Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Parents

I have a couple of fantastic parents.

I was reminded of that fact today after having lunch with a friend, during which we talked about his parents and what they have and haven’t done for him over the years. I came away from lunch feeling deeply sad that someone could feel so harshly about their parents. It just didn’t fit with my understanding of the concept of parents; it was totally alien and actually really disturbed me.

While I doubted it in the time before I came out as a gay man, my parents have never failed to support me. It isn’t a case of money or gifts, or being hip and expressive. It’s about them always being there for me. It’s about always having someone to turn to for advice or help. It’s knowing that I am loved and that my parents are proud of me.

I am rich in ways it is often too easy to forget.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Chances of Anything Coming From Mars...

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.”

Imagine the cultured tones of Richard Burton speaking those words and you have got a cornerstone of my youth. Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds is something I was introduced to at junior school and it has stayed with me ever since; initially on tape, then 12” vinyl and finally on CD and MP3.

It came up in conversation with Ping this evening, after we had been to the cinema (Kung Fu Hustle, by the way, is a slightly bizarre but fun movie. Go see it.) We were considering the next movie to see and the new Hollywood version of War of the Worlds seemed a likely contender. The question is; is it worth it?

Given the iconic status of the Wayne version and the classical nature of the original novel, can a hollywoodised version make any impression? What will it have been deemed necessary to do to the plot to make it palatable to the modern ‘bread-and-circuses’ audience? Will it be just a vehicle for Tom Cruise to show off his teeth and his brand of all-American heroism in the face of overwhelming odds?

I have Jeff Wayne playing as I write… The more I think about it, the more I think I will skip the movie and practice my Richard Burton impersonation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hot or Not?

In between doing real work today, I exchanged some messages with Robin B, a friend of mine from Scotland. It was his birthday at the weekend and he reached the grand old age of 34(!) Apparently this means that he is no longer young and beautiful and is ‘getting on a bit’. I disagreed and we had some good-humoured repartee on the subject – that and the fact that I’m a bit in awe of him heading off to sail a tall ship from Portsmouth to Waterford, lucky devil!

Anyway, check out Rob’s pictures yourself here and drop him a line if you agree with me that he still looks good enough to contend with the best of them. (There’s a form at the bottom of the page for sending him messages.) He’s a lovely guy and shouldn’t be allowed to turn into Victor Meldrew! Do you hear me Rob?? I've got dibs on being the grumpy old man!! Do you hear me?!?!

Chorus Worries

Not much special happening so far this week. Work is ticking along without any really major dramas (Long may that continue!) and socially there’s not a lot to report.

Monday evening’s Chorus rehearsal was a bit of a drag, but very necessary; we were reviewing problem points in several songs and along the way I spotted several cases of me singing the wrong thing. Consequently I had the rehearsal MP3s playing in my ears all the way to work this morning. We are supposed to have learnt all the music by next Monday when we go ‘hands-free’ and have to do without the scores.

The most disturbing thing last night was the ticket sales information. We still have over 1800 seats to sell. Admittedly the publicity is only just going out now, but I still have this nightmare that the Chorus will put on the best show it’s ever done and no-one will be there to see it. I handed out flyers to my department and selected others today and tried to wax lyrical about how good the show was…

Had lunch with Rosie (I was feeling particularly in need of a roast dinner today!) and she offered to put up a poster in her office... if only I'd had one with me!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sing, sing a song

After a good Friday night, Saturday was pretty busy. The Chorus was singing in Leicester Square as part of some event called West End Live. There was a pre-show rehearsal in a very humid church hall in Soho but for the event itself the weather had cooled down comfortably. It was an open-air gig and it’s always difficult to judge your sound at those – you get no feedback; your sound just disappears off into the distance.

While we were changing, Martin K who is on leave from the Chorus, but was there to distribute flyers, commented that I’d lost weight since he saw me in Paris. I suspect he was probably just being polite, but it still gave me a good feeling that re-justified all that cycling to work.

