Rumination 63: Sole of an Adult

A term that I’ve read repeatedly online over the years is ‘adulting’. Generally, twenty-somethings carry on painfully about how they feel like they’re ‘adulting’, just because they managed to open a savings account, go shopping for groceries or choose to stay home on a Friday night (rather than head out with friends to embarrass themselves while intoxicated at a slimy late-night venue with an entrance fee and toilet cubicles sans doors).

In case you haven’t got the vibe, I find the term ‘adulting’ to be tiresome and an Insta-shriek for attention.

Yet this week, I noticed a change in myself that could be categorised as ‘adulting’. As background, for some time I have been wearing shoes to work that could best be described as—in my own ignorant parlance—low-cut, matte, suede-ish dress boots. They are comfortable, easily paired with both formal and smart-casual outfits and quick to slip on and lace up. Unfortunately, they have faded heavily and the soles have become warped. It’s not the best look to turn up to work this way but I have been unable to decide which other pair of shoes in my cupboard would be appropriate; you see, they’re all more expensive, more formal and more fragile.

On the weekend, while shopping and out for lunch with Natasha and her mum, it occurred to me that I should buy new shoes. I needed a pair that was, as I have already stated, appropriate for smart-casual and more formal situations but also more durable than my current boots.

Natasha was pleased to hear that we were going to a visit a shoe shop; she then helped me to pick out a comfortable leather shoe with more of a sneaker sole: comfier, more durable and inconspicuous in black. Perfect!

As I stood at the counter, making inane conversation with the shop attendant about the security of Apple Pay, it hit me: while already an adult for years, I was in the process of ‘adulting’. Natasha was happy to visit the shoe shop because I avoided shoe-shopping for so long. I was wearing my shoes into the ground because that’s what I did as a kid. Shoe-shopping is boring.

There I was, as an adult, standing in a shop to buy work shoes because they were a necessary and sensible purchase, all the while discussing the necessity of a secure enclave on a wrist-worn device for tap payments.

In 2020, with these new, totally unremarkable yet comfortable shoes, I am fully adult.

A Rational Fear Covers the Australian Bushfire Crisis (Video)

Australia doesn’t always make international headlines but this month, it has been hard to miss on the news. The country has been experiencing a devastating bushfire crisis.

Even before we left for our recent trip to the United States, the smoke haze was intolerable in our area and many had been affected by the disaster across our state of New South Wales. Some days are still smoky now but fortunately our city has not been on fire. Natasha and I had been watching the news and checking the Rural Fire Service app to see what was happening, however it wasn’t until we arrived in the United States that we understood just how big the disaster has been. On the ABC (US), it was reported on morning television that the affected land was equal to the surface area of 50 New York Cities.

I was staggered at just how many Americans were aware of the ongoing disaster. We also didn’t receive any of the expected questions about kangaroos on so on; instead, upon arrival we were asked constantly if our home and relatives were alright. We had to reassure a lot of people!

Without a doubt, climate change is playing a huge role in our current bushfire crisis. Like many others, I have been super-disappointed with successive governments’ approach to energy policy and addressing climate change. Over the years, both Labor and Liberal-National governments (our major parties) have failed to satisfactorily curtail Australia’s emissions.

Given the immense international interest in Australia’s current situation, I thought that I would share a fantastic, comprehensive video by comedic news site A Rational Fear. The team there has done a brilliant job of explaining Australia’s long-term political failure in conservation and energy policy. Narrated by Australian songwriter, entertainer and all-round genius, Tim Minchin, it fairly criticises both major parties and their efforts (or lack thereof).

Whilst it does exceed 10 minutes in duration, I strongly encourage you to watch it—whether or not you’re Australian. I’m sure that many people in other Western liberal democracies will be able to relate to the feeling of political disappointment. The Federal Government’s approach to bushfire relief certainly reeks of the same hopelessness that comes with the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ (when discussing the American gun crisis). I can’t help but feel that the current response is all that we can expect from a seriously conservative, Christian leader like Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Scientific evidence is naturally trumped by business interests and personal belief.

