Thursday, 26 December 2013

Old and tired?

The "diary" idea didn't catch on, so this blog will plod on with infrequent updates. But there is news about our 65+ experience: on 3 December we signed up at Work and Income's New Brighton branch, which was a depressing experience. Watching a Winz office in action provides a view of society we don't get in Parklands or at the University; it's easy to forget that there are a lot of people living on virtually nothing.

We were given a ritual speech that begins "Superannuation is a universal entitlement, it's not means tested..." three or four times; I think it's the MSD equivalent of the police caution. They processed Heather and me together, in less than an hour. Apparently, in spite of very clear instructions in pamphlets and web sites, it's rare for people to show up with their paper work all organised.

We then drove to an AA shop and queued for an hour to get new drivers' licences. My clerical guy viewed every page of my application about 3 times, flicking at random from page to page. I was itching to ask if he wanted me to look for something, (I'm a good skim reader after 20+ years of marking kids' writing) but to be honest I don't think even he knew what he was looking for. Anyway, we finally got the obligatory awful photos, and 2 weeks later our licences arrived in the mail.

A week later my Super Gold Card arrived. I used it at the vege shop on Christmas Eve, and got a few dollars off the berries and other goodies, so I suppose I need to get into the habit of asking "Do you give a Gold Card discount?" wherever I shop. Thanks, Winston.

That's it for the administrative stuff. We got Christmas over and done with, which was all very pleasant - just a walk on the beach and a large lunch for Alice, Heather, and me. Heather did a light evening meal, and we had an early night.
The consolations of age - nice paintings. This is my birthday present,
"Ahuriri Shadows" by Adrienne Pavelka. It will hang in our bedroom.
Then today I woke up, and I'm 65. Really. In my mind I'm 35 (I used to say 21), but 65 it is. Now I'm really old! I did a Facebook post, "Well, that's it - officially old. None of this pussy-footing half-arsed "middle aged" pretence, the word is "old". And happy, of course."  So that's it for achieving my superannuitant status.

We have a few days of supposed home projects, weather permitting, then Ross and Julie arrive and we'll host a NY Eve barbecue. After that I'll do a couple of days volunteering at the Naval Point Club, being a race official for the Paper Tiger Nationals. I sailed in the 1993 PT Nationals in Motueka, so I'm paying my dues.

I go back to work on the 6th January for a week, then we have a week off to go to Wanaka for our old mate Peter King's wedding, and back home to host a 70th birthday for Heather's sister Elaine.

At work I have had to take up the role of team manager (this is my third stint), and we've had yet another restructuring report dropped on us, an hour before we left for the holidays. This is the 4th restructuring for us since 2009, on top of dealing with the earthquakes.

The inevitable "restructuring paralysis" means that nobody will make a decision about a new e-learning manager until all the new bosses are appointed, and it greatly increases the chances that someone who doesn't know who we are, or what we do, gets to make the decision.

It looks like I've yet again fallen foul of the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

Monday, 2 December 2013

The diary of a debutante superannuitant - Step 1, paper work

To begin at the beginning; I turn 65 on the 26th of December and Heather's birthday is 17 days later, the 13th of January. As we both turn 65 over the Christmas break, we thought we'd better get organised before everything closes for the holidays, so we are getting our paper work in order.

So far we have found, or requested new copies of our birth certificates, passports, bank accounts, and our marriage certificate. We need these because tomorrow we've taken a day of leave, to visit the Ministry of Social Development Senior Service office in New Brighton. I go first, with an interview at 10am - they've allowed 90 minutes for this! Considering that the NZ Government already knows all about me, from my health records to my IRD number, I'll be interested to see how much new information they actually collect. Heather follows with a similar interview time.

We hope that the MSD can organise pension payments to start on the single rate on 26 December, then shift to a married couple rate after one fortnightly payment, when Heather's birthday comes two weeks later. I am skeptical about their ability to be that agile, but we'll see.

After the MSD, we go to renew our driver's licences. These are set to expire in the month you turn 65 (anyone over 55, take a look) - so we've both had eyesight checks from the optician, because the eye test systems at the AA are renowned for not working well. I've also had to get a medical clearance so I can keep my truck licence - I don't know when medicals became compulsory for that, but I may as well keep the licence active in case I ever need to shift something large and heavy. They'll probably want our birth certificates as well.

