Fourteen

Fourteen years ago, for the briefest of moments, my son was the newest member of humanity. It is weird to think that at one point, we were all the youngest humans on earth, but back in 2006, for approximately 233 milliseconds, that title was held by my son.

And while he may have quickly faded from world importance soon after, for the past fourteen years he has never strayed from being the central point for my wife and I.

I was a relatively young father, and I cannot recommend highly enough the experience of being a parent not only for the happiness it will directly bring into your life, or for the love and fulfilment that you will feel every day. But also because it helps you grow, and find direction in your own life.

Being a part of Harrison’s life is the greatest privilege. Being able to watch him grow, to guide him through life, and then watch as he develops into his own person, following his own path; it fills me with pride every day.

Today he is fourteen years old. He is at the point in his life where he is starting to choose the electives in school which will allow him to take agency of his own education like never before.  He is also training for his next black belt (that will be his 4th by the way), and the fact that he has been training as a martial artist for over a decade blows my mind!

He is a compassionate young man, always concerned about others. His creativity, curiosity, and passion for reading knows no bounds. If you give him the chance he will talk your ear off on any number of things, but he is also considerate, and takes the time to listen.

He has emerged from our recent COVID19 isolation more resilient than before, and perhaps even a millimeter or two taller than his mum (almost)!

Put simply he is my son, and while I think fatherhood is simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done, I wouldn’t change anything.

So Happy Birthday Harrison!

Dad rant complete.

Late Night Skip-Bo and the Paths Our Lives Take

Late last night playing Skip-Bo on the bed with my wife. I know there are debatably more fun things one could do on a bed with their wife, but hear me out.
Just over twelve and a half years ago my future wife re-entered my life.
Early in our relationship, I visited @minilizziebean in Melbourne and we played this game. I didn’t know anything about it, and the only instructions she had were, of all things, in German. But slowly we garnered what we could from the manual, combined with her memories, and figured out how to play the game. And we had a blast!
It is only now, reflecting on this, that I can see so much of our lives, or anyone’s life in general, can be mirrored in this early experience.
There is no manual for life, but there are clues. There are hints in the lives we observe, be it our parents, siblings, friends, or even the fictional lives that furnish our days. Sometimes in life you think you know what you are doing, but then suddenly everything seems like it’s written in German. Similar to English perhaps, some hints of words you understand, but also a smattering of strange dots and consonants. Sometimes you know there is a structure to things, but it only starts falling together once you get out there and give things a go.
The path that our lives have taken since that day has been anything but simple, and not always in the direction that I would have imagined it going in years before. But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because all the pieces that have fallen into place so far are precious things that have become a part of who I am.
Go back thirteen years and I would never have imagined that a woman as wonderful as my wife would ever see anything in me worth looking twice at. Indeed, the only reason I had the courage to go up and talk to her on the night we met was because I was certain she was so assuredly out of my league that there was no need to be nervous. Rejection was a given, so why not just have a chat?
Flash forward to today and not only have my many character faults failed to drive her away, but we are fast approaching a decade of married bliss, and even managed to raise one pretty damn cool little son in the meantime.
Sure, we have faced challenges together along the way; life isn’t easy. We are facing challenges this very day.
But the point of all this, and the card game session (pictured above) that started this whole post, is that sometimes it’s good just to put aside your concerns, your adult worries, and remember that life is a series of moments. You might not know where it is going, or if you are doing the right thing, but that’s ok. Live in the now, enjoy a simple game with the person you love most. Life is short, but it’s the longest thing you’ll ever do.
So, thanks for playing this game with me @minilizziebean. Thanks for introducing it to me, for playing it with me, and for continuing to make my life the remarkable adventure that it is every day.

Thoughts on Heartland of Manga: Tokyo and San Francisco by Craig Atkinson

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[Full Disclosure: I know the author of this book, he is a childhood friend of my sisters. And while I would argue that this hasn’t influenced my opinion of the book, it is definitly the reason why this book was made known to me.]

Heartland of Manga: Tokyo and San Francisco  is a small collection of pieces written by Craig Atkinson, an Aussie expat living in Japan.

