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IMG_3532After moving to Brisbane in April last year, I spent a few days in Hobart this February. It’s the first time since I moved away that I’ve been back, and while you could definitely see the differences in little old Hobart compared to when I left. But while I enjoyed my time in Hobart, I’m now more confused than ever about where I consider home to be.

Last August, I was in the Seattle watching The International 2015. The games scheduled for the day hadn’t started yet, so I was doing the widely accepted thing of tracking down Dota 2 personalities in order to obtain their signature.

As you might imagine, players were insanely popular to the point where they had scheduled photo and signature times — I ended up starting in the line for Evil Geniuses player Universe, but by the time I got near to the front it was Aui_2000 doing signatures, which was fine. I collected Aui’s signature on my Dota 2 Steelseries mousepad, and that was it.

Anyway, the games for the day hadn’t started yet — or maybe we were between games — but the English casters were seated and warming up. TobiWan was a caster I was interesting in getting the signature, seeing as he’s one of the most famous Dota 2 casters (and Australian, too). When it was my time to get his signature, I asked how he was and inquired if I could get his signature on my Dota 2 event badge. He said yeah, of course, and then asked if my accent was Australian.

I was a little confused, as even though I’ve lived in Australia for my entire life, I don’t think I have much of an accent. Perhaps it’s one of those cant-smell-your-own-body-odour things, but I replied yeah. While Tobi was signing my badge, he asked me where I was from, and seeing as I had only moved to Brisbane a few months prior, I answered Brisbane. He told me he hailed from a similar part of South East Queensland, the Gold Coast, and in that moment, we shared a special bond. Or I’d like to think so, anyway.

Fast forward about nine months, and it’s once again Tobi in his AMA on Reddit, answering a question about living/working in Germany: “I really just work here, I don’t really live here.”

It’s kind of how I feel about living in Brisbane. I moved here to take up full time-employment, and while that’s great and all, it hasn’t really given me the chance to explore a different state in a different part of the country. I used to do this thing where I’d go and find the biggest shopping centre I could and walk around for a bit, but eventually you run out of Westfields. Plus, not driving kind of makes it hard to venture any further than the train lines can take you, although I’m do going down to Robina every now and then.

To make matters even worse, when I returned to work on the Monday after a weekend wedding in Tassie, one of my colleagues welcomed me home. “Home”. I’m not sure I know where that is anymore, not out of some misplaced sense of belonging, but because I mostly just work in Brisbane, and don’t really live here.

That could change.

Twenty Five

377160_2016-01-26_00004

Sometimes, when people ask me how old I am, I get a little confused. Especially when they combine it with questions like “so is that 23 turning 24, or 24 turning 25?” I don’t tend to think about how old I am all the time, so either I answer too quickly and get it wrong, or I think about it for longer than one might consider “normal”, get laughed at, and still get it wrong anyway.

It didn’t used to be this way, but over the past couple of years I’ve noticed it happening more and more. I’ve filled out enough online forms to know what my birth date is, so I should at least be able to calculate how old I am, but for some reason, deriving an answer to “how old are you” doesn’t come easily. Maybe I’m just over-thinking things, and I should add “I am 25 years old” to the list of things that I just know, like my (rough) height and weight. Maybe this is just what getting old is like.

Truth be told, I wasn’t planning on writing a birthday post this year. Or last year, for that matter. I had plenty of age and maturity-related thoughts when I was writing a birthday post from a few years ago, but when the time came to write about something last year, or something this year, none of the topics I had swirling around in my head wanted to coalesce into something of substance. No matter how long the bus or train ride was, nothing seemed pertinent enough to write about as the main topic of yet another birthday post.

Which is weird, because last year, more than any other, has been a pretty big year. Almost too big to write about, really, given that I accepted my first full-time job, which meant moving out of home and deciding what personal possessions I’d be bringing to another city in another state (computers, electronics, then everything else, in that order).

I made a trip to the US to watch The International, the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world, as well as check out some west coast cities.

