Thursday, September 28, 2006

I am tired, hear me snore!

Funny thing: as I noted in last week's post about my experiment, I need to set my alarm clock not to wake me up in the morning, but rather to allow me to get to sleep at night, and to not wake up excessively early. I have since abandonned that experiment.

Except that last night I forgot to set my alarm clock (or, possibly, I turned it off in my sleep - I've done that at least once before). I then proceeded to sleep in by a whole 20 minutes this morning! Horrors!

Still, for the first time in I don't know how long, I actually got up feeling like something other than death warmed over, so that's got to be a good thing, no?

Tale of Two Fridges

In honour of having broadband at home, I felt I really should post something from home. And what better thing than a list?

However, what manner of list could I make from home? What fascinating insights could I glean from that which is all around me? And then it hit me... the contents of the fridge (always empty the fridge before attempting to balance it on a corner). And, in fact, since I have two fridges, and since each has both a fridge section and a freezer section, I get to do a multi-part list! Will the delights of broadband never cease?

Anyway, without further ado, here's the list:

Everyday Fridge, Fridge section:

1 sachet Old El Paso Salsa
1 'big tub' Dairylea
1/2 loaf of Bread
1 plastic box, containing 4 sandwiches (Coronation Chicken) and 6 Cherry Tomatoes
1.5 litres of Falkirk's finest tap-water
3 Red Gala Apples
2 Onions
Approx 1 pint Milk
Just under 1 litre Tropicana Smooth
1/2 tub Coronation Chicken sandwich filling
Small jar Nescafe
1 block Scottish Cheddar cheese
Barbeque Sauce
Tomato Ketchup
Sweet Onion Relish (squeezy bottle)
Hot Chillis and Jalopeno Relish (squeezy bottle)
'Small Chunk' Branston Pickle (squeezy bottle)

Everyday Fridge, Freezer Section:

Sunday Best Fridge, Fridge Section:

2 bottles Milles Genuine Draft (note to self: Get more beer in advance of the Scotland/France game next Saturday. Note 2: Get better beer)
13 cans Pepsi
18 cans Irn Bru

Sunday Best Fridge, Freezer Section:

1 loaf Bread
10 burger Buns
8 Hot Dog Rolls
4 individual Chicken & Vegetable pies
8 Chicken Burgers
8 Quarter Pounder Beef Burgers
2 plastic tubs, each containing a serving of Beef Bourgignon (it's very nice, but alas doesn't thaw well :( )
1 Plastic tub fulled with Chicken Stir Fry (likewise, it's very nice, but it doesn't thaw well :( I really need a roommate/girlfriend/other person to cook for)
8 Pork Sausages
4 Lamb Chops (not sure how I'm going to get rid of these - I got them to go in a lamb hotpot, then forgot to defrost them in time, so had to buy replacement lamb to cook instead)
1 bag Home Fries
1 portion of some other brand of Oven Chips. These will be inflicted on Leigh next time she eats here, as punishment for bringing them in the first place!
1/2 pound Mince
1/2 bag Peas (yummy!)
1 bag Mixed Vegetables
2/3 bag Chargrilled Mediterranean Vegetables (to go in stir fry. They are, indeed, yummy)
3/4 bag Onion Rings (breaded, not battered. They're like having silver instead of gold... very nice, but not ideal)
2 litres Chocolate Ice Cream

And there it is, the complete list of things in my fridges. You'll note the absence of 'ready meals' (boak!), and also the absence of pizza (since I ate it on Monday!).

Now, a challenge for you: what foods should I add to my fridge to make it complete? And what mysterious delights lurk in your fridge to ward off your brother's fiancee, should she pop round for a meal? (Oh, and also, how does one go about storing a lasagne for several days, given that it will need to be frozen between cooking and consumption, can be defrosted exactly once, and cannot be cut while frozen? Bear in mind that I have no plastic tubs big enough for a serving of lasagne. I have the technical ability to make a wonderful lasagne, but no way to actually store the thing prior to eating it.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Yes, I now have broadband at home!

On Sunday, I got a call from my ISP saying that BT had finally gotten back to them, and were recommending an engineer visit to see what the problem was. I could have told them that that was the necessary step some months ago (and, in fact, did). Anyway, they wanted to book in an appointment for today between 10:30 and 1. Oh dear. (With work being so crazy at the moment, there's no way I could arrange to have the morning off, and even a Saturday appointment is unlikely to be something I can meet.)

So, I accepted the appointment, on the assumption that Graeme could house-sit. But no joy, for he's now back at uni. However, Claire was good enough to say that she could house-sit. So that worked.

