Friday, 29 April 2011

Short week, but time enough for restructuring

A very short week, only working Thursday and Friday. It will be back to full pace next week though, as we start planning for putting lecture recording systems in the new teaching spaces being built on the sports oval.

The close liaison with the Audio Visual group, brought about by the demand for video of lectures, has proved too big a temptation for managers, and we've been rearranged (again). Now Jess and I (and possibly our two Moodle developers) will be formally aligned with AV and separated from the Flexible Learning members of our group. In these days of instant and infinitely re-configurable communications, I'd thought that physically restructuring was a rather 1960s way to deal with staff, and that groups can be set up and changed as required, without having to move seats and change reporting lines. Next month no doubt we'll do something else; will we get rearranged again to suit that change?

I'd like to sit our decision makers down and make them watch this TED talk by Clay Shirky, from 2005, when social media were just getting going. (The main message comes at around the 3-7 minutes mark.)

He advocates that we "put the cooperation into the infrastructure ... without regard to institutional models" - and he's right. I suppose the movers and shakers here will get this message eventually, but in the meantime we get moved and renamed every time we start doing something different. It's good for a manager's CV, but very bad for staff morale and productivity - and it makes me wonder if there's any kind of over all plan, or if this is just being made up as we go along.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

My nipples explode with delight

Next time I'm asked about my T-shirt with "My hovercraft is full of eels" on the front, I'll point people to this piece of classic sketch comedy.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


DSCF0023 by gregor_ronald
DSCF0023, a photo by gregor_ronald on Flickr.

We did a day trip to Akaroa on Easter Sunday, along with lots of others from Christchurch. It was a spectacular day, with mild autumn weather and lovely colours in the trees. We're doing a similar trip today, to Hanmer Springs. I've taken a few more days of leave, so I won't return to work till Thursday.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Sailing at last

Finally got a day sailing yesterday, though it was a pretty strong breeze, pushing 20 knots at times. We put a reef in the mainsail and managed good progress, getting up as far as Camp Bay before deciding to turn for home. (And to eat some lunch.) We surfed back down the harbour at 7-8 knots, and pulled the boat out at around 3pm. An excellent sail; we went home with wet bums - and big grins.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Early Easter

I'm on leave from today, extending Easter by several days to make an 8 day break. I need it too; hopefully my flickery eyelid (a sure sign of tiredness) will fade after a few days. The only time off work since January 5th was a weekend in Waipu Cove for a wedding - two days before February 22nd evaporated any benefits. I've been operating in an adrenalin haze for 6 weeks, I think. Anyway, I have no big plans, apart from wanting to go for a sail when weather and people coincide.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Final clearance

We were allowed back into Level 7 of the James Hight library tower on Friday, to get the rest of our stuff. We were really organised this time, with large plastic crates that Nikki Saunders and I had scrounged. Nikki asked the Warehouse guys to stack them by the lifts for us, and they brought the full crates back to us after lunch. Now we have an office's worth of stuff crammed into two corners in the CEPS building.

Looting crew, L-R: Brendon Stillwell from IT, Antoine Monti, Susan Tull, Herbert Thomas, Paul Nicholls, me, Lei Zhang, Jess Hollis. Nikki Saunders went home in the morning after organising it all - we cleared her office as well.

The Project Managers are very happy they're not returning to their office. I don't know how this kind of damage can be repaired.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Nice day

We went up to Waipara this morning and with 15 or so others picked grapes for Deborah and Graham Pearson who produce a pinot noir named Lovers Rest. Deborah just this week retired from her job - she was manager of the IT Helpdesk the last few years, but she began as the key-punch operator for the sole mainframe computer in 1974; 37 years for the university!

Picking went from 9am till 11, morning tea till 11.30, then we picked through to 2pm. That was lunch time; grapefruit and tequila ice blocks, lovely breads and dips, then a lunch with salads, roast lamb, and home made individual pies. Plus wine and beer of course. Then we rested, tasted vintages of Lovers Rest, and talked till dessert, which was liquorice ice creams. We were home by 6.30, ready for an early night.

