Saturday, 30 September 2006

Messing about in boats

Boat preparation went pretty well today. We wire brushed some minor rust spots on the trailer and painted them with a chemical preventative. Then I sanded and painted patches where the hull needed a touch-up; the entire transom which had been in the sun, plus patches along the sides where we've rubbed on the pontoon. So the hull looks very smart, and the trailer should get a warrant without problems. The only worries are the actual wheel disks - the bits that hold the wheel studs, that the outside wheel & tyre bolt to - they have quite a lot of surface rust, and we couldn't really do much with them.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll put up the mast and try the spinnaker for size. We can locate the blocks for the spinnaker sheets, then it's just a matter of drilling and bolting the fittings to the decks. I want to tidy up some paint in the cockpit before we finish, and the woodwork will be a project for the evenings next week. Then we can go sailing, and learn to handle the spinnaker.

Bye bye wi-fi

So much for wireless. My Mac laptop chose yesterday at the eFest conference to lose its connection to the wireless antenna - which is in the screen, so I suspect something's broken at the hinge. I could get intermittent connections yesterday, then nothing - dead. So yet again it will visit the workshop - I think it's got to the "throwing good money after bad" stage, personally.

Thursday, 28 September 2006

Posting from afar

I'm currently sitting in a session at a conference in Wellington called E-Fest - it's the e-learning conference for the Polytech sector, but with a heavy involvement by the Ministry of Education. The brilliant thing is that I have free access to Wellington's CafeNet - city wide wi-fi! I can do email and blog posts from inside the Town Hall!

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Weather or not

What's the Southern oscillation up to? Will it be an El Nino summer? Or is it an "El Ninyo" the way some reporters now say it - I thought that was reserved for the opposite swing, "La Nina", or so my Spanish speaking informants assured me. It's become a usage like "ser-vie-ickal" cancer or "kill-ometers" - if it sounds peculiar it must be correct.

NASA reckons the Earth's getting warmer than ever.

It looks like sailing's a better option than skiing at this time of the year. I had been hoping for a last day spring skiing at Mt Hutt but maybe that won't happen.

Dunedin photos here. Photos of Moeraki too.

Saturday, 23 September 2006

Gone south

We're in Dunedin for the weekend; drove down from Chch Friday evening, and made good time. We had a rather ordinary meal in a pub in Oamaru on the way, but KFC would have been nicer. The main purpose of the trip is to set up Elaine's new PC - really an ex-Uni Compaq P2, but better than her present Digital 3000. The old machine doesn't talk to my USB stick, so it will be floppy disks for data transfer! Otherwise I may resort to Gmail to move the files, but over 56K dialup that might take a while.

I want to visit Jim Guthrie a couple of times over the weekend too, hopefully get out and about to do a few things with him. And there's Owen Cambridge to visit some time - probably for a teatime beer and chat. We haven't had a good look around Dunedin for a while so it will all be interesting.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

For those who love freedom

That phrase is Bush code for "Those who agree with me" - the same people who ban stem cell research, want to repeal the First Amendment's separation of religion and politics, teach creationism, and ban books that contain unsettling ideas.

2006 BBW; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to FreedomThe American Library Association is holding a Banned Books Week to expose this vestige of fascism. Here's a list from their web site.

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2005” reflect a range of themes. The books are:

  • “It's Perfectly Normal” for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;

  • “Forever” by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;

  • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;

  • “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;

  • “Whale Talk” by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;

  • “Detour for Emmy” by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;

  • “What My Mother Doesn't Know” by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;

  • Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;

  • “Crazy Lady!” by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and

  • “It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.

Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the Alice series of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Busy busy busy

A busy couple of weeks coming up. We go to Dunedin on Friday night, to visit Heather's sister Elaine and other old mates - notably Jim Guthrie and Owen Cambridge. We'll take Monday off to drive home. Then it's work for Tuesday and Wednesday (with a big training course Wed pm).

After that I'm on a 6.45am plane for Wellington Thursday morning, for two days at E-Fest. And a night in Wellington, I haven't done that for a while. I'll catch up with Cam after work on Friday; he'll drive me to the airport and we can have a chat while waiting for my flight. I know this is peanuts for those business travellers who spend their days in Koru Clubs, but it's quite enough for me.

The weekend after that, 10 days away, will be flat-out boat maintenance, weather permitting.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Sailing season is coming

Sailing approaches
Today Mark Schroeder and I dropped the mast and brought the yacht home for some pre-season tidying. I'll touch up some paint and woodwork, and we need to fit the blocks and sheets for the spinnaker. I may also make new seat tops for inside the cabin; the old ones are chipboard and moisture hasn't been kind to them.

Saturday, 16 September 2006

Mathematics and Computer Science building, University of Canterbury

Mathematics and Computer Science building, University of Canterbury
Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald.

This building is architecturally exciting, both inside and out. The higher mathematicians live in offices at the top of these towers, reachable only by stairs from the highest lift-serviced level.
Ever looked around the labour-intensive processes being carried out at a polling booth on election day, and thought that technology could help? Maybe it can, but don't buy Diebold voting machines! Some Computer Science students at Princeton have made a video about how easy they are to crack.