After the show, we went on to a barbeque at friends’ near Raynes Park. It was a mix of Chorus and non-Chorus people and quite a fun crowd. John H was there to begin with and he reported that we had sounded reasonably good on stage that afternoon, although the sound system had been a mixed blessing. Later in the evening, after some alcohol had been consumed, I found myself singing in a quartet with David M, Brett and John G. Between us we represented all of the four voice-parts and did some rather good a cappella renditions of a lot of the Chorus’ core repertoire. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I held the tune as I am not a strong solo singer at all. I guess the music really is getting wired into my brain now! Practice makes perfect.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Poker Night

So, after much palaver trying to get people together, last night we hosted a poker night at home. Most of the people I asked wanted to come but couldn’t make this particular Friday night and I couldn’t slot a night in anywhere else this month. In the end I had five people lined up, Brett and I, Rosie, Bruce and John M.

To cut a long story short, though, Rosie called off because she had a miserable cold, Bruce was about an hour and half late having been stuck in the hospital (he’s a student doctor) but once we got going it was actually a fairly fun game.

The subdued lighting, proper baize table and weighty poker chips make it feel that bit more serious. Neither Bruce nor John had played before but they picked it up quickly enough, although Bruce looked pretty spaced-out and bet rather recklessly.

I like to think that it was my improving skill at weighing the odds that put me in the lead, rather than the inexperience of the newer players… at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I know that the last couple of times I’ve played I’ve lost heavily and quickly. Maybe next time I’ll have a harder time, when my opponents have more experience.

Anyway, everyone agreed it had been a fun night. The game was over by about 10:30, with just the four of us playing, so I think that my initial idea of six players making a good table would be right and that’s what I’ll aim for next time.

On the whole a very enjoyable night.

Tech Distress

After a relatively smooth week at work, my Friday degenerated rapidly after lunch. New photocopiers were being installed in the reprographics department; big, industrial-strength, kind of photocopiers – the kind that take your rough scribbled notes in one end and present you with the leather-bound first-edition of your thesis at the other. Well, okay, not quite that good, but they are pretty big and complex beasts and, like all modern copiers, they are not just copiers. Oh no.

Just as mobile phones, PDAs and MP3 players have all been merging into one technology, so photocopying, printing and scanning have been coming together into a single hybrid. In theory that’s great. Now you can print your document as normal, but instead of having to do all the finishing yourself, the copier takes care of the double-sided arrangement, getting four A4 pages onto a single A3 sheet, then stapling and folding it into a neat little A4 booklet for you to collect. When you need to scan, you don’t need an extra piece of hardware cluttering up your desk – you just go to the photocopier, press a couple of buttons and, bingo!, the image appears on your desktop. It’s the promise of digital technology being fulfilled… when it works.

However, while technology has advanced rapidly to bring these functions together, most of the people involved in the different industries haven’t advanced quite as quickly. Consequently the engineers that the supplier sends to install your whiz-bang new system, actually just assemble the photocopier unit itself and then hand software disks over to you to do all the rest of the install and make the damn thing do all the whizzy stuff that it’s been sold to you for doing. They don’t have a clue beyond the hardware. Harrumph.

I could even live with that if they didn’t take the whole day assembling the kit, and only come to you with the disks at 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon, when I want to get away promptly!

I got the machine on the network and printing… but then it stopped again for no readily apparent reason. The copier techs all looked at me blankly when I asked them questions about network permissions and domain membership. In the end we decided to worry about it on Monday morning. There is only so much commitment I will give to the job when all the people who might know the answers to my questions have already gone home for the weekend.

