Sunday 22 July 2007

Wet race at Nürburgring

Finally! The race I've been waiting for all season. The one where it rained. Although it would seem that there can be such a thing as too much rain.

The problem with F1 today is that (like a lot of sport) there are three levels... the really good, the truly awful and those who are in between. The gulf between them is pretty often insurmountable. Sometimes the races get a bit dull when the only people who do any overtaking are in the middle of the pack, and the only way the lead changes is by leap-frogging in the pit-stops or by accident. This is why I love races where it rains! It makes everything so much more unpredictable. So, I was delighted in the build up to the race when rain was forecast... imminently.

All the cars on the grid were sitting there with dry tyres on... the only car not on the grid was Spyker's Winkelhock, who was starting from the pit. It turned out that his car had wet tyres on... an unexpected advantage for the oragne team! It started raining on the first lap... by the second lap the track had turned into a river... all the driver were diving for the pits and for wet tyres - Raikonnen made for the pit, and then did a swift exit - it looked like he missed but Rich and I maintain that they were ready for Massa and told him to go round again.

There is a mass exit at turn one as cars autoplane off the track... on after each other, almost in synchronised formation! Six cars go off all in all, it turns out that Hamilton keeps the engine going and gets lifted back onto the track under the "unsafe position" rule. I thought it was dubious a few years back when Shumacher used it... and this time I thought it was even more dubious, but rules are rules. Unsurprisingly this mass exodous from the track leads to the deployment of the safety car (which almost is hit by an auto-planing car itself). Winkelhock in the Spyker leads the race (to the audible disbelief of the commentary team). The torrential rain persists, and even less suprinsingly the race is red flagged after one lap behind the safety car. The pack lines up for a restart behind the safety car, and ITV take the chance to fit in as many advert breaks as possible whilst nothing much is happening.

In one of the advert breaks there was a very funny car advert by Mercedes featuring Hamilton, Alonso and Raikonnen... I found it on YouTube and it is totally worth watching for pure comedy value!

Twenty minutes after it stopped the race restarts (amongst not a little confusion). Hamilton who was a lap down after his spin off is allowed to overtake the pack under the safety car and un-lap himself. He might have made the points but before the end of the lap with the safety car he pits and goes for dry tyres... maybe a bit early it turns out.

The race starts again and the whole pack (well, most of them) pass Winkelhock. In the end his car conks out on lap 22. When interviewed he is delighted to have led his first Grand Prix, in his own country as well.

Despite the threat of further rain it doesn't really happen again... a bit of light rain about half a dozen laps before the end... but the race is pretty much done. Just before the end of the race Alonso passes Massa (which has been threatening for several laps) and wins the Grand Prix. What an exciting race it was with all that rain!

Saturday 21 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Noisy Neighbours.

It was a busy day yesterday. Somehow, the time, as usual, just went “poof”. Rich was off in the evening to go and see OMD as the Indigo2… part of my birthday present to him. He was thrilled, as somehow (by total fluke) I’d ended up getting him ‘VIP’ tickets… well – he ordered them himself… but that was all that was left. As I said… aren’t I nice?! So… I dropped him off at the Dome about quarter to eight and my nearly-mother-in-law and I went to Asda. Friday night shopping? Big mistake, huge! It was mental – reminded me totally of why I prefer to shop in Sainsbury’s. As we were going round the tannoy announced “The Harry Potter books have arrived in the store. They will be going on sale at 12:01 for the amazing price of £5”. Amazing price indeed. As far as I was aware the pre-order I’d paid £3 for a WH Smith was still going to cost me a further £7 or so. Bummer. Eventually we made it out of Asda. Just in time for me to get home… cook dinner, take my injection, wrap Rich’s birthday presents and wash up. By which time it was time to go and fetch Rich from the Dome. We popped into Sainsbury’s to pick up a few forgotten items… and then it was time to go and join the queue for Harry Potter. I decided to pick up my pre-sale (even though financially it would have made more sense to write off the £3 and buy it for a fiver in Asda). Good decision. We were about a dozen back in the queue at Smith’s which only went just past Boots at the shopping park… Asda’s came out of the store and round the side and then some. About 10 to 12 the manager came out the store to set out the procedure. “We have lots of books” he said “Enough to sell them to that queue when they run out over there”. About 2 minutes before the doors opened and we were allowed to pick up our books from the table and join the queue for the cash register… which started ringing at exactly 12:01. Finally – the long anticipated moment. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. All 607 pages! On the way out I noticed the balloons in the window… could I have one I asked the security guard… and started a trend! Wonder how many they had left this morning!?!

