Posted on 26-07-2014
Filed Under (Just a Thought...) by Steve

Well, its certainly the first for a very long time and by all accounts (and if my recent blogging history is anything to go by), the last for quite some time.

It looks as though my last post was regarding the Citrafleet, probably not the best advert for the medication as it could imply that I took it, reported excellent results and never returned suggesting that all was not as well as I thought and I had perhaps died – Apologies Citrafleet – I stand by the previous post, everything went perfectly.

A quick update of my life so far and since the previous:

So at the time of writing the previous post, I was Rightmove’s senior data analyst and data visualisation expert, a position I held until June 2013 where I took a short contract with KPMG to visualise unstructured data [unstructured: anything that would not normally live in a structured db and more unstructured than Hadoop such as documents, email, sms, phone-calls, graffiti - you name it, if it can be analysed then I did it], then stuck it through Tableau for visual analysis to support prosecution cases for whatever it was that they were looking to prove.

After this stint – it was great and I would have been happy to remain if it wasn’t for the minor inconvenience that it was just too corporate such that I felt that Barclaycard appeared as though it was a start-up. So after this, I ventured into the world of lending and became a senior analyst for a well known financial asset management firm – at least this is what I referred to it as when in confined spaces from which I could not escape such as on the train, in the barbers chair etc; in reality, I was working for the mother-of-all payday lenders – Wonga.com

The culture, the people, the work it was all great, I should like to take a minute to point-out that despite that which is written in mainstream media, Wonga in my opinion does not conform to sharking, ie, if you don’t pay-up, your face-shall remain exactly as it was before the loan, you shall still have your front teeth and your body and body-parts shall be in the exact condition as they were before you defaulted – Wonga aren’t miracle workers either, if you were deaf, blind, had other disabilities prior to taking the loan, then it is likely you shall still have them at the end.
Anyway, off-track a little there, what I’m trying to say is yes, their interest rates for defaulting are stupid high – even I sought to question it when I first saw an advert a full 2 years prior to joining the company, but the point that most people miss is that the percentage is actually the equivalent to 1% per day for each day that the loan is in arrears and interest is only charged for the FIRST 60 DAYS at which point, all further charges are suspended and the final debt is then passed to an external collections agent so you see, you shall, never actually pay 5300% or whatever it is though it is compound interest so it is greater than a maximum of 60% but it is still lower than typical overdraft or credit cards who go-on charging until the balance is completely repaid rather than stopping at 60 days.

My reasons for moving on were simply that despite have loads of very good data, I was still nothing more than a code monkey, writing code to produce mailing lists or returning scalar values, no visualisation there, with the visualisations being handled by the bi devs in Qlikview. These guys (and 1 girl) are great and I still count them amongst my closest friends in Wonga however, they are devs and they build to a spec rather than going with the flow which is why I shall always maintain that unless it is within the mind of the dev to analyse that which they are building, then visualisations and dashboards should be built by clued-up advanced sql-analysts.

Which leads me to my current position and brings me squarely up-to date on the career front: I am now a Tableau dev for Hotels.com – been there for a little over a month and spent the majority of my time optimising one dashboard that at best would open and render in 25 mins, at worse it wouldn’t; now, it opens in 9 seconds or less and renders in under 4 – a victory if I say so myself.

So what else have I been up to?
Highlights in no specific order:

  • Well, bought a gas-bbq and in the first summer of using it had more bbq’s than I had ever attended
  • Went to the Royal International Air Tattoo (riat) 2012, got wet
  • Done quite a bit of hiking
  • Bought a new car (off the forecourt) a 1.0l (don’t be fooled by the small engine factor, it goes like stink) Ford Focus Titanium X (yup top of the range) and I love it especially as it pulls like a 2.0 has all the up-to date tech, start-stop, cruise-control, limiter (which I never thought I’d ever use but actually use daily) heated seats which means that no-one dies when heating them up on those cold winter mornings, electric seats – the whole smash
  • Hosted an s-party for my birthday, I came as Samwise Gamgee (as I hadn’t managed to create my Shrek outfit in time)
  • Went mine-exploration at go-below which is a lot like caving only no squeezing through tight spaces etc
  • done a whole heap of stuff, maintained the compulsory meet every 3-months with Steve and Helen
  • Been to Cardiff, Oxford, and pretty much everywhere else, Devon, Cornwall etc
  • Went ape twice
  • Joined English Heritage and regularly (almost every weekend go places)
  • Bought some bikes, go places
  • Did the full day at Bodyflight in Bedford, but bottled the 125ft drop, Pip did it though – well done Pip – “Don’t look down” – as if you have a choice!
  • The following weekend had the best day ever at Alton Towers – booked a premium ticket allowing all you can eat food, vip parking and entry, and fast-track to all the best rides, it was the 21st of June so was the longest day, was very hot (26C)
  • Decided I cannot do anything with inversions, got off Air and felt really sick, just like I did after Nemesis in 2006 :( so Smiler was out for me – having did the 125ft drop the previous weekend, Pip wasn’t to be fazed so she did Smiler with Monika – crazy, unfortunately, if the ride wasn’t messed-up enough, part way through, a pigeon got annihilated by their car leaving nasty’s across the front of the car and everyone covered in feathers – lovely
  • Spent the evening wandering the towers – progress is painstakingly slow but at least the restoration is under-way
  • Been to see Phantom of the Opera – 2 months before I stuck the 25th anniversary live at the Royal Albert  Hall on, Pip didn’t like it and so, having bought the visit to the Haymarket, Pip being very unsure brought along a good book. It never got opened and Pip is now a convert
  • Saw Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2014 and have to say, I was absolutely blown away! Yes, having came out 11 years earlier, unless stranded on a desert island or the moon, it would’ve been difficult not to have encountered Johnny Depp and gang at any time in the 10 years, though you are unlikely to have seen it like this: a big-screen just like the cinema only the music was undertaken by a live 50-ish piece orchestra a choir astounding – and I think I was the only one in the house not watching the screen but instead was fully focussed on the orchestra.
  • That same evening having trotted around London for most of the evening, at 23:45 rocked-up to a nice Italian restaurant on Woburn Place (slightly up from Russel Square tube station and had a wonderful meal before leaving at nearly 1am (yup 1 on the morning, now that was early) and falling into bed at Euston Hilton around 1:30 (I was cunning with my location), met Rik for breakfast the next day then went to The Whiskey Exchange at Vinopolis – highly recommended.
  • Met Rik and Richard in London, went to see Battersea Power Plant and were amongst the other 10,000 visitors turned away. Spent the evening drinking at the whiskey bar at Trafalgar Square
  • Went to Waddington Airshow 2014 which was cheaper and better than riat 2014 as we had the Vulcan xh558 and being Waddinton, it was the spiritual home of the Vulcan – managed to get an excellent shot of XH558 landing with XM607 (the Waddington Gate Guardian and survivor of the Falklands Black Buck bombing raids) in the distant background with the Red Arrows preparing for their formation in the immediate background – excellent!

