Ghosts & Layer 2


There is magic in layer 2. More specifically, layer 2 and layer 3. For those of you not familiar with the OSI model I won’t bore you other than to say: better know what you’re doing. If you’re trying to deliver something that relies on an upstream system, best to understand the upstream system.

The irony of this does not cease to amaze me, since ‘networkng’ was the part of technology that literally used to make my eyes glaze over. When I was at Ask Jeeves I could talk databases, server hosting, even security, but start talking about NATting and routing and I’d change the conversation. I just wanted the internet to ‘work.’ Kinda like Jim Spencer (inside joke).

So you’re in the Wi-Fi business; any idiot can install a Wi-Fi network. It’s how well it works and what you do with it that makes all the difference. They are both important, but arguably the latter more than the former as some of our esteemed competitors can just install good networks in key locations but then they lose them money. Which is OK if you’re a loss leader for a content company [I guess].

Sunday Sea Point stroll

Sunday Sea Point stroll

The business models side is my area of expertise. In many cases, you have to rely on multiple revenue streams to make a given location worthwhile. This is the part that flummoxes most people: service providers know how to make money from selling connectivity, some foolish people think you can make money by forcing people to watch ads before they get their free connectivity (people may be cheap but there’s a limit, and you normally want your ads not to be considered obnoxious by the consumer before you’ve even started), and then there’s all these kit and software vendors that are solutions searching for scale, and the scale is lacking because the service providers don’t understand the new models. Or analytics that are interesting but don’t necessarily provide an ROI without consulting, and changing established business practices is hard. Really hard.

Into this minefield you go only when you understand the dynamics, the solutions, and have the relationships. Into it I am now forging faster than ever.

Camps Bay 1

Camps Bay 1

To get your Wi-Fi to work, you need to have installed the right kit, properly. As my fellow WAPA Exco member Jens so nicely puts it: “RF is the Black Art of dreaded mathematics and skilful estimation of the unknown.” That’s the wireless side. Easy, right?

And then there is backhaul, and networking, otherwise known as “that stuff between you and the internet.” Pretty much every single customer solution involves networking in the solution. I was in a  meeting this week trying to explain to someone that shaping could actually be a GOOD thing; to prioritise certain traffic and avoid having one guy downloading movies slowing down everyone else’s Facebook and YouTube. Or for the location where content filtering and traffic shaping are as important as the wireless; as important as the hotspot.

Camps Bay 2

Camps Bay 2

This is what has been brilliant about working with Rudolph this long – he’s taught me so much about how ISPs work and opened my eyes to the complexities of layer 2 and layer 3. As they say, knowledge is power, and ignorance can hurt you. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough about this stuff to be able to do it, which means that I need to trust the person who is doing it.

So what’s important in a relationship? Respect. Trust. Communication. When I first met Rudolph I told him in our first meeting that I had neither the inclination nor the knowledge to micromanage him. Add to that, the skill. You absolutely must trust the people around you, when you’re in a small company. Find people who know what they are doing, and then get the hell out of the way. Be there when they need you, and make sure they trust you enough to tell you when they think you’re wrong. Because normally when I take a position and someone challenges it, I take notice. It doesn’t happen often, so when it does they must feel strongly. Usually, I wind up changing my position because they have given me context that I don’t have.

Camps Bay 3

Camps Bay 3

New context and new people are like drinking from a firehose. There’s been a lot of that in recent weeks.

Or even this: I went on what might be thought of as the business equivalent of a blind date. Someone set up two of us, thinking we might just get along like a house on fire. And we did. But we were both nervous as hell ahead of time; so what better way to break the ice than to say just how nervous you are? A little bit of radical honesty never hurt anyone.

OK I lie. Sometimes it’s best to keep your big mouth shut.

Ghosts. Some places you go bear the memories of when you were there before. The phone conversation I was having when I drove down Rivonia Road last week after midnight. The last time I was at Nicolway Centre. The two dinners I had at The Roundhouse. The patio of the Mount Nelson.

Even not being in a place but just thinking of a place can affect you. When I think of certain things like autumn in New England, a whole host of memories come flooding back. Life is strange; and we see patterns where we ought not. Like, being saved by the police in the nick of time, or getting caught up in road construction that would literally have caused me to miss my flight, but the plane is delayed, or the relationship that didn’t work out that left you free for one that is probably much better. It’s like the opposite of that Alanis Morissette song. Maybe there’s meaning in it, or maybe it’s just dumb luck.

Whatever it is, I choose to be happy; to be grateful, and to be calm. And, when things don’t go my way, which they certainly don’t always, just to remember that there’s a lesson in all of it.

As the weeks have gone on, my desire to do the CrossFit Open has not really changed. I’m not in as horrendous shape as I was for 14.1, but by 14.3 which was basically an 8 minute AMRAP of ascending weight deadlifts, I was still not really in the mood. I had a horrible time changing weight plates, and just generally didn’t feel like being there. Managed 135 total reps, for 32nd place in Africa, bumping me up from 71st place to 53rd. Funny workout; wasn’t so much too difficult as I was dropping the weight without bumpers and they nearly fell off twice so I lost a lot of time. Afterwards my entire posterior chain just felt NUMB! By a few days later it was properly sore; so sore I couldn’t snatch because I didn’t feel comfortable receiving the bar. My metcon is pretty much back, since I was able to pretty much match my best score ever for a power snatch/bar-facing-burpee workout performed at altitude even though I accidentally had an extra 4kgs on the bar. No sucking wind at Kyalami this trip.