So by 12:15 we were home… Harry burning a hole in my bag. Rich was disappointed because the Red Sox game he’d been planning to watch had been bumped in favour of Barry Bonds and the chase for the home run record. Don’t know if he did it last night. Doubtful as I think he needed 3 to equal the record and four to beat it, from one game.

At 12:30 I finally settled down with my book. I’m not going to discuss anything of the book here… I’d hate to let anything slip to those who haven’t read it yet! Let’s just say than after an hour and a half I’d read 115 pages. An hour after that I’d read 220 pages. By 4:15 (when I decided to try and go to sleep) I’d reached page 286. After half an hour I gave up and went back downstairs to read, where I managed another five chapters before falling asleep with my face in the book!

Progress was slower today. I didn’t wake up until midday (oops), and then there was Rich’s birthday presents, and cake, and other celebratory things. I settled down to read again, only to be distracted beyond belief by our noisy neighbours (well, one set). Drums… and music. VERY loud. I rang the council to complain, who told me – if I gave them the number of the house they’d write a letter. Superb. Not actually do anything to stop the noise. In the end I shouted over the garden fence to them and asked if they could keep it down a little. Not 10 minutes later an apologetic young man was on the doorstep apologising. Lucky for him my nearly-mother-in-law answered (I had my foam earplugs back in and didn’t hear the door). I’d have given him a much harder time. Believe me, I shall take a note of their door number, and if they so much as think of doing it again I’ll be straight onto the useless Council.

Finally I got back to Harry. And by 5pm I’d reached page 607. The end… no more Harry. I’m not giving anything away if I say that the book was superb… action, adventure… beautifully spun tales. I think though, I wouldn’t let a child younger than about 12 or 13 read it… maybe older than that… maybe they should get ratings for books like they do in the Cinema?!

Now I’m sad… and I’m not really sure what to do. This happens every time I finish a book I’ve been looking forward to. It’s the problem of being able to read fast… you get to the end and find out what happens, but then there is no more book to read!

Thursday 19 July 2007

Lazy Days of Summer

After the excitement of Celebration Europe on Saturday things have been a bit quieter. Hard to top that one!

Tuesday was my 32nd Birthday (my, aren't I old). Had a superb day bumming around the house and playing the new PS2 games that Rich got me. The latest Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix) - definitely the best yet... and the original Star Wars Lego game... a bit simpler than the sequel but just as much fun!

Drove off to Kent yesterday to see the folks (my Dad is just out of hospital). Managed to get into the house without any of the three dogs noticing... about which they were VERY embarassed, LOL! Had a nice time sitting in the garden... but managed to get sunburnt on my shoulder :-(

Was out in the garden last night... and I was delighted to see that King Frog is back in the Frog Pond. For those who don't know... he is a beautifully marked frog who spent most of last summer in the Frog Pond (sometimes with other frogs, mostly alone). He was there last night with Big Fat Toad. He seems to have learnt that our kitchen isn't a good home... about five times this summer already I've picked him up from inappropriate places and taken him back to the Frog Pond... now he has finally made his home there!

I was sitting at the computer earlier when I heard our cat in the hall. She'd woken up, it would appear, and finding nobody about had decided to sit in the middle of the hall and tell the world how hungry she was. Sitting at the foot of the stairs, miaowing very loudly! I figure her meaning was somewhere along the lines of "Feed me, feed me now"!

