Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Entering a Low

Being manic means there are highs and lows. All of last week was a high. However, a low hit me yesterday. Like being hit in the stomach with a brick. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to roll up into a ball somewhere and sleep. Drowsiness is often a symptom (and sometimes a cause) of stress for me.

Anything can set things off. A hit to the head (Monday), feeling like I'm being marginalised (I'm really not just a nerd. Tuesday), not being able to fix a problem as quickly as I'd hope (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), not having anything nearing stimulating conversation (Tuesday/Wednesday), feeling like I've failed (I've now gotten a bit tougher on some of the older kids about what they see me about - i.e. they all know how to check the password to their wireless connection and waiting for me to do it for them is just plain lazy - especially when they could be asking each other), being broke (it's pay day and I've just realised I've got around $10 left for drinks for 2 Xmas work functions after paying back the money I borrowed last fortnight and doing my final 2 weeks for the flat and accounting for transport for the next 2 weeks etc.), realising I have more work than time (I really want to go away to New Plymouth for a week during the holidays except that I know I have craploads of work to do in the month that the holidays last for - which I haven't been doing as I'm burnt out - and I don't know if I can afford it. Outlook is grim.), people using the name that I don't use just to annoy me (most of last week and this week).

So there are always reasons around to be down. It's all self pity. I get that. There are loads of other things that could upset me: The uplifted kids or those that probably should be. The social problems which no one has any real solutions to. The fact that Barnados came knocking on my door yesterday wanting regular donations to help with these sorts of problems. But then, this is my self pity. My depression.

The nerd thing - I think what I'm really missing is my old friends. The pub culture. Where I wasn't Nevyn the nerd but rather, Nevyn, the guy everyone knew. A bit like an episode of Cheers. Nerd was just an occupation. It wasn't used as a description of what I am. I'd walk into the pub and would have my choice of group to join.

Today was the volunteers morning tea at one of the schools. I think I wrote about it last year - The Whole Village. This year I turned up late. I had a meeting at another school and was pleased it ended 1/2 an hour earlier than expected so I could go. The problem though - I found myself standing around alone. This often happens. I just didn't really feel part of any group. I'm paid so I'm not a volunteer. I'm not paid for what I do thus I kind of still am a volunteer.

This isn't something new at this school. In fact, I'd guess every school has it to some extent. If you're:
  1. Not a teacher.
  2. Don't belong with a team
You're an other. You don't really fit in. You're there just as much as they are but you're not part of their group/team. Your participation in these things is more a charity rather than you belonging. Furthermore, you miss all sorts of details because often announcements of what's going on happen during "staff meetings" (which are mainly for teaching staff - as you'd expect. Most (all) of the non-teaching staff don't go to these meetings. So me finding out about the Xmas work do, for example, was someone pointing out a menu on the photocopier).

So that's me for the moment. Lowly little nerd whose probably seen as greedy given that pay is often a cause of complaint and with more work on next year than I know what to do with and very few friends around to make this all feel a little less ... daunting.

Welcome to a low. Population: Me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Possibilities

Sometimes I think the most exciting this in the world is a blank piece of paper. It's got the chance to fly, to contain just about any information under the sun, to have a drawing on it etc.

So that last post - define exciting. It's possibilities. There was the potential of a post. A possibility.

This month I've been writing. And writing. And writing. I don't think I've ever written quite so much in my life. For every post that ended up being published, there were 3 that didn't make it. Possibilities. Tangents that could have gone somewhere - even might have had I carried on - but ultimately got rejected.

Just think - the possibilities of what you might have found out. The perspective I might have imparted.

The kids - when they've made a movie or written a story, discovered something new (today I got some little boys interested in tessellations after having shown them some of M. C. Esher's work - they've got netbooks and here I'm showing them how to cut and tape bits of paper together in order to make their own template for a tessellation), found possibilities for themselves.

So what makes a person exciting? Possibilities.

Define Exciting

Comment... Discuss...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Christmas Menu

Not quite December yet and I'm already thinking about the Christmas menu. Of course, the tradition has been taking a bit of a weird turn. We don't celebrate a Christmas so much as anything but. So we come up with other terms for it. Saturnalia (Although I tend to celebrate Saturnalia on the 23rd of December though the 17th is probably more apt). The day of the jolly fat "breaking and entering" man. The day the pubs are closed etc.

It's a bit of a game. I think it's just a case of everyone being a little over Christmas. I don't really do the whole family thing. Rather, I do something for a few friends - collect up the strays, have a great big meal, watch movies, fall asleep on the couch etc. The family can decide on their engagement with it all. Which normally means they'll eat at the very least. It's all very easy. I think it'd be quite different if we had kids around. That invitation is being done on Monday hopefully.

