Why Driving Sucks

I could write a whole lot more about my job at the end of my first week, but I have more interest in talking about what happens before and after that work.

I have time-shifted, so I drive 6:30am – 7:30am and then 4:00pm – 5:00pm.
This is as close as I think I’ll get to the optimistic Google estimate of 53 minutes.
And that’s okay.

For the past eternity, my 5-10 minute commute exposes me to a bad driver or two every once in a while. With a daily 60 minute commute each way, every day is my “lucky” day. And I wanted to just record some of these blessings so I do not forget when the time comes to gripe about occasional public-transport mishaps.

Ending Lanes – there are a couple of places on my commute where 2 lanes merge into 1, with the left lane disappearing. Most drivers are perfectly polite and do not push in all the way at the end of the merging lane. Sadly, when they do, they merge in as little distance as possible, which usually encourages the small minority to overtake in the left lane… and push in at the very front, which then slows down the right lane even more, encouraging even more assh*les to push in front. Every once in a while you’ll even have someone ducking from the right lane into the left, push to the front and re-merge… because… entitlement.

This is actually the easiest to fix, and when I find myself in the left lane, I start indicating to merge early and when a space opens up, I move over half-way to claim the spot while keeping the left lane blocked. If this feels awkward, indicating and just keeping pace with the open space will work too. This usually makes both lanes flow better because now there aren’t any pushing-in cars causing confusion and uncertainty to the drivers at the end of the merge.

Overtaking Lanes – there is a long windy single-lane stretch in my commute, which occasionally widens to 2 lanes for a stretch to allow overtaking before merging back together. It is inevitable on the single-lane portions to get stuck behind a car going below the speed limit. On a 100km/h stretch there’ll be a car doing 90km/h. I wait patiently. Then the overtaking lane comes. I get into the second lane and speed up to 105km/h to get past quickly… and now suddenly the granny turns into Taz, going 108km/h and pulling away from me!?

Theoretically this can be overcome by speeding up till you inevitably go faster, but I don’t really want to see how far that game of chicken would take me. I do not know why people do this. It is anti-social… if you know the car behind you for the last 5km clearly wanted to go faster than you are going, can you not hold back when the overtaking lane comes around? Heck, slow down to 80km/h briefly to make it easier, and then go back to 90km/h; everyone’s happy!

Hanging Right – this is a variant of the last one… most of the way to work doesn’t exceed 2 lanes. The slow traffic is on the left. The fast traffic is on the right. Everyone thinks they are fast traffic. They want to go faster than the slow car they are behind. 85km/h on a 100km/h stretch!? No way! So, they pull in front of me to overtake… at 90km/h… for ki-lo-me-tres.

When I notice a fast driver approaching behind me, I find a way to get back into the left lane, even if I still want to get back in the right lane right afterwards to keep overtaking myself. Even if the car coming up is doing an illegal 120km/h, because I’m not the Police, and I’m not here to stop them from doing anything wrong. It’s usually best to have extreme speeders and Tetris drivers as far away as possible anyway.

Anyway,…
… Future-Jerry…
… That train you are hating so much right now, is really not so bad…
… It is usually moving. It isn’t beholden to the whims of other traffic…
… It may be a bit full, but you can read a book and be blissfully ignorant of those few idiots on the road…

Starting at Campaign Monitor

Commute

I made the right call when I was first offered the job late 2013; that is not to say that there is anything wrong with the job per-se, because Campaign Monitor has already proven an awesome place to work. The commute would have killed me 6 months in.

Tuesday - fresh muffins with breakfast
Tuesday – fresh muffins with breakfast

On Monday morning, I made it from home to work in 70 minutes, door to door. Not bad, but not quite the 60 minutes I thought achievable. My manager suggested I try a different route home, which due to evening traffic also came to 70 minutes, and sadly a missed Pilates class.

Then this morning, Google told me to expect 1h42m, to which I scoffed “No Way”.
Alas, “Yes Way”… multiple incidents and accidents, hints and allegations later, 90 minutes door-to-door.

I am somewhat hopeful after a 60-minute commute this afternoon that I can fine-tune this a little further for the next 4 weeks after which the office will move to a gorgeous new CBD location. I am considering waking up at the not-a-real-time of 6:30am so that I can start early, finish early, and hopefully mostly avoid the traffic both ways.

A small limited-duration sacrifice to the sleep gods may be warranted. And limiting my gym classes to Tuesday evening and the weekend for now.

Food

This job comes with breakfast and lunch included.

And not just something quickly thrown-together either. The Three Chefs start their day at 7am, first to make breakfast and coffee orders for 8:30am, then to make lunch for 12:30pm, and finally an afternoon snack and coffee at 2:30pm.

