11 Aug

U.S. impressions apart from Mahara

The last 3.5 weeks were filled with meeting Mahara users on the East Coast of the U.S. in New York City, New York State and Boston. I had already started writing about my experience in the MUG post, but will write about that a bit more later.

This time, I want to share some of the curious, intriguing, puzzling and funny that I encountered on my trip. So, here is my list:

  • I had a doorman at the apartment building I was staying at in Manhattan like out of a movie.
  • You can order in anything in Manhattan, and it gets delivered.
  • Walking past the Empire State Building on my way to work is much more impressive than shopping on Fifth Avenue.
  • Driving in New York City – with a GPS and disembodied voice giving directions – was not so bad.
  • There are now also ugly green colored cabs and not only yellow cabs in NYC. The green cabs are for the “boros” and go where yellow cabs wouldn’t or aren’t allowed to go in the New York boroughs.
  • If you want to see the latest fashion in walking shoes, watch office workers’ feet in the morning on their way into work in Manhattan. Comfort rules over matching footwear to office attire.
  • Streets in rural New York State can be as deserted as streets in rural New Zealand. Though there may be a few more houses dotted here and there.
  • On the highway in New York State near the Finger Lakes, there were always signs for food, gas and attractions such as museums, amusement parks etc. On one of the “Attractions” signs, a mall was listed.
  • Somebody must be very happy to get divorced. They even got their license plate issued accordingly: D VORCE. Or maybe they are a divorce lawyer.
  • New York can see a lot of heavy snow. So no wonder that there was a street sign with a snow mobile on it to draw attention to the fact that they can cross at any time.
  • T-mobile had abysmal coverage in a lot of areas that I spent time in.
  • Aldi in rural New York State doesn’t have the German products, but the layout of the store as well as the signage and the idea of the specials in the middle of the store were the same as in Germany. I think even the linoleum was the same. Creepy like in Canberra. IKEA is now also in more and more countries. But at least there everything is the same and not just the store name and the concept taken to another country and introduced items that could be bought elsewhere.
  • Walking across to Canada via Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls is faster than driving a car across the border. Leave it on either side and enjoy the scenery.
  • Niagara Falls is indeed prettier from the Canadian side. And you don’t need to take the “Lady of the Mist”, but get sprayed on by water for free along the way.
  • There is a $0.50 toll when you re-enter America coming from the Canadian side at Niagara Falls.
  • I did not get fingerprinted at the border in Niagara Falls on the U.S. side, but do not know whether it had been due to me having been out of the country only for a couple of hours or if that is the default for pedestrians.
  • The Maparium in Boston is one of the most awesome places I’ve seen. You go inside a globe, its countries can light up, and it is an incredible echo chamber. Everything you whisper is magnified.
  • “Artisanal”seems to be the foody draw word at the moment.
  • Whole Foods, while expensive in general, is still a great option for the traveller wanting to grab something good to eat, but not having a place to cook or store food at. Yummy food abounds.
  • Gotta love the bulk section. The ones at Fairway in NYC and Wegmans outside of Boston were the best. Wegman’s had 4 different types of energy chunks whereas Whole Foods in Palo Alto only had one. Having just found their website, I realize that there are so many more flavors.
  • Fairway and Wegmans could easily fit 3 New World‘s or Countdown‘s.
  • In Albany, NY, I had a start-up taxi driver (he had married into a family of taxi drivers and had worked for other companies before, but decided to make it on his own), and he did everything on his phone. He did not have a regular credit card machine, but a little attachment for his Samsung Galaxy Note. And he did not have to worry about printing a receipt, but could email or txt it to you.
  • Starbucks is on almost every corner in New York City, and seen very frequently in any other town.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts is the stable of many Bostonians.
  • The air conditioning on the East Coast in stores, convention centers etc. is always set to freezing temperatures requiring you to thaw in the sun for some time afterwards.
  • Americans love to wait in orderly lines at airports, in amusement parks and elsewhere where a line is required. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts had big lines in Boston in the mornings for people to get their coffee and breakfast fix.
  • Palo Alto has a couple of funky gift stores that sell bacon gums, bacon mints, bacon everything, and a whole lot of other nifty, funny, cool things.
  • I’m grateful for the invention of GPS and combining it with map directions on a phone.
  • The Bay Area has the best farmer’s markets hands down. There was a stand at the Sunnyvale market that had 13 different types of tomatoes, and another one had at least 6 different types of peaches. There is now also a pluot, a cross between a plum and an apricot.
  • Bay Area freeways have a few less potholes making you jump.
  • Fog over San Francisco moves in very quickly like a wall whereas the rest of the Bay Area is still nice warm and sunny.
  • Hobbits can fly.

 

28 Mar

The world in our office

Wellington is quite far away from many other places and thus knowing the correct time where our colleagues are, when we can reach clients or when we can schedule a server outage is a necessity.

With today’s new fangled technology viewing predefined time zones is just a mouse click away. But it doesn’t look as cool as actual clocks on the wall as in a news room, does it?

Some of the times are not your standard locations, but they are of importance to us in the E-Learning team at Catalyst IT.

Time zone clocks

Time zone clocks

31 Jan

You are among geeks when…

One of our developers is going to be a dad real soon. His waiting stirred the creative juices among the other developers. Brett came up with the following “from conception to birth” scenario à la version control system (used with permission):

mkdir baby
cd baby
git init .
awk 'BEGIN { s="ACGT"; genes=""; srand(); for (i=1;i<=1024;i++) {genes 
= genes""substr(s,int(rand()*4)+1,1)} print genes}' > seed
git add seed
git commit -m 'conception'
git remote add mother mother
git push -u mother baby
sleep 23667694.5
git pull mother baby

git is a very popular open source version control system that we use for I guess all our proejcts. I also started using it for reviewing Mahara code and for writing the Mahara user manual.

25 Mar

Check marks upside down

This is a true curiosity which caused some good laughter today. A colleague showed me his check marks in Firefox today. They were upside down and have been so for a long time. He does not have a clue why they are not the usual way. It does not matter on which web site he wants to place check marks. Be it Moodle, be it Doodle (as in the screenshot), they are always upside down. Should we now call them “hut marks”?

Check marks from down under in Firefox?

Check marks from down under in Firefox?

18 Nov

Konami code on Facebook

Konami code in action on Facebook

Konami code in action on Facebook

The instructions are: “THE FACEBOOK TRICK: press up,up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Enter key, then right click then press up and down and magic circles will appear when you make a mouse click. the only way to get rid of them are to log off or refresh the page…IT WILL WORK! put this as your status if it works.”

It does work. I didn’t get it to work immediately because it gets a bit blurry after the right mouse click, but it works. I tried it in Firefox on a MBP.

One of my Facebook friends found the explanation in the Konami Code.