Lockdown Week umm 8?

Sydney is in the throws of its biggest lockdown since COVID started. I live in one of the most affected suburbs, with extra strict rules about where we can go and what we can do. So what have I been doing. And what has been keeping me sane?

Well work carries on. I’ve even had a few teaching days. But the main thing is that I’ve been getting as much two wheels as I can…

On my bike to work…

Commuting doesn’t have to be rubbish…

On my commuter bike (to the shops and around the way)…

Round the neighbourhood

I even broke out the mountain bike. I took it to work one day and tried the trails around there. It was epically terrible, I have not ridden MTB on any trails for probably 6 years and it showed…. I will have to go back again.

No one to see my failures….

D&D has also helped, with all my regular games running and a new crawl filling in for a face to face that one of the other DMs has started.

Family wise, we’ve tried to have a cheat meal once a week of ordering something in. Mostly its been nice, but unsurprisingly, the times we’ve gone to “fast food chains” they’ve been rubbish.

And we’ve built up our home gym some as well.

New Bench.

I also slept in my tent in the backyard one night. With the most recent extension, I don’t expect to get out for a trip this year, maybe just before Christmas? It will likely just be in NSW too.

More sloped than it looks made for an uncomfortable night

I hope you are all staying safe as well.

2020 – From my perspective

Really, 2020 has been an unforgettable year. Tragedy for so many and upheaval around the globe. For Australia it started with the ongoing bushfires, and then just as things were getting back to normal, the COVID crisis hit, upending everything for pretty much everyone.

I am certain that I will cop some flak for this, but to be honest for me, and I mean just me, it was actually a good year.

Professionally I had two unexpected opportunities to demonstrate my abilities and I am satisfied that I did good work. Supporting the Bushfires response and then the COVID response I got great feedback. From the bushfires, one of the executives I was working for wrote an appreciative letter to my own exec. Big plus there, though it won’t mean a promotion or a raise though. It did feel good to be appreciated in that way.

This fire broke out very close to home.

For my new profession, teaching, I graduated at the start of the year with my paperwork finally arriving in March. My accreditation with NSW was also completed and I started actually working, as a casual, one day per week for Term 4. It was great to start, and I have a lot to learn, but I also discovered that there is work there, and I am in demand. That’s again a positive for the future. Oh, and I confirmed that I enjoy it and would love to have my own classroom.

Effect of COVID

Look, my family was kind of insulated from the upheavals. My wife’s profession and mine were both required to work throughout and there was never any threat to our employment. My daughters’ schools did close for a term, but we managed their online access. Being tech savvy and having several computers and iPads, but most importantly a reliable internet connection, meant that schooling online wasn’t an issue. After being released from the COVID taskforce after a couple of months, I did do some random periods of working from home as well, and I love it. From that perspective it proved to my entire organisation that working from home, or remotely are viable depending upon your particular role.

COVID initially made the traffic very light when commuting.

None of our extended families have so far caught COVID, and most live in small rural areas, so not high risk anyway. And work wise, many of them are retired, or in school or continued to work pretty much as normal. Again, this has lessened the impact on us. I don’t know anyone personally who has had COVID.

I am very thankful for the particular circumstances that my extended family found itself in during COVID.

We did cancel a planned holiday to Hawaii. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t really wanting to go at that particular time and it was going to be a hassle with eldest’s school too. We got about 95% of our money back as well, which helped. And our planned Christmas in Philippines was not even considered. We did take a few days down the far south NSW coast, consciously staying within the state, just in case.

Bikes

Well, the first comment is not really me, but the MotoGP has been a stellar year with all sorts of things happening. Jack Miller (#43) kept me on the edge of my seat in several races. To finish with a second place in the last race and hand Ducati the constructor title was an awesome way to step across to the factory team. Outside of Jack, there was some amazing racing and epic moments.

I was a little sad when the Australian round was cancelled. I had not planned to attend this year and if it hadn’t been cancelled back in Feb (I think) it certainly would have later. However, my Mrs is happy for me to attend next year. And I have a bike that I will enjoy even more riding down there and back. I have been busy looking at different routes there and back.

