Loose Ends and Dedication

As the days rapidly count down to the end of my current job, I get a great deal of pleasure out of finishing the trailing end of tasks; some that are just timely, others that have floated around for far too long.

Today I did a bunch of updates to Staff Performance Review documents, as my last chance to leave some impressions about staff.

Some colleagues have expressed surprise over this.
It’s a dreary job, and they imagined it would be the first task I’d leave hanging.

When I resigned 5.65 weeks ago, apparently what some were expecting is that I’d immediately stop caring about doing my job. Maybe that’s a common experience under the circumstances, as my managers’ surprise would suggest when I failed to check out when I got back to work. But I just don’t understand why that would be so.

They are paying me.
To do a job.
Till the 19th of December.
So, till then, I do the job I get paid for(!?)

And it feels great as the list of things left to do dwindles. At this rate, Thursday and Friday may well prove a spare buffer against any not-quite-complete tasks. As I have joked with some; I have found the secret to shrinking a to-do list… resign!

Being the well-prepared little worker-bee that I am, I have already set up the now traditional “blamejerry@gmail.com” email address. When Jeff, who started with NEMMCO at about the same time I did, left earlier in the year he started a tradition: leaving the company behind with a “blame” address to send everything that goes wrong to till the next departure. I have no idea how much traffic an address like that might garner, but I’m about to find out.

Time for a Job Change

So far, I have failed to talk about a very important change in my life.

After 11.32 years working in the Energy sector; at NEMMCO which later turned into AEMO (which you may occasionally spot in news articles if you are looking for it), it is time for me to go for a change.

It’s always harder to leave colleagues than companies.
Even when the benefits are generous, and a 5-minute commute is hard to beat.

I’m hoping to make my ex-colleagues envious next year with updates about my start at Campaign Monitor in the Sydney CBD (if I know you and you are out of an IT job… enquire within!)

Not that they aren’t already envious of the 6 weeks I will have off between finishing next Friday, and my start date somewhere around the start of February next year (I deserve a break after 11+ years). And their own explorations of the Campaign Monitor website have turned my co-workers to a series of mock exasperated exclamations regarding the benefits of my future employer.

I can’t wait to stretch my skills back into a commercial environment and see how far I can reach.

BronteHome

Booby-traps and a Return Home

Yesterday Bronte’s ashes returned home to us.
A week exactly.

I didn’t look at it at all yesterday; I wasn’t quite ready for the emotional investment yet. It has been an intermittent process of stumbling on little things that suddenly make me very sad.

He has left a slew of booby-traps around the house.

The first day, just getting home without him greeting me at the door was too much. It has been tough coming home to his absence. But it’s getting easier.

There is something deeply melancholy about storms now. I still reflexively worry about the weather, especially when I am not home myself. It takes me a few seconds to realise why I feel uneasy, … which then makes me sad.

There have been a lot of storms still… it hasn’t stopped since he left. And earlier this week, just watching the rain pour down was too much. He deeply disliked the rain, which is why he is inside in an urn; Abbey could not bear to bury him outside where he’d rather not have been before.

So many little things around the house set off emotions.
Absences.
Things left.
Mis-spoken cat names.

Writing posts.

It’ll take a while still.

Goodbye

You were a Good Boy

He was the Best Dog I Never Wanted in the First Place.

I’m not a dog person, but I guess he wasn’t really much of a dog.
A swan-like neck, and a cat-like attitude, and he folded up like an apple scroll.

Earlier this year we almost lost him; and I’m thankful to have had another 6 months since then.

A month ago he started going down-hill. Didn’t really want to eat as much as he should. I was worried but not alarmed. Since then I’ve cooked and baked anything I could think of to try to appeal to his appetite. It worked a little, but just not enough.

Last Sunday I had to fly to Melbourne for work, and I was afraid. I knew it could get critical while I was away, but I couldn’t face being distracted and far away and helpless to do anything, so I asked Abbey to not let me know anything either way till I got back, and she did an admirable job.

As I sat waiting for the taxi on Sunday evening, he nestled on our laps with his nose resting on my legs and I was so tempted to just abandon the whole trip. Screw it. I’m finishing my job in 2 weeks anyway, what is the worst they can do?!

