Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Thursday, 26 May 2005

Quinn - to go to school or not to go to school...?

Many of you will know that I have been deliberating over the school starting age decision, and whether he should start Grade 1 next year (as he turns 6) or the year after (as he turns 7). At his parent teacher interview the teacher gushed about him, saying he was wonderful in the class, and had settled in as a new child at the beginning of the year brilliantly. She says his social skills are very good and she enjoys him a lot. We got into the school debate, and she said although she thinks he is coping wonderfully, she is reluctant to recommend sending him early. In her opinion he is 'still very playful'. She didn't had any really compelling reason to hold him back other than if he does wait another full year he would probably end up at the top of the class, and really excel.

We had already applied for Grade 1 next year at several schools at the time the debate started, and had received invites to attend interviews. I decided to go along to the interviews for the experience, and to check the schools out and see how Quinn dealt with being there. So we went to
interviews and Wynberg Boys and Rondebosch Boys. With Rondebosch being our preferred school.

Rondebosch had however already told us that they would really prefer him to wait until 7 before starting, so I was quite surprised to get an interview, but we kept our mouths shut and went along. I like the teacher Quinn has this year a lot. So I decided if he was accepted at Wynberg we would probably decline, and it was unlikely we'd get into Rondebosch as I had already argued the point with them, and with 400 applications for 100 positions, it's not easy to get in...

Quinn was all primed and everything, and was telling us about how he was going to be the biggest boy at Keurboom next year and will be the teacher's helper etc... Well yesterday in the mail we got acceptance letters for him from both Wynberg AND Rondebosch!!! Based on this I don't feel it's justified to say he is not ready, because clearly based on 2 separate interviews he's been considered ready.

I spoke to him about it today on the way to the airport and given the choice between staying at Keurboom, or going to Wynberg or Rondebosch he was adamant that he wanted to go to Rondebosch. So I have decided to accept the position and pay the deposit and see how he gets on for the rest of the year. I feel a bit weird about it, because it's what I 'wanted', but I just hope it really is right for him... plus Grade 1 will mean way more work and input will be required from us! Are WE ready for Grade 1!? *LOL*

Griffin needs some physio etc

With the big boys away until the end of the week-end Griffin and I are alone
for that time. I am looking forward to this, because poor Griff gets the short end of the stick a lot of the time. Quinn wants to be in charge and in front all the time, so Griffin tends to be pushed to the side-lines and a little forgotten
sometimes, so him and I are going to do our own fun things and bonding too. Starting tonight with going to gym with friends (Beryl with Max & Amber etc) and then to Panarotti's for dinner.

At the recent parent teacher interviews we were told that Griffin seems a bit slow physically in some areas, and we were recommended to take him to a physio for an assessment. We have known that his speech is not brilliant, which we think was caused initially by his tonsil problems, which caused his palette to be painful. But this hasn't totally improved since having the tonsils out.

Anyway the physio appointment was yesterday. The physio was very sweet. She was hoping that Griffin would be happy to be assessed without me in the room, but wasn't too hopeful it would happen. She was quite surprised at how confidently he was happy to separate from me - but he has always been like that. I could hear them interacting in the next room. Her conclusion at the end of the assessment was that while she doesn't think he is bad, there are a few areas where he is a bit behind (like balance, and hand-eye co-ordination), and she'd like to see him weekly for a term, because she is pretty sure that will help him to catch up.

I had recently started noticing that he is doing less than Quinn was at the same age. he also often says he is too small to do things and won't even try. he gets quite adamant about not doing stuff too. Between the teacher, physio and I we have realised that a large part of it is self-confidence and drive to do the things, they are also guessing that because something are also a bit hard for him to do he just avoids them altogether. Poor thing. so we are now focusing on lots of praise and encouragement and getting him to do things independently of Quinn and not feeling pressured about them.

We'll also need to take him to a speech therapist to see if we need to get something done about the nasal bubbly way he talks...

Boys week-end away...

