Friday, 30 April 2010

Big day

Comings and goings on the employment scene here at the University, as the restructuring continues. This week most of the librarian managers were disestablished, leaving the Library with lots of staff but no senior librarians to supervise them and set directions. Today our Senior Educational Designer leaves, and I heard that one of the most capable young managers at ICTS has not been appointed to the job he wanted, so is now redundant.

Balancing all that human carnage, we have today finalised appointments for two E-learning Developers to run our Moodle system. One is a present employee who will move from a fixed term job to a permanent one (and a higher salary grade), the other is working at a web development firm in Christchurch and will join us at the end of May. It's quite a process, appointing staff - the paper work is incredible!

Now we will set up for a farewell function for the staff member who's leaving today, and have some snacks and a drink or two - and some speeches.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A day out

Out from work, that is. I starved yesterday and took weird drinks at appointed times last night, to do my "bowel prep" for this morning's close inspection. Today I showed up at 8am and was lying on my side and thinking of England by 8.30. I elected to have no sedation, which was surprising to many of the nursing staff, but as it turned out I was right - no major discomfort or pain, and I was home by 10.30am. The procedure produced two polyps in early stages, which is about the same as previous probes. (And I use that word advisedly.)

I used the rest of the day to get the 500GB drive installed in my ex work PC, and then partition/format/copy data from the already-chokka C drive. Now (thanks to TweakUI) my documents all live on drive D: - with lots of room to expand.

Next step in the new PC's life is a bunch of data shares, and a shared printer that my Mac can use. Hmmm...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Where will this end up?

Jim Kunstler talks a lot about the "trainwreck" that is the US, and how it's unable to cure itself. If we ever needed evidence of their blind insistence on sticking to the old ways, regardless of how the country is going down the gurgler, take a look at these two items from today's Huffington Post. Don't even start me on the birthers and the tea-baggers. How did a fundamentally decent country like the US get themselves into this mess?

Republicans block debate on a bill to reform the banking system.
Well that's OK, after all the banks have promised not to do those terrible things again.

Big Oil Fought Off New Safety Rules Before Rig Explosion.
We can't have details like spill protection interfering with our right to maximise shareholder value, now, can we. So now there's an oil well valve 5000ft under water, spewing raw crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Is it Wednesday yet?

A tough day coming up. We interview three people for e-learning developer jobs, while I'm going without food to prepare for a colonoscopy tomorrow morning. If you don't know what that is, you're lucky!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Old but good

I went to a great concert from John Mayall and his new band at the Town Hall's James Hay Theatre last night. All four members of the band are masters of their craft, and Mayall himself, at age 76, is still full of energy - and plenty of puff to keep a harmonica howling.

John Mayall and his current band. Jay Davenport (drums), Tom Canning (keyboards),
Rocky Athas (guitar), Mayall, Greg Rzab (bass).

The last time I saw him was also in Christchurch, in the old Civic Theatre in Manchester St, in either 1974 or 1975. The band were all smoking, as true blues men did in those days, and the audience were definitely setting fire to substances as well, and bouncing big balloons around the theatre. The concert came to an end after a tune was interrupted by theatre staff who said the smoking was a fire risk. Mayall came to the microsphone and said, "The little man in the brown coat says I can't smoke. I say fuck'im!" They launched into their next number, and the little man in the brown coat cut the mains power to the stage, and turned up the house lights. So we all went home.

With Ry Cooder's excellent concert a couple of months ago, it's been a good year for funky middle aged music. It also proves that Christchurch will turn out a good crowd of fifty-plus music fans, who are prepared to get stuck in and groove along with quality blues and rock.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A drive in the country

In 1997 I drove to Lincoln every day to work, 25km each way. Today I drove to a meeting out there and it seemed like a novelty. It was a lovely day for a drive out of town (a little) and we had a jolly time comparing notes with our colleagues from CPIT and Lincoln University. We'll meet every month, and at some point we'll put on a showcase day of e-learning ideas.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The old ways

Given the dearth of material on TV, I've been playing old CDs. Like The Rolling Stones' 12x5, their second UK album. I have a US version via Amazon, so it has a few track changes, but still it's a wonderful record of a young UK blues band with attitude.

Even more than The Animals, the Stones tried to show the world what the blues could offer, and nearly got there. And their big-venue extravaganzas have been brilliant. One day I'll write my memoir of the time the Stones played Invercargill in 1966 or thereabouts.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Moving right along

A good day at work today, with lots going on. Yesterday's crises have settled back to just being things to deal with, which is a relief. Two of our advisers ran a really good lunchtime show of some Moodle features, to a small but appreciative audience. Our on-screen Flash based audio recorder is almost in operation - yet another great piece of programming from our developers. There's a lot of clever people out there...

