Glass half full


Winter. Not my favourite time of year.

The days are short, the nights are freezing, and in the mornings at the gym I don’t feel like doing a damn thing because it’s too cold. The bars are cold; I move and move and don’t warm up, and, basically: ‘Oh the thought of it.’

Many houses have no proper insulation, so from when you switch the heater off until you start to feel the cold is all of about 15 minutes. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice last winter, but this winter every time the propane tank that my heater uses is empty it seems every place is out. I learned quite quickly last year not to leave it going all day and all night. Even still, it doesn’t last very long.

A very happy place for me

A very happy place for me

I can’t really blame winter for my lack of blogging. Truth is, I’ve been less motivated to write lately. Perhaps because I have less going on in my head that requires reflection. Perhaps because I’m working through my days in another forum. Perhaps because there are fewer things annoying me. Perhaps just because I don’t feel like it as much. Who knows?

Call them radiators or drains, sunrise people or sunset people, glass half full or glass half empty, I have found it to be largely true that there are two types of people in this world. Ones who make lemonade out of lemons, and ones who throw up their hands in despair, or bitch and moan. Or are apathetic. I refuse to let apathetic people off the hook as fence-sitters … if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Cover girl. Why not?

Cover girl. Why not?

The interesting effect of removing negative people from your life (regardless of the whys of the removal) is that the negative energy feels almost like a void when it’s gone. You don’t miss it … and yet its absence is palpable.

Reminds me again of that saying: “[God] grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I am not sure what specific religious branch is the origin of this, or even if it has pagan origins prior to being expropriated by religion. It’s irrelevant. The point is that the sentiment is correct.

As Shirfu once said - "The dog doesn't stress. Why do you stress?"

As Shirfu once said – “The dog doesn’t stress. Why do you stress?”

Why be bothered over stuff that we can do nothing about? Why let other people make their problems ours? I normally choose to laugh because if I was crying at such things I’d be a pretty miserable person.

What a difference a year, or six months makes. Even two months, for that matter. I find that the colour of the telcos I’m primarily dealing with has flipped to the other side of the colour wheel, that I’m more and more convinced by the day that getting out of the infrastructure game and into the market from the other side as an extreme move is a good one.

I have met some people in the last two months who I expect will be very important to me going forward. My second trip to Harare in July felt almost routine; I’m upping my service provider DNA while at the same time understanding better how my company can be a good partner.

Harare airport. Dramatic much?

Harare airport. Dramatic much?

June-July was also a period of some non-trivial upheaval. An area of my life I had been quite positive about turned into an almost completely negative time- and energy-suck. This is what happens when you mix radiators and drains. At the end, though, the topic at hand has, I dearly hope, been not only resolved but significantly improved.

This was the first year since 2011 that I have not participated in the CrossFit Games Regionals. Unfortunately this year it was due to a lack of organisation (not mine) rather than anything else. On the positive side, my shoulder is in no condition to be doing muscle ups, so all is actually right in the world. At least I got to watch the two brothers who run my gym compete, since the competition was broadcast live over the internet. One of them was unfortunately injured and the other finished 10th in the region, which includes all of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Not bad at all, if I do say so myself.

Here is Jason, post-255 lb snatch

Here is Jason, post-255 lb snatch

I had about another two-week bout of illness into malaise where I wasn’t sick but wasn’t well. This happened also in March, and the two of them together have had a quite large and negative impact on my training and conditioning.

Even my body is just generally not happy; it seems in a winter funk. But this has motivated me to clean up my eating and sleeping, which has been relatively successful. I somehow fell of the wagon a bit with a lot of travel and stress, but that healthy lifestyle has been my default so shifting back to normal is easy enough. It is not, however, a one-day game.

In the land of my birth, the Supreme Court decided to legalise gay marriage, and the Confederate flag seems to be taking some mortal hits.



Also, The Donald is running for President. And apparently thinks money justifies anything. What an utter ass. And a spoiled brat. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he seriously think anyone can take him seriously? Then again, people do.