I've been gradually working my way down the list of "Things to do in my holiday" I made. I know what happens, usually, I spend two weeks sitting around reading and having fun... and don't get around to doing any of the things that I'm always thinking I'll get around to! One of the things on the list was "Spring Clean the Kitchen". This became a necessity when my nearly-mother-in-law bought me a new bin for my Birthday. Sounds an odd present? Not so much! 1) the bin is pink... I love things that are pink. 2) the bin is 'magic'. It opens when you wave your hand at it (except for Rich, it doesn't like him, and won't open!). It's like living with R2D2 as it makes cute little electronic noises as it works! However, the bin didn't really fit where the old bin went, so the entire kitchen was re-organised. And I threw away heaps of old rubbish... which was very theraputic. Things like... the old Dynamo machine which doesn't print... a panake pan which leaks all over the cooker if you use it... packet holders which are supposed to stick to the inside of the cupboard door (but don't)... a remote control holder (I don't know why we have so many)... etc. etc. The kitchen is still over-stuffed but now at least, mostly, with things that actually get used!

Sunday 15 July 2007

Holidays start with Celebration Europe

After finally finishing work at 9pm on Friday night I settled myself in for two whole weeks of R&R. Couldn't come soon enough!

My holidays kicked off in style as Rich and I were off to Celebration Europe at the ExCeL on Saturday. We bought the tickets so long ago that it was great to finally be on our way! Didn't pick up the tickets until Saturday morning... and was surprised to find that they weren't your average paper tickets but beautiful laminated passes designed to be worn around the neck (shame the lanyards came at an extra cost of £3)!

So. Off we went on the 486 to North Greenwich from where it was just a short ride to ExCeL. Not as short as I thought. Labouring under the delusion that we only needed to go to Canning Town I was surprised when we go there to have to go upstairs to catch the DLR to Custom House (for ExCeL). Now, if we knew then what we know now, we'd have stayed on one stop to Prince Regent!

We got off the DLR (with a LOT of other people) and went up to the ExCeL. All along the route there were Storm Troopers and assorted other Star Wars characters. It was great building the atmosphere! We arrived at the ExCeL to be shepherded along by the staff "If you've got tickets, straight through the building". Should have been suspicious. If you've never been to the ExCeL it is like most exhibition venues. There are the general public areas and the show halls (in this case several hangar sized areas which can be joined or separated as required). Celebration Europe seemed to be taking up areas on the South Side. We came in the front entrance (nearest to Custom House) and started walking.

The first thing I noticed, which was rather cool, was model of an X-wing!

We kept on walking - with no clear idea of where we were going. My big criticism of the event was generally - very badly signposted and organised. But more of that!

We walked the whole length of the concourse, and noticed that there was a queue down the South Side, so we aimed ourselves at finding that back of the queue. And then some! We saw the line go into a giant hangar area, where it went around all three sides! As we got towards the exit we heard a father say to his small son "We're nearly there", you wish! We got out the back of the building, and looked down at the car park... the queue snaked all the way around three sides and then doubled back on itself! So we walked to the end of the queue... from where we could see Prince Regent Station. If only we'd known!

I don't wear a watch but Rich tells me that we spent about an hour in the queue. Once again, badly organised. Storm Trooper clad marshals slowed the queue down as people took the opportunity to have their photos taken alongside them. I wanted to shout "There's plenty more inside".

This is the queue in the hangar... a lot of small children took advantage of the open space to hold light sabre fights or to skate around on Heelies!

Finally we came out of the hangar and back down the concourse, on the home stretch! The last few yards the organisers finally sought to marshal the queue by means of tensa barriers. And we were there, we went through the doors into a great dark area where there was suspended a model of the Death Star, with some atmospheric music.

Now you could choose to go left for the main area or right for autographs. Here as you dithered was Jabba the Hutt and his court watching you!

Inside it was clear that far too many tickets had been sold for each day, and that maybe, just maybe the event should have run for longer. A few general spaces weren't too bad... but the 'corridors' between the stalls were jammed with people, and it was barely possible to move.

Pretty early on we discounted queueing for the 'theatre' where stars of the movies (etc. etc.) were honoured guests. We felt we'd done enough standing in line.

One of the first displays we noticed was Lego. We're both Lego fans from childhood, and more recently from the PS2 game "Star Wars Lego II". They had a giant screen where kids (and probably adults) could play the game. We were more interested in the amazing models. Characters made out of bricks and whole cities! I was admiring particularly 'Yoda' and commenting on the skill as it had been built entirely from regular blocks (not using great big huge 'specials'). And it so happened that the guy who built it was standing nearby! He commented, yes, all from regular bricks... no going over to the dark side! It took 2500 bricks... the sign said 2501, but apparently he added the extra one as he didn't think anyone would believe the 2500!

