With Blackjack and Hookers "I'm going to write my own blog. With blackjack. And hookers."


How to obtain a UK visa in one (ok, a lot more than one) easy (ish) step(s)

The all-important visa

The all-important visa

One of (many) reasons I chose the UK as my destination, when I decided I wanted to move, was that-- thanks to two UK-born grandparents-- I was eligible for a five year ancestry visa. It used to be that British grandparents would make me eligible for a passport, but they've tightened those restrictions. Still, five years is plenty, and if it isn't, I'm eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of them.

Compared to a points-based visa, or a spousal visa, the ancestry visa is pretty straightforward: you need to prove that you have at least one UK-born grandparent, that you have money to support yourself when you get there, and that you're looking for a job. Obviously, not having criminal convictions helps, and there's various other things you need to fill out, but it's pretty cut-and-dried. Either you have the requisite relations, or you don't.

This meant, of course, that I had to track down birth certificates for my grandparents. I prioritised my granddad, who was born in Southampton, because he was born and died with the same surname as me, and I thought that would make things simpler. It was a relatively simple process to order: I found his birth registration on the rolls, filled out a form, and-- theoretically-- I would receive the proper certificate in five to seven working days. Plus the several days of processing time.

(It was more out of curiosity than anything, at this point, that I also ordered my grandmother's birth certificate from Scotland.)

The several days of processing time, though, were beginning to worry me. I really wanted to get this application in soon, because once I'd decided I was going to move, I wanted everything to happen immediately. I ended up ordering a second copy of the certificate, this time paying for priority processing-- that, surely, would get to me quickly!

I went home at lunch to check the mail every day for a week. Five working days. Ten working days. 'Wait a few more days' they told me, when I sent in an email concerned about the lack of certificate arrival. My timeline was shortening; I was beginning to panic.

My grandmother's certificate shipped a full week after the second of my granddad's, but that was ok; I didn't expect to need it.

Only... Grandma's arrived four days after it was shipped. And granddad's still hadn't.

Ok: change of plans. My dad's birth certificate (obtained via my parents; thank you!) had her full birth name on it; it would be fine.

I submitted the application form. I booked my biometrics appointment. And then... I realised that I needed more than just a print out from the internet to prove my financial worth; I needed a bank stamp on it.

I postponed the biometrics appointment. I ordered the bank statement from my bank ('twenty-four to forty-eight hours to process'). And I... waited. Impatiently. Again. I really needed it to come on time.

It arrived two hours before I needed to leave for my biometrics appointment. Phew! Note to self: in future, pay more attention to minutiae like that. There's no need to leave it to the last minute. It's so unlike me, too, but... stress. Let's call it stress.

Anyway. The biometrics appointment took forever, but went fine. They took my passport, the birth certificates, and the rest of my documentation, and sent it off to Manila. I paid for priority processing so that it wouldn't take weeks, and then I... waited. I panicked. A lot. What if I'd forgotten something? What if they lost it? What if I didn't get it back in good time and then they rejected it and I didn't have time for a second attempt before my flight? What if...

Happily, I can report that - just over a week after I sent it all off - my passport (with all important visa stamp) was returned to me today.

This time in two weeks, it will be my turn to fly to Manila. Hopefully my passport can show me the way!

(Oh, and? After I complained a second time about my birth certificates not showing up, a second batch were sent. And, of course, the next day? The original order showed up. So soon I will have four copies.)


Packing up your life is hard. The end.

Wanna buy my couch?

Wanna buy my couch?

(I'm going to try and blog again. If one can't do it in the midst of a major life change like this one... when can one?)

Having spent my twenties, and then the first couple of years of my thirties, too, in a relatively stable relationship, I have built up a lot of stuff. By the end of my twenties, I was buying Nice Things. That ratty couch we picked up off the side of the road? Gone, replaced by a beautiful leather couch that I bought in an actual store, brand new. Last year, I replaced our not-even-that-old TV with a bigger, crisper, shinier one. With a better speaker system.

