Shattered. A long day but pretty good with juniors. The poor year 9s had no idea what was about to hit them first period. It's our second lesson together, I was knackered and they were confused. We managed to cover: oblique and isometric drawing, shading, the muppets, tattoos, responsibility, elephants and why pencils should be sharp. Not bad for 8:40am in the morning. The year 10s gutted me as I told them I was leaving and they rewarded me with disappointment and gentle misery. That was hard to deal with actually. I am going to miss them. The year 11s were much the same. Great kids and doing some amazing stuff with 3D, web and the general basics of ICT and design. They are great. I am pissed off with the olds of the system though. It is time for them to retire and stop holding it all back. There is a point you have "jumped the shark" and are incompetent. Go away, I am resigning because of them and that gives me the shits. Computer Design Technology??? Really... is ICT so hard to understand? No really, I give up, you win. Congratulations.
All that said, I am looking forward to being back in web design. Lots to look forward to there and plenty of challenges. I also have a shiny new wacom intuos 4 tablet. It is way cool. Three weeks feels a very long way off.
It has been quite an eventful month. The bathroom is slowly ticking towards being finished and we have been quietly spending time painting, varnishing, filling, plastering and all the other wonderful things it takes to finish this sort of work. We are also working pretty hard to pay the freaking thing off. I have resigned from teaching to take up a web design position. Really looking forward to this move and am glad it hasn't taken too long to move on. I am going to miss the classroom and the students that I have built up relationships with over the last few years. I will also miss the opportunity that could have been with the ICT courses and College of Computing. I will not miss the closemindedness of the people who couldn't/wouldn't understand what we were trying to do and the system that is in serious need of a wakeup call. Winter is also here again and it's a cold one which basically means riding a bike to work has become more dangerous than usual.
Gardening has been reduced to general maintenance over the last few weeks as renovations took over. We still have some flooding but without the vast expanse of concrete it seems to be draining off more quickly. It's all looking really good though and I am looking forward to this spring and seeing how the more established plants and trees respond.
Four more weeks of school and I become a web designer again. I am already picking out my new wacom tablet.
This holiday has been all about getting the bathroom renovated. Basically half the house has been stripped out and is in the process of being replaced. So far it is going okay and the builder is great. The solar hot water is in and today, with the first day of sun since it was installed, it was running off the panels alone. If that keeps up things should be good. The bathroom now has walls again and lights went in today along with the bath. I am looking forward to a proper shower as it's been a while.
The garden has had a good work over lately as power has been turned off in the house forcing me out. Things are starting to get established and the veges are going really well this year. We got a pretty good crop of potatoes but we are yet to settle on what we plant on a regular basis there.
I am really looking forward to that shower.
Having taken on the education system last year in this blog and being completely wang-holed as a result I figured it was time to go for gold and have a [gentle] go at religion. I had a weird run in a few days ago with some 'person' who was ranting on about Jesus and it set off my little weirdo meter - usually signalled by a question mark over my head. It was a bit American Hollywood for me to take seriously but I had to ask [myself, later], isn't worshipping Jesus a bit like following the Second in Command, the Deputy, the middle management guy? If you're going to go with a dogmatic religion surely the actual God would be the way to go? They have the lightening bolts and Doc Martins right? the final say is all theirs? Worshipping the son seems a bit odd and, dare I say it, somewhat futile if you are gunning for heaven. I might be missing something, I usually am but please don't email me about it. My spirituality comes from my garden, friends, life and freedom with conscience. Whatever gets you through the day I guess.
"Dear customer, We are writing to notify you that the cost of delivering [service here] to you has increased. Your monthly amount is now [some bigger number than usual]".
"Dear service provider, I am writing to let you know that we are no longer going to use [service here] as this service is not worth the new cost of [some bigger number than usual]".
The joy of the 21st century, luxury based world.
The good folks at the Creative Freedom Foundation have really got something going with the "Internet Blackout" to protest against the "guilt upon accusation" that is inherent in our revised Copyright Act. It's also why I'm running a black theme (which I'm kinda liking to be honest). New Zealand has a thriving artist community and while I think the majority of us appreciate copyright is valuable removing people's internet access based on an accusation is not an appropriate way of protecting copyright. That and if we remove internet access those people can no longer see my art (and I use the term loosely) which is all web based. Let's try and get this country back on track and acting a little more rationally.
Speaking of rational action, my world at the moment is trying to deal with the irrational behaviour around me, specifically in education, and decide if it is a healthy environment for me to carry on in. Not an easy decision but fast becoming an important one.