Quinn (now 5.5 years old) has gone with Richard to Durban for the rest of the week and week-end. I am missing him already, and he's only just landed!
It's Richard's 25th (yes that's right it's no typo, he left school 25 years ago!) High School Reunion!

Sounded like a perfect excuse for a boy's week-end away.

Richard's his mom and dad and sister etc live in Durban. So Quinn has Granny, Grandpa and cousins to be with. He has been begging to fly for a while now we thought it was a good opportunity. I think he is very ready too, because he has been so grown up and matter of fact about everything recently. He doesn't need any help with his ablutions or getting dressed etc anymore, so he can really be
looked after by anybody now.

They grow up so fast. *sniff* ;)

I hope they have fun .

Monday, 23 May 2005

5,4,3,2,1 - Blast-off

Well here it is, the very first entry in my BLOG...

I don't actually have anything to say today. So find something esle to read! ;)

Friday, 6 May 2005

Jane Down Under

I thought it was high time I got around to updating you all on the events and happenings of the last 2 weeks of my life... though I am still trying to catch my breath. As you all know I was scheduled to attended the Canonical (Mark Shuttleworth's OS s/w development company which I now work for) Ubuntu Conference in Sydney. It sounded like fun! So I was keen. I applied for me visa 4 weeks before the date I was required to leave, which is plenty ('takes 5-10 working days to process applications '). 2 weeks after applying I get told they want more information, bearing in mind that I have already sent in a 10 page form, and 6 supporting documents this seemed a little excessive, none-the-less I complied and sent of a copy of my employment contract... 2 days before we were due to leave we hear that my colleague Charles' application was declined. The reason cited on the letter was that the Australian High Commission did not think that Canonical is a genuine company, or that Charles has enough incentive to return to SA. The 3 of us (myself, Charles and Morgan) due to go rallied around and flapped and begged and threatened trying to get our visas issued in time to leave. We even got the Shuttleworth Foundation to issue a formal letter corroborating our story. By 11am on Friday 21 April, I still had no visa. My plane to JHB was due to take off at 13:40. At 12pm I left home with packed bags and planted myself at the travel agent, which handles Aus visa applications in Cape Town. Thanks for the phone calls at this point Dad ;) Morgan turned up there as well, and things started looking very Amazing Race'esque with me pacing up and down and begging and wringing my hands etc, watching the clock ticking. Our passports were right there, as were the visa stickers, but Marie would not paste them in until she got official word from the High Commission in Pretoria. Who with their lunch, tea and other breaks including closing at 15:30 are available for about 4.5 minutes per day. We were on-line to Karen and Vicki at The Shuttleworth Foundation, and both sides of the line were becoming increasingly hysterical. Apparently in this time Mark himself phoned the High Commissioner - from Australia, and 5 minutes later at 13:10 my passport with visa was in my hand. Richard and I literally ran out of the travel agent and screeched off towards the airport arriving at 13:30, just in time to miss my flight ;), again lots of Amazing Race style running was done. However as I managed to arrive just before it actually took off, the nice man at the ticket counter said he would issue me the ticket anyway, and that I should go to the standby counter to see if I could make the next flight, an hour