Thursday, 31 December 2009

And So, The End Is Near...

The end of another year, that is; and as we stagger drunkenly towards the precipice of 2010, it's time to reflect on the year that has been 2009.

The apex of the year was, indubitably, the Irish Six Nations Rugby Grand Slam, our first in over sixty years, and only our second ever. My money is on a repeat performance in 2010.

By contrast, the nadir will have been Ireland's failure to qualify for the football World Cup in South Africa, of which the less said, the better.

That being said, the year held highs and lows for everyone, many of which remain, naturally, subjective. It was a year of achievement for many, a year of challenges for others, a year of opportunities for all, some taken, some not.

Personally, there were certain things that I wanted to say this year but didn't, and certain things that I did say which perhaps (on mature reflection) might have been better considered.

I was going to end the year with a joke, but perhaps a song instead, courtesy of Mr. Bear McCreary and Sahneknuffi



Maybe 2010 will be the year we make contact...

Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In Keeping With Tradition...

...I'd like to wish everyone out there the compliments of the season, and hope that you'll extend and enjoy the traditional goodwill that is supposed to encircle this tiny world of ours at this point in its march around our star.

Be excellent to each other, and incredible to yourselves...

A Spot of Seasonal Coffee...

It is our custom, in the company where I work in my secret identity, for us to serve a festive Irish Coffee and perhaps a mince pie to our colleagues in the IT Dept and certain selected guests from outside IT.

The event began as a small, in-the-room thing before we broke up for Christmas, but word got out and before long it was department-wide, to the extent that it's now part of the pre-Christmas social calendar.

The guest list runs to about 120, including former colleagues who've moved on to other things, supplier reps we deal with during the year, and friends.

Glasses are generously supplied by a local pub, and the glassware is washed before and after by our Canteen staff. Everything else is supplied and organised by ourselves on a completely unofficial, under-the-radar basis, and the whole thing takes place in two hours on the Friday before Christmas.

It's a fun event, and I enjoy organising it, but what I especially enjoy is the theme, devised each year by Jennifer, Dave and Enda, and usually involving my face and Photoshop, and only unveiled as the event commences.

In previous years I've been Yoda, The Grinch, Santa Claus, Mr. Incredible and Dr.Evil (complete with Mini-Me). The one I liked best up to now was me as James Bond, but this year's production beat it into a cocked hat.

This year, they did Star Trek.




Paramount Pictures Corporation
in association with
Coffee Entertainment
Present
A Bad Robert Production
 
Star Trek: Infection
 
Based on characters and situations created by Gene Roddenberry


Captain’s Log, Star date 7276.3:

"Following an unscheduled layover on Bobulus 4 for repairs, during which the entire crew attended a banquet hosted by its leader, Chancellor Bahb (a former member of the Klingon High Council), it appears that most of the crew are experiencing alarming changes in physical form. The changes appear to occur in three stages, and already, Bones and I have reached stage two (total hair loss); we have ordered resized uniforms in anticipation of the final transformation. We initially thought Lt. Commander Spock had escaped infection, but he is beginning to look incredibly  familiar.                                                                             

Uhura is at an advanced stage, and seems to be losing her mind; she has begun to randomly quote Shakespeare, and insists that all communications systems are backed up hourly.


She has been banned from wearing short skirts.

Many of the crew have had their ID details tattooed on their foreheads to aid identification. The ID’s were structured using a cleverly designed naming convention (my ID is KRKENT01). Bones has been able to link the contamination to a strange concoction of whiskey and coffee served by Chancellor Bahb.  On Federation orders, we are now proceeding at warp speed to the planet Earth, in an attempt to prevent a mass infection, rumoured to be planned for Star date 7278.4 (18th Dec. 2009 earth time). 

While there, we have been ordered to ensure that all those infected are given the antidote, which is only attainable from a mysterious location known as the Palace of Gins.

Captain’s Log, supplemental:

Found the Palace of Gins.........God I love this town.....MUHA.....MUHA..........

MUHAHAHAHHAAHAAAHHAAAAAAAA!!!!"



But it all worked out in the end...


What they'll come up with for next year, I have no clue, but I bet it'll be just as good...

Monday, 14 December 2009

TV Meme...

I haven't done a meme (memed? been memetic?) in a while, but today I came upon this one. I wonder what my viewing choices say about me?

Taken from The Urban Recluse, who got it from SamuraiFrog

Rules:
- Bold all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime.
- Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it.


24 
7th Heaven - Sunday evenings in my parents' house -strangely compelling...
ALF - stupid, but fun...
Alias
American Gothic
America’s Next Top Model 

Angel - I've seen most of it in reruns, and all of the final season (Smile Time was a favourite)
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Batman: The Animated Series - never missed an episode, though RTE/ITV cut it to bits or mis-scheduled it...
Battlestar Galactica (the old one) - I have it on DVD
Battlestar Galactica (the new one) - ditto
Baywatch - I am human, after all :)
Beverly Hills 90210 (original)
Bewitched - a classic...
Bonanza - another classic.
Bones
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal - "Denny Crane." No more need be said.
Boy Meets World
Brothers And Sisters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - multiple times
Californication
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels

Charmed - wasn't as good after Shannen left...
Cheers
Chuck - never got into it...
Clarissa Explains it All
Columbo - "Just one more question..."
Commander in Chief
Crossing Jordan
CSI
CSI: Miami
CSI: NY
Curb Your Enthusiasm - I've never been able to sit through a whole episode without wanting to smack Larry David about the head. Repeatedly. In the same league as Seinfeld.
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
DaVinci’s Inquest - a great show, usually only seen late at night on cable.
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me - interesting concept, but it kind of lost its way, I thought.
Deadwood
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dexter
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who - I'm rewatching the Tom Baker years now...
Dragnet - showing my age with that one :)
Due South - "Thank you kindly."
ER
Everwood
Everybody Loves Raymond - not me...
Facts of Life
Family Guy
Farscape
Fawlty Towers
Felicity
Firefly
Frasier
Freaks & Geeks

Friends
Fringe - I don't get it, though...
Futurama
Get Smart - another classic
Gilligan’s Island
Gilmore Girls

Gossip Girl
Grey's Anatomy
Grange Hill
Growing Pains
Gunsmoke
Happy Days
Hercules: the Legendary Journeys
Heroes
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
House - didn't like it at first, but it grew on me...
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy
Invader Zim
Invasion
Hell’s Kitchen - not if I was bleeding out my eyes...
JAG
Jackass
Joey
Kim Possible
Knight Rider
Knight Rider: 2008
Kung Fu
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order
Law and Order: SVU
Law and Order: CI
Leverage
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost - picked it up again last season after a Bob-imposed hiatus
Lost in Space - "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!!"
MASH
MacGyver
Malcolm in the Middle
Married… With Children
McLeod’s Daughters
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible
Mod Squad
Monk
Mork & Mindy
Murphy Brown
My Life As A Dog
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Mythbusters
NCIS
Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Nip/Tuck
Numb3rs
One Tree Hill
Oz
Perry Mason - Ironside, yes - Perry Mason, no...
Power Rangers
Press Gang
Prison Break
Private Practice
Privileged 

