Politics & Physics


Every week brings its own highs and lows.

This week for me, was punctuated first by a public holiday on the Tuesday, and secondly by a body that is responding to some crazy shoulder therapy by going pretty much into shutdown mode. I normally train in the mornings but I’ve been waking up, snoozing, getting out of bed, and realising that I don’t feel like I have the energy to train.

Call it an unexpected rest week, or call it my body processing changes. One thing that I do know is that my shoulders are much, MUCH better than they were before. Little consolation when I am afraid to do a ring dip or a muscle up or a bench press > 60kgs, or struggle with overhead stability on overhead squats.

Mark had a good point this week. We can do the therapy and the rehab, but at some point I’m just going to have to get back on the horse. So you think a muscle up is scary when you can’t do one? Try when you’re afraid what will happen to your shoulder if you do.

Well. On the plus side at Saturday’s throwdown I was not hungover and I’m pretty happy with my lifts considering everything. I’m also happy that a 70kg clean is now a safety lift, and I can only imagine how that will change when I actually practice cleaning! On the flip side, I tackled the Tabata row like an efficiency drill. Nice 90% effort, there. Brain. Just so not in competition mode at the moment; and I guess it stands to reason.

That’s ok. I have one month.

So that’s the physical side. Emotionally this was also quite a rollercoaster week. It started well, with a few drinks with the ladies I work with, followed by a most interesting dinner with another of my absolute favourite people in the industry I work in. This particular one lives in Joburg but was in Cape Town for the week, so we also spent the public holiday together.

We visited some horses. Pretty horses.

We visited some horses. Pretty horses.

I have some great friends & acquaintances but this guy is pretty well right up there in his ability to carry on an interesting conversation about everything from sport (he’s an ex-rower) to wireless (he’s forgotten things I don’t even know …. Fourier transforms!) to physics and human behaviour. Since neither of us had a particular plan for the holiday, I decided to make him do what I would do on such a day …. Breakfast at Sandbar and then a drive down the peninsula, ending with a lovely lunch in Kalk Bay.

Aside from airline travel or drinking adventures, that was probably one of the longest continuous periods of time I’ve spent without working, or even checking my email. It was a nice rest, although in another way not at all restful because you can’t keep up a conversation like that without using your brain! Maybe like brain candy?

So there was a terrorist attack on a fancy shopping mall in Nairobi last week (Al-Shabab). Now me, my first thoughts after ‘Good heavens, that’s terrible!’ were something along the lines of ‘Hmm. Thank goodness we’re not selling Wi-Fi in Kenya yet.’ Never once did it occur to me, stupid, that I might know someone there. And he was just 200m down the road when it happened. Honestly, I haven’t quite gotten over this. I’m a little bit shaken because it’s kind of like 9/11 when I had a co-worker who was meant to be on one of those planes (never you mind the SPS classmate who was in one of the towers). But, this made me realise just how upset I’d be if anything were to happen to this guy, or to one of my guys, or, hell, anyone I care about.

Bad stuff happens sometimes, and sometimes to the good guys. I just feel like I dodged a bit of a bullet. Although … there’s no getting around it. He’s still an arms dealer. But that’s ok. I like him anyway.

Anyway, back to reality on Wednesday, including a meeting that quite upset Rudolph, who is sometimes of the opinion that the world should work in rational and ethical ways. OK, he knows it doesn’t, but I think given his background certain things disappoint him. I’m more of an optimist where I see how we can potentially turn the sequence of events not to turn into where we see them going, but at the same time you can’t get too attached.

That same day I had a catch up with one of the guys who I worked for at Ask Jeeves International (ok, technically I worked for someone who worked for him). To be honest I never knew Claudio that well, and coming from more the technical/product side, I wasn’t really sure how well he understood how things really worked. A common bias, normally correct, of low-level techies! So I can’t speak with any precision to AJI days but now it is clear that the man has not only a brain but some wisdom to him.

I had reached out to him to ask advice on something I am now doing, and in 10 minutes he not only picked up some context that a less-seasoned exec would not, laughed at my stories of ignorance from a year ago, and gave me 10 minutes of solid, focused advice about what to think about, what to look out for, and how to communicate. Some of the most valuable consulting I’ve had in ages; quite similar to the telecoms guy I had a few coffees with at Melissa’s recently.

