fj: (tech)
Oh dear. Now I work at The Big Agency, I need to work blog more. My manager has decided the UE team needs to become opinion leaders in the field, and be visible and public. Since I hate to plan anything a year in advance, I can't really enter the conference circuit realy, and I do not feel I have anything to say, any topic I need to dive into. So I asked how he felt about getting visibility through blogging; he thought it was a great idea.

Sure, I can update TST and AskTheUXer--in fact, I have tons of ideas--but I just do not want to write them up. Writing's hard.

In Bed

Feb. 20th, 2009 01:54 pm
fj: (tech)
I've got to become more patient when I cook. I have mild food poisoning again. Fortunately I am working at home, so I am in bed now feeling icky but wrangling CSS.

The project is the a rebranding of a developer's portal with community-contributed content. The lead contractor has made great visual designs, and I am now translating them and dropping them into the webserver. I actually have to ush around code for that because text needs to appear in different places than it used to to make it work, so it is all UI programming. The new look will be unveiled in the future.

My 3d developer's community portal with user-contributed content. It feels all very familiar.
fj: (Default)
  1. Since I have returned to innerspring mattresses, most of my back problems have gone. This started a year ago with the mattress at my temp lodgings. I do have back-pain right now, but that is because of a slight pull again, which is nearly gone.
  2. I am working a short contract right now, helping out a small UI consultancy that is contracted to Vodafone. I hope to piece together money through short contracts this way, from CSS wrangling ot high level strategic design and research, while looking for a permanent job.
  3. I like my small flat. I have had boiler issues in the last few weeks, but those were fixed by nice gas maintenance people coming by. I have re-upped to stay here until at least September.
  4. I do not travel to NL enough. This has to do with unstable money issues.
fj: (phkl)
Because it has been cold these last few weeks, when I got out of bed to have my hot morning oatmeal (oatmeal nuked in milk, then mixed with whey protein and low-calorie chocolate drink powder), I would not sit down at the computer in my thin robe, but immediately put on the American Apparel black cotton flared sweatpants and the black cashmere sweater -- the only one that survived the moth attack in LA. Of course, as every morning, I would get totally engrossed in work and Internet, so but for food breaks, I would at some point look up and go, shit, time for gym, slip on boots and a coat, go to the gym, change and work out, shower and brush and shave, and then put the sweatpants and sweater back on. Nobody needed to see me anyway so who cares what I wore.

Except I caught my reflection in the mirror and I looked totally hot and cuddly and soft in it, and it was super comfortable on my skin all day. Except for my feet. My feet get so cold, even in boots, if I don't move and have the heating low. Still, I wore this for a week or more, I forget.

Ok, you know what, if I am going to do this home working in sweat pants for real, I might as well commit. I finally have a style of my own for work. As soon as my bank account no longer gives me anxiety attacks I will get 5 more of those sweatpants in colors, and save up for discount cashmere sweaters. While doing some browser testing on eBay I already bought a pair of cashmere socks. Maybe those will keep my feet warm. It'll be my work uniform.

When I am not meeting with clients, of course.
fj: (phkl)
And I am absolutely thrilled. I ordered this Celle chair weeks ago, when it didn't seem that bad an idea at the time financially, and I had to wait because I didn't want it in the stock black on black. I had to take the back off upon receipt so I could get it up the narrow staircase -- and boy were those bolts tight, I had to use the drill -- but now it is behind my desk, and my desk is at the right height, and I am comfortable again behind the computer. Everything is supported and angled just right, which is so important when you compute over 8 hours a day. No sitting on the couch propping up elbows with pillows, no never being comfortable in the folding dining chair, no, a real office chair with tilting and everything. I can feel my shoulders let go of tension as I type.

It is an investment every tech worker must make.

Wish it was a little brighter, though. I will have to decorate it with some white covers.
fj: (phkl)
What always bothered me about "Mommie Dearest" was just how bad the movie was at portraying its subject, completely undermining its credibility. Joan Crawford was terrible actress, but she knew what the fuck she was doing in front of a camera, and she wasn't nearly as decrepit in the early years as the movie tries to make us think.

So of course, I fired up bit torrent to finally make my point. I have a Mac after all, this shit is easy now, and actually was loads and loads and loads of fun to do, snipping here, titling there... my first YouTube video is the Old School Gayest thing ever done, even more than the PHKL considering 10 year old gorls won't like this:

I am really crossing off the items off my To Do list on Hiveminder:, this, financial stuff, portfolio, getting a proper chair (only 4 more weeks, yay!). At the bottom, still, that entry: Get Job. It stares at me.
fj: (Default)
Chrome tech blather )

Crossposted to which I will stop doing as soon as I have backported the last LJ entries and can make a syndication feed.
fj: (Default)
Another hiring manager who wants a 2-day freebie as a job interview 'exercise '. Feel like cancelling.

