Music and purpose

One of the mental barriers I’ve been wrestling with is what to do with my songs once they’re written? I have plenty to say, and I enjoy the writing process. But there is a big part of me that finds it hard to get motivated unless I have a clear “point” in doing it. That was the crux of my previous post—how to break free of that mentality, and find motivation and momentum…
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Making progress…

In rekindling this blog, I’ve been going through and cleaning up some recent posts.

I came across this one, Reconnecting with music, and reading it felt like I could have written last month, not 4 years ago!

Well kinda… it’s been a journey since then, but a slow one.
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Don’t fall…

I have a confession to make. I’m a “closet fan” of Linkin Park. While they’re not the “coolest” of bands in my circles, especially among my music friends, their first two albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora in particular sit amongst my fave albums of all time. Definitely a case of “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff,” but still…
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Reconnecting with music

I’ve been trying to reconnect with the art of having fun making music.

Anyone that knows me well knows that making and performing music has been a big part of my life for, like, forever.

But since Fuzu called it a day, in part due to my sojourn into Sustainable Practice at uni, I’ve found it hard to reconnect with any particular musical venture.
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Quieting the inner critic

One thing I keep hearing of late is that I’m verbose. That I like complexity. That I’m technical.

I’ve decided that here is not about listening to those voices. Here is about me unpacking the world and digging for answers. Or failing that, at least insights. If it’s verbose, complex, boring, convoluted, unclear, lacking a point—that’s ok.

Perhaps in expressing the “unfiltered” version here, I’ll be more succinct, less technical, and express an elegant simplicity in other aspects of my life. We’ll see 😉

Letting go

It’s been forever since I just wrote a blog.

Just about something of interest. Something that makes me mad. Got me inspired. Something that just happened.

Not a series (though I still have hopes to do some of that too). Not “adding value”, other than in a sense of self expression (that someone else might connect with, but that’s not a requirement/intent). Just trying to make sense of the world.

That needs to change. More

The day I became “that guy” you see on the news…

I’ve often seen news reports on TV about someone who got caught out on a bush walk and ended up needing to be rescued by helicopter, sometimes after days in the bush. I now have a new appreciation for how it is all too easy to end up in that type of situation, even if you think you’re adequately prepared. I wanted to share my experience so that other MTBers might think through their own circumstances and perhaps avoid the mistakes I made in a recent ride.

I ride in the Blue Mountains area—so typically along fire trails in bushland. I’d read about an track that was “well sign-posted”. For an average rider, the “mostly single-track” loop would take about 45 mins to complete a circuit. And you’re never too far from the car should you get into trouble. I’ve ridden the Oaks, McMahon’s Lookout, Wombat (VIC) and Quarry Road fire trail near the recently opened MTB track at Hornsby. Suffice to say, I figured that I had sufficient experience to tackle the course unassisted.

I arrived at the trail head and started down through the fire trail and true to the description I came across a small section of sign-posted single track, only to emerge at another fire trail with no signposts. I rode out and back a few kms along the firetrail and eventually found some single track a bit further on. Excited to get into a bit of single track (finally) I followed some other riders along for a period, before they pulled over at the next, un-signposted, juncture. They seemed like they weren’t sure which way to go either, so I decided to press on, picking what looked like an interesting path. The maps I had used to evaluate the trail indicated a simple loop, so I assumed, incorrectly it turns out, that the trail would loop back and I’d be on my way back to the car before long.

After one or two further un-signposted junctures, I found the single track looking was more like walking track… then more like water trail (i.e. the remnants of a creek or water run-off channel). Before long, any sense of “track” had completely disappeared.

Thinking I had my bearings, and convincing myself that I could see a walking track a bit further down the hill, I set off across some light scrubland. Before long I’d lost all sense of the trail I had left. I’d stopped RunKeeper by this point and had scant mobile reception so was finding it difficult to determine my bearings and location.

I kept walking, (thankfully) found some decent mobile phone reception, and using Google Maps on my iPhone determined the direction of my entry point to the reserve in which the trail was located. I started off in that direction only to find a creek that I didn’t remember crossing, and that the terrain was becoming increasingly difficult to traverse, especially with a mountain bike in tow. After a few more minutes of this, I had to concede that I was lost, with no sense of where my original trail had left off and where I was heading.

So I called 000 for assistance. My iPhone GPS co-ordinates proved less than helpful, but about 3 hours later, after dark, two Police rescue personnel were standing in front of me, after receiving some helicopter support. I feel terrible that I caused such a fuss and the resources that were mobilised to find me.

I’m not a person to take the risks of mountain biking lightly. I’ve read many articles highlighting the value of preparation. I had decked out my hydration pack with a first aid kit and bike repair tools. I ensured that I had a fully-charged phone, that I’d told my partner and friends where I was heading. But even with this, I found myself terribly under-prepared.

Mostly, I was totally sideswiped by how much of a mess I ended up in for what should have been a totally innocuous ride—what was supposed to be a quick and easy 45 minute circuit. I would feel less embarrassed if I was attempting a multi-day ride through a forest or something. I think this demonstrates that even a seeming simple ride can go wrong all too easily.

Experienced riders may scoff or write-off my experience as me being a dumb-ass, or not taking the dangers seriously and being ill-prepared. And in hindsight I can think of a hundred things I would/should/could have done differently. But in the moment, when panic starts to set in (even a light panic really degrades your ability to think clearly, I discovered), all of that was pretty meaningless.

My hope in sharing this sorry (and embarrassing) tale is in the hope that others can learn from my mistakes. While I was waiting for the Police to arrive—and having done some serious reflecting since—I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I’d do differently, and what I need to do in future. The Police also had some tips and advice to share on the drive back to the trail head.

From that, here’s what I would suggest:

Pause, breathe, and retrace

If you find yourself “off the beaten track”, stop and retrace your steps to your last known good area of track, rather than trying to press forward, even if you think you know where you need to go. If you’re tracking your ride using a tool like RunKeeper (and you have adequate reception) use that to help you work out where you need to go to get back to the track you left.

A phone is not enough

The GPS co-ordinates reported by my phone were way off. Google Maps simply put me in a “sea of green”, with no indication of trail locations. I expected that being in an area with reasonable reception I’d be ok with just the phone, but this clearly isn’t the case. (And friends have highlighted that I was lucky to get reception in that area.) That said, I was able to call the Police, communicate with friends (via SMS), use my flashlight app as a signalling device. I will be packing a battery extender (like the Mophie juice pack) for future trips, as my battery hit 20% capacity just as the Police arrived.

Ensure your emergency kit is well stocked

My standard emergency kit was totally inadequate. I didn’t have a thermal blanket. I didn’t have salt or matches/lighter to fend off leaches. I didn’t have my wet weather jacket (which I lamented when it started to rain, thankfully only briefly). I didn’t have a mirror for signalling. I didn’t have a torch. The list goes on… I was going on a short 45 min circuit and never imagined I’d need such things—but I would have benefited from them all.

I’d recommend chatting to a mountaineering store for advice, and adapting as required for your circumstances. I’ve since done so and received great advice a number of options that will be finding their way into my standard pack before I tackle a new trail.

Do new trails with a buddy

Make your first ride of a new course or trail with a riding buddy that knows the area and the terrain. Connect with a local club, or online forum (e.g. in my case SydneyCyclist, local riding groups like BMORC etc.). Having an experienced riding buddy can help make the process much more enjoyable, and safe. I’ve just recently benefited from this riding some lovely, local single-track and receiving useful advice from local riders.

Get a beacon

You can get a free “hire” emergency beacon from the Police before a ride, where you can also register (unfortunately only by fax or in-person) where you’re heading in case something untoward happens. I’ve chosen to purchase an InReach beacon (the Spot is another, cheaper, option) from my local mountaineering store (and signed up for the ongoing service). These commercial units enable SMS messaging even when your phone is out of range, as well as being more accurate and enabling an “SOS” signal to be sent. The InReach also supports a smartphone-based mapping application that uses the GPS from the unit for positioning (and provides more detailed maps). While these are an expensive addition to your kit, considering the value of one of these units vs. a dropper post or that you-beaut saddle/sunglasses/etc. in an emergency situation (as I had occasion to do while I waited for the rescue party)… well, I think you get the picture.

What’s in my pack

For what it’s worth, my pack now includes:

  • First aid kit
  • Spare tube
  • Tire repair kit
  • Tire levers
  • CO2 pump canister and adaptor
  • Allen key multi-tool
  • Leatherman (pliers, knife etc.)
  • Spare brake pads
  • Sunscreen
  • Duct tape
  • Salt
  • Waterproof matches, fire starters and a lighter (in a waterproof pack)
  • Thermal blanket/bag
  • Mirror (for signalling)
  • Emergency GPS beacon
  • Micro-size high-power/long life LED light
  • Spare batteries (for beacon + LED light)
  • Battery extender for phone

All of this fits snuggly into a CamelBak and is quite reasonable in terms of weight. This all might seem like overkill to some, but as I hope my experience demonstrates, it is worth the little bit of extra prep + weight for peace of mind.

I’d be interested in what others think of these suggestions and any other tips that might be beneficial.

2012 = Big year

2012 was a pretty massive year, not that you’d be able to tell from searching the archives here… The year kicked off with Angela and I finally finding a place to live, with us (eventually) moving to Katoomba the Blue Mountains in March. Then towards the middle of the year I took a change of direction with work, moving back to Saasu as Chief Design Officer. There were a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve outlined over at the Zumio blog. Shortly after starting at Saasu I also began tutoring at the University of Western Sydney, working with undergraduate students in the application of design research techniques. Then a trip to New Zealand, shortly followed by my graduation—having completed my Masters studies at RMIT.

With uni now done (and a break between tutoring stints), I suspect that I’ll be writing a bit more for personal benefit and pleasure, which is likely to fall over to this blog. I’ve also been writing a bit about my work over at the Saasu blog too.

In any case, it’s taken me a bit of time to clear the detritus that had built up in amongst all the busy-ness—a backlog of emails and mini-projects and just bits and pieces left undone. But it’s starting to feel like I’m ready to get into the new year. And it only took me a month!? :\

One of those projects that’s just kicking off is a little project/blog called Socoloco. The first cab-off-the-rank is Seasonal Saturday. The site has more about the background and intent of the project.

I’ve also been chatting with the folks at the Open Food Web Foundation about potentially assisting there. (I’m noticing a theme across those projects ;)) I’ve also joined a volunteer group to look at how the Winter Magic festival might be operated more sustainably. I’m looking forward to this not only from an intellectual/problem-solving perspective, but also as an opportunity to become more grounded in my (new) local community.

While there’s already a lot underway, a key goal for 2013 is to keep things a little bit more sane in terms of workload and lifestyle. I’m looking forward to more time to work on our new house, among other things. And to explore my new-found passion for mountain bike riding. And to get back to playing a bit more music, both personally, and with my good friend Kristian Jackson. We both have EPs in mind for this year. For mine, I’m not putting a date on—it’ll be ready when it’s ready. But I have already started working on some material left over from the Fuzu days that never got recorded.

Never a dull moment eh? 🙂