So that's the story so far - lots of paper, several visits to doctors and opticians, and many phone calls to obtain other documents. How do people who aren't organised and literate cope with this bureaucratic forest?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Still here

This blog has developed dust and cobwebs. I'll give it a spring clean one day, but finding the half an hour a blog post needs doesn't come easily. And I feel a bit self-important woffling on about my thoughts - they're usually best kept under a bushel. Or my hat. Or something. So I'm Facebooking quite a lot and Tweeting now and then. It fits with my diminished attention span.

Now for something completely different - I turn 65 in a month from today. I had a medical today so I can keep my truck licence when we renew our licences next Tuesday. (I've also had an eye test.) After the drivers licences we go to Social Welfare (or whatever they're called these days) for a 1.5hr (!!!) interview - each. I thought the Government already knew about me - it's taught me, employed me, taxed me, healed me, why do they need a long interview? Do they think someone will pretend to be me to collect the fabuslous riches they offer? Or do they hope I'll break down under the relentless bureaucrat-speak and say, "I give up, I don't want your pension anyway"? As a cost cutting strategy it doesn't seem that well thought through.

Maybe I should devote this blog to the experiences of a debutante superannuitant. That's not a bad idea.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Done and dusted

The photos of our Queensland holiday are now on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/) They are in reverse order, i.e. the last ones are first. To see them in sets, try http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/sets/72157636421671814/ for the first two weeks in the Tropical North, or http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/sets/72157636523699146/ for the second two weeks in Mackay, sailing the Whitsundays, Noosa, and Brisbane.

A week ago we were cruising the Brisbane River on a high speed ferry; today I'm sitting in a cube farm office doing Moodle administration and going to meetings. Sigh...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Back to reality

We're on the final leg, leaving Noosa for Brisbane today. We fly back to Chch on Friday. Then I'll sort photos and write a summary of our magic month.

Friday, 13 September 2013

A long time coming

And a long long time before the dawn, as they sang in the 70s. And it appears to be now. Bags are packed, lists made, bank panics averted (don't ask...), and we're off for an early night. We'll be up at 3.30am, and away soon after 4.00am for a 5.30 flight to Auckland. That gets in around 7am, then we wander across to international for a 9.30 flight to Cairns, arriving early afternoon. Rental car, Vodafone shop, supermarket, and off to Port Douglas, for an early night, I suspect. Travel is great when it's over.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Yesterday, a long time ago

Einstein was right - time certainly is relative, it expands and contracts depending on what you look at. The first Christchurch earthquake (aka the Darfield quake) was three years ago today. It seems ages ago in some ways; we had a bit over a year renting Leanne Russ's house, four or five changes of office at UC, a couple of holidays - but in other ways it seems like yesterday. Now we've been in our new house for 18 months, but many memories stay clear and strong.

As we stumbled around in the dawn half light on September 4th 2010, with the impact of the quake dawning on us as we found foot-wide cracks, piles of bricks, and areas of wet silt, I said to Heather, "We're going to get a new house out of this." And so it turned out - though not in River Road, sadly.

The last of our neighbours have left our block between Medway Street and Dallington Terrace, half the houses have been demolished, and nobody knows what the area will look like in a few more years. I can promise one thing, though - if Gerry Brownlee decides to remediate that land and sell it to developers, Heather will be inserting a placard where he'll feel it the most!

We really hope that the Avon River Park plan gets accepted; the whole city is missing the lovely walk/cycle from town to New Brighton. Bring back the riverside pathways!

Monday, 12 August 2013

There and back

In four weeks from today, Heather and I will be in Port Douglas, our first stop in a four week holiday on the Queensland coast. We've timed the trip to come after a major stage in the Learn 2 project that I'm the chief cat-herder for, and before the stinger season (we hope).
Queensland from top to bottom
Here's our itinerary:
  • Saturday 14th September - Fly to Cairns via Auckland, rental car to Port Douglas (66km). A week to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Forest, Atherton Tablelands, and crocodiles.
  • Saturday 21st September - All day train journey (740km) from Cairns to Mackay. Staying a few days with Trudi and Mike O'Brien and their boys.
  • Tuesday 24th September - To Airlie Beach, start a 4 day yacht charter with Queensland Yacht Charters, sailing the Whitsunday Islands.
  • Saturday 28th September - Finish yacht charter, back to Mackay.
  • Tuesday 1st October - Evening train, overnight sleeper to the Sunshine Coast (800km).
  • Wednesday 2nd October - Leave the train at Gympie, transfer to Noosa.
  • Six nights at Noosa, beaches and exploring Fraser Island.
  • Wednesday 9th October - Bus to Brisbane (140km). Two days in the city for some shopping and exploring.
  • Friday 11th October - Return flight to Christchurch.
Here's the type of yacht we'll be sailing for four days in the Whitsundays - a Sunbeam 34, made in Austria.


