I went down to the river at lunchtime, there were no ducklings.
In the last days of autumn I read a guide to the optimal flavour temperatures for different types of beers. I didn't pay much attention, because at that time of year the optimal temperature for beer was coincidentally whatever temperature it was in my fridge.
It's been a long, cold winter since. Finally, on a visit to the Prancing Pony Brewery to sample their IPA, I realised that letting certain beers warm up a little can make a big difference to how good they taste. For the back half of winter I've been leaving my wheatier beer out for fifteen minutes before drinking. It's still cold, but the edge is gone and the flavours that had been missing during those gloomy months are brighter and punchier.
I walked to work this morning, noticing the buds on the trees. For the first time in a while I didn’t feel the need to stick my hands in my pockets. The wind was still cool, but it wasn’t freezing. The wind was the temperature of a beer left out of the fridge for fifteen minutes. And the breeze in my face was like the first mouthful of a whole summer of flavour.
It's a scary thing to take leave and treat your hobby like a job. That's what I attempted over the past few days, spending hard earned IT industry money on flights and accommodation in Sydney to research and write the chapters of my sequel to Law & Odour, despite no publishers yet showing interest in the original.
Unperturbed by the voice of reason I packed my notebook, pen and phone and set about visiting locations, ordering coffees there and writing chapters. I'm not sure exactly how many words I scribbled, but my thumb, elbow, shoulder and neck are all exceedingly tender now so I believe it was a decent total.
I admit, upon landing I was a little nervous that I would struggle to run with the threads of my prepared plot, which actually could have been a blessing. I would have had concrete proof that I was a terrible artist and I should focus on preventing cloud hosted artificial intelligence from stealing my current job. Instead I have thousands of words needing editing so that they can be compiled into a manuscript, discovered after my death and turned into a mildly successful Netflix series created, edited and starring cloud hosted artificial intelligence.
While visiting, I also attended the NSW Writers Centre's annual Speculative Fiction Festival. There I learnt about the business side of writing, and how to network by standing and staring at successful authors until they felt awkward enough to invite you into their conversations.
And, perhaps the best thing I learnt over the course of my trip was that I shouldn't set my novel in Sydney. San Francisco here I come, either for my next writing blitz, or for my final showdown in Silicon Valley to try and take my job back from cloud hosted artificial intelligence servers.
Some tips/ideas for networking on your own at a conference:
I landed just before lunchtime and caught the train to Barangaroo. The contrast between Adelaide's CBD and Sydney's latest redevelopment is astounding. I feel like there are more jobs in these new buildings than there are in the entire state of South Australia. All the fast food outlets have classy, monotone logos.
As I explored, a business-woman in a stylish running outfit and a full face of makeup jogged past me, sealing a consultancy deal via Bluetooth headset as she reached five kilometres. I remembered why I left.
I'm a vegan. After a couple of documentaries, Vanessa suggested we try eating vegan diets for a few weeks to see if we notice any improvements in our varying health problems.
I tend to be a bit skeptical towards claims about meat and dairy made in a documentary written, directed, produced, edited and scored by the same vegan. But I think people who say, “the years are just flying by!” are the same people who never try anything new. So why not give it a shot?
So I'm vegan now. It's an interesting feeling. I have this nagging urge to tell everyone that I'm vegan, even if we're talking about something unrelated.
Today, on my first full day of the new diet I undertook the important new-vegan task of eating up all the remaining meat, cheese and yogurt in the fridge.
I’m standing, waiting in a crowd at a ‘Don’t Walk’ sign in the city. On the other side of the road I need to go right, but there’s going to be people crossing beside me who will force me to slow down. That’s when I spot the traffic-light post on the opposite side of the street. It makes eye-contact back and lifts up a fist. The pick is set.
Welcome to the first entry in a series about the mundane things that I do incredibly well.
My journal is a place to celebrate things I’m good at in life, but none of my abilities are what are traditionally thought of as great or noteworthy. I won’t be winning critical awards, recognition for technical expertise within my industry, or athletic gold medals. But, there are little things in life which offer their own opportunities for excellence. Things you probably already practice every day, without realising it’s something you might be capable of being incredibly good at.
Today’s topic, fast walking.... Which I guess actually is an Olympic sport, but anyway...
One of the things people tell me whenever we walk somewhere together for the first time is, “Brad, you walk so fast.” Often they will make reference to my long legs, as if that explains everything. Long legs are helpful for fast walking, but they’re not required. There are other techniques and strategies that even the stubbiest legged person can use. What distinguishes a great fast walker is not their legs, but their head.
