Sunday, February 27, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake - Part II

I just wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little more about the Earthquake. Mrs. Cream said that she wanted to write a post but hasn't yet put fingers to keyboard so I thought I'd write a few more of my thoughts and some which are a direct result of talking to her (in fact, she can take all credit if she so wishes). In fact, if she had a Google account I could just give her space on this blog to write her own posts. I might make the offer.

Anyway, she was talking about 2 blogs that she reads from people down in Christchurch and how the Internet has created this great link between people. I've said it before when talking about cyber-bullying that the Internet tends to, even though it has some shortcomings such as body language and quite often context and tone, enhance all sorts of communication. Negative and positive. People from disparate sides of the world can talk to each other without waiting months for a reply.

So that link to Christchurch might just be learning that you can relate to the thoughts and opinions of someone.

But the main point of this post. How awesome are most people being?
  • We have teams from all over the world coming to New Zealand to help. Teams from: Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, United Kingdom, The United States and China etc. (I'm not sure who else is there but it's phenomenal).
  • The Student Volunteer Army are making a real impact (although I was disgusted when TVNZ One today advertised their URL as www.sta.org.nz rather than www.sva.org.nz at one point).
  • The geeks of New Zealand are playing quite an interesting role with eq.org.nz - they're also manning the txt's from the SVA. And even though I was quite cynical about this effort, it's more a reflection of my frustration rather than there being anything wrong with the efforts.
The defence force, while offering support, do not have the power to arrest. So no great big horrible attempt to turn Christchurch into a military state.

And then there's the small bits of humour that can be taken from this. If Napier is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand due to it's earthquake in 1931 and Art Deco being the architectural preference at the time, what is Christchurch going to look like?

I refer you to the iMax in Auckland as a modern piece of architecture:


Sort of a hodge podge of random lines. It always surprises me just how frightfully ugly a building can be made to look. We should all be crying if this is the sort of atmosphere Christchurch is likely to have.

I was thinking about the looters and scammers and burglars. The news seems to be using all three of these terms and telling us daily of a couple of people being caught. I would put it to you that given TV 3's 3 shots of the same store that the problem isn't likely to be nearly as bad as the news is making out. A few scum would be the minority.

And how could the news be helping here? Once convicted, release photos of these people. Let them know that this is what they intend to do. Letting people know that the country will know their faces as being the scum who tried to take advantage of people during their most vulnerable time would hopefully have them thinking twice about doing it. This sort of thing is likely to have long lasting ramifications for those people.

Also, in terms of the missing list - there's a very good chance that a lot of the people on that list don't even know they're on it. International students or people who may have been away for the weekend. People that aren't all that likely to be found due to being within the court system (home detention, parole etc).

Showing a list of names would probably help in whittling that list down significantly. Sure, it might upset a few people who recognise the names but then the concern must be for the people in Christchurch and the rescue efforts/recovery effort.

One other thing - the death toll is really quite low if you think about it. Less than 200 people so far out of the approximately 500,000 people who live there. When you take into account the fragility of the human body this is quite a remarkable number. It's bad. It could be have been much much worse.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Christchurch Earthquake

I've been holding off writing this post. The reason being is that I haven't quite worked out my own feelings about it.

The reason is that I lived in Christchurch for around 8 months. Yep. Not a long time. But I loved the city. I didn't always love the people. There was the incident with skin heads that left me with a sore jaw for a while which left me not leaving the flat for quite a while. And then I had returned 5 years later, only to find that I didn't actually like many of the friends I had down there.

One had met me at her door, not invited me in, and then asked if I was gay.

Another one had taken me out to an Indian restaurant. Something she wouldn't normally do but given that I'm Indian...

There was one who was exactly the same as when I knew her 5 years earlier. So it wasn't all negative. She was the exception though.

It was enough for me not to miss the people entirely too much.

On Tuesday morning I was thinking of an old flatmate. We didn't really get along. She was 10 years older than me (though a fine figure of a woman). In order to get to tech on time in the morning, I'd have to get up several hours early as she spent a couple of hours in the bathroom every morning. So not ideal. Combine that with the fact that I was young and stupid and wasn't exactly a joy to live with and you've got a bit of a bummer of a living arrangement.

