It’s All Fun and Games Until…

A friend and former colleague is fond of saying “everything’s fine, nothing is broken.” Everyone’s fine, but Dawnise’s wrist is definitely broken – we’ve got pictures to prove it.

…Rewind to Tuesday…

We’d picked up Kamran early that morning, and brought him home into quarantine for a couple hours before we put him back in the carrier for his initial check at our vet, a short walk from the flat.

We were a bit over half way there when Dawnise tripped, going “ass over tea kettle” as the saying goes, twisting her ankle and landing mostly on her left wrist. She got up feeling a bit nauseous and convinced me to carry on and keep our vet appointment while she caught her breath at the bus stop we were just a few feet away from.

She texted me a few minutes later that she was going to head home to ice her wrist. By the time I got home with the cat she’d applied ice, and took some ibuprofen.

I suggested we seek medical attention, she demurred and insisted it was probably just a sprain and would be fine in a couple days. But, she said, if it didn’t get better, she’d reconsider.

By Thursday it was clearly not improved. She called our GP, but after listening to their hold message do its best to tell us to go away and use the internet, we pivoted to their electronic consult system instead. We described the symptoms, the event, the treatment steps taken, the time lapsed, and the current status. The doctor called Dawnise back that afternoon and referred her to UCLH radiology for an X-ray.

Dawnise left this morning in time to arrive at the radiology department when they opened at 9am. By 10 they had taken the x-ray, read it, confirmed a fracture, and walked her up to the emergency department (ED). I went to join her after our grocery delivery arrived at 10am. Neither of us were sure what to expect, and we settled in for a potentially long wait.

They called her back in about another hour. The doctor showed us the x-ray and talked us through it. She had a radial fracture and a small bone chip in her left wrist, and the joint was slightly compressed from the impact. They’d need to put it in a cast, and before they cast it they needed to “manipulate it” (fancy way to say “pull on her hand”) to improve bone position.

It was going to hurt, no two ways around it. They’d give her a codine tablet ahead of time, a local anesthetic injection (a hematoma block) and some “air and gas” (nitrous) while they worked.

We went back to the waiting room for a few minutes while they got set up.

True to the Doctor’s word, the shot clearly hurt. And despite the local injection and the laughing gas, the manipulation was clearly not Dawnise’s favorite thing ever. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than a couple minutes, but it felt longer, and I was just the observer – staying out of the way while they worked.

They finished setting the cast, got her setup with a sling, and sent us back to the waiting room for a few minutes until they could take another set of x-rays to see the new bone position.

After the new set of x-rays we went back to the waiting room one more time until the doc could review them.

When he called us back in he showed us the new pictures (they basically looked the same to me, if I’m honest) and said the positioning looked good.

He explained that the hospital would send the before and after x-rays to the fractures team for a consultant to review. Early next week we’d hear back with one of three outcomes. If the set looked good to the fractures consultant she’d stay in the temporary cast for two weeks and then be re-cast for another month. If they were concerned about what they saw, they might call her in for an in-person consult. If they were really concerned about what they saw, they’d call her in to discuss a surgical fix. The ED doc said he thought surgery was unlikely, but not impossible.

A short stop at the hospital pharmacy to collect some pain medication, and a detour to get bagels from our favorite bagel bakery, and we were home around 2pm.

Everyone she dealt with was great – competent and pleasant – including the GP who called her back in response to the initial consult request. The ED was busy, but not slammed, and no single step today seemed particularly lengthy or inefficient.

Dawnise is doing ok – definitely uncomfortable and when the hospital drugs wear off we expect it to get a bit worse before it starts to get better, but it will get better.

Hopefully neither of us get whacked with her cast while we sleep.

Fingers crossed.

Here We Go Again

The Universe has presented us with a cat, and we’re in the rough and sometimes infuriating first few days of integrating a new cat into the house.

Since losing Oscar in late October we’ve occasionally talked about if and when we might look into adopting another cat. We had a “near miss” a couple months ago. We were in contact with someone with a rescue they needed to place. Someone else had responded first, and we thought the important thing was that the cat find a home, not that the home be with us, so we were happy to let the right thing happen.

