Apple picking, Mayfarm Flowers, April 22 2019

Most of the apple orchards around Orange, once the major growing region in Australia, have been converted into vineyards, or in the case of Mayfarm Flowers, a flower farm. Their crop of apples from the doomed trees was storm damaged in 2019, and so they opened them up for picking, with most of the apples being shipped to Sydney for donation, and pickers allowed to take away others for free.

Sunflower harvest, Mayfarm Flowers Storm damaged apples, Mayfarm Flowers Crate of apples, Mayfarm Flowers Storm damaged Granny Smith, Mayfarm Flowers Apple crates, Mayfarm Flowers Apples, Mayfarm Flowers Granny Smith crate, Mayfarm Flowers Sunflower before bloom

Getting a COVID-19 test in NSW, as of May 2020

NSW is encouraging all people with any symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested. Since I have what I assume are seasonal allergies, I meet the testing criteria and probably will continuously for months to come, so I’ve had a few tests. Curious? Here’s what you need to know.

Test access has got much easier. I’ve heard from several people that they don’t understand how to get tested, because a friend of theirs tried in March and their doctor flat-out declined to refer them without clear signs of pneumonia, so what is this stuff and nonsense about how everyone with symptoms should get testing?

If you want to learn about tests before you get one, try and find someone who got tested recently to share their experience. Here’s mine:

  • no referral is required
  • testing is readily available and swiftly administered
  • results are often available same-day

Check the date and location on anyone’s testing story before deciding testing sounds too hard and inaccessible.

You can get tested, in many places without a referral. Here’s the testing sites.

Here’s the testing procedure at the drive-through clinic I went to:

  1. drive up
  2. a person in full PPE approaches the car and takes your personal details: name, address, phone, email, symptoms, employment status (do you work in health or aged care, or no?), risk factors (recent travel, contact with known or suspected cases)
  3. you drive forward to a second person who reads the details back to you
  4. that person does the deeply unpleasant thing you’ve probably seen videos of where they put a swab up your nose and into your sinuses, wave it around, and withdraw it a couple of seconds after it becomes really really difficult to tolerate
  5. you drive away
  6. you are asked to behave as if you are positive until you get that result. This means strictly staying at home and minimising contact with household members.
  7. later that day you get a text message asking if you opt into result-by-text and if you do, usually some hours later you get your result.

I asked them what they do with children and they said, as of late May, for children they are doing throat swabs rather than nasal ones.

They only acted a little bit startled when I reported that I had had a runny nose for 12 weeks. (Some guidance on how regularly to get re-tested with symptoms that don’t change would be handy!)

I’ve not been positive (and hope not to be prior to vaccine or effective anti-virals!) so I do not know what additional things happen if you are positive, presumably contact tracing and fairly high levels of health monitoring kick off from there.

If you do want a doctor to examine you, look for a “Respiratory Clinic” on the same page that lists the testing clinics. The respiratory clinics are clinics where the doctors are already wearing full PPE and have good patient isolation set up (eg, no waiting room, you wait in your car). This saves you and your regular GP considerable fuss around them needing to don full PPE and change their waiting practices for you, and are a good place to head with cold/flu symptoms this year.

Australia Burns: Bells Line of Road, 28 December 2019

Emergency information

Fires Near Me (NSW), Vic Emergency (Victoria)

Context

These photographs were taken on 28 December on Bells Line of Road, which runs between western Sydney and Lithgow. Bells Line of Road is the northernmost of two road crossings of the Blue Mountains between Sydney and western NSW.

Wildnerness and parts of towns were badly burned for a long stretch between Lithgow and Bilpin on Bells Line of Road in the days leading up to and including December 21 by the Gospers Mountain / Grose Valley fire complex. The road re-opened on December 25.

The December 31 2019 eastern bushfire catastrophes were concentrated far to the south east from where these pictures were taken; they were in the South Coast of NSW and East Gippsland in Victoria. These two areas are also currently considered most at risk in the upcoming January 4 heatwave, with tourists asked to leave the South Coast and the evacuation of Kosciuszko National Park (January 2), following the evacuation of East Gippsland (December 29).

Fires are expected to continue in Australia until there’s substantial rainfall.

Supporting firefighters and affected people

Donations are accepted by, among others:

Most affected areas rely heavily on the tourism industry for income, planning to visit after the fire period is also likely to be helpful, you can check NSW road closures and warnings at Live Traffic. Judging from Bilpin on December 28, take cash, phone lines and cell towers aren’t restored until long after power is.

Photos

Bare trees, near Bell Trees burned to the crown Burned rail embankment Blackened road sign One side of the road burned Melted road sign Completely burned Burned up

All photos.

Cross-posted to Hoyden About Town.

2019 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2019

Tacking a sailboat towards Kurnell in pretty strong winds (for the size of boat) and successfully starboard rounding a mark. And many other sailing navigation moments that I did far worse at than that one.

Lying in an influenza fever dream in the middle of winter, dreaming that the illness was a dimly glowing grey sword about 3 metres in length. Waking long enough to ring the travel agent before dawn to cancel the next morning’s flight to the US.

Arriving halfway down the Ruined Castle ski run at Falls Creek, and surveying it, finding it rather steep, and doing it anyway. Also enjoyed the carpet required to speed me up to catch its chair lift after.

Three meals of 2019

We went back to Quay for a last minute 20th anniversary meal. We were thus in the “be out early” seating with the 6 course meal; they added the Poolish crumpets, which were the only thing missing, as a special surprise.