Profiler
Project Runway
Psych
Pushing Daisies
Quantum Leap
Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (UK)
ReGenesis
Remington Steele
Rescue Me
Road Rules
ROME
Roseanne
Roswell
Sanctuary
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Scrubs
Seaquest DSV
Seinfeld - the least funny show I've ever seen three episodes of...
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
Smallville
So Weird
South of Nowhere
South Park
Spongebob Squarepants
St. Elsewhere
Star Trek
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise
Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1
Starsky & Hutch
Superman
Supernatural
Surface
Survivor
Taxi
Teen Titans
That 70’s Show
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Amazing Race
The Andy Griffith Show
The A-Team
The Avengers
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Big Bang Theory
The Brady Bunch - but of course...
The Cosby Show - Sunday evenings
The Daily Show - more truthful than Fox News
The Dead Zone - mehh...
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls
The Honeymooners
The Jeffersons
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat
The Magnificent Seven
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Monkees
The Munsters
The Office (US)
The Powerpuff Girls
The Pretender
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons – I got sick of it being on five hours a day...
The Six Million Dollar Man - let's see them remake that...
The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
Unfabulous
Ugly Betty
Veronica Mars
Weeds
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)
Will and Grace
Wings
Xena: Warrior Princess



So how about it? Anyone out there want to have a go?


Anybody?


Bueller? 

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

This is One Of The Best Songs in The World...

A favourite song of mine, one to which I always enjoy listening, is "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, so can you:


However, I have observed, in my travels, that it has been performed by other artists:

Ethereally by the beautiful Sarah McLachlan -



Soulfully by the Bublé-like Jason Mraz, in a duet with composer Paul Williams - 



And soul-touchingly (you have to go there, sorry, but it's so worth it) by the legendary Willie Nelson.


Anybody out there have a favourite version?

Again, thank you YouTube, artists and contributors.


videos by darknesskaho, EarthlyHeavens and AnaCostaCtx

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Twilight? What On Neptune Is Twilight???

I was looking at the Film News section of the Entertainment page on RTE's website.

Of fifteen articles, eight appeared to be related to the activities or otherwise of the cast of the movie "Twilight".

None of whom I've ever heard...

Are people really that interested?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Transmundane? Me? There Are Those Who Say So...

I'd just like to begin by saying:

MUUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!

And now to explain why:

At the suggestion of Lee over at QYDJ and by the benificence (did I spell that correctly?) of Matt at Culture Kills... a recent post of mine has been nominated and accepted for a Transmundane Award!

This one:



I shall display it proudly...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Good Old BBC4...

As we speak, however figuratively, I'm watching Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in concert.

In Madison Square Garden, 2008.


It does not, metaphorically speaking, get better than this...

Picture by Debra L Rothenberg.

And Now, For Lee, This:

So I bought myself a Creative X-Fi2 today and, flushed with the inevitable sense of self-congratulation that comes from a successful and confident web purchase, clicked the Stumble button on my browser's toolbar to see what surprises the Great Web could deliver.

This was the first thing I found - I thought it only fitting to share:



Music and video by Ricardo Autobahn.

Curiously, the website where I found this was Lemondrop.com; seems to be one for the ladies, so I'm curious as to how Stumbleupon dropped it on my desktop.

While there, however, I discovered that a poll of 5000 women revealed that they consider an Irish accent to be the most sexy.

I may travel a bit more to test this theory...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A Band, You Say...

I had a comment to my last post from a guy named Josh who, it turns out, has a band that goes by the name of, er, Captain Incredible. A heavy rock group based in Dallas, pics and video can be found on their Myspace page.

I checked out the flyer Josh pointed me at:



and where you can find more of the same.

They've even got an Incredobile - check it out...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Mel Gibson's Back...

...in a remake of the 1985 BBC classic thriller, "Edge of Darkness".



The original, directed by Martin Campbell, starred Bob Peck, Joe Don Baker and Joanne Whalley, had a haunting soundtrack by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton, and was so popular that BBC repeated it twice in the same year, something unheard of in those days.

The remake, also directed by Martin Campbell, stars Gibson, Ray Winstone and Bojana Novakovic, and is set to open in the US in January 2010. Music is by Howard Shore, which can't be bad...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Books I've Been Reading...

I've recently finished a book entitled

"The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" by Kate Summerscale,

the account of an actual murder that took place in rural England in the 1860s, and the Scotland Yard detective whose task it was to investigate the case and unmask the killer.

It's a sad, yet fascinating story, not least because it actually took place, but also because the case is widely accepted as being the progenitor of detective stories in general and the country house murder story in particular.

Detective-Inspector Jonathan 'Jack' Whicher was one of the original recruits to the Detective Police from its inception in the early 1840s, and was widely regarded as one of the best in his field. When the assistance of Scotland Yard was requested by magistrates investigating the murder at Road Hill House, Whicher was selected to travel to the area and unravel what had occurred.

His investigations didn't please everyone, focussing as he did on the family of the victim rather than the servants, and he was not helped by local police who resented his intrusion as an outsider.

The investigation also opened the middle-class Victorian household, heretofore a bastion of privacy, to scrutiny by the masses via the press reports of the case and subsequent inquests and trials.

Not something I would necessarily have sought in a bookstore (Victorian true crime not high on my reading list), I received it as a gift and found it an excellent read.

I would be remiss in not recommending it.

I've also just finished "The Way We Die Now", by Charles Willeford, the last in his Hoke Moseley series, a noir tale about a Miami detective assigned to a secret investigation involving the disappearance of Haitian migrant workers on a farm in a neighbouring county.

Not having read the preceding books in the series (this was recommended by my former creative writing teacher), I have no real picture of the main character other than what I read in the final book, but it looks like he gets what he deserves in the end. Not sure I'll read the other three books in the series, but one never knows...

"Zoo Station" by David Downing is the story of an English journalist, John Russell, living and working in Berlin in 1939 who is approached by the Soviets to write a series of articles about life in Nazi Germany. With a 12-year-old son from a failed marriage to a German wife, and a German girlfriend, Russell is anxious to stay in the Reich as long as possible before the coming war, which everyone accepts as inevitable, breaks out.