And on it goes.

Now, suddenly, I'm trying to wrap up my life here. More than a decade of collecting things, and now I need to get rid of most of them. I'm not crying into my furniture and electricals as I give them on to other people or anything, but it's still a weird feeling: I had my life all sorted out, and now I don't. Now I'm (sort of) reverting back to the twenty-something mode of 'Let's take a working holiday somewhere on the other side of the world!' and none of this stuff will help.

Even beyond the more philosophical side of it, I hate trying to get rid of my stuff. I sent around a list of things I had to sell at work, and then felt horrible when half a dozen people all desperately wanted my television. More than that, though, there's having to work out what to do with the things that I don't easily sell-- and I think that will simply come down to 'sell to a secondhand dealer even though they won't give me very much because I have a deadline and enough else to stress about right now, thanks very much'.

Then there are the little things. The teapot and teacups I bought while on a family holiday one year; the wine glass and decanter set; my anthropomorphised silver coffee pot and milk jug; my pirate marionette from Prague. Sure, it can all go into boxes and my parents will store them for a few years until I figure out what I'm doing on a more permanent basis, but... will I still care about these things in two years? In five? They're all just things. But they're my things. My thoughts go around in circles.

My parents came over on the weekend and helped me pack up a lot of my stuff. There's only really the kitchen, now, plus my clothes and what's left in the bathroom. There's still furniture to be gotten rid of-- I'm still trying to sell it-- but the bulk of everything is in progress. I'll be glad when it's just all done and I'm out of this apartment, as sad as I am to leave this place. Of course, I'll also be glad when my visa finally comes through (my paperwork is all in Manila-- why Manila? I have no idea-- at the moment, and I'm waiting, waiting, waiting).

I also had to say goodbye to my parents this weekend. They leave for their next big trip on Thursday, and so I won't see them again until... sometime. Next year, probably. That's a very strange feeling for me, as someone who has always lived in the same city as her parents. I can go months without seeing them (or I used to), but this is different. I'm dreading the rest of the goodbyes. On the other hand, I'm glad not to do them at the airport. I have a 6am flight, so I will be staying in an airport hotel the night before, and there will be no one to see me off. It's for the best; I hate goodbyes.

In three weeks, I will be on a plane. I'll have already transited through Manila (it seems I have to go there, too - or at least, my flight takes me there), and on my way to London.



Mmm. Vodka.

Funny how I only ever come back to this blog when I’m on holiday (not really; it’s pretty inevitable, actually).

So, yes! I’m on holiday. Rohan and I are up in the Hunter Valley for three nights. This is our state’s premier wine region, and needless to say, we’re looking forward to doing some tasting. Also some eating. And… you know, things.

This is the only holiday we’re likely to get this year, so I made the decision to make it a good one (plus, it’s our ten year anniversary this year, so… excuses!): we’re staying in an exclusive, high-class villa, and while it was definitely not cheap, I’m pretty convinced it was worth it. We have a spa outside, a fireplace, a full kitchen (with herbs, spices, olive oils and all of that kind of useful stuff provided!), and daily breakfast supplies (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, bread, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, muffins, juice, etc, etc, etc) provided. Also a bed made out of an old wine barrel. And a beautiful bath tub. And a walk-in shower. And… you get the point.

Actually, one of the best things about the place we’re staying in is the seclusion; this property has only three villas, and all of them are out of sight from each other. I could skinny dip in the spa outside, and no one would ever know.

It’s nice to get away. We’ve only been out of Sydney for a few hours, now, but I’m already feeling much more relaxed… even if the first thing I did after checking in was log on to my computer to fix something for work. This place has everything; there’s something incredibly relaxing about that, even if it means we’ll end up doing some of the cooking ourselves.

We shopped in Cessnock before heading out here (we’re in Pokolbin), but after checking in (and fixing work issues), we headed out to explore a little, and hit some key locales: the distillery, and the cheese shop.

