Aside

Project: Redo From Start

So uh.. hi. Long time no write. A very long time indeed. Long story short I’ve gone and broken myself and I’m having a really hard time getting back on course.

Burn Baby Burn

Those that know me know I get involved in my work. I care about what I do, I like to think I’m pretty decent at it and it keeps me busy,

Unfortunately due to changes at work over the last few years – some of which I can’t discuss , others that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss – its been keeping me more and more busy to the point where, without quite realising it, I’ve let it consume me.

After a long period of waiting for it to get better I finally had to admit that I was entering fairly late stage burn out. Now I’ve seen others I know go through burn out – its not pretty and I know some that have hit the wall extremely hard, some even to the point of requiring hospitalisation. I’ve not hit that point but in retrospect I’ve probably come close a few times.

Not Just A River In Egypt

Ah denial. Occasionally a useful resource bu oh so more often a trap for the unwary. For a long time I thought I was everything was OK and generally speaking things for me are. I’m not in significant debt, I work reasonable hours and our home is a place of our own – something I’m very aware many folk in my generation are not quite so lucky to have.

Oddly knowing that my life was better positioned than many others only served to help compound the denial. After all with how well everything else was going how could I possibly be having issues?

Loss Of Self

As you can probably guess things aren’t OK. While I’m not totally broken and I still manage to hold my work and general home life together, I’ve completely sacrificed my personal hobbies. For a while I made the mistake of doing some personal hobby stuff that was far too close to what I do at work. This only compounded the problem.

As a result I haven’t taken any photographs worth a damn in probably about two years, haven’t done anything with LEGO for longer and certainly haven’t written any blog pieces either. On the upside I have managed to watch an awful lot of Netflix. (Side note on that I’d just like to say the return on investment for the Netflix monthly cost vs the original material they produce is absolutely excellent).

I’ve accrued just a stupid amount of holiday time, to the point that I’ve exceeded the threshold my works policy allows. I’ve started taking off a day a week to ease myself back into knowing how to do this “time off work” thing but its not always easy. If there’s anything to learn from this post learn this – not taking time off work is really, really stupid thing to do. You earn that time off, damn well take it. Do not make the same mistake as me.

The “D” Word

I saw someone mention the other day (I’ll try and see if I can remember the source) that the term “burnout” is often used in tech circles to mask depression. To somehow soften it, remove it from it being so bad. I have to say that’s a pretty astute observation.

There’s absolutely no doubt that late stage burn out is a form of depression. Shares many of the hall marks and opens a dark pit of anxiety and dread that feels all but impossible to escape. Your sleep cycle breaks down, ability to socialise vanishes and your own health erodes. Fast.

Out Of Cheese Error

So yes its time to start slowly turning this burn out ship around and get myself back. I was thinking about setting a list of “must do tasks” but after thinking that through for a bit longer I would likely fall in the trap of not reaching those goals and declining into a funk once more. This is a non ideal outcome.

If anyone has hints, tips or stories of thing that have either helped them out of a similar situation, I’d really appreciate it. Asking for help is not something I’m particularly good at so lets see if I can start there with something to improve on.

Meantime I’m looking at doing some beginner camera courses and get myself back into photography. Maybe if I approach this with some sense things will slowly click back into place.

Aside

Becoming The Ripples – Terry Pratchett

RIP Terry PratchettToday we mark the passing of the forever honourable and awesome Sir Terry Pratchett. Many words will be written about him, his influences in literature and popular culture by people much more versed in the art of word smithing than myself. I will not attempt to describe the man who has been such an icon of our times but merely remember what I learnt from his words and actions.

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – Reaper Man

My first exposure to Pratchett’s work was when I was 15 and a friend loaned me Guards! Guards! which introduced my to Samuel Vimes who has remained my favourite Discworld character ever since. Vimes isn’t strong, smart or powerful. Hell when we first meet him he is a drunken wreck of a man and yet he grows. He has a sense of right, a burning cynicism and at times barely contained rage which power him through life. This spoke and continues to speak to me. The man has style, a dark and cynical style but style none the less.

Sometimes it would be nice to be wrong about people.” -Commander Samuel Vimes

Pratchett also managed to humanise death. When I was a kid I had become terrified of death. I would have nightmares and wake up in horror that’d I’d be dead. The Discworld had Death as a character right from the very first book and as they series ran on he grew and “experimented” with being human as we do every day. Don’t ask me how but this helped quell the fear and while the concept of dying isn’t exciting I no longer fear it, merely accept that it will happen and hopefully on my own terms, Terry Pratchett’s experiences in this and his championing of peoples right to die with dignity have been a great inspiration.

What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man? – Death

Far be it from me to link him only to the Discworld series. Nation is an fascinating book, written amazingly well and should be on everyone’s bucket list of books. I can not begin to describe just how well written and engaging it is. His collaboration with Neil Gaiman on Good Omens pays off well too.

“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” – Good Omens

My favourite thing about Pratchett’s work is that every time I re-read them I find something new. As a grow up and learn new things I start to spot more references I missed the first time around. It took me over a decade before I spotted the Dr Strangelove reference in Jingo (I won’t spoil it for you).