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fj: (Default)
Since my contract with Voda ended, I went to Düsseldorf to clean up, Amsterdam, and my Dad's, then went to SF & LA and have now been back for almost two weeks, but I have not worked. I do not have a new contract yet. I had a job interview the day after I returned, and yesterday they got back to me and said it was a bad fit for the open position. I had to agree, but I hadn't send the No Thanks email myself.

There's no urgency money-wise; Voda paid buckets to compensate me for me having to pay for the commute, and by British tax laws I got most travel and lodging expenses deducted from the taxes that go off every paycheck. I am good, and need to remind myself to use this money to hold out for something good and not give in to that fear of not working by jumping in too early to any opportunity.

Of course, there's no open offer to give in to right now. Since I re-activated my resumes I got a call from a recruiter most every morning. These British ones are not as bad as the ones I dealt with in the US: they do not offer me wildly inappropriate jobs, and they get the salary space right. We'd agree intial stuff over the phone, they send me the req in email, I send them email back with a .doc version of my CV, I never hear back.

Then again, maybe I am too impatient for Europe. Sunday I was at Nigel's, checking out what normal TV looks like on a 32" HD panel by watching the pilot of Space 1999 and a documentary on Blake's 7, and we were bitching about "Remember rejection letters? You know, actually getting them? These days they won't even tell you if you didn't get the job, and I was actually interviewing in their offices! Is it because I didn't send the 'Oh thank you so much for letting me interview' email seconds after I left?" and then I see his expression and I have to follow with: "Wait, you don't know what that email is? All the rage in the US, especially during recessions. It reads like..." and he gets the confirmation again that the US is insane and I get told I needn't send that in the UK, and then one day later I actually got the rejection email totally denying my whining. I just wasn't patient enough.
fj: (tech)
I recently found out that IBM decided it needed its own version of OpenOffice, the word processor, spreadsheet, and graphing suite that can read and write Microsoft Office files. Obviously IBM was not content with just pointing their clients to the official free version now owned and developed by SUN Microsystems, oh no: they took the inner engine of that effort and slapped a user interface based on a piece of Eclipse around it. Why? God knows, but for one thing, they are one whole revision of OpenOffice behind and give no signs of catching up and maintaining parity in engines, and have blown the deadline according to the Wikipedia page for a MacOS X version. Which tells me the team is understaffed.

Why I chuckled when I found this product? IBM branded this IBM Lotus Symphony. Yeah, complete with the yellow background and blocky black fonts. Yes, Lotus Symphony, the name Lotus gave to its office suite follow-up to Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS, never ported properly to the Mac and ceded the Mac productivity market up to Microsoft Office, and then never was able to maintain parity with Office on Windows and thus ceded the market to Microsoft Office.

I just checked the video tutorial, and mostly what this porting of an office engine into a new UI system seems to do is allow the IBM team to create a UI that is more like Microsoft's current UI where tools only become visible when relevant. I couldn't install it on my Mac, even though I can install both OpenOffice and Eclipse on my Mac, so I can't check if the new plug-ins that Eclipse allows are useful at all. In some program manager's mind, making a new version of a freely available popular program using an outdated version, and then branding it with the words and images intensely tied to the bad decisions that led to the long decline of Lotus is making complete sense. Im my mind, I am not so sure.
fj: (Default)
I am not loafing around, i am, as deep eurobloggers say, 'contemplating life'. So there!

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fj: (phkl)
Horrible jet lag. Unable to go to the gym yesterday; after I came home from my job interview and the supermarket, I felt so tired I had to briefly lie down, and fell asleep at 6. Woke up at 10. Made dinner at 11.30 in a brain haze, went to bed at 1. Recruiters are calling me at 9.30 (two this morning) so at least I do not sleep in too much.

One of them was for a luxury woman's apparel website, and the email asks to respond with anything besides my CV that would indicate my suitability for the role. I wondered how to write down and back-up a professional version of "I am a style-obsessed homo." I sent my portfolio instead, it includes some concepts I did at previous gigs for Moms, and the PHKL.

Incidentally, no PHKL mail in months. I still have the top results in Google for "pink hello kitty laptop" and "hello kitty laptop", but the availability of officially licensed laptops is focusing the efforts of the computing 11 yo set better, I think.