The distillery! The Hunter Distillery has only been in business for about two years, so they’re still small and new, but oh man, they do some incredible stuff. Their tasting is $5, but you don’t pay if you buy something (and believe me, you’ll buy something). We started with the gin, and… well. I don’t drink gin. I don’t like it. And yet… I liked this. I liked the vodka, too, and I don’t drink vodka straight. Then we moved on to the flavoured vodkas, and they were even better.

The whole point of the Hunter Distillery is that they’re organic; they don’t use fake flavourings. The coffee vodka we tasted is blended with real espresso; the fruit vodkas and liquors use real fruit essences. And you can taste it: they all taste incredibly real.

Less than two hours in the Hunter, and yes, we’d already spent a lot of money. Worth it, though.

Our other stop for the afternoon was the Smelly Cheese Factory. In fact, the wine tour we’re going on tomorrow includes a stop (and a tasting) at this marvel of cheesey goodness, but Rohan and I are used to a certain… look. Rohan is making pizza for dinner, and you can’t have pizza without goats cheese, and if you’re in a region that makes cheese, you can’t just buy that from the supermarket. Obviously.

So we bought cheese.

But I promise we just headed back to our home away from home after that. I swear it. No wine tasting; that can wait until tomorrow.

We did have to stop to let a fleet of kangaroos (we’ve decided that that is the collective noun; Wikipedia may disagree, but whatever) pass. There’s something special about watching that; kangaroos are beautiful in motion.

Back home, I spent a lovely hour in the spa (with a glass of sparking wine, naturally, not to mention my book), while Rohan started cooking; I’m paying, so he’s cooking. It’s an excellent trade-off.

Really, the only thing we’re missing, now, is Netflix… and yes, we’ve only had Netflix for two weeks, but yes, we’ve gotten used to having it. So much yes.


End of the Year (for work, anyway)

I'm really not trying to brag when I say that today is my last day of work for 2013. I happen to work in a place that, while it has definite downsides, also offers significant perks, with an almost obscene amount of annual leave being one of them. This time of year is quiet for us; we're an educational facility, and so we effectively shut down for much of the summer period, and so most of us take at least a couple weeks of leave.

It's been a long year, for me, both at work and in other ways. I am so ready to be on vacation; I've been ready for weeks. I was supposed to have a week off in early November, but I ended up spending it in bed with the flu, which did absolutely nothing to help my recover emotional equilibrium. I'm pretty sure everyone at work is ready for me to go on leave, too: let's just say I haven't been the most patient of people, recently.

This morning, I've been tidying things up and ticking them off in preparation for not being here. It's an easier process than when I go on leave during the rest of the year, since most of my coworkers will also not be around, but there's still things to bed down. My coworker and I have a big project to commence when we're back in January, but we're relatively prepared.

Things have changed a lot since this time last year.

In 2013, there was an organisational restructure that changed us from a library team of three, including our library manager, to a library team of two that now sits under the banner of research and learning. It was a positive step, despite the loss of a position, but it's involved a lot of change, and a lot of adjustment. Six months later, I think we're all settling in to it, though things are also changing again: we're losing the research assistant who was also part of our new department.

We're also finally in a position to begin the great weed of 2013-2014. Our collection is old: in the past, there has been a huge emphasis on keeping everything, with a bigger collection being considered a better one. Now, we're looking more at a smaller, highly relevant collection. We're going to get rid of a lot of shelving and create a business lounge type area.

Honestly, the weeding process is a little depressing, in some ways. There have been two major moves in the past ten years, and before both of them, a weed was supposedly performed. Exactly why, then, I found a 1986 book on artificial intelligence on the open access shelf... It was, at least, a source of amusement:

The programs in this book will run on a standard IBM PC using Basica. All the programs are designed to work with a monochrome screen and no additional hardware or software, with the exception of Listing 9.1 which requires a graphic card and, preferably, a colour display.