Photos again

Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald.
Testing again - this time I was in Flickr, and clicked "Blog This" - entered a few details about the blog (address, usercode, password), and whizzo! Photo posted.

Now I'll try something better, as that example is a rather ordinary photo. I'll be pleased when Safari's next update is released, it will be able to run the wysiwyg Blogger composer/editor.

Friday, 15 September 2006

One step forward...

Several steps, really. Today we had a farewell morning tea for the 9-month-old Educational Technology Services division of the IT Dept, as we are all scattered to the winds. Workrooms Group stay more or less intact, but join the now-huge Customer Services division. Audio Visual join Facilities Management, along with the mailroom and plumbers.

And Bill and I join UCTL - where we acquire a programmer/developer (who will maintain the CCE's Interact system while we decide what to do) and a multimedia developer from CCE, plus a video production guy, and an Educational Designer - Derek, who's been seconded to do WebCT training through the transition. We then hire a second WebCT admin, which will free me up for more investigative new-technology stuff. It's a shame I'm a bit of a cynic about stuff like this, but at least it means I won't go overboard. So we have an e-learning unit at long last. Dispersed across three buildings on two campuses a kilometre apart, for now.

I started planning for a week in Sydney, 2-8 December, attending first the annual Ascilite conference, followed by a conference about LAMS - a visual Learning Activity Management System. Heather will come till the Wednesday then she has to get back for the last two days of the term. I'll have the following week at work then we go on summer holiday to Golden Bay, and stay till almost Christmas. It's a tough life. We'll do a bit of eating, cycling, and sailing over Xmas-New Year, then I'll go back to work to get ready for a new teaching year with a new learning management system, and a new work environment. It helps keep me young...

Approaching NW gales permitting, we want to go for a bike ride in the morning - up the hills to the Sign of the Kiwi, and maybe further.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

Experimenting with photos

Here's a link to a Flickr photo:


Did that work? What did Blogger do to the size?

That's great, I can just put photos on Flickr and link from here - no need to upload to Blogger separately. I can just resize their display size to 400 wide and they fit the page perfectly.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

When in doubt, reorganise...

Because many people, especially high up the management chain, don't know the difference between change and progress, a restructuring will always be an attractive option. We will be moved into a new administrative structure in early December.
  • Where will we be located? Don't know.
  • Will I still look after the WebCT and Turnitin budgets? Don't know.
  • What role will the transferred CCE staff have in looking after UC staff? Don't know.
I suspect I'll remain in this office for a fair while yet, though the IT Dept scavengers are circling. They all want my office because I've made it look nice - the one next door is identical but they all like mine better. Maybe I could auction it on Trademe.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Big day at UC

Late this morning we hear the final decisions regarding the fate of the IT Department. Effectively it is being gutted, and expected to do more with fewer staff. Many jobs will disappear and people will have to re-apply for positions. In some areas there just are no positions - e.g. student workroom support. My job is OK, though it looks like I'll be moved out from IT to our staff development unit, UCTL. The intention is to form an e-learning unit. However, if budgets don't follow me, how can I renew WebCT licences, investigate new technologies, etc? We'll know by lunchtime. Watch this space...

Well, the department is basically stripped of anything that's not core IT business. AV, e-learning, phones, maybe printery, which is yet to be decided, have all been removed. When I started at UC in 2001, they'd just finished a massive restructuring which brought all these IT-related areas into a single department. Now we strip them all out again - the wonders of modern management.

Amazingly, e-learning has done OK out of the final plan; we get a second WebCT administrator. It's been more and more obvious over the last year or so that at peak times one person can't keep up with admin, let alone train staff. Add the complication of WebCT 6's slower admin workflow and we'll really need two of us, especially next January-February. There is no mention of any e-learning advisers, though, so we're going to have to find them some other way.

The IS group have all been reorganised, so all their jobs are up for grabs - what chaos! All this is to happen before Christmas. No mention of details yet; budgets, physical location, names, all have to be sorted out. We may stay in our present offices for up to a year yet, but spend our days walking back and forth to UCTL. Oh yes, UCTL is now going to be reviewed, as its composition and purpose has changed drastically. It's a great time to be a consultant...

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Sunday musings

Hey, Christians! You should dress your kids in Armor of God PJs at bedtime. They'll love the warm feeling they get from having "Righteousness" emblazoned across their chest, and "Salvation" on the headgear.

A quick Google search for "christian merchandise" gives a scary selection of sites. One place sells lots of t-shirts, another has stuff imported from the Holy Land, such as Dead Sea Skin Care products.

My favourite items from that place are the laser engraved rocks from the River Jordan. Here is a "Christian Holy Rock from the Jordan River in olive wood Box." (Don't ask me why Box is capitalised, maybe it's a holy relic too.) It can't be a fake though, because it comes with a certificate.

I just hope these souvenirs from the Holy Land are checked for body parts and human tissue before exporting. We don't want our relics to be THAT real!

