Sunday, November 28, 2004

Is it more difficult to start or finish things?

I procrastinate about finishing things. There is something about closure that shuts out all final chances of achieving perfection. And I am a perfectionist. Make that a frustrated perfectionist.

I love starting things. There is the promise of a new opportunity to achieve the perfect result. There is the blind trust that those I work with on the opportunity will pull in the same direction, hold the same ideals.

It drives me mad. I am "big picture" but can audit the fine details if required. I just hate doing it.

This time of year is about closure. Closing off projects, finishing my staff's performance reviews, undertaking the pain of self examination - how have I done?

Now this is probably a "glass half-full / half-empty" thing. There are those who love ticking off the tasks, acheiving closure, nailing the last nail in the coffin of the past.

And no doubt there are people who do both. Damn them.

My year has been made all the more complicated by my decision to quit my job and move on, and finally renovating my house. I am not indecisive - I usually know what has to be done and merely debate the timing of doing it.

Renovating meant committing to the final shape of my house. Surprisingly (considering what I have said above) this was not the issue. Taking on the strain of employing and managing a builder has scared me for longer than I care to remember. It is impossible to deal with a building nightmare when you work more than 12 hours a day. However, the project has been successfully navigated and the builder and I agreed the final to-do list today. One potentially major issue with a swing door, but we'll see how that works out.

Quitting my job has been far more difficult. I am told by those in industry that when I leave the firm will be regarded as dead. It is always dangerous to believe your positive press, but I am distinctly bothered by leaving those who I have hired and led. Many of my team have confided in me that they worry about their own futures if I leave. But, as I was once coached, you can only deal with your own shit and not others'. So I have overcome the guilt relating to my decision to leave. But the closure is the painful part. It is tough when you have given your all and while the results are good, they are not perfect. We are not yet number one in our industry and the firm is not yet in the shape I would like it. But after seven and a bit years, it is time to ask whether I will achieve the final yards to those goals. Sadly not, for reasons beyond my control. So ultimately I console myself with this - "beyond my control." Arrgh! I hate that: "beyond my control" because I don't believe it. At the center of my belief system is the part that says we are all accountable, ultimately in control of our destiny. So what ultimately clinched it? Starting somewhere else makes more sense: trying to do what I want to do here is only good for nostalgia.

Sound tortured? Yeah. Anyway, finishing allows beginning, the part I enjoy. For the new year I must consider whether to remain in South Africa in a different role with different people, or whether to move to Boston, New York, London or Singapore for a 2 or 3 year stint. That's exciting.

But to other beginnings: there is my Keira-lookalike thing (see below). If that shows signs of working out, I may be in limbo for a while as I give it a chance.

In the meantime on to the holidays where I'll enjoy my new home for a week or so, then head to Cape Town for a month of doing nothing (except seeing Keira-girl) before planning the exact timing of my career move. Two more weeks of hell at work (AAArrgh! The to-do list!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Is now the time to take the digital plunge?

I was reading about the Nikon D70 in the New York Times and the guy linked to this site by Saurabh Wahi. Wow. Click here to go to David Pogue's excellent article.

Got to get a good digital camera. Wondering if it is worth waiting for the D100 to come down in price. Or waiting for the D2X!

Saurabh Wahi's amazing gallery is shown below (Flash gallery linked to on his site). Go to the orginal article in the New York Times mentioning Saurabh's site.

And Nikon have just announced the D2X being released in January - very cool. A current from the New York Times covers the new Nikon D2X. I've reproduced that below.

Wireless Picture Relay Without a Camera Phone

Published: September 23, 2004

Cellphones with cameras can send photos wirelessly, but the pictures are generally of poor quality. Last week, Nikon fired back, introducing a new digital camera with an adapter that allows it to send 12.4-megapixel photographs through the airwaves. But the wireless connectivity of the new model, the D2X, goes further: it can be operated wirelessly as well, from a computer up to 400 feet away, using a standard 802.11g Wi-Fi network.

While other cameras have been able to transmit photos over data networks, Steve Heiner, the general manager for digital single-lens-reflex cameras at Nikon's United States division, said the D2X was the first to allow wireless remote control of all its major functions.

The D2X, which will reach stores in January at a price to be determined, is in some ways similar to Nikon's D2H, a lower-resolution camera used mostly by news photographers. The new camera, however, is the first from Nikon to use a CMOS image sensor rather than a charge-coupled device.

While the D2X had been anticipated, Nikon surprised the photographic world by also announcing a replacement for its top-of-the-line film camera, the F5. While the new F6 has a liquid crystal display on the back, giving it the look of a digital camera, Mr. Heiner said Nikon expected its appeal to be limited. "The market for this is very small and getting smaller," he said. Ian Austen

Is Keira Knightley available?

Keira Knightley

I've been wondering. The girl of my dreams looks like Keira Knightley. I dated her for a while and then imploded. It is not easy going out with someone when, on the third date, you still can't believe you've actually succeeded in getting past the "I wondered if you wanted to go out some time?" line.

There were other issues. She has a coke habit, lives in Cape Town (I live in Jo'burg) and is not the type who easily spends an evening in. So not sure how things would have worked out anyway. But I'm still trying for an epic comeback...

But back to what I was wondering. Keira Knightley has got to be the sexiest women alive - in my opinion. Men: buy the August issue of Arena magazine (the best men's magazine) with Keira on the cover. OMG. So, if I am really keen on her, and just substituting with this other chick, maybe I could ask her out? I mean, she's going out with Adrien Brody. What's he got? I'd fly to London if she said yes! Now the question is, how do I get her on the phone, and how do I not come across as a psycho stalker?


Funny how things work out. Writing this was about the girl that looks like Keira. I phoned her half way through writing my blog entry, and she's keen to fly up to Jo'burg for a weekend. Epic.

Are the Boks a crap rugby team?

South Africa's Schalk Burger and Joe Van Niekerk feel the strain of the English onslaught at Twickenham. (Adam Butler, AP)

The Boks are ruining my productivity. And no doubt many other people's too.

Each Saturday they lose, I go into a blue funk and then spend ages online trawling for the reasons why on a Sunday.

I read, superrugby, rugby365, et al. And then I descend further into misery as I read the trash that people dig up.

So here is my two cents worth on my own blog.

The Boks forwards are not the stuff of a world-beating side. I read the parochial postings of SA fans slagging off the Province players and demanding bulls in the backline. But the reality is that forwards set the foundation. One has to worry: we have tons of talent in our pack: Os, Matfield, Bakkies, Schalk and Big Joe are incredible players. So why the underperformance? Race?

The racial bickering is past its sell-buy date too. We live in a deeply divided country treading onwards in its miracle transformation. Those who have worked in Zimbabwe will recognise the dangers of not really transforming. It's a reality, let's get on with it.

Eddie Andrews is not having a great tour, but attempts to blame him for the forward nightmare are naive.

If we have the talent, then why the disaster? One has to look at technique and emotion / motivation. At the very top it is seldom skill that seperates the winners from the losers. Our pack's technique must be examined more closely. In the set scrum, the forwards body position has been mentioned as suiting dry and not wet weather. This may very well be the case. Jake White's decision to arrive late in the UK could be justified (perhaps) if the team had practised on muddy pitches in the Cape for weeks beforehand. But this was not the case. Argentina have for years demonstrated that scrumming technque can make up for a hopelessly light-weight, "ordinary" pack. Frankly this is not good enough. Surely scrumming on wet pitches should have been thought of way-back-when.

England's flyhalf Charlie Hodgson breaks a tackle to score the first try against the Springboks. (Adam Butler, AP)

But motivation is key too. How Jake White could have made the Paulse selection mess-up God only knows. He is aware of the political realities regardless of whether Fourie is better than Paulse or not (an in my opinion Fourie certainly is not). Not only would that disaster have raised the political issues in the players heads again (read about what happened when Mallet made a similar error and Oberholzer went to the UK to talk to team about the realities of SA transformation). Poor Paulse - imagine returning to this nightmare after his recent celebrations regarding merit selection. Further, consistent selection is a good idea. But when your team is as tired as the Boks clearly are after their long season, rotation has to be the right option. Wholesale changes are never a good idea. A consistent rotation policy, with which the players have been made familiar would allow other players to become accustomed to the test arena and the Bok gameplan. There just has to be room for Etienne Botha and Brian Habana on a regular basis - as well as others. It is not a wonder there is no cover for Os - no one else ever gets a look in.

And speaking of game plan, for years it seems as though we have had none. I wonder if the team talk of match scenarios and how they would deal with them. No one probably dares mention "What if we are twenty points down after 30 minutes?" for fear of being negative. But is it any wonder that the team looks panic stricken in those situations. I worry about our captainship in these situations too. Bobby was a great captain for the big picture, but not good (I think) at managing gutsing it out and managing trench warfare tactics. Corne was great at asking players for an extra 20% and regularly managed to get his players to win matches they probably should have lost (think Stormers vs. Waratahs), but not great at big picture strategy. John Smit - articulate, non-political in the team, but in reality fighting for his own position. Not a great start. Is he really in charge?

Anyway, my thoughts. Got to take heart from the Proteas though. Shows that changes in strategy and thinking rather than massive changes in personnel can turn things around.

Will my online date kill me?

This online dating thing has many parallels rolled into one.

Like going to a club to pick up someone for a shag. Or newspaper personals for people struggling to meet people outside of their normal circles. Or IRC for people wanting to instantly chat to someone without all the getting to know you stuff.

Of course it has the advantages and disadvantages of each. And magnifies some.

Like, this honesty thing. Isn't it amazing that someone will describe themselves as an almost-supermodel and expect that won't be an issue when you meet them?

Or the bravado thing. Isn't it amazing that someone will say they're keen for you to do them from behind in their first email?

The concept of Internet dating is amazing: it takes all the issues involved in traditional dating and uses the Internet strengths to try to solve them.

But as with all Internet failures, applying a inherently scientific solution to a human issue results in some unintended problems.

Now here's hoping my date for this evening doesn't carry an ice-pick...

To blog or not to blog?

It has been a long time coming. I was in New York in 2001 when weblogs were taking off. Much like the Internet, people were climbing on board at an exponential rate. As someone who has been involved with the Internet since the beginnings of its mass adoption in 1992, the phenomonon interested me more than necessarily taking part. Further, my work demands mean that I am lousy at responding to emails and will be an infrequent poster. Nevertheless, the time has come to begin...