February 2007 - Posts
Last November I was pondering where I would go on vacation
, using my much cherished bonus vacation week from passing the UFE.
Well my schedule is settling down - which means I had a chance to get my vacation time booked. With the work side of the equation at rest, I went ahead and started purchasing my tickets to Europe. I'm ready to fly - and I'm leaving for London at the end of April. May is going to be a fun
My friends at work opened my eyes to the Ryanair and related websites - the big Expedia/Travelocity services won't reveal the ridiculously good deals you can get for flights around Europe.
It really does make me jealous - how come North America can't enjoy similar deals? Perhaps the Americans do - Canadians don't have much variety. Then again, we also have a very sparse population which probably doesn't help.
I'm still baffled by the business model of the European budget airlines - how do you survive offering so many virtually free fares? I'm sure someone has an answer. I'm going to have to look around to find said answers. Or perhaps one will conveniently land in my lap.
Opened with a strange mix of Musak, which made me shudder, followed by a Musak-y rendition of Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1
At least I later got to meet one of my really good university profs, which was a pleasant reunion.
And dinner was pretty good, except for the part where I almost got blacklisted from ever attending ceremonies at the hotel ever again. Take a picture of chaos, and people involved in creating said chaos get disproportionately upset.
More commentary and photos to be posted shortly. First, I need some rest.
Earlier this month I was tempted to write a cute little comment on the fun you can have helping a new hire figure out how to use a fax machine.
Until I did just that - tried to figure out the machine.
I quickly concluded it wouldn't be fair to poke fun at anyone for having trouble with the machine - because the user interface was horrendous.
There were five buttons with some reference to memory. You had to play a fun whack-a-mole type of trial and error game to figure out which one would release the fax you had saved in memory.
Being persistent and stubborn, I finally managed to coax answers out of the offending office appliances, without resorting to as much profanity as Bricktop
- great video here.
Although it was certainly getting close at times.
It did, however, remind me of this splendid article about design - and it has to be excellent
Like a dishwasher in a public area, a fax machine is one of those devices where you don't have the luxury of assuming that everyone will have a chance to read the manual - it has be intuitive, damnit!
It's a shame we even have to use fax machines these days - but I've seen excellent products which made the job a breeze.
And I've seen the train wrecks that are little more than waffle irons with phones attached. For shame to any manufacturer who skimps out on poorly designed machines.
You go on the same list as the manufacturer of the CPU fan that's dying on me and the mp3 player with a battery that died less than a year after I got it.
I'll be taking advantage of my short day tomorrow to make some warranty calls!
After an incredibly intense month or so, things abruptly calmed down.
I finished the work that was assigned to me - and, fortunately, I was assigned to a set job. Instead of piling me on with more work, I was released to go back to my 'home' team. And that was just in time - we had a little social at work which was a great deal of fun. Prizes were given out, a delicious potluck meal was eaten, and I was able to enjoy a - surprisingly? - relaxing day at the office.My friend Neil wrote about the little piece of recognition he got from our Member of Parliament earlier this month
, and I was surprised that I had not received it. I mean - it's not a big deal, but did I anger the politicians or something? I don't know how I would.
Still, it wasn't a big deal.
And it was a good thing I didn't stress about it - it turns out that I also got a similar certificate - it was sitting in my mailbox at the office for the past 2 or 3 weeks!
That's one of the funny problems that arise with long jobs in big teams: you're always at the client site, and there's always someone else coming into the office to drop off and pick up mail.
If I was expecting to pick up something critical (read: "client related"), someone would've wandered up to my floor to get my mail. But since I had no inkling of having something interesting to pick up, no one checked, and so my recognition was delayed.
Contrast the delay with the ultra-fast reward I got at the end of the day: one of my friends tipped me off to a source of extra concert tickets. The Barenaked Ladies were playing the Air Canada Centre - if I was interested, make the call.
I did - and saw the show from pretty sweet seats. Thanks work - nothing like freebies and perks to brighten your day after having slogged through a fairly intense period of work.
Next up: a few days of training out of town. Then back to 'normal' work.
Two brief themes to share tonight, both dealing with excess.
Forgive the lateness of my posting - the Hydro One downtown Toronto internet network
wasn't cooperating with me. And I wanted to have some dinner before going to sleep!
I've been thrashing about full tilt in the phenomenon called "audit busy season" lately and while it means I've been getting lots of work done, it's also meant much less time for sleep, eating and other recreation.
The ironic upside is that, despite living on takeout dinners, I've been losing a few pounds over the past month.
Almost as ironic as how I found out about the whole Smith fiasco.
You know what I'm talking about, unless you don't have the senses needed to 1. read, 2. listen, and, probably, 3. smell.
It was all over the news on Friday, but we found out on Thursday.
Although I can always fall back upon Zach to learn about celebrity news I'm otherwise ignoring,
the ironic thing is that it wasn't CNN or dedicated outlets that told me the news.
It was the cleaning lady.
She walked by our audit room, we said hello as we always do, and she asked us if we heard the news.
"Um, no", we replied, with some curiousity as to what may be so enthralling that we should already know about it - it being only 7 or 9 p.m. on a Thursday evening.
So she told us. We let it sink in. My manager said that, she wasn't especially surprised.
And we returned to our work.
Speech recognition isn't there yet.
I just wrote about shout hacking here
- read up on that before seeing this comedy spectacle, courtesy of Videosift.Warning - this clip has a bit of NSFW language - which shouldn't be a surprise, given that someone's trying to do anything with a computer.
I've seen various criticisms of the new Windows Vista popping up here and there
, such as in this embedded video.
I am, just a little bit, shocked.
The amount of spam that hit my e-mail actually went down from last month, where the total was a record 2436.
This month I 'only' got 73% as much as the all-time record amount.
I haven't spent much time sifting through the 'e-trash' to see what changed - well, until this very moment.
Interestingly enough, there's a few more 'phishing' e-mails than usual - seems like someone thinks I'm stupid enough to give away PIN codes or other such information. Reminds me of the clip featuring Bill Gates on the Daily Show,
where Jon tries to get Bill's password.
It's a hilarious segement - check it out on Videosift.
Going back to the spam, I presume either filtering kicked things up a notch, or perhaps spammers were just getting extra desperate leading up to the holiday celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Sort of like how stores try to stay open longer to do the same thing, except it's marginally less unseemly for 'normal' retailers to work their people to the Dickensian bone.
It'll be interesting to see if this completely new twist will persist, or if the ever-upward trend will continue.