Tuesdays' menu - I can still smell the lamb ribs on my t-shirt
Tuesdays’ menu – I can still smell the lamb ribs on my t-shirt

It’s definitely better fare than I’d be able to buy myself for an average $10, and it’s not costing me anything. It’s also a great time to sit down and chat with co-workers. Sadly I am horrendous with names, and I’m sure I’ll have to be reminded for a while longer… but it’s a great way to get to know my coworkers.

There is an internal web page where the menu for the week is published, and from what I understand the chefs do not like repeating themselves, so I am looking forward to never having the same lunch again. Also, probably healthier than I’d otherwise eat (mostly).

Learning Curve

Getting started is always a bit intimidating, when you come in feeling like you know nothing. The Engineering department has a buddy system in place though, so I have someone to ask when I need to figure something out.

There have been a few false starts where I needed a hand, but otherwise, the internal Wiki is amazingly comprehensive. I have learned an awful lot already in only two days from just poking around.

DiSC - 6515 - Creative (apparently!)
DiSC – 6515 – Creative (apparently!)

Today I had my first one-on-one with my team lead. Having used Manager Tools myself, I already knew what to expect. And I had seen many staff with DiSC profiles displayed in their windows, so I asked if I should get one of those done as well.

“Oh sure, there is a Wiki page, and here are the credit card details… just make sure you send an invoice to myself and the accountant when you’ve bought something.”

*blink* … no red tape indeed!

Culture

Which brings me to CM culture.

Friendly and relaxed does not even begin to describe it. “We’re all smart adults here” might as well be the company motto. The change feels a little disorienting to me, but I’m sure I will adapt quickly enough.

Dress code is: “whatever you are comfortable in” (within reason, of course, see “smart adult” above), but there are plenty of staff in t-shirts, shorts and no-shoes.

Tomorrow's Lunch - Sous Vide chicken.
Tomorrow’s Lunch – Sous Vide chicken.

I have been invited to try ping-pong, XBox, after-work trainer sessions… So far, I have politely declined while I get my bearings a bit more and work out my commute and sleep patterns.

But I already know, I’m right at home.

Last Day

I cannot exactly say that 8 weeks felt like the blink of an eye. They definitely felt like A-Long-Time-tm.

And I feel a little guilty about how little of consequence I have done with it, but not too much.

I have managed to re-establish a workable gym routine that had been suffering from too many interruptions last year from around August till November. I can actually do Body Attack again without dying, and my legs feel mostly okay after an hour.

I have read a half dozen fairly lengthy books from the large pile I was indirectly gifted by my former co-workers (a gift certificate well spent!)

I have watched way too many movies, way too much TV, and had a few nice do-nothing days along the way too.

And most importantly, I feel completely relaxed.
Which bodes well for tomorrow, the coming month, and the years beyond.

Campaign Monitor, here I come!
I must remember to take pictures along the way.

Tony for a Little While Longer

Full disclosure first; my personal leaning according to The Political Compass economically lands slightly Left of centre, and socially very Libertarian. This is by way of explaining that although I have explicitly and specifically never been a fan of Tony Abbott, most Australian politicians are far too authoritarian for my tastes.

Despite all this, I’m neither pleased nor displeased with the outcome of the spill motion this morning. It seems clear to me that it’s far past the point-of-no-return for Tony’s eventual implosion. Everything between now and then is just political manoeuvring at one scale or another.

Tony appears to have serious impulse-control problems, and that continues to be his greatest liability. No matter how chastised he feels, and how much he intends to do better so as not to lose the leadership, he’ll remain just one low-blood-sugar moment away from falling over his own tongue.

By contrast, Malcolm Turnbull is doing a great impression of a Zen master. Almost every move carefully weighed and considered; no more action or admission than strictly necessary. He is doing a great job of making his intent clear without explicitly cornering himself by overt admissions.

I know to many Australians, they are both Liberals and therefore equally bad, but there is a fundamental qualitative difference between a carefully rational politician with an ability to change his mind, and a one trick pony that has figured out which lever to pull for a pellet.

And let’s not forget that calling Labor “left” and Liberal “right” is a bit of a joke anyway. A quick look at the Political Compass for the 2013 elections (or really, the political spectrum for almost every western democracy) will show that the majority parties sit squeezed in a very tight corner to the Authoritarian Right of the compass. As much as we can tell ourselves that a lot hinges on whether Labor or Liberal wins, the reality is that the real-world outcomes are only marginally different between the two once they are in power.

Not that I have a stake in this anyway; I am merely a permanent resident, and as such I am not entitled to vote.

Which is just as well, because I wouldn’t know who to vote for anyway.

Surprising use for OneNote

I am spending some time planning out a video to pull together my advice on how to use OneNote for effective meetings based on the fundamentals explained in the Manager Tools podcast.

