Day 98 – Bushfire Season and Rain

I’m not anywhere near where the fires are burning at this time. I want to lead with that if any family might be wondering/worrying.

Even more so, my slice of western Sydney looks so at odds with the photos in the news that I’m having a hard time reconciling the two images. Today was a cool day here. It was a very damp day.

I believe we had about the same amount of rain as the mountains got, but it is easy to lose perspective when there isn’t a 400 square kilometer fire rapidly approaching where you live. I don’t think the amount of water that fell here will make a dent in the mountains. It’ll have evaporated before it even hit the fires.

Some Trapped Drizzle
Some Trapped Drizzle

From what I understand, the rain that fell may even be counter-productive, in that it hampers the controlled burning of fire breaks more than it does the actual fire itself.

I read on the news sites that some people were tweeting about “good falls” in the mountains, but I do have to wonder how much of it is some level of wishful thinking. When fire threatens the place you live in, science is less relevant than any source of hope you can cling to.

I sympathise deeply, but I’m not sure I entirely relate. There is little I couldn’t either take with me if I had to evacuate, or replace afterwards if necessary. I think I could grab all the essentials in under 5 minutes.

Aside: a small plug here for my trusty QNAP storage device… a single cube barely larger than a shoebox stores all my irreplaceable data.

Wet and Hazy under the Street Lights
Wet and Hazy under the Street Lights

Still, I don’t know what to tell those directly affected. There were some already affected by the fires at the party over the weekend; and the most I could do was try to keep their thoughts off mother nature, and say something funny to keep them smiling for a bit.

I know that at least one friend is journeying into the mountains tomorrow to defend an ancestral home. I could never do it. It seems like insanity to me to take any risk like that. But it’s easy for me to say when I don’t have a determined parent staying behind to defend their house. I cannot say what I’d decide if my parents wanted to stay through the fires.

Rain on Cars, Slick Shiny Streets
Rain on Cars, Slick Shiny Streets

It all seems so remote and inconceivable from here. The maps of the affected areas seem so strangely small. I have no sense of scale, and all the while my street out front is still shimmering with the damp that fell earlier today.

Instinctively it feels like something that should be solve-able. We have landed on the moon, we have split the atom, we created the Internet.

This is fire for crying out loud… Man’s first invention. And the most common substance on this planet, water, foils it. Somehow it just doesn’t fit inside my brain that this could even be a problem at all.

Day 97 – Task Scheduling

Worn Out

I wasn’t expecting too much from today. I was up till 2am sifting through photos, and I didn’t want to let my wake-up time slide too much, especially since I need to be perky at 7am tomorrow as well.

Who knew sorting 1500 photos down to the best 300, and then cropping and scaling them for Facebook was an 8 hour job?!

In the end I dragged myself from bed at about 9:30, spent a half hour on the computer before finding the shower, and then another half hour before heading for my massage appointment.

Small tip: if you do any kind of travel for work, try to schedule a massage for after you return. You’d be surprised how many knots and impingements lugging bags through air travel induces!

Add-on small tip: if you are part of the staff at a substantial birthday party, defer the massage until you get through that as well.

Pro-tip for experts: schedule two separate massages; one after the flight, and then another one after constructing, running and deconstructing the party.

I Don’t Feel Like Doing

I had brought a coffee home after my massage, and was ready to spend the rest of the day in front of the computer, delving into Javascript, Razor and MVVM until my brain gave out.

I had a slice of bread with some sprinkles with my coffee, and I got started.

It was that kind of day.

And then I started to feel guilty about the state of the house. You see, preparing for a major party leaves a certain amount of wreckage in your personal life in the lead-up.

The vacuuming can wait… because the final party prep comes first.

That ironing board can stay in the living room, because there’s a few shirts there that still need ironing… after the party is over.

The washing can wait, because really, I still have 2 completely unused pairs of underwear… after the party will be soon enough.

I blame my plummeting blood-sugar, but it just reached the point where I had to do a few chores. Just a few… to make that itching feeling in my brain go away. No, I can give it up any time I want. Honestly.

