Is Winter The Best Season?

Why does it take this much foliage to make a single flower?

Why does it take this much foliage to make a single flower?


I'd be lying if I wrote that I hate everything about winter. Pumpkin prices drop dramatically around June and hearty soup makes me jovial. You can go for a walk at lunchtime without sunscreen, sweat and guilt. The football is on. My grass isn't replicating exponentially or vigorously dying or both. Maybe even one day in the future I'll be able to sit around a blazing bonfire again, drinking Bundy and talking and laughing late into the night.

But winter has not just a predictability, but a schedule to it which makes life feel dismal. Even out from under the shadow of pandemics and orthopaedics. The nights get cold in May. Some point early June I realise it's too cold to drink my breakfast smoothie. Mid-June my index finger swells up and dries out. Late June I go at least one day without seeing the sun. Then it's my Dad's birthday, I pick up a lot of soggy leaves, get a sore on the right side of my lips, the rest of my right hand goes tingly. I eat a porridge in half the time it took to make and feel unsatisfied. I sit under a blanket. Then I notice the first purple flowers along the footpaths. There's a moment outside where the wind feels warm. Jasmine scents tingle in the air. Vanessa makes me lots of desserts. It's still cold, but there's hope, and that's a part of winter too even though it's really spring.

When spring officially starts things won't really be that much different, compared to both the winter and the last spring. I'll keep my eyes out for ducklings, dust off the barbecue, at some point peaches will be affordable again and I'll have to stop walking outside in the middle of the day. There'll be a heatwave. I'll get sweaty on my way to the office. I'll be obligated to do my tax return, watch Port fail in the finals, and deal with purple dog footprints all over the tiles.

What I have observed this year/pandemic, and while paying more attention to seasons than necessary for lack of anything more stimulating to write about, is that constraint and predictability makes them drab. There can be no best season when all of them are distinctly yet equally terrible. But what other alternative is there? I can only think of one, and I would choose a whole year of sweaty sheets, expensive salads, draughty houses and three months of Christmas carols over that.

I think the best bet is to make your own seasons.

Oh God. Now I know why humanity has caused climate change.


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If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?


Olympic Medals Presentation

With hindsight I've realised that using each Olympics as a milestone at which I ignore the success and heartbreak of athletes and instead reflect only about my own life in a long block of prose has been misguided narcissism. Why have I been waffling on about my own achievements randomly, and not instead ranking them and awarding medals to myself?

It's been four years since Rio. I mean, technically five but covid has that effect on things. A lot has changed.

Gold


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As with every other Olympics since 1996, Tokyo finds me with a new employer, a new salary and a new set of responsibilities. I strongly believe I am now good at my job (I've only written a single Dale since London). I still only use the phrase "IT Professional" ironically, even though I'm now TOGAF Certified.
In 2020 I nearly got flown to San Francisco to present to a conference about my leadership over the successful agile delivery of an integration uplift project (at the time it wasn't really agile or delivered).
I also was promoted to the point where I managed other people, and that really exposed me to new perspectives that I’ve learned a lot from - primarily that I should focus on technology and I shouldn't manage people. Hence my new job...

I've equalled the world record for love and having a dog for the longest amount of time between Olympics. I went on an amazing four week trip to the Pacific Northwest and hiked through nature that's hopefully still kicking a few Olympics from now. We moved house, switched cars. That's been like shedding a skin - all new extremities, but unchanged at the core.

Silver


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I have not traditionally published a novel, but I did write to completion two more of them - Shady Slopes, and Cold Case. However, I did achieve my dream of being published in a professional science fiction market, as well as selling numerous short stories both in Australia and internationally. And was featured in a best works of 2018 thanks to my dumb flash fiction about a witch’s magic mirror which crashes after a windows update.
I spent nearly every work day lunch break writing between 2016 and 2019, and then I gave up. I almost gave up... Let's see what happens by next Olympics.

Bronze


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My health and fitness has not reached its potential during an inconsistent performance in my mid-thirties. Chronic hamstring tendinopathy had me down for so much up the past years that at one point in 2019 I would almost have been justified in releasing this Olympic recap in line with the Paralympic Games in September.
I did make a triumphant return to low-grade social basketball, hit a couple of corner 3s and then suffered another soft tissue injury that would cost me a year of pain, surgery and rehab.
Despite that, I was very healthy. I walked 10,000 steps most days. I worked on my mobility, strength and physiology enough to mute my hamstring pain to a mostly ignorable caress. I set a new personal best with a back squat of 103kg, and a deadlift of nowhere near that much. I did not set a bench press PB but I did a push-up again. I was a vegan for a few minutes and I ate a lot of salad. I lost 5kg for the fun of it and had visible abs, and then I drank a lot of craft beers and gained 5kg for the fun of that too.
I have so far successfully avoided covid.

