a day out

Today I left the house and associated with people. In the flesh. The idea of a flesh meeting sounds rather dangerous and subversive in these strange times. People not my family, not in the supermarket.

Sydney is slowly reopening, venues moving from takeaway to sittings to “please stay”. Last week I had brekky in a cafe and not in the car. Radical.

This week I went to a brewery. So many people in one place, relaxing. Oddly. Mobile details at the entry for tracking – weirdly it feels ok and not like the State is tracking my movements. To be fair I suspect the State could do that easily via other means. Right now, it seems an easy entry point for hanging in a bar with friends.

Beers with friends. A simple thing.

things abound

I think I’m entering week 7 of lockdown, or thereabouts. I figured when the library shut it’d be months before we returned though the odd bod I suspect was hoping for a few weeks. I’m somewhat unusual compared to my colleagues, working from home is old news; I spent years working from home in a previous job. This time round, it’s still the case that my job is mostly online and the bits that weren’t, very quickly were.

Weirdly, or perhaps not, my workload increased initially and for a few weeks after. It seems to have settled down though the gov has said we’re only supposed to work 7 hours with no flex. I have struggled to keep down to 7. Then again, I am glad that I have work and sad that so many do not. I am a renter without a mortgage to worry about.

I am overjoyed that we are lucky enough to have the nbn though adsl would suffice as it has in the past. It drops out on rainy days which suggests we’ll need to get the wiring looked at. We moved house prior to Christmas, downsizing, but the bigger house would’ve been good now with 2 adults and 2 adult children co-sharing a 3 bedder rather than our previous 4. All of us with different online needs. As I’m working fulltime, my life has not changed a great deal. My commute is now 10 seconds rather than an hour, which means an hour extra sleep in the morning – that will be hard to give up.

I have revisited my LibraryThing account; there’s an app now with barcode scanning. I am tempted to try and scan all my books, at least those that have barcodes. Many alas, do not. In the move, I reluctantly weeded a few boxes of books. Some I miss already…I think I got rid of my Wizard of Id collection of which I had many volumes. I have kept my Biggles, Enid Blyton, and of course Trixie Belden. Got rid of chunk of history things that I had grabbed from Dad’s books when he passed. I have been buying nicer editions of some novels, and tossing the ageing, smelly paperbacks.

Ms19 has bought a pair of roller skates which in turn has encouraged me to retrieve my old, old skates from the garage. I was unsteady initially but glad to report I still remember how, the confidence returns. We have been out twice to skate at a nearby basketball court which is sufficiently smooth and large for us to gain confidence and in my case, pick up speed as I skate the perimeter. However my upper body particularly is feeling the strain; feeling sore for a few days following each session.

As time goes on at home, I struggle to imagine what holidays look like. I had planned a 6-8 week trip in Europe to coincide with my partner’s Churchill Trust study trip. That will not happen this year and the Trust have postponed such trips to next year…I suspect at the earliest. I was saving my leave for a couple of years for this trip and now the idea of going on holidays saddens me. I am overdue a holiday and there is nowhere to go. I am keeping my fingers crossed that NZ will be a possibility later in the year.

And I am lucky, lucky that I have a job, lucky that I can still think of holidays.

headphones

…can be a tricky thing. For many years I’ve had a pair of Sennheiser HD 515 headphones which have been lovely. I have used them a lot, replaced the pads once and they’re due for another set. I dropped them a year or so back and the casing had cracked but sound was still fab. To wear them, I usually removed my hearing aids and pumped the sound up. The downside was that sound leaked and recently I had an incident on a plane where the person behind asked me to turn them down.

Part of the issue is finding headphones with a big enough cavity so that I can leave my hearing aids in comfortably, the other part is reducing the amount of sound that “leaks” out. In recent months I’ve been trying out lots of headphones trying to find the right balance. Not entirely unexpectedly I’ve ended up back at Sennheiser. I had initially settled on a pair of HD 280 Pro as they seemed pretty close to ideal. I was in JB on the weekend and they happened to have 20% off on headphones and was prepared to get the 280. Then I noticed they had another unit set up for trying out: Sennheiser 380 Pro. They were only $3 more than the lower model but the design pushed them against the head and reduced the sound leakage significantly, Plus they come with a flattened carry case which means they’re easy to travel with. With the JB discount, they ended up being $159. Sold.

Wearing them now while my partner watches TV behind me and no complaints so far. Currently “bopping” to Ministry’s Just One Fix. Happy days. Will see how they go on the flight to Adelaide on Sunday.

