2023 in threes

End of year reflections, for the 10th time.

Three moments of 2023

Not getting Taylor Swift tickets. There was an entire shared national experience of staring at a lightweight HTML page on the Ticketek website that reloaded every few minutes; not counting the folks who did get tickets who you therefore could argue aren’t really Australian anymore. I didn’t even see the screen of anyone who did get tickets, but I do know a few people who got the VIP tickets in earlier and pricier sales. Those are committed people; one also flew to LA to see a concert there, and another bought VIP tickets to every Australian show. National loyalty isn’t their key loyalty.

About an hour after the main sale wrapped up, I got a phone call to say a family member was in hospital and I seriously wondered if somehow Taylor Swift had done it. (For the record: no, and also the family member is better.)

Sitting in a friend’s bathtub at a party. My family went to a friend’s birthday straight from the beach and she offered us a shower. I fell very hard and very suddenly, landing hard but neatly into a bathing position, and spent a few horrible minutes contemplating my mortality. My daughter and I shouted for help but weren’t heard or understood, so we collected ourselves slowly, dressed, and went back to the party.

Keeping my job. My son’s birthday, which every four years falls across the US presidential inauguration — on his seventh birthday we marked his progress in reading by his asking why someone had written “Trump” in the sky — was instead ushered in this year by my employer laying off 6000 US employees abruptly at about 9pm the night before in local time (early in the morning, US time). We talked about it into the midnight of his birthday, “we’ll just have to see, we’ll just have to see.”

I found out about the Australian layoffs some weeks later, on a bus, via a message from a very senior manager trying to confirm the warnings had gone out. You tell me!

I was not laid off, one of my former bosses, and at least one of my former employees, were.

Three meals of 2023

New Year’s at Infinity. Every third or fourth New Years we decide to join some kind of Sydney festivity for it. So a year ago Andrew and I went to Infinity, the rotating restaurant in Sydney Tower. I don’t, at this point, remember anything about the food, although it was fine. I remember that the table next to us was a Canadian couple; the man determined to have a terrible time come what may. They pause the rotation of the floor for the fireworks displays, so unless you are lucky you have to walk around the restaurant to see them. Our neighbour was specifically convinced that his table had been punitively chosen to have no view of the fireworks, and further believed that Chinese patrons had bribed the staff to get the view. And explained this all at length to both his wife and to whichever senior member of the staff drew the short straw that night.

The service was kind of slow and two courses were served this year, after midnight. They kept trying to comp us New Year’s wine, we weren’t sure whether it was for the slow service, the terrible table nearby, or just that they had a lot of leftover wine.

Watermelon and goat’s cheese salad. My mother and her cousins had a family reunion at the Marsden Brewhouse and I ordered this thinking it sounded like a light lunch of, say, cubes of watermelon tossed with crumbled goat’s cheese.

It was actually a rectangular slab of watermelon, like a piece of toast if it came from the world’s largest loaf and was cut three times as thick as toast, with an entire layer of goat’s cheese slathered over the top like peanut butter. No expenses spared level of goat’s cheese.

Quite good honestly, but unexpected.

Management dinner at Kid Kyoto. A few representatives of my management chain were in Sydney in early December and we had dinner at Kid Kyoto. Someone took a bet on ordering a large bottle of sake despite the denials of the table that we would drink that much sake. Again with the watermelon; this time watermelon sashimi. More thinly sliced than at the Marsden Brewhouse.

Three photos of 2023

Dawn over Sydney, from the Iron Cove bridge Autumn leaves As Gideon Nav

Three pleasures of 2023

Watching sunset reflect off Crown Towers. On the one hand, Crown Towers is evil; it took several years for it to be clean enough to begin to operate as a casino. And I don’t love the shape of it either (it’s known as Packer‘s Pecker for a reason).

But it’s all glass, and at sunset it begins by catching fire from top to bottom, and ends all black except for bright orange flame at the top. Someone paid enough money to bottle Sydney Harbour in that building, and Andrew and I paid enough money to watch it burn from the lower floors of the Sofitel mid-year.

Hanging out with my kids in bed. They’ve very large now, and they like to show up in our bed a few times a week to cuddle me, tease each other, and really disturb the peace.

Snorkeling Byron Bay. We dived Julian Rocks in the morning, which was less fun because I hate diving shallower than 5 metres since buoyancy is a pain. We then went back out to snorkel it with the kids in the afternoon, having perhaps optimistically represented the younger one’s swimming ability to the dive shop. But the snorkelling was in the lee of the rocks, and led by a freediver who made it her business to go down and point out the turtles. My younger child refused to be towed and we all swam out over the sharks together.

Three news stories from 2023

The death toll in Gaza will pass 10,000 children alone, early in 2024.

The Indigenous Voice referendum failed. Since this was thought to be doomed weeks and months in advance — referenda rarely pass in Australia without the support of the Opposition, and it was polling poorly — I think there was considerable government appetite to quietly move on, and so it did, right into the NZYQ v Minister for Immigration pit. A thoroughly ignoble and unoptimistic year in Australian race politics. What now?

The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried served as a rare moment when the villain was pretty obvious and the system recognised such.

Three sensations from 2023

Wind from the south. 2022 was a year without Sydney’s southerly busters but with the return of more normal summer weather, so too the southerly returned in 2023 and with it the 5 seconds of relief between opening the humid still house to the cool wind and closing it up again because the wind is now a gale.

Bruises on my wrists from dumbbells. I’ve been taking weights classes for about a year and a half, which normally use dumbells because it’s quicker to set them up than it is to set up a bar. But I now deadlift into a weight range where if I don’t balance the dumbbells exactly right in my hands, they lean onto my wrists and leave bruises.

Pain in my right heel. I’m more than 12 months into a bout of plantar fasciitis, which largely killed my long walks, one of my best stress relief activities. It ranges from “have to steel myself to get out of bed” through to “niggles after walking several kilometres”, largely depending on how recently I have embraced my fated destiny to spend the rest of my life in shoes mostly made out of foam.

Three sadnesses of 2023

Family funerals in my family tend to fall on the bluest and clearest of days, and my mother’s uncle’s was no different. His widow, my grandmother’s last living sister, sat crying in the front row, when she had enough energy to be awake at all.

Almost everyone I know has left the California Bay Area. It’s still my main business travel destination, but no more Muir Wood magic or rainy weekends in Sonoma. I went to the Bay Area only briefly this year, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been to California but not San Francisco.

My son can’t catch a break. First year in three without a major ear surgery (“I was right up near his brain!” in the post surgical briefing) involved a bad bout of influenza, another bad bout of some other respiratory thing that a RAT couldn’t help us with, a concussion from a schoolmate, and a knee dislocation, all up not far off an entire missed school term.

Three plans for 2024

Eclipse. We’ll see the eclipse of April 8 from Ontario and then do an as yet poorly planned roadtrip to New York City over the course of 3 weeks. The flights are booked, at least.

One million cheer meets and cricket games. Much like in 2023. And 2022. And so it is to be in 2024. It emerges, much to everyone’s surprise, that we are not the same people as our children, and they are going to spend their childhood perfecting back handsprings and cut shots, and probably not any dialect of the BASIC programming language.

Stand-up paddleboarding. Not as a regular thing, it’s just that my children enjoy it enough that we occasionally plan an outing around it. Again with the schism between generations; I am more of a kayak person.

Three hopes for 2024

Changing house. Either moving or beginning some renovations. How very Sydney.

Photo backlog. I’d really like to do this. Just like I would have liked to do it this past year. But I’d still really like to do it.

Some form of music. This is even worse than the photo backlog, I’ve been claiming to want to do some form of music or dance lessons for 10 years now. But if my daughter can do two dance troupes and two cheer teams, surely I can do one choir or something. That’s the dream.

