Monthly Archives: March 2004


Today was a good day (I didn’t even have to use my AK). Maybe it’s just in comparison to the last few days that were, and there’s no better way to describe them, shit. Sadly, despite being really bloody interesting, the topics involved are not bloggable. Pity, when you consider what blogs are all about. Anyway.

A bit of recent history. Last Thursday a few of us went for a curry in my favourite curry house. It’s not my favourite because the food is gourmet….or even because it’s good. It’s because they have been there 40 years, the people are nice and they are one of the only true “Indians” left now. Every other “Indian” has developed into a gastronomic emporium of tourist-friendly pretentiousness. Not this place. It’s pure after-pub joy. Admittedly my guts were shot afterwards and I spent the majority of the next 24 hours on the bog but that can be a very relaxing experience. After the curry I enthusiastically invited the assembled people back to our house for more entertainment….neglecting to explain that this “entertainment” involved laughing at me fast asleep on the rug, five minutes after getting home. Apparently a couple of the guests attempted to wake me by telling me “a drive has gone down in the RAID array”. Evidently I was soundly sleeping, otherwise I would have awoken and crapped my pants at the same time. In fact I’ve spent the majority of the last two days trying to nurse a RAID array back to health in the machine room….to no avail…so far anyway. Perhaps their subliminal suggesions explain some of my recent nightmares.

Back to today. Most of the morning was consumed by a meeting. Oddly, it was a really, really productive experience. Not only did we all tend to agree, but the chair was actually really good at chairing. This kept things moving and everyone awake. I know its sad, but the whole experience cheered me up and gave me some hope for the future of mankind 🙂

As I write, things appear to be pleasant, endurable and even…good. One thing that really cheered me up this week was last sunday at my parents.
My dad was relating his experiences of being in an Anderson shelter in WW2. Apart from being a fascinating story, an interesting family trait was unearthed during the story: apparently my dad used to regularly invite people back from the pub, and then fall asleep on the carpet leaving my mum to entertain them all. As Michele says “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

The windmills of your kynd

As I said, it’s a vicious circle. Yet another friday spent in self-destructive escapism. Today I woke after a night of turbulent , yet pathetic, dreams and had to get into the grind. My punishment today was moving an old Linux system to a new linux system – never as simple as it should be. Second take: windows….nuff said.
After this week’s tedious events I managed to get depressed realising that the only way out of my boring work (ie computers) was to have another skill. I don’t have one and, therefore, I’m lumbered.
It started bad, missing the first train, and went through crap (overly-friendly staff from Bagel Factory who slipped me a defunct fiver) into despair; michele losing her fucking brand new phone and casuing a load of predictable shit with a Newcastle call-centre and the filth. Down.

Then I was alerted to the fact that I’m also a bastard by Alex, one of my favourite people in the world, whose birthday celebrations I was currently missing.[N.B. he was really nice about it. I just felt like an inconsiderate bastard] Alex, I’m so, so sorry. Today’s job was an emergency thing I agreed to before realising it clashed with your birthday. Believe me there’s not much that could persuade me to stay away from your birthday….there’s also not much I could do that I find more tedious than doing what I was doing today. The irony is that when I was finished I was in such a shitty mood I would have been able to ruin a meeting of the tolerance society. I was missing Michele and Humph ( our beautiful likkle ball of feathers)
Believe me Alex, we will make it uo to you.

But now I merely have my scary memories from last night, and the fear of what my subconscious will invent for my nightmares tonight,


This was originally going to be about the next stage of frustration regarding the RAID system and the outsourcing thereof. However, depsite part 2 of that
story being even more astounding, I can’t be bothered. In a nutshell, outsoucing sucks, Alan from Anacomp(sp?) is a star, and all couriers are lying bastards.

Tonight we had the nth call from MBNA. Michele has been slowly going out of her
head with calls from this company. They call every day during the day and, every day, Michele explains that I work and will therefore never be there. Tonight they got me. Michele answered and passed it on to me. Every time one of these poor fuckers from Bangalore calls me they give a ludicrous English name (we even had one called “Valentine Charles”) and try to sell me some shit or other. Tonight “Kelly Rose” rang to tell me how I’m “enjoying” a low rate of some percentage or other.
To cut a long story short I had some energy and decided to see how much revolutionary propaganda she would put up with before hanging up. Half an hour later I realised she was obviously in agreement without being able to say so. She listened while I wittered on about how the west was clearly exploiting her and how they will dump them all when they find an even cheaper place to rampage. She sat quietly while I ranted about how she was better than this and, despite how glad she was about this job, she is being ripped off. By the end of the call I’d even offered money and my floor to sleep on if she wanted to come to the UK should she ever resign to start the revolt. She didn’t hang up. This is unusual. By this time they usually give you some corporate apology and hangup while you’re waffling. I have a lot of experience in this area.
“I suppose you get this all the time do you ?” I asked.
“No – you’re the first” she replied 🙂

Eventually I gave her the opportunity to sign off (half an hour of ranting is too much even for me) in the vague hope that the recording of the call will be played to other call centre rookies as an example of a difficult customer.

OK, I’m probably out of order. I apologise, but I haven’t felt better about the world for weeks….And I was pissed.

Demo Rrrrrock

Yeah, we stuck it to the MAN on saturday. Hundreds of thousands of us were protesting about the continued campaign of fascist imperialsim by the US and UK governments. By the way, if you are one of the people who thinks that the Spanish people appeased the terrorists, then you are wrong. Wanna argue about it ? mail me. Viva Zapata (ro):) !

A great demo that was well populated. I started off with a few students from the NUS, and ended up with Dave, Maggie et al. What inspired me most was a mobile sound system in the crowd with carpetface, a bassist, a guitarist, a couple of mad dancers and a bunch of shit-hot MCs including some “guests”. It was the best hip-hop I’ve heard since I was 17 and all blatantly political stuff. They rule.

I even spent 2 quid on a CD which was a total bargain. Several remixes of “Al Qaeda do it” (“If de bus come late, dem say that Al Qaeda do it”), “George Bush go find a new job”, and “Tony Benn Konobi”. It totally refreshed my belief in “proper” hip hop. Not only were these geezers totally on, they were also really fucking good. Luckily the G********s SU decided they should come and do a gig at the SU. Even the oldies were rocking to it. 🙂

OK, I understand that I probably sound like a total nob here, but I don’t care. This is the proper type of hip-hop that got me into the whole thing in the first place. But this time it’s from London. I love it.


Quite a harsh week really. From the slew of tedious requests all week, we also had a nasty incident on wednesday that involved our two main servers being brought to their knees. As luck would have it Geoff and I managed to sort the problems out by resetting the RAID array without needing to reboot either server. A risk that paid off . Nonetheless we were shaken enough to call in an engineer during our scheduled downtime on friday.
This is where it becomes an interesting example of why outsourcing, and therefore privatisation, sucks.

The engineer arrives half an hour after we take the systems down and it is clear that he has never seen this particular device before. I don’t have a problem with this – he comes from some whore of a company that supports a million devices – but it makes me wonder what we’re paying for. He calls the guy who knows the answer s, and obeys his instructions. I COULD DO THAT! I can follow instructions…in fact I could probably follow them better than this guy, nice tho’ he was….

We ended up in a situation where the engineer may have fucked up our configuration, on the instructions of someone else. To the uninitiated that means we loose 2TB (2048 GB) of data and have to restore off a tape. A time consuming, and unsatisfactory solution. This engineer, helpless, was just sitting there waiting for a phone call from his engineers…who in turn were waiting for a call from the real engineers. I’d had two coffees and a curry the night before…I was not into pacing, waiting for a call, so, with Geoff’s agreement, I went for a long walk.
When we get Sun engineers in, they know the kit. When you call a Sun engineer out, he know the kit nd will get it fixed. When Peter G worked for Storcomp we felt content that his almost bizarre level of professional integrity would get the problem fixed PDQ. But no longer. How sad.

To cut a long story short he hand’t fucked things up and we were OK. There were some unresolved problems but we managed to “fix” them, without any of us understanding why it worked at long last. This is the first time I’ve felt scared about the technology. When the guy from the company who sold us the device called me, it was clear that he understood the technical problems I was talking about which gave me some hope. That alone gave me enough confidence to be able to sleep that night.
Ultimately Geoff and I managed to get it all back up and working, and with an extra chunk of space on all of the servers, including homepages.