So I'm watching scenes of Christchurch on the news to see places I used to walk. Places I have been. Scenes I remember but which look quite different. I've heard that Charlie B's - the backpackers I stayed at for 4 weeks - is now gone. I haven't heard how much damage Le Cafe has suffered - where we'd go for coffee at midnight. The horribly elegant looking restaurant next to the Avon river which I'd walk past is no longer standing.

So I have some personal feelings towards it.

This hasn't stopped me from making the odd insensitive comment. I can't believe the residents of Christchurch hadn't moved away after months of aftershocks for example. Or the fact that they were actually kind of better off having the less destructive earthquake 5/6 months earlier - the media got all of their mistakes out and people were probably just a touch more prepared.

But quite often I don't really know how much of an effect something has had on me until a few days later. I'm exhausted. It's not just the 2 all nighters I did this week. I'm just not sleeping well. Those people who I found to be ... unpleasant the last time I was in Christchurch still have me worried.

Am I going to recognise a name on the dead list? Nicki and Ian and Miriam and Chris and Jane and Donald and Fiona and Graham etc. Last I had heard Nick had moved to Fiji though that was more than 5 years ago. Angela was married with a child. And I can't for the life of me remember surnames. Do they even have the same surnames?

So today I spent much of the day trying to volunteer in the Christchurch effort. The site, eq.org.nz, has been playing an interesting role. However I found barrier after barrier and found myself feeling fairly negative about it by the end. How much is the effort actually helping?

Loads of us probably have a connection in some way or another with Christchurch. I always laugh when I see something happen in America and it seems to have affected everyone. People crying outright who didn't know a single person affected. I'm not effected that much. I might spare a tear if I recognise a name on the dead list.

The news has been fairly good around this. There are a few things I found to be frustrating.

When ever they show scenes they don't give you context. They avoid street signs.

Channel 3 has also taken 3 shots of the same store - the souvenir shop at the corner of cathedral square - to show off the widespread looting or something.

The scrolling text is often written REALLY badly. Today TV3 are telling us that "93 red stickers have been issued so far in Christchurch, 90 in Lyttleton". Isn't that nice. They're giving out stickers...

Oh and they can't seem to get the terminology around the Art Gallery and the Arts Centre right. Whenever I hear "Arts Centre" my ears prick up. But no. They're talking about the horribly ugly monstrosity that is the Art Gallery.

So hey - the only thing to say here really is, we're thinking of those in Christchurch. Oh and if I knew you there, yell out. I'd love to hear if you're okay.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sledge Hammers

I was talking to someone the other day about how I don't think WINZ do a great job.

The problem is, government institutions are sledge hammers. You can't get them looking at how happy someone is going to be in a job without them interfering in your life.

So what's the alternative? Either you work with "the system" and go on those courses that take valuable time away from doing something worthwhile... is there a space here for something else?

So I was thinking about this a little bit more. What's currently in this space? The answer came back - life coach. I don't know how the readers of this blog feel about life coaches but personally, I don't particularly like the idea. Those who need them can't afford them. And can you imagine asking WINZ for the funding for that sort of thing? It'd be a bit like asking:

"Can I have some funding for a 'lil dog and a handbag to go with it?"

Because let's face it. A life coach is kind of a fashion accessory. Something for the miserable rich and famous to sling around proving that they're deeper than their catch phrase.

Isn't that kind of how psychiatrists were seen in the early 80's?

When the cat died, people almost instantly started telling me about cats that were avaliable. Jobs are kind of the same. I was out of work and people didn't really think about the appropriateness of the links they sent me. Even after telling them that I really didn't want to be doing something they would respond with "think of the money". Depressing, depressing, depressing.

So even someone in a more... supportive role. Someone who actually talks to you about what you want and need and can understand why you're rejecting a role would be a huge step up in my opinion.  And hell, if they actually assessed whether you were likely to get any benefit from a course, even that would help.

I don't think there's a perfect system to be had, but I think we can improve. The problem is, sledge hammers are only really good for one thing - breaking things.

Public Transport in Auckland

I got a letter today from a Green Party candidate outlining a plan for public transport in Auckland. A rail loop!

And then I found myself talking about the bus driver the other day who claimed that my 3 stage fare was actually 4 stages despite the fact that Maxx.co.nz claimed it was a 3 stage trip. I was complaining about the lack of information on the Maxx website. You can't, for example, find a route and then have a look at how the bus gets to the destination, where the stages end etc.

