Moving on and going nowhere

19 Dec

Last post had me polishing up my CV – this one has me saying goodbye ! I’ve spent the last five months working for Sensis, the place I originally met my wife, and ended up working on the same team I was at last time I was here. This initially gave me some great context to hit the ground running with, and I’m quite pleased to say I got a couple of awesome new systems in place during my time here. But equally, the work isn’t quite in fitting with my renewed drive to widen and improve my knowledge as a general technologist (or Polygot Programmer, as some are calling it). So when an opportunity to join another company doing smaller, more agile work in a different technical space outside of my comfort zone came up, I jumped at it.

Today was the official announcement; got a little bit of flak given the length of my role there which is fair enough. Mostly people are supportive though, although we had some other guys leave as I arrived, so I guess my departure will be bundled into that as part of a larger group leaving the workplace, so not ideal for morale. But it also means with only a week’s notice for my contract that I can leave by xmas, and have a bit of time off between roles to spend with the Wife and do a bit more on my side projects (Fantasy Grounds coding, and the freelance work for the start up). Speaking of which, the start up has been getting some more interest, so hopefully there will be a little more work on the side there, and maybe a chance to salary-sacrifice for  a little equity too. In either case, here is their brand new website !

So another hot xmas down under looms, and Mimi and I will be spending it with her family – although this is sort of a given as our flat, after 6+ months, has still not completed renovation. It started as a great deal – Mimi’s cousin working on it as he could for mate’s rates. But over recent months, we have struggled to get any regular contact with the cousin, and naturally mate’s rates have led to us getting mate’s time, or worse. Suspect he’s still of the mind he’s doing this as a favor for us, but the sheer constraints and stresses of being without a place of our own far outweigh any financial benefit. I’d happily offer him full-time rates if I could get full-time commitment back, but after the number of ignored phone calls and unmet half-promises in the past, I suspect that isn’t a realistic option. I really can’t see it being done before the end of January at the moment, especially as most tradespeople take this period as holiday. It’s really very frustrating, and suspect it’s gonna to either involve a big wait or a big cost as we get someone else in to finish the job – not sure we can afford either 😦

Life otherwise tries to plod on. I’ve got a couple of semi-regular groups I play games with. There are a few technical meetups were I meet similar crowds each time, and I dare say there are a couple of people I might count as good mates now out of this. Plus I’m still in touch with old friends from previous time here as well as meeting some of Mimi’s friends. So it’s an embryonic and growing social life ! I’ve also managed to get a bit better at regular runs – did an organised 10km run just over a week ago, despite not training for the 2-3 weeks before, and then got in two more 5-6km hill runs last week. Finally picked a fancy GPS tracker app too, which tells me my KM lap times and makes me feel quite slow. It’s incredibly motivating 🙂

One more week at work until unemployment and xmas. Not in my own home, but 2 out of 3 will have to do for now !

Long time coming

18 Jul

Yeah, it’s been a while. I still get one or two hits a day, even after 3 months of not posting ! Thanks whoever you both are – this ones for you 😉

So I’ve been dividing my time digitally at the moment. Firstly, we’ve got social networking over on Facebook, and now moving onto Google+. Jury still out a bit there, but Google+ feels like a great replacement for “big group e-mails not saying much” (like sharing a link with certain mates, or asking for help from a cross-section of unrelated mates) with it’s circles concept, where as Facebook is still, like the blog, pretty much a “Hey everyone ! This happened !” platform. Except Facebook has a few more hits than me.

Problem with that is I don’t get to do what I do best, ramble… So I’m sticking to blogging for a while yet !

I’ve also been running a few mini-blogs. One is for the computer game development I’m doing for Fantasy Grounds, where I am blogging all the new features I’m writing as I do them. This gives users a chance to comment, or even suggest other approaches before release. It also lets them know the project hasn’t stalled ! Probably won’t mean much to people, but you might like to check it out anyway – it’s got lots of pictures ! http://sw4fg2.tumblr.com/

Another mini-blog, which stalled and got resurrected today, was a gratitude blog. The theory is by being grateful every day for some little action, you condition your brain to realise your life is more awesome than you’d realised. So it’s free happyness ! Given all reality is simply your perception of it  anyway, it felt like a good lifehack to try out. However, I think it was sapping the creative part of me that wanted to blog, which meant it both missed the point of looking INSIDE myself for this little, maybe trivial, nugget of daily thanks, and stopped me writing a big rambly post letting people know what’s up! Anyhow, that’s still going in some form over here : http://mydailythanks.tumblr.com/

