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.

6-Sigma Force

It’s been about a month, and I’ve just let the free time unproductively wash over me. I obviously feel very guilty… give me your best I-believe-you face.

I am once again in Melbourne today.

Second week in a row.

Last week was my regular visit, with all the staff, and all the meeting, and stuff and things. This week I’m here for some training. I have no idea what to expect, but I hear “Six Sigma” is pretty good. I feel like I’m about to become part of a super-hero force. This is just like the Avengers, right? Do I get to be Thor?

I could say that I have no idea why I’m being sent on this training, but I have mentioned process issues a few too many times in various meetings to be entirely surprised at where I have ended up. And I am taking it as extremely encouraging that this training has materialised in my path.

It does leave me burdened with a sense of obligation though…
…to use these new powers for good.

MUAHAHAHA!

(I need to work on my evil laugh)

Learning and Other Curves

I have turned my 365 earnings and my birthday present from my parents into an Adobe CS6 Master Suite. I am now the proud owner of All-Things-Adobe to further my creative future. Now I just need to learn how to use it all.

The installer barfed icons for 16 new products onto my Windows 8 Start screen.
They all range from complex to nigh-on-incomprehensible.
I need some training.

I had hoped to start learning today, but the day got away from me a bit. I had to get up early to make my 7:30am massage, which was both nice and horrible at the same time.

Then my day got both better and weirder at the gym. Apparently it was the third anniversary of the gym and there was an 80s Aerobics theme on. Meaning all the staff/instructors and many of the guests had dressed up in various short-shorts, lycra, and garish bright colours.

It wasn’t entirely an unpleasant sight.

I do think I let it go to my head, or out of it. I worked harder than I normally do, and now my legs don’t feel my own. I hope I have enough reserves for Yoga, because Thursday Yoga didn’t turn out so well… they had forgotten to substitute a sick instructor so they improvised at the last moment with someone who wasn’t quite up to the task.

By the time I finished my Saturday ritual with some reading at Michel’s I was already 7 hours into my day. And I’ve frittered away another 3 hours since with the Internet. I better get going with some real work and chores now, or I’ll feel horribly guilty tomorrow.

Birthday and Future Plans

I have had an unusually quiet birthday weekend this year. A close gathering on the Wednesday before the weekend at my favourite restaurant with a ridiculous sense of portions was the main focus. And yesterday on the day itself most everyone was unavailable for a variety of reasons.

There’ll be a proper un-birthday party at some unspecified later time when the house is in better shape for hosting and the weather is more hospitable to such an event. I still have to properly celebrate making it through 365 days of blogging as well after all.

My Presents will universally be similarly late because I yet had to choose them.

My parents transferred money, which included a birthday gift as well as one Euro for every day I blogged. I feel like that money should go to support future creative endeavours. Which is where my first wish comes in.

A first wish… Adobe products.

I have spoken about Premiere Pro before I think when I was considering video production as a possibility for something else to do. As it turns out, Adobe have gone completely SAAS. That doesn’t literally mean “insane”, but close enough. To use Adobe products you now have to pay a monthly fee for their software-as-a-service offering tied to the cloud.

I had a look at the options, and $10 a month gets me just one of their products. I really want Lightroom for photography, and Premiere Pro for video as well as After Effects at least I think… and possibly Photoshop. This requirement pushes me straight into the top-tier of their service offerings at $50 a month. And I don’t get to own the software for that.

So, I’ve looked into Adobe CS6, which was the last version they sold outright. It might not have the very latest features, but I think that version would sufficiently future-proof me for all my imminent needs without recurring payments.

A second wish… coffee.

I have to do some research into coffee machines next, because our mocha pot is not… in good shape. And for all these creative endeavours that I am planning I am going to need coffee to keep going. Although possibly decaf? I’m not sure how that balances out.

I’m considering something with pods that are sold locally because although these are expensive, they are also the laziest option. I’m very lazy about my coffee.

A third wish… Kindle.

And this wish will have to wait longer than the others, because the Paperwhite 3 has not been released yet. Any month now apparently. Rumours range from thinner, through higher resolution up to actually waterproof.

I can imagine so many uses *coughWet’n’Wildcough* for a waterproof Kindle.

Or maybe I could spend the evening reading in the shower.
With the light off.
The possibilities are endless.

A fourth wish… more time.

Okay, traditionally the last wish is supposed to be a wish for more wishes, but mostly I want more time. I have so many ideas and so little time for their execution.

I have started some creative writing; no idea where that is going to land exactly.
I want to start designing the layout for the kitchen to have ready-made plans once the bathroom is done.
I want to get out for photography more as the weather gets better again.

I also have several work-related projects that need some attention.
Continuous Improvement is such a drain on my personal life…
It’s gotta start saving time soon, right?

I may need to plan a holiday longer than a long weekend. Two days here or there are just not giving me enough room to get ahead. I think October/November will be my next longer break.

Enough rambling.
Time to do some more.

Long Service Leave – Alas, not yet

Why are long weekends never quite long enough?

I thought a four-day weekend would be more refreshing than it proved to be. I guess what it points to is that I need to have a longer break sometime.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have the two extra days, but I guess the problem with short breaks is that they get swallowed by the backlog of chores that was still waiting for me.

On the up-side, I did read a bit more (oh how I want Amazon to release the new Paperwhite already so I can upgrade!), and I had some awesome Gelato in Kings Cross (Gelato Messina… worth a try if you’re near them), and I slept in a bit as well.

My next management goal at work is to coördinate with my fellow managers on a 2IC to develop enough that we can all start taking some more significant leave without leaving anyone in the lurch. Oh. And communications… that’s the two themes for 2014/15. As well as broader cross-skilling, three! Three themes for 2014/15.

(I have watched too much Monty Python… wish I could have gone to one of their theatre shows *sigh*)