I loved the little cityscapes as well. Not least because of they were populated with little Lego figures!

We had a good look up and down the merchandise stalls... selling everything from models to comics and quite a lot more besides! These were being looked over by a rather large AT-AT!

We eventually found ourselves at the official shop. Area up for most critiscm? Quite likely. You were given an order form at the door... next you could stand in an enormous queue pay a cashier and finally pick up your items (a bit like Argos). What whereas at Argos you get a catalogue or even displays, here there was little option to see what you were buying. A few t-shirts on the walls and some display stands... once you were in the queue!!! We didn't buy anything (unsurprisingly)... apart from Rich did get the show guide and the exclusive figures, and we both got lanyards for our passes.

By now we'd pretty much seen it all and done it all! But there were a couple more bits to see. I liked particularly the R2-D2 entertainment unit...

Don't even want to think what you would pay for that!

Finally we saw an F1 car... quite cool, although a LOT smaller than I imagined! It was David Coulthard's Red Bull. As I said to Rich, Red Bull are never ones to shy from re-liverying their cars! Mind you can't totally blame them, as it was the same back when they were Jaguar I seem to recollect (something about diamonds in their nose-cones one time)...

All in all, we had a pretty fabulous day out! Exhausting, but well worth it.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Movies and Books and Games, oh my...

So. I've neglected my blog sadly for the last few days. No excuse really. I've been beyond mad busy at work (trying to get everything done before I go on leave, yay)... and the weekend I spent reading, watching TV and gaming when really I should have found five minutes to be blogging.

What's been going on with me then? Well, work has been work. I've haven't had to go on any site visits (always a good thing) or had to go to many meetings (also a good thing). I've had heaps to get done though... we've never been busier! I had quite an amusing meeting this morning. Smallest team meeting ever as it was just me, the Architect and the Contractors. Also shortest meeting ever. Meeting time increases exponentially with the number of attendees, or so it would appear. We were talking about the tenants in our retail scheme, and I commented that I'd never been to the store (sporting goods)... at which the Architect commented "I think that tells us a great deal about your lifestyle". I'd like to think that he was thinking that I'm so amazingly well-groomed and sophisticated that he couldn't imagine me in sportswear rather than I'm short, round and obviously don't exercise! I'm still arguing with the office computer system on pretty much a daily basis. None of the things that need fixing are getting fixed, and the email system still seems to disconnect at least once a day. Beyond irritating.

I managed to miss all the fun in London this weekend. Saturday, of course, was Live Earth. Whilst I am totally on board with the principles I don't really go much for the whole event thing. I stopped going to 'gigs' after I stopped being a student and nobody expected me to anymore (with the exception of Glastonbury in '95 and '97). I've never liked crowds, and I'm not much of a modern music fan... so I don't really get much out of going to see live music. I missed the best bits of Live Earth anyway... apparently there were some very funny interviews during the TV coverage. No matter. As long as it gets a message across (and apparently it will as information packs were being handed out) then that is all that matters.

On the other side of London the Tour de France was passing through. Question - surely it cannot be the Tour de FRANCE when it is not in France. Suggest that maybe just 'Le Tour' for these occaisions? Not that I have the least bit of interest in cycling... or the spectacle. Last time they came to the UK (probably about 10 years ago?) they went through Tunbridge Wells and past the building where I had my summer job. Whoosh. Blink and they were gone, just a big blur of colour really. Still, everyone I saw interviewed on TV seemed to have enjoyed their day... so that's all that matters.

Wimbledon managed to overcome the weather, and somehow finished on schedule. I did see about 10 minutes of the Women's Final (which looked a very one-sided affair) and did not bother to watch the Men's Final. Well, not wishing to state the obvious, but one or the other of them was going to win. Not from the point of view that with two players one must win, but more from the point of view that I think a lot of people would have said that before the tournament even started.

