Lightning and common misconceptions

It is a piece of random folky sort of wisdom that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Obviously, this makes no sense. If you look even briefly at the factors that make a lightning strike a statistically higher probability they are all pretty static. Location, material present, height etc. Even in kids cartoons the mad scientist rolls out a giant metal conductor during a thunder storm when he wants to harness a forked lightning strike and make some crazy science magic happen. Not that its so simple in real life or anything, but when I was a kid my dad had to go deal with the IT aftermath of a lightning strike at one of his customer sites not just twice but 3 times in a 2 year period and that wasn’t the Eiffel tower, it was a fish farm on the west coast of Ireland. Lightning strikes all the fucking time.

So I probably shouldn’t be all that shocked that it just struck the plane I was meant to be getting on for my flight to Las Vegas. This is actually a new one. The girls in the lounge tell me it happens all the time though. In any case, routine or not some electrics got frazzled and I am now sitting on my arse waiting for a new plane to appear. On the plus side my arse is currently located in the American Airlines lounge, which while pretty shitty compared to many of the other airline lounges it has been my pleasure to inhabit for a while is nonetheless infinitely better than the main terminal area. At least there are cookies.

I haven’t been in the mood to write for a while, but I’m hoping to drift casually back into it without really noticing. Lets see how that goes…

Since the Worlds Been Turning

I haven’t been writing for months. Every time I open a blank document and start to write there are just too many things shooting through my brain at once. I’ve never had writer’s block before, but I always assumed it would be like staring at a blank wall and just not knowing what to fill it with. Maybe sometimes it is. Right at this moment though its like being bombarded on all sides by hundreds of little facts that all shout “I’m important! Remember me? Tell me first!”

There is a logical progression in linear time of what has been happening over the past few months, and I’m going to be forced to completely ignore it, because some things are just more important to tell than others. So I’ll start with what happened when I came back to the real world from the dream that was my summer. That summer really was as close to a dream as I’ve come so far, 4 months of intensity, meaning and beauty diluted only by fun and frozen yoghurt.

My first venture back into the world was a very brief trip to New York to meet my new boss and my old team for dinner. It was amusing, it was free, the food was great, and it was really fucking hard. As slaps with the wet fish of reality go it was barely a kipper, but it felt like a tuna (Tuna are really big. Seriously). My whole life had changed, everything I was felt different, better, everything I wanted was more real. But everything around me was the same. My job was still there if I wanted it back, my friends from work were still my friends from work. New York was still New York. I felt as if something should have changed. The Empire State should have been taller, the Brooklyn Bridge should have been a becoming shade of bright blue, anything at all. Sometimes the fact that your whole world moved just means that everyone else thinks you’re now standing a few inches to the left.

But I had to come back. Choices about immigration rules and whatnot aside, I had to know what would happen to me. Whether it would all fade away or whether I could actually bear to live with one foot in each world. So I did what I always do – I got onto a plane and I moved on to the next life. One I had never tried before, in Australia.

Right now I’m in Melbourne, sitting in the bedroom of a corporate apartment I’ve been living in for 2 months. I’m working on a contract for my old employers for the next few months, and then I don’t know what I’m doing. The need to decide that is a few months off, I still love plans but my compulsion to make them has dissipated slightly. I don’t know if I can be half and half. I don’t know if anyone can be half vagrant and half corporate whore. But fuck it, I’m going to try. I have very rarely wanted anything more than I want the life I think I can have now. This is what it was all for.

There are so many things I need to write about now. What I have realized is important and isn’t. How to do what I’m doing. Maybe more importantly why to do what I’m doing. What happened to me and what didn’t. What I want to happen and don’t. I don’t know if any of that is worth reading. But its worth writing.