I’ll add one bonus. I’m just going to say it, from my lips to the universe’s ears: I want a supernova visible to the naked eye in 2024.

2022 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2022

Not dozing in the sun in Munich airport. We flew from Sydney to Rīga via Singapore and Munich, and both transits were terrible, Singapore because it was the middle of the night and Munich because we wanted it to be and it very much wasn’t. But Munich airport has plastic lounge chairs in the airport and we lounged on them in bright summer sun pouring in through huge windows, allegedly fixing our body clocks, or at least, being awake.

Wandering in a daze of pain through Muir Woods. I went to Muir Woods twice this year, on both trips to the Bay Area. The second time I had some kind of digestive upset and ended up in a slightly altered state of consciousness, torn between pain and the somewhat meditiative experience that is inherent to Muir Woods.

Carrying a couch up our street in breaks between rain. We rented office space (former therapy rooms, in fact) near our home in 2021 in order to have a place to work that wasn’t also doubling as a school and 24/7 nuclear family circle of hell. I found it hard to let go of the lease before winter was over since it was difficult to imagine a winter without society closing down.

And then I tore my MCL skiing — the opposite of that kind of winter — and it was hard to give up the lease because I couldn’t help move the furniture out of it. Finally, with the historic spring rains, it was time, and the couch was the last thing out, moved to our porch for a freebie pickup just ahead of a forecast downpour.

Three meals of 2022

Georgian food at Alaverdi, gruzīnu restorāns, in Rīga. Mostly I remember cheese dipped in honey, and wine, and the fact that it was 10pm and not yet sunset.

Smoked pork on rye bread, bread pudding, pickled cabbage various colours, honey vodka among other parts of our food tour of the Rīga Central Market. It started inauspiciously with the guide being (only a little late), but then she was thrilled to meet Australians (“they let you out!” “people from Australia and New Zealand are Latvia’s best tourists!”) and even our picky child was moderately pleased with the idea of an afternoon snack of pork and bread.

Fish at Doyle’s at sunset. I’ve lived in Sydney for 24 years and there’s still a raft of fundamental Sydney things I haven’t done, this was this year’s. The sunset is the key, more than the fish.

Three photos of 2022

Goodbye Culburra: photograph of the photographer casting a shadow onto beach sand, out of focus waves in the distance Uluṟu & Kata Tjuṯa before dawn Fallen log covered in moss in a forest, near the Latvian village of Sigulda

Three pleasures of 2022

Mid-childhood. My children are nearly 9 and 13, They were never not people, but at this stage being a kid of a particular age is a less dominant part of their identity than being particularly themselves. So we have cricket that approaches a part-time job in its commitment level, 5:30am starts to get to cheerleading, sketches in advance of a future fashion label, and someone unexpectedly installing chess apps on their phone alongside TikTok.

Certainty. I haven’t had to tell anyone that their holidays or school or surgery aren’t happening or are delayed or are being replaced with some rushed together home equivalent. I skipped only one family event myself due to illness/contagiousness.

A welcome summer. It rained so much this year and has been so cool that the moderately warm summer days of late December have been quite welcome and joyful, rather than the harbringer of unpleasantness it can be in many years. Watching the sunset from Milk Beach on Christmas Day while a group danced to salsa music from someone’s phone; the morning of New Year’s Eve supervising pre-teen girls squealing in the gentle surf at Wattamolla. Beautiful.

Three news stories from 2022

A year of pundits being terribly wrong about the biggest of big stories. Putin won’t invade Ukraine (Atlantic Council, BBC, Al-Jazeera, University of Melbourne), China will not exit zero COVID (Time, the Atlantic, Bloomberg).

Apparently our former Prime Minister was formerly several other ministers too. The point I, and many others, return to a lot, is “but, also, why?” This is yet to be satisfactorily explained.

Two and a half metres of rain for Sydney. Someone I know lost a friend in the regional flooding.

Three sensations from 2022

Fatigue-and-pain hour. I had COVID at the end of January, it felt like being the last person to get it, but the seroprevalence surveys put me only in the first 40% or so of Australians. Overall I’d put it at worse than most colds, better than influenza, and certainly much better than that time I had early sepsis (which is quite the barometer for bad illness). Its tendency over about the next two weeks to show up arbitrarily once a day for about an hour at a time, fatigue-and-pain hour, was the most distinct part of it.

A plane rocketing down a runway ahead of taking off. Twelve times altogether I suppose but I most distinctly remember the first one leaving Sydney for San Francisco in March, 772 days since my previous plane flight in February of 2020.

The dim shape of chairlifts in the clouds. Our first day in Falls Creek in August was a windy whiteout — they evacuated the mountain at lunchtime — and my daughter gamely skiied down a run with me with neither of us having skied in two years. I was motivated mostly to keep the chairlift in sight for reference rather than find an easy slope and so was very proud of her fortitude.

Three sadnesses of 2022

Tech layoffs and the associated rumour mills, churn, and anxiety. It’s been especially hard since the economic boom that immediately proceeded it was very much a money-boom; during that period folks were sick, sad, and isolated, and do not have an emotional boom-time worth of resilience.

Relatedly, the mid-career exit of women I know in tech continues apace.

Sulking at a hotel window view of Falls Creek’s Summit area during the “walking is very uneasy and requires a lot of planning” phase of my MCL injury. A very winter sport moment, but I had finally found an instructor to sort out my parallel turns this time for sure, just long enough for me to catch the wrong edge ahead of the end of week bluebird days, and it was frustrating.

Three plans for 2023

Both types of NSW beach road trip, that is, north and south, and both in the next four weeks. We booked the southern one, back to the same town where we holidayed in 2019, 2021, and 2022, some of my family booked in to meet us there, and then my son was invited to play in a cricket carnival about as far in the opposite direction as is possible. So, northern cricket tournament first, unpack cricket gear, wash remainder of clothes, head south.

SCUBA. The big hobby of our 20s, but early mornings and babysitters made it so unappealing in our 30s. We’re hoping to dive off Byron Bay, which I have wanted to do for at least 15 years. I don’t think going back to 20 dives a year is on the cards, but, I plan to do a handful of them.

Falls Creek re-run. 2022 was our first extended family ski trip, we stayed in a local family’s hotel full of regulars, with a communal lounge and a babysitting and dining for kids, and of such are family traditions made.

Three hopes for 2023

A narrative of my career that makes sense. My career isn’t bad — it’s highly paid and I get good reviews — but its current iteration is very formed by “just get through this crisis and then” where “this crisis” refers to at least four completely distinct events over three years at this point. A sustainable narrative is what I want.

North American winter, a year from now. I wanted to do this the year my son was 10, it somehow seemed like the perfect age. That year was 2020, so, we did not. I don’t dread the flights or the prices less after Europe in 2022; this may be a case of wanting to want something. But I’ve wanted to want it for a long time!

Catch up on my photography backlog. I’m almost, but not quite, three years behind. I’m not ready to give up. It’s a lot, but there’s a lot of beauty and memories in there that I want access to.

2021 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2021

Wishing a child luck when leaving them in an anaesthetic bay. My children are too old now for me to detail their medical status publicly, but this year featured a major surgery, of which we had had mere hints at New Year, but by February had reached “I’ve cleared my list on Tuesday” urgency. And so.

Coughing so hard that my boss’s boss told me to go and get a drink of water. Every COVID wave this year (both of them) was marked with me getting a rubbish and seemingly non-COVID chest infection. My winter one saw me getting at least three separate PCRs trying to ensure I wouldn’t be spreading COVID at the vaccine clinic and then left me with months long choking coughing fits. The meeting with my boss’s boss was just before I started using Ventolin to manage the coughing, which I needed for a further month.