I'm not sure why that was ever part of our collection, and I'm really not sure why it still was in 2013. Still, it's very satisfying going through the collection book by book, making decisions as to what should stay and what should go. The end result is going to be fantastic.

We also replaced our library management system, this year, moving from a terribly awful outdated system (I won't name and shame) to Koha, an open-source, fully web-based system that I like a lot. We can send automated overdue notices, now, guys. We can add urls to our catalogue entries. We can... it's ridiculous, honestly, how the simplest things can be so new and exciting to us.

It was a huge job, though. A lot of the cataloguing in the old system was awful and inconsistent. Even the way the system stored data was pretty awful, and though we had some excellent help with the migration process, I have spent hours and hours and hours fixing things up. I'm kind of obsessive about it: I want everything to be perfect. Luckily, I was introduced to MarcEdit, which lets me use regular expressions to make mass changes. I can't even begin to describe how much time that has saved me, or how nerdily excited I am about it.

(I still don't really understand how to write regular expressions, mind, but I am very good at copying other people's.)

I've also gleefully thrown myself into writing sql reports in Koha. I can basically report on anything; it's amazing. Yes, I'm a nerd. But seriously: every time we want to find something out about the collection, I can just write a query to do it for me. I'm in love.

So... yes, that has taken an awful lot of my time.

I spoke at a Moodle conference in September, and yes, I'm still heavily involved in all things Moodle here at work. Sometimes... too involved. I worry that my expertise means that no one else ever tries to take any ownership; I have no idea what will happen when I do, eventually, leave this job.

I've started preparing for that eventuality by introducing a documentation wiki here at work. I don't know that anyone else will ever use it, but at least I feel like I have a place to store all of these things... I've done my bit, etc.

We finally launched the new organisational website this year, a long, long time after we had originall intended to. It hasn't been completely smooth sailing, but it's a vast improvement on the old one. Of course, here is another area that worries me for the future: the website and library management system both run on linux servers, administered by me.

Well. We'll just cross that bridge when we get there, won't we? Or... the organisation will. It's certainly been a good experience for me: I've learned a lot about server administration, and about linux-y things that I hadn't had to touch before (apache config files, for example, and postfix mail servers, and backup scripts, and logs, and...). It's one of my strengths, I think: I'm willing to jump in and get my hands dirty, making things work. I google for answers, when I don't know them. I learn.

I've learned a lot this year. I've done a lot this year. I'm pretty proud of it. I feel really lucky to have has had as many opportunities as I have had; I don't think there are that many places out there that would simply let me run with things, the way I've gotten to.

And now I am really, really, really ready for a rest.

Filed under: Open Source, Work No Comments

Democracy in Action

The Get Up signs were pretty funny.

I kind of love the experience of voting. Yes, it's gut-wrenching when your candidate/party of choice doesn't get in… but I still love it.

Yes, I'm one of those people who would still vote, without fail, if voting were not compulsory in this country. Voting is important. As a woman, I'm conscious of all those people who worked so hard to make sure that my gender was allowed to vote. As a human being, I'm conscious of all those people who worked so hard to make sure that anyone was allowed to vote.

I love doing my research beforehand, and organising my preferences. I love that I get to vote below the line, filling in all those boxes (110 this time!) so as to put the people I consider most vile right down the bottom. I love chit-chatting with the poll staff, stuck indoors on a beautiful spring day like this one. I love overhearing conversations while I queue, even when I think someone else's politics are appalling. I guess I just kind of love knowing that at least we live in a country where we get to have those opinions, right or wrong. We may end up with a government that I can't stand, and it may make me despair of people in this country… but it'll be the one we, as a country, elected. And that's still worth something.

I love the sausage sizzles, the cake stalls and the jumble sales. I always look through the books, even though I don't buy physical books anymore, and don't really want more in my house. I bought three little wooden sailing ships today, even though I don't really want to add more dust catchers to the house. It was nice.

Despite everything, the mood was positive. People weren't complaining about having to queue. The poll workers were great at bringing the elderly and parents with young children to the front of the queue so that they didn't have to wait as long. The people handing out leaflets out front weren't too pushy.

