more tramping

Alrighty…first we booked the huts, then we booked the flights. I am finally getting to tramp the Kepler Track this year. Flights were a wee bit ecky as we’re travelling in the school holidays. On the other hand, we’re doing the Kepler!

I was just re-reading my account of the Routeburn and realised that was 2010 and despite my best intentions, it’s taken 7 years to get round to tramping another of NZ’s Great Walks. Admittedly, I’ve had some pretty good times inbetween, not to mention 6 weeks in Europe over Christmas. This trip is actually for Mr21 who turned 21 last year and we offered him a hike as he loves the bush too. Turns out he’d rather hike with us so the three of us are doing the Kepler together.

I tramped the Routeburn using my ageing Kathmandu travel pack and while it held up ok, I decided that next time I tramped I would get a dedicated pack. For the Europe trip, I bought a new travel pack that had a backpacking harness and wheels. I’ve read a few “best of” lists online and pretty much decided that the Osprey Atmos fits the bill. It’s a good size with a decent harness. I’ve had an Osprey day pack with 3 litre aqualung for several years and that’s been really nice. Getting the Atmos means I can use the aqualung on it too. Just need to go into a store and try one on.

I bought a new pair of Scarpa walking boots a couple of years ago and retired my previous Scarpa so that part is sorted. I remain undecided on walking poles – the germans love them and I have a few friends who are keen. I sort of wonder if my general clumsiness might mean that they’d work well for me too…or at least stop me reaching out for trees that may or may not hold my weight :-)

post holiday thoughts

Flew back into Sydney a couple of weeks ago. 6 weeks in Europe ended up feeling about right and I was happy to return home. We experienced a mild, European winter and winter didn’t seem to set in proper til after we left. Temps were mostly single figure negative eventually making it to positive.

Prior to leaving, we’d booked accommodation for 8 nights out of 42, a return train trip from Paris to London and a couple of shows.  Everything else was discussed, explored and booked as we went. For the most part we were booking trains and accommodation a few days in advance. The broad bones of the trip were necessarily constant but the places inbetween changed, and changed a few times. Alas, no snow. We had a few flecks in Nuremberg and some hail somewhere else but no snow we could play with.

31883039312_f56cf3c2a4_nI recall travelling not dissimilarly a decade or so back, planning each place while in the previous place. Back then, I needed to book into an internet cafe and spend an hour or two working out how to get to the next place and where to stay. This time round, I had a laptop with me, a local sim card with plenty of data, and most places we stayed had wifi. The German train system is fab and and so easy to organise and book, France was a little more challenging and often didn’t recognise our credit card for train bookings so we did a few in person there. We’d discuss plans over dinner or breakfast and then I’d make the required bookings keeping in touch with airbnb hosts via the app or WhatsApp.

Airbnb was really fab. I was reluctant initially but have been converted. There were 3 of us travelling: myself, my partner and her 16 year old daughter, and we were able to book whole apartments so we had space to relax in. Many places we usually had at least one separate bedroom and a sofa bed in the living though occasionally we had 2 bedrooms. Dead simple to book, hosts were flexible in meeting times and friendly and welcoming. We stayed in some amazing places and places were cheaper as there were a lot less folk travelling in winter.

Queues were short or non existent eg a 20 minute queue at the Louvre. I think our worst queues were in Disneyland Paris and even then most ride queues were short. Disneyland Paris was one of those things we managed to add while travelling as we hadn’t planned to go initially however it was dead simple as a day trip from Paris.

Google maps was bloody awesome. I had full data connectivity on my phone though the Spanish SIM I was using never quite managed to make it to 4G and was a wee bit slow at times. But I could use my phone as I would at home for a cost of around 1-2 euros per day. I played plenty of Ingress in all countries and made good use of both google’s and microsoft’s translation software though I think I prefer microsoft’s. Google maps however made moving about dead easy: it worked out appropriate metro stops. bus stops, bits to walk etc. Sometimes it’s nice to get lost and find stuff but not when you’re carrying a pack trying to find your next airbnb.

All I need to do now is cull my photos down to a manageable amount and upload them to flickr. First run through got them down to 622 from 688, so clearly lots more culling required. Oh joy.

almost holidays

I may actually be getting vaguely excited about my impending trip. About bloody time as we fly out in 3 days. Though I usually say I don’t start to relax until I’m on the plane. We’re traveling for 6 weeks and have booked 10 nights of accommodation so far, or roughly a third. Sometimes I’m comfy with that, sometimes I’m not. I am comfortable with the flexibility.

