Jan 20, 2013

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Sydney in 4 days

Last year I made my first ever trip to Australia. I’ve travelled to a few places yet I’d never taken the time to visit our closest neighbour and say G’day, despite it being so close and cheap to fly. After visiting I can certainly see the appeal, but I didn’t visit Sydney to see the city, I went to see Matt & Jenna (and Nathan), Sam and Jess & Sheldon – friends who have sadly left NZ and taken up various jobs in the most populated city in Australia[1].

Matt & Jenna had been offering to host me since they moved over and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I got a cheap ticket by using Wenza and decided to take on the 7kg challenge[2] and only travel with a carry on bag. I sacrificed my laptop but I had everything I needed plus some room to take over kiwi snacks. Unfortunately, a 7am flight meant a 5am check in, so I was very tired.

Day 1

189388_10151064775807190_1380983254_nI was picked up at Sydney airport by Matt & Jenna, got a Vodafone SIM for the time I’d be there and went back to their place. After planning out our itinerary for the next couple of days I promptly crashed and slept for a couple of hours. When I came back to feeling human there were sandwiches waiting for me in the kitchen. This was just the start of how well I was looked after on this trip, Matt & Jenna’s hospitality is second to none. After eating we headed out into the city.

We visited Chinatown.

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Saw the fireworks.

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And took in a show.

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Day 2

We visited Paddy’s Market.

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We got this close to being in a submarine, but it was closed for the day.

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Not all was lost. I found Sam and he found beer.

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Then we saw Batman in IMAX – way better than any 3D I’ve seen.

Day 3

We took the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay.

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I posed like the tourist I was on the Harbour bridge.

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We saw a plane that had been cut up and sent by postal mail to the US and back.

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We tried out Matt’s camera remote to great success.

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And before the delicious steak BBQ in the evening, we even managed to see this view.

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Day 4

We visited the zoo and saw animals that entertained.

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Animals that took my money.

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Animals I’m glad NZ doesn’t have.

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Animals that were very cute.

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And we worked on Kiwi[3] & Aussie relations.

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We packed heaps into the 4 days and I enjoyed myself so much I know I’ll be back. I have way too many photos and memories for a single blog post, but I’ll leave you with these suggestions:

  • Travel light: Carry less weight, pay less to check a bag, spend less time packing and waiting for bags
  • Stay with friends: Not only do you get to see your friends, you also get a place to sleep
  • Plan rest: Don’t exhaust yourself trying to do everything on your list, it’ll keep
  • Pick the cooler months: Sydney can get incredibly hot and uncomfortable for exploring if you go in the middle of summer
  • Be sure to see: Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Maritime Museum, “The Local” bar (and get a tasting paddle) and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Footnotes

[1] To give that a bit of perspective, the population of New Zealand is roughly the same size as the population of Sydney (including suburbs).

[2] My backpack weighed in at 6.7kg (the scale wasn’t calibrated properly) but because you can also take a “small personal item such as a handbag” in addition to your 7kg allowance my SLR camera and bag travel too.

[3] Kiwi is my travelling companion, he has visited Hawaii, Philippines and Australia with me, sneaking into photos along the way.

Jan 2, 2013

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2012 redux

It’s the first days of 2013 and I can’t decide what kind of year I had in 2012. Were it not for this past week of holiday I’d leave 2012 feeling exhausted and run down. However, with time to dwell on the year, moments taken where I didn’t think “I need to do X” remind me of all I’ve been blessed with this year. I do feel it ending on a good note.

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I started 2012 in Shanghai, in a taxi cab trying to get to the Bund to see the new year fireworks. I saw Shanghai in a new way, saw real ice castles, terracotta warriors and Hong Kong. I attended a few weddings, including my best friend’s. I went to Parachute Festival, the best weekend event of my year. I saw Chinese fireworks on the waterfront, Jenn Lim and Tony Hsieh speak about happiness at Webstock 2012 and got sick of taking photos (but got back into it later). With the help of others I ran a PC fix up day for the community. I attended my first ANZAC day dawn service saw P.O.D play live in Wellington and started a new yoga class on Thursday lunchtimes. I spent a lot of time rewriting and tweaking the NZ Post Address & Postcode Finder. I saw friends leave for Australia and Christchurch, renewed my passport, did a SCUBA diving course and got my open water dive card. I flew to Auckland for OWASP Day, gave two Backbone.js training courses and introduced NERF guns to the office :). I made new friends in my church and others, visited friends in Australia for the first time, made my second book (wedding gift), and did camera operating for Porirua Christmas in the Park. I kept in contact with friends overseas for the whole year!

I accepted that I wasn’t going back to Hawaii in a great rush and struggled to find something to fill the gap, but not very successfully. I ended up drifting away from the Standby Task Force Tech Team. I spent less time in prayer and bible reading than I should have. I lost focus on why I was doing things, asking “what’s the point” rather than “what’s the purpose”? I poured time away on Facebook instead of putting it to use. I worried what others thought of me. I thought of lots of cool stuff to do, but didn’t do it. I remembered my own failures and forgot my successes. I made 2012 harder than it needed to be.

2013 will be different. This year I’ll be asking “what’s the purpose?” when I do something. I’ll rant less and fix more. I’ll have an “awesome jar”. I’ll worry less, pray more, seek God and make time for the things that matter by taking it away from the things that don’t.