later. I went to the standby counter, but the next flight was over booked, so there was basically no hope of getting onto it, and if I wasn't on a plane by 15:45 I would miss the connection Sydney flight, which was leaving JHB at 18:10. Here Richard's excessive travelling over the past year paid off, as he grabbed an official looking person and convinced him that I needed to be prioritised for the next flight, granted that I had a connecting international flight to make. his argument worked, and some other poor sod was bumped off the flight so that I could be booked on. *shew*. Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy being on the Amazing Race as much as I thought I would.... Despite receiving fatherly advice to drink a stiff whiskey at this point I resisted and chose to stay sober... On arrival at JHB, and with a hand drawn map from Richard to navigate with I again set off at a gallop to get the International Departures. With laptop and who knows what else in my backpack, weighing A LOT, this was not as easy as it sounds. I finally checked through and managed to dash into duty free to buy a 1L bottle of Amarula before boarding the flight. Where I accepted the first drink that was offered! The flight was long and fairly uneventful. I didn't manage to sleep much, but watched a few movies, including the Aviator, which I'd been wanting to see. On arrival in Sydney I ignored all the signs and warnings about 'NOT BRINGING ANY FOOD INTO AUSTRALIA', and kept my left over muffin from the plane in my bag, as well as a chocolate bar, which I was keeping for the kids. Going through immigration I was asked if I had food on me, and not being able to lie I told them that yes I had a muffin. He changed my No, to Yes, on that question on the customs form and sent me through the DECLARE section of customs. After the visa debackle I thought I was going to get arrested. When I got to the customs desk I said ' Look I have this muffin from the plane, but please can I throw it away? I don't want to get arrested...'. The guy almost laughed and just waved me on saying ' You can keep your muffin'. Note: that's a good way to get through customs! Make a scene about a muffin and they ignore the rest of your bags ;) Mean time I saw other people's begs being almost ripped apart. In the arrival's hall I found Morgan, who had also made the flight. Due to our rush, we had no forex, he informed me he'd tried the atm with no luck, so I tried and also got no cash. We scratched our heads for a while and then found another atm, which did work and I got some cash and we hopped in a taxi. We got to the hotel, who almost booked Morgan and I in the same room - I told them our spouses would not approve! ;) After unpacking and showering I went down to the hotel bar and got a R25 beer and waited for Morgan. When he arrived we took a walk to the infamous night life district of King's Cross which is a stone's throw,or short walk, whichever you prefer from the Vibe Hotel. It's a bit like a water down and less vibrant and less Asian version of Patpong in Bangkok, but pretty much the same including Thai take-aways, Thai massage parlours, and Thai trinket shops, not to mention the multitude of girlie bars. We settled on a Thai take-out for dinner, and had Pad Thai - nice memories of the *real* thing from exactly a year ago, just MUCH more expensive, at R45 for the plate, compared to some R6-R7 in Thailand. Anyway having decided to turn in early we went back to the hotel. I realised it was only 7pm though so I ventured back to Darlington Street in King's Cross alone, to look at some of the shops etc. Luckily I did because this was going to be my last time out of the hotel for quite a

