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Geek Heaven

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I didn't appreciate just how geeky I was until last Wednesday - now I know what everyone else knows!

There is an extra-curricular project, called EPiCS, being run by one of the lecturers at the Uni.  Unfortunately, despite wanting to sign up for it, I was worried about the time it would take up when there is so much to do study-wise.

However, a few weeks ago, the tutor announced a trip to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, the same place where the Enigma machine was decoded in the Second World War.  For the discount price of £5, forty students had the opportunity to see Colossus, the Harwell Decatron Computer (also known as WITCH) and a range of machines from history that made me realise just how much I have seen things change: I am not old ... I've just seen a lot!  :-)

The trip was originally to be booked for the second year students but they wanted to see if some of us first years wanted to go: needless to say, the little group I'm part of were am…

Settling In...

If you're not into boring, reflective posts, navigate away from here now!!!

Hello? You all gone? Thought as much! Well, here I go anyway...

I have spent the last twelve years working in IT, slowly building up my skills but totally lacking any kind of formal structure; a case of learning what was needed to get the job done (thank you, Google!).  This has meant that on paper I look good, but when I have the interviews and get asked techie questions, I fail miserably because I can't use the words or demonstrate the techniques that employers want to hear.  The end result is that you become so dejected about your skills that you stay in the same place and stagnate ... both in skills and in attitude!!!

When I first seriously considered coming to University, it is totally fair to say that I didn't really think things through as much as I should have done; if anything, it was more of a reaction to the situations I found myself getting into at work, but I felt that if I didn&#…

Mastercard Moments

Moment 1:

My family are sitting round the garden table and my Mum decides it's time to have a smoke. With barely a break in what he is doing, my five-year-old nephew pipes up: "Grandma, how many cigarettes do you have to smoke before you die?"

Priceless.  Shame it hasn't stopped her...

Moment 2:

My Dad is browsing the web for anniversary ideas and gets distracted by a video of large women having a makeover.  Cue my Mum walking in to see what he is doing...

Mum: "Why are you looking at fat birds having a make-over?"
Dad: "I'm looking for something for you"

Even after 40 years of marriage, he still hasn't learned!!!!

Moment 3:

Actually, this is still pretty fresh as it is the reason I am currently writing blog posts at 2am!

After deciding to study late in order to try and get a little ahead, I finally left the Uni buildings at some point after 11pm.  As expected, the park and ride buses were no longer running, so I decided to walk to the car …

What happened???

Whoa, has it really been 7 weeks since I last posted?  I know I don't have that many readers, but sorry for the silence, things have been a bit hectic here!

In fact, so much has been happening, that it's probably easier to give a quick bullet point of the main events, otherwise, this would be something of an epic posting which I guarantee you won't reach the end of!
Firstly, I should say congratulations to my parents who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary at the beginning of September.  They were intending to go away to celebrate together, but decided they would rather have a nice meal with family. 

Unfortunately, The Woolpack, where the meal was booked didn't do a very good job of the booking, so the meal wasn't as nice as it could have been.

After the rather unfortunate and ironic drowning of my little iPod Nano I wrote about in my last post, I ended up ordering a replacement directly from the Apple site: a nice little fifth generation orange one, complete …

Technology Loves Irony

After a week of not running, it was well past time to head back out and get some more training in now that the Great North Run is looming almost overhead.

With the incredible deluge of rain passed (and my flat still dry ... for now), I decided to risk a run, knowing it would be hard and that I would quite possibly get wet.  I didn't realise just how wet I would get so was a little unprepared for the second deluge that fell, my shirt proving that it could wick moisture in both directions.

Unfortunately, I also discovered that the amount of rain was a tad too much for my little iPod Nano, which couldn't keep going and finally drowned ... right in the middle of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now

Hmmmm.

Musical Itch

I've never been particularly clued up when it comes to music, it's more a case of if I happen to hear something I like, I usually end up buying the album.  The end result is a music collection that is more eclectic than the spirit collection on top of my fridge - though far less potent!

The latest addition to the collection is a bit of a departure to the more upbeat tones of Train's Hey, Soul Sister or V V Brown's Shark in the Water.  After hearing just a clip of Islands, I've ended up with The xx being played to death on the way to and from work:


Okay it's a bit on the dark side, but this one has managed to get into my head and won't shift, like an itch that can't be scratched ... which is fine at the moment, but if I start wearing black clothes, looking moody and dying my hair black, someone come and slap some common sense into me!

