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I have just experienced a surprising three month (approx.) period of unemployment. Surprising because having worked steadily through the IT world for almost 20 years in full time employment I thought I would be a catch for another company and would get a job sometime in January. I actually finished with my previous employer on the 9th January but I spent December sitting around on “gardening leave” so I am going to include that as part of my unemployment. I suppose I should have been doing all sorts of things around the house during this time and I did start with good intentions in December to the extent that we now have a fully floored loft (It’s only been waiting for me to finish that for 12 or so years), I also started painting inside of the bathroom door from a dull mushroom beige to a brilliant white (three coats and still it does not perfectly cover the mushroom colour) and I dismantled the locks on the bathroom door and kitchen door, ostensibly to clean off the accumulated years of paint and restore to shining brass (in the case of the bathroom) and burnished metal. This not surprisingly has turned out to be a much more difficult task that first envisioned and as well as not being finished to date has annoyed my wife as she would like handles on the doors of both the rooms she uses everyday.

I think that I have tailed off doing things around the house as I have got more nervous about not having a job and moving steadily towards my fiftieth birthday. I think that I see this upcoming birthday as a barrier beyond which I am unlikely to work again if I have not got a job when I reach it. This may be stupid but it still preys on your nerves over time. The good news at the end of this is that I have a job with a software house in the of position of Software Developer just round the corner from where I started my last 20 year period of employment and in a similar role which is not much different from where I started out all those years ago. However, it is much better paid and should prove to be interesting work.

I have to say that there have been a few poor decisions over the last few months, first one was being miffed at having my job eliminated in my previous company. They did try and find me a new position as my line manager had said that he wanted to keep my skill sets within the company (thus inflating my ego and giving me a false idea of how the market may treat me) and I was offered a position of, yes you’ve guessed it Software Developer in another team within that company. So filled with my own ego and being disappointed with having a job which I enjoyed (I should mention at this point that I was a Project Manager running a team split between Glasgow and Mumbai) taken away from me that in a fit of pique I choose to leave the company and get another job elsewhere. So brimming with confidence I set out to look for a new job. I had two interviews in December and early January which also boosted my confidence, but both of these were with the Clydesdale Bank who are now looking decidedly shaky due to the banks owners, National Australia Group re-evaluating their position in Europe and strangely enough both positions were either “outsourced” or “given to an internal candidate”. I had one more interview in January to work as a Software Developer with another bank in a team whose leader was less experienced than me and possibly younger. That had a rejection which sounded a bit peculiar to say the least and I have my suspicions as to what actually was the rationale behind that. After that… nothing. I was surprised and disappointed. Who would turn down my fabulous experience in several different industries, my long experience as a developer, architect, analyst and manager in IT! It turns out almost everyone and that has been a salutary lesson to me. I will not in the future be trying to make decisions based on my own hyper-inflated ego but will look at the cold hard aspects of the market and its demands. I have taken a drop in salary to get this new job and I think that part of the reason I have it is because I had a loose association with the company some eight years ago (when it was a start-up, spin-off company from Glasgow university) and that two of the members of the interview panel knew people that I had worked with or knew as friends. It is as they say “not entirely what you know, but much more who you know” and I was told in December, which I have to say I dismissed somewhat, that I was much more likely to get a new job from my own personal contacts and networking within those contacts than just applying for the most suitable jobs out there. Well, I hope that is a lesson learned and I leave this entry as a reminder to myself not to be so stupid in the future.

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So, we have gone down to Coventry to take part in the Redemption Multimedia conference. Wendy and I were up north in Fraserburgh for the first part of the week and drove down on Wednesday back to Glasgow and then flew down to Birmingham on the Thursday. So a busy week so far. We were gouged by wonderful FlyBe because we hadn't checked in our luggage online and it cost us £30 for 1 bag!

We wanted to get the bus to Coventry and were directed to stance K. This showed the 900 bus to Coventry arriving in 4 minutes. Great we thought, and waited. I suddenly noticed that the next stance (J) also had the bus number 900. Hmmmm, I thought. Why is there two stances which have the 900 bus. At that moment the 900 arrived at the next stance. So I went and asked if it went to Coventry.
"Naww, Stuuunce K, mate, Stance K" he said and he pointed to the stance next door as if I was an idiot who didn't speak English (like him). 

We waited, and waited, watching three or four 900 buses all going to Birmingham stopping at stance J while the electronic display at our stance clicked down twice to 900's going to Coventry which didn't turn yup.