Work-wise, I’m doing a part-time contract still in the fantastic Ruby on Rails framework (it’s a techy thing). It’s been really good doing that as well as the Fantasy Grounds stuff (which is a language called Lua – it’s Portugese for Moon !) as I feel I’m giving myself a broader picture of software development, if not just a break from Java. Sometimes you can get lost in the forest as there are too many trees sort of thing. I’ve got three interviews this week for more permanent roles, some standard Java roles, a couple of startups bubbling along, and a contract more into the testing side of things. All of which are interesting. All with a benefit-vrs-cash payoff too !

And whilst it’s been a great few months of career building, my new home loan is active, my savings depleted from a heartbreaking exchange rate, and renovations are finally moving along. Pictures of rubble and missing walls to come soon – promise ! So at this stage, something that primes the salary pump would be welcome – can always better my career after hours if need be. Which kind of is my confessional to being a social hermit – working from home (the in-laws !) and not going out much makes Ben a scarily dull boy ! But it also has offered up a lot of spare hours to invest into me. I’ve probably squandered a fair few, but overall I hope it results in something good. A month in the UK was certainly a great tonic and timed well, and it was awesome to see as many people as I could. Lots of photos from my time there on http://benturner.smugmug.com/

Anyway, first of those interviews is on the phone in 10 mins, so a quick reread of my CV is in order. At least my mind is quieted, news shared, and blog updated. I can relax, for a while 🙂

Back to life, back to realty

19 Apr

What’s news ? My todo list hasn’t received this much attention in a long time – regrettably, as much of that attention is adding tasks as ticking them off. Perhaps if I’m going to spend so much time ticking off tasks, I could find a way to make that process awesome but then I’d have to get an iPad, and that’s only going to distract me more…

What are these Epic Tasks you ask ? First thing was kicking my visa application through – 200 pages of that. Secondly I finished off the “bedroom coding” projects I’ve been doing, the first of which (improvements to an existing bit of software) has been submitted for distribution tomorrow, and the main part (an extension to this software) that’s all, 100% mine from start to finish is just under going documentation tweaks, after which I’ll submit it too. Quite excited about having something I MADE available for others to buy, offer feedback on, and USE. Creativity rocks.

With that out the way, I’ve managed to sign up for a bit of freelance contracting in Ruby on Rails, a language and framework I’ve not done much with. Mind you, same could be said for the bedroom coding too (written in LUA with an XML based GUI framework). All of this should put be in a better place as a software developer, and give me a wider range of work I can take on in the future, which can only be a good thing. Plus I’m really enjoying it, which is a point that I feel is undervalued by many people. Anyhow, this contract should pay real money – not super dollars, but enough to keep the house loan. Speaking of which..

… I’ve applied for my first mortgage ! Scary stuff (how much in interest payments ?!) Actually with Australia’s super-financial boom, timing for buying houses are tough; prices are over-inflated (and bubble-bursting-like, in some people’s opinion) interest rates are up at 7%, and the Aussie dollar is so strong that the value of the UK pound has almost halved from 4-5 years ago compared to it. Seriously, after chasing savings interest rates of 4-6% on cash, and a few share investments paying a little more than that after the FTSE recovering, to have a great big 40% taken off the “value” of your savings is… hard to swallow. But swallow it I must – no point having savings sitting around (now earning bugger all percent) in the UK when I’ve got Australian interest rates to oh shit it’s happened I’m now talking and blogging about my mortgage. Welcome to your mid-thirties…

On a more practical level, my father-in-law and I have been heading into the flat a couple of days a week to let tradespeople in (we had big storms in Jan / Feb and some unresolved insurance claims which I’m picking up) and to do some home DIY (mid-thirties, remember). We had some fun wallpaper scraping the other week, and today I’ve been attacking walls with sugar soap to clean them down. Honest hard days (well, afternoons, to be honest) work.