I know there will be things I get worked up about, later today. It seems pretty likely that the result is not the one I would choose. But right now… I feel positive about democracy.

And that's a good thing.

I've heard a lot of people mocking our electoral system, lately, especially people from overseas who don't seem to grasp our preferential voting system. I'm well aware that there are things in the system that don't work as well as they should… but I still think it's a better system than many of them out there. In Australia, voting for a non-major party is not a wasted vote. I can put whoever I want as number one on my ballot, and if they don't get enough votes? My vote moves on to my second choice, all the way down the line.

This is so important. It means I don't have to sacrifice my integrity to vote for the party I think is least worst that has a chance at winning. It gives our government an opportunity for diversity. The Greens (who I do vote for) will almost certainly never win government - and without preferential voting, they'd likely never win so much as a single seat. But with preferences, they stand a chance, and that gives them a voice.

And in a way, it gives me a voice.

Filed under: Politics 1 Comment

Where The Forest Meets The Sea

View from the Top

View From The Top

We were picked up from our hotel at 7:45 this morning (ouch), headed north: to the Daintree. As I mentioned earlier, I had been up this way before, but eighteen years is a long time, and my recollections were relatively vague. Today was, needless to say, quite different.

The Billy Tea tour groups are small: there were twelve of us, in four family groups, on our bus, with an eccentric frenchman as guide. There was a couple from the Central Coast (north of Sydney), a trio from Los Angeles, and a family of five from England. I was really impressed with that family: three teenagers, and they were interested, engaged, and full of intelligent questions, both with regards to what we were seeing, but also other topics that came up in conversation. They got along with each other and with their parents, and interacted well with the adults. We didn't travel as much as a family by the time I was that age, so it's difficult to compare, but I very much doubt we would have been quite that positive. I don't know.



The trip was really well designed, with stops every hour or so - short stops at lookouts, and longer stops for a cruise down the Daintree River (we saw a crocodile!), for a walk through the rainforest, for lunch, and for a swim/tropical fruit tasting/billy tea and damper afternoon tea. There was a second tour bus with people doing the same trip as us, with some intermingling, but for the most part, it was just our group of twelve-plus-Frank-the-tour-guide-- which was nice. It felt much more personal than yesterday's trip, because we actually got to talk to people.



The Daintree is, unsurprisingly, beautiful. Cape Tribulation reminds me (unsurprisingly) of Jeannie Baker's 'Where The Forest Meets the Sea'. We were out of mobile reception for most of the day and that, too, was really quite awesome in a way. Annnnnnd there was a stop for ice cream on the way back (did you know that wattleseed ice cream tasted like coffee?), and that was nice too.

It's been nice being able to use my camera properly again, too. I admit, I get really lazy: I have a fancy digital SLR, and yet I use it on manual more often than not. It bothers me that I do it, but it's just… easier. And yet, today, I found the manual setting just wasn't good enough to deal with the different light conditions, especially when we were in the depths of the rainforest; it tended to heavily over or underexpose, leaving my photos generally useless. As a result, I basically had no choice but to start playing with settings again, and it was, I admit, really quite fun. I won't claim I really knew what I was doing, but I was able to get a few good shots, and some others that have come out quite nicely with a little bit of post production.



I do wish my eye sight was better, though. Even with glasses, I have a lot of trouble determining when my shots are focused, when I use manual focus; I just can't see properly. That means I generally stick to auto focus, but sometimes the camera simply cannot cope with it, and gets confused, and then I have to suck it up and hope that my manual focus attempts come out more or less acceptably.

