28th February

A presentation came round today about the geekily named project for building a new Direct Debit payments system. It included a quote from Ghandi. This lead to a lengthy discussion about whether Ghandi would've been a DD man. The consensus was that he would because he'd be able to stage his peaceful protests while having the comfort of knowing his bills were being paid automatically. Suddenly it doesn't seem quite so tawdry.

It has been a day of errors. We are a week and a half from go live day and something has gone wrong with the test box. They keep having to restart it. Which isn't great because everything just dies and usually in the middle of a demonstration. So I'm trying to explain things to people and keep getting hilarious error messages like

Fatal error: Call to a member function format() on a non-object in blocks\ad_hoc_projections\ManualMerBlock.class.php on line 173

and have to ad lib round them. Not that my demonstrations go well at the moment - either I'm grilled by people who hate me or I say something weird or stupid and make them hate me. I made a horribly inappropriate remark during this afternoon's session (it was a "Big Train" reference but I have to concede, with hindsight, that no one watched "Big Train" and that references to a ban on wanking in the office won't necessarily be taken the right way).

Wanking in the office reminds me that the table load of temps who sit in front of us are the very living embodiment of the "Filthy, Rich and Catflap" line 'a four tissue fantasy'. Never mind offering biscuits to people to come to our drop-in sessions and demonstrations - we should just put a tantalising photo of the FTF on the intranet and all the gentlemen and gay ladies will be round to see us before you can say "I've already decided which parts of each of them I would use to construct my hybrid".

Basically, I'm a marketing genius.

There is definitely something wrong with me at the moment. Not only do I find myself saying these ridiculous things, not only have I started forgetting basic things like which side my petrol cap is on after a year but I'm actually struggling to tell the time on an analogue watch. I was fine when I first switch over from digital (not by choice - I just haven't got round to replacing it) but over the last couple of days I've been staring at the dial and having to really think what the strange collection of hands actually means. It's probably something so rare that there will be a bidding war for my cerebellum after I'm dead.

 

25th February

Sky are cunts. They just are. I haven't watched Sky One in years and I don't think I even know where Skys Two and Three are but Sky's decision to withdraw those channels from cable (ie Virgin Media) is disgraceful. They are such contemptible hypocrites - they claim that doubling the price of their channels is "fair" having only just demanded VM reduce the price of their channels (Bravo, Living etc) by 75%. Now, having secured all the old Flextech channels, Sky make it clear they never had any intention of letting their basic channels stay on non-Sky platforms. It just goes to show that Sky - for twenty years the only real game in town - finally have a competitor they are scared of. So the dirty tricks have started - adverts inserted into VM feeds giving Sky's side of the story (a shameful abuse of their position as both content and service provider), billboards claiming Sky One is exclusive to Sky customers (a campaign planned weeks ago which shows how committed they were to negotiations for carriage) and all manner of press releases telling customers how VM have chosen to deny them the chance to watch Lost and 24 and the Simpsons. But Branson has been there before - he fought British Airways and their dirty tricks campaigns and succeeded. He'll give Sky enough rope to hang themselves and then take the whole mess to court. Sky have been abusing their position for twenty years and at last there is someone who is going to put a stop to it. Hopefully. Yay for the bearded one.

Except that the curse of ntl: will probably live on and they'll get a court date but just won't turn up.

I know how to make ITguy giggle. Just tell him that they're planning to go back to depending on the mainframes BUT with new emulators written in Flash. He thought that was the funniest thing since an earlier suggestion to scrap mouse navigation in favour of an old Spectrum adventure game control system.

"You have now identified the customer. Press F to go forward, B to go backward, R to put the customer in your rucksack, S to use a spell or Q to quit".

Because geek humour works really well with geeks and that's what we are.

I'm also ill. Despite what TheArtist claims, it actually IS possible for a hypochondriac to get ill. I've been looking up symptoms of migraines on the internet. They perfectly explain my strange headaches. So I'll add that to the list.

But at least I won't die of road tax evasion - sod queuing up in the post office behind quite literally thousands of people. It takes five minutes online and you don't need to frab around with certificates or any of that rubbish. The internet is great. Except for the paying £110 part of it. That sucked ass. Maybe I should start a petition about it.

