Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I know Programming... now what?

So, I haven't been on here for quite some time and now is again one of those moments, when I need to sort my hobby-oriented mind.

I am trying to find a home for my "mad programming skillz", but looking at the general trend that everyone is following, it has either something to do with GUIs or with using the webspace. I'll be honest, I hate all sorts of graphical user interface work. It is repetitive, extremely boring and once it comes to the web and its standards sometimes not logical to me. The moment, I try to do something remotely more complex than basest basics, it does things I just don't get (and by the way don't care to find out).

This makes it extremely tedious for me to find applications for my hobby. I have a small outlet in form of the patches I write at Mozilla's mozdownload package. While that is a lot of fun and the community is awesome, sometimes I would like to do something different and exciting... I just don't know what...

Any suggestions are welcome by the way. To give people an idea, I have been considering to learn C in addition to python to get a bit away from high-level languages and then maybe try out my luck with linux, however, it is doubtful that I will have the time for that in the near future.

I need something that has a low entry barrier, is fun and gives instant satisfaction... Difficult, I know. Any suggestions are welcome

Sunday, 7 September 2014

DSA: Act 4 is written

Time. Time is always the issue. As you grow older, time becomes a very valuable resource. I end up setting myself aims such as "Once I have time, I will do xyz." Once the time comes for me to have "time", I cannot set my arse down and do whatever I wanted to do and squander the precious little time I have by watching the same youtube videos over and over again.

I accepted that, because I know me well enough now to understand that it is part of my recovery process. I need that "time", too. Time to sit and look blankly into space and not think about anything at all, while going through a routine that I have done millions of times before. It is just part of my rhythm.

It then feels all the better, when I actually achieve something with my time. In this case, I finished Act 4 of 5 acts of my roleplaying campaign. 57 sweet pages of a plot that I was worried would never see the light of day. I have no idea about the quality of the storyline or whether my players "will dig it", but it feels good having finished it.

There are many ideas floating around, but very rarely one comes to complete fruition, because people are not willing to put the time in. There we are again with time. Just too little to go around. Finishing something is just as valuable as starting it.

This 4th Act took me a damn long time. Why? In my mind, I already told the story. The fun process, the one where the story is made up, where the sheet is blank and you do not know what it will look like in the end has been over for more than a year now. The only thing I still need to do now is fill in the blanks with details. I hate that part. I hate drawing up maps of houses, I hate describing the interior of a room, I hate thinking up reasons why a particular guardsmen happens to be on a 30 minute rotation. It just does not interest me.

The reason why it does not interest me is, because the players tend to fill this space up with their ideas while playing. They may not always do this knowingly, but when a player says, he would like his character to do something in particular and I think it would be cool, I just let him, by conjuring up the necessary prop out of thin air. It makes the process interactive and fun and you spend some quality time with your old friends from school who you do not see often enough, because we're all going through the daily grind.

So as I said, I dislike the last part. I let it drag on. Then you lose track of where you were exactly and 4 months later, it is even harder to get back in, since I did not know where to start. Well, I finally did it. I wrote little letters that will tell the characters what they need to get. I wrote shitty little maps that I stole partially from video games (not that I will ever publish this stuff), hell I even wrote descriptions of rooms (oh god how I hate that part). It feels good. 57 pages of good. I am sure, I will notice some logic holes or things that I left out, but I will fill those as I go along. It is the easy part. Making things up wildly as I go along.

Now onto Act 5. The one that is not yet written... Apart from the Ending. I wrote the ending at the beginning so that I know where the characters should end up...

Friday, 4 April 2014

An annoying neighbour...

Today is one of those days when I am a little tired, because of a long work week. These things happen. What made this week a little more tiring were two extra things: The first week back from our trip to New Zealand. Y'know, finding your way around the work place again mixed with a jetlag. The second, the one that I can seriously live without, is one of our neighbours. We live in a multi-storey building and one of them, an early-retired, overtly homosexual (there is no doubt) man, has made it his duty to be the guardian of the building.

At one point, he realised that our garage door (which is in the basement, so only accessible to other inhabitants of the house) is left open. We leave it open because my wife has trouble opening it and the air circulation is bad and we may get mould in the back of our garage. Both things are easily avoided by leaving the door open. There is nothing of value in the garage except our car, but if someone wants to steal a car, why not try their hand at a newer model that is outside on the street.

He has now made it his duty to close the door for us. At one point, I confronted him about it and one of those tiresome conversations ensued with someone who constantly tries to catch you out to show that he is smarter. Now my Dutch is ok, but not superfluent, so I struggle along patiently trying to explain to him why we leave it open and he kept on jumping in with tedious and unnecessary corrections. Here is an excerpt of this conversation I still remember very vividly.

Me: "Well, it is my garage, so..."
Him: "Not yours, your landlord's."
Me: "It's certainly not yours, so stop it."
Him: "Yes, but..." etc. etc.

After this conversation, he stopped doing it thankfully. I know from other neighbours in the house, that he is fuming over the lip I had telling him what to do. I thought I was polite and just told him to mind his own business.