Finally, the 900 bus to Coventry arrived and we boarded. It was a standard bus with hardly any space for luggage, and as it was the one bus going through the airport to Coventry this now made perfect sense.


We got to the bus station in Coventry 39 minutes later (which was marked on all the timetables and maps at the airport as Pool Meadow Bus Station, so tough if you didn't know that this was Coventry Bus station. It must be such fun for people who haven't done much research and expect to find sensible bus numbers and electronic timetable displays which are accurate, and maps which actually supply reasonable information, like me for instance) and the hotel 4 minutes later.
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When we had paid and left the Osteopath, I had not many US dollars left so I went to the ATM to get more. Weirdly Lebanon uses both US dollars and Lebanese pounds. I asked for $200 (well, we are on holiday) and got two notes. Bugger! So we went to the fancy hotel across the road for some coffee and cake for Wendy so that she could recover from treatment and I paid using a $100 bill.

Great lots of change in the local currency, I thought. I calculated that this would work out like something just over 100,000 Lebanese pounds (Crazy, crazy money in the Lebanon). So he gave me a single Cent Mille Livere note with some loose change. Bugger, again!

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We are on holiday in Beirut and Wendy has been having some problems with a cramped muscle in her shoulder. So we got an appointment with an Osteopath today and went along. I had a conversation with the osteopath treating Wendy while she was resting under the heating blanket. He was talking about the American University in Beirut, normally called AUB or even just Aub, were he works as a sports injuries specialist. He was saying, when I commented on the number of cats we had seen in the grounds of the university, that they have a welfare committee, with an annual budget, specifically for taking care of cats in the university! Absolutely brilliant. He also said that any student who is involved with injuring one of the cats will have a demerit put on their university record and if one of the cats is killed, the student, or students responsible will be expelled. My kind of university!
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One of the most wonderful things about having a garden is the wildlife that it attracts. Also, due to the fact that I am so very lazy, the amount of wildlife which seems to over-winter in our garden is something special. This has been a beautiful morning (some of it spent down at the shops) and while passing back through the garden I was struck by the number of Bumblebees’ that appear to have just woken up and are looking for places to nest. I have counted 6 or so around our garden, trying to take into account that some will be flying off and coming back to the garden, but most I can differentiate by the different colours that they have. I spotted a lapidarius (a Red tailed bumblebee), and a pascuorum, which seems to the most common up here in Scotland. It quite makes me want to get some bumblebee boxes. Which I might do after I get round to putting up the small bird nesting box I have still in it's box in the utility room.
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People might be interested in this. I know that it's very short notice (sorry about that) but it didn't occur to me to try and use the power of the Internet for good instead of evil.

Please click on the picture above for details of venue, cost, etc.

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West Nile Street, looking north from St Vincent Street.

Posted using http://moby.to/qjlyhp
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Today we went off on the Desert Safari that we had booked on Thursday. We were told that this was going to be a visit into the desert to a Bedouin village with some fun and games first with high powered motor vehicles in the desert. Sounded good to me!

We went down to the shop which had sold us the excursion and were picked up by a long wheelbase Land Rover Discovery which was driven by a small guy with a burnoose and traditional Arab headgear driving who didn’t speak much English. This turned out to be our tour driver for the day.

We first drove down the coast on the nice new, sand covered motorway past the Airport to a fenced area which had a large arched gateway with “Safari Land” emblazoned across it. This worried me a bit, because it looked pretty controlled and in a word, tame. We drove up to this building which looked like a Spanish fort from Mexico (I think it had originally been a themed restaurant) got out the Land Rover and noticed a group of about 20 quad bike riders going round in a circle, all with crash helmets and gloves, being trained in the use of the quad bikes . Again my heart sank, as I had done something similar to this in Perthshire at the end of 2006 and although it was good fun then, without the tress and forest tracks I had been on in Perthshire I thought it would too controlled to get any fun in the fairly flat, featureless desert. However, our group of four were lead over to Spider buggies and asked if we wanted to try these first. So, me and Wendy in one K and [livejournal.com profile] dalg in another and away we went. We drove around following a guy on a Quad bike for 45 minutes and I absolutely loved it. It drove like a normal car but the gears were really loose, much like an old Ford Transit van gearbox (showing my age there). I kept trying to put it into 5th gear, which didn't exist and ended up in third. This caused the engine to roar and the buggy to take off like a bat out of hell. It was great. We were both well strapped in so no problems with us bouncing over the terrain. As we were behind dalg and K and the quad bike guide I also dropped back a couple of times so I could gun the engine and try and get some air between the buggies wheels and the ground. We didn't really manage to make it as I couldn’t get up enough speed for the low hummocks of the dunes to properly bump us up into the air and Wendy didn’t really like me trying it that much.  I lost my cap about 30 minutes in, which blew off back onto the radiator behind and above us. So, I thought “No problem, I’ll just get it later”. Then about 35 minutes in, the damn engine just conked out on us; way, way out into the desert, it just lost power and we came to a stop. I suspect that it overheated due to my cap obscuring part of the radiator. I could not get it restarted and we had to sit and wait for five minutes or so until the guide on the quad bike noticed that we had stopped and came back to help us. He, of course, managed to start the buggy first time! Here are a couple of pictures of us at the start of the run.

