This week I went for a ride on this Giant TCR road bike. Having put off buying a racing bicycle for several years, not having had a good place to store it while living in shared accommodation, I’ve been excitedly contemplating owning something like this. At first I felt disappointed in the bike, but then realised actually it’s me: I haven’t built the fitness or skill needed to appreciate an ultra light competitive machine. It can be uncomfortable, but will lead to being happier with less, and that feels like a valuable truth to realise.
Setting up a house in Auckland, friends and chance acquaintances alike were sceptical about the ease of living without a car. Auckland does have public transport, and while it is better than the locals might think, the reality is that infrastructure is built around the assumption of car ownership. Parking is free and plentiful, commercial and industrial parks are organised for the ease of large vehicles. The world needs to move away from the damage of fossil fuel consumption, as well as making transport healthier and more efficient. To help stimulate change, early adopters are needed to sacrifice convivence in order to blaze trails. It is time and energy consuming, but also rather satisfying.
Photos from the Week: Commuting
Today was the last of the four changes of residence I’ve made in the past month, having finally found a place to settle. It’s been surprisingly difficult given the relatively few possessions I’m travelling with. The constant active thought required when the habits that carry me through a typical day no longer make sense. Despite this I still notice myself offering to help: a stranger load some salvage onto the back of a ute, a son trying to sell his fathers old bicycle without knowing much about it, a fellow traveller who is lost. I don’t think this reflects an inclination towards generosity or some moral goodness I possess. I think much of the time I help selfishly, either because I feel ownership over the world around me, and so want it to be a better place, or because it is validating to help others.
I hope as less energy goes into sourcing appliances and utilities, I will have more time to write longer pieces in the coming weeks.
Photo from the Week
Quick life update:
I’ve been out of isolation and in Auckland, New Zealand, setting up the next stage of life. Finding a house to rent, essential furniture and appliances, and thinking about what the next stage of life will be. I loved my time at ONI. I was able to contribute to a genuinely positive mission, I worked on cutting edge scientific research, and it was the most powerful personal development I’ve experienced. I will miss professional life, but for the next few months at least I’ll be going back to school. Tomorrow I start studying Information Technology (basic computer programming) at the University of Auckland.
The unstructured time in Managed Isolation has given me time to consider a range of questions. The most time consuming are the logistics: where am I going to live? What forms of transport will I be using? What type of work am I going to do? This in turn leads to other less tangible questions: What should the price of housing be in an ideal world? Why are road bicycles more expensive than entry level motorcycles? There are also more general questions from world news: Why is there so much scepticism about vaccines? What does the Gamestop saga mean for investing? Should governments be able to revoke citizenship? Is Google evil, and if so when did it become so? My hope for the coming months is to do some longer writing trying to improve the answers available to questions that interest me. For now, more trawling property classifieds.
As I reflect on the last week of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, I realise that I have once again overestimated my free time in a period without formal work obligations. Despite repeatedly over committing to weekend activities and holiday to-do lists, I have not managed to learn to be conservative about my expectations of time off. When times are busy, side projects and nice-to-dos are easy to set aside, drifting lightly on their low import into amorphous blocks of time like these two weeks of hotel confinement. Having arrived here, the actual number of tasks I’d like to accomplish is overwhelming, and without clear hierarchy. Friends are kindly advising me that after an intense 3 years at ONI, a little seemingly unproductive rest is actually the most productive thing I could be doing, but those sensible comments pale compared with the guilt at not accomplishing what I set out to do. Perhaps next time I will remember this reality, having written about it in place of the topics I would have liked to explore given more time.
Today I’m writing from the tarmac in Singapore, surrounded by people making the journey from Heathrow to Auckland. We are unable to leave the aircraft, isolating to protect the locals from possible transmission of the UK strain. It is strangely familiar to be flying after more than a year; the same Android based entertainment systems, the same tray portioned food, the same cacophony of mewling infants to make sleep a little more difficult. The masks are new, as are the temperature checks, but overall it’s not that different to flights past.
It’s been a particularly strange transition. In some ways, it’s a very sudden change. Yesterday I was in Oxford, tomorrow I’ll be in Auckland, almost opposite sides of the world. The UK has suffered thousands of deaths and is under tight restrictions of movement, life in New Zealand is largely as normal with virtually no cases. Despite the geographic and social change, having worked from home and living out of a suitcase the past few weeks, the coming two weeks in quarantine is likely to feel much the same as my last two weeks in lockdown.
I will deeply miss the community I shared at ONI. In my last few days I was left feeling so deeply appreciated by my friends (who happen to be colleagues) that the words that feel most true are to say I feel loved. Perhaps it has revealed an over investment, emotionally and socially, in my work. I prefer to think of it as having had the privilege to belong in a community of people who shared principles, who inspired me to be better, and who were reliably kind in the face of immense challenge.
I am excited for the adventure to come. Moving is an opportunity to set new goals, find new friends, and attempt to amplify strengths and leave weaknesses behind. It is likely changing countries in the midst of a global pandemic will be the most significant part of this year for me, but I hope that it is just the beginning of something even more meaningful.
Weeks in a Year
A quick note on week numbers: Typically when asked how many weeks are in a year, 52 is a good answer. Keeping time is a little more complicated, and this week we are still in the 53rd year of 2020. Interestingly, this can cause issues in systems like GPS if the unusual 53 week year is not accounted for.
It has been an unusual year, one filled with new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. I enjoyed a friend’s suggestion to use Year Compass to direct some personal reflection. A few things to share:
Building things other people use is very satisfying.
2020 was the most productive year I have had in terms of programming, oddly brought about by moving into a People Team role. Compared with cutting edge research, the smaller challenges of automating office applications provided an opportunity for me to see a project from start to finish, and learn a lot along the way.
Overcoming hesitation is a way to get more done.
Trying to keep pace with ONI’s founder has been a wonderfully challenging growth opportunity. One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away is that hesitation is a barrier to getting more done. I’ve tried to push harder to overcome my activation energy and been rewarded with more productive days.
People will talk if you ask nicely
Thank you to the people who spoke with me this year. Working in Talent Acquisition led me to (virtually) meet many people over the last few months, and it has been a pleasure to gain insights from people across the world with a diverse range of experiences.
Photos from the Week
A couple brief ideas:
Conservative vs Progressive
I have commented that an advantage conservative political parties have over progressives ones, is that there is only one way to maintain the status quo, but several ways to change. Therefore progressive parties are far more vulnerable to factions and infighting over disagreements of how to change, entrenching status quo bias into political systems. Perhaps Trump changes this dynamic by creating disinformation: if there are multiple versions of the status quo, there can be multiple ways to conserve it. Side note: I’ve been following the President’s Twitter feed, and Trump’s attempts at undermining the democratic process are frightening.
The Feeling of the Page
I tend to think that the medium of consuming text (printed page or screen) is trivial compared with the content, but increasingly the evidence is to the contrary. If something is more comfortable to read (e.g. font size) or the texture of the printed page is pleasant to the touch, the way the content is received is different. Valuing the subtle details of a medium and how it affects interpretation is something I can improve.
This week I’ve found myself gravitating to videos of drill instructors at boot camp. Craving that spartan lifestyle is for me the sign of decision fatigue as I sprint to complete projects at the end of a challenging year.
I’m about to embark on some holiday reading for personal growth, including Ray Dalio’s Principles. A 30 minute summary is provided in the video below, and more extensive notes to come soon.