Sunday, 30 September 2007

"Surely you won't...

... ride a bike again"? ask the people of a nervous disposition. "Yes, of course I will", is the answer. This was a beautiful warm weekend for the start of Daylight Saving, perfect for biking. But first, Saturday - Schroeder and I went to Lyttelton and set the boat up for the start of racing. We fitted the mainsail and sail cover, plus the sail controls, organised the sails and lifejackets inside the cabin, set up the fuel tank, and generally got ready to start sailing. The only thing missing was a vehicle with a tow hitch (Heather has our Toyota in Dunedin) so we didn't launch the boat and race; instead we watched the starts from the shore.

What does this have to do with bikes? When we got back to town at 2pm I biked to the library on my MTB, that's what. That went really well. After dinner I went to the pub and watched Canterbury lose the Ranfurly Shield (deservedly) to Auckland.

Today I decided to steel myself up to ride my Avanti Blade, the road bike I'd been riding when I was knocked off in late July. The bike is in perfect nick, and was still set in high gears, proving that I'd been travelling at speed when I was tapped from the left and catapulted onto a centre island. I straddled it and set off, sure that I'd feel nervous and timid, as I have when starting after previous crashes.

But no, I was fine from the start - my explanation is that because I was knocked out, my brain doesn't know that bikes and nasty pain go together. As far as my memory is concerned, it's "Crash? What crash?" Therefore, as far as my brain knows, there's no need to treat bikes with caution.

However, my rational part (my newly grown frontal cortex maybe?) has decreed that when I ride, my self imposed rules now include (a) no mp3 player/headphones, and (b) use footpaths and crossings at major intersections, especially after dark on the way home from the pub.

So I may bike to work on Monday. Watch this space...

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Are UC staff well paid?

Are UC staff well paid? Looks like it...

Spotted in the staff car park in front of our building this week was a mint condition 1985 Ferrari Mondial. Apparently this model is reliable and cheap to maintain - for a Ferrari. Anyway, it sure was pretty.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

But is it work?

I've finished work for the week - Thursday and Friday are taken up with a training course for Health and Safety reps from departments. I got coerced into "volunteering" by people from the AUS union, who want to ensure that union members are trained in this area, to keep the university administration
following the rules. All in a good cause, I guess - if I can stay awake.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Big night out

We're off to see Steely Dan tonight at the Westpac Arena. It's the last night of a long tour that began in May, so hopefully they'll pull out all the stops for this show.

Next morning - yes, it was a solid concert with a pretty good selection of songs. They even played "Haitian Divorce", my favourite.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Oh dear how sad...

I can't help that "Serves you right" feeling at times, and reading this story about Millie Holmes taking out a power pole definitely pressed my schadenfreude button. Young Millie really does seem to make a mess of things, though it's a shame that a nice Audi A3 was totalled in her latest bungle.

And on a macro level, it's yet another occurrence of a young woman texting while driving; I don't care if she was reading or writing, it's just dumb.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Tributes to Teds

I've been link-hopping around the web finding stuff about Ted Nelson, the (maybe) originator of the concept of hypertext. I've been interested in Nelson since the 80s, but his Xanadu project seems to always be "almost ready" - though his ideas are very influential. Like this:

Intertwingularity: When Ideas Collide
Nelson himself gave a wonderfully wide ranging, yet somehow all-connected, lecture on the occasion of his 70th birthday earlier this year. The talk is available in little chunks on YouTube, starting here.

Googling around for "ted" also brings you to, where you will find numerous video clips of inspiring speakers giving 20 minute talks. With topics grouped under headings like Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, Culture, Arts, Global issues, it's a bit of a time trap. Bring lots of bandwidth and spare time, you'll be here a while! I've been totally absorbed in the talks about how the mind works, by world famous psychologists and linguists such as Dan Gilbert, Barry Schwartz, and Steven Pinker. There are several talks by Dan Dennett too, I've been saving them for a rainy day.

Monday, 17 September 2007

There and back

We had a nice weekend in Auckland, though we didn't visit a bunch of people we should have seen (sorry Chris'n'Jools, Gary, & others) but it turned out that I wasn't great at spending lengthy periods standing, which is what city life requires quite a lot of. So we did things in 30 minute expeditions.