How It Was

Jul. 11th, 2008 03:55 pm
fj: (travel)
So, contradictions. Düsseldorf is an impossibly chic little city, but rents in the central area, not at all run down, are ridiculously cheap. Germany is going through a prolonged economic malaise due to reunification, but organic-ish vegetables and perfectly lovely store brand products in my local supermarket cost nothing. And this gig was in Germany and yet I was caught dead doing it1.

This gig for Vodafone was one that my agent has been trying to get me to take fo a while, but I never liked the terms: one had to be in Germany at least four days a week, which means that if you do not move outright for the whole thing, you end up in London only one full day, and I went to London 6 months ago to live there, not in Germany. But after not having worked for a month and a half after that single week with the consultancy, and my savings being equally unhappy after this move, I was more receptive. Then my agent called and said he had talked them down to three days at the office, which means two days of work and weekends at home, plus an unbelievable dayrate as long as I paid my own travel and lodgings, but that those could come off taxes, and I said ok. It's only a 55 minute flight after all.

Logistics-wise, the gig turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Of course the first week I overpayed for a hotel, not knowing what and where. The next week I didn't because I knew where the Hotel Ibis was, a Europe-wide brand of cheap business hotels near train stations. By the third week, my appartment had been arranged, and that made me the slow one in the office: the MZW agency can do that in a day, and had for most of my colleagues who flew in like me. €580,- a month for a big studio in the center of town. Almost every name on the letterboxes, stuck on with label-maker tape, was Indian. The landlord basically rents to all us temp workers. Only drawback of my lovely space: it's a 6th floor walk-up. Oh yeah. The city was rebuilt in the 50s after the war, and elevators were not a priority.

So, little cheap Bio supermarket on the same street. Streetcar stop on the corner which I could take to work. The Vodafone tower and adjacent buildings are pretty much on the Rhine, and modern and spacious and open. My co-workers were nice, and it was kind of fun to sit in the auxiliary room together with all the young designers from the contracting firms chattering away. The work was perfectly do-able and started out bringing me further along to mastering the bread-and-butter of mercenary UI designers (which I am still relatively recent at) but by the end had me back writing strategic documents about revenue opportunities in new media (which I can do in my sleep if you tell me the focus).

I looked at all the gyms online, visited a few from very middle-of-the-road to very expensive, and settled for a bodybuilder's gym that had a good 3-month rate and was in the city center. I walked a lot with my backpack with this heavy computer and gym clothes, I ended up never buying protein powder but just eating a lot of eggs and chicken and tuna and fromage frais (known as Quark in German).

I settled on a routine for flying in and out on Monday and Thursday evenings. This means Mondays were always chaotic as I had to get ready to leave, spend a lot of time actually traveling (bus from Oval to Paddington, Heathrow Express, Plane, Taxi), and still get a whole day of work in and exercise, while Fridays were a mess while I had to get a whole day of work in, do expenses paperwork and time sheets, and was just a general tired mess from flying in Thursday night. Every Friday night when I got in to bed having juggled and hurried and done everything and eaten and worked out at two gyms and not dropped any balls, I just collapsed, and then reminded myself I'd get to do it all over again in two days. Sometimes with having to go to the bank on Monday as well to travel with €1K in cash, as using my UK and US cards was either impossible or expensive for things like rent or food. Never used it for shopping, though, as I never had time by day. This last trip I was able to just walk the whole of the shopping street and see how for a small city, Ddorf is just really well supplied in high-end fashion, all in a really nice area. Balenciaga's black knitwear for this season is Teh Raumpatrouille Orion Sex2.

The constant planning got tedious. What clothes were where, what should I bring, do I have enough cash for the taxi, what was in what fridge (which is important if you often arrive after shops close), what did I need to bring to work, what would fit in what bag. When I came back in London from having stayed over a weekend to visit my family I learned that Tesco's Finest Orange Juice is not pasteurized: the bottle had bulged, opening it was a plopping adventure, and the OJ had been diligently fizzily carbonated by little entities. The only way to deal with all the planning was routines: everything had to have a place and time, from when I switched currencies, to when and where I would switch keys on my key chain, to when I would pull out my passport and when I would put it back to what I would buy and when I would leave. I couldn't keep track of it all at the same time, so I kept track of each thing as it happened and put it in a place that would be predictable for the next time this part of the routine had to happen. By the end it was actually all really relaxed trip-wise, I just ran through the steps, back and forth, with the only spanner in the works being the damn planes. I only got three outright cancellations in the whole period.

