Archive for September, 2010

Looking for nice bug-tracking solution

If anyone has any good experience with a free PHP/MySQL based bug-tracking system please let me know in the comments. The best I have found so far is MantisBT. It’s a nice clean install, but to be honest I think the UI is butt-ugly and would prefer something cleaner. I have used FogBugz in the past and quite liked it, but I don’t want to pay the subscription required.

Not interested in Perl or Python solutions, thanks :)


Update: Am going with FogBugz for now, as it turns out they have a free “startup” version for poor independent developers like myself :)

There are Things I am Bad At

This is a tale from January 2008 when I was living and working in New Zealand, which I wrote down but did not post to the blog at that time for obvious reasons. Names have been changed for privacy.


9PM Friday night I was at work (as was becoming the custom) and I received a text from friend Jef, saying basically “OMG dude you have to come out with us we found a girl for you!”. My knee-jerk response was to decline, but then I recalled a similar occasion in 2006 where he said the exact same thing and I didn’t believe him, and didn’t go, and that turned out to be very bad call on my part (I was shown photos to prove it). Also I was registered with an online dating site, so it would have been pretty stupid to turn down the opportunity to meet someone in Real Life who had already been vetted by friends.

I called Jef back and asked so who is this girl? All he could tell me was she was a TV presenter and had nice bosoms (that last item was thrown in by a Jef’s friend in the background). So of course I was now very curious, and even wondered briefly if it might turn out to be Jane Yee (a very cute girl who hosted the music channel).

So off I went on my awkward blind set-up (after racing home first and changing into less smelly clothes; it had been rather sticky summer weather)

NB: Of course Ms X turned out not to be Jane Yee, but I was not particularly disappointed by this.

Part 1 – An Inauspicious Start

I turned up feeling a little under-dressed (big surprise) at a place called “Soul Bar”, found Jef et al (Nena, Joan, Barry) and quickly spotted Ms X, the only unfamiliar face in the group. Within 5 seconds of my arrival she darted away to have a dance before we could even be introduced, no doubt horribly embarrassed at the obviousness of the single-friend-setup scenario. Of course she may have been simply horrified at my appearance (damn this yellow hair) but I chose not to assume that, because the new me is all about confidence. From my brief glimpse of her I observed that she was fit, blonde, petite and very pretty… and yes she had very nice boobs.

I then proceeded to chat with the gang, while getting drunk on various overpriced vodka drinks, and never once getting a chance to talk to Ms X, who did an amazing job of avoiding me without making it seem deliberate. When we all finally left the bar to grab taxis I had not exchanged a single word with her (I am not exaggerating).

Part 2 – Everybody get more drunk!

Since I was far less sober than I had originally planned, there was no question of me driving myself home, so I went back to friends Joan and Barry’s flash pad with everyone else. We fetched more vodka and retired to the loft/bedroom to listen to very loud and various music, while everyone danced as drunken people often do– except for me of course, because I never dance. It was at this point that Joan (utterly smashed and rather tactile) started harassing me for not jumping her friend – seriously, she insisted that I should “just grab her” – and I gently explained that this wasn’t really my style and yes her friend was lovely and indeed sexy but we hadn’t said boo to each other the whole night.

Part 3 – Everybody is tired, present tense

An hour or two of Barry obsessively DJing later and the energy level has dropped substantially.  Jef and Nena are out cold on the sofa, I am lolling on the bed, Joan is snoring next to me, and next to her is Ms X, still awake and the only one really responding to Barry’s music lectures. By this time we had still not talked directly, but were at least acknowledging each other in that indirect way where you ostensibly talk to another person. Barry, still hyper, finally tires of his unappreciative audience and disappears downstairs to play online games. Ms X and I are the only ones awake in the bedroom, and are finally having conversations about music and bands. We attempt to make Barry’s computer play more music, only to have the connection die and requiring a password to reconnect. Now it is soooo obviously very late and time for everyone to be tucked up in bed.

Part 4 – Where to sleep?

