Sunday, 27 April 2008

Decathletes

Ahhhhhhh, we're settling down on the ferry after a great weekend in France. To Rouen once again, just a Friday night to Sunday night job, so we only actually stayed one night in Rouen. We are very grateful that we have been blassed with the best weather of the year so far, and to be honest immediately we arrived in Le Havre at 8 o'clock yesterday morning, we headed up the coast to Etretat for a walk on the beach and for a wonderful, al-fresco French breakfast by the sea.

Onward to Rouen, where certain haunts are becoming regular, an example being going to Flunch for lunch. And all of this in a polo shirt! Mid-afternoon we headed to an out-of-town shopping centre, for visits to both Carrefour and Decathlon.

Decathlon has become a firm favourite with us, and in fact we had a long drive up to London a couple of weeks ago, to pick up new bikes for Alice and I. It is a great shame that there isn't one nearer to us in Salisbury, or even that no English sports shops even come close. Imagine a sports shop that actually sells sporting equipment as well as sporting clothing - ridiculous!

Anyway, resplendant on new bike, I now also have some new bike gear, including a very fluorescent windcheater. Also some summer walking shoes and some T-shirts, plus some stuff for Alice.

The Carrefour shop was somewhat less exciting, though we stayed last night in one of those apart-hotels (with limited kitchen facilities, but including a refrigerator) so we were daring enough to get a bunch of meat and cheese. Despite this, from the whiff in the car as we boarded the ferry, I'm not sure the cheese will survive the crossing!

On today to Honfleur for lunch - very packed, many other people obviously had the same idea - and we treated ourselves to a meal in one of the most highly-recommended restaurants in the town (by the Michelin Red Guide, which used to be my bible), which sadly was instantly forgettable. Still, we followed lunch with a mooch around the town, which again we know quite well - set us up nicely for the short trip to Le Havre for the return ferry.

In the rest of life, the clients are once again stressed about delivering some system or other, and have once again turned to me. Not bad I suppose that they think so highly of me, especially when most of the City is bracing itself is bracing itself for job losses off the back of the current credit crisis. Of course I know myself how bad this can be, having been unable to find any work for three months or so in 2002, but I know how much work my clients are supposed to deliver to their business, so short of any nightmare scenarios I should be safe.

As I mentioned earlier, I got a new bike a couple of weeks ago. Sorted out the one I wanted, then phoned the Decathlon in Docklands to reserve one. The plan was just to drive up on the Sunday to pick the thing up, but trust me to pick the day of the bloody London Marathon. And trust Decathlon to be right on the bloody route! Fortunately I realised this the night before, and so I was at least able to put off the visit until the road had opened once again. But at something around 2 hours each way, it was a long day. Ironically the first chance I got to use the bike was a week later, and although I managed a quick ride into the village (with Alice on her new bmx), we did actually have hailstones last weekend.

Oh, one thing I must mention since I am very proud of myself. I have mentioned previously problems attaching the trailer to the car - the electrical connectors simple didn't match. Well, last Saturday I took the factory-fitted, perfectly-crimped plug on the trailer, snipped it off, and replaced it with a new plug, £2 off eBay! I did a proper job too, soldering the ends to ensure the wires didn't come loose or fray. And, the plug went straight into the towbar socket, and all the lights worked correctly first time. I was so chuffed with myself I made the family come out to see!!

Wow! A marathon entry today to make up for the recent lack of entries. And only four hours to go before we arrive in Portsmouth - whoopee!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Profound

On one of my computers, I run Google's interactive desktop, and subscribe to something called the Buddhist Thought of the Day RSS feed. I'm afraid I find a lot of it quite impenetrable, but here's one I caught today:

The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.
Chuang Tzu

I'm also reminded of one I read a while back, and which I've just hunted out:

A myriad bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream. 'What are you?' I cried to them as they drifted by. 'I am a bubble, of course' nearly a myriad bubbles answered, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices as they passed. But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered, 'We are this stream', and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, but just a quiet certitude.
Ask the Awakened, Wei Wu Wei

Good stuff, eh?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Old Flame

Excellent news over the last couple of days. The Olympic games really look like they're going to backfire on the Chinese. The focus of attention is surely going to be their Human Rights record rather than any sporting event.