Effectively a spy for the NKVD, Russell finds himself also working for the British while evading the SA and maintaining as much of a normal life as one could expect to live in the society of the time, taking his son to football matches and the zoo, dodging his landlady, covering events of the day, etc.

However when a colleague relates details of a story he has uncovered and enlists Russell's aid, the reporter finds himself looking over his shoulder and jumping at every shadow.

An engaging thriller, with a sequel 'Silesian Station' already available, the blurb on the back cover likens it to '...Robert Harris and Fatherland mixed with a dash of LeCarré.'

I'm looking forward to the next one...

Meanwhile, In Central City...

After the Aquaman video, I found this one featuring The Flash -

"The Ballad of Barry Allen":



Excellent stuff...

Music by Jim's Big Ego; video by tehbasil

Aquaman's Lament...

Some time ago, Lee posted a story which suggested that Aquaman might not be held in perhaps the highest esteem by his peers in the Justice League.

While visiting YouTube, I came upon this piece which suggests he might be on the needy side as well:



Judge for yourself...

Music and video by Mark Aaron James - I will be listening to more of his work...

Lisbon: Take Two...

At this moment, count centres all over this fair country are busy sorting ballot papers into three piles - Yes, No and Spoiled (for those who spell 'X' with a Y), to determine the result of Ireland's latest Constitutional Referendum, whether to approve the proposed 28th Amendment and allow ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

It is a feature of our society that any potential change to our Constitution has to be put to the Electorate in the form of a Referendum. There is no bar (as far as I know) to how many times a particular amendment may be proposed, as has been shown in matters involving divorce, abortion and EU affairs.

The Treaty of Lisbon (as it is also known) is designed to 'streamline' the workings of the European Union, now with 27 member states and expected to grow. Among the provisions of the Treaty (according to a pamphlet from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs) is the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into EU law, the appointment of a full-time President of the European Council; and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to speak for the Union on the international stage.

This is our second time to vote on this amendment - it was defeated the first time out (just like the Treaty of Nice, which we also got right the second time around), thanks to a lack of information from our Government on what it meant to us as a nation, and also to a concerted 'No' campaign by parties opposed to the Treaty.

Granted, information was available to those who chose to seek it out, but in carefully-worded legalese, and one can only read 'The party of the first part shall hereinafter be referred to as the party of the first part' before giving up and looking for the sanity clause which, as everyone knows, doesn't exist...

The Government told us it was good for the country and urged us to vote Yes, because if we didn't it would go against us in Europe. They didn't say how, but political cartoons suggested that we might have to stand in a corner wearing a pointy hat with a big D on it.

The Opposition parties urged a 'Yes' vote also, possibly on the basis that they'd one day be back in power and could either take credit or say 'It was the other fellow's fault' depending on the state of things when they got there.

But nobody would answer questions in any more detail about specific topics, such as whether Irish law could be determined from Brussels, how it would affect our constitutional position on neutrality; tax rates and ethical issues. For many the decision was made when it turned out that our own EU Commissioner claimed not to have even read the Treaty document.

With such uncertainty, and with more information coming from the
'No' side of the debate, 53% of those who voted, myself included, voted No.

Subsequent debate on the result suggested that we hadn't gotten it right, so our Taoiseach apologised to his EU colleagues and pledged to rerun the referendum, when, he felt, the Irish people would deliver a resounding
'Yes'.

And this time, the
'Yes' campaign put a bit more effort into things, short of making a nationwide broadcast to drum up support. Information was more freely available and there was debate. Yes, we would retain a Commissioner; no, Brussels couldn't force constitutional change; no, we weren't going to be part of a common defence policy, etc.

Disingenuously, however, much was made of the Treaty being about jobs and employment, which it isn't directly, while the
'No' side pushed the idea that we would become part of a federal state, a military superpower strengthening NATO's role in Europe.

Who'd want that?

Anyhow, the Irish people went once more to the polls to exercise their franchise, and when the Xs are counted and the Ys discarded, the feeling (and indeed hope) seems to be that the majority will be about 53% in favour of
'Yes'.

That okay, Brussels?

Can we take the pointy hat off now?

Cheers...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

I Despair Sometimes...

I went to my first management company AGM in four years last week.

Not that it's been that long since I bothered, but because the incumbent directors finally stepped down and allowed us to convene one.

We have been hounding them for years to call an AGM to discuss the building and its condition, but they have refused, something for which I believe they could be brought to task on under company law. But they've skated because they've submitted proper accounts over the years.

But certain developments in the Irish property market mean that our (now ex-)directors are divesting themselves of some of the more costly (to them) assets in their portfolios, including the block that they built and neglected for so long. And by stepping down and turning over control to the apartment owners, they gave us the chance to run things ourselves.

Which is where the despair sets in.

Arguably, the main purpose of the meeting was to agree the financial reports and elect new directors (something I'm not interested in being), however it was also an opportunity for certain individuals to score points against the property management company about their charges and how much things cost. All the time, nag, nag, nag...

Look, I get it; you don't want to pay money for the maintenance of the block. So what'll we use instead?

Magic beans maybe?

For those of you unfamiliar with Ireland, let me explain - we live in a rip-off economy. Everyone charges as much as he can for the product or service he sells, mostly because the government makes sure to get their rather exorbitant cut, and so he has to in order to make any kind of living, but sometimes due to greed. We're one of the most expensive places in Europe to live.

And it's a reality of this apartment block that it's in a high-traffic location, with people moving in and out all the time, so it's high-maintenance as well.

We have a daytime caretaker who also acts as security; he comes in at weekends and does a sweep-up on his own time for no extra money. We also have a cleaning service that comes in twice a week to do heavy cleaning - Bill does it the rest of the time.

We have a night security patrol who come through the place when Bill is off. With three entrances to the building from the street, we can't afford to employ concierge staff (not that that's common here anyway) although I've always thought that would be a good idea.

But despite the services we are getting, and the fact that the committee always tries to negotiate the best price, there's always the same voices sniping about the price of things: the accountant who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing; the teacher for whom her apartment is merely a weekday abode and who 'keeps a house in the country'; the absentee landlord who 'hates everything about the place and the filthy people' yet doesn't want to sell because prices might pick up.

They want the place repainted every year, new carpets, better lifts, steam cleaning, gold-plated toilets for all I know, but seem to expect someone to wave a magic wand...

The sooner I move out, the better...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

I Can't Think Of A Title For This Post...

I went to a party the other night, in a pub called 'Messrs. Maguire' on Burgh Quay in central Dublin.

Organised out of work, and starting with lunch, it was a farewell bash for Rebecca, the second of our two IT Graduates to leave us in the last two months, and we had a blast.

I got home at three a.m., something I haven't done in a long, long time, and slept until ten, something I do whenever possible.

And although it was a good night, it was something of a bittersweet occasion.