On a totally unrelated topic, I came across this fine piece of musicianship from Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead; a 1992 performance of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me". Lovely music, played by craftsmen. Just because...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

I saw ISS

'Scuse the tongue twister - thanks to the marvellous Human Space Flight Sighting Opportunities page, I was able to walk out to the street at 6.44pm and get a 6 minute look at the International Space Station passing overhead. It moved from south-west to north-east, reaching 51 degrees above the horizon, and was very large and bright. I'll keep an eye on the next dates, and make sure I have some binoculars; and I may put my camera on a tripod and try a time exposure.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Before the wars

Are we seeing the prelude to the Oil Wars?

Some (possibly connected) facts:
  • President Obama last week said the US will reduce oil imports by 33% by 2021.
  • Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, & Mexico are saving their oil for their own economic growth.
  • China has four years of its own oil at current rates. India has almost none.
  • A current urban myth in the US is that the equivalent of "three Saudi Arabias" is in oil shale in the northern Rockies.
  • In fact this "oil" is a wax that needs lots of energy to cook it into oil.
  • The NYT recently announced that the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast has 3.8 billion barrels of oil.
  • The US uses 7 billion barrels of oil a year.
  • This equates to 20 million barrels a day.
  • Proven reserves of US natural gas amount to 4-6 years at current rates.
  • Natural gas heats the majority of US homes and businesses.
Who wants to predict the main item of US foreign policy in 2020? Doesn't take much thought, does it? Once the people who live 70km outside Minneapolis or Miami have to pay for $US200/barrel oil to get to work, we'll see the era of Happy Motoring vanish before our eyes. And when it blows snow across the plains in January while they debate whether to turn the heating back on, watch the resentment grow. After a winter without oil, the US would invade Norway if they thought they could get away with it. I suspect the Norwegians would win.

And how about the energy policy of that clever little nation down under, New Zealand - they'll do something innovative and intelligent, won't they? Oh no, more fossil fuel developments? It's OK, it's just the National Party having one of its head-in-the-sand days.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Moving house

I went back to our River Road house yesterday, and was staggered by the amount of movement that's happened in two weeks. Like this corner of our dining area; did the wall move and the floor stay put, or vice versa? There's no big cracks in the foundation at this point, but it does look like there's a curve along that wall. The broken brick at the corner indicates movement too. No wonder the floor felt a bit bouncy in that room.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Not moving - again

False alarm, there's such a lot of work we're doing to help the AV guys get lecture videos on line that we need to stay in the CEPS building beside them, although the learning advisers, developers, and team leader, have moved to the College of Education campus. It's a problem though, because we're usually closely involved with Lei and Paul, the e-learning developers, in much of our work. However, it makes more sense to keep the videos flowing, at least for the next few weeks.

The best answer would be to put all the tech support groups, from ICTS to e-learning to video, in a single shared space, but that's not likely to happen for ages. It was on the original plan, with ICTS and us sharing the big space previously known as the Loft, a student computer lab with around 200 computers, and for several weeks in NZi3 we got on very well. But now, who knows?

My response to this is to put a carrier on my under-used MTB and take it to work. Now I have transport, whether I biked or drove from home, to get me around the campus. Walking to and fro is taking up too much of the day while we're so busy.

I'm on sole duty this week, with Jess and Herbert away at the Australian Educause conference. Originally I was to attend as well, but the pressures from the quake recovery have put paid to that; we need at least one person on site managing courses and users, and to help the AV guys sort out problems.

Life outside work is also changed; I'd love to go sailing, but I can't find a day when my crew and I can get together. Instead I'll be attending a meeting of neighbourhood support group people to work on a future structure to work through the recovery phase with the CCC and this strange new entity called CERA.