Chore Scheduling

And I’m not sure if the following is going to make me sound a little insane. Or if perhaps you can relate. There must be other people doing the same. I suspect at least Randall Munroe does the same based on one of his early xkcd comics.

Whenever I have a bunch of tasks to do, I instinctively start sorting and scheduling them for maximum multitasking efficiency.

I have two loads of washing to do; each takes about 55 minutes on the usual cycle, and it takes about 5-10 minutes to hang a load out, so I can fit two 45 minute tasks alongside the washing.

But before I do the washing, I should get the current washing off the drying rack so that I can move it out of the living room, because it needs a vacuum. Otherwise I’d have to defer the vacuuming till everything is dry again. I start folding all the currently dry clothing first and putting it in a basket to carry to the bedroom.

Okay, there are a few un-ironed shirts on hangers as well; I hang those in the wardrobe first. As I walk to the other side of the house I spot a few things on the floor that will get in the way of the vacuuming, so I put those on the bed/away as I walk past to streamline the later chores now.

This takes me past the study twice where I briefly stop each way for an ongoing intermittent IM conversation with a friend on her study break (I am assuming). I also open a few tabs for topics that came to mind to check later, as I was folding the laundry.

On my way in the living room I consider the pile of boxes that landed in the kitchen after the party. I have to move those to vacuum, but nowhere to put them now. I’ll defer that until the living room is done, then they can sit there once it’s already clean.

Next up, I fold away the drying rack and put it in the hallway. Then the ironing board goes back into the laundry on its hook. And on my way back the vacuum cleaner comes along… I like it when I can chain the trips between rooms so that putting something away combines with bringing something back the other way. Traveling Salesman Problem FTW!

Vacuuming the living room doesn’t take very long. Right afterwards I put back the drying rack for the load of laundry that is nearing the end of its cycle, as well as finding all the boxes in the kitchen a spot on the carpet.

And then the first load gets hung out.
And the second one goes into the machine.

Which also means I can now put the clothes basket back in the bathroom… up the hallway, and back down. Nothing to take back on my return trip. 🙁 It combines with another IM message though. Oh, and cancelling my Pump class at the gym; I should not wreck all the good work the massage did by lifting weights straight afterwards.

Before moving on to the kitchen floors, I briefly detour into unpacking the dishwasher. The dishwasher and the cupboard for the plates are about a Tai-Chi-lunge-distance apart… which is the quickest way to move the contents from one to the other. And presumably good exercise?

Doing the rest of the floors takes about half the remaining washing-load-time.

And somewhere along the way I manage to gruffly schedule dinner plans around Abbey taking the dog to the vet. Both the gruff and the dinner plans are precipitated by the realisation that I haven’t had any food since my noontime breakfast of a slice of bread. Oh, and a coffee (~500kJ for the coffee, 1000kJ for the bread).

With all the clothing hung out, and some Noodle Hut eaten, I feel a lot better. Also, the house is now mostly tidy and sorted.

Yes, the inside of my brain is probably an OCD factory.
No, it works fine that way, thanks for asking.

Not that hard

After doing this task scheduling as long as I can remember, it’s almost instinctive. Writing out what I did took more thinking than actually doing it.

It doesn’t always go equally well; I get a special kick out of the days when all the tasks that involve moving between places just neatly dovetail into each other like the ironing board and the vacuum cleaner did today.

And sometimes plans need to change on the fly. When gardening is involved, the weather can nudge the plans around, causing some half-way re-scheduling. Plans are only perfect until the moment you start executing them, and the Real WorldTM happens to them.

Phinally, the Photos…

Somewhere along the way of being the designated photographer, I managed to rack up 10,000 steps as well. Who knew that I’d cover 5kms during a 60th birthday party?!

Anyway, as promised, some pictures.

Note that I have judiciously removed most of the participants in the party from view. I promise you, there was a party there; it’s just not for the internet at large to see 😉

Day 96 – Court Photographer

I spent yesterday and this morning documenting Margret’s 60th birthday party. I got some excellent shots along the way. I also got a pile of over 1500 pictures in total.

So, for the past 4 hours I have combed through the high-quality RAW images, trying to come to a manageable choice to present to Facebook and then make a smaller choice for a post.

