Meet Ron, the family travel agent.

As the post title implies, I do a lot of the organising behind the family holidays, reasons being that I’m good at finding places to stay and that, owing to my photographic memory, I’m excellent at memorizing a road map and finding my way around the place. Anyway, on to what I’m blogging about… my mom phoned me this morning asking me to organise some flights between Durban and Cape Town. The first one will be flying my sister up from Cape Town for the Easter weekend. My aunt from Australia (the one north of Sydney) will be visiting us during this time, which is an added bonus. Then, my mom wants to go down and pay my sister a surprise visit at the end of April, when all those public holidays are. I was originally going to take my mom and dad to the Berg for that weekend, but all the places are already booked out so my mom wants to do this instead. I’m thinking of joining her, firstly because I won’t be accompanying the rest of the family when my sister starts varsity at the beginning of February, and because then we can go halvies on car rental and accomodation (obviously I’ll also be paying for my own air ticket).

I went looking at four options: SAA, kulula.com, 1time and Mango. Out of those four, I’m recommending kulula.com – I’ve flown with them many times before and it’s always been an enjoyable experience. Mango isn’t THAT much cheaper for flights between Durban and Cape Town, and their flights are at ungodly hours of the morning or similarly late at night. Evidently they only offer their “specials” for flights involving Johannesburg. My mom still needs to make the final decision, but my recommendation to her is that we pay the R300 extra for the kulula.com return ticket and fly at a more reasonable time. SAA has excellent flexibility in this regard because they have so many damn flights, but they’re almost double the price of the other offerings, so I would only use them if I had to be in a certain place at a certain time. As for 1time, they don’t seem to do flights between Durban and Cape Town.

Speaking of which, I may also be in Cape Town for two weeks in September. A friend of mine has got timeshare down there, so we’re all planning to go as soon as we’ve saved up enough money and leave. I got offered a place on the trip, I suspect mainly because of my reputation as the “walking, talking roadmap”. Now we just need to organize a bakkie that will be big enough for all 5 of us, plus luggage. I can always donate the family trailer to the cause though.

I’ve got a meeting now so I suppose I’d better end off.

UPDATE: I was slightly misinformed. Regarding the Cape Town flights, it’s one or the other: either we fly my sister up or we fly down. Guess which one I’m pushing for? 🙂

Of jobs and hellish camps.

So, I started my new job as a junior programmer with AAT last week Monday. I’m busy working on a program that parses log files and writes them to database. Doesn’t sound too challenging, but I’ve had to use the MFC, which I’ve never before seen in my life, so most of my time has been figuring it out. Then, I have to build an ASP frontend for it (fortunately I know quite a bit of ASP). I got a few memory issues this morning (ran it over the weekend), so now I’m going through my code with a fine-toothed comb looking for any potential memory leaks. It’s either that, or the database can’t cope with so many log entries – some of these log files that I’m dealing with are really enourmous. I’ll run another test on it this evening and see if I’ve resolved the problem, as I did find (and fix) a few leaks.

The job, however, is really great, as is the company that I’m now working for. They had their staff party on Thursday evening, and even I was given an award – the “Pump Up The Team” award, consisting of a small pump. Everyone got awards like that. That sort of thing would never have happened at CTI. I feel more like I’m doing something meaningful here, like I’m a part of something. Now if only I could get my code working…

I’m a little bit groggy as I write this, courtesy of the Church Youth Camp From Hell that I went on this last weekend. We were at Koinonia, which is a set of some rather shabby and derelict buildings on the R103 just past Botha’s Hill. It was the task of the older guys (me, rooijan and some others) to run the camp, which was quite a challenge when you consider that we were dealing with ~25 very energetic, naughty and hyperactive teenagers. I ended up in the same room as the extremists in the group, which resulted in me only getting some decent sleep at around 4am. Those who know me know that I’m not a late night person, and neither am I an early morning person – I am, in fact, a Sleep Person. If I don’t get my 10-12 hours of sleep per day I tend to exhibit the same behavioural patterns as a zombie. Hence today’s grogginess.

