Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It's 4.44am. I finished reading the book at 3.19am. I'll go to bed soon.

Unbelievably, despite the attempts by (amongst others) The New York Times (shame on you, NYT!), Alice and I managed to obtain our copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows completely un-spoilered - basically by switching off most access to the outside world for the past week - no TV news, no radio, very little internet (no surfing!). Oh - and iPods on from 11.01am onwards inside Dymocks... I never thought we'd do it, but we did!

The book is - awesome. I cried. Rather a lot. Rather a lot of times.

Some of my predictions were right, some were wrong. I won't tell you which, though.

I'm not going to spoiler anything for you. It's been a wild ride, and I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone else. I'll be re-reading it from tomorrow onwards. Once is simply not enough.

Thanks, Jo! You are a wonderful writer! Thank you SO MUCH for introducing a whole generation of children to the wonders of reading - and for reminding many adults of the absolute joy of disappearing into a beautifully-written story. As I read the final tale of Harry's journey I imagined millions of other people around the world doing exactly the same thing. In these dark times, a little bit of escapism, an opportunity to step into a fantastical world for a while, is never a bad thing.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

One more sleep till Harry!

So here we are - it's Friday night - the night before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released in NZ.

Against ALL the odds (thus far at least) I have managed to avoid ALL spoilers. I have no idea what happens in the book. No idea at all. I have many theories, of course - that Snape will turn out to be a good guy after all; that although Harry may not be a Horcrux, his scar is (or was); that there are not only reflections of alchemy within the books, but Ancient Egyptian symbolism too.

I'm thinking we may lose Hagrid (*sob!*), possibly with Neville playing a vital role in the final moments of the destruction of Voldemort (in the same way as Gollum did for Frodo) - which means we may lose Neville too (*sob!*). I can't bear to think we might lose one of The Three - I just can't imagine losing Harry, Ron or Hermione - so I will choose to believe we won't until I find out any different. I think Snape might be a goner also. Nooooooooo! Not Snape! He's the most fascinating character of all! And I think we're going to lose a Weasley... maybe even Ginny (*sob!*).

Alice and I have tomorrow planned out - iPods at the ready, not too much eye contact with anyone or anything while we're at Dymocks (or on the way there and back) - and once I have my copy it's back home, close the door, phone off the hook, no internet, TV, papers or radio till I'm done.

I'm hoping I can read it in a day - I'm going to Otis's birthday party on Sunday and I really don't want to risk going out into the world without having finished it... but we shall see. At 600ish pages that's one page every 2 minutes - without any time for sleeping, eating, making coffee, going to the loo or watching the All Blacks thrash the Wallabies on Saturday night. Heh.

I realise I'm a bit of an... intense person. You'd think I'd have figured this out by now, but apparently not quite, until now. Seems I don't do anything unless it's at at least 125%. How funny. Well, what's the point of doing anything if you don't put your heart and soul into it? Apparently that's how I like to live my life, anyway.

See you tomorrow, Harry!

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Awesome! I'm on the team!

You might recall that I applied to take part in FullCodePress in the role of HTML/CSS coder-upper. And that I was a bit sad not to get into the Top Three, although I did make it into the long shortlist.

Well... today the final position on the team was announced - Captain's Choice - and guess what?

I'M IT!!!

Woohoo woohoo woohoo woohoo woohoo!

How cool is that? Thanks a million guys!!! I'm looking forward to working with the rest of our awesome team (most of whom I know already).

<smallvoice> Hooray! Now I get to represent all the fine women in the NZ web industry! I won't let you down, grrls! </smallvoice>

Sydney here we come!

[This post was brought to you by the exclamation mark!]

FullCodePress (part two)

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oh you bastard! You just gave away the ending!!

Advance warning: this post contains SWEARING. Young Harry Potter fans should probably stop reading now. It does not, however, reveal the ending (or supposed ending) of the book.

You know how it is. You’re planning to see that new movie you've been wanting to see for ages, and you mention it to a friend, who promptly comes out with "Oh my God! Yeah! I saw it last night and - you know the hero DIES at the end, don't you? And of course you didn't know. And you very much didn't WANT to know.

Well that's how it is with me and Harry Potter. You may already have realised that I am planning to be VERY CAREFUL when I go out and buy the book on the 21st, so that I don't inadvertently hear some 8 year-old screaming out the ending while I'm in the queue at Dymocks. And how I'm planning to put myself into COMPLETE ISOLATION once I get hold of the book, and not come out until I've finished it.


I just went Googling to see if I could find anything about the Embassy dispute with the movie distribution company and I saw a couple of search results saying something like "Hacker claims to know the ending of the final Harry Potter book"...


I slammed Google shut in a hurry so I couldn't even read the headline properly. Fuckfuckfuck. I have been SO determined not to find out the ending before I actually read the book, and I KNOW it's a virtual impossibility that I can avoid hearing what this FUCKING hacker claims to have gotten hold of. It'll be in the paper or on the news or someone'll mention it or send me an email and I'll see it before I realise what it is, and by then it'll be too late.

