My birthday is coming (I have a cunning plan!!)

Next week is my birthday (Friday 19th). I’m not saying that to get attention, but to utilise that attention. We live in a Social Media age, and everyone uses that media to wish ‘Happy Birthday’ to all those they haven’t spoken to in years.

I have a cunning plan:

Please feel free to wish me a Happy Birthday on twitter or facebook (or anywhere else for that matter), but please, if you do, consider making a donation to World Vision to support their African Appeal that is currently on (if you want to donate to the New Zealand branch – I’m a proud kiwi – the link is here).

The way I see it, if every well-wisher gave a one-off $5 donation, we could definitely help some kids.
Now, this is an honesty-box style arrangement. No one will know if you actually give or not, but I figure 30-40 tweets and 20-30 wall-posts starts to add up to a much nicer sum than $0 (and it’s a lot cheaper than actually buying me a present!!).

So, please, think about it, and give a little. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Been biting my tongue, now I vent

I’ve been biting my tongue for a while, but I really need to vent finally. This is not about world hunger, or curing AIDS, or anything earth-shattering, but in its own small way it could be world-changing.

My issue is drivers who don’t know how to be courteous – now I don’t mean drivers who aren’t courteous (they’re just [insert bad words here], but that’s another issue) – I’m referring to drivers who TRY to be courteous, but don’t understand what they’re doing.

Example in point:

I drive along a long stretch of road every morning, at one point there is a road that many cars from the opposite direction need to turn across us to get into. Courtesy means that we occassionally pause to let them in. I do this often myself but, in my [humble?] opinion, correctly. My method is to slow down slightly approx 1km earlier (I don’t brake, I just ease off the accelerator), by going 5kmh slower than the vehicle infront of me a gap of a hundred metres or so is created by the time I get there (see whinges 2 and 3 below for how other drivers stuff this up), which allows a few cars to cross over and go on their way. The muppets that don’t know how to be courteous cause issues because they keep up with the car infront until the intersection, then slam on their brakes to give way and “be courteous”.

The issues with this:

  1. slamming on your brakes in busy traffic is NEVER a good move if it can be helped, you’re begging to be rear-ended.
  2. whenever you stop in traffic, it creates a flow-on effect for (potentially) hours to come. Studies have shown that this is why traffic jams build up [trafficwaves.org, innovations-report.com, iopscience.iop.org, Traffic Wave on Wikipedia]. This is why I use the slow-down technique, so that the traffic behind me keeps flowing at all times (albeit slightly slower).
  3. by stopping suddenly to give way, the driver you are giving way to has no warning and cannot be possibly be prepared (also see Whinge #3, below).
Whinge #2:

When I’m slightly slower than the vehicle infront of me, and allow a gap to emerge, I am often tooted at and then overtaken by muppets that feel I am slowing them down. Now, (a) they only manage to get about 10 seconds closer to where they are going; (b), they eliminate any chance for the opposing traffic to progress further; and (c) the overtaking is not done in the safest location for such a maneouvre.

Whinge #3:

When you are waiting for a gap to cross the oncoming traffic, BE ALERT! All too often the driver of the vehicle at the head of the oncoming queue is not paying attention. You flash your lights at them and finally they notice after half the gap is gone; then they take an eternity to put their car in gear and actually move, often just as the gap has become too small for them to safely make it. A gap that could have accommodated 2 or 3 vehicles, has now been wasted.

It’s the same with merging, don’t stop to let them in, just allow a gap for them to fit; and merging drivers, keep your speed up to MATCH the speed of the traffic you wish to join. Making them stop to let you in CAUSES accidents, it does not prevent them.

Basically, what I’m saying to people is, THINK about what you are doing. There are consequences and ramifications beyond what you can see (ie behind you, and in 10 minutes’ time). You can still be courteous, but be thoughtful about how you are. If you prepare to be courteous, and slow down a little, one vehicle can make it across. If even half of drivers drove like this, we would only need to let one vehicle across each. At the end of the day, that one extra car in-front of you will not make you late to where you’re going. Hitting snooze a fourth time will; allowing 20 minutes for a 30 minute drive will; talking on your cellphone and missing your turn-off will.

Here’s a video of how the fight between “cheaters” and “blockers” causes an exit-lane backup. And then, how one driver can unclog the jam:

I made it into Google+…first impressions

Today I finally got into Google+ after trying to catch the invite windows. I’d been sitting on 2 invites since day one, but never managed to hit registration when it was unlocked. Today that all changed, and now I get to experience what other techies have been on about.