Sunset at Milk Beach, more than 5km from home and therefore near and then beyond the bounds of the possible. / Sunrise” at The Gap the day that restriction was lifted, and the clouds and misty rain were far too thick for the dawn to be seen.

Three meals of 2021

Self-saucing chocolate puddings from a giant pack of cooking-with-fancy-chocolate guides that my aunt sent at the beginning of Sydney’s lockdown (lots of sympathy inbound in the six weeks or so it took for the lockdown to spread outside the metro region). Hot and incredibly filling.

Enormous fish tacos for Mexican Friday at one of my local bars. It was just a lot of taco!

Bennelong again, as we wanted to go there again and sit in the main restaurant after Andrew’s 40th. One of the rare times I don’t remember the actual food well (possibly I ordered the duck?) but the occasion. We had cocktails at Maybe Sammy prior, which I remember rather better: gin, and huge cubes of clear ice.

Three photos of 2021

Nobbys Beach from Fort Scratchley Last light off Sydney City, from Milk Beach Raindrops on jacaranda

Three pleasures of 2021

My parents’ beautiful farm. I was confined to Sydney by health order for four months and then caught in the whirl of rebooting my life, so we didn’t visit between Easter and Christmas. It has rained immensely, all the teenage trees from the first years of their ownership are thickening and even the ancient established gums look fatter. The steers can’t be seen in the tall grass and the lawn is springy and needs mowing most days.

All the ways that my children aren’t like me. For example, flexibility is very important to A. She can do the splits in every axis and one of her lockdown skills (they’ve happened enough that she believes that a “lockdown skill” is a sort of fact of life) was one handed cartwheels on both sides.

A commute. I had to rent it; I have office space near my house. But 2 minutes of space between me and the morning chaos at home has made a huge difference to my mornings, when most of my important and high stakes conversations take place. Now, behind a door that locks.

Three news stories from 2021 (not COVID)

The missing children who were found: “they found AJ Elfalak!” “they found Cleo Smith!”

French-Australian diplomatic tensions over the cancellation of a submarine order. This is memorable mostly because of the number of times I girded myself to finally, properly, understand whether the level of resentment was justified, and the number of explainers I diligently began reading only to realise at the third paragraph that eyes moving back and forth does not constitute reading things in and of itself. Bouncing off a news story so hard is itself memorable.

Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation as NSW Premier. I rarely watch things like this (I can’t stand to watch concession speeches at election time), but I had spent months watching her 11am winter COVID wave press conferences with Kerry Chant and others most days, following bushfire press conferences a year and a half before, and so somehow had to be there for the end as well.

Three sensations from 2021

The inevitable sore arm from three COVID vaccinations and counting. A funny tasting headache with it, just on the edge of perhaps being imaginary.

Walking backwards off a cliff, abseiling on our camping trip. I hadn’t abseiled as an adult and expected this to be extremely confronting, but the best way to walk backwards off a cliff is to do it nice and fast, and to jump as much as you can. On a slightly harder course, I ended up smacking into the cliff and needing to do a minor self rescue before flying over a cave in one bound.

Being squashed by V, now reaching an adult weight, once the lockdown grumps had abated a bit. And the view of the top of his head, all the other times he believed that lying face down next to me constituted a hug.

Three sadnesses of 2021

The narrowing vision around the pandemic. The world shuddered at the Indian disaster, and then you had to look carefully to catch the Tunisian and Indonesian disasters, the latter particularly a repeat of India. This has been happening since March 2020, but getting worse, the pandemic horizon gets smaller all the time.

This last few years, whatever horrible sympathetic magic happens to parents about tragedies and children set in for me, and so, I spent days in hazes of horror after the Werribee house fire (recalling the Singleton fire of 2019) and the jumping castle tragedy in Davenport.

The tail end of Sydney’s lockdown and the re-entry were very hard on my kids. Not easily distinguishable from age-appropriate grumping at times, but with some distance; a lot of it was the lockdown.

Three plans for 2022

Wall-to-wall travel, apparently.

Beach holiday, why not try this again? We were in the end able to head down the coast last year in January for our bushfire/pandemic-deferred beach holiday, and we have booked another one at end of this January. Even more so than last year, it’s a long time away in public policy terms.

Uluru. As the Australian border opened, I was musing on trying to put together a trip to Japan for their spring, but got lost in a maze of their restrictions, our restrictions, and incoming immune-evasion variants. Then I saw Peter Carroll’s photography of Uluru in the rain (via some non-crediting Twitterer who will therefore remain unlinked) and we booked a Uluru trip for autumn instead.

I have never seen Australia’s deserts before. I have no expectation it will rain.

Family snow trip. We got really close, one family got as near as having the car packed before the government pulled the plug; 2021 was the first year we’ve missed since 2013.

Andrew and I have better gear to make up for our deficiencies, V is keen to try snowboarding, A is way more adventurous than she used to be, and also has nearly a year of acrobat muscle built up. This could be our year.

Three hopes for 2022

Had to work to avoid wall-to-wall travel.

Visiting the US. This has at least been legal for me to do for a month (and I was invited to do so almost the second it was), quite when I will consider it either useful (other people need to be at the office) or sensible I am not sure of. 2022 is the hope, perhaps even early in the year.

Roadtripping Highway 1 with Andrew seems a bit much to hope for within the year.

Sailing in Queensland. This is a repeat hope, but eastern Australian border closures seem finally done for with pan/endemic COVID everywhere. Springtime nights under the moon on a catamaran, I’ve been trying to get this together for nearly four years. “Hopefully by spring…”

A full year of schooling. It’s been about five months of virtual schooling in two years, somewhere between the US and many European countries. It’s been enough and more.

2020 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2020

A warm evening in Melbourne in early February. Just before the whole idea of giving experiences as presents died, we gave V “a trip to the BBL cricket final in whatever city it’s taking place in” as a birthday present. That turned out to be Sydney, so instead we took him and A out of school one afternoon and flew to Melbourne to see his team lose a semi-final.

In the business class lounge before flying down, we told the kids “all this food is free” and they raced off and returned with two plates heaped with plain crackers. At the match A cried for many overs because “the big things” (the mascots) weren’t coming to dance near her. The next morning we took them to Brunetti in Flinders Lane and they both thought it was the fanciest restaurant they’d ever been in.

I’ve spent the rest of the year citing this trip as the reason I am going to say yes to everything, forever.

The first day of March, getting an email at work to notify us that international travel was to be immediately cancelled, until further notice.

I’d like to say that I was among the visionary types who were watching the news with growing alarm from January onwards and stocking up on masks and hand sanitiser, but while I was aware of COVID from January onwards, I, along with many of my colleagues in Australia (but not in Europe, not by March), honestly thought this was a pretty severe overreaction.

At that point, international air travel, as a normal thing, only had about a week left to live. Within two weeks I was begging a staff member on a temporary rotation to fly out while flights from Australia still existed, and he probably only made it by a day or two.

A very cold weekend in late June, lying awake in a tent on the Central Coast listening to Andrew and V talk about ancient history by a campfire while trying to get warm in my bedding.

In April, I had taken the six months of COVID restrictions prediction to apply to the then-status quo, and told the kids that we would go glamping to celebrate the end of restrictions on regional travel. The kids were very taken with the idea of “glamping” (“it’s glamourous camping”, they told any other child who would listen, as soon as they were allowed to see them. I imagined looking at the stars finally in late spring. Travel restrictions were lifted in June and my restriction pessimism thus saw us glamping before the end of the month.

For all that it was cold and we were underdressed for it, it was a happy weekend, not least for V in discovering that he adores looking at fires with his Dad.

Three meals of 2020

Birthday dinner for Andrew at Bennelong. We had bought tickets to see The Necks at half price from someone who couldn’t make it, falling on the night of his birthday, so our dinner reservation was last minute and had to be at the bar, not at a table, and we watched the chefs assemble our food. It concluded with chocolate cake, melted in the middle.