In the process I have re-listend to most of the meeting related podcast episodes to get a good handle on what the nuances of their advice are, and which pieces of advice came from which episode. I was thinking of just cribbing notes as I played the audio and then leave it at that, but the nitpicker in the back of my brain wanted a better solution.

I love OneNote.
I love how it supports audio recordings.
(And I love it on a Surface Pro even more)

I was thinking I might be able to use the “audio recording” feature to record the podcast as I played it so that my typed notes would be an index into the relevant portions of the audio. If you don’t know what I am talking about here, bear with me, it will all be clear by the end of this post.

Sadly, this approach didn’t end up recording the system sound, so I only had my typing noises from the mic synchronised with the notes. Not much use.

I was almost ready to give up, but then I conceived a different approach that worked out quite nicely.

If you ever had audio/visual study materials that you want to annotate and be able to selectively review, you’re going to love this. And remember, OneNote is freely downloadable so you have no excuses: http://www.onenote.com/

Start with a new notebook, and ideally do not store it in the cloud (pick a “Computer” storage location, not a “OneDrive” one). Two reasons: you do not want to use your bandwidth to sync large media files into the cloud, and it doesn’t allow for files larger than 100MB to be annotated in the cloud.

Step one: Insert a media file into the page
Insert a File from the "Insert" ribbon
OneNote has limited support for file formats, so make sure your media is in a plain format – mp3 and avi work great.

Step two: Pick the Attach option for the file
Attach - I have no idea what Printout would look like
Note that this will embed a copy of the file into your notebook; this is unavoidable, but well worth it for what you gain.

Step three: Select the media and play it
Select the Media and Play it back
By selecting a media file in the page you can access the playback options; start the audio.

Step four: Take notes as you listen as liberally as you need to
Take notes as you listen
As the file is playing OneNote will time-code your writing to the playback position. It is recommended to start new lines for notes when possible to get a finer granularity index.

Once you are done listening to the file and have made all the notes you care for, hover over the lines of your notes. You might notice a little playback icon in the gutter (see last screenshot).

Whenever you press this button, it will start playback of the annotated file at about 10 seconds before you started typing the line. If a note upon review does not make any sense to you anymore, this will give you a very quick jump-point back into the audio at the time you decided to write the note. You can get back to the context in which your note originally made sense to you as the click of a button.

And it even works when you place multiple audio files in the same page. Written notes are attached not only to a timecode, but to the specific file instance that was playing at the time, no matter where it is on the page.

And when you play back the file, it will highlight the lines of your notes at the correct times they were written, so you can see a full-media replay of your note-taking.

And… this also works for video files (avi); playback will pop up a separate video window, but other than that the notetaking and time-coding works exactly the same as for audio.

All you students out there of all ages… you are welcome.

My Campaign Monitor Adventure – Soon

The original plan would have been to start at my new job in the CBD last Monday (2nd Feb), but speaking to the recruiter uncovered that the interior decorating in the CBD was running later than anticipated, to the tune of early March. He suggested splitting the difference and starting Feb 16th, which sounded fine to me.

I’m starting to get back into a working frame-of-mind.

Yesterday I had a social engagement in the CBD and Abbey and I decided to take the Parramatta ferry in for a nice slow ride, and I took the opportunity to snap some shots of what I believe are our offices-to-be… there aren’t that many buildings around Hyde Park high enough.

Corner of Elizabeth and Park
Corner of Elizabeth and Park

I’m looking forward to these offices. The CBD is too far from where I live to spend much time there, but there is a lot of charm to the idea of being able to spend some time over lunch in Hyde Park… it’s right outside the door after all.

Well-used park
Well-used park

And I like the fact that city-dwellers actually use the park as well. Late in the afternoon the lawns were littered with people by themselves and in small groups reading or talking. And a larger group gathering near the reflecting pond seemed to be getting ready for exercise. I didn’t wait around to find out for sure though.

Plenty of shade among the massive trees.
Plenty of shade among the massive trees.

And the park has some wonderful shade as well. It was overcast yesterday, but I’m sure even on a sunny day a skin-safe spot can be found on one of the many benches strewn about the walkways.

But first… three weeks of commuting to Sutherland by car.

I’m sure I’ll be too engrossed in getting up to speed to notice much of it, and it’ll be a nice opportunity to spend some time in their original offices before they become “former”.

“Sadly”, the new offices will apparently not have personal offices, but be organised around teams from what I understand. I look forward to finding out what that looks like.

Despite the many articles recently floating around the internet slamming open-plan offices, I’m not too worried either way. I just came from open-plan and I’m sure I will be able to find the occasional quiet corner for deep thoughts to be thought; it’s just a matter of picking up the laptop and going for a walk.

Worst-case scenario I guess I could wander into the park, although I’m not sure the WiFi will reach all the way down.