Don't ask what it's costing, I lost track weeks ago! It should be a great trip, with a mixture of activity and lazing about, as holidays should be.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Jokes #2

More smart-alec jokes.

1. A photon checks into a hotel and the porter asks him if he has any luggage. The photon replies: “No, I’m travelling light.”
2. “Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?”
3. What does a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac spend most of his time doing? Staying up all night wondering if there really is a dog.
4. A TCP packet walks into a bar, and says to the barman: “Hello, I’d like a beer.” The barman replies: “Hello, you’d like a beer?” “Yes,” replies the TCP packet, “I’d like a beer.”
5. An electron is driving down a motorway, and a policeman pulls him over. The policeman says: “Sir, do you realise you were travelling at 130km per hour?” The electron goes: “Oh great, now I’m lost.”
6. Pavlov is enjoying a pint in the pub. The phone rings. He jumps up and shouts: “Hell, I forgot to feed the dog!”
7. How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb? A fish.
8. There are 10 types of people in this world. Those that know binary, and those that don’t.
9. When I heard that oxygen and magnesium hooked up I was like OMg.
10. The barman says: “We don’t serve faster-than-light particles here.” A tachyon enters a bar.
11. A Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog stand and says: “Make me one with everything”.
12. What do you call two crows on a branch? Attempted murder.
13. An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard and a German are walking down the street together. A juggler is performing on the street but there are so many people that the four men can’t see the juggler. So the juggler goes on top of a platform and asks: “Can you see me now?” The four men answer: “Yes.” “Oui.” “Si.” “Ja.”
14. Never trust an atom. They make up everything.
15. How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb? None, it’s a hardware problem.
16. A student travelling on a train looks up and sees Einstein sitting  next to him. Excited, he asks:  “Excuse me, professor. Does Boston stop at this train?”
17. Did you hear about the jurisprudence fetishist? He got off on a technicality.
18. Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says: “Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it’s funny or not?” Gödel replies: “We can’t know that because we’re inside the joke.” Chomsky says: “Of course it’s funny. You’re just telling it wrong.”
19. A Roman walks into a bar,  holds up two fingers, and says:  “Five beers, please.”
20. Did you hear about the man who got cooled to absolute zero? He’s 0K now.
21. An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar. The bartender says: “What’ll it be, boys?” The first mathematician: “I’ll have one half of a beer.” The second mathematician: “I’ll have one quarter of a beer.” The third mathematician: “I’ll have one eight of a beer.” The fourth mathematician: “I’ll have one sixteenth of a…” The bartender interrupts: “Know your limits, boys” as he pours out a single beer.
22. What does the “B” in Benoit B Mandelbrot stand for? Answer: Benoit B Mandelbrot.
23. Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French café, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress: “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies: “I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”
24. A classics professor goes to a tailor to get his trousers mended. The tailor asks: “Euripides?” The professor replies: “Yes. Eumenides?”
25. A programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.” The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.

Jokes #1

I stole these from one of those emails that circulate. Make of them what you will.

What’s the difference between an etymologist, and an entomologist? An etymologist knows the difference.

A biochemist walks into a student bar and says to the barman: “I’d like a pint of adenosine triphosphate, please.” “Certainly,” says the barman, “that’ll be ATP.”

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

Why do Marx and Engels drink herbal tea? Because proper tea is theft.

A layman, a scientist and a mathematician are driving through Wales when they spot a black sheep on a hillside. The layman says: “How fascinating. The sheep in Wales are black.” The scientist says: “No. There is one sheep in Wales which is black.” The mathematician sighs and rolls his eyes. “I beg to differ. There is one sheep in Wales, one side of which is black.”

What did the proton say to the ever-grumpy electron? “Why do you have to be so negative all the time?”

Two atoms are walking down the street. One atom says to the other: “Hey! I think I lost an electron!”
The other says: “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m positive!”

Why are quantum physicists terrible in bed? Because when they find the position, they can’t find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can’t find the position.

Two behaviourists meet in the street. One says to the other: “You’re OK. How am I?”

The masochist said to the sadist “hit me” and the sadist said “no”.

The science teacher took a drink, but now he drinks no more. For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4.

What did the Nihilist Borg Say? “Existence is Futile.”

