Assumed Skills

June 8th, 2013

After some contemplation while cleaning, always a good time for deep thinking, I wanted to post about assumed skills. I describe them as the skills you’ve had for a long time, likely since childhood, that are useful and seem common.

As an adult I’m always surprised when talking to people and discover they don’t have one or both of 2 specific skills. These are riding a bike and swimming at some level. It’s almost certainly indicative of the time and place I grew up, regional New South Wales in the 80s and early 90s. My siblings and kids at school could swim and ride bikes too, naturally I assumed everybody of my generation could. I knew my grandparents couldn’t swim but my parents had both those skills too.

Growing up swimming in the Hume Weir and various rivers meant being able to keep afloat and get out of a current was useful and possibly life-saving. Bikes were fun and much faster than walking, going to the shop to get milk on the bike was one of the first independent tasks outside the home that my parents gave me.

Alison's picture of the Hume Weir

Hume Weir

To take a step back in time, I acquired these skills in the following ways.

I can’t recall which Christmas I received my first bike, but I was thrilled. The pink bike had a basket and streamers from the handles. It seemed giant but the training wheels made me feel secure and when riding I felt very tall. The frame had the word ‘Trendy’ printed on it and so in typical child logic the bike was named Trendy. After a time Dad removed the training wheels and taught me how to ride.

Many weekend afternoons were spent learning, he held the bike upright and ran along behind me as I became less wobbly in a straight line, around corners and eventually doing a u-turn at the end of the driveway. There were falls and scrapes, he was patient and over the years all 3 of us learned how to ride. The saying about never forgetting is true. There have been many years between riding bikes as I’ve aged, I’ve never forgotten how to do it and have always enjoyed casual cycling.

Swimming lessons formed a part of the Young children’s yearly visit to Trundle, staying with our grandparents during summer. On lesson mornings we were up early for a light breakfast then off to the pool; amid moaning about being tired and the water cold. Years later I could swim confidently, stay afloat and tread water for extended periods. Swimming was also a part of my primary and high school sports lessons. I think it’s important to include swimming lessons as part of schooling, not everybody is able to learn before school ages or outside of school.

I can’t help but wonder what assumed skills others have of those around them. In some places driving or being able to light a fire may be an assumed skill. Due to living in both regional areas and cities I’ve met just as many people who can’t or won’t drive as those who can and do. I’d be interested to hear if others have assumed skills and what they might be.

Walking to Mordor

November 27th, 2012

This year I’ve been finding ways to combine activities I enjoy with activities that are good for me in one way or another but I tend to get lazy about doing. We all do this, procrastinate over doing the less fun things and do the fun stuff instead. Before you know it weeks have passed.

One thing I have done is increase the amount of exercise I do. Not going crazy and running marathons or anything like that. Small things like keeping track of activity, opting for a stroll sometimes instead of gaming or sitting and knitting.

A game I’ve become deeply involved in over the last few years is Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve made friends, joined great guilds and spent a lot of time running toons around Middle Earth, having adventures and most recently mastering warsteed riding. I also discovered the site Nerd Fitness and find that a lot of the ‘back to basics’ ‘work with what you’ve got at hand at the level that’s right for you’ approach really appealed to me. Let’s not talk too much about the rotator cuff injury I sustained while doing a playground workout…

When I happened across The NerdFitness Walking to Mordor and Back challenge I may have got a little too excited. Here was the perfect chance to combine two things I’ve come to really enjoy, taking strolls by the river and relating real life to nerdy fandom. I grabbed the spreadsheet created using values from the fabulous work done by the Eowyn Challenge. Almost immediately I decided that it needed to be converted from miles to kilometres  That took longer than I thought, but I think it’s all tweaked and ready to go now. The hunt for suckers/participants begins!


The idea is that a bunch of us walk a lot of km, or miles, and log when we’ve done so. The sheet will add up all the distance contributions, convert to km and then tell us which leg of the journey we’re on. There are 8 legs that make up a trip of just under 5,900km. Anybody who’s part of the challenge will be given access and write permissions to the spreadsheet. I’ve opted to not publish the link. If you want in I’ll make sure you have access and the permissions you need.

It’s going to be an extended duration challenge. I think this makes it fun and definitely a challenge. Group members, dubbed Striders, will probably get closer by doing this together. I don’t want to bog people too far down with rules so my initial thoughts for rules/guidelines are below.

