Saturday, 30 May 2009

Cyclists and motorists

This picture shows a Christchurch driving habit that is greedy, stupid, and dangerous. For some unknown reason, drivers think that a left turn will go better if they move to the left side of the road well before the corner. Of course, they block cycle lanes and cause all sorts of confusion among the drivers in the lane beside them, and they don't get to the turn any earlier.

There is another left turn variant that's just plain pushy and greedy; instead of staying in the lane and turning left at the corner, people sneak up and use the cycle lane as a left-turn lane.

This next one is great - the car is being driven by a learner, with a driving instructor in the passenger seat! They train them to be "me first" drivers right from the start in Christchurch.

This shows the answer - it's a cycle box, using a system first started in Copenhagen and in many cities in the US. They are also called Advanced Stopping Lines in some places. There's no mistaking where the cars and bikes belong with this arrangement. There are very few bike boxes in Christchurch, though - this one is down the block from the Engineering Department at the University, which may just be a coincidence. Or not.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Change is good

Taking a lead from the chaotic Christchurch Airport upgrade, and their smiling man in a hard hat telling us that "Change is Good" (am I the only person to detect a whiff of Orwell in that slogan?), I changed the blog template last night. The header is now a cropped photo of the Fritz Range taken from Pioneer Hut, on the Fox Glacier nevé.

I'm still fine tuning the fonts and colours so it may change some more - but that is good.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The truth about documentation

Question from a well intentioned network admin on Slashdot;

"Three years ago I was appointed as a network manager to a barely functioning MS-based network. Since then I've managed to get it up and running — even thriving — but have been guilty of being too busy with the doing of it to document the changes and systems that were put in place. Now as I look back, I'm worried that I am the only one who will ever know how this network works. If I get hit by a bus or throw in the towel for any reason, I'd be leaving behind a network that requires some significant expertise to run. Ultimately, this won't be a good reference for me if they are trying to work out technical details for years to come. It looks like I'm going to have to document the network with all sorts of details that outside consultants could understand too (no, I don't want to be the outside consultant), especially since it's likely that my replacement will have less technical expertise (read 'cheaper'). Are there any good templates out there for documenting networks? Is anyone who has done it before willing to share some experiences? What did you wish your predecessor had written down about a network that you inherited?"

The most rational answer;

"Short answer: don't worry about it too much. Put together enough that it looks like you've done something then go have a beer.
You could have the most amazing docs the world has ever known - with passwords and clear instructions - and the odds are about 20% that the next guy will even read them.
The next guy will figure that he/she knows much more than you as evidenced by the fact that they are there and you are not. And, the cheaper they are (read: inexperienced) the more likely this is to be the case. When things go wrong, they will blame you anyway.
So document away, but for YOUR sake so that if/when you are called in after the new guy horkens everything, you can have an easy time putting it all back together. But don't wait for the call... people will put up with almost anything when pride is on the line.
And go have a beer."

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A week of it

Rain, that is. We've been in a constant south westerly flow, straight from the Southern Ocean, with a rainy front every few hours, and scattered showers in between. It's Invercargill weather, I explain to my Christchurch-centric workmates. We don't see much of it up this way.

We showed our stoicism in the first week of serious winter weather by:
  1. Switching on the nightstore heater in the hall.
  2. Going to the Kathmandu outlet store and purchasing more thermal underwear (my old stuff comes from Wanaka days, 15 or more years ago).
  3. Buying a new oil column heater for the kitchen. I'm not sure why...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

On we go

I've enjoyed the last two days at work; I think I've got a rough idea of what I'm supposed to be doing as team coordinator, at least on a day to day basis. I'm making a point of visiting people at random to say Hi and chat about their issues, which I hope will keep me in touch. We have so much to do in formulating policy and setting directions, though - and that's the hard part.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The weak end

One week of being team coordinator and I'm pooped - I guess I'll adjust.

Heather and I got quite a lot done, including two visits to Bunnings, so I guess that counts for something.

Does that sound stupid? Sorry...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Perth photos

Our Perth photos are finally on line - I should have taken more statue photos, the public art in Perth is really great.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Home again

Returning from Perth is a lot easier on the body clock than going there - though most of the difference was due to a civilised start time (3am is not a good time to start your day), and a shorter transit time in Sydney. We were at Perth Airport at 8.30, and had a second breakfast about 9.45, before our flight left at 10.15am. (We decided not to buy food on board our Virgin Blue flights, as the quality is pretty ordinary and the choice is limited.)

The flight to Sydney was fairly crowded, but it went smoothly and we landed at 2.15pm Perth time, or 4.15pm Sydney time. The 2½ hours before the flight to Christchurch passed quickly; the transit to the international terminal and other arrangements took up the first hour, then we spent about 30 minutes in the duty free shop, followed by a nice Asian stir-fry meal at one of the airport cafes.

The next flight was less crowded, and we watched some TV show videos on my laptop, read and snoozed, and were in Christchurch just on midnight local time. Our Perth body clocks said that was 8pm, and we were through customs and home in fairly good nick, though still a bit weary from the travelling, at 1.30am NZ time.

The temperature change was expected, but still rather extreme - we have gone from 27oC in Perth, to 21oC in Sydney, to a rainy 4oC in Christchurch!