A woman comes home to find her string theorist husband in bed with another woman. “But honey,” he says, “I can explain everything!”

Why didn’t the quantum particle cross the road? He was already on both sides.

Why is it so difficult to explain bad puns to kleptomaniacs? Because they always take things so literally.

How many people of a certain demographic does it take to perform a specified task? It takes a finite number: one person to perform the task and an additional number to act in a manner stereotypical of the group to which they belong.

How many Freudians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? It takes two, one to screw in the lightbulb, and one to hold the peni-, fathe-, LADDER!

Schroedinger’s cat walks into a bar. And it doesn’t.

What is the longest song in the world? Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall.

Two cats are sitting on a roof. Which one slips off? The one with the smallest mu.

Why did the inverse function cross the road? To get to the same side.

How does a mathematician determine the shortest fence to include a herd of cattle? He draws a fence around his feet and declares “I’m outside the fence”.

Descartes walks into a bar. “Beer?” asks the barman. “I think not” replies Rene, who disappears.

Stefan Banach and Alfred Tarski go into a pub. They order one half between them and get two pints – (the barman believed in the axiom of choice). “That’ll be £5”, says the barman. They give him 1p and he puts £5 in the till.

What’s a good anagram of “Banach-Tarski”? “Banach-Tarski Banach-Tarski”.

A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest says, “Get out, you blasphemer. How dare you call yourself the ‘God particle’?” The Higgs boson replies: “But I make up the mass.”

What do you get if you cross a zebra with a banana? Zebra banana sine theta.

How many Microsoft designers does it take to change a lightbulb? None – they just define darkness as “industry standard”.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Customer service, 2013 style

A conversation with Vodafone.

THE QUESTION:
My monthly voice call usage, according to the mobile My Account app, is 45 minutes of calls, with 55 minutes remaining. As I'm on a Smart19 Data plan with 50 mins total, this seems odd. I checked it by logging on to the web site and downloaded a CSV file - calls add up to 15 minutes & 20 seconds.

Can you please investigate this discrepancy? Can I trust the mobile app?

THE REPLY:
I'm really sorry to hear about that. I have confirmation from our service operations team that there is a known issue with our online tracker system and that the issue should rectify itself on your next Smart19Data renewal date. In the meantime, we would strongly recommend checking your balances via txt or calling 777 every few hours or so to get an updated balance.

THE TRANSLATION:
We know there's a problem, use alternative methods. It will reset itself next month. (It did.) And don't rely on Vodafone's mobile usage app for Android.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Learning curves

Learn2 became Learn on 1 July - it's now the default LMS for Canterbury students. The existing system, now known as Learn1, still has courses that run all year - they'd have lost data like marks in the move, so they have to stay put.

On the 8th of July teaching began, with potentially 10,000 or more students wanting to use the system. To our relief, it held up fine. Most people seem happy, though a few have had problems - most notably, people wanting to read PDF files on iPads - the PDF opens in a pop-up, with no scroll, save, etc. We'll get that sorted out soon.

Next phase - moving the S1 courses ready for next February. That will happen in the second half of August. Then the W (whole year) courses in December, and we're nearly done - some odds and ends of non-standard courses to move, and we switch off the Learn1 system in February or March next year.

For any curious techies: we're running Moodle 2.4 with a custom theme named Decaf, written by Lei Zhang, a previous developer in our team, and Paul Nicholls, our present developer. The servers are VMs running Red Hat Enterprise Linux. There are three web servers and a cron/backup server, a single MySQL database server, with the IBM SONAS disk storage system keeping the data safe. At the front end is a BigIP F5; a firewall, load balancer, proxy - it probably makes a cup of tea if you ask it properly. Learn/Moodle has been pretty fast since Paul switched the database to use InnoDB as its engine, rather than MyISAM - the ISAM engine locked the entire log table every time it wanted to write an entry, and caused cascading go-slows, so we're glad to have an alternative.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Back to reality


Back from a week in Melbourne, which was as fascinating as ever. We must do more exploring in Carlton and Fitzroy, they're great areas for off-beat shops and cafes.

Lots of photos at my Flickr site.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The latest

We're doing an Aussie exodus from Friday to next Thursday - off to the Aussie MoodleMoot in Melbourne 24-26 June. With a day or two for looking around at either end; the first 2 days are intentional (we're paying), the other is a by-product of the Lions rugby tour. So it goes.

UPDATE: The above is dependent on snow, of course. Currently (5pm Thursday) rather anxious. Que sera sera.

UPDATED UPDATE: Looks like the main blast hit the Kaikoura coast, we'll stay snow free - just wet and windy instead. We'll be in Spencer Street around 10 am.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Where was I?

Almost a month since my last post here, time for a summary. Learn (Moodle) 2.4 is getting ready to go live in the first week of July. We're doing our best to let people know, but it doesn't always get to the audience. I've learned that "Nobody told me" is code for "I haven't read any of your emails".

We used to have two people in the critical Moodle admin positions, but with a sinking lid hiring regime, and changes in jobs, there's now one developer and one administrator (me) for the e-learning system serving 2000+ courses. We're back to where we were in 2006, in terms of staffing. These are risky times; a resignation or illness will guarantee a crisis, as there is no backup at all for what we do.

We get a week in Melbourne in late June, for the Australian Moodle Moot. That will be great, comparing ideas and tips with our peers from around Australasia and wider. Mr Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, will be there as well, so we'll get the dinkum oil, cobber. I'll also get to meet the teacher of an online course I've been doing - Dr Charles Severance, aka Dr_Chuck, is a keynote speaker on the last day of the Moot.

We've booked for a 3 week holiday in Queensland in September-October, mostly at beaches - more on that later.

I've inherited a set of Volkl GS race skis, courtesy of long time mate Robin Judkins. Robin sold the Coast to Coast event recently, and he's simplifying his life before starting to rebuild his house on Clifton Hill in Sumner - so out went several pairs of skis. They're a bit more high-energy than I was thinking of for my next pair of skis, but I'll just have to put a bit of work in and enjoy the ride, even if I do knock off at 2pm because I'm exhausted!

That's the current state of play - I'm biking to UC about half the time, Heather is swimming regularly and getting the garden ready for winter, and we're thinking more seriously about retirement - but not quite yet!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Landmark reached

Alternating periods of boredom and worry have culminated in a Learn 2 system (Moodle 2.4, actually) with over 800 courses up and running. Check out the message near the bottom of this screenshot.

Next week there will be another 100 or so, but they'll be a bit harder to identify, so we'll be adding them in small batches as we work through the lists. That's the royal "we", as Jess has been seconded to be head of the Learning Technologies Support (ex AV) unit; their manager has had to return to the US for personal reasons. So really it's just me. Anyway, it's a major step in being ready to go live in July.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Still here

There's too much happening at present; we're planning for the migration of 800 courses to the Moodle 2 system next week, tomorrow I won't have a PC because the Windows 7 upgrades are happening, and I've got the OK to attend this year's Australian Moodle Moot. A week in Melbourne in late June will be a nice break - but it takes a lot of organising to get fares and accommodation sorted out.

Add to that another Australian trip, for a 4 week break in Queensland in September-October; a week in Port Douglas, two weeks in the Mackay area visiting Heather's niece Trudy and family, plus a side trip for a few days yachting in the Whitsundays, then on to Noosa and Brisbane for another week. And this Thursday Heather and I visit a financial adviser to set up something better than bank term deposits for our savings. Never a dull moment...

Yachting is pretty much over, though I hope we'll get another day or two before we pack the boat away for the winter. With the end of daylight saving, cycling has gone into winter mode; I've put fresh batteries in my bike lights, and fitted little flashing lights to the tyre valves, so people approaching me at right angles will see flashing circles of light. (I hope!)

So there are some reasons why this blog isn't getting updated very often.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Here comes autumn

We've finally had a break in the series of huge high pressure systems that have sat over the South Island for several months. We've had two days of cooler southerlies and a little rain - and the trees all changed colour in 24 hours! The UC campus is covered in fallen leaves, cars are covered in leaves and chestnut shells each afternoon, and suddenly it's autumn.

We probably only have a few more sailing days this season, before I put the boat to bed for the winter. We'll lower the mast, and rig up a new tarpaulin to cover the hull for the winter. Anything that might get damp has to come home, so winter condensation won't grow mildew on life jackets and spare clothing, etc.

Then I suppose we'll start to think about skiing.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Where was I?

I haven't been posting here - it takes time and thought, and who needs those when you have Twitter? Actually, I haven't used that very much either - the usual start of semester blast has been on us, but we're through the worst.

As always, most of our problems come from people (a) forgetting advice they were given a month ago, (b) not even reading the email they were sent a month ago, or (c) not reading the message on the login screen, just where they type their use code and password. Humans - gotta love'm! Still, it's a living.