That this man gets to live the life he does while good people have horrible things happen to them in war zones and everyday life … ok it doesn’t baffle me. We know that life isn’t fair.

But really … doesn’t Donald Trump leading in the Republican polls signify the coming of the apocalypse or something?

First world and third world in one small picture

First world and third world in one small picture

Speaking of the coming of the apocalypse, part of my Cape Town trips has included some binge-watching of the Transformers movies. Star Trek too (I’m sorry but the original series cast, to a person, was better looking than the new cast … just had to say that, although the script writing has indeed improved), and an Avengers movie. And Superman. What can I say, I like sci-fi; it doesn’t take much suggestion!

While it was amusing to be called a bad nerd because all the baddies looked like Megatron to me (no but really, a lot of them look quite similar, even their faces!), watching so many movies back to back really highlighted some interesting similarities in theme:

  • High stakes, specifically in the form of world destruction. This ranges from terraforming to some other type to blowing up the planet to destroying the sun to simply killing all life. We get it. Big scary bad guys.
  • The good guys? Always the ‘everyman’ from the revisionist Kirk to the obnoxious Shia LaBeouf. Flawed, human, so we in the audience can relate to them.
  • But then, there are the ‘other’ good guys. The superhuman ones, or the machines. Interesting that in movie after movie the archetype was there and the criticism from the baddies was: “You are weak because you care.”

Interesting, no? Why does caring imply weakness? Although I suppose it does; you can be much more ruthless if you care about nothing and no one (see Trump, Donald).

This was one of the funnier WAPA moments ... infinity video conference!

This was one of the funnier WAPA moments … infinity video conference!

Of course in the movies the good guys usually win in the end.

It’s like that old debate about the ends justifying the means. I kind of understand that but on the other hand, everything is everything. If I had to morally compromise myself to achieve an end, I like to think I wouldn’t do it. Then again, it doesn’t take very long to think of all the situations that could possibly cause everything from a breach in ethics to far worse. That’s when you realise since everything is relative anyway, it’s about how we fight our own battles.

I want to be proud of myself when I look in the mirror, and I want others to be proud of me too. If I live life that way, at least most days, I’m living a pretty decent life.

Even this .... I may be sick, out of shape, but I can still compete and have fun!

Even this …. I may be sick, out of shape, but I can still compete and have fun!

Other things that happened in the winter – the Wi-Fi Innovation Summit came and went. This was something like Christmas in June for me, many of my telecoms friends together in one room at the same time and nice presentations by Hayden, Mike and Rob from Ruckus, and of course my SP friends. My talk apparently went over pretty well with some of the folks in the audience who said yes, they had been thinking a lot of the same things but thought they might be crazy. No. Not crazy. Just lots of expensive square pegs and round holes. TIA.

WAPA had the first Future Wireless Technologies Forum of the year. There were quite a lot of interesting speakers, and one or two tone-deaf sales pitches (despite clear instructions not to do that). I even got to give a brief little talk about some tidbits I gleaned from public press announcements around taxpayer-funded Wi-Fi in this country. The main point is that Wi-Fi is not Wi-Fi is not Wi-Fi.

Not wireless. Microtrenching in the Parks by Vumatel

Not wireless. Microtrenching in the Parks by Vumatel

Quite a few interesting battles to come in the upcoming months – from pushing the conversation on what open access really means, to pushing the envelope on whether or not government funds should ever go to a private network that is not open access. Interesting times in the policy and regulatory front as well.

I also began mentoring at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria. This has been an interesting exercise so far. I don’t feel it appropriate to name the companies or comment in detail but a common thread has so far been a gap between product and market positioning. Getting people to buy means not only being in their face but being aware of their own internal cost-benefit analysis. The biggest competition is usually not the competition; it’s the status quo.

