Archive for the ‘Stories and adventures’ Category

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Data, glorious data!

5 January, 2011

Took my new Garmin eTrex H GPS out for its first spin today on a short walking track behind Hawker:

Trip stats:

Distance: 1.72 km
Speed: 5.6 km/h
Time: 00:18:13

The main purpose of this test run was to figure out the difference between Track Active Log and Saved Logs. The Active Log contained 90 trackpoints (89 once I removed the one it plotted when I turned it back on at home to download the data), yet the compressed saved log had only 16 trackpoints, although the plot of the saved track was good enough and only deviated from the full log by up to 8 metres and that only in a few places. It’s an irrelevant discrepancy as even the raw data points deviate from the actual coordinates by up to half that (at 4 metre accuracy) which means most of the time the simplification of the track by compression actually corrects tracking error. Swings and roundabouts.

It is true that the eTrex strips out date stamps when compressing a saved log so I guess you can only use the Active Log to geotag photos with ExpertGPS’s batch geotagging feature which matches up photo date stamps with your track’s and injects the GPS coordinates for the corresponding time (important to make sure your camera clock matches your GPS’).

Here’s a plot of my track, all 89 trackpoints taken at 20 metre intervals:

Hawker ACT track in Google Earth.

Sample trackpoint data.

Interactive map of track start:

Even though I probably should have been doing other things considering I’m moving overseas in two days I’ve spent much of the past week playing around with NZ LINZ topographic maps, GeoTIFF calibration, TWF formats, KML and plotting out routes I’d like to tramp when I get to New Zealand. Even wrote a Greasemonkey script with the help of James Peek to convert KML LineString strings to a suitable CSV format for GPSVisualizer’s GPS to GPX converter so paths drawn in Google Earth can be imported as waypoints or routes into GPS mapping software.

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WTF Virgin Blue?

24 December, 2010

My email I just sent Virgin Blue:

I was booked on a flight in November 2009 which Virgin Blue cancelled at the last minute forcing me to quickly book a flight with Qantas at over $100 more. I was told I could quote my reservation number for a future booking to receive a credit but I tried to claim that credit today and was told that my credit has expired. I don’t understand how this is possible – that was my money and you’ve just taken it without providing the service. I’m seriously annoyed. I don’t care what your legal rights are; I don’t want you to quote legal fine print to me … you fucked me over, that’s all there is to it. Not happy.

UPDATE: Virgin Blue has responded to my email on 7 January. The language is painfully formal but the short story is they’ve reinstated my credit of $79 for the flight they cancelled on me in November 2009 and extended it for another 12 months. I didn’t expect that so it’s a pleasant surprise. Now I have to make sure I come back from New Zealand in the next 12 months so I can use it!

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I lost the battle

10 November, 2010

On the 19th of October I tweeted that the wheel of my car had been clamped in the carpark at work and my access to the carpark revoked for three months. I didn’t agree with the action that was taken by carpark management so I contested it. That took a bit of work as the person responsible hadn’t left any information or emailed me with a follow-up, but I did track them down.

I expressed my disappointment that my access had been revoked immediately without giving me a chance to appeal the decision and stated my reasons for not accepting the ruling:

There are no visible signs in the carpark that advise vehicles should be parked in marked bays only, there are no signs that indicate the area I parked is a no stopping or no parking zone and I did not park against a red-painted curb.

The response I got back started with:

There are signs on entering the general carpark warning that if you are not parked in the car bays then you will be wheel clamped. There is also a note in the Car Parking policy stating: Employees must abide by the following parking and traffic regulations:

… and then proceeded to cite the Car Parking Policy, which included “Parking is only permitted in bays”.

I was pretty fired up by their response and shot back with:

Please provide a photo of the sign(s) you indicated: “on entering the general carpark warning that if you are not parked in the car bays then you will be wheel clamped” … as I have been unable to locate this sign.

Thanks for also bringing to my attention the Car Parking Policy on the […] intranet as I am now informed of the policy, however it’s not reasonable to expect employees to trawl the intranet and locate such policies of their own accord.

If you want to take drastic action such as clamping vehicle wheels and revoking access to the carpark then you have a legal responsibility to ensure you inform users of the carpark of such policy. Having it hidden away on some website and bringing it to people’s attention only after a breach is utterly indefensible.

The security desk informed me I have a right to appeal this decision … which I consider I have done in my previous email yet it appears you’ve made no attempt to even consider my appeal and have just responded with a boilerplate email. If there is someone else I need to appeal to to contest this action then please advise.

So what did the person do? Escalate it:

I have spoken to my team leader who supports the removal of your access for 3 months. Please note the sign is on the general carpark boomgate. An email was sent to all staff before wheel clamping commenced […]

Ok, so they didn’t seem to be acknowledging anything I was saying or asking for. Fine:

I previously requested you provide photographic evidence of the sign you mentioned. As it appears you are unwilling to oblige me with this request I’ve gone and done some investigation myself.

Having located a sign similar to what you describe I can see why you were reluctant to provide a photo as the sign (photo attached) does not stipulate parking in bays as you stated. I can only assume that there’s another sign I failed to locate or your memory failed you.

In an effort to wrap this matter up I’m going to give you one final chance to engage constructively with me directly:

a) I’m willing to concede that it was reasonable to expect me to have been informed about the ruling that cars not parked in marked bays would be wheel clamped and access removed for 3 months if you can advise that the all-staff email you mentioned was sent after 7 December [2009] which is when I started my employment.

b) If the all-staff email you mentioned was sent before 7 December [2009] and given your stance on the matter and inability to provide me a fair appeals process then I will have no choice but to escalate to mediated dispute resolution.