You can also buy "Breast Cancer Awareness Angel made from real stained glass, boxed with suction cup", Christian and Jewish software, and zillions of bible covers, colouring books, and "The Confident Woman: Start Today Living Boldly & Without Fear, By: Joyce Meyer". So get out your wallets and get yourselves some salvation! Otherwise you'll be left behind when The Rapture happens. Seriously.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

AP1 and other acronyms

A weight off the mind, with the long awaited installation of Application Pack 1 and a major patch, on our new(ish) WebCT 6 system. It all went smoothly, in 2 hours, including a database backup. I did full tape backups last night as well. Major upgrades are always a bit fraught, but having a duplicate test system is a great help. Practice makes perfect...

Now we have to see what the update can do. One I've already noticed is in the Discussions tool - blogs and journals!

Thursday, 7 September 2006

The week at work - and thoughts about bikes

Lots happening, with training courses, Derek away for a few days, and an impending major upgrade to AP1 on Saturday, but it's under control. Mostly. Though there have been moments this week when I've stopped and thought, "Wow, look at all the things I've done in the last hour." Never mind, it keeps me young. (Hollow laughter.)

In the middle of this, we've also set up SQL Server backup schedules (thanks to Chris from IS) arranged next month's training, had a team meeting, and eaten lunch. After lunch I did about three hours straight of email; as fast as I answered one, another arrived. Eventually I did something educational, checking out the question database in a new course. Busy busy busy...

Heather's been off work for three days, feeling generally crappy and with no appetite or energy. It's probably due to some new anti-cholesterol medication, so she's stopped that, and went back to work today feeling a bit better - though she's still not feeling too flash.

.::: ABOUT BIKES :::.
Alice had her trusty old Scott bike stolen last week, and has decided to buy (subsidised by an early Xmas present), a Sarah Ulmer Brand SUB LIME 1.0 - pretty similar to Heather's Specialized Sirrus and my Avanti Blade. Now we all have lightweight hybrid sports bikes with 700c wheels - is there a trend here? Two of my workmates have bought Blades, and they're just as happy with them as I am with mine. For sealed road riding, city and country, they're the best type of bike by a country mile.

However, if I had to have one bike only, I'd buy a top of the line hard-tail mountain bike for durability, and put slick kevlar-lined tyres on it. That would work well in the city and the country, though at a reduced speed. City riding is tough on a bike - kerbs, glass, other bikes and stuff bash into a bike, so a well set up MTB with touring carriers and mudguards is really the most versatile way to go.

As I have a basic MTB for the occasional rough trip or a Sunday at Bottle Lake, I have the best of both worlds - but the hybrid commuter bike does a steady 25 km/hr with very little effort on city roads, when 20 is a realistic average on MTB width tyres, and that does matter. On a sunny Sunday, out in the countryside with the mountains shining away in the sun, and the countryside spinning by under your feet, the lightweight skinny-tyre bike is the king of the world. Even when loaded for touring, as here, it's easy to spin along.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Back with Mac

My Powerbook's back in action, sitting wirelessly on my dining table. I have to reinstall half a dozen applications, but no big deal.

This Blogger editor in Safari is a bit odd - Blogger is set to show the wysiwyg editor, but it doesn't appear when I edit a post. Some research is required. Later - that was easy, Safari will support this in the next version.

We walked around the Magazine Bay marina in the weekend. The late winter light was nice, even if the marina's a bit empty.

I'm editing this in Firefox now, and the editor is much nicer in wysiwyg mode.

Monday, 4 September 2006

The Reincarnation of Mac

Mac is getting a $110 disk drive - but no CD/DVD - and will live to surf the net again. He'll continue as my second work machine.

A good step at work today - WebCT CE6 Application Pack 1 and its update patch are installed on the development server. I have applied to do the production server on Saturday morning. It adds a bunch of features, but I haven't had time to try these yet.

The Mac's dead hard drive - made by Toshiba.

Sunday, 3 September 2006

More about Mac

Alas poor Mac, I used him well. At what point do you stop throwing maintenance dollars at a laptop? My 12" PowerBook is only 2.5 years old, but it has been back & forth to work almost every day, half the time by bike. (Though in a well padded bag designed for laptops.)

A new hard drive is only $110 (at University workshop prices) but a CDR/DVD combo drive is $500! $340 for the drive and $160 to fit, apparently the machine has to be disassembled to change drives. I have decided that I really don't need a Mac at work - I always have access to one for special one-off tasks anyway, and I can use VNC to do remote support for Macs from my PC. An added factor is that the extra desk space the Mac occupied is really helpful.

So this opens up other choices; I think I'll buy the dead Mac at a seriously good price, get a new hard drive and basic software, not bother with the optical drive, and bring it home to live permanently in the kitchen/dining area. Without the need to carry a laptop back and forth to work, I can dispense with a large shoulder-bag and just use one pannier on the bike. And besides, if any item of work electronica needs replacing, it's my PDA - I actually use it more than the laptop. The PDA's audio section has stopped working, and a calendar without beeps is no use.

Something like this would be nice.