In absence of a sensible updating regime, I'm doing a 5 month synopsis of what I has been up to. Including random thoughts and rambling tales. Yes, I know there's a lot to read.
Tail of August 2008
- We went to see Midsummer Night's Dream performed in the grounds of Notts Castle. It were nicely atmospheric.
- My weight has dropped below the 20 stone mark. I was 21.5 at the start of the year.
- Made more money than expected selling a small pile of surplus toy soldiers on Ebay. Always a good thing. Just got to get round to selling the rest of the surplusses.
- Worked on clearing out the cellar of my house. I've lived in the house for 3 years and it's never been mucked out. Now the house is mine, it's time to go to work. There was a matress that needed wrapping in plastic before getting it out of the cellar...
- Took trips out to Burton on Trent and Matlock Baths for new toy soldiers and icecream respectively.
- Spent most of the month being busy at work.
- Took a road trip to our newly acquired office in Salford Quays. Got well and truly lost in the Quays road system. Got on with the IT manager out there. Think we both appreciated having someone in the same boat to talk to, which ain't something we normally get. Of course, he's been doing the techy thing for years, and makes me look even more like an enthusiastic amateur. And his server room isn't a shoebox, it's a professionally kitted out room. And has aircon rather than an open window.
- Made it to my first Damage since the move to Saturday. Not impressed though. In trying to please the hardcore kiddies who live in the Basement on a Saturday, the bulk of the interesting songs have been canned.
- Discovered what was possibly the best sandwich evar from Brown Betty's. Bacon, roasted red peppers, fried halumi, salsa, pepper, all in cibiatta bread. Had to eat half the veg with a fork to be able to close the damn thing...
- Also discovered elk jerky at Ikea. Not massively sold on it, but the idea of eating such a random animal amuses me. As does the hat our resident Swedish at work, Jonas, has taken to wearing. He's got a big mane of pale blonde hair under it, and it's black with cute pink little ears sticking up at the top.
- My first ever MOT experience. Thankfully, it's not too bad, £180 or so in total.
- Feeling harrassed at work. There's larger jobs I've got on my to-do list, and I never seem to get on with them because there's a constant stream of people wanting smaller jobs done and I can't get the downtime to focus on progressing them significantly.
- Driving down Castle Boulevard one day, there's spiralling storms of leaves in the wind. Awesome to watch.
- We got the wallpaper stripped in the front room. The wallpaper steamer has a warning on it that it can potentially implode. I want to see that happen...
- We moved one of our teams into our new office. In the process, I ended up working 12 days straight without a day off. Not good.
- Got to talk to the woman who owns next door. They live behind us, and she says that our cats come noseying round their house of an evening. Cheeky little buggers. Good job they're not feeding them too, or we'd have really fat kitties.
- Harvested the ivy in the garden. It could be considered judicial pruning. As in Judge Dredd type judicial. As in, "the sentence is death".
- Naked Lego Batman. Lego men with groinal sockets. "Only you can make batman cry." Arf.
- Went to Macc the weekend before my birthday. Went to the Dale family farm with my mum and bro, and scattered my dad's ashes by the river.
- 33rd birthday. Had a very quiet one out with a few folk at the Sal and Big Wok. Realised that I've been inviting out pretty much the same folk each time for the last 5 years. S'not a bad thing, just an observation.
- Picked up Far Cry 2 and been playing it out of hours at work. It's got lots of good stuff, but some definite bad stuff. It's all about charging round a war torn country in Africa, playing both the conflicting factions off against each other until they're both destroyed, while hunting the arms dealer who's supplying both. The game looks utterly gorgeous, and plays really nicely, but the opposition gets a bit repetitive, with the only real variation being the power of the weapons they carry increasing as the game goes on. The missions have a bad habit of getting a bit samey as well, and rapidly respawning checkpoint dudes are a pain in the rear end. It's also weird that they've gone for a realistic approach to most of it (including animals and fire effects), yet there's nearly no sign of any humans while you're playing, other than your buddies and the guys shooting at you.
Missed out on seeing Rancid play City by playing 5 hours straight after work one evening. Up til starting that session the game had been getting repetitive, but suddenly, with one mission involving assassination by dropping a rail bridge on the target's head, got interesting again. My loadout was getting fun to use as well. Dragonov sniper rifle, LMG, and a pistol sized grenade launcher. Lots of stopping power for all ranges. Shame about failing at the Rancid gig though.