Once again they didn’t respond to what I was saying or asking for but just further stated the background of the policy. Wow, am I talking to a robot here?

I’d had enough by then and decided I wasn’t going to get anywhere with this and it was causing me too much stress so I left it for a little while … but I wanted to know if I had received the email they mentioned.

Considering I’d already asked for information about that email and they ignored my request I simply let them know I was preparing an FOI request to retrieve a copy of the email just so I could complete and thus close the file on the matter. Surprisingly they quickly responded and provided me a copy of the email. Sad that I had to go to that extreme just to get information from people in my own organisation – we’re supposed to be on the same side!

Anyway, so I lost the battle and thus do not have access to the staff carpark till mid-January, just weeks before I finish up and move to New Zealand.

Annoyingly, I had to travel to Sydney yesterday for work and had to get a colleague to park my car in the staff carpark as I didn’t want to leave it overnight out on the street.

Ah well, I tried.

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What is wrong with my brain?

28 July, 2010

I don’t know what’s going on.

I feel perfectly sane and normal, yet I sense insanity looming on the horizon.

I feel totally in control of my life, yet at the same time I feel completely hopeless without direction.

I feel at the verge of the discovery of wonderful freedom, yet I also feel myself slipping beneath the waves of mediocrity.

I feel like I’m almost at my destination yet at the same time I feel like I’ve just left the starting line.

I want more out of life yet I don’t seem to be making any progress.

*sigh*

I’m very happy with my life and my current situation but I’m still on a journey with much to learn and discover. I’ve bandied some ideas around but honestly I just don’t know what comes next. Everything leading up to this was more or less obvious. Beyond that … it’s like stepping off into the darkness and free-falling into I-have-no-idea-what.

I would like a brain transplant please before my brain explodes and makes a mess on the inside of my skull.

Thanks for watching.

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Got to remember to take my meds

18 July, 2010

I felt a little odd during the night and had plenty of vivid and strange dreams then woke up this morning dizzy and disoriented. I thought I might have a brain tumour or something because it’s unlike normal illness … then I realised I forgot to take my anti-depressants yesterday morning.

It’s happened once before and I had to take the day off work because it wasn’t safe to drive. Trust me to do it on my birthday too!

It’s really not pleasant, stumbling around, feeling like I’m being mildly electrocuted and struggling to think straight. I tried to remind myself to take them by putting my box of Pristiq on top of the cereal but my system failed me yesterday, distracted by having an early morning client photo shoot.

Bit scary that I suffer withdrawals like this after just one day especially when I’m only on 50mg and have only been taking it for about five months. What happens if I want to go off the drugs? I’ll have to take a week off work and just try and sleep it off.

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Recovering from depression is like fixing broken bones

5 July, 2010

I’m up for my second review session this Friday which means I’ve had eleven counselling sessions with my psychologist for depression since starting therapy and medication four months ago.

It has occured to me that therapy for depression — at least for the predominately Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) that I’ve been receiving — is much like fixing a broken bone. Actually it’s more than just depression, it’s any sort of trauma in your life that has not been addressed properly … much like a bone fracture that was never set properly. To fix an old and incorrectly set bone fracture the bone has to be re-broken and re-set. Thus it is with therapy for trauma.

My reason for this analogy is that whilst I’ve definitely showed an overall pattern of increased mental and emotional stability, contentment and happiness I’ve also been all over the place to the point where I was having suicidal thoughts again just three weeks ago.

As the saying goes, if it hurts then it’s working.

I say this because I just want to caution people that while I whole-heartedly endorse seeking professional help for depression you should be aware that you will likely suffer regression and lapse back into a depressive state because therapy for trauma requires digging into your past and reactivating that trauma so it can be dealt with properly. That means stirring up old emotions of fear, pain and anger that can drag you back down.

If this does happen to you while being counselled for depression (and I’m sure your psychologist will warn you of this, as mine did) don’t believe that the therapy is ineffective. It’s just a temporary slip on your way to freedom from depression and can mean the therapy is hitting the right raw nerves and sensitive spots that need to be accessed to disassemble and rebuild your understanding and feelings about your past.

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Dream: 3 July

3 July, 2010

Last night before I went to bed I made the mistake of clicking on this photo of a wolf spider on Flickr. That of course set the scene for me to have dreams about spiders, which I did. I dreamt of a next of black house spiders behind my computer sprawling with babies so I sprayed the nest and everything evacuated the nest so I ran. Came back the next day and the wall was covered in dead spiders but I found a few survivors so I zapped them again along with a few other creepy crawlies and webs around my room.

Can’t remember my dream between that and my next one but I was back with my church and we were all preparing to go off to a Sunday meeting but then this group of intelligent animals attacked us and wanted to get access to our computers so I stayed and defended; then there was a tiger, and then I bought a blanket from a shop but they hadn’t yet quality assured it yet – apparently they tested all their blankets with fleas and stuff to show they were bug-proof. My mum wanted me to take it back but they said there was a backlog for testing but I was welcome to run it through the tests myself. So they showed me to the cage where they kept all these flea and fly infested animals – dogs, a panda and a brown bear. I didn’t stay there for long.

Then I got into a knife fight (ah yes I knew the lull in violence wouldn’t last) with some guy, and then upgraded to a sword when we took on this giant monster vegetarian spring roll that attack my group of travellers … I think we’d jumped back several hundred years for that dream. And that was about it.

Yay for wacky dreams!