And so far, it’s been the first Christmas I’ve spent without any immediate family, the first New Year, and probably my first birthday. I can’t say for sure, obviously, but it certainly feels that way. Not that I mind about any of that. It was all going to happen eventually, and I’m glad it happened in at least somewhat positive circumstances.

If you’ve read any of my tweets from this year, you’ll know that growing up is, for the most part, pretty awful. No one’s talking about the freedom you get when you live alone, away from your immediately family, but when you work full time, people kind of know what you’re doing most of the time.

What they’re not telling you about is how awful it is having to do all of the washing up. Or needing to eat, but not wanting to do the washing up, and lacking the disposable incoming to eat out or get takeaway more than a few nights a week. Or how house inspections only happen four times per year, but even that feels too often. Or how having getting paid every fortnight feels great, at least until the bills and rent come in, at which point all your hard-earned leaves your bank account. The days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and a lot of the time, it feels as though I’m living to work, instead of working to live.

People ask me if I’d go back to uni to study, and I usually answer that while the actual study part was pretty awful, the lifestyle was pretty great. Not having to wake up early to go to work, not having to spend the entire day at uni, and occasionally being able to have entire days to myself. Now that I work full time, the only time that I really get is from evenings and weekends.

What it comes down to is a lack of time. If I’m playing video games every evening, then I’m not cooking, or doing the washing up. If I’m on call on the weekend, then I have to squeeze in buying groceries into my “lunch break”, or go shopping after work during the week. Every time I decide to clean my tiny unit, do some ironing for the week, or whatever else needs doing that I didn’t get around to doing last week is another time I’m not playing games on the internet with friends, and as the old adage goes, all work and no play makes Benny a dull boy.

Of course, the solution here might seem pretty simple: give up video games. But games have been such a huge part of my life that giving up video games would be like giving up a part of myself, like trading in my childhood for a shot at adulthood.

And that’s kind of what this is all about. My friends have been moving out, getting married, and settling down for years now. Some times I wish I experienced those things earlier, but I’m happy enough with how things have turned out so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the work that I’m doing. But there are times I wish it took up less of my time than it currently does. Some of the time, I wonder what it’d be like to be mostly-unemployed and have heaps of time, or what it would be like to have no time and be earning an amount to make it not matter. Perhaps there’s not much difference between the two, after all, but I guess that’s why they call it life.

Here’s to another year, whatever craziness it may bring.

Rite of passage – All this →

My older son had to go to a meeting at work this morning. He works at a grocery store in town and I assume the all-hands meeting was called to prepare the staff for an especially busy day because of a big sale.

Thing is, my son’s a bag boy.
via Rite of passage – All this.

Dr Drang doesn’t believe his 17-year old son should have gone to a store meeting with little to no relevance to him as a bag boy, but I disagree.

As someone who got their first job at 16, I know what it’s like to go to meetings that have little impact on what you do, day-to-day. I was still a high-school student at that time, and on the weekend, I’d work a few hours at the local Apple reseller.

I’ve been to my fair share of meetings that I probably didn’t, strictly speaking, need to go to, being a filthy casual and working one day a week. But here’s the thing, I always wanted to go because it meant I kept in touch with my colleagues I didn’t see every day, including all the ones I wouldn’t see regularly, due to them not working on the weekend. Going to those meetings kept me in the loop with all that was going on in the business and ensured I was seen as the reliable guy who’d turn up for meetings he wasn’t necessarily needed at.

Sure, I didn’t need to go to those meetings. But I’d like to think I’m a better person — a better employee — because I did.

— permalink to this post

What kind of job do I want?

office block

In my continuing quest to find some kind of full time employment, something that won’t make me want to commit seppuku at the end of every working day, I ask myself the following question: what kind of job do I want?

The fact that I have no answer kind of explains why I’m in this predicament in the first place. I’m honestly not sure what kind of job I want, and the issue is further compounded by the fact that a job that looks good on paper might turn out to be the most soul-sucking drudgery in real life that I’ll end up hating it, myself, and everyone else in close proximity.

In other words, I guess you could say the job hunting is going well.

A few months ago, the internet exploded over the controversy a Penny Arcade job posting generated, but for the life of me, I don’t really understand why.