What I want to be when I grow up…

The most insane job I have ever heard of was explained to me on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and it is this: When they built the bridge, they used many many rivets to hold the beams together. However some really big beams extended out over the middle of the bridge into a nice wide open space with essentially no other supporting structure. For the rivets that needed to go in the stuff along the sides of the bridge the rivet machines could just be hauled along to where the rivets needed to go, the rivets would be dropped super hot out of the machines and right into the appropriate holes. But for the middle part, there was nowhere to put the machine. So it was the job of one man to go out and stand in the middle on top of unfinished beams with a bucket, and have red-hot rivets tossed to him from the machine operators at the side. He had to catch the rivets in the bucket, and then drop them into the appropriate place.

Now that’s a skill. Not exactly useful in modern times admittedly (at least I think we do not still use rivet-catchers when we build bridges). But imagine being able to tell someone that your job is to stand a mile above the ground and catch flying pieces of red-hot steel. That is a category of hardcore you just can’t fucking argue with.

I’ve come across lots of obscure jobs. Yesterday I met someone who earned a living by making and selling humane snake traps on the internet. I have met people who drive hearses for pet cemeteries, teach amateur taxidermy, or design spoons. But though these are frankly quite odd they are all real explainable jobs. I’ve heard it said that if you can’t explain your job to a 5 year old its not a real job, but I didn’t even need that rule of thumb to categorise mine. I had one of those jobs that wouldn’t exist if the world wasn’t so complicated. It wasn’t quite in the same ludicrous corporate cliched category as life coach or middle manager, or as frivolous and first world as snowboarding instructor or the guy who drives the parasailing boat. But I’m pretty sure I’d be on the B Ark*.

Or to put it another way, on post-apocalyptic earth my profession is about as useful as a chocolate kettle. As someone who likes to be at least mentally prepared for post-apocalyptic earth this has always been vaguely troubling. So at least part of the reason I am learning to be a welder is the attraction to general potential usefulness. If I can’t actually make a living from a job explainable to a 5 year old I should probably have some skills that are relevant to one. Or maybe I just want to know that its possible. That maybe I really could run away and learn to make swords for a living, or build bridges. That the fact that I might spend my whole life making money from something I can’t explain without 45 minutes and a whiteboard is somehow ok, because I could stop anytime I want to, really I swear.

Right now I think it is enough to have the choice. But I am not sure I can keep thinking that forever. The temptation to scrap my silly life and start again is definitely there. I’m not sure I’d even lose anything.

*Obscure statement explained in the first paragraph of this

Dust, dirt, and more sparks

There are always sparks. The list of  productive things that can be achieved in a metal shop without generating sparks is exceptionally short. In fact so far it consists of “sweeping the floor”.

My welding is improving, though to be fair its not like it could actually go the other direction. But I’m also learning a lot of other things. These things fall mainly into 2 categories, the first of which is “how to use this big/small/dangerous looking machine with the big saw/rollers/giant hammer/gun-like attachment” and the second of which is “what machine exactly is it that I use to make this thing into this thing”. Chances are that if you need to do something with a lump of metal, someone else has had to do it repeatedly ten thousand times for some arcane purpose lost in the mists of time. Or for a really obvious purpose like making cars, whichever. Either way the result is that there is a machine or a tool for absolutely bloody everything. If there isn’t one it probably isn’t because none exists but rather that we are too cheap to buy one.

Specifically, I have learned many different ways to cut things of varying types and thicknesses, many different ways to grind things, how to bend pipes and how to figure out when you have bent a pipe sufficiently for the purpose as opposed to way too fucking much. That’s actually quite a lot of things, before you get all unimpressed with me and my bending of pipes. I also very specifically learned how not to put things on a truck, but I won’t get into that. It involved the sacrifice of one windshield to the gods, and a couple of hair-raising moments.

Everything in the universe is boring if done enough times, even really cool things. In terms of the shop, chances are that if you aren’t bored of it yet you probably aren’t any good at it yet. Things that you may actually manage to be ok at before becoming deathly bored of them include cutting stuff with an oxy-acetylene torch, mostly because it takes a really long time for melting steel to get in any way old. It just looks amazing when molten steel drips in yellow globs through the cutting table and you know that you and your trusty blowtorch have made that metal heat to 5000 degrees fahrenheit just so that you can blast a hole in it. There is something immensely satisfying about that. (Yes, I know I have issues. But I am sure even emotionally well-balanced people think molten steel is awesome).