The Rules:

  1. Everybody is welcome to join in! Location, fitness or motivation levels don’t matter.
  2. Challenge will start on December 1st, 2012. If you want to join in after the fact then that’s ok too.
  3. Track of your own distance, it’s an honour system not a competition between Striders. Use your Fitbit distance, app tracking, machine stats, laps of a known route or your best estimate.
  4. Only log distances you’ve manually walked, run, wheeled or pushed. Cycling doesn’t count here sorry.
  5. Let me know if you think of anything else you’d like to include, remove or change. I’m open to suggestions and feedback.
  6. Get to know other Striders, shooting some quick words of encouragement or communicating can help a lot. We’ve got one hell of a trip to make and some company for the road is seldom a bad thing… got watch out for bandits and all.

The first leg is from Hobbiton to Rivendell, a modest 732.8km. Pack your bags, get your Middle Earth name (I couldn’t not include a name generator), fill your waterskin and let’s prepare to head off on December 1st into the wilds of Middle Earth.

Who knows, our progress may even inspire somewhat regular blog updates.

Roadtrip – week 1, part 2

January 11th, 2012

Thus here is the second half of the round-up of our first week on the road:

Day 4- 25 December 2011
Once again it’s a multi-parent Christmas Day for me. We started the day with breakfast at Dad and Stepmum’s place then jumped in the car and made for Wangaratta where a very much needed fuel stop gave us enough to continue the trip to Edi where we spent the afternoon with Mum, her partner and his extended family drinking, talking, eating and playing backyard cricket. Gifts were exchanged at both houses and I wound up with quite a good haul including Skyrim which will probably consume more parts of me than I’d like to admit when we return from holidays.

country landscape

Day 5- 26 December 2011
Departed Albury and made for the mountains. The route we took led us past the Hume Dam and over Bell Bridge at Bethanga. The original plan was to stop by Thredbo and ride the chairlift, however when we arrived and had just opened the car door this massive thunderclap rang through the air. Despite some pretty big pouts we decided that rainy, foggy conditions on the chairlift would not be fun and decided to try again tomorrow. Stayed at the Lake Jindabyne Hotel who once again delivered on being a great value spot with spectacular lake views from every room and tasty food in the bistro. I stayed at the same motel when I stayed in Jindabyne a few years ago after a thoroughly enjoyable day driving through the Snowy Mountains.

Hume Dam landscape

Day 6- 27 December 2011
The day was bright, clear and sunny… perfect for a chairlift ride and hike. We headed back to Thredbo where we collected our lift passes and headed up the mountain. At the top, all plans to not hike were discarded as we set off along the wonderful raised mesh walkway to Mount Kosciuszko. Made it almost 3km before heading back and having morning tea at Eagles Nest which is 1937m about sea level with some pretty amazing views. Afterward we drove to Canberra and finished off the day sharing a few pints with Mick who was down from Sydney.

mesh walkway steps landscape

Day 7- 28 December 2011
Up bright and early to meet Madeline for breakfast. The original location was closed so we wound up at Gus’ which is something of a Canberra love/hate location. Following a very filling breakfast we headed off to the Australian War Memorial and once again I was highly mistaken about the size of this place. Found some of Adrian’s relatives on the roll of honour and looked through all the exhibitions. Could easily have spent far longer than we did here. For lunch I couldn’t resist a visit to Koko Black while in town, and I didn’t think Adrian would have any objection ;) After lunch we headed to Parliament House and had a look around, just quietly I think I like Old Parliament House better. Dinner was some pretty damn tasty Malasian at Rasa Sayang with Lana, Dermott and T.

Parliament houses in alignment

That concludes week 1, I know we’re almost into week 3 of the actual trip. Aiming to get round-ups of week 2 posted before we get back, probably sometime in the next couple of days.. depending on what else is going on. You know what it’s like, this being on holidays business.

For all the photos from the trip have a look at the Ali’s Family Magical Mystery Tour set on Flickr.

Roadtrip – week 1, part 1

December 31st, 2011

Since there’s no real small way to do a 4.5week roadtrip I’ve decided to do week-ish updates of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and who we’ve seen along the way. To make this easier to put down here I’ve been carrying a notebook that I’ve been updating each day or so. When referring to people (who aren’t my direct family or have asked not to be linked to) I’ll be linking to their twitter accounts.

Thus here is the round-up of our first week on the road:

Day 1- 22 December 2011
Drove from Brisbane to Dubbo, this took almost 14hours. So long to travel ~850km was because we stopped at a couple of driver revivers for tea, made at least 2 fuel stops and had lunch in Narribri with Nicole. In Dubbo we stayed at the very dodgy Formule 1 which was a comedy of fail including dead bug collections, views of Hungry Jacks and toilet horrors.

driver reviver banner

Day 2 – 23 December 2011
Drove from Dubbo to Albury which was thankfully a much shorter trip. Stopped briefly in Cootamundra to drive slowly by Donald Bradman‘s birthplace then laughed at lot at some not very private public toilet doors. Grabbed lunch in Young after I posed like a fool in front of the town sign and made our way to my Dad and Stepmum’s place in Chiltern to stay overnight after a stopover in Albury to see Mum and have dinner.

