Sunday, December 31, 2006

NYE - Blog # 06

Woke up to a mild hangover and a dismal, dreary, overcast city. We're off to the cinema to watch 'The Holiday' thanks to Murray, Jules and Alexander.

NYE - Blog # 05

02:55 - It's been a wonderful evening. Experiencing New Years Eve in Sydney has exceeded our expectations. A brilliant atmosphere in a fantastic city. The fireworks were out of this world.

We've cleaned up, had another drink and are ready to hit the sack. We're both looking forward to whatever 2007 holds. You never know, I might get a phone call from my parents. x

NYE - Blog # 04

Fantastic...no more that can be said. Pictures uploaded to Flickr :-)

NYE - Blog # 03

09:18 - Another update. Fantastic fireworks over the bridge and Darling Harbour.

NYE - Blog # 02

We're ready to rock and roll. It's 19:37, guests have yet to arrive but....guess what??!?!?!?....our camera has charged and I've been clicking away like a pro. First photo of the view from our balcony below (taken using the 18-70mm lense. Wide angle or what!!!).
More to come xxx

NYE - Blog # 01

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It’s 17:40 on New Years Eve and we are back in the apartment. Abi is preparing the evenings snacks, I’ve just finished the ironing (I am a sad bugger at times), Duran Duran is playing on the stereo (Notorious!!!!) and we’re having a coffee (don’t want to peak too early).

We had a lovely morning/afternoon wandering around the town. The weather was fantastic, warm with clearish skies. We spent a while in Hyde Park people watching (a sport Abi excels in and I'm just getting to grips with). It reminds me of Central Park but on a slightly smaller scale. It's nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. The high point of the day was our shopping expedition where we bought a new toy!!!!! I’ve wanted a digital SLR for ages and I know how much Abi enjoys taking photo’s so I thought it would be worth getting something decent. We purchased a Sony A100 and with careful research and Abi’s sales skills we managed to save a few bob and get a free bag and memory card. It’s charging now and I can’t wait to take some photos this evening.

On another note I heard that the England team have arrived at the hotel. Abi said she bumped into some athletic types in the lift earlier. They may have been cricketers be she hasn’t got a clue. It’s getting cloudy now and rain is forecast so I feel sorry for all the thousands of people who are camped in the various parks. We’ve got friends arriving around 8:30 to help us celebrate the New Year and several firework displays at 9 and midnight.

Photo's posted from last night and today....More updates later…x

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sunday night in Sydney

I spent last week working, which seemed pointless to me, it was however an opportunity to catch up with a few outstanding tasks and leave work earlier than usual. Abi caught up with some work and managed to get sunburnt. Her back is still a lovely shade of pink but her eyelids have gone down (thankfully!). Her back is only the middle bit, the ‘hard to reach’ bit when applying lotion single-handedly.

This evening we went to dinner with some of Abi’s extended family in Bankstown (about 45 minutes south of the city centre). The easiest way to get there is by train and we picked the sloooowest train in the world. It stopped at 19 stations along the way and managed to hit a top speed of almost 20 mph. Not being the most patient person I was moaning most of the way but Abi managed to keep me entertained…. needless to say, we caught a cab back! We went to a Thai restaurant with Pam & Jan (who we had an Indian with last weekend), Wendy (Pam’s sister), Lyndal & Ryan (Wendy’s 2 children), Marion (Pam’s other sister) & Cameron (one of her sons) – they drove up from Coolamon yesterday (just over 5hrs away). We then went back to Pam & Jan’s for coffee. It was a really lovely evening.

Tomorrow is New Years Eve and this is where Sydney outshines most of the world. Arguably the second largest celebration in the world with an estimated 1.2 million people watching the spectacle around the harbour (click here for a video of last years celebrations). Rio comes first with an estimated 2 million people on Copacabana Beach. This years theme is based around the Wizard of Oz, kids have to click their heels at 9:08 to see something special projected onto the bridge. You might be able see from the picture below what will be displayed on the bridge at midnight. It’s a coat hanger and a diamond. The coat hanger represents the bridges nickname and next year is the 75th anniversary of its completion.


