Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Watty has a new hero:

Well, I would if I didn't think it somewhat unseemly for grown-ups to have heroes. Let me introduce you to Ben Schott. Ben is a photographer by trade, and I have absolutely no idea whether or not he's any good at it. For Ben has another talent. The story goes like this: Ben Schott is the kind of person who hand crafts his Christmas cards, and last year he thought it might be fun to send his friends some lists of almost, but not quite, useless information. Researching these lists took on a life of its own, and before he knew it, he had written a book. Not just any book, either.

Where else could you find the complete list of laundry symbols alongside the Glasgow Coma Index? The layers of the atmosphere along with a list of famous Court Jesters? The history of the Hat Tax alongside a list of countries which drive on the left? Never mind that this is hardly an original idea (whatever happened to Pears' Cyclopaedia?), this is a gorgeous book, compiled with care and a real eye for what is just the right side of trivia.

I know what I want for Christmas now...

Monday, November 25, 2002

Watty's thinking of Christmas (stop groaning at the back)

Now, the only reason I'm thinking of Christmas this early is the almost famous Christmas Letter. From something we always said we wouldn't do, it's taken on a life of its own. There will be no clues here as to its contents or style, mainly because i've not really worked it out myself yet, but those of you who have seen one before may rest assured that there will be something or other in the Christmas cards...

The other thing which has focused me on Christmas was the trip to Costco on Sunday. Now, I know it is getting a little late in the year for this kind of thing - Costco is busy at the best of times, and 5 weeks out it's only going to be worse, but it was only going to get busier, so Conor and I put on our body armour and our steel toecapped boots, and went for it. In reality it wasn't bad - we spent less than we had budgeted and we didn't have to queue for long to get out, and there was only superficial bruising from trolleys, so I think we did well. But I was struck by a particular stupidity which continues to irritate me. Costco have the most sensible, logical carpark arrangement I've ever seen in a place like that - the aisles are all one way, and the spaces are angled so that you always park nose first, to allow access to the back of the car for loading. It's clearly marked, and all the spaces are wide enough for doors to be opened, and children loaded and unloaded and so on. It's so sensible that it's a wonder more places don't do it. Except, of course, it's not a wonder, because the average British motorist is incapable of following a simple set of painted instructions. Every aisle I turn down is blocked by a car facing the wrong way. Usually they're trying to manoeuvre round into a space which is deliberately angled away from them, or even more intelligently, are crabbing round to reverse into the space. These are the people you see later, passing television sets and Christmas trees along a human chain, scratching the sides of their own car, to try to load up in a space which is already full of the people behind them who are doing the same. Me? I park a few feet further away from the entrance, and you know what? My legs don't fall off during the walk. Pah. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Watty's family heirlooms:

Following my enthusiasm for Gerard Hoffnung earlier, and having shown off my memories to my father, these arrived in the post a few days ago. They are, if it's not clear, the aforementioned books - looking a little worn now, which is only fair, since they're getting on for 50 years old - but I am overjoyed to have them, and shall treasure them always.

I am, of course, becoming a sentimental old fool, but never mind.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Watty could see this one coming...

Got a phone call at 7:15 this morning - "the aircon unit is leaking. We switched it off Friday night, and there should be someone in this morning"

Well, it wasn't bad, and it's fixed now, but the temperature must have been over 40o in there when I arrived. So at least we know it's required...

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Watty is parsimonious:

Books cost too much. Now, I know that if you're an aspiring author *cough* this will look like some kind of heresy, but it's true. I used to work in the book trade, and I understand the economics of it. Would it surprise you to know that the high street supermarket / department store outlets are charging a mark up of at least 50%? And that's based on 15 year old information. Actual, proper bookshops make far more. And, yes, I know that the investment in stock for a decent sized bookshop requires a significant return from every item sold, but still - books are too expensive. So, I rarely (I'd like to say never, but sometimes my desires get the better of my principles) pay full price for a book.

Having said that, this is ridiculous. On Wednesday, prior to meeting Paul, I popped into the basement at Henry Porde's in Charing Cross Road. It's a fine second-hand emporium, but generally charges London prices - which is to say, more than you would pay at the Carnforth Bookshop (it doesn't have a website, but if you're ever near Lancaster, you should check it out. Oh, and Great Grandfather's in Leyland, too). So, I just browsed speculatively; anything I found would have to be either irresistible or very cheap. Very cheap won the day - a US edition of Neuromancer for £2 (£2 is so far below London Price that I assumed they had missed the 1 off at the beginning). Pleased with myself, I was. Until yesterday. We went to the library (warning - utterly uninformative link), as usual on a Sturday morning, and filled our bag with storybooks for the boys. And then I quickly browsed the book sale rack, and picked up 2 fat SF paperbacks (an Asimov collection, and Greg Bear's Eternity) for which I was charged the outrageous sum of 30p. No, not each; in total. Clearly I haven't been trying up to now.