My desktop now has a new sound card to replace the onboard chip I managed to blow up by grounding it incorrectly. Finding hardware that works in Ubuntu is always a bit unnerving to those of us not blessed with the ability to speak with computers, especially in a world where everything is noted as working with "Windows XP and maybe Vista". Luckily I got one that works with Linux drivers recently released and so far I have noise. It is very reminiscent of the day I got contact lenses to replace glasses. Colours were suddenly brighter, everything was richer and I stopped running into things ... reminiscent I guess but not exactly the same maybe.
The garden is doing very well and with some recent effort starting to really come together. A few more years of this and we will be producing really well.
The Trouser Project has taken another step towards production as the camo shorts pattern is with Whitehall Cutting being all CAD'ed up for cutting. Very exciting. A whole new world of technical terms has just opened up for me. I thought IT was bad for acronyms but it turns out the clothing world is as bad. Took me a while to understand what a CMT was - apparently the name for someone who Cuts, Makes and Trims or, in my world, the person who makes the stuff. All going well the shorts should be available as a short run some time in the next few months.
Our little Swatch cordless phone that we use at home has finally given up the ghost. It was one of those late 90s beasties with an answer machine and handset that look a bit like jelly beans. Great colour, easy to use (if you ignore all the 'features'), big yellow talk button and generally very cool. It has been with great disappointment that we have gone shopping for a replacement to find that home phones are all fairly naff looking these days. In fact, so bad with their fake silver plastic looks that we have taken to using our even older corded Swatch phone instead. It would seem phone styles have gone the way of shoes and clothing and quietly gurgled down the toilet.
I have been spending my days beating up our hedge, chipping the remains, planting trees, breaking concrete, moving soil around, stacking firewood and generally getting a lot of exercise, sun and fresh air. In between that I have been enjoying social delinquency brought on by Grand Theft Auto 4. It really is a great time of year.
Sitting in my backyard as the sun set with a nice cigar and whisky was a very nice way to finish the first day of the new year. The sky was clear so the stars were visible and the milky way was coming in. I always find these sorts of nights both humbling and clarifying. It is easy to feel content. This year the plan is to work on keeping things simple and positive and focus on a few key things - the house, my clothing production and relationships. The rest is going to be reduced and simplified. It's a plan.
For now it is just nice to sit in the back yard, watch the stars and quietly just be. 2009, I think I'm ready for you.
As the teaching year grinds to a halt a couple of notable things have happened: the College of Computing has been shut down for 2009 due to low numbers, and I have been playing with Blender trying to get some interesting activities sorted for next year's ICT classes.
Not going to dwell on the Computing College thing at the moment as I'm not ready to be rational about it. The 3D modelling however is way cool. I have been converting a couple of little cartoon characters I designed for stickers, t-shirts etc into 3D to see if I could. My first major hurdle was figuring out how to apply an image to particular faces and how the whole UV texturing deal-io works in Blender. I just took the faces straight from the Inkscape versions and UV mapped them around the spheres which seems to work. I did notice on some of the earlier attempts that a few had very small cartoon faces on every face of the mesh - cute but not what I wanted. I think I've got it sussed now so will test the theory in front of young students who will happily destroy my self-esteem if I get it wrong. No pressure there :-)
I really want to build these guys into a theme for this web site - holiday work.
For some reason I was in a pensive mood recently and started reminiscing about childhood toys. Two in particular stuck in my mind: Jake Rockwell, the land based Centurion Power XTreme fellow with the Detonator accessory; and the M.A.S.K. Condor with pilot Brad Turner (with Hocus Pocus mask). They were great. Jake Rockwell became a one man destroyer with the Detonator pack (effectively a huge gattling gun attached to his exo skeleton) attached and Condor was a motorbike that turned into a helicopter ... and there is nothing cooler than that. Hours of fun was had with them. I'm not sure why my mind turned to those particular toys.
Short of that the garden is looking superb and so far we have managed to get everything planted, tied up and generally managed very effectively. Unheard of in previous years this could be a good year for production. Even our little Granny Smith apple has a few apples on it still.
Today has been about setting up a little shop on Cafepress to show off (and hopefully sell) some of my designs for t-shirts etc. The actual store set up was simple and it was an interesting challenge to try and style the tables-based template provided. Still, the basics are done and it seems like a gentle start to getting the clothing stuff rolling without having to deal with production immediately. I like some of the dark hoodies so will likely be my own customer for a little while.
The Movember mo is coming in quite nicely. In honour of seeing how it changes I have set up The Daily Mo to track it. Good fun.