Below is a list of the events occurring in the lead up to midnight:

1pm - Firing of the Fort Denison Cannon
2pm - Tiger Moth and Boeing Stearmans Flyover
3pm - Convair CV580 Flyover
4pm - Pitt Specials Flyover
5pm - Fire Tug Display and Microlights Flyover
6pm - Sky Writing
7pm - Ringing of the Bell Towers
8pm - Indigenous Welcome Ceremony - Sydney Harbour
9pm - Family Fireworks & Harbour of Light Parade
10pm - Mini Light Show - Sydney Harbour Bridge
11pm - Mini Light Show - Sydney Harbour Bridge
Midnight - Fireworks & Bridge Effect

Abi and I will be out and about tomorrow morning but intend to spend the evening back at our apartment. We’ve got some friends coming over and plan to watch the fireworks from our balcony. We have a great view of the bridge and part of the harbour. Darling Harbour (next to the hotel) is also having a firework display and we should be able to see that too if the fireworks extend above the buildings! I’ll be updating the blog tomorrow night as the celebrations progress so keep an eye on the site.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 26th

I’d booked to go out for a ‘Boxing Day Lunch Cruise’ to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. (Have a look at the web site, it's quite interesting) The weather forecast had been rotten for the start so it was a pleasant surprise to wake up to a blue sky. As Abi recalls from her whale watching expedition the water can change once you’re out of the harbour so we had our fingers crossed.

A brief history of the race….Founded in 1945 the first winner took 6 days, 14 hours to go from Sydney, down the coast of New South Wales and across the Bass Straight to Tasmania. In 2005 the yacht Wild Oats (the current race leader) completed the course in 1 day, 18 hours!!! Most people will remember the 1998 race when a storm hit and 5 yachts sank with a loss of 6 lives.

We boarded the boat at 11:30 and found we weren’t sitting next to a window. With a full compliment of passengers we weren’t going to be able to move. Bummer!!! However, once we had ordered our drinks we went out on deck and had a perfect view of the proceedings. We left Darling Harbour and made our way towards the sea stopping at Shark Island, the official start line. To us it looked like every boat in Australia was there. I’m sure you could walk across the harbour without getting your feet wet.

We went back inside for lunch (not bad for a buffet and plenty of choice for fussy Abi) and came back on deck at 12:45 to watch the start. All the sightseeing boats seemed to move away from the middle of the harbour at the same moment to leave room for the yachts. It was quite strange to watch. The yachts were milling about trying to get in position before a canon was fired at 1pm. It looked like a mass of sails to me but apparently there were a number of different strategies at play. The canon fired (no boom but we saw a lot of smoke) and the yachts dashed off round the head on their three day journey to Hobart.

That’s about it really. Nice trip back to Darling Harbour, some shopping on the way back, coffee at StarBucks and an early night. Then into work today!!!!! :-(

Monday 25th

Well ….. we had to keep saying ‘Merry Christmas!’ as never a more un-christmassy feeling day has there been. We got ready and went downstairs to catch a cab. Driving around, it could have been any day of the week or the year. Arrived at Fiona & Justin’s (my friends Sister & Brother-In-Law) just gone 11:45 and were ushered into the garden with a strawberry dachari (mmmm!). Ciaran (who’s 3) decided that he’d ignore us totally on arrival, but then about 15 minutes later, Rob had a new fan and ‘Robbie you have to come to my room’ was heard (Rob here: Please note that only 3 year old can call me Robbie!!!!!) We then lost Robbie (!!) with Thomas the Tank Engine & friends!! Lunch was in full swing, with the BIGGEST ham in the world being cooked (in an oven in the garden) and masses of vegetables and a turkey too. The table had been extended and everything looked fabulous, there were 14 (I think) of us and it was a super, super day. Rob and I were even lucky enough to get some pressies (consumable and gorgeous) and were made to feel really welcome, it was lovely. It was really rather odd being able to sit in the garden after dinner and not have to hide under (generally new) fleeces and jumpers! It was also lovely to be in a house with a couple of dogs too … both very well behaved and suitably friendly! Unusually for Rob though, there are no photos of the dougles, so we’ll have to visit again and rectify that (for you Mum, one of the dogs is a beautiful golden retriever and she’s lovely).

Rob and I got a cab back home and snuggled down to watch a movie (after a few phone calls as Christmas Day in the UK was just beginning). We watched United 93, which is about the fourth plane to be hijacked on September 11th. It probably wasn’t the most festive of movies but it was thought provoking. The flight departed from Newark Airport in New Jersey. Rob lived about 20 minutes away and remembers that day like it was yesterday. Anyway, we won’t dwell on it anymore but check out some of the links below.