My escape for the weekend was short-lived though: When I got home (cycling) there were a half a dozen missed calls on my mobile from the Helpdesk. It turns out that our main server in Bogotá had given up the ghost and now wouldn’t boot into Windows. Consequently nobody in that office could access their work, this meant it fell into the category of ‘A Big Deal’ so, still dripping from the shower, I was talking to IT’s ‘eyes and hands’ in Colombia, Rob, discussing the options with him. As the failure was severe, the options for trying to recover it were fairly limited, so I pointed him in the direction of the fastest one and left him to it. It seems to have worked as he didn’t call back and I can connect to the server fine this morning. Phew!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sin City

Went to see Sin City tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t actually sure what to expect when the film started. I’d heard it was a good film. I’d heard it was done in black and white. I’d heard it was all filmed against a green screen. That was about it.

In the end it was a series of short stories, mostly quite involving, all fairly violent, done in a Chandleresque style and with a certain comic-book ‘fantastic’ feel to the action. I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Ping, my companion for the show, was less certain of what to make of it.

Quentin Tarantino was listed as a ‘Guest Director’ and there are a lot of touches to the film that will be familiar to Tarantino fans without it being as totally in-your-face as a full blown Tarantino movie. There is a colour motif running through the film though that I couldn’t quite work out. For a while I suspected it was highlighting the good guys and the bad guys but then they threw a third colour into the mix and I gave up trying to intellectualise it. Maybe all will become clear at a second showing as I know Brett wants to see it and I would like to see it again.

Monday, June 20, 2005

My weekend slides away...

The weekend? I blinked and missed it.

Saturday afternoon was spent doing geeky things around the flat. We’ve been saying for ages that we needed to shift things around a little to make more room and, despite the heat of a very warm and humid day, Saturday turned out to be the day that we finally did it. Actually, if you open the windows in the flat, you get a very pleasant breeze through which made the whole afternoon more bearable.

Saturday evening we were off to see Batman Begins with Rosie and Ping at the Wimbledon Odeon. It’s a good movie – more realistic than the others, I feel, although the first third is rather tedious as they set the scene for Bruce Wayne to become Batman. Just a little bit too much back-story. Still, the remainder of the film was excellent action-adventure.

Sunday was entirely taken up by a Chorus rehearsal. We were staging the second half of the show and having a costume inspection. The weather was still sweltering and we were rehearsing in a turn-of-the(-last)-century primary school with skylights in the roof and no ventilation. A very sticky experience not made any more enjoyable by the Production Team slurping on slices of watermelon as they directed us, while us poor singers had to make do with tepid bottles of water for refreshment. I’m sure there’s something in the Geneva Convention about behaviour like that!

Still it was good to see the second half of the show coming together – some of the pieces have been quite tricky to learn, but they make more sense when you realise the context in which they are being used and there are going to be some really powerful moments, as well as the really enjoyable ones.

The costume for the show is supposed to be fairly varied. We’ve been given a particular colour (From a Dulux paint selection, would you believe!) to try to match in a shirt or t-shirt. Finding something that’s close enough to the colour has been the talk of the rehearsals for the last couple of weeks – so much so that, as I passed a rather attractive young chap on my way from work tonight, my first thought was actually ‘Oh, that t-shirt is Celestial Cloud 4. I wonder where he got it.’

Anyway, at least my and Brett’s shirts were approved as being close enough to do, so we don’t have to worry any more…

Worked on the finale piece for the show at the rehearsal tonight which is a bit of a medley of the main songs and concludes in a great cacophony of sound. No chance of any of the audience nodding off at the end of our show! Nope.

The prospectus for the piano course finally turned up in the post today, so I signed-up online tonight to (hopefully) make sure I secure a place this September.

Still having trouble getting a decent poker game together for Friday – although tonight I realised I’d overlooked two likely candidates in John G and Nick B, neither of whom we’ve seen in too long, so I shall drop them an invite and see if they can make it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Blue skies

The second half of last week was pretty busy at work; there’s lots on at the moment – plus regular hiccups in our Leeds office to contend with.