So, this is how things are looking so far in terms of a menu:
  • Snacks
    • Roasted Nuts
    • Chilli, olive oil, parsley, garlic and parmesan bread (planning on actually making the bread this year).
  • Meats
    • Indian style grilled chicken (my favourite dish as a kid)
    • Honey Soy chicken? (Little effort. More variety)
    • Possibly a herb crusted lamb
  • Vegetarian
    • A spinach, feta and caramelized onion pizza.
    • A mushroom and blue cheese pizza.
  • Sides
    • Rosemary Potatoes.
    • Beans fried in butter.
    • Possibly mashed potatoes.
  • Dessert
    • Pavlova (individual serves?) with the choice of a kiwifruit puree, passionfruit or strawberry coulis.
    • Brandi snaps with berries and custard.
I'm trying to make sure that just about everything is home cooked this year. So for the brandi snaps, I'll probably end up making baskets out of them and make them at home. So yeah - much more cooking time needed this year. Come the day of red suits, seeing a table set out with all of this stuff should be really horribly satisfying.

I guess all that needs to be done now is to find out who's coming... Oh and try out the few things I'm not that confident in cooking (pavlova and bread).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Night Before Election Day

It's the night before election day,
and on the bus,
a couple of English men,
asked who I was voting for.

Yeah - not going to be able to keep that up. Weirdest thing. One was going National because he reckons "they can do it". The other, the Maori party, because "they're honest". Me, the Green's because I don't think we can afford National again, Labour are going in a direction I really don't like and the Green's are the most likely, in my opinion, to have a positive effect on New Zealand.

This is one of those things that annoys me about elections. We don't tend to think in terms of the big picture. Loads of people think they have to vote for Labour or National because anything else is a wasted vote. But that's one of the reasons we got rid of "First Past The Post" as a voting system. It didn't allow, in any way, for smaller parties to influence things. Yes, I realise, this can be a bad thing. Winston Peters holding the government to ransom is rotten. What I don't get is why both parties didn't just decide to leave NZ First as independents. i.e. why do they need them in their coalition? In which case, that particular problem is the fault of the two main parties as it is the small party that instigated the problem.

So what is tomorrow going to bring? Earlier this year I went to NetHui - a brilliant conference that had a presentation by some people from the "World Internet Project". In particular, people from AUT.  They do research (surveys) into various things such as the amount of homes with Internet. However, I found myself horribly cynical  about their results. They'd gotten their results from a phone survey... I'd hazard a guess and say that those people are less likely to have access to the Internet, but the very method of data collection omits those people from their conclusions.

Why am I bringing this up now? TV3 made a big deal about their last poll before the elections. On the same day TVNZ 7 were doing some sort of travelling show talking to various voters in different electorates. The bit I saw was them talking to a couple of people in various Indian stores in Mt Roskill. None of them would state who they were going to vote for. So the question is, can the polls be trusted if, although an incredibly small sample size, the supporters of various parties are less vocal than the supporters of others?

I've also been horrified by some of the advertising. I always am, but normally it's around the slogans on billboards. One of the most horrible I've ever seen was during the Mt. Albert by-election - Russel Norman's, "For some muscle, vote Russel". Anyway, this time around, I keep seeing Nikki Kaye in town, a bunch of high school kids in tow, waving signs about. Yes, the National party is no longer just for old business men. Naive children who aren't old enough to vote yet are also supporters!

Talking about Mt. Albert... who here remembers the by-election? The candidates? Melissa Lee was making headlines for her foot in mouth disease. Russel Norman had a few billboards up but no one was paying any attention. Oh and Labour had a candidate - I don't think anyone actually knew his name but hey - he wasn't messing up as much as the other candidates.

So you'd think National would have up'ed their game right? Nope. Melissa Lee. They're not even trying. Labour have put in David Shearer (it doesn't really matter who they put in at this point). The Green's have put in David Clendon and ACT also have a candidate though if anyone ever thought that ACT would make a good representative for their electorate, you'd have to conclude that they don't really understand the candidate vote at all or otherwise, just don't understand what ACT are all about.

It's a no-brainer. And again, not for any merit of his own, but rather because the options are just so ... horrible or generally unremarkable, David Shearer will probably win the seat.

Way to go guys. A seat ripe for the plucking and it's just handed to Labour. Not that I'm complaining. I just think it'd be great if the party's actually took this seriously. The candidate vote should be about who would best represent our local interests. Obviously no one was terribly comfortable with Melissa Lee. They're still not going to be comfortable with her.

I suppose I should say something about my unease with even "The Green Party". They seem to have made a huge effort in recent years to be a lot more ... not quite respectable, but respect able. i.e. I'm able to respect them.

However, I find myself doing a palm plant when I hear terms like "Green Jobs". Lose the stupid jargon and make it sound ... practical. We care about the environment, and if you can demonstrate that the jobs are going to be beneficial to the environment, then all power to you but don't try to distract the from the fact that this is a step towards creating more jobs thus bringing down the unemployment rate and hopefully creating more opportunities.

While I'm a HUGE fan of Gareth Hughes and Metiria Turei is also on my radar, Russel Norman leaves me wanting to punch the party in the stomach. Partly due to his slogan for the Mt Albert by-election. He's never won an electoral seat in which case, he's never been able to win the confidence of people within a relatively small area - and yet, he's co-leader of our 3rd biggest party. To be fair, Turei and Hughes have also never won an electorate seat either. You've got to wonder what they're doing wrong.

Okay - so in terms of confidence that the NZ public have in them, not so great. I would blame a lot of their problems on the infighting and factions though. The Green Party seems to be full of factions. Who could forget Sue Bradford, now a member of the Mana Party? They seem a lot more cohesive now.

