Update

Time flies! I think that almost evey article I write can start with the title “busy busy busy” – but what would that add?

I need to find a proper balance between computer stuff for fun, computer stuff for work and other activities. My dude is a hardcore computer geek – and spends more hours on his PC than anyone else I know. He tells his friends that his geek girl spends even more hours behind the pc – they shake their heads in disbelieve (geek girls are a myth apparently) – but it is true. I don’t consider us sad cases – but the rest of the world seems to think we miss out on a lot of things – lol…

I really like the job I took up – the work mainly involves development of WordPress templates and setting up wordpress for clients. After that SEO activities start and carefully selected / written content is uploaded. I learnt a lot about the processes involved – and as our main guru says .. there is no magic involved. It is a matter of a properly built website, proper navigation, useful content, relevant linking and time. Time because the website needs to build a reputation and further fine-tuning over a period of time. But without doubt the applied techniques work – and it is one of the main reasons why business is flourishing.

As I had to learn quite a few new things, I spent less time on the graphics design / tutorial writing as I like to do. I indeed prepared a new tutorial, made all screenshots and even uploaded the article to VSD – but the screenshots need to be cropped and included still before the article can be published. I know.. it is not a lot of work.. but I somehow just don’t feel like it. Perhaps this weekend?

Then it is Autumn in Oz. Temperatures are a lot lower and as I live in the Sydney area, people pretend that they won’t be exposed to winter. They simply deny it. Result: no central heating system and houses that are build to keep out the heat. I am quite fortunate as our house is fully insulated – but I really do miss the comfort of central heating. I wake up and it is about 15 degC in the house. It is not “that” cold – but too cool to be comfortable. And add to that the fact that my home is my office and you’ll get the idea. Shivering behind the PC until the sun hits the window and I finally start to warm up. Our gas heater broke down last year and as we are about to move to another house – not sure how to survive the next weeks – airconditioner on heating and a high electicity bill? Probably.

And a quick kitty update. Both our little brats are growing like crazy. They have been quite sick – first cat flu and after that Moogie started puking and had blood in her stool. We thought she might have something really bad – back to the RSPCA for check up – and as she still ate, put on some weight they suggested to bring a stool sample. Well.. stool sample from the right cat from the litterbox is not that easy, so when we finally caught her going to the box and prevented her from burying the sample in crystals – we didn’t need to bring the sample in.. they had worms. We called the RSPCA again – as we adopted them a month before and they were supposedly de-wormed. “It can happen that the treatment was not effective if the investation was too large”. Bleh… got meds from the local vet – made them poo a lot but they seem fine now.

Talking about redesign

When we started with verysimpledesigns.com last December, we did things low profile as we were frantically going through our designs to decide what could be used for download, what could be turned into a tutorial and we were not really sure what direction to take yet.

Thing is that we design stuff from logos to stationery and fabrics, but also create illustrations and digital art and as we are both techies, we do website design (front-end and back-end) as well.

I am quite familiar with CMS systems, but when we decided to use Joomla for verysimpledesigns.com, I had to learn a lot of new things. And as we just wanted to get the site going, we decided to use a freeware template, install some plugins and that was that. No big publishing campaign, so not a lot of visitors, which gave us a lot of time to sort things out and add some content to the site. We had some plans for reworking the design, but sofar it has just been plans. Today we started to talk about actually changing things.

We like the current layout. It is distiguishly different than most other websites – that conveniently use 2.0 to indicate their style, but we all know that again is just a buzz word. I like many of those layouts, but somehow one looks like the next and the next again. We do however need to redesign the website, to allow for more modules, get the breadcrumbs working properly, depend less on plugins, and optimize the site further for SEO. The site is quite easily found by most search engines, especially now all our image are slowly being indexed, but we sure could use a few more proper links. We are considering a link exchange page too (realizing that we are not that interesting yet, but at least we can support the sites that we consider to be cool).

So template design for Joomla, we keep the purple but I do not know where it will take us next. We also will finally implement forums so we can create better interaction with our users.

Lots of plans that will keep us busy for a while again.

Urban Design Tutorial in Inkscape

vsd_tut_urban_thumb
Inkscape tutorial for a simple urban design using circles, swirls and clouds.

I am still sorting through my designs and repacking stuff to make things available at our new website. But I did find some time to explain how I created an Urban design, so a new tutorial for Inkscape is published too. Cool circles, fancy clouds and flourishing swirls in trendy colours. It is available, as usual, on verysimpledesigns.com. I also made the resulting illustration available in eps format, free for personal use.

My mate Dakka made a cool set of photoshop brushes, the set is called Affects. He uses them to add cool neon coloured flying objects to his art work, but I use them quite differently. I use them to create cool feathers, fluffy fur, flower petals. They are awesome, and I figured you may want to know about them too.

