Mr Happy

Own It

I've not posted on here for a VERY long time.  It's not as though nothing has happened that is worthy of a post, but I've just drifted away this year and have been sorting out a number of things as time has gone by.

I've noticed that there are a few things I've not done in 2013.

I haven't worn a suit all year.
I haven't left the country (which means in under four hours, I will have spent an entire calendar year in one country for the first time since 1997.)
I haven't been on a plane.

I've been adjusting to live outside of politics, and life out of having a "real" job.  There was no public service work, no steady paychecks that come in regardless of what I've done in terms of actual work.  Now I wake up early in the morning and do personal training or bootcamp at 6am, then I train myself, then the midday period is nap time or time to prepare for upcoming work, and then evenings mean trivia.

With trivia, I'm doing three and soon to be four shows a week.  The emerging trend is for me to write and deliver the quizzes myself, which means everything on every quiz is dynamite and there is no filler and no feelings of pandering.  In short, I am better at hosting trivia than I have ever been at any job I've ever done anywhere in the world, and I'm going to keep doing it.  It is becoming a small business, to the point that I may soon have more demand for my trivia than I can personally handle, so I may have to employ someone for the first time ever.  This business may expand slowly, and it may never make me wealthy, but it stands to grow and to make me a living, and it feel more legitimate than anything I've done in as long as I can remember.

So I get paid a lot less, I do more actual work, and I'm a lot happier.

Recently I've taken on a personal slogan.  I keep telling myself to "Own it."  Whatever I do, I have to own it.  I used to plan on getting back into a real job after I dealt with my depression (still dealing with it by the way, and getting better at it or at least getting used to it.)  Part of me used to feel self conscious when I had to admit that I haven't worn a suit in ages or haven't had any of the trappings of having a proper career.  Friends and colleagues of mine are now working for cabinet ministers and making several times what I currently make, which means they are off living the high life and filling my Facebook feed with pics of holiday splendour.  I don't begrudge them that.  Not at all.  But I'm getting much better at saying I don't want that, certainly not if it means taking a job at which I would be competent and adequate, but not in any sense fulfilled or even "good."

I'm not likely to be a captain of industry or a master of the universe.  That's ok.  I own that.

I don't have a job that explicitly requires a University degree.  That's ok. I own that.

I don't get any benefits with my current job.  I am entirely responsible for my trivia and training businesses.  If I want a holiday, I don't get paid.  If I get sick, I don't get paid.  (Luckily I haven't been sick all year. It's amazing what slowing down and cutting the rubbish out of your life will accomplish.)  That's all ok.  I own that.

I'm 36, unmarried, no kids, no mortgage, no trappings of adulthood.  That's ok. I own that.  (I can, however, deadlift twice my bodyweight, and clean & jerk 100kg, which is new, and which stands to see further improvement.  I also won the award for Outstanding Forward, Best and Fairest, and Player's Player in addition to playing my 100th game with the Sydney Convicts after several matches of captaining a side for the first time ever.)

My current life is less impressive, (at least to the ten years ago version of myself who left Canada with plans to conquer the world.)  But I keep finding myself more satisfied with the life I do have compared to what I had planned.  I have more control over my life than I did.  I own it.

So it's been a good year.

P.S. Anyone who is interested in trivia can follow along with IQ Trivia on Facebook at or on Twitter @IQTriviaNight

Bingham Cup - Day 1

Bingham Cup – Day 1

We got to the grounds with plenty of time to warm up and get strapped. My strapping mostly consisted of two pieces of cardboard rolled up and covered in strapping tape that were than taped to my thighs so I could be more easily lifted in the lineout. I chose to write a personal message on mine.

For those of you not conversant in Greek, that translates as “bring it on” , as said by the 300 Spartans to the Persians before the Battle of Thermopylae.

We watched the firsts smash Seattle before gearing up for our first match against a combined Atlanta/Philadelphia team.

I had been on edge all day, and stampeded into the game with vigour. We kicked off, and 30 seconds in I produced the first big hit of the tournament for my team, hurling my opposite number to the ground for the loss of a few metres. The Convicts on the sideline cheered. I had arrived at the start of the tournament, but as our coach told us “we haven’t arrived yet.”

We settled into an aggressive game, I managed a nice run that ended five metres short of the try line, and on the next phase a teammate crossed over, but waited too long to place the ball down and was hit in such a way that he hurt his knee. His tournament was over.

We put in four tries, and only gave up one, which was my only frustration with the match. Had I reacted a split second earlier, I could have gotten under the ball and stopped their scrum half from grounding it.

