Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sometimes, it just isn't your day

Having almost run out of disposable contact lenses, I phoned my optician on Thursday to order some new ones. This morning, they phoned me to say they were now in, and I could collect them. I thanked them, and hung up, carefully neglecting to ask when they were closing today.

A bit later this afternoon, it occurred to me that I should probably pick up my lenses, in case they closed early. Still, I was busy reading, and had just a few pages to go, so decided to wait and finish, since a few minutes either way wouldn't really matter.

I got to the optician's at 3 minutes past 3, to find the place darkened and locked, with a notice on the door that they were closing at 3, and would reopen at 9am some day next week (probably Wednesday, but I neglected to memorise that - and it doesn't particularly matter anyway).

I did, however, spy a couple of people still inside, including the receptionist. So, I knocked, on the grounds that the worst they could do was say "go away, we're closed." They did not do so, but instead let me in to collect my lenses. I was duly thankful.

On returning to the car, I checked the boxes, only to discover that the strengths on the lenses are different for each eye, and that in both cases they are stronger than the actual value I wear in both eyes. So, on Wednesday, I'm going to have to go back, and return the lenses.

Sometimes, it just isn't your day.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Refreshed, rested, and raring to go!

You know, despite being woken at 3:30 this morning, I've felt surprisingly alert and rested today. In fact, I'm now keen to get back to work and kick-start things there again. Perhaps there's something to this 'vacation' lark after all.

Roll on 2007!

Is it a bad sign when your scales break?

Actually, my scales have broken, but I think this is because the little chip inside got damp. Whatever the reason, it won't now reset to 0, which makes the whole thing rather useless.

Anyway, I got a new set today, although they're cheap and nasty analogue scales that probably aren't terribly accurate. According to them, in the three months since my other scales gave up the ghost, my weight has stayed about constant, which is a good sign, since I haven't actively been trying to change it.

Oh my, I had forgotten...

I went to Tesco this afternoon to pick up a bunch of things to see me through until the week after next, and was reminded very clearly of just how annoying people are. And it wasn't as if they were particularly doing anything to be annoying, just failing to think of the consequences of turning their trolleys across the aisles, stopping dead to look at some shelf or other, or standing side by side in the aisles to have a good natter, while all the time people were just trying to get out of there.

And then there was the random fight just outside the store. Always a pleasure.

This, however, has left me with something of a problem. See, as I may have mentioned before, I'm getting a bit tired of being constantly single. And, standing in the way of me actually doing anything about it is a general lack of single women in my life. (That every interesting woman I've met in the past six months has very shortly thereafter been transported to some weird parallel dimension, never to be seen again, doesn't help.)

This leads to the logical conclusion that I need to go out and meet people. But I find people incredibly annoying for the most part, especially when taken en masse. So, this leads me to the question: where do you go to meet people, while simultaneously avoiding places where people tend to be found?

Ouch! My Irony-meter broke

Last night, I was woken up at 3:30, to the sound of my neighbours complaining that some guy is a "selfish bastard".

Personally, I think this is great - it's almost as good as Obi-Wan's comment "only a Sith deals in absolutes".

Friday, December 22, 2006

Milestones to Christmas

On the first of November, with Halloween over, the shops collectively decide that it's now time for Christmas. The decorations go up, the shopping centre soundtracks become festive, and the adverts tell us that it's time to urgently do our Christmas shopping now, now, NOW! But I don't consider that the start of Christmas.

On the first of December, I start my Christmas shopping. Over the next couple of weeks, I will identify presents for all the people who need presents, and order these. In general, my shopping is done online - I don't have time for lots of wandering round shops looking for presents for people. But I don't consider that the start of Christmas.

On the first Sunday of December (or shortly thereafter), I put up my Christmas decoration. But I don't consider that the start of Christmas.

Some time during the last week before Christmas, I wrap the presents for everyone. But, still, I don't consider that the start of Christmas.

No, Christmas officially starts for me at the moment when I stop work for the year. And that time is now! Huzzah!

Have a good time, all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


why is it that tales of degradation and embarrassment make for the best stories?

A new category

As everyone knows, there are two main types of trouser emergency. The lesser trouser emergency occurs when you bend down to lift a heavy box or other item, and suddenly there is a huge RIIIPP! sound followed by a sensation of freedom. The greater trouser emergency... well, you can imagine.

For many years, I had been under the illusion that these two types represented the full range of possible trouser emergencies, but my illusion has been shattered by recent events.

On Friday, we were to travel to the top of the Schildthorn, the better to suffer Powerpoint poisoning. It being December, and quite high up, and cold, we were advised to wear something warm. Additionally, those of our party who were skiing or engaging in the other sports o'death for the weekend (not me, in this instance) were advised to take a change of clothes.