I just love talking with people who GET IT. Craig understands telecoms, and Claudio understands strategy. Plus he’s got a cool name: Claudio Pinkus. We had some great ones at Jeeves: Sparky Heitmann. Skip Battle being probably the best.

After a not-too-stellar gym session

After a not-too-stellar gym session

Some internal meetings on things like cleaning up our database, and new procedures and forms for stock and asset management and control, catch up with a tech company whose product we are licensing, Adam managed to secure a much-desired meeting with a prospect I would looooove to have in our stable so we’ll see how the meeting goes, and my team had what seemed like about ten site inspections. Busy busy bees!

I took a personal pleasure in one of the technicians getting up in arms at the suggestion that we not rename our existing sites according to the new naming convention. I just love it when the line workers who have to deal with issues day in and day out actually take personal responsibility and it’s not just me insisting on scalable solutions to problems.

Oh and then an emergency meeting on Friday morning where I had to restrain myself from wanting to hug our customer, and in which we were not-so-subtly threatened several times. After THAT ONE, I really could have used a drink but instead we discussed routing, shaping, and virtual servers, then I went out on a courtesy call to another customer/partner whose last few days made mine look like a walk in the park.

Africa. There are reasons why I live here … and reasons why I remember that it is still Africa, even if it’s South Africa.

I’m not perfect, and I understand all too well the impacts of power, hard and soft. I’ve also gained some more sympathy in the last week for other points of view. I was telling both Rob and Rudolph that the basic sales tactic of meeting your customer where they are applies to all things. You cannot be describing the turrets on a castle in the air that your customers can’t see.

First, you paint a picture of the castle, then you show them the way. But not everyone wants to go live in the castle, and some people just don’t have the vision. This can especially easily happen with ‘once-bitten, twice-shy’ people. Sure, you want to believe that this time it’s going to be different.

Maybe it will be. Or maybe it will be same same but different.

You never know until you try.

Damned if I don’t have a 75kg overhead squat in me once these shoulders heal up. They say it’s not a goal until it’s on paper, so: I want my shoulder healthy, and my 80kg clean & 60kg snatch by the end of the year. Oh, and no false grip muscle ups. I want to learn those too!

Speaking of learning, I came to a realisation last week, as I was lying on the table not screaming or crying in pain, and the physio was making some comment about how I was a tough girl. I was thinking and thinking and realised that crying in pain was a waste of energy and jerking to avoid it could be very counter-productive (especially with needles in your body). So it’s actually quite logical.

It’s stoicism. It’s very easy to confuse stoicism with toughness, and a stiff upper lip and responsibility with being a martyr. Happens to capable people in difficult situations; or so I hear.

I think it’s just another way of realising what I already know, which is that no matter what is going on I am pretty level-headed and have a long fuse. OK, the milk spilled: now let’s clean it up.

But if I do snap or get irritated, either I haven’t had enough sleep, low blood sugar, or it’s been a long time coming. I normally try to avoid the first two. But part of my own personal issue is not saying stuff until it reaches a level at which I snap; so, like most humans, to co-exist well with me you’ve got to be able to read me.

Which isn’t that hard. If you try.

  • “What, is she a professional makeup artist?” “No, no, no. It was personal.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “You might want to be sitting down for this one.” – Rob
  • “Don’t confuse confidence with lack of humility.” – Rob
  • “Does he like shoes?” – Cedric
  • “What a useless meeting! Can we go get a drink?” – Rudolph
  • “You’re not strong! You’re pathetically weak! The only part of you that’s strong is between the ears.” – Mark
  • “Fear can be worse than the injury itself.” – Mark
  • “Someone else has to give you the rest of the deck to play with.” – Claudio
  • “Rudolphdoesn’tlisten1@skyrove.com!” – Jade (well, she learned how realms work!)
  • “No. You have credibility. I’m just a pretty face.” – Ellie
  • “Rudolph came back with a spring in his step. So I guess the meeting went well?” “It didn’t go badly!” – Adam & Ellie







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