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I have been trying to retrain myself to use WINDOWS+E to launch Windows Explorer, rather than Right Clicking on Start, partly because the latter means that Explorer is launched within your profile, rather than at the Computer level, which is usually fractionally closer to where I want to be.

Anyway, by pure accident, this morning I discovered that WINDOWS+R is a shortcut to the Run... dialogue, which is good news, because I use that a lot (it's faster to type 'excel' or 'iexplore' {for those rare occasions where I need IE} than it is to navigate Start/Programs/Microsoft Office/etc...).

Was offline over the weekend - doubly frustrating because I'd arranged to play Forza 3 online against my brother over XBox Live on the Sunday. Alack, alas, not to be. Some other time, then.

On Saturday evening, P and I teamed up with [personal profile] cynthia_black and her family to watch Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief; overall, I don't think it did justice to the books, and was mostly an underwhelming piece of cinema.

Work is busy, and not particularly good right now.
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Work is busy, with a deadline looming fast, and a spec that keeps morphing...

Finished Snow Crash, which was enjoyable, but the story seemed to die towards the end; nonetheless, considering when it was written, it's quite visionary in places.
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All the electrical equipment in the office carries safety stickers as a consequence of PAT (Portable Appliance Testing). Said stickers are printed in two flavours: 'warning orange' or 'extreme danger red', and it's the latter that festoons the plug to our wine-bar refugee mood lighter uplighter, which we use to offset the fact that we've disabled 40% of the fluourescent striplights.

When I say 'disabled', what I actually mean is that, having undertaken all appropriate risk assessment measures and the like, Colleague Unnamed balanced on the swivel chair to twist the fluourescent tubes in their holders until they broke contact, and thus switched off. Because there's a ... difference of opinion within these four walls as to exactly how floodlit the illumination has to be to constitute 'sufficient', and yet all ten tubes are controlled by a single switch.

Anyway, since this 40%/60% split in lighting did end up making half of the office look something like an unlit cave (as opposed to the illuminated sort, obviously), we then compensated for the two steps back with a forward pace in the form of an uplighter which, even if it looks as though it was nabbed from some early 90s wine bar in Islington, does declare itself by means of an embossed sticker affixed to its base to be, indeed, the property of our employer.

The PAT sticker on the plug for our North London bistro reject sternly declares to all and sundry:
DO NOT USE AFTER 14/01/10*

It has occurred to me, as I wantonly flick the switch each morning, that in so doing I'm taking my life in my hands, and should the whole thing go up in flames and/or electrocute me, I'll have no comeback, having clearly disregarded (as this post is testament) direct orders to the contrary.

But hey, I'll take the risk.

* note to readers in the Colonies: our date format makes sense.


Feb. 4th, 2010 07:58 pm
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Work's pretty busy, and looks set to remain so for some time to come. Nothing about the set-up's really working very well at the moment, but here's hoping that we can get our act properly in gear by next week :-/

In other news, I finally succumbed to Leo's wheedling, and have signed up to Audible, picking Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash as my first book. I figured that I listened to a lot of podcasts, so audiobooks shouldn't be that much of a jump (well, that and having listened to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom last week).
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You'd have thought, perhaps, that when finding it hard work looking at the monitors (both home and work), I might have investigated the brightness settings perhaps a couple of months earlier than, er, today, wouldn't you?

Both screens were set to 100, and so I've toned them right down, which is making things a lot easier on the eye. So yay for that.
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OK, I'm back again.

No, really; I'm properly better this time.


I lasted approximately half an hour on Monday before I succumbed to the inevitable and headed back to Castle Fox. I had, honestly, felt OK first thing Monday, y'see, but by the time I got home all I could do was go back to bed.

So I took that as a guide for Tuesday, when I woke up feeling groggy, that I shouldn't even try to wend my way here. Yesterday, however, was less clear-cut... I didn't feel great at 6am, but I didn't feel terrible either. But I stayed off, figuring that I didn't want to repeat Monday's charade. As it happens, I felt mostly OK all day - somewhat lethargic, which is to be expected, but it was enough of a cue to ensure that I came in today.

What I came back to was a cardboard replacement of myself occupying my chair - Colleague J's hand was in this, I suspect, given the fez adorning cardboard!me's head, and I was touched by the three post-it notes that denoted the happy, smiling face.