My first impressions:

  • UI – an emphatic +1. I’ve already changed my gmail theme to ‘Preview (dense)’ because I love the clean simplicity and minimalism; beyond that everything is beautiful and make excellent use of HTML5, CSS3, and all those other web goodies to provide a beautiful interface.
  • UX – again, an emphatic +1. Here, I would have to use the word ‘graceful’ to describe their use of HTML5, CSS3, et al to provide an exceptional user experience. Nothing is in your face about its activity; but the more you look, the more you see.
  • Circles – I like this implementation of what many are calling Facebook Groups. Other than the lovely way of implementing your groups, the UI provides for much better control and understanding of both your own Circles, as well as the Circles that you have been added to. +1 from me.
  • Hangouts – the hangouts interface is smooth. An intuitive, clean interface that doesn’t beg for lots of assistance. It just gets down and does what it’s meant to do. I’ll have to wait til I’m at a real computer (with a web-cam), but then I’m all up for some serious testing of this.
  • Chat – pretty much just the same as Gmail Chat from my first look. That said, gmail chat is a good IM client anyway, so all good.
  • Photos – again, the interface is well implemented. I’ll need to have a decent play over the next few days, but I can’t say I expect to be disappointed at all.

It’s pretty obvious that the word-of-mouth surrounding Google+ and the features it is offering forced Facebook’s hand and made them bring forward the “awesome announcement” that they were integrating Skype into their framework. However, it already makes them look like they’re playing catch-up to Google+; as XYZ said the other day: “they aren’t the first to integrate video calling with social, MySpace did it in 2007, but now it’s the right timing for the product”. Google+ seems to have opened the gate first, if only by a couple of days. Facebook is already having to justify why their implementation is better (“most people only want to use person-to-person”).

The converse is also true though, as it seems Google+ is already fast-forwarding their Beta schedule and allowing more and more invites to be cashed in. This is possibly in response to Facebook’s moves; or, it could just be a response to public demand and the quality performance of Google+ internally for Google. They would much rather offer a schedule of months, and deliver in days or weeks, than the other way around. This is afterall the Google who still had gmail in beta 5 years after launch, but had been fully open to the public for 2 and 1/2 years of that 5 years (Wikipedia).

I’m going to be having a dive into the features as much as possible this weekend, I can’t wait. Here’s a vid:

My #FoursquareDetox

So, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed a bit of a review of self. Other than needing to get fitter and lose some weight, I realised that I was a bit too tied to some aspects of my social media-ised life. And my competitive streak didn’t help either. For this reason, I decided that it would be good for me to go on a #FoursquareDetox. What this means is that I have not checked-in with Foursquare since then (currently 12 days, as of the writing of this post). The funny part is, I was inspired/motivated/pushed to it by what I realised was over-use since I got my iPhone. This was highlighted to me when I spent a weekend messing with the v1 API for Foursquare, and checked in around the United States, parts of London, and even the Arctic Circle and the Pyramids. I’d gotten a bit too tied to having the most points amongst my connections, and grasping desperately to my mayorships (one I found was mine still as long as I checked in before 7:15am each day – that way I beat my opponent to the daily arrival and maintained my tenuous grip on it [very sad!!]).

Since the start of this #FoursquareDetox, I have noted it daily on Twitter (hashtag #FoursquareDetox) and I’ve noticed that this is pretty much the only time I think of it. I’ve even managed to already train myself to not grab for my iPhone as soon as I get somewhere. Benefits abound also, as my fiancee doesn’t need to roll her eyes at me constantly as I check-in to yet another location, and struggle to keep a tentative hold on my points lead (ah, yes, just another intangible collection of ‘0’s and ‘1’s for us to base our sense of worth on).

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Foursquare (in fact, I will resume check-ins again soon) however I have gained a new perspective on my level of commitment to the app. Interesting check-ins that actually mean something are still golden, but needing to have 1000 check-ins to my house or office is just a little on the need-to-be-committed side of the spectrum. I would say that this is also tempered by my residing in New Zealand, where there has been less of a communal/collective uptake of the game than places such as New York (where it was invented for, and is stil targetted at) or San Francisco (which is another thriving tech hub). Additionally, my detox is nothing to do with privacy concerns – where I check-in is generally public knowledge, and is information that 15 seconds on Google which acquire or be able to extrapolate (eg I spent 5 days at work this week; I was at home 7 nights this week; etc). Honestly, it pretty much came down to valuing my time, and wanting to be a little more productive.

tweet of the year

The lovely @five15design sent me a tweet earlier today that was full of flattery:

Why? You may ask, well here’s the reason:

I have to say I was feeling rather witty at the time!!

my first code submission!!