 

23rd February

Ok, that was easy. I've got firepass access so can log in to an exact facsimile of my work desktop. Shared drives, private folders, inboxes, intranet admin, test systems and (if I could be bothered to check) mainframes. Oddly, the Acrobat Distiller seems to work when I log in from home when it has never worked at work. Which may just be because whoever had words in ears to get me a firepass also mentioned that I'd been waiting six months for Acrobat and kept being fobbed off.

This means I can be on call tomorrow and not have to get dressed all day AT THE SAME TIME~!

Though I am a professional at all times and would never contemplate such a thing.

 

22nd February

The illness continues to engulf me. My cough has lingered for so long that it is looking likely I've caught mother's chest infection so it'll be around for months yet. My ears are blocked up so I can't hear anything. I SAID MY EARS ARE BLOCKED SO I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING. On Tuesday night it looked (ok, it felt) as if I had an ear infection which would've sucked ass on top of everything else. Today I was woozy and unbalanced (but not in the normal way) and couldn't remember things from one minute to the next. I even had to have two goes at putting petrol in m'car on the way home as (for the first time ever) I forgot which side the petrol cap was. So I should probably stay at home and give everyone a break from me. But I won't.

There is of course the third way - thanks Tony - which requires a semi-mythical object known as a "firepass". This mighty relic allows the brave knight or knightess to bypass the firewall and log in to the servers from the comfort (or otherwise) of ones own castle. I want firepass access. I know that, at the end of the day, I'm actually angling to be able to do work at home (which in practice probably means extra work) but it would be a tremendously useful thing to have. For both practical and medical reasons. I'm going to try and set the ball in motion tomorrow because the benefits are obvious - I would be able to produce training material using the superior software at home but with access to screen shots of systems at work, it would fit nicely into the company's current "Green" kick of trying to reduce the number of car journeys staff make to and from work (which is actually because they've fucked up the car parks and leased out too many spaces so now they're trying to cover their failure with environmental initiatives) and it would obey the first rule - always get your backup plan first.

Virgin Media's on demand service has been revamped of late. It is still slow and buggy on my creaking old Pace 4000 box (better on m'brother's V+ model) but they claim that all the stuff in their "TV Hits" menu is free. Which is nice. Tehy have an eclectic mix - ranging from current hits like Spooks and Hustle to the obscure 1992 Sandi Toksvig sit com "The Big One" which surely no one but myself and Comrade Toksvig remember. On Demand is in its infancy but it is one area where cable really has the potential to kick the arse of Sky Digital and with Sir Richard in charge I have a slight and vague optimism that they might actually bring boot to bear on arse. Whether it be their own or someone else's is yet to be seen. This unexpected development makes the timing of my acquiring one of these even more impressive.

I only got it so I could put the last of my VHS tapes onto DVD and end my reliance on the chunk technology of the last century.

You might also be interested in this site - just paste the URL of a YouTube clip into the box and it lets you download the file in a more useful format - MP4, MOV or AVI. Marvellously useful for those times when you find something you simply must have but can't get to keep.

 

18th February

Even though I am officially A Boring Person when it comes to banging on about how cute and lovely and adorable my little niece is, I have to mention that little Banana has started sticking her tongue out when she concentrates on something. Alan Davies claims it is so there is more room in ones head to think. He may be right (though I doubt it as he isn't medically qualified) but either way it is adorable and lovely and cute. Though she's mostly grumpy at the moment and cries all the time.

Whereas I just cough and splutter and drip and blow my nose all the time. The rare and exotic strain of illness which I no doubt have is doing me no good at all. If it was a fatal strain then I'd put up with all this nonsense because at least I'd get to die at the end of it. But to spend a week or two as a mucus factory and then return to what passes for normal? Bah, what a waste of effort.