We kept looking stuff up on wotif and being disappointed with the results. There’s 3 of us traveling: moi, my partner and Ms16. Wotif doesn’t show many places and keeps returning places with 1 bed + crib. A crib is no good. Airbnb however is showing lots of apartments, many of which are suitable ie 2 rooms with 2 beds. We’ve booked one place with wotif and 2 places with airbnb so far. We have booked accommodation over christmas thankfully as that’s likely to be a hard time to book.

Flexibility means that this week we were able to throw in a weekend in London in January and see a show or two. We have booked the shows and the Paris-London-Paris eurostar (around 2 hours 15 min each way). We will be seeing Matilda together and the other 2 will also be seeing Wicked. I saw Wicked in Sydney so I’m going to hang in London that day.

I’m a wee bit excited about going to London again which is a bit weird. I have spent more time in London than anywhere else outside Oz altogether, and house-sat occasionally. I immediately thought of a whole bunch of things I want to do and figured I needed a week minimum, however we’ll stick to the weekend. I will try to get Harrod’s as their food hall is the only place I’ve ever been able to buy Valrhona chocolate covered orange peels and they are my favourite. I’d also like to go to Kensington Gardens and see the Peter Pan statue in the snow. I usually like to pay my respects to Peter each time I visit London. I also want to go to my favourite museum, the John Soane Museum.

trip stuff

Heading off in a week or so for a 6 week holiday in Europe. I am alternately between sheer panic and totally chilled. Flights are booked, a couple of trains are booked, accommodation for first place and for christmas have been booked. I’m mostly ok with that, on the other hand I panic occasionally as there’s 3 of us travelling together and I’m not used to travelling with other people. This time it’s with my partner and Ms15.

Starting in Copenhagen and mostly spending time in Germany (for traditional christmas markets) and France, finishing off with a few days in Barcelona. Been a busy year and it’s been hard to plan or think things through. The last time I did a big trip was 3 weeks around Borneo in 2012 with Intrepid so everything was taken care of. My previous trips to Europe have usually been self guided and self propelled, on occasion finding accommodation on the fly. With that said, tech has improved a lot and I’ll probably get a local sim for my phone with data so I can carry on as usual. I doubt I’ll need rely as heavily on local internet cafes as I used to in the old days.

I had mostly decided not to take my laptop which surprised my partner. However I’ve been rethinking this week that it would be handy to have with me, particularly if we’re weighing up options throughout the trip. Phone and tablets can handle some things but they’re not great for having lots of tabs open.The other advantage of the laptop is that I can use it to back up our photos as we go. I’m toying with the idea of making my NAS remotely accessible and backing up the photos to it as well. That might be overkill and create more headaches.

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My tablet is a 2013 edition of the 7″ nexus and while it’s still nice, it is getting a little long in the tooth and not recharging as well as it used to. I am considering picking up a new tablet duty-free, possibly the 8″ samsung galaxy S2. Unfortunately my phone isn’t dual sim so I’ll need to swap sims occasionally to check for messages from home though most friends use various messenging apps to contact me, family less so. And of course, I’ll have my ereader with me, one can’t have too many devices. The only remaining item in the photo is my old psion 5mx from 1999 – it shall remain at home :)

keep on trying

I have been reading feminist literature for a fair chunk of my life (and had conversations with feminist friends and generally tried to live a more otherness aware life) and I continue to discover things where I, as a white male, continue to fail. Or perhaps not so much fail, as not quite understood the perspective of others. Sometimes this happens repeatedly…for years…before I manage to get a clue.

The latest one was this:

In tech, a common pattern is for hiring managers to say “I don’t care who you are, just show me your hobby projects on github, or your think-pieces on medium” but a bit of reflection is all it takes to realize that screening based on free-time pursuits gets you more affluent white men than it does underemployed single moms.

Time to do stuff is not equal for everybody. In library circles that can mean time to spend on conference committees, to do volunteer work, to admin elists and so on. For most of my life I was single, white male with a job and seemingly endless amounts of free time. That in turn begs the question of why haven’t I done so much more, which is answered by my sheer, bloody laziness and ability to procrastinate.