As I may have commented elsewhere, we have a good bunch of people where I work, and teams become closely-knit. There's generally a good atmosphere in the department and we're largely spared the political infighting that goes on at higher levels in every company. Except when it comes to holding onto talented personnel.

The case in point is this - each year, the company, in it's largesse, takes on a number of newly-minted college graduates as part of a two-year work experience program. In its defence, the company makes no bones about the fact that the term of contract is two years only, after which the candidate will be released to seek outside employment. Grads are however permitted to compete for any internal vacancies that arise under the standard T&Cs, so that's something.

However, it has been the case in the past where grads who have demonstrated ability have been taken on as permanent staff, and we were hoping this would be the case with both Rebecca and Ross. At the very least, they deserved a contract extension, and their team leaders and managers went to bat for them with the General Manager who, we understood, would take it up with our director and maybe get a result.

But nothing doing. Contracts up, no extensions. HR policy.

This despite the fact that five other grads on the same program have been kept in other departments, and one of them has been made permanent. I think at least one's in the HR directorate, in which case the hypocrisy is staggering.

My question is, what's the point? We take the time and trouble to train and develop people, only to be told there's no place for them at the end of it all. Then more time is wasted training their replacements. Not that I'm against giving people opportunities - I just think they should be rewarded properly for what they themselves put into it.

In Ross and Rebecca's cases, neither will be drawing unemployment - Ross got sorted with a job in a bank, while Rebecca starts a new job tomorrow, organised by her direct manager.

We're happy for both of them, but it's the wrong reason for a party...

Monday, 10 August 2009

Coming Shortly To A Cinema Near You...

...but perhaps much later to a cinema near me, is Whiteout, starring Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht and Tom Skerritt and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.

Here's a trailer:





A tale of murder, mystery and suspense in the frozen Antarctic wastes, if it's anything like the printed work it'll be a cracking movie.

One to which I've been looking forward for some time...

***Update***

Seems it's opening here on the 11th, so I don't have so long to wait after all. I just hope it doesn't go the way of The Spirit (which admittedly would be difficult) but there has been little if no advance word, and you know what that usually means...

A Small World...

I had something of a school reunion today.

Primary school, that is...

We had an engineer in today from one of our service providers to fit a new control panel. He paused for a moment when I introduced myself.

"Your face is familiar," he said, the way you do when you're trying to place someone but can't quite.

"I get that from time to time," I joked.

"You went to St Benedict's* National School, didn't you?"

Amazed at how he could possibly have known, I admitted that I had.

Turns out we were in the same class - over thirty years ago.

For my part, I must admit I didn't recognise him in return - although I have an old school photo that I must dig out - it's not scary if you fold back the end with the priest on it. Well it is, a bit**...

But it's bizarre that he recognised me - I think I've changed remarkably in appearance over the years, and I have way less hair than I used to when I was ten. It makes me wonder what sort of impression I must have made on people back then - was I a little monster? I don't think so, but I was no Boy Scout either.

I didn't go falling out of trees or tying tin cans to dogs' tails - and of the gang of us that hung out together and went tearing around on our bikes, I always thought of myself as being in the middle; rarely leading, but not dragging along behind either.

Strange...

Er, not me, you understand - just the episode in general terms...

*Name changed (as on Dragnet) to protect the innocent.
**And no, it wasn't one of those schools...

Back To Work...

Back to work today after a week's leave. Didn't go anywhere; I'm trying to get my apartment in some sort of shape to be worth putting on the market.

Not that there's much wrong with it - but informed sources tell me that the "spartan" look gives the impression of greater space - and no, that doesn't mean Gerard Butler greeting potential buyers with spear and shield.

Lena Headey, though - that might work.


Hmmm - better remind the estate agent to be careful when showing the balcony...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday, 29 June 2009

The Ultimate Answer...

I was going to blog about how, last weekend, a maintenance exercise undertaken by my colleagues in the network team led to the non-functionality of a disaster recovery setup on my Storage Area Network, and the subsequent recovery of the situation in less than 15 minutes by a man who is nothing less than the equivalent of a living legend among IT engineers, whose input code to resolve the issue translated from Hexadecimal to Decimal as '42'...

But you wouldn't be interested in that...

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Would You Like To Buy An O?

As Fred* will confirm, I've always been a fan of Sesame Street.

Excuse me while I remove a fly that's crawling on Jo Whiley's face...

Okay, that's better. Now where was I?

Oh, right - Sesame Street. Every now and again, a guy in a trenchcoat and hat would try and sell Ernie things for a nickel, like an empty box, or air, etc., with varying degrees of success.

His name is Lefty the Salesman, and one has to admire his dedication - might even give Mr. CMOT Dibbler a run for his money.

Some of his initial forays into the field of supply/demand were not altogether successful, to wit:



However, Lefty was nothing if not a trier, and although his initial attempts at independence were less than wholly successful:



Lefty nonetheless persisted, refining his salesmanship skills with various ideas, up to and including this - one of his finest moments, if (spoiler alert) sadly unsuccessful:



I'dve bought it, wouldn't you?

*Our regular reader

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Thursday - Reprise...

Okay, the Cubs won 6 to 5, the beer's still gone.

But it's nearly Friday and so far, no callouts...

Today I got my new laptop with MS Vista on it, so my training course on Tuesday would not have been for nothing.

It's smaller than the machine it replaced, with a whole raft of cool features that our IT Security Dept has seen fit to disable, so I'll have to be creative when it comes to personalising it.

It has a little pop-out light, presumably so you can use it on aeroplanes at night, plus a DVD rewriter (disabled), Internet (restricted), games (deleted), wi-fi (nope), and so on.

It took four hours to transfer my documents from my old machine to the new one, so I didn't have time to reinstall all my old software and recover my music library, but that's what Fridays are for and I've only one meeting tomorrow.

Aside from that, the day went largely without incident, and I got to make a site visit to our other DataCentre to observe a demonstration of controlled media destruction, something I'm going to have a lot of in the next few months.

Left at 7 after giving up on MS Exchange 2007 (too much information) and headed home, expecting rain...

Week's nearly over.

Thursday...

Haven't the energy...

Watching Chicago WS vs Chicago Cubs on ESPN.

5 to 5 in the bottom of the 9th, Cubs at bat.

Beer gone...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Wednesday...

So I was supposed to go to this supplier roadshow in the Four Seasons Hotel this morning, but several team members had also expressed an interest so, as it was closer to their areas of expertise than mine, I elected to take a raincheck and hold down the fort with Ciaran and Tony.

In truth, I didn't mind - it meant I didn't have to be up and out at 7:30am, something I hate.

So I strolled into work at my usual 9:15, into the mouth of chaos.