I also came back to a whole stack of email, and five days' backlog of broken promises and other things... I've been spectacularly unproductive during the week's absence. A couple of times I tried sketching out some work stuff, but I couldn't maintain the interest or the enthusiasm (despite the guilt) to do so. So I'm behind, and about to start trying to catch up...
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Back at work, after what turned out to be a pretty mild case of 'flu, if my previous experience is anything to go by. Mostly better now, although I have some freshly brewed lemsip on the desk to try and keep me functional for the rest of the day.

Anyway, thanks to all for the good wishes and stuff - Castle Fox was offline for the duration, which means that this is the first chance I've had to check back in on Dreamwidth. The ISP thing is something I'll have to sort out eventually, but I wasn't really feeling up to it (or anything, really) just then.

Right now I'm slightly perturbed by the fact that Outlook is projecting that it's going to take 13 minutes to update my Inbox with the emails from Thursday. That doesn't bode well.
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I have a new monitor for the work PC, a 24" full 1080p HD monitor, with 1920x1080 resolution in perfect 16:9, whose utility is somewhat lost when half of the time I seem to be using 80 character wide terminal windows onto Unix (actually, Solaris) boxes to talk to databases. Still, at least I can have a lot of them on screen simultaneously without overlap, now :-)

One thing I really like about Gnome that hasn't yet been migrated to Windows is the ability to define a double-click on the window title bar to maximise said window either vertically, horizontally, or both. See, with 1920 width, a maximised window isn't actually that helpful - it'd be much nicer simply to maximise vertically, leaving me free desktop to the right and left for reference to other panes. Instead I have to drag the corner to fit, which is hardly an ordeal, but it's one example of where these little tricks that Linux offers make quite a difference to how your workspace is organised.
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I was over at one of the user's offices yesterday to sort out (a trivial, as it happened) problem she was having with Word (which is a whole separate story, because I'm not Word support).

Anyway, said colleague was wearing an absolutely fantastic short, short skirt, of which I highly approved, but decided it was probably better to say nothing of her wardrobe choices for fear of ... if not exactly being misinterpreted, at least being inappropriate.

Discretion's the better part of valour, right? ;-P
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What with the weekend, and having been on a training course Thursday and Friday, it feels like a long time since I was last at the desk. I had been hoping to make some serious inroads into a big project that Colleague H and I are supposed to be tackling, but what with catching up on the Thursday/Friday flak, I haven't really made much headway at all.

This is starting to get serious - we've got a project progress update meeting tomorrow afternoon, and, er, I don't think 'well, I've been thinking it over whilst walking the dog' is really the type of thing they're expecting to hear.

Nonetheless, I think I've more or less cleared the decks, so now I can make a start on the project stuff.

No, really. Honest.

Trust me...
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Overall, I was somewhat unimpressed with the two days' training - the instructor was personable, the group I was in were good, but the actual knowledge transfer thing was pretty limited.

I confess, the course did help demystify the deification of the triangle a little (I'm now campaigning for a reclassification of this as a quadrangle, with limited success so far, but it's early days), and there were some fun elements across the two days.

But was it worth missing two days' work for this? Absolutely not.

A couple of us were lamenting missed opportunities - we collectively felt that the course would've benefitted greatly from a quad-bike-paintballing session as a team building exercise. Sadly, neither paintball nor quad-bike were proferred, so we had to make do instead with rhapsodizing over scented flipchart pens.
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The training course is taking place at a farm/conference venue a little way outside Hull, and I was rather surprised to discover, once I'd made it past the outskirts of civilisation* that there was actually quite a bit of snow about. Had I been so forewarned, I'd probably have allowed myself a little extra time for the Castle Fox -> Happy Holiday Home -> Work Training run.

As it is, I wasn't late, arriving about 2 minutes early, but that's slightly closer than I like to cut things.

Anyway, the drive back was through some pretty thick fog as we came up over the hills, and it caught me by surprise. At home, briefly, before heading up to the Farm to collect ex and thence to P's school for parents' evening.


Jan. 12th, 2010 08:37 am
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Lighting, as keen scholars of these pages will be aware, tends to be something of a contentious issue amongst us code monkeys.

We've been trying to come to an effective compromise with the lighting in here, both natural and artificial, and Friday saw us shuffling the desks around so that we can open the blinds on some of the windows without having monitors backlit by the resultant glare (hey, there's a world out there!).