Oh, a word about the book list - Blogger seems to be having trouble refreshing my template, so it hasn't been updated for a while. I'm going to try again now, but if you don't see the books I've just mentioned over there, it's not because I'm too lazy to update it. Well, not just that...

Friday, November 15, 2002

Watty is joyful:

Well, the air conditioning works. In fact, it's probably too cold in there now. Oh, how I wish it were summer again....

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Watty's been having an interesting week:

Quite apart from the dramas of Monday, there have been more than enough things to keep me exhausted this week:

(Oh, Conor's fine, by the way - apart from some residual bruising, you wouldn't know anything had happened)

So, on Tuesday, I had my appraisal (I'd like to say it was appraisal season; truth is, we're hopelessly late. Such is life with Italians) - which I was actually rather pleased with; not that I thought there would be any major bones of contention, just that my boss and I know each other so well that we tend not to say or do the things we ought to, the things which keep a working relationship going. On Tuesday, we managed to say those things, which was quite a breakthrough. I also finally understood why he's been so grumpy recently - it was what I thought it was, but it was nice to know that it wasn't anything that I'd done.

Which meant that, in turn, I had to do my two guys today. You think it's stressful on the employee side of the desk; you want to try doing two contrasting appraisals in a row. I shall say no more, but it's worth observing that the guys are significantly harder on themselves than I am. This (I think) is actually a good thing - their standards are reasonably high....

There was a perfectly pleasant excursion into Soho last night in the company of PaulWay, jim, I'mNotJohn, and Simons Mith - good company, and I'm sure that there was a round of beers at one point at £1.45 a pint. In central London. The least said about the trek back to Euston past the closed tube stations, the better, I think.

And then there was the air conditioning.

We have bought a large number of servers over the last few months, and our poor old 3kW aircon unit can't cope any more - it's actually warmer in the room than in the rest of the office. So, we ordered up a nice big 10kW unit, and it was due to be installed yesterday; this didn't happen for various, entirely predictable reasons - I don't think that anything actually happens on schedule any more. So, we arranged for it to happen at 7am today; less disruption to the offices, since the guys would have to fiddle about in the roof void and so on. Now, the thing about proper big aircon units is that the condenser needs to go on the roof. So it needs to be of a size which will fit up the stairs to the roof, and more importantly, through the door. The door to the roof of our building is actually more of a hatchway - it's about 75mm square. The salesman came last week, measured up and confidently placed his order. The condenser arrived this morning, and there's no way in the world it's going through that hatch. So we debated the hiring of a crane, and various other more or less bizarre solutions until it was agreed that the contractors would get a window fitter in to remove the whole hatch and frame, take the condenser through (which they did, I have no idea how) and put it back in. All this in high winds and driving rain. I tell you, it's a glamorous life in IT...

Of course, so much time was wasted this morning that the job's still not finished. Perhaps we will have our nice new aircon unit tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Watty's been in a timewarp

Cameron and I walked to school this morning. A bright autumn morning, with a heavy dew. All the leaves, which were stripped off the trees by the gales a couple of weeks ago, are now covering the ground in a kind of damp mulch - not much good for kicking around. We walked and chatted inconsequentially, and dawdled, and saw people we knew also going to school, and I was struck by a powerful nostalgia. This is exactly what walking to school has always felt like, I realised. Never mind that I was a foot taller than everyone; never mind that the chatter was about things which hadn't been invented when I was doing this every day; it is an eternal sensation. Children who are driven to school miss a hell of a lot. Oh, yes, there are plenty of children in large people carriers, even in our small village - you can't close Pandora's Box, you know.

The reason that Cam and I were doing the school run today was that Conor was in hospital having an orchidopexy (you could try Googling it, or I could just tell you it's a procedure to reposition an undescended testicle) - all is well, and he's back home now, exhausted and slightly resentful at having had a drip in his foot. He can't walk yet, having had a spinal block put in to deaden the pain, but a good night's sleep will resurrect him, I'm certain. I tell you what, though - I wouldn't care to go through a day like that too often... Beer. I need beer...

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Watty has a domestic crisis:

The kitchen sink leaks. There's a big crack running the length of it, and water now pours into the cupboard below. Which is nice. On top of which, the dishwasher isn't working properly - I think its all scaled up - and so we need to wash more things than usual. But there's a crack in the sink. *sigh* And we think the fridge leaks, too.

On top of which, I found a bottle of wine in the freezer last night. I popped it there to cool down when Paul was here on Sunday, but we had red instead, and I forgot about it. So, the cork had been neatly removed, and the wime was solid, so I went to throw it out. And then I wondered. I left it overnight to thaw (which it did perfectly) and then resealed it with the vacuum pump this morning. I don't intend to serve it to guests, but I wonder if it's at all drinkable? I shall report back. Or not, as the case may be.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Watty is embarrassed:

Yes, well. I am still alive - more or less. There's been stuff going on, but no time to write it down. But we did have a jolly visit from Paul. If you ever need anyone to read Spike Milligan to your children, he's your man. Oh, and we survived Cameron's birthday party on Saturday - I've rarely been so tired at the end of a day...more soon. I think