I could be described as a bit of a late starter in a number of areas. Took me a while to get into Facebook (great way to stay in touch with friends around the world) and have just recently sorted out using Delicious. The primary reason was so I could access some key bookmarks from the two locations I spend most of my time. I have to say I'm liking it a lot. The tagging is proving a lot more useful than I expected it to be.
Recently I was thinking about content and copyright issues after some interesting discussions with students. As part of my thinking I put the content on this site under a Creative Commons license (more for as an exercise in understanding than because I think the content on this site is worthy of replication and reuse) and settled on a: non commercial, share-alike license which requires attribution. Choosing your publishing license feels like a personality test and I personally like the way I'm headed.
Only a few days left until the next release of Ubuntu. I am looking forward to seeing the changes. It has sort of become like a little regular birthday every 6 months.
Enjoying a quiet Wednesday night watching Discovery. The Deadliest Catch sort of puts things in perspective.
A recent and unexpected reaction to my personal site has prompted me to make some changes. While an unpleasant episode it has been positive in that I have had a chance to look at offering different types of content for different people. I have also noticed that at the moment I am posting to Word only when I'm feeling a bit rough and dejected which can look somewhat skewed if you don't know me. Writing stuff down is how I deal with frustrations and move on from them. I've always thought it a fairly safe environment and from my stats assumed no-one actually read them. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.
So in the interests of public sanity while retaining my space to scream into the ether I have set up a system of public and private posts. If I don't know you but you insist on reading my posts you will now only get the happy, fluffy bunny posts. The private ones are for me ... although I will still get the happy, fluffy bunny posts as well.
Oddly enough I usually read back over previous posts and get the giggles. Sometimes the funniest posts are the ones that were written in frustration. Such is life.
This is a sort of screaming into my pillow kind of post. A sort of You have got to be fucking kidding sort of thing. This year is going to take the cake for the kick in the guts from fuckwits who don't know better episodes. I am not sure whether my students sensed something today or whether they were in Friday mode and responding to something in me but they were freaking awesome, relaxed and easy to work with. I even saw some effort put into things I care about which is always nice.
...but here is the scenario, which I record to look back on later to evaluate and make a decision on. Friday, in general for me is a suck day. I start with Y10s, who are great, playful and often a joy to teach but fucking hard work; duty (of care? ... or guard?) in the library computer room with much the same students and then an afternoon of Year 11s (Fifth formers - 14, 15, 16 year olds) for two hours. Today, fifteen minutes before my Y11 class I was "called" into a meeting to discuss the school web site.
When I first started teaching, 3 years ago, the web site had just been redesigned. It had a Flash splash screen, was a static web site, built in Dreamweaver and we were unable to upload anything due to a useless host. Courses were mashed into single huge HTML pages and the visual style was, quite frankly amateur and pathetic. In short they had been ripped off. Over the last year I have worked to place us into Drupal, hosted with our NZ Open Source in Business award winner, updated the style to match the rest of the brand, XHTML/CSS'd the fucker, set up departments as groups, allowed staff to login and edit content within those departments, provided mechanisms for promoting specific courses and even started working on a way to post daily notices automatically. Google Analytics is showing increased traffic to Courses and About Us and we have a clear path forward. I did all of this in consultation with senior management, marketing, and students (as any good designer would - documenting the lot) and in my ultimate stupidity I did it on a volunteer basis. I should know better. As I am seeing with Open Source in this country, if it doesn't cost anything it isn't of value. Man, I should have learned that one by now. I've been shafted by fucking NZers before on this ... I should know better. Nice guys finish last and all that.
Now, I don't claim to be Mr Wonderful on much but if there is one thing I just "get" it's working with the Web. I don't know why, maybe it's the structure, the communication, the freedom ... who knows, who cares. I just get it. I love it, I want to use it with students. I like the people who work with it. I like the way different age groups, especially kids use it. The olds who are blocking it, jamming it, stopping freedom, restricting the use of social networking etc have got it wrong. I know it, I feel it ... they are just plain wrong. Flash splash screens are a known issue - Hell, Jakob Neilsen has been wanking on about it for years (and he's freaking right). Designing for your target audience is well understood - fuck, schools have a Technology Curriculum dedicated to this, we've had Web2.0 as an idea for long enough it should have filtered through to even the most draconian systems by now ...
I have said nothing specific and probably won't. Between the lines is where it's at here but the frustration is real. Our education system is mostly fiucked - and I work in one of the really flexible schools. Mediocrity is our aim and we very rarely even hit that. What a fucked way to end the week. So much for my detox.