You can also view the video in its original post by talented writer/comedian/filmmaker Dan Ilic.

9. Meaningful Travel

In the first episode for 2020, Martin reflects on his trip to the United States with Natasha, particularly how he attempted to make the most of it through journaling, communication with locals and a more thoughtful approach to photography.


Rumination 62: Carelessness

As a lifelong Mac user and general Apple fan, I believe strongly in caring for what are quite expensive, well-designed devices.

As a sign of my commitment to keeping products as close to their original condition as possible, I once took my then seven-year old unibody MacBook for a trackpad repair (where I worked at the time) and was told by the technician that it was the most pristine item that he had ever seen brought into the shop.

Not everyone, however, is as careful as this. I was reminded of just how unusual and careless some computer use can be during my recent flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Across the aisle from me, a young man had a 13-inch MacBook Pro in the pouch of the seat in front of him and was using an iPhone 11 Pro. When he wasn’t sleeping, he watched consecutive instalments of the Fast and Furious franchise on his iPhone. First, this was the unusual part: rather than preload his movie files (from iTunes in the TV app) to watch on the Mac’s larger display, he held the iPhone in his lap, hunching forwards and looking down. It’s odd not to want to use a larger display for movies but fair enough.

Then came the careless part, which made this choice seem stranger: tired of holding the iPhone and straining his neck to look down, he removed his Mac from the pouch, put it on the folding tray table and opened the lid slightly, in order to sandwich the iPhone between the trackpad and the top of the lid. He was using his pricey, current-generation MacBook Pro as an iPhone stand.

Eventually, he became tired of this too, as his iPhone repeatedly slipped out from underneath the display, hitting his Mac’s trackpad with a frustrating crunch. What was the solution? He closed his Mac’s lid and propped up the iPhone against the back of the seat in front of him, probably hoping that the person in front would not recline. Fortunately, they didn’t. Still, his iPhone slipped more than once.

I understand that not every Apple product user is going to be as much of a fan as I am. Damage happens and my own devices aren’t in perfect condition. What baffles me is that people who can afford such products are generally ungrateful for them and treat them poorly. Casting my mind back to when I worked for an authorised Apple reseller, I can recall people who brought in desktop Mac’s with heavily dinted edges, iPods that had been dropped in toilets, iPhones with smashed and missing bezels and laptops full of dog hair. I also remember my wife Natasha mentioning how she once distributed new staff iPads during a meeting, with one staff member deciding to place soy crisps on the her new iPad’s display like a plate, while it sat flat on the table in front of her.

More and more, we see people buying products that they perhaps don’t even need, just to fulfil their own personal desires or aspiration for fashion and status. Not once did this guy turn on his laptop during the entire 14-hour flight. This is the true mark of consumerism: not just lots of unnecessary stuff, but also treating it as disposable.

There are people all over the world who would love to be able to afford such devices. As those who are privileged, being careful with and grateful for what we have is the least that we can do to justify what we buy.

PhD Journal Entry 8: Pen(sive) Writing

Today, Natasha and I are leaving Australia for a holiday to the United States for just under a month. We’ve had this in mind for years and it’s fantastic that it’s finally happening.

Before the end of 2019, I was a little nervous about how I should approach reading for my studies while away. My primary supervisor, Kate, told me to stop worrying—as usual—suggesting that I take a complete break from research and enjoy the holiday.

Instead of formal research, she suggested that I keep a handwritten journal of our travels, noting any interesting cultural differences, social observations and experiences with media/technology. I haven’t kept a handwritten diary for years, with the recent exception of my podcasting journal, which Kate also suggested. Aside from being a nice way to remember our holiday, it should be a helpful way to collect and refine my thoughts about America as a centre for cultural production and digital communication, linking to my research focus on niche tech podcasting.

I’m looking forward to the experience of detaching more from digital technology on this trip, other than additions to this site and photo uploads to my blog Feld Notes. It’s a habit that I’m going to have to try to establish more this year: relying more on handwriting to slow down my thinking. Writing with a pen may take more time but it has its advantages.