Commute delays, frustration, and empathy

“Keep the doorstep clear, please,” The tram driver intones over the PA for what must be the tenth time during my commute. The doorstep remains crowded, along the rest of the tram. Standing, back against the window, occupying as little space as I can, I crank up my music and try to relax.

My day started well: I woke relatively well rested with plenty of time to shower and breakfast before leaving home. Walking to the bus while texting a friend, I’m pleased to observe that the sun has decided to briefly grace me with its presence.

The bus is almost 10 minutes late. I could’ve walked to the tram instead, and maybe I’d have just caught the one I watched sail past as I disembarked my bus. How could I have known?

On a route with a usual frequency of 8 minutes, that tram was the last one for over 30 minutes. There had been a route disruption and the network was still catching up.

I catch the tram because, despite the extra 10 minute travel time, I can sit down and maybe get some productive work or recreational reading done, whereas the train is often so packed I can’t hold my phone in front of my face.

I should have caught the train, I tell myself as I await the tram. How could I have known? Well I could have checked the live public transport app that told me there were delays. But I didn’t; can’t change that now.

The sun has gone behind the clouds. My mood takes a hit. I’m frustrated. I’m going to be late. This isn’t a problem; I will still get my work done, and maybe I can get a head start once the tram arrives.

The tram arrives. It’s a single-section Z-Class vehicle, rather than this route’s more regular dual-section B-Class vehicles. It’s packed, or near enough to that there are no seats. I consider awaiting the next one, but it’s another 7 minutes away, and I’m already late. I board the tram.

I’m jostling for space, trying to maintain balance as the tram accelerates and decelerates by turns. There will be seats after people disembark at the train station. Wrong. By the time we reached the station, more had boarded, and I couldn’t move. The pressure eased off with the station passengers’ departure, but still no seats. I shuffle from the aisle to the available space against the window, where I’m out of the way and reasonably well supported.

So much for the sun: it has started raining. Another hit to my mood. This is Melbourne, and I’m prepared with my umbrella to handle the practical aspects of inclement weather, but my brain has other ideas.

I hate everything. The current weather, my fellow passengers, the public transport provider, the tram driver and their insistent announcements about clearing the doorstep. I should’ve followed my instincts and worked from home like I was considering before getting out of bed. This is not how to set a positive tone for my day.

I stop.

I take a deep breath.

I consider the commuters around me. They didn’t ask for this. They’re just trying to get to work, same as me. Some of them may not work somewhere as flexible as I do, where being a little late isn’t a huge deal. They’re doing the best they can.

I consider the public transport control centre. Who knows what sort of disruptions they had to deal with today while I was still eating my breakfast? They’re probably frustrated, trying to get back on schedule, willing physics to bend the rules so they can get their trams where they’re needed in a timely manner. They’re doing the best they can.

I consider the tram driver. They’re just doing their job. Surely they have safety precautions to which they must adhere. They’ve possibly received instructions from stressed control centre folks, and are trying to make up time that they’ve lost. They’re dealing with trams that are packed far earlier in their journey than usual, and commuters standing in awkward places because there’s nowhere else to go. They’re doing the best they can.

We’re all doing the best we can, with the information we had available at the time. The world is deliberately trying to make our lives difficult.

Today will be OK. My office is warm and dry, with plenty of natural light, sun or no. My to-do list is manageable. I have things to look forward to.

Standing on the tram, I extract my phone from my pocket, and I begin to write.

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2016 Highlights

2016 was a struggle for many of us, with some pretty unpleasant stuff going on all over the world. To combat the feeling that 2016 was nothing but a huge trash fire, several of my friends have published lists of their 2016 highlights, and reading them really warmed my heart, as I felt so pleased for them having some wonderful experienced (there was much compersion to be had!). So, in return, here is my list of things that were awesome about 2016. I hope next year is half as amazing!