The rest of friday was relaxing by comparison. Sadly this resulted in yet another night of no memories and falling asleep on the sofa…oh dear.

Chicken Oriental

It’s a vicious circle. If you get depressed, you try to take your mind off it by doing things to cheer yourself up…these things often worsen the reasons why you were depressed in the first place. Some people drink, some spend money, some take drugs. If the problem you originally had was lack of cash then all three “solutions” exacerbate the problem. If the problem was just plain old depression then drink or drugs will work against it. If it was both you’re fucked.

My dreams have been vivid and slightly disturbing. Sadly I can relate pretty much off of it to real life events. A common theme is a new take on the classic dream of trying to run but feeling like your legs wont move. For me it’s always a simple task I have to do that I just can’t complete because I get it wrong, or can’t type properly or keep messing it up. These tasks are usually extremely dull like, for example, getting two Windows 98 machines to print to the same printer. I know what to do, but I mistype things, or need a CD I don’t have, or get distracted etc etc. This really is my subconscious taking the piss out of me. There’s nothing I hate more than working with Windows, and IRL it’s just as tedious. Oh fuck a random crash. Reboot. Wait….wait…wait…try this…oh shit it’s found new hardware…arrrggghhh…CD…reboot..wait wait… screen…arrrrgh. Hell for me would be to suffer, like Sisyphus, with 1000 Windows computers in a circle sorting them all out one by one. By the time I get to the beginning they’ve all started breaking again.
But despite having spent all day yesterday sorting out a couple of Win2K machines (OK I’m a whore – we need the money to fly out to the US in October), that’s not why I believe it’s invading my dreams. The real reason is more to do with being unable to do the things I want to do, because I get distracted, tired or just…don’t do them. There are so many things I’d like to be doing and playing with, but I don’t. I spent an hour today sitting on the sofa, thinking about them and getting really pissed off that I wasn’t doing them…but not actually going out to do them. Then I went to bed for a few hours sleep. No dreams, just lovely sleep.

Last night I dreamed that a very good friend of mine had died. It was very realistic and very upsetting. In real life this is simply because that person has, after a long period of uncertainty, been told he has to leave his job…and he works with me. This is very sad and he fits in so well here, and clearly loves it as much as I, grudingly, do.

Enough of this nonsensical crap.

Friday night was probably really good. I don’t remember anything past realising that Tequila was a pound a shot. Evidently I managed to wobble into Dixy chicken and buy a whole peri-peri chicken but everything else is blank. We had a massive after-work turn out, mainly because Rakesh had invited every eligable woman in the joint out as phase one of his plan to get back into a relationship. 3 weeks out in the Zambian bush (fnarr fnarr) made him more determined than ever and he deserves an award for his superb effort.
Aamzingly I didn’t get a hangover, which is bloody good luck considering I had to work all day saturday (the Windows machines).

In heaven, all there is is BSD and Slackware.

Skeptics in the pub

It’s been quite a while since I last went to a meeting of Skeptics in the Pub but it really does make for a great evening – especially if you are a skeptical person who likes pubs. Tonight the talk was given by a guy called David Koepsell, who is the Executive Director of the
Council for Secular Humanism. Frances also pointed out that he is a ringer for Woody Allan. He spoke about the rise of the “Dominionists”, or religious right, in the US. Pretty scary stuff. Michele couldn’t come along which was a pity because the topic would have been of interest to her, but Mod, my dad and Frances (my sister) did attend and I think all enjoyed themselves.
Both my dad and I got into a couple of verbal spats with people, causing the “chairman” (whom my dad pointed out shared many traits with David Brent) to quickly hose down the altercation…much to the annoyance the others involved who, like us, had clearly only come out for a good argument.

Being a skeptic, I was skeptical that Wanker Bush and his cronies really did believe in all of that wacky creationist stuff and instead they were just using it to rally right wing support. However the speaker disagreed and said that he believed that Wanker himself really did believe it, being cognitively challenged. He also said that Bush Snr almost certainly didn’t believe it, and neither did the other leading Republicans. In all, I’m not sure that makes me feel more comfortable.