Monday, 19 April 2010


Lots going on at our place, much of it political enough to leave silent - until the winner is clear, at least. We are hiring developers, and applying for our own jobs, at the same time. Am I allowed to hire people who are at my rank? It's best that I do, because no-one else knows what they do. World class learning environment, here we come!

Friday, 16 April 2010


I have a local instance of Moodle 1.9 running on my Mac laptop. It was a piece of cake to install; I downloaded an MAMP package and it just installed itself, pretty much. The instructions said "Set the permissions" which had me a bit nervous. I anticipated "Open Terminal and type the following" but in fact a scripted process just asked me to click on a link; that ran a Unix script, I typed my admin password (the only reason I was needed, really), and we were done.

A Moodle "course" running on my laptop.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Much Moodling

All our Flexible Learning Group are at the NZ MoodleMoot for two days this week. As it's being hosted at CPIT in Christchurch, it only cost us the registration fees, so it's a good chance for us all to meet other Moodleites and swap ideas. The presentations have been pretty good so far, especially those from Julian Ridden, a Moodle developer from Australia.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Back to reality

Returning to work is easy in a quiet week. The UC campus is almost silent as so many staff and students are taking a break before classes restart on the 26th of April. The usual 200 or so emails that await after a week away dropped to 44 in my Inbox yesterday. Today I'll be the only person in our corner of the building, as Jess, Bruce, and Lei are all at workshops for the annual NZ MoodleMoot, which is hosted by CPIT. On Wednesday and Thursday the rest of our group will also attend the conference, and the dinner on Wednesday night, of course.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

He's right, you know

Issues of online ownership and control arise. Cory Doctorow, a man whose opinions on copyright tally with - and guide - mine, has put the hard word on Apple's iPad and its DRM. (This is an excerpt from a post to a forum.)

When Joel Johnson wrote that Apple was trying to turn computers into appliances, like a dishwasher, he sounded like he was making sense. Nothing wrong with a dishwasher.

But the company that sells you your dishwasher doesn't get to tell you which dishes you're allowed to use. They don't get to sue companies that make dishes that might possibly be loaded into the dishwasher. They don't get to sue you for figuring out how to cook salmon in your dishwasher. They don't get to sue O'Reilly if it publishes a recipe for dishwasher salmon.

I agree, Apple are as fascist as Microsoft ever was when it comes to consumer freedom. But their gear is nice, I must admit...

Update - next thing I know, here's the issue again. "Is Steve Jobs Ignoring History, Or Trying To Rewrite It?" Watch out for Android!

Back again

Lunch break at Lake Paringa
We're back from our holiday in Wanaka and the West Coast. I won't repeat the details here, but if you're interested in the Warbirds air show try my Flickr set, or my brother Ross's Picasa page. I also went on a 3 day bike ride through the Haast Pass, again with photos on Flickr, and a full report on my site at

There's no mistaking a Spitfire.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

On my way

We've had a great couple of days in Wanaka. I went to the Warbirds on Saturday, and on Sunday we got a second look at the planes assembling overhead before being called in to make their appearance at the airport. I have some great photos, but with limited broadband I'll wait till I'm home to post them on Flickr. One sample for now - a Navy Seasprite helicopter showing its stuff.

NZ Navy Seasprite naval helicopter.

In the morning I start my bike trip. I've re-packed my panniers, throwing out a kilo or so of extra food and a bit of clothing. Tomorrow I want to be on the road by 10am, on the 61km ride to Makarora. The forecast for the next three days is for southerlies, meaning fine weather west of the divide and even better, a tail wind. If I get to Franz Josef I'll be happy, and as the forecast for Friday is for rain we may well head for Christchurch after the glaciers. From Franz to Hokitika over the plains is pretty tedious travelling anyway.

Sideline: Cory Doctorow won't buy an iPad, and thinks you shouldn't buy one either.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Ready for the next thing

Tomorrow I take a chance on the weather and go to the Warbirds on Wanaka air show. We drove down from Christchurch in long queues, though everyone was doing about 95-100km/h and it all flowed OK.

We've arrived at our friends Eddie & Kristine's place in Wanaka, and have had a lovely dinner (well, Eddie is a chef) and are now arguing about who does the dishes. Eddie has been voted out, as a recent hip operation means he should spend less time on his feet for a while.

Lots more tomorrow.