Friday, September 08, 2006

FreelanceNerd Project Report - Week 37

Project A: Into my second week as a "serious" director on this community website for tech startups, and it hasn't been as manic as last week when I screwed up an upgrade and ended up having to reinstall the whole website from scratch (and no, I wasn't wearing spurs or a stetson at the time...) I've been tinkering with it to try and get customised adverts showing in various places that we can then track "clickthroughs" in our database so we know who's clicked an advert and when. If they're a suscriber we're also aiming to email the advertiser as soon as the person has clicked on it with the subscriber's details (scary Big Brother stuff, eh?)

Project B: Done nothing with this independent music community website this week. The potential client is on holiday and it is really hard work translating his powerpoint screenshots plus random notes into meaningful requirements - it's gonna be a big project. I'm hoping to get a short-term contract soon and then I will definitely have no time for this, so I'll be able to pass it on to an IT consultancy firm I used to work for and hopefully get some commission.

Project C: The Brent based project for a housing association community website. Done nothing with this either this week, except wait for an up front cheque before starting work. I've got till February to complete this project, and I'm hoping they won't object to me having a 3 month contract in the meantime (I've got an interview today for a 3 month HTML job in Birmingham). If I get the job and they object, I'll have to pass the work on I suppose.

Project D: The saga of the website for the Centre for at risk children continues. This week we agreed that they're gonna lose the current website because we have no way of downloading the existing one since they lost all the hosting details. That means when we move their domain to another hosting firm the old website will be deleted forever. They've agreed to bite the bullet and go for this plan, so I've got to come up with a quote. I'm hoping that I get this job in Birmingham so I can pass this work on as well!

Project E: The broadband and network setup, etc, for the same people as Project D - again, I'll have to pass this on to my fellow freelancer on this job if my interview comes off today.

Project F: Finished last week. Still waiting to hear back from them after I sent an invoice!

Project G: Was told to stop working on this last week by the MD, so I've pulled the plug on all the automated monitoring emails I had in place on their servers. Waiting to hear back from them on all the work that I've done over the past couple of years that's sitting on my laptop. They have the current version of all the work that I've done, but I have the complete history of everything and some documentation too. Obviously I won't be sending them a copy until I get paid all the money that I'm owed.

Project H: Forgot to mention this one last week. I'm doing a website for a centre that deals with the top 50 young offenders / most at risk kids in it's area. I really enjoyed working with them on finding out what they wanted and working on a design with them. Again, I've had trouble getting the hosting details off the client, so I haven't been able to upload the website onto their bit of the internet just yet. Almost finished.

So, an interview in Milton Keynes today at 2pm for a job in Birmingham - a bit bizarre that. If I get it it will be the end of our financial worries, but if not it does seem that there is a lot of work around so I should get something sooner or later. The major attraction of this contract is that I won't have to work away from home, and I'll still be able to get involved in the life of the church during the week and socialise with my friends, etc. I'm trying my best to leave it in God's more than capable hands.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin dies

It's not often I'm taken aback by the news, and I do find it faintly disturbing that yet another car bomb in Baghdad or a suicide bombing in Kabul that kills a British soldier just meets with my usual resigned sigh, but today I turned on the radio in the shower and heard that Steve Irwin had died. I have to say that it shocked me - so why do I get a shock when something like that happens (and rightly so), but not when another few nameless Iraqis, Afghans or Ugandan child soldiers are killed? One of life's great questions. Anyway, get on over to my mate English Blogger's and read his heartfelt words on Steve Irwin and spare a thought for his family.

Awake at 3am

A week and a half ago I had a new experience when I felt that God woke me up with a word and wouldn't let me go back to sleep. The same thing happened this morning, except I was awake at 3:15am! The last time it was 4:20am. At this rate it won't be worth me going to bed at all!

So, I got up, studied the Bible passage that I just couldn't get out of my head, and related it directly to the situation that was strongly in my mind. It was so detailed that each verse of a whole chapter meant something specific - it could only have come from the Lord. Once again I checked it out with three people who's judgement I respect, including Mrs. FreelanceNerd. I'm waiting for one of them to get back to me, but it looks pretty solid so far. I've just got to deliver all this to the right person.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Nacho Libre

Went to see this film last night with a few friends. Perhaps a little too silly at times, Nacho Libre still provides lots moments that make you laugh uncontrollably, but only if you are on the same wavelength as Jack Black. One of those films that can make you feel a bit self-conscious as you laugh your sides out whilst the person sitting next to you just doesn't find it funny. I was disconcertingly sat between someone who found it only mildly amusing, and someone who was laughing so much I thought they might do themselves an injury!

