Homeward Bound

So here I am, sitting in Vancouver airport, wasting time while I wait for my flight back home, via Sydney, via Honolulu (two new airports to get lost in! Oh joy!). And what better way to waste time than by blogging, right?

Checking in was, this time, fairly uneventful. I had to pay extra for my bike and because my suitcase was heavy, but less than I expected - Air Canada charge $50 for a bike, instead of the usual $175 for an extra piece of luggage. Because their system can't handle having _both_ a bike _and_ an overweight luggage item, I had to line up a second time at ticketing to pay for it. Oh well. After that, US immigration, checking my baggage in, and the inevitable x-ray scans and inspections were relatively simple. I'm just ophing I don't have to check my baggage in again at Sydney, since hauling that much baggage around on my own is no fun, but I have a sinking feeling I'll have to.

I'm really not looking forward to the long flight, but at least I have a light at the end of the tunnel. I'll be home ...

Of Canadian Customs

Oh, and I forgot: More customs/immigration excitement!

After being questioned by customs, I was, to my not-so-great surprise, directed to the immigration counter for further investigation. I got a rather friendly person, who nevertheless was asking about my work/holiday/movement situation in great detail. I discussed my previous issues, and he asked for the documentation I'd hustled up but never had to use last time. As I did, he recaps:

Him: So, you work for this US company, Haydrian
Me: Used to. I resigned
Him: Oh. Right, in that case don't worry. Just show me your return ticket.
Me: *shows ticket*
Him: *examining ticket* Why'd you quit?
I explain.
Him: Off you go, then. And good luck!

So there's the easy way to solve all your issues: resign! ;)

Back in .ca, for now.

I just got back into .ca this evening. In some ways, it feels like I never left - my apartment is, of course, exactly as I left it, as is Vancouver, and Hayley and I are back to trying to deal with the inadequacies of text and voice chat. I miss her already.

I wish I'd only gone up for a couple of days to pack. At least this way I have time to catch up with Illiad, KS and Dark before I head back for good.

I'm also thinking I may just stick as close to NZ time as I can. I don't have anything to do in my mornings anyway.

Job hunting

I got another call from my boss yesterday. Instead of the expected wind-down time with misc. tasks to do, it seems yesterday was my last day. Rather a disappointment, I was hoping they'd give me a decent notice period, especially after he expressed thanks for me informing them promptly about the situation. Not totally unexpected, but I was rather hoping to have the job through to the end of the month.

So now I'm actively submitting applications. The company I mentioned previously got back to me - they've filled the positions I applied for, but would still like to get together with me to talk. I'm arranging a date as soon as I get back, but I'm skeptical it'll lead to (near-term) work. :/

I've also sent an application in for a position dealing with GIS related technologies, which interest me very much. The job ad portrays a very positive attitude - they're more interested in the person and their skills than the individual technologies they know. Sounds like the sort of company I'd like to work for.

No longer an expat.

Just heard back from my boss. Unsurprisingly, they don't think me working from NZ long-term is a practical proposition. Given that, they'll keep me going with bits and pieces of work (basically, anything that doesn't require a huge learning curve that they'll never get a chance to recoup the effort expended on) for a while, but I expect I'll be finishing up with them in the fairly near future.

Looks like it's time for me to find a new job in NZ. I have somewhere in mind to apply first - they look really interesting. They offered me a job interview previously, but only after I'd already accepted a position elsewhere. Hoping for better luck this time.

Why I'm back in NZ

So. The promised post about just why I'm back in NZ.

Fair warning: For once, this is not a post about XML transforms, or work, or travel, or anything like that. If you're allergic to emotions, stop reading now. Still reading? Good.

Just over a month ago - very shortly after I moved into my Vancouver apartment, I got talking with a good friend of mine - someone I'd known for years, but only ever seen as a friend. Things went from there, and pretty soon I found myself trying to work out how I can get back to NZ to see her. To put it simply, I'm crazy about her.

Thanks to the wise advice of several people I trust (you know who you are), I arranged a 3 week trip back to NZ. Having got here, pretty much from day 1 I knew that I no longer wanted to work away from NZ.

So who is this wonderful person, you ask? Her name is Hayley - #sporks members will know her as Lex (but then, this is all old news to #sporks members anyway) - and she is, without a doubt in my mind, the most wondeful person ...

Back in NZ, for a while.

Well, I'm back in NZ for a few weeks - until the 25th. Something important - really, really important, in the category of 'most important things ever' - has come up in NZ, and I convinced my employer to let me work from NZ for a while for 'personal' reasons.

I would really, really love to go into details here, but it's probably not wise. More later, including all the juicy details. This assumes that there is actually anyone who reads this that doesn't already know exactly what I'm talking about, anyway. Which I doubt.

Transforming ATOM 1.0 into HTML using XSLT

In response to Myke's request for a way to generate an HTML page containing the newest items from a bunch of RSS feeds, I made a suggestion: Use Google Reader to aggregate the feeds for you, export them using the 'sharing' functionality, and then simply transform the resulting ATOM feed into an HTML page using some XSLT on serverside.

I thought there'd be a ready-made XSLT stylesheet for transforming ATOM out there, but I had absolutely no luck finding one. So, I hacked together a basic one for the purpose. Here it is:


  • Published:


I've only tested it with google's atom, but it ought to work with any valid atom feed. I also haven't attempted to format the dates into something more user-friendly - I'm sure XSLT has the facility, but I'll be damned if I can find it right now. Finally, only the title, url, dates and summary are exposed, but it's pretty trivial to add more.

Optimum phone keypad layouts, or, what to do with a boring weekend.

So, I was a little bored, and had an idea. The commonly used (alphabetic) phone keypad layout is not particularly efficient when it comes to T9 (one digit per letter) style entry - there are a lot of collisions. What would an ideal keypad layout look like?

So I hunted up a computer-readable english dictionary with frequency scores (a 0-16 scale), and devised a way to score the efficiency of a layout: group words by the digits they translate into with that layout, and multiply together their frequency scores. So, for example, two colliding words with frequency 8 would score 64 points, while a collision between a word with frequency 1 and one with frequency 15 would score only 15 points. The idea is that collisions between words with greatly different frequencies are much easier to resolve - it'll almost always be the more common word - whilst collisions between similar words are generally bad. Then, sum up all the products to get the final score.

I then seeded a Genetic Algorithm with the default keypad layout, and ran generations of randomly mutating layouts (by reassigning letters at random) then scoring them, then selecting the few layouts with the lowest scores, and ...

A public apology to #sporksters

I've been a bit of an ass lately. Sorry.

It's been brought to my attention that I've frequently been less than friendly the past few weeks, culminating with the almighty row in #sporks a day or two ago. A lot of it stems from what's been going on in my life recently - moving, new job, visa problems etc - but that's no excuse. In the past few days, particularly, I've found myself snapping at the smallest things. Once or twice, nothing more than another spam arriving in my inbox was been enough to get me angry(er). Something that took no more than a second to review and delete.

Now that I'm aware of it, I'm actually feeling a hell of a lot better already. I ought to be more like my ordinary, sanguine self, hopefully. If I'm not, pull me up on it. Tell me I'm being an ass again.