Sadly, I did not manage to get any good shots of the big crocodile we saw - or any of the fauna, really. Plants are easier: they mostly only move in the breeze. (mostly)

Beach Debris

Beach Debris

It was a long day, and I'm pretty tired now. We got back to our hotel a little after 6, and almost immediately headed out for dinner-- yes, we actually ate out tonight, something we've done surprisingly little of thanks to our room's kitchen. We still only made it as far as the hotel's restaurant, but that was a good choice: I had the barramundi fillet and a glass of riesling, and Rohan had a three cheese and truffle oil gnocchi with a glass of pinot grigio. We followed that up with strawberry cheesecake and a botrytis riesling for me, and a chocolate brownie and a grappa for Rohan.

I am thus, now, tired and full, and feeling pretty content.


Nostalgia (and Green Island)

I was last in this part of the country in (I think) 1995(1); eighteen odd years now. We stayed up at Port Douglas on that trip, and I remember a surprising amount of it: I remember the hour-long coach trip from the airport; I remember snorkelling out on the reef; I remember visiting a wildlife park and getting a bat caught in my clothes; I remember attempting to bike along the beach in to Port Douglas and the wind making it really hard going; I remember catching the sky-rail up to Kuranda; and I remember the four-wheel drive safari we went on… though probably the most memorable part of that, for me, was that we saw some of the places where 'Ocean Girl' was filmed. Oh, pre-teens.

Green Island Beach

Green Island Beach

Actually, the 'Ocean Girl' thing felt really important for good reason. We were living in the US still at this point, and that particular tv show was just about the only 'Australian' thing that was easily consumable; it was on cable TV, and I watched it semi-regularly. It made me home-sick, like many things did - which was funny, of course, because I only barely remembered living in Australia by this point. 'Ocean Girl' felt like part of my identity as Australian, and that made it important.

For me (I can't speak for my siblings), it was important to feel like I belonged. By this point in my life, I was happy enough at school and had friends and everything, but I had this mentality that Atlanta wasn't home, and that it would never be home (none of this, I'll acknowledge, made news of our move back to Sydney any easier; but that was especially so because of the year that followed this particular trip). Our trips back to Australia and New Zealand were all about belonging for me: they were all about coming home.

It's funny, but it sort of feels like I still have a thing about going 'home', despite the fact that I do live in Sydney, now, and it is home. We revisit a lot of places I've been to before. Last year it was Hawaii, a place I'd been to some eleven years previously. Before that, it was New Zealand, twice, and while on both trips we saw things I hadn't before, we also went to places I had.

Feeding Frenzy

Feeding Frenzy

And so it is with this trip. We're staying in Palm Cove rather than Port Douglas, but there are certainly similarities. I'm pretty sure the rainforest safari we're going on tomorrow is the same one I went on, eighteen years ago… though I strongly suspect I will enjoy it rather more this time (even without the 'Ocean Girl' tie in).

Today, however, we went somewhere I hadn't ever been: Green Island. Green Island is a coral cay (that is, it was formed from dead coral, and is constantly changing in size and shape as a result) roughly 25-30km off the coast of Cairns. It's a great spot for scuba diving and snorkelling, as well as glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles and so on. Rohan had no interest in getting in the water, so we settled on the latter two, plus some walks around the island (and some cocktails over lunch).

We opted against the buffet lunch served on one of the boats that brought us over from the mainland, and I'm glad of it-- the smells hanging around on that boat afterward were not terribly appetising. Our lunch, in contrast, was delicious (and yes, the cocktails were too). There's actual a hotel out on Green Island, and a very exclusive one at that: $600 a night, ouch! It must be beautiful and peaceful at night, though, after all the day tourists have left; it's an absolutely beautiful spot, if a little too remote and isolated for my tastes. Lunch was delicious… but eating in the same restaurant every day of your holiday would get tiring, at least for me.

Low Tide

Low Tide

The bus that was supposed to deliver us back to our hotel, after we got back to the mainland, forgot to drop off a couple of people, which led to a rather circuitous trip, and rather longer than it needed to be. It was interesting to see some more of the other beachside areas… but we didn't get home until 6:30, and after leaving home at 9:45, it was, honestly, a very long day. Tomorrow is liable to be even longer, but at least I'm prepared for that.

