2016…so, that happened

I haven’t written anything in a little while, mainly because I have been a) too busy and, more recently, b) in too much pain (more on that later).  That said, I figured I would reflect a little on 2016.  The year that, if Facebook is to be believed, was a shower of absolute shite from start to finish.

I think it would be easy for me to jump on that bandwagon as well…but I won’t.  You see, for me, 2016 was a year of contrast and change.

I can’t lie.  2016 started off looking positive.  Plans were made, lives were going to change, everything was going to be great.

Looks, however, can be deceiving.  It turns out that, instead of great things, someone had placed me under the rear end of cow.  A cow that had diarrhea of apocalyptic proportions, following a year of constipation.  In short, it was messy, and it stunk.  Enough people have heard/read enough about it and, honestly, I have talked about it enough to last me 5 lifetimes.  It’s enough to say that my post Catharsis was written in an attempt to get me over it.  It helped.

It was around this time that I had some good things start happening.  I was being pursued by a few agencies that were desperate to place me in a better job.  Friendships that I thought I had lost were there, and stronger than ever.  So, in that true style of people coming out of a long term relationship…I set myself some goals.  So began Super Diet.

Now, my friends were (rightly) cynical.  To be honest, so was I.  I didn’t want to be that typical guy who tries to change everything about his lifestyle just because he is single again.  I figured I would lose a couple of kilos, feel a bit better about myself and then go back to normal.  Yep, they were my own expectations…so it wasn’t entirely surprising when people were skeptical, especially when I was talking to them about it whilst on my 6th pint :)

So I found myself, a very short while after Catharsis was written, being far more social, being courted to jobs, losing weight and generally feeling great about life.

In May I landed a great job.  Back doing the sort of work, and at the level, that I am skilled for.  My German skills had already improved to a good level, but now I was working in an IT role again, only now totally in German.  Not something I would have expected to be doing..especially with any measure of success.

My circle of friends had widened and my social life was awesome.  I had even reconnected with some old friends that I had missed deeply.

In July I was back in the UK for my Birthday and saw all of my kids.  It was a wonderful week away and seeing my family react to the “new me” was fantastic.

The job continued to go great guns and my contract was extended.  I was given more and more responsibility and began to have a real impact on the business.

I “tinkered” with a couple of “relationships” along the way, but mainly I was just trying to have some fun and avoid being my usual self.  Which meant not falling into a long term relationship with the first woman that wants to see me more than once.  To be honest, finding a new relationship wasn’t the focus and I was both surprised and happy with that.

My 2016 had gotten off to a horrific start, but was now motoring along quite nicely thanks for asking.

And so it continued, right the way up until the beginning of December.  At the end of a fantastic night out celebrating the birthday of the one and only MK…I decided to be a hero and paid quite a heavy price.

I’ll make this the short version though :)

So, I was chewing through a very disappointing kebab (they ran out of meat, so I had some veggie thing) and I spotted a lad hassling a woman.  I don’t like seeing this sort of thing, but she was handling it and, at the end of the day, he was just being a cock.  I did keep an eye on what was happening though.  Honestly, I think it was more of an annoyance for her than anything else.  Until it wasn’t.

The guy decided that he wanted a little more than words and grabbed her.  Her demeanor instantly changed from annoyed to scared and I stepped across.  I decided to use my words, admittedly aggressively, and a friend of the guy stepped in to calm things down..”He’s just drunk, we don’t want any trouble” etc etc.  So, in my eyes, the situation was ending.  Unfortunately, that was when the original moron decided to blindside me and sucker punched me from the side where I couldn’t see him.  I was then jumped on by him and 2 of his mates, where they proceeded to kick me in the head and stamp on my leg until I blacked out.  I came around a few minutes later to see the original moron on the floor under a pile of coppers, but I couldn’t walk.

I am sitting here, writing this, in no small amount of pain and waiting for an operation that will, hopefully, happen this week.

Damage Report:

  • Medial Collateral Ligament – Torn
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament – Broken (The Doctor actually used the word Destroyed)
  • Meniscus (right side) – Torn
  • Meniscus (left side) – Torn
  • Femur – Fractured and Dented!
  • Tibia – Fractured

Additionally, and arguably worst of all, there was some serious damage to my pride (I believe the medical term would be “Fucked”).

Not bad for a night out.  That said, I am glad I stepped in and I would do the same thing again, no questions asked.

So that was my 2016.  It started off badly, was awesome in the middle and ended up badly.  I don’t tend to put expectations on this sort of thing, but I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a good year for me personally.

Happy New Year :)


True Story
I was speaking to CW’s Dad the other day..and he told me the story of a guy wandering into their shop, looking around for a little while and eventually pulling out a prescription for orthopaedic shoes.

SW explained to the gentleman that they were not an orthopaedic shoe distributor and were in fact a specialist brush shop.  SW continued by asking for the gentleman’s prescription** and telephoned the actual orthopaedic shoe shop.  They confirmed that they were, in fact, a good 15km away.

SW asked the gentleman if he would like him to order a taxi, to which he got the following response:

“I don’t want to go there, why can’t you just get me my shoes”

Now, this is a true story about an elderly and, possibly, infirm and confused person…so shouldn’t really be mocked., but it did remind me of what happened to me, many years ago whilst in my Zero Morals phase of selling computers for a living.