The whole experience has also put me off having children for life. Yes, I know I was a little bit of a naughty bugger when I was their age (admittedly, nothing much has changed) but I wasn’t THAT bad… Besides, all that girlfriends, wives and children do is get in the way of writing decent code and playing {insert favourite computer game here} into the wee hours of the morning. (No offence intended for those reading this with girlfriends, wives and children.)

At least when I fly out to Australia on Saturday I’ll be provided with eyeshades and earplugs. (Well, hopefully. It’s SAA, after all.)

Guess I’m not very normal.

You Are 76% Abnormal

You are at high risk for being a psychopath. It is very likely that you have no soul.

You are at high risk for having a borderline personality. It is very likely that you are a chaotic mess.

You are at high risk for having a narcissistic personality. It is very likely that you are in love with your own reflection.

You are at high risk for having a social phobia. It is very likely that you feel most comfortable in your mom’s basement.

You are at medium risk for obsessive compulsive disorder. It is somewhat likely that you are addicted to hand sanitizer.

New developments.

Just a quick warning before we start. I’ve got quite a lot to post about, so this will be one of my longer posts.

The important bit of news is that I have a new job. The firm’s called AAT, and they code all sorts of SMS systems and other shiny things. They’re in the office park behind John Dory’s in Kloof, so that’s 5 minutes to and from work every morning for me (all I have to do is drive down Krantzview Road, dodge the Thomas More College traffic, and I’m pretty much there). They seem to be a pleasant bunch of people, and they’re on the same wavelength as me, which is quite important. Anyway, I start at the beginning of December. CTI is sorry to see me go, but this is quite a step forward for me, and I’m not going to let this one go.

They didn’t have a problem with my trip to Australia at the end of the year either. Which reminds me… I recently received an e-mail from SAA to say that they’d had to make some slight changes to my flight schedule. While that didn’t bother me at all, what amused me was the tag at the bottom: “This e-mail is sent subject to the disclaimer which can be found at $URL. If you don’t have Internet access, please send an e-mail to $E-MAIL.” Now, firstly if I was receiving the e-mail, I probably would have Internet access to read said disclaimer. And secondly, if I didn’t have Internet access, then I probably wouldn’t be able to send the e-mail to get the disclaimer. Idiots.

As for the Fatality LAN – we didn’t do too badly for a first time. Granted, we had our fair share of hiccups – the first being when we pulled the switches out of the boxes while we were setting up, only to discover that they used those irritating two-prong plugs and we had no adapters. So off we sped to Game in the Pinecrest Centre (the new name for the Sanlam Centre for the ex-Durban people reading this) and bought out most of their stock. Then, we had faults in our power supply and some sections of the LAN kept tripping out. We eventually sorted that out by redistributing some of the PCs, and we were all happy. We ran a few tournaments, which made everyone even happier. I didn’t do much gaming myself (spent most of the time looking after the dedicated servers and fixing nyetwork problems), but yes, I did play some Flatout 2 – had a four lap race, and by the middle of the third lap I had lapped the rest of the field. While I was impressed with that feat, there’s no fun in that – to become better, you need to be challenged to perform better (that’s actually true for most things, not just gaming). And I certainly wasn’t being challenged. The same was true for one game of DotA that I played – and bear in mind that this is one game that I don’t generally do very well at.

The next Fatality LAN is happening on the first weekend of next month. I don’t know what attendance will be like this time, especially when you consider that UberLAN is happening on the same weekend, and being more established it will probably attract more players. But we will play on. As for the next CTI LAN, I spoke to Chris and Steven this weekend (both were at Fatality), and it will only be next year.

