life hacking @ Target

I am currently downloading Yosemite from the Mac app store using the free in-store wifi at Target and, while i am reluctant to jinx the process by either bragging about it or by using what scant broadband is required to keep this WordPress backend open, i am excited about it enough to consider blogging about it AT THE SAME TIME.

These are my early forays into hacking. It’s a 5GB update that i wouldn’t be able to download through any of the wifi networks i’ve found around town. I could buy a data package for my phone and use the personal hotspot, but why would i do that when i can use the broadband of a chain department store and get some sun while i’m at it?

I feel like such a hardcase. I even took a selfie with my sunnies on to illustrate the point:

my best Matrix-character impression

my best Matrix-character impression

But i looked silly, so i took my glasses off and took this:

honest eyes

honest eyes

Makes for a good GIF, no?



Curiously, i tried the second hit on Google for a gif maker, but the domain was blocked by Target. The first hit was not.

Anyway, so this started this morning when the machine i’m typing on decided to have another conniption and not boot up.

I thought i had fixed this problem with Dwayne, the guy i found in Bendigo. It seems we fixed some of the problem, but not all of it. I don’t know,

because what happened is the machine started demonstrating the same symptoms as it had before, which seemed to be caused by a dodgy stick of RAM — that’s what Dwayne and i concluded, after we put the machine back together with only one stick installed, and hey presto!, it was working again, although now on one cylinder.

So i’ve been using the machine with only one 2GB stick of RAM installed where there would normally be two, totalling 4GB. And everything was fine until this morning, when it seemed to go kaput again.

So i wrote to Dwayne and he called me right back, and we decided i would get some precision screwdrivers to remove the remaining single screw on the backplate so i could get at the RAM slots.

I got the screwdrivers and was on my way to buy some carrots (another story) when i saw Kerang Computers across the road. Thinking it unlikely they would be stocking random chips of Mac RAM, i went in anyway, figuring there was only one way to know for sure, thinking, It might not be the problem, but i need to get that stick of dodgy RAM replaced at some stage, so maybe i’ll try my chances.

The guy was kind of a twat, but i tolerated him for long enough to discover he did in fact have a random chip of Mac RAM out the back, and the 2GB version that is apparently quite rare these days (this machine being from mid-2010). (Tolerating twats for long enough to get what i need is another aspect of life-hacking i’ve been exploring lately: by being self-righteous about not dealing with twats was only cheating myself.) It was even the same brand as the other chips the machine was running, and the code digits printed on the label were EXACTLY the same as on the chips i already have.

While i was in the shop i opened up the back of the machine and tried the troublesome chip to just see if indeed it was that chip that was causing the problem — sure enough, BEEP BEEP BEEP, the tell-tale sign the RAM was knackered.

So i’m feeling pretty bad-arse at this stage, standing in the store wearing my cycling duds, manually repairing a computer i thought you couldn’t even get the back off, feeling like a hacker, even though it’s not actually hacking.

But it is hacking, if you consider hacking to be the manual manipulation of systems that would otherwise prevent you even general access.

That’s a wild oversimplification of the term ‘hacking’, and it says more about how i perceive Apple computer systems than it does about the systems themslves, but it’s still hacking to me because it has involved problem-solving, resourcefulness, and a bit of lateral thinking.

Instead of just running to the nearest Mac shop (which is probably in Melbourne anyway, and therefore considerably out of my reach), i am:

  • fixing this problem myself, with the help of a guy i found on the internet;
  • while camping on a lake in the Victorian countryside;
  • and commuting into a small country town (where the best of Australian country and western is playing on the public speakers, presumably as a loitering deterrent);
  • where i am using freely available hi-speed wifi to download a 5GB software update from Apple in California.

Now that’s pretty cool, by anyone’s estimation. Perhaps not cool enough to warrant such a creepy gif, but cool enough for me.

Cool enough for me, yep yep yep!

