Out of the office reply...

Hey, I've not been posting for a while. Sorry about that.

Right now I'm in Melbourne Australia. On Thursday we drive up towards Sydney. In two weeks we'll be in New Zealand. In a month we'll be in San Francisco. In two months we'll have an apartment. I'll be working, back at Rdio.

Actually, I probably should be getting some work done for them right now, only my laptop battery is fucked so I'm a little reluctant to get started on anything too significant. It literally carries zero charge so the smallest bump on the power loses everything. It's like being back with a desktop computer, only the cable on my computer isn't nearly as solid as a good old kettle plug.

I want to post more of our experiences. I'll do that when I take and make the time and when I've had a chance to upload more of our photos.

Australian Of The Year

It's Australia Day. Or Invasion Day. It's when I think about what I love about Australia, but also all of the horrible things we've done in our past and how far we've got to go. On Australia day they hand out a bunch of honours to people who've made significant contributions to Australian society and one award for Australian Of The Year. I'd never heard of this year's recipient, Patrick McGorry, but it sounds like he's done a bunch of good things.

So, I'm going to pick my own personal Australian of the year. The Australian whose work has made me proudest. It's a pretty easy choice for me. My brother Colin has spent the past year working at the Yamatji Marlpa Pilbara Native Title Service. He's working with Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara to identify and protect significant sites from mining. He's living in Port Hedland, but not on a miner's salary. I know I'm biased, but I'm really proud of what he's been doing. We'd be doing better as a country with more people like him.

Jerusalem Maths

Last Friday we went on an alternative archaeological tour of the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The tours are run by Israeli archaeologists who feel that the archaeology done in the area often referred to as the City of David aren't done professionally. The Israeli Government and the settler organization El Ad use archaeological techniques that have been rejected by mainstream archaeology for a hundred years (such as tunnelling) and approach the digging with a political agenda rather than pure scientific interest.

Our guide showed us not only how archaeology is being used as an excuse to force Palestinians from their homes, but also how only the Jewish and Judean parts of the history were being explored and explained to the exclusion of the other significant history of the area. It was also interesting that he rejected a strong connection between the Judean people who settled in Jerusalem in 1000BCE and the Jewish people of today.

Jewish people feel a strong historical connection to Jerusalem, but so do people of many different faiths and cultures. In the city's 3800 year history it has had many rulers and been consistently home to different people. Back to the time of King David there is biblical documentation of the city being culturally mixed (see: Joshua 15:63, Judges 1:21). While there have been Judean or Jewish people living in the city with (with a few interruptions) since about 993BCE, they've never been the only residents. Some Palestinians see themselves as the descendants of the Canaanites who first settled Jerusalem, but that connection, like that between the modern Jewish people and the Judeans of King David's time is difficult to prove or disprove and is widely disputed.

I did some quick lazy research and made a spreadsheet to track who has been running Jerusalem for the past 3810 years, since the Canaanite Jebusites first built a wall around their city. I tallied up the years that different groups controlled the city and it came out like this:
Judean / Jewish / Israeli812 years
Babylonian / Greek / Roman964 years
Arab / Turkish / Ottoman1210 years
Byzantine / Crusader / British128 years

Jerusalem has spent about 20% of its history as a Jewish city. It has spent about 1.5 times more time as a Muslim city and twice as much time ruled by polytheistic rulers. Even parts of the city that are considered to be associated with particular religions almost always have a mixed history. The Muslim Dome of the Rock is built on the site of the Jewish temple but has also been a Christian church. Much of the Western Wall (Kotel), arguably the most holy place in modern Judaism were built by Muslim rulers of the city. The history is so complicated and mixed it's illogical for any particular group to claim a unique connection to the place. Anyone that does probably has a modern political agenda.

Last Friday in Bil'in

Fridays are demo day in Palestine. It's the weekend but not yet shabbat so religious Jewish Israelis can participate in solidarity. Right now there are about ten non-violent demonstrations each Friday. Activists travel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem coordinate cars to drive to and between demonstrations

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We had a wonderful day. It was great to meet Abu Nizar and his family. It was great to see Rani, his father Waji and the rest of their family. The weather was beautiful, the food was amazing, the conversation was interesting and everyone was so friendly. The only thing I don't love about Palestine is the occupation.

2010 Goals

 Not so much resolutions but directions I'd like to head in or things I'd like to achieve:
  • Really enjoy the rest of our trip. Make new friends on our travels. Reconnect with old friends in Australia. Have a great time with my family in Australia and New Zealand. Continue to have a fantastic time with Sharon.
  • Be excited to be back in San Francisco.
  • Find a job that's satisfying and challenging. I'm still not quite sure what that looks like but I'm tempted to find a position that involves supervising other people which I've never done before. My experience with great, terrible and average managers kind of scares me, but that's the point. I'll want some kind of safety net like a good mentor and perhaps even formal training.
  • Live frugally. I'd like us to be on our way towards a down payment for a home by 2011. Saving for the trip and even more being on the trip we've learned to live simply and cheaply and it's great.
  • Find somewhere great and cheap to live. This ties into the previous item, but goes beyond that. By the time we left San Francisco I was ready to leave San Francisco. Our beautiful apartment was beautiful, but I'd like to own something beautiful which means living somewhere cheap for a while. By "great" I mean somewhere that has a bit of charm, a sense of community around it and where I can get coffee, groceries and public transport to work on foot easily. I think this is entirely possible in the Bay Area but quite likely not possible in San Francisco (I don't want to live in the Sunset, Richmond, etc). A lot of this will tie into the job question.
  • Make music. With people or by myself. Regularly or occasionally. In a structured context or strumming on my guitar while I wait for a compile. It doesn't matter I've failed to make any music for the past few years and I know that it's a missing piece.
  • Spend more time nerding out with nerds. I love to talk about ideas with interesting people but it's not something I've made enough time for in the past few years. In San Francisco with its political homogeneity and massive computer industry this will generally mean participating in tech meetups or clubs. Like music it takes time, is easily ignored but makes me happy.
  • Write some software that either makes me some money or makes people excited. I'm often not great at picking projects that will keep my attention to a successful completion. I'd love to be part of an awesome free software community but I'd also love to try my hand at entrepreneur.
  • Start the baby making. Really everything else on the list is just setting myself up to be ready to devoting myself to a family while keeping myself satisfied as an individual.