Now, I worked in a BIG computer superstore in Cardiff.  At the time, this was the biggest of it’s kind outside of London.

Let me provide you with a little background information.  At the time this story takes place, the superstore had been open a little over a year.  Before that, the building was stood empty for approximately 3 years.  Before that, it was a clothes place for around 2 years and before that it was a hardware store (which moved across the street).  These facts are important.

Picture the scene; a sunny Saturday afternoon, a busy superstore full of the joys of spring and Salesmen with a spring in their step and a desire to rip people off sell them high quality equipment at very reasonable prices.  An older gentleman enters the store.  A feat not unusual by any standard, people young and old venture into the store on a regular basis…we generally referred to them as customers….or potential customers at the very least.

From my vantage point, I see the gentleman looking around the various software aisles…picking up the occasional item, reading the back and then setting it back down again.  He seems to be quite interested in a variety of software packages and I lose track of him in the printers section as I have other customers to deal with.

After 15 minutes or so, I am finished with my customers and waiting for more..when said gentlemen arrives at the PC section.  Where he looks around, clicking various mice, checking the screens and keyboards and even looking at the back of a number of the machines.  Sensing a potential sale, I approach..plastering on my best smile and charming demeanour..and ask if he needs any help.

“Thank you” replies the gentleman, at which point he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a sheet of paper.  I immediately assume that the guy is prepared, has specific requirements and will, quite possibly, begin to challenge my skills in the arena of PCs.

He unfolds the paper carefully, checks it…then hands it to me and simply says “I need what is on here”.

Checking the paper, I am confused..and realising the obvious error, I turn the paper over.  It’s blank.  I turn it back over and re-read the information written there:

  • 4 sheets hardboard – 1.5m x 1m
  • 2 dozen hardboard nails
  • 2 dozen plasterboard nails
  • Medium pot wood glue.

“ummm” says I, quite appropriately I feel.

Me: “umm, I think you may be in the wrong store sir”

Him: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, we don’t sell any of these items”

Him: “Eh?  What kind of a bloody DIY store is this if I can’t get some wood and nails”

Me: “Well…the Computer Superstore kind of not a DIY store”

Him: “No, this is DIY R US”

Me: “Actually, this is Computer’o’rama”

Him: “Listen to me, I have been coming here for years..I know what this place is”

Me: “Are you sure about that…maybe you have been going across the street for years?”

Him:  “Don’t you cheek me young man, I know full well where the DIY store is”

Me: “…….”

Me: “….let me get the manager”

Now I wouldn’t mind except that he wasn’t that old…nor did he appear infirm and seemed to have full control over all of his faculties.  Additionally, by the time I spoke with him, he had been in the store fast approaching 40 (quite investigative) minutes.

It took the manager, leading him to the front of the store and pointing across the road to finally get him to agree that he should go there.  However, his parting shot was “They should really tell people if they are going to move premises”…

No words…

Now, I realise that this is my first post in a very long time…and, let’s face it, there have been some false dawns in the past regarding me blogging regularly again.  So I am not going to lie to you…work is keeping me very busy and, seeing as my work involves writing very large documents on a daily basis…I often get ideas, but can’t be arsed to actually write.  Or, I start writing and then can’t follow my own train of thought.

I will say this, I will “try” and write more often again…but I make no promises.  Also, my daughter tells me that I am in trouble for my assassination of her fave Twi-related vampire story…so there could be something coming out of that.


** Not a euphemism

Travel fun

'Grupo TACA' A321 Cabin






My technology post reminded me of my journey back from the UK a couple of weeks ago, and the text above pretty much details what the audio version of this memory would be like.

I travelled to the UK for work and as such, got to experience the lovely travel experience of a decent airline.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that you get what you pay for with the likes of Ryanair etc, but it is still nice to not have to sprint to the front of the line to make sure you get a decent seat.  That said, boarding took ages due to the numpties that apparently can’t read a screen that says “Now boarding: Rows 14-22”.

Still, I had selected my seat of choice a day or so before departure (very civilised), so I wasn’t concerned about being trapped in the aisle waiting for these morons dickheads numpties lovely people to get their luggage stowed and take their seats.

I chose the aisle seat as I assumed there would be some form of delay thanks to the apparent Ice Age unfurling all over Europe and wanted to make sure I wasn’t clambering over people to get to the loo should the need arise.  Of course, the problem with being one of the first to board…and having an aisle seat means that you will get semi-comfortable before one or both of your seating buddies will turn up and need you to move.

Sure enough, a few minutes after sitting and starting to believe that my row of chairs was going to be empty aside from me, El Blobbo turns up.  Now, before you think bad of me for referring to him as such, I realise that I am of the larger persuasion myself…but this guy takes the biscuit (actually, he probably takes the whole pack…and anything else he can find that looks remotely edible)…he was certainly the kind of person that makes us bigger guys feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

Sorry, I digress.  El Blobbo has booked himself into the window seat..so I get up and allow him to squeeze into his chair (and some of the middle one too), and then take my seat again.  10 more minutes pass and I am just starting to believe that I may end up with the extra comfort of the middle seat being free, when El Techno turns up.