When asked "you didn't argue?" I responded "You don't argue with a bus driver. You need to get somewhere. Jeopardizing that aim isn't worth the dollar or so".

Talk to different drivers, and the rules are different.

Miss Bird got mugged because she had enough drivers tell her that she couldn't go to the stop that said "Stage End" on it. Instead of a well lit bus stop, she was forced to get off a stop early at a not so well lit stop with bushes everywhere. All of that over around 300 meters.

This is much the same problem I found at New Zealand Couriers. People frustrated at the company because the call centre staff weren't consistent in the information they were giving. This was probably due, in part, to the message that we were given. "Take as many calls in as little time as possible".

So if you want to improve Auckland's public transport system, the first step is to provide some clarity. Give people the information they need. Train the drivers to put across a consistent message especially around stage ends. A proper complaints system would go down a treat.

And hell, it'd cost the rate payer a hell of a lot less than putting in a rail loop.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In the Interests of Relevency

It's funny when I think about how this blog has turned out. For me, it's a bit of a diary. I write stuff which is quite often a little embarrassing but, as a friend often responds very dryly, when she reads this blog in an effort to avoid having to offer up an opinion, it's honest.

However, most of the audience for this blog are here due to my efforts with the Manaiakalani project. And it occurs to me that I haven't really written anything about Manaiakalani for a little while.

So what's happening?

Well it's a new year. Point England school is now online. Some of the other schools are now, at least, partially on line. And we're still rolling out to yet others.

I've had a few hiccups which has lead me to frantically get to creating a new image (before tomorrow) and this has also meant quite a lot of work which has felt like I've been constantly fight fires. It's early days. Teething problems are expected.

I've come to realise a few things about the interface we're using. We're using Ubuntu's netbook launcher. I tested the version that you can be installed on the 10.10 release of Ubuntu only to find myself less than impressed. It just doesn't integrate well with the desktop.

Unity (the new interface Ubuntu are using rather than the up and coming gnome-shell) has me looking at disbelief as to what the Ubuntu team see as "good". This is further exasperated when I look at the limitations that the netbook launcher places such as no use of the funky 3d effects that have become the darling child of Linux which you can't help but brag about.

This has lead me to start thinking about "The Next Big Thing". The netbooks are really capable when it comes to 3d graphics. Okay, so not latest and greatest games capable, but fully capable of having a really nice polished desktop.

So criteria:
  • Must make good use of the screen size avaliable.
  • Must be fairly intuitive.
  • Must be modern and exciting.
And I think I've come up with something quite good - though I do expect a little criticism for it's OS X likeness.

The reason for this though is that OS X does do a few things, such as making good use of their screen area (real estate in nerd circles) by using a global menu, really really well.

So I'm using a combination of compiz, avant window navigator and the gnome global menu applet. Maximus is something I'm still considering though the title bar that it removes doesn't really offer any advantage in terms of space used given that the global menu essentially uses the same space.

If you're interested in this at all, take a look at this site (click here).

I'm now using this interface almost exclusively as a test of it. I have discovered some problems around Firefox.

Unfortunately, some applications don't use the standard methods for a menu bar. Thus, the global menu can't do anything with them. Firefox is one of those applications.

It's a fine line between full screen mode in Firefox and this interface - we're probably only talking around 100 pixels at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, when firefox is put into full screen mode, you're unable to use the top menu bar. It's downright confusing if you don't realise what's going on.

As for a schedule? This is something that's going to have to wait until after I've been to Micronesia. Then I'll be trying to reverse engineer Ubuntu's netbook edition interface to figure out how the settings are stored and referenced.

But the biggest problems come in people. The students at the moment are stepped through the various steps. So changing the interface on them means they suddenly have to learn the interface all over again. The quickness kids pick this up varies with every student.

So by the middle of the year, I'm hoping to have the option available. Before then, I'll be asking some of the older students to have a play with it to see if they're comfortable with the interface and to essentially beta-test the system. In other words, this probably won't be the default until next year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Proof, Great Expectations and Mysterious Red Envelopes

I was shown a picture a week back and I've only just found it again. I'm of the impression that being called "The Man" is a pseudonym for being awesome. Either that or a term used by the paranoid.

So that picture (Click here).