Since then I’d researched a few London animal shelters, and in the process learned that adopting a cat in the UK is different than our experiences in the US. There’s a strong cultural bias that cats are hunters and need access to the outdoors. We live in a flat several stories above street level, so “access to the outdoors” is problematic – even ignoring our concern about the mix of cats, foxes, and cars in the middle of London.

There are some shelters that focus on placing “indoor” cats. Many of those shelters only consider cats that are elderly, immnuocompromised, or physically incapable of living the “free range life.” On top of that, COVID put a damper on “come to the shelter and meet some cats,” resulting in most shelters asking you to apply, and them match making you with a candidate cat or two.

Ultimately, we weren’t really thrilled with the prospect, so we hadn’t taken any steps or submitted any applications, though we were slowly convincing ourselves that was the path forward.

Then the other day Dawnise saw a post on nextdoor from a local neighbor who was looking to re-home their cat. They were moving countries and couldn’t bring him with. Dawnise reached out and arranged a meet-and-greet.

On the day of the meeting I was stuck in a work crisis, so Dawnise had to go without me. She met the cat (and the humans). He (the cat) was a street rescue from a charity in Abu Dhabi. He’s about three years old, has a gentle friendly disposition, and he and Dawnise got along pretty much immediately. She arranged for us both come back the next day, so I could meet him too. Our meeting went equally well, and his humans decided that out of the people who’d expressed interest they preferred he go with us.

So we had agreement in principle to adopt a cat, and a plan to pick him up once we could schedule a vet check up for him.

And we needed to figure out a name. When he was adopted from the charity that rescued him he was named Lucky. We tend to choose human names, and neither of us loved the name Lucky.

I had joked for a long time that if we got a dog we should name it Loki – after all, what could possibly go wrong naming a dog after a god of mischief? Since Loki was acoustically similar, our first thought was to try that. But neither of us loved that name either.

The morning before we were scheduled to pick him up we were still thinking about names. We had the thought to see if we could draw on his origin and his current name. So I started looking for names that meant approximately “lucky” in Arabic…

And we found Kamran.

The internet told us it meant “blessed” in Arabic and “fortunate” in Farsi. I’m always skeptical of using words I don’t understand – and was concerned that we were essentially giving him a tattoo of random characters that someone told you means something. So we asked a friend, who relayed the ask to friends who were native speakers, and they confirmed that Kamran was a name, not commonly used in general speech, and didn’t mean anything terrible. That seemed good enough.

So Tuesday morning, bright and early, we picked up Kamran and brought him home. Dawnise and I went into quarantine with him for a few hours before taking him to the vet for a once over. He got a clean bill of health, caught up on his immunizations, and when we got home we started gently introducing him to Ivan.

So now were in the phase where two cats try to decide if they want to attack each other, play together, or ignore each other. There’s some occasional growling, occasional hissing, and hopefully over the next few days there’s less of each.

The Imagi-nation…

A few months ago I supported the Blade Runner Role Playing Game from Free League Publishing on Kickstarter. And in a fit of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” I added a bunch of their previously published games to my pledge when the project funded.

We didn’t bring (m)any books with us when we moved; some of Dawnise’s crafting books and a few of our frequently used cook books. The only dedicated bookshelf we have in the flat is in Dawnise’s craft room. So the books in the rather large box that arrived while we were away in Belgium don’t currently have a better place to be than “in the box, on the floor.”

So, I’ll need to sort that out…

Over the past few days I’ve sat on the sofa and paged through copies of Vaesen, the Aliens and Blade Runner RPGs, and the latest incarnation of Twilight:2000, which to be honest seems a little too “on the nose” at the moment.

I started playing pen-and-paper RPGs as a tween. Gaming was inspired by reading – which I did a lot of – and the desire to tell more and different stories in the worlds I’d visited. My choice of RPGs both came out of, and influenced, what I was reading. Sometimes it even got a bit “meta.”

After reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings I went on to read a bunch of what was, in retrospect, mostly terribly derivative fantasy and science fiction. I started gaming with boxed-set games from TSR – the early 80’s D&D red, blue, and green boxes, Star Frontiers, and Top Secret/SI – before “graduating” to AD&D.