You can read the full position description over at LinkedIn, but I’ll quote the best part:

We are quite literally looking for a person that can do four jobs: Web Development, Software Development, Sys Admin, and the (dreaded) GENERAL IT for us here that need help configuring a firewall for a dev kit, etc. Sorry, I know that’s the WORST, but it’s absolutely part of the gig.

They’re not sugar-coating it. They need one person to do the jobs of four people (and do them well), and you know what? They’ll probably find someone, being Penny Arcade and all.

Here’s the part I don’t get, though: most of the Internet Rage™ was centred around how the individual that filled this position, the one who did all these jobs, would quickly burnout. Some called it “exploitation“, others still “insultingly horrible“, but I don’t see it.

Call it naivety about employment and the work/life balance, but I don’t see how it could. Sure the job would be (extremely) demanding, and sure, you might even work hard for little pay, but surely if you were applying for the job in the first place, you would have already made a conscious choice to do all of the above, at some time or another?

The reality is that unless your name is Marco Arment, you’re going to start somewhere in a job just like this. It might not be somewhere as (depending on who you ask) glamorous as Penny Arcade, and you may be doing slightly different things, but chances are, you’ll start out in a job that gives you little to no recognition for all the hard work you do that isn’t explicitly in your job description.

The way I see it, there’s two ways of approaching employment. You can treat your job like a 9-to-5, by clocking in, doing your job, and clocking out. That might pay the bills and put food on the table, but I doubt you’ll feel fulfilled by the work you do. Or, you could find a job you actually enjoy, actually put some effort into it, and at the end of the day, you’ll feel like you’re making a difference, even if you didn’t or don’t change the world.

Sure, you could settle for less. Ask anyone who has experienced “startup culture”, though, and you’ll realise that people working at startups don’t treat their jobs like any other 9-to-5. If they did, they’d probably find their startup crashing into the ground pretty quickly. Do you really think employees of startups, or those who are self-employed have a work/life balance? By the same token, do you think they enjoy the work they do?

Of course not, and of course they do. They wouldn’t be doing it, otherwise.

I’m not really sure what I’m looking for in a job. Something I enjoy would be great, but beyond that, I really have no idea. I’m waiting for the right opportunity to come up, but since I’m not really looking, the chances of that happening are pretty slim.

I was talking to a friend who basically told me the same thing, that there’s no such thing as “the perfect job”. In the end, I think that any job I end up with I’ll be equal parts mundane and unexciting as it will be fun and fulfilling. The key will be finding that balance.

Additional wisdom dispensed by my friend included the suggestion that I find anything just to get my foot in the door in order to get some experience behind me, which honestly isn’t a bad suggestion. The only problem with that is, what if I end up hating it and end up leaving six months to a year later? The question then becomes: did I just find out what kind of job I don’t want? Or did I just waste a bunch of time? I mean, if I’m going to waste time, I might as well do it in a way that I enjoy; by raising my ranked match-making rating in DotA 2, which currently sits at just below 2400. I’m not getting paid to play DotA, obviously, but it’s fun. Most of the time, anyway.

I guess the reason I care so much about this stuff is that I currently have a few regularly paying jobs, and fitting them all in the same 24-hour period leaves me with little time for anything else. I can handle a few of them and still have a lot of time to myself, but it’s a combination of all of them that leaves me with very little free time.

I could quit a few, but why? It’s only hectic sometimes, and provided I turn down a few extra shifts during the weekdays I’ll more or less get to keep my sanity and still have ample time to play some DotA.

Which is all a guy could ask for, really.

Funemployment

http://thedoghousediaries.com/5468

Comic via Doghouse Diaries.

The fashionable thing to do after you graduate, I’m told, is to get a job and start paying off your HECS fees. Either that, or go back for more education, either in the form of an Honours/Masters degree or a PhD in the field of your choice.

But apparently I must have missed that particular memo (or more likely, fallen asleep during that particular lecture), because thus far, I’m still as unemployed as I was when I started my degree.