Our next game, after ice baths and lunch, was against Los Angeles. It was a tough match and it was played mostly in our half. We gave up one try in the first half in a bruising spectacle.

Late in the first half I had been in a series of intense plays and found myself exhausted. At a stoppage in play I took my time getting up, and while stepping away, I went back down. The physios came on and had a look at me, and took me off. By the time I was off, I was fine, though the spectacle of me being helped off the pitch made it look like I was in worse shape than I was. The ref would not allow me back on.

This bothered me. I wanted to get back on to help my team, but that was not going to happen. What bothered me most of all was knowing that I could have stayed in the game. The consensus was that I had fainted and that for my own good and for the team I was better off on the sideline, but I don’t think that was the case. I think I went down when I could have stayed on my feet. I was exhausted and wanted to buy a few seconds, but in looking all wobbly for a second and taking a knee, I had taken myself out. Nobody held anything against me, but my conclusion was that I had quit.

We lost 12-0, and I felt as though I had failed. I went home in a bad mood. The result almost certainly wouldn’t have been any different had I stayed in, but I couldn’t let it go. I left the ground that day as a quitter.

convicts rugby

Bingham Cup - Arrival

I arrived in Manchester on the Monday and met the Convicts.  They had me in a room with another straight guy, and within the first ten minutes of us checking in I was in the early stages of aspie stress.  He talked all the time, had no sense of personal space (within the first hour he had taken a shower in my ensuite bathroom ) and generally gave me the impression that I was going to have very little personal space during the week to come.

Things got worse at our touch rugby warmup.  I wasn’t wild about playing touch rugby, and the fact that some of the guys were screwing around during the game and the briefings that surrounded day one complicated things further.  I know people were just trying to relax and have a good time, but I wasn’t in the mood for it.

My coach asked how I was doing, and I told him that I didn’t think I was going to make it through the tour if things continued like this.  The forced (or presumed) chumminess of rugby tours was never my thing.  I had a meltdown in 2007 on a rugby tour to France when the joking and bravado became too much.  Overall the coach understood, and another teammate told me that this was my tour too, and that I shouldn’t ever feel pressured into doing something that is going to make my tour miserable.

Tuesday was fine.  We trained, and people were more focused (although there was still some screwing around.)  There was a pub crawl which meant more social interaction, but I had the mental bandwidth deal with it this time.

Wednesday was another low day.  There was more training, but afterwards preparations were made for a series of short skits in groups.  I was tired from training and travel and the like, and the forced fun of acting out the sexual indiscretions of a teammate were not going to appeal to me.  In the end, what forced me over the edge was something relatively trivial.  My job was to make a chef’s hat out of two room service menus.  That’s what made me snap.  Being required to wreck two perfectly good menus caused me to curl up in a ball on the sofa in my room and have a panic attack.  I hadn’t had one since last July when I was still working in Parliament.  I recovered, but went to skit night with the rest of the team in a dazed state.

The club president took me aside and asked if I was ok.  I was frank about my concerns, and he basically gave me permission to do my own thing.  I’m an adult and I already had permission, but it was nice to know that I wasn’t letting anyone down.  I went off and did my own thing for dinner and left the rest of the team to their bonding exercise.

I appreciate that this kind of exercise is good for most of the guys and they enjoy it, but it can easily become too much for me.  The pressure to have fun, and to have fun in officially sanctioned ways becomes too much, and when I feel like I’, not having a good enough time, I feel like I am letting the team down.  That is absurd, I knew it, and they knew it, it just took some time for me to accept it.

The next morning the club president came to visit me at breakfast and we talked more.  Again, he said I should never feel pressured to do anything that is going to set me off, and that I should tell him or a coach or one of the tour staff if I was getting close to my freakout point.

All rugby clubs are a bit blokey.  I’m mostly not.  The Convicts are the least blokey rugby club I’ve ever played for and I can’t imagine any other clubs that I have played for or toured with being quite as understanding about someone who wanted to break the routine of forced fun.

I am happy to be a Convict, and I took that attitude into the tournament.


Work improvements

My new job has been a bit of an adjustment.

Early on I found myself in a lot of meetings and being involved in a lot of discussions in which I was WAY out of my depth.  I didn't understand what people were talking about or the projects they were working on.  It took me a while to figure out what my job actually was.  Now, though there is still plenty of me being lost when hearing about things outside of my project, I am not bothered as much.  I know well enough what I am meant to be doing (coming up with reasons why the eCensus is a good idea).  When discussions go beyond that, I've decided that I can afford not to allocate mental bandwidth to trying to keep up.