The server that screens incoming mail threw a disk; fortunately it was in a mirror set which meant digging out a spare and swapping it in. No big deal.

Tony took care of it while Ciaran and I tried to work out why the server that manages the SAN appliance in my DataCentre was no longer responding to outside control.

There didn't appear to be anything wrong - all the lights were green, there was network traffic apparently going through it, but d'you think we could log on?

Nope.

In a case like that I'd simply push the button to power it off, then boot it back up again, however I had a question regarding the underlying resource management, so I decided to wait for expert advice. Better that than take a chance and be wrong, which happened to a colleague earlier this year (see below).

Turned out pushing the button was the thing to do.

So I did.

I was returning from a coffee break when I spotted Alison from application support coming down the hall with Tony. Now, usually when someone from one of the apps needs something, they phone or email. If they show up at your desk, something's up.

Or in this case, down.

The Customer Services system had, it seemed, taken a senior moment and gone to sleep. Again.

This is the self-same application to which I referred above, and the best way I can find to describe it is to quote (albeit very loosely) from Terry Pratchett:

"You know the way some people have one leg shorter than the other?"
"Yes?"
"'Cos, with me, see, it's that - "
"Don't tell me; both legs are shorter than the other?"
"Yeah..."

Fortunately, in this instance Alison and Tony recalled how the application had been rescued last time, and got it up and stumbling again in short order.

And it still wasn't lunchtime.

And then it was...

After lunch, there was a team meeting to bring us up to speed with departmental strategy for the next few months and close off old items. Scheduled for an hour, it took 90 minutes, but that was okay.

The rest of the day was spent sorting through license keys and emails trying to find more information for my supplier, who appears to be having trouble telling the difference between 21 and 18 (and the regular reader will know that I don't mean this in an age-related context).

I left at 6:30pm, my MP3 trying to play something from the Mission: Impossible III soundtrack, bought the office syndicate's lottery tickets (which didn't win anything) and came home.

Another day, done...

Oh, yeah - meant to say, that patch update yesterday worked - no more backup issues...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Tuesday...

No breakfast.

But it's a nice day, which counts for something.

My first job this morning was to investigate why half of a backup job failed twice the previous evening. It was localised to one particular server, so the application of some patches might prove effective.

Tune in tomorrow...

More backup maintenance - a client returned his backup request form with updated details of his requirements - sadly, it wasn't the up-to-date version I sent him (bizarre, that) so there was stuff missing. I corrected his homework and returned it to him with a 'Must try harder' notation. At least he returned his - many people don't, and yet expect us to know what they want in terms of data backup. I'm good, but I'm not psychic...

I set up a test job for some other clients before lunch, then headed out to my training course.

Three hours' mandatory training in an OS I've been using at home for over a year. But I managed to stroll through Trinity College, which on a summer's day is a fine thing to do.

The course was not a total waste of time - I learned a few things about Office 2007 I didn't previously know, and was impressed by the thing that happens when you press the Windows key and Tab at the same time.

Got back to the office in time to see everyone else leave, then spent the next hour trying to work out why the software licenses I got back from the supplier were three short and one wrong of the twenty-one I sent for update.

Left at 7pm; went for a pint in the GP, my local bar a block west of the office.

Not cynical yet - the sun's still up...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Monday...

...And I've gotta get out of here, I've gotta make everything clear...

So today it was hard labour, moving half a ton of scrap-to-be down two floors to the basement, around the underground labyrinth before, like Sisyphus rolling his stone uphill, I had to push it up a 45 degree gradient to where the truck waited, at ground level.

Unlike Sisyphus, I had help. So that was good.

The rest of the morning was spent with applications' requests for resources, a couple of special backups, the near-conclusion of the purchase of a new lineprinter (that started in March!) and something about loaves and fishes that one of our subsidiaries seems to think I can do and won't take 'No, dammit!' for an answer.

And so to lunch.

It was nice.

I had chicken.

The afternoon brought troubleshooting:

Data Protector backup failures (just a glitch, I'm sure);
Data Protector report failures (see above);
Data Protector user instruction;
Data Protector user correction;

Change control - a seven-page extravaganza (did I spell that correctly?) that I may have mentioned previously;

A thank-you and closure of a forum thread that solved a problem in short order;

Data Protector licensing changes;

SAN client resource provision and deployment;

Investigation of weekend security issue (nothing much* to do with me - I was just helping out);

Discussion of same and relative comedic merits of Steve Martin movies, to wit, Martin's most recent funny movie. Some schools of thought contend that 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' is his most recent comedy triumph, whereas others suggest that 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles' is the capstone of his career.

Personally, I feel that 'Planes...' was funny more for the pathos-laden performance of the late John Candy than for the contribution of Steve Martin, while '..Scoundrels' marked the true pinnacle of his career to date (Ruprecht the Monkey Boy a masterpiece).

But I digress:

Sourcing and provision of operating manual for associate team use.
.
.
.
Groceries.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Reboot observation of a business-critical server (it worked fine, in case you were wondering).
.
Diary update...
.
And here we are.

Think Tuesday's gonna be any better? I've got Vista training and they haven't even given me a Vista workstation yet. What does that say?

Tune in tomorrow and find out...

*Early-morning insomnia-busting phone message (but we won't go into that)...

The Week Ahead...

So it appears I can post from work now?

The excuses will be harder to come by...

I'm going to try and keep a diary of my work week - apparently, from a health manual issued by the company's Occupational Health Dept last week, I show all the signs of being stressed out.

I'm by no means unique in that - I want to make that abundantly clear - however it was a bit of an eye-opener seeing it in print in a document the company went to some trouble to produce.

As an aside, the booklet is called 'Male Minder' a cunning pune or play on words given that we work for the Post Office. My boss said that she had gotten one too. I asked if the company had produced a 'lady version' and wondered what they had called it, but no, it was the same one. Seems everyone is getting it, regardless of gender, which seems egalitarian until you consider that it covers such topics as 'Prostate Health' and 'Erectile Dysfunction' in addition to 'Coping with Stress'.

But you didn't need to know that.

So what am I doing this week?

Let's see:

Monday - getting rid of half a ton of scrap in the form of old hard drives. We have a contractor coming to turn them into tinfoil, but someone still has to help load the truck. Must observe OHD guidelines on lifting things. I'm also scheduled to get a new MS Vista laptop as part of our technology refresh program.

Tuesday - troubleshooting a date/time synchronisation issue with one of our main applications. I have four months to come up with a solution but I don't like to leave things hanging too long. Training in Windows Vista (ahahaha...).

Wednesday - a breakfast briefing in new technology at the Four Seasons Hotel. Coffee and croissants, which I like, but having to wear a tie, which I don't. HP will try to sell me their new server tech, and Microsoft will be pushing Internet Explorer 8. I'm not easily impressed, but I don't have a budget, so I'll take their pastries. I also prefer Firefox.