Good on the French! I even heard this morning that people had climbed the Golden Gate bridge in protest (the torch is next jetting off to San Francisco, lucky torch). Wonderful news. In Britain, a combined army of Police and Chinese minders prevented anything from being too seriously disrupted.


But then we already know where our government stands on Human Rights.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Oops

Well, I, er..... looked at the firewall tonight, and guess what?

As soon as I took the floppy disk out of the drive, the machine booted normally!

D'uh!!!!!

Books

I mentioned a while ago that I had read some very good books recently. As anyone who has read previous entries will no, I am quite vehemently against the so-called War on Terror, and in this respect have read a couple of good books.

Moazzam Begg's account Enemy Combatant: The Terrifying True Story of a Briton in Guantanamo is really rather chilling and gives an insight to the rest of us just what can happen when the security services decide to target you, and frankly erodes even further any trust we might still have in them. Following on from this, but on the same theme, was the fascinating book by Craig Murray, Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror. Now, Murray and Begg are chalk and cheese, not least their backgrounds and occupations, and there is clearly a degree of self-promotion with Murray's work as opposed to the more subtle, modest approach shown by Begg, but both books ring with the same clear message - that the truth is no more than an inconvenience for those in government who want to push a policy.
I don't know, perhaps this flavour of tyranny has always been the case. Perhaps it always will be the case. Maybe I'm naive. But when you think about what a difference we could make if our effort was driven by humanitarian rather than by political/hydrocarbon factors.

On a lighter note, I saw a book Bog Standard by Daniel Ken, which from the cover looked excellent, and didn't disappoint. The only thing was, I got the feeling that the events in the book happened a while ago, and yet I couldn't see anything else in print save for a very sparsely-populated blog on the TES web site. I'd certainly go for more.

Lastly, I'm not normally into fiction, but before the PSP broke I was using it to watch movies while train-travelling, and I caught an excellent French film Ne le Dis a Personne, which translates slightly more succinctly as "Tell No-one". The author was a New Jersey guy called Harlan Coben and these kind of thrillers are his speciality. A quick visit to Amazon and a few days later half a dozen of these thrillers arrived. They are great reads, very easy and take only a couple of days apiece, and good stories too, although this chap very definitely has a formula and so one book can seem quite similar to another, at least when read back-to-back. But good reads nevertheless. Even Jacqueline likes 'em.

Snow and Woe

Yes, despite the fact that we are now into April, we had a morning filled with snow yesterday.
Alice (when she finally got up) was transfixed, and spent the whole morning playing out with next door's kids, building a not-too-bad snowman, and periodically throwing snowballs at the lounge window just to remind us that she was enjoying herself!

I, on the other hand, saw the snowfall first-hand, as I got up at half-past-six in order to feed the cats. Maisie has this irritating habit of coming and sitting on me when she decides she wants breakfast. She's as light as a feather so she doesn't wake me up directly, but as I start to awaken of my own accord, I become aware that she is there.

Jacqueline has a straightforward answer to this - just kick her off - but Maisie is such a lovely girl I just can't bring myself to do it.

Anyway, I was up just as the snow started falling. After feeding the cats the first thing to do was to check out all the computer gear. We'd very conveniently had a power cut on Saturday from about 4pm to 1am, necessitating a meal out followed by sitting around a camping lantern for a while. As soon as I started checking it became immediately obvious that we had no internet connection. Computers over the LAN can talk to each other, but can't connect either to the DMZ or to the web. Very hacked off indeed.
I became further hacked off when an investigation revealed that the power cut had taken out my firewall box. This is basically the gateway between my network and the outside world, thereby stuffing up absolutely everything.

As it happens, the software on my firewall was something over five years old, so I've enquired about upping to the current version. But there again I might bin it altogether in favour of a hardware device, which I think may be cheaper and smaller. Now that I've got beyond the "highly pissed off" stage, I need to look into this more seriously this evening. I might even have the necessary hardware already. But the upshot for the time being, no internet access.

So, yesterday, plan "B" came into force. There was an email I needed to send so had to use my mobile phone as a modem to connect. You forget about the days you used to have to wait for images to load...