Archive for July, 2008

I think congratulations are in order!

I just got the marks for last term’s evening class at BCIT.

I did COMP2691 (Advanced Windows Application Development) and, unlike the courses I’d taken previously, found myself quite stretched by it – the lecturer had a reputation for cramming in a lot of material and it was seriously fast paced.

Anyway, it was a very interesting course… and I got full marks! Yep – 100% !

Not strictly true to say that I didn’t drop a mark – the lecturer gave everybody a 10% mark boost in the mid-term (which took my 93% up to 100%) and I suspect he must have done something similar in the final. But still – I’m very proud of that.

24th July 2008 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Toastmasters – how to evaluate

So last week I gave my Toastmasters speech on the subject of speech evaluation (there’s a good way to put your evaluator on the spot!).

As usual I ran over time – I’m yet to completely compensate for the way the speech expands in length from my practising at home to when I give it for real and 7 minutes just turns out to be far too short a time to convey much useful information. When the warning lights started to come on I made a decision to cut two paragraphs that I’d earlier marked as optional… and I still ran over.

But apart from the timing and a moment when I lost my thread and had to stare at my notes, it went very well. We were in a different room to our usual one and the noise levels were much higher – we had a busy swimming pool the other side of plate glass windows all the way down one side of the room. They helped force me to push myself and really project my voice – which was a good thing because it was a speech project about using your voice effectively!

I talked briefly about what goes into a good speech and how these are things that you should look for when evaluating. I also mentioned the things that are looked for in the Toastmasters speech evaluation contest – logically it makes sense to also think about those when doing an evaluation. But the focus of my speech was that speech evaluation is a personal thing. Everybody is affected differently by a speech and, given that three minutes isn’t enough time to talk about everything that the speaker did, I think it’s important to concentrate on the things that move YOU. For me personally, that’s the introduction. If you can’t grab the audience’s attention in the first thirty seconds of your speech then you’re sure as hell not going to have it by the middle of your speech. I also recommended that, after you’ve given your first couple of evaluations and found your “evaluation style”, type-up a crib sheet… something that provides a skeleton for you to hang your evaluation on… headings about things to look for, spaces marked out for things you know you’ll want to comment on, that sort of thing.

And then… my secret technique… when you’ve written all this stuff down during the speech, you have a mass of scribblings all out of order. Remember that an evaluation is like a mini speech in itself: it needs an introduction, a body with transitions between your points and a conclusion. So I write sequence numbers next to the things I want to talk about on my crib sheet. That way, when I’m standing up and speaking, my thoughts will flow in a coherent order.

The audience went wild *LOL*. I felt like a rock star – never had quite that many congratulations after a speech before!

This week I’m chairman… I have a good theme but I’m not feeling desperately enthused.

24th July 2008 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Building computers for other people

I was at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival at the weekend and ran across a stall for Free Geek.

They’re a volunteer organization that takes people’s unwanted old computers, strips them down, ethically recycles the unusable parts, takes the reusable parts and builds them into fresh computers. Then loads Ubuntu onto them and sells them dirt cheap or gives them away to people who need access to a computer but can’t afford one.

Sounds like a damn fine organization to me. And, given that this is the sort of thing I do for myself all the time, it sounds like somewhere I should be able to do some useful volunteer work.

If the planets align, I’ll go down there next Wednesday and see what it’s all about.

22nd July 2008 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

Toastmasters

At last night’s Toastmasters meeting I was doing speech evaluation again. They really enjoy my evaluations so seem to slot me in to do one almost every week! It gets a touch embarrassing at times… they award ribbons for the best evaluator every week and probably 3/4 of the time it’s me! In fact the chairman joked last night that I have an entire room decorated with Best Evaluator ribbons!

I’m seldom totally happy with my evaluations but last night I thought I really nailed it. And won Best Evaluator again! Not that I’m not very pleased to be recognized, but I do feel a bit sorry for the other evaluators sometimes. I’ve always found speech evaluation to be the most challenging thing we do at Toastmasters, when I first started I HATED it… basically you’re doing a 3 minute speech and you’ve only got about 20 minutes to prepare it. Everybody who steps up to do a speech evaluation has worked hard… and yet they seldom get the ribbon for it.

Well, it’s time for me to give something back. Next week I’m giving a speech and, given that everybody seems to think I’m good at speech evaluation, I’m going to give a speech on speech evaluation! See if I can pass on some of these tricks I apparently have 🙂

11th July 2008 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Job application – fail

Just got a job application rejection from Elastic Path

Not my first rejection, I guess I shouldn’t be too upset by it… but I am!

Via a convoluted path (a workmate of my wife is a friend of a project manager there) I got a “we’re looking for developers” email. Phoned up the project manager who was very friendly and seemed impressed by my experience. They’re a Java shop and I’ve got Java experience but have been concentrating on C# & .NET skills. I pointed this out but he seemed pleased that I at least had a couple of years Java experience.

They’re apparently looking for developers at all levels, although their website only makes specific reference to Senior Developer. The company looks fantastic – their primary product is an ecommerce framework built in Java over a collection of strong open source components. Lots of high profile customers, small & dynamic organization, great technology.

So I sent my resume in. A week later he asks me for my BCIT transcripts… and is impressed by my grades (97% and 98% *buffs fingernails on lapel*)… and then rejects me.

But he was good enough to talk to me about WHY they were rejecting me. Seemed to centre around me not being able to hit the ground running… lack of current experience… maybe I should target intermediate positions etc etc.

All true and valid – but kinda frustrating because I understood that. I was a senior developer for many years but, having been out of the industry for nearly 5 years now, I’m not expecting to jump into a senior role and my cover letter explicitly says that I’m looking for an intermediate position.

Still, what’s done is done. A company I’d really love to work for so I’ll be keeping an eye on them in case they add any intermediate positions in the future as I continue working at updating that skillset.

10th July 2008 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Microsoft XNA

I went to a .NET BC meeting at BCIT last night on XNA. XNA (no it doesn’t really stand for anything) is a Microsoft framework that meshes with .NET and provides specialized support for writing games in C#.

To be honest not really something I’ve been that interested in however it looks quite handy. If you install Visual Studio Express and add XNA studio you can be writing and running games under XP or Vista for free. For a relatively insignificant amount of money you can run your game on an unmodified Xbox360. They’ve also got support for Zune coming soon.

Pat McGee showed us how easy it is to churn out a couple of 3D objects moving around and showed us some of the sample applications that Microsoft supply – which looked pretty amazing. They also provide a number of skeleton games which you can use to build your own application on – for instance a space combat game, a role-playing game etc etc. All you need now is a bright idea!

I ran into Charlie, my old tutor from COMP2690. We had a good old natter after the presentation. He asked me how I’d enjoyed COMP2691 and we discussed the way the tutors are revising the .NET related courses. Some really good ideas coming down the pipeline for the fall or winter terms.

Oh, and get this… a lecture theatre with about 50 people in it and they had 8 items to give away in a draw at the end. The girl sitting immediately in front of me won something, the guy sitting immediately behind me won something and Charlie, sitting immediately to my left, won something. Me? Who’s usually really lucky at this sort of thing? Nothing! Ha – I guess things even out eventually!

10th July 2008 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment


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