I finally submitted my first bit of code to the main SVN repository today. Absolute feeling of accomplishment, even though it was nothing special and is only for automated testing of the product. I guess the main thing was that I finally feel like I have done something here, rather than just sucking and absorbing things. That was based on a completed tracking sheet, and now I’m onto my own tracking sheet from scratch. I’m hands-on, head-first into the source code now. In terms of this next task, the pseudo code is only four lines at most, but there’s obviously a lot more to it in the end.

First step is just getting into the code and understanding what is going on there. I had a good rummage around and then got stuck into making something happen (or not happen in this case – I’m wanting to prevent some events). It should have been a 15 minute code effort, however my explorations into the code itself took a bit of time as I hunted out the bits I needed to refer to as well as the best place to implement my code (ie at certain button events, or as part of the confirmation/approval of various requests).

That’s done though, with approval and submission tomorrow morning; but, I’m definitely a lot more into the swing now and feeling like I’m actually getting my head into it and about to start contributing properly in the future. The first week is always the worst, with volumes of information thrown at you and no context for it. This week I feel like the context is being provided, so the information starts to have relevance and a life of its own.

New Year, new job, lots of new goings on…

I started my new role as Software Developer/Engineer on Monday. A very exciting start to the new year. A steady start to the pace with the first week or so set to be all about the induction process. I spent much of Monday and Tuesday meeting new people, going into meetings to get more information, and watching videos, reading PPTs, and reviewing LOTS of documentation. Today was more getting into looking at the actual product we make, and having an explore. Also starting automating some tests for it to get a bit of a handle on what it actually entails. So much to take in – not just the code (which I haven’t actually gotten into yet), but also the actually industry we are working for.

The company is Productivity Software, which supplies and supports a very large MIS for the printing industry. Most of my learning so far has been about printing, and the processes involved. All an integral part of understanding what we are trying to assist with and deliver for the clients.The office space I’m in great; it’s a big, open-plan, area with about 20 desks. Polished hard-wood floors, in an old warehouse-type building. Now it’s been refurbished and filled with advertising agencies etc. Very cool. I’m using a serious dev box, with a 64-bit OS running 8GB @ 2.67GHz on a 1TB HDD. The screen’s “only” a 30-inch widescreen LCD – hahaha!! Nice people to work with, very non-hierarchical and level, so anyone is happy to be asked questions and take the time to answer them. All-in-all a not unpleasant environment to be working as a developer finally.

Other than this excitement, I spent the last few weeks on Christmas holidays but stayed busy with planning and preparing for my upcoming wedding. It is absolutely amazing how fast the budget grows without even trying (and that’s just for the wedding itself!!), so if anyone wants to donate some cash this way it will be gratefully received [or stuff for the house too – I am more than happy to do a bit of product placement and “positive” reviewing here and anywhere else I can]. We’ve been quite well behaved and conservative with our planning and expenses for both the wedding and honeymoon (apparently we are running a wedding bill of between 1/2 and 2/3 of a normal wedding – depending on what a normal wedding costs…), and for kitting out the house, but it all still mounts up. Haven’t actually got a place yet, as there’s no point renting somewhere now, and anything we find now will be gone in a few months time (or if it isn’t, we don’t want it!).

Doing a bit of a surf on Etsy the last week or so also, and got very inspired to build some of our furniture myself; nothing too flash, but I’m going to be making some nice solid rustic bookshelves with concrete blocks and big slabs of kauri or other reclaimed wood, as well as some cute side tables for the lounge which will take a little of my wood-working skills to do (pics will be posted once made). One of these weekends I will be doing a bit of a cruise of industrial recycling yards to find some nice chunky units to refurb a little into side dressers and other furniture. I’m not just going for 2nd-hand, I’m going to be properly bringing them back to life – but they will definitely have character and a story to tell.

As part of starting the new year, starting a new job, and preparing for the next great adventure part of my life, I did a review of my eating and fitness habits (or lack thereof, ahem) and set myself some goals and some rules. For eating, I have got myself kitted out to take all the fixings for making healthy sandwiches at work for lunch (so much cheaper too!!) and I also have a supply of rice cakes for snacking, as well as finding some fantastic dried fruit bars that were also cheap (means I can have a week’s fruit supply without worrying about it staying fresh; and each bar is the equivalent of 2x minimum daily fruit intake requirement).

Also established myself a routine for walking at least every 2nd day, with plans to progress this to jogging/running pretty quickly [thanks to Rob’s blog post here -> @noozeeland]. Pulled out the weights bar, and setting up a dips block too. I’m definitely on a mission to get back to the old style lean Cameron – who knows, I may be actually able to be proudly flaunting abs on the beach soon.

I’ve got a few YouTube videos to post up as well, as I didn’t get any posting done while I was away – I really do need to get my iPad WordPress app configured ASAP – but I’ll do a separate post for them shortly.