The Great Migration

Today marks the end of the great migration from my old web host to my new one. My old host Arvixe has put one step too many out of place. A colleague of mine mentioned they were acquired by a conglomerate known as EIG Hosting and ever since their support has been abysmal. Not to mention they stopped providing free domain privacy without telling me. Very poor. I have since moved to A2 Hosting and am fairly happy with them so far. During the upgrade I also updated my homepage with Bootstrap.

Work has been good. I have been learning a lot about ServiceNow as I continue to administer the system. Go-live is only 8 business days away and things are getting pretty fast-paced. In among the work I have applied for a new position a few steps up the ladder, and will be interviewing in a week or so. If all goes well I may be in charge of people soon!

Another project is on the go, however I don’t want to jinx it. It’s hard to find time between home and work, and motivation can be lacking after an already stressful day.

No Man’s Sky came and went. It was what they said it was going to be, and what I expected it to be, but it certainly fell short of what a lot of people wanted. I put probably 40 hours into it, and while I didn’t get to the centre of the galaxy, I definitely have done most stuff. I’ll go back to it when they have patched in a bit more content.

Thanks for listening!

Home Again

So it turns out WordPress converts html code to characters. Guess the joke in my last post didn’t work. Oh well, live and learn.

We returned from our holiday a week or two ago and have since got back to work. As I half expected I didn’t get time to write or learn while we were overseas, I had far more important things to do. It was a holiday after all!

On the work front things are changing. My position has been moved from the Service Desk to the “Administration” team within the service centre, basically meaning I am one of the primary administrators of our ITSM tool. It has been pretty interesting in the day or two where I have actually been able to “administer” the system, but the transition project is at a point where we can’t do too much to the system, so I am helping out some other areas currently.

Part of this new role is writing Javascript, and the system is built on AngularJS, both of which are courses I could take at Codecademy. So that is something that I have put on my to-do list when I get a chance. This is all being hampered by the new podcasts I have gotten in to (The Black Tapes, Within the Wires) and new games which will be coming out (No Man’s Sky). Holy crap I am keen for No Man’s Sky.

While I was away I had an idea for an app reinforced, but I am struggling to find time to learn how I would be able to go about starting to create it. By the time I get home from work I’m basically spent, and on the weekends I will spend them with my Patrice or relaxing. I’m considering trying to save time at work and take a whole week off, and use that week for productive things, but I know if I did that I wouldn’t actually get anything done. It’s a tough circle.

Once again I’m going to say how I would like to keep the blog more updated. I’m really hoping that getting a laptop I can take to and from work will help out with that, and, well, I am writing now aren’t I? Maybe I’ll make a habit of it. Fingers crossed!

End of Year

It’s getting awfully close to the end of 2013, and heading into the (crazy) year 2014. It all sounds so futuristic. After reading one of my friend’s year-in-review blogs I thought it couldn’t hurt to do one of my own, and vent a little.

So first up, some serious bitching.

I’m pretty sick of work. I find that I’m a guy who is happy to do a menial job for an extended period of time, as long as the conditions are OK and I’m working with people I get along with. I have been in my position on the Service Desk for a number of years now (3 1/2 or so?) and have not really had much of a problem with it until the last six months. Sure, the work is fairly boring and repeditive, but at least it was a fairly cushy job. After most of the department was fired by the Liberal government our workload dropped a good 60%. This meant that we always had time to take a breather between calls, and could have a bit of a talk amongst ourselves. It also meant that I got to know the people I was working with fairly well, and the work environment was fairly good. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but our “manager” was changed, and the new one slowly started to get more and more tyrannical. About three months ago our Director also changed. At first, I thought this was a good thing. It would fix all the sexism and nepitism of the previous one, however I was wrong. The first team meeting we had after the change, the new director introduces herself and brings in a “List” of things the Service Desk need to improve in their work in order to qualify for a “up to 4 week secondment” to another team within Technical Operations. Basically, it’s just another way of getting everyone to work harder with no pay-off. The only person so far to have benefited from “The List” is the one person on the Service Desk who brown-noses to the manager. Great system.

I was told to my face that I would not be able to apply for any positions within the government as my manager couldn’t give me a good reference because my “attitude is poor”, and our Director has yelled at the whole Service Desk and lied to our faces about who is actually on “The List”. It’s all shambles. I’m so jaded about the whole system that the only way I can see myself enjoying this place again is if my Manager and Director change. You wouldn’t think that it would be hard to respect your employees, but no, we get treated like children.

I’d like to say that it is out of my system now, but I’m still fuming. Anyway. On with the better part of this post.

Firstly the biggest change recently has been Patrice getting an offer of a full-time position as an RN. While she hasn’t got a start-date yet, it is coming. What that means for us is a little more stability in income, and we might actually be able to get some big things done around the house. I’d also like to take some time off for myself. We always discussed taking time off when Patrice got a full-time job. I’m not sure if I want to take a block of 4 weeks at half-time or if I should maybe break it up into mon-tues-wed off for 7 weeks. That would be excellent.