It’s almost midnight and I’m still not quite done!

So, this is a post more by way of apology than anything. The pictures post will still be a little further delayed, but it looks like I’m now rapidly approaching the finishing line. I’ll probably put a non-365 post up just past midnight with some of the better pictures that I do not have to seek clearance for 😉

It’s been a big job, but a very enjoyable one. Especially seeing some tricky razor-sharp ones in the lot is very gratifying.

Day 95 – Party near the Flames

Today we partied.

Tomorrow I will do an extensive photo-rapportage.

I was the designated photographer for Margret’s 60th. Which she had 4 months ago… we had 3 tries at setting up the party, and events kept getting in the way each time. Which goes partway to explaining why mere bushfires could not deter us from celebrating this time around.

The theme for the party was the 50s; she has an affinity with the decade. So music playlists were constructed with music from the decade. Candy and toys were sourced on eBay. And everybody had to make an attempt at looking the period as well.

Tomorrow there will be evidence of how much effort (read: gel) I had to bring to bear on the task of slicking my hair down. It has a mind of its own, and I had to negotiate with it over the direction we were going to be taking.

I shot over 800 pictures, so tomorrow will be about sorting, collating and deleting all the inferior ones.

Tomorrow’s post will be the interesting one.

Right now… I get to have a shower, and then go sleep in the caravan on the driveway, because space in the house is limited due to some refugees from the fires. It has been an interesting, entertaining and worthwhile day.

But also exhausting. Again.

Also, I don’t care about all the passive voice in this post. Stuff it!

Day 94 – Mostly Travel

Today was the final half of our planning day, and I think I can officially call it a success. Tiring… but very successful.

The breaks were a blessing; at about 10:30, morning tea arrived. Too many cakes for 8 people, but we didn’t let that deter us. And then lunch at noon was even more overwhelming. So many sandwiches and wraps that we ate to bursting and still had half left to pass along to the developers downstairs.

Now I just need to write out the notes next week so we can tell everybody what we figured out. But…

I have a long weekend first though.

Blue Skies... Nothing But Blue Skies...
Blue Skies… Nothing But Blue Skies…

It was reassuring to land in a city that wasn’t covered completely by smoke, although the reality is scary and dismaying enough as is. Quite substantial portions of the Blue Mountains are still on fire, and probably will be till at least Monday when the weather is due to change.

I don’t know anyone that is in active danger, luckily, but there are already many houses lost and even a death which hopefully will remain singular as this passes.

Shortly after I took the picture above I nodded off in the taxi, which slowly struggled through the traffic. Intermittently I’d catch glimpses as I startled awake of the massive traffic between the airport and the city. I think all up it took 45 minutes to make it to the harbour. And then only 45 more to make it all the way home from there.

Once I woke up again I switched to reading another chapter of Ice-and-Fire, only to be startled by the taxi driver holding up a middle finger to some traffic… shortly after which a motorcycle overtook us in a fashion that forced(?) the driver to dodge into the lane to the left where another car was just merging towards me. No damage and no honking, but still, slightly unsettling all the same.

It makes me strongly consider keeping the card of a good driver next time and just order the same driver every time I need a taxi. I’ve had some good ones in the past, and I hadn’t realised their tremendous value until today.

Anyway, now I am home. And quite weary. And preparing for a party tomorrow, which I will undoubtedly blog about. There is a certain amount of thematic dress-up involved, so prepare for not-your-usual-Jerry!

Day 93 – I’m Still Standing!

Today was a great first half to the planning day I mentioned yesterday. As much as it was looming a bit in my mind as it approached, the 4 hour block of solid meeting filled itself with a very fruitful conversation.

Our management group consists of both development managers and test managers, and there was a very good amount of back-and-forth over the strategic topics that we covered.

We started with a SWOT analysis covering a broad mix of feedback, risks and initiatives. Followed by grouping Weaknesses and Threats into thematic buckets to form our objectives. We ended up with three broad objectives and a clear idea of what our future-state on these needs to look like.

Tomorrow we’ll dig into the detail to get ties these to measurable goals and concrete projects. If that goes only half as well as the first half of our planning day I’ll call it a great success.