So, I packed my bag with a few extra layers, in case I needed them later in the day. And, on a whim, I packed a second pair of jeans. I wouldn't need them, I knew, since my jeans weren't going to get wet, and you can't really wear more than one pair at a time...

Anyway, we set off. And, in the conference centre, they had very nicely placed a bottle of water on each chair (sparkling water, but what can you do?). We sat down for the first three hours of festive fun and Powerpoint.

About three quarters of the way through this, I notice that the person sitting next to me has a chocolate bar. In fact, many of my colleagues have chocolate bars. And yet I have none...

Seeing where this is leading, I start to develop a distinct feeling of dread. And, sure enough, when we break for lunch, I stand up and look down, and discover the location of the missing chocolate bar. Or, at least, the melted remnants thereof. (Naturally, for maximum effect, it wasn't just a chocolate bar. Oh, no, it had to have nuts in, too.)

Fortunately, either no-one actually noticed, or they were too polite to actively point and laugh. I calmly and with great dignity collected my bag, and made my way to the toilets, where I was soon clad in nice clean jeans. When I returned to the conference centre, some kind member of the centre staff had removed the offensive chair, and replaced it with a nice clean chair.

Anyway, I have decided to declare this the intermediate trouser emergency. And I have resolved to no longer be so cavalier in sitting down on chairs, since you can never know when one might ambush you with chocolate.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Unearned Plaudits

The weekend just past saw me in Switzerland, and left me with rather a lot of blog-worthy material. I may get around to telling some of those stories over the next few days, or I might save them up until I can bore you with them in person.

My dominant experience of the weekend, though, was that I kept being given prizes and being generally congratulated, entirely due to the efforts of other people.

On Friday evening, after an exciting day of team-building, my company had their annual awards ceremony. The dress code was 'party casual', which of course means nothing to anyone. However, as I had bought an exciting new dress shirt for the party that I didn't attend last weekend (by virtue of being in Nottingham), I decided to wear that. Consequently, the evening found me in kilt, waistcoat and jacket, plus my fantastic new dress shirt and bow tie. (I was asked, if this was casual, what would I look like when I really got dressed up. The answer is exactly the same, but I would wear an actual bow tie instead of a clip-on.) As I have mentioned in a previous post, the effect was as of Superman to my normal Clark Kent, even down to the use of contact lenses instead of glasses.

(There may a future post in which this outfit is also relevant, hence my detailing it at some length.)

One of my colleagues also wore a kilt.

Anyway, the awards ceremony went on, with the various design centres from France and Germany giving out their awards. Lots of awards, for many fine projects. A long and distinguished line of engineers was formed on the stage...

Then, lastly, we came to the Edinburgh centre, for which there was only one award. However, because we're rather busy here, the people to whom the award was due were unable to attend, and couldn't join us by video conference because that would just be silly. But, because the centre really needed to have some representation amongst the winners, someone had to be nominated to collect the award...

Perhaps the strangest thing about it all was that when most of the winners had received their awards, there was a ripple of polite applause. However, when I and my be-kilted colleague made our way to the stage to collect an award we hadn't won for a project that was finished before we joined the company, the reaction was huge by comparison. Then, when the winners' photograph was to be taken, they insisted that we take prominent position in the front row.

It was all rather bizarre.

Roll on Saturday, and the team-building exercise proper. Here, we were in teams, building towers out of straws and sellotape, because how else can one's cow-bell be properly displayed? Anyway, as part of the task, one of the sub-groups was to solve riddles to gain additional building materials, and I was part of that team. Except that it quickly became apparent that I represented a net-loss of productivity - after an initial couple of really good answers, things just went horribly wrong. So, I wisely removed myself from the doings, to allow my colleagues to do their stuff.

Consequently, the team came joint-second overall. And we had to go and collect a huge pile of chocolate as our prize. Naturally, this terrible hardship was made all the sweeter because, once again, I was being given a prize, this time to keep, and again off the back of other people's efforts! Huzzah!

But I'm not done yet!

On Sunday, at the church, there was a special candlelit service in the evening. This was organised largely by Chris and Ed, but represented a huge outlay of effort on the part of many of the youth of the church. My part was to read four readings, all of them very well-known. Not exactly the hardest of work, and a fairly minor part of the whole.

Anyway, I stood up for the first reading, and started. In the short pause after the first paragraph, I became aware of a strange silence about the place, a silence I've heard once before while I've been reading. It's meaning: people were listening! Oh dear...

Well, I did the readings over the course of the evening, with only two small problems, one where I managed to miss out a key word and was forced to resort to "er...", and the second there I gestured grandly, only to lose my place in the reading and had to continue from memory while frantically seeking the correct words.

The rest of the service went without a hitch. There were several video segments, some excellent carols chosen, and a choir. As I said, my part of the whole was rather minor.