Participation Trophy


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(Including a summary of 2016’s Olympic Resolutions.)
There were more weddings (but less weddings).
I rewrote my website with a new framework, but I didn’t build it API first. Maybe next Olympics.
I bought my first shares on the stock market. I haven’t sold any yet.
I rode a bike for the first time this millennium.
I survived the Trump era.
I did make a new friend!
I signed up for not one, but two credit cards with awesome rewards programs. I currently have hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points with both Qantas and Virgin, and nowhere to fly to.

DNQ


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Be more spontaneous.

My goals for next olympics.
There’s less than three years until the Paris Olympics, so I’m not sure how much I can really achieve. But that will also be the month before I turn forty, and knowing my history with procrastination and success I suspect another 750 words will be possible in August 2024.

I’d like to be vaccinated. I want one foot into a retirement plan that covers finances, climate change, and something to keep me occupied for the rest of my life. I’d appreciate both feet on foreign soil again, even better would be to do that as the entourage of a certain wifey athlete. I want a house that isn’t cold in winter. I’d like to go camping.

Napoleon Clymamite

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I'm still forcing myself to write and think critically about all the non-fiction books I read.

I considered expanding this to all the media I consume, but I don't think a series of essays about my feelings during the NBA playoffs would have revealed anything insightful.

At some point in the past I read an overview of The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and the description motivated me to add it to my "Want to Read" list. Another while later I was browsing the library site in preparation for lockdown and checked it out. A short while after that I started reading it without much recollection of what had led me to this point.

As a non-reproducing, perpetual tourist of a human my initial thoughts were that I didn't want to write about reading The Uninhabitable Earth.

The onslaught of catastrophe, doom and predictions of death and destruction which immediately begin this book hit me with none of my defences up. Wallace-Wells is measured yet relentless in his summarising of the linear and potentially exponential systematic failures and disasters that the near future holds for the planet due to climate change and potential feedback loops impacting our ecological systems. He lists numbers of potential deaths like he's rattling off victim counts at the battle of Borodino.

The first half was scary, but the second is more terrifying. After his overview of the effects we transition into the causes and the ways in which humanity could take steps to counteract the problems we have collectively set upon ourselves. Unfortunately the answers are not black and white simplifications like reducing plastic straws and increasing renewable energy and eating less beef. The nature and structure of humanity itself needs to be overhauled. He makes a strong argument that the economic philosophies, nation states, neoliberalism, and cognitive biases that affect us all will never allow us as a species to overcome what we have created by converting fossil fuels into economic growth.

After what we have seen with COVID19 so far I'm inclined to agree with him.

I've always subscribed to the hope that technology will be the way humanity will overcome the challenges of climate change. Given the above, combined with the warning in this book from studies on the impact to intelligence - from air pollution, to higher temperatures, and what we know about the impact of diseases on our brains - predicts a future where we may further lose the ability to think our way to safety. How will we invent new technology when heat and carbon in the air makes us dumber?

Ironically, the root cause of the problem - the climate - will be easier to manage than humans.

David Wallace-Wells is definitely smarter than I am. Whether he is also more pessimistic than I am will be the real test.

While he may be an expert in most things climate and sociopolitical, I'm not sure if is as well read on history as I am.

When Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France in 1804 there were only a billion people living on Earth. Now there's eight times that many. In 1813 when Napoleon's Grande Armée was freezing in retreat from Russia there were 150 glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park. Today there are just 25.

Having listened to a 36 hour audiobook about the life of Napoleon, I believe that Bonaparte seems like the right person for the job of solving climate change. His experience of introducing rational reforms in direct challenge to existing institutes (such as universal civil laws, the central banking system, and the metric systems) as the unchallenged head of state for a widely encompassing empire has to be seen as admirable. Although he would probably put one of his less intelligent brothers in charge of pandemics, or get distracted by an opera singer, which may reduce his effectiveness.

Instead of focusing on technology for carbon capture and green energy we should be finding a solution for cloning Napoleon. He was a mathematician, and pragmatist, and he brought scientists with him to the battlefields of Egypt. I believe he would instantly recognise climate change for the threat it is, and do his thing working long hours, writing many letters, and going to war with those who opposed his carbon tax. It wouldn't be a utopia. I'm sure he would make mistakes. Yes this means living under a global dictator. But there are many worse politicians and autocrats in power at the moment.