Okay so the name's not quite spelt right (Mrs. Cream - no giving them an alternative wrong spelling. That's just mean.) but it's an incredible likeness to me.

So proof that I'm awesome. (or that people are paranoid of me :/)

Anyway, I was talking to a friend last night. Someone who reads the blog. At one point in the conversation she said to me "I just love how you believe everyone is just going to suddenly turn into a communist". I don't believe that at all. I just think that we need a counter argument to the "Buy this milky futuristic drink and you'll have more go go go!" Or, "Buy this deodorant and beat woman off with a stick". The generic "Buy this and your life will be better!".

The point is, life isn't all about money despite what the ads on the tables at shopping malls tell us or what television and radio spout at us or what the signs on buses, taxis and road side tell us. And even, more to it than what the government seem to want to tell us.

Life is much more complex than that. The money is a token of appreciation. Or it's an ends to a means. It's never just about having money. It's about security or doing something for the people you love (like feeding them).

The bit that makes me miserable is the fact that the emphasis is put solely on the money these days. That's not what it's about. I don't work because I want money - I get validation from work. There's a pay off for me.

And because of this emphasis on money, it often confuses the matter. Newspapers looking for other ways of exciting people because their income stream is on the decline. Telecom moaning because their profits are down from last year (though they're still making phenomenal profits). Government departments which can't seem to figure out if they're supposed to be helping people or just being ... difficult.

So today I received a mysterious red envelop. Okay - so not that mysterious. It was still made of paper and had bits glued down. The mysterious bit was what it was lacking. A note. Any indication of who it had come from. Hopes ran high as I realised it was Valentine's day just yesterday. And a red envelope. It'd be nice to receive something for valentines. Just once.

Anyway, so I got an envelope, opened it and discovered something green. A little bit of money.

So without knowing who it's from, I found myself wanting to do something really truly horrible and cheesy in exchange. A poem perhaps?

So I present here a truly awful poem for your ridicule. Remember - you could stop reading if you don't like pain. It's funny how terrible a thing I can do in about half an hour.

Ode to my Benefactor
(A truly terrible "poem" for a truly awesome act)


Call me Pip (or Phillip if infant tongues can pronounce such),
Whose obligations or expectations from presumptuous mistakes form,
Are you a Miss Haversham?
  Crazed intent mistaken,
  Tool's heart forged in ice.
Or are you more Magwitch?
  Haunted by kindness,
  After cruel intent.
An ending uncertain -
  Shadows that do not part,
  or suffering stronger than Havisham's teachings.
  Both seem apt.
Money that comes from mysterious sources,
is ever overspent.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Punishment Gluttony

It's 11:30pm and I'm starting a post. I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm pretty much exhausted. I've been working long hours to try and figure out what's going wrong with the image on the netbooks for Manaiakalani.

It turns out I've been a little remiss. Still, it's all fairly easy to fix so it's not too much of a problem. If you can fix it, why stress about it?

So I've been thinking about the Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux, and it's place in the grand scheme of things. One of the bits that has me concerned is age appropriateness.

It's interesting that for a lot of applications, their default options seem to point at Facebook. I'm not sure if you're aware of the restrictions on Facebook but you must be over 13 to use the service. This is a legal matter. There is no way a primary or intermediate school could endorse the service to it's students.

Besides which - there's still that problem of them calling it a "social" network.

So Ubuntu has a crapload of packages in it's repositories which have to be rejected by schools. Take, for example, photo management software which is capable of uploading images. They ALL have facebook as their default option.

So I've suggested that perhaps we (This is a non-specific we. I've talked to one of the Linux User Groups and a principal down in Warrington about this) should be looking to create a repository of packages to customize Ubuntu for people of school age. We could then provide schools with their own "remix" package. So the school decides what they want on their computers (and what's blacklisted). Brilliant.

Now... if only I can find the time...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why the Cloud?

I'm not a big fan of "the cloud". I make no apologies for it.

The problem for me is this:

Most of those services out there that make life easier and store all of your information for you aren't all that straight up about who owns that data.

For example, if I put up a picture on Facebook, can Facebook then go and sell that photo? How about something I've written? Or more interestingly - how about something that a group has written?

Can they on-sell that data? What if I want to use some other service and so want to take my data with me? Can I remove my data from that service? Do they offer some useful export options?

I personally would not look at using one of these sites for community data.