Part of the problem lies in the fact I’m still very unsure about what kind of job I want, and is compounded by the fact that a Computing degree doesn’t necessarily mean I should get a degree doing something with computers, although in this day and age that’s more or less inevitable. I’m fairly sure I don’t want a full-time “programming” job, as I’ve never really liked programming. I’m not really interested in graphic design, 3D modelling, or web development, even though a large part of my degree was doing web stuff.

I remember when I was getting close to graduation the first or second time, and a colleague was asking me about what kind of job I was going to end up with after I graduated. I replied with not a little melancholy that I’d probably end up doing websites for clients, which would lead to my eventual suicide due to how depressing that life would be. I don’t really know what it is, by web development has never really appealed to me. I can get by hacking my own WordPress theme and fiddling with the occasional bit of PHP, but building websites for others is an unimaginable level of hell.

It should have been the precursor to my post on time a month or so ago, but I didn’t get around to writing a thing on the kind of job I want. Like the vast majority of people, I could probably just get some 9-5 job doing some horrible drudgery, only to come home and have a few hours to myself before going back for more the following day, but that’s no way to live. A better alternative would be to find something I find interesting, something stimulating, something that won’t leave me wanting to kill myself when 5:30 rolls around. The reality is, I probably wouldn’t mind a typical 9-5 job, it would just have to be something I enjoyed doing. Which is kind of why my current situation works pretty well, which leads on nicely to the next part.

The eagle-eyed among you would have noted my use of the word colleague earlier, a strange term to use when one is unemployed. But maybe for my particular situation, unemployed isn’t exactly the right term. I have and have had a job since 2007, just one that isn’t full time. I mostly work on the weekend, with a few days during the week here and there. The current arrangement I have works pretty well, actually. I get plenty of time to myself to do whatever I want — sleep until noon, get up, play some DotA 2, eat, play some more DotA — and because my daily expenses are pretty low, I can even save a little money on the side.

Did I tell you about that time I applied for money from the government to assist my Uni studies, but because I had been at Uni for too long, they wanted me to start proving I was looking for work? And that entailed a mandatory visit to an employment agency to help me get started, which felt really wrong? Not because looking for work is something I detest, but because that visit to the employment agency felt like I was using resources would could have been better used helping the less able and less fortunate to find work. My Centerlink payments stopped soon after that, because I felt like there were people that were more deserving of the government’s assistance than I. No, this isn’t some kind of high-horse that I’m sitting on, just a recognition of the fact that as far things go, I’m pretty lucky. And besides, I found my current job on my own when I was still in high school, so I didn’t really need the help of an employment agency to find work1.

And what about that time I was almost suckered into a pyramid scheme? Now that’s a truly enthralling tale for another time.

With very little idea of what kind of job I want, you could say the job hunt is proceeding as expected.

That’s not to say I haven’t been looking for a suitable full-time job. There was even a job I applied for, way back in July. Unlike other jobs, I kind of wanted this one: I thought I was a pretty strong candidate as it suited my previous experience to a T, the pay was great, and it would have meant moving out of my parents’ house and becoming independent. But even though I thought I was a pretty good candidate, HR apparently didn’t think so. My interpretation of the feedback I received essentially boiled down to “HR is more concerned with protecting themselves and their managers than finding the best candidate for the job” — that may be reading between the lines slightly, but that one job application made me so angry about the entire process that I haven’t bothered looking for or applying for anything else since.

Perhaps I wanted that job more than I let myself think I did, but either way, I’m enjoying being semi-unemployed. The right job will come along eventually, and until then, there’s plenty of other heroes to get good at in DotA.


  1. Not to mention, their offices had a really off-putting vibe to them, too. Not like creepy or anything, but I was a little weirded out by how they measured their job performance as the number of people they had gotten employed. That’s important, for sure, but how does job happiness factor into the grand scheme of things? It made me wonder about whether they actually cared about getting people in jobs or whether they just worried about lumping sacks of flesh with other sacks of flesh. 

Time

time

A little while ago, the insane Randall Munroe completed perhaps the biggest project on XKCD yet: Time, comic number 1190.