Thursday - meetings with project managers to persuade them that their business-critical applications need to go SAN-based and even virtual. It's a project we're putting a lot into, so it's important to get them on board. I'm actually sort of looking forward to it, but my enthusiasm may diminish as we go on.

Friday - as little as possible. We make no changes on Fridays, since any cock-ups can eat into the weekend, and that's just not on.

Also, I'm on 24-hour call this week, so anything can happen.

Stay tuned for further updates as the week progresses.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Musical? Me???

The lovely PJ over at The Urban Recluse has posted on how, if she were a musical scale, she would be classified as Aeolian (and all that that implies).

I, on the other hand, would appear to be Dorian in nature - you know, annoys senior doctors and janitorial staff:

"You tend to be a bit of a cynic, and perhaps a bit of an intellectual snob. You have a small group of friends, all of whom admire you, but you have a hard time opening up to people you don't know. People will tell you that you're hard to figure out. It's probably because you keep your emotions hidden from almost everyone."

Which seems about right ('cept maybe the intellectual snob bit...), since all my medical knowledge has been obtained from MASH and Scrubs and I've never performed surgery on anyone of which I'm aware...

Although on reflection, perhaps I might have expected to be Aeolian as well...

Who knows???

Sunday, 24 May 2009

I Was Looking For This...



but also found this:



I haven't heard a lot of Lily Allen's stuff, but I like this...

Actually, the song I was looking for was 'Rhino Skin' by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, but one thing led to another on YouTube and the search went from there to Wilburys and then ELO and my favourite song.

Anyhow, feel free to speak your minds - just remember, my vengeance is boundless, my wrath Khan-like, etc...

Space: The Final Frontier (revisited)...

I'd been ambivalent about seeing the new Star Trek movie, not because it was a J.J. Abrams picture, but more because of all the secrecy surrounding it.

Y'know, less information than an episode of Lost.

Bad Robot. Bad, bad robot...


So I wasn't queueing up to see it on release day; I figured, I'll get to it. Anyway, I left work early on Thursday 7th and happened to be passing the cinema where a show was due to start fifteen minutes later. Impulse got the better of me and in I went.

So where to begin?

Romulans again - okay, fair enough, the movie needs a bad guy, so maybe Abrams is saving the Klingons for the next picture. But would Romulan society have changed so much by the era of Ambassador Spock that one might expect characters the like of Nero and his crew? Curious.

James T. Kirk should never have made it to adulthood. Despite an appreciation of classical music and a lack of appreciation for antique autos, his self-destructive streak should have won out in his early teens.

Unless the penalty for auto theft in Iowa is fifteen years, which could explain a lot (chasing women, unable to hold his liquor, no respect for authority, etc).

That being said, Chris Pine did a fine job of rebooting one of the most iconic characters in science fiction without descending into a parody of Shatner. There were hints, of course - Pine obviously did his homework and there were moments - a reaction here, a gesture there - that pointed toward the man James Kirk would become. Bear in mind that this Kirk is ten years younger than the one who originally took command of his Enterprise and thus might be said to be an 'unfinished' version of the legendary captain.

We had a rare look at Spock's childhood, only previously glimpsed in the Animated Series episode, Yesteryear, and the pivotal moment of his decision to enter Starfleet rather than the Vulcan Science Academy. Zachary Quinto was spot-on as the adult Spock, although I thought his voice closer to Tuvok than to Spock. But that's just me.

Karl Urban, everyone seems to agree, was channelling DeForest Kelley in his portrayal of Leonard McCoy and, to my mind, was excellent in the role without, again, descending into parody. Urban, one will recall, played Eomer of Rohan in The Lord of The Rings trilogy, as well as the assassin Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy, and ably demonstrates an impressive acting range.

The remaining crewmembers - Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yeltchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) all got decent screen-time and slotted in well, although Scotty was a bit too much of a clown for my liking. The original Scotty was a serious man who didn't joke about his work (except that one time) and I thought the producers might have stuck more closely to that, but then they cast Pegg, so what should I have expected?

But the movie was excellent, a non-stop, two-hour rollercoaster with action, pathos and comedy in all the proper places. Abrams's idea in telling the story was nothing short of brilliant - nobody goes home unhappy, and the ongoing mission will continue for some years yet.

I took my dad and a friend of ours, both of whom remembered the series from its first run on TV, to see the movie last Monday, and both were as fully impressed as I was. They thought Scotty was portrayed as a bit of a clown, as well. So it wasn't just me.

Last Friday, I saw it for the third time with a group of friends - later, one of the girls, who wasn't by any means a Star Trek fan, wanted to know how to do the Vulcan salute. She'll need a bit of practice, and probably won't be able to hold a pen in that hand for a while, but will have learned what she may feel is the equivalent of a Masonic handshake.

So here's to the next adventure of the USS Enterprise and her crew - clear skies to her, and all who sail in her...



Saturday, 23 May 2009

Times Change...

I've been getting fed up with the state of things lately, from the economy to my job, to my so-called life and all the crap I've had to put up with from people lately.

So I think either my mid-life crisis is kicking in (which is a real pisser, because I don't have anywhere to park a red sports car) or I've just woken up to be the bitter, cynical old man I've been growing into for the last five years or so.

This in spite of having seen Star Trek three times in two weeks.

So welcome to the new-look site.

Enter at your peril, tremble before my might, etc...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Two-Nil, And They F**ked It Up...

You know, I went to a football match the other day.

Tottenham Hotspur were playing some other chaps, I don't remember who they were, but they were awfully good...

Actually, it was Manchester Utd, at Old Trafford, with the lead pipe.

My dad, my nephew and I tried our luck and went to another game last Saturday. The regular reader will know what we should have expected, and part of me was intrigued as to whether what my friends have termed 'The Bob Effect' would kick in and help the visitors to victory.

By half time, with United 2-0 down, things looked to be on track for just that.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall of both teams' changing rooms at the interval:

Harry Redknapp (Spurs Manager): "You're doing great lads, but let's not get carried away. Keep plugging away at them and watch your defence."

Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd Manager): What the f**k are ye f**kin' playin' at, ye f**kers? Get back out there and f**kin' score goals or ye'll be f**kin' playin' in the Schools League by the time I'm f**kin' finished wi' ye!!!"

I'm paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea.

The teams came back out, the game restarted, and United put five in the Spurs' net between that and the final whistle.

Needless to say, Father and Nephew were delighted - duck broken, a solid result.

As for myself - although I'm a solid A.B.U. (Anybody But United) I couldn't help but appreciate what was, at the end of the day, a good result* to an excellent game.

