremities lost blood flow and I started wishing it was spring really hard. This has been happening the last few weeks of Autumn too - except for the reaching twenty degrees part…

Safe to say that this autumn was not the best season of the year. Sure there was BBQs and sunrises, morning beach walks and sun-drenched lunchtime strolls, IPAs and dark ales, but there was no day where nectarines and pink lady apples were both on special, nor a night in my favourite hoody followed by a day warm enough to wash and dry it. The lemons on my tree still aren’t fully ripe. It feels like as the cold has crept into Adelaide it's brought only gloom and bad news with it.

I think I realise now that the only good things about Autumn are the echoes of summer.

I love winter though. Well at least I will once we move to a tropical climate.


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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.


What Did I Learn From Napoleon This Week? Part 3

My mind was a tad weary of hearing about Napoleonic France after two weeks of Napoleon The Great, so I started last week by switching to journalist Jon Ronson's 2015 book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

This non-fiction book had caught my eye because it delved into a topic I've been fascinated and horrified by in the time I used to use Twitter - the mob-like pile-ons of real people in the court of social media. Ronson's book looks at a number of infamous Twitter shamings, linking the phenomena back to the practice of stocks in the town square, multiplied exponentially by the psychological maelstrom that is social media.

I enjoyed Ronson's writing style. He was feeding me fragments of stories, forcing me to piece together the opinions myself. In the six years since 2015 I feel like witch hunts on social media have only intensified. And occasionally this is justified, like when no other avenue exists for politicians or police to be called out for abusing their power. But mostly it's disconcerting. The one conclusion that stuck with me from the book was that, even when they are getting people fired or driving them to suicide, those doing the shaming believe they are doing something good. That just made me feel worse.

The book was definitely thought provoking and insightful, and worth a read.

Speaking of those who believe they are doing good, Napoleon spent the rest of the week trying to reform Europe. Britain was his primary antagonist, and his solution to that was war against Russia, Austria and Portugal. He was also excommunicated by the Pope.
I did like that whenever another country signed a peace treaty with France, Napoleon would force the country's leader to promise eternal friendship with him as part of the deal.

Napoleon was very successful during this phase of his life, which has made me think about success as well.

One attribute regarding success he demonstrated was in recognising success, both his own and others. This was more than just (over-exaggerated) letters about battles. He commissioned a lot of paintings to capture significant moments and achievements. He was also dutiful in awarding medals on the battlefield - along with generous pensions - for all soldiers who demonstrated service, courage, or perhaps just had a cool last name...

Much of Napoleon's military and tactical success came from being a man of the men. This was unlike the generals and leaders in the opposing coalition armies. He wasn't afraid to have a ten minute power nap among the conscripts.
I learnt a lot about Napoleonic era battle mechanics this week - infantry, calvary and artillery. It is a bit more complicated than rolling 3 or 2 dice and draws going to the defender. The logic behind the big groups of dudes lining up and shooting at each other makes sense when you understand that communications across a hundred thousand men has to be done by word of mouth, or perhaps drumbeat and bugle. Also if you're in a long, wide line it means less people get hit by the same cannonball than if you were in a long column.

Armies did employ skirmisher divisions, and these men would run ahead of the big line of dudes to generally duke it out with the enemies' skirmishers coming the other way.

These battles tended to happen in whatever open farmland there was between cities, with small, quaint towns and villages becoming fighting hot spots and places to rest.
Rivers and hills dictated a lot of strategy, and given this was Europe there was a lot of those.

Napoleon was also a victim of success. Particularly after Austerlitz where, despite the victory, the Russian and Austrian empires learnt far more from the battle than Napoleon. Lessons which would lead to French overconfidence, and improved coalition tactics, in future battles. Also, Napoleon was so pumped after this victory that he tried to invent a saint in the Roman Catholic canon named after himself. This wasn't popular, and may have been part of why he was eventually excommunicated.

Napoleon also tried to solve real life murder mysteries that happened in Paris while he was on campaign. The book did not confirm if he did solve any of these.

Napoleon was not successful in the first decade of the 19th Century in finding a strategy to weaken England. The blockade and trade shenanigans that occurred during this time led to Napoleon's scientists successfully cultivating and developing a process to refine sugar from beets. His attempts to make cotton from thistles, and convert people from coffee to hickory, were less fruitful.