So the question is, what makes it alright for Manaiakalani to have all of their data in the cloud? Because - oddly enough, I think this is one of the few use cases where the cloud is suitable.

There are laws protecting the kid's data. If they demand that it be taken down then it MUST be taken down.

But the real reason I see the cloud as suitable in this scenario is that the benefit of such a program would be lost if teachers struggled to mark the work. If they were, for example, trying to find the work on the child's laptop. Or if they were relying on the kids to have filed something in the right place on a school server.

And then there's the problem of migration. A child does not stay at one school. They go from primary to intermediate to college. What happens to all of their work when the move on? Should it all be lost? What if that information could follow them around. They could modify a report on volcanoes rather than trying to remember what they had said about it in year 7. In this case, the report becomes a progressive work. It can grow with the child.

Then there's the issue of fires and air conditioning. If a school is set on fire, all of their servers go as well and chances are, all of their back ups are in the building (it surprises me how many people don't think to do off site backups). And if they're in a data centre? What are the chances of an air conditioning unit dying? Servers overheat. Hard drives fail at around 60 degrees, generally speaking. The cloud allows for this data to be more persistent.

I remain skeptical. I won't be using the cloud for everything any time soon. But sometimes these solutions just make sense.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Fallacy of Office Suites

I often hear about how OpenOffice is going to change the world. Or LibreOffice. The problem with both of these applications is that they're perpetuating the impression that an office suite is the only way to do things.

Microsoft made it's profits, not from it's Operating Systems, but rather, from their office suites as demonstrated by the graph found here. So it's worth big money. But I still find myself asking "Why?"

It's not surprising that Microsoft would try to change the layout in order to differentiate itself. Especially with threats such as Google Docs and the like.

But when I pick these suites apart, I find it really difficult to see how they make life any easier.

Take the humble word processor for example. In a work context, they're used for very repetitive tasks. Report writing for example. In a lot of cases, those reports are much the same with a few changed values. In which case, make up a form of key values and have a system where those values are plugged in. Suddenly productivity would go through the roof.

Or, if you're anything like me and hate formatting, have the option of removing all of that formatting font stuff and allow us to mark sections of our text as "a heading" or "a paragraph" etc. Do we really need to have control over every character?

You might argue that I can use styles. The problem is, the emphasis isn't on styles. Which means that as soon as that document's been messed around by someone else, all that structure is suddenly gone. You may use styles. There's a very good chance no one else in the office does. The emphasis is on formatting everything manually. That row of icons? I could do without. The styles picker is always in the formatting toolbar and there is never the option to display just the styles picker.

There are options there. They could for example encourage a productive workflow. Write your content, click a button that then gives you the ability to format your document. Provide a decent gui for editing a style and to save style templates and you're away laughing.

Google sites doesn't even bother with styles at all.

There is LyX. LyX has some really great ideas but just lacks some polish. For example, to create a template, you need to get into coding a document. No graphical user interface for creating a template. The output is brilliant. It uses TeX in the background which is a typesetting system. It doesn't compromise on quality for the output.

So with all of these alternatives - they instead chose to give me more formatting options. Surely the computer is smart enough to do this for me.

And Spreadsheets? Spreadsheets really annoy me. It's amazing how many businesses use spreadsheets as an information system. People - they're only good for 3 things.
  1. One Offs.
  2. Prototyping.
  3. Doing a half arse job.
The problems with spreadsheets are kind of obvious when you start thinking about it.

Firstly, a spreadsheet doesn't really care what information you're putting in. It has no context. Whether it's text or a number - it'll just adapt to cope. This means that it is almost completely incapable of validating data. If you were to enter in 0/12/2010 for a date for example, and you're expecting a date to be in there, the spreadsheet will not tell you that you've made a mistake.

Secondly, the fact that a row has a position becomes a problem. Arranging that data based on different criteria moves that information about. This might not sound like a problem but this does have issues for data integrity. What if it misses a column when sorting information? Those relationships between different cells has just been lost.

Thirdly, performance is abysmal if multiple people are in the spreadsheet at the same time (if that's possible).

In short, a spreadsheet should be seen as a piece of presentation software rather than a business tool. If you're using a spreadsheet for more than a month, it's probably worthwhile investing a little bit of time and perhaps money into getting something developed that suits your needs.