Don Bradman's birthplace

Day 3 – 24 December 2011
Quite a busy day! Up early to get back to Albury by 9.30am where I assisted Mum and wrapped presents for 3hrs collecting donations for the Make a Wish Foundation. My favourite moment of the morning was a man asking if he could get me a coffee or orange juice as we were working so hard. I politely declined and was very glad when 12.30pm rolled around as my back was killing me from leaning over a short table. Then Adrian and I had lunch with Mum and her partner and took a drive out to the Hume Dam on the way back to Chiltern. Once back we were in the car again with Dad and my Stepmum and heading up to Beechworth for afternoon tea. Admired some stunning creations at Potters Gallery and had a quick look through the lolly shop mere minutes before they closed. Later in the evening I followed ‘xmas eve in Chiltern’ tradition and went to church with Dad and Stepmum, the priest loved my blue hair and after the service there was shortbread and sherry. Back at home we gave Stepmum her birthday presents as her birthday is the same day as xmas day.

landscape view of the Hume Dam

This post got a tad lengthy so I might do bi-weekly blog posts. Hopefully I’ll have the next one up before too long!

For all the photos from the trip have a look at the Ali’s Family Magical Mystery Tour set on Flickr.

A not so little trip route

December 9th, 2011

The days draw ever closer to our departure date, 11 days, I’m a counter like that. I couldn’t resist compiling a complete map of our adventure. While the exact route is very prone to changing this is the present planned route. Note that the letters start at D because the first few places we’re staying at twice.

google maps image displaying route of December-January roadtripNote: because my page design is narrow, click on the image for the non-skewed version.

The total distance of the drive between places we’re staying is 5,892km. According to Google it’ll take 3 days and 3hrs to drive it, or (because I love stats) approximately 48 days to walk it.

I haven’t done a really big roadtrip in quite a few years and I’m really looking forward to it but getting a little scared about how many photos I’ll take along the way. Presently I’m exploring options about which laptop to take (17inch Toshiba or HP netbook) and how to give both Adrian and I internet in the places that have internet included in our room price. For other places I’ll be tethering my phone so photos being posted while we’re away may be sporadic at best… unless I find somewhere with a fat internet pipe or get to LCA 2012.


Regional Differences

November 18th, 2011

[this has been sitting in my drafts for far too long and though from almost 2yrs ago I'm going to publish it because upon re-reading I still really like it]

In late 2009 I visited Albury to see family for Christmas and noted a few things that differed quite a lot between catching a flight between large state capitals and catching a flight to a regional town. Having caught many flights of both types I wanted to share some of the people watching observations from this particular trip.

  • As people sat down they’d say hello to the person sitting next to them, most were strangers.
  • I joined in on an exchange taking place behind me where one middle-aged lady had a seat next to a young, attractive, man. Her friend commented that she must have been a good person this year to get assigned such good company. I wished them both a Merry Christmas and noticed that the guy looked somewhat amused about the exchange between the ladies.
  • An unaccompanied minor was bought to the back of the plane to be seated. A kindly older lady passenger spoke with her for a while before take-off. The steward didn’t interfere with the conversation.
  • Stewards explained matter-of-factly why we’d be a little slower getting off the ground than usual. Being on the first flight of the day meant that additional checks once we hit the start of the runway were needed.
  • The woman sitting next to me in the exit row noticed an empty window seat on the other side of the aisle and asked the steward if she could take it. He permitted the change. After the passenger counts were done I said to her that she should go nab her window seat now; just before she got up and moved she said it wasn’t due to the company on this side.
  • After the meals were served I started up my phone and began watching some TED talks with headphones in. This was fairly introverted behaviour compared to many other passengers who were conversing with each other. Across the aisle the lady who’d moved seats had turned around to join the young guy and older lady who were in deep discussion. Around the cabin people quietly spoke to each other or read newspapers. Nobody appeared to get irritable about finding themselves in a conversation they’d rather avoid.
  • The meal I received consisted of dried apricots, juice, a scone and coffee. Not a bad breakfast compared to the meal Qantas called lunch; consisting of a savoury danish and a warm softdrink.

The company I flew with has fast become one of my favourites for regional travel and I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad experience when flying Rex.