This book is not the kind of read I usually fill my nights with. Indeed the best thing I can relate it to on my bookshelf is a book purchased years ago by Tim Winton. But sometimes it is great to slip out of your comfort zone, and really embrace something new and different.

I like being transported to different worlds. This is in part why I love reading science fiction so much; to imagine strange new worlds, concepts, or technologies, and see how they would play out in reality. But a good book can obviously be about more than just some currently unattained reality. As one of my friends once remarked to me online, “Books teach us about the years we didn’t/will never live“, and this book does exactly that.

It gives me an insight into parts of the world I have ever been, cultures I haven’t encountered, and viewpoints i had never glimpsed before. It made me look up what a Golden Week was, and wonder what exactly people were eating when they tucked into some yakisoba.

Some of the vignettes are probably first hand accounts, retellings of Craig’s experiences over the years, but others seem to be fictional sorties brought about due to his experiences out in the world. Two such stories tell the contrasting viewpoints of a simple silent encounter in the Japanese night. A small flicker in time between two people, whose inner thoughts are brought to life. I liked how the writing captures the little things in life that tell so much about ourselves, but that go unsaid:

The type of conversation that would last for hours if verbalized, but when it’s unspoken like this, it only lasts a few seconds.

One of my favourite chapters is simply titled Baseball, and describes a local match taking part in Japan. The narrator casually explains what he sees around him, whether it be a description of the current game, the season, or the people surrounding him; slowly a picture is painted of what it would be like to be there. But also you get little insights into life, like the following observation of a family that had attended the game:

The game seems to have brought the family a little closer together. That closeness was not something that could have been bought for the small price of a few tickets in the outfield, but with something money can’t buy: time.

So true. So obvious, and yet it was a thought that I hadn’t really taken he time (heh) to really absorb.

I am a big fan of saving quotes on my kindle, especially when they ring true for my past experiences, or offer some insight into life in general. In the following quotes I can see a reflection of myself at certain points in my life, and it is always bracing to see fiction hold a mirror up to your psyche, if only to have the opportunity to empathise, and reflect:

I think loneliness can sometimes be manageable when surrounded by familiarity.

If he had the courage to do what he wanted, to live unrestrained, how life might be different.

And lastly, in a self referential kind of way, this quote sums up my feelings about this little read:

(…)like a good book, that even when you reach the last page, you still search for a hidden chapter until you realize the story is complete and embedded in your soul.

I did want more, and I hope in the future I will find a few more reads coming my way.

MM

Spirit on the Spirit of Tasmania

Ok, so some people may know that my family and I were on the recent Spirit of Tasmania voyage that lost a man overboard.

I don’t want to sensationalise things, or try and make this a thing about myself, but after having this experience, I do want to say a couple of things on the subject.

One thing that I say to my son as often as I can when bad things happen is that I believe people are inherently good. It may be naive, but that is what I think. And I love the fact that this view gets vindicated so often; time and time again. Sure there are horrible examples of people doing terrible things, but these are the outliers, and I would argue that the bulk of humanity are good decent people.

So when the alarm sounded on-board last night, and people drifted drearily yet urgently toward the mass meeting at the rear of the Spirit of Tasmania, it would have been easy to imagine people being irritated, or annoyed at such an upset to their plans. But when people began to understand the nature of the situation, and that it was someone’s life possibly on the line it was amazing to see everyone come together in solidarity.

No one was complaining; no one appeared irritated. There was a solemn atmosphere as everyone’s thoughts were clearly with the man overboard, and the rescuers putting their lives at risk to help (one of whom was apparently injured).

People are inherently good.

What’s more, you hear a lot about people alleging our current selfie generation, and how people are all too keen to snap a photo, or click a button, rather than engage in something truly human. Yet when there were lights spotted out the windows, and people could see the rescue vehicles going about their job trying to provide essential assistance, there was no flurry of cameras, there were no extended arms trying awkwardly to get cameras far enough to include their owners faces in the frame. People were interested yes, people looked on, and passed on information to those around them. But it wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t for them; it was for others.

People are inherently good.

After nearly three hours sitting in our makeshift meeting area, when we would all have preferred to be sleeping in our undulating cabins, nary a complaint was heard. People were worried, people may have been scared, but they were nevertheless united in an understanding that no matter what inconvenience might have befallen us that night, it paled in comparison to whatever was taking place on the roiling seas below, and the impact it would have on other peoples lives.