Any number of delivery dinners from Cantina Bar, my birthday being the second one and the one where I settled on my order now and forever, specifically Chile Relleno in honour of The Good Place and fish tacos with jalapeño in honour of jalapeño. For a month or so there, jalapeño seemed to be the only source of endorphins I had available to me.

Chicken Provençal from Le Coq, at home in our courtyard for our wedding anniversary, with a bottle of red wine from our cellar such as it is, the details of which I no longer remember.

Three photos of 2020

Street mushrooms Early morning dew Fallen autumn leaves

Three pleasures of 2020

Watching A, my less physically adventurous child, conquer the children’s rope courses at Treetops. She was so proud she narrated a 15 minute instructional video to me while she completed the hardest course.

Silly cordial and champagne cocktails with my family sitting in the sun at my parents’ farm in May, a solid nine months before I would have predicted it was safe to see them.

Swimming. Pools were closed or limited for several months, I enjoyed returning to patiently hauling up and down a lane most weeks.

Three news stories from 2020 (COVID)

The work of Chinese doctors and medical researchers who shared news of COVID 19 with the world; particularly Professor Zhang Yongzhen and the late Dr Li Wenliang.

送别李文亮 / “Farewell to Li Wenliang!”, via @tony_zy

Italy’s quarantine of the north, the second great quarantine/lockdown I was aware of after Wuhan, and a pointer to how things would go from there (unexpectedly, by the standards of international public health advice at the time). Australia went from celebrating having 86,000 people at the final of the women’s cricket world cup that same day, to closing its own borders not two weeks later, this remains in place today.

The effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, beginning with Pfizer’s announcement in early November.

Three news stories from 2020 (not COVID)

As with last year, the bushfires, which continued into January and got worse for some weeks: East Gippsland, the NSW South Coast, Kangaroo Island, people fleeing along country roads without fuel available. “Are you from the media? Tell the Prime Minister to go and get fucked, from Nelligan!”

Black Lives Matter. In its Australian form, it was more muted and most visible was a giant debate about whether the protests led to COVID transmissions (probably not).

No charges were laid following Tanya Day’s death in police custody in 2017. Charlie Mullaley’s family was denied an inquest into police actions on the night he was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered by his mother’s partner. The inquest into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison continues, you can donate to the family here.

The release of the Brereton report into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. See also the work of Samantha Crompvoets with veterans to uncover some of the allegations. With possible criminal proceedings to come, a great deal of information is still restricted.

Three sensations from 2020

Hearing loud crying at 11am every day. I switched roles at work just as schools closed—in NSW, they just recommended children be removed, but even so—and so Andrew took leave to help the children with school. 11am was around about the time that my US-time meetings wound up and I took some time to sit downstairs with A and calm her from the morning of crying in frustrating over English lessons. She also remembers these couple of months as “the crying time”.

Struggling to see the edge of a cliff on the Blue Cow traverse at Perisher. It was very nearly a true whiteout: I couldn’t see the next trail marker from the current one and had to shuffle along trying to stick to the left, away from the drop-off. It felt like a very short run. A little later I went to the top of Pretty Valley, not far away, assuming somehow that it couldn’t be so very very white, and discovered other people were using me to as visual guidance because I was wearing bright orange and was willing to attempt turns.

Headwinds while cycling the Bay Run, by far my most common route this year. Particularly, in recent weeks, hot headwinds, like cycling into an oven, or like sailing with the wind on a warm day.

Three sadnesses of 2020

Pandemic deaths. I hardly ate in the second half of March and barely slept thinking about Italy and Iran. Things have only got worse since then for deaths, but at some point I had to stand down to a more distant relationship.

Every time I got to break my kids’ hearts a little bit, or a lot. Our holiday is off. Our rescheduled version of the same holiday? Also off. Your grandmother is suddenly seriously ill (my son, unexpectedly furious, grabbing a pillow and punching it over and over and over while crying). Your cousins aren’t coming to visit. Your football season isn’t going ahead. Cricket try-outs are indefinitely postponed. You can’t see your friends. It’s been so much easier in Australia but even then, 2020 sharpened the knife and handed it to me many times.

People implying that pleasure is morally suspect and therefore its loss should not be mourned. Julia Marcus wrote really well about this, several times—Quarantine Fatigue Is Real, The Danger of Assuming That Family Time is Dispensable—as did Zeynep Tufekci (“[y]ou’d think from the moral outrage… that fun, in itself, transmits the virus,” quoting Marcus).

It’s a joke-but-not-really to say that I’ve started identifying as a hedonist in response. Temperamentally I’d normally handily win any “least likely to be a hedonist” prizes you have going, but I’ve certainly become clear that joy and community and pleasure are a primary pursuit and that being deprived of them is a major civil liberty infringement (even when public health concerns are so great that they win over civil liberties for a time).

Three plans for 2021

Getting a COVID vaccine! It seems like this won’t happen until mid-year for Australians of my age, although maybe there will be a pleasant surprise there. But I’ll make a day of it (likely twice) in some fashion. Maybe wear a fancy hat.

The same beachside holiday I was planning to take last year, in exactly the same week a full year later. (It was postponed first by the January fires and then by COVID travel bans.) However, it’s a little less than a week away and there are a couple of active COVID clusters in NSW right now, so who knows?

Resuming sailing. We didn’t sail much at all in 2020 for obvious reasons and likely need a substantial refresher. The goal of this is to sail in the Whitsundays and at the moment I won’t cross a state border in order to be at sea for three days; the chance of being met with border closures on return is much too high. But hopefully by spring, travel to Queensland is a normal thing to do again.

Three hopes for 2021

Approved and deployed COVID vaccination protocols for children. It’s upsetting that this seems to be so far behind. With potentially more infectious variants popping up I would think it will be difficult to reach herd immunity (even assuming vaccines dampen transmission) without vaccinating children.

Using my passport. I believe this was the first calendar year since 2011 that I spent entirely within Australia’s borders, and by the end of February it will almost certainly be 12 months entirely within NSW’s borders (the ACT counts as within!). I just want to stand exhausted in some poorly managed queue and answer pointed questions about my exact intended activities over the next few weeks, is that so much to ask?

Breakfast at the office. It’s partly reopened and I’ve gone in several times, but they don’t serve breakfast at the moment, and it’s not a buffet in any case. I miss dumping natural yoghurt all over a cold hard boiled egg and thin slices of tomato and pretending that that’s a normal thing to do.

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.

2018 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2018

April: the day after my birthday, sitting alone near the top of Mount Kanimbla with a camera on a very cold morning to catch the sunrise. I’d had a badly injured ankle for a week at that time and so getting myself outside was a real independent triumph.

Dawn over the Blue Mountains escarpment, Kanimbla Valley
Dawn over the Blue Mountains escarpment.

September: the top of Thredbo resort with Andrew and V, looking towards the Basin t-bar in gale force winds. While it was still open, none of us love t-bars or have any experience riding them in high wind. So we skiied/trudged uphill for 500m straight into the wind to the top of the run we wanted, our faces being scoured with freezing rain, and then we skiied down until we were below the cloud layer and high-fived.

October: Saturday in New York, the end of the first week of a three week work trip, before flying to California. I’d planned to visit either the Holocaust Museum or the 9/11 Museum, but a nor’easter blew in. I went down to the World Trade Center to find people queuing outside for the museum in the pouring rain in flimsy white plastic raincoats, and turned right around and went back uptown. I was tired and I needed snacks and mains power, so I went into work, went up to the top of the building, and sat on a couch eating yoghurt and hummus with my fingers because I was too tired to figure out where the spoons were.

Rain in New York
Rain in Chelsea, October 2018.