Reminds me of my Babson days somewhat

Reminds me of my Babson days somewhat

Last but not least, signs began in earnest that this economy is slipping into a recession or at least a very difficult time. The currency is pretty much in free-fall, and complaining about Eskom is right up there with complaining about the weather. It’s a fact of life, kind of like maybe Fox News would be in the U.S., that you don’t especially like but you learn to live and work around it. After all, it could be worse. We could be without water. Although rumour has it water shedding is next.

For me personally the winter was not too bad, the health issues aside, and that my shoulder began to regress since I have been travelling so much it’s hard to see the physio on a regular basis (he books up a week in advance so when your travel plans are unknown, rehab is hard to plan).

Lots of weekends in the Western Cape, rain, dogs, rainbows, rugby, movies, and fish & chips. Just general happiness.

And this cutie, too

And this cutie, too

But you know what? Power may be a problem, the economy may not be great, some things at work and in my volunteer world may be going slower than I’d like, I may have had to tell a friend they didn’t get a job, but at the end of the day, everything is OK. This winter revealed even more clearly than I’d seen before some political manoeuvrings, and brought me closer to the people I can trust as a result. I have now a much clearer idea and some better contacts to do what I want to do.

The winelands where I first fell in love with the country. Now, five years later, I'm even more in love

The winelands where I first fell in love with the country. Now, five years later, I’m even more in love

Strange though how what you want also changes. Life, it’s a strange creature now isn’t it?

  • “We’re trying to compete with Usain Bolt before we can even walk.” – Scott
  • “Ignorance is bliss. Exactly.” – Jens
  • “I’m not really the most politically correct person.” – Mike
  • “It’s a good audience, but it’s a bad audience because it’s every competitor known to man.” – Graeme
  • “I do know who Banksy is. I’m just teasing you about the broadband absorption panel.” – Sam
  • “As you know, alleviating congestion by shaping incoming traffic is not 100% effective as it is tantamount to not checking your postbox in the hope that people with then stop sending you post.” – Enrico
  • “The thing most people don’t realise is, if you stop feeding the cash cow it is going to die.” – Ellie
  • “So do you know my birthday, too?” – Ellie
  • “In South Africa we live in risk, so we don’t want to take risks.” – Roger
  • “That makes you the most valuable person in the world.” “Well, I don’t know about the world.” – Darren & Ellie
  • “And he laughed. But I think he’s thinking ‘oh shit.’” – Darren
  • “There is literally NOTHING on that page you could understand if you weren’t in telecoms. Oh. Except for where it says ‘Wi-Fi access. ’” – Ellie
  • “There is zero chance.” – Kian
  • “If you can’t get electricity right, what cost a broadband network?” – a bigger cynic than I
  • “We’ll catch up!” “Yeah! …. [as he was walking away] … I’ll have to have four tequilas first.” (obviously I’m not going to say who I’m talking about and actually I’d rather have all my blood extracted and reinserted than either of drink four tequilas and have to talk to this dude, let alone both!)
  • “One of these days, we’ll do business together!” – Doug
  • “Did you know all people who drink beer die? Did you know that if you eat carrots you die?” – Richard (on misleading statistics)
  • “I swear, an eight-year-old child would be more conscientious!” “You obviously haven’t worked with _____ yet.” “That’s who I was talking about.” – two cranky colleagues
  • “I asked three things: ‘What day, what time, and are you installing all the equipment?’ The response I get? ‘Thursday.’” – Ellie (#FFS)
  • “Well, he’s about to get the shock of his life.” – Ellie
  • “Wherever there are humans, we’ll seek to divide.” – Suveer
  • “He’s building an empire. But the empire’s in the wrong place.” – Ellie
  • “If you are not making an effective request, you are not inviting commitment.” – Pakamile
  • “We need proper carrots. How do we get those carrots?” – a fellow CEO
  • “Free is a very expensive proposition.” – a colleague
  • “David’s got his ears closed.” “Wait, what?” – Anthony & David
  • “Economies of scale don’t work when people want things for under cost.” – Ellie

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