Raynaud

It was so cold in my house today the bananas went a little greener.


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From the Chaff

Sometimes on winter Sundays (or public holiday Monday equivalents) the sun goes down and I feel a sense of melancholy that another week of my life is over and now it's cold.

But if I then have a hot shower and dress in warm clothing, I feel a bit better.

The weekend, like the rye and linseed sourdough loaf I bought Saturday morning, lasted three days.

Nash attended all the parts worth remembering.

image 2224 from bradism.com

On Saturday morning we walked to Plant 4 at Bowden for coffee and a visit to the local bakery where said loaf was purchased.

Sunday Morning was our traditional family walk from the Weir to the North Adelaide Bakery for mini cream puff and coffee.

Sunday evening was spent catching up with Vanessa's family and Kelpie, eating Afghan food and answering trivial pursuit questions.

Monday was friends, NBA playoffs, double beef burgers and my first game of 500 for the decade.

As the night crept in and work emails started drafting themselves in my head, it's easy to see why I'll miss these days.

One (Month) Down

31 days post op, my recovery from labral tear repair and biceps tendon reattachment has progressed well. I haven't worn a sling for nearly two days now, and most of the fortnight before that it was just when leaving the house. My rehab exercises have progressed from handshaking practice to also include "touching my butt", "pretending I'm an elephant" and "rock the wooden spoon." (The wooden spoon one was supposed to be "rock the baby", but when the physio said I should treat the wooden spoon like a crying baby that needed rocking I replied that I wouldn't get much flexibility back by leaving the wooden spoon in another room and putting my headphones on.) I can now use a long piece of wood to push my hand all the way up to the roof.

Post surgery rehab truly is the most rewarding form of resistance training. If I saw the same amount of strength and mobility gains in my normal training that my shoulder has had from three 20 minute sessions a day then I would be eating a hundred eggs a week by now. I guess the difference is which side of zero you start from.

I was doing daily computer work after two weeks, but if I'd had more sick leave I would have pushed that to three. Around that time was the period of most pain, with my mouse hand extending out from my body. I found that putting a bit more stretch on the extension exercises and doing them more frequently helped get past this stage. I also used a second mouse with my left hand on and off throughout the first week, but I've progressed beyond that now.

I can tie my shoes and my track suit pants waistband. I was able to reach to the floor of the shower and pump some shampoo into my hand with full arm extended, but wasn't able to then transfer it to my hair. A few days later that was done too, and I can now reach everywhere that I used to be able to. That said, I can blow dry my good armpit, but can't quite apply roll on deodorant. I can't drive yet, and anything weight bearing has to be done with strict control. I sleep on my good shoulder with my arm on a pillow for support. I don't know what my next rehab exercises will be yet, but hopefully I'll find out soon and hopefully they'll conjure funny imagery.

What Did I Learn From Napoleon This Week? La Fin

Last Wednesday I reached the conclusion of Napoleon the Great and I couldn't help feeling a little sadness as Napoleon (spoilers) died on in exile St. Helena.

Napoleon was certainly one of history's most interesting individuals. Not one I'd idolise, but certainly one to be inspired by. Simply the energy and focus he seemed to invest into the minutia of everything across an empire was admirable, and the propaganda of the past 200 years has given him a reputation of a warmonger that he doesn't completely deserve.

The final portion of the book is about Napoleon's hubris, ruination, surprise encore, and ultimate defeat.

Ego became a burden for Napoleon, evident in behaviours such as the carrying unnecessary supplies such as dress uniforms and Parisian chefs into a war with Russia, so far from home. Even his arrival at key battles was delayed half a day by him ordering a military parades of his troops before marching.

But it was the size of his army and the issues that came from managing so many people that I think truly caused most of his problems.

As someone who has managed seven people plus several contractors at one time, I can empathise with the difficulties of leading an army of 200,000 soldiers along with camp followers and the rest. They did not have email or Slack in 1814. A large army is less agile, and had the further downside of causing enemy armies not to engage. Larger armies are also harder to micromanage, and have to be coordinated across multiple fronts.
His delegation of authority to his choice of marshals, commanders and family members did not help. I certainly would have to think long and hard before making my own brother the King of Spain. Nor did his stubbornness when it came to forgiving those who were clearly conspiring against him, such as Talleyrand.