Once we had returned to the building (Which was currently being used for a quad bike garage) we then got on a set of the Quad bikes and drove around for another 45 minutes. Although Wendy did not come with us as she does not have a driving licence and was a bit worried about what could possibly happen. I think that the Spider Buggies have the edge on the Quad bikes for sheer excitement and sensation of danger. Could not really get the Quad bikes up to any speed due to the roughness of the ground, there was a real danger of being catapulted off the bike which was not there with the spider buggies. With being strapped in, you really felt like part of the machine with them.

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[livejournal.com profile] dalg and I went off on a diving trip in the Red Sea today. It was an 8:30 pickup at the Happy Diving Center (this is how they spelt it) which we got to at 8:10. The dive instructor (Khaled) and his entire family arrived at 8:20. He appeared to be much impressed at how early we were. We had gone along to the diving centre the evening before and selected what equipment we were to use on the dive. I had a “shorty” wetsuit, A BCD (Buoyancy Control Device, which is similar to an inflatable jacket), fins, mask and a diving regulator Octopus. All of this was packed into something like a milk crate and it was your responsibility to make sure it all went out and came back together. We then all jumped into a small minivan and drove off to the dock where we would be going out to the dive boat.

We got into a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, sometimes called generically a Zodiac or a RIB just at the end of a pier in shallow half meter deep water. We had to transfer all the crates over into the zodiac as well. This was my first time in one of these boats and it was difficult to keep your balance. Eventually we had about eight to ten people on the boat balanced on both sides, with me holding on to the rope on top of the inflatable bit for dear life. We had a real Sea Arab (and I mean that in the nicest way) piloting the Zodiac and he also helped with kitting out, preparation of the food, making sure the anchors were secure and once or twice piloting the dive boat. He was crew, but appeared to be first mate. He was swarthy with a fine black beard and a perpetual, disapproving expression, maybe even a slight sneer for the paying customers. He never wore shoes and just had a tennis shirt and trousers which stopped half way between knee and ankle. He could have walked into a casting room and got the job as Sinbad in any movie without even opening his mouth.  

Off we went out to main diving boat which was a big cabin cruiser about 60 to 70 feet long. Sinbad, when navigating from the dock and getting to the dive boat demonstrated his complete professionalism in handling a full zodiac without even splashing us once. There was then a 45 intermission while the boat moved to the dive area. This was called “Marsa Abu Gallawa” and was a coral reef with a small lagoon where I was to get re-certified for my Open Water Diver (OWD) qualification. [livejournal.com profile] dalg kindly agreed to join me in this even though he had a Dive Master certification although he had last dived 6 years ago. 

We checked out all of our equipment and connected up the diving regulator to the tanks and the BCD, put on our wetsuits, got on the weights, tanks and mask, got down to the back of the boat and put on our fins. I was just about knackered by this time. My fins were the kind where you put you feet into the fin like a slipper, [livejournal.com profile] dalg had boots which then slotted into the fins and strapped round the back of the heel. I stood on the edge of the boat with about a four or five foot drop in front of me and thought “I haven’t dived since 1997 and I have NEVER stepped off of a boat at sea”. So I took the “big step” out and promptly left one of my fins on the deck. I hit the water like a ton of bricks and lost my regulator out my mouth, basically a complete fuck-up on entry. Here is a good image of someone doing it right from the back of a boat (bottom of the page). 

I was bobbing up and down choking (and without enough air in my BCD to stay afloat) and trying to get a bead on the instructor who was grinning suspiciously (fortunately it turned out later that he grinned like this all the time). He handed me a grab line hanging off the end of the boat, pumped up my BCD while I looked up into [livejournal.com profile] dalg surprised and amused face on the boat. Naturally he stepped in without problems while someone handed down my missing fin and I put it on.