It’s all going to be worth it in the long run – Camberwell, where our flat is, has great public transport links, nice cafes, and we’ll finally have a home that is ours ! Plenty more work to do first, not just on practical DIY issues, but on kitchen renovations, removing a wall, and changing the flooring. And that’s just to get started – after that, I’ve no doubt we shall be visiting a certain Scandwegian furniture emporium which is the destination for most newly-weds in their first home. Although I might get with beech effect, after selling of my birch effect Skolgriens, Billys, flangenhoplles, and Cdrackens back in London. Plus, we get a really nice view of the city from our living room 🙂

Finally Mimi and I did our run – I ran ahead of Mimi and friend after a few hundred meters, and really enjoyed doing an organised run again. Having done 6km training runs the week leading up, I was fairly confident about the 5.2KM track. But nonetheless I kept a good even pace, stopped once for the loo (the queues were too big before the start of the race…) and managed to get around in 31 mins. which met my 10KPH target pace spot on. Next stop has to be a 10KM run (my third 10KM ever !) I feel. Running 5KM plus seems to be the only thing that’s ever really got my weight heading towards < 17 stone, so hopefully I can dip under that later in the year. Plenty of good successes in recent times – just need to remember them and ignore and negativity with the endless todo list ahead (it’s the journey, not the destination, etc…) !

Looking forward to a month back in the UK late May / June too. Missing too many people to mention – Skype is good, but not great and the time difference sucks – so look forward to seeing many of you sometime real soon.

The honeymoon period is over – time for the rest of your life !

13 Mar

It’s been a blur, the last two months. The 30-day “exercise every day” plan was inspiring, mainly thanks to lots of support on Facebook. Thanks to those who added comments and likes, and apologies to those who’s news feeds were spammed by my daily activities ! Now settling back into a more familiar 3-times-a-week program to train up for a 5.2km run, only 5 weeks away. It’s called “run for the kids” and the new Mrs Turner (Mimi) and I are both entering. Support in the form of comments and well-wishes are highly valued as always, but if you’d like to add a small cash donation too, we’ve setup a wee charity page – all the monies go to the Good Friday Appeal which is raising funds for kids hospitals.

What else… Oh yeah, we got married !!! The wedding was wonderful, went off without a hitch, and as promised seemed to go far too fast ! It was a shame it all had to end before we could get a decent wedding disco going, but with only had 5 hours for the post-ceremony celebrations, we had to also fit in 3 courses of food, speeches, drinking and a spot of Greek dancing all before the standard disco got squeezed out, as well as throw a bouquet, say a quick goodbye to everyone, and also get a surprise song sung for me by my new lady wife; which was super-sneaky as whilst my surprise-detection alarms had been ringing slightly (I swear, I’m a hard man to surprise with events, much to my own annoyance as I love surprises), Mimi had covered her plans well and I really didn’t expect her to want to sing on her big wedding day.

A preview video of the event is currently online which we got a fabulous deal on, as we just paid for the main guy, but he was trying out some “two cameraman techniques” for his new package (see the website for details !) and as he needed to get some sample videos first, we essentially got a free upgrade. We love the preview and can’t wait for the full thing ! We also have our photos too, some of which are really nice; I have uploaded a cut-down number (still 200 !) of official wedding photos onto my photo site, more cunning people can click around to find the “all photos” gallery too, but there are a lot of similar shots there to get through. I’ve also got some great shots from parents / aunts cameras, which I’ll add into a new gallery soon, as well as some fabulous shots from our honeymoon.

On which note we’ve just returned from a lovely 8 days in Thailand where we did as little as possible, and it was wonderful ! I always thought a Honeymoon might suffer from “Expectations fuel disappointment” syndrome; like how when you want New Year to be the best party ever, which pretty much guarantees it’s not going to be, but I’m pleased to say we had a really great time, and got to spend a lot of time reconnecting after stressful planning months where we really sank into our own worlds at points. Can honestly say I was fully “loved up” by the end of the holiday, the aftershocks of such gooey-eyed affection still being dealt with by Mimi’s folks who we are once again lodging with temporarily. Well, temporarily, but still for a little while as it seems no-one noticed / mentioned that the 6-month rental agreement on Mimi’s flat was a 60-day notice period ROLLING contract, so we only actually served notice a few days ago ! The plan had been to move in this coming weekend, it might now be as late as mid-May depending on when the tenants find somewhere else (they could still leave early, it’s up to them really).