I'd like to live to see that.


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Horizons 2

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Watch out for cow poo.

One (Trimester) Down

My recovery from labral tear repair and biceps tendon reattachment has progressed okay, one quarter of a planetary orbit post-op. Although a quarter of an orbit seems an appropriate signifier considering my current level of external rotation. While I am able to pick up weights of about 10kg from ground to shoulder height, my plan of developing supreme leg strength through a rehab period regime of back squats has been dashed by my inability as of yet to be able to get my upright forearm past the line of my body. At least I'm getting really good at goblet squats.

Day to day activities are mostly back to normal. I've ridden my bike and driven the car and pruned some trees and doing any of these for long periods needs a beer afterwards. At the twelve week mark my rehab program was progressed to include a whole new array of light/no weight stretches, poses and exercises. No existing exercises were removed from the program. If you ever need to rehab a joint I strongly recommend against ball and socket types. You really take for granted the range of movement available during flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, medial rotation and lateral rotation. There's plenty of time to reminisce about it when you're spending your free time in the evenings lying on an exercise mat with your arm up your back and your opposite knee cocked and then rolling on top of your own arm in the hope that six months from now this painful activity is what permits you to apply sunscreen to your upper back by yourself.

Post surgery rehab truly is the least rewarding form of resistance training. Cold sweat runs down your forehead, your muscles ache and beg off, the minutes pass by and the only reason your knuckles are close to where they're supposed to be is because your entire wrist is flexed skywards. I have four booklets of movements and stretches. I barely remember how much pain I was in before the scalpel came for me, but it wasn't as much as this.

But I'm not complaining. At least this dictionary of shoulder exercises gives me something to structure a workout around. Things are getting better every day week. Nothing pops when I cut up vegetables anymore. The surgeon and physio claim that I'm half way through. I'm never playing social basketball again.

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Rebutted

It was a sunny, premature-spring day and I went for a brisk walk at lunchtime with a pair of child's crutches.

The reason I had a pair of children's crutches is that I bought them on Monday by accident trying to buy adult-sized crutches. On Sunday I had gone to the chemist to ask if they hired crutches, and the chemist had said no, but she showed me a pair I could buy.

I returned the next day to buy them. I did notice they seemed a bit short, but everything looks short to me and I figured they'd just extend out a bit. There was also a big, athletic looking man on the packaging.

After I got them home and Vanessa opened them it was clear they were children's crutches. I rang the chemist straight away to explain and confirm if I could get a refund. However I was told the manager would be needed to confirm this as the product was opened, and I left my phone number. They never called back.

So before my lunchtime walk I wrapped the crutches up in cling wrap, positioned the label nicely, and set off for the chemist. While I was willing to accept some blame for the situation, I strongly believed I could justify why I should be given a refund. Primarily, because the chemist had shown me the crutches on Sunday and not mentioned that they were children's crutches. I had some secondary justifications, such as that the packaging had already been broken (albeit not removed completely) before purchase; that a matter of torn packaging was something that the chemist could rectify with the supplier if it came to it; and the resale value of the crutches was not diminished considering they weren't used and the type of product they were (as well as the quality of the cling wrap job).

Yet as the shining sun warmed my exposed forearms I felt my enteric nervous system firing as it encouraged my stomach to digest faster, and I realised I was nervous. After all, I was heading for a conflict and even I knew I was not completely in the right. There could be scenes. I might never get my $52.95 back.

I glanced up at the top of a tree which contrasted against the blue sky and the bright, yellow chemist branding, and I contextualised the significance of this moment in the overall universe (which may or may not be a simulation). This confrontation meant nothing to anyone other than me and the pharmacist manager. It was a zero sum game that I'd already paid to play, and now had a chance to win. I realised, I wasn't anxious. I was excited! How many opportunities in life - outside your imagination - do you have for actual, robust debate with real value consequences? The internet is meaningless. Compilers and interpreters are frustratingly infallible. Clients are always right. But this moment, now, was a chance for my brain to process all the inputs it could, spin it in my birthday-month mousse-cake powered sapient mind, and win or lose. Worst case, I end up with a pair of children's crutches. (And possibly end up on social media tagged as a "Karen".)

I had a friend in primary school whose mum is called Karen. She was nice, and sometimes I used to see her driving out of her driveway on my way to the bus in the late 90's and I always waved and she waved back. I hope she is not aware of the Karen meme.

