Annus Normalis

It is now a year since I rode my bike up the driveway in Whangarei. It is a year since I last rode a bike laden with everything I deemed necessary to live my life. Turns out that it isn’t much when you need to carry it. But when you only move house every six months like I do now…I’m building up a pile of crap.

It’s been a year of simple pleasures. On Saturday I spent much of the morning indulging in one of my favourites – reading the Saturday newspaper. On the road, I always had the time to read the paper, but I rarely had the chance to get hold of an English newspaper. Now it seems that getting the paper is easy, but I hardly ever have the time. Saturday wasn’t that much different actually – it was just that I had a cold and couldn’t go diving, so I was stuck indoors, and that gave me the time to read the paper.

Today was another simple pleasure. Even though it was the first day of winter, I was able to get up to a stunningly beautiful, if cold, morning and go mountain biking. Cold yes, but not so cold as to require leg-warmers or trousers on the bike. Admittedly I did wear shoes. You can get away with sandals and socks in random Eastern countries, people look at you funny anyway. Here it sticks out a bit more.

In the last month, I’ve seen my parents twice, and my younger brother. In the next two months, I should see my parents again, my sister, and my older brother and his family. That’s another simple pleasure I can get from living here. I’ve also been able to spend time with friends, and make new friends. Not just the sort of transient friends you meet on the road, but people you see regularly over a long period of time. And I’m enjoying that.

I’ve been able to take up a new interest, diving. That’s taking up far more of my resources (time and $$) than I ever dreamed it would have 12 months ago.

I’ve been able to unpack most of my stuff, and have a range of clothes. Not just on the bike/off the bike, but work, casual, sporting, somewhere in between – and variety in each category.

I’ve been in a position to cook good meals, whatever I feel like eating, not just a lump of fat on top of plain rice (plov). At first my kitchen wasn’t much better than the little petrol stove, but now I have a kitchen so big that we don’t even use half the cupboards, because we don’t have enough stuff to put in them.

And yet…


I have just received notice that my CISSP certification has lapsed. Obtaining this certification involved a reasonable amount of study, for a six hour exam covering 250 multiple choice questions. To maintain certification, you need to log “Continuing Professional Education” credits – a total of 120 over three years. Credits are obtained for taking course, reading books, attending conferences, etc. Apparently you can even get them for reading security blogs, of which I currently follow at least half a dozen.

Should be easy right? Well apparently it is 120 over three years, but you must log at least 20 each year. And I happen to have a little bit of a gap in my CV…thing was I probably did enough reading over that time anyway, but I don’t have notes to verify it. Hell, at one stage I managed to renew my CCNP, despite not having logged into a router for over a year, and not having done any real Cisco work for 3 years.

A lot of it is done on trust – only some people get audited to check they have actually done the training they say they did. So I could have just made something up, but that would have been a clear breach of ethics.

Oh well. If you’re looking to hire a CISSP, you’ll have to look elsewhere I’m afraid. Maybe I’ll re-sit the exam one day. Only problem is, it’s only held once or twice per year in NZ. Even in the UK, I had to fly from Edinburgh to London to sit it. We’ll see what happens in the future, if my career path seems to require it.

Cyclists == Upmarket?

One of the suggestions at a “jobs summit” a few months ago was a cycleway down the length of New Zealand. Absolutely brilliant idea, but it looks as though it won’t quite work out like that. Instead there will be a network of “Great Rides” that eventually will all link up. I think this is actually a much more practical way of going about it.

The Finance Minister didn’t want to cough up the $50m, but the Prime Minister, who is also the Tourism Minister, seems to have put the hard word on him. Good stuff. But this article from The Press had a great quote in it:

“The Government will put $50 million into a national cycleway as part of a plan to take tourism upmarket, ditching the focus on backbackers and package tourists.”

Are they serious? Cycle tourist are upmarket? Apparently they stay more than twice as long as the average tourist, but only spend 1.6 times as much – i.e. they’re spending less each day. It is easy to cut accommodation costs when you sleep in abandoned buildings. But would you seriously describe these guys as upmarket?

Face at Last

It was a fairly poorly kept secret, but at long last the company I work for has a proper brand – 2degrees. We had been known as “NZ Communications” – a pretty bland name, that didn’t really mean anything. People asked me if NZ Comms was a PR firm or something. If we were, we couldn’t have been a very good one. But anyway, now maybe we will have a bit of an increased profile, even more so when we launch in August. But will I be happy to say I work for them then? Well obviously that depends a bit on how the launch goes, but I think we’ll be OK. If nothing else, we’ll bring down the cost of mobile telecommunications for New Zealanders. During an economic downturn may not be the ideal time to launch a business, but then again, there’s probably plenty of people out there looking to reduce their costs.

Sadly work is a decent chunk of my life at the moment. I’m still a little way off being able to just ride around on my bike, sleeping in ditches, eating anywhere and everywhere. For now, I need to put away a little cash, and plan the next trip. Fatten myself up a bit too – I’m nearly 10kg heavier than a year ago. Fear not gentle readers, for it is mainly muscle. I’ve been having some interesting times working out with a personal trainer, doing quite different exercises to traditional gym work. Working harder than I ever did when I worked out by myself.

Last workout ended with me sprawled out on the floor, in no particular hurry to get up. All good. Tomorrow will be more balance, co-ordination and control work. Before you think I’m taking the easy option, you should know I’ll probably be sweating more after that than a strength workout.

Still diving too, although the water’s cooling down. Last weekend was stormy, and I was hoping diving would be cancelled, so I could head up north to see Jackson, but Goat Island was miraculously sheltered, and so we had a long day out diving, with an Open Water course group. This meant that I ended up driving up to Goat Island, back to Auckland, then up north to Whangarei. Too much damn time in the car. I think I need to make up for it with some bike time this weekend – Woodhill should be looking good after all the rain.

Wedding Bells

But luckily not for me. One of the things that has been keeping me busy recently is attending weddings. Firstly Karen and Hamish’s wedding over Easter, down in Napier. This was a good chance to do a bit of a road trip, and take the bikes out on some different trails. This means mountain bikes though, not the tourer. We took the mountain bikes, and managed to go riding at Taupo (Craters of the Moon), Napier (Eskdale) and Rotorua (Whakarewarewa of course) on the way home. Awesome biking, if not quite bike touring.

As we were pulling out of Taupo, at the start of a long stretch of not much, we saw a cyclist rolling down the last few kms into Taupo. He would have been feeling pretty happy with himself, after over 100km of rugged, beautiful, but empty land. I miss that feeling. But the trails in Napier and Rotorua were pretty good.

But back to the wedding – absolutely stunning weather in Napier, and a lovely wedding. I must make particular comment on the choice of wine, and the food – both were fantastic, and I did my best in fully sampling them. It was good to see Karen and Hamish finally get married, after many years together. Also a good chance to catch up with Paul, a fellow engineer from university days.

Two other friends who’ve been together for a long time are Bruce and Tanika. And finally they too are married. This was another road trip, but not so far – just to the Coromandel Peninsula. No bikes this time, because it was pouring down all day on Saturday, and besides, we were both tired. The rain had rather affected the plans for an outdoors wedding, and there was a hasty change on venue for the ceremony, but no-one really let it bother them. Everyone was very much having a good time – although I think that they guy who was throwing up before the speeches might have been overdoing it… Great to catch up with Allen though, who reminded me of a few stories about Bruce I thought I’d forgotten. Probably just as well neither of us stood up to say any words.