At the same time, however, I am aware that my current work may potentially set me up for additional work in the new financial year, so I am getting a bit more involved in the workplace.

I am also doing very well on the flex time front.  I am actually able to leave early today rather than staying on to pack on the hours.  That's good, because I leave for England on Wednesday and could use some time to rest.

Tonight, however, I have trivia again.  I was a bit concerned and frustrated by the lack of crowds in the early days, but over the last two weeks there has been an explosion of interest.  On both nights there were over 30 people attending, and there are definite regulars now in attendance.  So it looks like I will continue to have my side gig through the winter and beyond.

My training side gig is also going ok.  I had one cancellation that kind of pissed me off (lame excuses, and turning up one week with promises to pay the next week, but then announcing a schedule change that will preclude further attendance.)  Last week I felt a bit like cancelling, but two regulars turned up and though I had to change the workout plan entirely, they both stuck to it and enjoyed it.  I also found out that both of them probably wouldn't get any exercise if it were not for my sessions, so I felt a lot better about that.
Mr Lazy

Two articles - Being single and "immature"

I've recently come across Thought Catalog, and last week I read two articles that really cut through and expressed a lot of how I feel at the moment.

There was this one about being single.

And there was this one about the pressure associated with growing up.

First, singleness.  Like the article mentions, I do have time.  I have more time than I ever would have imagined.  At all times I can pretty much do whatever the hell I want without having to account for myself to anyone.  It has gotten to the point where when things impose on my schedule, I find it grating.  I notice this more and more all the time.  As singleness has become my default setting, so to has doing things, socialising, eating, drinking, working, exercising, and doing everything according to my own schedule and preferences.

Of course, I can't say that I am filling all that "not in a relationship" time with anything "worthwhile."  But I have learned to be single, which has been an important lesson for me to learn.  Perhaps now I am working on being secure with myself.

And that brings me to growing up.  When I was in school, I often felt I had aged before my time, as I didn't seem to share the impulses common to so many in my generation.  Now, firmly in my mid 30s, I still don't.  People I knew growing up have mortgages and children and careers, and I have none of those things.  (You may wish to debate the career part of that, but I consider myself to be figuring that part of my life out rather than knowing or feeling settled in something.)

I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I took on the trappings of adulthood.  What if I had a mortgage that needed paying every month, a wife and kids that needed me at home rather than flitting off to play at whatever odd thing is the flavour of the month for me, and a career that imposed itself on my schedule in a way that prevented me from doing what I want on my own terms.  I spent years thinking I wanted those things, and now I can scarely imagine taking any of them on.  To be honest, I do feel as though I am being selfish at times because of this.

There is pressure to settle into a neat life defined by these things.  I've got plenty of friends who have, and who are happy having done so.  I don't hold a grudge against them, but I am conscious of the fact that society is oriented towards these choices.  You don't have to make them, but there will always be those who look at you with judgement (or pity) if you don't.

After reading this, I realised that I am quite lucky.  The people who are important to me don't come down on me for being immature or any other disparaging characteristic that the busybodies of the world might like to level at me.  I'm sure such busybodies exist, but my knowledge of them is almost entirely academic.  I'm not sure I can think of any of them who matter one jot in my life.  The people who do, don't pressure me to settle into a life characterised by "adulthood."

Most notably, I thought of my parents, who did choose this life, but who have been very good about not pressing me into doing the same.  I know it happens, but it's never really happened to me.  There is no pressure to get married, there is no pressure to buy a home (they mentioned it might be a good idea to get into the property market some time ago, but haven't mentioned it for years) and I haven't once been hounded to provide grandchildren (my sister has already done that, but even if she hadn't I can't imagine being hounded like that.)

Perhaps I should send them these articles.

Kokoda tractor

I can burn things

I am steadily building up large amount of flex time that will enable me to go to the Bingham Cup.  I usually get to work around 7am and leave when I feel it's time to go (or in time to make other appointments like trivia or training.)  To some degree I wonder if I am actually all that productive, but I don't dwell on that question too much.

Flights are booked.  I am going on frequent flyer points, and will have 12 hours in Shanghai on the way back which will allow me to add one more country to the list of places I have been (provided that I do pushups there.)  I've also arranged a place to stay when I arrive.  I'll be staying in the east end (far from Ealing where I lived while I was there) at a place I found on AirBnb.  It's a site where people advertise rooms in their homes.  I'll be staying with a local family with a room to myself in a fairly central location for a lot less than I would pay otherwise.