We drove places, though, like One Tree Hill on Saturday afternoon. I hope to have a nice panorama assembled in the next day or two. In the meantime, here's Heather and me being tourists - photo by Logan.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Trouble with texting

Whether or not the kids who died in a car crash last weekend were texting while driving, I see it every day as I drive to and from work. In rush hour traffic on Bealey Ave, with stop-start queues and lane-dancers leaping from gap to gap, there's a better than 50% chance that any young woman in a hatchback will be texting as she drives. And I don't mean reading text messages, they are typing them - with occasional glances through the windscreen, but never a look in their mirrors. A few days ago I saw a car in Harper Ave which runs through Hagley Park, drift left into the parking lane (whick luckily was free of parked cars) before the driver looked up from her cell phone and swerved back into the lane. No wonder the roads of Christchurch are full of broken taillight glass.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Off to the big city

Auckland, here we come. Well, on Friday afternoon, back Monday afternoon. Good fun! There will be photos.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

House for sale - still

Today was our last open home, for a while at least. We haven't been getting much interest, so it makes sense to put the sale on the back burner and just wait and see if anything develops. We'll take the sign down, and stop the open homes, but leave the web listing. If people are interested they'll find it on the web, or the agents will mention it as a possibility, and they can bring any potential buyers for a look.

While the house was open for viewing, we went for a drive and had lunch at a cafe. The old steam tug Lyttelton was out celebrating its centenary, and I managed to get a nice shot of it steaming past Purau Bay.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Back to the real world

Well, as real as a university department can be. Next week I'll start back doing full days and see how I last. I suspect I'll be OK but I may have some very early nights. We held a very successful Open Day at UCTL yesterday, which hopefully has raised our profile somewhat around the campus.

Today our usual group of IT and UCTL people went for our Friday lunch at the Staff Club - but instead of the stodgy old $9 roast we were presented with a terrific array of tasty cafe style food, served smartly and pleasantly. The meals cost a dollar or two more, but it's worth it. I had a Caesar salad for $12, and it was one of the nicest I've ever had. Others had individual beef pies, ploughmans (bread, pickles, cheese) and so on - a huge improvement from the new catering contractor. We enjoyed it so much that we all had a second drink, and several had dessert.

Next Friday afternoon Heather and I fly to Auckland for the weekend, returning on Monday afternoon. Michael's 60th birthday in Fern Flat has been called off for health reasons, but as we had the tickets and free accommodation in downtown Auckland with the Mosses, we though we'd carry on anyway. Auckland will feel like a foreign country, anyway - it usually does.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Busy times

Wouldn't you know it, we seem to have some unexpected bugs after our installation of AP2 and its bug-fix. Internet Explorer 7 is being weird about uploading files; wouldn't you test a web application with IE first, out of all the web browsers on the market?

We have a UCTL Open Day on Thursday, with a guest speaker from Australia and a staff dinner to finish. Luckily because of my recent absence I wasn't included in the list of events, but Jess will be doing her clickers demo again.

In the meantime, we're looking at ways of hooking up with secondary schools via their videoconferencing setup, and delivering extension teaching. Great fun! Oh, and I'm compiling a list of requirements for our ongoing LMS needs in the future. All in all, it's enough work to keep us out of trouble.

And the Staff Club's new caterers start operations tomorrow - about time!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Working on a Sunday?

At work at 8am on a Sunday? Yes indeed, that's life in the system administrator game. Jess and I arrived at work at 8, put on a pot of coffee, then shut down the Blackboard server and installed Application Pack 2, followed by a Hotfix with bug fixes. Jess did the actual installs, while I checked the details and monitored the database server.

The install took nearly 30 minutes checking the database for errors in some records, then the rest went quite quickly. Once the two packages were installed, I then copied over the files to construct the custom login page and customised those. (I'd practised this on our development server during the week.)

The "new and improved" login screen that Blackboard users now see.
You wouldn't believe how complex the steps were to enable this simple change!

By 10am we had everything running, and we left feeling very relieved that we had not had the problems some other universities encountered with these two installs. Some systems would not restart or accept logins, while others even lost entire courses.

The improvements in AP2 for the staff and students are many and varied, also with quite a few changes to make life easier for the poor old administrators; adding a user to many courses at once, for example. Why we couldn't do this from the beginning I will never know, but it's nice to know this bane of our lives has been fixed.