So we wake Jef, who decides he and Nena are going to sleep exactly where they are (on a sofa in Joan and Barry’s bedroom). Suddenly I am feeling rather self-conscious and do that “Hmmmm” thing where you pretend you’re thinking but actually your head is devoid of any useful thought process. Ms X offers that there is a spare foam mattress in her room (she has been staying with Joan and Barry) and I could take that if I want. Great, thanks I say, relieved to have a plan. I follow her downstairs to get it, and this is where I feel slightly guilty, because she drags this mattress across the room and I’m like “Hmmmmm” again… wonder where a good spot for it might be. She says you can put it in the lounge room, and I pause just long enough for her to add “or in here if you want, wherever is fine” and I’m like, oh great idea that totally hadn’t occurred to me. So we put the mattress down on the floor next to hers

Part 5 – Nighty night

So it’s very late, maybe 4AM, and we climb into our respective beds, still clothed, lie on our backs and stare at the ceiling, and hoooboy the silence is suddenly deafening. I am already feeling like a slight creep and that the proper thing would have been to sleep in another room. But then, thank God, the stillness is broken by an astonishingly loud flush from the upstairs toilet, which makes a sound in our room like a drainpipe exploding, and we both start laughing. Phew! Then we finally start chatting politely like people usually do when they first meet each other, where are you from, what do you do, all that. She is indeed a TV presenter… in Invercargill! (closer to Antarctica than Auckland). And she is flying back tomorrow. The conversation is pleasant but actually quite short because we are both extremely tired/smashed – although it is hard to drift off when you are so utterly conscious of this stranger with all the right bits laying two feet away… I lie on my back like someone has bolted me down in that position, and try not to nose-whistle. She’s very good at quiet breathing, not making a sound. I hope I don’t snore…

Part 6 – Day Breaks on a New Dawn

I wake up, it’s light, and I stare at the ceiling trying not to perv at sleeping girl. I realize it’s been a long time since I was in such a situation. Oh yes, physically I feel bloody awful; somehow I can taste rusty nails behind my eyeballs. If she’s feeling half as bad as I am then I doubt she’s about to go “mmmmmmm” and roll over to my side of the bed, so it’s time for me to get the hell up, because I can’t get back to sleep. It’s early, 8:30, so I wander around in the kitchen for a bit, make myself some tea, and go and lie down in the sun in the backyard. After a while I start to feel better, but still pretty unpleasant. Then I hear her closing the bathroom door, so I know she’s awake. But then she goes back to her room. I am feeling rather bored and wondering about the etiquette of leaving before anyone is up. I browse some books, and then figure maybe I can coax her out for morning chit-chat with a cup of tea, so go and knock on the door. She says come in, and I poke my head in to see her sitting up in bed reading, the sheet pulled up and no sign of clothing around her shoulders (she had showered while I was in the backyard). I blush, probably. Yes she would love a cup of tea, no sugar. I make the tea and bring it back, entering the room more cautiously this time, and she is still in bed. I hand her the tea, and say “um so are you coming out” she says she might just stay in bed for a while, but I should come back in and sit with her for chats.

Part 7 – One of those Magic Sheets

So I come back to the room with my revolting instant coffee, and some toast which I can’t yet stomach, and I sit down where my mattress-half had been and we chat a little, and in truth I now have trouble remembering exactly what we chatted about because most of my attention is focused on her innate ability to balance the bedsheet over her excellent boobs as she shifts position, drinks tea, reaches for toast etc. Not a single mishap– it’s just like in the movies! There is a mirror on the opposite side of the bed which means that with the power of my peripheral vision I can see her naked back while maintaining eye contact, and I suspect she is aware of this fact. After a while noises start emanating from the rest of the house as everyone starts to wake up, but she seems happy to stay in bed and chat, saying she doesn’t feel very social just yet. I feel special!

Part 8 – What Now?

Jef yells out good morning, and I feel like I should emerge and say the good mornings to all. Everyone is planning to piss off home because they are feeling awful, and I need to work out whether I’m going to go. “Have you no balls at all?” says the little voice in my head, so I summon the courage to go back into the bedroom and say “oh say, Ms X, these guys are heading off home, I was wondering if you… err… had any… um…  [edited for brevity]… plans?” After much shrugging and nodding we decide it might be nice to get out for a walk (Herne Bay, a bit posh), and when she emerges from the room 15 minutes later she’s done this magic makeup thing so she looks immaculate, and I am suddenly aware that I am as festy as ever having not even showered.

Part 9 – Rambling

So off we go for our walk, her in short shorts and a singlet munching a couple of pieces of Burgen bread since she is feeling shaky/hypo, me wearing the same clothes from the night before (damn this heat) having managed to eat half a banana. Conversation is safer and it turns out we actually have quite a lot in common, in general outlook, attitudes etc. She seems mature and smart, and very down-to-earth. We wander around some little private beaches and wade about in the water, then after about an hour of random conversation we wander on back to the house, where I pick up my jacket and we part ways. She says she looks forward to seeing me again soon and I say me too, what a nice day, etc, and stroll away to try to find my way back into the city (where my car is parked). I do not yet feel like a total failure.