Ah well, gives me more time to find a job before renovation plans need to be addressed. A few nibbles so far, but not really ventured far into that world yet. Still finishing off some “bedroom coding” I was doing pre-wedding, and also have about 200-pages MORE paperwork as I need to file for a temporary resident visa NOW (not in two years, as I’d thought). Getting the visa should be a no-brainer, but it’s filling out pretty much ALL THE SAME FORMS I DID LAST TIME. Really Australia ? This helps you, how ? Nonetheless, with old copies I can almost copy and paste answers from, it’s going to be quicker this time to complete some of my least-favourite questions such as “list all the countries you have visited, with start and end dates, in the last 10 years”. With only 7 boxes to input the answers in, I’m guessing Australian’s aren’t as familiar with the concept of a “weekend break” holiday as us Brit’s…

Less is more

15 Jan

Today, we had a power cut. This cut off the internet (hence, if your reading this, then we finally got power back !) But it also meant I took an enforced break from some coding work I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. More on that later.
In this time I managed to get some work done on my CV (laptops have batteries, after all) and some wedding questions I’d left hanging around. So I felt pretty good – after all wedding planning and job hunting are probably my big two goals right now. But I’ve been focusing most of my energy on writing code for a gaming platform (called Fantasy Grounds) which both enables me to keep gaming online, and more effectively, but also has commercial potential to make me a small chunk of pocket change. Suspect this will never become big career money (or even small career money) but in doing so I achieve flow – that rare state of mindful working where you are constantly in the zone working on something, getting massive productivity and happiness from “losing yourself” in the task.
Of course, then I also get a little guilt that I’ve lost myself in coding when I perhaps should be applying myself to wedding planning or job hunting, but losing yourself is clearly more tempting !
So anyway, this afternoon (power still off and down to my backup laptop !) I set about reading again “The power of less” – a good little book by Leo Barbauta about doing less to achieve more. It’s basically the “if you really want to suceed at new resolutions, this is probably the best way to do it” book. It recommends small changes, one change at a time, and regular habit as the cornerstone of setting new resolutions. It also reminds you to align these things with life goals and values, as the way it’s going to work is your changing your life for something (very slightly) better, so you need to foucs on the better to get there ! Anyway, he explains it a lot better in the book and on his website (Zen Habits) so enough of the theroy.

One of the ideas from the book to achieve this small change is the “30-day” challenge (sounds like a youghut commerical, but stay with me). The idea is to pick one and only one habit at a time, choose an easy, measureable goal, be consistent and report daily on it for 30 days. Oh yeah, and to keep positive about it ! The easy part is important – so many resolutions start high, and after 1-2 months crash, as the habit is not there. And the daily reporting thing is important too – it adds accountabilty (we are all only human, after all) and hopefully encouragement, commitment and inspritation. Depending on the quality of your friends *hint*

So with that in mind, I intend (once the power is back) to post this, and a facebook status update linking to it decalring my new 30 day challenge ! Starting today, 14th January, I intend to do FIFTEEN minutes of exercise (running or brisk walking) a day, every day. Yes, it’s easy (but I’m doing less than that, so…) and fifteen minutes walking probably won’t burn much (but then again a run every day could be a bad idea at my fitness level) but the whole point it is will be a start. And hopefully, like a dam building up water, the pressure will eventually burst with me desperate to do more, rather than it being a chore that I can’t wait to end. Positive thinking and all that.
So why make such a declaration to myself, and then start blogging instead ?!?! Well, I’ll need to wait for the suncream to soak in 🙂 it may be raining over here (or flooding in some places !) but right now the suns out again and it looks HOT. Not too hot, I hope. Again, if your reading this, the assumption is that it wasn’t too hot, and DAY 1 has been done ! Keep an eye on facebook, call me out if you don’t see an update, and did I mention encouragement was helpful ? You could make encouraging me daily your 30-day challenge if you like 😉
EDIT : And the first day result is in – 22 minutes of running (well, maybe a couple of walking minutes on the home stretch, but they still count, and cooldowns are important). Currently rooting for the electricity board guys who are fixing up all our blown fuses now – especially as I’ve just remembered the shower has an electric motor 😦

Happy Xmas Cobbers

25 Dec

Ha – beat most of you to Christmas by 11 hours…


Xmas down under

Livin' the dream

Yes, the beer tops were on. But I drank one later that day. Never again.

He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich

17 Dec

New post ! New look ! New country !