I'll say something for our present management, they have the knack of turning happy functioning work teams to debris, and they can kill morale with a single thoughtless edict. I'll watch their progress with interest, in the spirit of Jules Pfeiffer, the great cartoonist.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Week by week

A quick update - work is extremely busy, as UC classes started on Monday 18th, and we have to sort out lots of last minute panics with online courses. It's less frantic than previous years, though, which is a good thing.

There's still time for the Sunday sail, though, and we had a beauty yesterday - 10-12 knots of breeze, sunshine, and lots of other boats out - we counted 34 sailing boats on Lyttelton Harbour at about 2pm. I seem to be a bit reluctant to bike to work the next day, preferring to give my creaks and groans a day of rest.

Next week we're going to Kaikoura for more fun on the water; we have booked a sea kayak trip on Saturday afternoon. It will be nice to have look around the area, too - it's been ages since we spent any time there.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Roll on

I just realised it's been a week since my last post - so it goes. Anyway, we're both back at work, and flat out. At UC we're about to go into the Mad Month, where we get invited to lots of last minute crises. Heather had her silly season last month, but it's pretty similar - teachers who come back late then panic.

In the time since my last post, we've been doing more garden stuff, sailing, going here and there, and generally being busy. So it goes.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Quakes? What quakes?

The power of human "thought" really came to the fore as we experienced 3 small but noticeable earthquakes in the last 10 days. People started discussing the likely causes, trying to find a common element. The locations vary, from near Lake Ellesmere to seaward of New Brighton, but people try to make them fit a theory.

It's a pattern, said our well trained pattern recognition machines (oh, OK, brains). Yeah, right, says me. But our brains don't like randomness, and try to make meaning, regardless of logic.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Reality time

Holidays are over. After our week in Otago Heather started back at work, while I took another week and goofed around home doing odds and ends; hanging out the washing, watering the garden, painting the shed, and even went to town to watch the buskers.

Now I'm back at work, gearing up for the start of the academic year. I'm amazed at the way teaching staff leave things to the last minute; they multiply their stress, and ours, many times by asking for major changes in minimum time frames. We do what we can, but then we just have to hope that things work - with no time to test things, or for us to train the teachers properly, they're taking big risks.

We have a meeting tomorrow with e-learning staff from CPIT and Lincoln University, hopefully to organise some sharing of resources and expertise. We all have reduced budgets because of lower student enrolments, but online teaching is becoming more popular - that means we hear that favourite phrase of senior managers, "Doing more with less". The government seems to want us to share and combine, so this is a good start.

I'm wondering if this is a good thing in National Party land though. Whatever happened to "Spend heaps on advertising to steal students from the others, and let the market decide"? Have the Nats lost their belief in Market Forces?

A little bit of earthquake humour to finish with - this notice in our lift has attracted some graffiti.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Been around clockwise

We've been to Dunedin, Wanaka, and Franz Josef; now we're home, with a load of washing.We sneaked over Arthurs Pass before the front really arrived, just a light drizzle in the Otira Gorge. Lunch at Arthurs Pass (free wifi!) then home in ever increasing sunshine. Photos soon.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Welcome back

I came back to work on Thursday and Friday last week, and I started a full week today. That will be a shock to the system, but as I'm off for two weeks after Friday I'll just put my head down and try to get through my long list of course resets.

The reset process for 1000+ courses is a bi-annual chore, to clear out the data stored after last semester's teaching; quiz attempts, forum posts, etc. This involves a lot of database queries as the system chases each course's quizzes and other data. Moodle 1.9's database locks entire tables while it does queries, so I think anyone else trying to work on the system will find it a bit slow. In fact, I think I'll put a note on the home screen apologising for slowness, so the users don't pester Helpdesk too badly.

In the meantime, I kick off a batch of 5 courses, then watch the database processes, while popping in and out of Facebook and other web pages to pass the time. This reset job is tedious enough, but the slowness is making life hard for both me and the users.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Summer's here

Christchurch has had a pretty good run of warm weather, with days in the high 20s. Today's another warm northwester, with a possibility of thunderstorms as the next southerly arrives later this afternoon. At present (11.45 am) it's reached the predicted 26oC, with only 34% humidity so it's quite pleasant, not at all sticky and uncomfortable.

Yesterday we went and had a dip (a brief one) at Waimairi Beach, but it wasn't pleasant swimming conditions; there was a confused surf with a strong N-S flow along the beach, and big holes and ridges in the sand. Still, it was good to cool off, and nice to be in the sea.