I wound down a team at work — transitioning our projects to another location — and had a farewell picnic for team members past and present. This involved my favourite caterer Sydney Picnic Co, the Grumpy Donuts I’ve been buying the team for a couple of years whenever there’s an outage, and the views from Ballaarat Park.

Chilli margaritas and veg wedges at Corner Bar; our days of sailing lessons wound up early enough to fit these in before school pickup.

Three photos of 2019

Frangipani Apples, Mayfarm Flowers I found the billionaires

Three pleasures of 2019

Walking. Because I twisted my ankle badly in April 2018, I spent most of last year with limited range and for much of the year outright pain when I exceeded it, and tearing a rotator cuff later in the year didn’t help.

Gently kayaking up Currambene Creek with my daughter in front desultorily adding to the paddling, sliding through the mangroves.

I loved the Apollo 11 documentary, which I saw on a badly needed short notice day off work — something I’ve had to do a couple of times this year, managing two teams and quite a few outages — at Dendy Circular Quay. I spent the first viewing uncertain how much if any of it was file footage versus re-creations. (One thing about the file footage; it’s unlikely that a re-creation would think to have so many people people waving and mugging at the much rarer cameras.) I rang Andrew immediately afterwards to debrief the whole thing over the phone, and took him to see it the following week.

Three news stories from 2019

Can’t go past the bushfires. Well, you can go past them or their aftermath, via almost any major road leaving Sydney. Merry Crisis!

Tracey Spicer, #MeToo, NOW Australia. See The Leaders Of Australia’s “Time’s Up” Movement Made Big Promises They Couldn’t Keep and Tracey Spicer accuses three women of defamation after ABC #MeToo documentary. You could do worse than following Nina Funnell and Nareen Young on Twitter.

Australians working with local councils to get climate emergencies declared. This could be anywhere on the spectrum of “completely for show” through to being a local part of global change. There’s a lot of power in local.

Three sensations from 2019

Rotting seaweed slick and sticky on my feet approaching the beach during our January holiday. This was otherwise an excellent holiday with only a few minutes of disgust, worse because of having to coach children over it.

Hot and seemingly-still air surrounding me as I sailed downwind. Because we learned to tack first, I got used to sailing into the wind, breeze in my hair, triumphant balancing at the bow, and so on. Downwind — with the wind — feels very still and stifling.

Lethagy as I plodded 6 kilometres down the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail north of New York City, through the autumn leaves. I really wanted to mark a travelling Saturday some other way than huddling exhausted in my hotel room, and I don’t regret it, but the outdoors was hard won that day.

Three sadnesses of 2019

It’s a gentle sadness, but my entire family now lives in one town, and I live in a different city and I imagine I always will. I’m also emerging from the young-child chrysalis, and feeling keenly how long and hard I will need to work to rebuild a social circle.

In the same way that I spent much of 2013–15 dealing with bad stuff that happened to me in 2012, I’ve spent much of this year being sad about things that happened in 2015. The hardest half-decade of my adult life, and as a result the following years have been the saddest.

Noting that sadness and wanting pity aren’t the same thing, I’m sad the tech industry, which I’ve either been in or orbited for twenty years, is harming the world.

Three plans for 2020

I won’t count it as one of the three, but I’d love to have less plans. I’ve just spent the last month drowning in planning holidays, and holiday care, and work transitions, and child sporting commitments, and early departures to get ahead of bushfire risk, and packing, and unpacking.

I’m not sure if it’s a plan or the fates, but I feel like we’re even odds for finally taking our kids to Canada; V would like to see Japan as well, and they’re sort of near each other in no sense at all, so maybe we’ll do them in one giant trip.

We’re going on another (seaweed adjacent) beach holiday in a week, assuming the fire risk is acceptable (and this is a real question). I plan to find some good fiction to read; might be hard to top reading through the Imperial Radch triology on this year’s holiday.

It’s the year to get the payoff for the sailing lessons, which is a sailing holiday with the kids. I view it as camping, but without tents. Or sleeping on the ground. And with added water.

Three hopes for 2020

I feel oddly optimistic about the world this week, a gloomy week in a gloomy year in a gloomy decade. Profound sadness hasn’t done me a lot of good in terms of action, so I hope that continues.

Some form of career change: I don’t mean leaving tech for healthcare (I think about this all the time, but only to remind myself I’d be practicing independently long after my 50th birthday), but right now I’m mostly challenged in a “there aren’t enough hours in a day” way rather than the “have to learn a new way of thinking/doing” way and I much prefer the latter.

Rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Storm over Sydney, New Year’s Eve 2018

The dramatic storm that ended 2018 by soaking most of the people who’d been waiting 12 hours for a fireworks show was not forecast, but it also wasn’t entirely unheralded. Here’s the sky 2 hours before it struck:

Storm gathers over Sydney, New Year's Eve 2018
Storm over Sydney, New Year's Eve 2018

However, it wasn’t until later that this was heralded on the radar:

Storm building over Sydney, New Years Eve 2018

I went to the north of the island to see if I could see the storm cell; hearing a security guard’s radio piping up about moving all guests into shelter. Promising! I was not disappointed:

Sydney storm cell, New Year's Eve 2018
Storm cell over Hunter's Hill, New Year's Eve 2018
Rain foot, New Year's Eve 2018

I hurried back; as I did the loudspeakers started to call everyone into the old machinerary sheds due to a “dangerous storm”; we were probably some of the few New Year’s Eve revellers around the harbour who could take shelter that evening.

I made it before the rain did. However, I wasn’t quite the last one in:

Taking shelter from the storm, New Year's Eve 2018

We were out in time for the party:

Rain dance

Other photos of New Year’s Eve (in progress).