New Zealand

Once in a lifetime

My family and I have moved to New Zealand and I am quite excited about this.

The snow-covered Southern Alps of New Zealand in winter.

I’m writing this from Day 7 (of 14) in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), New Zealand’s frontline approach to handling Covid-19. The thing about pandemics – and all exponential crises – is that the right course of action will always feel like an overreaction. In March 2020, twenty days following the first reported case of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, made the call to close the borders to all non-citizens/residents and direct all arrivals into a 14 day isolation program. A great deal has been written about how NZ has handled the pandemic, both praise and criticism (mostly praise). The approach has been well-received by the vast majority of Kiwis, enabling Prime Minister Ardern’s Labour Party to win a majority of seats in last year’s election (a majority win by a single party had never happened under NZ’s current electoral system).

Well… how did I get here?

I’ve always had this undercurrent of restive impulsivity. It manifests on rare occasions. I might see a button or a switch and wonder what it does and just flip it (both the literal and metaphorical). Sometimes it gets me into trouble and sometimes it opens a new door. One of those times was in 2005. I was living in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I had recently turned 30, I had a good job, and I was just starting to see my way out of the accrued debts of student loans, a car, and a bumpy start to finding my occupation.

What better time than to blow it all up?

The first thought I had was “what’s the farthest place from Texas I could move and still live in a place where I spoke the language and could reasonably find work?” Don’t get me wrong, I love Austin, but I had lived there all my life and it was time to try something new. The answer was: Perth, Australia! I looked into moving to Perth, but Australia’s immigration system for skilled migrants had no idea how to handle “web designer” back then, so I applied to New Zealand instead. I was granted a residency visa in 2006. (Perth is a fine city, BTW.)

At the same time, a friend of mine had recently got a job at Apple and had moved to the Bay Area in California. He tuned me into the idea of applying to Apple and a bunch of other Silicon Valley companies. I sent my resume to Apple, Yahoo, Amazon, and Google. Apple interviewed me and declined, Yahoo emailed me to decline, Amazon never wrote back, and Google interviewed me. I was in Auckland, scouting for a place to live, when Google offered me a job in Mountain View, California. I accepted.

I moved to California and worked at Google for 15 years. I met my wife there and we now have a son who is nearly ten years old. My wife, originally from Chicago, had lived in Japan for a few years when she was in college. Her sisters have variously lived in Spain and the UK. Living overseas had been something we’d discussed often, and a few years ago we began the process of rebooting my residency status in New Zealand (and starting theirs). We saved up, powered through the pandemic and work/school from home, then quit our jobs, packed up our stuff, and, well… here we are. Next steps are to look for a school, a place to live, new occupations, and wait for our stuff to arrive.
Kia ora, Aotearoa!

Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us

As we were saying our see-ya-laters to friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, many of them said things to the effect of “oh, we wish we had done that” or “we’ve been thinking of doing that”. The truth, of course, is that it is really hard to do it. We are privileged, we’ve had a lot of luck, and it was still a bunch of hard work. And stress: stress for years, stress now, and stress to come. But that’s kinda the thing about life… there’s no perfect moment to make big changes. If it’s something you want and you have a choice, flip the switch.


Hello World (Again)

Before I joined Google in 2006, I wrote an occasional blog. I won’t link to it here, largely because – like most of us I suspect – I just find some of the writing cringe-worthy (which may be the fate of this blog, we shall see!). You can find it if you care to, such is the gift of publishing publicly on the Web.

“On the Web”… a phrase which once seemed new and very specific, but is now like “on the table” because it’s just a ubiquitous thing that most everyone has and can put something “on”. And so I had some sort of not like it used to be, back in my day moment where I decided to fire up my own hosted server and install my own MySQL and PHP and WordPress and run my own blog with my own damn get off my lawn hands! By God! Hruumph! And so on.

I’m reminded of the near endless parade of questions in social media prompting older people like me to prove just how salt of the Internet they are. Say when you started using the Web without saying what year or whatever. “Why, I remember playing Zork from a cassette tape on a PDP-11 and having to sing into the phone coupler to read Phrack!” We love to share and wear our merit badges with pride – I am no exception. It’s fun and maybe gets us some Internet points. Granted, my self-hosted blog using a free off-the-shelf theme probably doesn’t earn me many.

After 15 years, I left Google in June 2021. It was a good run. Someone even took my tweet and my LinkedIn profile and cobbled together a whole article about it for those sweet, sweet pageviews. It probably didn’t earn them many. As is documented there and elsewhere, for much of my career I’ve been a designer. But most of my time in my final years at Google was spent writing. One definition of design is gathering input and then showing how things ought to be. At the beginning of my career, that was mockups. At the end of my Google career, words.

And so here I am again. With a blog. (That’s a terrible word, by the way, with the buh and the law and the guh. 🤷🏼‍♂️) How often I will write and publish here is a mystery to me. In these waning (hopefully) days of the pandemic, I’ve learned to lower my obligations. I need to make the time and space to just be, and if that being becomes writing, so be it. But maybe not. At any rate, hello.