Update: my partner didn’t hear them at all even though she was sitting a foot behind me. With them on, I didn’t hear any external noises either so there seems to be some sort of noise cancelling/insulation thang going on.

five on a seat

With a heading like that, I feel like I’m channelling the Famous Five and that may yet lead me down an interesting path for headings…five take a flying jump and so on. Here’s another five articles of vague interest:

of mojo

2013 was not the best of years. It started well and started badly. On 24th Dec 2012, I went on a date. On 27th Dec 2012, my mother passed away after a long battle. While mum’s death was a mixture of relief and sadness, it has been with me for all of 2013; It has affected all my spaces. My abilities to be creative and to work, have been much impaired. My mojo for many things has disappeared.

canoe advancing through waterMum’s birthday in late November was a tricky time and I was not looking forward to my various anniversaries across the dec/jan period. Yet here I am, one anniversary to go and coping well. Dare I say, I’ve even been enjoying myself. For some years, I have been trying to do things to reclaim some of the joy I’ve lost for this time of year. There was a sense at the end of November that I’d turned a corner and my old self was returning. There has been a false alarm or two in that direction but this time it seems to be real.

I had a very good christmas, not to mention Christmas Eve being the first anniversary of first date :-) Mum’s anniversary was spent in good company, as was Ben’s. I got through both anniversaries in one piece and at peace.

closed ereader on empty tableMy reading mojo seems to have returned. Fully. I managed around 4 books in 2013, struggling even with those. I’ve read two books since Christmas and am now on to a third. In 2013, I would force myself to read and fail; now I hunger to get back to the book when I’m doing other things.

#blogjune…again!

Oops, #blogjune has been running for 4 days and I’m already well behind. As I’ve commented previously, my mojo has been missing in action this year. I don’t want to speak too soon but there are signs that it may be flickering back into existence. In the last month or so I have managed to not only start but finish a book and start a second. I have read the final True Blood novel and made good progress with the third Sandman Slim.

My approach to work has also picked up and I’m feeling a stronger sense of ownership. I’m also approaching my 12 month anniversary. The last few days have been ticking over nicely and dare I say it, have had a nice buzz.

I have no idea whether I can manage to keep up the blogging in June, especially as I’m only up to “G” of April’s daily #atozchallenge.

We shall see.

e is for ears

I’m a bit of a deaf bugger (maybe a lot :-) and require hearing aids to be able to hear well in many situations. I inherited my current pair from my father when he passed away. I had new molds made for my ears and the aids were re-programmed…literally. They were connected to a computer via wires and had their settings modified. Dad got them new in 2002 and I was fitted around 2006. At the time, they were still pretty much state of the art and there hadn’t been new developments.

Now it’s 2013 and the hearing aids are coming to the end of their life. Hearing aids generally last around 6-10 years and anything greater is exceptional. Just as well as they’re rather pricy with the current pair costing dad about $4,000 per ear. I have embarked on the process for getting a new pair, which take several weeks, and has already proven to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I went to see a doctor last week to get my ears de-waxed and lost hearing altogether in one ear for a few hours. While I knew logically the ear would be ok, the shock was rather upsetting. This week, I’m doing it again and have drops in my ear prior to seeing an ear specialist tomorrow. Because I was mentally prepared this time, the loss of hearing has been more comfortable.

author staring at a screenHowever, this is but the first stage. Once the ears are de-waxed, I then need to see an audiologist for a full hearing test to see where my ears are at now and whether I’ve lost any hearing since the last test a few years ago. Then I need to look at what sort of hearing aid best suits and what options I like.

While there had been relatively few improvements in 2006 there have been substantial improvements since then. A big improvement is that you can now get water resistant models: one of the things I’ve been paranoid with the current pair is getting them wet. I was told to avoid such and they could only handle a few drops. Given the expense I went way out of my way to protect them and always carry a protective beanie if there’s a sudden downpour. Otherwise I take them out and restore them when inside.

Colour! My current pair are a sort of grey, ugly colour. The new models come in a variety of colours including red and blue. I’ve been very tempted by bright, red ones but have been concerned about coordinating my wardrobe around so may choose a dark blue instead. Blue would go better with my eyes too. Other options include being shock resistant, some models have a remote control to provide greater flexibility. My current pair has about 20 possible settings but I can only ever have 2 or 3 active. To change them currently, requires a visit to the audiologist. A remote control would mean I could change them myself on the spot. And so on…

a is for active

Following on from flexnib’s example, I’m going to attempt doing an A to Z of topics ie each post will be based on a word based on the current letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. Con is doing it in 26 days as it seems to be an April challenge. I’ll give that a go, but mostly I’m just aiming for 26 posts.

I last blogged nearly 4 months ago, and I have not been active in the blogosphere in the time since. My online activities have waned. To some extent, I suspect that’s a side effect of the death of my mother at the end of December…no sympathy required and I’m doing ok; her passing was not unanticipated. I’ll cover another side effect when I hit “B”.

On the other hand, I have picked up on physical things. I am walking more. I even did a 3 hour walk around Northbridge on the weekend. That’s not a particularly big deal, however I’m aware that my fitness has lagged and I’ve not really been up for the sort of tramping I did for Routeburn in December 2010. I’d like to get back to that level of fitness so I can return to New Zealand and explore more of their Great Trails.

of things…and malazan

Holidays: needed, taken, appreciated. Returned.