So far:

  • i have downloaded 2.5GB in the hour i’ve been sitting here (during which time i had an overly zealous conversation with Mum about facilitating the sort of inner change that might eradicate greed from the world);
  • the battery is at 43%, which means i might make it all the way to the end —
  • if the school kids don’t drop on the place in about an hour and start STEALING ALL THE … free wifi …
  • or if my login doesn’t cut off after the hour limit,
  • after which i guess i can log out and log back in with one my many and varied email addresses.

Yes yes yes! Life hacking!

fuckyeahlifehacking …

aaaaaaaaaand the download stalled because i reached the hour limit,

aaaaaaaaaand now i have to start the 5GB download all over again:


this reminds me of trying for weeks to upgrade my software in Thailand.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

my greatest fear is enslavement by fear

As a cycle tripper, people often ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of trucks or robbers or snakes or whatever?” Lions and tigers and bears, essentially — mythical fears.

The question often surprises me because I think my greatest fear is enslavement by fear.

This dawned on me this morning as i was commuting from the lake where i’ve set up camp, to Kerang where i come to work.

I remembered the question and thought, Sure i’m a little bit afraid of those things — i have a natural and healthy wariness of them.  But i cycle because i value freedom, i camp because i cherish nature as a cathedral, and i trust people because i’m a philanthrope — i love humanity.

The alternative, which i experienced for a decade in publishing and i guess the twenty years before that, is no longer tenable to me.

The alternative to freedom is the enslavement of fear.

No thanks! I’ll try my luck with the lions and tigers and bears.

how to change plans and stack your bike like a zen monk

I told you i would change my plans: i am not doing the Quamby loop i wrote about on Friday, because instead i caught up with Max, who i met on the road around Koondrook.

Standing outside the supermarket inhaling a chocolate bar, a woman called Gale approached me and said, “You must have been in town all day — we saw you riding about earlier.”

Indeed, i had spent the afternoon at the library, and was always intending to stay the night somewhere in Kerang to met with Max and his friends by 8:30 the next morning at the clock tower. Talking with Gale about where i might camp the night, it slowly dawned on us that of course i should call Max, so that’s what i did.

Max's remarkable backyward is basically one big vegie garden, with tomatoes growing up out of the bricks and grape vines growing down from out the gutters — paradise

Max’s remarkable backyward is basically one big vegie garden, with tomatoes growing up out of the bricks and grape vines growing down from out the gutters — paradise

That night, sitting around Max’s kitchen table with my tent set up in his vegetable garden, he reckoned there was nothing much worth seeing on the Quamby loop, and that even if i did make it all the way up to Ouyen, it would be a two-day hike through sand if i wanted to get to the pink lakes.

I really want to see the pink lakes, and a two-day hike would not be beyond me if i had the right equipment. Alas, i do not.

So we brainstormed and i decided i would explore another idea i’ve been entertaining for a while: camping outside a town and commuting in to use the library/pub/cafe as my office.

So that’s what i’m doing now, but not before i joined Max and his friends on the long way to and from Barham — a 75km team ride, averaging about 30km an hour.

Such an average is a new personal best for me, but it’s really not a personal best when you achieve something like this in a team.

I bounced at the end, doing burnouts around the clock tower. It was a clean fall and i felt remarkably zen about stacking it into the gutter. After i picked myself up and dusted myself off, it was a chance to feel the body go through its natural response to a mild trauma, shaking and wobbling and generally letting go of the fright — and then, of course, getting straight back in the saddle.

Curiously (and perhaps sadly), stacking my bike makes me feel more alive than most other mundane activities. What a brilliant end to a magical day.

And now i’m at the Exchange Hotel in Kerang, standing up at a perfect-height bench-desk, about to knuckle down on the typesetting i couldn’t finish on Friday, my tent holding the fort down at Lake Merange.