So I guess the question for me came down to the politicians I respect. Clare Curren from the Labour party, who had some input into Labour's plan to introduce 1:1 devices in schools (while completely disregarding the bits that would make it work such as giving the people a sense of ownership and responsibility in the programme) or Gareth Hughes, who seems to be the most likely to actually work to achieve something rather than fight for the sake of fighting.

At least this makes the decision a tiny bit easier than trying to figure out which party I could respect.

I still think we need a no-confidence type of party. In the last election it was the "Bill and Ben Party". The McGillicuddy Serious Party, which stood for various interesting policies such as free dung and the abolition of money, had great political influence when the Laird McGillicuddy (Graeme Cairns) was publicly tarred and feathered when he failed to win the 1999 election as he'd promised. Currently, this leaves the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party with those votes... uh-oh.

Heartbreak

Define heartbreak:

Someone you care about looking miserable and you just wanting to hug them but not really being sure:
  1. Whether they would appreciate a hug from you (at that particular time).
  2. If that urge is about them or you.
  3. How you'd go about initiating one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What the Advertising is Saying

In New Zealand there's this ad for a health insurance provider - Southern Cross Healthcare. They established a bunch of ads with a character, a white terrier, named Mr. Perkins.

The funny bit though is that Mr. Perkin's owner, Sarah, gets injured and so she goes and sees Mr Perkins... No, not that Mr Perkins...

What I'm wondering though.... does anyone find it weird that Sarah should be paying for health insurance, injure herself, and go and see a "specialist" who doesn't have a doctorate? These ads have been running since 2009... I would've thought someone would have pointed this out to them by now...

I so wish I could find a video of the ad...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nevyn Hira and the Infinite Sadness

I went out drinking on Saturday night. At times, after drinking, and with a great big hangover I often find myself feeling really horribly melancholy. Often I think I've offended someone.

I'm pretty sure I did this time around. It's possibly not as bad as I think it is as she's still speaking to me. It's either it's not as bad or she's just decided a working relationship with no reference whatsoever to anything personal is probably the best thing for it. The reason I almost always feel really horribly bad about this is the fact that I never want to make anyone feel like how I perceive how I've made them feel. In most cases, it's me getting defensive. I've taken something as a bit of a slight. For example, being told "those are my friends" is less friendly than just introducing them - even though this is definitely not a cause for offense.

This time I was almost comical in my attempts to poke fun at and be cute. It just wasn't happening. I knew what I was trying to say. I could hear myself say something that sounded shocking even to me. And in that case, I'm much more likely to just shut off and go away for a little while. Just because I've found myself a spade does not mean I have to keep digging. A bit like watching yourself falling. You wonder if you should put your hand out to stop your fall but you're not sure if it will result in stopping the fall or breaking your wrist.

So blame it on that god awful shyness of mine. Or how I get myself nervous over just about everything (when you over think EVERYTHING, everything becomes a source of anxiety). There's an apology in there just waiting to come out - if you're the one I'm talking about and you're reading this, chances are there is an apology I'm going to make. I really do feel really bad about it all.

So today, still feeling melancholy and ashamed, I'm finding myself wanting to be more than just a geek. I know... it's my job. There are some people who won't give me the time of day without a technical problem to fix. And I guess this is a result of the lack of balance to my life. I haven't cooked a meal in a while. I haven't knocked something together or done any gardening. Given that I no longer smoke (I did slip up the other day while drinking, took 2 puffs and found myself horrified by what I was doing and the sensation of it all) I no longer find myself star gazing. I haven't enjoyed a meal with a friend with a couple of drinks which is why I think I went overboard this weekend. I guess I'm just wound way too tightly.

I remember a few years ago I was going through a stage where I could obsess about something or just go on with being a nerd. At the time I had termed it "To be a geek or to be a real boy". Given that I've never really been that good a "real boy" I decided to distract myself with ... well ... geeky things. I think I may a fairly good geek. However, there's got to be more... doesn't there? I mean, are the two mutually exclusive.... are they?

So there we have it. A brand new anxiety. I don't want to be known just as "the geek" anymore. I want to be a real boy. I want to have social interactions that don't have me questioning myself and my motivations and whether I've been honest etc. I want to be able to throw caution to the wind and ... well ... interact. I don't want to over think everything. I don't want to be shy. Most importantly, I want to be in the moment...

Now.... how does one go about shaking off the geek shackles?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Relating to People

I've had a sudden realisation.

While I'm working on getting some self esteem, I'm still not really relating to people. Quite often I'm making some joke about "not food" - i.e. KFC, McDonalds, Burger King etc. Or I'm criticizing people's choice in music (the silly thing is that I probably have the worst taste in music ever - 1920's show tunes, 1970's rock, Hayley Westernra etc.). The choice of television shows etc.

So while I've been peacocking (essentially looking great because I wanted to be noticed) all of last week and feeling great, I've also been a bit of a tool. My flatting experience has probably moved me away from being relatable - I have less in common with people. The lack of TV.

I never listen to the radio anymore due to the amount of advertising either - which means I'm often very behind in the latest music. I never go to the movies - mainly because I hate the idea of seeing a movie on my own. Being a geek further separates me. The word, while I own it - i.e. I find nothing offensive about it - does have some connotations. It's often used by other people to dismiss you or as an excuse to ignore anything you're saying because obviously geeks speak a different language. I had one case where as soon as they thought you were getting too technical, they'd make a white noise sound.

