Monday, 21 December 2015

Day 1

As I'm now an ex Educational Technology Consultant, what did I do with my first morning of non-work?
  1. Slept in until 7.45am.
  2. Had breakfast, read the paper, second coffee.
  3. Heather went out so I vacuumed the house.
  4. Replaced two smoke detector batteries.
  5. Swept out the garage which had inhaled leaves on a recent NW day.
  6. Vacuumed my car - front seat wells only.
It'll be lunch time soon...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

On the way out

It's been a long time coming, as David Crosby sang. It's Wednesday afternoon, and by Friday lunchtime I'll be an ex-employee, an Educational Technology Consultant Emeritus, a Dowager Dude. We've just had a lunch as a group, with people saying all sorts of nice things - I'm going to miss the company and the coffee breaks as much as the job.

I won't miss the endless threat of restructuring that seems to hover in the background; this year our Web Team and the rest of the Communications Dept have gone. Rather than make existing teams perform better, many senior managers seem to think that restructuring, and more importantly, renaming things, is the same as progress.

The drain on staff morale and productivity that happens when everyone is looking over their shoulders to see who's next for the chop, can't be good for any organisation. I know the hard-line management gurus have theories about the constant fear making people perform their best, but all it does is make them compliant and scared to take risks. If you point a loaded gun at someone and ask them to sing, you don't get beautiful music - you get a frightened squawk.

Anyway, that's enough grumpiness for now. A high point of the week was our 40th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with a fantastic dinner at Chillingworth Road last night. We were joined by Alice, Heather's sisters Elaine and Pam, with her husband Barry, and long-time friends Nicky and Merv Sarson; Nicky was Matron of Honour at our wedding all those years ago. (She said she was too old to be a bridesmaid, at the ripe old age of 27 or whatever.)

Next is a morning tea, and speeches - and I'm off!

Monday, 5 October 2015

So you want a self driving car? The government wants one too - your one!

From the comp.risks Usenet group comes this thought provoking piece from Lauren Weinstein.

The main thing you should know about autonomous vehicles is that they are utterly inevitable.

Leaving aside technical, financial, and cultural issues for the moment, the question I'd really like to see us thinking about now -- before we really need the full answers -- is how we're going to prevent mass government abuse of these vehicles.

The amount of video and other data these vehicles will be collecting will be immense. You can bet governments will want it, both in individual cases and en masse. Governments will want to know where every car is or was, every moment. They will make license plate scanners totally obsolete.

They will want remote control capabilities. Whether or not vehicles can be started. Whether they will keep running or automatically pull over to the side of the road to await a police vehicle (or drive into the nearest police station, with the windows and doors locked?) if they believe a suspect is inside. Whether or not you can drive if you haven't been paying your bills or are having a legal dispute. They will want the ability to block all vehicles from areas where they don't want to be observed, and shoo all vehicles already there out of the area. This means individual and en masse remote control. Pretty powerful stuff.

And remote control is likely to come irrespective of law enforcement, because it's the most practical way to deal with situations beyond the scope the car's AI (unusual weather or road conditions, accident and construction sites with authorities giving voice instructions to drivers, etc.), assuming a human driver capable of taking over in such situations is not present.

Remote control capabilities for authorities are also likely to be mandated at some point due to LEO concerns (already being widely discussed) of unoccupied vehicles (the "vehicle on demand" scenario) being used in criminal or terrorist plots.

Most of these issues have already been covered quite convincingly by prescient science fiction for many decades.

Autonomous vehicle proponents would do well to consider how they're going to respond to government demands along these lines. 'Cause you can be sure that there are teams already in governments around the world brainstorming about their side of this equation.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Catching up on photos

I posted some sailing photos a few weeks ago, then completely forgot about the photos I took in our 4 days in Brisbane city. I've made an album on Google Photos, now I'm trying to add captions to the pictures. In the meantime, try this link.

Big city, big buildings
After lots of searching, I'm admitting defeat. I can't find any way to add captions to the photos in the Brisbane album. In fact, I'm totally confused, after trying to work out how Picasa, Google Plus, Google Drive, and Google Photos relate to each other.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Approaching the end

My retirement is now official - I've filled out the forms and set the date. My last day at UC will be Friday 18 December, then I'm a free agent. I'll miss the company, and the University is a very interesting place to work, but it's time to  to revise the position description and to bring someone new into the team.

My role has changed a lot over recent years, and I'm doing a lot less support for lecturers and more project work. We don't need "expertise with Windows NT" in the description either; in fact we don't deal directly with the Moodle servers any more, so that technical area is much less important.

What's next? A January holiday in Napier, house sitting for friends, then a few months of domesticity leading to a major adventure in France and Italy during April. We'll have five days in Paris, a week cycling around the vineyards of Burgundy based in Beaune, then two weeks being tourists in Italy. There'll be lots more news as the time gets closer.
Hospice de Beaune
I hope there will be some part time work to help our finances, and I have lots of projects to keep me busy. And I'll be the chief cook and bottle-washer, of course.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Back from Oz

We got back after midnight on Thursday night, and I've now managed to sort out some photos. Click here, I hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Latest and Greatest?

My Acer laptop has been upgraded to Windows 10, and so far I really like it. The design is clean and quick, and they've tried to make things easy for people. Unlike the Microsoft of old, they don't stomp all over your settings, and the user prompts are helpful, if a trifle condescending at times. Telling me to "Go and relax" when it did the 4th restart didn't do much for my blood pressure, but it's been pretty smooth so far.

After a couple of hours, some brief observations:
  • The interface looks clean and crisp. No fussy borders or shading, just plain boxes with text.
  • You may have to reconfigure your home networking, I can't connect to the main PC in our study at present.
  • The new web browser Edge is quick and smooth - but I'll stick with my old mate Chrome for now.
  • My favourite programs all run just fine.
Watch this space...