Getting back into it with early morning hill sprints

Getting back into it with early morning hill sprints

Interestingly, in this week, last year’s Regional winner managed to pretty much get herself eliminated from competing again. She used the wrong weights for one of the deadlift rounds so had her score dropped from 130 to 90 on video submission; which dropped her so far down the rankings she probably cannot recover. It’s a good lesson in acceptance, but also in strategy. As with me, she doesn’t live to compete. But the thought of her not defending her title this year makes me sad. It could have been avoided, and that’s the main reason why it’s sad. But also, gone are the days when you can do one rep in a workout and still qualify for Regionals (as I did last year). No, we now need to work for our spots.

The 14.4 announcement came the day my back had finally recovered from 14.3; and I did this lovely chipper on the public holiday. I had been a bit sleep-deprived (my own fault, as usual), so a huge sleep the night before left me lethargic. For the first time ever, there was a chipper in the Open: 14 minute AMRAP of 60 calorie row, 50 toes to bar, 40 wall balls, 30 cleans @43/61, and 20 muscle ups. Well; my toes to bar need work. They are great when I do technique practice but when fatigued my kip just completely goes! At least I redeemed myself on the cleans except that I somehow thought there was 20 not 30, so I did 4 touch-and-go from 17-20 then walked away from the bar thinking I could recover before going for a muscle up when everyone started to yell at me to get back at the bar as I only had a minute left!

And that, my friends, is what we call a lack of focus.

No; my heart is not in this Open. But when I finish a movement I suck at and know I have just a few minutes to redeem myself; what happens is I don’t even think about the pain I just think about whether or not my body is ready to complete the next rep or not. It’s strange to be in pain and not feel it; but that is indeed what happens when the focus is that intense. It’s called being in the zone I guess.

Saturday morning I had a relatively early flight to Joburg, so I got up even earlier, and went up to Devil’s Peak to do some hill sprints. That was another hectic posterior chain/metabolic conditioning challenge. I had a plan: sprint up, walk down, when you get to the bottom turn around and GO, don’t think about it. Good plan. And a beautiful way to enjoy the place I live.

 This beautiful city...

This beautiful city…

I’ve also been enjoying time with people that I enjoy. Some awesome dinners with my Cape Town girlfriends, and my lovely, kindhearted, chill, and feeling roommate Kate. She’s like the epitome of what a human should be. A good egg. And a damn good cook! The world needs more people like this.

And we all need to try to be more open and kindhearted, and less petty and cynical and snide. You win by making the pie bigger, not by trying to fight for turf.

People will only fight for you if they like you. So being likeable helps.

Also, no one likes to be taken advantage of or taken for granted. There is absolutely nothing more frustrating or anger-inducing than that. Unfortunately, people are taken advantage of every day, and so many people I know are not working to their full potential.

It’s insidious when you don’t even realise it’s happening, or happened. No matter how much you like to think that you think outside the box, sometimes it takes the box getting ripped away from over your head before you see things clearly.

Well, I will do my best never to take advantage of another. But communication is a two-way street.

One of the guest houses I stay at in Johannesburg has lovely indigenous plants, and a handful of roses. One of the co-owners was telling me about the rose, which was then accompanied by the statement that her ex-husband wouldn’t let her have roses. She accidentally almost spat it out; the sharpness in her words was wholly unconscious and wholly unmistakable. This, of course, led to some wistful reflection. How do you let yourself become so trapped in the mundane that you don’t notice when you’re being controlled? A Scanner Darkly.

Pink rose. Not blue flower.

Pink rose. Not blue flower.

Quite a bit of unanticipated reflection this weekend: a nice night out in Nelson Mandela Square; a careful thinking through of incentives and nudging, and a reminder that I should really not be cocky.

  • “I know that’s uncomfortable, but it shows where your weaknesses are.” – Grant
  • “You need to be more aggressive in your tactics, Adam!” – Rudolph
  • “Just so you know, there’s a lot of Red Bull in the fridge.” “Why are you telling me this?” – Anita & Ellie
  • “I’m thinking of one word: ‘fiduciary.’” – Brent
  • “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – Brent
  • “The only way around it is ….. yeah. There’s no way around it.” – Enrico
  • “Cloud. It’s like Big Data. Everyone has it and no one knows what it is.” – Enrico
  • “Well I have a new company now. I’ll tell them I want a cake.” – Ellie
  • “Please remember: this is Africa. ” – Rudolph
  • “I’m going to find out what his aspirations are, and squash them. ” – Doug
  • “Why would anyone pay while walking around a shopping centre, when they’re looking at what’s on sale?” – Jade
  • “How about … ‘I don’t see it working?’” – Charles
  • “My photos will not be in the tabloids. Hey! What are you laughing at?” – Ellie
  • “It went pretty well. Until the toes to bar.” – Jobst (I know how he feels!)

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