Anyway, I burst into the chemist with my glad-wrapped crutches. I scanned the QR code. I walked to the counter and said, "I need a refund on these crutches, because they are children's crutches!"

"Okay," the checkout person said.

She took the crutches and scanned my credit card to trigger a refund.

Never has total victory also felt like such a loss.

At least I could put that money I got back towards my $2,000 car service...

The Cycle

There's flirting and there's groping, and if a sunny day in August is spring's way of flirting then today's weather was definitely the latter.

Essentially the difference between sticking your nose into the jasmine flowers popping up on the fences, and smelling them from two streets over.

Spring is not supposed to be a time period that starts and finishes on certain dates. Spring is those feeling, the moments where cold is replaced by warmth in your heart. Your finger shrivels back down to its normal size like some kind of ironic anti-erection.

Maybe I'm also feeling good because I intentionally avoided reading the news for two and a half days.

Steel Drum Solo

About 198 days ago I cracked the seal on my bulk container of 1500mg Fish Oil capsules and I recall thinking to myself that I was probably going to swallow the last of them on my birthday.

You might think it takes only rudimentary intelligence to count the number of days between two dates and divide by two, but that's not the logic I was using. I didn't know how many days there were exactly. I was calculating based on my instinct for how often I would be likely to skip my daily fish oil, and how approximately old I was, which at the time felt like exactly thirty-six years and 163 days.

This is the kind of mental acuity you can expect when you regularly consume 3000mg of fish oil 99% of the days.

Alas, I wasn't to know that I would miss seven days of autumnal fish oil as a prerequisite for my shoulder operation, and then another seven days when it was delayed a fortnight. But on the plus side I learnt that fish oil must be something other than a placebo otherwise why would the hospital ban me from taking it in the lead up to surgery?

Unfortunately my shoulder operation would also deprive me of my routine at the opposite end of the day - the mermaid stretch. It is, by far, the most effective stretch I have found to open the hips, unlock the lower back and release all tension from my hamstring tendons all the way up to my obliques. Unfortunately it requires a decent amount of shoulder resistance, and my orthopaedic surgeon may actually be Ursula, the sea witch, because since I woke up post-operation I couldn't be a mermaid anymore.

When I was a wee babe watching The Little Mermaid in a cinema for the first time, the scene with Ursula scared me so badly I cried and tried to hide in the aisles. This is an event I have no memory of, but which my Mum likes to remind me of from time to time.
Around 34 kilograms of fish oil have passed since that day, but perhaps this was what has motivated me these past months as I mobilised and braced and lifted tiny weights. My goal: to overcome the curse of Ursula. And this week, finally, I have been able to do my mermaid stretch and be under the C again.

The Saddle

Living the life.

Living the life.


If you haven’t reached 37 years old yet and you want to know what it feels like, I will describe it.

Essentially I am a 21 year old who has reached a certain level of comprehension for so many things in the world. This includes, but is not limited to: Hardware. Software. Banking and finance (particularly home loans). Human anatomy. The stock market. Cooking, baking. Nutrition. Neurology. Plants and horticulture. Astrophysics. Dog anatomy. Cars. Photography. Electronics. Plumbing. Climate Change. Beer Brewing. Music. The publishing industry. Urban planning. Meteorology. Sports psychology. Business strategy. Fashion. Geopolitics. Philosophy. Insurance.

That certain level of comprehension is - spoiler alert - enough to know I don't understand it, but cognizant enough to have a hunch I’m getting ripped off when the time comes.

Perhaps if there weren’t so many things in the world to understand and be responsible for I’d have the capacity and time to be an expert in what was left.

Or perhaps the lesson in life is to learn to focus on a few things and become an expert, and pay other experts in other fields to take care of understanding the things you no longer need to understand.

If I was to take all the things I have learnt as an adult and inject them into my 21 year old brain I don’t think I would leave the house. Alas, time has a hold of the reins, and death's feet are in the stirrups.

...Add metaphors to that list of thingies above.

What You Sow

92 days of 2021 winter and I have eaten a lot of different fruits. Not just the seasonal ones. I've had blueberries from Belgium and peaches from the USA and mangoes from Vietnam and strawberries from Queensland. Cherries from Chile and grapes from Serbia. Roma tomatoes and Lebanese cucumbers from who knows where. There's been two days over 20 degrees since May and every grey week has been a veritable fruit salad. And the most amazing thing? It's all been so affordable...