Wednesday morning I spent in the Tower of London at a ‘Backup Strategies’ seminar. These sort of things are quite common in IT – and I imagine other lines of business too: A reseller of some kind gets several of his suppliers together to talk about some important thing in your business, such as backups, security, storage, web technologies. It’s all free, all you have to do is attend, and there’s a free lunch at the end of it.

Ah yes, the perceptive amongst you will have spotted the flaw: TANSTAAFL. Sure enough, the lunch is just an opportunity to get you sat at a table for a period of time with at least one sales rep from one of the presenters. As you eat the rep makes conversation with you about your business needs and where you see your strategy going… and how this super-duper product they’ve just released is perfect for you.

It’s all a bit of a charade really. The seminars can be useful (as this one was for me) by getting you thinking about new avenues to try, but they always seemed to be aimed at the really (and I mean REALLY) high-end users: The global companies with hundreds of thousands of employees who can afford to spend shed-loads of cash on tiering their storage on a transcontinental SAN. Oddly (I always think) precisely the sort of people who wouldn’t send their decision-makers on a freebie like this…

So anyway, I drank the coffee, ate the pastries and listened to the seminars. The organisers, though, had made a critical mistake; they had organised a sit-down lunch without any tables to sit down at! Very few passed up the free lunch though – people either stood up or ate with plates on their knees in the seminar room. Consequently the sales reps had a hard time making their casual conversation openings. So I had my free lunch (very nice grilled chicken, duchesse potatoes, spinach, artichokes and baby corn, followed by a chocolatey/creamy confection with a delicious orange sauce) and then headed back into the office.


It does seem to have been the week for lunches – I think I’ve eaten out almost every day. Tuesday was Owen, Wednesday was the seminar, Thursday I had noodles with John M and Friday I met Brian, the brother of one of the LGMC boys, who I’d been talking to online for a while. We were supposed to be cycling in to work together (he lives in Clapham) but had his bike stolen last week, so we had lunch instead.

Friday evening though I was away from work early to catch a train to Folkestone. Rob S, my former colleague at Saga, was finally leaving them to work for Veritas (the big software people, not the jonny-come-lately political party!) A few drinks had been organised to celebrate so I headed down to catch up with him and all the guys I used to work with – many of whom I haven’t seen since I left Saga myself.

The train trip down was pleasant, as they’ve replaced the old rolling stock with new, air-conditioned trains. The tedium of the trip was lightened somewhat as I got Bluejacked. I received a pornographic Garfield picture from someone called Kyle and then several flirtatious text notes from someone called KC. While Kyle became silent after the first send, KC and I chatted back and forth until it was time for me to get off.

I’d heard of bluejacking before, but never experienced it. Since then I’ve checked on my phone a couple of times while I’ve been in public and there are a lot of discoverable devices out there. I can see how it could become a phenomenon.

Anyway Emma J had offered me her spare bed and she met me at the station so I could change clothes back at her place. Then we had a pizza on The Leas (the cliff-top gardens overlooking the sea) before heading down to Chambers (the preferred pub) to start drinking. Rob S and Ashley appeared in due course, although Ash didn’t stay long – not only did he have to drive home but he was on painkillers for a back problem. He made his excuses after half an hour or so. After that various other people came by for a few drinks and a chat. Apart form Rob, I think I spent most time talking to Paul C, the network engineer, who is the only one of the guys other than Rob and Emma that I’d really like to keep in touch with.

We generally agreed that we should organise some kind of a regular get together now that two of us have gone our separate ways, so hopefully a date will be set up shortly. If not, now that Rob is working in Reading, I have got a reasonable argument for organising it myself in London.

Managed not to drink too much and got away at a reasonable hour, so wasn’t hungover in the morning particularly. Hopped the train back to town (no unsolicited messages this time) and met Brett for lunch.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Jackson Verdict

Actually I did see some news today. Michael Jackson being found not guilty of any of the charges made against him was making headlines in every news media this morning.