I watched the debut of Elite XC on Showtime last night and, leaving aside the controversial (some say farcical) main event DQ, the most talked about fight of the night was the first female MMA fight to be shown on US television. I will admit I was sort of in the camp who didn't want to see women fighting. I remember seeing Lita or Trish Stratus bleeding on a WWE show and thinking it just looked wrong. It is a double standard of course - if it is ok for men to beat each other up it should be ok for women to beat each other up. The only way to get over any reluctance to see women fighting (and we're not talking jelly wrestling here - we're talking proper mixed martial arts) was to watch two of the best in the world go the distance in an excellent match. It was obvious that there was a gulf in skill between a top female fighter and a top male fighter because the female fighters are a good ten years behind the men (and this is in a sport that is only about 15 years old) but if there are enough women to fight and enough women to train with and enough teams willing and able to coach female fighters, the women's divisions could become well worth seeing. The physical differences between men and women could make for two subtly different sports - women would (at least at first) lack the punching power of their male counterparts but their greater flexibility and gymnastic strength would compensate on the ground and with kicking on the feet. Unlike boxing where it is so one dimensional that women can't compensate for their lack of punching power with other skills, women's MMA could have a very bright future. They just need to encourage women to make the move from judo, wrestling and the various forms of boxing because Gina Carano can't carry the sport on her own. When there are enough quality female fighters to have one bout per show, then we'll be able to say that women's MMA has made it.

 

14th February

I can't write much because I've managed to burn the tips of three fingers. I won't tell you how - it is too pathetically stupid - but suffice it to say one of the fingers developed an enormous blister which filled with fluid and was burst by an unnamed person squeezing too hard upon said finger tip. So I can only really type with one hand and that slows me down some what.

It hasn't been a vintage week for health - I'm full of a cold, I've got a cough that could discover oil at any moment and I found myself being unexpectedly sick at lunchtime. I don't know if you've ever thrown up an entire bag of Hula Hoops but it isn't to be recommended. But I soldiered on.

Because I somehow managed to get thoroughly booked up this afternoon. The morning was just a blurry series of meeting requests which ended up taking all my time between retching and Tesco. Everything is frantically busy at the moment because two major projects are going on at the same time and while there are large areas of overlap, there are still two development teams, the actuaries and two groups of business users to work with. It's all good stuff but BY GOLLY is it going to be difficult to roll some of this stuff out to the peeps. It being easier and more reliable than the existing suite of systems is neither here nor there - it is a mind-fucker until you grasp what it means and they don't always grasp well. Neither do I at the moment - I have embarrassingly burned finger tips.

Which is extra bad because I now know lots more about skin than I used to thanks to the wonderful Doctor Alice. Her fantastic series "Don't Die Young" has made even a complete medically squeamish mess like me sit through eye operations and heart dissections and lung unfolding and all manner of other biological barminess. As someone who threw up and fainted my way through a brief attempt at biology, this is quite an achievement. Maybe if I'd had a biology teacher like Alice Roberts I might've fared better. Though probably only because I would've spent the entire lesson gazing at her and not paying any attention to all the talk of blood vessels and kidneys.

Reading her book and watching her series makes me wonder even more how anyone can eat organs. Eating flesh is hard enough to understand but eating kidneys or liver or other offal is just wrong by any standard. You carnivores are fuckin' weird.

 

11th February

It's a discussion I'm sure you've all had at one time or another. Which seven sports personalities would've been selected to fight Argentina had the Falklands War been a comic book movie? Imagine the scene - Mrs Thatcher is in her bunker chatting to the heads of the armed forces. She is given the awful news - it will take ages to get the army to the Falklands because it is miles away. They look at a globe. "Blimey" says Maggie, "I didn't know the world went that far down". So the armed forces are out - by the time they get there the whole island will be Argentine to its very core. But there is one alternative. A top secret group which flies round the world in a big air ship and solves the problems that no one else can. They are the League of Extraordinary Sporting Personalities (Class of 1982). General Galtieri would quickly come to realise that he bit off more than he could chew when he looked out of his castle window and saw, walking up the beach having landed their air ship, Britain's finest sporting superheroes. Leading the troop is Mrs Thatcher's (and the Queen's) personal hero, Big Daddy. Behind him are Ian "Beefy" Botham, Steve Davies, Daley Thompson, Kevin Keegan, Eric Bristow and Torvill'n'Dean (who count as one even though the surprise twist is that Jane has got Willie Carson in her handbag... but I'm giving away the plot).