The ROBOTECH TV series introduced me to a bunch of games published by Palladium Books. Works like Neuromancer, Hardwired, and When Gravity Fails brought me to the Cyberpunk RPG and Shadowrun. A friend and his brothers introduced me to games like GURPS, and tabletop simulations like Car Wars, the original Twilight:2000, and Star Fleet Battles.

Despite the negative and often hysterical press of the time, my parents were generally supportive of the hobby – even when it occasionally meant hanging out with some kids who I, as an adult, would not encourage me to hang out with. (I’ve got a strong suspicion that it was one of those not-completely-savory teens who helped themselves to the contents of our house one year through my bedroom window, but that’s a story for a different time.)

It was the combination of RPGs and computers that led to meeting a group of like minded irregulars, many of whom I still count as friends decades later. It turned out that the BBS that I had stumbled on in the listings at the back of that free computer magazine was initially born out of wanting to turn some surplus computing hardware into a way to help a gaming group keep the story moving between game sessions. Not everyone who subsequently found The Dragon and chose to stay played RPGs, but many did; and gaming, literature, history, renaissance fair, and and arguing about all of the above and more were the threads that wove the group together.

At any given time folks in that group were involved in a least a few games. Some games and groups were into the simulation angle, using systems like Rolemaster or GURPS – built around rich detailed rules and tables. Others leaned more toward collaborative story telling, using systems like Fudge, that seemed to aim for “the simplest mechanics possible, and no simpler” to support telling a story. A few folks even tried their hand at game design, building new or augmenting rule systems that almost but didn’t quite scratch their particular itch. There were often house rules, and some incredibly rich campaign settings, a priceless side effect if you’re lucky enough to be gaming with a (then unpublished) author.

Sitting on the sofa, hard-cover game book balanced on my lap, it was impossible not to think back on times spent story telling with those friends. If it was via carefully written messages exchanged via the BBS, or interactions around someone’s dining table into the small hours of the morning – those people and those times became, for me, a probably wholly unfair touchstone for what “online community” could and should mean.

In the intervening years I got rid of some of my books – especially “old” AD&D books that were “made obsolete” by newer editions of the game. When I realized my mistake I managed to reacquire some of them from used book stores or on eBay. These days I could probably get most of them as PDFs from DriveThroughRPG. As much as I like e-books for portability and search, game books are at least as much about the physical talisman as about the contents. Having a PDF that’s always with me is great, but it was holding books in my hands that triggered the flood of memories.

I haven’t actually played or run a game in longer than I’d care to calculate. That group scattered in the normal two ways; gradually and suddenly. People got married, some had kids, and Dawnise and I moved from Southern California to Washington State – so opportunities to convene became rare indeed. There were some attempts at play-by-email, and occasional talk of using Neverwinter Nights to run an online game, but it was a long time before virtual tabletop platforms like Roll20 and FoundryVTT would make distance playing more practical.

Despite that dearth of recent playtime, RPGs are very much a part of my “residual self image.” They’re part of who I am, and how I became this person, and that’s not going to change – even if the books just continue to stare at me me from a shelf.

Every Time You Go Away

I’ve started this a half dozen times, each attempt abandoned after a few clumsy sentences. It’s not the first time we’ve lost a cat, but it turns out that’s not the sort of thing you ever “get good at.” Or that you want to.

My family never had cats or dogs as a kid. And my one interaction with a cat when I was young revealed that I was allergic, so I never figured on having one in my life.

Then I met Dawnise, who’d had cats (and dogs) her whole life. When we moved out, the cats came with us. It was never really a question. I found ways to manage my allergies – as long as I kept them off my pillow and away from my face I was basically okay.

And really, it was much more than okay.

We’ve had a handful of cats in the decades since, each one finding us when they needed us, and when we needed them. Each one weaving its way into the fabric of our lives.

We make the same deal with each of them: we will do our absolute best to care for them, and do right by them.

And eventually, inevitably, they leave us.

And it hurts, more than we think we can bare.

Every. Time.

In the end we did our best for Oscar, and when it was clearly the best we could do, we helped him leave.

We know it was the right choice – the only choice.

And that doesn’t make it hurt even a tiny bit less.

There and Back Again

In which our heroes get COVID, recover, fly halfway around the world, visit Middle Earth, walk through Mirkwood, and spelunk into Moria. Sorta.