But who am I to judge the decisions of someone who lived in an era where haemorrhoids were treated with leeches?

And ultimately - despite all his aptitude, infinite energy for micromanagement, and "habits of successful people" - it was indecision (lingering too long in Moscow), impatience (trying to force decisive battles in Belgium) and hypocrisy to his own military maxims (underestimating his enemy, leaving his flanks exposed) that led to Napoleon's final downfall.

Perhaps it was the over-achieving, perhaps it was illness and stomach cancer, perhaps he was just not clutch in the playoffs - what it has shown me is that while there was a lot to admire about Napoleon's focus and gusto, it probably wasn't sustainable for any human being.

The rise and fall of Napoleon, at least Andrew Roberts' version, was a narrative befitting Caesar, and perhaps that was deliberate either by Roberts or Napoleon himself.
It had all the drama of political and familial betrayals, marriage choices, the dramatic irony of it being the soldiers who suffered the most who chose to remain loyal when the prospect of civil war became necessary for Napoleon to regain the throne. The irony of a Jacobin general becoming a monarch. At least Napoleon had the benefit of those years in exile in which to complete his own memoirs.

The irony of a young author and his failed, unpublished history of Corsica, to go on and live a life and write an autobiography that would become the highest selling book of the 19th century.

Vive L'Empereur...

Crispy Cucumbers

The winter solstice is an event that occurs when the patio table of my east-facing backyard appears to reach its most north-easterly excursion relative to the celestial equator of the Earth.

The winter solstice is an event that occurs when the patio table of my east-facing backyard appears to reach its most north-easterly excursion relative to the celestial equator of the Earth.

Just Some Music I Liked On This Calendar Date

2021 was another year where my dreams of compiling a perfect autumn mixtape (like 2004's) capitulated. Instead of being the soundtrack to the first patter of rain on the roof, and drives along vibrant country roads, it was instead finished in a post solstice rush - like so many 2004 Uni assignments - the last touches put on as the sun started to come crawling back into my life.

I even tried this year to not restrict myself to contemporary releases. This was going to compliment my "Autumn is the best season of the year" theme. New songs would be like sunny days, and revisited classics like cozy nights by the crackling fire I wish our house had (and maybe could have briefly, if I doused our armchair in petrol and lit a match).

Just like Autumn 2021, that would have been something that might have happened.

There were some moments, scored appropriately, worth remembering since summer.
The need for focusing at work steered me towards many motivating, instrumental EDM.
As well as less focused moments; sitting by the fountain, watching leaves fall.
Drinking beer and making lamb curry for two on dark Saturday nights.
I even worked out to some of these songs, back in the day.

A combination of old and new. At some point this playlist will be both to me.

I'm definitely going to listen to it at the start of next autumn.

Full Circle

The moonrise was glorious this evening. The glowing orb brought in the start of the weekend and darkness just after 5pm. As much as I yearned to, I didn't do anything exciting with my Friday night. It was cold, dark and damp. Injuries and injury recoveries limited movement. There was a pandemic. This was like an onion of enveloping external factors that made me sad. The fact that this same time last year I felt the same way just added another iteration to the layers.

When I think back to June 2019 - holidays, hiking, craft beers and so much surplus sunshine - it really hits me that on those days I feel like I'm living life to 200 percent. I'm getting in return twice what I'm putting in; each day feels like two in one.

The only place I went tonight was the supermarket for an ice-cream run. By that point the moon had shrunk in its ascent to its usual perspective.

Winter in covid feels like I'm living life 50 percent. Each day feels worthless. The point of a week seems only to be to reach the end. And I can't do anything to rectify it because I'm trapped in this stupid onion. It makes me want to cry.
I was musing on this as I returned from the shops. My brain tried to console me with some bullshit like, "sometimes in summer it's too hot." It distracted me long enough to try and find some joy in the world: The haunted, misty outlook over the arterial road. The cheap price of pumpkin that I'll try to turn into soup. Then I thought, what if I developed an Android app that sent a notification at random intervals to prompt you for your current mood, observations, weather conditions, a photo, maybe a miscellaneous topic like what you felt about what you ate for breakfast that day.
Over time these prompts would accumulate into a little journal that you could then use to compare if you really did live a better life in summer than winter.
This app probably already exists. If not, I might or might not name this app "Bradism". It depends if I'd be willing to give up my domain name.
Then I thought, I wonder if Android has a system API that apps can use to detect if a user is driving/flying or not - so journal prompts could be delivered more safely. Not just based on an accelerometer, but like if the maps app had been used recently for navigation. And if speed changes were stop/start, and GPS coordinates of the pauses matched known public transport stops the API would be logical enough to report the user was on public transport rather than driving. I doubted any system API was that sophisticated, as it would need a lot of permissions, but perhaps I could develop it even if I knew next to nothing about Android application development.