It would have been a great weekend had it not been for a rather unpleasant experience regarding the Hillcrest Mugg & Bean. I went there last night with rooijan and some other friends from church – after eating my food I started feeling quite sick. So I hauled my sister out of there and got her to drive me home. Upon arriving, I got out of the car to open the gate, and promptly threw up on the side of the driveway. I’m not sure what they put in those Whippy Wedges, but whatever it was, it certainly didn’t agree with me. But then, I’ve eaten Whippy Wedges many times before, so I’m sure that it was a once-off event. It certainly won’t put me off having them again.

All the rest of my weekends for this month (and next month) are booked up. Next weekend is sort of free, just an important cricket scorers meeting (our lead scorer recently passed away, and we need to discuss the way forward from here). The next weekend after that is BarCamp Durban, and the weekend after that I have to do exam invigilation. Then we’re into December – first weekend is the next Fatality LAN, then the weekend after that I’m involved in a church youth camp, and then I’ll be away in Oz. Glad I’ve sorted everything out with regards to my trip now, because there probably won’t be much time to do anything that I’ve overlooked.

I think that’s quite enough for a Monday morning…

Currently listening to: Agnelli & Nelson – Holding Onto Nothing [Original Paul van Dyk Mix]

It’s so bloody boring…

All the students are on holiday this week, which means that I have absolutely nothing to do. I don’t know why I have to come in to work in the first place, but work I must. Actually make that “get paid to mindlessly surf the Internet all day”. You may think I’m crazy, but I’d far rather be doing something constructive than do nothing all day.

And, yes, playing Oblivion is classified as something constructive. I’ve only just started playing the game, and I’m totally hooked. It started like this: after jerith suggested to me that I join his Neverwinter Nights posse, I decided to see what role-playing games were like (having never played one before). I managed to borrow the Oblivion DVD from one of my students. The rest, as they say, is history…

(I suppose I’ll have to return the disc sooner or later. Time to head off to BT Games again.)

All this is detracting from my rAge preparations. I’m supposed to be working on my non-existent Camper-Strike and DotA skills. Hopefully we’ll play less of that and more of Flatout 2 (which is the best fun that I’ve had for a long, long time). It’s this weekend, so I’ve got two more evenings to practise games, organise my music collection, backup said music collection, find where I’ve hidden my LAN power cable, yadda yadda. Or maybe I’ll just play Oblivion again.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m leaving first thing on Friday morning. What fun, driving 600km up to Johannesburg and 600km back when you’re all buggered on Sunday evening. (Which means, rooijan, that I won’t be around this weekend. But I’ve already told you that. (I think.)) I won’t be posting any more on here before then (unless something important and life-threatening comes up), so my next post will be a rAge review on Tuesday (Monday’s pushing it). See you all again then.

Mixing madness.

Every now and then, I take it upon myself to mix a rave CD, which I do just for the fun of it. It’s quite a bit of work; the procedure goes as follows:

  1. Spend the weekend figuring out what we’re going to play – finding a decent tracklist that fits onto a CD and sounds nice is a challenge in itself.
  2. Find 80 minutes of your time when your little sister is unlikely to disturb you and record the mix, only to discover that it comes to 81 minutes and 32 seconds. As you can only fit 80 minutes of audio onto a CD, this is a little bit of a problem.
  3. Spend the next two hours re-recording sections of your mix, trying to make it shorter. Eventually you get it down to 79 minutes and 56 seconds. Good enough.
  4. Use your CD burning software to split the mix into tracks. The trick here is accuracy; I can get my track changes accurate to within thousandths of a second by now.
  5. Search the house for a CD to burn your mix to, only to discover that aforementioned little sister has used the last of your own private CD stockpile to burn her own stuff on. Throttle sister.
  6. Make mental note to self to buy more CDs.
  7. Make mental note to hide away CDs once you’ve bought them.

I won’t post a tracklist because most of you don’t share my taste for music and the friends of mine that do don’t read this.