And they call it a “work trip”…..

Bike wise, I got several “work trips” in and some other minor rides about the place to break up the commute. Even the commute was broken up with a total of about 4 months of commuting to the city. I do enjoy filtering past all those cars…

Filtering…. see ya suckers 🙂

The bike is running well and I have done little things to fix it up. Replacing the broken fairing piece and sorting out the OEM tail to properly mount the Givi rack were little niggles of mine. I’d still love another 50-100km from the tank, but that’s not too much drama. I don’t really have any other “jobs” left to do on it now. It’s now in better shape than when I got it, 30,000km ago.

Of course, I did miss out on getting a new one. It’s still a goal of mine, but I think it might be 2022 perhaps.

Bytes

Not a lot happened in this arena. I picked up a Surface Pro, to use for teaching of course. First laptop in a long time and first new Windows hardware in 10 years! It worked out well for a couple of teaching days already.

No, this isn’t moving away from the Apple ecosystem, but until they make a MacBook with a touch screen/pen input, I don’t see the point. Admittedly the changes they have made to iPadOS have made it significantly more useable for a work/study environment.

Sure, part of the decision to get a Surface Pro is the “new toy” in lieu of the new bike 🙂

Dungeons and Dragons went from strength to strength this year. I DM’d a regular group online and they worked they way through the Icespire Peak/Leilon modules. A (mostly) regular Friday evening group stood up as well, with different people running it and different adventures. I’ve ended up DM’ing some of those Fridays as well, kicking off an adventure based around Saltmarsh which is proving entertaining. All online through Roll20.

That has been a lot of fun, made some new friends and got back into one of my hobbies. It even saw me complete a heap of painting of miniatures too. This young green dragon came out well (mini is about 12cm wingtip-wingtip).

So I do extend my sympathies to those who have lost family or friends or who’ve had work upheavals, lost home or businesses. That’s why its with some awkwardness, I have to say that for me, 2020 was actually a good year.

Let’s hope 2021 is better for all!

Custom Nike

Running is a long way from being my favourite exercise. I don’t mind running around work as I get to run in the bush, and the views and terrain are interesting. For years I have run in a range of minimalist shoes, starting with several pairs of Vibram FiveFingers, and more recently in Merrell Trail Gloves. The common feature of these is basically zero cushioning.

However, I think partly due reduced fitness and regularity but probably also age, I’ve been feeling like going back to “normal shoes”.

Aside from these shoes, I’ve always worn Nike. I’m just stubborn that way, so my new shoes were always going to be from Nike. Currently for some models you can custom design a pair, just for you, for just an extra $20, delivered. Its a pretty cool system and you can save designs. You can change an enormous amount of the shoe and get some really wild designs. Took about 3 weeks from placing the order.

So that’s what I did and here are my bright red and black Air Pegasus 37.

(The red is more crimson than orange in real life).

But I am struggling a little in these shoes. They feel really tall and bouncy. But that’s no surprise.

The other problem is that after about 2-3km my feet ache a little in the arch. I put it down to three things…. I’ve not really gone for a run for several months. I’m running on concrete and asphalt (as I prepare for my annual run test) instead of my usual bush trails. And these shoes have actual shape in the soles, so an arch etc which the previous nearly 8 years of shoes did not. So I’m hoping after a couple more runs (it’s only been 2 so far) my feet will adjust. I still have a few weeks before my test, so I will have worn my shoes and my feet in by then.

I would love to sing the praises of these shoes, but it’s probably almost never since I had actual running shoes (that weren’t minimalist) so its hard for me to say. I am positive about them and that my feet will get used to the different style soon.

Building a Dice Box

I had absently considered getting one of these. Basically it’s a box that you keep your dice in. They also provide you a space to roll your dice in, so they don’t go all over the table (and onto the floor etc).