Rohan is presently cooking dinner, while we listen to a 'Doctor Who' audiobook, with all the windows open and a beautiful breeze wafting through. I have no complaints with the world.

1. I want to say it was 1995 because I'm pretty sure it was our last trip back to Australia before we moved back in 1996. I think we went up to Cairns right after our visit to Sydney, and that it was during that visit that my dad found out about the possibility of our move back. I may, of course, be misremembering: this is, after all, nearly 20 years ago. Regardless, I was probably around about 11 at the time. (top)


Welcome to Palm Cove

It's been a long couple of months. A long two years, really: two years since Rohan started working on Towncraft, his iPad game. It's been out for about a month, now, and is doing really well… but there's still an awful lot that needs to be done; a busy few months to come. Months ago, we agreed that we'd go on holidays after the game came out. We'd hoped, at one point, that we'd be able to go back to Seattle (so that Rohan could go back to PAX Dev), but for a lot of reasons, that wasn't possible. Instead…

Well, we settled on far north Queensland. Relaxing, not too far away, with interesting things to see and do. Perfect.

And here we are. It's just a short trip - Tuesday to Sunday - but I'm already feeling more relaxed. The hotel wireless won't connect from my computer (and anyway, it's super expensive), so that's even more reason to largely disconnect. I'll tether via my phone on and off, but there's no compulsion to just sit at the computer, and I kind of like that.

Palm Cove at Dusk

Palm Cove at Dusk

We're staying in Palm Cove, which is roughly halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas. It's the most relaxed of the three-- I'm pretty sure it exists pretty much only as a tourist destination, but it's small, and delightfully peaceful as a result. We've got a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen in one of the resorts, with views out over the glorious swimming pool; the beach is just around the corner, just barely visible between the other buildings. It's idyllic.

We arrived in the early evening, yesterday, so today is our first real day. Dinner last night was at a local pizza restaurant (delicious); after that, we hunted down the local 'supermarket' (it's basically just a corner shop) and bought necessities: bread, eggs, avocado, tomato, and so on. And then wine and beer at the bottle shop. We'll probably venture further afield today, to a bigger supermarket, but really, it scarcely matters.

Rohan's making breakfast at the moment, and after that, we'll probably go for a swim. It's winter here, and that means it's a balmy 22 degrees at 9am, with a high of 29 later in the day. Which is… awful, I know. Just awful. My life is so difficult.

Today's our 'let's just relax' day; I'm booking some things for later in the week, but for today, we're just going to take things as they come. I pulled a muscle in my neck last night, so I'm hoping taking it easy will help ease that (and in the meantime: ice and ibuprofen, oh yes).


Career Open Source Software Fiddler

I've basically been in Louise-heaven all week, at work. We've (finally!) launched our new library management system, and I've been knee deep in the wonderful, glorious, utterly delightful mess of preferences and features, all needing my attention. This is the first time I've been part of a move this big; certainly, we moved from one learning management system to another, and that was a big project, but the library system has so much data, and our new system has so many possibilities. It's been great.

I'm not really a great librarian, when it comes down to it - not in the traditional sense. I'm not all that fond of customer service; I'd much rather hole up in my office and get stuck into something without the interruptions that actual patrons bring. I like losing myself in things, and playing with stuff until I figure it out. I'd much, much, much rather play with something until I work it out than be trained in it.

But all of these skills rather nicely set me up for what has ended up being a big part of my job, especially now that we're moving towards open source solutions. I get to play with these things basically to my heart's content, and I have basically full control over them: if I don't like the way something displays, I can dig into the code and change it. Open source is amazingly flexible, and I'm incredibly excited to be getting to mould all of this into what we want it to be.

We're really lucky that I can do that. I mean, sure, it's completely possible to hire someone to do all of that configuration and manipulation for you, and it's a perfectly valid way to do it. But I think there's an advantage to having those skills in-house: it's so much more immediate, and so much easier when the person doing the work already understands the organisation's specific needs. I ended up getting some things working that our paid support people couldn't, and it's not because they're not competent, but because I'm already comfortable with how things are set up on our end.

