Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Borg have invaded! And they're after our veggies!

I know.
But look at this:

"We are spinach. We are borg. All your veggie belong to us! All your herbs and things will have their distinct characteristics added to us. We will have green things coming out of our ears. After all, you're closer to a potato genetically than a rabbit. Wait. Hold on. No that's not true. But we don't care. We will assimilate all spinach thingies. Oh and dairy products as well. Including cheese."
"Sharon! Sharon! Who wrote this copy? Who? Roger! WTF? But he's from that bloody vegetable planet! What? Yes. Tea Please. No not green tea. Dammit. I want real tea. Burnt leaves. Oh don't start crying. It's just Roger blathering on about his distinctiveness. Real tea! Why we went there I'll never know. Every since we assimilated their distinctiveness I've been coughing up beetroot juice. Oh well. Must carry on. WE ARE BORG YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED!"
"Roger. Who the hell let him near a typewriter? What? Well that's what we have to use now we visited that so called machine planet. Machines my shiny, and now blue because of Roger, ass. They had a moon shot! Did you know that? Steam powered. What the hell? They attached TVs to typewriters and called them computers. Management. Phbbbbttt! I don't know why I bother. Yes. Bloody burnt leaves for Cthulhu's sake. Vegetables! Bloody things. Can't live without them, can't even eat them now. Bloody things. Always getting underfoot. Anything on the telly? Life of Herbs? You have got to be kidding. That's it! I'm getting my resume together."

15 years ago I was on the verge of suicide. What's changed?

Imagine being a child and then a teenager struggling with your gender identity.
Now imagine being 40 years old and still struggling.
I was a successful, well respected, and well known married man.
But I was plagued by fears and doubts, knowing I wasn't gay, yet not knowing what I was.
It was driving me insane.
I just didn't fit in.
Driven to be more of a man, I ended up with a litany of broken bones and dreams.

By sheer chance, I was put on a trial medication for hypertension.
It contained a mild dose of phytoestrogens.

Everything changed.
It was as if my body had been starved of something during my development and had gone wild.

And so I made a choice.
A quite radical one.
I changed gender.
Actually that's not quite true.
I was never a man, I think I just had a birth defect that made me look like one.
I went through the program and had surgery in the late 90's.
Without the testosterone and the 'bits', I finally had some peace in the wreckage of my life.
Wish I'd done it when I was diagnosed as TS at 17.

So how is it now?
Very good.
No longer suicidal.
And in a loving relationship with the most interesting man in the world.
He's stood beside me through the early horrors of transition and has been my line manager for 15 years.
I love him and will never leave.

There are some cold, hard, cruel facts that have to be faced though.
I'm no beauty.
And I still have to face excruciatingly painful discrimination.
For example, I got caught speeding last week.
My fault entirely.
So despite having boobs and 'Ms' and gender 'F' on my driving license, the cop ticked 'MALE' on the ticket.
I considered raising that issue, but all I could think of was 'Contempt of Cop'.
Mainly because early in my 'transition' I was 'talked to' by 2 cops who joked about arresting me.
And throwing me in the male holding cell overnight for the fun of it.
Think about that.
So I kept my mouth shut and smiled at the officer and thanked him for the ticket.

Also last week, I overheard two people gossipping.
"The freak is back. What do you even say to it?"
Not she, not even he, "it" - You have to be tough.
Something like that happens about once a week.

Small things but relentless and soul crushing.

It's not been easy, what with having to bare all to multiple medicos.
And the costs for surgery and legal stuff is around $100,000 so far.
And 15 years post change I am only now getting the last of documents from various governments.
On the bright side, my new birth certificate came last month.
Although I had to wait for an act of parliament to make that possible.
But no-one cares about bits of paper.
Except that is is now legal for me to get married of course.

As a coping mechanism during my 'transition' and to clarify to myself that I was actually making the right decision, I wrote a diary.
Starting with all my memories from childhood that could be verified independently.
So nothing 'made-up' or 'imagined'.
I put it online.
Kinda went viral for a while.
Had good comments and bad.
And many mothers, fathers and children contacted me thanking me for giving them insight into someone they knew.
It's quite big as I've done quite a lot in my life.

