(c) Saving Wild

“More is nog ‘n dag”

Which is Afrikaans for “Tomorrow is another day!” It’s used as a throw away line. A shrug. “Moenie worry nie, more is nog ‘n dag.” (Don’t worry, tomorrow’s another day.)

Which pretty much sums up how I feel right now. Deadline’s looming, pressure mounting, fighting not only the establishment, but fast held culture like treacle.

For the last 4 months I’ve been working with one of our global development teams to develop an application for the business. They quoted 9 months and $360k (without infrastructure) to the business sponsor, who has allocated $200k and 3 months.

I know. Right.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is one of the stakeholders who works for the business sponsor is “program managing” the development. Only I initiated a number of disruptions to bridge this expectation chasm. One of which is Agile.

So we don’t need a Program Manager. And whilst she could be helpful removing impediments, like getting approvals, or escalating resource requests, she’s not. Merely increasing the reporting and status meeting burden. Refusing to learn the methodology or the tools we’re using, and second guessing every decision.

Sigh.

But it’s ok. “More is nog ‘n dag.” or as they also say in Africa: “The ox is slow, but the earth is patient.”

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“Every cell in our body is made up from nature!”

(c) Cytographics

 

That’s the thought that blew my mind this morning. All of the constituent components of every cell, is biologically derived or designed. Part of an ecosystem.

I guess it kind’ve makes sense that we connect with nature regularly, move as we were intended to (which isn’t the same as in the gymn), and eat unprocessed foods (Hep A from Chinese Farmed Berries anyone?)

Yet, technology enables, empowers, and connects us. To each other. To information. To progress.

How do we maintain the symbiosis?

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wpid-Photo-20141001231954.jpg“Holy Crap you see a lot out of this helmet!”

That was my first honest impression riding home with my shiny new Shark Explore-R. Actually, I had 3 overwhelming sensations:

  1. That super comfy, snug, caress of a perfectly fitting helmet.
  2. An unbelievable absence of weight.
  3. The aforementioned view that gives an almost fighter pilot command of the road.

It really felt like an open face lid. You actually have to move your eyeballs to see the edge of the viewport.

I bought the helmet for touring. Which requires versatility. Sometimes you’re off-road on a Royal Enfield Bullet at 4500m, then you’re dirt in the lowest place on earth, and then you are fanging along a 6 lane interstate. This is where I’ve honestly found the Explore-R to come into it’s own.

The Great

I’m going to harp on about the vision again. This is based on the same shell (and shares the visor) with the Vision-R. And after owning and riding with the:

  • Arai XD-4 (Sold)
  • Shark Evoline 2 (Sold)
  • Shark Speed-R (Selling)
  • Shark Race-R Pro Carbon (Sold)
  • Fly Trekker (Sold)

And at least in the shop trying on:

  • Shoei GT Air
  • Shoei DS Hornet
  • BMW Enduro
  • Arai VX-Pro 3

I can categorically say in “road mode” this helmet outshines them all. Not only from side to side peripheral vision, but up down visibility too. And of course, it lets in more light.

IMG_4423This wide eye port is pretty awesome for when you’re touring and want to wear MX style goggles. The helmet comes with its own of course, with Carl Zeiss lenses, but I bought and wore the Liquid Image Torque Video Goggles too, which replace having to attach a GoPro to your helmet. These didn’t fit the Arai, but fit the Shark comfortably.

On other helmets (chiefly the Arai XD-4) I found that to get the goggles to fit comfortably (& so I could see) meant pushing the helmet up, which put pressure on the back of my neck. Ok for a commute. For 10 hours in the mountains, not so much.

Did I say how light this lid was? Somewhere between 1300 and 1400g depending on configuration. Which means nothing. It feels lighter than the Race-R Pro Carbon, which is designed for MotoGP. Perhaps the balance is better. Whatever it is, it’s irreplaceably light.