Life’s good.

keeping up with road crew looks easy in a still frame

keeping up with road crew looks easy in a still frame

but this is my wait-for-me face, which i call Come Give me a Sweaty Hug

but this is my wait-for-me face, which i call Come Give me a Sweaty Hug

and this is the view i was blessed with on the way to Lake Meran for a well-earned rest. Wondering why i live this way? Well, this is pretty consistently the view out my window.

and this is the view i was blessed with on the way to Lake Meran for a well-earned rest. Wondering why i live this way? Well, this is pretty consistently the view out my window,


Barham to Swan Hill Cylce Loop

I’m heading out from Barham tomorrow. I’ve had a great couple of weeks here, but it’s time to get my legs on again. Before i go i’ve got some typesetting corrections to finish, which just arrived. So it could be a late night, but i usually can’t sleep before a tour anyway.

I’ve mapped out the following route, which i will probably discard within the first day. I like making maps more than i enjoy following them:

Barham to Swan Hill LoopAt around 400 km it’s not the longest ride you ever heard of, and i’ll be stopping at Kerang for a day to ride with Max and his friends, and i will stop around Ouyen to see the pink lakes at Murray Sunset National Park.

The only other relevant details about the trip at this time are that i will be visiting one town called Quambatook and another town called Chinkapook. No doubt everyone along the way will call me a nincompoop — not because i am stupid, but because they lack imagination and a sense of adventure. It can get a little frustrating out there that i am seen to be such a novelty. But then it gets me free steaks from time to time.

I am aiming to arrive in Swan Hill around the 21st of March to join a host family there who need help on their organic garlic farm. Check out if you’re interested in exploring work-exchange as a way to travel cheap.


anxiety is not a disease—complacency is

Anxiety is less like a disease of delusion and more like a viral over-compensation to complacency, which is the real delusion. 

Anxiety is an indication you know something inexplicable is not right in our troubled world. 

Find a way to be the solution and your anxiety will dissipate. I speak from experience. 

dawn-time dawnings: i’m writing a memoir!

I think I really am actually writing a coming-of-age memoir. I’m coming of age, I know that much. And I’m writing about it. Bloody oath I’m writing about – I can’t friggen stop writing about it. Some friends are telling me I need to get out of my mind, away from the computer – and what?, into their car!? No way Jose. I’m on my own trip, and today I’m fucking thrilled about it. Yesterday and the days before that? Not so much. Tomorrow? Who knows. But today I’m really actually writing a memoir. I wrote down a summary as a potential pitch recently, when i got excited about an unsolicited email from an agent. But now i can’t find it, which is good – it’s the sort of thing that should be written and re-written from scratch, even as an exercise for writing the actual damn thing. It was something like:

High-school suburban stoner makes it good in publishing before growing disillusioned with the industry and the whole entire industrialised West, heads to Thailand in pursuit of peace, returns an alcoholic, has a nervous breakdown, finds God, travels to Turkey thinking he’s got this peace thing under control, does a lot of hardcore meditation but returns to alcoholism nonetheless, returns to Australia, has another breakdown, catches up with God again and decides to share his story.

Something like that. If i rewrite it every day as i approach the idea of thinking about maybe extracting these Adventures in Sobriety posts and developing them into a manuscript, maybe in ten years i’ll have the concept distilled enough to fit it on a blurb that people might actually care to understand.

The summary i wrote for the agent was a lot more succinct and far less sarcastic and it sounded like a cliché, but whatever.

I have long maintained that clichés are clichés for a bloody good reason – when enough people can relate to an idea easily expressed by some phrase, story or experience, it can become cliché. Cliché gets a bad wrap among the over-educated arts elite, because there is this obessesion with originality – as though using cliché is somehow shamefully derivative. Not necessarily – it’s not the nature of the boat, it’s how you use it. I’m not sure if that really works, but you get the idea.

My superego gets in the way sometimes, suggesting I can’t tell stories for shit and who would care about my story anyway. But then my ego chips and says, Abhijan, you’re fucking awesome! Write this memoir and share it with whoever will listen. Your story is great – you’re a fucking trooper.

I don’t really care what either of them have to say. I’m going with my gut. I’m going with feeling on this one. And right now, the hours I spend sitting down at my journal getting longhanded with my story – they are the most peaceful hours I get, at a time when my life is in a seemingly constant state of upheavel and change.

So that’s what Adventures in Sobriety is about for now. All of the above.