I know that most grownups don't care one way or the other what happens at the end of some stupid kid's book, but I happen to care quite a bit, and I've enjoyed reading the first 6 books so much - I was really looking forward to reading the 7th book without having any idea of what was about to unfold...

I can't see any way of avoiding finding out what this hacker reckons they've discovered. 10 days is just too much time. I can't lock myself away from the world for 10 days!

It's not even that important whether or not they're telling the truth. If I find out what the ending is supposed to be it will colour my first reading of the book, whether or not it turns out to be the real ending. And that's gonna take some of the fun out of the experience.


Sometimes people just piss me right off.


PS On reflection, I realise that I have no way of knowing how recent this story is, because I shut down Google so fast, you just wouldn't believe. So I could possibly be freaking out for no reason at all.

Which is potentially embarrassing as I've already emailed Shift's communal Fun email list requesting that no-one reveals the hacker story by way of the list. And the story might potentially be MONTHS old. I'm blushing just thinking about it. And of course I can't go check because it might NOT be months old and I might accidentally read the supposed ending while checking just how old it is.

I crack myself up at my intensity sometimes - I really do :)

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No Harry Potter for you, young lady!

Alice and I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Alice and I went out intending to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight.

The day they went on sale I had bought us best-seats-in-the-house at The Embassy for opening night. I was mighty proud of myself. Being a lazy kind of person (and because it hasn't stopped raining in, like, a month - well, it feels like a month, anyway) I didn't get around to picking up the tickets before the show. As things turned out, it would probably have been a good idea if I had...

We went to Catch for sushi beforehand, and then made our way to the Embassy. Funny... we couldn't see a single bit of posterage for Harry outside the Embassy... that's strange, they usually do really good job of advertising their movies... and where are the massive crowds waiting to go inside? Have we got the wrong day??? No! It's the 11th! It's opening night! Did we get the time wrong? No! I'm sure she said 8.45pm...

So we make our way up the stairs and there are literally about 3 people milling around waiting to go in... curiouser and curiouser - I was sure it was going to be really popular! I grab a copy of the screening programme from the counter and.... Harry is nowhere to be seen... Uh oh!

Seems that The Embassy's been having some kind of disagreement with the film's distributors, who pulled the movie from the Embassy the day after tickets went on sale, and sent it to Auckland instead! The rotten buggers! The poor old Embassy had no way of getting in touch with people who had already bought tickets (maybe they made an announcement - if they did, I missed it) so they must have been apologising to disappointed customers for the last two weeks - and tonight they had a couple more.

They were very nice, gave me my money back, gave us two free passes to use at the Embassy any time we like, said sorry (lots) and gave us the times/places of where it was screening around town... but they must be gutted. That would be quite a financial kick in the teeth for them. And what a pain! It's become quite a tradition for us to see Harry Potter at the Embassy... bummer...

So we rushed to Reading Cinema - sold out. Then we rushed to the Manners Mall cinema. Already started and sold out. Rats! So we wandered back to the Reading and booked tickets for tomorrow night instead, and the guy felt sorry for us so he gave us good seats at a cheaper price. Nice man!

After that we went to Espressoholic and drowned our Potterless sorrows in hot chocolate and cake. And tomorrow we'll (try) to do it all over again. Properly, this time!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

FullCodePress (part two)

So as you know from a previous blog post, I finally finished my application for FullCodePress the night before entries closed. Nothing like pacing yourself to get something done on time! Then I waited with baited breath.

On Tuesday I found out I was in the long shortlist - the top 7 HTML/CSS coder-uppers - WOOHOO! I did a Snoopy Happy Dance and got down to answering all the questions we were given - this was to help the judges select the Top Three. Tom got into the long shortlist for Programmers, Thomas was in the long shortlist for Project Managers and Romain from our Auckland office was in for Designers. Wow! Shift was really representin'!

On Wednesday I sat at my computer all day checking my in-box and refreshing the FullCodePress website - nothing... nothing... nothing... and then finally, late in the evening, there it was - the Top Three lists for each discipline. The three boys were all selected for their respective Top Three and...

...I wasn't. Gutted! I did make the "close runners-up" mention for HTML/CSS together with two others, but I was a bit sad, to say the least.

However, I was TOTALLY excited on behalf of Tom, Thomas and Romain, and also for my lovely friends Zef who made the Top Three for User Experience/IA, PJ for Writing and Mark who was up against Tom in Programming.

Shift did incredibly well. Three Shifties in the Top Three (and one close runner-up [me]) plus an additional two ex-Shifties (my friend Mark and Haydn Thomsen, who was in the Project Manager Top Three along with Thomas). Not bad!

We knew from the rules that a maximum of two people from the same company could be on the team, so it was pretty self-evident that Tom, Thomas and Romain wouldn't all be selected, but we were all crossing our fingers and hoping for at least one Shiftie, or maybe even two.