None of this is all that surprising really. A friend of mine noted that single people tend to .... I don't think she articulated it terribly well, but the gist of it was that there was a certain ... self centered quality to them. I think what she was really saying is that single people tend to lack the context which other's take for granted. So it's hardly surprising that I'm finding this all so very hard.

So I guess this is a bit of an appeal. Help me to be a better person. If I'm being a tool, call me up on it. If I am speaking a foreign language, then letting me know which bits you don't understand will only make me all that much better at speaking to people. In other words, don't use me being a geek as an excuse for my awkwardness.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh Labour, Why Can't You Think?

Back in July I had a look at a paper about how the government could give kids devices for e-learning.

I was appalled with it. It missed some of the most obvious bits needed to make a 1:1 program successful. Anyway, it seems Labour's education policy, in the section titled "E-Learning and Engaged Young People", has actually been silly enough to think that a government pushed programme of this sort is going to work.

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project identified that it's not enough to just give out the laptops. It's all very well for the country's government to come up with the funds. However, if there is no sense of ownership in the device, problems over care start to pop up.

In the Manaiakalani project this has also come up. The sense of ownership is also an opportunity to teach things like warranties, insurance, finance etc.

I can't emphasise just how important this is. Ownership of the device is absolutely key.

The devices themselves do not make e-learning work. In fact, drop the e. It's just not important. It's all just learning. What needs to happen for learning to work? You have to have buy in from the staff and the staff must feel supported. So a majour investment must go into the ongoing professional development of staff. No two ways about it.

Schools need to be thinking about what they want to accomplish from these devices. This really should involve the community. What do parents want their children to be learning? What do parents fear about the online world and how can those fears be mitigated? In other words, PD (Professional Development) for the community as well.

Government is a hammer. No two ways about it. They prescribe ways of doing things. Thus, the community, nor the school, will ever feel they own the programme if it comes from the government. This sort of thing works best from the bottom up. The best way to put an end to any positive talk about 1:1 programmes, in my opinion, would be to push it on people.

So what do I believe this money should be spent on?

  • The development of software and platforms that create a sustainable software stack that address New Zealand school children's concerns.
  • Enabling the schools to put in structures to develop a program. i.e. for the Manaiakalani project we have the Manaiakalani Trust that must have a certain amount in the bank to underwrite all of the netbooks.
  • Professional Development, Professional Development, Professional Development. If all you're doing with your computers is using a word processor, you're not really learning. I don't believe any school can do this on their own. We're lucky in that the people behind the Manaiakalani project keep looking around at other projects around the world.
I know, it would've sounded a little less grand saying "We'll enable schools to put together learning programmes around 1:1 devices" than "We'll give your poor kids computers!" but, it would have sounded well thought out. This is what is really missing from any policy I've seen during this election. 

None of them really reason things out and figure out what the government's involvement should be and all seem to be a bit of flash to gain votes rather than coming up with real policies that actually do something positive. Imagine it - an election where you didn't feel that you were just voting for a name rather than how much good you think they would do in parliament based upon what they're saying they're going to do. The number of times I've heard "What's the point? None of them keep to their promises anyway". I think I'd be horrified if they did..

Friday, November 18, 2011

Can You Say Farce?

New Zealand's elections are coming up! Brilliant! Time to kick National to the curb (Please on please don't vote National. That would be tragic).

Anyway, they're also doing a referendum on our voting system. What a crock! I just had a look at my voting papers and the information they sent out. For each of the options, the first sentence is "There are 120 members of parliament". Wow! Way to point out the differences in the different systems. If you look at the layout of the options in the informational leaflet, you can't help but think "It's not symmetrical". I can't help but wonder as to their reasons for the layout. For example, on the first line, MMP takes up 2/3's of the line, FFTP, 1/2. On the 2nd line, it's all Preferential Voting. The third line, a 50/50 mix of Single Transferable Vote and Supplementary Member.

Is this just a really bad case of someone trying to subliminally influence people's votes? Given the wording of NZ's last big referendum, "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?", it's easy to see an improvement. I'm not sure if I've said this on this blog, but I thought the question was stupid and designed to get a particular answer. i.e. It's pathos. If you don't agree with the question, you don't believe in good parenting.

So it's an improvement. However, given that we're being bombarded with irrelevant information and not really given the information we need to make an informed decision, I would argue that this referendum is just as irrelevant. It's no more than a complete waste of money.

Shouldn't there be some sort of check on this sort of thing?...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whoa!

I often find that posts about the number of hits a site is getting is usually a bit... well... self-congratulatory. But WHOA!

Last night.... A shocking 300 odd hits. Slightly more than the rest of the month (the 15 odd other days) in just one day.

The highest amount of hits we've ever had in a month is a little over 700. We're already up to 600...

I wonder... if I get enough hits, monetize the site, could I then buy a house? Failing that.... a coffee?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coffee

Hi All,

Went out for coffee with a friend. We informed the media. We talked about the cost of coffee, the service and the size of our wallets. Things got a little heated when I realised he expected me to pay for half of his soy milk - $0.25 but it's the principal of the thing.