The non-sensical thing is that he is super busy making sure that other people follow all the house rules and many rules of his own choosing (closed garage door is not a house rule, I checked with the building manager), but he himself does not take it overly literal with him following rules. The guy is obviously bored and needs something to do. I just wish he would take up pottery, pilates or yoga instead of involving me in his free-time activities.

Then about one month later, we received an anonymous complaint handed down by the building manager that our garage apparently poses a fire hazard due to the card board boxes that stick out into the open space "especially because the garage door is always left open." Now, I never got proof, but we can all guess who that one was from. After conferring with our landlord, we ignored it and carried on.

Then we went to New Zealand and locked our garage door for the month we were away like we locked everything before we left. Then we arrive back, relaxed not even thinking about that man anymore, opening our garage door and now he promptly re-started doing this charade and closes our door every day.

I am really tired of this stupidity, so my brother gave me the idea to lock our garage door opened using a bicycle lock. Good idea, I thought and from now on our garage door is open and locked if that makes sense. €4,90 well spent. Let's see what he does next. The only thing left to him, would be to do damage to the lock or to items in the garage which is, of course, illegal. I wonder if he goes that far...

Anyways, needed to write this down to make sure this is really as silly as it feels to me... and yes, it is silly. Has anyone of you ever had such a charming neighbour?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Auckland (28.3.2014)

It had to happen eventually. Today we made our way to Auckland for our final stop of our journey. This will be the last entry that I will write from New Zealand :(

The drive today was again one of those days where we played the game "Only in New Zealand...". For example, only in New Zealand you see three lane highways and all three lanes are occupied by lorries overtaking each other. Or only in New Zealand on a three lane highway is the leftmost lane (the slowest) entirely empty while the other two are packed with vehicles. My personal favourite is Only in New Zealand more than 75% of the locals don't know their rules of approaching a roundabout.

After watching the Kiwis' style of driving when there are more than three cars on the road in utter amazement, we finally arrived in Auckland at our hotel. We decided to let our trip wind down by doing first a little shopping and getting our check-in passes and baggage in order. Nothing fancy really. Finally, we went up the Sky Tower to see Auckland by night before we went for a final meal and a drink.

Auckland is just one more big city. I hope I do not offend anyone by saying this, but if you've seen one big city you've seen almost all of them. After being in areas of low population for about three weeks, it did not feel overly great to be back in "the crowd". Too many people running around. It was a cultural shock actually. 

Anyhow, next post will be from Belgium. Not looking forward to the flight, but we'll get through it. At this point, I'd like to thank you all for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed it at least a bit. I sure did enjoy writing it. Hopefully, I'll be able to meet and chat with you all in the near future and you can tell me what's been happening in your life in the meantime :)

Take care, guys.

Yep, there was an important dude in NZ called Vogel. Goes to show that the famous Vogel's all needed to go to different countries than Germany to become famous...

View from the SkyTower over Auckland at night

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Dolphins! We swam with dolphins!!! (27.3.2014)

And I say it again: "We swam with dolphins!!!!" I didn't want to believe it until it really happened, so I did not mention it in the last post in case that got my hopes up. It was something I always wanted to do and we had one last day time, so we thought that we should go out with bang!

We went to Tauranga which is on the Pacific Coast where there is a small company running a tour of dolphin watching and if possible swimming with them. The weather was supposed to be so so, but it was our last chance so we just went for it.

It took more than 2 hours before we even saw the first ones, but it was well worth it! When they eventually came towards our boat it was soooo... incredible! I love dolphins, man. While we had our feet dangling from the bow of the boat, the dolphins were jumping out of the water no more than 10 cm away. It was so cool! (I apologise for my squeaky voice in the video. I was excited)


The skipper tried to get close to a larger group but the ones we had were all very agitated so it was hard to keep them in one place (something you need to have for swimming with them). We saw them on and off for the best part of about another 2 hours until we already wanted to turn round when we saw something that even the captain had rarely seen before.

We were following a kind of bird called a gannet which feeds of the same food as dolphins, so they are an indicator for nearby dolphins (usually), when suddenly we saw a lot of commotion on the water. It turned out that a group of about 10 - 15 dolphins circled around a large amount of fish while one at a time the dived in and ate them. It was already a spectacular sight, but the gannets made it actually even more cool. They hunt by flying over the area and then diving into the water with up to 100 km/h to pretty much spear a fish and come to the surface.

So we saw loads of dolphin fins circling this area with other dolphins jumping into said circle. This all causes a "lot" of foam and bubbles and whatnot. Then out of the blue you see the birds gliding in and without warning just diving in. What a spectacle!

At this point, the skipper decided to give the swimming a try... well, I say swimming, I mean holding onto a rail at the back of the boat, while looking down with mask and snorkel (wet suited of course). We were lucky in so many ways. In this case, that there were only 11 people in total (up to 49 is possible), so everyone had plenty of time to look. Isi and I were in the second group.