Fortunately (at least for the seating arrangement), El Techno makes me look like El Blobbo, so we all appear to be relatively comfortable.  El Blobbo immediately falls asleep with light (read ear bleedingly loud) snoring.  El Techno decides that the overhead storage compartments are for losers…and brings a briefcase, laptop bag, coat and a whole load of paperwork into his small seat between El Blobbo and myself.  During seating he manages to avoid hitting El Blobbo…but unfortunately hits me with, well, everything it would seem.  I get the paperwork on my lap, the coat over my head, the laptop bag and briefcase hit both of my knees with deceptive force.

Through the pain I realise that he has finally settled…and got out an iPhone to add into the mix.  So now, he is taking up more space than El Blobbo and knocking into me with monotonous regularity when swapping between the iPhone, briefcase and laptop.  Of course, it would appear that he has never travelled before as…just as I am closing my eyes and getting comfortable, I am disturbed by the stewardess to get this idiot to put his seatbelt on and take off the iPhone headset.

We then taxi (technical aviation term, we didn’t jump out and get in a black cab) to the runway..where the captain informs us that, due to the French Air Traffic Control issues….we will be a little delayed in taking off.  Of course, noone actually knows how long the delay will be, so we can’t listen to iPods or mess with computers etc…that would be far too civilised.  Instead, I am forced to listen to El Blobbos Snoring Concerto in Oh My God flat.

Eventually the French come back from their onion soup break, and we are given the all clear to set off.  El Techno is asked to take off his iPod headphones again, El Blobbo remembers to ask for his extra sized seatbelt, and we are off.  At this point, I have finished the amazing in-flight magazine and am looking around the cabin for anything of interest.  Now I come to think of it, why do they call it an in-flight magazine…it isn’t stored behind some sort of cupboard that only opens when the plane is actually on the move..in-aircraft magazine would be more acceptable surely..Anyhoo, I digress.

As the flight is only scheduled for an hour and a quarter, the crew start tearing around, trying to get the drinks and nibbles out to everyone, and I start trying to contort myself so that a) My shoulders aren’t getting hit every few seconds by the crew and trolley and b) I don’t end up in El Technos lap.  I manage to avoid sitting in his lap and the doctors assure me that I will regain full movement of my shoulder in 12-14 weeks.

It’s a busy flight so, as I have chosen the rearmost seat, I am forced to wait until last to get my free coffee and biscuit.  The snoring to my left is as loud as it has ever been until, that is, the crew get the trolley to me.  They haven’t even said a word and El Blobbo is awake and ordering a coffee, 2 orange juices, some crisps, a couple of biscuits and a roll.

El Techno declines, presumably, because any form of liquid would pose a major electrocution risk and I take a single coffee and biscuit.

As I settle in to have my coffee, I notice the guy opposite me for the first time.  I will call him Sneezy Bean McFerret as, well, he sneezed…a lot…and looked like a cross between Mr Bean and a ferret.  There were two reasons for my astute observation of this fine example of a hybrid man/ferret….#1 he was in the seat that I should have had, on his own in the entire row.  #2 was his peculiar nut eating habit.  He would rummage around in the packet…with his nose almost buried in there…pull out a single nut, look up…throw the nut into his mouth…chew, sneeze and then repeat.

Now, I am not talking a CW’esque cutesy “chu” type affair, I am talking a full on…probably slowed the plane and caused the turbulence, gale force 9, Wizard of Oz, knock over the staff and cause a number of natural disasters over Europe type of sneeze.  A sneeze so loud that it made my ears bleed and I think crashed El Technos laptop.  Honestly, it was a sneeze of comedic proportions…cartoon makers would have been fearful of basing a sneeze on this one in the fear of noone believing it.

You couple this with the rapid click click clicking from next to me and the snoring from the window and I did not have the most pleasant journey home imaginable.  I should note though, that even with all of this…and the typical latecomers trying to cram oversized suitcases into the full overhead lockers, by attempting to move and indeed crush my laptop bag…Ryanair should still pay attention about how to run a flight.

In other news…I get to do it again soon….something tells me I will be making a phone call to discuss my travelling companions in advance…they make you specify your size, the amount of technology you plan on using and if you have a FUCKING NUT ALLERGY but intend to eat them anyway….right?  RIGHT?


Weihnachtswichtel und Nikolaus
Photo by caruba
…or 3, depending on when you are celebrating Christmas in your country/region.  Days that is, and frankly it is all speeding up here in Frankfurt.  Little things happen, or you go to certain events and you suddenly realise…It’s Christmas.

The Christmas market and annual Feuerzangenbowle consumption is a pretty good clue…along with attending (the first half at least) of a Christmas choir concert featuring ST (she has a fantastic voice…despite the choir leaders best efforts to fuck it up with the composition choices…), some bad acting and cute German kids singing english christmas songs with German pronunciation (sometimes)…they even did the whole sound of a storm with just their bodies…was really good.  I was just too tired to enjoy it properly and had to bail at half time.

Peoples inability to drive in the snow…and CW building the worlds smallest and cutest snowman..then carrying him for a mile to place him on the windowsill of the apartment.  He almost didn’t make it though…I think she made him out of that rarest of stuff…Lemming Snow..as he tried to leap to his escape from her hand, and lost his buttons.  Still, he seems happy on the windowsill…and his suicidal tendencies have deserted him (for now at least.