That mental journey was enough to occupy my mind until I got me, the pumpkin and the ice-cream to the half-arse heating in my house. I immediately set about not developing an app with only one arm, and instead had two bowls of ice-cream while watching Jaws under a blanket, then I went to bed. Another half a day of my life in the books. Tomorrow, Vanessa is making me breakfast.

No

I guess it's a law of nature that you shouldn't barbecue in winter. The sun broke through yesterday and I decided to take the weather cover off the Weber Q to grill some steaks. When I went back outside the barbecue had been rained on. Then today I was rained on.

I clearly should have added them to porridge instead.

The Pendulum Swings

I had the dream again... I think I'm playing basketball, but actually I'm anesthetised, topping up the bank accounts of members of the ATO's top 5 income earners while they re-attach my tendons to the wrong parts of my skeleton.

image 2228 from bradism.com

In the six weeks since I have been following the booklet of arm rehab advice. The exercises primarily involved using my good arm to swing around my bad one.
This was the shittiest beard I could find on a Lego head.

This was the shittiest beard I could find on a Lego head.


The goal is not 360 degree swivel articulation like the Lego dudes. I'd take what I had before back.

My favourite exercise was the one where I used a wooden spoon to push and stretch my arm away from my body. The physio couldn't have known that I would have the Official Bradism Long Wooden Spoon For Tall People in my kitchen.

Combined with my discipline for rehab, I quickly regained mobility and strength. After a few weeks I felt like I could win an arm wrestle against a toddler.

image 2227 from bradism.com

I saw my surgeon today who refreshed my memory on how good he was at cutting into people and re-attaching tendons to the wrong parts of skeletons.
Maybe I asked too many questions because he charged me an $8 gap.

I asked if I would be able to dunk a basketball after 6 months and he said yes! That will definitely make this worth the investment...

Sometimes I think I'm feeling nostalgic about those early days of rehab. Sitting in the backyard listening to audiobooks and drinking cups of soup. Watching NBA playoffs on the couch. Excused from having to work and write and exercise and needing to floss and (briefly) shave. In reality I know that nostalgia for days in pain is really just nostalgia for days in pain where I didn't also have to work eight hours a day.

Now the pain is starting to fade, and I can use the wooden spoon for its intended purpose again. I'm looking forward to a return to the gym and the writing desk and maybe the basketball court, and putting this behind me - which I can currently do to about 50% of normal range of motion. I can move on and embrace the future. Yay!

image 2226 from bradism.com

Long and Stout

It's been 52 days since my last beer. Maybe sobriety should be considered as an onion layer.

This wasn't prescribed. In fact, when I was discharged from hospital they warned me not to mix my endone prescription with alcohol that evening, like it was common for people to go home and start their recovery with a beer. Is this an Australian culture thing? My surgeon did do his rounds the night before while drinking a tinny, so maybe...

It wasn't physical either, I could lift a drink with my left hand any time I wanted.

I performed this abstinence to maximise my body's recovery from surgery, and I guess that's gone well enough for me to celebrate. Also, incidentally, despite maintaining the same eating habits and drastically reduce my walking and training I have lost nearly two kilograms...

There have been times in the past six weeks that I could have sadistically murdered a beer. An imperial stout or a rich dark ale would have hit the spot on some of those freezing nights after a long session on the emails and news websites.

It was a sunny day today - the kind of blue, winter skies that make you feel like you're winning even if you're just doing something mundane like wearing slippers and sipping a coffee in your backyard. Just before sunset a thick cloud cover rolled in, trapping in a modicum of the remaining warmth.

That's what tonight's Mismatch Choc Malt Stout felt like. A pleasant-in-the-moment, but ultimately forgettable transition from day to night.

I'm going to enjoy the next 15,400 calories.