People are inherently good.

In those seas below was yet another sign of people lending a hand. Two freighters joined the search, circling in a makeshift flotilla of hope. The second Spirit of Tasmania halted its journey back to Melbourne to lend a hand, and remained there until early this morning. The crew had earlier asked for help in spotting the man in need of rescue, scores of hands rose instantly in the air.

People are inherently good, and though this was undoubtedly a terrible event, a horrible night on the Bass Strait that appears to ultimately have ended with a life lost. It nevertheless reinforced in my mind the fact that us humans are deep down a decent bunch. We care about others we don’t know, we are willing to put aside ourselves when others are in need, and we do it all instinctively.

People are inherently good.

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Thoughts on my Apple Watch

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Look at this bland Apple Watch-less wrist. Look at the pale mark showing where it once was; this is what I have been looking at multiple times throughout the day. All because I left my watch at home, for the first time in almost a year. And I have to say, I feel it absence.

People often ask me if I think the Apple Watch was worth it, or what necessary function it performs. Usually I don’t put much thought into my response because, well, I didn’t make an informed decision about what this watch was for when I bought it. I just wanted it. I wanted the awesome gadget; I wanted to feel that feeling of having a bit of the future in my hands, like I did back in 2010 when I was an early adopter of the iPad (which people often questioned the usefulness of also).

So for me the Apple Watch didn’t really have to prove itself to me, I was just excited at getting it. At the novelty it provided. But now, being apart from it for the first time in a long time, I can actually start to evaluate its usefulness in my regular quotidian existence.

While I don’t think the Apple Watch represents as significant of a shift in the way we view digital information as the iPad did, I can definitely say, after this mere eight hours without it on my wrist, that it has a place in my life.

So much of how I deal with my phone, and the information I get, seems like a chore without my watch.

  • What’s the time? I guess I will have to pull out my phone.
  • What was that buzz in my pocket? Better unlock my phone and have a look.
  • How much money do I have for lunch? Please wait a moment while I dig into my pocket.
  • What’s the temperature? Siri can tell me, but I used to just have to turn my wrist.

Now yeah, I get it, it is a lazy thing. It is an indulgence, a first world luxury. So it makes getting my notifications easier, big deal; life isn’t about notifications.

But you know what, for some pretty important parts of my life, it is.

My wife and son are in Melbourne for a visit to the eye doctors after surgery last week, and so every beep and buzz of my phone leaves me feeling anxious that this is the news I have been waiting for. So far all day it hasn’t been, but I have had to check my phone each time just to see.

Plus what is life about really? I don’t think any of us can claim to know with any confidence

But one thing I know for certain about life is that it is finite. We only have so much time to experience the world we live in, so many hours to spend with the people we love. The philosopher Seneca spoke about the shortness of life; “It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much”. My Apple Watch saves me time, and for me that is good enough.

#AppleWatch #FirstWorldProblems

A Conspicuously Stellar Morning

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This morning’s walk to work was nice.

Turning a corner I was struck by how bright the sun was. I know it’s a stupid thing, after all I see the sun every day (well this is Ballarat, so at least an approximation of the sun on some cloudy days). But nevertheless, it should be a mundane experience by now; to turn a corner and find yourself in the rays of our local star should not offer any new impressions. But today seemed somewhat different.

The sun was low in the sky. It was morning like I said. Low but brilliant. Streams of photons transferred their energy to me, ending their 499 light seconds travel through the inner solar system by increasing my skins temperature ever so slightly. It is an amazing thing to consider. I who is made of what once was a star, now absorb a new stars energy. An awesome cosmic experience.

The reason why I am describing this in such terms is because this morning the sun really felt like a star to me. Often we forget our true place in the solar system. Hurtling around a star which is in itself orbiting the centre of the galaxy, and so on as we were once told by Eric Idle. We forget these astronomical truths because we have evolved not only as a species, but also as a culture, with a set view of life on this planet. We adopt things like the curvature of the earth as a flat plane on which our experiences lie, and figure it the truth. Likewise, we talk of the sun rising, or setting, or moving in the sky, and somehow lose sight of the fact that it is our relative movement around the sun, and the earth’s rotation on its axis, that cause these illusory appearances.