Also the vicar I worked for back in 2004 has offered to put me up for a couple nights which may be very suitable after the tournament when I do my pushups.  I'm still planning on doing it, though the charity I chose and e-mail nearly two weeks ago hasn't responded even though I contacted them again a few days ago through every e-mail I could find on their site.  So today I contacted another one, which looks even better, and might not give the the runaround.

I may have picked up a few more training clients at a party last night.  It's going pretty well with a few blips here and there, in part because I am not letting it be a big deal to me.

I did get an odd feeling when starting my Anzac Day workout.  It may have been because I had been up since 4am, but I got a couple minutes in and I realised that I just didn't feel like working out.  It was an odd feeling.  I was doing things that I normally like, but that day I just felt like quitting.  The next day I was back to doing intense workouts involving burpees and kettlebell swings, and today I did a workout named for a marine officer killed in action five years ago today.

Oh yes, and I am now a fully qualified bush firefighter.  I attended a hazard reduction burn yesterday and demonstrated I can handle drip torches, rake hoes, and I can put out fires.  I wish I had brought may camera, because at one point there was a bush with red berries that were such a brilliant red against the black ash beneath them.
Mr Strong


Going to work every day is something I have adjusted to.  There is a lot to learn including a very frustrating operating system that I don't see the point of but that everyone else in my training session seemed to like, so I felt a little pang of "what's wrong with me that I keep thinking this system is silly and pointless."

I am getting to the office VERY early every day.  Yesterday I was there at 6:45, before my pass would even allow me into the building.  Parking is provided, but there are only 200 spaces and 1,500 staff.  I wonder if it is a ply to get people to turn up to work early.  I'm happy to do it and get a parking spot and have some space to myself for a while (I still don't like having to be social on demand) and build up flex time.  To be able to take my trip to England London I have worked out that I will need to build up 11 days of work out of 40 working days.  It can be done, but it will mean about two hours extra every day and maybe a couple of weekends.

Flights to England are booked.  I'll be visiting friends, playing in the gay rugby world cup, and doing pushups.  I'm flying on points so I'm only paying for the taxes, and I apparently get a 12 hour stopover in Shanghai on the way back so there will be another mini-visit added in.

Black Dog Pushups has a sign.

I reckon it will help with collecting cash donations and dispelling confusion.

Brisbane is probably going to go ahead too.  The council wants me to have $10 million in public liability insurance before I do a single pushup, but apparently my charity has that covered.  Otherwise, it would probably be too much hassle.

I've been doing more training sessions at  home, and I've discovered the fun of doing gymnastic strength work through some friends at the gym.  Just holding static positions is tougher than it looks.

Back to Work

I've been delaying this post for a while because I've gotten a bit suspicious of such things, but on Monday I am going back to work.

I've been offered a job in the bureau of statistics until the end of the financial year.  It pays a bit more than my last full time job in Parliament and has considerably better hours.  I'll be doing research and writing a report, which I am perfectly qualified to do, just as I would have been perfectly qualified for the dozens of jobs that I applied for over the past several months but didn't get for a variety of asinine reasons.  Now I am sorted until the end of June and then it will be the new financial year when all the departments will have new budgets and funding and the market should be better.  On top of that, they will no longer be able to fob me off with lame excuses about not having public service experience.

I signed up to the ABS temporary employment register and they called me, told me a little about the job, then the next day they said they would offer me the job formally via e-mail.  That e-mail was a little delayed itself, and I was a bit suspicious that this would end up like one of the many jobs that looked so promising only to wind up as nothing but a lesson designed to undermine my sense of self worth.  What makes it sweeter still, is the fact that I got this job on my own.  No agencies were involved.  I still feel that they have done little to find me work and I am not convinced that any of them really give a damn if I ever work again, so as much as I've learned not to take these things personally, I still say screw 'em.  I'll talk to them again in the new year.

I'm still doing trivia and fitness training (I had a session this evening in the backyard with a totally new client base) and while neither of those will make me a living, I suspect that when asked what I do I will still say I'm a fitness trainer.

Finally, the new job is totally flexible.  I'm not being depended on, I'm not depending on a whole host of others, and I will be able to go to Manchester with the Convicts and for a bit of a holiday at the end of May without causing any problems.