Things which do become swiftly boring include beveling a 45 degree angle on some mild steel shapes so that they can be welded together. This is surprisingly hard to do quickly and accurately, especially when said shapes are their exact measurements for a reason and if you fuck it up by taking too much metal off the first time you cannot simply cut the end off and start again. Not that boredom is in any way the main problem with this activity, in fact its kind of cool when you realize you might actually have gotten the hang of doing it properly. Sheer effort is definitely up for first place, with incredibly sore wrists in the aftermath of spending a day with an angle grinder coming in a close second. Another important piece of information – this work is really physically tiring. A nugget of trivia which falls into the bucket of things I knew to be factual but did not truly understand the meaning of before experiencing it. While we’re on that tack another thing that has really sunk in both literally and figuratively is the fucking dirt.

Dust, oil, dirt, metal shavings, metal dust, paint… Every type of grime or stain imaginable is on my hands, trousers, face every goddamn fucking day. It’s disgusting. I need two showers a day just to avoid having to wash my sheets every morning. I cannot count how many times I wash my hands a day, but its one more than the number of totally pointless times I wash my hands because they are just going to get covered in more crap in 2 minutes anyway. I was told by a friend lately that after a whole summer of this I will probably have burned out on the whole workshop thing, and he may have a point.  There is a lot to be said for doing real physical work that you can see actual results from immediately. But there is also a lot to be said for not having to use a scrubbing brush to clean your arms every evening.

Steel and Sparks

Today is my day off from the job I don’t have. I meant to write way before this, because getting here was a pretty interesting adventure. But I haven’t had access to a computer for an interminable length of time (read: 2 weeks) and out of general scientific interest as to how long this would be manageable for I wasn’t hurrying about getting one. In case anyone reading has managed to avoid having their ear talked off about this by me already, I quit my job, moved to San Francisco, and became a full time volunteer for a group of artists called the Flaming Lotus Girls. They make amazing large scale fire art mainly from steel, and primarily for Burning Man though previous pieces crop up occasionally in other places (one is at EDC in Vegas right now)

I am not an artist. I have a very active imagination but it has a full tiime job already keeping me entertained. Fortunately there is pretty much zero need to be an artist except at the very earliest stages of this endeavour, and those are long past. The conceptual phase is long over, the design phase is nearing its last breath, and soon it will all be pure construction. I’m not good at the “what shall we build?” questions, but I am a lot better at the “how the hell do we do this now? We need it to what? Seriously?” type of scenario.

As one might imagine this whole construction process involves a lot of sticking bits of metal to other bits of metal, and so one of the many skills I need to acquire and clearly don’t have is the ability to weld. There are approximately 8 million other such skills, but since this is the one that gets the most press I will talk about it first. Of the 4 main types of welding (TIG, MIG, Oxy-acetylene and ARC) the one we use the most is MIG. MIG has a reputation for being easy, and from the perspective of what you actually need to do in order to be MIG welding this is technically true.

Here is how it works (if you know how to weld skip 2-3 paragraphs): The welder is a big machine that contains a roll of wire which is fed out through a gun-like thing. It is also attached to a tank of gas. At the same time this wire is being fed out two things happen, a current runs through the wire in the gun and the gas feeds through. The current needs somewhere to go, so there is also a ground clamp that extends from the welder which needs to be clamped to either the metal table you are welding on or the piece you are welding itself. So when you pull the trigger on the gun to feed the wire, the wire touches the metal and completes the circuit, and promptly melts. The gas forms a shield around it as this happens to prevent impurities in the metal. This results in you having a flow of really hot melty stuff which is sticking to your metal and presumably doing so in a constructive manner.

The contents of the wire coil and the gas tank both vary depending on what you are welding. There are settings on the machine to vary both the heat and the speed at which the wire emerges from the gun, and these are determined by 3 factors – what type of gas you are using, the thickness of the coil of wire in the welder, and the thickness of what you are trying to weld. But once you have all the machine operation stuff down essentially it should be a straightforward point and shoot. MIG is reputed to be the glue gun of welding. So I probably should have tried using a glue gun first.

Its not that easy. Depending on whatever wire speed you are supposed to be using and the thickness of the metal you are working on you are supposed to be welding at different speeds, a thinner or thicker bead, a certain distance from the metal. If you move too far away you get a surface weld where the bead just sits on the top and doesn’t penetrate. If you move too close you can’t see what the fuck you’re doing and you potentially weld the tip of the gun to itself, thus fucking it up. If you stay too long in one spot the metal gets too hot and warps, if you move too quickly the bead is too thin. Not to mention that you are doing all this while wearing an eye shield that essentially cannot let you see anything except the area immediately around the spark from the contact lest you go blind. Basically this requires immense amounts of practise which I have not had. But since this sculpture is about 50 feet long I guess I will have it soon.

Things that did not occur to me about welding but are really fucking obvious:

1. Metal is fucking hot afterwards. Even the bit you didn’t weld over on the other end of the metal. Because its a fucking conductor. The instinct to touch things that are not actually glowing with your bare hands is an indication that perhaps I will someday earn a Darwin award.

2. Sparks fly everywhere. They also burn when they hit your skin. So if you have not yet bought work boots and you wear trainers with mesh they will quite happily burn a hole right through your sock and cause you to jump out of your seat swearing like the Nazis just came over the ridge while you were taking a piss.

3. The UV light that causes you to need the eye protection is, well, UV light. As in sun. As in sunburn. Yes thats right, I got sunburnt indoors. A first even for me.

Sometimes it is good to be reminded that simple and easy are not actually synonyms.

Freedom and marshmallows – The start of the next adventure

Several years ago I faced the same decision faced by millions of slightly drained, fairly hung over, but still irrationally optimistic college graduates – namely “so…. What do I do now?”. Some people have decided this years in advance, but for many of us in the ludicrously affluent western world college is less a means than an end in itself. It gives us a defined and rational purpose for 4 years, after which we are handed our nice shiny piece of paper affirming that indeed we have managed to attend an educational institution for this entire period without being expelled for consistent incompetence, extreme subordination or setting fire to anything expensive.

We walk out with the aforementioned certification; get horribly drunk in celebration of our own glorified lack of total mediocrity; and then a few days later when we can once again survive the bright light of the daystar and digest solid food we suddenly realize that we have no purpose.  If we did a liberal arts degree we have not only no purpose but no useful employable skills whatsoever, but regardless of whether we are simply or doubly fucked, we need to make choices. So we ask of ourselves the hardest question any human being can ever ask, which is of course “What do I want, exactly?”, the most overwhelmingly common answer to which is of course “I don’t know” (this is actually slightly inaccurate, I plead the use of creative license. The _actual_ most common answer to that question is in fact “I don’t know, but not this”).

For the next 6 years I made every choice that brought me more long-term material wealth. I was never ashamed of it because I never saw a reason to be. To me money was directly equivalent to freedom. But sometimes there comes a point when you are so used to doing something that you forget why, and at that point it is possible for the thing you are doing to stop being a logical decision without you even noticing what happened. I got to the point where I had enough money to do whatever I wanted to do, and somehow there wasn’t anything I wanted to do except to make more money.

In many ways we are trained from birth to behave like this. There have been studies in which each child in a group is given a marshmallow and told that if he does not eat it, he can have another one. After ten minutes the promise is fulfilled; the exercise is repeated several times; and there is always a kid at the end grinning smugly with a plate full of marshmallows. I am that smug bastard kid (except that if left alone for 5 minutes I probably would have sold the marshmallows to a hungry kid because you cannot trade marshmallows for books). This is lauded as intelligent behavior, the concept of immediate sacrifice for future gain. But delayed gratification needs rational limits or else jam is always for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

This is called a glaring lack of perspective, and is a disease from which it can be quite difficult to recover without a right kick in the arse. Thankfully someone gave me one, for which I will probably never do anything nearly awesome enough to repay him.

I decided to change things. In a way this choice is as arbitrary as the one I made at 21. Quitting my job and working on an art project, travelling until I don’t feel like travelling any more. Leaving when the wind changes, and spending some of the money I sold myself to obtain over the last 6 years. Looking for freedom, for myself, and for something to want that isn’t money. But if it’s not a better decision than the one I made back then it definitely is not a worse one.

I don’t know what I want. But it’s not this.

Paris

I have heard it said that the problem with France is that it full of French people. I’ve heard it said quite a bit actually, I live in England. This is bollocks, I am rather fond of a number of French people and on fairly good terms with many more. Being French does not make you an elitist asshole any more than being Irish makes you a drunk – the odds are statistically higher but you probably shouldn’t use it as a basic assumption. I haven’t seen much of France. I’ve been to Lyon but only for a friend’s wedding, and I have been to Paris 4 times. So largely, my experience of France is Paris.

I fucking hate Paris.

Yes, I know. Beauty; culture; fashion; history; Paris has it all. I completely agree. It has some absolutely stunning architecture, it has the feel of character and the weight of centuries I believe is crucial to a great city. It has an intense appreciation of art and is one of the centres of the world for fashion and the creation of new art and forms of art. It is everything that I have ever listed I want in a place to live, work, or spend time.

But I fucking hate Paris.

Every time I go there I arrive wondering why it is that I thought this place was so terrible. I get into a cab, I use my bad but sufficient French to direct the cab driver, pay the fare, and disembark at my destination. On the way I pass nothing but beautifully constructed buildings, well dressed people, and on this last trip even the overwhelming presence of the Louvre. By the time I arrive at my destination I am feeling slightly enchanted by the whole thing.

Then I go out to eat, on this occasion with a colleague.  We obtain drinks and then ask for a food menu, which we are duly given. We then proceed to sit there for an hour. Our drinks have been drained about halfway through this time period, and no-one has offered to replenish them or even attempted to take our food order. When we eventually grow tired of waiting and accost a waiter on his way past, he impatiently tells us to wait, and then after another 10 minutes still has not returned. Eventually we order at the bar, our food takes another half hour to arrive and is the wrong food. We return it and eventually after another wait are served the correct meal. Which is absolutely delicious, let us give credit where it’s due.

Isolated incident? Nope. Pretty much the exact same thing happened at lunch the following day in a different establishment in another part of the city. To be fair, in the second place the waiters were nice as opposed to incredibly rude, just very slow and prone to getting the order wrong. But even ordering a cup of hot chocolate in a café later that day earned me a look that indicated I was worse than Hitler, presumably for having the audacity to request they accept my money in exchange for conveying a cup of hot liquid to my table.

At this point in the rant you are probably thinking “well it’s because they don’t like it when you speak English to them, everyone knows that”. So I should establish that I was speaking fucking French. Now I will not claim my French is very good, but to order some food you basically need to be able to pronounce the menu item along with “I would like”, “please” and “thank you”. I assure you that even if I can give no guarantees about my ability to conjugate the past imperative or have a discussion about Sartre’s position on existentialism, I can order my bloody dinner and can do so in a passable accent. So the standard excuse does not really apply.

I am of course not basing my opinion of a city merely on bad service. But the attitude of Paris is one which just doesn’t seem to gel with me. I’ve been spat at on the street, I’ve had my ass grabbed in the metro, I’ve had small stones thrown at me on my way out of the underground. I’ve also had my wallet stolen but I suppose that could happen in any big city. Every single time I arrive I start by feeling the magic, but it always seem to end with “I fucking hate Paris” But I know there must be something there, I can feel it hiding around the corner from me and running away when I look.

Someday, it will be magic.