Yesterday we decided to try out Colleague S's wine-bar-stylee uplighter, rather than have the serried ranks of overhead fluourescents flood the place.

And, y'know... it's actually better this way, I think. We could possibly do with a little more candlepower somewhere, but I certainly find it preferable to the floodlit alternative.
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At the desk three days this week, and then for Thursday and Friday I'm on a training course off-site. This in turn means that Mali gets checked into his Happy Holiday Home on Thursday morning, picked up on Saturday morning, because I can't get back to him at lunchtimes.

It was a very static weekend on my part - it wasn't the snow so much as the ice: the ice was lethal. Put it this way; when Mali, with four-paw-drive, is falling over, you know conditions are dicey. However, the rain started on Sunday and has made substantial inroads on the ice/slush, such that one can walk along with some fair degree of confidence, for the most part, that you'll manage to stay upright.

Finally, Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte were talking on Security Now last week about ShadowServer, a site that tracks botnets across the interwebs. From the graphs, it looks like there was some massive cut-off on New Year's Eve...
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After gingerly walking in through the Snap! Crackle! and Pop! of a thin layer of ice over yesterday's snow dusting, I'm back at the Office (II), and was very much looking forward to warming my gloveless (they went missing over the festive period - must replace. Seriously must) hands opn a mug of boiling water (for I am still coffee-free™), to discover that our 'instant' boiling water machine isn't producing forth vast torrents of instant boiling water... more what you might call lukewarm-ish.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly - the beast has been switched off over the Christmas break, and needs some time to get back up to operating temperature. Of course, since we have instant hot water on tap, we don't have a kettle...

I've got some background processes running on the PC which would've been much better run over the Christmas break, but that only occurred to me once I was home, and I'd powered down the work PC, so I couldn't remote desktop in to set things in motion. So that was a bit shortsighted of me, but nothing terminal.

DVD-wise, The Wire continues to prove rivetting viewing - the cinematography in the penultimate episode of S3 (the showdown in the empty house with Omar and Brother Mouzone) is awesome (Omar rocks), whilst in matters literary, Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, Morganville VI is looking set to be my first book of 2010 - I'm about half way through at the moment, but keep getting distracted by both The Wire and Assassin's Creed II.
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2009 has been a bit of an up and down year, all told, but I think I'm ending it better than I started, and I'm hoping that's what's important.

I read a lot of books - my target was 36, and I got past that. Next year's target will again be 36, but I'm going to try and read more non-fiction (new Sook notwithstanding). And I'm definitely going to try to read less Stephanie Meyer in the new year. Heck, if I could unread Breaking Dawn, I most definitely would.

We moved buildings at work in October (if memory serves): overall, I prefer the new place to the old, if only because we're squirrelled away somewhat, which means fewer walk-in distractions. Colleague H and I have been assigned a full-on project for the new year, which could well take some getting into, so I'm expecting January and onwards to be pretty busy.

DVD-wise, I've obviously discovered The Wire, which is seriously, seriously good. I've yet to finish either Battlestar Galactica or Prison Break, and I have the first five seasons of Lost waiting to go through too. As for Flash Forward, though, I think I'm going to give up on that one.

I don't really remember too many notable films. Coraline was OK, but nothing compared to the book. The Star Trek reboot was certainly watchable, but not ground-breaking. Avatar, ultimately, disappointed. Was there a stand-out film this year?

I've just received a 'Happy New Year!' text from a number I don't recognise... have at least returned the good wishes, but I hate it when that happens!

Anyway, have a good New Year, all you people! Hope 2010 brings you all things good! :D
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Work formally closes at lunchtime today, so it's just a morning stint at the desk, and then the day is mine!

It rained a little last night, so the snow turned to slush turned to ice as night gave way to morning - walking Mali this morning was a little hairy in a couple of places, but I remained upright, so all good on that front.

I set a new PB on Pacifism mode in Geometry Wars2 last night; 12,500,000, which beat my previous high by a factor of 6 (which sounds impressive, but because of the nature of the game's score multiplier collection thing, the points rack up increasingly quickly the longer you survive). To put that into perspective, the current global top score for Pacifism is apparently around the 7 billion mark, so I have a looooooong ways to go. I'd like to break in to the nine digit score range, though...