Three meals of 2018

January: V’s birthday lunch in Kauaʻi, for which he of course chose McDonalds. It seemed exactly the same, but somehow also gloomier.

August: at the local Indian restaurant, discovering paratha after twenty years of Sydney naan.

December: lunch at Quay, squeezing in before a gift voucher from Christmas 2017 expired. We had the ten course meal, it was all lovely, but what instantly comes to mind when I think back to it is the incredibly buttery crumpets about half way down the menu, delivered in a wooden “toaster”.

Three photos of 2018

Photographer under Hanalei Pier
Photographer under Hanalei Pier, Kauaʻi
Reflected Australian flag
Australian flag reflected in Darling Harbour
Wave breaks over Icebergs
Wave breaks over Icebergs pool, Bondi

Three pleasures of 2018

February: three days of alone time in Birchgrove. I needed to have a radioiodine thyroid scan and moved out of home for several days as a precaution against exposing the children to radiation. While the doctors thought this was a little excessive for the dose, it meant that I hunkered down in a granny flat with a harbour view, caught ferries, took myself out to solo dinners, and watched harbour waves break in the dark on the shores of Birchgrove Park.

View from Birchgrove
View from Birchgrove

December: summer foods, defined as stone fruits and dark and stormies. We’ve been drinking dark and stormies and catching up on the final two seasons of Rake.

Throughout the year: my daughter’s immense wavy head of hair after years of her pulling it out and being mostly bald. My current line about this is that we finally understand why she was pulling it out: it was a last ditch defence against the complete takeover. She lost; now she is a being more hair than child.

After party
A, November 2018

Three news stories from 2018

All the news about cryptocurrency, particularly scams and regulatory crackdown. This is my popcorn news, having read David Gerard’s Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts around the time of the Bitcoin peak.

Global hunger has been rising for three years. There’s been a narrative for a while now among the philanthropy wonks I follow that, somewhat silently and without fanfare, disease, poverty, and hunger were gradually reducing and we weren’t giving ourselves enough credit for creating a better world. But not so in the last few years. Which is the interregnum, the few decades of progress or the last couple of years of worsening?

Which brings me to the IPCC 1.5°C report (“we have 12 years”), the November student strikes in Australia, and other climate change news.

Three sensations from 2018

April: crutching my way out of Balmain Hospital with a pain-free foot. The injury only hurt when I put weight on it, so the absence of pain was a common and lovely sensation. Lying down! On crutches! Complete absence of pain! When the doctor asked if I needed pain relief I gave her an uncomprehending look.

August: freezing rain scouring my face at Thredbo as I went up the chairlift in a gale just shy of closing the lift. “Welcome to outdoor sports!” chortled the instructor. I liked it in an odd way, but V found it so frightening he insisted on being taken right back down the mountain. (At the end of the lesson I had to wring my gloves dry of water; it’s a credit to GoreTex my hands were still warm.)

November: pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks in San Francisco, in honour of Glen Weldon’s take on pumpkin spice (offset 06:45). It’s mostly cinnamon.

Three sadnesses of 2018

Cancer in the family, again.

Much smaller but you can have more details: I had a couple of nasty and slow healing injuries this year. First I twisted my right ankle in April playing with A at a drop off beside one of V’s soccer fields and hurt it badly enough that it didn’t take weight for days and I couldn’t walk long distances without pain for about half the year. Second, I tore my left supraspinatus skiing and have only regained most of the flexibility in the shoulder in the last few weeks and am yet to get much of the strength back. This put paid to one of the previous set of plans, learning to sail, and made sleeping, housework, and cycling difficult all year.

The California Ideology, to which I am not native but from which I profit, coming up worse and worse over time. See this interview with Fred Turner.

Three plans for 2019

Throwing my children birthday parties this year. This was a millstone last year, and we left it until the following birthdays were nearer than the ones being celebrated and then abandoned all hope. This year two parties are planning, and from now on, since their birthdays are only 12 days apart, they get a party every second year alternating.

We’re taking the first two weeks of the year off work. Our only holiday plan — really, one should be enough — is to spend a week of that on the south coast, which I haven’t visited since diving with seals at Montague Island in 2007. Unlikely to dive this time but perhaps boating on Jervis Bay.

Because of the injuries, we didn’t get to learning to sail — at one point I could neither have stood comfortably on my right foot nor pulled with any strength in my left arm — so that returns to the plans again.

Three hopes for 2019

To quote my entry a year ago: “Some good news about climate change, whether statistics or serious political will.”

Some new horizon of family life, as my youngest child turns five and we’re increasingly free to explore things for older children and adults. So far we’ve done ropes courses and water parks, I’m sure there’s more to come.

Involvement in some kind of activism. I gave what I had and to spare to tech feminism already, perhaps labour activism or something like 350.org is next.

2017 in threes

End of year reflections.

Reading over last year’s (very dark) reflections, I would say 2017 was not the year I feared. While it will take a few years yet to tell what 2017 really was to the world, for me, it was a quiet and quite inward looking year, after a very hard 2015 and 2016.

Three moments of 2017

January: I was ill and taking regular naps at work; weirdly easy to go to sleep. Dark rooms, trip-hop through my headphones, and free associating.

May: New York City, so overwhelmed in a new job and so jetlagged that I worked a fifteen hour day and fell into bed for a brief sleep when I lost the ability to speak English.

November: Snorkelling in the Whitsundays, wishing again and always that I had scuba equipment, but happy and peaceful in the water.

Three meals of 2017

May: our wedding anniversary meal, degustation at Restaurant Como. Especially the rose-and-raspberry Eton mess, adding a bunch of subtlety to something that’s usually more like a hammer for a sweet tooth.

May and November: sashimi at Asuka Sushi. In planning to visit New York a few times a year, I wanted to find a few rituals to get me through the visits. Sashimi seems like a good choice. Protein versus jetlag.

Throughout the second half of the year: the truffle oil dumpling at the Din Tai Fung outlets throughout Sydney. As with making an Eton mess subtle, this makes truffle just subtle enough. And there’s only ever one of them…

Three photos of 2017

This represents being happy at work to me, although it’s also a million years ago in 2017-career-time. I was a newbie facing her first performance review, not the incoming manager of the team):

Today's look: writing self assessment for performance review. ?

By the following cycle, I was doing performance reviews for other people.

A sweet boy and his baby cousin:

Cousin cuddle

The sun setting over the exit from Monk Park in Tamworth, a walk I did many times as a child:

Last rays

Three pleasures of 2017

Throughout the year: bike rides to work after a fresh service and with full tyres, fast climbs for a change.

May: our wedding anniversary weekend away west of the mountains. Wood fire, hot tub, creek nearby, eucalyptus leaves glowing yellow-green when the sun shone through them.

August/September: the week when skiing finally clicked for me. Mid-week, I led Andrew down a narrow run that neither of us had seen before. With my daughter ill on the last day of our lift ticket, Andrew took care of her in the morning while I did my last ski runs; three each of the intermediate runs on Merritts Mountain. Two falls all week; one the now traditional collision with Andrew. Lots of fun.

Three news stories from 2017

January: the first of the Trump travel bans, the one that proposed to limit green card holder travel to the US. Protests at US airports, mobilisation inside my workplace. I ran a fundraiser for a few tens of thousands for refugee rights activism in Australia.

February onwards: Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber and the ongoing work of The Silence Breakers, whether named in Time or not. Australia’s version, I think, is just firing up.

December: the passing of Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 on the 7th. I wasn’t in the country when the postal vote results came out and it became clear that fears that the ‘Yes’ vote would be complacent about turning out were unfounded. And I wasn’t following the parliamentary progress either, so I had to catch up that evening. I got a rather mystified Vincent to watch it carefully.