Taxation, gentlemen, is very much like dairy farming. The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo – Vetinari

If Pratchett is right, and I’m damn sure he is, and a person never really dies until the ripples they create in the world fade away then we will never truly lose him. He has become the ripples, part of the story of the human universe and will go on for as long as we do. Vale the honourable Sir Terry Pratchett, adventurer into the unknown country.

That was the thing about death. When it happened to you, you were among the first to know – Men at Arms

 

Aside

Australia Post: Delivery Not Included

You sodding what?I’m going to be honest, this post is just pure 100% rant regarding the letter above. I don’t expect it to solve anything but it might help me feel better about things writing it out and let others know just how profoundly stupid Australia Post is getting these days.

Who Is Australia Post?

For those not familiar with it, Australia Post is your classic previously government owned and operated mail service turned business enterprise with a natural monopoly. I would link you to the actual Australia Post website but it turns out they are subscribers to the inane “you can’t link to us without written permission” school of thought of which I have ranted about before. Screenshot snippet from their T&C below:

AHHAHAHHAHAHA!Yes it’s 2015 and their website team still think that magic legal mumbo jumbo can stop people linking to them. Good luck with that guys.

Back on track, so essentially in recent years Australia Post’s income from letters has been declining (as you might expect as the internet age progresses) but they should have been well placed with their natural monopoly to make a killing on parcel delivery and for a short time they did.

But then it all seemed to go a bit wrong for them. Despite their good initial positioning they seem keen to engage in a slow death spiral composed of the twin vortexes of continual price increases coupled with what seems to be increasingly poor customer service which for most people is all about delivery.

You Want Us To Deliver? HAH!

Most Australians will tell you that using Australia Post for getting parcels delivered is an exercise in frustration. Actually sending the parcels? Pretty easy. Getting the package most of the way? They can even get that mostly right even if it is comparably slow and with very poor tracking (at least in my experience). The actual last step of delivery from your local post office to your door? That they seem to have have been going out of their way to avoid that wherever possible in the last few years.

While I only have the evidence of what myself and others I know have experienced to go on it would seem that Australia Post has made a habit of hiring the lowest cost contractors for parcel delivery which has lead to an apparent decline in service.

If you’re unfortunate to have a particularly bad contractor for your area you might see things like I did at a previous address where they will drive up to a mailbox with “missed delivery” slips already filled out and fling them into the mailbox without any attempt to actually deliver the parcel. Sure you can complain about it but its a long, long process and unless you actually have them on video doing it, don’t expect action.

The Rage Inducing Letter

At our current address of the last two years however things have been pretty good with Australia Post deliveries. We get a reasonable but not huge amounts of parcels and until recently there has been no indication of any issue. On the occasion where a package that required a signature couldn’t be signed for they left the missed delivery card at the door which was fine. That happens.

And then without warning just a few days before Christmas (2014) we got the above letter. Note how it talks down you, the customer, as if whatever the issue was your fault. Had we put a new gate in place or suddenly purchased a rabid guard dog then sure it’d be our fault but now they won’t deliver because it was “outside guidelines”? What guidelines? When did they come into effect? Why were we not warned before hand? We didn’t know. The letter came with no extra material to explain it. There was no issue tracking ID we could use and unsurprisingly that close to the Christmas break we had neither the time nor inclination to chase it up immediately.

Once into the new year we finally got an answer out of them. According to Australia Post they have “always” had a guideline that contractors can not deliver to a location from where they can not view their van for “mail security reasons”. As our door is around the back of a block of apartments this apparently means they just flat out won’t bother to deliver to our door any more despite it not being a problem for the last two years.

I can only assume the delivery contractors are now fitted with explosive collars that detonate if they go out of line of sight from the laser tracker on their van or something. Surely it wouldn’t be because their contractor just can’t be bothered delivering any more? Or maybe even more cynically Australia Post is trying to reduce load on the delivery side of things and wanting to offload us onto the parcel locker service instead?

While the parcel locker service is undeniably useful, particularly if you work in the CBD for an organisation that does not allow personal mail being delivered to the office, the whole damn point of paying for delivery is that it actually gets delivered. To the location that it was paid to be damn well be delivered to. End of story.

Never mind the thousands of locations in our city alone these “guidelines” suddenly mean can’t get deliveries. On our street alone which is not all that heavily built up I can count at least thirty residences that fall under this “no delivery for you!” guideline. Oh and if you want to see what other guidelines might exist that might “prevent” your parcel from being delivered to you? Well they won’t show you them. These are guidelines for the contractors and thus don’t seem to be publicly available on the Australia Post website for consumers to read (not that we could link to them anyway right?) nor has a copy been offered to us by Australia Post representatives. For all I know the guidelines state that parcels can’t be delivered if your door is the wrong shade of green or if the moon is waxing gibbous.

Solutions?

Well if you believe the letter somehow we the consumer are meant to resolve this, I assume by organising to have our apartment block placed on a giant lazy susan so we can rotate our door to the front upon delivery arrival. We’ll get right on that.

Or we could simply choose, where possible, to use any one of the commercial parcel delivery organisations that compete with Australia Post, none of whom seem to have any issue at all about delivering to our door. Furthermore most of them seem to be happy to reschedule delivery on a missed one rather than make us traipse to their location, guess which odd opening hours they are using and wait in long lines when they actually are open.

So great job Australia Post, keep up the fine work of isolating your customer base, increasing expense and generally kicking yourselves out of the market.

Here endth the rant.