But, in keeping with the theme of the weekend, I spent the next hour or so being told how great I was, and while that is obviously true, and nice to hear, it did seem rather unfair given the efforts of everyone else. But, hey, what can you do?

(And, yes, before I finish: well done to Chris, Ed, and all those involved in putting together the service. A quality production all around.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Honour the Sprout!

If you've read this before, I commend you on your memory.

Every year at Christmas, the scene is set by certain trappings. And, for the most part, these are welcomed by people as giving a nice festive feel to the world. True, people complain about having to put their decorations up, they moan that the shops have started Christmas too early, they worry that their shopping is not yet done, and that there are 5,224 cards still to write. But, the truth is, these are all things that people do not because they have to, but rather because they choose to do so. The truth is, people secretly like all the fuss and nonsense surrounding Christmas.

However, there is one element of Christmas that people don't like, yet one that is as quintessential an element of the Christmas experience as is not watching the Queen's Speech. I'm talking, of course, about the brussel sprout.

There it is, a little green ball of foulness, nestled at the side of your plate of turkey dinner and all the trimmings, silently setting the scene, reminding you that verily, 'tis the season. And, every year, millions of people bemoan their sprouts, and cruelly cast them aside, consigning them to the ignominy of the bin, sealed away to the mocking laughter of their more popular vegetable kin.

No more, I say! This humblest of vegetables has gone unrecognised long enough, enduring the scorn and mockery of we merry-makers long enough!

This year, let us all take a moment on Christmas Day to reflect on the contribution of the Sprout to our season. Let us tip our heads in a silent gesture of respect to this gentleman of the vegetable kingdom, and acknowledge all those departed sprouts, whose sacrifice should not have been in vain.

Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The world seems much quieter now...

Courtesy of outrageous fortune, I found myself at my Gran's (in Nottingham) last weekend. Consequently, I found myself listening to 'Strictly Come Dancing' on Saturday night - such is the volume at which she watches TV, only a retreat out to the car would have protected me from this fate.

I didn't actually see any of the show, on the grounds that I was trying to read my book at the time, but instead enjoyed the delights of their live singer mangling a great many tunes new and old. Now, the thing is, I know the music really isn't the point of the show, it being about dancing and all. (Well, actually, it's about a popularity contest for 'celebrities', but that's another rant.) Still, would it have killed them to get someone who could actually sing?

Oh, and another thing. What is it about the studio audiences at these things with their inane reactions to the judges? Say something nice about the performance, and there's a round of applause (presumably in recognition of completing a coherent sentence, without order wrong putting in words the the); say something critical, and there's a chorus of boos. I wouldn't mind so much, except that it's supposed to be a talent contest, and only about three people there were really qualified to comment, so shouldn't they be allowed to actually do their jobs?

Then again, they weren't helped by the fact that one of the judges obviously wanted to be the Simon Cowell of the dance scene, without realising that in addition to being incredibly arrogant, and often quite nasty, Simon is also generally incisive in his commentary. Instead, whenever she started talking, this judge started wittering on, saying nothing of consequence, but being sure to use her favourite catch-phrases. (I'm sorry, but "it had snap, it had crackle, and it had pop" doesn't mean anything, and once you've used it twice it's not even cute any more. As an alternative, why don't you try... "I liked it"?)


Friday, December 08, 2006

New and Improved!

In the last two weeks, Microsoft have upgraded the two most-used tools on my PC: Internet Explorer and Media Player. And, of course, they've managed to destroy both of them.

(Please, no comments about how I should use your browser/player of choice. The simple fact is, the pre-installed tools are free and convenient, and 98% of websites are designed for IE. So, it would take an awful lot to persuade me to switch, especially since my home PC is now 7 years old, and in its last few months of life. And, of course, I can't make the switch with my work PC.)

Anyway, the new Internet Explorer includes the wonderful tabbed browsing feature, which is really quite nice. However, it has also vastly upped its processor demands, which means that it can't scroll properly on my PC, especially when using the wheel mouse. Given the choice, guess which I would rather have working?

And the new Media Player is particularly good. The old version had a lovely feature where it minimised to it's own toolbar on the taskbar, including basic player functions. The new version has a similar feature, with a new and snazzy black look (which of course doesn't match the rest of the desktop, but never mind), but they've deleted the ability to choose your playlist from the minimised taskbar. That, of course, being one of the features I used most often, and probably my #1 like about the product.

Good work, there!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Feeling all festive now

I've just put up my Christmas decoration. Now, my computer monitor is wreathed in green tinsel.

Ho ho ho!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Making a List, Checking it Twice...

If I declare all the people I know to be 'naughty', does that mean I can save a bit of cash this Christmas?

'cos some of them totally are.