Wednesday 31 December 2014

Assassin's Creed: Unity

Book 27 of 2014 is Assassin's Creed: Unity by Oliver Bowden.

I bought this book at the airport in Darwin and mostly read it on the four hour flight to Sydney. I love entertaining easy reads on airplanes and this was easy. That was about all it was.

As someone who hasn't played the game, I thought it sounded like a fun adventure book placed in the centre of the French Revolution. The idea isn't bad at all but like most bad stories, they had no idea how to wrap up the book without making a man save a woman.

They have a good strong female protagonist and it finishes in a way that makes her look stupid and irrational, even after 400 of 460ish pages of making her out to be so strong and driven.

1 Templar traitor out of 5.

Should I read this? Don't read this. I know, I know, I shouldn't have expected anything.
What did I learn? Computer games and books about them have no idea about women.

Saturday 27 December 2014

The Snow Queen

Woo hoo! I have reached my goal of 26 books for the year. Of those 26 books, 12 were audio books. Audio books have been a new experience for me and one that I've had to adapt to because your brain works completely differently when you read a book to when you listen to one. It has given my eyes a break and allowed me to hear stories I already knew through someone else's reading. It is true that I mainly used audio books to re-read some of my favourite books.

Book 26 of 2014 is a free audio book as a Christmas present from Audible. I recommend Audible US because it has many more titles than the Aussie site. Shoosh, don't tell them I live here.

The book was The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, read by Julia Whelan who was Audible's narrator of the year.

This a story I know very well from my childhood and has been one of the reasons I have avoided Disney's version - Frozen. They never tell a story the way it was written and tend to make the women weak and the animals sing.

This is worth the read or the listen. I'd recommend that if you read it in Darwin that you do so with the air conditioner on full.

4 evil shards of glass out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. It is delightful.
What did I learn? People are not evil. They just have shards of evil glass in them.

The Brothers Karamazov

Book 25 of 2014 is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

It is secret that I love the Russian authors and this book did not disappoint me. Although I had to stop several times and read other books in between, I enjoyed the soul challenging ideas contained within.

Although I am not a religious person, I loved the discussions and ideas around free will and our human mortality. There were a few chapters that left me lying on my bed staring at the ceiling pondering the purpose of life in the context of me, me, me.

Lines like...

"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love."

"I love mankind, he said, "but I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular."

"The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward."

4.5 brothers out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Just read it. Make it one of your 101 to read before you die.
What did I learn? The Russian authors embarrassed us in our own language.

Maze Runner Series

Books 22 (Maze Runner), 23 (The Scorch Trials) and 24 (Death Cure) of 2014 are the Maze Runner series by James Dashner.

In the post apocalyptic tradition of the Hunger Games and Divergent, Dashner gave us a group boys trapped in a giant maze trying to work out why they are there and how to escape.

The main difference between this series and the other two is that the whole experience is seen through the eyes of a 16 year old boy. The writing and thinking is obviously aimed at young men and was quite interesting to experience. It showed strength and vulnerability when I expected whinging and angst.

This series was hard to put down but that was after I got through the first book which was painfully drawn out at times. If you can make it through the Maze Runner (book one) then you will enjoy the whole journey. Each book follows are path but adds great characters and scarier and scarier monsters.

It is an easy read so do have a read.

It is an entertaining 4 right turns out of 5 in a maze.

Should I read this? If you enjoyed the Hunger Games and Divergent then this is a series for you.
What did I learn? To a young man, friendship is the more important than anything else. Even more so than girls and maybe even your life.

Friday 26 December 2014

Self Destruction and other Bloody Games

It is hard to explain to another person what it feels like to look at yourself in the mirror each day and see your eye droop and a scar running through the middle of you face.

People tell you that they can not notice the difference but you can.

I've seen angry people, broken people and odd people with scars. I often wondered if you could see the scars in them, on them. Sometimes, I will double take and realise that they have no physical scar and then I wonder what I saw.

My biggest concern in life is the baggage that I carry and trying to not let me ruin all that comes in the future. Even with each improvement, it feels like trying to use only my body and physical strength to stop an 80 carriage freight train that is committed to its momentum.

Since being mugged, I can not seem to control the anger inside me. It isn't usually aimed at others but is more inward and destructive. Self destructive. It can not be avoided or reasoned with. It can not be placated or understood, no matter how much therapy I do.

This is something that I must get through. It is a monsoonal storm.

All that happens to me is my responsibility. All that I do to others is mine to own. All that I am, I am.

How does one reconcile the breaks they see in themself? How do I know that the scars I see in the mirror are actually physical if others don't notice them? How do I make it through the storm or stop the train or forgive myself for the brokenness of it all?

I don't know the answers. I just keep on keeping on.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Just a thought

It must be your skin I'm sinking in
It must be for real 'cause now I can feel
And I didn't mind
It's not my kind
It's not my time to wonder why

Everything's gone white
And everything's gray
Now you're here now you're away
I don't want this
Remember that
I'll never forget where you're at

Don't let the days go by


I'm never alone
I'm alone all the time
Are you at one or do you lie?
We live in a wheel
Where everyone steals
But when we rise it's like strawberry fields

If I treated you bad
You bruised my face
Couldn't love you more
You got a beautiful taste

Don't let the days go by

Could have been easier on you
I couldn't change though I wanted to
Should have been easier by three
Our old friend fear and you and me


Don't let the days go by


Don't let the days go by



Black moon white again
Black moon white again
And she falls around me

I needed you more
When we wanted us less
I could not kiss just regress
It might just be
Clear simple and plain
Well, that's just fine
That's just one of my names

Don't let the days go by
Could've been easier on you, you, you



Monday 1 December 2014

14 Months of Me

Yes, yes, it can be argued that I already live a life that is all about me but this has not actually been completely true.

Over the last few years, I have spent a lot of time building my network and reestablishing my place in my profession in order to negate the depression destruction of it.