Three sensations from 2017

Throughout the year: hypnagogic hallucinations, almost every night. I’ve occasionally had them before but not nearly so constantly. They’re more like dreams than like free associating for me; they have images and plots. They’re mostly harmless; they’re only somewhat annoying in that I usually wake up from them a few times before going all the way to sleep.

November: New York, around −5°C and windy. Despite my (excellent) new winter coat that I bought for that trip, the cold surrounded my legs in their thin trousers and got up into my core that way. I run very hot, thyroid or no, so getting truly cold on a short walk is very memorable.

November again: sleeping under the stars on a boat in Queensland. I was committed to the outdoor plan as soon as I heard that the cabins often get above 30°C at night. The first night I was short a blanket but really tired, so I woke to squint at the stars over and over before sleepiness won over chill. On the third night, it rained just enough to wake me gently, and not enough to drive me inside.

Three sadnesses of 2017

May: my uncle Rob died of a brain tumour aged 57, just shy of nine months after he was diagnosed (alluded to in last year’s version of this). I wasn’t in the country for his funeral; I flew up to Tamworth the day before I left and drove my teenage cousin around to shop for soft drinks to be served at his wake.

Later in the year: another friend was diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve thought more about Nóirín again this year. It was the year of the silence breakers after all, and of course the Ninth Circuit ruling. Nóirín was one of many silence breakers who paved the way.

Three plans for 2018

We’re heading to Kauaʻi in January with some of my friends, the first time we’ve travelled overseas with both children and both adults. I’m a bit wary of what it will be like, with Vincent the child who is only alive around other children.

I’m going to do an introduction to sailing course early in the year, and if it works out, train through to day skipper so that we can charter sailboats for weekends away. Like camping, only with more water, wind, and creature comforts. That’s the theory.

New York is my main work travel destination, so I’ll be there again at least once. My parents are hoping to join me for one trip. I’d like to spend time in Brooklyn while I’m there.

Three hopes for 2018

Some good news about climate change, whether statistics or serious political will.

Travelling to North America with my family. This is somewhere between a hope and a plan; I’ve barely begun putting it together. But it is increasingly strange and sad having two lives, one as a single career woman in North America and the other as a married mother of two in Sydney. Andrew and I have both walked the High Line in New York, but never together, both explored Lands End in San Francisco, but never together.

An easy one: I hope it rains all day at some point. It’s been a dry year; I really miss a good rainy day.

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

2016 in threes

End of year reflections: 2016, at its low points, has been the worst year of my life, and many people including me fear that it is the year that marks the beginning or escalation or point of no return for a time of increased oppression, war, and death.

This is thus hard to write, but 2016 was also a year in my life, such as it is, and remembering is part of living as best I can, so here we are.

There are several pieces of writing that have been important to how I feel about the world right now, here’s one:

(Transcript of poem at the bottom of the entry. If this poem speaks to you as it did to me, consider tipping its author.)

Three moments of 2016.

May: Another visit to Dolores Park, a place in San Francisco that’s been important to me in 2016. I was restless and in a bad mood so I walked up and down the hill, around and around the park, and then up to Market Street as the sun set and along and eventually caught BART back after dark had fallen and I’d walked several kilometres.

September: A family member who is ill and was visiting for medical treatment came to lunch at my house with other members of my family. My daughter A, who was 2¾, had taken a long long time to come out of her shell with strangers, and was only just starting to agree to interact with them at all. But she ended up playing with water guns with the teenagers, aiming water at our window where adults were protecting themselves, while dancing and cackling.

November: I found out Donald Trump was likely to win the US Presidential election on my final day of isolation due to radioactive iodone treatment for thyroid cancer. I was out of strict isolation in hospital but still not allowed to be physically close to anyone, particularly my children, so I was driving a carshare car by myself to visit my parents. It was a rainy drive, I stopped in the light mist at Sutton Park to go to toilets there — it’s a lovely park and rest area largely used as a chance for a loo break — and looked at the news on my phone and then drove down into the bright sunshine and ludicrous green on the other side of the mountains and started thinking through the implications.

Three meals of 2016

All in the US, where I spent six weeks this year.

1. May, Zuni Café, San Francisco: the second time a friend and I have eaten there, this time upstairs with a reservation rather than squeezed in near the kitchen, both times with the fried chicken. I have never gone anywhere for the fried chicken. I have never imagined I would. All the better.

2. September, SHED Cafe, Healdsburg: a lemon pancake which was in fact a lemon pudding. Not even in disguise, it came in its own ceramic dish it had been cooked in. It wasn’t self-saucing or it would have been lemon delicious pudding in disguise. It was left off the order originally, I got two kaffir lime waters in apology. Unnecessary.

3. October, Andrew’s Cheese Shop, Santa Monica: a work dinner, comprised of gourmet grilled cheeses with matched beers. Again, I would never ever think to do something like this for myself.

Three photos of 2016

The first day of a silly between-jobs project of exploring the City of Sydney swimming pools:

Making a little tour of the City of Sydney pools this week.

A selfie I’m pretty happy with:


I was still taping the thyroidectomy scar at the time; it’s more purple than it looks there.

Someone climbs a rope, hands-only, as the sun sets over Santa Monica beach:

Rope climb

Three pleasures of 2016

1. I did do the intermediate run on skis I wanted. The very first one was the result of a misunderstanding; my skiing buddy thought I’d done intermediate runs in Australia and therefore after warming up could do one at Heavenly. Instead it was a first. The day went downhill (ha) after part of the resort was shut due to wind, and we missed lunch, but the cold grey morning was lovely.

2. Being taken to the ward after my thyroidectomy and having Andrew smile at me and squeeze my hand during the brief moments I was able to be awake for that afternoon.

3. The feeling of my hair swishing on my neck now that it has grown long enough.

Three news stories from 2016

Putin, I think? I’ve talked enough about the US. So: Putin, Aleppo, Brexit.

This is not fine.

You have to be a better and stronger person than I am to find something else to say.

Three sensations from 2016

1. “Koala” snuggles with my daughter, who is not as demonstrative as her older brother, except when she curls firmly into me to avoid anything or anyone she doesn’t like. Or when she’s ready for bed. Fierce sleepy marsupials are about right.

2. The taste of Haigh’s chocolates on several occasions: I bought them for myself for both cancer treatments, and when I left my job mid-year (between treatments). I remember the sweetness of the cremes, so sweet it hurts, but what I recommend is the truffles.

3. The taste of lemon sherbet boiled sweets. I went through a bag of them on medical advice during the radioactive iodine treatment; the I131 also gathers in the salivary glands and gives them mild radiation burns. Getting it excreted is the main fix, hence sour things.

Three sadnesses of 2016

1. A number of serious illnesses that aren’t mine, so aren’t mine to talk about.

2. Speaking of illnesses, but that are, or were, mine, the morning before a surgery is always a terrible time for me.

3. I actively chose to switch jobs again this year, but it was really hard and sad.

Three plans for 2017

1. I’ve started cycling in the last few months of this year. It’s a nice ride just shy of 4km with enough hills to get some exercise and a long bridge ride. In 2017 our ongoing ridiculous childcare situation will be improved, and I’m hoping riding three or four days a week will be my normal thing.

2. A peaceful week-long holiday with Andrew and the kids at Lake Macquarie. I find skiing hard work, so this will be only the second relaxing holiday we’ve all had together in the three years since my daughter was born.

3. As little travel as I can get away with. I’d love to clock up six months without a boarding pass.

Three hopes for 2017

This year, a very close cousin of “three fears”.

1. I hope my strong and wise friends are here and fighting and see something good growing from their hard work and their fear.

2. I hope it’s still possible to work for US headquartered employers in my industry without rapidly worsening complicity in human rights abuses.