Before we talk about how to walk fast, let’s reflect on why we want to. Walking fast has so many benefits in daily life:
I keep an eye on the road’s traffic lights, and when they turn amber I am primed for my own light to change to green. I step off the curb, already angling my shoulders slightly right to cross the road on the hypotenuse.
Beside me a man is also striding briskly, and he’s on my right. Locomotion and reflexes are core facets of fast walking, but they’re not unique, so he and I are evenly matched. If I want to continue minimising the distance travelled to go left once I’m over the road I will have to either cut him off, which would be impolite, or I need to slow down a step to cut behind him.
That would be if I hadn’t already lined myself up with the traffic light pole before I started crossing. When we reach the opposite curb our trajectories are taking my shoulder right past the pole, and the man’s path straight into it. I slide past the screen and into open footpath, alone. A demonstration of good versus great fast walking has just been given to those still ambling halfway across the crossing. I don’t see the man again.
Using inanimate objects as screens isn’t the only benefit a basketball background brings to fast walking. At its essence, a skilled fast walker is not so good at moving fast as they are at moving smoothly. Anyone can hustle uncontrollably towards a destination, just hang out by the train station in the afternoon peak hour and see. There will always be obstacles, both stationary and moving, between your feet and where you want to go. The ability to pivot, move laterally, and euro-step as appropriate will be the difference between getting to your location quickly, and walking up the back of an old woman with a walking frame accidentally. The most important thing is feeling in control of your movement. If you don’t feel confident, you will not hit your top speed, and a truly great fast walker will soon overtake you.
Sometimes, while walking fast in a sea of slow walkers, it’s possible to become self conscious about the gait or bob your pace brings with it. Any hesitation caused by this image management will slow you down. A true fast walker must block out all negative thoughts. A good pair of black sunglasses and/or some noise cancelling headphones playing something upbeat will solve that problem.
Well, I rebuilt my site in just over a month. And I added SSL, Captchas and mobile friendliness in the process.
That's pretty cool.
Post in the comments which of your favourite old features is now missing.
My usual Autumn Playlist of new musics is a little late this year. Maybe that’s because winter, too, was late, and only now is it raining daily and my playlist finished. Maybe it’s because I created a separate playlist for rap music this year, so I had to find an extra six tracks to fill up this one.
I’ll share it below, ready for me to revisit over the rest of my life to remind me of the start of 2017. There’s a lot of pop music, which I guess is because the world is so depressing and indiscriminately unjust that happy tunes are needed to get through it. Or maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and my myelinated axons are slowly losing their resilience to commercialism and/or craving the synthetic feelings of youth.
This afternoon I was heating milk for my coffee in the kitchenette, and that is boring, but I didn’t have my phone with me. So I glanced at the muted TV in the corner for hopefully 55 seconds of entertainment.
The TV was on the SBS cooking channel, and when I looked over it was literally showing a microwave counting down.
I went home shortly after.
Two mornings ago the cold air made my nose bleed for the tenth time this winter, this time right as I boarded an express train to the city. I decided that as soon as I was no longer hiding in the nook of the carriage and I’d reached my desk that I was going to see a doctor about the blood noses.
I visited that doctor today, and instead of cauterising the weak spot he decided to first treat it with some antibacterial ointment. This wasn’t going to help me with descriptions for my upcoming post-apocalyptic climate change and cannibalism story, but I guess it was an easy option to try for a week before returning for the fire.
I took my prescription to the pharmacy where the kind pharmacist retrieved the ointment. Then she demonstrated admirably the exact process of peeling down an eyelid and exposing the creamy sclera, before mock rubbing the inside of the lid, and smooshing the imaginary cream over her eyeballs. She blinked dramatically to conclude the application, then she mentioned not to drive for at least thirty minutes afterwards.
I hadn’t heard about the prescription also functioning as an eye cream, and because I initially had to process why I was being shown eye steps, I didn’t have a chance to interrupt this performance before I’d seen the underside of her eyelid and into her soul. I knew then, there was no way to address the fact that she’d exposed herself for nothing, and that I was only going to be sticking the tube up my nose. I muttered, ‘thanks’, and took the box to the checkout.
Sometimes these things happen in life, someone over-shares based on a false assumption and you have no choice but to carry on with this new, undesired information through to the conclusion. Because to admit that they’ve over shared for no reason would only add to the awkwardness.
Then I wondered, maybe Dogs can understand English...
Today Snapchat gave some perhaps unintended insight into how global warming features in the minds of the smartphone generations.
This time last year I was flying out of Adelaide on my way to Munich.
There's no international travel this winter, but on this same grey date I did visit a South Australian Aldi for the first time.