This has meant saying yes to other people and for the benefit of other people. I want to refocus on me.

My goal is to continue to extend my knowledge about a lot of things and also keep improving my brain. I want to write more, read more and sleep more alongside getting fit again.

Since the beginning of November 2014, I have put the following actions in to place and intend to continue this until at least the end of 2015. Yes, 14 months.

Now I do these things without fail...

  • Get in to bed at 10PM and sleep within 30 minutes;
  • Quit Facebook and other useless time wasting activities;
  • Continue with my habit of reading one book a fortnight;
  • Don't use the Internet after 9PM and before 8AM;
  • Say yes to things I've never done before but only if they improve me as a person;
  • Write at least one thing every single week;
  • Have no more than one night out a week;
  • Do at least three sessions of strenuous exercise per week; and
  • Only allow acquaintances in my work life and not my personal life.
So far, so good. I have a lot more time for self improvement and to achieve my goals.

2015 will be fricken fantastic! I will accept no less.

I broke up with the Facebook because it just wasn't useful

A week ago, I looked at how I use the Internet weekly, daily and hourly. It looked like this:

  • Facebook - hourly in that I at least looked at notifications and would share and post a lot other times;
  • Blogger - once a month to post a blog post or two, usually about reading or geek stuff;
  • Twitter - daily in order to find articles on topics I care about;
  • Google+ - every second or third day to read topics I'm interested in and for sharing interesting articles;
  • Flickr - weekly to upload pictures from my life that I want to share with loved ones;
  • LinkedIn - every second or third day to find interesting things to read and participate in discussion groups. Also share interesting reading I have found and think others will like;
  • Work email - week days at work but not outside work; and
  • gmail - once or twice a day max and mainly for dealing with job related stuff.

Then I read a quote from Jason Yip on Twitter that said...

Worry less about "Are my feelings / Is my behaviour justified?"; worry more about "Are my feelings / Is my behaviour useful?".

That one tweet made me stop and reassess so much of who I am and what I currently do. So, I asked myself: When I use the Internet is my interaction useful?
  • Facebook - No;
  • Blogger - Yes;
  • Twitter - Yes;
  • Google+ - Sometimes;
  • Flickr - Yes;
  • LinkedIn - Yes;
  • Work email - Absolutely; and
  • gmail - Yes.
It took me less than ten minutes to then decide that I would do the following things:
  • Stop using Facebook immediately and then delete my account if I didn't use it for 3 months;
  • Remove Facebook, Twitter and Google+ apps from my phone and other mobile devices; and
  • Log out of Twitter and Google+ and only log in when I explicitly wanted to use them.
For the first two days after stopping using it, I kept coming back to the same feelings and asked myself if the resulting reaction would be useful...
  • Should I tell someone what I'm doing or feeling? Yes, but more specific people and not Facebook; and
  • Should I check to see if anyone has sent me a message? No, they will contact me on my phone or via email if they need me.
After the initial habit change left me nervous and a little anxious, it all passed. Yes, I still use all the other sites with more intent than I did in the past but I don't use Facebook and I feel no need to.

Later on, I will write a more detailed post about why Facebook has irked me for the last 6-9 months and how that has aided in my persistence to not return. This is not the post for it. Again, would it be useful?

Wish me luck and if you can't find me online, you can find me on the end of a telephone.

Sunday 16 November 2014

The Monogram Murders

Book 21 of 2014 is The Monogram Murders NOT by Agatha Christie but by Sophie Hannah.

This is the first Hurcule Poirot novel that the Christie family has officially approved.

Having read every Agatha Christie novel ever before I was 18, I was very excited about this when I found it in the new books section of the ABC Shop.

Although the story is very much like a Hercule Poirot story, it was told with contempt for the little Belgian detective. Christie described him brutally sometimes but you knew she loved this character. The same love was not evident in this story.

It was ok and did keep me engaged. Each day at work, I'd be looking forward to going home so I could read more of the book. That is a real page turner but not a genuine Poirot page turner unfortunately.

My little great cells give this 3.5 murders in a hotel out of 5.

Should I read this? Absolutely, if you love Agatha Christie's Belgian detective. Let me know what you think.
What did I learn? That criticism can come across for contempt if you don't truly love your character.

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Wizard of Oz

Book 20 of 2014 is from the BFI Film Classics series and is a review by Salman Rushdie of the movie The Wizard of Oz. I'd call this an essay, more than a book but my only criteria to satisfy something is a book is if it looks like a book and quacks like a book.

In 69 pages, Salman Rushdie reviews the movie The Wizard of Oz in a way that has changed, ruined and enhanced my view of it.

He does this as the first part of a series of essays commissioned for a project by the National Film and Television Archive in the UK. This was before DVDs and IMDB and was a way of deconstructing and reviewing 360 classic movies by great minds of the time. When Rushdie looked through the list, he chose Oz as one of his favourite places as a child and decided to write about this movie.

Like anything you love that is deconstructed and discussed, some of the magic disappears but Rushdie's passion for the film and shared discovered facts compensate greatly.

The thing I did like the most was finding that this essay inspired Gregory Maguire's Wicked. I love the Oz world and Wicked continued for me, as this essay has extended it for me.

At the end of this essay, the author writes a fantastical story about the futuristic auctioning of the famous and obviously magical Ruby Slippers from the movie. There is a great quote that seems quite apt in this time...

"We, the public, are easily, lethally offended. We have come to think of taking offence as a fundamental right. We value very little more highly than our rage, which gives us, in our opinion, the moral high ground. From this high ground we can shoot down at our enemies and inflict heavy fatalities. We take pride in our short fuses. Our anger elevates, transcends. 

Salman Rushdie. At the auction of the ruby slippers. 
In: East, West. Vintage, 1995."

I give this a brain, a heart and some courage out of 5. Yes, that's a 3.5.