The only sporting event I did enjoy over the weekend was the British Grand Prix. Not a hugely exciting race; certainly the leaders spent most of the time leap-frogging each other during pit stops. I gave my driver of the day to Massa. He stalled on the grid on the parade lap and had to start from the pit.. but made his way all the way back through the pack to finish 5th, which is only one back from where he ought to have started!

Movie wise this weekend was a bit slow. Not enough from Blockbuster to keep us going. So, Saturday night we watched M Night Shyanalan's "Lady in the Water". We only wanted to watch it to find out what the "twist" was. All his movies have a "twist". Well, unless it was so obvious that I missed it... which is what happened with "The Village" where I could so see the twist coming that I took it for granted as part of the plot... well unless this was the case, no twist. The only selling point of the movie was a few lines of very amusing dialogue and some really quirky characters. The bit parts really made the movie. Apart from that, totally do not recommend. The story was slow moving, and at the end I was left with that "so what?" feeling. Never managed to feel engaged with any of the characters. I thought that the plot was weak... but, not too long a movie, so happy enough to watch it through to the end... and I'm not advserse to stopping a film if it bores me enough!

After that we watched StarWars in preparation for our trip to Celebration Europe at the ExCeL next weekend. Booked the tickets MONTHS ago, so it is really great that we're finally getting there! Quite weird to see the movie after having spent so much time recently playing StarWars Lego II! Talking of which, Rich has massively passed my achievements playing that. I'll have to give it some serious time when I'm on holiday next week!

Sunday morning I watched "The Queen". I quite enjoyed it. The acting was absolutely flawless, and the characterisations pretty good. The story was what it was... but that wasn't really the point I don't think.

Didn't really get much time to read. I've just started "Wicked" the story of the Wicked Witch of the West before she was the Witch. Only about a third of the way through so far, but really enjoying it. Have heaps of books to catch up with... including the Glass Books of the Dream Eaters which is too big and heavy to take to work! Still. Hopefully fine weather in the holidays and time to sit in the garden with a good book (and maybe a beer)!

Ah well. Tea break over... back to work, or I'll be here all night!

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Nothing like a hot cup of tea... and random conversations

I've been severely caffeine deprived today. I had a meeting all morning... and as the two trainees were both out today (and indeed my assistant too) I had to get my own teas and coffees. So... following my own rules I used the caffetieres and the tea pot. Bad mistake. The tea pot doesn't make good tea. I gave up after one cup. But the meeting went on for over two hours. Gasping!

SA girl made some tea around three... and I was going to do some, but the phone kept ringing and I'm the only one who's ever after picking the damn thing up. So, when Geordie boy got back from his meeting and made tea just now I practically downed the cup in one! I do like my tea so hot that it practically burns your tongue!

Just looking out of the window... the weather looks really dismal. It has come over very dull and grey, and so dark it is almost twilight. Another downpour looks imminent!

SA girl just asked Geordie boy if he could "do her a favour". His response was "Everyone wants me to do them favours, favours for free... Architects, Project Managers..."

Downpour is even more imminent... thunder just rumbled.

SA girl just asked my assistant to put a sticker on the office camera so she would know which way is up in future. This followed several moments of confusion as they tried to work out the orientation of photos taken on site this morning... I think they must have been close up details of bits of building taken out of context. Maybe we could use them in a "what is this" competition.

Lightning now flashing about... still no rain!

Tea break must be nearly over, I've practically run out of tea to drink.

What peculiar weather, it looks like Autumn out there! I really hope that it clears up soon... as I want to enjoy the garden during my two weeks off... I may have to buy a gazebo to go in the garden, just in case!

Ah, here comes the rain. Doesn't look that heavy though (famous last words).

So... counting down to Harry Potter now. Shall be going to fetch my copy at midnight into the 21st. Rich is delighted as that is the night before his birthday... but mollified by the fact that we can come home and he can watch the Red Sox... and he will just have been to OMD at the Dome. Not much to complain about then. I shall be feverishly reading to try and beat the BBC's blogging reveiwer to the end of the book. Failed two years ago when I fell asleep with my face in the book!

OK. spoke too soon. It is bucketing it down now! The streets have practically emptied. Kudos the the 'my weather' widget on my iGoogle. It was showing a thunder logo several hours ago... and I thought that it was mad. I should clearly know better.