Also, I got a text from my daughter last night telling me how many days were left until I see her :D

Anyway, onto the main reason for the post…you see, I had it all planned out…my passport was due to expire on the 31st of December.  I had known this for a while and decided to book an appointment for when I was in the UK and get a nice spangly new one by using the same day service they offer.  All fine, all dandy..no need to panic.  That is..until CW actually checked my passport on Friday and informed me that the date of expiry was the 16th of December.

Cue huge panic and phonecalls to the Consulate, Ryanair, the Consulate again and various others.  My conversations went something like this:


Consulate:  How can I help you?

Me:  Helpelphelp!!! I need you to save me from my own stupidity (explains story)..can you do anything for me?

Consulate:  It is perfectly legal to fly into the UK on an expired UK passport.

Me:  Really??  That’s fantastic!!

Consulate:  Who are you flying with?

Me:  Ryanair…why?

Consulate:  ..ah

Me: Whaddya mean..ah??

Consulate:  Yeah, we always have problems with Ryanair…I would call them and check.

Me:  OK, I will call you back asap.


Ryanair:  How can I help you?

Me:  Explains story, explains that Consulate advise that travel with an expired UK passport TO the UK is fine, is that a problem for Ryanair.

Ryanair:  That’s illegal, you cannot travel on an expired passport.

Me:  It’s perfectly legal, the Consulate Passport office themselves have told me.  They also told me that pretty much all of the major airlines will accept it.

Ryanair:  No, it’s illegal and you may be arrested for trying to travel with false documents.

Me:  I would be impressed if they could..it isn’t false..just expired.  It is still my picture and details…just the date is wrong

Ryanair:  Well, we don’t accept that for travel

Me:  That’s all I asked..you may want to read up on the law regarding this area…also, I will assume that Ryanairs aspirations to become a “Major” airline are non-existent.  Thanks


Consulate:  How can I help you

Me:  Ryanair won’t allow me to travel, what else can I try?

Consulate:  Get here for 9am Monday morning and we will sort your passport out for you…we don’t normally offer a same day service..but in an emergency like this, we will do what we can.

Me:  A passport?  I thought you would just give me an emergency travel passport..

Consulate:  Naah, that’s 102 euros and only gets you into the UK once..I will look to get the full monty for you.

Me:  Fantastic, see you Monday


Me:  Aaaaaaargh!!!  How Much!!!!!!


LA:  Hiya, how are you?

Me:  Not great…TELLS STORY…is your car up and running and available for me to steal on Monday?

LA:  Sure, no problem

Me:  Lifesaver, thanks :)


Work:  Hiya, what’s up

Me:  You know how I have Wednesday onwards booked as holiday?

Work:  Yeah

Me:  Can I swap Wednesday to Monday please?  TELLS STORY

Work:  Sure

Cue Monday’s slovenly and snowy arrival and we begin our journey at a very unsociable hour.

Check list..

  • Passport forms – Check
  • Passport photos – Check
  • Car keys – Check
  • Sat Nav – Check
  • iPod and Cassette adaptor for car – Check
  • CW – Check
  • Me – Check
  • Money – Cash.. (you see what I did there?)

We arrive at the car, clear the snow from it, start the engine and wait for it to warm up.  Everything seems fine and we head off once the Pratt Nav finds a signal.  Once we hit the motorway, all the snow, salt and other assorted crap starts hitting the windshield…no problem thinks I, a sharp squirt of the washers and sight will be restored…


We are now driving with what appears to be a sheet of dirty paper on the windshield..another pull of the washer lever results in more smearing and less visibility…

Arse, thinks I

We pull into a service station and try to clear the blockage – Needle in jets…nothing, Hot water poured over jets…nothing, pulling lever back for a minute or so in an effort for it to clear…nothing.  So, undeterred, we head off.  Repeat this every 15 to 20 minutes and the 250+ kilometers journey did seem to take a lot longer than it should.

A few things to note about yesterday…

#1 Düsseldorf must be a very healthy city, and full of superheroes..seriously, they appear to not even have heard of salt.  The motorways surrounding the city comprised of the sort of snowy mush normally reserved for small villages with little or no traffic and the pavements were designed for a city full of people that can fly…as all of the snow that had been forced off the road…had moved to the bloody paths…that didn’t have salt on them either.

#2 I get all patriotic when in the British Consulate Generals office…don’t ask me why, I really don’t have an explanation.  I told CW on at least 3 occasions that she was standing on British soil now and said “Gawd Bless ‘er” to the picture of the queen.  Additionally, German reception staff with English speech inflection is genius…

#3 I hate snow…my dodgy ankle hates it more.  CW learned all about Karma when having a go at me for almost falling over…She almost fell over herself less than 2 minutes later (no…I didn’t trip her)

#4 I was told that I was a big strong lad and would I fancy clearing the snow..by an old woman walking behind us.

#5 If the option is getting on a tram like a sardine in a can, or wandering aimlessly around…I will wander aimlessly around..despite my previously mentioned ankle issues.