Leaving that nose behind was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I know I couldn’t have done anything further for him, and I’m not entirely sure if I would have even wanted to be there when it happened. But still.

Wednesday night I got home after delay upon delay.
Stormy weather.
It couldn’t have been more fitting.

As I was walking up the driveway I wasn’t sure which of the Schrödinger’s Dog outcomes I would prefer.

When I knocked on the door and Abbey opened it for me, I knew.

I’ll miss Bronte badly.
Every time I’d come home he would be standing there at the door, wagging his tail to varying degrees of crazy.

For a few moments he’d greet me like his favourite.
And so did I.

RIP – 2014-12-02

Pax Australis

I got my tickets for PAX almost a year ago. Jumped in with both feet. I booked a room at my “usual” hotel for work travel well in advance as well.

Resting in our Room

Resting in our Room

The Grand is just across the river from the Melbourne Conference Centre; an easy 10 minute walk from our room to where all the fun is. I managed to get a nice room locked in early by using my frequent work visits for leverage… some of the front-desk staff greets me by name unprompted when I am around.

Bats(?) circling the Buildings

Bats(?) circling the Buildings

There were a couple of days for Abbey and I to settle in before PAX would start.

Entrance to PAX

Entrance to PAX

The Photojournalist

Since Abbey wasn’t going to cope with being on her feet all weekend, we managed to get a wheelchair for the occasion. Without she’d be dead to the world after an hour. With, she managed to get about 4-6 hours into each of the three days.

Queue to get in at 10am

Queue to get in at 10am

One of the benefits of being in a wheelchair appears to be that we got whisked into the Expo before the long long queues got the enter. “Press entry?”, “No, we’re not press”, “Today you are… *waves through*”.

As a result we got some shots of the Expo floor eerily quiet.
No visitors, just press.

The Panels

I got a lot of value out of the panels; some better than others, but none outright terrible. On topics of gaming, cosplay, equality, design and politics. Once again, being at a conference pulls at something inside me wanting to present. I’m going to have to do something with this drive.

Panel on playing female characters

Panel on playing female characters

I attended great panels on Winning Games and Losing Games. The panel on playing female characters had a brilliant mix of speakers, and I wish they had had more time to dig deeper. And I finished my last day with a panel by the producer of TableTop.

Cosplay Panel; Dave's cosplay was awesome

Cosplay Panel; Dave’s cosplay was awesome

The Playing

We played a few games along the way too. Formula E was an interesting spoof of Formula D.

Racing with Elephants

Racing with Elephants

We were also hunting for Pinny Arcade pins for Ab’s brother, and we were “forced” to play Magic the Gathering for one of them. We scored five starter decks in the process… yay freebies!

The Periphery

During five nights in Melbourne we had some opportunities to sample a few bits of the city as well. There was much more I wanted to show Abbey, but we ran out of time and energy before I got to it all.

Watching the Pigeon Roasters

Watching the Pigeon Roasters

The timing, every hour on the hour in the evening, didn’t seem favourable, but in the end we managed to get onto a bridge just in time for the spectacle. The big full blasts of fire were amazingly hot, even at 30 metres distance, even on an already hot evening.

Cookie the Scott

Cookie the Scott

You never quite know what you are going to find walking along the river in Melbourne. In this case, Cookie Monster was playing bagpipes for Halloween. Naturally. He had a few fragments of the Star Wars theme. It didn’t seem like he realised that’d be his best bet on this particular evening.

Water Creatures

Water Creatures

We had four delicious and decadent dinners… and one Nando’s failure that I’m going to pretend never happened. Dessert in the hotel is spectacular; the chocolate mousse comes with delicious slivers of pineapple drenches in delicious sweet nectar.

Chocolate Mousse++

Chocolate Mousse++

Friday night I also stumbled into a Tripod concert that was more fun than I was anticipating. I had heard their songs before, but I had forgotten how funny they are. It would also seem that the PAX audience got a lot more of their references… they had an incredibly funny song about character creation in Skyrim.

