Friday, August 26, 2011

We drag ourselves into the present

Away from the keyboard for almost a fortnight as events that I were not expecting washed over me. Details don't really matter but it is rather sobering to realise how important one's health is when it starts to look threatened. Just ask Steve Jobs - all the money in the world and he ain't going to see sixty.

Well I have (last Monday) and the day was the bestI've had since my elder daughter's wedding nine months ago. Surrounded by family and a good meal - all the important stuff in life. Even going to work wasn't too bad; got a jolly yummy cake and was let out early.

On top of all this I got a present. Regular readers of these ramblings will be aware that my computing and tech needs are met from Cupertino. I was lured from the dark side of Redmond years ago when I nicked a G4 iBook off number two daughter for a business trip. I sit typing this (not at work for reasons related to yesterday's momentous events) with two iMacs, a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 4 on the desk. But there is a new member of the clan that has foundhimself some real estate.

When did the iPad come out? Eighteen months ago - dunno. Never got one because I didn't need one (although if I only bought things I need I would purchase nothing). However I now have a bright shiny 64G Wifi only model (I have the phone and its personal hotspot) sitting in front of me courtesy of my generous family. And you know what, it is every bit as good as it says on the tin.

Is this thing going to change my computing life.? Well having unboxed it just last night (I told you I had been busy, that's three days after it arrived) it is certainly going to make it hard to justify buying a Mac Book Air to join the stable. I think it is absolutely brilliant on the evidence of twelve hours use. It is touted as the best way to surf the web. And I agree. There is an app ('There's an app for that') called Flipboard which is easily in the 'most useful bits of software I've come across' list. It's touted as a personal magazine and I reached for the vomit bowl. But they are right. Load up all your interests (cars, cricket, tech, fishing, news etc etc) and it runs around the web picking up news and tid bits for you. Very impressive. There is an app that just wanders aimlessly (well sort of) around the web landing on sites you might be interested in. I can see hours of potentially productive time going down the gurgler there. I now have Stephen Fry's autobigraphy for $9.99 in a format that can be employed in seat 1C next Monday. I've tried reading books on the iPhone and it is stupid and totally unworkable.

Yet to find a decent weather app but I don't expect that state of affairs will last for long. Small scale engineering sites optimized for IOS might be a little trickier to find. The mobile version of Dropbox might at last have some use apart from looking impressive in the Utilities folder on the phone.

I think I'll get a MacBook Air next year anyway, though.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Same old, same old. If you want to know what is in this post, just read what was written three weeks ago. I am again in the darkened skies somewhere over the central North Island when I should be wiping the sleepy dust from my eyes in Christchurch. It is again the hexagonal crystalline form of the water molecule that has caused the problem. Very nice tickets on NZ 543 and NZ 484 generously purchased by the New Zealand Tax payer have been consigned to the bin to be substituted by a NZ 401 to Wellington which still insists on taking off at 0600.

I really have had enough of this disruption to my work. As it was three weeks ago we have the nation going gaga over Jim's polar rodent. Usual pictures of snowmen and even an idiot in Dunedin running around in the snow wearing shorts. When quizzed about this totally inappropriate dress code he said he was an impoverished apprentice and couldn't afford trousers. Plonker. And liar. This winter nonsense is worse than last months. We had a bit of snow in Auckland which apparently makes things even cuter. Wrong. Yesterday they had snow falling on The Terrace in Wellington (where I am currently heading) and this was further cause for wonderment. I'm sorry but this is all peripheral to the point that all this bad weather is a pain in the arse. I lived in Singapore for many years and not once did I lose a day's travail to snow.

To compound my grumpiness I am baled up in 1E for the next thirty five minutes with most of the vastly overweight Member of Parliament in 1D oozing into my little part of the 737-300. When I get to the 'Winter Wonderland of Wellington' (quote from no less than the Prime Minister) I have a day of putting out strategic fires stretching in front of me. Almost all of these are being started by idiots occupying positions that require levels of skill way beyond their feeble capabilities. A few of them think they are the best thing since lace up shoes and I am quite looking forward to disavowing them of this notion. Others are so far up themselves that they couldn't be found with a search party. Happy times. And there is the other thing to which I vaguely alluded a few days back. Sod it.

Cheer myself up with a flick through the Herald in there Koru Lounge prior to departure? Fat chance. Pages and pages of Winter Wonderland bollocks to be followed by a quarter page on a foot and cycle crossing for the Harbour Bridge. PIcture of the simian grin of the Auckland Mayor gleefully announcing that by a vote of seven to four council has decided to authorize someone to look into possible budget sources for further study of the stupid idea. And we waste food on these fools.

No life is not all beer and skittles at the moment and the only slight pleasure I can currently feel is that of wallowing in my own misery.

It'll pass.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Normally of a cheery disposition

I pen these wafflings for amusement. Mine.

Recent events have put a little dent in my normally cheery disposition and I am unsure this morning whether a few minutes at the keyboard is the trip to the panelbeaters that is required. Like everybody I was ten foot tall and bullet proof when I was twenty and blithely thought that status carried on forever.

Well, it doesn't and I don't like it one little bit.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making things simple

If you are going to do anything of a complexity greater than making a cup of tea a spot of planning is in order. Depending on whether the task on hand is a plate of Marmite soldiers or a factory to produce the 200,000 DB9s Apple is going to buy with its war chest of cash will determine the complexity of the plan required but a plan is definitely required. Put the Marmite on the toast before the butter and breakfast is a disaster. I've learnt a bit about planning in the last year and there are a few rules to be followed. Structure and simplicity do it for me. In the structure department a strategy is the absolute numero uno. No idea of where you want to go and you end up somewhere else. Scrambled eggs for instance; and they are horrible. After that a little bit of organizational stuff (get Mrs O to be in charge of the Marmite as she walks past the larder) and you're onto the operational (the Vogels slides effortlessly into the Breville). That's all you need. No less and certainly no more.

Let's see what happens if it is not done properly. Auckland got rid of dozens of local councils and replaced them with the dreadfully named Supercity. The idea was to streamline all the planning and have a lean mean organisation that would get things done liskety split for very few dollars. Big problem was that a complete idiot got elected as Mayor. He couldn't organise a nun shoot in a convent and as a substitute for his genetically determined lack of decision making ability he did what his sort always do and set up committees for everything. We are worse off than when we started as we now have literally dozens of planning committees for everything you can think of and lots more for things you could never have thought of in a month of Sundays.

We have 60 high level planning mobs who are apparently required by legislation. Well there's the strategy gone; you can't have 60 high level things by definition. These include the 30-year Auckland (spatial) plan, a detailed land use regulatory plan (which if it is detailed can't be high level, fools), a 10-year activity and budget long-term plan, an annual plan, 21 local board plans and, separately, 21 local board agreements setting out what each council will actually do for the the local area for the coming year. Confused? I'm not even up to flying speed yet.

Councils (and you thought we now only had one; so did I) are also required to develop a financial strategy, a local board funding policy, a slew of assets management plans and plans related to council's statutory functions. These include a waste assessment plan and a (separate) waste management and minimization plan. After morning tea they have to write plans (plural) related to alcohol control and regulation of the adult entertainment industry.

So we've already got a nice mixture of strategy and organizational and even a bit of operational sticking its head over the Gantt chart parapet. But don't get weary because this is bureaucracy on steroids land and we've got miles to go before we've wasted enough of my money. Deep breath and we need 40 (yup forty) plans and strategies (not allowed to sleep in the same room, remember) so the council controlled organizations (COOs) don't feel left out. They include a plan each for economic development, business improvement districts, transport, sport and recreation, children and young people, housing, major events, energy and climate change (please no), urban design, infrastructure, heritage and master plans for the waterfront, city centre and the East Tamaki business precinct. Stomach for any more? How about plans and policies for parks and reserves? A policy for air land and water? How the hell can you have a policy for air? The Point Chevalier COO has decided to phase out air by the end of 2013 and needs $2.5 million to implement this much need vacuum.

It is plainly barking. With that amount of simplified (sic) bureaucracy you are never going to get any breakfast. And you will remain hungry at enormous expense. I'll tell you what Auckland will end up with. Two trams that cost $8 million.

To great fanfare in the Herald this morning two trams are announced. The last trams to ply their trade in Auckland for money were taken off the streets in 1956. Obald was just walking up the path to Bushey Primary. The South Africans were on tour in NZ, Jim Laker took 19 for 90. It was a bloody long time ago. Auckland wants to bring them back and had to get some form a Melbourne museum. I'm entirely serious. Museum sees a hoard of Auckland bureaucrats on the horizon and puts the price of a couple of time expired exhibits up to a couple of mill each. They were obviously a bit slow as they didn't sell us a couple of old bridges. Council numpties then spend $339,00 to refurbish a shed to put these white elephants in. A third of a mill on a garage that is half built before you start. These lumps of century before last technology are going to ply the streets somewhere down by the harbour. The bloke in charge says he is, and I quote, 'thrilled' at what he is getting for eight million big ones.

There is no bloody hope.