Should I read this? Read this if you love The Wizard of Oz movie. It would mean nothing otherwise.
What did I learn? Toto was female and her name was Terry.

Saturday 25 October 2014

A Room of One's Own

Book 19 of 2014 is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

I've only read a couple of Virginia Woolf books and I love the way she writes. She is a born story teller who paints pictures with words. Now I know that she writes like a "woman-manly." Or was it a "man-womanly"? Either way, it makes her voice unique in a crowd where she is a minority.

This book/essay/speech is one of the most relevant (yes, even now) books that I woman can read.

Of late, life has had me wondering where I belong and what the whole damn point of it is. Belonging is important but it is more than that. The feeling was more about how I belong in a world where I can not see anyone like me. That was my mistake.

There may not be people who look like me everywhere but there are people who think like me, both men and women. This book was like taking a giant sigh after a very long week ends. She said it perfectly.

It is only 112 pages and if you can't do that then at least read the last chapter. She is brilliant. Just that.

I give it 5 revelations without bitterness out of 5.

Should I read this? Women should. Secure men should. Others will not be impressed that someone let her out of the kitchen.
What did I learn? “I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”

Monday 6 October 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Book 18 of 2014 is one that i have read twice now. It is a favourite and often fits in to certain contexts in my life.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the Milan Kundera book that you must read.

I most identify with Sabina and have been told she is dysfunctional. Maybe she is but boy does she look hot in a bowler hat.

I give it 4.5 extra-martial affairs out of 5.

Should I read this? Absolutely. A classic that you must consume, at least once.
What did I learn? Love is totally and absolutely unique to who you are. Let no one dictate otherwise.

Building Scalable Web Sites

The 17th book of 2014 is Building Scalable Web Sites by Cal Henderson.

I read this because a developer I really respect at Thoughtworks recommended it. The reviews I read ripped it to pieces with comments like "I already know this" and "well yeah, duh." I still read it.

Once thing that you have to do as a lead is understand concepts so well that you can explain and teach it to other people. The thing I've seen a lot is that people dismiss the small things, the concepts that matter and talk about big ideas while not understanding where it all comes from.

This book is a great way to understand the basic concepts and teach you how to teach others. It talks about where no mainstream software engineering concepts come from in a way that fills all the gaps.

If you want to claim you are a great senior software engineer then read this with a little humility. I will guarantee you learn something. Or at least learn how to teach it.

I'd give it 3.5 checkins out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Anyone who intends to lead a software team should read this whether they are technical of not.
What did I learn? Humility and the ability to articulate what is in your giant brain.

A Rightful Place

Book 16 of 2014: A Rightful Place is a Quarterly Essay by Noel Pearson. The Quarterly Essay is a series of four essays a year written by current key Australians.

After reading this, I wrote Noel Pearson an email. It went...

"Hello Mr Pearson,

I have never written to anyone of worth before so forgive any mistakes I make.

I just finished reading your Quarterly Essay. I am not indigenous to this country. In fact, I am half Australian and half Papua New Guinean but I write you all the same. There is something to not belonging that I empathise with when I read what you wrote. Something raw and true.

Having never been a fan of yours, it surprised me how much I understood what you said.

You see, I grew up on Palmerston in the Northern Territory in the mid 80s to 90s. My school was less than a quarter white and that didn't seem odd to me. We used the word budju as a compliment and c*nt as a disgrace. I even still return to my parents house speaking in that manic drawl that is Darwin. There is a part of me that is goanna cooked over a fire and peanut flavoured grubs out of trees.

When I read you essay, I found a way to articulate and (sadly because it is required) defend the people I grew up with. The most amazing and ancient culture we have on earth.

I lost respect for Darwin (again) and Dickens (for the first time) and got teary at your conclusion.

I write this email because I'd like to thank you for saying it so well. For articulating your plight in a way others haven't before or maybe not so well.

You won me over, sir.

I live in Canberra. If I can ever buy you dinner and have a conversation, I would be honoured.

Damana Madden - a black Darwin girl"

I'd give it 4 non-racist remarks out of 5.

Should I read this? If you get a chance, read this. As an Australian, you should.
What did I learn? There is a way to help our first people but it means giving them control over their life and not just participation in the process.

Friday 26 September 2014

Leave it better than when you found it

I will always post too many quotes, too many pictures of cats doing cat things, too many shots of food as I make people wait to eat, too many posts of shoes and possibly too many photos of myself. You will hear my happiness most of the time but sometimes my sadness, my contemplation, my exasperation and my wonder. There will be inane questions and tipsy checkins. Maybe shallow ponderings and epics revelations. Some days I will make you cringe and other days I will make you smile.

Either way, this is me. We do this once. Just once. Really, only once. I shall do it my way. If you can live with that then... good. If not, so be it. I gave up on cool when I was 12 years old and have been happy ever since. Now, I just want to be kind to myself and those I care about. Let everything be what it is and be ok with that. Own my choices and their consequences. Live the best life I can while treading carefully.

That is me.

The Imagination of Readers

From a book I adore...

“After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer’s breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as they do for the writer - perhaps more.”

- Jasper Fforde, The Well of Lost Plots

Saturday 6 September 2014

Being Born a Woman

“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.”

Sylvia Plath

Something Broke

At the beginning of August, I was mugged. Violently and viciously.

I sat on a cold hospital emergency department bed for six hours trying to stay awake as they observed my concussion. As a kid, I remember having a concussion but that isn't what I remember. It happened when I high-sided on a push bike. There was this almost eternal moment as my body flew over the handle bars and in to the concrete, face first. That's what I remember. Not the details of the concussion but the details of the accident that caused it.

The whole mugging thing was very different to that childhood bike accident. It is remembered the other way around.

Since the mugger ran up behind me, I had no idea that it was coming. There was no anticipation and the associated fear flashbacks that come with that. It happened so fast that even as he pushed me to my knees and slammed my face in to the ground, I didn't have time to put my hands out to stop myself. 