We sank down to about 2.5 meters and moved off towards the lagoon. I was not looking forward to this bit as I remember the mask tests from Lanzarote which I hated. We had dropped to about 3 meters when we started the tests. The first one was to let a little water into your mask and then clear it by blowing out the mask through your nose. I did not like this as I appear to be a nose breather rather than a mouth breather so I had a tendency when my mask was partially filled to suck in water through my nose. As you can imaging coughing three meters underwater with a plastic brace in your mouth supplying the only air your gonna get is not a nice feeling. I flaked out at the second test which was to half fill you mask and clear it. So the instructor when through the same process with dalg (perfect, of course) and then moved on to the more complex tests, which comprised taking off your weight belt and then putting it back on (more difficult than it sounds as this is the main thing keeping you underwater). Then taking off your tanks and BCD (trying not to rip the breathing regulator from your mouth) and putting them back on. No problems for me with this. Then we went back a step and the instructor wanted me to take my mask off and put it back on and clear it. Now, strangely this was not a problem for me as I have some kind of hindbrain thing where my nose would just seal off when I took off my mask underwater. So I did that and was left with dalg and the instructor staring at me in puzzlement. Then we went off past the boat, round the reef and out into the Red Sea to see what we could see. The reef was a four to five meter wall to our left (on the way out) and was alive. We saw tiny, white moray eels, endless small fish and a number of parrot fish of different colours. We swam out into deeper water down to a depth of 11 meters and saw a number of garden eels that formed a well defined field where they looked like question marks dotted across the sand. It was quite amazing. 

We returned back along the reef with it now on our right and watched the amazing wildlife on the reef wall. We also saw some spiny fish in small caves towards the bottom of the reef. We came back to the boat and did the compulsory 3 meter, 5 minute stop (not really a stop you just swim around at that depth) and then climbed back onto the boat. This was actually pretty difficult. I handed up my fins and assumed that the climb up the ladder would be OK. Instead you are trying to drag all your weights, a wet wetsuit (obviously) and your BCD and tank up a vertical, slightly swaying ladder. Fortunately, one of the helpers (I think maybe Sinbad) took off my tank and dragged that onto the boat which made it much easier to climb. 

Once we had been debriefed by Khaled (still expressing surprise at my poor performance at the simple tests and no problem with the more complex ones) we then had a complete laze about boat for a couple of hours. The crew also prepared lunch, which was mostly Egyptian style food (lentils, aubergine, small kofta sausages, chicken and rice). [livejournal.com profile] dalg had to finish my plateful as I was still nervous about the second dive and then... second dive which was a lot more accomplished from my point of view and just amazing viewing along the reef. We saw Trumpet fish, yet more spiny fish as well. I noticed at one point when we were at the reef wall with Khaled pointing out interesting things how much the dive actually felt like one of these wildlife programs on diving in the Red Sea, except much, much noisier. You are  breathing from your tank and normally the breath goes out through the regulator. This is pretty noisy in itself but I was being a bit casual and letting the air bubble around my mouthpiece and also through my nose (which had the handy effect of keeping my mask clear. The bubble noise in my case was pretty loud, and as I was sucking in air like there was no tomorrow, I was blowing out much of the time.

There was also the high pitched wine of other dive boats and smaller fishing boats passing overhead. If fact during the second dive it was like Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour. 

One the second dive we also saw a white sea snake on the bottom beside the reef with black stripes which we could not immediately identify. We also saw what we think was a couple of Octopus entangled together, what they were up to I can't imagine. I began to get into the zone on the return from the far side of the reef and felt a lot calmer and relaxed. However, once aboard the dive boat I had the embarrassment of finding out that Khaled still had 140 bar in his tank and [livejournal.com profile] dalg  had 100 and I had less than 50. I was, unfortunately, the weak man of the team, a theme which was to persist throughout the diving on this holiday. 

I was really tired when we got back and went for dinner, although dalg seemed OK. After dinner the four of us lazed about the bar and then dalg and I walked down to dive centre to book for Monday. I’m a glutton for punishment.