The rest of the week will be a bit quiet, as someone figured we should have a fancy dress party with the Wild Wild West as theme. Now we figured to go as cowboy and indian, but when we looked around for costumes I was a bit shocked. As it is a party amongst friends you dont want to spend heaps on it, and at the same time you don’t want to look like horrible. But the costumes around here are made from bad materials, and do not even come close to something a native american would ever have worn. Now, I am not an expert in subject matter, but I thought I should at least get some things right. So I did a bit of research and I came across this beautiful online exhibition Identity by Design which gave me all basic information I needed. How the dresses evolved over time, how they were constructed, what symbols were used, beautiful beadworks and so on. With great respect to the ladies that made these dresses a long time ago, I decided to create my costume based on a beautiful Cheyenne three-hide dress. And whilst I used a cheap suedine fabric for the work, and replaced the beautiful beading by just a simple bias band, at least it looks like something traditional. The dress reaches over the calves, the ladies were very modest, and they would wear high mocassins so no bare skin is visible. Of course my dress is no where near so beautiful as the real thing, but it looks like traditional wear.

Job hunt

One should think that a week of acclimatising would be enough, but somehow I do not feel so motivated at all. And I like to blame it on jetlag, but I think a week is pretty long for that *grins*

I finally can look for paid work here and that both excites me as well as it freightens me. I have done a lot of creative things in the last 8 months, and now I have to choose what path to follow. I know it will be IT related and I also know that it will be focused on project work, as I cannot imagine myself doing the same thing day in day out for any number of years. But IT covers a broad spectrum, and my skills cover quite a few subjects within that spectrum.

One of the main sources to look for job vacancies is seek.com.au. And I set up an profile there and created an advanced search for possible jobs. There are plenty to go around, even tho there is lot said about economic crisis. My next problem is how to find a job that requires a nice blend of the skills I have and is interesting enough to do. While I write this, I realise how stuck up this sounds. I have never picked a job because it pays exceptionally or guarantees a safe income. I always looked for jobs that are interesting, offer a lot of variety, allows me to interact with users. And that is a very luxury position, I never had to accept just anything because of limited options. It also has a sense of freedom, I work because I like to work and the income it generates is needed as I am not wealthy enough to sit back permanently, but it is just part of the incentives.

So there I am, browsing for jobs 🙂 and I find a few job descriptions that seem to match my profile. I see a job description that fits me perfectly and I decide to apply. I give the recruiter a call and they seem quite keen, I am asked to send my resume and salary expectation. Now that poses a new problem, I have no idea what market-conform fees are for these jobs. The job description listed a minimum and a maximum salary value. Am I going for the maximum possible, or the minimum. How does my resume and old jobs compare to the new ones? I knew exactly what I was worth overseas, but it is not as simple as doing a conversion based on exchange rates. As I have been enjoying a sabatical for almost a year, I do not want to start with a high pressure, work till you drop dead job. I was thinking of doing short term well paid contracts. But this job opening seems to be exactly what I like. I sent my resume, and within hours I got a confirmation that they will present me to their client. Yay… I might be on my way. But my partner said I gave them a too low value for my salary expectation. We’ll see…

Upside down

This morning I browsed to my domain and I saw that my last post was dated the end of June. Time flies… especially when you are having fun.

Biggest news is that my visa came through and I am finally allowed to stay in Oz indefinitely. That means that starting now I am able to hunt for jobs and to join the rat race again. I had to go overseas to get the grant and decided to go to my home country and travel around Europe.

From my perspective Europe has always been a large continent, with most countries larger than the one I lived in. It is great fun to travel with an Ozzie and see astonishment as it is so easy to cross borders by train. We travelled through the Netherlands, crossed Belgium and France to get to Spain, visited the French Riviera and continued to Italy, Switzerland and Germany, to end up back in the Netherlands and to return to Oz from there. It felt a bit like ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’, too many stops crammed into too few a days, but somehow I survived. So how great was it? We had the best of fun as long as we stayed away from the tourist traps. We deliberately did not visit some of the great landmarks, as entry fees and waiting queues were not tipping the balance in favour of a visit. We also stayed away from the food locations at the main drags. We ventured out through some locations ‘off the beaten track’ and kept our eyes open for establishments that were mainly occupied by locals. Good quality food for decent prices, ordered by sometimes picking dishes blindly from a menu and sometimes explained to us by using sign language and always served with a smile.

Cities we visited:

  • Amsterdam
  • Leiden
  • San Sebastian
  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Nice
  • Genova
  • Pisa
  • Rome
  • Florence
  • Venice
  • Zurich
  • Koeln
  • Utrecht

Beautiful cities with beautiful arts and architecture. Inspiration a plenty.