Sunday, 25 May 2008

There Now Follows An Announcement...

My sister Ray's back on the blogosphere after an absence more extended than any of mine - I told her I'd spread the word...

Another job done, another day saved - am I incredible or what?

Er, yes...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Splotchy's Story Virus II - The Relapse...

Regular readers may remember a project undertaken some time ago by Splotchy to create a 'viral story'. Irregular readers may not.

The premise, for the uninitiated, and in the creator's own words, is this:

"...Here's what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don't know how realistic it is, but that's what I'm aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours."

The story begins thusly:

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words.

I looked up and down the street but didn’t see any delivery truck, or any car for that matter. No FedEx, no UPS , no creepy-looking porno'd-out conversion van with a half-assed delivery service sign taped to its side. Nothing. It's like delivery man just disappeared. I stepped back inside, re-set the deadbolts and took a closer look at the envelope.

Mentally I ran through the checklist of letter bomb warning signs. The handwriting on the envelope, smudged and cramped as it was, was laid out in a tiny, obsessively neat block lettering. It practically screamed recently-de-institutionalized loner with time on his hands. No ticking or whirring sounds, that’s good. No odd smells, no leaks or stains on the package. Check. Weight seemed evenly distributed, that’s good too. I decided to open it.

Inside I found a plane ticket to Pensacola, a business card for a lawyer in Niceville, five crisp $100 bills and a four page handwritten note. Well. This was different. I poured a cup of coffee, threw some meat to the dogs to stop em barking, and sat down to read. (Bubs)

The handwriting of the letter was different than the envelope. It was more rushed, erratic. And it was all in Russian. I could speak a little Russian because of the company I used to keep, but couldn't read it to save my life. I knew some people that could translate for me, but I wasn't about to see them again. Or did one of them write the note? Was it Dimitri the Finger? Petrov? Ivankovich?

I looked at the lawyer's card -- "Tom Ely" -- how whitebread, how American. The address said Niceville, but the phone number's area code was New Jersey. I dialed and waited. My dogs fought over a leftover bone outside, growling.

"Hello, this is Tom Ely, I am sorry I have missed your call..."

I didn't recognize the voice. It had the barest trace of an accent. Most people wouldn't pick up on it. But I did.

The Russians. What was I in for? I hung up.

Was I just going to sit here, waiting? Or was I going to be a good little dog when some person unseen rang my bell?

The ticket was for today. I could make the flight if I left immediately. I packed a bag and caught a cab to the airport.
(Splotchy again)

The pressures of today's economy. Flight cancelled. Airline out-of-business. Three months ago. Something was out of sorts, here. Why would someone send me a ticket on a defunct airline? I was starting to feel exposed, out in the open, like prey in a valley.

First order of business was to hit the head. I needed to collect myself and not draw attention. I forced myself to walk, even with the hairs on the back of my neck bristling, uncertain if, even now, someone was following. Had I walked into some kind of trap?

The men's room door opened just a little too quickly, the screws loosened from constant use. That sticky smell hit me as that horrible men's room air shot into my nose.

Something was wrong.

I felt heavy and thick, and saw the world go askew. I was off balance before it even registered that something hard had been jabbed into the back of my neck. I put my hand against the wall to stop myself, but the back of my head exploded in pain, I saw a flash of light, and then nothing.

When I came to, I was no longer in the men's room; I was in the back of a moving vehicle, a walk-through panel truck - a delivery van, perhaps. My feet were free, but my hands were bound securely behind my back. Care had been taken not to cut off my circulation, so whoever it was knew what he was doing.

"Hey!" I yelled to the two men in the cab. The passenger looked back at me, his face impassive under a Denver Broncos cap that was a size too small for his head.

"No talking." He turned forward again, saying something in a language I didn't understand to the driver.

"Where are we going?" I said, struggling to a sitting position. I tested the ropes binding my wrists, but my name not being Houdini, there was no way I was going to undo them. When I looked up, Broncos Cap was staring at me again. So was the business end of a 9mm automatic.

"I said for no talking."

I decided he might have a point, and sat back to enjoy the ride and wonder about where I was being delivered...

What will happen next?