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Minor hiccup with timings this morning as I had thought that my phone had sync'd to the local time zone, as it had presented me with a message to that effect after arrival, but when we woke and went down to breakfast at the time we had agreed to meet, it turned out to be an hour after. This meant that we had missed breakfast. Except for the kindness of the manager of the main restaurant room we would not have had anything to eat, but he got the serving boys to find us some pastries and rolls from the breakfast stuff they were clearing away as breakfast had just finished. This formed the hallmark of the good natured, helpful Egyptians we met throughout the holiday. As we hadn't turned up for breakfast [livejournal.com profile] dalg and K had gone down to the beach for a swim and a wander around. We met up about an hour or two later.

The hotel has three swimming pools. One main one in the centre courtyard along with a smaller one for what appears to be water polo and a secret one which few people seem to know about, off a corridor on the first floor which Wendy and K. found on the first full day. We went down there for a quick dip and sunbathe but the sun was actually too hot, even at that time in the morning so we decided to roam around the town and see what we could see. I should say that one of the things I like about the two bigger pools is that the depth starts at about 1.4 meters and goes down to 2.3 meters. This is so much better than pools in the UK which appear to be getting shallower and shallower. I never got the chance to check out the water polo pool.

The hotel room was brillant, we got a family room with three beds, only one a double, so no problems if Wendy and I fell out. This is a panorama of the view out of the window.

Everywhere in Hurghada seems to look like a building site which we think is due to the local regulations of not paying tax until the building is complete. So they just never finish it! 

As we were at the front of the hotel there would have been a problem with the traffic noise. Not the actual sound of the traffic passing, but the horns going at all times of the day and night. It will talk more on this particular subject later. However, we were saved by the air conditioner which we kept on at all times. This effectively drowned out all noise from outside the room.

While wandering about the streets we booked a trip into the desert (Saturday) 'cause it sounded interesting and another to Giftun island (Tuesday) which is not far off the coast and a nature reserve. Dalg and I also booked our first day of diving which he has been planning for quite some time and I was still a bit nervous about. I hadn’t been diving since 1997 when I did an Open Water Diving course while on holiday. The streets were difficult to navigate as everyone greeted you, and the natural tendency was to answer. This gave the street sellers an in and you were immediately invited into their shop. We had been warned about this as [livejournal.com profile] dalg  and K had been to Egypt before. But it was still difficult to compensate.

We then went back to the hotel and hung out beside the 1st floor pool reading and occasionally taking a dip and then went down and drank at the reception area bar. Basically we had a hugely lazy day, just right for a chill out holiday. We (or rather the girls) found a little clothing store beside the hotel entrance where we heard some excellent Egyptian music and met Fathy and his musician brother Shahed in their shop June (Don’t ask me why, they didn’t seem to understand either). They were really nice and we spent a long of time with them in the evenings over the next few days.
We originally ventured in there to get me more shorts and they were not too bad on the hard sell. So we used them a lot when we needed things.

We went down to the beach later at Triton Empire beach resort which was part of the same chain as the hotel and we had full access to (along with free drink) where we swam in the Red sea for the first time. Later on in the bar we saw someone pass out from heat stroke which was a bit disconcerting on your first full day on holiday. We (rather [livejournal.com profile] dalg  and I) drank lots and lots of Orange (which turned out to be Fanta) and Lemon (which turned out to be Sprite). The Orange was a virulent, bright Orange colour and has so much sugar in the carbonated water that it started rotting your teeth before you managed drink it. We coined the name “toxic Orange” and started to ask for it by that name by the second day.

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[livejournal.com profile] dalg , K, Wendy and I, after our great success of going away together in August last year to Paris and not actually killing one another decided to try a longer experiment and go off on holiday together to Egypt. All arrangements were in the hands of K and [livejournal.com profile] dalg , so without further ado, we left on a jet plane, today in the middle of the afternoon.

We flew with GlobeSpan. A four and a half hour journey from Hell with one of the original Witches of the Gorbals sitting just two rows behind us giving everyone on the back half of the plane the benefit of her huge experience of Egypt and by the way what she thought (which was astonishing in itself) of Globespan. All nicely delivered with a voice which could cut glass without effort and easily ward off any boats heading for Beachy head on a foggy night. One could not help noticing that she appeared to be talking with a throat full of broken glass. I also discovered that this was the woman who had the most remarkable way of blowing her nose in such a fashion that it sounded like she has just covered one nostril and blew hard. I hope that was just that it sounded like that, because otherwise I suspect she had just managed to spread swine flu throughout Hurghada and most of Glasgow once we returned. She did not strike me as a very nice person.