One second I was standing. The next I was wiping blood out of my eyes.

In the 20-30 seconds it took the first person to come to my aid, my emotions ran from shock to terror and then to anger. Not anger as I thought I had known once or twice in my life but an irrational overwhelming anger that made me scream, swear like  a potty mouth and attack my attacker.

I hope to never feel that level of anger ever again in my life. It was accompanied by thoughts including telling myself that if he was going to rape me that he would have to knock me unconscious and I would fight him until he knocked me out. Luckily, it didn't come to that.

Fighting him was not a rational or aware thought. It was fight or flight and I couldn't get up off the ground with him standing on my stomach and pulling at my bag. In my normal mind, I would have let him take it but in this case I used his holding the bag as leverage to kick the hell out of him.

The oddest part of all of this is that I feel mortal. I always have but now I feel a raw kind of mortal. And I don't want to die because someone else decides it or because I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time or because of some disease. I want to die when I choose to.

I have never felt more sure of anything before. No one chooses how I live and no one chooses how I die.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Divergent - Insurgent - Allegiant

Books 13, 14 and 15 of 2014 are the Divergent trilogy.

The first book is Divergent, which has recently been made in to a movie. The movie is a shallow interpretation of the book. The first book is both good and bad. It is not the original tale that everyone claims it is but more a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

It is however easy to read and very entertaining.

Unlike Katniss Everdeen, Tris (the main protagonist) is a little too caught up in teenage love and self absorbtion for me. She does improve rapidly in the second and third books though so it is worth persisting.

The second book of the trilogy, Insurgent is less about action and more about character development. I actually wish they'd taken the time for that in the first book. It worries me that people will not continue on through the whole story because the first book is a little shallow. The second book makes it worth it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the middle book more than the first and last. I've only ever felt that with Lord of the Rings. Think Helm's Deep.

Then the third in the series, Allegiant made me sad and happy. Finally, a story that ends in a non-Hollywood way and concretes this as a possible stayer for years to come.

Without giving too much away, I will say that this series is worth reading. It is dystopian, aimed at teenagers and therefore easy to consume and a gripping plot to keep you engaged.

I'd give it 3.5 punches in the face out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. it is good fiction and entertaining.
What did I learn? "Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other."

Thursday 28 August 2014

When Depressed, Don't Be Strong For Others

I was mugged at 10:30pm-ish on a Tuesday night. An ambulance took me to hospital. I spent 6 hours sitting on a bed being observed for concussion. Not allowed to sleep. Not up for bothering anyone to tell them I was there. Not overly fussed about anything other than my iPhone going flat. Gawd, it got boring.

At 4:30am, I was allowed to leave. Still an outpatient in ED meant that I didn't even need to sign any paperwork. Just called a taxi and went home.

When I arrived home just before 5am, I facebooked that I had been violently mugged and had only now returned home. Then I crashed. Exhausted, I fell in to a deep sleep fully unaware of how many people were panicking. 100+ missed called and 212 text messages greeted me when I awoke on Wednesday morning.

As I scrolled through the plethora of contact, the phone rang. I hit ignore. Another person called, I ignored that too. Then my sister called. A single thought ran through my mind... "she won't make this about her. I won't have to make her feel better about this having happened to me."

That summed up the entire morning. I didn't have the energy to make other people feel ok about me being mugged. I'm sure they were calling because they cared but they were also calling for themselves.

I didn't have the strength to tell them how ok I was. To tell them how I'd be ok. To not cry or let them hear the waver in my voice. I just couldn't give that at the time.

It reminded me of something. When you are going through things, some people will come to you to find out if you are ok but they want you to say yes you are. They want to hear that it will all be ok and mostly for themselves. They aren't selfish or mean. They just can't see passed what they feel to what you are going through.

When this happens, you have every right to choose not to give them anything. You are within your rights to not give them the little you have left to let them know you are ok. Don't answer the phone to everyone. Answer to at least one person who won't make it about them. They are a valuable friend because they won't take from you.

It is ok to give that energy you have to yourself.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Retrospection brings Revelations

My mate Jim and I are doing Dry July. At a sober dinner and subsequent Koko Black chocolate inhalation session tonight, we had a mini retrospective. I just realised that it has only been 2.5 years since I moved out of my parent's house. I'd spent 3 years prior suffering clinical depression. It was so bad that my mother gave me two tasks in the day that were all I had to achieve: Make my bed and check the mail box for mail. Those two things would exhaust me. Some days I couldn't do one or both and I'd sob at my failure. Some days, I'd do both and we'd celebrate the success.
When I left Darwin at the very end of 2011, I wasn't quite sure if I'd be able to feed myself, work an entire 5 day week or stop myself crying if I ever started. Since then my failures have been vast but all lessons learnt. My heart has been broken once since but it kept beating. My brain chemistry has kicked my arse several times and I kicked it back.
I don't cry randomly anymore though. I don't wish to die. I pay my own bills and cook my own meals. I finally forgave myself for not being perfect. These are major achievements for me.
It has only been 2.5 years and I'm functioning quite well now. Even I'm impressed.
Thanks, Jim. You made me articulate it. This isn't an affirmation. This is surprise and pride mixed with slightly too much chocolate.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Confusion and Coffee

I often feel like an appropriate mix of comfortable conformism and antisocial complacent genius.

There is a constant struggle in my head around what I expect for myself and what I am not thoroughly convinced others want me to be. The latter is mostly imagined but it is still there. It doesn't make me change too much of who I am but more acts like a voice in my head that is unimpressed with my willingness to just give in and do as society tells me.

The thing is, I'm not really a bad arse or a rebel in any way. As a child and late in to my teens, I was the kind of girl who did what was expected of me. If my parents asked me to do something then I did it without question. I was a cluey kid and thought a lot about the world that I saw through fiction and no-fiction books. I did not however think much for myself.

