August 2004 Archives -

So very nearly there…

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“So, are you some sort of nut?” The earthy-voiced woman’s inquisitive line of questioning was heating up. It all started with an email from the Editor of the Spectator, asking the owner of Boriswatch to come forward. I duly stepped up to the plate and phoned the given number, before being greeted with Boris Johnson’s PA on the other end. She explained her problem – that the site’s visitors have been plaguing her with calls and emails about a non-existent event, and that she wants the reference to it taken down. “No problem,” I replied, turning on the charm. “While you’re on the line…”
And so it was that I managed to get the closest yet to Boris Johnson’s inner circle. She was a chatty woman – eager to divulge very little, but eager none the less. I managed to glean that Boris was aware of the site; that he is indeed planning to branch out into some sort of online presence; and that I would be well placed to help if it was needed.
I’ll admit to getting a little star-struck, even if it was a step short of the big man himself. Still, it’s only a matter of time…

Look Lively

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“Liven Up Your Website! Click Here NOW!” The email announced itself in my inbox at 11.15pm on a dreary rain-filled night last Monday – and I couldn’t help wondering whether it was a sales pitch or a brusquely-worded suggestion. As work and social life take their toll on my journalistic ego, I’ve reassessed my postings. The old “funny” links have been tidied up and put in their own little box, leaving enough space on the main fairway to concentrate on more important matters – me. And my stab at political ranting, when the opportunity occurs.
Turns out the email was spam, by the way. But it’s the first useful piece I’ve had in a while…

Brief News and Brief Views

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Rapist wins ?7m on lottery
Yes, he’s probably a bad man. But he’s been tried, convicted, serving life in prison, and after all it is a “lottery”. Anyone can win it, even if their not angelic. I’m with Boris on this one.

Hutton fails to find leak culprit
This ‘urgent’ investigation took 196 days to find… well, nothing. They can’t find anybody who did anything wrong. He makes no findings whatsoever. What a surprise. As Bloggerheads rily observes, “but, hey… it’s six months down the track and the Olympics start in a day or two. Who’s going to care?”

Driving Me Nuts

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Whenever you start a new job the older, more wise employees seize the moment. They size you up, looking you up and down and finding out what kind of a guy you are. And they need some way to describe you, some kind of “label” to…. well, label you. When I worked at Sun, it was “Student” (entirely appropriate) or “Teaboy”, despite my proven ability to ruin any cuppa I dared concoct. Straight out of university I joined The Pier, where I was constantly referred to as “Techie”. Now I’ve joined Dionex, I’ve been wary of giving them any reason to label me. I’ve made the tea (to perfection, I might add), I’ve been incredibly helpful, fixed things I should have fixed, hidden things I might have broken, and generally been a model employee.
There have, however, been cracks appearing. The first was a month ago. Eager to please for my 3 month induction period, I enthusiastically offered to drive my boss down to Waitrose. This was the first time, however, that I decided to drive, and extra care was needed. I was the careful, responsible employee, remember. I was still getting used to the larger car I’ve been hired, but no matter.
Things took a turn for the worse when I managed to reverse out of the parking space straight into a row of expensive BMWs. I was stuck rigid in shock – how in all the world had I managed that? “You’d best get out and check, Simon,” my manager remarked, after I’d sat there for 10 seconds. Luckily, barely a scrape was registered, and the BMW driver remarked that since they were both company cars we’d make no bones about it.
However, that incident opened the floodgates. The upper floor of our office has an eagle eye’s view of the car park, and in particular my parking space. This is an absolute gift for the Upper Floor Clan. Having heard about my reversing calamity and labelled me “Nigel Mansell”, my usual swing-into-the-space-and-leave policy has come in for severe criticism. In fact, the whole of my office are under scrutiny. The angle of our parking, the speed of our entry – we’re under pressure to perform. To be honest, I think I’ve got it licked. God alone knows what I’ll do when my new car finally arrives – it’s even bigger…

01010100 01100101 01100011

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You may have noticed I’m a slave for technology. The way technology is helping our lives really floats my particular boat. Take my phone, for instance. It’s an XDAII – a phone with a processor inside it more powerful than my mother’s computer, allowing it to become a handheld computer, digital camera, calendar, email client, all sorts of things. It means wherever I am I can check emails, websites, keeping in touch with all the same things I can in the office. I’ve no idea how I coped without it before.
So imagine my delight when I found The Guardian Digital Edition. I’m not a regular Guardian reader, but it’s a nice antidote to the rantings the Daily Mail usually feeds me. The Digital Edition is essentially a newspaper, but online. No trees felled, no newspaper to lose on the underground – just point at an article on a page and click. Why go to the grubby newsagent when you can sit in the comfort of your armchair pointing and clicking? It’s another reason never to live your living room. We’ll all become social recluses – it’s the future, I tell you.