The Good

The peak snaps in to the visor hinges and attaches to the lid via a screw. Time to attach? Seconds. Every time I travel I bring this along. There are often times I’ll be riding early morning, or late in the evening, with a low sun, and the peak is positioned perfectly. No obstruction of vision, but easy to angle to shade your eyes. The peak is also fine at motorway speeds. In fact I think with turbulence of a windshield, the peak makes the helmet more stable than without it at high speed.

IMG_6795The internal sun visor is pretty good too. Not a sunglass replacement, but enough to reduce glare. For the most part in summer on the road I wear an Iridium Silver Visor, which reduces a lot more glare, and are a sunglass replacement. Changing visors and peaks, snap one out, the other in.

Also good are the indentations for the SharkTooth Bluetooth Headset. I use a Sena, but the speakers still fit nicely under the liner.

The goggles are good. They seal well, and the quick release is a nice touch. When you take that hydration or photo stop, it’s nice to flip the goggles off with one hand. Something I struggled with when using the Torques. But whether wearing the Shark or the Liquid Image Goggles, they fitted in the eye port well, giving good visibility. This is fine for on the trail, but you need to be definite with head checks in traffic as your peripheral vision is significantly reduced.

The Meh

It comes with a “Neck Gaiter” which unzips out of the chin liner. I used this precisely once on my last day in the Himalayas. Never since. It is a perfectly useless accessory. I mean it’s not like my neck ever gets wet anyway. Like I’d care if it did. And actually trying to velcro this around the back of your neck, with a jacket and (obviously) helmet on, is damn near impossible.

Also irritating, but clearly unique to my winning good looks, is the need to unfold my ears every time I put the helmet on. Something about Shark helmets, my ears fold in half and I have to stick my finger in both sides to unfold them. Yeah, no idea why, but this doesn’t happen with the Arai.

DCIM106GOPROThe chin guard is very close to your mouth, which physically wasn’t an issue in the mountains (when you’re often sucking in air after pushing then kick-starting your bike at altitude) but it was psychologically. You feel like you can’t get air in, although you can. Overall the ventilation is fine, I mean I’ve ridden this in +40C temps many times, for many hours. But it’s nowhere near as good as the Race-R Pro (which is the best ever). Still you can always replace the visor with goggles to get plenty of air to your face.

Road noise is tolerable. I don’t plug when commuting, but do when spending a couple of hours on the bike, especially if doing high speeds with the goggles on. Interestingly I didn’t use earplugs (or BT headset) once in the mountains. But then we were averaging 25kph ;-)

I’m not a fan of the colour scheme. When I bought mine there was exactly one colour. Carbon or Carbon. Which is utilitarian at best, and probably dangerous at worse. Note: This has been fixed on the new model.

The Down Right Annoying

You can’t get spare goggle clips (to attach to the helmet quick-release lugs) or even a spare set of goggles. Which is a pain if you want to adapt your aftermarket goggles (for example, LI Torques) to the helmet. It also means you can’t get different goggles for different environments, like snow or desert, or clear for rain.

Also frustrating is the inability to have the peak and the visor on the helmet simultaneously like other dual-sport lids.

It seems like Shark has been listening, and apparently both of these issues have been addressed.

How It Holds Up

DSC00919Two weeks of 10+ hour days riding in the Indian Himalaya’s put’s a fair amount of strain on a lid (not to mention yourhead and neck.) There is a lot of dust, sweat, rain, heat, cold, donning and doffing, not to mention the odd mishap. It took 3 washes of the blue bamboo liner to get the dust and sweat out. But the neck roll, and comfort liner are not at all frayed. The helmet is as comfortable and plush as the day I bought it (and frankly I’d simply replace the liner if it ever lost that.)

My first Shark, the Evoline 2, had a terribly frayed neck roll after just on a year.

wpid-Photo-20141001233112.jpgWhilst India was gruelling, America needed flexibility. From downtown LA, through the Angeles Crest, onto the Las Vegas highway, then Death Valley (including 75 miles of dirt), back onto motorways, and then a couple of days in Yosemite in snow. I was constantly reconfiguring the helmet for the conditions.