I will admit to not being desperately well-versed in the case, but for what it’s worth, I think justice has triumphed: In a just court, there has to be evidence produced which puts each and every allegation beyond any reasonable doubt. No matter how clear it ‘appears,’ you should not be found guilty of a crime just because most people think you are. That would be lynch-mob justice.

From what I have picked up from occasional headlines during the trial, the prosecution’s case sounded badly researched and ill-prepared, almost as if the case had been rushed to trial. (Which is a situation which certainly bears investigating!) In the end, despite all the claims and revelations (and even admissions from Jackson himself about his behaviour) the prosecution failed to convince a jury that any law had been broken. ‘Not Guilty’ was the only option in that case. Any other choice would have undermined the fundamental rights on which we base our society.

Well there you go. Today I find myself pleased by a decision in an American courtroom and defending a very strange and, in my view, very troubled little man. My, what a day it has been!

The Summertime Blues

Maybe it’s the constantly unfulfilled promise of summer, but there was a certain tension in the air today. Actually, it was more likely the unfulfilled promise of technology to make our lives easier.

Today at work, everyone seemed to be frustrated by what they were working on. It didn’t help that the day started with another problem in our poor, bedevilled Leeds office, which saw their logons being authenticated in Australia

a t a

p o n d e r o u s l y s l o w

p a c e

thanks to an elementary error made by my boss yesterday afternoon. He has my sympathy though; at the end of the day most servers look the same – particularly when you are flicking between three or four of them on your screen at once.

Still, the day didn’t get any better and I was glad to come home at the end of it. As a result, though, I haven’t read much news or comment lately, so you’re stuck with the minutiae of my life for another entry.

My new poker table and chips failed to turn up today. I know they were dispatched pretty late on Monday, so I’ll give ParcelForce an extra day before moaning. A few people made interested noises at rehearsal last night, but I don’t want it to be an all-chorus affair, so I’ll maybe try and find someone from work, or Out to give it a little bit of diversity.

Brett was suffering pretty miserably from a cold when I called him during rehearsal last night so I called him again tonight, to offer some moral support and virtual hugs, and he sounded better. He’s pretty sick of the apartment and watching TV shows and DVDs back-to-back though. Roll on July and then September!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mr Unproductive

It’s been a quiet weekend. Saturday I spent almost entirely indoors wandering from task to task and never really completing anything. I had an inkling to ring around our friends in South London to see if any of them fancied coming over for a game of Texas Hold’Em (poker), but my unfocussed efforts didn’t get around to clearing the lounge to a point where I would invite guests into it, so that didn’t happen. Instead I determined to organise a proper poker night in a fortnight – now all I have to do is find people who are interested in playing for a few quid…

Sunday was even less productive. Somehow I slept in until 11am and so the planned brunch with my sister became a late lunch. At least I managed to take a car load of her remaining stuff over with me, so the spare room is almost spare again!

We had a lovely lunch in a restaurant just round the corner from her flat. I thought the restaurant was called ‘Putney Bridge’ but when I searched for that name, I got directed to the smart Thai place on the riverside, so maybe it was called something else.

Helped my sister rearrange her lounge after lunch. Then home to try to finish all the jobs I started yesterday…

Friday, June 10, 2005

Spring Cleaning

Tonight I have been spring cleaning my life. I've gathered together all of my various boxes of memorabilia and thinned them out. I think I am more of a hoarder than I often like to admit. I can get sentimental over the strangest of things but most of the contents of the boxes were just junk and have now been recycled.
On the upside, though, I did come across some old photos of me in my twenties that will probably make Brett smile.
Hopefully more of the same tomorrow, as I attempt to make room in our wardrobes to actually put clothes in!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Stop Press!!