All quiet on the Western Front

There’s not much going on at my end, the only remotely interesting bit of news being that I got hit by the Dreaded Lurgi for the second time this year last week, and that it’s really nice being able to play computer games with hardware that doesn’t let you down. It’s also quiet at work at the moment, with not much going on. That gives me a bit more free time, something that’s been really lacking over the past few months. With the rAge expo just under a month away, it gives me the opportunity to become really good at certain games.

For those of you reading this that are going (which I know is quite a few of you), take note that your power cord needs to have those red plugs with the flattened earth pin; without it you won’t be able to connect to the power grid. I’m not too sure of the reasons; I read somewhere that it’s some sort of standard that has to be conformed to, but I can’t confirm this.

I popped in to Harvey Travel in Westville the other day to get my Aussie visa application forms (they’re the ones in Durban that take care of that sort of thing). The supporting documentation is really something: I have to include financial status, a letter from my employer confirming that I’m taking leave, letters from my relatives to say that I’m staying with them – and that’s just what I can remember at the moment. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the Real Programmer approach (that of leaving everything to the last minute so you can get away without doing the documentation) is going to work in this scenario. Oh well, I suppose it’s easier than trying to get into the USA…

(By the way, I strongly recommend that you read that Real Programmer article if you haven’t seen it already. I would have really liked to be able to program like that in that era.)

The only other thing that’s worth mentioning is that we had a visit from Head Office, and they seem to be keen to one day move me up to Johannesburg to work in the “Courseware Development Division”. All because of a “How To Program” article that I compiled from various excellent sources, including Peter Norvig’s “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years” (another brilliant article), some of Eric Raymond’s writings, and some stuff on jerith’s website. (I had to strongly resist the temptation to put in “How Not To Cheat”.) I haven’t actually gotten around to distributing it yet; I’ll save that for next year’s students. But, getting back to the topic, Johannesburg is pretty much the last place that I would like to move to. Give me Cape Town any day. That being said, if the opportunity is good enough, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it. But it does need to be good enough.

I think I’m going to read that Real Programmers thingie again now…

The courtesy car, and Why Girls Are A Waste Of Time.

About three weeks ago, my dad’s car was involved in an accident at the intersection of Krantzview and Winston, when the other driver failed to stop at the stop sign. There was a fair deal of damage to the front of the car. Anyway, to cut a long story short, his car went in for repairs yesterday (after sorting out the red tape and bureaucratic mess that is car insurance). My dad was given a courtesy car – an old VW Golf with 200,000 kilometres on the clock. Now, this car is really something else. For starters, it’s a Golf (and an old one at that), so it struggles getting up Field’s Hill. But that’s not all folks – this car has a will of it’s own. Think “Herbie” or “K.I.T.T.” and you’ll be getting there. The choke (yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are still cars with manual chokes in this day and age of electronic fuel injection) occasionally decides to switch on by itself. But that’s nothing compared to the rear windscreen wiper. It switched on by itself on the way home yesterday, and no amount of frantic lever pulling would turn it off. I have no idea how my dad finally got that thing to stop. Now, for the other things wrong with it: the accelerator pedal conveniently detaches at high speeds, none of the four wheels are the same, and dashboard illumination? What dashboard illumination? We’re stuck with this thing for around two weeks, by the way.

I wouldn’t mind a Golf as a cheap, second-hand car (when I’m earning enough money to afford a car, that is). But please, dear Lord, may I never own a car like this one…

In the meantime, I have reached an important conclusion in my life, that being that Girls Are A Waste Of Time. I forgot to switch my cellphone on this morning; when I finally remembered (a few minutes ago), I was greeted by three messages. The first two were sent by some girl that I know and were of the “are you interested in me” genre – sent when I’d already turned my phone off for the night (I tend to be an early sleeper and a late riser). The third was sent at around 9:00 today, by $girl, and was a rather rude “forget it” message. Yes, I know that I should have remembered to turn my phone on that morning, but still, you’d expect $girl to show a little more patience (I mean, if $girl was really interested in me, then surely $girl wouldn’t mind waiting for me to switch my phone on?). I did respond with a jerith-style reply (which I will refrain from posting, for reasons that I’m sure you’re all aware of). Girls are simply a waste of time, effort and money.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting from me for one morning. Time to hit the submit button and watch as the RSS feeds go crazy over the larger-than-average number of posts that I’ve been submitted lately.