And then there's presentation software. Be honest. When you're in a meeting, listening to someone droning on, what do you normally see projected on the screen? Generally it's a bunch of bullet points. All they've done really is write up their notes. You find you don't participate in the presentation because everything is laid out.

Personally, I prefer a whiteboard. We can write notes together. If something else comes up, we can explore it. Sure it might be handy for the occasional graph or diagram but it's not used for those things all that often. It's another little fallacy. It's just not used effectively. If the goal is to get the audiences attention, it's a great big failure.

None of this technology has made any majour leaps and bounds in the last few years. Spreadsheets can be bigger. Word processors.... I really don't know what's changed. The spell checker is pretty cool? Presentation software limits communication as far as I'm concerned.

I guess what I'm saying is, if ever you start a business and you're thinking about software you're going to need, ask yourself, "do I really need an office suite?".

An even better question: How can things be done better?

And yet, ever more interesting: Why has technology seemed to stand still?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A day in the life 1

I've been meaning to do various posts on various subjects and everyday I get the same old reminders but never actually remember to do the posts. So instead, I thought I'd do a post that covers all of these subjects while I describe my day.

I'm having one of those mornings again. I'm late. I'm at the bus stop waiting to go into town. There's a guy, simple, talking about random stuff. He's talking with the guy who's just finished work at the 24 hour supermarket. They're talking about work hours.

I can't help but scoff at the whole conversation. I did 11 hour overnight shifts in Hamilton for a good 18 months or so. If you add in the time for us coming in early to have a coffee and talk before work, factor in our dinner break, we'd be there for a good 12 hours easily.

They say something about barely having time for sleep.

Again I scoff quietly to myself. You don't know "barely enough time to sleep" until you've done 110 hours in a week. That was EDS when they were at the point of the project where they were running red, and were being given a last ditch chance to turn the project around. At the time the guy helping me and I were pretty much living with each other - going to work, in a small office on the client's premises and then back into town to my office by around 9pm to try and get some documentation done (although truth be told we'd be so tired by then that the paperwork done was fairly minimal. It was only a few hours until we'd have to be on site again to figure out what had changed in the environment overnight and apply quick fixes in order to keep production going). The only time apart was when we'd gone home to try and get some sleep. Taxis can be scummy in the small hours of the morning.

Finally the bus comes. Down the street there's someone horribly attractive waving. I don't look over my shoulder to see who's behind me. I assume she's waving at someone else. But no. It turns out it's Bird. I let the woman behind me get on the bus first so that I can have a quick two words with Bird.

"Beer and Pizza tonight?"

"Yep. Around 7:30?"

"Perfect"

By then I'm rushing onto the bus.

I get into town and I can't help but look at the poster boards by the news paper sellers with disdain. If you were to go on the information on the boards you'd believe that it wasn't a news paper they were selling at all but rather a glossy magazine full of guilty pleasures. This seems to be the best way of describing it. Today it was "Free 100 page lifestyle magazine". This, in my opinion, is rather tame. Last week they had "Amazing Pictures. Croc vs. Lion. See who wins".

I can't help but imagine we're in the middle of some small village in the back of beyond in Thailand. Two roosters enter the ring, only one walks out. Feathers and blood everywhere while men desperately try to place bets. This is morbid curiosity in all it's strangeness.

The day after this it was "The 10 hottest new TV shows of the year". Even this had me rolling my eyes. As well as having nothing to do with news, most of the shows I've really gotten into the last couple of years have been cancelled. Apparently the world isn't ready for the more human sci-fi story of Journeyman or the drama based story of how the Cylons (from Battlestar Galactica) came to be in Caprica. Instead, TV2 has us believing that there is nothing better to watch than America's Funniest home videos (Every day of the week?) or Two and a Half Men - 3 nights of the week. And then there's "Go Girls". A New Zealand made drama which came about to considerable attention given their claims that this would be the hottest thing since a hot thing. I can't find a single person who has watched a single episode and is able to give me their opinion on it. Yep. Sounds hot.

I finally get down to the bottom of town to catch my bus. I curse to myself. I've missed it. I'm going to have to wait another 20 minutes. This is all I need. I'm off to a different school today. Still one in the cluster but not the honeymoon atmosphere of Pt England. There are introductions to be made and a sense of politics to be figured out.

