Craig Box's journeys, stories and notes...

Archive for November, 2007

New/Nouveau Part Deux

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

New car

Ontario drivers licenseWell, actually, no on this one.  I want to buy a car, but to do that, you need to get car insurance, and to get car insurance, you need to have an Ontario drivers license.  You can exchange one - hand in your New Zealand license and proof of over 2 years of experience, and go straight to doing the G2 (full license) test.  However, once you've done the written test, you're a G1 (learner) driver - so that means I could drive to the writing test, and not be able to drive home without my Mum in the passenger seat.  And it's possibly a two month wait on getting a G2 booking.  The system sucks, and I'm going to put it off as long as possible. Which means lots of driving a rental car, unfortunately with nowhere to park it as the underground garage in our building is being resurfaced.  The jackhammers start at 8.10am without fail.

I've received two parking tickets (two more than my entire driving history in New Zealand) and backed into one parked car.

Driving on the wrong side of the road is something you adjust to in stages - if you're a passenger first, you get used to sitting in the "drivers spot" and not having a steering wheel, and you get used to what side of the car to walk to.  Then you adjust to what side road signs are on.

When you start driving yourself, what side of the road you use is actually easy, assuming there's other traffic around. It's the other little things - the gearstick and handbrake being on the wrong side, the seatbelt being pulled down from the other side, and having to look over the other shoulder while reversing.  It's that final thing that lead to the parked car incident in the dark parking lot last Monday.

Eventually it all comes together, and you don't stress any more.  Except, of course, when you are changing sides again in six weeks, for three weeks...


Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

New job

I've been at my new job for just on a month now, so it would make sense to tell you what I do and who I do it for.

I work for the imaginatively-named Software Innovation, who develop software for the engineering industry. The suite is called Coreworx and it is a web-based project collaboration system targeted at what is called EPC - engineering, procurement & construction. (Feel free to rewrite the crap Wikipedia article. In fact, because anything you write on the Internet is archived forever, if the article is good when you read this, assume that it was my request that caused someone to make it good.) It handles document management and workflow, and automates what previously was the time-consuming process of managing reams of paper from suppliers, consultants, designers, engineers, and people who just like wasting paper.

Our website has a cute elevator pitch which explains things in just the right amount of detail.

The recruiter who told me about the job had me hooked when he said they were looking for "a developer with a personality". My role is in the Professional Services team, so I'll be going out to our customers, all around the world, consulting on requirements, planning, installing, configuring, documenting and troubleshooting our software. To date it's mostly been learning, but I've already thrown myself in the deep end with some programming and am starting to look at planning a new deployment.

It's great working at a company that not only has a pool ladder, but often has the CEO at the top of it. He's got his own cue in a case. That's bad-ass.

New city

Software Innovation are based in Kitchener, which as you can see, isn't Toronto. It's a 60 minute highway drive in light traffic to get to the edge of Toronto, and then it's another 20 mins on the subway to get there.

Kitchener was known as Berlin until that pesky First World War thing. There's still a lot of German influence, from the yearly Oktoberfest and the schnitzel houses to New Hamburg just down the road.

The city is often referred to as Kitchener/Waterloo, because the city of Waterloo, literally 5 mins up the road, grew into Kitchener, and reciprocally Kitchener grew into Waterloo.  It's one big area with two local governments.  Kitchener had lots of factories and now has lots of homeless ex-factory workers.  Waterloo has two universities and RIM, the people who make Crackberries.

It has snowed twice since I got here, but only small flurries. It's going to get cold. Bring it on!

New apartment

When Fern and I moved out here, we stayed in a hotel for a couple of weeks and looked for an apartment. A lot of people didn't have room for a couple, or weren't interested in living with one - their loss, we're great roommates!

As life often goes, we went from a week of nothing to two great choices. We ended up moving into an apartment block called the Conestoga Towers, living with a guy named Chris. He has the Wii, we have the TV (see below). It's a good combination. He's finishing a PhD in urban planning and is here till April.

As the job will take me on the road a lot, it's possible that I could work from home for the rest of the time. Depending on what happens with Fern's job search, we're thinking of moving back to Toronto when that option becomes available. (She's currently temping while waiting to hear back on a bunch of PR and marketing jobs.)

New hobbies

I've been going to weekly improv classes at the Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto. It's been a bit harder since moving to Kitchener, which makes a 3 hour class into a 7 hour round trip, but the classes are great fun.  More to come.

New toys

I bought a 37" LCD TV. 1080p, oh, yeah.  To fuel it, we upgraded cable to Rogers HDTV and rented a PVR.  It's nice to not have to download TV to catch up on Prison Break and House that I miss by going to improv.

I also bought a guitar. I was going to buy a cheap guitar and then buy a nice Maton acoustic when I'm in the Southern Hemisphere next, but this one is nice enough that I might not bother. Not only does it have XLR and 1/4" output, it has a built-in digital tuner.  How cool is that?

We haven't named it yet.

Up up and away

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Have I told you how wonderful my girlfriend Fern is?

In July, before I left for my big trip, she told me she'd arranged a going-away present for me on Saturday morning, but wasn't going to tell me what it was (no drinking on Friday night!). Further to the mystique, she made me blindfold myself, and drove me off into the morning sun.

Unfortunately, she didn't count on my amazing knowledge of the local streets and spot-on internal compass... but more on that later.

Anyway, she took me here:

Craig and plane

where I got to do some of this:

Hamilton from the air

I would say "I can see my house from here!", but the airspace we were allowed to use didn't include flying over the university area, so I was out of luck.

Back to that story. Fern wanted this to be a surprise, so she tried to confuse me by driving me around some streets around the university first. Unfortunately for her, even without trying, I knew where I was - I had lived in that 'hood for so long I knew the feel of the turns and length of the streets (locals will know the snaky traffic islands on Dey St are a dead giveaway).As an interesting aside, I took a ride in the boot of a friend's car about 10 years ago. (Stupidly, but willingly, I should add. Ewan's a daddy now! He doesn't do that kind of thing any more!) Him and Austen managed to drive me no more than 2 blocks from where we started in Glenview, but I thought I ended up in Dinsdale.

After I successfully divulged our location, she took a more direct tack and headed out State Highway 1 south to Tamahere (which is a big speedy bit, followed by a slowing-down and veering left, a right-turn at a roundabout, then speeding up again, going down a hill and a sharp slow turn before the Narrows Bridge - another dead giveaway) and towards the airport. Unfortunately she wasn't sure what side of the airport she needed to go to, so she stopped at the terminal to ask - giveaway number 3 - airports are rather loud places!

What she didn't know was the Waikato Aero Club was a client of mine at IT Partners, and I'd been there a lot, so I knew exactly where it was. I suck at being surprised.

Anyway, the blindfold came off and said surprise, even if Fern thought it a little spoiled by my amazing guesswork and spidey sense, was fantastic. After a brief introductory overview and fuel check with the instructor, it was proverbial 'full steam ahead' - I was pressing buttons and pulling levers as early as our taxi to the runway. I got to pull back during the takeoff and pretty much had full control of where I went for the 20-25 mins I was up over the skies of Hamilton.

Then, it was gently back down to earth (literally - a grass runway) and into the waiting arms of my surpriser.

Actually taken the night before.

We haven't even begun on how much great stuff she got me for my birthday!