The road was set out for me by my educated middle-class parents who I never for one moment doubted loved me dearly. First was primary school then high school and then a degree of my choosing. Something you could get a job in and that you enjoyed doing was the only real criteria I was given. I lived at home the whole time with my three square meals a day and all the comforts of my parents lifestyle.

I met my husband (now ex) outside a second year Discrete Maths class. He was geeky and kind. We talked about ideas and concepts and ideologies and literature and movies and music until we somehow got married 9 years later. In that almost-decade past, I did what was expected of me. Had the long term partner of equal intellect who loved me, two indoor pedigree cats that roamed our over-sized inner-city Canberra townhouse filled with expensive furniture and too much kitchenware. I threw lavish dinner parties with equivalent friends. I was friends with other couples with similar lives that validated my own. I wore an apron and baked. Enough said.

There are people I'm still friends with today who can vouch for the seemingly happy girl who had a pretty decent middle class life. I often wonder if they see me as the same type of person now as I was then or if they even saw me as happy. I thought I was happy. That I had everything a person could want.

Then it all went to shit.

My life fell apart through a series of inevitable miseries which I now see as a time of growth. Oh time, it is a friend and a brutal enemy. It helps you forget the pain but it gives you wrinkles. I'll accept the wrinkles as payment though.

The middle part (for those who didn't live through it with me on Facebook and Twitter) is a story for another time over several glasses of old Champagne that the waiter pours carefully so as not to waste a single drop.

The end part is now. Who I am now. What I am now. Those are not questions. There are solid answers. There are also solid uncertainties.

I have a good job that I love. Each morning I wake up enthusiastic about the coming workday. People joke that I am comfortable outside of my comfort zone and they are right. There is a comfortable thrill to the work I do but it is based in educated guesses and almost two decades of experience.

My ogre-like layered circle of friends are ordered and solid, if a little commutative. I am one of those lucky people who has a group of people who love me, despite knowing me. Some are so close that they will pick up the phone to me in tears or to me singing Pharrell or to me having butt dialled them because they are on speed dial and they won't hang up. Others interact with me at regular lunches or drinks or even via old fashioned Facebook stalking. Most don't live in the same town or country as me but those that do are people I can call on for mischief and adventures.

Then there is what I refer to as family. It isn't people I've given birth to. That really was never my thing. It is a Papua New Guinean definition of family. People who you are stuck with but actually like. That is my family. We support each other through everything. There is an unquestionable loyalty. I often joke that if my sister dislikes someone then I do to, without even having to have met them. We spend a lot of time laughing together. We don't really fight because we are grown ups. We know that even when one of us is being annoying that it is driven by love. That makes everything cool.

So I spend a lot of time on my own but a lot of time with people. I read and write a lot. I work a little too much. I spend so much time texting and talking on the phone that I had to sign up for the Optus Extreme User plan. But then I spend so much time in silence that a weekend day can pass and I've not spoken a single word. All of these contradictions are the sum of what makes me happy.

Maybe I am a hedonist or selfish or narcissistic or all the things that I worry about in my head. Things that people said in passing or that I heard in something they said. Maybe I am generous, loving and kind like my friends and family describe me as. Maybe I'm a little of all of them.

Either way, this makes me happy.

My life is not a series of adaptations. It is a series of conscious steps involving trying different sides of my life that has resulted in me being very happy and comfortable in a lifestyle that sometimes makes others uncomfortable. It is best to understand that I live each day to honour who I am and live my ethos. This makes me not just happy but content.

I often feel like an appropriate mix of comfortable conformism and antisocial complacent genius but I like that mix.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Friendzones and Fury

This afternoon, a male friend told me that men and women can not be friends. He is a little upset about what he sees as me putting him in the friendzone. I don't know about all these stoopid rules. I have a lot of friends, male and female. We can all be friends IMHO. If we go through life assuming everyone of the preferred sex wants to bonk us then that would be just strange. Instead, I choose to have lovely friends and let life be what it is.

Sunday 1 June 2014

How I Learnt to Concentrate Again

Many years ago now, I went through a bout of clinical depression. That sickness killed my concentration span. I could not read more than one or two pages of any kind of book before feeling sleepy. As soon as I put the book down, I was alert again.

My concentration span was pathetic and not improving.

In October 2012, I watched a badly shot video of Joe Kraus from Google Ventures who introduced the idea of Gap Time and "Slow Tech" to me.

The basis of the idea is that we live in a world of constant distraction and that paired with our evolutionary tendency to respond to stimulus has resulted in us heightening that skill and reducing our concentration spans. Technology in particular has been a culprit in this decline.

His fix for this was to suggest that we take time to not be distracted. Down time for your brain. That meant not picking up my phone when I was sitting waiting for someone at a cafe; not turning on music or a podcast in all my down time; and simply letting my brain spend time background processing.

Since taking on board this approach and spending a lot of time not doing anything with my brain, my concentration span is quite amazing. After 6 months, I could read up to 200 pages without feeling drained or distracted. After 18 months, I can read a book cover to cover without pausing... at least when I have the time to do so.

For me, that is a quantification of how my mind has improved by taking the time to let it rest. Not watching TV or Facebooking but actually taking time to do nothing. Distraction is not a good thing, at least not at the rates we allow it in our lives.

Take some time to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling or drive to work without the radio on. It will change you.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Love Letters

I wrote you a love letter.

I pressed the delete key until my pointer finger tingled.

I miss you. That is all.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Many Things

I've been through many things in my life.

It is true that there are many people who walk a simpler path and that I bring on certain situations upon myself.

It took me many years to work out why this might be the case. I looked to discrimination based on many of the minority groups I am in but that only explained the disadvantage. I looked to my choices to see if I was making bad ones on purpose. It wasn't a self destructive streak and years of therapy made me accept that.

