Giving Blood

Today I donated blood.

This was the first time I have ever donated blood, and the second time in my life I have had blood taken (that I remember – may of done as a child but don’t recall). After the birth of our second child things went a little scary and my wife ended up having to have two blood transfusion within 48 hours of Alice being born. At the time I just took it as that’s what was needed, and it never really occurred to me that people needing blood is a very common thing, according to blood Scotland someone is receiving blood every minute of the day. It never quite occurred to me this blood comes from the donations of the general public.

After looking into giving blood, it was a very simple process. I entered my details on the scotblood website, within a few days a letter came through giving me details of giving blood. Then within a couple weeks I received my first blood donation letter with details of the time and place I could go give blood, this contained a simple health questionnaire to fill in pre arrival. I decided today as the day I was going give blood, filled in the form, and went along to the donation centre. An hour and half later I walked out having donated around a pint of blood. It’s a simple process and something you can only do three times a year, that’s not a lot of blood to give for a whole year, especially for the amount of blood that is required. I will be going back in a few months for my next donation, and I plan to continue doing it!

Have you thought about giving blood? If not you can find more details on scotblood.co.uk if your in Scotland, or blood.co.uk if your are in England or Wales.

Professional Scrum Master I

Back in 2014 I took the notion to learn more about “scrum” an agile methodology for software development. Getting a book and reading what I could on the internet about the subject. Then last year I was involved as a developer within a scrum team. Along the way I was taking note of the different items around scrum, picking up different parts of the methodology, getting involved and asking question.

As time went on I decided I really liked the idea of “scrum” and the methodology, and in the last quarter of 2015 I started looking into scrum master certifications, and to getting a much better understanding. My research lead me to scrum.org where you can do an online assessment for the PSM I (Professional Scrum Master I). Scrum.org does not require a course to be taking, but it’s recommended. After more research I found people stating that if you’ve been involved in the scrum process and have do your own homework you should be able to pass the test. So I decided this is the route I would go, using the hands on knowledge I’ve acquired from being part of a scrum team, and doing my own research to gain a PSM I certification. I was surprised at how much homework I had to do to get up to speed, just being part of a scrum team did not provide me with all the knowledge. I took about a month to do all the research and reading to make sure I was ready for the online assessment.

I finally took the time on Saturday night to take the online assessment, and at $150 a test I wanted to make sure I passed first time. To pass you are required to get at least 85% from the 80 questions they provide, and you only have 60 minutes to take it. It’s been a while since I’ve sat a test, and I was pretty nervous about it. And to think 60 minutes is a lot of time, it’s not really, I had 10 minutes to spare after going back through the questions to check my answers, before I finally decided to hit the save and finish button. You get the results instantly which is nice, and I am glad to say I passed with a 91.3% score. They also generate a certification for you too to download if you so wish.

2015

Following on from last year’s little round up, here’s 2015’s round up.

That seemed like a short year, it felt like a lot has happened and also not a lot. 

I never wrote what I had planned for 2015. I did not accomplish all I had planned to, while some of these are long term goals and not necessary restricted to just one year they will remain on the list again for next year. Some of the long term goals have moved along nicely, while others are either dormant or need a little TLC.

I wanted to read more [books] this year, and I would say I failed, having only read five books (3 reviews posted on here). Five is only one more than 2014, and I started reading in the summer in 2014 after getting a kindle. So next year I am making a much better effort to increase this amount. Even though I said I failed at reading more books, I have read a lot more on-line over the last year, I’ve found some great websites (blogs) that I follow with RSS and I am making a much better effort to read the articles/post’s published.

Personally it was a big year, with the birth of our second child Alice. Alice was born on 1st May 2015, and these past 8 months seem to have flown by, she has transformed so much. Looking forward to seeing her learn to walk early in the me new year, as she is able to climb up against items and stand.

Professionally it was an interesting year. I’ve worked on some great products for both the company and clients. Got my hands dirty with some new technology and languages, which will continue to grow going forward. 

We got a bunch of electric sit-stand desks at the office which was amazing, and I’ve been using one full time since they came in early December.

On top of that, in the last third of the year I was given 20% time. So I could spend time to research and investigate the moving industry. With the plan to look at ways to implement new tools, techniques, software, and processes into the work we do. I have made a good start, and have some things which we will be starting in the new year that I am super excited for. (Just incase your interested we are hiring)

One thing which I noticed the past year is I’ve down far less side projects. I know the reason for this and I plan to fix the issue, but not for the plan to do more side projects. 

Where did my time go?

Over the past 6 months, there would be days I would leave work and ask myself, what did I achieve today?

It was not always like this, as time has gone on I have taken on a more leadership based developer role that means I have to also task other developers with work during the day, help them out, more communication and meetings.

When I first started I would be doing 6 to 7 hours of development time, I’d probably be lucky to hit 4 or 5 of decent development time. This obviously comes with the territory of moving up in the world.

At the beginning of the year I decided I want to work out exactly where my time was being spent during a working day, to see if I could change how I plan my work days to be more productive. Much searching of the good old internet did not really lead me anywhere. I struggled to find something that would give me the insight I was after. Until one day someone on Twitter mentioned Rescue Time. I headed straight over to check it out, and since installing it 5 weeks ago I haven’t looked back.

Rescue Time

Rescue Time sits quietly in the background of the computer monitoring the applications you are using, for web browsers it can monitor the actual websites you have been visiting. Once installed there is pretty much nothing to do, give it a couple of days to monitor your usually activity then log in to the Rescue Time dashboard and see it’s tracking everything OK. You may need to categorise some of the software and websites you visit, as the application does not have categories for everything.

One tip I found was if you do web development use host names for each client/ project you work on so you can easily see which clients/ projects your time is being spent on.

As Rescue Time sits quietly in the background just monitoring your application usage, there’s not much else to do, you can login to the dashboard at any time to see your stats, it’s updated relatively quickly as you will see after installing it.
You can set daily goals, I currently have two goals set:
1. More than two hours per day on Software Development
2. Less than 2 hours per day on All Distracting Time

These are the defaults, I’ve not changed them as I wanted to set a base to work from then adjust over time.
Each week you can choose to receive a weekly report via email on the week just past. It’s a good way to get insight into the previous week, just the other week I forgot I had Rescue Time installed until I got my weekly email.

At the moment I am still using the Lite version, and it’s providing a great insight to how I spend my time. The reports are detailed enough if I want to drill down into where exactly my time is going.

Having had the application installed for over a month I have gotten a good insight into my work days/weeks and where my time is being spent, and how over the course of a day my time is being distributed between different items. One of the biggest shocks from using Rescue Time was how much time is actually spent in different applications, you may think you are only spending a few minutes here and there, but when you add these few minutes up over the course of a day they can easily turn into hours. The biggest shock for me was the amount of time that was spent in communication (Email and Chat).

Based on these findings I am going to adjust some items in my work day to see if I can find a better structure to my working day to improve my time distribution. Obviously this is quite hard due to factors that are out of my control, for example; When another developer needs my time to discuss work, or chat about something I may have asked them to do.
These sorts of distractions are hard to account for, but I think a better structured day will help in general to ensure I am getting the best use out of my time.

Below is my dashboard showing my logged time for February up until end of work today.

Rescue Time Dashboard

Valentines Day

Me and my wife have been together for just over 7 years, and we have never given each other a valentines day card or gifts, and we don’t plan on changing that!

The reason we don’t do valentines day is because we don’t need a specific day in a year to remind us to show our other half what we mean to each other, by wasting money on silly merchandise.

Instead we show our love to each other at all time throughout the year!

2014

This is not a regular thing for me, to recap on my year but for the past few days I’ve been thinking back about this year as a whole to remember the good and bad times, and to take time to reflect on the year. When I thought back, it was amazing to think some of the things I remember were actually this year as they feel like so long ago. Not sure if that’s me growing up more or just the way of life, but man this year has been a blast and a lot has happened!

Looking back on the year a few things stand out for me, I have either written about here or not:

On a personal note the biggest highlight of the year was me and my wife getting the excellent news that we are going to be parents again!

Baby Number 2

Onto 2015, I am not going to write out on here what I am planning for the following year but I do have a list (yes a paper list) of my plans and ideas for the coming year, some of these things while end up on here.

More Loss

Just over two months from my previous loss, I get a phone call with more bad news. This loss was rather strange compared to the previous, completely out of the blue. Me and my wife where on our way to a wedding, which was the start of a few days away, where we would end up meeting with my parents for a weekend break. So when my phone rang around lunch time, just as we had arrived early at the church, nothing was out of the ordinary, the caller was my father, so everything seemed fine, and the last thing I would of expected him to tell me was that my Nan (my mothers, mother) had been found dead in her home.

It has all been a bit strange for me since hearing my dad tell me the news. Not strange in a way that I’ve not been able to get on with stuff, but more strange in a way that I don’t think it has hit me like it probably should have. In bad situations I always try and put on brave face, mainly for the people around me, but this time it was different, I can not put my finger on it.
It’s not as if I wasn’t close with my Nan, but over the last 5 or so years I can probably count on two (possible one) hand(s) the amount of times I had visited/seen her, it’s strange as I’ve been in the town where she lived quite a lot, visiting family, but I always go to my fathers mothers. Which is also the town our family call home.
This town is where I spent the first 9 years of my life, and where both sides of my family all still live. This 9 or so years where all spent within a few doors of my nan as we lived on the same street as her, even when we moved away my mum would bring her to own house for a week once or twice a year for a little holiday.

But, for some strange reason the phone call from my dad did not have a massive impact on me, I felt something but it was not the same feeling I’ve felt before, or with my previous loss. I wasn’t upset in a way I need to cry or completely do something to take my mind of it, neither did I cry, and too be honest I’ve not cried once since hearing the news, even with spending a few hours our holiday with my mum talking about it. I am not sure if this is bad thing, or am I not full accepting of the loss.

A Missing Name

Nearly three weeks after the funeral, and nearly five weeks after the loss was my birthday. While I never thought anything of it, obviously the loss was in the back of my mind, but that would be the last thing they would of wanted. They would of never wanted me to put them first on my birthday.

My birthday morning started like the past few years, with my son and wife giving me my presents to unwrap in bed, and all was going well. Then I opened one of my cards and there was a only two names instead of three, and it took me by surprise.

I should of known there would only be two, but I am not sure why it hurt as much as it did. It did put a bit of downer on the rest of the morning. It even brought me to tears, which I had to hold back while I was opening presents and cards in front of my son and wife, but after they had left me to get up I had a proper cry.

After being to the funeral and with it being a good few weeks after everything, I was surprised by how much such a simple thing like the name on my birthday card affected me, but looking at it, I’ve never not had a birthday card with the name missing, so the realisation of the loss maybe takes these little things for me to grieve properly.

The Loss

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is something I don’t think you can ever prepare for, or ever get used to. The loss of every person close to you has so many different effects on you.

I consider myself to be quite lucky, being in my late 20’s and only had to deal with the loss of one family member, and that was a great nan a over 5 years ago. But over the past few years I have been to a number of funerals, and while they have effected me in different ways, I have found my recent grief rather strange.

The loss of a family member was sudden, from getting a phone call telling me they where very ill.. While they have been ill for the past few years, they had been getting along rather well considering, so the last thing I was expecting one Wednesday evening was to have a phone call explain what had happened. I never thought much more of it at the time, just that they would get taken care of, and maybe spend some time in hospital. Another update Thursday, but it did not sound to be any worse, but not sounding any better.

Then I awake to the sound of my phone at 5am Friday morning with a message from my Mum, with the bad news. I have always said never ring me in the middle of the night if anything bad has happened. So mum was being nice to let me know by text.

I replied to my mum to let her know I had got the message, rolled over and cried for a little while. Not being able to fall back asleep, once I felt a bit better I took my mind of it with doing things, until it was time to head to work.

I headed into work as I needed to carry on with my normal stuff, as my family are the ones to not want you to stop what you are doing on such occasions. While it may sound bad, they would not want me stopping stuff just because of the circumstances, even more so that I am over 300 miles from them. I was even told not to head straight down to see them, personally I did not want to, there where others around and they did not want me to suffer or put myself out.

The funeral took place within two weeks, and from the day of the news to the days leading up to the funeral, it never felt like it had sunk in, waves of grief seemed to hit in small bits. I feel one of the things that never made me grieve straight away was the distance I was from everyone. The only contact was over the telephone, and everyone puts on a bit of brave face, which is nice, but this did not help me.

My Car

I have a phobia of driving my own car, I do not have an issue as much with driving other peoples cars. I am not sure how this come about or why, but over the past couple of years it has seemed to get worse.

I am not 100% sure when it first started or why. I keep going over things in my head to work out where this phobia has come from as I used to like driving my car.

One of the things that happens when I drive my own car is that I am so aware of every noise that happens and I always think the worst, will it break down?, whats wrong now?, that’s a new noise, how much is it going cost me to get it fixed?, what happens if I get stranded?

But the funny thing is these never cross my mind in someone else’s car..

Year 2012

The year 2012 was a year of new challenges and a new start.

The year started off a little quietly, on the second day of 2012, I became an uncle for the first time, which was amazing. But it would be a couple of months before I first got to see him.
A few days later Todd started his first day at Pre-School, it was strange as it was another realisation that he’s growing up!

February was the big month of the year, as this is when I moved jobs. On paper technically I only moved to a different company, as I was employed with the same job title ‘Web Developer’, but is was far from the same. From my first day at aw20 Ltd, I have continued to learn new stuff, push boundaries, been encourage to try new things, and more.

From leaving my previous job is where the image above comes from, one of the lads made me a Back to the Future poster as a leaving gift and put my face on Marty, and it’s been my avatar ever since.

From February onwards there where no massive things to report on, but I’ve been busy ever since, with learning more and more, and trying out new ideas.

In June, two of us from aw20, got to attend the first ScotlandJS in Edinburgh, the long day of travelling was truly worth it, lots of little nuggets where picked up during the day and I am finally getting around to using them.

September Todd turned four, and started his second and final year at pre-school.

October I released a back to the future themed URL shortener called gigaw.at, which is powered by OpenBD and MongoDB, I will save all the details for a full write up which I’ve been meaning to do.

Then, November I released an open source flat file blog engine that is also powered byOpenBD, with a back to the future reference name. This came after seeing a lot of tweets one weekend about Jekyll, and Statamic, I decided to write something in OpenBD over a weekend, and to give my blog a rebirth, I wrote a little bit about it on here, I have been adding little bit’s here and there when I have needed to, and will continue to work on it.

December was a big month, with Christmas, mine and Pamela’s 4th Wedding Anniversary, and the end of the year, it seemed to all come at once… And December was my busiest month on the blog post front. I wrote 4 blog posts, released another Google Chrome Extension (an OpenBD Manual quick reference extension, read blog post ).

The thought of being gone

Recently, when watching some TV shows I have got very emotionally at the death parts, not just any death, but a death of a person who has a family, and more to the point, when they have a small child.

This obviously has something to do with having a little boy myself, being a parent is a very emotionally time, full of worry, from things like am I a good parent, to when they hurt themselves, to what would happen if I was gone.

It’s the last thing I hope would ever happen to my family, but it’s always in the back of my mind, what would happen if one of us was to not be around anymore? How would either of us cope? I try not to think of it too much as I know it will get me down, but I hope that we would be strong if it ever happened.

Lending a Helping Hand

Many of you probably already know that I am an active twitter user, hell you probably reading this as I tweeted the link to the article. The majority of my traffic comes from twitter. So with that sorted…

Anybody who is a twitter user will realise that, twitter is not just about telling people what you had for lunch or when you woke up, what the weather is like, etc. Well it is for that, but it’s also has great deal more to it, it’s also a great resource for learning, or finding answers to questions quickly, or even provoking a conversation (bit hard I know, you timeline soon fills up).

Over the years I have been using twitter, I have tweeted about pretty much everything, hell I even tweeted I was going have sex in the shower, some people took it out of context, but I was not lying, I just did not explain myself correctly. I actually had a sex in the showeremotibomb it took some explaining, but it was all good fun.

So, what I am I getting at?

Put all the fun aside, twitter has been a huge help for me, not just making new friends online and having fun, but I have also learned a lot from tweeting questions to what I may of thought to be stupid questions. Being a front-end web developer (as you may already know) sometimes I hit problems with things, generally I’ll Google for a bit and see what I get, but I’ll also tweet my issue at the same time in order to get a more mix of answers, 9 times out of 10, somebody will reply with the answer I am after, great, somebody saved my bacon once more, so times I even get a twitter reply before I have had chance to scan the search results in Google.

These passed few months I have not asked that many questions on twitter in the vain of seeking help for a problem, mainly due to not needing to. Not sure why, maybe I am not pushing the boundaries enough, or maybe I am actually getting smarter. I would like to think the latter.

So with that in mind, these passed few months I have been the person on the other end, I have been offering support to people who have asked the questions, by doing this I have made a few extra friends, had some great Skype conversations with people and even been promoted by the person I helped. Each time I offer my help I am expected nothing in return, one of the main reasons I offer my help/knowledge is it will help you and it also helps me.
How is it helping me? You may ask..

Well, I would say about 20% of the help I offer is to questions that I feel I may be able to help with. You may say why offer the help if you are not sure? Well everyone has to learn somehow, so I see it as an opportunity to help someone out as well as help myself learn that bit more. About 90% of these unknowns I actually do know what the user is asking, this actually scares me a little as I am unaware of my own knowledge until it’s questioned, maybe I am becoming more complacent with my skills/ knowledge and am not pushing them enough.

What next?

Well I am going to keep offering my help why I see someone struggling. In the future I am going to document the problems and solutions so others can also learn from them.

Look forward to helping more people with their problems, also I hope people help me why I get stuck! If you are reading this and your not following me on twitter, maybe you should. My twitter username is Follow me on twitter