Afterwards a guy claiming to be a gay, conservative lawyer came over to chat to my dad. He explained that, during his Oxford education, he read all of Marx and agreed with Marx’s conclusions, but just disagreed with what it entailed. They say that any Oxbridge graduate will tell you they went there, within the first 10 minutes of meeting them. Took him less than 5. Nice enough bloke. Apart from being a Tory. And a Lawyer. And smug.

After another couple of drinks in the George, we bumped into him again in London Bridge station while my sister was buying a Burger. He pointed out that without capitalism she wouldn’t have been able to buy a burger late at night. I pointed out that thanks to capitalism she can only afford a pathetic, emaciated cheeseburger and not the big thick juicy Whopper with which he was stuffing his face.
If the best capitalism has to offer is Burger King then the argument is surely over 🙂 I’d much rather patronise my local, small-business, Sri-Lankan take-away and get a couple of curried fish and egg rolls.

Good night.

Nerd warning

First off – an apology to anyone whom I owe a call or an email. Please don’t take my silence personally, I’ve just been on a bit of a downer and feeling pretty uncommunicative. I’ll make it up I promise.

Geting through the working week was a struggle, even though I’d taken Monday off to ease into it. The whole place seems to be packed tight with people who have mental health problems and are on the verge of going postal.

Yesterday I did something a bit embarrassing: went to a SF convention. In my defence it was because the entire crew of Blakes 7 were going to be there…hmm… that doesn’t make it sound any less wanky does it? Oh well…Ian is also a closet Blakes 7 fan so I called him up and invited him along.

The only SF series I’ve ever been into was B7, since the first screening back in the day. Once, as an eight year old, I even feigned illness to avoid going to a really excellent (and expensive) pantomine at the palladium so I didn’t miss B7 that night. My mum and dad didn’t believe me at the time, and if they’d known *why* I didn’t go they would probably have disowned me.

30 years later I find myself at the Wembley conference centre, confronted with a line of heroes, and feeling very wobbly. Normally I’m an arsey bastard and don’t really care what people think of me, but confronted with the line of people that were there yestoday made me turn into TWATMAN.

So, I bought the DVD set, walked away to calm down, and then asked Micheal Keating (Vila) for his autograph. The lady at the Horizon stall had given me the impression that autographs cost a tenner a go and that I could get two for the price of one, so I borrowed some cash off Ian and went in.

He was very friendly, but I couldn’t summon enough courage to say anything but “would you mind me giving me your autograph” and even then only while blushing. I’d wanted to tell him how Vila was my favourite character and how much I loved his portrayal, but I was too nervous. His crew mate helped me unwrap the plastic from the DVD (my fingers were numb) and he signed it. Both seemed to be a little tired but willing nonetheless. Awkwardly, I asked if I needed to pay and got a repsonse that I didn’t take in…as I say, I was very nervous. It seemed that you only needed to pay for extra photos…

After walking away, cringing, dancing with excitement and generally feeling like a child, I plucked up enough courage to go back for another autograph. It had to be the lovely Jan Chappell (Cally), a woman who caused all kinds of confusing feelings in my eight year old self. She still looks as elegant and beautiful as she did then by the way. She smiled and signed it. Next to her was Sally Knyvette. She appeared to be looking at something behind me when I asked, and in the most pathetic voice you can imagine I asked if she would sign my DVD. She didn’t respond, and continued looking behind me. I asked again. No response. Perhaps I was being too quiet. I asked again, she looked somewhere else. Never have I been blanked in such a nasty, petulant way.

What did I do wrong ?

After looking at all of the excellent props and memorabilia Ian and I went and relaxed in a few pubs. A most excellent afternoon all in all. Thanks Ian.

Recently I’ve been reading about Britain’s “Intelligence” services. One reference pointed me to a 3-part BBC series called “True Spies” which I borrowed from my work library – there are benefits in working for the public sector.
The upshot of this incredible documentary is DONT TRUST ANYONE, EVEN YOUR BEST MATES, BECAUSE THEY ALL WORK FOR THE MAN. If you’ve never read “The man who was Thursday” by G.K.Chesterton then please do. It’s very funny and I suspect as true now as it was then.

We’re going to hell in a handcart. You couldn’t make it up.