I'm considering serialising it before making an eBook.
What are your thoughts about that?

Friday, 21 September 2012

You know you're a socially inept dork when...

1) You stop posting on FB and no-one notices
2) You comment on an FB post and all other comments then stop
3) You see someone you know in the street and they look confused
4) On those rare moments you actually have a non-work related conversation with someone they look at you strangely and you realise you've said something bad and haven't got a clue what it is
5) You call yourself a jerk and no-one disagrees
6) You start to tell a joke about the Higgs boson and realise no-one will get it
7) People you try to talk to seem to have so many urgent things to do
8) People smile at you in a way you don't understand
9) No-one finds the fact that you can recite Star Trek Original series scripts interesting
10) You think tank based slippers are cool
11) You correct people all the time
12) You have no-one on your iChat list except your husband. He's in the other room. You message him
13) You like making lists about what a socially inept dork is
14) You go "Oh crap" when you realise the list describes you

Oh crap.

15) You post the list on FB and think about adding a comment to it. But then wait 15mins. And then add a comment.
16) You check the post every 5mins to see if anyone has commented. In your heart of hearts you're afraid that if they do you won't know what to say.
17) You wait another 15mins. There is a comment. You panic and type something
18) See #2.

Oh crap.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I have a troubling relationship with time. As I get older distances back seem smaller.

Now I want you to think back.
Think back ten years.
What were you doing then?
In school?
In your first job?
In any case you can remember it.
Relatively clearly one hopes.
Now I want you to imagine a couple newly married who had just had a baby.
They can remember back ten years.
They remember clearly when they found out that two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan.
The war with Japan was over.
Dancing in the streets.

I was that baby.

I was born in 1956.
(Ok it's eleven years back... But I was born within minutes of the anniversary of Nagasaki)
I grew up in military camps all over England and a couple overseas.
It was a different world to today.
Virtually no plastic.
Indoor plumbing was a relative luxury.
Loo was outside.
There were no super markets.
Very few cars.
Still had carts and horses in places.
(I still remember the night cart)
As a very young child I was washed in the sink.
My father worked in the steel mills and the bathtub had to be hauled in from outside.
My mother boiling water for that bathtub.
And hooking her brand spanking new iron into the light socket hanging from the roof.
We had ice cream once a year.
It came in a cardboard box.
The wonders of the brave new world were upon us.

In 1962 I met my great-grandmother.
I remember her distinctly.

Think about that.
She was born just as the American civil war was starting.
Her parents would have avidly read the papers about how it was going.
And her great grand parents would have waited with bated breath to see how Waterloo turned out.

I think sadly that I never *knew* my great grandmother.
What great memories she would have had.
Of a world before mine.
But I met her.

Different from today.
Different when I hitch hiked through Europe in the mid 70s.
No MacDonalds.
Hardly anyone spoke English.

Different when I learnt to program.
And migrated to C and C++
Then perl, java, ruby et al.
I remember using the first ever mouse.
I remember using the first graphical windowing system.
I remember setting up the first ISPs for this new fangled thing: The Internet.
I remember.
I remember so much.

And I haven't got any one to tell.

And now when I hear people talk about the American civil war as OVER 150 YEARS AGO!
Or the like.
I find myself struck by the fact that I have a visceral connection to that time.
And, if I had been capable of discussing things with my great grandmother, would have a similar connection to the Napoleonic era.

Which makes me feel a sense of connection with the people who walked this planet only a few generations ago.
The Wars of the Roses.
The English Civil War.
The American Revolution.
The Middle East.

My GG might have had a connection with her GG and hers and hers and lo...
I can almost feel connected to Shakespeare.
A few more GGs and we're at 0AD.

And we look at children playing in the school yard and think...
They may live to the year 2100.
They may travel to other planets.

Brings the distance in time into perspective.
So I urge you...
You may yet be a great grandparent.
Tell your kids your memories and get them to tell their kids their memories.
Fill them with the sense of wonder and yes even horror that was your childhood.
So sometime, a 100 years from now, someone will write an article like this and actually have those memories.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

How to piss off Indian call centre employees and have fun.