If I do end up taking a big whack of time off work I would like to set myself some goals to achieve while I was away. I think all through 2013 I have felt a bit let down with the opportunities I have passed up. There was the programming course I tried to do online, which I completed about 60% off then gave up. There was also NaNo which I got to 30% or so of the final goal, and various other little things. It’s so hard to dedicate myself to something like that when I’m working full time, and spend most of the weekends doing things with family (I really do enjoy those things though).

Well anyway, here is a list of things I would like to do throughout 2014 in no particular order:

  • I want to program more
  • I want to set up my Raspberry Pi (with camera)
  • I want to finish a project I start
  • I want to save some money for end-of-days-esq situations
  • I want to recreate my website and be happy with it
  • I want to make more of an effort around the house

I’m sure I’ll think of more. I might update with a final list as they come to me.

That’s all for now. It’s good to get this off my chest.

na-NO-wrimo

The 30th of November came and went, and unfortunately I did not make my target of 50,000 words. I started fairly strong and managed to get to about 15,000 in the first week-and-a-bit, but then real life caught up, and I found I didn’t have the time or the inclination to push myself to write every day. I am very happy with what I did manage to write, and as I saw someone on twitter say the other day “Words that were not there in October are now there in December”. Patrice wanted me to keep writing, and I will try, but I think it’s going to be very hard to find the time.

There are so many little projects going around my head at the moment that I wish I had about a month off, and enough money to chase them down and get them off my damned to-do list. I have a Raspberry Pi that I really want to set up as a time-lapse machine, maybe with some additional functionality that I am yet to decide on. I have a Mini-ITX motherboard I want to build into a tiny server with my first home-brew case. I really want to make my homepage a little more exciting. We need to do a fair bit of work to the house, and go to the dentist. Stuff really piles up.

One thing that I have been doing pretty well is the “water challenge”. A friend of mine at work has said we should only drink water (for health reasons) for as long as we can. It’s been 6 days so far, and I think I might have lost about 3KG’s. We want to keep it going until at least the 17th of December, so I can only hope I lose a little more weight between now and then.

So much do to. So little time.

The Big 2000

Exactly how hard is it to write 2000 words?

This is a question I want to answer before I begin my attempt at November’s NaNoWriMo. I know from experience that I often have trouble following through a task I set myself. Weather this is because I lose interest, or I reach a point where the task becomes difficult, or I simply run out of time, it boils down to the same outcome. Half finished projects, ideas, courses, and a distinct disappointed feeling about a week later.

Deadlines seem to help. When I was at university I majored in Procrastination, which meant that all my assignments were half-assed the night before they were due. Surprisingly, I still managed to pass every subject and got (reasonably) alright marks. While this isn’t the best approach, it might mean that I will be able to get a lot done in a small amount of time. I might consider organising some days off work towards the end of November to really push things along.

Another issue I have is distraction. I find that I can’t work while the TV is on, or if Patrice is around and wants to talk. As long as I have some time to dedicate to the task and am alone, usually in a different location than where I normally relax, I am able to hammer out some good work. In September Patrice and I are going on a week long vacation to Bribie Island, and I am hoping to really nut out the plan for my story. It will be a good test of endurance to see if I can work on something with a bit of gusto, but it will also see if Patrice can stand me spending so much time on something other than just spending time wit her. If this has any impact on her, I will probably not invest myself in it.

The most important thing for me will be sleep. If I am tired at all (from anything less than about 8 hours sleep) my work ethic drops to near-zero levels. This is even in my day job. If I am well-rested I am capable of a lot, and I find I have a much longer attention span, can multi-task better, work harder, and don’t fall asleep when I could be doing something more interesting like reading. Exactly how much sleep I need I’m not sure, but from past experience the amount seems to be “more the merrier!”.

When Patrice was doing shift at a hospital in Brisbane which started at 7am we were heading to bed around 9pm. This usually ended up being closer to 9:30, which meant that I was getting around 9 hours sleep each night (or at least 8:30). During those two weeks I read three whole novels, smashed out a few weeks worth of an online programming course I was doing, updated my website, and was around 1400% more productive than my usual, tired self. This is how I want November to be.

To reach the 50000 word goal I will need to write (minimum) 1667 word per day. I’m not sure exactly how long that is going to take. Sure, I can type pretty quick, but when it comes to creative writing (even what I am typing now) it’s not that fast. I need to stop and think about what I want to say and try my darnedest and cut down the number of commas I use. When I re-read what I write that is one of the big things that seems to crop up. It has the inflection of how I say it, but the sentences just don’t need the pause.

Another thing I have been thinking about is what I am going to use to write. I find that pen and paper is too slow and painful (I hold pens like I don’t want them to live any more) and my computer too impractical. I have a netbook (Samsung NC110) which is pretty light and has a battery which lasts a good number of hours, but the keyboard is a little bit small and the screen resolution is just low enough to really annoy me lately. I do think that the netbook will end up being my weapon of choice during November however. It’s the most practical and portable solution that doesn’t involve me typing thousands of words on a touch screen.