Next thing you know, I'll start going to church again...

*looked like a penaly to me...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Spam Alert...

I'd been away from my computer for several days and just checked in to get my email, only to find I'd been comment-spammed, in what appears to be Chinese, by someone called Ed.

I got a whole bunch of comments, apparently links to websites, on April 6th.

Comments may disappear for a time while I try to work out how to get rid of Ed's unwelcome contributions.

Thank you and good afternoon...

Monday, 30 March 2009

A Heartfelt Apology...

To football fans everywhere, to most of the 60,001* other people who attended the Ireland - Bulgaria World Cup Qualifier in Dublin last Saturday, and to Kevin Kilbane.

Why?

Well Fred, I'm glad you asked me that.

Y'see, it's like this - on no occasion where I have been to a competitive senior football match, whether at club level or international, has the team I went to support emerged victorious.

Not that I've been to so many; and in some ways that makes it worse, because I know so many people who are better and more devoted fans of the sport and the team than I.

So maybe I just need practice - you know, learn the songs, sing with abandon, work out the meaning of the expression

"They've got strength in depth" (???)

etc.

The first game I can remember being brought to was against Bulgaria, at Dalymount Park, Dublin, in October 1977, at which Ireland managed a 0-0 draw.

It went downhill from there, and the team, with me in attendance, never managed a better result until last Saturday's match, the result of which was a 1-1 draw**.

Inananyway, as we say in Dublin, my victory-vs-attendance record is, in statistical terms, negative, to the extent that I believe it may be some strange super-power that resists my using it for personal purposes.

This is the bit where I apologise to Kevin Kilbane, one of Ireland's most-capped players and the man who inadvertently scored an own-goal to help Bulgaria to an equaliser on Saturday.

Sorry, Kevin - I can only presume that my presence at Croke Park caused some sort of field imbalance that caused your nervous system to react involuntarily as that ball passed you, foiling your attempt at what would otherwise have been a perfect clearance.

There may be hope, however.

As an experiment to see whether this power can be directed in any way (not 'inananyway' - that's different), I plan to attend the Manchester Utd - Tottenham Hotspurs game at Old Trafford, Manchester, on April 25th next.

As a gesture to Liverpool fans, I plan to quietly support Manchester, which could conceivably cost them three points and potentially the Premiership title.

Getting out of Manchester alive could be problematic, but I am not without resources.

* The official attendance was 60,002
** Note to American viewers - the result of a match (game) is considered a draw (tie) if both teams have scored the same number of goals (points) at the end of normal playing time. A draw is considered a legitimate result, ultimate victory being decided either on goal difference or by means of a penalty shootout (but not with guns).

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Bob's Milanian Adventure...

Regular readers (hello, Fred) may remember I mentioned I'd be visiting Milan with some friends back in December.

Which I did.

However, it's taken until now to distil the events of that weekend into something that was neither too brief

"We went to Milan - it rained, the food was excellent, we came home..."

nor too overdone

"Bright was the sun and high our hearts as we set forth on yet another glorious adventure...etc"...

So here it is:

Ah, Milan...

As I may have mentioned previously, it is our custom, where I work in my secret identity, for a number of us to travel abroad for a weekend in December.

Last year, we visited Nice, which was very - beautiful.

The sun shone, the temperature only dipped in the evening, there was a Ferris Wheel and artificial snow which, as everyone will agree, are the very cornerstones of a good weekend away.

But locations such as that are few and far between when one's ideal travel time is three hours or less, so this year we decided on Milan.

We flew into Malpensa (which for some reason I can't help translating as 'bad thoughts') airport on Friday evening, arriving at approx 2030hrs local time. Nobody had checked luggage, so we didn't have to wait with the other passengers and so headed straight for the train that would take us into the city. The train journey took 11 Euro and 42 minutes, and one of our party managed to get on without a valid ticket.


Can you spot him?

We had a restaurant reservation for 2200hrs. It was going to be close.

One of the things one can't plan for when visiting a foreign city is the possibility of a public transport strike, and indeed this was what we encountered upon leaving the station in Central Milan.

It appeared the entire Milanian* public transit infrastructure, with the exception of taxis, had shut down for 4 hours in advance of our arrival, so what taxis were to be had were scarce. That being said, we managed, and got to our hotel in pretty good time, where we checked in, requested four more cabs, dropped off our luggage, quickly freshened up, and headed out to eat.

The restaurant, for any of you planning a trip to Milan anytime soon, is called Anema e Cozze, at 15 Via Palermo.

It's a Pizzeria with a line in seafood, and if you visit Milan, it's worth a look.

We arrived at about 2230 to find that our table wasn't yet ready, but we didn't have to wait long, and by the time the last of us had arrived, we were all set.


Our waiter wasn't Milanian, as it turned out, but Neapolitan, and recommended appetisers and wine which were spot-on, although Calamari remains, for me anyway, an acquired taste. He paid particular attention to Rebecca, which was right and proper and by which she appeared delighted, this being her first trip away with the group.

Two hours later, after paying the bill (€500 between 14, including a decent tip), we headed out in search of a bar in which to round out the evening. Curiously, the only place we could find that appeared to still be open was a French-themed music bar called Sans-Égal, where the drinks were expensive enough that you didn't have too many.

We were back at our hotel by two-thirtyish. And so to bed.

Saturday:

It is my custom, when on the away mission, to eat breakfast and then take a walk around the immediate area, to get a sense of where things are. So, on Saturday morning, armed with a map of last resort, I headed down to the breakfast room so see whether anyone else had surfaced yet.

They had not.

I was met at the door by a waitress, who bade me good morning.

"Buongiorno, Signore. Solo?"

It took me a moment to realise that she had not, in fact, mistaken me for Robert Vaughn's UNCLE agent, but was asking whether I was by myself. Having conducted me to my table, my waitress reinforced just how stylish and cosmopolitan Milan is by not removing the second place setting.

Breakfast was freshly-squeezed orange juice, fruit salad, croissants and strong, black coffee with hot milk.

Leaving a message for two of my colleagues to say where I was going and how long I expected to be, I went out into a light but persistent rain and headed toward where I believed the nearest Metro Station to be. Having located that, I was free to stroll about and explore.

I walked for about forty minutes in the rain, marvelling at local parking techniques (it seems one may park anywhere as long as damage is not caused to another vehicle) and listening to Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack on my MP3. Determined not to get lost, I resolved to make only right turns, and thus found myself back at the hotel without too much difficulty.

By the time I returned, some of the gang had made it down for breakfast, and it didn't take long for most of the rest to appear. We made our plans for the day and set off for the Metro station that I had found, and three stops later emerged into the rain at Duomo, the city's central plaza and site of the third-largest Roman Catholic church in the world. I guess St Peter's in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris are the other two.