Had an entertaining conversation with an Indian call centre recently.
Very entertaining.
Normally I just say "take me off your call list and piss off" and hang up.
This time I got into a conversation to see how far I could go.

Them: Can I speak to Mr Smith please?
Me:     Who's calling?
Them: I'm calling from [insert dumb ass made up company name here].
Me:     What?
Them: I'm calling from [insert dumb ass made up company name here].
Me:     Ok... Just writing that down.
Them: Can I speak to Mr Smith please?
Me:     What is the call about?
Them: Are you Mr Smith?
Me:     That's not relevant. I screen all calls to find out what they are about.
Them: Can I speak to Mr Smith please?
Me:     What is the call about?
Them: I need to speak to Mr Smith.
Me:     What is the call about?
Them: This is not a sales or marketing call. I need to speak to Mr Smith.
Me:     I need to know what it is regarding before I continue.
Them: I need to speak to Mr Smith.
Me:     Tell you what... You tell me your name and I'll tell you mine. Ok?
Them: Ok. My name is James Carter.
Me:     Rubbish. You're Indian. What's your Indian name?
Them: Er... My name is not important.
Me:     It is to me. What's your name?
Them: Er... Pradeep [something].
Me:     Excellent. Just writing that down.
Them: Er... Now... What is your name?
Me:     I lied. My name is not important. What do you want to speak to Mr Smith about?
Them: [silence] I need to speak to Mr Smith about an opportunity.
Me:     Ah. So you lied too. This is a sales or marketing call.
Them: No. No. I mean... I need to speak to Mr Smith.
Me:     There's no-one here by that name.
Them: What?
Me:     There. Is. No. One. Here. By. That. Name.
Them: Are you Mr Smith?
Me:     That's not relevant.
Them: [click]

So. I had fun. Sorta like wrestling a pig, getting muddy and liking it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I'd like to illustrate the difference between "What?" and "Wait. What?!?" moments

In the first case this is where the data is bizarre but in some strange way believable in this world.

For example:
"The vatican announced today that Cardinal Richelieu is divesting his stocks in Diesel Powered Nuns Incorporated. He feels his shares would be better served in the Titanium sector."
Now that's a "What?" moment.
Kinda like when you bite into a pie and find a hair.

Now contrast that with this completely frickin' stupid and made up news item:
"Diesel Powered Nuns Incorporated spokes-lesbian Moonie Santorini today announced that the global power struggle will continue.
The effort to make men thinks socks are good when really they have been designed for centuries to create weak footed men has been a staggering success.
'Men, all over the world today, are wearing socks. We think this is good.' said Mz Santorini.
'They are forced to wear shoes to protect their socks. And this will make them useless when the rapture comes.' She continued."
Now that's a definite "Wait. What?!?" moment.

That's like biting into a pie and finding a hair and recognising a whisker from your cat that disappeared last week.

So now you know when to say "What?" and when to say "Wait. What?!?"

I urge people to apply this to announcements from major IT organisations and political parties. Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Republicans, The Fed, Liberals, Conservatives etc... All in all. Everyone. Just every-frickin-one. No-one is immune.

Wait. What?!?

Well that felt kinda weird... Upgraded to Mountain Lion from Leopard

We had this ancient mac mini running lion.
Used to drive our TV until we got a new one.
It's been sitting in a box gathering dust for ages.
Anyway, I wanted to use it for a ton of stuff like running Ubuntu VMs and Nexus, Jenkins, Tomcat, Jetty, JBoss et al.
Can't do it directly.
Have to upgrade to Snow Leopard first to get the AppStore.
Dug around through piles of stuff and discovered a Snow Leopard disk.
When popped in, the CD rattled and ground around.
Popped out.
Popped back in.
Shake, Rattle and Grind.
Popped out.
Another clean.
Considering using peanut butter when...
Popped in and "Hey!" got the installer.
Whining... Spin up... Spin down... Spin up... etc...
45 minutes later...
Well it says its installed...

Hmm. Faint blue screen for ages now.
Odd. The mouse shows movement.
I'll give it a bit longer.
Meanwhile our new DroboFS is making agricultural noises... Must look into that...