Most importantly of all, the British Consulate General Passport Office is full of absolute genius, friendly and helpful staff..yes yes, I realise it is Christmas and no, I wouldn’t recommend stitching yourself up to test out their helpfulness…all I know is that they could have handed me an emergency passport and a bill for 102 euros…..but they chose to get me a full passport issued in a little under 4 hours…

Gawd bless ’em

Oh, and Merry Christmas everyone…no doubt I will post a repeat of this in 10 years when I forget to renew my passport in good time again…

Quick update

D'oh! Guess who has a new job...
Photo by pochacco20
I realise that for the last week or so I have managed to get back roughly to my normal blogging frequency…unfortunately, this is likely to be a little more stuttered…for a little while at least.

I started my new job on Monday and, whilst it is not the worlds most taxing position I have ever held, I do need to get used to getting up early again (not a problem), with a purpose and leaving the apartment on time (a little more problematic).

Still, the people seem great, the environment is friendly and relaxed..oh, and I discovered that the “Very Bad Man!” works here with me…so I am certain that there will be occasional after work carnage from time to time.

2 days in and I am comfortable to do the job I was hired for, but it looks like I will have to wait a while to get all of my logins sorted out so that I can do it.   Wearing jeans to work feels a little strange, but I am sure I will get used to it ;-)   That said, I did get a corporate shirt to wear, so I am proudly displaying the colours of my new employer upon my chest.

The systems are pretty much what I am used to, although some of the processes are a little strange..this will come with time I suspect.   I do feel strangely tired though…walking to the train and then from the train to the office must be taking more out of me than I thought.

In other news, Zak appears to be continuing his goal-scoring ways and both him and Brandon seem to be enjoying their respective new classes at school.   I will be seeing them again around Christmas and hopefully before if I can arrange something.   I still can’t seem to remember to use Twitter when I should and I still smoke too much.   All things considered, life is pretty good right now :-)

Happy happy joy   joy

Looking back

lj icon computer games
Photo by Rachel Young
I have always worked in IT…well, except for that couple of months in a car body repair shop straight out of school…..but even then I ended up sorting their computer out.   The thing about working in any kind of service environment, but I think especially IT, is that you have to really work hard to understand that not everyone knows how to turn a computer on…or off as the case may be.

There are many urban legends surrounding IT support, some of them probably are legends and some of them have happened to me…I am sure that many other IT supporters have had these issues too.

Whilst I recognise that not understanding technology doesn’t make you stupid and as a nice way to break myself back into Tech Support mode…I think that…well…you decide:

User:   “I would like a mousemat please”
Tech: “Here you go, you can choose from these ones”
User: “Yes, but which one is compatible with my computer”

Tech: “Ok, I need you to double-click the My Computer Icon”
User: “You know, this is why I hate this Windows thing – I am protestant and don’t believe in Icons”
Tech: “It’s an industry term, I don’t believe it was intended to -”
User: “- I don’t care about industry terms…I don’t believe in icons”
Tech: “Ok, ok…then can you click the little picture that says My Computer…is ‘Little Picture’ ok?
User: “*CLICK*”

User: “My printer isn’t working”
Tech: “Ok, I need you to be a little more specific – In what way isn’t it working?”
User: “It won’t print my document”
Tech: “Is it a Word document or another program?”
User: “Program?   It’s a physical document..in my hand”
Tech: “Ah, so it’s a scanner problem then?”
User: “Yes, scanner, that must be the problem, my scanner isn’t working”
Tech: “Do you know what model of scanner you have and could you tell me what you are doing to scan it?”
User: “Model?   I don’t know…it’s 17 inch though.   I am holding my document to the scanner and pressing print screen”
Tech: “Would this scanner be very bright and also show you words on the screen?”
User: “That’s the one”
Tech: “*ahem* I think your scanner could be broken. why don’t you bring the document to us and we can scan it for you…”

Overheard in a Service Desk office: “No sir, clicking on the ‘Remember Password’ button will not help YOU remember the password”

Tech: “If you could just close all of your open windows, we can start to find out what is going on”
User: “Ok, hang on”
User: “Done, all the windows are closed – I left the doors open though, is that ok?”
Tech: “….”

User: “I have a recycle bin on my computer…how often do Microsoft send someone round to empty it?”

Tech: “What kind of computer do you have?”
User: “A black one”

User: “I would like to buy a replacement coffee cup holder”
Tech: “Umm, sorry but this is the computer support line”
User: “I know, I broke the coffee cup holder that you supplied with my computer”
Tech: “We don’t supply coffee cup holders with our computers”
User: “Yeah you do, it pops out when you press a button”
Tech: “….”

From a tech support urban legend perspective, the following is the all time classic.   As it turns out, this is a real report…all except for the end bit (which is listed as what the technician *wanted* to say):

Tech: “Word Perfect Support; may I help you?”
User: “Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”
Tech: “What sort of trouble??”
User: “Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.”
Tech: “Went away?”
User: “They disappeared.”
Tech: “Hmm So what does your screen look like now?”
User: “Nothing.”
Tech: “Nothing??”
User: “It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”
Tech: “Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out??”
User: “How do I tell?”
Tech: “Can you see the C: prompt on the screen??”
User: “What’s a sea-prompt?”
Tech: “Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?”
User: “There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.”
Tech: “Does your monitor have a power indicator??”
User: “What’s a monitor?”
Tech: “It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on??”
User: “I don’t know.”
Tech: “Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that??”
User: “Yes, I think so.”
Tech: “Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.”
User: “Yes, it is.”
Tech: “When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one??”
User: “No.”
Tech: “Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.”
User: “Okay, here it is.”
Tech: “Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer.”
User: “I can’t reach.”
Tech: “Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is??”
User: “No.”
Tech: “Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over??”
User: “Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle – it’s because it’s dark.”
Tech: “Dark??”
User: “Yes – the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.”
Tech: “Well, turn on the office light then.”
User: “I can’t.”
Tech: “No? Why not??”
User: “Because there’s a power failure.”
Tech: “A power……… A power failure? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now.   Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in??”
User: “Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.”
Tech: “Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”
User: “Really? Is it that bad?”
Tech: “Yes, I’m afraid it is.”
User: “Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them??”
Tech: “Tell them you’re too fucking stupid to own a computer!!!!!”

