Friday, 6 July 2012

fit to drop

Yesterday was a very long day.

It started early with me getting up at 5:00AM in order to get ready for my first interview.  I set of at about 6:30AM and this was too early.  I arrived at about 8:00AM and sat in the multi-storey for about an hour before heading out to the interview.

I've discussed before how I'm pathologically incapable of being late, and this was another example of it, although in my defence I was heading into London and had no idea how the traffic would be.  Indeed, if the end of the day was any judge I could easily have been several hours late!

The second interview went okay.  The plan was a bit wholly and I ended up sat in what was essentially a team meeting.  I wasn't at all sure what, if anything, I was meant to contribute to this.

Also I was obviously handicapped by being quite shy.  this is a particular problem around new people (as I'm sure it is with all shy people) but also with larger groups and it turned out the team was quite large.  I was introduced to them all, but I am terrible with names, so 2 seconds after the introductions I had utterly forgotten who they were.

It didn't help of course that I had my second interview in the afternoon and I was worried about having enough time to get up there, so when it came to questions each time I was more keen to move on than ask a lot of questions.

While I think I would like the people there and the job sounded interesting, I would have two problems - it's a little outside of my experience and I'm still not sure about working in London.  Certainly I don't think I could stand moving into London.

The second interview was in Cambridge.  I set off for it a bit later than I'd hoped and so put my foot down on the motorway.  It had thankfully cleared from the rush-hour so I made it up in time, but if I'd travelled at my usual pace I'd have been late.  As it was I only had about 20 minutes for my lunch.

The second interview was the technical one.

I'd spent as much time as I could doing the prep work, but it was quite difficult to know what direction to take that - should I focus on the physics or the kit they actually sell?  Should I try and memorise a handful of the facts or get a more general feel.

As it turned out they covered a good range of topics, but didn't go too deep into the areas.  Also I got to play with a couple of their products, which was interesting.

My fear on this job is that they are quite focused on that one small area.  On the plus side it turns out their products are really clever and complicated, but I keep flip-flopping - is it too specialised, or is it techy enough to compensate for that.

I felt this one went better than the first, but I did find I couldn't answer some of their questions and also made some clear errors that would have been solved if I'd sat and thought for a while, rather than just blurting out answers.

The fit to drop of the title comes from the fact that, having been up since five, done some 5 or 6 hours of driving and not finished the second interview until 4PM I then had the journey from hell home.

Basically it didn't start well, as there was an accident on the M11.  Now, to be fair, the people on the other carriageway had an utter nightmare, because it was queued back for miles, and was literally stopped.  Most of the people there had actually gotten out of their cars.

On my side the problem was caused by people rubber-necking - slowing down to look at the accident.

I'm not sure if it was this delay or the fact the accident on the M11 meant people would be taking different routes, but when I arrived at the M4 / M3 area of the M25 it ground to a halt.  I must have crawled along for about an hour before finally getting on to the A3.

Now admittedly I did go and get some petrol and grab some junk food to cheer me up, but it was 8:00PM before I got home.  So that must have been about 8 hours I spent driving yesterday.

Hence why I was shattered and today I have basically been useless.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

richard hammond's invisible worlds

This was a bit of a different thing for the old rental list.

When I first got the BR drive I naturally considered buying a few BRs to watch to see what it was like.  Much to the relief of my bank balance I managed to resist this temptation and instead added a few of them to my rental list.

I added this in particular because it was one of a couple of series that the Beeb had put together when HD was becoming a thing.  My PVR digital tuner thing isn't HD, so when I watched this at the time it was in nromal definition.  However, it was quite interesting in and of itself and not just a bunch of pretty pictures, so I thought it would be a good thing to re-watch in HD.

It really does look great in HD.

By the nature of what this is about there's a lot of CG stuff, but there's also a lot of use of slow-motion (those digital cameras where they can speen up and slow down are used a lot) and extreme macro photography.

The series has three episodes - Speed Limits, Out of Sight and Off the Scale.  The names are pretty obvious - speed limits is about things that happen to fast or slow for us to really see, out of sight is about things that our senses can't really detect and off the scale is abotu stuff that's too small for us to see.

Hammond is essentially jsut a presenter for it, which seems to have become something of a trend - drafting in someone who is otherwise famous to present where you might normally expect a scientist or naturalist to present somethign like this.  That's not intended as a criticism - Hammond does a very good job with these - I just mean don't go thinking Hammond came up with the program!

I personally preferred the Speed Limits and Off the Scale ones.  I've always been particularly fascinated by perception - how we see the world and how the world really is.  For example, and I don't think this was covered in this program, but we only actually see a small section of the world in colour (the cones are in a small section of the retina) and the rest is in black and white.  However, you don't see that in your head becase your brain fills in the black and white bits with colour.

And tiny things are always fascinating - the classic being things like a fly's compund eyes, which are are amazing when you see them close up but you don't bat an eyelid about splattering them with a newspaper when they're buzzing around the room gettign on your nerves.