Note: Don't try to buy multiple tickets at the automated kiosk in a metro station - it doesn't work.

But I digress.

One of the primary reasons for going to Milan was so that Renée could visit Prada.


It's just down that galleria. On the left.

She and Therese spent nearly an hour inside, and Renée bought a hat, so her weekend was made.

Nearly everyone else waited outside for her to emerge.

For my part, I found a music store next to a rather stylish McDonald's (I know - oxymoron) and investigated it with Paul and Ross, the newbies. There were two departments - Classical, on the First floor**, and Everything Else, in the Basement. The first floor sounded like Bach and smelled of pot-pourri; the basement, two floors down, smelled of sewer and sounded like Rod Stewart. Smell did it for the lads and we left as quickly as possible before fully investigating the possibilities of the department.

After rejoining the team, we wandered through the Christmas Market looking for what we believed was a larger Christmas Market, but didn't find one. What we did find was a huge fortress, centuries old and largely untouched by WWI or WWII, now a museum and public park. There's even a moat, which the rain was doing a valiant, if ineffective, job of filling.


Back at the hotel, we sat in the bar distributing Christmas presents (yay!) and trying to decide where to go that night. We had been given a list of possibilities by a colleague before leaving Dublin, but ended up taking a recommendation from the concierge for a place on the south side, in the Canal district, or Navigli. A ten-minute, 4-taxi ride took us to Osteria Del Pallone in the Viale Gorizia.

I must remain ignorant of most of the details, as I was compelled to leave with a sudden and blinding headache, but the staff were friendly, the food was good and everyone appeared to be having a good time while I was there, despite the fact the power went out - twice.

And there was singing...

***

Sunday, and once again (and unsurprisingly), no early shows for breakfast. This was because many of the group did not get back until after three a.m. I know this because the paracetamol had dulled but not eliminated my migraine, so I was still awake to hear Maree (at least I think it was Maree) shushing the others as they all headed down the hall for their rooms saying

"Don't wake Bob..."

Wasn't that nice? Five years ago it was balloons at three a.m., but that's another story (No, not that kind of story...).

But back to breakfast.

Pretty much the same as Saturday, but more relaxed. I took a longer, more circuitous walk afterwards, to see a bit more of the outlying area and the architecture, etc.

I took some photos - I like architecture - and made my way back to pack up before my friends finished breakfast, and we all made our way on foot to Duomo, a stroll that took us past more of Milan's architectural highlights and another Christmas Fair.


There was no artificial snow this year, but they did their best, however we missed a red bus tour when it arrived early and didn't stop at its designated pick-up point.

Undaunted, we took our time and revisited the centre, where after lunch at an outdoor restaurant (where sparrows hopped around, occasionally crapping on things) I took a tour of the cathedral, including the roof, which turned out to be finished in marble, so one could keep one's footing.

Had to endure some slight ridicule from security (never mind why), but life is flawed, after all.

I met up with the others by accident more than anything else, and after a bit of shopping we all headed back to the hotel to collect our luggage and head for Cadorna and the airport shuttle.

On the way, most of the group stopped at a novelty store to buy souvenirs, and we drifted back in groups to the hotel. Some of us stopped outside a canine pet store with a litter of puppies playing in the window, from which Jennifer, like an orphan out of a Dickens novel, had to be almost surgically separated. I would've taken a picture, only the flash might've frightened the babies, and I'm really a dog person.

We half-dragged Jennifer away from the puppies (she'd have adopted them all if she could've smuggled them home) and returned to the hotel to wait for the others, after which four taxis took us to Cadorna and the Malpensa Shuttle.

Arriving at the airport, we discovered that our flight would be delayed by one hour, delivering us in Dublin at approx 0030hrs. I also learned that if it didn't arrive, the next scheduled light out of Milan was at 0600 to Casablanca, a little out of our way. Happily, there was time for pizza and beer and a trip to the duty-free (it would've been rude not to,after all).

However, Aer Lingus were as good as their word and arrived as promised, and we arrived home as scheduled, whereupon I phoned in a day's leave for Monday, based on the lateness of the hour and all...

The committee sits in June or thereabouts to decide next year's destination - I'm already looking forward to it...

*I know it's not the correct adjective, but I liked it.
**Do I really need to explain?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

What???

So a guy goes to the doctor, he tells the doctor,

"Doctor, I think I'm going deaf."

The doctor examines him, does all the stuff like shining the little light in his ears, y'know, but doesn't find anything wrong.

So he says to the guy,

"Can you describe the symptoms?"

The guy says

"What did you say?"

The doctor repeats, louder:

"CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SYMPTOMS?"

And the guy thinks about it and says

"Well, Homer's a big fat guy, Marge has blue hair..."

Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Spirit of Romance Is ???

So I was sitting at my desk during the week, trying to finish a report, and happened to glance out my window at the street below.

There was a guy in a bizarrely-bright yellow coat and blonde curly wig walking up and down with a sign pointing to a shop further down the street. But he was also wearing a sort of sandwich-board advert style of thing, upon which was written

"Show your Valentine you love her with a ring from Cash Converters..."

I believe the community expression is

WTF?

Although LOL seems, also, strangely appropriate...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A New Era...

In between other things, however, I, like a sizable percentage of the world's population, also tuned in to see what will be remembered in years to come as a pivotal moment in history, as the Kennedy inauguration was for our parents (or grandparents, depending on how young you are).

My colleagues and I struggled with the inadequacies of IE6 in an attempt to find a channel that would stream the event, before Firefox and BBC finally saved the day and we could see the man in his moment.

Many people believe that today begins a new chapter in world affairs; that things will now be better, that a capable man now sits in the most powerful office in the world.

I am one of them.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

BASTARDS!!!

I'm a reasonable man.

I ask for no more than I need.

I've waited patiently for over eight months for the second half of season 4 of Galactica, and avoided spoilers, trailers, commentary, etc., and it looked like everything was working out fine.

Tonight, I sat down at 2059hrs and watched the first episode.

Thrilling, shocking, poignant - words to be ascribed to the best in drama, and all of which apply here.

With five minutes remaining, my cable went out!

!

Tigh was talking with D'Anna on the planet surface. She was saying something about Cavil when the screen went black, and stayed that way for eight minutes! The signal came back in the middle of a commercial for Toilet Duck or something!

To quote Charlie Brown,

"Good grief!!!"

It brings me back to a time in Catholic Ireland when TV would inexplicably go out during what might be considered 'controversial' programming - call me cynical, but it happened on too regular a basis to be coincidental.

Hmmm...

The only saving grace is that Sky will repeat the episode at least twice, but I'll probably have streamed it by then...