Perhaps I'm not all that late. School kids are piling onto the bus. The start of the year is here though it seems all of the schools are starting at different times. Pt England isn't until next week which means I'm most likely going to miss it entirely given that I'm hopefully travelling next week.

This has been the cause of some frustration as well. The trip is on hold while we figure out what I need to be taking with me. I still haven't done all of my research and my head starts throbbing just thinking about it. I'm actually actively double booking myself now trying to come up with creative ways to fit everything in before I go. Should I put a hold on some project or another? But if I can pull it off I'll be coming back to a lot less stress. It's probably worth the stress now to be able to come back to New Zealand with a clear head and less panic stricken people mobbing me at the airport gates.

I get to the other school to a scene which appeared to only be missing blood. Laptop boxes have been unpacked - but not carefully. Ripped boxes came across as a scene of horror. To my way of thinking, the whole experience of opening up a box to get at the laptop inside is somewhat marred if the box looks like it's already been opened. Even worse if it's appears damaged.

An hour or so later and we're all done. The laptops have been imaged, the BIOS flashed, name tags attached and locked away in a room ready to be handed out (once the other fiddly bits have been dealt with such as money etc.).

Unfortunately, in that hour or so, I have discovered a mistake. A wrong setting in the BIOS that could have some serious undesirable repercussions. I let everyone know and head back to Pt. England school. I'm desperately avoiding having to reopen 300 boxes to check the setting in the BIOS but avoiding it just doesn't make it go away. I'm given the instruction and finally start fixing the mistake

I finally go home around 3:25. My ride (No, I'm not pimping her. She'd be terribly upset if I ever tried any such thing) has a meeting in my area so it's got to be early (besides which, I was well bored of fixing my mistake). We have our usual in depth conversations which are never really remembered. There's the fact that we're supposed to have a conversation about the existence of god except that it's just one of those subjects that is never really going to finish and so we've probably got the right of it. Talk about anything but and then as soon as something that comes up that's related, have a few words about it.

I get home and take out a beer. It's a horribly sticky day and a beer goes down well. It's already past 6 when I look up at the time. Only an hour and a half until I'm up at the pub enjoying beer and pizza with company second to none.

Censorship

I feel like I do one of these posts entirely too often.

I've not been censoring myself. Let it be known that I probably wouldn't have aired my grievances about my mother's side of the family if I had thought for a single second that they might read this blog.

Of course, it's what I'm grumbling about - the fact that I seem to be a something to take into account rather than a person - that means that they're very unlikely to read anything I've written.

So today I learnt that someone rather high up in the Tamaki Transformation Project has been following this blog. Imagine me digging my toe in to the ground while looking slightly ashamed. The point is though that I'm trying to be constructive. The criticisms I have are small things. They're things which I consider to keep in mind. Such a project only benefits from seeing itself in a more global context. The end of year bash could have had a few minor tweaks to make it a great event.

As for my immediate family - they know I keep this blog. I've even given out the address but the only time it's ever read by my family is when I hand over my computer with a post already loaded. They're not terribly interested in what I might be saying by the looks of things.

And hey, this is a bit of a personal journey for me. Since starting the blog, I've come to realise that while transitional provisions have helped me, they need to be put into context and ultimately, replaced.

And I'm hoping this helps people out there. If I'm candid about my problems and how I think about things, perhaps other people will relate and perhaps reflect on the person they are and who they want to be and perhaps even see a way of becoming that person.

I was watching a Derren Brown show the other day where he was talking about confidence. He said something along the lines of, "most of us believe happiness to lie in being another person". So when I say "becoming that person", I don't mean a complete personality transplant. I'm talking about being the person you know yourself to be. We've all got some idea of who we are right? This puts me in mind of that song "No Secrets". Look up the lyrics. They're pretty interesting.

The point is, although at times I'm whinging and being horribly negative, I'm always looking for a positive. So what can be built from the mess that I've discovered. What could be done differently. This is regardless of whether I'm talking about myself and my relationships to the people around me or myself and my relationship to the projects around me (much the same thing really). One is a little more self centered than the other but of the same ilk.

And hey, I'd love for this blog to turn into a bit of a forum. Offer up an opinion or two. Excite me with loads of messages to reply to. If you think I'm being harsh or overstepping the mark, I would love comment on it. Surely what I say can't be the be all and end all of it all.