1.What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Quit my job with no job to go to.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't know if I had any actual resolutions, but I generally intend to be better organized and in better physical shape. I did that. Next year I could use more of the same.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A cousin and some friends. And we got to visit a lot of them in our travels.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My cousin Mathieu died late last year in a traffic accident in Peru. I've continued thinking about him a lot this year. It was great to get to spend time with his parents, brother and nephew when we were in Switzerland.

5. What countries did you visit?

Oh my: Canada, USA, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, Holland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Spain, Israel and Egypt. More to come in 2010.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

My own bed to sleep in.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

May 1st - our last day of work before travel.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Actually getting going on our trip!

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not saving more money before we left, spending too much money in Europe - now we're kind of on a shoe-string, though luckily in cheaper places. I also wish I'd been better uploading photos and posting updates online.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope, a cold and an upset stomach here and there.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Friendly people all over the world.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Conservative Americans, the Israeli government and the apathetic, ignorant or racist Israelis who support them, the governments of the world for failing to agree on laws that will allows us to continue living in a world with beaches, drinking water and a climate that lets us grow enough food to eat.

14. Where did most of your money go?


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?


16. What songs will always remind you of 2009?

I gotta feeling. Between European pop radio and Andy and Ali's wedding I've got some good memories.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? happier
ii. thinner or fatter? thinner
iii. richer or poorer? richer in time, poorer in money

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Spending time with friends - the times we had around the world were great, but I could have used a little more of it.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Overnight travel without a bed (planes and trains).

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

We spent Christmas in Tel Aviv where most people don't celebrate Christmas. While Christmas is a holiday I celebrate I hate the commercialized crap so I loved it. We built a cardboard christmas tree with recycled paper ornaments and didn't exchange gifts. Perfect!

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Nope, got that one covered.

22. How many one-night stands?

7, I mean 0.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia is the only show I really watched and it's really great.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nope, and answering this question I feel like I'm kind of past hate.

25. What was the best book you read?

I actually started reading again this year after a gap of many years. I think I might have enjoyed Tales Of The City the most since it reminded me of home. I also loved Umberto Eco's first two books, the new William Gibson, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Middlesex. No nothing actually released this year.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Central European pop radio. They love Roxette as much as I do.

27. What did you want and get?

To get away.

28. What did you want and not get?

Horse pizza in Berlin. We just ran out of time.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?


30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

We were riding camels in the Sahara in Morocco. I was 32.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I really can't think of anything. It's been a pretty satisfying year.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

One week of clothes on repeat. The usual formula of jeans and t-shirts with some travel additions including zippy hiking pants and a Berber turban.

33. What kept you sane?

Having Sharon with me 24/7 for the past 8 months. I'm glad that didn't make me insane.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Sarah Vowell while I was reading Assassination Vacation.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Israeli Apartheid in Palestine (since I'm right here). Also climate change, American health care reform and GLBT equality though they were all a little more distant from me.

36. Who did you miss?

Friends in San Francisco, though it's been great travelling and seeing so many people around the world I normally miss. I miss having a technical community that I can talk to about crazy computer ideas, though I've managed to do a bit of that online nonetheless.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

We met a lot of great new people. The ones that stand out in my mind are the people we were on our group trip in Egypt with - all great, interesting people that we had a really fun week with and Emily's friends in Tel Aviv that we're getting to know.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009

I learned that I don't need nearly as much stuff as I think I need. I don't even want nearly as much stuff as I think I need. We got rid of almost everything we owned in San Francisco, left almost everything else in storage, filled our car with the remains, but left almost all of that when we left the US, but still, with only a backpack each we had way more than we actually used.

39. Quote song lyrics that sum up your year:

I don't really listen to song lyrics.

Travel update

As usual, I have no useful update. Sharon is far better than me at uploading photos so you should go read her post.

Actually you should just add her lj if you haven't yet.

We are in Munich, heading to Berlin, then Morocco, then Spain. I am debugging nasty C++ code wishing that the gdb reversible support was ready.

Oh yeah, there's a coffee shop chain called the San Francisco Coffee Company that exists in at least Germany and Hungary. Definitely not in San Francisco, though their coffee is American-style burned to a crisp roast. Their wifi is not free, but using the magic of cat5 we are sharing a single day-pass to their wifi.

En Europe!

So we're in Europe now. We've spent the past week or so in Saleve spending time with family, reading, playing Sudoku, walking, etc. Dan is arriving tomorrow and we're off to visit more of Switzerland and more family on Friday. We fly to London on the 4th. Generally all good and fun!

More updates to come when I have more time, have uploaded more photos and am off the qwertz kezboard.