I read a letter (I forget where, in some newspaper or something) debating the existence of global warming... given that the June just finished was the wettest on record. Hmm. One of the first things I learned in 'science' was "hot air rises, cools, condenses, and down comes the rain". Isn't it funny how you remember things like that. I went to a very traditional primary school where we learnt things. Quite often by recitation. I can still recite the 9 planets of the solar system (oops, I mean 8 - sorry Pluto) in order from the sun... I can still recite the kings and queens of England (with reasonable accuracy) up until the present date. I can spell (mostly) and use grammar and punctuation (which is more than my youngest trainee can). Forgot what started me on my mini-rant, but I'll stop now. Tea is definitely open... getting back to my steelwork.

Monday 2 July 2007

Busy times at my desk... and not yet raining!

Absolutely shocking... it isn't raining! At this rate they might just finish Wimbledon in two weeks. Although, I'm not sure I care particuarly. Tennis isn't what it used to be... having seen bits and pieces (when it hasn't been raining) I'm lucky if I find 5 seconds exciting in a set (let alone a game).

Much more exciting was the Grand Prix de France yesterday. Probably the last one to be run at Magny-Cours (what will they complain about all year if they can't complain about going there?). The race was quite exciting... there were even a few bits of overtaking! The promised rain never came, but you can't have everything. I'm always fond of a bit of rain... always messes up game plans and tyre strategies and forces teams to think on their feet... also tends to cause a few shunts.

My desk is now half an inch deep in paper. Trying to clear one job off the desk before the next one arrives (not very successfully) and have taken to shoving piles of paper into the filing trays without much order or structure. The filing trays aren't appreciating this treatment... there are some ominous looking cracks developing on some of them (what do you expect when three cost £1.65?!). Mind you, that is how I keep such a tidy desk... the bottom tray has jobs from about 8 months ago that I still haven't got around to filing!

As if that wasn't enough of a pain BOTH the junior juniors have gone off to college, and won't be back until Thursday. This pretty much leaves me answering the phone as my assistant's english isn't really up to it yet. Every time I just get into something... the phone rings. Bah! In addition (as if that wasn't all enough) the flipping server is on the blink again. Keeps disconnecting from the Exchange mailboxes. It requires either the router or firewall to be unplugged (it doesn't seem to be fussy as to which one it is)... but that does mean me jumping up and down and running to the patch cabinet every time that it happens.

It must be Monday. I never did like Mondays.

Lost in the datastream...

It's always been hard to find what you are looking for on the internet. That is because there is no definitive list of what is out there... and nobody know exactly how many pages there are, what they cover, who owns them, who writes them... etc. etc.

It's even harder to keep up these days as the internet evolves, practically exponentially (or so it seems). Just when you think that you've joined all the sites you ought to have joined and signed up to the latest trend you find that, actually, it is already so yesterday!

Before I start writing everyday I always check out any new blogs listed on the front page of Blogger as 'Blogs of Note'. Usually I then scroll back through recent entries to see if I've found a blog to read regularly. Today I was reading Unit Structures which had a very interesting article titled "In-between Places". I had thought I was quite cutting edge recently signing up to Facebook (and earlier in the year MySpace) and assumed that I had now covered all the sites for social identity (etc.) on the Internet (having also had brief acquaintance with digg, and technorati). Wrong! There are more of them out there... so many more. I am now feeling very lost on the Internet again... I feel that they should bring back the 'Information Superhighway' as I think I'm a rabbit stuck in the middle!

Apparently now the thing is not to Blog... but to Micro-blog or Tumblelog. No!!! No more... I shan't have time to stop soon, if I have to visit all these different places. I think, for now, I'm sticking with what I've got. The idea of these other Blog type things is to be shorter, briefer and more relevant (?!). You can text... you can share photos, links, etc. etc. Basically they want to turn everything into a 'stream of consciousness' type experience. Please, no. I never was one for that type of writing, even in literature... and certainly not all over the Internet.

Already the internet is barely recongnizable from the way it was when I was first on line (some dozen years ago)... and I'm wondering what the internet will be like when I come back to read this post a dozen years down the line!