I forgot to mention that we kicked off with an extra £52 charge for our luggage to go with us which our travel company had not bothered mentioning to us or paying for. Something for K. to get her teeth into with all the relevant companies once we get back.

Once we arrived at Hurghada Airport we were ferried to the arrival hall by bus. The arrival hall itself was strange. The Police guards outside the door held their berets to their faces and other airport personnel had face marks on. We then discovered we were at the back of a queue which had a woman in a hajab and medical facemask at the front taking the temperature of all passengers with an electronic ear thermometer, presumably checking against swine flu, but nothing was explained to us.

We were cleared for visas very quickly as it appeared our hotel had a specific hotline for the visa distribution. We then joined a queue which we thought was to change money, which seemed reasonable at the time as these were all bank booths. It turned out that these were also for visas which caused the guys who were waiting for us to clear immigration and customs great confusion. I could almost hear them thinking “What are the stupid foreigners doing?”

Interestingly most of the rest of the people in front of us in the immigration queue were Russian who appeared to have come off the plane immediately before ours although K. said that she had heard several Russian speakers near the back of our plane, which is a bit puzzling, why would you fly all they way to Glasgow to transfer on to Egypt?. Once we had waited in the queue for immigration to let them check that we had just bought our visas (?) we handed off the form we got for the ear examination to the next guy in line and finally collected our luggage from the long stopped carousel. I began to think that the stories about the amount of bureaucracy in Egypt were true.

We had one mini adventure when K. found this guy who just said to her, “this way” and naturally she started following him before [livejournal.com profile] dalg  pointed out that he wasn't from our hotel or package company and actually had nothing to do with us. Minor embarrassment all round as we had all dutifully started following him and K. assuming all was well.

We got to the Hotel by minibus which appeared to be for us only. Just us four guests and the three staff sent to pick us up, very strange. When we dropped off one of the staff the others apologised profusely because he could only speak German. By this point we just smiled.
The Hotel; Empire Three corners, is great, It turns out that we were booked on the all inclusive option, presumably because we booked so far in advance, which was a surprise to Wendy and I (which is the good kind of thing which happens when you let someone else do the booking) and meant that all food and drinks in the hotel just need signed for and we are not charged! Brilliant!! To mark us as having this option we were given white wristbands with the name of the hotel chain emblazoned on them similar to the kind of identification bracelet you get when you are in Hospital. We wore these for the next seven days which became a bit of an irritation at times.

With a quick meal in the restaurant off we went to bed to wait and see what would happen tomorrow.

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After we came away from the Fancy Dress and Cabaret [livejournal.com profile] dalg  suggested that we go to the Media room and see the new shows from the US (Someone had got a recording from either one of the Scifi channels or one of the US channels). There were two episodes of Heroes and one of Dollhouse.

I enjoyed Heroes, in which one of the hero characters was actually killed (albeit in a rather sanitary US TV sort of way. I didn't realise that she was dead until one of the other characters bemoaned the fact). But both episodes suffered from the standard problem which I have with Heroes. Very little actually happens in each episode and frequently it is very similar to the previous episode or even season. In fact so much of the two episodes were like those of season one that I thought that they had hit the reset button on the series and started again. Also there is the standard problem of the wetness of some of the characters as well as they appear to be the only oppressed minority in the entire world AND it's all a great secret that no one can ever find out about. I also noticed an unnerving tendency for the superheroes to lose their powers at the most inconvenient of moments, like when 10 guys are standing in front of them with guns in their hands.

After those two episodes they showed the opening season episode of Dollhouse which I loved. Kept me riveted to my seat in the media room. It also left me with a nasty aftertaste as it paralleled some stories I had read about the ability of government or big corporations (it’s not made clear which) to convert, heart and soul, people into tools for their bidding.

It’s basically another Joss Wheldon extravaganza well worth the time to watch when it finally hits this country.

This took me to 1:00am and by the time I had got back to my room and done a bit of surfing the web the Disco downstairs had actually finished. Although it was difficult for me to tell through my drunken haze. More to come tomorrow!

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Excellent day. Had a good breakfast in the hotel (Large quantities of dead pig, very tasty!) and sat in the lounge drink tea and blogging yesterdays blog. Was pouring myself another cup of tea when this guy spoke to to ask which of the pots was tea and which was coffee. When I answered he said "like the accent, can you tell where mine was from?". To cut a long story short, he was from Dundee but worked in London and was taking a year out (cause he never had one at university in his day) and just doing the things hes always wanted to do. Like come to a SF con! I should point out that this is someone who I reckon is about 50. Taking a year out is now my ambition for when I am 50. Which unfortunately is not too far in the future.