Friday, 8 May 2009

On the way

On Thursday morning we checked out of our hotel and met Heather's niece Jacinda, who drove us to their house in East Perth, not far from the city centre. The house looks modest from the street, but it is lovely inside, with open plan living and an enclosed deck and spa pool at the rear. At present they have some noisy and messy construction happening next door, but that will soon be over.

Anyway, that doesn't matter, as soon they will be renting out the house for 14 months while her husband David, who is an engineer in the oil business, works on a contract in Karratha, in the northwest of the state. After that, they will return to Perth with their two children, Holly (8) & Giles (4) and they hope to start building on a section of land they've bought, one hour south of the city.

Jacinda left her hairdressing job last Friday, and today is David's last day with the oil engineering firm he's been working for in Perth; he starts at Karratha on Monday, so it will be a busy weekend while he gets ready to move. Jacinda and the kids will join him when the school term ends, and they've organised the house for renting.

David's work has taken them to some interesting places in recent years; they've lived in Brisbane, Switzerland, Chile, and probably several others that I've forgotten.

We spent yesterday afternoon biking around the Swan River, on a great network of cycle paths, and today we have nothing planned, so we'll probably just wander about the central city for a while, as I haven't really seen it on a working day. Tomorrow we fly out at 10am Perth time (2pm NZ), spend 2 or 3 hours in Sydney airport, then fly home, arriving about midnight - to a chilly weather forecast, with snow to low levels and cold southerly winds! It looks like winter has arrived, while we've been wandering around in shorts and sandals in 28 degree temperatures.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Over and out

The Australasian Educause conference is over, and it was excellent. I'd guess about 2/3 of the sessions I attended were worth while, which is a better hit rate than the usual for such gatherings - certainly a higher quality than the Ascilite conference in Melbourne last December. The food and entertainment was top class, too.

Jess flies home in the morning, and Heather and I will then pack and go to her niece Jacinda's place for two nights, before flying back on Saturday. Tonight we've explored East Perth and found a charming waterside development with several restaurants. We had an excellent meal at The Royal on the Waterfront, then a leisurely stroll around the new housing at Claisebrook Cove, a showcase for the East Perth Redevelopment Authority.

Urban redevelopment at Claisebrook Cove, Perth

Monday, 4 May 2009

Day One

The first day of Educause in Perth was pretty good; there were a bunch of welcomes from the Aboriginal people, Perth's Lord Mayor(ess), dignitaries from associated groups (e-learning directors, IT directors, university librarians), and a really interesting and humorous opening keynote address from Prof Arshad Omari, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Edith Cowan University, who outlined all the stupid stuff that goes on with IT systems in universities.

For the rest of the morning I attended presentations on assisting staff to produce quality online learning. At lunchtime Jess won a 4GB SD card at a trade stand's chocolate wheel, then she and I scored nice caps from Sun Microsystems - they're soon to be a collector's item now that Sun's been taken over by Oracle.

Then I went to some interesting sessions on strategic and institutional issues, finishing with a dry but worthwhile talk on student support in e-learning. All in all, it was a well worthwhile day sitting on my chuff taking notes. The Perth Convention Exhibition Centre is a spectacular venue, but I'll leave further description till I have some photos.

Heather met me after this and we did some city touring by bus, then back for a beer and a rest in our hotel room. This evening we'll go and find a meal somewhere interesting, maybe one of the bar-restaurants down by the Swan River jetties.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The longest day - Christchurch to Perth

Perth is a long way from Christchurch! We were up at 3.15am and were heading for the airport at 4, for our 6am flight to Sydney.
Heather and Jess having 5am coffee
That was quick and easy, and even the immigration and customs was quick, in spite of huge queues. Heather and I were pulled out of the customs line and told we could go - I think we've reached the harmless age. It reminded me of the James McMurtry song "Paris",
"When you land in Paris, and they wave you right through,
Though your passport picture doesn't look much like you,
They don't look at your luggage, they don't look at your face,
'Cause you pose no danger and you're such a disgrace
. . .
It's nothing you can see, it's nothing you can tell,
But you pose no danger and man they can tell."
Then followed four hours of sitting and reading in Sydney's domestic terminal, before a four hour flight to Perth.
No doubt about which domestic terminal we were in.

Leaving Sydney

Adelaide from 38000ft

After passing above Adelaide, we were over the sea for the second half of the flight, and then we found the West Australian landscape a real mystery, with rows of depressions, some filled with water and some dry and salty-looking. I need to investigate just what these are; man-made from mining? Or are they natural features?
Google Earth view of the WA countryside; the circles are salt pans which are natural features, but they are spreading as a result of deforestation and irrigation.

We arrived at Perth at 3pm local time, 7pm by our body clocks, and checked in to our hotel (nice), went for a walk by the Swan and looked at the Swan Bells (very nice building), had a quick dinner at a cafe, and were asleep by 8pm. That was midnight for our body clocks, after a 3am start.

Now it's Sunday morning, and we're heading out for breakfast and to explore Fremantle, then the Educause opening reception at 5.30pm.

Friday, 1 May 2009


We're off to Perth at dawn tomorrow, meaning a pre-dawn taxi ride and much queuing. I bet we get quizzed about flu and sneezing.