It would be a smash hit.

We've been having to amuse ourselves because the latest code release isn't looking successful. After a week we've already raised more observations than have been raised during any of the previous releases and there is no wriggle room - it goes in on the 10th of March come what may.

I was trying to explain our exact position in the scheme of things to KFD the other day. I've made the comparison to Bernard Woolly (from Yes Minister) before - customer services are Jim Hacker and IT are Sir Humphrey. But I was part way through my analogy when I remembered a Bernard quote which just absolutely sums up what exactly we do. Jim asks Bernard whose side he is on "when the chips are down".

"Minister" replies Bernard, "It is my job to see the chips stay up."

I bought a bottle of Champaign the other day. My sister in law is 40 this week and I couldn't face trying to decide which gift vouchers to get. Gift vouchers are a curse not a blessing. I got it from Tesco and the queues meant I was shepherded to the self service bit. The self service tills really are a marvel of labour saving efficiency - instead of one person on each till scanning barcodes you now have one person on each till standing over you (while you scan your own barcodes) to make sure you don't try and steal stuff. It must be saving them a fortune now they've got the staff:customer ratio down from 1:1 all the way to 1:1.

"Ith it thomeone's birthday?" he asked through a lisp.

"Yes - my sister in law is 40" I mumbled as I tried to find a barcode on my Quorn burgers.

"I've got a birthday this year" he said. I resisted the urge to say something like "What a coincidence - so have I".

"Mmm?" I muttered.

"It's got a zero at the end as well."

"Mmm."

"The big three-oh" he continued. "I thought by the time I was thirty I'd have a wife and kids."

"Oh?"

"I haven't even got a girlfriend" he sighed.

"Ah".

All of which proves I don't absolutely have to say something stupid all the time. I was beginning to doubt this as I seem to do little else while at work. What started out as an occasional gimmick has now become so routine that half the time I don't even notice I'm doing it. I must be so annoying to sit next to. Or anywhere near. Especially when there is a cricket match going on as I know almost nothing about cricket and go to great lengths to make everyone think I know absolutely nothing about cricket. But occasionally there will be a moment that will survive into the script of my life-com.

KFD: I saw Babel last night.

Me: (without looking up) The original or Pig in the City?

Hardly a work of genius, unlike the two MP3s below. They were produced by a fine person (identity unknown) and posted on YouTube. They made their way to F4Wonline and from there to me. It is volumes 1 and 2 of Jim Ross rapping about his ass. Great stuff.

I went to the doctor's again on Friday. I saw my old Micra in the carpark. Very weird. I've now seen all my old cars out and about. They were all written off by the garage and yet none have given me as much hassle as my current one. Hey ho - thems life.

 

7th February

Proposed changes to the school curriculum have been announced. The easy joke is that the main points seem to be that schools will teach pupils about the slave trade and make them read books by Meera Syal so obviously our education policy is now being formulated in response to remarks cretins make on reality TV series.

But thinking about it, I can see a lot of value in making the slave trade part of the history syllabus. I don't for a second think they will do it the right way - it will become 45 minutes per week of white history teachers apologising to the black students for things that were done hundreds of years ago and everyone will come away thinking that Britain is a nation of bastards. It might even create even more racial disharmony by telling a generation which doesn't have much idea of history that it used to be fine to chain black people up and treat them like animals.

A proper examination of slavery would require many things that modern education "experts" are unwilling or unable to imagine. Firstly, you cannot limit examination of the slave trade to the British Empire alone. The Americans fought a civil war over it for goodness sake. Secondly, you have to examine it with empathy - to appreciate that twentieth (or twenty first) century values of racial equality weren't things that our ancestors chose to ignore, they were concepts they couldn't even imagine. It must be taught objectively not apologetically. Thirdly, it has to be acknowledged that the modern world would be a very different place had millions of people not been forcibly moved around the world as part of the slave industry. The end doesn't justify the means but it is the old colonial powers - Britain, France, Holland etc - which have third and fourth generation black populations and are much better able to cope with the idea of a multicultural society. Fourthly, the slave trade shouldn't be packaged as something which ended two hundred years ago. It is still alive today - whether in the shocking factories of east Asia which churn out the ultra-cheap goods which litter the shelves of the developed world or in the brothels packed with drug addicted women who are bought and sold like cattle and made to fuck all day and all night in exchange for their next fix.