While composing that last entry, I've been watching 'Boy George's Queerest TV Moments' and it is an absolute scream. I never know that the song 'Y.M.C.A.' came from a film (Can't Stop The Music) and I can't believe that most of the original Village People were straight! If they were, then as George points out, they were VERY naive. The video is virtually soft porn!
There's Julian Clary at the 1993 Comedy Awards talking about fisting Norman Lamont ("Talk about a red box!") and Sue Lawley reading the 9 O'Clock news when it was invaded by lesbians (I missed that live and was gutted when I heard about it.)
'Take That' soaping each other up in a pop video, which the show intercuts with an advert for a gay pick-up line and you can't tell the difference! Adam Rickett launching his pop career stark naked in a steamy shower cubicle!
I'm glad I've got this on Tivo - I am SO going to have to watch it again.

Online Today

A couple of interesting articles I have read today:

The first was this one from the BBC, amongst others, the story later being followed up by USA Today here. They discuss the toning-down by one of the Bush Administration’s officials of reports about climate change, issued by the US scientists. While neither of the articles gives enough evidence to make a judgement, there certainly seems to be a case to answer by Mr Cooney about the ethics of what he did. Ultimately though, you have to ask: what do you expect to get by appointing an oil industry lobbyist with no scientific background to advise on environmental issues? You’ve set the fox to guard the chickens. Good thinking, Mr Bush.

On this side of the Atlantic, things are not perfect either. This entry in the always interesting CoppersBlog got me thinking: the case of the schoolteacher sent to prison for firing an air pistol at a gang of youths who had been intimidating her and her children. The article he quotes is a little old and there is a more recent one here. PC Copperfield makes the point with his subject. While the law and the police are the prima facie candidates for having failed Mrs Walker, ultimately it is society’s fault: We raise the children who do this. We elect the politicians who set the priorities for the police. We make up ‘society.’

What worries me most is the trend. As more people feel that society’s institutions are failing them more they will ignore them, as Mrs Walker did, and seek their own solution. That way lies anarchy.

Escape From New York isn’t nearly as far-fetched as you might like to think.

Best Practice

Well, work has calmed down somewhat, although I am still damping down problems caused by that dodgy Microsoft Hotfix from last week! It turns out that when they say problems may occur on ‘some servers’ they really mean it will affect at least half of Liam’s servers. I was working late last night, futilely as it turned out, and again tonight I have a machine to reboot after the backup finishes.

Major problems inevitably result in reviews of how the issue came about in the first place and a search for methods to stop a similar problem occurring in future, but in this case we are a bit stymied. Because the problem is so apparently random, I cannot see a way we could have detected it in advance, apart from having a chip-for-chip, program-for-program duplicate of our live network available for testing on. In theory doing just that is ‘Best Practice,’ but I doubt you will find any company anywhere that has the resources to totally duplicate their back-end systems just for testing purposes.

I guess I’ll just keep banging my head against a wall…

Apart from that, nothing much is happening in my life. I had lunch with Rosie on Tuesday and Oz on Wednesday, both of which were pleasant. I’m slipping into a bit of bachelor mode at home though: Dirty dishes are accumulating. Maybe it’s because I’m working late. Yeah, right!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Wrong Side of Bed

Today hasn’t been particularly bad, but I’ve been out of sorts for some reason. I went out and ate KFC for dinner. That’s how bad it was.

More later. (Maybe.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Perpetual Motion

Our Leeds Office is having a pretty rotten time of it at the moment. You may recall that last week they spent a day and a half without email access – which is never something that leaves users happy. On Wednesday, around about the time that the email problem was solved, their file server needed a couple of reboots to try and get a new backup tape library to work properly. (My experience of Sony Tape Libraries is not good. We are now on our fourth in seven months!)

After all that, to properly round-off the week, on Thursday the office started suffering intermittent interruptions to their connection to the Internet – which also carries their traffic to all of our central systems. The outages continued into the weekend, despite them being serious enough for the ISP to get an engineer on site on Friday. Since nothing happened over the weekend, the problems were still there this morning when I arrived for work and thus became my problems, as the most experienced network engineer present.