My first decent holiday since 2010 when I spent 2 weeks, post LIANZA, in NZ and tramped the Routeburn. I’ve just spent a little over 3 weeks in Borneo, or more precisely in the northern Malaysian part as the island of Borneo is split between Malaysia and Indonesia. I travelled there with a mate on a 22 day trip with Intrepid. Intrepid trips are for small groups, usually up to a dozen with a guide/admin person. This trip was a combination of two trips and there were 8 of us on the first half and 12 on the second (including 4 from the first). Will perhaps speak more of the trip on a future post but I’ve at least uploaded all my photos and am slowly adding descriptions.

For most of the trip, I kept waking in Sydney time (around 7) which alas is around 4am Borneo time. Now that I’m back I’m going to bed around 1.30am Sydney time (10.30pm Borneo) which is really hurting when I have to get up at 7am (10am Borneo). I’m hoping this will resolve itself sooner rather than later.

Pre-trip, I was exhausted. Now, I seem to have topped up my reserves. I’m enjoying being back at work and think I have some balance once again. I have a clearer idea of what I’m doing and why; a better sense of my direction.

Despite a plan to stay offline for the trip, I did check in occasionally. Alas this meant that early on in the trip I saw an email from a bookseller in the UK relating to my Malazan obsession. He’d previously sold me book 2 (Deadhouse Gates) of the Subterranean Press limited edition for GBP270 (around AUD$420) thereby giving me the rights to books 3-10 of the same number as they’re released (approx every six months with book 3 currently on pre-order). The good news was that he’d found book 1 (Gardens of the Moon) of the same number on ebay, the bad news was that the asking price was USD$800. I don’t recall seeing the SubPress edition of Gardens on ebay at all ie it rarely appears for sale and for the same number as the edition of book 2 I have was a rather large stroke of luck.

I left it for a few days and realised that I didn’t really have a lot of choice, though the price was high, I needed it to complete my eventual set. The downside is that I didn’t have great net access in Borneo and was mostly reliant on wifi access in the occasional hotel/hostel. I had a few failed attempts at creating an ebay account and finally succeeded a week or so later. Then spent a week (with jungle treks in the middle), negotiating with the seller. The good news is that they were willing to drop their price to USD$650. That’s still on the expensive end but a little more comfortable than the initial price. Books 3-10 will cost me around USD$150ish each. Even better, the book was waiting for me when I returned home and now sits beside Book 2 on the shelf.

Oh, almost forgot, I’ve grown a beard. First time in a decade or so that I’ve had hair on my face…I think 1996 was the last year I had any sort of facial hair. Borneo is a very hot and humid country…so humid that trying to shave while sweating was a little icky. This also meant that my glasses tended to fog up so I stopped wearing them for three weeks too. In addition, not all places I stayed had available powerpoints. So I decided to let it go and see how it turned out.  I’m liking it. All the bits that were bright ginger last time I now grey. The other noticeable change is that last time was still in my shy days and it could be argued that I was hiding behind my beard. These days, it seems to suit, and my sense of me is not lost.

tech dilemma

A while back I mentioned that I had finally managed to organise myself with regard to my tax returns. The result of all that came to a conclusion last Friday when I discovered that a nice amount had been credited to my account from the tax office. All paperwork is done for 7 years of returns, including 2011/12, so I am completely up to date as far as taxes are concerned and the return was within the ballpark of expectation.

Priority number one is new hearing aids. I inherited my current pair from my dad and they’re about 10 years old now – that’s a reasonable life span for a pair of hearing aids. There have been substantial developments in hearing aid technology and the aids themselves are now smaller and lighter – I can even get them in red! The other step is to look at what sort of options are available with regard to hearing aid support and sound systems. My current TV doesn’t have great sound and there are options for systems that can pipe directly to the hearing aids via a combination of bluetooth and the traditional hearing aid loops. I don’t even have a stereo anymore as I tend to listen to music via my ipod with a decent pair of headphones. I am reluctant to make any move in that direction til I have the new hearing aids.

The other area I’m looking at is computer stuff. When I changed back to public sector, a mate gave me his old Mac Pro which continues to serve me well and has even converted me a little to Mac though mac stuff annoys me at times. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support the new Mac OS, Mountain Lion. Other than that it works well and I’m loving that it has unix underneath with easy shell access. On Windows machines, which I also love, I usually had to install cygwin or run it as a dual boot with linux to get the functionality I wanted. Things I love about windows most are text handling ie keyboard shortcuts for manipulating text and moving the cursor around – that would be the primary point of friction in my mac conversion.

Now I’m looking at options for the home. A part of me is tempted to return, in a sense, to what I had when working for Gale: a good laptop that I took everywhere and connected to a decent monitor at home. I had hoped that the ASUS Transformer Prime would fill this gap and it does somewhat but it lacks the true multi-tasking ability of a laptop eg the ability to edit multiple documents at once (it might and I may need to explore that more).

For home at least, I reckon a dedicated server/tower should suffice and the Mac Pro is doing ok though I’m tempted by moving to either a mac mini or a windows based tower. I remain ever tempted by the Mac Air (11″); the air continues to be sexy and interesting. Mostly, I need to work out what my needs are, keeping in mind some of the unique issues of my needs – hearing being a big one.