Slavery was a terrible thing but history is full of terrible things. It was terrible that the west sacrificed the whole of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union because Stalin was our ally against Hitler and we thought we'd give him something in return, something that wasn't actually ours to give. It was terrible that Catholics burned Protestants (and probably the other way around) over trifling little affairs of church doctrine. It is terrible that the Roman Empire homogenised most of Europe, and terrible that barbarians destroyed most of the Roman Empire. It is terrible that homo sapiens wiped out our nearest cousins in our quest for survival. It is terrible that modern man has wiped out so many other species. In fact, history is basically the study of terrible things. Or rather, the objective study of terrible things. If slavery is to be taught as part of history it must be taught objectively like everything else.

But it won't be.

I hate snow. The forecast is for "heavy" snow tomorrow and I'm not happy. Just being in a car at the moment is enough to make me panic. For whatever reason is it my current trigger and the traffic chaos caused by even the fluffiest falling of snow is something I'm dreading. Because I'm pathetic and crazy and stuff.

But I did pull things together enough today to get ITguy to agree to not one but two system changes - one minor and one quite major. It took an hour and a half but we got there in the end. There are only three possible explanations for this - (a) I got game, (b) I so got game or (c) he'd already decided to make these changes and was just toying with me as a kitten toys with a ball of wool.

 

3rd February

Travis Lutter is an idiot.

Travis Lutter has spent his entire professional career working to one goal - a shot at the world title and the main event of a pay per view. Travis Lutter has overcome setbacks and failures to finally earn himself what thousands of others would love to have. Having spent thirty years doing the hard part and eventually getting himself a shot at the world middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, Travis Lutter only had to do one more thing. He had to weigh 185lbs or less on Friday the 2nd of February 2007. He showed up weighing 187lbs and after two hours in the steam room still came in at 186.5lbs. His world title shot is out of the window, he's been fined by the most powerful athletic commission in America and he's pissed off the owners of the largest MMA organisation on the planet.

Travis Lutter is an idiot.

Mind you, I'm not in any fit space to criticise another's mental state. After a surprisingly lucid morning I went very peculiar yesterday afternoon. It felt like a manic upswing but, not being used to them, I could be wrong. Everything seemed to be going at the wrong speed, nothing I said seemed to make much sense and if I wasn't actually shaking it certainly felt as if I was. So if I seemed a bit weird yesterday it was because I was a bit weird yesterday. Methinks they may need to tweak my meds a little. Just a thought.

I've been thinking about Vista of late. I want it - no doubts about that - but I don't want only it. I want to have the choice between XP and Vista just in case there are compatibility issues. My ideal scenario would be to partition my hard drive and have half for Vista and half for XP. Back in the old days I used to have two XP partitions and one ME partition so I would always have a way in even if things went badly wrong. But that was my old computer, one which was built properly and would allow partitioning. I've not dared even try to partition this one since it came back from the computer doctor. It would be tempting fate too much to furtle about under the Windows hood of a machine with a history of throwing its processor in the air and saying "Oh for fuck's sake". Well, actually, my ideal ideal scenario wouldn't involve partitioning at all - I've got two hard drives but the computer doctor kindly set up a RAID array so what gets written to one automatically gets written to the other. Jolly useful I'm sure but I already have an external drive for backups and would rather have the use of both internal drives for independent storage. One Vista drive and one XP drive would be marvellous. But, alas, I'm not up to such challenges at the moment. So I'll continue to tell myself that I'm avoiding the Vista bandwagon until such time as the holes have been ironed out and the flaws filled in.

Top tip - if you want Vista, get an OEM version from Amazon. It is much cheaper than paying full whack and you get the same version you would buying the regular package but without the cardboard box. Unless you'd rather pay £210.99 than £81.99 for the Home Premium edition that is. Just another example of Microsoft's astonishing markups on their flagship products.