In the end, it boiled down to some simple synchronisation problems between our firewalls in London and Leeds – although that can’t have been the initial problem, or it would have been solved on Thursday! Anyway I arranged a quick reboot of both boxes and hey presto! everything was running smoothly again…

… For about an hour. Then it was Edinburgh’s turn.

“We’ve lost email and Internet access,” came the call and my heart sank as I recalled the pointless forty-eight hours from a week or two back. While it was at first quite confusing, this time it didn’t take too long to narrow down the problem to a routing issue on BT’s part. (An analogy would be: some of the ‘road signs’ on BT’s network had been changed and were sending traffic in the wrong direction. As a result, data was getting lost down dead-ends.) There was nothing I could do about it but wait and, sure enough, after twenty minutes or so the problem fixed itself.

By mid-afternoon I was ready to start doing the work I had actually planned to do today and began looking at the trial of a new login script I had written. The script, which runs every time a user logs on to the network, replaces about a dozen different scripts that are currently in place, with a single one that is a bit more intelligent and modular and (most importantly!) writes a log of what it is and isn’t doing for the user.

I found no solace here either. One of my test users wasn’t recognised as being based in their correct office. I eliminated a few of the programming ‘likely suspects’ before having to conclude that my coding was in fact fine (but of course!) and that it was the programming language itself that had the problem. (Actually to call it a programming language makes it sound way too grand. It is actually a scripting language, which is a much simpler kind of programming language, but one which lets you access information about your computer and user more easily.)

In the end I got so frustrated with the whole thing I gave up on it and spent my last hour catching up on Dilbert and the blogs – oh, and briefing my boss ready for the lynching he is likely to receive when he visits the Leeds office tomorrow…

Tonight we had a Chorus rehearsal, which was no real respite: We seemed to be concentrating on new pieces with tricky rhythms and then, in the break, Marc D gave Brett and I lots of over-the-top drama about not being invited to Brett’s birthday dinner which was amusing for a short spell, but rapidly got old.

I was glad when it was all over and we could come home and go to bed.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Brett's birthday dinner

I am clearly my family’s tech support guy. Yesterday, as well as helping download photographs from mobile phones and digital cameras, I gave lessons on how to work the (rather clever) GPS-based route-finder in the parents’ new car and had to connect all of my sisters home entertainment kit now that mum and dad have brought down her TV and Sky box

Not that I am complaining, you understand! My mum is great for helping out with house plants and has brought down a couple of her encyclopaedias (encylopaediae?) to help us cure one of our plants which has seemed unhappy over the last couple of weeks. My dad reliably washes the dishes after every meal and doesn’t even seem to mind! (Of course I then feel guilty for leaving it to the guests, but so far I am managing to live with the guilt…)

So anyway, last night the parents were out for dinner with Rosie, while Brett and I went out for dinner with a group of Chorus friends to celebrate his birthday. Brett had chosen the guest list; a mixture of guys we know well and ones we know less well, but whose company we have enjoyed in the past, and it worked well. Everyone seemed to get on and the conversation was free-flowing and gregarious.

We started off in a cocktail bar on St. Martin’s Lane (after belatedly discovering that the restaurant’s own Wine Bar is closed on a Saturday night. Huh??) and had convivial drinks there as people arrived.

I had chosen the restaurant (L’Estaminet, on Garrick Street, an established French restaurant) entirely based on reviews I’d seen on the web and they turned out to be a good indicator. The food was excellent (although Ping felt his duck was too greasy) but the service, while friendly and timely, was a little bit confused. (The head waiter, as he was taking our orders, noted them down on a little seating plan he had drawn. Despite having this plan though, the sub-waiters spent ten minutes shuffling cutlery around before we all had the correct utensils for our meals!) Fortunately this didn’t affect our enjoyment of the meal and was almost an entertaining sideshow.