As for visiting my father, one of the reasons I took this gig, that didn't happen because it was really hard to schedule him. He was busy every weekend in May, and I only stayed over on the continent once to see him in June. I will this weekend, but the whole let's go to Rozendaal often just didn't pan out much. The work did, minus two weeks, and the weather was often very lovely. I'd do this again. But now, two days in Amsterdam, and then to Dad, and then Monday to London.

1Ancient Euro rivalry alert
2If you are into paying €1200,- for a sweater, that is.
fj: (Default)
When Helio claimed to have 70k subscribers, it also claimed $100 Average Revenue Per User [ARPU]. Now Helio is claiming 170K users. Which means they should be doing $17 million of total revenue per month, if the ARPU number was a) true b) sustained till now. Virgin is acquiring these claimed 170K users $39 million, and not even in cash, but in a stock that was worth $15,- per share when it did its IPO last October, but is now at $3,- a decine also known as 'tanking'.

So for Virgin acquired Helio for two months of revenue of Helios subscribers? Virgin just acquired 170K new high-value subscribers for a measely $229,- per subscriber? This after SK telecom invested hundreds of millions and was ready to invest hundreds more, to the tune of a pledged half a billion in ten years, when the dollar hadn't completely tanked yet?

What is wrong with this picture? That Helio basically gave itself away for free.

I'll tell you something: my gut feeling is that $100 ARPU was exagerated at 70k subs, and Helio got the next 100K subs by shutting off the credit check. And their subscribers ain't paying their bills.
fj: (tech)
Every time there is some article on Slashdot about phones that are smarter or more interesting than the ones a year ago, there's always someone whining "I just want a phone why do I have to pay extra I only want to make calls why can't I just get a phone waaaah", completely ignoring that low-end phones are always available and you can, if you want to, ignore there's a camera or an text inbox on them. The only sympathy I have here is people who need to not have a camera on their phone for security reasons, they are getting problems.

What interests me is how the tenor of these posts have changed. First of all, finally people are responding with a STFU, get the cheapest one, and just don't crack open the manual. But second, the whine has changed. It used to be "I just want a PHONE that MAKES CALLS." Then it was "I just want a PHONE that makes CALLS and DOES THE TEXT THING RIGHT" which means a leap in the USA. Now I just saw "I just want a PHONE that makes CALLS and does text and so I can check my emails why does everything have to have SO MANY FEATURES."

The really cheap people with not so much disposable income, young teens, want every feature they can get. Technology has now been completely mainstreamed: I remember 2 years ago watching The Young And The Restless and the teens were discussing using a USB key with a password logger program to get a login to check a guy's mails, and Mariah Carey is singing about being posted on YouTube and probably even knows what that means too.


Jun. 25th, 2008 12:31 pm
fj: (tech)
I was told yesterday by the group manager that my contract has been shortened by two weeks because basically, there isn't that much for me specifically to do at this moment. I answered that I could kind of see that already, and that this kind of flexibility is what contracts are for. So next week is my last. I canceled the flight for the week of the 13th, which means I lost all the taxes and fees and charges which are half of the cost and a £15 handling charge. I will keep the flight of the 7th to come in and close up shop on an exit interview, clean the flat and get security back, finally have time to wander around the beautiful shopping district at a time the shops are open -- no, seriously, Königsallee rivals Old Bond Street and looks beautiful in summer -- and maybe hit the Netherlands with the ICE, maybe Amsterdam, definitely dad in Rozendaal, if he and the girlfriend are available. They have very busy social lives, you know. When I started this gig and wanted to spend a weekend with them in May, I basically couldn't because they were gone every last one. I have only been once, two weeks ago. So much for taking a job that allows me to spend more time with them.

Sucks about the last two weeks. I finally got the routine fully down so I was comfortable with it, and would have liked the money.
fj: (Disney)
Well, then. We all started, and it seems the last hold-out can't make it work, even with investments of over half a billion dollars.

But dammit, we really all tried.


Jun. 19th, 2008 03:59 pm
fj: (tech)
They always tell you to put minimal text on presentation slides, especially for points that you will present as well verbally. Certainly do not make your PowerPoint a written copy of what you want to say. But that never addresses that the last 7 'presentations' I made got presented maybe only once, if ever, but were mostly passed around as a sort of e-mail brochure to read alone from a screen. It's kinda hard to make a presentation that works as both a presentation and a hand-out.
fj: (UK)
This accent is what professional life is like in the UK. And it makes me feel like I am constantly on TV or something. It just doesn't sound normal. Like I am watching BBC America.

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