- Val and I have both been wrestling fans for years (20 years for me, on and off). However, we've never been to a live show. We did our first live wrestling show together this month a the WWE. We got second row tickets and ended up next to a pissed, extremely talkative Glasweigan, who spent half the evening shouting at the wrestlers. He then turns out to be a workmate of Phils, and wasn't just pissed, he was spannered on pills as well...
We got to see, among others, Ron "Truth" Killings, Carlito, a divas match (where I was shocked at how skinny 3 of 4 of them them looked (the 4th being Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart's daughter and she actually looked like she knew what a sandwich looked like)), both Hardy brothers, Mark Henry, and a headline of a very impressive Triple H against a shockingly poor Big Show.
Big Show's big, but he couldn't sell a sandwich to a starving man. It's amazing that he's given headlining matches on that sort of performance, after the whole of the rest of the bill put on such a well executed and energetic show.
Best moment though, was watching Hornswaggle (leprechaun themed midget who comes to the ring with an Irish chap called Finlay) chase a hulking muscley bloke round the outside of the ring with a chair. All we can see from the opposite side of the ring, is this beefcake bloke running along, and a chair bobbing along behind him. Classic.
- Was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes this month. I was tested fine in 2006, but then put on 3 stone in the latter half of my time at Pipex during 2006-2007. That, combined by my 15 year heavy drinking habit, plus a very sweet tooth, has taken it's toll. It's not going to kill me straight away, but I've got to cut out almost all the sugar, or risk eventually losing circulation to limbs or early heart attacks and the like. Funfun.
- Had my annual appraisal at work. Didn't go well. While they're generally happy with the work I'm doing, there's areas, particularly in handling expectations of some of the staff, that I'm not doing so well with, and, because of the growth of the company (we've tripled the workforce this year), I've not been keeping on top of all the things I'm meant to be doing.
At least my boss does everything he can to deal with issues in a constructive way, as opposed to one of the team leads, who chose later that day to have a verbal pop at me. Whilst I'm doing work for his team, long after I'm meant to have gone home. First time I've been proper angry with someone in a long time. I walked away rather than fire back, and we've come to a mutual understanding since.
- We moved the rest of the office to the new building at the end of November. I did another 12 day straight stint in the process. Things went pretty smoothly, with no servers or PCs failing to work once plugged in at the far end. And, thankfully, we borrowed the Manchester IT Manager to help sort out the new set of networking gear while I kept on top of looking after sorting out the staff.
In the new building we're in, we've got half the ground floor and all the top floor. All the project staff are on the top floor. I've got the main room of the ground floor between me, our HR lady and 4 customer service guys tucked in the far corner.
In the old office, I had a desk wedged in on 3 sides by other desks and other staff, and a constant stream of people moving around talking to each other. Now, I've a block of 3 big desks all to myself (in anticipation of more IT staff) in a huge open area. And even better, the open space behind me is earmarked for putting a sofa in it...
- All this moving stuff has made me realise a lot more of my limitations. I'm lacking in a lot of practical networking knowledge and I'm still not disciplined or organised enough. I'm also remembering I have a bit of a rabbit-in-the-headlights thing going on when it comes to doing things I've not done before (which in this job, is a lot of things), particularly when I don't get the downtime to get into the right headspace. Until the 2008 recruitment wave really kicked in, I was doing ok taking a little time to work out how to make things work, but I've just not had the time in the second half of the year...
- Minor bit of irony, absent minded idiocy or just force of habit: Once we were in to the new office, as I'm leaving my new server room, I caught myself turning off the light to save power. (The server room has about 20 servers running 24/7, plus a full on aircon system also running cold 24/7 in order to keep the servers from overheating.)
- Saw Apocalyptica play at City. First gig since Ministry back in April. There should have been festivals or Red Stars Parade, but they all suffered from cost (Hellfest) or cancellation (Red Stars, Rock and Blues).
Apocalyptica were pretty good. They do put on a show, but there really should have been more done in playing terms with the 4 cellos, as they did tend to blend together. It did amuse me that there were 3 of them throwing shapes as if they're playing guitars, headbanging and interacting with the crowd, and the 4th, slightly scary, one sat bolt upright on a chair, in a jacket and shades, just playing and nothing more.