We landed in Australia just over three weeks ago, and I (metaphorically) hit the ground stumbling. And then fell over. First week was holiday meets denial. Mimi lost herself to cleaning out old stuff, and I disappeared off down the internet. After a week, we got onto sorting out basics; some spending money, setting up bank accounts and getting tax and medical details setup. A couple of trips around the city, which were good, but came with a sense of disconnect which I hadn’t really felt since I last travelled – sure these places sell things, and I do have SOME money, but I’ve got no income as such, so don’t really want to buy things. And we didn’t really engage with the cultural things such as museums, as I think we were after a sense of “home” from the experience, something which you never truly get when living under someone else’s roof.

Which is the arrangement for the foreseeable future. The visa came through a little too late for us to not put tenants into Mimi’s flat, which means for all practical purposes we are staying with Mimi’s parents until at least mid-March, possibly longer if we decide to renovate the flat before moving in (quite likely). I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that this comes with a sense of dis-empowerment, one which has clashed quite fiercely with my sense of independence, something which I think grew quite strong during my travelling period.

That said, I am trying to capitalise on the benefits of such an arrangement; namely very low cost of living and plenty of free time. I have not immediately looked for a job, the xmas market tends to be quite sparse in any country, and I have concerns about spending all my holiday time from such a job on the immediate upcoming wedding, beyond which I am hoping to be back in England at the middle of next year for a friend’s wedding and to meet family, both old and new ! So I have spent some of my time, that which I am not sinking into pointless internet surfing, completing some coding work I took on around July and had gotten quite far with (slowly) before the big move took over. The associated pay might be chickenfeed, but it’s nice to feel I can create things outside of work, especially which it’s for a gaming related piece of software which I am starting to use more and more myself.

And, of course, this last week we have been pushing strongly on the wedding planning front. One thing everyday is our motto, and we are starting to “catch up” with where I think we’d ideally hope to be with only 2 months to go. The one glaring outstanding thing is invites, which most readers of this will probably be expecting (unless my readership is much wider than I realise…) ! Hopefully we can get those in the post before xmas, esp. as our RSVP date is going to be by mid-Jan ! Hopefully these are really a formality, and those who want to come are already planning their visit anyway, but I think once they are out the door we will feel more on top of the whole wedding thing.

I’m very much looking forward to my wedding – wonder if that’s normal ?!! – but it will be a shame that it will exclude so many UK people from attending from it’s sheer distance. Which is not to say I have any regrets on this front; it’s still the right place and the right time for us to be getting married. But it ‘s one of the first reminders, during this last three weeks of head-buried-in-the-sand and culture-shocked living, of the scale of this move. A couple of weeks of heavier than normal facebooking make me realise that it’s easy to keep up with people’s lives to such a massive degree now; far more than just e-mail and blogs (but seriously, who has the time to “Blog” these days ?! :).

Only a subset of my close friends are really “on” facebook though, and even for those that are it doesn’t cover that level of interaction you get from just seeing someone, hearing their mannerisms and feeling as if your not a world apart. Phone calls can help cover this distance, but only now am I realising the enormous power and joy of Skype. So far I’ve been in regular touch with my folks; we’ve even set a time on Sunday morning (UK time) to chat each week (assuming we are both around) just to keep in touch. And it’s really helped me feel more connected to my old life, something I need a lot right now whilst I am stilled stalled on starting my new life ! And to keep in touch with my little nieces it’s a sheer wonder. The other week my brother’s laptop died halfway through our call, and one of them shouted “Wake up Ben !!” at the blank screen. Cuteness 🙂

If anyone wants to have a catch up on Skype, my screen name is “phantomwhale”. With my folks we said we’d do it weekly “even if it’s for just a few minutes”. Building on that, I’d say to try it ESPECIALLY if it’s a few minutes – I can do length catchups over e-mail and blogs. Skype is much better for a quick, rambling chat, and much more about just seeing people and catching up; even if it’s over coffee one end of the line, and whiskey on the other !

With all this adjustment, wedding planning on top, and the weather (hot, but also VERY rainy at the moment, we’ve had floods nearby !) the thought that it will soon be xmas feels very strange and subdued. And without a regular job to build up a weekly rhythm, I now can’t be sure of the day, month or season without thinking about it. It’s an odd place to be, and hopefully one I can use to my advantage, with personal projects and getting our planning done without as much stress, rather than it being somewhere I get too lost in.

In any case, Happy xmas to all readers, and expect a new post in the new year !

Ben