Ok. Given it 10 minutes. Must have hung on something. Hard reboot seems to be Sophies choice.
Ok. Ok. I'll give it a couple more minutes.
Wait! What was that noise? Sounded like the DVD drive twiddled...
Couple more minutes.

Well whaddaya know.... The login box appeared!
Login' in!
Oh no! The Spinning Beachball of Death!

10 minutes later...
Oh wow.
It did it!
Setup assistant has appeared! No sound because it has no speakers, but what the heck.
That music drives me nuts anyway...
X. A big X!
Apple->About shows 10.6! Yey!
Right. Updates are de-rigeur at this point...
Ah... Software update... The slowest app in the world...
Excellent. Updates happ'n!
15 minutes? I gotta wait 15 minutes? Oh yeah... Of course... I remember installing SunOS 4.1 on a piece of big iron. 4 x 1/4inch tapes. Took all day... Impatience thy name is Kim...
Well that's it. I'm off to have some cheese and a glass of wine.

Ok. I'm back. Double Gloucester, Tasty Cheddar and a glass of Pinot Noir.
Dammit. Still Updating. And no AppStore Icon!
Ah crap. An error occurred. Can't access update server. Oh well. Try again.
Spinning Beachball of Death!
Well at least I had some cheese.
More agricultural noises from the new DroboFS... Dammit.
Oh! iPhone SDK license appeared. Clicked Ok.
And... Back to the dreaded Spinning Beachball of Death...
Ah. Login required! Sudo abounds!
Ok. Done...
8 minutes left...
Dammit! "The Update Combined Could not be Saved"
Damn. Damn. Ok. Try again with an eject of the Snow Leopard disc and a restart...
Argh! Installs left to update before restart and I was turned away before it counted down!
Crosses fingers...
The "CHUNG" noise has arrived.
Waiting... Waiting... Waiting...
And... Login!
Waiting... Waiting... Waiting...
Downloading 1.09Gb of updates...
Waiting... Waiting... Waiting...
Ok. Off for more cheese... And wine... Really must look into those noises from the DroboFS...

TaDa! Installed! Reboot...
Oh my elder god... The "CHUNG" sound! It might have worked...
Well... Hallo AppStore Icon!
Wait. Wait. Must check to make sure we're completely up to date...
Damn but software update is slow. Well at least on this mac mini...
(It's called MINI for a reason people :-)
Damn that's a lot of updates. Oh well. Off we go...
600Mb? Oh well...
Might as well put together these puzzles I bought from ALDI (ASDA in the UK).
Saturn 5, Command Module and Lunar Excursion Module.
Damn. One of the LEMs legs is busted. SupaGlue to the rescue!
Oh well. My tribute to Neil. I got to see him put his foot down on the moon in 1969. Least I could do.
They're not bad puzzles. Chunky. Nice. I'll post photos later.

And updates done. Restart!

Waiting... Waiting... Waiting...
Any cheese left? Sigh. It's almost time to start making meatballs and spaghetti...
Oh crap "Adobe Flash Player is out of date"
Well no sh*t Sherlock.
Screw it. Later.
Any more updates?
No! Cool. Ok. AppStore here we come...
Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!
We have AppStore login. Ok. Let's see if this works...
I choose you Mountain Lion!
Ok. We have credit card requests. Lookin' good.
Damn where's my CC?
Well it accepted my CC. Twiddly whirling thing in action at this stage...
No other signs of activity so far...
Damn is the twiddly rotating thing the only sign of progress?
Waiting... Waiting... Waiting... 
Damn. Thinking about going downstairs to start dinner.
Ah. Just noticed the little Mountain Lion icon on the bottom bar.
Tiniest spot of blue on the download.
Sigh. Long way to go.
Off to make meatballs and spaghetti.

Well the meatballs are made and ready.
The sauce is ready.
The spaghetti is started.
Still only 1/3rd downloaded...

Back after 15mins.
2/3rd downloaded.

Back again after another 5mins.
Hallo. Big Mountain Lion screen has appeared.
Continue. Agree. Agree. Install. Enter password.
3minutes? Microsoft Minutes? Or Apple Minutes?

Oh for Cthulhu's sake.
Finished dinner.
Slipping into food coma.
But it's still installing.
"About a minute" has been about 15 frickin' minutes.
Definitely Microsoft minutes on this machine.
Oh. Wait. We're down to "Less than a minute."