But wasn’t really giving it serious thought as most of my gaming is online, which includes the dice. Except as DM, I tend to roll that physically.

So with that idea floating about in the back of my head, I was in Bunnings the other day and passed through the kids craft area when I spotted this.

And then I had some inspiration.

So I took it home and broke out the kids acrylic paints.

And I was mostly happy with the result.

The whole thing is black, and I’ll paint the book’s pages some kind of off white.

I added a felt liner to soften the dice rolling. It still needs some tidying along the edges in this photo.

Next, I decided that the magnetic catch wasn’t going to be secure enough and added an extra catch on the outside.

So almost complete.

Still to do – to paint the pages, tidy the felt and decorate the spine and back. I plan to have DICE in dwarven runes along the spine, and a wireframe d20 on the rear.

Would we have stayed?

New Years Eve turned out a little more stressful than expected. We hadn’t planned a trip into the city to watch the fireworks, rather a peaceful yummy dinner at home and staying to watch the TV coverage. You only miss out on the physical part of the fireworks – the thumps and thuds of the explosions.

About 6pm I was attracted to some sirens that sounded like they were getting close. We have a main road nearby and often emergency vehicles do use it and it can sound quite close. This sounded closer so I glanced out the window to see a fire truck come up the street, heading to the bush about 15 houses down.

With the current climate, it was with some dread that I looked down the road. About 40 mins ago, the wind had changed from a light NE breeze (that was really hot) to a strong southerly (but still, really a breeze) that had already dropped us from the 40ish to low 30s. There was a strong line of smoke from the bush to the south east of our house, perhaps a km away.

This is the view from my front door. The fire is just the other side of the trees in the far background, and burning fiercely, though we didn’t know that.

From our place it was hard to see exactly how big or where the fire was. And for about the next hour it stayed pretty much as seen above. In the meantime, several fire trucks came and went and many police cars. As well as many spectators. We also got a Fire Dept warning on our mobiles to seek shelter. It sounded pretty bad.

We made some plans to leave. I started to organise some belongings while Mrs Mab called a friend to see if they could put us up. I had no plans to fight any fire, we would leave. In this densely packed suburb, there is a lot to burn, houses go up really fast (and burn well with lots of terrible smoke) and there would be no real way out. Staying would be stupid if it came to that.

After about an hour the fire was marked down to Yellow alert, so we prepared dinner. By after dinner it had become Blue, the lowest threat. Still kept an eye on it, but the wind had pushed it away. It wasn’t until we saw some news coverage of the blaze, just over the hill, that we saw what we had narrowly avoided.

This was just over the hill out of sight.
It’s amazing that this massive smoke looked so small and of little concern from our view.

The next morning the mini Mabs and I headed down the cycle path to see what we could after the fire.

What we certainly didn’t expect was for the fire to still be going and have actually come closer to our house, now perhaps 500m.

What we found the next day. The firies are just out of shot on the left.

But instead of tree height flames, these were a much less threatening hip height or less. The firies seemed to be monitoring rather than actually fighting it. However there were several spots, including at the end of a cross street only perhaps 10-15 houses away. Again, these were well attended.

So as we go into New Years Day afternoon, the fires are still burning. We have some things gathered in case we need to leave, but mostly its a watch and wait. If the wind picks up and especially if it turns more westerly, I think we might just leave.

Update: (Saturday 4th Jan). The fires continued to abate and it seems the danger has passed. Though there are still fires burning in the forest nearby, these seem to be smouldering trees that aren’t of much concern. We will see what happens today (strong winds and very high temps predicted). Monday it’s supposed to actually rain.

So what happened this year – 2019

About Bikes

Really happy with my decision to change over.

Well the Ninja has been out and about. I’ve put almost 16,000km on her this year and sees me in to the 3rd service since I picked her up, only about this time last year. I really enjoy the bike, and have been slowly tinkering to clean her up and set her up for me (like the awesome top box). I have been to Canberra twice and Newcastle once, but apart from work or commutes, there has been little in the way of fun only rides. Still she suits me well, is much better for what I do than the Daytona.