Then of course, you come home and spend 20 mins in Sydney traffic every morning and evening, with day trips on the week-end.DCIM106GOPRO

9 months and 20,000 kms and this is still the best helmet I’ve owned.

Ever.

DSC00976

Questions I Couldn’t Find Answers To

When I was researching the best helmet for my riding style, i.e. 80% commute, 10% day trips, 10% international dual sport tours, I had a couple of questions I could simply not find the answer to. This leads to buying a bunch of helmets, because you simply can’t test a helmet properly until you ride with it. Preferably in all conditions. So here are some of the answers:

Can you use this with after-market goggles? Specifically with the Liquid Image Torque?

Yes! This is a fantastic way to video and photo your rides without attaching an expensive GoPro.

Can you modify your goggle strap to attach to the quick release lugs?

I haven’t found a way to do this without discarding the Shark goggles. But I live in hope that there will be accessories available.

 

Can you wear goggles under the visor?

Depends. Yes for the Shark Goggles, which you can even close the visor over; no for the LI Torque Goggles. This is because of the battery and control compartments in the strap. However, on this model at least, you can’t have the peak and the visor attached at the same time.

 

Rain, Fogging?

Yeah, not great. Not bad, you can crack the visor, although I prefer to crack it manually rather than with the visor mechanism. I believe you can get a Vision-R visor with Pin Lock, which would resolve this.

Actually if you don’t mind a slightly wet face, the goggles are better in the rain as they’re dual-layer, and isolated from your breath.

 

Noise?

Not the quietest, but quieter than dual-sport helmets. You’ll need earplugs for long rides. At least, I do.

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So I took Lucy out for a Valentine’s Day brunch in the Porsche. An opportunity to get out with the top down amongst the local twisty roads, and enjoy a robust breakfast overlooking the water at one of Sydney’s idyllic spots. I decided to enjoy a relatively new restaurant/cafe called “The Estuary” on Kangaroo Point. You can get there pretty much by motorway (Brooklyn Junction off the M1), but it’s much more fun to head down the Old Pacific Highway (our equivalent of the US National Route 101/California Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway).

We pulled in to this romantic setting at 9am on Valentine’s Day, which given the cyclist, motorbike, and sports car traffic on this road, not to mention boater and fisherman; you’d expect to be heaving.

You’d be wrong!

There was a kiosk open, for coffee and overpriced friands; but the restaurant, replete with floor to ceiling glass doors & balcony, was firmly shut.

Wow!

Now, I’ll be frank and point out the 5 identical Jeep Grand Cherokee’s, and 2 identical red Alfa C4 Sports Cars in the car park. Perhaps there was an event. But this is the second time I’ve pulled in here. The last time was mid-morning on a Saturday with a couple of biker friends. And the deal was the same. You could get a coffee, and walk down the boat ramp to the wharf. But you couldn’t get an Aussie Breakfast and sit at a table & chair on the balcony.

As Lucy put it: “I don’t know much about running a business, but I think being open is a prerequisite!”

I get it. They don’t want to cater to motorcyclists, sports car drivers, and cyclists all enjoying one of Sydney’s best roads.

But why not?

The other two watering holes, Pie in the Sky, at the beginning of the run in Cowan, and The Old Road Cafe at the end of the run in Mount White (note: purists ride another 6 or so km’s to the ‘slab’), both do a roaring trade. Especially on week-end, and especially in great weather. And The Estuary is gorgeous. Great parking, really nice balcony, fantastic view, central location, modern accoutrements. Both PITS and TORC have roughed up tar, tired, haphazard tables, and really could do with a makeover.

But also, PITS and TORC have friendly staff, great food, and are open!

It’s a simple rule really. Be Open.

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Late one dreary night in April 1993, I was standing at a London tube station, I want to say Hammersmith, but I can't be sure. What I do remember though is that I was exhausted. En Route from Heathrow to the centre of the capital to try and get a room, at least for a night, at the YHA. I'd jumped off the tube one station early for the connection I needed. So had to walk half a mile with my backpack and dive bag to the next station. This was after having spent the day in Rome, as part of my first long haul trip in 20 years from South Africa. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this turned out to be the first day of my emigration.