Well. Less than a minute later (where a minute is defined as the lifetime of the universe) it stated it worked.
Let's reboot.
Wait. What? It did it by itself.
Damn. Typing so I didn't see it.

Hey! The login appears. Can I log in?
Crap. Apple ID request. Well, hey, you don't need it at this stage...


The whole thing kinda felt like Blackhawk Lion Down.
Or more like Neo walking up as a battery pulling a tube out of the back of his head...
Or even more like finding out you have a prosthetic limb and some bimbo has torn it off and is bashing you with it.
Something like that.
That really happens by the way.
Being beaten up with your own prosthetic limb I mean.
I'll post a link... Later...

Eventually worked but what a frickin' drama.
My fault entirely.
Should have kept up to date.
I *should* be used to this having 35 years of experience, but I am still amazed when stuff actually works.

Rules for upgrading from Leopard to Mountain Lion...

1) Have a Snow Leopard disc.
2) Prepare your meatballs.
3) Have two, yes TWO, bottles of wine ready.
4) Make dinner.
5) Wait.
6) Have dinner.
7) Enjoy it.
8) Go to bed feeling satisfaction that it all finally worked.
9) Wake up in a shock at 3am when you realise you still have to install JDK7, Groovy, Grails, Ruby, Rails et al.
10) Screw it. Go back to sleep.

Update to "Ruby on Rails Tutorial 2nd Edition"

Ah ha!
Had a nice email conversation with Michael Hartl about his book.

He has confirmed that EPub and Mobi upgrades are available from his site.

The exact news article covering the details is:

New EPUB and Mobi versions of the Ruby on Rails Tutorial

So you can go do your thing!

There's no information at this stage about a second printing with the fixes for the code samples at this stage, but I will be sure to update when I have more news.

Excellent work should be rewarded, and that's my 2c!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Don't buy "Ruby on Rails Tutorial 2nd Edition" YET

Michael Hartl has had problems with Addison Wesley.
I love the tutorial and wanted to give something back to Michael for all his damn fine work.

So I pre-ordered the book as a quiet thank you.
Ages ago.

And received it a couple of days ago.
Opened it to do a quick scan and...


Every single one of the code samples are completely scrambled.
Missing quotes, extra spaces, underscores, missing chevrons.
You name it it's seriously screwed up.

So I went to the site to see if there was any info and Michael has got a note about it on his site dated August 9th:

Curiously that's my birthday.
Go figure.

Just so you know.
I'll be watching via twitter and what not to see when it's safe to get the 2nd Edition.
So be warned.

In the mean time, use the web site itself and avoid the pain and cost.

Keep up the good work Michael!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Movie Review: "Hunter Prey" 2010

I was expecting the usual fare of bad filming, acting and CG.
But no.
This was a very worthy piece of work.

Basically the movie starts with a bunch of Boba Fett look-a-likes who have lost their prisoner on a Tatoine like planet after crashing.
They are picked off one by one and eventually you find out that they are the aliens and their prisoner is the "Last Human" alive.

Eventually there is one alien vs one human hunting each other other a beautiful desert landscape.
There are a lot of twists and turns that, although telescoped somewhat, are very good.
The ending, which was again telescoped a bit, was delightful.
The filming and acting was great and the makeup was stunning for such a simple film.
The guns they used had that well-used feel that looks so real and a tad steam punk.
To be honest it looked like someone had made them from Nerf rifles, but the paint, general gunge and wear made them look very real.

The director "Sandy Collora" plays a part in the movie in heavy makeup and does a good job.
I look forward to seeing more of his work.

Movie Review: "Shark in Venice" 2008

Oh my lord this was awful.
Stephen Baldwin at his most wooden.
Total rubbish.
For example, the divers are talking on the radio.
But... They had regulators in their mouths... Say what?
And the CG was just appalling.

The only redeeming feature for us was that we could look at the shots of Venice and say things like:

"Oh. Oh. Remember that alley?"
"That's where that cool supermarket was!"
"Wasn't that tiny church down that path?"
"Hah. Remember getting lost through that bit?"