This brings us up-to date, of course there has been loads more and loads more to do but this is best staying as my memory – besides, I cannot find the time to write it as much as you won’t find the time to read it.


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Posted on 13-02-2012
Filed Under (Just a Thought...) by Steve

… When its a helicopter…!

So I purchased Lego set 6912 [for myself 'cause I love Lego - who doesn't] and quickly realised that the main model – the plane resembles a Panavia Tornado GR4 – tell me that it doesn’t:


The resemblance is uncanny:

  • Same nose / nosecone
  • Wings (Lego is in the cruise position)
  • Undercarriage (and position)
  • Air intakes
  • Engine & exhaust configuration
  • Canopy
  • Tailplane
  • And in my version, drop-tanks and Amraam missiles

Now compare the secondary model:

I know what you’re are thinking – “by golly, its a Hughes / McDonell Douglas AH-64 Apache Gunship” [and with the help of a big round brick, you also get the Apache Longbow]

Whilst this is of no obvious use to most, this shall be of major significance to the UK’s armed forces who currently operate both – remember, next time you are in a sticky-wicket, a quick re-configuration here and there and you can severely alter your mode of transport though saying this, it is only likely to be effective if you have a Royal Navy field-gun team to carry-out the configuration at speed as these guys could pretty much dismantle your car and post it through your letter-box in under 30 mins.

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Posted on 03-11-2011
Filed Under (Just a Thought...) by Steve

Now using  jQuery Archive List Widget to do something colourful with my filing cabinet – its never nice seeing a pile of paperwork everywhere so I felt that now would be a good time to do something with it.

Highly recommended did exactly what I want.

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Posted on 29-06-2011

Just to set the record straight as it seems as though I have earned a name for myself.

Its not that I dislike Nando’s, rather I just cannot see the point.

Everyone bangs on about it as though its the greatest thing since sliced bread but I just cannot see the point – its just chicken served at hugely over-inflated prices!

If you really want to ‘dine-out’ on chicken, maybe consider the cheaper alternative of KFC but who in their right mind would spend £39.95 on two whole chickens and 5 sides (chips, spicy rice, coleslaw, corn on the cob, garlic bread, peas or mash).1 Taking a trip to Tesco (or your favourite  supermarket) and you could get that lost for considerably cheaper (at least 50%) and you would still have enough for your own seasonings/marinades and some alcohol.

So to re-iterate, its not that I don’t like it, I just won’t pay through the nose for something that I can do better (and cheaper) myself.

  1. Nandos menu visited 05/07/2011
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Posted on 12-06-2011
Filed Under (Computing, Just a Thought..., Random Musings) by Steve

It puzzles me

Why would a programmer want to lock his code?

From a compiling perspective it is more a matter of the programme could not be without first compiling which has the effect of locking the code as the end-user has no real means of opening the project but from a macro perspective; what could possibly be gained from preventing such access?

Granted, that by preventing access, a programmer can ensure that the programme may still run as intended without fear of accidental or malicious damage but this seems to be the only real reason for such an act.

In my experience however I believe in allowing full access code, doing so satisfies several goals:

  • Usually, should a user accidentally gain access to the editor window they either take a poke about mostly run away.
    But for those that stick around
  1. This is a golden opportunity for a key piece of knowledge sharing; maybe the user hasn’t encountered code before and being eager to learn [and providing you as the developer have left adequate notes (which I'm sure you shall)] they shall have the best possible chance of learning how to programme from you; how cool is that? Teaching by proxy!
  2. Perhaps the user has had some programming experience but your code is far more superior to their knowledge and sets out to perform a very complex task, one in which they may have attempted but could not succeed; by looking at your code, you shall have shown them the way without ever intending to (you may add another gold star to the teaching by proxy score-sheet).
  3. Maybe the end user is a seasoned developer and by looking at your code, they have identified areas for improvement; of course, it may only shave milliseconds off each sub but like pennies, they do add-up. Whilst you may not be available to see it, your code may one day turn-up on the net showing how the improvement was made.

For me, points 1 & 2 are the most important; I may not be the greatest developer, I still have far to go, but by allowing access to my code, I  believe I am providing something priceless – the gift of knowledge.

Though if you believe that I am wrong, please do enlighten me.

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