Right then, however, it was the first, long day of an adventure in travel. Rome had been a blast of course, especially to a Latin student & Christian. London was overwhelming, big, dirty, energetic, bloody expensive for a colonial, and despite my excitement I wasn't a little nervous. This was my first foreign experience of not being entirely sure where I was, but operating on the confidence that I'd figure it out.

A couple of blokes sauntered up, looked me up and down, and greeted me. Here we go I thought. Laden with about 40kgs of luggage, haven't slept in 24 hours, lost, and never particularly violent, there was no way I could defend myself against the inevitable mugging. (Remember this was my first night out of South Africa where you constantly evaluate for violence) Not that I had much to steal, but still it was all I owned. I tried to locate a member of staff, or anybody on the empty platform…

…Crickets!

“Howzit,” I replied, trying (unsuccessfully) to seem nonchalant.

“Hey, you're from South Africa,” the tall, thin one, Michael, said.

“How'd you know,”

“Well, you opened your mouth,” he smiled, “where were you going?”

“YHA for the night.”

“No, you're not, that place is a rort. You're coming to Shepherd's Bush and staying with us. For free.”

And in one interaction I had free accommodation for the night. A couple of new friends who took me out, and gave me invaluable advice, not only for getting around London, but travelling the globe.

Later, when I told my mum of the interaction, she laughed and said, “But you always land with your bum in the butter!”

“…bum in the butter!” Serendipity! Luck! Fate! Even destiny!

This certainly wasn't the first time that my circumstances had contrived to a positive outcome, but one of the more memorable. Yet I've seen many, many successful people who believe that they were the largest contributor, if not the singular source, of their success. And believed of myself.

I've also seen many, many smart, committed, disciplined people head into disastrous failure. Sometimes even the same people, in similar circumstances, making the same decisions.

So it seems that Luck is a contributing, even deciding factor, in achievement.

Why then have I spent my life trying to improve my skills, to be better at everything, without doing anything to understand the contribution of luck in my success? Why do companies promote or fire smart, committed, passionate people who succeed or fail through only percieved fault of their own? Why don't we get serious, and by that I mean invest skills, time and resources into understanding Luck?

How can we even do that?

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Append this whenever you say “I can’t do x…”

It is the simplest way to empower yourself rather be limited by your beliefs and fears. It adds action to a self-evident truth…

“I can’t fly a plane.” becomes “I can’t fly, yet!” becomes “I need training, which needs time and funding, which needs an action plan to create that time and funding.”

If you decide that you have other priorities more important than investing that time (& money), then you’ve made a choice, and not been limited by the universe, or your weakness, or your circumstances. Everything that needs doing needs commitment, learning, discipline, an investment of time, skills (and money).

There are plenty of things I can’t do. Yet!

But I will, because I don’t know of a skill that cannot be learned, initially by reading. And I can read Hot smile

I’ve listened to paraplegics becoming aerobatic instructors, and met school mom’s riding a motorcycle to Cape Horn.

How about you?

 

During the break, before coming back to work, I committed myself to a task that was years overdue. Perhaps as long as we’ve been in our current house, so 11 years. Clearing my study. Needless to say this took a LOT more effort than I was expecting, like 5 days more. But the results are indeed gratifying.

One of the outcomes of said “Great Study Tidy” of 2015 is that I have a bunch of stuff to sell &/or giveaway. So I’m also hosting the “Great 2015 Study (& Garage) Clearance Sale.” Every item on the (first) list, is due to close on eBay at noon on Jan 15. Each item started at just 15c, or $20.15. Although there are a couple of items for $201.50 (see what I did there?)