So the work situation isn't really thrilling, but at the moment it couldn't be better.
Mr Strong

Pushups - An Allegory

I did 12 hours of pushups in Adelaide last Friday, and a little past half way something struck me.  12 hours of pushups is a good allegory for dealing with depression.

But I'll get to that.  I was picked up from Adelaide Airport in an official government car.  A friend of mine who is a Minister in the South Australian Government had sent his car to pick me up and take me to some iconic Adelaide locations to do pushups.  He also put me up for a couple of nights and his office did a lot of work with the media setting up interviews.  On the day I wound up having two television interviews and two radio interviews within the first hour.  People came by and made donations, saying they had seen or heard about me.

There were other interviews during the day, and like before, the first six hours were pretty easy in relative terms.

Then, as usual, it got more difficult, and this is where the allegory comes in.

12 hours of pushups is too much for people to imagine when they hear it.  Even if you are the one doing it, 7,200 is too much to take in when you are starting.  Even when you get past the half way point, going for another six hours when your left elbow is giving you grief seems impossible.  The only way you can do it is to break things down and go one minute at a time.  I can do ten pushups per minute.  So I do just that, one minute at a time.  Ten minutes later, I've done 100.  In an hour, I am 600 closer to the finish.  With your sights set on the short term, you don't notice the long term milestones and obstacles passing until you look back at them and wonder why they seemed so imposing.  12 hours blows people away when they hear it.. It seems an impossible thing to endure, but somehow I manage it.

Depression is a lot like that.  In the low points, it is an immense and immovable obstacle, and being asked to overcome it is a task that is as unimaginable as it is impossible.  So you can only work at it bit by bit, minute by minute, day by day.  In my current place, where I am facing the prospect of actually being happy, the low points that I have passed, which seemed like they would never pass, look rather pathetic in retrospect.

On top of that, people come out of the woodwork when you feel like you're at your lowest.  At around 2pm, eight hours in and with four hours to go, with my left elbow aching with every set and with morale and energy at a low ebb, an Adelaide City Council worker came by.  He had been there at 6am when I started and now he had finished work.  He came by at my lowest point with a litre of ice cold orange juice, a banana, and buffalo wings.  This simple combination came at just the right time and was one of the most delicious meals I've ever had, and it was from a total stranger.  Countless people came by to lift my spirits, often because they had been in the same places I've been.

So yes, doing pushups for 12 hours is actually good practice for fighting depression.

Now Brisbane is next, and I am in the process of arranging for a sign to explain to passers by what I am doing.  I think I can bring in a lot more donations if people know at a glance what I am doing rather than just seeing a confusing guy doing pushups.

An incident at about 10:30am in Adelaide: A mum walks by with her four year old son.

Son: "Mummy, why is that man exercising?"

Mum: (confused) "I... don't... know."

I wish I hadn't taken off so much time from Black Dog Pushups.

Mr Strong

The possible happiness continues

As Bakerypenguin pointed out, I am now having normal reactions.  When things are good, I am able to feel good.

Trivia is going well.  I hope to get more people out and establish myself as a good place for trivia, and I think that will happen once people catch on.  At the moment the first two nights have been won by the owner of the bar and some of his friends. I wondered briefly if he just wants to have his own trivia night where he and his friends can carry on all they like.

I am currently in Adelaide, in the office of the Minister for Sport.  He will be joining me tomorrow as I have another go at doing 12 hours of pushups.  His office has been helpful with the media and I've done three interviews already, and more live interviews on radio have been lined up for tomorrow.  The Lord Mayor's office has allocated a place for me in Rundle Mall and the whole town seems pretty supportive.  I'm actually going to be sleeping on the minister's sofa tonight, and he send his ministerial car to pick me up from the airport and to take me around town.

Work? Nothing has changed really. Plenty of leads but no actual work.  It may be difficult to get something before the end of the financial year in the public service, but I've also applied for a full time permanent job doing research for a public affairs firm.  No response yet, but it sounds like a good prospect and I took care to put together a good application.  It would be a very different job to most of the others I've looked at.  It would not be a contract, and it would not come with the public service culture.

For now, my job is trading, trivia, and occasionally doing training sessions.  That's fine for me.  I'm getting used to the three "T"s.  Not sure what the prognosis is long term.

I traded some shares in VMG for some options in VMG which will give me a lot more exposure to the potential upside if the price goes up.  I also piled some money into capital raisings for AKK and ALK, and I am willing to cash in some of my stocks if the situation suits.  I've also been picking up DTE on the drops with an eye to unloading it on rebounds.