Anyway, this morning I delayed heading to work until Claire arrived at the appartment, so she could get the keys (and thus actually get in). At 8 o'clock, "Fairly Oddparents" came on TV, which is always good. Shortly thereafter, the phone rang. It was the engineer - would it be okay if he came early... in, say, fifteen minutes. Naturally, that would be fine. I hastily phoned Claire to tell her not to bother, but was too late.

Anyway, the engineer arrived, took one look at the wiring, and determined that the little brown box that the wire enters upon entering the appartment was no good, and needed replaced. He went to get the appropriate bits from his van, and as he was doing this, Claire arrived.

Ten minutes later, it was all done. In fact, had I not switched the TV off when the engineer called, we could have caught the last few minutes of "Fairly Oddparents". Broadband now works.

The most annoying thing about this whole experience is that I've known from the 18th of August that the solution would be to have an ADSL engineer from BT visit. I knew that that was what was required, and that such an engineer would probably know exactly what needed done almost immediately. And, of course, I was right. But trying to actually get this done was a nightmare of endless phone calls, missed appointments, and other nonsense. When if they'd just listened to me in the first place when I knew what I was talking about, this could have been done and dusted weeks ago. Sigh.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that I'm now empowered to start hunting for a permanent home, and at the same time reluctant to do so. Furthermore, I now need something new to moan about. I wonder what I'll choose?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

An experiment that didn't quite work

Recently, I've found that I've been waking up at around 7 in the morning, whether I have to go to work or not. This, of course, is not the ideal situation, as I'd quite like to be able to stay up and/or out until about 2 am on a Friday or Saturday night, but can't do that if I'm going to be awake at 7 - I need my sleep.

Still, since I now have to work Saturdays as well as during the week, it's less of an issue, and so I thought I might perhaps try playing it to my advantage. In a bid to try to become a bit less tired, I have started not setting my alarm. (My thinking is that I might sleep in, but that that would be okay, since I have flexible hours anyway.)

Sadly, the effect was the reverse of that intended. By not setting my alarm, I'm leaving myself with a horrible "you've left something un-done" feeling at the end of the day, which prevents me getting to sleep easily. Then, because my brain is a finely-tuned instrument, I wake up at exactly 5:51 every morning, just to be sure that I don't sleep in.

The wonderful irony of this, of course, is that I don't need an alarm clock to help me wake up in the morning. I need an alarm clock to ensure I get some sleep.

Stupid brain.

Adherent of a Repeated Meme

When I was tagged to do this, my initial impulse was to refuse, on the grounds that I hate feeling obligated to do something. However, that's a lousy reason; a far better one might be that work is kicking my ass at the moment, so I don't really have time for such frivolities. And yet, here we are.

1. Three things that scare me:

The prospect of living for another seventy-odd years, and doing so alone.
That one day, by word or deed, I might cause someone serious harm.
And that's it, really. Isn't that enough?

2. Three people that make me laugh:

Bill Bailey
Eric Cartman

3. Three things I hate the most:

Pointless rules
Being wrong
Reality TV

4. Three things I don't understand:

RF properties

5. Three things I'm doing right now:

Trying to think of things I don't understand
Filling out this blog post (duh!)
Trying to work out why my software doesn't work

6. Three things I want to do before I die:

Get broadband internet at home
Play the bagpipes on all seven continents
Have something published

7. Three things I can do:

Write software
Play the bagpipes

8. Three ways to describe my personality:


9. Three things I can't do:

Knit (don't laugh - I was ten, and had never before encountered anything I just couldn't do before. It was a big thing for me.)
Talk to women (actually, a specific subset - those women I'm allowed to be attracted to.)
Nope, that's all. For years I couldn't tie inflated balloons, but I finally mastered that. So, those are the only two things I've put any serious effort into learning, and just gotten nowhere.

10. Three things I think you should listen to:

"Live like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw
"Happy Boys and Girls" by Aqua (especially first thing on a Monday morning)
Almost anything by John Williams

11. Three things you should never listen to:

The Spice Girls
Take That at 3 in the morning
People who tell you not to listen to your music of choice.

12. Three things I'd like to learn:

How to bake a really really good cake
Another language
The real truth about global warming

13. Three favourite foods:

Shepherd's Pie
Ask me next week, and I'll give you a different list.

14. Three beverages I drink regularly:

Irn Bru
Fruit Juice (the type changes on a weekly basis)

15. Three shows I watched as a kid:

Neighbours (yes, it's true)
Doctor Who

16. Three people I'm tagging (to do this):

Nope. All but one of the blogs I read already has this list on it, so I'm not going to bother tagging anyone.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Truly Awesome Weekend

2006 has been a bad year. It started with a very tough drive back to Yeovil, with me faing the conviction that I had to cut the one friend I made in that town out of my life (a conviction I wasn't strong enough to act on, which proved to be a mistake). It then featured the upheaval of moving the length of the country again, switching jobs, and the frustrations of just trying to get settled in Falkirk (honestly, how hard should it be just to get Sky and a working broadband connection?). I've become disillusioned with my career of choice, I've become rudely disabused of the notion that I'm in any way a good man, and I've had my faith rocked to its foundations (and that in the year I finally finished reading the Bible. Coincidence?).