Anywhoo, if you’re interested, you can peruse the list below:

Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000 (291351429785)

Microsoft-Wireless-Comfort-Desktop-5000

Nokia Burner Phone (291351422032)

Nokia-Burner-Phone

Netcomm MyZone 3G WiFi Portable Router (291351460883) Netcomm-MyZone-3G-WiFi-Portable-Router
Battery Grip For Canon EOS 550D (291351467126)

Battery-Grip-For-Canon-EOS-550D

Dell Inspiron Laptop (291351505693)

Dell-Inspiron-Laptop

Gemplus Compact Smartcard Reader Writer (291351411666)

Gemplus-Compact-Smartcard-Reader-Writer

HP Touchpad (291351451872)

HP-Touchpad

IR Remote Control For Canon DSLR (291351414633)

IR-Remote-Control-For-Canon-DSLR

Targus USB Port Replicator (291351498893)

Targus-USB-Port-Replicator

Liquid Image Impact Series MotoX HD Video Goggles (291351446425)

Liquid-Image-Impact-Series-MotoX-HD-Video-Goggles

Thermal CPU Compound (291351431523)

Thermal-CPU-Compound

CPU Thermal Cooling Compound (291351439630)

CPU-Thermal-Cooling-Compound

Leather Case For Livescribe Pulse (291351435036)

Leather-Case-For-Livescribe-Pulse

Networking USB 2.0 Server (291351475645)

Networking-USB-2-0-Server

JVC Everio GZ-MG505 30GB Camcorder (291351482368)

JVC-Everio-GZ-MG505-30GB-Camcorder

USB Webcam (291351425028)

USB-Webcam

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard For Media Center (291351504018)

Microsoft-Wireless-Keyboard-For-Media-Center

Microsoft Media Center Remote Control (291351417237)

Microsoft-Media-Center-Remote-Control

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate – Signature Edition 1627… (291351489332)

Microsoft-Windows-Vista-Ultimate-Signature-Edition-16278-UNOPENED

HP Pavilion DV9000 Entertainment Laptop (291351581431)

HP-Pavilion-DV9000-Entertainment-Laptop

Logitech Bluetooth Ipad Keyboard Case (291351500987)

Logitech-Bluetooth-Ipad-Keyboard-Case

1GB DIMM (291351437693)

1GB-DIMM

Givi V46 – 46l Monokey Topbox With Brake Light (291352182929)

Givi-V46-46l-Monokey-Topbox-With-Brake-Light

 

Happy bidding. :)

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So I spent this week in Manila. I was working with one of our (HP’s) team of developers for a week of architecture, design, and, well, hacking. Took me back to my youth. Hot smile

So much has changed in software development. From Object Orientation, to SOA, to the Internet. The whole approach has changed. I can remember wading through reams of hard copy source code; hunting for a missing comma. Or calling the Operators and asking them to load the tapes for one of our development databases, then incurring their wrath when my program crashed and we had to rinse, wash, repeat.

But despite the more than million fold increase in computer power over the last quarter century; the planetary scale connection to knowledge that we can access at an instant (from a pocket device); and the sterilisation of offices from cigarette smoke; this week taught me that some things simply never change.

Day Programmers and Night Programmers

You get Day Programmers; developers who come to work, cut code they’re asked to cut, and go home. Programming is their job. They’re competent, get the job done, but will never change the world.

Then there’s Night Programmers. They live and breathe technology. Their bedrooms resemble a Guangdong factory floor, with seemingly random technical artefacts loosely connected (or not at all) centred around a huge monitor, or 2, where they spend their nights compulsively speaking to machines.

You want a Night Programmer.

Actually, you probably want to be a Night Programmer.

Pizza and Coke

(c) 2015 Debonairspizza.co.za

Our team at the Global Delivery Centre is good. Actually they’re great. I’ve rarely worked with people that stayed 100% engaged for an entire week of early mornings, and late nights, yet still maintained a happy, energetic demeanour. But despite being awesome, it seems to be impossible to get away from the late nighter. Perhaps it’s the Night Programmer thing, perhaps you need to spin wheels through wasted effort to figure out how to get the engine humming, perhaps it’s simply the pressure of deadlines. But whatever the reason, all of the best projects I’ve worked on have found me in a roomful of people performing at their peak, together. Almost selflessly focused on achieving the team goal. Late at night!