No one taught me these skills, for the most part. I just learn by doing - by poking at things until I make something happen, or by googling until I see what someone else did, and modify it to my own needs. I'm perpetually frustrated by people who realise that they don't know how to do something, and just… stop. Why would you stop? Sure, maybe you don't want to go fiddling with code (I won't deny I've caused myself problems by doing that, and I now have a reasonably good idea of what I'm doing), but… giving up is just stupid.

I'm really lucky that I'm allowed to do all of this. In a lot of organisations I wouldn't be allowed to touch the servers, let alone take responsibility for some of them. We're pretty nimble in that way, and that makes my job much more interesting.

The end result of all of this is that we no longer have a support contract for our learning management system (Moodle), because I administer it. We're not going for a formal support contract for this new library management system (Koha), because I will do much of it - we're simply going to have pre-paid support hours available for occasions when I do need the backup. So… it's all mine, mwahahaha!

Of course, this makes things more complicated when I go on holiday, for example, and I'm not sure what will happen if I leave the organisation at any point, but… for now, it's fun.

In the meantime, however, I have this wonderful new library system, and some really appalling data. There are thousands of records that need to be deleted, and thousands more that need edits, and I know what I'm like: I won't rest until it's all perfect.

It's a bad thing that I'm still thinking about my data at 6pm on a Friday, isn't it? It's the weekend. Let it go, self. Let it go.

Filed under: Open Source, Work No Comments

Widow to the Cause

For… a long time, now, Rohan and his brother, Leigh, have been working on an iOs game, presently codenamed Township. I can no longer remember how long it's been, because for me, this has been going on for years. In most ways, it's a good thing. It's awesome, for me, to get Rohan home of an evening excited about some new feature he's added; it's much more awesome than getting him home tired and grumpy about something far more mundane.

We're moving towards crunch time, though, and his time has become more and more valuable. It used to be that we spent several evenings a week watching TV together. Now-- well, I'm pretty sure we watched something on Friday night (it's now Tuesday), but I can't remember what it was, and it was definitely the first evening we'd had together in a couple of days. Rohan's busy. I'm also busy, filling my evenings with other things if he's not going to be around to share them with me, but it's not quite the same. It's hard.

It's Tuesday night, and the last time I saw Rohan (conscious - that is, not asleep) was Sunday night. I don't expect to see him again until he gets home tomorrow, and that will probably be 7pm or so. Or later. That's an unusually long time for us, but no longer completely unexpected: other things take precedence, sometimes. That doesn't make it feel any less strange to simply not see the person you live with for so many days.

It's a hard balance. I love him - I wouldn't live with him, be with him, share my life with him, If I didn't - but I'm also super excited about what he's working on. I can't wait for Township to be released, so that I can share with everyone how awesome this project is. I am so proud of Rohan and Leigh for this game. But I do miss him. I do miss having evenings together, without them being a rarity. I miss homecooked meals, meals that aren't for one. I miss talking about things that aren't game-related.

It's al worth it, but it's still hard, sometimes. I'm not used to having so much time on my own, and though I'm good at entertaining myself, it does wear on me at times. I get lonely. I have bad nights. I fall asleep alone, and wake up in the middle of the night still alone; but sometimes I wake up and I can hear Rohan in the next room, or he's crawled into bed alongside me and I simply haven't noticed. Sometimes it works.

At the moment, the thing I'm really looking forward to is this game being released. My intention is to steal Rohan away for a week or so - take him away from his computer, and away from our normal lives, and just… be. He can have Internet access, and he can fix bugs and do what he needs to, but I think we'll both benefit from taking a step back from our computers, and spending time with each other.

It's a little sad that our big plans for this week involve an evening without laptops, iPads, or iPhones. Just us, and something on the television.

Sad, maybe, but damn: I can't wait.