One thing I forgot to mention. To keep dolphins interested, you need to make a lot of noise, so we were shouting, whistling, screaming, banging against the side of the boat like mad. It helped :) Once Isi and my turn came round, we moved to a different spot. We were anxious to see if we would see anything. I remembered about trying to kick up a fuss, so I tried to scream while snorkeling. Apparently, even the guys on the boat heard me :D

Again though, it worked!... Or at least I like to think that it was my screaming. I swallowed so much salt water because of it, it must have had some good. We had some of the best views of them ever (even the other crew member said so). At times there were 3-5 dolphins not even a meter away from us, dashing and diving around us. I really felt like a 12-year old child again. We have seen dolphins!!! In the wild!!! When it was time to get out of the water, I was so hyper I jumped around the ship for about 5 - 10 minutes before I could sit down again. DOLPHINS!!!

A Czech guy on the trip had a waterproof hand-held camera with him and he filmed the entire dolphin encounter. I gave him my e-mail address and hopefully he will send a mail with the link where to download it from. He even had it with him when he was in the water. Let's see if I can get my hands on that video. We hardly took photos, only at the beginning, partially because we forgot and mainly because the waves shook the boat quite hard (although it was a very calm day) and we were worried to drop it in the water.

After this amazing first half, we chillaxed on the beaches of Tauranga for the other half, before we got home to consume all the food that we still have. It needs to go (damn! :D).

Tomorrow we're off to Auckland for our last stop before we jump on the plane home on Saturday :(

The boat we went on. It has place for 49 passengers... luckily we were only 11 in total

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ruapuke and the Bridal Veil Falls (26.3.2014)

After yesterday's exciting descend into the depths of the Waitamo Caves, we took it slow again. It seems to be a good pattern. The beaches of the West coast past Raglan took our fancy.

Our first little walk was the so-called Waikato Bush Walk. It was short and sweet and... bushy ;) We had the chance to see a lot of different birds there. However, most of them were too fast to be caught on camera, sadly :(

Raglan is apparently the Surfer's Paradise of New Zealand. Because of this, we also went to Waikato Beach to see the surfers instead of going straight to Ruapuke beach with its black sand. It is supposed to be a fairly unknown place (it's not in the Lonely Planet Guide, for example). But back to the surfers.

At first, surfing seemed like a really pointless exercise to us. We saw 5 - 10 individuals consistently battling into the waves with that board, then reaching a point a little out. The waves came and they try to stand up on their board and... they fall down unceremoniously on their arse 2 seconds after or they manage to stand up and by the time they manage, they are already at the point where the wave finished. We got quickly bored of watching people fall over and left.

It got only apparent when we left and saw some 5 or 6 people at a different part of the beach when we connected the dots. There was a surf school next to our first spot, so those guys must have been beginners. The guys we saw there really did the cool stuff. Almost like on television. Beautiful to watch, how they rode the waves. I gotta say though, I don't think that sport is for me.

Once we tore our eyes away from that view we carried on along the coastal street... if street is really the word we are looking for ;) Cows were sitting on the gravel footpath that we went along, but the view was fantastic. Once we reached Ruapuke, we were not quite sure how our car would look from the outside, the street was that bad, but it was well worth it. The sand which is derived from basalt really is black. The beach stretched for kilometers and apart from us, there was only a horse rider (and his horse) that passed us once or twice. The sun and the strong winds made the sand reflect the sun from random grains, it was quite a spectacle. I tried to take photos of it, but a video would only show it well (see below).


The sea itself was very rowdy today as well and we could see the waves crash into the sides of cliffs a little further up. It was quite the view we had. We stayed for some time walking up and down, not really believing the view. First time, we saw black sand...

However, the best was still to come. We carried on to see the Bridal Veil Falls a little further inland. Now, I mentioned already that Isi and I have become quite the fans of waterfalls, but this one really took the cake. It was almost a clich├ę. The fall was fed by a fairly small stream that would roll over a cliff some 50 meters high. Because of the constant wind most of the water would never touch the bottom and be carried away as a spray. This created a perfect rainbow and gave the air the illusion that you are really looking through a bridal veil.

There was one aspect that I liked the most about it though. Along the path to go, there were little plaques with information. The one on the bottom talked about an aspect of the ancient Maori belief.

"All water is seen to have originated from the separation of Ranginui the sky, and Papatuanuku the earth. Rain and mist personify their mutual grief of parting."

Folklore and the sagas of polytheistic belief systems always struck a chord with me and this one I found very touching, especially in a place like this.

We returned home from there to get an early night as tomorrow looks to be quite exciting. I won't mention what it is just yet as it is very weather dependent and tomorrow may be borderline for that. Not sure yet if it will happen. We'll see... :)

The one bird, we were able to take a picture of in the Waikato Bush Walk

We liked that spot

Panorama from a spot along the road

A Panorama of Ruapuke Beach

Check out the black sand

I tried to catch how the sun reflects from random grains in the sand

There were two streams leading to the sea. They carved themselves into the sand in quite an interesting fashion

The patterns the stream made were very interesting

The waves crashing into the cliffs

My new desktop background ;)

Bridal Veil Falls

See how the wind distorts the fall

 Most of the water barely touches the ground