Three events worth mentioning.

There’s three events between now and the end of the year that I think is worth blogging about. The first is the rAge expo, happening in Johannesburg from the 29th September to 1st October. It’s a massive gaming event (they’re talking about 1200 people attending this year), as well as an exhibition on the “fun” side of technology. I’ll definitely be on my way there, provided that I can get a ride up with someone else who is going.

The second is BarCamp Durban, happening in November. It’s an informal conference on all things open-source. There’s no charge for attending but there is a catch: you have to be prepared to contribute. I haven’t decided what I’ll be talking about, but I’m thinking about speaking on the IRC server< ->server protocol. Most of the attendees probably know the basics of IRC, hopefully I can give them some interesting information that they may not have known about. I know that jerith is leading up a large contingent from Cape Town, so things could get interesting.

Thirdly, I’ll be jetting off to visit some relatives in Australia come the end of the year. I’m leaving on December 16th and will be returning on December 30th. (At 22:00, ugh!) I’ll be in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. If anyone wants me to bring a kangaroo back home with me, please let me know. I’m not sure how I’ll get it through customs but I’ll make a plan.

Computer update: Graphics card down, PSU to go.

Intro week.

Sorry about the lack of posts this week but things have been really hectic around here. The students have been on holiday for this week and for next, so you’d expect that I would have been taking things easy. Unfortunately, not. During this past week, we’ve been running “Intro Week”, which is (as you’d quite rightly expect) an information week for prospective students. It’s totally filled with talks, IT-related activities and other fun stuff. Now, it’s fun from their point of view. Not from ours. Some of these guys had never programmed or anything before, so Monday and Tuesday were quite interesting. On Monday we gave them some HTML to do, and on Tuesday it was writing a quick C# program. Most of them gave up after around 30 minutes. That being said, there were some really bright ones that finished in 30 minutes. I’m hoping next year that I end up dealing more with the bright ones then the not-so-bright ones. It’s a pain trying to explain things to them when they don’t understand and all you want to do is scream “RTFM” at them.

On Wednesday, I had to demonstrate to them how to crimp network cables. Now, I happen to be colourblind, so I pretty much have to guess which wire goes where. For those reading this who don’t know, there are four colour-coded twisted pairs of wires (making 8 wires if you can’t do simple maths), and they have to be wired in a certain way for your network to net work. Fortunately, I surprisingly get it right 90% of the time, and fortunately for me when I was doing the demonstration, Wednesday was no exception. Which is more than can be said when we gave each student some cable, two RJ45 plugs and the crimper and let them try for themselves…

Now, all of this activity took place in the morning. In the afternoons, they all went and had fun activities away from campus. So we went from being totally active in the mornings to totally bored in the afternoons. Darryl and I ended up playing cricket in the underground parking lot most of the time. I’m totally unfit, so I’m starting to really feel the effects of that.

Today we’ve pretty much wound down. We’ve got the banks in to give information on student loans, and they’ve taken up half of my desk space. They’re probably watching what I’m typing right now. (If you are, STOP IT!) At least I can go home at 12 today.

There’ll be a lack of posts next week as well as I’ll be taking five days compulsory leave. Convieniently (or inconvieniently, depending on how you look at it), I’ve got an aunt from Australia coming out to visit. And I only get told the dates about a week ago. We have wonderful communication in our family. I was planning to spend the time to hang out with friends, but I have to accept that that may not be possible any more. Damn.