So there you have it, my life from Monday will undoubtedly   be filled with such wondrous conversations…and I am still looking forward to it :-)

Operator:         ‘Ridge Hall, computer assistance; may I help you?’
Caller:              ‘Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.’
Operator:         ‘What sort of trouble??’
Caller:              ‘Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.’
Operator:         ‘Went away?’
Caller:              ‘They disappeared.’
Operator:         ‘Hmm So what does your screen look like now?’
Caller:              ‘Nothing.’
Operator:         ‘Nothing??’
Caller:              ‘It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.’
Operator:         ‘Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out??’
Caller:              ‘How do I tell?’
Operator:         ‘Can you see the C: prompt on the screen??’
Caller:              ‘What’s a sea-prompt?’
Operator:         ‘Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?’
Caller:              ‘There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.’
Operator:         ‘Does your monitor have a power indicator??’
Caller:              ‘What’s a monitor?’
Operator:         ‘It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on??’
Caller:               ‘I don’t know.’
Operator:          ‘Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that??’
Caller:              ‘Yes, I think so.’
Operator:         ‘Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.
Caller:              ‘Yes, it is.’
Operator:         ‘When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one??’
Caller:               ‘No.’
Operator:          ‘Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.’
Caller:               ‘Okay, here it is.’
Operator:          ‘Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer.’
Caller:               ‘I can’t reach.’
Operator:          ‘Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is??’
Caller:               ‘No.’
Operator:          ‘Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over??’
Caller:               ‘Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle – it’s because it’s dark.’
Operator:          ‘Dark??’
Caller:               ‘Yes – the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.
‘ Operator: ‘Well, turn on the office light then.’
Caller:               ‘I can’t.’
Operator:          ‘No? Why not??’
Caller:               ‘Because there’s a power failure.’
Operator:  ‘A power……… A power failure? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now.
Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in??’
Caller:               ‘Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.’
Operator:           ‘Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.’
Caller:                ‘Really? Is it that bad?’
Operator:            ‘Yes, I’m afraid it is.’
Caller:                 ‘Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them??’
Operator:            ‘Tell them you’re too –
ing stupid to own a computer!!!!!’

Job Agencies

laserWorking in IT means that in 90% of job hunting scenarios, you will be utilising the services of a job agency.   After some time, your CV will be basically everywhere.   This is a good thing and leads agencies to get in contact with you when they feel they have something that meets your requirements.

Even when you aren’t looking for work, there is a deep satisfaction and a nice ego massage when someone calls/emails to say “We want you”.   That said, I have been recently contacted to see if I would be interested in a number of positions that I don’t think I am entirely suited for..

Web Development Manager
Senior Corporate Counsel
Financial Director

It’s quite an impressive and spectacularly annoying failure on the part of their software I think.   Clearly they are just scanning the CV for any of the words…seemingly contained in the dictionary and when they find a hit, send me a frickin email.

My personal fave though has to be a recent email for the position of Thunderhead Developer.   I mean, I like Thunder and I have a head…but I certainly don’t have either of those things on my CV, not even in my decidedly boring hobbies and interests section.   Or maybe I am being recruited by a Bond villain as a henchman evil designer.   Trying to develop the latest and greatest Moon based giant laser beam and shark tank combo.   I could help with the interior design of the Volcanoe hideaway and recruit other henchmen to do my evil masters bidding.

I could even become his (or her…let’s face it, women have the greater capacity for evil anyway) right hand man, you know..taking over the duties when they are on holiday, or incarcerated in a maximum security cryogenics facility.

Anyway, back to the job agencies…I think I will amend my CV and have keywords hidden in white, 2pt text at the bottom.   So far I am thinking “Evil, Kidnap, Lair, Sharks, Laser, Moon and kittens”.     Should be interesting to see what they email me about after that lot.

In other news, I will try and get back to blogging more frequently…I just keep getting distracted and frankly the distractions are more interesting than writing anything ;-)

Hotter than hell

SOOCOk, this needs to be said…I am currently sat in my office overlooking Frankfurt. The temperature outside has dropped again, this time to around 2 degrees..

A few weeks ago it was at -14 for crying out loud…so why is it that, following the minor drop from 4 to 2 degrees, the premises people feel the need to increase room temperature by 15 degrees…..It is like a frickin furnace in here.

Seriously, I walked into the office today and was looking for the bucket of water and stack of coals in the corner. When it was -14 they didn’t crank up the heat more than a couple degrees….now it is practically tropical and they have gone mental with the thermostat.