Bob (for that was his name) had never meet someone who had a blog and he was the source of the interruption in yesterdays blog. He wanted me to tell him what it was all about and what I was doing and were did I get the machine and how much it cost. It was easier to stop blogging and explain it all. Anyhoo, we kept bumping into Bob for the rest of the day. Not sure if he was just here on a day ticket or he is here today (Day 4 of Redemption when I am bogging this) he's a nice guy but a con virgin so needs a lot of help. Decided it was best to share that out across the con rather than providing it all myself.

Went with Bob to the first program item which was Christine doing "Forensic Science in fact and Fiction" which as a lecturer is what she does in real life. Very interesting and entertaining indeed!

I wandered around a bit after that, peeking in on the Guest of Honour (Paul Cornell) interview in the main hall and ending up at the next program item "Life Support Systems" with www.beeblebear.net/ which was equally interesting as Christines presentation.

Had bit of a blank after that before going to the "How to send your scripts to the BBC" panel. I missed the beginning and throughout the speaker kept saying "Oh you can get that bit of information on the website as well". However, he may have mentioned the website address at the beginning but he never mentioned it while I was there. I was, as usual, too shy and retiring to ask again at the end, as I thought that this would show me us as a numpty who had managed to miss the start of the panel. Still I though it was very interesting. Gave me some ideas as well.

After that we met up and went down to the Zocalo where I bought a few of Christine's and Michael's Banoffee pie and some flapjacks for midnight snacks. [livejournal.com profile] dalg demonstrated the suction power of banana cream and managed to pull his partial plate right out of his mouth. He had to wrap it up in a napkin and talk back to his room for washing. Ugh!.

We had some preparation for "How to find Uranus" at 6pm, but they had rescheduled an earlier item into our room which finished right when we wanted to start (Look on Flickr for the room announcement picture). We rushed around trying to stick up the planets of the Solar System on a Ceiling which was resolutely noy going to hold the whitetack. We then had a hilarous hour or so with a few people (I don't feel that they gave enough detail in the program as to what we were going to do) running around trying to get the probes to the correct planets. It was great fun and fairly exhusting.

I went along to the Cabaret with Michael, Christine and [livejournal.com profile] dalg  and that was pretty damn entertaining. There are pictures on Flickr of some of the entries. It would be bit too complex to try and describe them here.

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Yesterday was the actual first day of the convention. Didn't manage to get to any of the panels in the morning as I was either helping [livejournal.com profile] dalg in setting up the Satellite 2 table or running around trying to help people (I really must stop doing that). We found the Oxfam shop in central Coventry which had the best SF section I have seen outside of the Oxfam in Morningside, Edinburgh (which is another snippet I really should post) and although that doesn't sound to much like a complement I should point out that I thought that Oxfam in Morningside was better laid out than Watersons and better stocked than Borders (at least with SF). So we asked the Oxfam manager if he was interested in SF and if he knew that there was a SF Multimedia con on in a hotel 100 odd paces away from his shop. He was very interested. He suggested an exchange of Oxfam flyers with Redemption flyers. So I went and got some Redemption flyers from the con reception desk who also said that there was already someone selling books for Oxfam. Went up and spoke to him and although he was selling books for the con charities, he wasn't willing to even have the Oxfam fliers on his tables! I was a bit surprised.

Still, told this  story to Christine and Micheal and they were perfectly happy to have the flyers on their table for Satellite 2 Huzza!!

Went to the Opening ceremony which was good. Well organized, coherent and fun. I then went to "The mythology of the Dalek-Gallifrey time war" which at the begining was divided between those who treated it as a pure thought experiment and those who thought that it should just remain as Myth to support the backstory in the series. But as it progressed it slowly moved towards those who had carefully thought through the details and could quote chapter and verse from the series to support their pet theory why it MUST have happened this way, no doubt about it. More than a little scary.

Had a wee interrupt earlier and now have a chance to complete the entry for yesterday. After the time war panel me and [livejournal.com profile] dalg went to the "Could time travel one day be possible". The answer it appears is yes... according to current day understanding of Physics. It was interesting as we wandered back and forwards between real physics of possible time travel (it has been described as an engineering problem) and time travel anecdotes from audience members favorite stories. Eventually the panel (who were mostly real astrophysicists and physicists) went through each panelists favorite time travel story or film with recommendations for "Back to the future" being the only one I can remember at this moment.