while. I was lucky to find some cute, and reasonably priced local curios, so I bought a little koala bear for Quinn and a Kangaroo for Griffin. After a walk and browse I went back to the hotel and decided that an early night would be wise. I had no sooner changed into pyjamas when the phone rang. I answered, and heard ' oh good you're here, we're coming to get you.'. I scampered around trying to get back into my clothes before the knock at the door. It was Kiko and some of the other Brazilian. I had thought Morgan and I were the only one's to arrive that day, and that the others were only getting in after lunch on Sunday... but after hasty introductions and with laptop clutched under my arm I was propelled towards the 'Vibe Out' conference room, where I found Mark Shuttleworth, Matt Zimmerman (who I report to) and pretty much the entire management team. They had been at the LCA (Linux Conference of Australia) in Canberra and had just flown in on Mark's private jet. We started discussing the scheduling and how the conference was going to work etc. After a while we all seemed to agree that we'd rather do the scheduling the next day, so I offered to fetch my bottle of Amarula, which was met with nods of agreement, so I did. It was quite fun and almost surreal sitting chatting and joking over large glasses of Amarula with Mark and his management team. :)

As usual I am going on and on, funny how I could never write essays at school, and use to write BIG just to fill a page - clearly I had no experiences to draw from yet... ;) Here's a link of a picture taken of the whole team on the last day. Charles did not make the flight with us and had to get a second visa application through for approval on the Monday, so he joined us in Sydney on the Tuesday. He however was more thoroughly grilled by customs and was detained for well over an hour, being asked to display the contents of his luggage and power up his laptop so they could go through his e-mail etc. As far as I am concerned this borders on harassment, and racism (Charles being black) which I find appaulling. The irony being that Australia was a penal colony, and now they thought we wouldn't want to *leave* Pah! ___ So after the Amarula on Saturday night we agreed to meet again at 9am, on Sunday morning to get the conference schedule buttoned down. I thought it would take a few hours and then we could do the bit of site seeing I had planned to do... However we ended up working solidly, stopping only for a 30 min lunch break, and then dinner at 9 pm, by which time nearly the whole 70 strong crowd had arrived. It was nice to start putting faces (and bodies) to the names, and nick names I had been corresponding with, although it took a good few days to really figure out which face went with which name AND nick name... and what a motley crew it is (see pictures in links below for more). The conference kicked off on Monday morning, with a bit of embarrassment for me. Mark needed a laptop to connect to the data projector. I volunteered mine, and as we were about to connect it up, we realised that I was running windows still. Not good. As he was about to hand it back I said, ' wait I have Ubuntu installed on the other partition'. So I skillfully booted up into my Ubuntu partition, only to realise that since I haven't used it since it was installed I couldn't remember my login! *blush* So Mark gave me the key to his room and told me to fetch his laptop pronto. Interestingly Mark always shares a room during these conferences, just like everyone else. He makes a point of being one of the guys, and not getting special treatment... His laptop is an IBM X40. They are tiny and very cute... You would think that after making it big Mark would have kicked back and ridden out his life being really hedonistic. This could not be further from the truth. He is extremely hands on in the company - almost too much so - evidenced by the fact that it took us 4-5 days to convince him that we could be trusted to schedule the next day of the conference without him... he also works hard than anyone I have ever known. He is relentless. he also manages to stay motivated and driven, but stays clam and doesn't appear hyper or manic. Still it's practically impossible to keep up with him... by the end of the week we all looked tired and haggard, while he looked fresh and strong... Also he is not just a manager he is intricately involved in the development, and sits coding whenever he gets a chance. By Thursday night we were pretty much finished. I had been inside the hotel ALL the time, and had even eaten dinner in the conference rooms over the scheduling twice, having not had enough time to go down to dinner. We had not been to bed fore 2am once yet either. Claire (Mark's new PA) was helping with scheduling that night, and I managed to get away finally. *YAY* A couple of guys invited me to join them for a curry. This turned into a group of about 20, and we marched off towards King's Cross in search of curry. The chosen spot was the tiniest dodgiest place you have ever seen, so while about 4 of the front crowd squeezed into it, I was carried along in the wave that walked on. we found another curry place, but there seemed to be too much goat on the menu for our liking, so we finally settled on the dubious sounding 'Japanese Steakhouse'. Where not a word of english was spoken. Still we managed to communicate the need for copious amounts of beer, and secured 2 terriyake chefs who proceeded to make more food than we could eat, right in front of us. It also included the chefs throwing things at us - like eggs, which we had to catch. It was quite an experience! For which we each had to cough up $35Aus (R175).

On returning to the hotel we found a group of guys playing the card game 'Mao' aka 'Cambridge Standard 5 Card Mao'. They were keen to initiate me into the game, as they take great glee in finding and torturing Mao 'virgins'. You are not told anything about the game and have to figure it out as you go along. It's basically a version of the game Uno, but very mutated, and with increasingly complex and made up rules as the game progresses. So you have to figure out the standard rules, and then work out which rules have been added and how they work. You also get penalised for doing anything wrong, including talking, or asking about rules etc etc etc. Being the strange and contrary person that I am, I actually love challenges like this. So I was determined to prove myself to them. Which I think I managed to do because after a few rounds one of the guys said (during an authorised point of order) 'I wish my (some or other program he uses) had such advanced pattern matching capabilities'. *grin* Note: Dave, I think you'd love the game too, I'll have to initiate you next time we get together. On Friday I had to address the whole group in the morning at the introduction to the day. I had been involved in formulating a better process for the 'conference', which we decided was a bad word for what we were doing, because it was really a summit, where the goal was to discuss as many topics as possible and turn them into documented specs to be used to assist the development of the next release. So I was asked to describe the process and get everyone to start following it. I quite enjoyed the chance to have centre stage for a few minutes. I think it also helped some of the gang to understand who I was, and what my role is. Because it's now my job to whip them all, and makes sure those specs are implemented as far as possible by October.