I started with a warm duck and pate salad and followed that with chateaubriand, which was absolutely melt-in-the-mouth. The dessert trolley was a little plain, consisting of a choice of fruit tarts and fruit salads – but then the cuisine is advertised as traditional French. We had a lovely (if a little pricey) Bordeaux to wash it all down

We did sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Brett (but quietly as it wasn’t that kind of a restaurant and we were certainly the loudest party there…)

There was talk of going out afterwards, but I think in the end everyone headed for home as we didn’t leave the restaurant until about 23:45. Jeremy F came with us on the train as far as Clapham Junction, happily snapping away as we went. (I think he is trying to replace Ping as our ‘official’ stalker.) Apart from a bit of a delay while the train staff removed some drunks from the train before it left Waterloo, the trip home was uneventful and we collapsed into bed sometime after midnight.

I keep saying that we ought to host more dinners, as we don’t really socialise enough, but after tonight I think maybe hosting in restaurants would work equally well as throwing parties at home.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Guys & Dolls

Blimey, it’s Saturday already. Thursday was kind of a non-day. I spent most of it in bed trying to find work I could do remotely. The leg actually seemed to get worse during the day until, by about 3pm, I could hardly walk without being in agony. I got an emergency Doctor’s appointment and taxied up the hill. The doc confirmed that it was an inflamed muscle and prescribed me some stronger painkillers. She also told me I should have been gently exercising the leg instead of staying in bed. Oh well.

On Friday the leg was a bit better and Brett was home so we drove down into town and had a wander around the shopping centre looking for t-shirts and shirts the Chorus show in July. My parents arrived mid-afternoon while I was napping off the effects of the morning’s walking and we lazed around for an hour or two until it was time to get ready for the show.

For his birthday, I’d bought Brett tickets for us to see the Guys & Dolls revival in the West End. It’s a good show. I worked it as a stagehand many years ago at the Theatre Royal in St Helens, although I could hardly remember the story, so it was a whole new experience for me. The only bit of the show that wasn’t excellent was Ewan McGregor singing ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight.’ Somehow his voice just didn’t have the power to make the song a real showstopper, which is a shame because otherwise both his performance and the show in general were very, very good. Miss Adelaide, played by Jane Krakowski, best known for Ally McBeal, was superb. It really is worth going to see.

After the show we waited in line so Brett could get his programme signed by Ewan (who looked rather miserable) and Jane (who was more animated) before hopping in a taxi back to the station and then the train home.

This morning we’ve been lazy. I’ve walked the parents through getting photos off their mobile phones by Bluetooth and off their new digital camera by USB. Rosie came over for brunch and watched her friend on Little Brother and then we watched the second half of the latest Doctor Who story (the scary one!)

Off to Putney for lunch now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

One of THOSE days

Did I mention that fate seems to have it in for me recently?

You may recall that, being the good little MicroSerf that I am, I spent my Bank Holiday patching all of our servers in accordance with Microsoft’s ‘Best Practice.’ Well, that came back and bit me on Tuesday when our Branch Offices couldn’t access email or the finance system. It took me nearly 36 hours to fix that – at least half of which time was wasted waiting on the Microsoft technical support guy to get back to me. When I finally lost my patience and chased him by phone his reply was: “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to look at your call yet!” It turns out the problem was Microsoft’s fault in the first place (an ‘undocumented side-effect,’ don’t you know!) but I had to work that out for myself!

So anyway, I got that fixed this afternoon and felt pretty good about it. Then, somewhere between that and this evening’s Chorus rehearsal, I’ve managed to inflame a muscle in my leg. I am now hobbling around in agony and hoping a good night’s sleep will make it go away.

Before I can get that good night’s sleep though, I need to reboot a server in Leeds. Not a problem, you would think, given the wonders of the Internet and remote control technologies! But the bloody thing refuses to shut down and is now in an interim state where I can’t control it. Bugger!

I am definitely going to stay in bed tomorrow and tell the world where it can go!