3. I hope for at least one night out together with my husband that isn’t “last night before I go away for work” or “last night before I’m admitted to hospital again”.

Poem transcript

Transcript of the poem by Saladin Ahmed:

How do you talk to your kids?

Spit out the scorpions
Spit out the cyanide
Fill your mouth with thorny

Sit and hold their hands
Sit staring at their
superhero posters
Explain that villains win

Tell them no one can tear
apart their family

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them that no one can take
away their home

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them you will keep them
Even if you can’t

Teach your daughter to throw
a punch if she has to
Teach your son to cry if he
has to

Give them knives
Give them the sturdiest wax
you can find

Teach them to make candles

—Saladin Ahmed, buzzfeednews/reader

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

Previous years: 2014, 2015.

2015 in threes

Three moments of 2015.

February 2015: V’s first day of school, calling to get him to pause at the gate for his first day of school picture.

April 2015: sitting in a dark hotel room in San Francisco recovering from AdaCamp in Montreal and travel in general, while Andrew used my power of attorney back in Australia to buy a house. (Yes, after much discussion. Still. It was a weird way to have it done.)

July 2015: lying in bed in a sunny Airbnb room in San Francisco, my first day in town, hot and tired and sweaty from jetlag and mosquitos biting me all night my first night in town. Around 7am Val told me online that she had news that Nóirín had died.

Three meals of 2015

Tapas at MoVida, while the couple perched next to us at the bar had a very awkward first date conversation about themselves and we hoovered up chorizo because one day, there may be no more chorizo. More than the meal I remember the freeing feeling of wandering around after dark, something I do so little of now.

The really quite good sushi I bought several times from Walgreens at 135 Powell St San Francisco. It got me through the dark and tired period of buying the house in the gloom of Hotel Union Square in April; and it got me through my two night stay in San Francisco in October for a job interview. Fatty, slippery, and tasty. Goes down well when you want to hide out in San Francisco with a blanket over your head.

Fish tacos at Verde in Kapaa. The fish of the day is always `ahi or makimaki — and why not have both? Verde is a physically non-descript restaurant, but the tacos are memorable. It became very clear to me that I need to seek out a lot more Mexican food before having an opinion on it.

Three photos of 2015

A vastly inadequate photo of the best sunset I’ve ever seen, over the equator flying from Sydney to Vancouver:


Goodbye to San Francisco, after we shut down the Ada Initiative:


A slightly fun mirror-selfie in Bondi:

Self portrait in Bondi

If you’re after quality rather than feels, have a look at my Bondi to Bronte and Kauaʻi photos

Three pleasures of 2015

“Child piles”: encouraging both my children to flop on top of me. They also like to hug each other. V has got bony but he’s also got a lot more considerate in the last year, so we’re having some great hugs.

Returning to the slopes at Thredbo and not falling down. And the feeling of getting my skis back under me occasionally when I started to lose it. And hot doughnuts after skiing wrapped up each day.

My two visits to Dolores Park in summer and autumn, enjoying sun and grass and sometimes slightly too many people, and nice views of distant fog, and even, one time, a rainbow. I want to go to Northern California with my family someday. Someday!

Three news stories from 2015

Video: Hamilton’s “Wait for It” – Gypsy of the Year 2015
Can you imagine?
The flotillas of the Rohingya. While they were at sea, a friend of mine said that this was what it was like, to know a genocide was going on but not doing anything.

The Prime Ministership change in Australia. I am not a huge fan of the “they’re all the same anyway” analysis; I well recall that argument being made at the last Federal election, referring to a Rudd-led ALP government and an Abbott-led Coalition government. I don’t think Turnbull is here to govern for people I wish he would govern for; I don’t think the change was nothing either.

The entire Syria and ISIS and Middle East and global terror catastrophe, but particularly the Paris and San Bernardino attacks; and France’s frightening response with regards to civil liberties. I don’t feel, from this distance, like the US has responded as intensely after San Bernardino, but after Paris they had less far to fall. And in contrast to many other countries, especially mine: Germany.

Three sensations from 2015

The sea spraying in my face for a half hour standing at the railing on a motor boat between Niʻihau and the Nāpali coast of Kauaʻi, to a degree where my eyes were stinging. Blood was dripping down my ankle from a previous fall on the boat. Nevertheless, it was exhilarating; my happiest moment alone for the year.

Motion sickness as I haul giant floating rafts up five flight of stairs for V at Wet ‘n’ Wild; wishing there were queues there that day so that I could get it to subside between rides.

Some of the first times my daughter has really hurt me: leaning too hard on me, jumping on me, squeezing my fingers tightly. She does this so little still that I get excited about how she’s growing up.

Three sadnesses of 2015

Writing memorials for Nóirín and Telsa.

“Mixed feelings” is the right characterisation of how I felt about shutting down the Ada Initiative but sadness is in the mix. Specifically, I wrote the business case for shutting it down. It was very convincing. Sadly.

Cutting people who’ve died, and people I’m not in touch with, from my Christmas card list. Relatedly, recalling a three-person conversation to which both the other parties have since died.

Three plans for 2016

Work in the technology industry again, in the technical hierarchy. I’ve never stopped coding, and I’ve learned a lot about project management since I last worked in this way (in 2005). Even interviewing for positions has taught me what a different person and employee I am now. Watch this space!

An intermediate run on skis. I’m skiing twice in 2016, this really should be do-able I hope. My long term ambition probably ends at “can ski the bulk of blue runs on Australian mountains”. That’s lots of variety.

Getting to grips with Melbourne, which I will be visiting a lot. My familiarity with Melbourne right now is so low that I got a takeaway coffee there this year and had no idea where people go to sit down anywhere inside the CBD. A place I like to go and sit would be a good start.

Three hopes for 2016

So prosaic, but I would love to get daycare for my daughter in the suburb we’ve moved to, and resume our walking childcare run. It got me outside and moving every day. That’s really really turned out to be something I miss. I guess a broader version of this is integrating into the neighbourhood and suburb more, since we plan to be here a long time. Having V in the local school will help a lot.

Growing my circle of adult friends in Sydney. It is, as always, somewhat more healthy in San Francisco than it is here.

And… the continuing emergence of a persuasive economic reform plan from the left. Basic income and wealth tax experiments!

Feel free to answer my end of year prompts yourself!

2014 in threes

Answers to my own end of year prompts.

Three moments of 2014

1. January, and deep night in my living room. My induction has taken effect, nineteen days (yes, one, nine) after my due date and she will be born in four hours. I have rarely spent time in my living room in the darkness and I labour in the glow of quite a few LEDs. My life is measured three minutes on and one minute off: in between contractions, we work down our mental packing checklist, and I walk and walk.

2. June, and deep night over the Pacific Ocean, 10km up in the air and about 1000km from any significant features on the map (we were south of Hawaii), most of the plane asleep around me, including, incredibly, my five month old baby who I have nonsensically taken on a business trip to the United States. My seat is reclined and I reached to close my window shade behind me. I partially dislocate my shoulder joint and spend ten seconds gazing into the vortex of getting a non-covered pre-existing condition incurred on a plane treated in the United States. Then my shoulder joint goes back into place. I spend some time awake afterwards.

3. August, sunshine over Thredbo. I am on the magic carpet — Syd’s Snow Runner — riding up to the easiest run, so shallow that when I am on the run I keep having to use my poles to push myself along. There are young eucalypts across the creek to my left. I am smiling because it is my first day of skiing and I haven’t fallen over constantly and when my instructor looks at me she says things like “you have good balance!” rather than “you really really try hard”.


Also August, standing in a crowded underwater tunnel at the Sydney Aquarium, really really pissed off and seeing the sharks swim around me and thinking that no, I absolutely am not in any way done with SCUBA, not even close.