However I have continued to say that volunteering requires giving up your own time to do stuff for others. That’s easy when you’re a single, white male. That’s what privilege looks like. I now live with a partner and she has 3 kids. My ability to “give up” time no longer exists, I no longer have privileged control over my time. My time is shared with others. She has given up a lot of time for the kids.

That’s not a complaint about my current situation.

In the old days, I’d come home from work, switch on the TV, or the playstation, perhaps get round to cooking, or heating up a frozen dinner (more likely as I hate cooking), pour myself some wine and so on. These days, we return home, the number for dinner is variable and occasionally unknown, depending on the movement of the kids (15, 18, 21). Post dinner is variable depending on what others are doing…time on the playstation is negotiated. I’m playing skyrim again and I can’t spend entire weeks/months playing it like I could when I was alone. There might be alternative options eg my partner and I are currently watching Once Upon a Time with Ms15, however they sometimes like to watch Nashville together which I’m not interested in.

I seem to have little time to volunteer, or at least I think I have little time and that may be more a reflection that I’m still trying to think in context of my old life while trying to adapt to my new life. Adaption is taking me a long time as I’ve been with my partner fort 4 years and living altogether fulltime for 2 years. I am reminded that as I think these sorts of things, I am still exercising privilege as these sorts of things are not “options” for others, nor having the luxury to ruminate on them.

sat nav

I’ve never owned a sat-nav. I have on occasion, used google maps on the phone. Going to a new place I may check google maps at home to get a sense of where a place is. In olden days, I’d rely on on a printed street directory, I still have one in the car. But turn by turn driving, with computer voiceover, no thanks.

When driving I like a broad sense of where I’m going and then I generally fudge a bit when in the right-ish vicinity. Sometimes in moments of desperation I will get the phone out and find out where the bloody hell I am. This approach is not particularly efficient, a little bit lazy, and a little bit stubborn.

I reflect on this occasionally when playing video games, or should I call them computer games, though both terms sound a little archaic. Grand Theft Auto for example does a fullish sat-nav thang wih a coloured line from your car to your destination that recalculates if you take a different course.

map of skyrimHowever I think the Skyrim approach works best for me. It puts a spot on the Skyrim map where I’m heading and I can see a rough idea of the terrain between it and me with a sense of where the major route may lie. That’s about it. I journey toward that point, not quite directly. Diversions occur, weird paths cross my own and beg to be followed. I head off on detours, all the while keeping in mind where I’m ultimately heading.

Travel for me, in gaming and in life, is rarely about getting from point A to point B.

systematic fun

I’d been wanting to do something with my desktop machine for a while as the Mac Pro is getting a little dated. The chipset hasn’t supported the last few versions of MacOS, and is still on Lion. At the start of the year, I decided to migrate to a mac mini and have been keenly waiting each Mac announcement, only to be disappointed at the lack of hardware upgrades.

Apple finally announced a bunch of hardware stuff a couple of weeks ago and overall, they were a wee bit underwhelming. Macbook pros still don’t support touch screens and instead have a touch bar to replace the function key row. The bar is sorta cute and it’s nice to see an alternative to function keys but nothing earth shattering. On top of that, there was bugger all to say about mac minis or the current mac pro, though at least they haven’t been phased out. Even the microsoft hardware announcement was way more interesting.

Last weekend I went out and bought a mac mini (2014 model, 8GB ram, 1TB drive). I had been weighing up my options and was also considering the Gigabytes Brix and Intel NUC. The mini had the advantage of OS compatibility whereas the others would have required a migration from mac to windows. A key requirement was photo management so I would have had to purchase Adobe’s Lightroom for the winbox whereas MacOS comes with their current photo software, Photos (iPhotos is the old version on my MacPro that’s no longer supported).

Gone are the days when changing machines meant running two systems side by side for a week while you moved stuff across. Setting up the mac mini was dead easy:

  • start it up
  • connect to network
  • connect to Pro’s Time Machine backup (on NAS)
  • automatically transfer data – a few hours via wifi
  • update software
  • remaining step is to upgrade MacOS from El Capitan to Sierra

Time consuming but painless. My windows experience of migrating machines is also time consuming but with occasional pain. Time machine is the best backup system I’ve used and I’d love to be able to use similar for my non mac devices. With that said, upgrading the laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10 was dead simple and pain free, similarly android.