It turns out someone recorded our conversation. Weird. Nothing was said that I would hide from others. Given that the media were around it'd be a stupid time to say anything we didn't want others to hear.

I have no money. I thought the coffee was good but not nearly as good as the coffee at the coffee cart down by Britomart. Service wasn't nearly as good as we could have hoped but that's typical of New Zealand cafes.

Of course, the media have watched horror movies too. They know the unseen is far scarier than actually showing what's hunting down the stupid teenagers in the forest. None of our conversation has actually been revealed. I'm starting to doubt it was actually recorded.

Come to think of it... I did say a little something about the waitress. Looked great in black, about a third my age. Perhaps it's better if that recording doesn't get out.

Note to self: Don't tell the media when going to a cafe.

P.S.
If you don't know what this post is all about... I'm rather pleased with how clever it is for reasons I'm not going to note. This is very much a New Zealand thing and probably only really relevant at this current time. Sorry if you're reading this sometime after I wrote it and am especially sorry if you're not living in New Zealand. Should've read it before I wrote it.

P.P.S.
This is completely fictional. A waitress 1/3 my age would be a little over 10. I haven't had a chance to go out for coffee with a friend for a little while now. I'm not sure the media would be all that interested in me going out for a coffee. It's normally me who has the soy milk. About the only thing that's true about this post is the lack of money.

Grace

I've been sitting here thinking about what I want to write. I have something in mind, but it's just not happening. I write a page of "stuff" and then end up deleting it because it's just not flowing. This all reminds me of me back when I was 16 and I had something I wanted to say. I was frustrated with something and really wanted to get it down in words. Anyway, it took me months to finally figure it out. It became a rather horrid poem which I'd actually gotten fairly good marks on. Yep... it became an assessed piece of work.

Anyway, part of what I want to write actually started almost sounding like grace. I'm sure I've said I kind of like the idea. If you could get rid of the references to a diety, I think it would be a whole lot better but that's just me. The problem with this is that it is full of "I" rather than the annoyance that's the imposed "we" you get when people are saying grace.

So here goes:

I am feeling anxious about my life. The idea that I've had to move back in with the folks (Oh - I moved in the weekend). I'm thankful that I'm able to rely on them. I'm a little ... embarrassed that things didn't work with the flatmate. Much as I'd like to blame someone else, I just don't think I'm the right flatmate for her.

I'm feeling lost without my own computer. I don't think I've been without a computer since.... 1999 when I moved to Christchurch and couldn't bring my computer with me.

I'm embarrassed to say that I ended up smoking again. I'm glad I've got the perseverance to see this more as a temporary setback rather than an indication that I shouldn't be quitting.

I'm resigned about the 5's. The 5 letter word "maybe" followed by the 5 month wait I think is going to be resolved by a lack of contact and I think I'm actually really quite good about it.

I'm actually feeling kind of connected to someone and although my shyness inhibits me quite a lot, I really am enjoying just spending a little time with her and being impressed by the passion she brings to what she does. One of those people who I really want to invite over for a meal. I hope I don't mess things up with my weird mixed signals which are a result of my shyness and my doubting myself.

I'm really happy that I'm surrounded by people who get it. School staff get to see some of the worst in people through the effect it has on their kid's behaviour, and oft times I go home ready to cry. And those are just the ones I'm aware of. So, I'm incredibly thankful I'm surrounded by other people who help make my anxieties not seem pathetic and who are at times as awkward as I am about these situations. Is it a good time to declare today "Teacher Aides Day"? Show your appreciation (actually, I don't really care what day this is done) for what they do and the emotional drain this puts on them and acknowledge the hideously poor rates they're paid. They really are a love over money people.

Baillie and Ian, are in DIY hell and having the carpet fitted on Monday (yay!). So I'm really happy they're buying a house which hopefully has a spare bed for when I visit after Christmas. I'm really happy I've got such cool friends. Not just Ian and Baillie, but ... well, you know who you are.

I've got to give a talk on Thursday though only to a small room full of people this time around. It's on the future of technical support for the Manaiakalani project. I'm not actually planning anything. Of course, at some stage, I have to put it down on this blog as there are quite a few people reading this blog who are interested. Here's hoping I don't seize up in a mumbling mess digging a toe into the ground and looking down saying "stuff", and what the kids have taught me, "fing" a lot.

Anyway, I think that's me. I feel.... kind of good after all of that. I highly recommend this.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Buying a New Computer

It's kind of interesting not having a computer of my own. I'm thinking about getting my old desktop going again. It's around 6-7 years old now so horribly under spec'ed but it might do for the time being.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what I would like from a portable machine.

Firstly, it must have decent battery life. That restricts me to 2 classes of processor:

  • Intel Atom
  • AMD Fusion
To me, the AMD's have an edge over the Intel Atoms. They're able to decide HD video streams. This is something I haven't been able to do with the Intel Atoms. At least, not the N270 nor the N450.

The other big reason to go for AMD Fusion over Intel is form factor. The biggest complaint about the netbooks is the size. Complaints such as "I can't get a netbook, my eyesight just isn't that good". But what if you don't need a hell of a lot of processing power, value the portability that long battery life offers you but want a bigger screen?