It gives me visions of two cartoon characters, fighting over how much to turn the dial…until it either breaks off on FULL or just keeps spinning to the right…and all attempts to stop the dial end up with the cartoon’esque premises guy spinning around with it and flying off as hilarity ensues.

No seriously, it is too fucking hot…make it stop


Mistaken identity and other strangeness

hospital wallSome years ago I was working in a hospital doing general network support.   It was actually a great place to work and had the distinction (at the time) of having a corridor that was almost 2 miles long.   That bit wasn’t quite so enjoyable as having to go from Pathology (furthest point along the corridor), to fix an issue in Maternity (furthest point in the other direction) was not my idea of a good time.   I had a few weird moments in this place, some technical and others not.

The boss had this amazing idea that, if people needed less than 10 network points, I would install them myself.   As you can imagine, this led to me being some sort of network point pimp and extolling the virtues of having (in some cases) 9 spare available because “You never know”.   When this failed it was left to me.

Now, anyone that knows me will tell you that I cannot perform basic DIY.   It is simply something I am not genetically made up for.   Shelves fall down, holes in plaster get miraculously bigger…I invariably hurt myself.   Yet here I was, embarking on a terrifying journey of drilling holes in hospital walls.   I remember having to put a new socket in the Pharmacy to replace an existing one where the cable was broken.   I exposed the cable run and started to trace the cable I needed to replace.   The idea being to tie the new cable to the old, and pull it through.   This reasonable theory hit a few snags, namely that the cable run went through walls into other rooms, corridors and even outside for a few meters.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that I made a mistake and disconnected the wrong cable…meaning I had to do it all again.   It’s just aswell there was someone there to help me..oh that’s right, I was on my own.

I had to get through a wall that was around 4ft thick in the Pathology department, but the biggest drillbit I had access to was just under 3ft long.   Confident and complete with tape measure, I was absolutely certain that I would be able to “Eurotunnel” it and meet up from either side.   In the end, and after turning this wall into swiss cheese, I tracked down some builders and stole their giant drillbit to do it.

I had to turn one of the Doctors on-call bedrooms into an office, which involved drilling down from the attic space.   Unfortunately the attic space wasn’t big enough for me to stand up in and my trusty tape measure didn’t appear to be so trusty, so I took to crawling along the corridor on my stomach to try and work out where to drill.   The Doctors knew that there would be some noise and drilling going on.   I am fairly confident that this particular, sleeping, Doctor didn’t anticipate being woken up to plaster falling onto his bed, a drill screaming through the ceiling followed swiftly by a large eye looking through the hole and apologising profusely.   I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that Doctor sleeping in his car from there on in.

That said, learning from my mistakes at that point wasn’t so easy to me, and I managed to repeat this feat…only this time in the Maternity department….into a room where they were performing ultrasounds…I can’t be certain, as I was rapidly accelerating into the distance, but I may have caused a number of false alarms and possibly a premature birth or two that day.

It wasn’t all about me scaring the crap out of Doctors and patients alike, I had my fair share.     Like sitting at my desk quietly, running a stress test on the LAN with the development team….in the middle of the test, the rocket I had just fired at the head of the Duke Nukem across the courtyard stopped..in mid air, followed seconds later by “Network Connection Lost”.   Glancing up, I see the network monitor screen…and all of the lovely green symbols were turning a nasty looking red colour.   Half the network was down, I call the developers to see if it was them (they were losing after all) and start running down the corridor to the first place that had gone red.     As I am running, I can see that the ladder into the attic space is already down…getting closer still and I can hear drilling.   I hit the ladder and scramble up without stopping, until I see an electrician merrily drilling away.   I briefly consider asking him how he worked out where to drill so effortlessly, but shake that off and check the comms cabinet….which is unsurprisingly devoid of any flashing blinking light type doodahs.   A quick look behind the cabinet and you can see that it has been unplugged…and replaced by a beaten up, paint spattered cord of the workmans drill.   I beat him about the head ask him nicely to stop drilling and plug the cabinet back in.   Wordlessly I point to the rather large sign that instructs people not to remove the plastic cover and unplug the cabinet…before heading off to find the foreman, relieve myself in the toilet and have a large brandy to calm my nerves.

I remember trying to lift a server on my own…that was clearly too big/heavy for me, but noone else was around to help me…and hearing my knee pop.   I get on the phone and Andrew comes running down to me, pushing a wheelchair that I have always hoped was empty when he found it.   I remember, through the pain, feeling quite lucky that this had happened in a hospital, that had a ward dedicated to looking after people with leg/knee pain.   So you will forgive my shock when I was told I would have to make the journey across town to go to Accident and Emergency before they could see me.   Oh how I cursed their computer systems that day…certainly they wouldn’t be high on my list in the future……

I could go on and on…what do you mean I already have?   Ah well… :-p

When I first joined the support team there, they always sent the newbies on a rite of passage…the morgue.   I can still recall the smell of the place as I headed inside…where the morgue technicians tell me that the computer with the issue is in the main fridge room…they have, of course, left the doors open just for me.   I realise that this sounds a little disrespectful…but damn if I didn’t laugh my ass off….when I had finished throwing up of course.