Facebook RIP

At what point do you draw the line when you advertise your every thought and feeling on the social web?  Before or after you realise that it impacts on others?

Like it or not, the social web has obviously caught on in a major way: Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Bebo, Twitter and many, many more like them waiting in the wings, hoping to be the next big thing.  People are sharing everything from the most mundane aspects of their lives to their most personal thoughts and feelings; as a means of self-expression and narcissism, there is nothing else like it.

Combine this with an 'always-on' culture and the ease and speed of information spread is quite phenomenal.

However, this freedom of expression and near-instant feedback comes at a price: we are now so eager to tell everyone our current thoughts and feelings that we forget, or do not consider, that what we say may have an impact on others.

Perhaps I am being old-fashioned, but there are some things that should not be expressed so c…

Little John's House

For the past couple of weeks, I've had a tough time keeping my lips sealed about a bit of very good news regarding BikerBetty, my friend with the Dirk Benedictobsession crush.

BB is a big supporter of Little John's House, a Romanian orphanage that was set up in 1993 for Ionut Balan and which now cares for six children, as well as providing outreach support and a summer school for other disadvantaged children in the area.

A few weeks ago, with Little John's House in mind, she took a late night visit to the Vodaphone World of Difference website after seeing one of their posters on the tube and decided to apply for this year's programme, not particularly expecting to get anywhere but at least it was worth a shot.

Within a few weeks of applying, BB found herself in the final group of eight individuals that have been given the opportunity to implement a project for their chosen charity, due to start at the end of September!

This is an amazing opportunity for all of the cand…

Huh??

Techies enjoy having a chuckle over some of the support stuff we have to handle from time to time but there are times that even we do things that would make any normal person think "Huh??".

Take, for example, the office I currently work in; an open plan area with a fair few people, all lined up in little rows which are generally grouped in the various teams.  Why, then, would someone instant message a person at the very next desk instead of just talking to them???

Huh??

Okay, I could understand if it was meant to be reasonably private, but when the person sitting next to you messages you to ask if you can send them some files, it's a tad on the crazy side.  Thankfully, there are only a small handful of people that do this ... though they're all on my row!

On Monday, however, they took things a stage further when one of them picked up the phone and actually rang someone sitting two desks away.  That's about 8 feet.

He could have psssssst in his ear at that range!

Fad Attack

I've never been one for jumping on the latest fad: the more people hype something up, the less I want to do with it, especially if it's all gloss and no substance.  Like the iPhone or iPad.  Or Dan Brown.

Instead, I've always had my own little obsessions fads.

In much the same way that women have a thing for shoes, handbags and anything that glitters, my thing is for jackets.  Not including suits, I currently have eleven jackets.  Yup, you read that right, eleven jackets, and at least two of these have yet to be worn beyond the occasional check to see if they still fit.  Believe it or not, I did have more at one point, but there are only so many clothes I can fit in my wardrobe ... and on the sofa ... and the computer chair...

However, my obsession has been changing lately and my attention has now turned to hats.  Other than my black Bench cap, I do not suit hats.  At all.  My head is an odd shape; in fact, think Phil Spencer and you won't be far off.  And yet I have t…

It's All About The Face-Man

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I would be the first to admit that I don't get out much at weekends beyond a relaxing visit to the local coffee shop; not because I don't want to, but because I don't even think about it until I reach the weekend, by which time it's too late to get up to anything interesting.

Last weekend, however, was something of an altogether different beast.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit BikerBetty as I couldn't make it to her BBQ, and enjoyed the usual sociable visit with good food and curious chickens.  Being quite an outgoing person, BB knows how to have fun and is responsible for opening my eyes to the world of studio audiences: we've had a few experiences there!

Invariably when we meet up - which isn't as often as it should be - one question has a tendency to crop up: "How would you like to...?"

On this occasion, the question was: "How would you like to see Dirk Benedict playing Columbo on stage?"

"Where and when?" I ask.

&quo…

I don't like Pussy

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It's not often that I head out anywhere during the week, but when Wazpot (don't ask!), wanted to get out of the house while her hubby watched the Germany - Spain match, I figured it would be good to head out for a wander.