The XKCD blog post tells the entire story: 3,099 panels, drawn over a period from March to August. An epic project by any standard, and yet, not altogether unexpected from the inanity of Mr Munroe.

I’ve been working a lot over the past few weeks, and as much as fun as six days a week sounds (for my bank balance, maybe), I’ve come to the realisation that it leaves very little time for extra-curricular activities, the stuff that I want to do.

Yes, I’m talking about games.

When you work full time, there’s very little time for anything else. A normal work day involves getting up at 6:30 AM, writing and publishing the news, and by 8:30, I’m ready to go to work. I don’t get home until after 6 PM, at which point it’s time to get something to eat and start thinking about what I’m going to do with my evening. But I’ve barely started when, oops, it’s 10 PM, and now I have to go to bed so I can get enough sleep to function as a person (as opposed to a zombie) the next day.

I usually finish eating by around 7, which gives me three hours, give or take, to do everything I didn’t get to do during the day. I usually check a few websites, read some forums, go through my email, and trawl through some RSS feeds. You’ll note I don’t even consider things like gaming, writing, movie-watching, or anything like that. I usually watch an episode of something when I’m eating, but that’s about it.

I can sometimes get away with a few extra hours by putting off my bedtime until midnight, but missing out on sleep more than a few times a week puts a negative spin on things, and usually just results in falling asleep on the bus to and from work. Work is tiring enough without me also feeling tired from a lack of sleep on top of that.

When you work full-time, free time, or the lack thereof, is a real issue.

During my degree there were definitely times where I had too much time. I’d waste the day by taking naps, or not getting out of bed until after noon. I’d put off doing work until the very last minute, when I’d spend all-night working on some horrible requirements document or other fun deliverable, and spend the next day sleeping. If you’ve been a Uni student before, you can probably relate: you procrastinate the smallest of tasks only to spend a few sleepless nights working feverishly on whatever you were supposed to have worked on before the deadline was looming large. It was like that during my degree, too; I could afford to waste time, because there was plenty of it.

But now that I’m kind-of, sort-of, looking for work and filling in for someone who’s going on holiday at my current place of employment, there’s just not enough time. Or at least, I don’t seem to have enough of it free as I would like.

Continue Reading →

You’re crap and paid too much for the little work you actually do

Note that the title is “get more money”, not “earn more”. I can’t make you better at your job, my aim is to get you better rewarded for it. You are worth what you can get, not a penny more or less. In negotiations it is useful to use the word “fair” so that the other side doesn’t feel too blackmailed, but never kid yourself that it means anything.

One serious programmer explained to me that “if the system goes down for 30 minutes, you’re incompetent. Bring it back after five hours and you’re a hero”. They key here is that you’re making a difference when it hits the fan, that’s not someone they want to lose.

How do people know if what you’ve achieved is great? Even if you work for Capita, you occasionally actually finish something useful so you must let people know. The logic is simple: if you invite a bunch of people for a quick beer to celebrate the completion of the data ingest module, then it must be good. The fact that it’s a VBA macro to import CSV files into Excel is not the issue, the message is that it’s working great. Each victory over the formless hell of Oracle is worthy of you picking up a box of chocolates from the supermarket and sharing them with people passing your desk. The £10 cost pays back very well as you build up an aura as “someone who gets things done”.

via You’re crap and paid too much for the little work you actually do • The Register.

I… I have no words. Where to start?

I’m not entirely sure if this article is just taking the piss or offering serious advice to programmers and other IT staff. The advice all seems sound in theory, and following it should make you “get more money” for the work you do, but, I mean, following it as if you life depended on it (i.e. all the time, all day, every day) would just make you somewhat of a jerk.

Fun @ Work, Episode I

This cute chick came into work. Wanted to listen to some speakers, so I played “Amazing”, by Alex Lloyd. [iTunes Link]

Oh dear. 😛

I don’t think she quite got it, but yeah – I figured it was the proper thing to do.

Hahahahaha – just another of the many ways I have fun at work.

Stay tuned, there should be more on the way. 😀