It seems both yesterday and an age ago that good friends from Seattle passed through London while moving to New Zealand. They moved before the pandemic got rolling, and their encouragement that we come visit quickly became academic, as countries restricted travel and New Zealand closed its borders.

In late March, when New Zealand set out a timeline for tourism without quarantine, we started planning a visit; aiming for the New Zealand winter school break. We picked dates, bought tickets, and crossed our fingers that the pandemic didn’t throw another spanner in the works.

We started by sorting out cat care for the two weeks we’d be gone, and learned our very-local cat sitter – who we and the cats really liked – was moving to the other side of London and hence out of consideration. Dawnise hit on the idea of asking my brother if he wanted to come stay at our place, take care of the cats, and explore London and the UK while we were away. It slotted reasonably well into his work schedule, he was able to find flights that worked with our dates, and so we had a plan.

And then I got COVID. I came back from a trip to Seattle two-and-a-bit weeks before our scheduled departure and what I thought (hoped?) were allergies developed into feeling generally crappy and a fever. I initially tested negative, but symptoms persisted and I rolled to disbelieve – sure enough the next test was positive. Dawnise tested positive a couple days after I did and the race was on.

New Zealand had dropped their pre-flight test requirement but still required day zero and day five rapid antigen (lateral flow) tests – with a follow up PCR test and isolation on a positive result. Regardless of the test requirement, flying while positive seemed at best irresponsible, so our tickets were in a game of chicken with the virus.

I started feeling better after a week or so, and tested negative a week before departure. Dawnise cut it a bit closer, but was negative a few days before our flights – though her energy levels were still ramping back toward normal.

My brother had arranged to arrive before we left, planning to spend a week traveling before settling in at our place. He landed in London while we were both still positive, so coming here seemed a questionable choice. Wary of the flight disruptions in and out of the UK, he elected to take the train up to Edinburgh for a few days, rather than risk complications getting to or back from the continent. We got occasional dispatches from him, and he seemed to be enjoying the city as much as I thought and hoped he would.

And then he got COVID. His last morning in Edinburgh what he thought (hoped?) were allergies had expanded to include a sore throat – and the COVID test quickly returned a positive result. He made his way to our place in London – masked-up and as distanced as possible – and basically quarantined in the guest room, only emerging masked and doing everything he could to not share whatever strain he had with us.

On our day of departure we made our way to Heathrow and boarded the first of two flights, heading to Los Angeles to connect to Auckland. Our layover was taken up by a delayed departure from LHR and by sitting on the tarmac in LAX waiting for a parking stand, so we ended up running through the airport – needing to clear customs, claim our bags, recheck our bags, and re-do security (don’t get me started). Fortunately for us there were a dozen of us making the connection, and they held the Auckland flight for us.

After a long but uneventful flight we arrived in Auckland bleary eyed two days after we left. We cleared customs and biosecurity (where they asked a surprising number of questions about my hiking shoes), and picked up our day zero and five lateral flow test kits on our way out of the airport.

Our friends picked us up, and after a quick greeting drove us to their place, just north of the city.

We spent a couple days hanging out, walking on the beach, getting over jet lag and reconnecting before we hired a car (British english for “renting” a car) and formed up a convoy destined to an Air B&B in Rotarua.

We spent a few days in and around Rotarua being tourists. We saw the volcanic mud and geothermal pools and geysers that made the town a tourist destination. Saw kiwis (the bird) and learned a bit about Māori carving and weaving traditions at Te Puia Māori cultural center and art school. Walked around the “buried village,” and read about the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption, and the now-buried pink and white terraces, walked high in the canopy of a redwood forest, and went back to do it again at night, which was pretty magical.


And of course, if you’re us you don’t go all the way to New Zealand and not tour Hobbiton. The occasional rain burst didn’t stop us having a great time. The setting was literally fantastic and the attention to detail was mind boggling. The place felt real and lived in – and some part of me wouldn’t have been surprised if a door had opened and a Hobbit had poked its head out. We had booked the “Evening Banquet Tour” so our tour group was alone in the set – no group ahead or behind us. The late day lighting added to the magic of the place, and I’m happy to say I was plesantly surprised by the banquet bit. After dinner and several dessert courses (‘urp) we picked up appropriately themed lanterns and headed back into the set, taking a moment as a group to turn off the lights and gaze up at the stars through a cinematically timed break in the evening clouds.

The Shire

On the morning we left the Air B&B we took separate paths. Dawnise and I headed off to visit the Waitomo limestone and glow worm caves taking the long way back to Auckland.


The following day we dropped off the hire car back in the city and wandered around Auckland a bit. We found very respectable Mexican food, good coffee and possibly the most pretentious ice cream ever before catching the bus back to their place.

And then Dawnise got… a cold. Nothing horrible, just some sinus congestion and fatigue, but most unwelcome.

We spent the last couple days hanging out with our friends – playing games, chatting, sharing meals. The day we left we played games basically right up to when we needed to leave for the airport.

Our flight from Auckland to San Francisco was slightly delayed, but a longer stop in SFO meant we just spent a bit more time waiting in AKL and a bit less time waiting in SFO. We departed for London on schedule – a couple hours before we’d left Auckland (timezones are weird).

The flights were long but basically uneventful, aside from the turbulence that seems nearly guaranteed to happen just as they’re serving drinks and dinner.

Dawnise even managed to get some sleep in transit.

When we got back to the flat we had missed my brother by an hour or so – he waited to know we were on the final flight home before heading out on an overnight trip to York – and the cats seemed to mostly not notice or care we were back.

We unpacked, showered off 30 hours of travel grime and went to get some groceries. With some help from a re-run of Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled we even managed to stay up to a mostly reasonable hour before surrendering to sleep.

It was our first “real” trip in three years – and all things considered went pretty well.

We spent Monday recovering from jet lag, and Tuesday I went back to work – but that’s a story for another time.

Oh, and with a little nudging my brother pushed out his flight home to spend a bit more time “over here,” and make up for the time he spent isolating and recovering from COVID. He’s off to Barcelona in a couple days. Fingers crossed he makes it back for his flight home.

Chatting about the trip through the haze of jet lag Dawnise poignantly observed that our time there felt completely normal.

It was probably the first time she’d said that in three years, and was a sharp and present reminder to us both of how much we miss having these people close, and in our lives.

To Boldly Go…

I woke up ridiculously early this morning (thanks, jet lag!) and learned of the passing of Nichelle Nichols.

I remembered hearing Nichols describing her early experiences on Star Trek, talking about planning to leave the show and being convinced to stay on by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [*]

It brought to mind a picture, taken years ago at a Star Trek exhibit at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum, of the epigram “Spock told me it was okay to be smart.”

As a young fan – watching Star Trek long after its initial debut – Uhura’s presence on the bridge, and on away teams, didn’t seem extraordinary. It seemed totally normal. The “diversity” of the crew was just … the way it was.

Before “you can’t be what you can’t see” entered the zeitgeist, Nichols (and Roddenberry) were showing.

Nichelle showed young women of color, and young women broadly, that it was okay to be them. That they could be a critical part of a crew, and be treated as equals.

That they could boldly go … just about anywhere.

Godspeed, Ms. Nichols.

Thank a Teacher Who Changed Your Life

Kevin Kelly – co-founder of Wired – has offered collections of “unsolicited advice” on his last few birthdays. He turned 70 this year, and while reading this year’s list over breakfast this morning one of his suggestions brought me up short.

Thank a teacher who changed your life.

I sat for a moment, reflecting on how incredibly fortunate I’ve been.

Mrs. Tanizawa and Mrs. Hurtado (née Yoon), who taught me – through the lens of hindsight – that there’s more than one way to hold students to high standards and great expectations.

Mrs. Kemp, who was living proof that “playing with computers” could be a living. I can still see that 7th grade class room in my mind’s eye – desks on one side, Apple computers on the other. Her choice to “retire” from industry and teach is one I will be forever grateful for.

Mr. Barron, who accepted a freshman into an elective course for 3rd and 4th year students, making it clear that if I stayed my work would be held to that standard. And who showed a bunch of over-confident teens that when arguing a case in front of a judge, confidence only gets you so far. And that teams can go further than they realize. I think of him anytime I see a red marker pen, or someone mentiones Chester A. Arthur.