It was only a short time later that I was kicking myself for not getting her contact info, and later wrangled her email from Nena, but by then it was already too late. Any impression I was going to make had been well and truly made, and I was informed that she had euphemistically described me as a “gentleman”… which I have to say made me die a little inside.

Postscript, 2010

I choose to post this now because I was very recently reminded of this incident without incident when Ms X emailed me to ask who the hell I was and how I knew her– she had received an invite from LinkedIn on my behalf, since I stupidly let the service scan my address book early this year. So now I get to feel that creeping sense of embarrassment and inadequacy all over again… thanks Internet!

An Atheist Creed

We don’t believe in Gods,
And that’s about it.
If you want our manifesto,
There ain’t one; tough shit.


Inspired by the frustration of reading David Penberthy’s recent article lumping anyone who dares to mock or disrespect religion into the largely media-created “new atheist” camp. What a lazy hack. Please God spare us from the paternalistic self-hating “moderate” atheist.

Another Beautiful Thing

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

(You should watch it full screen in HD if possible)

Then and Now

Here is what a Wild West themed video game looked like in 1980 (Outlaw on Atari 2600):

And this is what one looks like in 2010 (Red Dead Redemption on Sony PS3):

Holy Crap!

8 Memory Lane

img_1344-128.jpgSo. It looks like this blog is 8 years old already. I started it just after my 30th birthday. Wow. It feels like I accidentally sat on the fast-forward button of my life sometime in 2005. So far 2010 is not quite as I imagined… Aw who am I kidding, it’s exactly as I imagined. I’ve always known I’m crap at being my own boss.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s occurred in all that time…

  • Moved a few times, including to New Zealand and back. Now living south of Sydney in a lovely house that’s costing me more in rent than I can really afford right now.
  • Three different relationships– in total I have probably spent about half of my 30s partnered. I still have very positive feelings toward all involved, and try to maintain contact, although logistically can’t really see any of them in person since all currently reside in New Zealand. Two out of three I met though online dating, which on one hand bothers me hugely but on the other where the hell else am I going to meet anyone? – Unless I go back to university, which at this point I would say is exceedingly unlikely.
  • One major job, some miscellaneous contract work and one start-up misfire. I’d say I’ve been in some kind of employment for 70% of the time, which is similar to how I spent my 20s. I don’t really blog about paid work for the same reason most people don’t; it just feels inappropriate. I will say that I have been very lucky to work on things that are wayyy more interesting that the majority of programmers get to do in their day jobs.
  • Racked up a huge tax bill by not paying the tax from my earnings as a contractor… with interest and penalties it came to around $40K (I hadn’t filed a return for almost 7 years) At least part of the reason it got so bad was because of the next point. I am now debt free but rapidly pissing away my savings.
  • Got really sick a couple of times, was hospitalized the second time and actually got proper medical care which allowed me to avoid getting sick again. The first time it hit me badly was around 2003, and I was never properly diagnosed, which basically meant I lost about a year of my life for no good reason. I was blogging at the time, but as far as I can tell I never actually mentioned it then, probably because it was just too depressing to talk about.
  • Changed my hair color a bunch of times… I still have no clue what to do with it though, it always irritates me no matter what color or length. Although I like that as I get older simply having hair starts to become more of a draw ;)
  • Gained a bunch of weight– having cleared the aforementioned illness my body became much more efficient at turning the food I consumed into flab. I am in the process of losing it again but it takes a lot longer coming down than going up. When I moved back to Australia I was over 106kg, now I am down to a more acceptable (but still higher than I’d like) 97kg. I’m hoping to eventually get back down to 87 or so…
  • Gave up smoking, took it up again, gave it up again, tried e-cigarettes etc… in fact today marks one week without smoking, again– I really have to make it stick this time.
  • Neglected projects like JujuEdit and Drivey like I still can’t believe. JujuEdit actually predates this blog!
  • Created some minor buzz when an idea I had for an atheist symbol was mentioned on PZ Myers’ blog. I still have to update the mini-site I created for it with some photos of tattoos that people have gotten.

On the blog specifically, it’s all starting to feel a bit old-fashioned now. Since it’s been going this long I don’t see myself chucking it in any time soon– at least not til I’m 40. Do people start blogs anymore? I stopped keeping track of visitors and stats ages ago, and am glad of it (one less thing to angst about) but I guess the current readership must be somewhere between 10 and 1,000,000.