Finally, I realised that things happen in my life because I choose to participate. I dive in to life head first. I fall in love. I take a chance. I change my situation to adopt an oppirtunity.

Some people die young and are not buried until they are old.

That will not be me.

I will not look towards the winter of my life with dread. I will not exist in the summer of my life and hope for moments of spring. No, each season will be the best that I can have and have the best of me that I can give.

Maybe that means I fall on my arse regularly but I also experience an overall level of happiness and contentment that a lot of people don't.

For now, I shall continue on this path. Yes, despite the downs. Always for the ups.

Saturday 3 May 2014

A Happy Death

Book 12 of 2014 appears a month after the last book I read. Yes, I have been slack and not actually finishing anything I start.

In this case, A Happy Death is the last of  Camus' books for me to read. That is both saddening and a prompt to re-read those ones I love and that changed my life.

As usual, I'm left with too much to think about after finishing one of his books. There are so many lines that fit perfectly in to what is happening in my life and my own search for happiness in life, while I am unable to feel the connection of love that others so readily feel.

"He discovered the cruel paradox by which we always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love - first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage"

When I started this book, it felt too much like my favourite of his, The Outsider. However, it took a different path. Maybe one that was a lot more acceptable to readers when Camus was younger. The Outsider is still a better book but a different one.

The in-depth exploration of suicide (assisted or not) and self-imposed exile is something I connected to deeply. A need to rebel against everything you should do by destroying yourself is a hard subject to discuss and not scare people away with. Although he writes in a scattered way, the way Camus wields words will always make me listen and not allow me to put down his books.

You have to read something of his. This may not be the book but it is an insight in to the man, 100 years after his birth. Although, I adore everything he has ever written... I do worry what people may think of me for that :)

This may not be the Camus book you should start with but certainly one to read on your Algerian existentialist absurdism journey. At least it is on mine.

If that is too much for you, start by watching the Big Lebowski. At least you'll understand why I always sigh and say "obviously, you're not a golfer."

Should I read this? Yeah, it is short, perspicacious and beautiful. Like me.
What did I learn? “Yes, I'm happy, in human terms.”

Wednesday 23 April 2014


I have learnt to forgive myself recently for being so sad, angry, happy and random. It was a situation I'd never been in, a place I never would have wandered myself and an ending that I would not have chosen.

So I dealt with it how I did. I will cope as best I can. And most importantly, I will be kind to myself because someone in this whole damn Universe has to be :)

Tuesday 22 April 2014

As You Wish

This makes me teary now.

And the clowns come

If you can't find a Simpson's quote for it then it is not worth saying.

A Great Big World

"Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you
And I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye" -- A Great Big World

And then it disappears in a puff of smoke

“She said, ‘I’m so afraid.’ And I said, ‘why?,’ and she said, ‘Because I’m so profoundly happy. Happiness like this is frightening.’ I asked her why and she said, ‘They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you.’”

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner 

Monday 21 April 2014

A Final Goodbye

I finally did it. I finally said goodbye to the past after accepting that this was it and I was wrong about all I'd thought and felt.

Now to keep doing awesome stuff.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Rest in peace, Gabriel García Márquez

Until you’re about the age of twenty, you read everything, and you like it simply because you are reading it. Then between twenty and thirty you pick what you want, and you read the best, you read all the great works. After that you sit and wait for them to be written. But you know, the least known, the least famous writers, they are the better ones.

Friday 18 April 2014

This is sooooo me

“I’m scared to get close and I hate being alone
I long for that feeling to not feel at all” Bring me the Horizon

How music soothes my savage beast

Tonight, my mother listened to my current Spotify Starred list. We danced to Pharrel Williams and bopped to Christina Aguilera. She even had to take in John Legend croning All of Me which I call his song. You know... "Love your curves and all your edges. All your perfect imperfections."

The point was that we connected through music.

I told her about what music does for me. Instead of being sad, she was happy that I have music. She understands.

To me, music is a state.
To me, music is the tempo of happiness.
To me, music is salvation.

In my moments of deepest loneliness and sadness, I have tunes. They rescue me. They pick me up off the couch and twirl me around the room.

There is so much that I wouldn't survive if there weren't sounds to get me through. So I constantly look backward, forward and to now for the words and beats to represent me. I keep finding them. That preserves me.

Sometimes, I dread the day when music ceases to sing to me. When it stops explaining me to others.

The moments when I share a kiss with a perfect man, to a woman proclaiming that she asks that god accepts her man in heaven when the day comes.

May there always be music.

Sunday 13 April 2014

All the world's a stage

The five stages of grief usually experienced with a major loss are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

They don't have to happen in that order either and often stages will be repeated if they are not dealt with properly.

When I go through a big life change that I have no control over, these are the steps that I traverse.

People go on about acceptance as if it is something that you just decide on but that is not the case. Healthy human beings are supposed to feel feelings and not repress them.

I don't mean suppressed because suppression is consciously stopping yourself from feeling something. Repression is a form of denial where you don't even accept the thought or feeling exists.

Not dealing with emotions is what leaves people in a state of subconscious turmoil and dissatisfaction.

Acceptance is the end goal but it can sneak in earlier on as a form of closure at each stage.

My recent big loss has seen my journey to acceptance occur with severe peaks of each feeling that subside and leave me feeling the longed for closure.

I experienced denial first. I didn't even take the situation seriously because I didn't even entertain the idea it was happening. That lasted about 3 days.

Once I did entertain the idea, depression hit. I'm great at dealing with depression though since that is what my tool belt was built for. That didn't last too long - maybe a week.

Bargaining wasn't really a big part of me coping this time. I knew there was no point to it. I don't believe in asking someone else to fix something and I was aware of how little I would achieve so I tried a couple of times and then wrote that off. Total time was about four hours. Nothing takes less than half a working day.

Then came anger. Anger is something I've stopped suppressing now. For years, I let others be angry with me and I was always sorry. Then I would feel anger and not express it because I thought that made me a psycho bitch. I don't think that anymore. People are allowed to be angry. Emotions are fine as long as you aren't stuck on one for a long time. Even constant non-stop happiness without a peppering of other feelings is considered unhealthy. We are feeling creatures so we must feel.

In this case, I felt angry and not at myself. I expressed this in a burst of communication that lasted less than five minutes and then I felt better. Who knows how the receiver felt but to be honest, I don't much care.

And I don't much care because I have finally got my closure. I was treated horrendously. I took it as maturely as I could and showed compassion and understanding. But to achieve closure and move forward, I need to feel all those stages. Even anger. The one stage I still struggle to accept the good in but conceptually do comprehend.

Now, it is that time. Time to go on with life as I was contently doing two months ago before his all happened.

Now, I can and I am proud of myself for that.

Friday 11 April 2014


I grew up in a home that had some religious people and others who weren't. I am not religious but have no gripe with anyone who is. At least not based on their religion.

One concept that I noticed always popping up was forgiveness for others and for yourself. Not in a god granting forgiveness way but more in an accept what has happened and let go of the pain you carry way. Like putting down a weight you've been carrying while walking backwards on shale in 4" stiletto heels.

Last night, I wrote two blog posts: One wallowing in the self pity of heart break; and the other forgiving myself and forgiving someone who had hurt me.

Even now, I speak in the past tense because it feels like it is behind me. There will be moments of sadness but nothing so terrible that I cry.

I re-read them both and posted the one I thought represented me most sincerely. It was the latter.

It felt better to express that emotion than the sinking sadness alternate.

Today, I walked in to the workplace and felt free. For the first time in two months, I did not feel stressed, guilty, annoyed, sad or afraid. Especially, not afraid.

I've been feeling a strange mix of fear and sadness but today felt like it had a long time ago when I just felt happy and content.

I achieved so much at work, caught up with colleagues and friends, ticked off most of my to do list, connected with new people and felt a genuine sense of belonging that I'd misplaced.

Damana is back. All hail the Warrior Goddess reborn from the ashes.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Happiness is a Kong Foo Sing

With every challenge that life presents, I find that silver lining.

Sometimes, I think it might be delusion but then the mirage of contentment materialises and I'm lying on a beach with a cocktail in hand, while I wait for the cute waiter to bring me my tempura prawns with wasabi mayo. Bliss.

I recently experienced a loss of a good friend. He is not dead. Just no longer a friend. It felt quite awful and still hurts but I feel lucky that we spent time as good friends.

He taught me so much about life and myself. He taught me about gentleness and patience. He reminded me of how much I love words and people who wield them. He showed me that perfect souls exist but are cast imperfect by situation. He taught me to be a better engineer and to never stop fighting for what is right over what is easiest.

Most of all, he taught me how to forgive someone for not choosing you. True compassion and friendship means allowing someone to walk away from you because that is what is best for them, no matter how much you bleed as a result.

If one day someone feels towards me the way I do for him and allows me to do what I must do and be who I must be then I will make them my friend for life.

That is friendship. When I choose you over me.

I am a good person. I just never saw myself that way until now. Until he taught me.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Fahrenheit 451

Book 11 of 2014 and the 3rd book I have read in ten days, is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

The name comes from the temperature at which books will burn. It is about a future world where firefighters are no longer needed to put out fires since buildings are built to be fireproof. They are instead responsible for seeking out and burning books in a world similar to the middle ages where information is destroyed in order to prevent dissention.

I did spend a lot of time after this reading about the periods through history when books were burned. It is both disturbing and depressing to think of how much we regressed in those times. Where would humanity be now if those incidents never happened?

There were a lot of original ideas in this book but to be honest, it is not the kind of writing I enjoy. It feels like a lengthened short story and on further investigation, I found that it basically was.

Yes, this is my third book in three days. When I can't stop my brain from overthinking EVERYTHING, I read. It lets me escape my own thoughts and enter in to a world in which I don't exist. I share the concerns of the protagonist and forget my petty worries. I wonder if other people go to books to escape stress.

It might be time to move away from dystopian science fiction for a while. Not sure what awaits me now. Maybe I need a Kindle shuffle feature. Or I can just throw my to-read book pile in the air and read the next one I catch.

Should I read this? Honestly, don't bother. There is much better science fiction out there. This is a classic because it helped shape the genre. Read its spawn and leave this on that list of stuff to read when they've burned all the other good books.
What did I learn? The autoignition point of paper.

Selfishness is a side effect

I sat down with my boss today and received an insight that changed the entire way I see a situation and how I will approach it from now on.

Instead of thinking I was the cause of a situation, I can now accept that what I'm experiencing has nothing to do with me.

Without giving any detail, all I can say is that it was a "well duh!" moment.

Often I look to myself to understand why something adverse is happening to me. Other times, I'm just completely selfish and think the world revolves around me :)

Talking to people is a good way to understand a situation when I've come up with no reasons of my own. Must remember that.

Monday 7 April 2014

Omniscience and then Null

I once knew everything you thought or I was able to ask for it.
You handed it up on a plate and I plated mine up on hand.
You bled for me. I did not drop a single platelet.
You wanted to understand and I wanted to explain it all to you.

Then it stopped and not because of anything I could control.
You took away that access like it had never been there.
You boarded up the windows and put that part of you back in a box on the shelf.
You didn't want to understand but I still wanted to explain.

And I see you five days of seven.
And I look down like I have done something wrong but I haven't.
And I wonder what you think and imagine only the worst possible things.
You don't care to understand and the apathy shows clearly.

I once knew everything you thought but now I don't.
You no longer know I exist and maybe I don't.
You wouldn't piss on me if I was on fire and I am.
I want to understand but I never will.

Acceptance Criteria

In software engineering we have a way of working that we refer to as "agile." It means that we behave in a way that makes it easier for us to adapt to change.

I often joke that I work as an agent of change so that I can make others change and not myself :)

There is an idea we work around that says that before we start any task, we must define upfront how we will know that a task is completed.

We call this the Acceptance Criteria.

Today, I applied this concept to a life situation and it helped me accept that what I thought was a case of friendship was really no more than a case of me being played.

As readers of this blog well know, I can be easily be convinced that 'gullible' has been removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. This often underwrites my tendency to believe people when they tell me something and that they are not lying to me. As a logician, I see the flaw in this statement immediately but apparently not in reality.

The acceptance criteria today involved checking what it means for someone to actually care for me. A friend for instance. A person who cares about how they make me feel and care that I am not made sad by their actions. A person who takes the time to understand where I am coming from. A person who gives me the benefit of the doubt. A person who would not act against me, no matter the situation.

Application of said criteria resulted in a fail.

I am a good friend. I am learning that I can not expect that from everyone.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Don't Overthink It Protocol

There is a Nietzsche quote that always pops in to my mind when I'm in the depths of introspection.

"And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

This is the point where I instigate the Don't Overthink It Protocol (AKA: DEFCON 3), which consists of the following...

  • Accept what you can not control;
  • Distract yourself with activities;
  • Read a LOT;
  • Plan things to look forward to; and
  • Forgive the person who put you here.
Saying this out loud always helps me. It isn't a silver bullet but it is an easing of the melancholy.

Why I Run

The last six months have seen me start jogging again. It does involve a lot of walking but I run more now than I ever did before. Even on those cold mornings and dark wet evenings, I run.

I run because it makes my heart beat fast. Then I need to breathe. All I can think about is breathing. The rest of the world disappears and so do the thoughts in my head.

I run to stop thinking.

Stop thinking of the words written, those long ago peripheral glances and the silence. The deafening, wounding unending silence that feeds my pensive sadness.

There is an odd point when running where I feel myself coming up to the final few metres and my body is begging to stop but my brain doesn't want to. My brain doesn't want to because then it will start thinking again and that never ends well. Too much introspection is never a good thing.

So I keep on running.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Book ten of 2014 for me, is Phillip K. Dick's dystopian tale Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This of course is the book that the movie Bladerunner is based on.

Yes, I'm on a roll at the moment and that is probably due to the fact that this is another book I have read in the past. That was over a decade ago so I did have to read it carefully. There were a lot of new things I discovered that made this a magical and slightly depressing journey.

The androids that are being retired are of the class Nexus 6. This all brings together Google's naming of its tablet device as the Nexus 7. Of course, it runs the Android operating system. Yes, I'm slow on the uptake :)

There is far too much awesome in this book to list it all but the analysis of depression, life purpose and selective empathy are informing and disarming. As an existentialist, I now see more in this book than I would have when I read it previously. The questions of what is considered life and what happens when human beings detach from what makes us human is brilliantly thought inspiring.

Phillip K. Dick and everything he ever wrote was an obsession of mine in the mid-noughties. To revisit books I remember loving and finding them wonderful again is both a relief and a motivation to re-explore my favourite authors. Since life is short, I should pick books that I have not already read.

This though, I do not regret re-reading at all.

Should I read this? Yes. Another yes, you must be getting tired of me recommending books but this is an excellent read. PKD is an original author with challenging ideas set in unfamiliar places. Maybe that is why he could explore those topics. Aldous Huxley is another author in the same vein. Maybe it is just my dystopian view of the world that makes this so good but try it.
What did I learn? We all dream of electric sheep.

Pride and Prejudice

My 9th book of 2014 is one of my old favourites, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

I have read this book more times than can remember. My estimate would be about two dozen full reads and a few more skims through.

It is a book I pick to remind myself of a world where women were disempowered and found ways to be themselves and buck gently against the system.

People think it is all about love but it isn't. Love is not the point. It is about two people finding respect for each other. Without it, love means nothing. Mr and Mrs Bennet are an example of not having that respect. Lizzy's father talks about marrying a woman he does not respect and living with himself for the rest of his life knowing that. He hopes his daughters don't get the same deal when they marry.

A friend asked me yesterday why I have read this book over and over again. I thought for a while and supposed it was a cool love story or strong women or the restrained drama... but, no. I read this over and over because of the words. It is so well written. The banter is brilliant and quick. The book itself is more than just the story and how it is told but is also the words used and how they are placed. Having read everything Austen wrote, I can say this is consistent but none as good as this classic.

Should I read this? Over and over again. Whether you are male or female, this book is one you should read. At least one Jane Austen book should be on your list of classics read.
What did I learn? I still love this book 23 years after first reading it.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Thank you for being my friends

This last seven days has seen me lean on my closest friends and on my family to get through the challenges. My support network is amazing and if I don't say it enough: Thank you.

Thank you to Allison Carleton for being my voice of reason and for giving me sanctuary in every storm.

Thank you to Bernarda Maia for never letting me apologise for who I am and always offering to help me bury the bodies.

Thank you to Taylor-Trina Kadiba for being my loyal, loving and always supportive sister. You are my best friend.
Thank you to Candace Wong for making me laugh when I wanted to cry, usually at her but also at myself.

Thank you to Ola Kl for reminding me that I am awesome even when I don't feel like I am. And for making it ok to have You're So Vain as my life soundtrack.
Thank you to Bruce Cartland for tolerating my stupidity and always lifting me up.

Thank you to Evelyn Moreno for showing empathy and letting me be myself.
Thank you to Janet Wong for being endlessly kind and sincerely celebrating and sharing every achievement with me for my entire career.
And although we are not facebook friends, thank you to my boss who kicks my arse at the right times and sits and shows compassion when it counts.
Thanks to everyone else for always being kind. It counts whether it is in cyberspace or meatspace. I am honoured and humbled.