Probably the most memorable, and terrifying thing though was when I was walking back to the office one quiet and peaceful afternoon.   One of the problems associated with being in IT within a hospital is what you wear.   Generally I wore black trousers, a white shirt…professional looking tie and of course a pager.   I had been mistaken for a Doctor on numerous occasions and was quite used to explaining that I wasn’t, and even running off to find them a Doctor from time to time.   One of those things you might say.   Until this day.   Walking back towards my office and a panic stricken woman bursts through the door of the chest/lung ward that was opposite our office.   She clocks me and without a word, starts dragging me into the ward…and practically throws me into a room where her husband (I assumed) was suffering some form of breathing attack.   As I finally start to realise what is going on, I try to explain that I am not a Doctor…but quite obviously this woman didn’t want me talking to her…I managed to focus enough to hit the panic button on the wall and within seconds Doctors and Nurses start piling in the room to help.

I stand back and watch these amazing people go about their business with this efficient calm about them.   A few minutes later and the husband is calmed, breathing more easily and the wife is clearly relieved.   I have the upmost respect for Doctors and Nurses…there is no way I could do what they do.

On top of all that, the wife came to find me later and thanked me for helping….She had forgotten the panic button was there and couldn’t focus to find anyone.   I didn’t know what to say, certainly I had done nothing worthy of thanks from this woman.   People are amazing though sometimes..here was a woman so clearly going through hell and she found the time to thank some poor scared cretin who managed to hit a button.   Also, it shows what having a little faith can do…her husband made a full recovery and left the hospital 6 weeks later.

I like people sometimes, I really do.

Electricity chafes…

I nominate these guys for this year…tis true. Years ago, I was working for a software house in Cheltenham.   During this time the company were undergoing some major changes, including shutting down an office in Surrey and moving operations to Cheltenham.   This meant getting 2 new buildings and setting them up from scratch.   During this time we had mucho fun getting everything ready, and very little sleep was had by myself and Matt.

I point this out as, at some point on the Sunday, Matt and I were checking all of the PCs and printers etc to make sure that everything could login and would work as expected.   The move had actually begun at 17:00 on the Friday and everyone was expecting to begin working as normal at 08:00 on the Monday morning.   Not a lot of time to move some 300 people and all of their equipment.   We managed it…barely.   Anyway, back to the checking of PCs… I think we got to the 3rd floor and went around as before switching everything on.   Matt notices that one of the PCs didn’t fire up…so as we are taking a break, he decides to whip the case off and take a look.   He didn’t take the usual precautions of unplugging the machine, grounding himself etc, but no matter…generally these things don’t pose an issue.

We are chatting away and pretty much trying to stay awake when he asks me for a screwdriver.   On hindsight, I should have questioned why, but as tired as I was I passed one to him.   There then followed this set of events:

Matt:   “Thanks, I think I see what’s wrong”
Matt: THUD
Matt: Slide
Matt: THUD
Matt:   “AAaaaaaaaargh”

He ended up about 10 feet away from where he started, with a hairstyle not dissimilar to Yahoo Serious of Young Enstein fame.   In a moment of genius clarity, he had noticed that the power supply fan was not spinning, decided to jab the screwdriver into it and wiggle around, hoping to dislodge whatever was causing the fan to stick.. Only he went too far, jabbed the screwdriver a little too deep into the gubbins of the PSU and gave himself something of a shock.   The shock sent his body hurtling backwards like something out of a film, the force of this caused him to smack his head into the desk that he was underneath, drag his hand through the gubbins of the PC and eventually smack his head into the wall 10 feet away.

After I stopped laughing, I checked to see if he was ok.   He was…although he had a lump on his head and his hand was bleeding like a good ‘un.   All that was really needed were a small flock of birds to circle around his head, throwing stars up in the air and for smoke to come off his head.

The PC started working though, so it just goes to show …mind you, his watch was never the same again.

This was the company that is essentially responsible for the Fester’esque black circles around my eyes.   Thanks to working an average (honestly) of 21 hours per day, 7 days a week for 9 weeks.   Part way through this, they tell me about the impending closure of the southern office and send me down there to arrive just as the meeting is called.

It was all very cloak and dagger, and not at all pleasant for me.   I had to wait outside and, when the meeting started..someone gave me the signal to get into the building, where I had 25 minutes to lock down and protect the data, admin accounts and even the comms rooms.   This was simply following due dilligance as instructed by the insurance company, but still…I felt like an arsehole.

It worked out ok in the end, but there were a lot of upset people there, not least of all the guys that reported in to me.

Heh, just remembered a trip back with the head of facilities.   We were driving back from Cirencester to Cheltenham in ridiculously thick fog.   It was one of those where you couldn’t see much past the front of the car, so we were driving appropriately slowly as the situation demanded.   Pete mentions that we have to be really alert, as there is a new roundabout around here somewhere..with that, a car goes flying past us and had to be travelling over the speed limit…2 seconds later we realise we are on the roundabout.   I forget the exact chain of events, but Pete points out of the car, up in the air…where we can see red lights…as we come around it is obvious that the red lights belong to the car that had gone past us a couple of seconds earlier…and is now about 30 feet in the air and falling to the ground after hitting a lamppost across the other side of the roundabout.

Pete, being the kindly soul he is…starts calling the guy all sorts of names as we wend our merry way at 5-10mph.   In fairness, we did check that the guy got out ok…but then left him to it.

I think he learned a valuable lesson right there….