As far as I recall, the high point prior to last weekend was sitting in the cinema with a huge grin on my face as the opening credits for "Superman Returns" began. That was almost a unique experience (and made better because, unlike "Phantom Menace", "Superman Returns" didn't proceed to suck from start to finish). Anyway, I mention these things because I'm about to describe certain experiences as being the high point in my year, and think that perhaps context is rather important here. It's always fun writing things that you know are going to be taken a certain way, when that might be the wrong interpretation. Or perhaps not. I've given up trying to second guess what people think about my blog, since it never seems to bear any resemblance to the actual reaction.

I came out of my week of hell worn out, generally peeved, and ready to just curl up in a ball and die. In fact, after a vain attempt to numb my brain by watching Smackdown on Friday, I collapsed into bed and fell asleep. Sadly, I couldn't sleep long - there was a delivery from Babies'R'Us coming around 8, so I had to get up. Still, it was enough.

I got up, and watched "The Descent" in the morning. That, by the way, is the scariest film I have ever seen. I laughed at "The Exorcist", was annoyed by the badness of "The Blair Witch Project", and was mildly creeped out by "The Others". But I had to pause "The Descent" and take a break because it was so scary - and that was before the bad things even really started to happen.

But that's all just scene setting. The major event of the weekend was always going to be the marriage of Ed and Jo, two friends of mine from way back. Ed I'd known for six years. Really nice guy. But Jo has the distinction of being my longest-serving female friend. Annoyingly, I don't know quite how long I've known her - I can recall exactly when and where we met, and could find out the date with trivial ease, if I had easy access to Google. But it was more than a decade ago. And, although she probably didn't know it, she said a few key things to me once that helped me through a previous tough time. It was always going to be a good day. (My grandfather actually commented at one point on Saturday that had I still been living in Yeovil, I wouldn't have been back for it. Actually, he was wrong about that; Easyjet would have been getting a nice air fare from me.)

So, first it was into the shower, and then it was into a kilt. Huzzah. I ordered my new kit at Christmas, and have worn it only a couple of times since then. I so rarely have an excuse. And it's a shame - I do really well in formal wear. So, kilt, jacket, waistcoat. Ghillie brogues for a complete lack of friction when dancing (for those who don't know and are interested, that's a type of shoe). I considered wearing a bow tie, but thought that would just be a bit too much, so instead settled for a nice tartan tie. Oh, and contact lenses instead of glasses. The effect was that of Superman as compared to my usual Clark Kent.

I left the appartment, and noted the blazing sunshine. Then it was off to the parental home for a quick lunch, and to socialise with the grandparents who, in a fit of bad timing, had chosen that weekend to visit. And then to the church!

The ceremony was very light and informal. It fitted the couple very well indeed. Good time.
Then back home for dinner. Sadly, I wasn't invited to the meal at the reception - spaces were understandably tight. But that worked well anyway, since I spent the afternoon with my grandparents, which worked out quite nicely. (What's that? You want to hear about the dress? Well, okay, it was an off-the-shoulder white number, with a fairly long veil/train. Joanne wore her hair up and, as do all brides, she looked radiant. Happy now?)

In the evening, though, Ed and Jo were having an evening reception, the central event of which was a ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee for those who don't know). So, off to that I went. Now, there are two ways you can conduct yourself at a ceilidh. Strategy #1 is to sit at the side, and watch all the dances, and feel generally sad and lonely. I do that often enough in 'real life'. Strategy #2 is to dive in, grab a different partner for each dance, and have at it. This strategy is especially effective when many of the people have never been to a ceilidh before, don't know the dances, and are generally awed by the strutting of the funky stuff.

So, in I dived. I danced all but one of the dances (at which point I was turned down by the first person I asked :(, and by the time I'd found a partner the dance floor was full). It was a fun evening. And, indeed, it was my first ceilidh since 14/02/2004, a fairly shocking thing I realised sometime during the evening. I'd forgotten how much fun they can be.

But, enough reminiscing, and on to the highlight of my year thus far. There exists a ceilidh dance called "Strip the Willow". This legendary dance has been the undoing of many of Andrew's dance partners over the years. It involves a huge amount of spinning around at high speed, and tends to be more than a little interesting. Naturally, therefore, when Strip the Willow was called, I proceeded to ask the nearest girl if she would care to dance (formal wear, remember?). Sadly, Rachel had already been asked. Gutted.