Sure we know these as facts, but the quotidian nature of all this often numbs us to the reality.

“You realize the sun doesn’t go down,

 It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round” – The Flaming Lips

But something about the sun this morning, its place in the sky, its brilliance, seemed stellar. It seemed different than usual. More than just the light from above, more than just the thing that delineates day from night. The sun was suddenly there to me, in all its glory. A great ball of hydrogen and helium millions of kilometres away: A massive fury of nuclear reactions.

I think it was simply the position in the sky that did it. Usually you can walk around at ease without any actual view of the sun. We evolved it seems to focus on horizons, and on things close by; our primate ancestors needed this to be the centre of their visual world, because this was where the danger was most likely to come from (or where the good times would hopefully happen). So the sun, traversing its daily arc across the sky, simply wasn’t as important. Sure it may be in there, perhaps at the apex of your vision; but you don’t notice it.

When I turned that corner I couldn’t help but notice it. I had to squint. The sun isn’t that big in the sky really; you can blot it out with a thumb extended the length of your arm. But this mornings sun commanded my attention.

Maybe there was more to it than just the physical effects in order for such a humdrum thing to stick in my mind so. Maybe I am remembering this so vividly because of how it made me feel; because of my state of mind at the time. I don’t know. But on a dreary day, when you are walking away from your home to a job that you aren’t all that excited to be going to, the arrival of a literal ray of sunshine in your life can help change your perspective. it reminds you that the world isn’t just a machine to house the cog that is you; rather it is a world that you are living in. There are things out there greater than you, but you are alive to experience them; and that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, I don’t know if this post has done much to interest anyone, or to convey the experience as I felt it, but a part of me was inspired and just had to write something.

Cheers. MM

My LinkedIn Summary

LinkedIn, the professionals social network (or the job recruiters way of cheating) is something I have a somewhat mixed feeling toward. I am usually one of the first to adopt a new social network or online service, but the fact that LinkedIn seeks to deal with my career (a part of my life I am less than happy with); my relationship with it has never been like that of my friendship with Twitter, or begrudging association with Facebook.

So while I keep up with LinkedIn as much as I can, accepting connections requests, endorsing skills, following ‘influencers’ and what have you; it still kind of bugs me when I visit.

It think the main reason is the constant nudging for more information, but specifically information about your career, ambitions and so forth. it’s a bit disconcerting when you still haven’t nailed down those parts of your life. But today, after the fifth time of being asked to add a summary, I decided to give it my best go.

So here it is, my LinkedIn summary:

A summary of who I am is the strangest thing I could ever think of writing; and I like writing strange things! How am I meant to summarise something that I don’t even fully understand yet?
I’m just a regular guy. Tried to get an education early on, studied in Engineering. Later on got a maths and statistics degree. Was lucky enough to find a beautiful wife to share my life with early on, and now have an awesome son sharing the journey with us.
I like to write, and obversly to read. I enjoy solving problems, love delving into the world of mathematics, and can make Excel do almost anything I want (from creating my own metric clock, emulating a German enigma machine, and tracking my daily beer intake until it got a bit disturbing and I had to stop).
The world fascinates me. I love learning about the natural world, watching David Attenborough keep doing his work after what must be a century of narration. I enjoy reading about the past, present, and future. Hearing how humankind is developing and making the world a better place excites me.
I am a certified Lego master from back in the day (when I conferred the title upon myself), and have developed this ability to build well into adulthood so that I have now build two decks for my house, among many other handy man jobs.
But really, I don’t know if this is a summary of me, I am just someone doing their best with the time I have. I’m just a guy who likes thinking about stuff, likes doing things, and is insanely grateful to be able to live a life where I have people who love me, and put up with my crap jokes.
P.s. I know obversly isn’t a word, but I totally think it should be, and the way I would define it makes perfect sense in the context I used it.
P.p.s. I don’t care what’s going on, I won’t tuck in my shirt or wear a tie; I just don’t see the point. Oh and I wear glasses.
Bam.

Oh, and if for some reason, someone out there is actually reading this and is interested; here is the link to my LinkedIn profile.