Even more Australia

I’ve been in Sydney for 3 weeks now. I can’t really count the number of beautiful things I’ve seen, or how many moments have just involved taking a breath and savouring the warm clean air and the sight in front of me. People have been exceptional – friendly, outgoing and inclusive. I have had the good fortune to be here during Sydney festival, a series of events that lasts all of January and includes free outdoor operas and symphonies.  I’ve fallen a little bit in love with this place after an initially fairly cold assessment of it, though maybe I’ve just really come here at the right time. The weather has been perfect for weeks with only a few extra hot days scattered around.

I’ve made random friends, met Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, gone to a ninja gig in the suburbs, been to the Sydney Opera House to see Madame Butterfly, walked along the harbor at night, gotten the ferry to Manly. I’ve gone to the beach and gotten sunburnt, rained on, salt water up my nose and surfboard burned arms from being quite frankly shit at surfing. I have gone swimming in the middle of the night with a group of gorgeous gay men, and running at 6am alone. I have eaten breakfast every damn day, and it’s been delicious.

I’ve been happy a lot, sad a little and kind of lonely at various points but never bored, and until today never wished I was anywhere else. Today I experienced one of the problems with international travel that you never really think about until they happen. On Saturday there was a death in my family back in Ireland, and I am as my father put it “as far away as anyone could be without leaving the planet”. I can’t get home to be with my family, even if I left now I would not be back before the funeral even aside from the fact that it would cost me a fortune and work would be deeply unimpressed.

I know they do not need me there, but frankly I do so little for them that I regard providing support, an extra pair of hands or anything at all really at times like this as one of the few familial duties I can actually fulfill. I love my life, I love my freedom, and I love that I spend half my time flitting around the damn world. But sometimes being a very long way away from home can have repercussions like this, the ones you never envision when you are seeing yourself on a new adventure.

I realized the other day that I started to feel at home here in Sydney, and then I realized why. 3 weeks is the longest I have been in one city every night for at least a year. The last 5 and a bit years have been crazy enough, but it seems like the first 4 were just training for this past 15 months or so. The shape of my brain seems to have changed, the way I think about travel has gradually altered until I no longer see anywhere as being too far away to go.  I used to think London to New York was a big trip, now I think of it the way I used to think of the bus from Limerick to Dublin.

Kavanagh once wrote “Through a chink too wide there comes no wonder”, and I think he had a point. The experiences I’ve had have been amazing, but that travel knowledge and experience detracts from the sheer fantasticness of some of the things I get to do as a matter of course. I believe that when I travel for myself again and not for a company that feeling will come back, I hope that is true.

But there is only one way to find out.

Australia

It’s actually not that often any more I feel the thrill of going somewhere new, or the thrill of travel in general. I guess the past 5 years of airport hopping and working on the move has inured me to the sheer excitement of going somewhere you don’t live, and that actually kind of sucks. I think part of it is that I haven’t felt as free as I used to lately, but for a variety of reasons (to possibly be explained later) I hope that is changing. In any case, leaving for Australia for the first time was thrilling. Yes I was going for work, but its so damn far away and I have never seen it and have heard an awful lot about it and it was a beautiful day… whatever the subconscious or conscious set of reason I was literally singing to myself in the airport. I have an embarrassing tendency to sing “I’m leeeeaaving, on a jet plane, don’t know…etc” whenever I am about to go on a big trip (Yes, I know I am a corny loser) and it was stuck firmly in my head that day.

It was a long journey, but pleasantly punctuated by free wine, champagne and a meal that did not at all make me want to projectile vomit hard enough to shatter a plane window. I had a flat bed and had a most enjoyable sleep, did a little work, and was feeling rested and quite excited to touch down in Sydney. So I was mildly disappointed when in the middle of an Australian summer it turned out to be overcast and raining steadily if unenthusiastically.  My first impression of Australia went something along the lines of “what the fuck is this shit? Its like landing in Ireland”. In a way, this was a fair assessment at the time, excepting the fact that Sydney airport is like walking through a giant industrial tourist manufacturing facility.