This week was no different, and that was when 4 large pizzas and a couple of bottles of coke appeared. As if by magic.

That has simply not changed. I mean it’s practically a derogatory cliché. “Feed the devs pizza and coke and they’ll be happy.” It was the same back in the 80’s (yep, I am that old), and I rather suspect it’ll be the same when we think our software into the singularity.

There’s something pretty cool and inexplicable being part of a high performing team like that.

Yeah. Technology and the world has changed. But some things remain gloriously the same.

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(c) News.com.au 2015

Here's to you! Here's to your recognising and capitalising on all of the opportunities that come your way this year. For me, like 2014, I have a bunch of goals to achieve. Some about incremental development, expanding horizons. Others big, hairy, and audacious, well out of my comfort zone.

But as I start the year, I find myself in the Qantas International 1st Class Lounge at Sydney airport, en route to Manila for work. My flight is scheduled to depart at a surprisingly considerate 12:50. Late enough to miss the morning “returning to work from the summer holidays” traffic, early enough to get in at a decent hour. All in all, just about the most convenient international flight time around.

Still, rather than timing things with my usual “swiss clockwork” precision, this morning I optimised for delay. And a good thing too.

For some unknown reason, Sydney council have decided to do roadworks on George Street, the main artery through the city. This caused all the busses to back up well beyond North Sydney. Causing gridlock at the worst possible time. For me optimising for delay means riding rather than driving. In the car, despite leaving 90 mins before I needed to, I'd have been stressing as the traffic was literally jammed. On the bike I was ducking and diving, but got through with only about a 15 min hold up.

At the airport, I usually store my bike jacket, wets and helmet in the secure storage lockers. Today the 2nd floor lockers couldn't connect to accept credit card payments. Being cashless meant finding another locker, or an ATM. Fortunately there are lockers on the ground floor, that accepted one of my cards.

Optimising for delay also means an early, online check-in, and taking only carry-on. So I got to bypass the queues in a heaving airport & check-in was a breeze. That didn't negate the back-up at security. Why do people insist on carrying liquids, not putting toilettries in ziplocks, and wondering whether to remove their laptops?

Still, despite delays at every possible juncture of my trip, I arrived at the lounge, calm, in time for a great brekkie, and to clear my email. Then wandered down to the gate 5 mins early, only to find out our aircraft was late arriving, so boarding is delayed too.

What to do?

Back to the lounge, and get my first blog out for the year…

…optimise for delay!

  • Check-in early
  • Carry-on luggage only
  • Use most resilient to congestion transport (motorbike)
  • Streamline at the airport – check-in, passport control, security, gate, aircraft

 

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Sometime over the past 2 months, probably during my travel to India, my iPad Mini developed a hairline crack on the screen. It wasn't damaged enough to actually take it into the Apple store. That is, until I had a problem with my iPhone camera.

During the appointment I asked the Genius to have a look at my iPad. He mentioned that it clearly wasn't a warranty issue, and usually I'd be eligible to buy a replacement for about $250. But because I'd waited so long for my appointment, and we couldn't replicate the issue on my iPhone, he'd replace it for free. On top of that they only had a 64GB model in stock, so I got a free upgrade thrown in.

Brilliant!

This morning I arrived over an hour early for my return Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney, and in the Business Lounge enquired about catching the earlier flight back home. Despite being a Platinum Frequent flyer, there being plenty of seats available on the 11:25 flight, AND offering to pay any fare difference or change fee, I was summarily told that my fare didn't allow changes. Fair enough, but this is where Customer Service and common sense kicks in.

Seriously, how can it make any sense for a business to not fill empty seats, and free up seats for other customers? Especially at no cost to themselves? How can it make sense to not provide service to a high value customer?

Two companies, both with “rules” designed to protect company revenue. Both used to guide or compel customer service agents in their interactions with customers. But one has the culture of empowering agents to use common sense, the other not.

I know where I'll be spending more.

 

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