Building the brand – stevenwilkin.com gets a facelift

I’ve just released the latest iteration of my “professional” site, stevenwilkin.com.

There’s the possibility the designers I’m working with will think my design-fu is weak, but the site badly needed something as it has been barely put to use in the years I’ve owned it.

I don’t know how the Steven Wilkin web experience will evolve but the words of Eric S. Raymond are ringing true when he mentions not hiding behind a hacker-style alias so I may put more emphasis on this domain in the future.

The future is looking exciting concerning the web and my own contribution to it these days so who knows what will transpire and of course I invite you all along for the ride :)

Steven Wilkin, professional coffee drinker extraordinaire

There have been times in my life when my job description could well have been best described as being a professional coffee drinker. These days however I’ve found gainful employment but continue to consume vast quantities of the stuff and even use coffee nomenclature to name my new *nix boxes.

During a caffeine-fuelled session with my domain registrar I happened to lookup professionalcoffeedrinker.com; it was available, all sense went out the window and my money and myself were swiftly parted.

I wonder if this acquisition will have any effect on the Google Juice of the personal brand I have an eye to developing? And before you ask, yes, SEO information has been trickling it’s way into my RSS reader recently.

28 today

It seems like I've survived another year :)

I've just finished processing my email and am reflecting on the goals I wrote this time last year:

  • continue bodybuilding
  • write more code
  • blog more
  • increase Linux skills
  • get a “real” job

Here's the outcome:

  • I put a lot of effort into training and nutrition last year and found that when vanity is my motivation then happiness will not be mine. I'm still trying to find a long-term strategy with this
  • I developed MacServ for the guys at Mac-Sys and it is in daily use
  • I continue to blog, albeit irregularly. I still wouldn’t consider myself a “blogger” though
  • I've done a lot with Linux over the last year. My 9 to 5 involves a lot of Solaris and all my side projects involve either Linux or the BSD derived Mac OS X. This stuff is becoming more and more ingrained
  • I'm currently working for the largest company in the world. Scary biscuits!

My intentions for this year run along these lines:

  • Communicate more, whether in person or via blogging/email/IM
  • Contribute to an open-source project
  • Learn a new programming language
  • Put more emphasis on software development in general
  • Travel to somewhere I've never been before

These I think are realistic and very much achievable. More idealistic/loftier things I'd like to do:

  • Learn to touch type
  • Become a freelance/contract developer
  • Become a “Mac guy”

I look forward to seeing how much of this I'll achieve before review time comes around again. I was quite pleased to see how many things I'd ticked off my list from last year.

I've kicked off my birthday celebrations with an extra shot americano from the coffee guy at work. Chin-chin!

I now have wheels!

I picked up a new bicycle earlier today after probably a decade of not as much as even getting on one. I’m suprised how quickly it all came back to me, almost instantaneously in fact.

It only took me 10 minutes to get home from Sainsbury’s with a pannier bag stuffed full with groceries. My life has taken on new meaning!

2(00)7

It’s now a week into the new year and to heighten my perception of the passage of time my birthday fell on the 3rd, making me a ripe 27. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I want to achieve this year and the essence of my ruminations was progression: my goal is to make progress in all my hobbies and interests and, of course, life in general. Some prominent points which came to mind are to:

  • continue bodybuilding
  • write more code
  • blog more
  • increase Linux skills
  • get a “real” job

Those activities pretty much sum up what I do in my life on a day-to-day basis and the only serious challenge will be finding gainfully employment as voluntary work just doesn’t pay the bills. The idea of it still sends chills up my spine but paid work would make other pursuits financially viable as well as advance my career and technological skill-set. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!

This might also be the year in which I make my return to academia: the job paper on Friday had an ad for postgraduate study at QUB, as well as one for the job I applied for last month and got knocked back for… I’ve regretted at times changing my undergraduate degree pathway from MEng to BSc and absolutely regret opting out of the year of industrial placement when I was studying towards an MEng, so postgrad work has been on my mind for a while and every year I consider applying but don’t. Maybe this time around…

That’s my piece said but don’t assume that I’ll actually hold myself to any of it, goodnight!

Why, I haven’t seen bicuspids like these since…

I had the joy of going for a dental checkup this morning and I must admit I was a tad on edge, but thankfully I got the all clear and there will no repeats of the root canal work I had done earlier in the year …and I managed to get a quick snap of the x-ray which was taken when I was in quite a bit of oral distress and had just signed up with my dentist:

X-Ray of Steve's mouth

I did get my teeth cleaned though, which wasn’t overly unpleasant and even got some of the gunk cleaned off my tongue piercing, which I had actually planned on cleaning before-hand but forgot about; oh the shame of being told that I should clean it as well as my teeth!

My dentist seemed to think my dental hygiene was up to scratch and I’ll not have to go back near the chair of pain for another 6 months, all being well.

And Relax.

Here Lies Belfast

I was out and about with my sponsor on Saturday and we were walking up Stranmillis Ave and Friars Bush happened to be open for tours. My good friend Nicky K lives in one of the gate-keeper’s cottage, but in all my time living in Belfast I don’t think I’ve seen the place open to visitors and so I’d never been in it before.

Here Lies BelfastWhen I was a wee lad I used to live right next door to the graveyard of the local church so walking amongst the graves brought me back a bit. I saw this gravestone and had to snap it with my camera phone.

Reminiscing aside, this post has been an opportunity to play with the URL Rewrite module for Gallery2 and the G2Image plugin (included with the WPG2 plugin) for WordPress. I really liked the idea of G2Image: being able to insert images from my gallery into blog posts via the post editor instead of browsing to the image and copy and pasting the address of the image, but as is usually the case, there was problems.

Firstly, the Gallery2 URL Rewrite module modified the .htaccess file belonging to my WordPress installation, rendering the permalinks useless. Thankfully this was easily rectified and I much prefer having the album and image name making up the URL when browsing the gallery, but the G2Image plugin doesn’t do what I thought it would.

I suppose that is just the nature of Open Source projects and I’m not going to cry about it. Hopefully I’m going to get my act together and contribute in some way to the FOSS movement in the future, until then I’m just going to be greatful that I have access to so much software and not be expected to pay licensing fees that I can’t afford or use a warezd copy (not that that would have bothered me in the past!)

Squat or Rot

Squat!

Over the past couple of months I’ve been working at removing machine weights from my training regime but up until last week I was using machines exclusively to train my legs.

My mate Tony had shown me how to squat a good few months ago but not only was I afraid of injuring my back with improper form I was downright intimidated by this, the daddy of all exercises.

I spent a good chunk of time reading about the technique involved and last Thursday I stepped into the power cage to give it a go. I started practicing with just the bar and proceeded to add a couple of 10 Kg plates, being very conscience of my form and trying to get a full range of movement. I had difficulty getting my quads parallel to the floor and some guy started giving me his “advice.” He told me about stretching my achilles tendons (thank you) but then went on to suggest I put a plate under each heel… I tried this approach without any weight and found I could get down deep enough but I had read discouraging things about this technique, so I thanked the guy and went back to what I was doing before, safe in the knowledge that if I put the practice in I’ll get there eventually.

I upped the weight a bit more and did a set of 10 reps. A modest beginning but when I stepped out of the power cage my heart was beating fast and I was covered in sweat, a sure sign that I had done something right.

Last night I was back. I found supporting the weight across my traps a bit easier (with less pain in that area today than last Friday) and gradually increased the weight through successive sets and finished on a set of 10 reps with 40 kilos of plates on the bar. This is a fraction of the weight I was doing with a leg-press machine but I’ve found it to be a completely different experience. About half-way into the set I had one of those “uh-oh” moments; I was trying to squat as deep as I could and had paused slightly before my ascent. I think my right knee or my torso moved slightly and I thought “I’m not going to make it back up,” but the moment passed and I finished my reps, breathing heavy with my heart pounding.

It’s going to be some time before I start doing work sets, but the love/hate relationship with this exercise has begun!

New Docs

I put in my monthly expenses claim yesterday morning and decided to follow through on a plan that had been on the back burner for a while now: getting myself some new footwear.

After sorting out the new firewall at the office I strutted my way down to the Doc Shop and bought a new pair of 8-eye Doc Marten boots. Here they are fresh from the box and laced up (photos from my phone unfortunately):

New Docs

They look so new and alien to me, unlike my last pair:

Old Ox Blood Docs

My old ones have moulded themselves perfectly to the form of my feet and ankles and feel more like an extension of myself than mere boots, any other footwear seems uncomfortable in comparison.

It seems unbelievable that my old docs were once the exact same shape as my new ones and it feels like I’m having to learn how to walk all over again! I can’t remember how long it took to break-in my last pair in but I can certainly recall going out dancing in them and returning home with my ankles a bloody mess (it’s all about the imagery…)

My old docs held out for well over a year and a half (even though I felt a tad self-conscience wearing red boots) so here’s hoping I get the same wear out of this new pair! I’m off to abuse myself at the gym.