It turns out that Intel has a restriction on the devices that can be manufactured around the Atom processors. 10.2 Inches. If you exceed that, either you can't sell the device with the screen (such is the case with the Asus eee box).

The AMD Fusion though has no such restriction. This means you can get a full sized laptop, with a long battery life but slower processor, full sized keyboard and full sized laptop screen (15" or so...).

This has lead to all sorts of interesting reviews on the Internet. Because those laptops don't really fit well into either camp - ultraportable vs. laptop - they're usually reviewed as a laptop with not enough processing power (try Linux on it...) or an ultraportable (netbook) that's not all that portable (due to size).

Anyway, I went to buy an ultraportable (It still deserves this label as the battery life makes it usable for a goodly amount of time) laptop at PB Technologies. The last one in store. Anyway, turns out they couldn't find it. Such are stock control systems... 

Never mind - it's available at the same price from other places...

Anyway, I think the AMD Fusion processors will become the netbook processor of choice as it allows manufacturers a lot more options as to how they're built - size, added drives etc. Say goodbye to the Atom. It was good while it lasted, but seriously, if they're not going to offer the options, what's the point? Intel might as well give it up if they're unwilling to open it up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Demotivational Posters

Remember back in the 80's when people, mainly middle management, had posters on their walls that they'd constantly refer to as if those posters had somehow changed their lives? You kind of got the sense that you could do away with the manager and replace them with the poster.

They'd normally show scenes of something picturesque and have a single word underneath. And under that, in proportionally smaller text, there'd be some wanky quote.

They'd look quite good along the hallways of offices. A way to add a little colour.

Of course, it's incredibly hard, after seeing a lot of these, to take them terribly seriously.

Take the example here. What if the text were something along the lines of:

ACHIEVE
When you can't, fake it.

Suddenly, rather than a guy embracing the world around him, you see a guy trying to convince the world that the fish was "this big".

Taking something that someone found horribly motivating and turning it around is funny. It doesn't try to be anything that it's not. It's just not terribly motivational.

And thus, we have the demotivational poster. It's a response to something real. Something that people took seriously. It's not just a form factor. It meant something. It basically meant "Sod it, we're done with your manufactured sentiments".

But it's just a joke right? Well... no. It's a response to something. If you go looking for demotivational posters though, people seem to have completely missed the point. In a list of "the top 40" demotivational posters, I found around 7 odd that were actually demotivational posters.

Let's start acknowledging them for what they are...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wall of Shame

I really should follow my own advise. After months of asking people which courier company they'd be using when sending items my way and rejecting any that use any company of the Freightways group (New Zealand Couriers, Post Haste, Castle Parcels etc.), I found myself in a scenario where I wanted computer parts quickly and didn't go through the usual lines of inquiry.

Basically my hard drive died in my netbook. Well.... I was expecting it. So I figured, rather than a hard drive, I might throw in solid state drive instead. Hopefully it changes the user experience. Anyway, so I went online, checked out PB Technology and ordered online via credit card on Wednesday.

I then get an email the following day asking for a confirmation code.... on a credit card transaction? It turns out I needed to provide a 6 digit code which I would have to call up my bank for. Ring National Bank, answer the security questions, get a code. Asked about the code. It doesn't grant them any permissions or anything. It's just something their merchant system seems to want.

A few hours later I get another email from PB Technology saying that the code is wrong. Right. Ring the National Bank, answer security questions, get code. Ring PB Technology and give them the code as well as sending an email.

Friday - item gets handed over to the courier. Oh poo. New Zealand Couriers...

Tuesday, still waiting.

So on my wall of shame:

  • PB Technology. Why oh why do you have some weird requirement on something that the rest of the world can handle? Isn't the whole point of a credit card and online payments that things can happen seamlessly with no hassle?
  • New Zealand Couriers. Seriously. It can't be that hard! You're a courier company. Start acting like it! I've got an "investigation" going on it. An apology for the delay. Screw their apologies. I want the damn item! So much for "Point-to-Point". Closer to "Point-to-oh wait.... where is it again?"
  • National Bank. The guy I got the first time seemed confident and self-assured but gave me a completely different code from what it turned out to be. The woman I got the second time around was good and even went looking for the guy to find out what the hell he'd done.
So... almost a week since ordering. Brilliant...

Update: 11/11/11


So the solid state drive got delivered. Brilliant! I couldn't hold back my excitement. I was up till 1am that morning trying to get it working. It turns out that OCZ have a drive that won't work with most netbooks. There's an incompatibility between the drive and the chipset though they won't admit to the fault.

PB Technology, to their credit, offered me store credit or cash. So I exchanged the drive for an Intel one - 20GB smaller, but still, pretty damn cool. I got it into my netbook and had a 12 second bootup! Loved it. Anyway, the following day my netbook was dead :( D.E.D. Dead! The symptoms were that it would turn on though no output on the monitor or external monitor. Couldn't turn it off without disconnecting the power source - either plugged in or battery. Turns out this is indicative of a motherboard failure - $190AUS to replace (plus postage).

So anyway, while we're on the wall of shame...