  • Went to the Australian Scout Jamboree 2016 in NSW with 39 other awesome people for 10 days, and watched kids have awesome fun, and learn and grow as they took care of each other.
  • Quit my job, after 7 years, for a proper holiday that didn’t involve attending conferences or scout events!
  • Went to Linux.conf.au 2016 in Geelong, and ran a one-day Open Knowledge Australia mini-conference. I’ll get to do this again in 2 weeks’ time in Hobart!
  • Helped out with the Scouts Victoria Kangaree, getting about 10 hours sleep in 3 days, and generally being amazing. It was really gratifying.
  • Went to my first festival, Confest, in NSW. It was an amazing week in which I did too much volunteering, had very little mobile reception (which was the best!), and met awesome people!
  • Saw some awesome shows for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, including Lisa-Skye’s “Spiders Wearing Party Hats,” which, between MICF and Fringe, I saw 3 times!
  • Experienced and participated in my first ever scene at a kink club, expanding my comfort zone. It was a fascinating experience!
  • Helped set up computers for Popup Playground’s Small Time Criminals, which is still running until February, and which you should totally book in if you haven’t already!
  • Went on my first overseas touring holiday to Europe. This was amazing, three weeks was exactly the right duration, and I absolutely loved it!
  • Did some awesome and fulfilling work with Invent The World, using Minecraft and other games to teach kids online empathy, problem solving, teamwork, and keyboard and mouse motor skills. Seeing these kids work together and learn was exhausting, but extremely rewarding, and I really hope to do more of this in the future.
  • Planned and ran GovHack Melbourne 2016, a weekend hackathon for about 100 people, with an amazing team of volunteers!
  • Attended my first PyCon AU in Melbourne, where I went to an education seminar, learned some awesome stuff from some even more awesome friends, new and old!
  • Went to Slut Walk Melbourne for the first time, and marched with hundreds of others against slut shaming and rape culture.
  • Attended HealthHack Melbourne 2016, as a participant, and not a volunteer, for a change, and, with my team, achieved second place for our hack!
  • Visited Adelaide for the first time, for the GovHack 2016 National Red Carpet Awards; a beautiful city!
  • Returned to Wellington, NZ, for yet another amazing KiwiCon, which ran in spite of the earthquake earlier that week!
  • Presented a talk about getting youth involved in tech at that fantastic BuzzConf emerging technology festival in Ballan, Victoria. A delightful, family-oriented feel permeated the event, and I met some of the best people!
  • Expanded my comfort zone further by attending my first ever gay clubs etc.
  • Went to the ever awesome Swingin‘ Bella Christmas, and sang and danced to the excellent music they play there every year!
  • Formed new relationships (from friendships to intimate partnerships) with some brilliant folks, while amicably ending some that had run their courses.

The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met this year have been unforgettable, and I’ll cherish many of them for years to come. Thank you to all of you who have made my life amazing simply by being a part of it.

To blog, or not to blog

For years, I’ve pondered the idea of starting a blog. It never seemed worthwhile, and there always seemed to be plenty of hurdles.

Hosting

Where would I host a blog? As a big supporter of data sovereignty and data liberation, I didn’t want to lock myself into a particular service and so considered self-hosting.

On the flip side, as a systems administrator, I didn’t really want go have to deal with the maintenance of yet another service on one of my servers, particularly something like WordPress with I get the impression needs regular updates applied, which aren’t necessarily available in a timely manner from my Linux distribution’s package manager.

Ultimately, after creating a WordPress.com account in 2012 to occasionally contribute to another blog and squat on my username, and subsequently determining that the site has an Export function which returns all content as XML, I decided that was Good Enough(TM) and made my blog publicly viewable and searchable.

Content and frequency

What do I have to blog about? If what I write is only of interest to me, I may as well keep a private diary. If you look at my Twitter feed, you’ll see a huge percentage of it is retweets of others, rather than original content. Do I really have anything to say?

Of course I do. Despite being busy out and about actually living my life, I still spent significant time reading and forming opinion on topics that are important to me (see my About page). Occasionally, there’s a topic I feel strongly and educated enough about to weigh in on with my own thoughts. Sometimes I do this on Twitter, however sometimes 140 characters just isn’t sufficient.

Is it worth setting up a blog, though, for the seemingly rare occasions I feel like sharing my opinion with the world? Well given I’m hosting on a managed service, the cost of maintenance is basically zero, so there’s no harm in having a site that is often dormant until I need it, and I have no obligation to set a schedule for how regularly I post content.

That said, I enjoy writing, and if I don’t strive for anything too close to perfection (e.g. in the form of ensuring I know everything about a topic before authoring a post on it), just the fact that I’ve got a space available to share my thoughts may lower the barrier enough that I do so more often than I’d expect.

Naming

Ah, the all important question. What do I call my blog? I wanted something unique (there are a lot of blogs out there, and many of the names I considered were in use) and memorable, while having a nice ring to it. “mattcen’s mumblings”, which occurred to me the other day, contains a username that is mostly only associated with me across the internet, and it alliterates nicely, so it’s as good a name as any.

Privacy

Privacy is, ironically, the topic that finally made me choose to write a blog post (that’s coming soon), so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say that, despite my privacy attempts being largely in vain, I am usually quite conscious about what I share on the internet so there’s little reason to share any more information than necessary. Time will tell whether I have any luck retaining any semblance of privacy.

Conclusion

So I have a blog. It may get lots of updates, or it may not. The posts may or may nor be useful or interesting to anybody. You’re welcome along for the ride to find out!