From the Time You Say Goodbye

Posted on 31st March 2009

Today was my last day at MessageLabs/Symantec. After 6 years it was sad to say goodbye to a lot of people, as it has been an absolute pleasure working with such a great group of people. There are some people I'm going to really miss, but thankfully several of them I will be able to catch up with at various Perl events throughout the year.

I've worked on some intresting projects and learnt a lot about SMTP, email and networking during my time with MessageLabs. In fact it's been so interesting it has been worth the morning and evening drive along the M5 for every working day in the last 6 years! But now it's time to move on.

My future challenges currently involve working on all the Open Source and Perl (obviously) projects that I haven't had time for over the past year, taking some time out, relishing NOT having to travel along the M5 every morning and evening, and planning my international speaking tour (okay there are currently only 4 dates throughout the year, but it sounds good ;)) 

I'm not planning to rush into anything, and instead want to take the time to find the right job for me, and to find the right company that can make good use of me. There are a few possibilities that have already been mentioned to me, so I'm hopeful that I won't be looking for too long.

In the meantime, expect several updates to CPAN, CPAN Testers, Maisha, among many other projects I haven't time to work on properly for the past year or so. I shall not be idle :)

File Under: life

New Sensation

Posted on 5th March 2009

In the UK, Walkers Crips are perhaps the strongest brand of crisps on the market. They're also the most inivitive too. Every so often they try a different flavour out, and while most rarely see the light of day again, some do stick around. A more recent one is the Marmite crisps, which having proved so successful are now made by Marmite themselves. Last year Walkers Crisps ran a competition to find some new flavours. Out of the hundreds of entries they picked 6 and have now mass produced them to let the public vote on their favourites.

Walkers have been quite clever about this as they packaged them into two 6-bag bundles, with three flavours in each. It means rather than trying to find the flavours individually in your local corner shop, you can grab a couple of extra 6-bag bundles and try them all out twice.

The six flavours are:

  • Fish & Chips
  • Crispy Duck & Hoisin
  • Cajun Squirrel
  • Builder's Breakfast
  • Onion Bhaji
  • Chilli & Chocolate

The mix could be seen as 2 traditional British dishes, 2 international dishes and 2 just plain weird. Now of the latter, Chilli & Chocolate isn't that unusual, as I've seen and eaten Chilli flavoured chocolate bars before, but Cajun Squirrel! Never having tried squirrel I can't comment on it's accuracy, but I can't really see it being a lasting flavour beyond it's novelty value.

I've now tried them all, and after some consideration I would have to rate them as:

  1. Onion Bhaji
  2. Crispy Duck & Hoisin
  3. Builder's Breakfast

Of the rest I wouldn't be particularly interested in trying again. Cajun Squirrel tastes like Roast Chicken, Fish & Chips tastes like Salt & Vinegar and while Chilli & Chocolate does taste exactly as it says, having first thought the chocolate bars were an interesting idea, I will most definitely not be voting for them.

It'll be interesting to see which flavour wins, and perhaps more importantly how long it lasts as a popular flavour. I think the 2 international dishes are likely to hold out longer than the others, as they both have a distinct flavour of their own, plus we Brits have a strong liking for Indian and Chinese cuisine. Still, whichever wins, I'm sure it'll be overshadowed by the next big Walkers Crisp marketing campaign :)

File Under: food / life

Open Your Eyes

Posted on 3rd March 2009

Thanks to a twitter post by Simon Phipps this morning, I read with interest a blog post by Patrick Finch, entitled Mozilla and Cybermentors. Mozilla are getting actively involved with the UK charity BeatBullying and their CyberMentors programme.

It's unlikely that anyone growing up hasn't suffered some form of bullying. It comes in all shapes and forms, and while for some of it may be minor or only last a short time, for some it can have devasating effects. A colleague recently took his own life, because the traumatic and abuse he suffered through primary and secondary school, even over ten years later, was still something that affected his life and personality, and was something he felt he could no longer cope with. I personally was first bullied by my 3rd year junior teacher. Yes you read that right a teacher, and I was just 9. It isn't just children that can be cruel and spiteful, adults can too. While I would dearly love to name the teacher in question, I have no proof beyond my word, and even now feel powerless to do anything about it, much as I did back then. Many children who suffer from bullying feel exactly the same way. Even if they told, who would listen and who would even believe them?

As Patrick points out in his post, many young people are growing up never knowing how we used to keep in contact with our friends, without using the internet or mobile phones. We play out so much of our lives online, that it shouldn't be a surprise that a recent Harvard University task force concluded that one of the biggest risks to children on the internet, isn't from sexual predators, but from bullies. The difference between the school yard bulling and cyber-bullying, is that the former is pretty much contain within a small sphere and often there are adults and peers who can deal with it and stop it. On the internet anyone can hide behind their relative anonymity and victimise just about anyone they choose. As it isn't within school grounds, teachers are often unable or ill-equiped to deal with it.

As such, the Cybermentors aims to be a way for youngsters experiencing bullying online to tell someone about it. Mozilla are offering to support 10 members of the Mozilla community to be trained as Cybermentors, who can then spend at least 2 hours a week for 4 months, helping children to cope and deal with any bullying issues. All credit to Mozilla for supporting this, and hopefully other companies will also be willing to help fund training for individuals to act as mentors.

A few years ago the GetSafeOnline campaign was initiated to help make parents and youngsters aware of the potential dangers on the internet. Identifying ways to protect themselves from viruses, phishing scams and spam, as well as unwanted websites, chatrooms and the like. While this programme is different in that it's targeting a very specific danger, it is still all about keeping the internet safe for everyone. I personally value efforts such as this, rather than the sometimes heavy-handed and misguided attempts by governments and self-appointed puritans of the internet to protect children from percieved threats.

I really hope BeatBullying and the Cybermentors programme gets a lot of internet and media exposure, as the more children are aware of it, the more chance they have of coping with it and not suffering mental anguish for the whole of their (possibly short) adult life. If you're a member of the Mozilla community, and think you can spare the time, please read Patrick's blog post and get in touch with him.

File Under: internet / life / school / security / web

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