Finally I stayed for the "Monsters v Aliens: Whats the difference?" panel which [livejournal.com profile] dalg wimped out of and went to bed. This was an interesting panel which started out as a sort of fight between Star Trek and Dr Who (with Star Trek having Aliens and Dr Who having Monsters) and came down to a sort of agreement that Monsters were things you either couldn't communicate with or had an agenda which they would not compromise on (and therefore you had to destroy) and Aliens were things you could communicate with and had some kind of culture that the audience could relate to (and therefore you could work with). People found a number of contradictions with this and a number of series which also contradicted or changed monster/alien status half way through (AVP being an example, the Borg another, etc.).

Then I gave up and went to bed. Which was not a lot of fun as The Friday night Ceilidh was in full swing in the Main Hall which was one floor below me. [livejournal.com profile] dalg  said that it was fairly loud on the 7th floor, so you an imagine what I was like for me. I could actually hear something (it was either the plumbing in the bathroom or the light fittings in the room) rattling when they hit the extra loud notes.

I lay a while and listened to a talking book on my iPod with the volume  turned up until I could not keep my eyes open. When I woke an hour or two later thankfully the Ceilidh was finished. I suppose that it was well advertised in the program and I knew I was on the 3rd floor when I checked in so I should have known better. Still, I have the Cabaret and Disco in the main hall tonight until 2am to listen to.  ;-)

ksimes: (Default)
I forgot to mention in my last port. We went down for the greeting meal (which was very good) and grabbed the first table we could see. It had a first timer to conventions already sitting at it and we said hello. Then the convention Guest of honour, Paul Cornell, joined us at the table and kept us entertained with Dr Who script stories and discussions on the merits of Captain Britain comics (which he now writes) throughout the meal... Which was nice.

There was a long and interesting discussion on the current crop of SF American TV series currently on over here and also what the Brits are showing in return. Strong support for "Being Human" and a great deal of support for BSG (I've been told everyone will know that means BattleStar Gallactica) which I didn't think too much of, as you had to suspend belief too much in each episode to allow the characters to function as real human beings.

I just felt that in real life, the first time they came up against a problem then the entire crew would go to pieces agonising over their personal hangups and worried about who hadn't screwed who that week, and whether anyone would notice the extraordinary number of enemy Cylon spies were in the command crew. I felt that if you couldn't believe in the ability of the characters to be meaningful members of a military crew then the rest of the special effects were not going to keep it going.

The stories I watched were interesting, just the people were so irritating. Most of the stories revolved around a command given to Starbuck, Starbuck ignores/dismisses/contradicts order (delete where applicable) and goes and does her own thing, commanding office realises the error of his ways and everything goes on as always, type formula. Not good in my opinion, just dramatic.

Please feel free to supply your own opinion.
ksimes: (Default)
Well made it to Redemption.

Long, long bus trip down from Glasgow to Coventry with [livejournal.com profile] dalg via Birmingham with a 20 minute long holdup just 15 minutes from Birmingham bus station because of an accident on the M62. But a lot of the other buses were held up as well so we ended up catching the bus to Coventry  at 4 pm that we would have caught at 3.

The hotel is OK. A bit faded, the seat I am typing this on is broken, but not too badly that it can't be used. The bathroom taps definitely have a mind of their own and the shower... well let's not talk about the shower, except to say its like standing under a tap. The room's nice and big though and I'm within range of the free wifi from downstairs. So not all bad.

Helped with the bag stuffing last night so everyone will get a goody bag at 10. It was surprisingly hard work!

Look forward to start of convention in about an hour and will post more this evening.

ksimes: (Default)
A Meme from [livejournal.com profile] elance  via [livejournal.com profile] tanngrisnir . The Big Read thinks the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books they've printed below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them.

And tanngrisnir added and I'm following:

5) Score through ones you did not like/could not finish

Note: I am only counting as read the ones I can distinctly remember reading. God knows how many I started and put down and can't now remember. All the titles are familiar. So many I have seen on TV and can't remember if I followed up and read later... or earlier.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) – Antoine De Saint-Exupery*
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Dec. 22nd, 2008 07:25 pm
ksimes: (Default)
A very Merry Christmas (or any of the holidays you choose to celebrate at this time of year) and a Good New Year to you all when it comes.

Hope you all have a wonderful time.


ksimes: (Default)

March 2012

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