On Friday night we all decided it was pubbing night. So after dinner we caught a taxi to a better part of town. I was with Claire and Jane (another Jane, who is the COO of Canonical) etc. It was good to see her kick back and relax a little because between her and Mark I was fearing there would be no fun at all in this company, and was anticipating burnout in about 2 weeks... anyway we had a nice social time and Matt and I got a chance to talk, which is good because he is my direct report officially. he is far less shy when he's had a drink or 2, and he is quite interesting to talk to. Very bright as well. After a while Mako who is a complete lunatic insisted we go to the cool place down the road which they'd been to before. Thinking the whole crowd was going I was buoyed along with them, only to find myself in the wrong trouser leg again ...(*aside* it's a terry Pratchet reference - I wasn't actually in anybody's trousers - figure it out!). Anyway the place down the block ended up being MILES away and we walked and walked and finally got there... it was Stonewall Hotel (or something like that) which is a seething gay bar. COOL. However that's where things went a bit pear shaped. It was close to midnight, which would mark my birthday, and one of the guys ordered a round of champagne, very sweet of him. So everything was festive and fun. Then this creepy Chinese guy came over and started dancing against me. He said he was going to get drinks and I thought great, that meant he'd go away. He came back, gave me a drink and then did go away. I stupidly didn't think more of it and drank the drink. I started feeling odd afterwards, and even though I was no longer drinking I kept feeling more and more dizzy. Thinking I had just drunk too much, and feeling like an idiot, I slunk away to the ladies'. But I kept feeling worse and worse. After having to throw up I just stayed in the loos leaning on the basin. After a while one of the staff members came in and was talking to me. She shined a torch in my eyes, and asked if I wanted to go to hospital. I told her I thought I was fine, and really just wanted to go back to the hotel. I thought that was the safest option especially while I still knew who and where I was! She was very sweet and helped me get down to the street and got me into a taxi. Still thinking I was just drunk I went up to our room and went to bed, thinking I was going to pay the next morning. But I woke up feeling 100% fine. I told Claire all about it, and she said it sounded like my drink was spiked. So there you go, lesson well learned, and luckily it wasn't worse! But now after not wanting the guys I was with seeing me drunk and sick, when I disappeared never to be seen again, they just assumed I had chosen to go home with somebody - so much for saving face. So I made sure everyone found out what REALLY happened. *blush*

On Saturday, which was my Birthday proper, the whole crowd sand happy birthday to me, and presented me with a birthday card. We then wrapped up the conference. Afterwards we were then treated with a bus drive around Sydney, so that we at least did get a brief look at what it's like, followed by being taken to see 'Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' which had just opened in Sydney, at Fox Studios. Afterwards we went to the Arena restaurant for dinner, which was delicious! I sat at the same table as Mark and Matt. I think there are one or 2 photos of this floating around, but I haven't seen them yet. I rode the bus back to the hotel sitting next to Mark. There were invites to go out clubbing that night again, as Mark was intending to stay up through the night as they were leaving the hotel at 5am to fly out of Sydney at 6am. I declined, and decided to stay safely inside the hotel. We left at 8am the next morning. There was more rushing because I over slept and then the airport was packed, and we nearly missed our Cape Town flight and had to run through JHB airport... then our bags didn't arrive back on the flight. But still I made it home, more or less in once piece. Rather dazed and confused, but wow what and experience! It was great to be back home and to see the kids, and to SLEEP. But now the real work starts...

My pictures are here:
and there are more here: and
and a pic of me in Colin's blog: