I'm Joe Mahoney. I'm software engineering manager, surf life guard, and runner from Wellington, New Zealand.
I mainly write about and curate links covering software engineering and management, career growth, continuous improvement, creativity, and productivity.

Monday Links 49

Charles Stross: On mistaking a transient state for a permanent one

Astronomers were the first to notice, as Starlink streaks made a mess for ground based telescopes to peer through. But the next issue is metal polution, as re-entering satellites melt and mostly vapourize in the upper atmosphere. 45,000 Starlink 2 satellites would weigh 90,000 tonnes, and with a 10 year life (never mind the 3-5 year current lifespan) they’d be dumping nearly ten thousand tonnes of metal into the upper stratosphere every year, which is probably a Bad Thing and is rightly generating alarm among environmentalists and climate researchers.


Dumping 9000 tons of metal into the upper atmosphere is a linear extrapolation from today’s situation, and does not reflect what’s ultimately going to happen. This is a transient phase—the gold rush, the railroad race—and not the steady state we’re going to end up in once the period of rapid expansion comes to an end.

I’ve been enjoying Dr Katie Mack & John Green’s podcast about the history of the universe. They are three episodes in and have finally got to a timescale beyond the first few seconds. It’t fantastic. Here’s the trailer:

Running (kindof) the 2024 Tarawera Ultramarathon

One morning in late February I got up really early and lined start of the Tararua T50 Ultra. Just over ten hours and 53km later I crossed the finish line. Here’s some random notes on what happened.

The morning started before 5am with a breakfast and a ride to the start line. It was still pitch black and I joined hundreds of people milled around the carpark at Te Puia. Some folks were chatting in groups, some were FaceTiming family and friends overseas, and some like me were just keeping moving and fiddling with head-torches and poles. The start of the 50km was broken into waves. I self-seeded for the last, slowest, wave.

By the time my wave was due to start the sun was starting to come up. We were welcomed and congratulated on making it to the start. This was my third attempt at getting to the start line: COVID and injury prevented my 2022 and 2023 attempts. This time I was ready to go if a tad undercooked for the distance. But I had a plan and was quietly excited to begin the day.

The plan was this: jog 700 metres, walk 300 metres. Repeat for 52-odd kilometres or however long I could manage and then guts out the rest with whatever combination of walking and jogging was required. It was easy to follow the plan as we started off the race winding our way through Te Puia. The park is beautiful, and nobody seemed to be in a rush. People took every opportunity to take in the views and grab selfies.

After a couple of iterations of jog/walk we were out of Te Puia and into the Whakarewarea. The rest of the day would be a mix of 4WD tracks, tidy trail, and singletrack. I followed the plan to the first aid station, feeling comfortable.

The aid station was packed with people and loaded with food. It’s the aid station fare that will keep me doing these kinds of races. I took a bit of time to have a drink and a sandwich, and I took a photo of the array of food and sent it to my family. Then it was back to jog/run.

The plan continued to work to the next aid station which I want to say was about 20km in. There had been plenty of up and down and variety of trail and my quads were a bit sore but otherwise I was in good spirits. I had chatted to a few folks along the way. There were quite a few people following some kind of run/walk plan and we ended up taking turns passing each other. There were a lot of people at the aid station and I used the opportunity to relax while I waited to refill my water.

The next leg was a downhill followed by a single track loop that took us past Lake Rotokākahi, then back up the hill to the aid station again. This was where the plan failed. My quads did not want to jog down the hill so I walked most of the way. The single track was quite technical and by this stage the fast 100km runners who had started later than us were coming past. There were several points that I thought it polite to just step of the trail and let folks who were able to run go past. Some of these people would finish several hours before me. They were impressive.

By now I was beginning to recognise folks as I caught up with them or, more often, as they passed me. There was the friendly woman who encouraged all the wahine toa as they boosted past us. There was the big dude with the long stride that made his walking pace faster than my running pace. There were the two Korean dudes, one of whom was having trouble with his feet. There was the veteran who the Jack Reacher-esque ability to know exactly how far it was to the next aid station and how much time it would take both of us to get there (his time was shorter than mine).

The walk back up the hill to the aid station was not exactly fun. My legs were pretty sore. I had some more food and drink and set off to the next aid station at Lake Tikitapu where I would meet my partner and potentially get pizza.

By jogging seemed to be off the table. I still had twenty-something kilometres to go and I was reticent to push it. I had plenty of time left. This leg was mostly flat. The distance between folks spread out a lot. With three or four kilometres to go till Lake Tikitapu I lost track of everybody. I couldn’t hear or see anyone ahead of me or behind me. I was a little worried I’d gotten lost, but the little flags marking the course were there in regular intervals. I pressed on, catching glimpses of the lake through the trees. Soon I could hear music and people and boom, pizza time.

I spent a good 15 minutes at the Lake Tikitapu aid station. I chatted to my partner while a volunteer refilled my water. I ate pizza and lollies. I was feeling pretty happy. Less than twenty kilometres to go. One aid station left.

I tried jogging out of Tikitapu but the relatively light incline was too much so back to walking. I caught up with a group of women as we entered the mountain bike park. They had done various versions of the Ultra many times and talked about their favourite parts. They also warned about the big hill that was coming up. As we walked along one of the women noted that once she finished, she would be heading to one of the aid stations for the 100-mile event and work there overnight. I said was planning do drink half a beer and collapse in a heap.

The big hill was where we parted ways. I used my poles and power climbed up the slope, ignoring my legs. I didn’t want to stop. I caught the Korean dudes. One of them had his shoes off and was inspecting his foot. I asked if he was ok. “Blisters” he said and waved me off. Just over the crest of the hill I was passed by a woman with a rubber chicken attached to her running vest. The Korean guys came jogging past, too.

The trail turned into 4WD track again and I recognised where I was, having run this part of the track in the Rotorua Half-Marathon previously. I did some arithmetic in my head and figured there was about 9km to go, all downhill or flat I decided to jog the rest of the way. Bugger the legs, if I kept up a relatively slow jog I might be able to go sub-10 hours.

I passed the rubber chicken lady. I passed the big guy with the long stride. I passed a few folks who were gingerly making their way down the relatively steep slope to the Redwoods carpark aided by their poles. The Korean dudes sped past me on the way down. The foot problem must have been fixed and they were looking energised and fit.

My partner was at the Redwoods aid station and noted I was a bit earlier than expected. The aid station had pizza. It was delicious and I was actually hungry. I checked my watch and tossed up staying for another slice and a chat or pressing on and maybe finishing under ten hours. I decided to talk to my sweetie and enjoy another slide of pepperoni.

I jogged the final six and a half kilometres to the finish. It was flat and familiar so I pushed as hard as I could. Not fast but determined. There weren’t many other people running so I passed quite a few. Most cheered me on. Some, understandably, gave me a look like “mate, we agreed we were walking now”. The course skirted round the edge of the lake, through an area with mud pools. I was very glad I wasn’t navigating this in the dark after 100km of running.

I crossed the finish line just over 10 hours. I hugged my partner, and we wandered over to the beer tent for a complimentary pint. It tasted great. I’ll be back in 2025.

Monday Links 48

Brendan Leonard wrote my favourite book on running and this month his latest book Ultra-Something was published. The book is about “the humans’ weird proclivity for endurance, and how we express it—including, but not limited to distance running, factory work, benign masochism, improv comedy, and rooting for football teams that will never win a championship.” You can read the first chapter here or watch the author read it.

Erik Deitrich: How Developers Stop Learning - The Rise of the Expert Beginner