Perhaps (if not already tagged, or even if) Arjan, The Imaginary Reviewer, PJ and Ray might care to continue...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

I've Seen It Now...

...and it's excellent!

I took my nephew to see it on Sunday afternoon - he didn't know who Iron Man is, being more a Spidey fan than anything else, but we were both totally blown away by the movie.

This is the stuff!

This is what we want to see!

And the post-credits scene?

Works for me...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Iron Man...

I haven't seen Iron Man yet, and it's gonna be at least a week 'fore I do.

I'm on call for emergencies this week, which means I have to keep my comms with me and stow my life (such as it is) in the overhead locker.

Last time I went to a movie while I was on call, I switched the thing on afterwards and it lit up with missed calls - uncharacteristically, I have to say, but there you go. Bruce and Clark were none too impressed, goes without saying, and Diana wouldn't talk to me for a week.

And it's not even supposed to be my week - I'm swapping with Dr. Invisible, who in turn is swapping with The Sorceress - grumble, grumble...

So I'm steeling my resolve in the face of all the four-star reviews out there, and I'll be seeing it next Friday.

But for 50 points and a no-prize - what's Shellhead's catchphrase? Does he have one? Or does being a billionaire absolve him from the need?

Answers, in your best font, to the usual address...


I mean, how difficult can it be?

You say, "We're taking the power down from noon till 1pm Sunday for essential maintenance."

We say, "No problem - we'll come in at 1130 to observe and to switch off one or two servers of our own and the telephone and voicemail systems."

Bastards took the power down at 1100, crashing my Server Lab before I had a chance to do controlled shutdowns. To suggest I was incandescent with rage would be an understatement.

"Yeah, traffic wasn't bad and we got here early, so we just got on with it."


They were finished and packing up to leave by the time my co-workers and I arrived between 1120 and 1125, with no sign of the facilities manager who had announced the exercise and who, in all reason, one would have expected to be on hand to ensure things were done properly.

I checked with the Patrols desk whether the Induhvidual (thank you, Scott Adams) in question had actually been there for the work.

"Were you expecting him?" was the reply.

The missing word in that question was 'seriously', and would have the same narrative effect no matter if placed at the start or in the middle, or even as a follow-up one-word question of it's own.

What happens is this: every year we're required to shut down all power to the main building so that the electricians can check fuses, breakers, what have you - it has to do with safety and insurance and such. The IT DataCentre is protected by UPS which gives us a few minutes' battery power in the event of mains failure, but there's a generator that's supposed to kick in when mains is cut off, so we don't have to rely on batteries.

Previous experiences with our so-called colleagues in building management have led us to doubt the reliability of the generator, hence our preference for having observers onsite in the event things don't go to plan. If the generator didn't come on, at least we'd have a chance to notify the people in the power room and have them switch mains back until they could sort the problem out. If that had happened yesterday, the main DataCentre would have crashed before my co-workers and I had even arrived, and that would not have been pretty.

Further, our in-house electrical maintenance is handled by contractors from an outside company, and the switchoff was undertaken by people from yet another third-party body, both apparently unsupervised by anyone from our organisation.

To be fair to our in-house electrical guys, they do a good job and make sure we have what we need to do ours. Sadly however, they'll be the ones most likely to be blamed when the excrement strikes the ventilator tomorrow.

But consider - part of managing a project is to be there on the day to manage it!

Not miles away in case it explodes or something. It's not bravery, it's not simply good manners, but sadly it's all we've come to expect from a facilities management whose answer to a request for air-conditioning for a comms enclosure was to suggest we open a window instead.

If I had my way, half a dozen Induhviduals (thank you again, Scott Adams) would be handed their marching papers tomorrow, and the department turned over to the only person of any integrity there who, for her sins, ends up doing all the work because people approach her directly, knowing they'll get results.

I'm sick and tired of my working environment being left in the hands of self-serving, blame-shifting, responsibility-ducking incompetents who consistently and obstinately refuse to accept that we, the staff, are their clients and deserve to be treated with simple and basic respect. I look forward to the day when they are exposed for what they truly are - a waste of valuable square-footage.


(Note: I had planned on posting this last year, but somehow couldn't bring myself to click on "Publish"). My dad passed in...