Road Twip Team Mal is Go

April 29th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I got an offer that was hard to refuse. An opportunity to join a team with two friends on a roadtrip along the coast of NSW over 4 days. Those who know even a little about me will attest to my longtime love of road trips and that I’m quite commonly photographing trips and on my phone tweeting when I’m not driving.

More details slowly came to light and I learnt that the roadtrip we were taking was part of a bigger event with other teams involved too doing different drives and it was all about launching some spectacular drives between Sydney and Melbourne.

Tomorrow we’re off on the 4 day adventure. A roadtrip of which the aim is to tweet, photograph, make videos and generally have a blast while completing activities we’ve been assigned and complete some mission objectives. Not wanting to give too much way until it happens but there’s going to be motorbike riding and a very, very early morning one day that I’ve been assured it will be well worth it.

If you want more details of what we’re up to, when and where then there’s no shortage of methods to track us such as: join/like the StalkFacebook page; check out the Tumblr that will hopefully filter everything together so it’s a good single point of contact and collation of tweets, photos and videos. Browse the photos we’re posting to the Flickr group- you will need to ask to join but anybody can look. Following the twitter hashtags #S2MT and #teamMal. Some things will have both but others might not. I’m also considering raising my 12seconds account from the almost dead for short’n’sweet clips from the road. There’s always a chance that further updates and longer posts may appear on the site here :)

I would like to thank Mal for the offer to join the team, and everybody involved with organising the Sydney – Melbourne Touring trip. It’s going to be some serious fun.

Neglect for the Write Reasons

November 30th, 2009

This entry could begin with a heartfelt apology for neglecting this blog and a promise to update more often. But it won’t. Instead I just wish to say that updating here has taken a lesser priority over the last few months in favour of updating my private, locked journal elsewhere among other projects, people and events. If you have been hanging out for new entries because you don’t communicate with me any other way then I do apologise and invite you to engage on a medium I do frequently use; trust me there are plenty.

My notebooks

Something I have been doing a lot more of lately is writing. About 4 years ago I wrote quite a lot, mostly by hand. When going through my belongings prior to moving into my own place I found dozens of loose pages of writing. The picture here shows some of my collection of travel diarys, dream diarys, exercise books and letter writing sets.

Over time I’ve done a lot more writing while on my laptop. I can more closely get my thoughts out as quickly as I have them with my fingers flying across the keys and not caring straight away whether I’ve spelt things correctly or words are in the order that makes for the best sentences.

For as long as I can remember I’ve written, or wanted to write. Stories, thought excerpts, braindumps and sometimes just pages that would make little sense even to myself when I reread them. Being particularly fond of writing out observations from people-watching, snippets of an interesting parts of my day, something that I dreamt and am still tossing around in my mind a day later.

While talking with a friend the other day we were discussing some of the stories I’ve acquired over the years from my various adventures and misadventures through life. I’ve become newly inspired to start trying to document them for a book idea I had earlier this year incorporating some of my own experiences with those that I’ve observed around me. At present it’s tempting to start by going into my head and just writing about my own stuff. Majority of the pieces I’ve written that weren’t specifically for blogs, emails etc have only been by myself and 1-2 others. Their feedback has been nothing but positive. Once I’ve got more pieces in electronic format I’ll decide what to do with them. Have already decided to anonymously post 3yrs of writing from all those years ago somewhere that I’m not planning to reveal to anybody.

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24th, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day is a day of recognition, for all the amazing women who do remarkable things in IT. I could easily write hundreds of words about the women who have introduced, supported, inspired, challenged and have a great time being involved in IT and who I will pay due recognition to but instead I’m going to humbly recognise myself as a woman who’s making her way further into IT.

I’m a relative newcomer but have been involved with spreading the good word since my university days and have now managed to forge my way ahead into this brave new landscape which I never imagined I’d get to so soon. Leaving academia and struggling to find my feet in a career that was both rewarding and sustaining I was offered an unexpected chance to move into a position I hadn’t envisaged for myself so soon. Working as a contractor for a remarkable company who took a chance in me and I can only hope has paid off. While I’m still learning the world of self-employment and contracting it would be a pleasure to inspire and assist others to reach for their wildest dreams also.

All this would never have been possible if not for the following women who rock my world: Sue, Angela, Jenine, Leigh Ellen, Pia, Catherine, Kate, Jodie, Susan, Damana, Cathie and MissWired.

What’s the bet this one works

March 5th, 2009

Have been having drama after drama trying to post updates to this blog. Something tells me WordPress may be punishing me because I haven’t updated yet… suppose I should and see if things get fixed or not.

Kicking along, have a few posts I’d love to put up if only they’d stop getting lost along the way.