All in all, I wouldn't call it a classic because the pace and pitch of the film aren't consistent enough to keep you engaged all the way through, but definitely worth a look on DVD if not in the cinema.

Nacho Libre Trailer

Saturday, September 02, 2006

FreelanceNerd Project Report - Week 35

Project A: The week started on a positive note with my first Board Meeting (over breakfast in the pub) with a new fellow director as of a couple of week's back. It's a strange feeling being a company director - something that I always thought other people better qualified than me did. Anyway, it's only a title, and as of yet this particular company isn't making any money, and Barry (my fellow director) is paying for me to work one day a week (at a reduced rate in return for a 25% share of the company) on the community website project we've got going. We do have some good interest in advertising on the site already, but the lead time on making any money will be several months, so it's not going to be enough to pay the bills just yet. I feel positive about this venture because Barry has been down this road before with a tech startup and made a success of it. He really does know what he's talking about, and if nothing else it will be a good apprenticeship for me in running a tech start up.

Project B: I'm still trying to get some requirements nailed down for this community website job from a chap based in London. We've never met and he found me through my Google Ads campaign. I offered to meet and he didn't seem interested in that - quite happy to save paying my travel expenses and communicate by email and MSN messenger. All I seem to be able to get out of him is a series of Powerpoint slides and some suggestions for the front end. We've already agreed that I'll do the back end side of things i.e. the stuff you don't see - the database and all the gubbins that makes it work, and we'll find someone else to do the front end i.e. the bits of the website you see. I've got a quote from my contact in Singapore for the front end which seems quite favourable, although I'm worried he's not quite understood the size of the project. I'm communicating with both parties using email and MSN Messenger on this project, and this kind of set up seems to be becoming more and more acceptable, as I've also had a pretty similar arrangement with Project C.

Project C: Is a Brent (North London) based project for a housing association community website. They also found me through my Google Ads campaign, and this week confirmed (by email) that I was going to be given the work - I even remembered to negotiate a third up front this time - something I've not done in the past to the detriment of my cash flow. It seems quite strange that I may never meet these people and only communicate via email. Mind you, when I suggest meeting face-to-face they seem to object on the basis that they'll have to pay travel expenses, etc. If they're happy then I'm happy I suppose.

Project D: Way back in June I went to see a Centre for "at risk" children about redesigning their websites, and since then there have been intermittent battles with trying to find out hosting details, which have all been lost. The only thing I know for certain is that one of the domains was registered with Tiscali, but whether it's still hosted on one of their servers we may never know because Tiscali can't tell me anything about it without either a registered phone number or email address. I gave them both phone numbers I have and both drew a blank. I don't have an email address for them, so I'll have to wait until the proprietors are back from holiday on Monday and see if I can get any further - the whole thing is becoming more and more of a frustration and an embarressment.

Project E: Related to Project D, I've secured some work to put in a network, sort them out with some broadband, get rid of the steam powered ISDN line they've got that is costing them an arm and a leg from BT, and generally set them up with a more secure and organised IT set up. Never done a network / hardware job before, so I've involved a fellow freelancer who's got 19 years of experience in the field - another good apprenticeship.

Project F: Finished this project, finally. It's been dragging on since May because the whole organisation moves at a glacial pace whenever I need them to do something. Anyway, they now have an online shop which I've nicely integrated with Worldpay - another first for me - another string to the bow!

Project G: This one looks now to have been given the last rites. My mainstay has come to an end as the MD has finally decided to recommend that the Board pull the plug on it, and he's asked me to stop doing my 1 day a week on their car insurance website (think but without the traffic). This has really put the cat amongst the pigeons as I now have no guaranteed work except the reduced rate from Project A for one day a week, so I am now embarking on a serious look for a short term contract, possibly working away from home. Not something I relish doing, but needs must and we have bills to pay.

Mrs. FreelanceNerd has just stopped by to turn her nose up at this report. She reckons that only other nerds will be remotely interested. We shall see...

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Watched Munich the other night with some friends. An absolutely fantastic film. I wouldn't say that you sat down to "enjoy" it because it is difficult to watch at times and asks some difficult questions. It shows clearly that responding to violence with violence only breeds further violence, but the film doesn't look at this in anything like black-and-white terms, as motives, objectives and morals become more and more confused. Two big themes are family and home life, and protagonists on all sides are portrayed as human beings rather than one-dimensional goodies and baddies.

If you can't see the trailer, follow this link:

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.", Martin Luther King Jnr.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Diet Coke+Mentos=Human Experiment

Lol! I know a few friends who would try this too...