The Daytona is missed, but would likely have seen a fraction of the kms this year. I hear that almost without being ridden the new owner has sold it to a person down in Melbourne. Hopefully they will use her more.

I also rode a VFR during the year and was totally disappointed. I guess I’m now a 100kW or more rider.

I found this a disappointing ride

I would certainly love a 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 to replace this one, but I’m happy for now.

About Babes

Well I have one in High School now. A few hiccups at first, learning lessons about being responsible and planning your assignments but she seems to have settled in well, making good friends and doing well. The other is in Year 5 in 2020, which means High School too in 2022!

About Bytes

Well of course, there is the recently posted completion of BattleTech. Yay. I did enjoy that.

Lady Arano gets her throne back.

My degree is finished. I am waiting for the official results from the school, but to the best of my information, I’ve passed. I am now a fully qualified but not completely registered Primary School Teacher. Huh. That’s a bit different. (and the lack of study in no small way has contributed to the completion of Battletech!)

Just waiting for the official results

About Other Stuff

Dungeons and Dragons flashed back into my life. After a 30 year hiatus, suddenly I find myself Dungeon Master once a fortnight and ad hoc DM’ing for my daughter through an adventure. I am enjoying the distraction and my players seem to be enjoying my management. The accessibility and the ease of the current rules do help that.

And I think that’s a good summary of my year.

I am not sure where 2020 and especially 2021 will take me. I intend to slowly transition from my current employment into teaching through part time (at work) mixed with casual (at teaching) to ease into it. With the plan to switch completely in 2022. Let’s see what happens.

Smoke.

Red Sunrise (about 3 weeks ago)

This is by far the worst bushfire season I can recall. Now I know my “bushfire memory” only goes back to about 1998, but even with a few big ones in that time (like the Winmalee fire, the massive Canberra fire and one over near Holsworthy) I feel like this is worse. Because each fire is lasting a long time, there are so many at once and they started “early”.

Smoke has affected Sydney, especially Western Sydney (where I work and live) almost every day, for over 4 weeks now. Some days its not bad, but other days it’s like a thick, chocking fog. Even here, more than 40kms for the nearest fire, I’ve had ash a few cm long falling on my car and house. We’ve had fine white ash for days now.

One of the worst at the moment is the fire north of the city. It has burned through over 300,000 hectares (that’s bigger than greater Sydney) since it started over a month ago. It has merged with two other fires as well. All along several of my favourite riding routes people have been evacuated and roads closed. The Putty has been shut for almost three full weeks now. I don’t know how places like Grey Gums, the petrol at Colo Heights and other places are doing. I think that they are safe so far.

Here are the fires today (at about 2pm on Monday 9 December). The black areas are burnt or burning. The faint yellow line through the big northern black area is the Putty. Compare that fire to Sydney just below it.

I keep hoping they’ll open up and then I want to get a few fellow riders from work to go up and at least show some support. But the road stays shut.

Alongside the Putty, the road on the northern side of Wiseman’s Ferry is shut, all the way to Mangrove Mountain. The road from Broke, through Wollombi and to Bucketty is shut too.

Further away, there are fires near Canberra and Bateman’s Bay. I don’t know if any homes have been lost, but I suspect that especially in the Bay fire that some have, it’s just too close to those towns to have been able to save everything.

So the worst bushfires I can remember (and many others as well) are just going on and on. It’s only early December and the summer heat hasn’t started yet. I just hope the fireies can keep going!

Smoke and Sunset (about a week ago)
On the M4, Eastbound on Friday afternoon. I had stopped to wipe ash from my eyes. I’m about 40-50km from the fires and headed away from them!
What it usually look like compared to about 3 weeks ago. Today, this view is even MORE smokey and you cannot even vaguely see the buildings below the hill.

Review – Fitbit Charge 3

Dear Fitbit,

Look I know it’s an activity tracker, not a full on sport watch/GPS thingy, but I have a few concerns.