Stopping off at the local off license for a few cans, we headed down to the river by the playing fields, as there were some horses down there that she wanted to go see.  Unfortunately, we couldn't even get close to them as there was no way across the river, so we sat in the playing fields, which is where we cracked open our drinks.

Wazpot had tried to convince me to get a couple of cans of JD and coke but, as much as I like the drink normally, I'm not keen on the idea of having it from a can.  So I decided to go for a soft drink...


Yes, you are reading that right, it really is called Pussy!

As a marketing ploy, the name definitely works.  As a drink ... bleurgh!!  I'd sooner suck the sweat from my socks after a run!!

Don't Panic!

I could really do with my own Hitchhiker's Guide right now, to provide some useful tidbits of guidance as I move from work-life to student-life ... though the nearest thing to that at the moment would probably be an iPad with Wikipedia Mobile installed on it: just as informative but with all the presentation and flair of an MP.

Perhaps a Stephen Fry voice-over would go some way to perking it up a bit.  Or an MP dosed up to the hilt on Pimms.

Since last Tuesday, when I actually succeeded in handing in my notice after weeks of dithering, I've had these little nagging thoughts at the back of my head as to how I'm going to survive.  All those thoughts of not being able to get another job and how the bills are going to be paid, all jostling around in the background where I could ignore them until finally, during Friday night, they snuck into my dreams.

I don't know how many dreams I had, but the last one I remember was going back to a company I used to work for fifteen ye…

Grinny Pig

In the immortal words of the legends that are The Pointer Sisters ... I'm so excited and I just can't hide it, I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!!!

As some of you may know from my previous post, a week last Thursday I submitted my application to UCAS for a place at the University of Hertfordshire.  The course I have applied for is Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence) (BSc Honours) with the idea that it will provide me with an opportunity to move away from the development of dull business systems and into something far more interesting ... at least, that's the hope!

Yesterday, at 4pm, I had the offer letter of a position!  I'm going to be a student!!

Of course, those of you that know me will notice that I left one teeny-weeny little word out of that sentence: "mature".

Whilst I can hope that this means the likes of "cultivated", "prime" and "seasoned", I think it's more likely to be interpreted as "…

Am I the rock that starts the avalanche...

...or the spark that ignites the rocket?

Okay, a tad cryptic there but I'm sure you can work out that what is to follow on from today is either the start of everything going wrong or the start of a very exciting adventure ... I am REALLY hoping for the latter here!!!

For a few years now, I've been getting a bit antsy about working in IT, whether because of frustrating colleagues, irritating customers or incompatible tech, amongst other things.  When we went through the TUPE transfer last September/October, I was offered what sounded like an amazing opportunity when compared to the cuts I would have to make if I stayed with my previous employer.  Who would turn down such an opportunity???

For the cynics amongst you: congratulations, you are right.  The amazing opportunity had all the substance of an air guitar and I have ended up essentially just doing support work on applications that are so badly coded they should be sent to bootcamp: the 'big project' I accepted the …

Down Time

Going home at the end of the working day seems to be something that other people do.

It is rapidly approaching 8pm on a Friday night, by which time you guys will either be propping up bars or cuddling up on the sofa with something other than a hot cuppa ... and I'm still sitting in the office.  Waiting. With a semi-hot cuppa.  In a plastic cup.

So much for going on a training run tonight.

*sigh*

Ah well, since I have some down time, it's probably a good opportunity to ramble aimlessly through another post.  If anything, I can at least take some joy in the fact that it will make my colleague have to stay longer than he wanted to, after just telling someone that I'm giving him a lift home ... and he hasn't even asked me if it's okay.  Cheeky fecker.

Anyhoo, speaking of down time, last Sunday saw Pygmie and I back down at the bottom of Vobster Quay quarry, in water cold enough to instantly chill a six-pack ... and certainly a darn sight more than that if it hadn'…

B Right On

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After the events of last week and the rather late night at work on Friday*, I figured on pretty much sleeping the whole of last weekend.  My body, on the other hand, had other ideas and decided to wake me at the unhealthy hour of 9:30am, my bladder nagging at me to shift my backside in the same way women nag their men: incessantly.

With my body still not quite in gear, I headed back to bed, scooping up my not-so-white-any-more MacBook on the way so I could log on to see who was online.  Since it looked like the weather was going to be the best so far this year, it was time to make an effort to get out somewhere, even if I was supposed to be on call**.  Luckily, my mate Foshie was online, in the middle of getting ready for heading down to Brighton and invited me along.  Bingo!