We also had The Architect come into our meeting to give some perspectives on the broad themes for our IT strategy, and within 30 minutes we had a half dozen opportunities in that space to tie our own objectives to.

If all the above sounds very abstract to you; basically we’ve looked at what we do well, and what we do poorly, and then tried to map out the big targets with the biggest pay-offs to start turning our weaknesses into strengths over the coming year. And tomorrow we will turn all that into the actual on-the-ground action to take towards those targets.

Also… the whiteboard was brilliant.

I had never worked on a glass-surface whiteboard before, but the sheer joy of using an eraser and have the marker come off effortlessly! … I could have enjoyed wiping the whole plan off the board again. (But I refrained!)

This is all very tiring work though. My brain feels flat, so now it’s time to recharge for our next 4 hours starting at 9am tomorrow.

I have to remember to print my boarding pass and say bye to my team before I go into the session, because odds are I’ll be off to the airport almost immediately after.

Day 92 – Makes J a Dull Boy

Red has swallowed my calendar. I colour code meetings based on their nature and importance, and red is pretty much the top of the pile. Nothing moves them.

I think this is the first time my calendar was booked solid before I even arrived in Melbourne. And that’s taking into account spending an extra day down here.

I’m not sure exactly what happened.

And today is not over yet. The office-portion of my workday ran from 9am till 5pm with a quick break for lunch. Now, the hotel-portion of my workday is still ongoing; I even had my dinner in my room. I think around 9pm I’m going to call it a day and move on to the Jerry-needs-to-relax-now portion of the day.

I am blaming the Development Department Planning Day for taking over my calendar. Basically I managed to pick up a charter that includes responsibility for the planning day. And I don’t like half measures. So I learned about SWOT analysis, and a process for planning out from Objectives down to Projects.

And tonight I am preparing my input into all this analysis so I can lead by example tomorrow. Maybe somebody else in the group will know how planning days work, but I’d rather not gamble on it.

Which means, I must make sure the only person I have direct control over (myself) is across this stuff.

And then second half of tomorrow and first half of Friday will be dedicated to a split-day-planning-day. Also done on purpose, because I imagine that about halfway through we’ll come to the conclusion that we finally understand how a planning day works, and not everything we’ve done up to that point is quite right. So, the break in-between the two halves will give everyone a chance to re-group and re-think.

I try to be prepared for any eventuality.
I should have been a boyscout.
(But maybe not, because I hate their organisational politics)

Anyway. That’s my evening; how is yours?

Day 91 – Dash Around Melbourne

I earned my dinner by walking my 10k steps around Melbourne this evening. Fittingly, my bracelet buzzed just as I walked back into my hotel room. I checked the Melbourne map in Google before setting off to measure the scale of the CBD, and decided I could do the full width easily for a walk.

I really need to spend some time on a holiday here, because there are so many places that look ideal for the daytime that I’ll never get to on a business trip. Nice parks, just outside the bounds of the CBD, but too far from work to make for an easy trip in a lunch break. Unless I have a really unconscionably long lunch break that is.

I returned with a nice salami pizza that is now gone, a large bottle of pear cider that’ll last me the rest of the evening, and two donuts to try later. I briefly considered the Key Lime Pie donuts, but now that Android 4.4 has been renamed KitKat, I just didn’t see the point.

I think I got a good 5km walk in and now I deserve a rest, before I have to dive into the paperwork to prepare for tomorrow.
*sigh*

Day 90 – Patterns at Night

I love flying places.
I don’t love delays, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story that I won’t go into right now.

Landing is the best part, especially at night. There is something about illumination in darkness that draws me. It’s probably one of the reasons I like walking late at night.

What makes landing so special is looking at the city-scape sliding along underneath the plane. A pointillist picture of light splattered on a dark landscape.

The lights all drift along seemingly without pattern, other than the bright streaks of the major highways. And then every once in a while when the flight-path aligns right and we reach the right position, the points suddenly snap into rigid patterns. Straight lines that were completely invisible a moment before become completely self-evident.

Patterns are in everything, and sometimes what it takes to see them is finding just the right perspective.