Best bit was when the final song, where they broke out the classical (possibly Hall of the Mountain King) and really went for it. The folk who went to see Clutch probably made the better choice, but I've seen Clutch a lot of times now, and never seen Apocalyptica.
- Saw Isis play at the Corp in Sheffield 2 days later, with Andy C for company. We got there, having got lost going round the one-way system again, unfortunately meaning we were only in time for the last 2 songs of the Torche set. They sounded interesting enough to try some more out.
I've seen Isis 5 times now, and every show has been somewhere between excellent and transcendental. This one was just excellent, but that's not a problem. They don't fuck around, they don't do much audience interaction, but they're ridiculously good at layering rolling guitars through delicate troughs up to crushing crescendos.
- Jonas, our comedy Swede at work, managed one day, to get himself locked in one of the loos on one of the landings in our building after some helpful workmen took the handles off the door, but left the latch in place. He hammered on the door, but didn't shout out, like anyone normal would have done, when people walked past. He was stuck for 45 minutes until someone came and found me and my random collection of tools... Arf. Jonas is a really sweet guy, but comes out with randomness to contest my oddest moments, and just seems to attract chaos.
- We got stuck into painting the front room of my house this month. This decorating thing is going in fits and starts. Work being busy really doesn't leave much enthusiasm for going at it when I get home. And the having to do something, such as fillering, or a layer of paint, then stop to let it dry thoroughly (not helped by the weather going colder), also doesn't help continuity. I've found, though, that rollering ceilings with a nice long roller handle, is really surprisingly relaxing.
Also bad for the painting effort was discovering that one of the bits of wall gets bad condensation. To the point where I roller on paint in the evening, and in the morning, not only is there a triangle that's not dried, it's run off the damn wall onto the floor.
- Work Xmas do the week before Xmas itself. We've got a shiny big new office, with a big eating/chilling area upstairs. So, the management got in a ton of assorted beers and laid on a buffet, with a pub quiz, table football tournament, secret santa and Rock Band tournament over the evening. The intent was to start in the office, and for the people who didn't go home to end up in one club or another.
I'd had a bad day of being bugged by people, and was in the mood to murder something at the start of the do, but after a couple of cans and some randomness at the quiz (like calling the team Princess Consulela Bananahammock), I got into it and had a good time of it. Especially after discovering the profiteroles had orangey flavour in the cream and were absolutely gorgeous.
Favorite random moment was when Jonas' team on the Rock Band tournament had some reference to Thor in it, so I knocked him up a Mjolnir shaped hammer for him to brandish out of card and electrical tape.
After a number of cans, and after the tournament was done with, I kinda had a go on the Rock Band mic. And pretty much hogged the thing from then on, aside from one very bad go at the bass. I think the most embarrassing song I "sang" would have to have been the bloody Boston... I also worked out the next day that doing the very metal thing of bashing the mic into your ribs, instead of clapping the thing in time to the music, leaves bruises.
- Finished off Far Cry 2. Had the potential to be an incredible game, instead really did need more work on the variety of opposition and the structure of the missions. First half of Crysis was far more like it.
- Also saw Slipknot toward the end of the month with V, supported by Machine Head and Children of Bodom, over at Sheffield Arena. We got lost again, but only mildly this time. And the Arena didn't seem as annoying as last time I was there. The size of the chairs up on the sides really didn't help though. I'm big, and V's bigger, and it wasn't comfortable at all.
Anyway, Children of Bodom were just a bit too aenimic for my tastes, until they picked the tempo up at the end of their set.
Machine Head blew Bodom and 95% of the Slipknot set off the stage. 15 years down the line, and they shred harder than ever. With points where almost the whole of the front half of the arena floor is one big pit. It's all going well, up to the point where Phil the guitarist launches into a solo, just to fall over backwards, passed out, and is hauled off the stage... Apparently it's happened before, but it did mean the end of the set, with no chance of Davidian or Block.
Slipknot are a bit of an oddity to me. They're big and popular, but they still manage a really savage attack for such a mainstream band. They work because they've got a fair number of really good songs. They do have superflous band members, but at the point of headlining arenas, you can't do it without a stage show, and that's what they do provide. Having your extra percussionists marching round the stage with marching band drums, or messing around on hydraulic drum lifters, or hitting metal barrels with baseball bats all adds to the show. It is really quite impressive when the main drumkit lifts out of the stage, and swings upside down like a giant jack-in-the-box, with Joey still hammering away at his kit, not missing a beat.