  • OCZ - don't bother with 'em. They may offer the cheapest solid state drives on the market... but really. What's the point? If you can't trust that their gear is going to work with your gear and the company won't admit when there's a problem, it's just not worth the hassle.

Anyway, it turns out I'm now in the market for a computer of some description. My desktop is so out of date that I didn't bother taking it with me when I moved (there's an update on that - I'm about to do a post on it). The netbook is dead which was my highest spec'ed computer. So yeah... I'm now using one of the school's netbooks. This isn't a long term solution though...

Oh... and the fact that I spent $200 on the netbook only to have it crap out on me hasn't been lost on me... It's been a great week!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pecking Order

I was at a pub the other night having dinner after a failed meeting (the person was a no show).

Anyway, I'm sitting there and the person I'm with says to me "that girl over there keeps looking at you". Another couple of people joined us. A brother and sister pair. He then says something that I found a little strange at the time.

"Your pose is very aggressive like a gangster".

It wasn't until the following day that I realised what was going on. A friend had tried to explain the whole pecking order thing to me as exhibited in male humans (yes - I'm purposely being Sheldon like here). Actually, he was trying to tell me how to be higher in the order though I can quite honestly say - that's just not me. If you want to look like a douche, go right on ahead. I'm not going to fight for some position. It's classic though. I mean, an absolutely perfect example of someone trying to establish a pecking order.

The rules are simple - try and say something that puts the other person on the back foot but which they can't actually defend. What I find even more interesting was the fact that this guy perceived me as a potential challenger.

Anyway, about the girl. We invited her to the table and you can imagine what happened. He was on her like white on rice. He gave her his number though she very pointedly didn't give him hers. She left the pub shortly after.

So hey - I wasn't in the equation at all I don't think. But still - interesting seeing the whole pecking order thing in action.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happening

Those of you who know me personally may have noticed that I've been a little grumpy of late. I've been pretty much living at school (only ever leaving to go and do my laundry or get some sleep). I'm tired. Frustrated. And just generally feeling like I've got no options. Not a nice place to be.

So of course, I've been waiting for options to open up. Something's got to happen right? I mean, I can't really be expected to go on this way. What is more irritating is that at the moment I would probably have to accept charity to get myself out of this situation despite the type or work I do and the hours I put in. I don't think anyone has quite realised just how... frustrated I am. Okay, so one or two people have noticed. Basically a month of not having anywhere to relax. When everyone goes home after a day of screaming children, I'm still at school. Either keeping myself busy working, or, if I'm shattered, keeping myself entertained.

My big problem is a kitchen. I've always liked cooking and being in the kitchen. Putting together what are essentially compositions of food. Setting myself challenges (like finding a dessert that goes with a dry red wine for example). Trying to come up with the perfect 3 or 4 courses that just goes together perfectly. Finding ways of using whatever's in season. Poetry in action... Only with food rather than words (the right food in the perfect order). I had never expected this to have been a problem.

I was going to expand a little. I'm not a big baker. I'm pretty bad with things that I have to leave alone for long periods of time. Rice is almost always burnt. Cakes I just find frustrating (although the friands were just plain awesome!). So I was going to start doing breads. Things like ciabatta or white vienna. Perhaps even a 5 grain. I've even gone out and found myself an old 1970's Kenwood mixer.

If you think about it, we're gouged on bread. We're offered up horrible sponge like white things - spongy texture, no flavour. And we're charged a crapload for the privilege. If however, we were to take out some time in the morning to mix our bread and let it proof during the day, bake it in the evening, a much more interesting loaf of bread, normally sold for around $5, would probably cost us less than $1.50. And that's with sod all effort.

I was also going to try my hand at beer. I find the whole idea fascinating. How much honey would you put into a pilsner to get just a slight honey after taste? What things make it bitter? What sort of things give a beer it's character? It's just cooking except with a whole lot more patience needed. Speaking of character - have you ever tried Miller's lager? Apparently the idea of an American lager is to keep out any character thus not offending anyone. Horrible stuff. A great standard for what not to brew.

I found it interesting last week when people were talking about buying one of those Easi-Yo things. It's essentially 2 jars - one insulated and the other fits inside it. Here's a tip people - if you want to make your own yoghurt, never mind Easi-Yo. If you boil some milk (sterilise it), let it cool a little, chuck in some yoghurt (for the cultures so it needn't be a lot), put it in a covered vessel (something not air tight) and leave it somewhere warm and dark, in a day/couple of days you'll have yoghurt. Do it with cream instead and you end up with crème friache.

Never mind a bedroom. What I'm really after is a serviceable kitchen and somewhere to entertain people. Cooking for yourself is so much different from cooking for other people.

But my biggest thing about cooking? Being able to actually focus on actually cooking. If you've never gotten lost in the cooking and set off the smoke alarms and only then realised that you've generated a lot of smoke or finished cooking and gone to construct the dessert only to realise that the place is a complete sty and there's just no where to do it (the fridge often works in this scenario) then you're just not getting into it. I hate watching people who can't seem to focus on what they're cooking and would gladly sacrifice the food for washing up dishes or wiping down surfaces etc.

So I've got places I can read. And a place to watch TV (streamed on the computer). What I'm really lacking... somewhere I can invite people over and enjoy a good meal with. What better way to say thanks to people than to invite them into your home and enjoy a meal with them? Or to say "I appreciate you"?