Three meals of 2014

1. April, Café Sydney. I can’t remember for the life of me what I ate. (Maybe pork belly?) But the point is, this is our yearly tradition. Instead of birthday presents, we go out for lunch at a restaurant of finer quality than we usually do some time between our birthdays in February and April.

This tradition was about to be killed off at all of three years in, because of the new baby. But unexpectedly, the new baby had a childcare place at three months old. I was very ambivalent about it, but it did get me to this lunch with Andrew, the first time A and I had ever been in a different suburb. (To this day, we’ve not spent a night apart.)

2. October, a Sydney Picnic Co picnic with Andrew on Cockatoo Island, which turns out to not have great seating if you aren’t camping, so we balanced oddly on a steep hill. Those picnics, in addition to being expensive, are really really huge, so it’s basically a day’s worth of eating. But they really are delicious scandalously expensive enormous picnics. I think the Le Dauphin has spoiled me for any other cheese.

3. The chicken, fig and quinoa salad at one of my local cafes, which I’ve had a few times. I think this is the first year I’ve had quinoa, which I feel is a bit embarassing (I think of myself as reasonably adventurous with food, and I am in that I like most things, where I fall down is trying them in the first place). There’s no single visit to the cafe that stands out, but the salad is memorable.

Three photos of 2014

The number one photo of 2014 is a photo I haven’t put on the web and won’t: a photo of me seconds after my daughter was born (she’s curled up in my arms, blue, with the cord still alive) with an expression of “WHAT THE HELL? THIS IS NOT HAPPENING” on my face. If you know me well, ask me to show it to you some day.

Here’s some runners up:

Newborn hiding!
My daughter’s face, when she was an hour old. She already looks like herself.
Sibling love
One of the earlier photos of my children together, when my daughter was two days old and still rosy, and apparently feeling pretty pleased with the world somehow.
Storm cell over Rozelle
One of many December storms bears down from Rozelle.

Three pleasures of 2014

1. For all but eight days and nine hours of 2014, I wasn’t pregnant. This is so amazing I can’t even begin to explain. I first learned the details of pregnancy from reading one of Sheila Kitzinger’s pregnancy guides (probably The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth) that my mother had, when I was seven and eight. I was fascinated. I learned so many things from it, from what episiotomies are to simple genetics (as it applies to blood typing) to the various breech presentations, all sorts of things.

While being pregnant was an interesting finale to this nearly lifelong project of reading about it, essentially every other part of the experience sucked. The first time sucked because it was so medicalised, and the second time sucked because I had a non-stop three year old to look after, and because I had an anterior placenta and couldn’t really touch the fetus or feel her all that much and because organising labour childcare was, no kidding, a huge undertaking and massive emotional journey. (Suddenly I sympathise with social inductions a lot more.)

Anyway, that’s really a 2013 reflection. But from my first post-birth shower after A was born, in 2014 I wasn’t pregnant any more and I sure did enjoy all that stair-climbing and walking down the street and being able to get into and out of cars in narrow parking spots and into and out of public toilet stalls and all the other non-pregnant accomplishments of the year.

2. Losing arguments to my older kid when I am definitely for sure right. For example, I cannot win an argument with him about when his birthday is, what day tomorrow is, which way is north, or what the rules of any game are. His bush lawyer skills are very annoying on issues like bathtime and whether watching three Pixar movies in a single day counts as “a lot” of TV or merely “some” TV, say, but on the simple clear facts of the world that he categorically denies, they’re usually fun.

3. Many many things about babies that I’d forgotten once and am already forgetting again. I enjoy babies a lot, contrary to my expectations prior to having them. (I thought I was having kids in order to have a two year old. Not so much.) The one that I always think of is the link between their breathing and their attention. Huff-huff-huff as the baby stares at coloured lights, or learns to work its hand.

I also got an odd pleasure from realising that while I love babies, I don’t miss the baby when the child gets older. So I didn’t feel as ambivalent about the disappearance of baby things as they marched off one by one in A than I did the first time when V was a baby. I am happy to have the time, and then for it to be done as well.

Three news stories from 2014

1. Again with 2013 for a moment: I recall that a frequent style of commentary following the Federal election in September 2013 was “the incoming Abbott government knows this is a centrist social democracy, stand down from the panic station, there will merely be tinkering at the margins.”

So my first story is the May 2014 budget, which I hardly think is tinkering at the margins, and the ensuing year in Federal politics spinning around whether it will pass. I won’t make predictions; I notice that the predictions of people who regard themselves as politics tragics or even insiders make terrible ones. I was relieved that other people also thought it was terrible.

2. The death of Reza Berati. The pregnant women and new mothers in offshore refugee detention. I don’t have a lot to add about Australia’s treatment of refugees. I give money to organizations that I hope are better placed than I am to make the best changes.

3. The Lindt cafe siege. I’ve been to that cafe three or four times; one of them was the night of my wedding. (I can’t recall, but I think we got there after it had closed for the evening.) Katrina Dawson’s youngest child is the same age as my eldest. I can think about it only in little fragments.

Three sensations from 2014

1. The smells of the baby’s head. A lot of people sniff babies in order to smell some special baby smell that I’ve never really picked up on (babies smell of milk and poo to me), but after a while she started napping with her father in the mornings, and so for a while she smelled disconcertingly of him. Later, she began to smell of my perfume oils. Always amusing.

2. The taste of Rekorderlig ciders. Which, sure, is mainly the taste of sugar. But we drank Rekorderlig many nights as an indulgence while Andrew was on his six weeks of paternity leave+annual leave, so I have a fondness for it (in addition to generally liking sickly sweet things). It tastes of long lazy days inside the house with a newborn that did a hell of a lot of sleeping.

3. The smell of BPAL’s Vice (“a deep chocolate scent, with black cherry and orange blossom”) which I really hated when I first tried it, but returned to again and again. Apparently I want to smell like a chocolate truffle. (I’m wearing Carnal right now, same thing.)

Three sadnesses of 2014

1. So much sadness through a glass: more than one friend has lost a mother in 2014, among other deaths of the family and friends of friends. ♥ all.

2. None of my grandparents will meet my daughter, or vice versa. They will be even more of an old tale seldom told than my own great-grandparents are to me.

3. I am a little sad that I did not have my planned homebirth. I think in reality it would have been rather flustered to get the room cleared, and then Andrew distracted by being a gopher. But my favourite bit of labour was at home by a long way.

Three plans for 2015

1. This is stretching the definition of “plan”, but Andrew and I will continue our thing where two or three times a year, we take a day off work to have a “date day” while the kids are at childcare (well, soon to be school in V’s case). In 2015 whole new vistas are opening up because I have Friday care, and we can go to the many many places that are only open for lunch on Fridays!!!! My family Secret Santa gave us a voucher for The Boathouse, so that’s a good start. I’m also going to go back to Skyzone.

2. More concretely, we’re planning to travel to Montréal in April to see my sister-in-law before the baby turns two and needs her own seat. This is likely to be the only time we go overseas as a foursome for quite some time, other than to New Zealand. Having flown across the Pacific alone with each child before, I know what I’m getting into: I anticipate the flights will be exactly as horrible as you’d imagine.

3. We’re also looking into skiing again, probably in the first week of September. V is so excited that he insists most days that it is about to be winter. It’s complicated by needing to choose between paying one billionty dollars to do it in school holidays versus incurring the wrath of the nation-state by doing it in school term.

Three hopes for 2015

1. I hope to overcome my Australian political inertia where I tend to get trapped thinking that because I am not doing all that I could do, that doing small things and doing nothing are morally equivalent. They most certainly are not.

2. I hope to find the money, time and energy to go diving once or twice. Energy is the main problem, with a 6am-ish wakeup for morning diving and on from there.

3. I hope to see my daughter and her same-age cousin having serious fun in each other’s company at some point during the year.