Despite this being a great photo opportunity, I was really keen on just chilling out, so pocketed my funky little camcorder, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CA9:


Photo from the VPC-CA9 product page on the Sanyo site.
I've…

Back to the Neoprene

After the frustrations of work this week - and every other week since the beginning of March, if I were to be completely honest - taking Friday off for a day trip to London was a very much needed break.

This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment trip as I can do that any weekend.  This was a trip with my cousin to the London Diving Chamber down at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, St John's Wood, in order to undergo our Fit to Dive medicals as we both suffer with asthma, and ready for returning to diving this year along with an intended trip back to Sharm El Sheikh with Emperor Divers in October - Icelandic volcanic ash permitting! *

As per the medical back in 2008, it was a general discussion about our asthma and a few tests, such as spirometry tests, pee tests and nervous tests, the last of these being to ensure I have no problems with musculature control, not to see how I react to the doc shouting "Boo!" at me from various angles.  In case you were wondering.

With t…

Run, Rabbit, Run

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When I first announced back in February that I had gotten through the general ballot for this year's Great North Run, the first question I was asked - with distinct undertones of irony - was when I would start training.  Still bouyed by getting through the ballot and raring to go, my immediate response was, "Next month!"

Hmmmm.  I guess the person who asked the question knows me better than I thought as the next month came and went in a bit of a blur and the most I was able to do was repeat, "Next month" to myself whenever I thought about starting.

Well, April is the next month and I finally took the opportunity provided by the Easter break to crack open the new Nike+ kit and don my rather grubby trainers* for the calibration run.  I figured a nice one mile run followed by a 500 metre walk would sort the new kit out.  Well, it did, but it nearly sorted me into the back of an ambulance at the same time.

It's been two years since I last ran anything more than…

Cutest Animal Ever :-)

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Don't you think?

Things I have learned...

About 1.5 weeks ago, I started working at another customer location, leaving my friends and colleagues behind for a new adventure; unfortunately, the work seems to be following me, even if the people aren't!
During this time, I think I have learned some pretty valuable lessons...
'Teamwork' is insular
Up until now, I've had development environments all to myself.  Being the only Immediacy and .NET developer in my previous position meant that I could work on any code/project without impacting on anyone else's work, or vice versa.
I was King of my domain ... alas no more :-(
Now, it's more like a civilised playgroup, where the 'kids' play with the things that keep them happy which ends up annoying others who, instead of showing their frustration by bashing the culprits round the head with plastic toys (which you have to admit would be fun to watch), instead express themselves with various sighs, grunts and gestures that would make a Neaderthal feel at home.
It…

Mother's Day Shocks

It seems I have quite the knack for causing confusion.

Due to changes at work and having to get up so early in the morning to get to the office before the major traffic hits, I had decided not to head down to sunny Somerset to visit the parents, as the return journey would likely be postponed due to watching Come Dine With Me and any other program that would take my mind off the long drive ahead.

However, my inability to prepare anything in advance led to an urgent shopping spree on Saturday for some appropriate presents and the decision that I should really show my face.  Which is exactly what I did, much to the shock of my parents!

As usual, I was late leaving so perhaps went a little faster down the M4 than I should have, though certainly slower than those around me.  Not that that would make any difference to the police chap sat in an unmarked car just outside Swindon, with his speed gun glued to his face like a Picasso-style Borg implant (something along the lines of this one, bu…

Moving On

My Dad always said that life gets faster the older you get and he wasn't wrong!
With everything that has been happening these past few months, it seems there has barely been time to breathe, let alone bash out any ramblings in this blog ... the only reason I am doing so now is that crunch time is coming and I need to ramble  :-)
Currently, I work on a customer site in Watford on a contract that replaced the one we had at our previous employment.  Unfortunately, as there has been no project work forthcoming (presumably since the customer has now realised they have to pay for work and, therefore, actually think about what they want), these past five months have been filled with HUUUUUGE amounts of documentation, otherwise known as TEE-DEE-UM!
However, on the plus side, it's been a long time that I enjoyed working with any group of people this much: KitKat is a constant source of amusement and a much-needed distraction from the daily grind, whilst DJ Flip-U (ergophonic) and I have b…