Wednesday, 31 December 2008

It's Almost Time...

Even though 2008's going to last an extra second due to the slowing of the Earth's rotation (sorry about that, long story, tell you later maybe), I hope that 2009 is going to have been worth waiting for, for all of us.

So to all of you, from all of me, have a very Happy New Year.

And beware, evildoers, wherever you are...

Recession? Maybe Not...

So I tried to buy a PlayStation 3 today.

Shopped around, picked what I figured was the best deal I was gonna get without going to Northern Ireland (80GB PS3 with FIFA09 and Resistance 2 for €399.99), took a ticket from the display and got in line.

When I reached the counter, the conversation went like this:

Me (handing deal ticket to manager): I'd like a PS3, please.

Manager (pointing to display): 'Which deal?'

Me (thinking it should be obvious from ticket but not being a smartass about it): 'Top left.'

Manager: 'All I have left is FIFA09 and Little Big World. Nothing else.'

Me: 'Can I pick a different game to Little Big World?'

Manager: 'No.'

Me: 'Can I get a credit for when Resistance 2 is in stock again?'

Manager: 'No.'

Me: "Thanks. Goodbye.'

Obviously the recession isn't biting as hard as we're led to believe...

Friday, 26 December 2008

Psst - Is It Over Yet?

Owing to the recent quite spectacular conjunction of some airborne virus and me (my own stupid fault - went out on patrol without an insulated helmet liner, and I don't need to tell you what that means 400 million miles from the Sun), I've been confined to the IncrediCave lately, having little or no contact with the outside world.

Wouldn't ordinarily trouble me overmuch, but it is Christmas, after all, and there is a certain amount of congregation of family that happens about this time each year.

And for the first time in my life, I missed it.

However I may feel about Christmas and what it has come to signify, I do look forward to dinner at my parents' house with everyone around. It's just one of those things.

So I resolve to dress more warmly this time next year.

Sentimental? Me?


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Question Of The Week...

It appears that Gordon Ramsay has a new book on sale entitled "Cooking For Friends".

How would he know?

And We're Back...

It's been a while - a lot of long days and some technical issues - but I'm back.

For now, at least.

This time next Friday I'll be heading to Milan for the weekend - the global recession meaning nothing to the annual IT Services Christmas Weekend.

It's something we've done where I work for the last several years, and a slap in the overpriced face of the Irish tourist industry, but for one weekend in December, a group of about a dozen of us visit a European city instead of having a Christmas party at home.

It started about six years ago when we couldn't find a venue in Dublin, so we booked an overnight in a hotel in Mullingar (a medium-sized town in the Midlands) so people could drive there and not worry about having to get home the same night.

It went well enough that we decided to do it again the following year, but prices had skyrocketed in the meantime, so it wasn't looking good.

Then Dr. Invisible suggested Madrid, and when we got our minds around the rather interesting concept, we said

"Why not?"

The cost of a hotel and return flights came to less than an Irish hotel was demanding for one night's accommodation, and we had a pretty good time except for the moment when - well, maybe I'll not mention that...
We visited the Palacio Réal, formerly the King's official residence but now a museum, and the Bernabeu Stadium, home of Réal Madrid football club.

The year after that, we went to Munich, where it snowed. Really. We took a bus tour and learned many things about the city and its history, ate dinner in a traditional Munich Beerhall after which I allegedly got two of us lost trying to direct a Turkish taxi driver to our hotel in German, a language I don't speak unless drunk.

The jury (as far as I'm concerned) is still out on that one.

Year before last was Amsterdam. A fascinating city. Some of us visited the Anne Frank House, a deeply moving experience, and something that any visitor to the city should not fail to take. We also took a canal boat tour, and sampled the local cuisine, which wasn't what I'd expected. There was a bit of shopping, and my luggage was damaged on the return trip, but I'd go back...

Last year, it was the South of France - Nice, to be exact, possibly the best trip we've taken yet. The weather was 20 degrees Celsius and not a cloud in the sky. Got a bit chilly at night, but life is flawed. We took a trip down the coast to Monaco where there was a Christmas Fair - they actually imported snow - and watched as a British tourist almost got himself shot (or bayoneted, perhaps) by the Palace Guard for approaching too close with his video camera while ignoring audible (and obvious) challenges to halt.

And so to Milan.

I passed through it last year, at about 4am on a train to Rome. I'm looking forward to seeing the Duomo, although I fear we may be unable to get tickets at short notice for Leonardo's Last Supper. But there will be other opportunities. I'll be happy enough to wander about the city and absorb some of its antiquity...