I worry sometimes about whether putting this all up online is a kind of narcissistic exercise – a cry for help, a plea for attention. But right now I don’t care about that either – in one sense because i actually don’t care, but in another: i bloody do need help. Help!, i’m a drunk and a stoner.

But also it’s a cathartic process for me, and I’m arriving at insights I might never have arrived at if I hadn’t been scribbling away at this. So telling the story is as much for me as it might be for you. Of course I’m keen to hear if it resonates with you – that would be grand. We can learn from each other in sharing our stories. So bring it. Yes, I’m looking at you!

getting home drunk

Trawling my journal this morning in search of anything approximating coherent, linear, sensical longhand narrative, i came across this, which could be an aphorism:

One of the fundamental things i know about getting home is it’s hard to do so when you’re drunk.

Insightful, no?

It goes on:

It’s fun to zig-zag your way around the streets when you’re 20-something, but as you enter the 30s you realise it’s lonely and cold outside, where you’ll most likely wind up if you don’t sober up and get home.

Browser Dump

In the spirit of brain dumps everywhere, i thought i would try a category here called Browser Dump—i’m a tab fiend and i flitter between Firefox, Chrome and Torch, so i’ve got a shed-load of tabs open in my life at any given time, which can be a curiously massive burden, which maybe i can foist on to you 🙂

I mean, i’m interested in Everything, so i have the Wikipedia entry for “time” open, and alongside that a lecture by Hawking on the beginning of time, and alongside that a brief history of time measurement—such is the nature of the rabbit holes i find myself in as i comb the flux. I can’t even remember why i was researching time at the time. Something i do know is i suspect “time” is a human construct and we needn’t necessarily adhere to its dictates. And i certainly prefer the idea of falling into rhythm with the natural ebb and flow of light and dark that is night and day—as God perhaps intended, according to Genesis.

I get a lot of inspiration from the high-quality stuff we can now find on the internet, and don’t like to let inspiration just fly by without me trying to mercilessly trap it,

which makes me think i should perhaps relax and let myself feel about browser tabs as i feel about romantic love, the capture of which is about as easy as catching farts in a butterfly net.

So to begin with, i found this thing called Archie, which claims to grow your social-media influence without you actually doing much. Suspecting there is no such thing as a free lunch, i was not surprised when i registered an account and then sat there looking at the dashboard thinking, Now what? We’ll see.

And i had this YouTube video open from my friend about the scientific benefits of meditation—it’s an animated infographic:

Now i have “How To Meditate – The No Bullshit Guide to Meditation” open, because of course that was in the sidebar. I haven’t watched this yet—it’s a good thirty minutes! One for later.

I have this poster-quote open from Umberto Eco’s column from 1994, “Mac vs. DOS — The Holy War“, which i first read a few years ago and which profoundly influenced the choice of computer i would like to purchase next time—my Mac has put in a good innings, but it’s been demonstrating signs of being nearly kaput:

Mac vs. DOS — The Holy War

Mac vs. DOS — The Holy War

This long piece from AdelaideNow is about Goyder’s Line—the drought line in South Australia. I would very much like to do an awareness-raising charity tour of Goyder’s Line, wearing a fake goitre to illustrate the point that an ecosystem out of balance quickly manifests symptoms of disease. It would of course be called The Goyder’s Goitre Tour.

I’ve had this post about puncture problems by a fellow cycle tourist open for yonks—pretty much since i did my first longish tour around the Flinders Rangers over the New Year. While i was there, a woman suggested i try to go tubeless. I tried this, but was not able to get past the challenge of rapidly inflating my gooed-up tyre using the inadequate tools i had on hand at the time. I have since experimented with gooed-up tubes, and they seem to be working a treat—i got two “bindies” in my rear tyre the other day, each of them perhaps 2mm thick. I pulled them out and there was a wild hiss for a few seconds, which waned into a slow sort of gurgle as i spun the wheel and hoped the goo would distribute to the puncture. It did, and i’ve had no leakage problems ever since. So i’m unceremoniously closing that one!