Mr. Klevos, who imagined my surname might be french, and found ways to blend literature and the arts in ways that deepened my appreciation for both.

Mrs. Wilkoff, who made European history about more than the wars. And who reminded me, in a moment of candor in the classroom, that teachers are first and foremost “just people.” I thought of her on my first visit to Prague, standing at the window of the famed defenestrations. If learning is what you remember years later… I learned.

Mr. Cullinane, who was a teacher, a scientist, and a coach. He couldn’t help but be all of those things all of the time, and his students reaped the benefits.

Mr. Douglass, who always graciously accepted the lead roles in our in-class Shakespeare readings – and who insisted that plays were meant to be heard if they couldn’t be seen.

Randy Hyde, and Dr.’s Molle and Payne, each of whom had disproportionate impact on my undergraduate studies.

And while I don’t think I was ever her student in a classroom setting, this list would be woefully incomplete if it didn’t include my mom. You may have retired, but you’ll never stop being a teacher.

The words “thank you” are not near enough.

We Have a Guest Bed (Again)

Yesterday afternoon Dawnise helped me assemble the guest bed, which had been disassembled and stowed up against the wall since before we moved in to this flat 14 months ago.

I was surprised at how much seeing a bed in that bedroom made me smile.

Yesterday was my last day in the office, and assuming our pre-flight COVID tests tomorrow don’t surprise us (incredibly unlikely, since we’ve basically self-isolated for the past week), Tuesday morning we head to Heathrow to catch a flight to Seattle. We planned the trip before the Omicron wave, and after much consideration and debate, we decided to stick to the plan.

We’ve dialed down our social planning a bunch, so as not to catch anything and become super spreaders, so if you’re reading this in Seattle and would like to catch up while we’re there – we’d love to, but “not this time,” I’m sorry to say.

The bed building that started this all is for a friend of ours who’s coming to stay at the flat for the time we’re gone. It’s a change of scenery for her and care and company for the cats, who’ve not been separated from us for the better part of two years. She might even get to spend some time wandering around London, weather permitting.

One of the hardest bits of planning this trip – or any trip – was sorting out care for Oscar. A cat sitter willing to appear twice a day to feed and inject a cat has proven to be tricky.

I’m happy to report that our cat care needs got significantly easier a few days ago, when Oscar’s latest blood work showed continued normal fructosamie levels and glucose control. When his vet called to chat about the results, she said “it’s up to you, but if it were my cat, I’d stop giving the insulin; the risk of overdose at this point is higher than being underdosed.”

You don’t need to tell me twice.

Along with the need for daily insulin, so goes the need for a strict 12 hour feeding schedule. His (very low carbohydrate) wet-food diet, and needing to ensure Oscar doesn’t eat Ivan’s food, still pose challenges for once-daily pet care vists.

We bought Ivan a fancy feeder that only opens for him when we found one on significant reduction (who knew having the cat microchipped would be useful beyond reuniting us if we wandered off?), and a lower tech dual timed feeder for Oscar. We’ve been working on figuring out how to do all the days feeding at night. We haven’t quite cracked it, but it feels like we’re close.

So no insulin while we’re gone, and a week or so after we return we’ll bring him in for another test. Assuming the blood work continues to look good he’ll go to a six-month recheck schedule, and after that TBD.

Tuesday evening we’ll land at SEATAC, pick up the rental car, and switch back to driving on the right (hand) side of the road.

We’ll sort through a couple years of mail and clean out the pantry of stuff that’s two years out of date. Dawnise has an appointment at the Department of Licensing to get her driving licence renewed, and we’ll finally get to meet our nieces. After about a week in Seattle we head to visit my parents on the east coast for a few days before heading back to London.

I wish I could say I’m looking forward to the trip, but mostly I’m just trepidacious.

Oh, that guest bed? Once COVID sees fit to give us our lives back, reservations will be available…

I’ve forgotten how to travel…

As I type I’m sitting on a LNER train to York, Dawnise and our traveling companions scattered through the carriage behind me.

It’s the farthest I’ve been from Central London in nearly two years. It’s just for a few days – were back in London on Monday – but it feels..significant.


A feeling I remember from the before time.

The anticipation of a new place. The uncertainty of what we’ll find.

“I hope the hotel is as nice as it looked.”