First impressions – For a country founded by convicts and crazy people Australia is pretty damned expensive. I do not just mean there are not enough asian immigrants to lower the price of dry-cleaning either (there are tons), I mean a 3 person round exceeds $20 and apartment rental cost is worse than Manhattan.  One of my biggest gripes with Ireland is that you pay so much for bloody everything and get so little for your money, and I thought Oz must have a similar problem. I spent my first 2 days wondering what the bloody point of it all was. Ok, its far away, but ten thousand miles for a country like home but with more poisonous indigenous wildlife? What the hell has everyone been thinking? What is so goddamn great about this place? Ok, there are some parks and Sydney is on a harbor but the TV is almost as bad as America, the food is expensive and after my first day I could pretty much sum up my feelings with the sentence  “It is raining, and I see not a single kangaroo”

Then the sun came out.

I claim not to be affected by the seasonal depression shit everyone in the world now seems to use as an excuse not to get out of bed in the winter (I don’t need an excuse not to get out of bed). But there is no denying that sunlight makes pretty much anything beautiful even when it doesn’t have much to work with, and in Sydney it turns out that it has quite a lot. For not only does the city with its semi-tropical plant life start to look stunning as soon as those rays hit, but as soon as a hint of warmth is in the air all the incredibly attractive people suddenly materialize from every direction in constant waves of envy-inducing perfection.

Let me not be misunderstood here, there are ugly people in sydney, as everywhere. But the beautiful people are distinctly emphasized by the weather, because their perfectly muscled torsos tend to be uncovered and their fabulous tans are really showing.  My standard mental image of Australians is not necessarily all that flattering (as a former Londoner, they are the international equivalent of a football team at a frat party) but it always includes a degree of physical fitness presumably because in my head sheer proximity to beaches automatically creates individuals who swim like fish and windsurf every afternoon. So far Sydney hasn’t really been disappointing me in this respect.  People just seem to be healthier here.

I am astonished to discover that I like it here. The harbor sparkles, the countryside is stunning, the city itself is beautiful and clean. The atmosphere is nothing to write home about, but since I am working in the Central Business District and staying in a swish hotel I can’t really judge that one particularly well.  I’ve also been told that Melbourne is the cool young city and that Sydney is a kind of staid banker hangout.

The fact that the country largely consists of a giant wilderness has a lot of appeal too. A few hours outside any major population centre will see you in the middle of bloody nowhere. I have a love of cities that means I will probably never live outside of one long-term, but the sheer freedom of seeing the world rolling out in front of you for as far as you can perceive is an amazing feeling. It’s part of what brings me back to the desert every year, and it definitely exists here too.

Sydney isn’t perfect. Cost of living is sky high, and the population in general has a reputation for nationalism and casual racism that is distinctly off-putting. Not to mention that it is a million miles from the rest of the world and in one of the most inconvenient time-zones possible for communication with Europe and the US. But walking along the waterfront of a beautiful city in the sun with a cool breeze blowing and the beach a half hour away can kind of make you forget about all that.  So much as I was not expecting it, Sydney makes the list of places I want to live, though probably the 6 months or less version.

Quote of the week

Week, month, arbitrary time period that basically just means I found something sufficiently amusing to write it down. This award goes to my father. We just had an exchange where I tried to send him a google maps link, except that pasting the link directly from the address bar is not the optimal way to use google maps and so ended up being wrong. I  did this not once but twice consecutively, the second time in an attempt to correct the first time. Finally I realised the error of my ways and linked to the location correctly. My father’s response:

Dad:  “Wow, your prowess around PCs is impressive. Have u considered a career in IT?”

Me: “very fucking funny :)”

Dad: “Always attack in a rare moment of weakness”

From this we learn 3 things. 1. My father is hilarious, 2. My moments of weakness are rare and 3. I should pay more attention to what I am doing if I do not wish to invite the endless mockery of my insane family.

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