It's going to happen. It's got to happen...

A Piece of Awesomeness

Wow! What a thrill! I got the blog today to find 2 all new posts. Brilliant. Love when things happen when I'm not around.

Anyway... At one of the schools they're doing a space inquiry. Brilliant! What do nerds love? And who made Linux? So there are some very cool applications (and some not so brilliant ones).

Celestia, the darling of the Linux space world I found to be kind of pretty but ultimately more trouble than it's worth. It's a bit hit and miss. Rendering issues where planet's aren't actually skinned and zooming issues when seeking celestial bodies make this just a pain in the classroom. Sorry teachers. It's basically a Google Earth for space and has A LOT of content so probably not so bad when looking further than our own solar system.

Stellarium is just plain awesome. Imagine being able to let your kids know what to look out for in terms of stars and planets that night. Brilliant!

One of the first things I found was a video. It's a little lame but, truth be told, I really enjoyed it. Even the silly little lame joke at the end. Starring M51 and Gizmo in "Half Baked Plan".

And finally, I was mucking around, and realised that this was the perfect opportunity to teach some kids to use GIMP. For those not in the know, GIMP is the "General Image Manipulation Program". It's kind of a poor man's Photoshop. And let's be honest, how many features of Photoshop do people really use? So, I've heard the kids say that GIMP is lame and they don't think it can do anything and it's only for touching up pictures.


I've been trying to come up with a way to get them interested. For no other reason than I think they could come up with some really interesting things in it. So the image above is an example of what I came up with. Basically a stylized planet on a starscape, with a flare effect. Absolutely none of it is drawn by the user and, a pretty clued up person could produce in under 5 minutes.

So I've spent much of this week going around classes teaching this stuff. I wrote up some instructions which I've had mixed results from. A lot that has been a result of approaches.

As a reading activity, I found it to be a bit of a fail. I'm not sure if this was a result of me being there, the instructions, or an inability of the kids to follow through instructions. One girl blew me away today with how well she did follow the instructions. The other class who tried this approach set it as homework and the bits that came back had me well impressed.

As a "follow along as a class" activity, this worked really well. The kids stayed attentive for around 1/2 an hour and were pleased with their results and had started to play with the possibilities by the time I left.

In smaller groups where I took a sole teaching approach - i.e. me teaching without a teacher - it was tiring. The first group, I had a little girl who stated she was "more clever" than any of the others and then just wouldn't keep up or listen. So eventually, when I got a poke in the shoulder and asked "What do I do now mister?" I turned around and said to her "Well... Do what you like. You're not listening to me anyway so why ask me now?". The 2nd group wanted to carry on and do more though I was trying to fit another group in and so had to move them on. The 3rd group excitedly declared I had been their best teacher all year! So after 2 groups today plus a class doing it as a reading activity, I'm feeling exhausted.

I already had a hell of a lot of respect for teachers.... but really... given that they've got the same kids day in, day out with the same conflicts and behavioral issues... it's emotionally draining. Life kind of takes a back seat to preparing lesson plans and marking tests etc. I reckon a bunch of flowers to the teachers at your local school, a packet of biscuits for their morning tea - just some sort of token of appreciation is in order.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Museo

Museo is the new Comic Sans MS, except it's a much better font, quality-wise. And it comes from the awesome foundry Exljbris, which has made the world better with Diavlo and Fontin and Delicious, Calluna. But it's becoming terribly common...

Museo Museo Museo... for those who don't know, we will need to introduce you. Your face has become famous, I gather, but your name?






Are your memories freshened? Do you remember where you have seen it? Any Aucklanders in the ranks?



I overdosed on that font

Museo seemed to be the dominant, if not official, typeface at The Cloud. Even before I stepped inside, I was assaulted by that typeface of oldie years. “Finally”, I thought, “the generic typeface was not made for children and misused since conception. Finally, it was forged by masters and wielded to perfection; before becoming common it was great, and it was born from love, not money.”

Museo is becoming common


But it still stands: the typeface is becoming common. And it shouldn't; no such font should. Why? Because it has Character. It is different from other generic fonts like, say, Arial or Helvetica, Times New Roman or Georgia. These are generic in their own right: they were quasi destined to become widespread. As such, they have ever-so-little uniqueness. The more type-aware of you will burst in a violent outcry at this: but before you do... yes — I know.「softly」 I know.

Museo is an incredible typeface. The uniqueness! The u! The u? Indeed... in most fonts and faces, it is the g which is most distinguished. Have a look:

Each font has its own character


Peer in closer and have a look at the lowercase Fertigo Pro...

But Museo... Museo! Museo has its U:


I smile just looking at this U. Like that: Ü hehehe. Beautiful fonts make me happy. But beautiful fonts are only beautiful if they are chosen to match, not chosen to flock.

So please: if you are choosing a font, look at the multiverses available to you. Subscribe to a typographic newsletter (the MyFonts one is quite accessible). Visit foundries. Attend workshops. Share the love for type.



Go forth and harvest kiwis — uh, fonts!
And if you must, if that font is perfect for you, if that font in that context makes you smile and softly hum to yourself: use Museo.