So, I made haste across the floor, seeking someone with whom to dance. And spied the lovely Hazel, who would be "delighted". Result. As we made our way onto the dance floor, Hazel queried whether she should remove her shoes, so we could really go for it. I thought that was a splendid idea.

Now, you recall that I said the dance involved lots of spinning around? Well, more specifically, at three points during the movement of each couple, you're supposed to link hands, and spin around for 16 beats. Normally, this is about two and a half complete circles. Hazel and I managed about six. I was so dizzy I could barely stand. (And I couldn't help but be aware just how dangerous it was. I'm my hands had slipped... Don't try this at home, kids!) But it's funny, at that speed, the only thing you really become aware of is your partner, flying around in circles with you, blonde hair streaming behind her...

At the end of the dance, we hugged. "We showed them how to do it," she said. True, that.

And there it is. Five minutes, one dance, and an impossibly beautiful girl. The highlight of 2006 thus far. Cheered me right up, that did.

A Truly Awful Week

Last week was a bad one. In fact, last week made other bad weeks look good by comparison. Indeed, it was so bad that I wasn't even able to find time for a one-line throwaway post about how bad the week was!

Now, I'm going to have to be careful here, because the badness was connected with work, and there are limits to what should be said about work in a public place. So, with that in mind, here goes.

The project that I'm on has been having some problems. So, the week before last we had a meeting and discussed the situation, and what should be done. One of the outcomes of this was that I should send what I was working on to the customer's expert and have him look it over, to see if he could advise. So, I duly did. Additionally, our project manager was in France that week, and had asked me to send out the weekly status report on Friday. I, of course, forgot until just after I had left the office on Friday, whereupon I spent twenty minutes looking for a convenient place to turn the car around, only to decide that I didn't have time because the BT engineer was coming (or not, as the case actually was).

Anyway, I decided to send the report first thing on Monday, especially since I had to be in early again. And, since the week is cyclic, there's no real difference between sending it last thing on Friday and first thing on Monday.

So, I got up early on Monday, and headed to the office, busily composing the report in my head as I went. I sat down at my PC, opened email, and was hit by the bombshell.

The customer's expert had looked over my work, declared the whole thing utterly useless, and written a scathing report on it, in which he declared, essentially, that I was utterly useless and incompetent. Not the best thing to be hit with on a Monday morning.

At this point, the company went into a damage control mode, and we had meetings and discussions about what went wrong, what was to be done, and so on and so forth. I was told several times that this wasn't about them assigning blame (which I didn't find terribly reassuring).

So, it was hectic. And this week's going to be hectic as well. And the week after. And every week until I can finally get this thing fixed and out of the door.

But the worst thing about it all is not the email itself - it's the dreadful feeling that, just maybe, he's right. Although many of the issues he raised were fairly trivial, there was one major screw up on my part, something I should have known better than to do. (Actually, there was a second, but that one was based on a peice of information I just didn't have, so I'm letting myself off the hook on that one.) But something has gone badly wrong with the project since July, and the blame, if there is to be any, must fall to me. After all, I'm the guy who should have had it working by now.

(Perhaps the funniest thing is that I made a relatively huge amount of progress last week. Were it not for Monday, that would have been the greatest week since I started there.)

There was more badness in the week. My band lost their pipe major just after the Cowal Games, which has left a degree of confusion. And the BT engineer came, and failed to help on Friday, so I still have no broadband. However, these problems fade to insignificance before the hell that was my job last week. I may blog about such things once the project is over. If I survive that long. I find I desperately need a holiday, but there's no possibility of getting the time off until the current project and, in fact, the next one is finished. The way things are going, Christmas is starting to look doubtful.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How does that even happen?

You know how I said I wasn't allowed broadband?

Well, it seems that it really is a universal law. The engineer was booked for this afternoon. Consequently, I got up early every morning this week, so I could get the afternoon off. I got home, and waited.

At 6:30, I contacted BT, and found that the engineer had been held up at an earlier job, and wasn't coming. He's now re-booked for next week.

Even more annoying, I don't even know for certain that this guy's going to fix the problem. It's entirely possible that he'll come out, and declare that he can't help me. Or that he's not cleared for loft work. Or he'll change the wire, and it won't help.

So, out of interest, and with a view to fixing the damn thing myself, I looked it up on the internet. And found a very helpful site explaining exactly how it should be done... if you're not me. At the top of the site is says, "If your phone is connected like this (picture of my connections), you can't wire up a socket yourself. You need to contact the powers-that-be, and have a Master Socket fitted."

So, I guess I'm at work early all next week, then.

Also, in unrelated news, I had an appointment for a gas inspector to come and look at my meter. There's nothing wrong with it, but apparently it's very important that the meter be looked at. He was definately coming between 5 and 8. It's now 8:16, and there's no sign. Somehow, I'm not surprised.