Oct 24, 2012

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Instapaper and some of my Likes

Instapaper is a website I regularly use to save web pages that I want to read when I have the time. I mostly use their app on my phone, which lets me read articles on the train.

There are plenty of other options out there, the main one I’ve heard about is Pocket. This isn’t a review of either, but if you find yourself half reading articles at work or keeping lots of browser tabs open that you don’t ever get to, you may want to consider one of these.

The purpose of using this app is so that I can read more articles, which I have. Here are a few of the ones I’ve read that I thought important enough to mark for easy reference:

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave | Mother Jones

A reporter goes undercover and works in a warehouse for an online store in the USA. Her story has given me a better appreciation for the conditions people work in to provide me with gadgets that I order online. I can’t fix this issue by myself, even buying from a local supplier can involve this kind of distribution chain, but I have noticed that DX.com has opened in Australia and for a little more you can buy products from there. Minimum wage in Australia is AUD15.96/hour, (USD16.46), minimum wage in Hong Kong is HKD28 (USD3.61).

mnmlist: being OK with things as they are

We constantly strive for perfection, but what if we took a second look at all the things we want to change and see if we could accept them? Wouldn’t we be happier with what we have and have more time to change the important things?

This hasn’t been an instant thing, but a big part of it for me has been identifying and letting go of “First world problems” like my coffee not being warm enough, my phone not being fast enough or missing a TV show I wanted to see. Flip that around and I have a delicious coffee that I made for free on the work coffee machine, I have a phone that can surf the net, play games, music and videos as well as make calls, and I can watch TV from a comfy couch in a warm, water tight house. I have friends who don’t have clean running water or smartphones, but they still love life, why shouldn’t I?

Are you an asker or a guesser?

This one was a big one for me, I won’t even try to condense it down, have a read of this excerpt:

In Ask culture, people grow up believing they can ask for anything – a favour, a pay rise– fully realising the answer may be no. In Guess culture, by contrast, you avoid “putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes… A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer.

As a guesser, this article challenged me to say no when I need to and realise that Askers are genuinely (perhaps cheekily) enquiring, aware that the answer could be a no.

The Blind Shooting The Blind

This one genuinely caught me by surprise. I’ve seen blind people use computers, I know that apps with text can read to them but I would never have guessed that the iPhone Camera app could talk to a blind person and help them take a perfect photo. Apple have set the benchmark, is your app accessible?

What have you been reading recently?

Jul 22, 2012

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Vulnerability and listening to shame (Brené Brown...

If you haven’t heard of TED, let me give you a brief overview of this not-for-profit and that they do. Their goal is to bring people together to share “ideas worth spreading”. They hold events all year round and put the recordings of the speakers online, for free. The topics vary from Technology to future predictions to issues that affect humanity as people to comedians and music performances – it’s a big selection to choose from.

This is where Brené Brown comes in. She has presented at TED twice and those recordings have had over 6 million hits between them. She talks about vulnerability, courage and shame from a very human perspective. Her talks cover what makes us think we’re good enough, why some feel a sense of love and belonging and others don’t and that’s for starters. Over these two talks she condenses the results of years of study down into a few minutes, with observations and conclusions that really challenged me to think about how we interact as people in our societies today.

I think the thing that’ll stick with me the most is realising how I have two views of vulnerability. When others reveal vulnerability I’m aware of the courage it takes to do that and I feel privileged to be trusted, but when I’m faced with doing the same thing it feels like weakness, even though it’s not.

I hope these talks are as valuable to you as they have been to me.

Apr 6, 2012

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Yes, we will fix your computer

Picture of a cat inside a computer, title reads "Don't worry, I'm from tech support"

I’m a geek, I really am. I don’t blog much about the geekyness I get up to, but I’ve clocked up a decent number of hours taking computers apart, putting computers together, cleaning out viruses, making computers go faster and, of course, playing lots of games. None of this has ever been my job, but it hasn’t stopped me yet.

I use computers every day in one way or another and so do you. I provide all my own tech support, which is great for me, but I know there are lots of computers out there that could do with care and attention. So here we are.

My friends and I are running a computer fixing day for everyone in the community through our church. It will be on Saturday 28th April at Silverstream Retreat, 3 Reynolds Bach Dr, Lower Hutt. We have assembled a team of geeks who will be providing totally free tech support to you on the day. There’s also a rumour that there will be food around and a few non-geeky people too.


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The geeks will do the best they can to fix, update and speed up your computer. We even have some spare parts that were generously gifted for the event by the company I work for, Catalyst IT Ltd. So even if your computer doesn’t start you can still bring it and if your computer isn’t fixable but you need to recover the files we can help with that too. We can’t guarantee that we will fix every computer we come across, but we’re going to do our best.

Because computer fixing can take a while we’re asking people to come in the morning from 9-11am and drop their computer off and then come back between 4-5pm to pick it up. If you leave a contact number with us we can let you know if it’s ready before that. This gives us the time we may need to run updates, scan for viruses and diagnose any faults you may be having. Your computer will get a sticker so we know which is yours, it won’t get lost.

We will have plenty of keyboards, mice and monitors, so all you need to bring is the main computer, which will look something like one of the pictures below, or your laptop if that needs fixing.

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So bring up your computer from 9am-11am on Saturday 28th April and we’ll see you then :)