One Day in Ireland – a step back in time

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I’d only been to Ireland once, and most of that was a haze. My 25th birthday had been marked by a celebratory visit to Dublin, but I was conscious that i wasn’t seeing the real Ireland, but rather a commercialised, but highly enjoyable, version of it.
The real Ireland finally greeted me with open fields early last week on a hastily arranged business trip. I landed at Shannon Airport late on Monday night, on instruction to go and fix some issues at a client of ours in a ominously sounding place called Aughinish Island. A surprise booking in the Club Class section of the aircraft soothed my brow as turbulence hit with unnerving frequency. Being in club Class, I noted, didn’t improve the food – I finally managed to digest the in-flight meal as we were coming in to land. The airport was modern, and the Hertz Car Rental helpdesk assistant was surprisingly cheery as the clock suggested I was probably keeping him from a warm cup of cocoa and an early night. “Oooh, nice,” he said, “A Hyundai Getz…”. I realised as I approached the car that his comment may have been sarcasm. Before me was one of the smallest cars I’d ever seen. I managed to spoon myself into the drivers’ seat, pushed the chair back as far as it could go, and set off into the night with my head planted on the ceiling.
Whenever I set off in a new car, I find the clutch almost impossible to control. I’ve no idea whether this is an affliction that affects all car drivers or whether its just my own personal driving dyslexia, but everyone on the exit road from Limerick Airport at 9pm last Monday will remember a large man in a tiny car bunnyhopping down the road for many weeks, i suspect.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the police stopped me. In fact, I was only 400 metres away from my parking space when I was flagged down by a stern officer, who insinuated I was driving “erratically”. Nonsense, I declared, but the officer proceeded with his questioning. It turned out the airport was on high alert for a car thief that had just stolen a number of cars and, relieved, I sped away once the officer was satisfied I was mostly innocent, save for my “suspicious English accent”.
Well, “sped”. Southern Ireland have recently introduced speeding fines, and as a result the usual high speed traffic had reduced to a snails pace, leaving yours truly with the tricky task of overtaking in a car that barely touched 70mph. My confidence grew with every overtaking move and I was making blistering progress as both the light and my patience dimmed.
The progress was certainly blistering, but sadly it was in the wrong direction. I was looking for the Ennis Road Roundabout, which I assumed would be in Ennis. Sadly, the Ennis Road is a long one, and I’d been going the wrong way. A short, fifteen minute journey to the hotel had become an hours long trek, and the fading light hurried me on, ever faster.
I got to the hotel at 10.30pm, completely bushed. I fell asleep within seconds.
The following day started early, and I attempted to eat breakfast in the worst Little Chef I have ever found… to date. And then, Aughinish Island. It was a short trek from the hotel, and I took in the sights and sounds of the countryside. There was a distinct lack of development anywhere but the most established towns – the roads, the hotel and its restaurant, even the cars themselves, had clearly never been refurbished since it was built. In fact that was true of most of the places I found during my one day stay – the lack of development, the lack of technology, the lack of pace – it’s all a world away from back home. Even the inhabitants were unaware of any place over 20 miles from their home, which made for interesting directions the night before.
And finally, Aughinish loomed on the horizon. The entire island was taken up by one huge structure, held together with a network of tubes and a maze of roads. I was instructed to wear goggles at the security gate for fear of comtamination – of what I don’t know – but my embarrassment was softened when I saw that the entire 600-strong workforce at the plant were all similarly goggled.
I won’t bore you with my work there – save to say that I managed to fix the bugger 5 minutes before I was due to leave for the airport, and the thrashing the little Getz got in my hurried trip back has probably rendered the gearbox completely limp. I made it onto the plane with moments to spare – and after an uneventful trip back home managed to hit the sack at around 10pm.
The overall impression of Southern Ireland? Well, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice – take a book.