The next step in the selection process was down to luck. One name from the three for each role was pulled out of a hat - and that was to be the team. They did the hat-pick yesterday. Again there I was, refreshing the FullCodePress website all day and... Thomas got the Project Manager role! Woohoo!

Tom and Romain both missed out (awwwww! bummer! major bummer!), but Zef, PJ and Mark all got picked! Kewl! It's gonna be a pretty good team I reckon.

It's funny, I was so sad not to get chosen, and so happy at the same time for all the people I know who did get picked. I kept on re-thinking my questions and answers, wondering where I'd gone wrong, or not said enough (and I wrote an essay for my answers - maybe I wrote too much, I thought to myself). As I don't really know any of the other HTML/CSS people who got a mention, I'm not sure if it was that they are better at CSS than me, or that they can do programming in addition to CSS, or what it was... but anyway, there you go. I'm very proud of myself for getting into the top 7 at any rate. Not bad for less than 2 years doing pure CSS.

Ross was a bit cynical about the whole thing. He reckons it's an ego thing for the people wanting to take part, and nothing more. I disagree. Yes there is an element of ego, sure - if you're a perfectionist about your work (as I am) and a bit of a geek (as I am), then yes, of course you want to measure yourself against the rest of the geeks out there who do the same thing that you do.

But for me it's much more than that. I love my job. I'm incredibly lucky, I know. I do web stuff for fun - I do it in my spare time - with this blog, and the Gathering Archive website (which I will eventually finish, I promise!) and a whole bunch of other stuff. So for me the idea of the competition itself is totally cool. It's cool on a whole lot of levels:

It's cool because two non-profit organisations get a working website out of this, for free, and that's just brilliant.

It's cool because of the challenge in and of itself - can each person, as an individual and as a representative of their discipline, do their part within the time available, and make their bit work? That's a big challenge - and therefore hugely appealing.

It's cool because those 6 individuals have to work as a team to get the site built in 24 hours. Everyone has to muck in and help each other if they can. As a team they have to figure out how to break the 24 hours down into workable sections, during which time various members of the team will be madly doing their bit, while the others help out wherever necessary. Each member of the team has to stick to their allotted timeframe, and get it done because if they don't, it's going to impact on the next person in the chain, and the timeline is going to fall apart.

If the team is clever, they'll be able to work out a system where [edited in case the Aussie team is reading this. Heh heh]. Cool, cool, cool.

It's cool because we get to go up against the Aussies and any chance we get to beat the Aussies is obviously a Good Thing :)

And for me, being a new New Zealander (well, not that new any more, but you know what I mean) - and although this might sound a bit silly to some of you - the thought of representing my country at something I'm good at - well, let's just say, it was mighty appealing.

Anyway, so there you go. FullCodePress is one great idea, and I hope the inaugural competition goes really well. Good luck to my friends Thomas, Zef, PJ, and Mark, and good luck too to the other members of the team, Steve Dennis (designer) and Jeffrey Wegesin (HTML/CSS coder-upper) - I know y'all are going to RAWK!!!

<smallvoice> wish there were some girls on our team... that would be cool... </smallvoice>

Awesome! I'm on the team!

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

The trouble with widgets

I love widgets. They're such a great way to add value and information to your blog. I've added a whole heap of them to WebWeaver's World, as you can see. I like playing around with widgets and adapting them to my own needs, or to the look and feel of my blog. I'm not skilled enough to invent and create my own widgets, but I can certainly tweak already existing ones, to "make them my own".

Sometimes though they can be a bit of a pain. That's because, even though I tweak them, they still "belong" to someone else. That is, they are still controlled elsewhere. And sometimes even the best of them have a little hiccup along the way.

Over the last few days, for example, a bunch of my widgets have been misbehaving in various ways.

My very wonderful Archive Calendar Widget from phydeaux3 seemed not to have noticed for a few days that I'd put up a new blog post - so it didn't appear on the calendar or in the archive list for a while. No drama, and it's all fixed now, I was just a bit sad that had forgotten me!

Today, the most excellent Technorati Ranking widget from PurpleMoggy seems to have forgotten how to measure my ranking (it does that sometimes - some glitch at the Technorati end) so it looks like I have 0 links from 0 blogs. Waaa! Still have my ranking, though, which is good. It'll fix itself up again soon I'm sure.

The most annoying one right now is my Most Popular Blog Posts widget from AffiliateBrand. For the last couple of days my all-singing all-dancing restyled version has been displaying horribly - with the list of posts all jammed up in the left-hand side of the iFrame, and a great big gap to the right of each one. Ugh! So here I am, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, trying to figure out why, and to force it to display properly again. Which isn't easy, seeing as most of the visual controls live at AffiliateBrand, and not on my blog.

Ah well, I always did like a challenge. And I'm sure I'll figure out a way to fix it - somehow. Apologies for the not-perfect look of my blog in the meantime though. I don't like it at all when my blog doesn't look right.

UPDATE later the same day: Fixed it! (In Firefox, anyway - I'll have to check IE at work tomorrow). Yaay!

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