Friday, 31 July 2015

Boat sold

I'm happy and sad to report that Impulsive was purchased by a young couple who've decided to take up sailing. As long as they don't scare themselves silly in the initial days, it's a boat that will suit novices well for quite a while, as their skills grow. I didn't get the price I was hoping for, but in my experience you never do...

Summer cruising in Impulsive
What's next? We'll start tidying up Omega, a 25ft extended Noelex 22, and sailing it next summer. The finer points of ownership are still being sorted, but we'll have plenty of time for those details. Omega has room for two or three to sleep quite comfortably, so we can start exploring further around Banks Peninsula - maybe even the Abel Tasman.

Omega is a much roomier boat

Omega hasn't been sailed much recently

Thursday, 16 July 2015

A week off

A Bastille Day (Tues 14th)  drama: one minute I was riding in a cycle lane on Innes Rd by Mairehau HS, the next minute I was returning to consciousness on the pavement, being helped by some motorists who'd kindly stopped after I hit an icy patch and crashed on my right side. An ambulance arrived, checked me out, and said I should get myself to A and E for a thorough check. Heather arrived to collect me and the bike, and off we went.

My helmet is cracked from the force, trousers and jacket are well scuffed, and I've cracked a rib. The concussion has faded as the day's gone on, thankfully, but the rib is pretty tender. I'll be at home for the rest of the week while it starts healing. 

Apparently I was one of many having ice related crashes on Tuesday. There were three from our area of the Library and Grant Bush from IT has stitches in his forehead. Let's be careful out there!

UPDATE: several days of rest and careful use of analgesics and I'm ready for work tomorrow. No biking for a couple of weeks, though, until the rib heals up. And by then we'll be sailing in the Whitsundays, no bikes required. Good timing!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Boat for sale

A decision has been made, and my trailer sailer yacht Impulsive is officially for sale - for the princely sum of $4000 or offers. I bought it in 2000 or 2001 (I honestly can't remember, it was a long time ago) so we've had 12 or 13 years of sailing. It's had the mast repaired, a new outboard motor, major trailer repairs, a repaint, and lots of minor tinkering with winches, rigging, and fittings. I think it's worth more than the asking price, but as Heather pointed out, we've had our money's worth over the years. And small yachts don't sell for big prices, so there it is.

I won't be completely beached, though - I'm now involved with two friends in another boat, a larger yacht with some accommodation room. It's a Noelex 22 that has been extended, with a stern section added, but it sails well. This boat needs some tidying up, so at least I know what my retirement project will be. And I still have plans for a Jim Young 3.5m stitch and tape sailing dinghy, if I get really ambitious.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Big day out

Sailing at Lyttelton was a bit hairy this afternoon, with 20 knot squalls on top of a rolling swell and a solid surface chop - it was like sailing in a washing machine at times.

We made it to shelter in Purau Bay, to reef the main then catch up with our mate Chris Hutching - he was rigging up while we watched, then we sailed down to the inner harbour, and on to Church Bay. We picked up a mooring and rafted up for a beer and a chat. At 5pm we motored back across to the club ramp, while Chris battled back upwind to Purau. We hope he made it!

Watching Chris hoist sails.
Leaving the Inner Harbour for Church Bay
Henry Salad arrives in the shelter of Church Bay.
I'm tired and happy now, it was an exciting day out!

Some footnotes:
Chris's yacht is a 19ft Robert Tucker Caprice, designed in the mid 1950s. Twin keel yachts are very popular in the UK, because so much sailing is done in tidal estuaries. When the tide goes out, the boat sits level, then you can put the kettle on and do a bit of bird watching. How very British.

The complete set of photos is on my Flickr site.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Well, maybe

I like the Blogger interface, although their fancy new templates make it harder to customise. Oh well, it's really all about content. This is me getting around to saying I think I'll revive this blog for a while and see if I can manage a couple of posts each week. Facebook descends to the trivial whenever you touch it, and I'd like more control over what I post.

Here's today's post, 3 photos I took with my Moto G2 on my bike ride to physiotherapy this morning. The fog was completely gone 10 mins later, so I just caught it at the end. From Horseshoe Lake Road, looking west over Shirley Golf Course.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Still here!

I noticed that it's been a year since my last post to this blog, so here's a summary of events in the last 12 months.
  • In April, Heather noticed a lump in her breast, and in June she had a mastectomy, followed by radiation treatment in September-October. She's just had follow-up checks, and is all clear of cancer, so after a scary start it's all worked out OK. 
  • In July I finished 7 months of the "only a month or six weeks" relieving as E-Learning Team Leader. Nick Ford has picked up the permanent job and is breathing new life into our operations.
  • In August, I ruptured my quadriceps tendon, skiing at Mt Hutt. I had immediate repair surgery, several months in a leg brace, and more months of physio - I'm 95% fixed now.
  • We went to Auckland for the Rolling Stones concert in November.
  • I bought an electric-assisted bike - it's wonderful!
  • We had a nice Christmas, starting with a week in a bach in Nelson, and a visit to Cam and Jen in Otaki Beach for Christmas. 
  • Alice bought an apartment, and is a happy homeowner - about to undergo EQC repairs, but it all seems well organised.
  • We are planning a holiday in the Whitsundays, with Nicky and Merv Sarson, renting a catamaran for a week in August. We hope to see lots of whales and do lots of snorkelling.
  • We've got tickets for Fleetwood Mac in Dunedin in November this year.
  • I'm planning to retire in December. Heather is keeping her options open for a while.
So that's it - 2014 was a year of medical dramas and slowing down. I wonder what's next?