Updates and Other News

Wow, that was a long hiatus, wasn’t it?

I don’t always plan what I’m going to write about. Usually I just plod along in my daily grind and problems present themselves. I spend time figuring out what’s going on, and if the solution is somewhat weird, I try to explain why I thought so.

In the last twelve months or so, I’ve taken up residence at a Berlin startup called Arzttermine.de. They specialise in taking appointments for doctors online. It also lets me forget about agency work for a while and instead focus on developing a single piece of software.

…Aaand still here we are. The problem with the platform we had was that it was… old. It was built in about 14(!) days from scratch using a very old (scratch-built) CMS platform. A miracle by any stretch of investor imagination. After number of, let’s say, less-than-qualified contractors worked on it, it became a staggeringly bloated mess full of untestable spaghetti-code.

At the moment, it feels like I’m poking my head up from underwater, as the codebase is somewhat refactored and new features can be developed again without big if/else blocks wrapping method calls. I wish I worked on something interesting in the last twelve months. I like breaking down my problems into dumb little pieces and then explaining it online. I’ve been told more than a few times that my posts are helpful, and that is amazing to know.

Due to this lack of work-related creativity, I’ve started producing trite little YouTube videos that some people appear to like. If this is your thing, give it a quick look and say hi. If it isn’t, well come to Twitter and say hi anyway. I welcome the distraction from work.

– Neill

LinkedIn – Lesson #1

My battle against recruiters continues with a strange and random request from LinkedIn.

I consider rejecting unsolicited LinkedIn mail my sisyphean punishment for some mysterious crime I did not commit. An ever-present tide of human ignorance washing against the grainy shore of my day, snuffing out what little hope I had left that the entire population was not – at some fundamental level – simply a dipshit.

It is no wonder, then, that I grew weary of replying to people who couldn’t do their job. The ever-persistent advance of this multi-headed hydra was eroding my enthusiasm for being a twat. Apathy was winning.

Another day, another email, and I replied with a terse “contact the manager”. A little while later, I was surprised to find the following response:

> Who is the GM?

Now, I’m no expert on LinkedIn (hell, I rarely venture from my own profile), but I certainly know how to click a link when I see one. Several, in fact. Sometimes in a row. So when the information you’re after is fewer clicks away than finding your inbox, you should probably just take the easier option. But if this is something you need to be told, I guess there is probably a greater concern here, right?

Instead of giving him a real answer, I decided to be a complete dick about it and go ahead and create this handy little video tutorial. Take note, LinkedIn trawlers.

I think my passion has returned.


Bad Reviews: Going to Brown Town

Signor Marrone e inaffidabile

I found a can at the back of the fridge with an expiry date of 26th of October, so I did what any reasonable person would do – I drank it.

I stumbled across this can of instant coffee while raiding a friend’s fridge. Although I’m no stranger to ready-made coffee, I was genuinely intrigued as to why someone felt the need to import a (canned) dairy product when we have so many cows right here in Australia more than willing to squirt out a few quarts of deliciousness.

Despite all recommendations to the contrary, I went ahead and decided to drink it.

The Packaging

Except maybe the words "trust me"
Nothing says ‘trust me’ like a full-faced beard. Nothing.

The can itself is what initially piqued my interest. The packaging features a stereotypically fat Mafioso winking suggestively out from the label, holding what is presumably a well-made espresso. Nothing says “quality coffee” quite like sticking it in an aluminium can and shipping it 7000 kilometres across the ocean.

Our protagonist (Mr Brown) is the visual amalgamation of several of the biggest Italian stereotypes of the last 100 years. I imagine a very jaded graphic designer typing “terrible Italian clichés” into Google images and shoehorning in as many results as possible.

The Opening

You be the judge!
Bad coffee or toilet water? You be the judge.

There’s always something very off-putting when you lift the tab and don’t hear that refreshing KSSHHH sound associated with (most) other canned drinks. Judging by how much the can expanded upon opening, there was a whole lot of trans-continental pressure inside. Were they keeping something out, or keeping something in.

A precautionary peek inside revealed the familiar brown hue of cheap coffee/watery diarrhoea. I gave it a tentative sniff and was relieved to find that it at least smelled (mostly) like coffee. I figured it was probably best in the long-term to pour this out into a glass. Should things turn bad, I’d at least be able to see why.

Mr Brown *was* one of the Reservoir Dogs
Seemingly innocuous so far. Laugh it up, Mr Brown.

The Tasting

Ignoring the floating white flecks of (probably) milk-powder on top, I took a mouthful of the very-watery coffee drink and committed it to my digestive system.

Past the lips, over the tongue, through the gag reflex, and down the gullet.

The drink tastes like it wants to taste like coffee. I was even taken aback a little by the apparent quality. Once it washed past my tongue, though, all semblance of arabica had vanished, leaving nothing but the stale taste of week-old soggy cigarette butts and dirty pipes. I repeated the feat to ensure that I was not mistaken. I was not.

I choked down the rest of this coffee/cigarette drink out of spite.

The Verdict

Honestly, given the wide array of instant coffee out there, I’m surprised that bad instant coffee drinks exist at all. Moreover, why are they being imported? We Australians are perfectly capable of churning out abysmal products without overseas help.

I did enjoy the experience of drinking what is normally a two-step breakfast for me – coffee and cigarettes. Mr Brown is probably working on his pitch to Sanitarium’s Up and Go team right now. A true meal replacement for champions.

Signor Marrone e inaffidabile
Italians – Made in Taiwan


London 2012 and Muse: Striving towards mediocrity

That was Muse with “Survival”, the offical song of the London 2012 Olympic games.

The song is so tremendously and schizophrenically bad that I’ve had trouble figuring out whether or not Chris Bellamy has completely jumped the shark, or is simply a deliciously evil musical mastermind having us all on. I deliberated writing this post at all, for fear of committing something to public scrutiny and finding out later that Bellamy was in hiding, waiting to tear down the façade and reveal a tear-inducing masterpiece.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Race, it’s a race
And I’m gonna win, Yes I am gonna win
And I will light the fuse
And I’ll never lose
And I choose to survive
Whatever it takes
You won’t pull ahead
Because I’ll keep up the pace
And I will reveal my strength to the whole human race
Yes I am going to win.

I already feel the inspiration welling within me. Except that I don’t, because these lyrics sound like they were crowdsourced from posters on the wall of an ESL college in Gloucester, not a multi-award winning singer/songwriter with over 15 years experience in creating culturally significant pieces of music.

After listening to the song several times further, I came to a startling realisation: the London 2012 Olympics is simply a highly-publicised exercise in British mediocrity. The organisers are testing the limits of ‘bland’ that the world will graciously accept in its stride. This is the only explanation I’m willing to accept.

Not convinced? Tell it to Exhibits A and B:

Source: Getty Images