A word of warning. Well, nine actually: never show that you’re good at something at work. If you do, you’ll get a reputation, and every similar task thereafter will be thrown your way.
I showed an aptitude for relentless and organised chasing of stuff recently. The next time there was a need for similar relentless chasing, it was thrown my way. On this occasion, I threw it straight back whence it came.
Yesterday’s Excel pivot-table and graphing task was thrown straight in my direction. I had nowhere to throw it, but luckily it was 15 minutes’ work. It was also fun.
There is a four-level hierarchy of people in terms of their web knowledge, as far as I’m aware.
At the top, there’s Rob. Rob from Sydney. He knows everything, and woe betide anyone who falls short of the mark. He knows stylesheets, HTML, databases, template systems, php, Web 2.0 and anything else that’s worth knowing.
Next down the chain is Elise. She knows lots of good stuff about CSS, HTML, information design and holds her own on the template stuff. She also has a great understanding of how it all hangs together.
Next is me. I dabble in stylesheets and can find my way around a template, but editing is a trial-by-error exercise which sometimes comes off. Other times I give up and revert back to my handily saved original.
And last but not least is Rob. East London Rob. He shows wonderful willing, but will be the first to admit his limitations.
It’s funny how people look up the chain when they need help. I’m glad to help Rob (East London) out when he needs to do something, but it’s nice to have someone to turn to (Elise, Sydney Rob) when I need help.
I wonder if the chain continues on up, and whether Rob has his own support mechanism above him. And if he does, whether he’d admit it.
I did a pivot table today. Ever since my days with a particularly annoying client in New York, I can’t help but say Pivot aloud while clicking the PivotTable from Excel’s data menu. It’s a hangover from a particular Friends episode, a fabulous outtake of which can be at 8m25s in this video.
Thanks for making me laugh today, annoying client from New York.
I have a colleague. Let’s call him Mark. There have been three times in the last two status meetings in which he has referred to himself in the third person.
Mark will take that action. Mark isn’t happy. Mark will sign off on that.
I love it. If you knew "Mark", then you’d understand why the amusement is heightened. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Jimmy refers to himself throughout in the third person.
I only hope the behaviour continues.
The first two tracks that presented themselves to my ears this Monday morning were The Libertines’ Time For Heroes followed by The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. For the record, these were followed by Van Halen’s Jump. Oh, and the bus arrived straight away.
It’s gonna be a good week
A few nice custom Excel formats, some of which I’ve known for a while, some which are new to me.
- <;;;> Stores a value, but doesn’t display it
- <00000> Always stores five digits. So 453 becomes 00453. Useful for US zip codes
- <[Black] General> To hide error messages (e.g. #DIV/0!). If you make your standard font colour the same as the background (usually white), then this will kick in to give non-error cells a black font
- <0;-0;;@> Not sure why this works, but it hides zero values
- [#.???] This will line up your decimal places in a column, and display three decimal places, but only if they’re significant. "3.2" will display as "3.2", not "3.200". The only slight issue is that "3" will display as "3."
- < @> Put a bunch of spaces before the @, and these will appear at the beginning of the cell, resulting in a padding
- <#,###"km"> Type in 100, and it will appear as 100km, but you can still use the value to do calculations
- <@*.> This will pad your cell out with dots to the width of the cell. So "Excel" will appear as "Excel…………". Might be useful for tables of contents
- <#,###,, "M"> Again, not sure how this works, but it divides the value by a million and displays a trailing "M"
- <[<=2]"Low"* 0;[>=4]"High"* 0;"Average"* 0> This will display the word at the left of the cell, and the value at the right
Go to Format | Cells and click Custom. Then type the bit between the < and the > above to get the desired result.
The beauty about the above is that only change the display format. They don’t affect the value stored.
I had my first experience of Streetcar today. And it was a genuinely pleasurable experience.
Here’s how it works. You pay a £150 one-off, fully refundable deposit, and in return you receive a smartcard, similar to an Oyster card. This allows you to access hundreds of cars located across London, for anywhere from 30 minutes to six months.
Before you need the car, you book a time and location, so I booked 12–6pm this afternoon to do a spot of shopping in Croydon. The charge is £4.95 per hour, and includes up to 30 miles’ petrol per day, or per session if your booking is less than a day. So a 30 minute booking will cost you £2.48, which includes 30 miles’ travel. (You’d have to do a constant 60 miles per hour throughout your half hour.) If you do more than the 30 miles per day, you’re charged at 19p per mile.
Insurance is included, with a £500 excess, or you can pay an annual fee of £95 to reduce your excess to zero.
When you get to the car, you show your smartcard to a sensor in the windscreen, and hey presto, the doors unlock. Enter your PIN into the radio, and the glovebox opens revealing the keys. And off you go.
My nearest car is just 0.21 miles’ walk away, but there are five car locations within half a mile, so it seems that coverage is pretty good. Well, in my area at least. There are almost 200 pick-up points across the whole of London.
When you’re done, you just park up again, and lock the car using the smartcard.
All cars are VW Golfs, 75% of which are manual, 25% automatic. All have MP3 connectors.
Great concept, one which I’ll be using again.
A couple of overheard comments that tickled me on separate occasions while on the approach road to Waterloo Bridge lately.
- Man to wife: "It’s that fine rain", in reference to the somewhat drizzly conditions
- Man to person on the other end of mobile phone conversation: "We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it". I assume that bridge wan’t Waterloo Bridge
I sniggered within.
BBC Three is currently advertising a programme that will be coming soon entitled "Help! My dog’s as fat as I am".
And who said British TV was going to the wall?
The other day I noticed for the first time a .travel domain name. It was a TV advert, promoting Florida with the following url:
With that capitalisation.
It’s odd that I’ve not seen more of them, given they’ve been around for almost 18 months. Maybe people have steered away from them because they are as confused by them as I was. The fact that there was a UK at the end of the URL didn’t help at all, as my immediate reaction was to look for an associated CO.
But even without the extension, it’s confusing. It just seems odd to have such a long string as a top-level domain. (The only other six-letter TLD in use is .museum.) Maybe that’s why they opted for the bizarre (and to me similarly confusing) capitalisation.
Whatever the reason, it’s hardly a memorable URL.