Follow this url if you can't see the vid:

A New Experience

On Thursday evening I was celebrating a friend's birthday with a couple of glasses of wine and got in quite late - about 1am. I ended up waking at 4:15am with a persistent, nagging set of thoughts that had been troubling me for a while. As a Christian I believe all Christians have spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12), and one of mine happens to be the gift of prophecy. Over the years I've learnt in a small way to discern when God is speaking to me and when it's just my own mind, but I'm still careful about testing them out before I act on them because I can never be completely sure. You get very strong impressions or feelings, sometimes thoughts that won't go away, and sometimes pictures unfold in your mind's eye. On this particular morning I think the Holy Spirit woke me up to bring something to mind urgently so I could pray about it and relate it to some passages in the Bible. I can't say what it was because it's confidential, but I've never had an experience like it before - the sense of urgency I had was so pressing that I had to get up, and so I did at 5am.

I did some nerdy work for a while and left the prophecy stuff to one side, to see if it would all go away - part of the testing process. It didn't. I felt prompted to read two passages in my Bible, which I duly did, and they both related to the "word" I had in my head (in a Christian sense a "word" is some words of instruction for someone or something, or knowledge about someone or something that couldn't be known other than by being directly given from the Holy Spirit).

So, the word wouldn't go away, and I'd read confirmation in my Bible. Finally, I discussed it with someone who's judgement I greatly respect, and also with Mrs. FreelanceNerd. They both felt that it all rang true. Now I just have to deliver it - which is the nerve-racking part, because it's the true test of whether it was from God or not. Either the person will feel God speaking directly into their life or they will think I'm a wierdo (well the second one happens anyway, so I've not got much to lose :-p )

Friday, August 25, 2006

Letting the Side Down

It just occurred to me that this post's title would make a good Just A Minute topic, although that could be due to lack of sleep :-p

Anyway, the reason I could be letting the side down is that my good friend Helen has started a blog to record the ravings of a mad woman who, for reasons best left to her to explain, has decided to leave our shores for Keane State College, New Hampshire until just before Christmas (the mad woman in question is of course Helen herself). I know it's not spelt K-E-A-N-E, but it amuses me to think that it could be Keane the band's college.

Meanwhile, my wife has also started a blog, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out this morning because it means we might be able to keep more of a handle on each other's lives for a change ;-)

So, I need to stop letting the side down and get posting and here's my first post for several months. It's been eventful, but just not on here!

Yesterday we got back from Momentum where it sluiced down with rain on more than one occasion. Coupled with the fact that I was still getting over (man?) flu it's a good job we shelled out on a caravan for the week, and very helpful the hire people were too. It was particularly inspiring to hear Brother Andrew speak at this year's festival. Now 78, it's quite possible I will never get the chance to see him again this side of heaven, and it was an enormous priviledge to hear from someone who has put his faith into practice by following The Great Commission to the letter and just going without feeling the need to be trained up for years beforehand - or deal with this or that issue in his life before he's ready to go.

Last year he was in Afghanistan and I know he's been to Iraq too, but I'm not sure when. He's also lectured at a Hamas university on "What is Real Christianity?":

"Hamas I contacted direct when they were deported to the mountains in Lebanon, December '92. And we made not only contact; we made friendships with them. And that continued by me visiting their families at their request. We gave them Scriptures and we prayed for them. We witnessed and made pictures. We went back to the mountains, gave the pictures to the sons, to the fathers, and then when it came to the close of their time, I invited them to have a meal with me. When they came back, it was still not in liberty. They were still under city arrest, and they were still unemployed. They couldn't go anywhere, but they came, and I invited them for a meal. That's why I got to know hundreds of them. And out of that contact came the invitation to lecture at a local university on the subject, "What is Real Christianity?"

"So it goes on and on. It is a never-ending story. I call it friendship because it's a form of friendship evangelism. How can they ever love my Savior if they cannot first love me? I have to get close to them. And the easiest, quickest way to get close to anybody is [to help] a person in need. So, that's what I do." Christianity Today

Mike Pilavachi also spoke in his usual down-to-earth style, but what struck me most about him was his bold yet gentle way of waiting for the Holy Spirit to come and do his stuff in the main meetings. Bold because he was prepared to wait for longer than was comfortable, and gentle in that he was at great pains to point out whenever possible that he didn't want to whip anything up or force anything on anyone. He rightly pointed out that the Holy Spirit doesn't need us to wear a white suit or use mood music before he'll turn up. Even better was his insistence on watching to see what the Father's doing, just as Jesus did, and then trying your best to join in, rather than forging ahead on your own and asking God to bless your mess.

If we have the Word without the Spirit we'll dry up
If we have the Spirit without the Word we'll blow up
If we have the Word and the Spirit we'll grow up

Finally, here's a funny video of Mike "singing" at Soul Survivor a couple of weeks back...

Follow this url if you can't see the video: