Archive for October, 2008

Comic Sans

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I’m not normally a font nazi but …

I’ve just noticed that the travel authorisation request form for my division, a huge global division of a massive global company, is written in Comic Sans

Come on, this is a form that people use to request permission to spend thousands of pounds of the companies money and it’s written in a font more suitable for a ten-year olds birthday card. 

I know I’m disproportionately annoyed by this. Hey, at least I’m posting. 

I’ll post about why I was filling in a travel request form if it gets approved …

Some updates …

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

There is very little new information regarding the recent employment bombshell. We’re following the government procedure for these things and following it at a glacial pace. It’ll be Friday at the earliest before we have any more information and even then the consultation period will probably keep us all in limbo for another month. I’m ignoring it and pursuing some interesting leads, I need to get my CV up to date. 

I’ve returned to the land of the loner, having lost my flatmate over the weekend. So I now have to play the lifesize equivalent of one of those slide puzzles where I shift all my furniture around to create enough space to redecorate the bits that need done. Still, it’s all looking possible. 

Before the decorating (but after the CV updating) I need to do some planning for my (probably) final holiday this year as next week sees me head off to the furthest away parts of the EU

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that posting may be a bit light over the next month or so. I’ll try not to leave a multi-month gap but we’ll see.

I should have some job losing/hunting info once I get back from my hols and there’s still a ton of outstanding country posts but I’m way behind with my photos.

Downturn

Friday, October 24th, 2008

So, the figures are out and the UK economy shrank in the last quarter. This post isn’t about that. 

This is about the BBCs reaction. They’ve unveiled a special page: bbc.co.uk/downturn

Easy to remember URL, snappy graphics, special fonts, lots of content. New graphics are already on News 24 as well.

Eh, could you at least pretend you’re not beside yourself with glee that we’re “on the brink of recession.” 

How long have they had that ready to go? You just know they don’t have an equivalent ‘upturn’ page. 

It makes you wonder what they do have ready, lots of pre-done obituraries I imagine, but do they have terror attack pages, nuclear strike, alien attack?

Resolve

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

“But what about your ‘visit the EU’ resolution, how will your job turmoil affect that?”, is a question that no one has asked.

The closest they’ve come is “Bet you regret spending all that money jetting around the EU now!”

Which is nice of them. I needed reminding.

I have only a few countries left to visit and the flights are all booked. So I’m confident that by the end of the year I’ll have visited every country in the EU in 2008.

I may have to cancel a planned trip to Dublin, but I’ve been there before and I spent a night in the airport this year which is probably enough to calm the completeness freak in me.

I’ll post more about the whole experience once I’ve got the separate country posts up, hopefully before the end of the year, but maybe not.

It’s easy to think I would have been better off, financially, if I hadn’t been doing this but I doubt I would be. Past experience proves that I’d have just done something else with the money anyway. I’m not really a saver.

I’m in the happy position of having a few months, at least, of employment to sort out my finances. It could be a lot worse.

All this does mean that there’s unlikely to be a new resolution for 2009 … unless my life becomes much more settled before then.

Plan B

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I mentioned ‘Plan B’ a few posts back when I discovered my employment was less assured than it had been.

So what is it ? 

The truth is plan B isn’t really a plan to find a new job, it’s a plan I’ve had for a while to set my self up to either leave my job or take a sabbatical and sod off travelling for a bit. 

It revolves around finding out how I can rent out my flat while I’m not here, then sorting out my finances to accommodate that and powering through the inevitable list of things I’ll need to do to make it all possible.

So this morning a nice man from Broughton Property Management came round and provided me with details of the finances and that big list of things to do. 

Fortunately almost everything on the list was stuff I should really do anyway. So there’s no harm in doing it and then being prepared for the possibility of renting. 

This doesn’t mean that I’m definitely sodding off to foreign shores, either for employment or just for fun, I’m simply getting myself to the position where I could do so given, say, a few months notice. I could just take another job in Edinburgh, and I might. But from experience I know that after the initial challenge wears off I’ll just fall into the same old routine that I’ve been merrily following for eight years. 

It seems like this has come along at exactly the sort of time I was thinking of changing things up, it’d be foolish not to at least investigate the chance of moving abroad for a year or two. Maybe even junking telecoms, or even software, and doing something else. I googled ‘Poker Tournament Director Jobs’ this morning … 

There’s still lots to sort out, and lots of potential for things to change between now and then. So next year I may still be in Edinburgh, retiring to my couch after a hard day to watch whatever dross is on telly.

Or maybe I’ll be sitting on a balcony in Malta doing contract work on my laptop and sipping white wine. 

Yes, I know the reality isn’t going to match the dream, but I can still dream. 

And that Malta dream isn’t realistic.

I don’t sip wine. 

EU 2008: Copenhagen, Denmark

Monday, October 13th, 2008
First a little background, I got to Copenhagen late on a Saturday night having spent the previous two nights in Amsterdam. So I’m pretty exhausted, I’ve eaten very little and I’ve done next to no research on the place, all of this may have coloured my judgement of the city.
Kongens HaveOn the first night I decided to go for a wander, so I pick a random direction and head that way, later on I discover that I picked the worst direction to go, there’s nothing interesting at all in the direction. Not even any real restaurants, I’m forced to resort to a greasy burger when I realise that there’s no other options.
I head out the next day determined to find something interesting in Copenhagen, but the entire town feels sleepy. I’m not in the tourist season, but it’s only a week away and I would have thought there’d be more going on. It’s beautiful weather but even the parks and the shoreline are fairly quiet. Maybe everyone’s away for the weekend. 

I did find a crowd of people following some soldiers and a brass band, it was all a bit ‘big’ to be a regular changing of the guard but I’ve still no idea what it was. Still I followed them (top tip: always follow the crowd, they’re probably going somewhere interesting) and ended up in Kongens Have (‘Kings Gardens’). It’s a really nice open park area and there’re a few things to see here but none are terribly impressive. I looked into the Treasury that’s there but wasn’t terribly impressed, it’s OK if that’s your sort of thing, I guess 

Little Mermaid From there it’s a small walk to the grounds of the Kastellet, more lovely gardens and grounds but not much more than that. Various paths and parts were closed, I’m guessing to get them ready for the tourist season. If you walk round the grounds to the far end you arrive back at the shoreline and the statue of the Little Mermaid. It’s nice, and it was nice to finally find a decent amount of people but in reality it’s nothing that special. Coming back down the shoreline you can get to the Frihedsmuseet (Museum of the Danish Resistance Movement) which is very interesting but closes early so I only got ten minutes to dash round it. At least it’s free.

There are several boat and bus tours that go round Copenhagen but I could only find one boat tour that was actually running. It was pretty good as these sorts of tours go and covered a bigger area you might have got on a bus tour of the same length. If I’d been a week later I’d have had a lot more choice of tours, including night cruises with music and food.

At this point I’m still underwhelmed by Copenhagen and there’s only a couple more places in the guide book that sound interesting. Fortunately one of them, Christiania, is interesting enough to make up for it. From that wikipedia page:

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a partially self-governing neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Christiania has established semi-legal status as an independent community, but has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its open cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Since then, measures for normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, and negotiations are ongoing.

So, what’s it like? It definitely has a different ‘feel’ to the rest of Copenhagen, somewhere in the middle is Pusher Street which was once an open hash market. I didn’t see any being openly sold but there was certainly a lot being smoked. The whole place is just pre-fab buildings and sheds setup in an area of waste ground populated by hippies, dogs and wannabes. No photos — there’s a big sign saying not to take pictures — but a quick google finds some that will give you an idea. 

There are cafes, barbecues and pubs set up in the various makeshift buildings, catering to the locals rather than the tourists. I wandered into one of them which turned out to be a jazz club where people were just sauntering up to the stage and giving it a go. The whole relaxed unpretentious vibe was a nice change from the tourist targets places I normally end up. 

I also had a chance to visit the Radhus (City Hall), which has some great views from the bell tower (guided tours only) and also houses the Jens Olsen’s World Clock which is pretty cool if you’re a geek (and probably even if you’re not). 

I struggled to find anything remotely resembling traditional food, a staggering amount of places where shut or only open for lunch and what was left were higher-end tourist places. Edible, nice even, but nothing special. 

In the end I’m still underwhelmed by Copenhagen, I really see no reason to go there again. I guess there’s always Tivoli Gardens (which were shut when I was there) but that’s more of a family holiday destination. In fact the whole place, with the possible exception of Christiania, feels more like a place for a family holiday. It’s not cheap to get there, stay there or do things when you’re there and overall there are other places that are far nicer. 

Copenhagen Skyline

Quick Update

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Hmmm, yesterdays post was surprisingly coherent given the state I was in when I wrote it.

First up this is all going to take a few months to shake out, possibly up to a year, so I have plenty of time to sort things out.

I was already diligently clearing up my finances, this was because I’d was assembling a war chest to take to Vegas in March but none of that is booked so I shouldn’t be in too bad a shape at the start of next year.

Secondly I’ve already been investigating changing my job, or taking an extended sabbatical. I’ve settled into a nice comfortable rut, doing my nice comfortable job and living my nice comfortable life. I would have continued to do that for next fifteen years and would have turned round when I’m fifty and wondered where my life had gone.

So, this is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. It was about time …

That’s the upbeat assessment of the situation, the downbeat view is

Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oww, I’m hungover. Oh Fuck. Fix it. Fix it. Fix it. Fuck.

I wonder if I could become a professional gambler …

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. II

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean everyone’s not out to get you …

Earlier this week there was a low key e-mail saying that our division boss would be ‘passing through’ Edinburgh and holding a meeting.

Today he arrived as advertised, along with the HR dude (locally known as ‘the reaper in a fat suit’*) and some other dude. All the managers where sucked into a meeting, the long faces did not bode well.

And the news is not good.

The Edinburgh office is scheduled for closure (well it’s a ‘proposal’ but it’s almost certainly a done deal).

I don’t think anyone in the office really expected that.

I responded to the news by getting hammered, as I do. I still am.

I’ve had a ‘Plan B’ that I’ve been working on since my last ‘Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt’ post, so I’m now swinging that into action. I’d have liked a few more months to settle into the plan, but a little push is never a bad thing …

I’ve no idea how the next month or three will pan out, hopefully I’ll be able to keep my loyal 😉 readers updated.

May you live in interesting times …

(*no-one really calls him that, yet)

EU 2008: Cardiff, Wales

Thursday, October 9th, 2008
In my quest to visit everywhere in the EU I need to visit Britain, now I could be cheap and just claim Edinburgh as counting. Or I could write up one of the places I’ve visited in the past, somewhere in the highlands, London, or even Blackpool. But I figured I’d go somewhere new, and so I’m find myself on a tiny city hopper plane on a cheap flight to Cardiff.

It was almost no flight to Cardiff, as I only just managed to make the check-in time due to a combination of traffic, complex bus routes and the delays due to all of Edinburgh being dug up at the same time. It’s only a matter of time until I miss a flight on one of my jaunts. But not this time.

Millennium StadiumThe airport is almost an hours bus drive away from the city, the buses are regular and pleasant enough but it’s interesting how remote British airports tend to feel compared to the ones I’ve seen on the continent where you’re generally no more than a twenty minute train connection away. I don’t know if those airports are just closer or if they just have better connections. As soon as you get to the city itself you find it’s dominated by the new Millennium Stadium, it’s massive and right in the centre of the city, which is pretty handy as my hotel is across the river from it. It’s impressive but I don’t think it’s exactly pretty, I really wonder what the skyline looked like before it was there.

There’s a fair amount to do and see in Cardiff during the day. To start off I headed to Cardiff Bay. The Bay has been redeveloped and turned into a ‘destination’, the sort of thing I suspect they’d like to do the area around the Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh. The problem is that the whole thing feels a bit like a giant open air shopping mall, with the shops, cafes, bars, and gallerias dotted around. There are a few things to see in the Bay, like the Norwegian Church and the Light Boat but all of them have a cafe and a gallery crammed in and very little information about their history. It’s a nice place to spend a few hours but it’s a bit soulless and it’s lost some of the character that I imagine it had when it was just a bay.

Cardiff Bay

The Welsh Assembly is there, it’s a impressively grand modern looking building that managed to resist looking too modern or odd (unlike the Scottish Parliament, which I quite like but you can’t argue that it fits in with the area,) Alongside is the Millennium Centre, which is just a big venue / conference centre and slightly further along is the Red Dragon centre which is a ‘entertainment complex’ as if they whole bay wasn’t already.

The Red Dragon centre also has the Dr. Who exhibition which, as a Sci Fi geek, I couldn’t pass up. Meh, just Meh. It’s all ‘new Who’ stuff, apart from some video of the previous doctors. The most annoying thing is that you get video and blurb about all the previous doctors regenerations (some of which I’ve never seen before) but not the current ones — I’m assuming they couldn’t get the rights to show those bits. The only other item that produced a flicker of interest was Kylie’s costume from the Christmas Special (she must be tiny.)

In the centre of Cardiff there are a few museums which were mostly free but didn’t have anything that really grabbed me. It was also stupidly hot the weekend I was there so I opted to spend time outdoors at the other big sight, Cardiff Castle. Keep I was lucky because there was a medieval theme ‘thing’ going on with events like sword demonstrations and such. Otherwise the place would be just a castle, the inside (guided tours only) is interesting but castles tend to look the same after you’ve seen a few. I did like the brief history of Cardiff that the guide gave us. Wandering around the grounds gives some excellent views of the city and shows you just how massive the Millennium Stadium is in comparison to everything else.

I tried to search out Welsh food but the first restaurant I was directed to (Mimosa) uses Welsh ingredients but doesn’t really do ‘Welsh food’. It was still excellent. The next day I found what I was looking for, with a heavily touristed slant, at a Welsh banquet at the castle. Full of tourists (mostly Australians on a 21 day tour of Britain, all very friendly), and completely over-the-top with singing, dancing and audience participation. Still it was an excellent night out, surprisingly good value for money and great fun. Despite being made to bark like a dog on stage. To be fair it generally doesn’t take much to encourage me to do that. 

The nightlife is pretty similar to Edinburgh, a selection of pubs and clubs with assorted people wandering between them. There’s a comedy club in Cardiff Bay that put on a decent the night I was there, and an assortment of other bars to keep people happy and boozed up. 

The only place that stood out was Minsky’s — a drag revue bar. It was interesting, I’ve not seen a lot of drag shows so I’ve nothing really to compare it too but it was entertaining and a decent way to pass a couple of hours. Apart from being cajoled into doing the timewarp with the rest of the audience. God, I hate that song.

Wales Millennium Centre

I can’t really say I’d not go back to Cardiff, it’s so close and so easy to get to. I imagine you could have a really good day and night out there if a group of you headed down over a weekend. There’s nothing in particular that would draw me back, but the city as a whole just about wins me over.

Creaky

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

I’ve uploaded some new banners, they look like they’re working but there’s always a chance than you’ll get a broken image instead of a header. Feel free to leave a comment pointing out I’m an idiot if that happens. There are thirteen different countries in the rotation now (fourteen banners as Belgium got two) so I’m seven posts behind the banners.

In addition the site may go a bit ‘creaky’ without warning as I’m on the list to be upgraded to the new Dreamhost server system (there’s some info on their slightly over the top blog.)

Nothing to do with being carbon neutral and more to do with them bribing people with unlimited storage and bandwidth for offering to make the switch first.