Tripod

Tripod

The People

Another must-see element of PAX is the Cosplay. I wasn’t sure how much to expect; I had expected perhaps a few people half-trying, a few handfuls of serious attempts, and maybe a “pro” or two.

I think about a quarter of the attendees was wearing some form of costume, even if it was just a cap with a Sims diamond attached. But there were so many more incredible outfits. I only captured a few, but there were hundreds of awesome characters.

The Pins

And then at the end of the weekend… emptiness…

Convention hall, empty as people get signatures

Convention hall, empty as people get signatures

And nothing but 41 pins to remember the event by.
Jerry (not me!) was very organised at the pin swap, and we got some help from the Penny Arcade staff picking good pins.

Pin collection

Pin collection

I think I want to do this again next year.
It never feels long enough.

Header

Dessert for Breakfast

I didn’t have anything special planned today. Until late last night that is; … Ken’s company’s social club had 2 drop-outs that needed to be back-filled, so my morning was to consist of a Foodi Cupcake & Dessert walking tour.

Instead of sleeping in, my holidays were about to start with a 7:30am wake-up.

Another card to carry... Opal

Another card to carry… Opal

So, at 8:30am I was swinging through the 7-11, to get my very first Opal card and top-up. “Could I get a $50 balance on that please?” … “No… only $10, $40 or $60″ … “?!? … Okay, $60 then.”

I’m not sure what that is about. It’s a stored-value card… it’s all bits and bytes. Surely I can put on whatever amount I damn well please, even if it is $123.45? Nevermind. I’m also mystified why the clerk didn’t do the maths for me and suggested getting a $40 and a $10 top-up to get $50, but also; nevermind.

Now, I too can travel all over Sydney by train without a thought for how much I am spending.

Progress!

I arrived at the meetup point at about 10am, ready for the intended 10:20 gathering. *ding* Facebook. Oh, guys, it’s 11am. *sulk* So, I found myself a nice spot in the Pie Face overlooking the meeting point and had a coffee and a sausage roll with my book while I waited.

Cupcakes you could walk past and never even notice.

Cupcakes you could walk past and never even notice.

It was a small private group; 9 of us all told.

First stop, not far from the meeting point. Cupcakes on Pitt. We got a brief history of the cupcake along, most of which I have already forgotten, except for something about 1-2-3-4 cakes that sounded very unhealthy.

It’s a small shop you could walk past and never even notice.
And so are the cupcakes in a way; somewhere between a full-size cupcake and a mini-cupcake.
Just the perfect size.

Salted Caramel

Salted Caramel

I tried to stay away from the cliché choices throughout the day as much as I could. So, to start, not a Tiramisu or Cookies And Cream, but rather Salted Caramel.

The chocolate cake was moist and delicious. The topping was salty and caramelly, and even deliciouser.

I was tempted to get a selection, but when you’re on a six-stop dessert tour you cannot load up at the very first stop. Besides which, I only had a small messenger bag that was already full of my belongings.

The second stop was at Happy Lab in Westfields. I had been there before, so I knew what I needed. I got myself another 6 test-tubes of jelly beans which come with a complimentary test-tube-rack. I can see a cocktail party in my future…

Laduree - luxury Macaroons

Laduree – luxury Macaroons

Third stop was also in Westfields, a few floors down. Laduree. Allegedly this is a very famous shop that I had never heard of before. It is a Swiss chain that makes ungodly quantities of macaroons that get flown all over the world by express air freight.

I sampled a Licorice macaroon which was… interesting (in a good way). Ken initially tried a creamy Sesame macaroon, and managed to snag Pistachio for seconds. Although macaroons are not really my thing, these were very good as far as macaroons go.

For our fourth stop we walked over to The Strand, and Bon Bon. I’ve also been there before, but their wares are worth visiting twice.

Spill in aisle 3.

Spill in aisle 3.

I greedily stuck my hand out when samples came around, and promptly caused a spill. My chunk of cherry-pistachio nougat ended up on the floor, and I was clean out of dogs to help me clean.

I had not noticed before that they also have a downstairs. I will remember for next time, because we didn’t have time to stop. I can only imagine what Bon Bon might be hiding on their secret dungeon lunch menu.