First up – I need a way to pause or turn off the tracking. I ride a motorcycle and this gets detected as a 35km “outside bike” in 30 mins (with no change to heart rate mind you!). This even happens when I’m not wearing it and have it in my pocket or in my backpack. Heck this would be a pretty awesome “exercise” to have stored, but it also adds floor counts and there is no way to “fix” all this data, skewing my stats for 5 days a week. Never mind the time I rode nearly 200km and this was counted too…. the Fitbit was in my bag the whole time!

Second concern – So I went for a run. It was about 10mins into the run and nothing visible on the device that it had started tracking (I later discovered it had tracked an exercise, but not the GPS). So I manually started it (and it tracked the GPS this time). And at some point it turned this off automatically. And then started to automatically attempt to track on and off a few times, I gave up. Very inconsistent.

On the plus size – it’s small, light and not too hard to read (when I have my glasses on, which isn’t when I’m running) and I like the sleep tracking (though with the earlier problems, I’m not sure it’s accurate anymore).

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone even half serious about exercise (I’m not sure that counts me in) and more for someone who needs to get up and do something and this would be a good device to track that.

It has been an interesting foray into smart devices and made me more keen on the Apple Watch I will likely replace this with soon.

Thanks

Christchurch

Every time I see news on this or read comments I get a bit choked up about it. I am not really sure why this one has affected me more than any other tragedy.

I have to say I think it’s because it’s New Zealand. While NZ is my homeland, I’ve lived away from it longer than I ever lived there. I’ve got no connections to Christchurch either. No family or friends, I’ve only been there twice for a couple of brief overnights.

I think it’s just because it’s NZ and that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen at home. I can’t make sense of it. I think it helps somewhat that the shooter was a foreigner and not a Kiwi. That would be even more dissociative for me.

I’ve been really proud of the PM and the example she’s set the world. But also the others I’ve seen in the news, even people like the Mongrel Mob and others who would normally be thought to be “outside” the community.

Anyway. I’m not really sure what’s going on but thanks for reading.

2018 in Review

I haven’t written last years review yet, so here goes.

About Bikes

Well a good year for the bikes, finishing on a dramatic change. Most of the year was commuting to work, with the odd day ride squeezed in occasionally. I managed to get my little ones out for a ride and they both enjoyed it.

Of course, there was the big adventure to the MotoGP, only 11 years since the last time. I found some fun roads, I had some great weather, I enjoyed the challenge and the solitude. The Daytona performed excellently for a bike being asked to do something the designers NEVER intended. However well it went though, it wasn’t as easy as it would have been on the VFR so I finally made the decision that was 4 years in the making.

And seemingly fate gave me the chance to swap the bike for the Ninja which I did. Though by the by the end of 2018, I was very uncertain if I had done the right thing. The Daytona was gone and the Ninja sat unridden in the garage, looking dirty and tired.

About babes

The kids… well one finished primary and is off to high school this year! They had a great year, probably they would both count the Japan trip as the highlight, I would put it a tight second after the MotoGP trip. They both enjoyed their ride around the block on the bike too.

About bytes

Well the computers this year have been almost exclusively workhorses, with my study and my girls work as well. I did tuck in to BattleTech and love that. Oh, now that study is on hold….

Oh, I did get the new iMac didn’t I – it seems like so long ago. That was like changing to a new car without even realising. It just doesn’t break down all the time like the old one, but otherwise everything looks the same. And to be honest, I don’t really notice the faster start up etc, because everything is usually open.

The Playstation got retired (faulty wireless board, still works with USB), the Wii got passed to a relative and the kids picked up a Switch. Cool little device that.

About Study

I would love to be saying I’m done, but I have one prac unit left before I graduate. And no certainty of when I will get to do it. Hopefully when I write the 2019 review I will be able say done.

BUT the main thing is that I LOVE IT. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it had it been my thing straight out of Uni, but I think that time in between and the life and experience in that time will set me on a good path to this new career, whenever it is that I actually get started.