One thing I woudl say was that it was a shame there weren't any extras.  Particularly something in the way of a "making of" or some other stuff on the disk would have been nice.  In terms of the making of it's odd there wasn't actually, as a lot of recent BBC documentaries have that 10 minute bit at the end where they are essentially filling in for us so that the show is un-edited for other countries with adverts.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

red line

I have to confess I was a bit disappointed by red line.

However, part of this was due to the fact the Blu-Ray didn't seem to work properly.  When I first got a Blu-Ray drive on my PC I had assumed that the normal windows applications would be able to play it or, failing that, the usual players I use, like MPC.

However, this turned out not to be the case - there was no native support for BR playing and I couldn't find an additional bit of software that played BR's on the window's support site.  My assumption is this is some sort of thing in relation to monopolies.

But also none of my usual players worked either, which I was particularly surprised by until I thought about how if there's no native support in windows, this would likely hamper any of the programs I use too.  As such I ended up using PowerDVD, which is an awful program, but I got it free with the drive.

Anyway, when I tried to watch Red Line on Power DVD it was all messed up - the picture had horrible issues that I've only ever seen when trying to play fansubs that have used weird codecs.

There didn't seem to be any way to solve this, so I ended up having to download a freeware player.  The problem is this program suffers from the classic problem of this type of program - they've given you access to everything and all at the same level of priority.  So in other words if you just want to do something simple it's buried amongst all the weird and wonderful rubbish that no normal person ever even thinks about, let alone wants to change.

And to make things worse the player side of it has tiny controls and you can't adjust them.  Well my BR PC is hooked up to my TV and so is across the other side of the room from where I sit, so it is utterly impossible to control it without walking up to the screen.

All this pre-amble is to let you know I was quite wound up and annoyed by the time I actually got to watch Red Line and probably helps to explain why I didn't quite take to it.

I have also since been told that the English dub is particularly poor.  I did only watch the dub, but in my defence I couldn't work out how to change audio channels on the player.  So perhaps if I was to watch the original Japanese I would like it a bit more.  Certainly I would say that the dub was a bit flat compared to the visual side.

However, I didn't really love the visual side if I'm honest.

My problem wasn't really with the animation, which I thought was good, it was with the character designs.  However, I found it a little difficult to pin down quite why - they felt, I dunno, too western, maybe?  Now I don't mean the characters looked to western (anime characters can often seem western in ethnicity) it was more like it reminded me too much of the cartoon I used to enjoy as a kid.

The main guy in particular looked like Johnny Bravo, for example.

I also found the ending a bit hard to follow.  I mean, it wasn't complicated, but it seemed to lack any sort of consistency - a lot of stuff happened but without any clear explanation as to why or any real reason for how that then followed on to what happened next.

As I say, I just found it all a bit disappointing.

Monday, 2 July 2012


So that was an odd weekend.

I guess I should actually start with the day before the weekend, which is more traditionally labelled "Friday" after the Norse God Frigg, Odin's missus.

Friday was the day of my most recent interview.  It was a fair distance away, but close enough that it was a half-day job.  I actually set off very early as the route is very direct, but takes me straight through a couple of big towns that sounded like traffic hot spots.  Indeed, this was proven very true on the way back when it did indeed take ages to get through one of the towns I'd been most worried about.

This did mean I arrived very early and I decided to use the time to have a quick drive around the closest town.  Big mistake.  The town was okay when I drove in, but as it approached 8:00 the place ground to a horrible stop.  It has a weird one-way ring road system around it and it seems to funnel cars towards a couple of particularly horrible junctions, causing the whole town to seize up.

Because I'd had so much time I wasn't late or anything, but I clearly would have had troubles if I had been a bit closer to the interview time (if that makes sense).

The interview itself went okay.

I don't know that I particularly bowled them over, but I also don't think there were any real show-stoppers in there.  I guess it really depends on the calibre of person they're seeing.  I have a few disadvantages (and advantages, obviously) with my experience so it can be difficult for me to judge.

I got the feeling though that, unlike one of my prior interviews, they will tell me if I don't succeed.  And certainly the timetable he was talking about is quite quick.

Journey back was okay, though as I mentioned I got fouled up in some nasty traffic.

The weekend itself was where the blog title comes in.  For my second interview at one of the places they have asked me to try to learn about their product a bit and it sounds like the interview won't be so much of an interview as a test or exercise of some sort.

I've had exercises to do at a few of the interviews, but this is a little different - more focused on the products they have, rather than general skills.

Anyway, that meant I've downloaded and printed out all their sales manuals and some general information from Wikipedia, so I spent a good chunk of the weekend reading it through.

I have to say it's difficult to know quite how technical they're going to expect me to get.  I don't know if I should have researched the physics of it all or I'm okay with just the products they make and their capabilities.

That next interview is on Thursday, so I have a few more days to bone up as well.

Also that morning I have a sort of second interview with another company - it's called "meet the team" and, as the name suggests, probably won't be like a formal interview, as such.