Ignoring the really irritatingly childish People=Shit, Slipknot played a really fine set, however, Machine Head's Old was the song of the evening for me. Intense and punishing. Just the way I like it. We NEED a Machine Head headline tour...
- Got given a plastic duck watering can by one of Val's brothers for Xmas. He happens to be gay. Thus, I got given a duckie by a duckie.
- Went back to my mum's on Xmas eve. Went out for a truncated Bollington pub sit to see the old crowd who I've known since school days, and who've been doing Boll on Xmas Eve for best part of 15 years now. The numbers are getting less, unfortunately, but it was good to see the few. And, I've been asked to bridesmaid at a wedding later in the year, since Joe, my brother, is going to be best man. We got kicked out of the pub very early, thanks to the youths in the pub starting to damage things, and thanks to the pub having run out of anything to drink. Managed to stay up to about 5am catching up with my brother, however.
- Had a rather nice Xmas lunch with my mum and bro on Xmas Day, then did the Dale clan Xmas dinner. While there's no feuds or anything like that, I've always been off in my own little world compared to the relatives, and don't entirely feel like I've much to talk to them about. I have more to talk to them about these days, what with doing normal things, like having a car and a house and a miss. Got asked if there was a date set for the wedding quite a few times over the evening...
- New Years Eve, went to AnnaBecky's with V, Andy, Danni and their mate Tom. It were good, random fun. My proudest, least tasteful moment would be when asked which male I'd sleep with: "Steven Hawking. Then there's no doubt about who'd be the bitch."
The girls broke out the karaoke machine instead of the Twister board this time. I did House of the Rising Sun and American Pie sensibly, then Summer Loving in death metal grunting, duetting with Tom doing falsetto. Arf.
- I said, at the start of the year, that I was going to take a pledge to paint more toy soldiers that I bought over the course of the year. I failed the pledge (blogged over here with lots of pics), by a factor of about 2 bought to 1 painted. However, in the process, I painted a hell of a lot more toys than I would normally over the course of a year, and have come on in leaps and bounds with painting techniques. I did also sell off an entire army, which was a good start to clearing out the surpluses.
- Weightwise, I was down to 19.5 stone before Xmas, compared to 21.5 stone at the start of 2008. After Xmas, I was back to just short of 20 stone. At the start of 2007, my blood pressure was a bit high as well, but that's dropped to ok levels as well now. I'm hoping that dropping off more weight will pretty much knock the diabetes on the head.
I started 2008 well, with regular sessions in the gym for the first 6 months of the year, but that fell off with work getting hectic, and I put the subscription on hold. I'm going back when it starts again later in January. The giving up almost all the sugar thing will help as well, as will starting to walk to work every day. The office move means the buses now don't take me door-to-door, and by the time I've waited for one, I may as well have walked.
- One of my barometers of musical taste for many years now has been Terrorizer magazine. I've often found I've picked up a significant part of their critics top 40 over the year, then used the rest as a shopping list for new music to try. This year, there's very little correlation. It's been a good year for the bands I already liked who've put stuff out, but I've picked up very little new music. Is this me getting old?
- This year, I'm going to do the usual. Lose weight, get fit, faff less, learn more, paint more toy soldiers, and sell off the excess possessions. I'm also going to add decorating the house and actually playing with the toy soldiers I'm painting to the list of things to do.
My plans for the year include going to Andrea's wedding and Jon and Kerry's wedding. I also want to visit Tintagel, Bath and Avebury on a summer expedition of sites. I want to go to Hellfest, Rock and Blues and Bloodstock for my festival goodness. However, R&Bs, after last year's cancellation due to the Hell's Angel post-Bulldog shooting in 2007, hasn't been announced yet, and I'm only going to Hellfest if I can reduce my credit card significantly between now and then. I also want to significantly increase my knowledge of practical networking, possibly including getting some actual qualifications in something for the first time since university.
- Thankfully, with the move done, and most of the surge in recruitment complete, work has calmed down. Just wish the weather wasn't as cold, as it's completely killing my enthusiasm for work on the house. The front room has been just a couple of jobs from completion for weeks now. However, instead of getting it done, I'm just wanting to hide in the warm bits of the house.
- "Having cats is kind of like having kids. Except you can have them killed legally."
- I'm liking the suddenly mild weather. Actually did some work on the front room again today. And updated my main LiveJournal for the first time in months.