I switched to Geometry Wars2 after playing a little more Assassin's Creed 2 - a beautiful, beautiful looking game, but I'm finding it hard, er, finding each respective quest's target. Still, it's absorbing, but I'm thinking that Ezio (the Assassin you play) definitely makes different life-choices to me on a day-to-day basis.

Forgot to mention, have received Christmas cards from [personal profile] aome, [personal profile] carolanne5, [personal profile] cynthia_black and [personal profile] uninvitedcat, so thank you muchly, y'all, for those! <3
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Mali and I are in from the evening's second walk - he was having a bit of a rough time on the first circuit; I think he was getting ice caught between his paws every now and again, and we had to stop so that I could massage the stuff out every time he started acting all tripod. The more travelled routes are just wet. Offshoots from those are slush, and the quieter areas still are just sheets of ice.

Tomorrow's just a half-day at work, which is most welcome; we've got the whole week off next week, so don't return until 4 January 2010. Definite call for w00t, methinks.

Incidentally, I'm definitely saying 'twenty-ten' in my head, although lots of people are referring to the coming year as 'two thousand and ten'. My thinking is it's pretty inconceivable to me to refer to the year 2037 as 'two thousand and thirty seven', as opposed to 'twenty-thirty seven.' So, given that we're going to make the shift at some point, it might as well be sooner rather than later. Obviously, it's cumbersome to refer to the single digits in this fashion - hence why I'm predicting that this next year will represent the changing of the guard, numerically speaking.
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After lunch with [personal profile] cynthia_black yesterday, I got back into work only for parts of my vision to start dropping out... the critical, dead-centre parts, naturally, and with such migraines, experience has taught me that all I can do is go for a forced reboot, and crawl into bed.

So I came home, walked Mali, and was in bed by 4pm. Although I got up a few times, and let Mali out into the yard for good measure, I didn't get up properly until 6.30 this morning, feeling mostly better, but still a bit woozy.

As a result, I've avoided the PC until this evening, hence the slightly odd update time for this post.

The migraine threw a few things out, actually - aside from missing an afternoon's work, I also had to postpone a vets' appointment for Mali (kennel cough vaccination - been and done this afternoon instead), and had to put off picking P up from the Farm, too :-/

I also had a plumber returning to look at a leak under the sink - the stopcock got replaced last week, and now, by the power of PFTE tape, I think I've finally reclaimed use of the undersink cupboard. Which is nice.

Anyway, because the plumber had fixed the time as 'Saturday morning', and I had a vets' appointment for Mali at 2.30pm (the only available slot I could shift to from Friday at such short notice), that meant I couldn't reliably pick P up any earlier than 5.

It snowed a little, the last couple of days - this is always bad news around the Dukeries, because the snow compacts, converts to slush, then freezes, and the roads become ice-rinks. The drive up to the Farm gets better once we're onto the main arterial routes through Hull, but once onto the winding roads past Beverley, conditions got just a little slippery once again, and I could feel the car squirming around as we pootled rather gingerly along.

Not pootling fast enough for the BMW (what else?) driver, who roared past on the return flit, though.

By the time we got back to Castle Fox, the Snow Proper started to fall - we don't get much of the stuff, so when it does fall (and, more importantly, settle), it's a Big Thing. More amusingly, Mali turns into a sort of inverse dalmatian when we're out walking in it - the flakes creating white spots on the predominantly black coat.
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So, it's a bit chilly in our office this fine morn.

The heating engineer's just been round with his snazzy laser-pointer-thermometer thingy, to reassure us that we're all not actually freezing, and in the process, explained the philosophy of the heating installation we're enjoying.

And it goes like this: the panel radiators around the walls, which have just been fitted with thermostatic valves, run off recovered heat from the air-conditioning system. This is considered a supplementary system to the panel-heaters.

What panel heaters, we wondered, in a state of collective perplexity.

The ceiling mounted ones, came the answer.

Huh. OK - that'd be the ceiling mounted panel heaters that we can't see because of the polystyrene-tile-based floating ceiling that we have, then? Thought as much...

Aside from the fact that hot air isn't well known for falling downward, there's also the slightly odd design decision of then placing an insulating barrier of polystyrene betwixt what little gravity afflicted thermal action might be headed our way and us poor code monkeys.

And all this topped off by a radiator system running off the recovered heat from the air-conditioning, such that when the air conditioning is working hard, the radiators are warm (positive feedback loops FTW!), and when the air-conditioning isn't running, said beasties are stone-cold.


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