“I hope there’s a place that makes drinkable coffee.”

Getting this far took a surprising amount of work – mostly to find someone to care for our diabetic and hence high maintenance cat(s). After several false starts we’ve left the boys and a set of keys to our flat in the hands of someone we’ve only just met, but who seems lovely.

Packing used to be a rote routine. I’m clearly out of practice. I’m pretty sure I packed only what I need, and didn’t forget anything. At least not anything I can’t obtain or do without for a couple days.

Fingers crossed.

It also reminds me that I really like train travel. Watching the scenery blurring past. The quiet of a not-crammed-full train carriage, people reading, chatting quietly.

And it reminds me of work trips from a past life.

Wandering around the UK and Europe visiting business partners with colleagues who were good travel companions and friends. The sinking feeling when a colleague realized she’d left her handbag on a train. The incredulity when the train operator confirmed that they had her bag and it would be back where we were via the first train the next morning. The utter shock when it actually appeared as promised, contents intact.

We’re approaching our penultimate stop.

Soon I’ll be somewhere I wasn’t this morning. That I’ve never been before.

I miss this.

When The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

I generally avoid writing about “work stuff.” This is an exception.

It’s early November as I type this, but it’ll sit unpublished for at least a couple weeks. A couple weeks ago, in late October, I “gave notice” that I intend to resign my role and part ways with my employer.

In the US it’d be all done and dusted by now. Not so in the UK.

Per my employment agreement (contract, even!) I owed the company (and the company owed me) three months notice if either side wanted to end the relationship. So notice in October translated to leaving in January. At the time of this writing, only a handful of my colleagues and leadership are aware of my decision. Communicating broadly this early seemed unnecessary and likely counter-productive, hence the delay in publication. As you’re reading this, it means the proverbial cat’s been let out of its bag.

The frequently asked questions from peers and leaders were “what’s next?” and “why?”

“What’s next?” is the easy one. Nothing, at least for a bit. I’m going to take a break. We’re planning to stay in the UK for a while, and hopefully (all appropriate digits crossed) eventually get the chance to do some of the traveling we moved “over here” to do, before Covid repeatedly dumped cold water on our plans. I figure I’ll start looking around for the next thing in the spring, and we’ll see where that ends us up.

Saying “easy” is maybe glossing over things a bit. That we can stick around, and don’t face a deadline to get ourselves and the cats out of the UK, comes from a healthy dose of good fortune, a bit of good planning, and help from some good friends*.

So that leaves “why?”

When someone decides to leave a group there are three sets of reasons. There are reasons they keep to themselves, reasons they share with the group, and reasons the group hears. To me, making the reasons I share and the reasons that are heard “the same” is important. And can be surprisingly difficult. I figure the best strategy is to pick one message you want to deliver, state the message as simply as you can, and deliver it consistently. Even then people, to a large extent, will hear what they want to hear. They’ll focus on the bits of the story that resonate with their world view, their experience, or their biases. And there’s not much you can do to prevent that.

The message I’m trying to consistently deliver is rougly “it’s not you, it’s me.” Over four years working in three different parts of the company under different leaders on different projects, I’ve proven to myself that I can be effective and impactful in this peculiar environment – something I wasn’t completely confident of, having been in my last role and company for over a decade. In that time I’ve also come to realize that I’m not having as much fun as our tagline suggests I should – especially given the energy and time the role demands.

At the end of the day I’m moving on because, as a friend (and soon-to-be-former colleague) likes to say, it feels like “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

I’ve learned a bunch over these four years. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how this “really big tech company” does what it does. What it’s good at. What it struggles with. I’m leaving with no regrets and (hopefully) no bridges burned.

I’ve met some great folks who I’m happy to call friends, and who I’d happily choose to work with again. And who I’m definitely going to miss.

That reason is true, by the way. Which to me is really important. But it’s obviously not the whole truth. One could ask “why?” again and again, until there are no new answers. I’m not going to bore you with that exercise, but I did do it. It pointed me at root causes that I don’t have leverage or agency to fix. Indeed, “fixing” some of them would mean changing fundamental tenets the company culture holds close, and has been successful following.

So, it’s time for me to try something new.

All that’s left now is to figure out what that might be.