What it all boils down to is passion. Do I want to write? Do I enjoy creating fiction? That’s something that I just won’t know until I start. The best outcome would be creating something good, or even great, and being really proud of what I accomplished. If I start only to find I don’t enjoy what I am doing, that is an acceptable outcome as well. What would really bum me out would be if I started, enjoyed it, but didn’t finish because I just was lazy.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Writing. And Writing. And Writing.

Something I have always been interested in is reading. There is so much detail, depth, intrigue and narrative in a good book that just can’t be portrayed in any other medium. When I was younger, I began writing a fantasy novel and never finished it. I believe it got to about 4000 or 5000 words before I moved on to other ways to spend my time. Throughout Primary school and high school I always read, but never tried writing again. In my second year of university one of the elective courses I could take was “The Short Story”.

It would be a bit of a tall tale to say that course made me fall in love with writing again. I enjoyed it, however I only achieved a passing grade. The tutor didn’t seem to like the hap-hazard style of writing I employed. This was mostly because I did it all the night before, and never had a plan.

After working full time for three years, I have been looking to branch out and extend myself. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in. National Novel Writing Month started in America by the Office of Letters and Light and has spread to a world-wide literary undertaking. The basic premise is to write a novel of greater than 50000 words within the month of November. I believe this is something that I want to attempt.

To do this, I need an idea which I believe is original enough to build an interesting story out of. I will also need a solid plan, and time each day to write the required 1613 words to hit the deadline. Recently I have been reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and I have fallen in love with the characters and the quirky, left-and-a-little-behind-centre-field way they are portrayed and interact with the world. I think I want to try and write comedy.

Have a think about the genre, I believe it will be a real challenge to keep the book light and funny while still keeping the story entertaining and deep. I want to challenge myself. I don’t consider myself a very funny person but I believe I have a good understanding of logic, and can use that to my advantage.

Leading up to the month I want to maintain my blog a bit more often than I have been, and to get used to writing a serious amount of text down. Ideally, I would like to write five to ten thousand-word-long posts before November, so I can understand exactly how long it takes me to write, and pick up any flaws in my plan.

Assuming I can do it, I’m not sure what I would want to do with the end result. If people like it, there might be self-publishing. This is something that I can worry about after the fact.

 

The Leek

Right, so one of my various dodge projects a while ago was “theleek.com.au”, and it was pretty swell for all of a couple of weeks. Basically, the original plan didn’t take off. So I have decided to band together some geeky brothers, and do something with the domain name.

So far, the best suggestion has been a group blog which everyone can post whatever they want on it. By everyone, I mean my friends and such who are approved posters. You never know what can happen with a collection of interesting information on the inter-tubes.

It would still maintain the original idea of games, tech and culture, but the beauty is that covers almost everything in existence. People could post about something they found out about online, something fun, something crazy, projects, whatever, and it would all fit in the criteria of “everything”.

It’s a beautiful concept. Now, time to do it…

The Stationery Business Isn’t Too Stationary

So my side project for the last few weeks / months has been www.stationeryreview.com which I started towards the end of last year. Basically, I review pens, paper, diaries and pretty much anything else that might be considered stationery.

A few weeks ago I took some time to send emails to a number of stationery manufacturers who I quite liked, and received quite a positive response. Pepople like my website and want to send me items to review. It’s amazing.

So far, I have recieved 3 notebooks, a Filofax(!), a 40% off to a stationery retailer and I am expecting more in the near future. It’s been so encouraging, and I hope I am able to keep it up.

My previous post about the Meta Game was a nice mind-experiment, however it hasn’t panned out yet. I haven’t had any time to work on making a website, and I haven’t heard hide nor hair from the other involved party. Perhaps it was just a good idea, and not quite worth the effort. We shall see.

The next few weekends are going to be crazy-hectic. I have numerous parties, weddings, events, barbecues and funerals (heh, joking) to go to, and Patrice is on placement at the hospital, so next week I am going to be getting up at some crazy hour of the morning, and getting to work in the city by 7am. At least I will build up a butt-load of time off.

Till next time, keep on trocking (trucking, and rocking)
– Andrew

Thinking Meta

For a few years I have had an idea which I haven’t really shared with anyone. While at uni we were encouraged to think differently about gaming, and the idea came from a thought session leaving traditional gaming behind.

Imagine a treasure hunt, where the clues for each item are online and the goal is to find QR Codes stuck around the place, scan them, and claim the points.

While I believe the idea is sound, I haven’t had a decent way to create, test, produce or maintain the game until last night speaking with one of my good friends, who offered to do the leg work on the project.

Between now and registering a domain name for the project, a lot needs to happen. We have to finalise the parameters and rules of the game, think of a name, build a website and test it with a group of people.

The first thing for me will be the web development. The site needs to contain quite a bit of information;

  • Entry page, information about the game
  • Registration page (to be locked down until the game is released)
  • Clues page (for registered users)
  • Profile (to see your scans, and maybe basic information)
  • Leader board (to keep the competition fierce)
  • Admin pages
    • Create a clue / code
    • Landing pages for each code
    • User Maintenance
Once we have that down pat, then we can move to a wider audience (i.e. anyone) I’m pretty excited that someone has heard and agreed with my idea. It can only go forward from here (or not, but that’s ok)