Healthy Fruits in All Flavours

Healthy Fruits in All Flavours

Fifth stop was a healthy break.

Fruit.

Covered in chocolate.

I decided to go for the half-peach-onna-stick. A little crunchy, but I think that was necessary to make the chocolate work. I kinda wish I’d tried the fig though. Maybe next time I am in the city.

The next walk was a bit longer, crossing into Darling Harbour.
I was wondering if we might end up at Lindt, but we din’t.

Guylian double ristretto on a bed of seashell.

Guylian double ristretto on a bed of seashell.

Guylian instead.

I wasn’t sure I could make my way through anything right and creamy, so I decided a double ristretto would do the job just fine… on a thick layer of Guylian chocolate. I’m glad I spooned the chocolate through the coffee, because I’m not sure I could have finished if I had left it for last.

And that, I thought, would be it.

N2 Extreme Gelato

N2 Extreme Gelato

But clearly, a six-stop dessert tour has to have a seventh stop to round things out.

I had had Nitrogen-cooled dessert before in Melbourne, so I thought I knew what to expect. This shop takes it to the next level though. Same smooth texture due to the extreme quick cooling, but a lot more creative with the flavours.

I had a taste of Champagne-and-Lychee sorbet, and it was deliciously light and fruity.

I know what I want for my kitchen re-model.
I’m just not sure where I can fit the liquid nitrogen cylinders.

And at this point I felt well-and-truly sated.
2pm and 7 desserts in, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to eat another meal all day.

I can heartily recommend the tour, although if chocolate or beer is more your thing, Foodi have tours to cover those specialist topics too. And for $49 per person, it isn’t particularly expensive. And it’s a good workout; I got most of my 10,000 steps for the day along the way.

So it was a healthy day… yes?

How to Fight Ennui

I’m halfway through a four week opportunity filling in for my manager, which has made me responsible for 50-odd developers, testers and managers. Ever the over-achiever I’ve worked hard so far to jump onto that 12km/h treadmill and not fall off. I’m still upright, and juggling… oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, there is simultaneous juggling involved.

Managing a group is very similar to managing a team. Only more so.

Most of the past two weeks has consisted of bridging communication gaps, gathering information for various people, and preparing reports and information. The higher up the hierarchy, the more the job consists of employing good communications skills and an even temperament.

There is something slightly exhausting about it for a natural introvert.

But at the same time I seem to be quite good at it. I take a lot of satisfaction from every situation I manage to improve; a fraction here, a percentage there. There is something exhilarating about seeing the results.

With the effort going into the job right now, I have been frantic to get the most out of the weekends. I feel there is so much I need to try and get done. More than could ever fit into the available space-time. I’m finding it hard to pick what to do. Nothing seems quite enough and everything seems too much.

Today has been one big pile of ennui.

But maybe that’s because I’m just trying too hard to do things that do not match my needs. Maybe my introvert needs the weekend to be less consequential than I am trying to make it. Maybe I should just allow myself to stare into space, or read a book, or watch some mindless television so my brain can explore the inside of my head.

And on the off-chance that it is simply the fact I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks, I’ll make my Sunday Yoga a priority for tomorrow, and try to fit a few classes between my new temporary obligations during the coming week.

Training – I Ama Ze Moon

My Lean Six-Sigma Yellow Belt training was very interesting. Well worth the two days invested, even if it meant arriving home at 10pm on a Friday. I kinda want to get some more Six-Sigma training now, because I can see all kinds of applications of this knowledge.

Just…

Not the same instructor please…

It is a testament to the interest of the topic that 12 hours of having slides read to me hasn’t dulled the experience for me. And the digressions, dear god, the digressions. Had I had a fork, I would now have no eyes.

Then, something struck me about the speech patterns of the “facilitator”.
They seemed eerily familiar to me.
Sort of Noel Fielding-esque…

I had a few moments where it was hard to keep a straight face as the facilitator butchered his way through some badly explained mathematics; the resemblance to The Moon was so striking.

Still, I’d prefer a facilitator that can actually bring the material.