Sunday 24th

Again ‘the plan’ was to catch the ferry to one destination or another (nothing fixed) and then go for a coastal walk. One plan was to go to Manley and walk to the heads (harbour to ocean) which by all accounts will take about an hour each way, which sounded like a great plan. When we got up the sky was cloudy but it has been clearing by early afternoon, so I popped a strappy top in the rucksack (not wanting to suffer huge ‘lines’ like I did the other day) – and off we set. However, by the time we’d walked up through the town the clouds got thicker and the rain started, not just a few spots but a huge downpour! We hid under a shop awning and bought a coffee thinking we’d found a sheltered spot. That was fine until we sat down and the awning decided it couldn’t cope with the weight of the water and tipped a huge amount into Rob’s coffee and onto his lap!

We decided to scrap the walk and head down to the Rocks for a late lunch. The Rocks is the birthplace of modern Sydney. Click on the link for more info. The photo below shows the restaurant we finally settled on. (For those of you who’ve had the video, this is where I ordered my pig!!) Another couple of downpours later, we emerged fully fatted and walked round to the Opera House whilst waiting for our ferry home! One thing I love about Sydney is the ferries. It’s a great way to travel, especially on sunny days. Unfortunately it was pouring down but being of hardy stock we decided to don our plastic macs and sit outside.

Once back, we decided to celebrate Christmas a little early. So we opened a bottle of champagne and some pressies. I had a super ‘all you could need’ box of BodyShop goodies and proceeded to have a bath and try out every one…. Fan-tas-tic! Went to bed smelling yummy!

Saturday 23rd

The plan was to get up early, walk round to the Opera House, pick up our tickets for the concert and then come back, get ready and go out for lunch .. as it happens, we got up (late) – lounged about, got ready and walked down to Darling Harbour to meet Jan & Pam, my cousins (a number of times removed) for lunch! As we walked out of the apartment the already grey clouds brought rain. Rob and I are determined not to buy anything warm or waterproof on this trip to Australia so we just had to suffer (every time we've been here we've had to buy something to counter the weather and as it's supposed to be summer now, it ain't gonna happen again!!). As it happens it only managed a few spots, bringing with it humidity – so thank goodness for air conditioning! I’ve met Pam a couple of times for lunch (she works in the city) but neither Rob or I have met with her Norwegian husband Jan (pronounced Yan). It was a really lovely couple of hours, time to catch up and hear about all the different countries, life-styles and Christmas customs. Lunch was delicious, we ordered various dishes & tried a little of everything, one of those ordered was beef vindaloo, but in fairness it wasn’t as ‘hot’ as Rob’s normal madras, so no fire breathing antics!

We then walked round to StarBucks for the obligatory coffee and said our goodbyes. From there we walked back to the apartment for a quick change and off to the Opera House. When we got back to the room though, we had a lovely surprise from the guest relations lady we’ve known since our first stay here – we had a bag containing a bottle of chilled champagne, teas, biscuits, chocolates & Christmas candy canes with a card – it was really lovely! We caught the ferry there and walked (only a short one) from Circular Quay – straight in, picked up the tickets and to our seats. The hall was pretty well full and the concert was great – very festive and full of good cheer. There was a sing-a-long ‘three white boomers’ which we deduced was referring to Kangaroos as everyone was ‘boing-ing’ about the stage. At the end of the show they got the kiddies up for an encore. As always a little one stole the show, he must only have been about 2 and looked totally bemused and dazed by the whole thing. He eventually got the hang of how to ‘bounce’, much to everyone’s delight & applause! That finished relatively early (20:00hr-ish) so we walked back via Coles (shop) for a few bits and bobs and then home.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

First blog of Christmas

Friday 22nd December - It’s the end of the week and Christmas is just around the corner (yeah!) – everyone’s packing up early and Rob’s been given early release and has booked a cab for 15:00hrs. I’ve an appointment with the Fire Brigade to introduce the products to another 3 guys and then just need to catch up on some reports and freedom for me too! It’s weird to think that if we were still home everyone would’ve been packing up from 09:00 … nothing normally goes on in the run up to Christmas, whereas here it’s like ‘just another day’ – no decorations up, no Christmas songs on the radio, no real Christmas trees (they’ve got frames, wrapped in tinsel and then decorated). The day started overcast, but soon cleared, and warmed up. Rob & I met for a coffee when he got home from work, then I went off to get my hair cut and so did Rob.

All trimmed and smart, we went out for a few drinks with some of Rob’s colleagues. One guy was leaving (who Rob had worked with on and off for ages, in the UK & here), so we caught the tram from under Star City and went a couple of stops to Glebe. We then walked to the pub / hotel, sat outside and partook in a couple of wines! We then went on to a Tapas bar and apart from the octypus (complete with suckers) it was lovely! The trams are supposed to run every 10 – 15 mins … so we went back to the tram stop and waited …. waited …. waited … one went in the wrong direction and yet we still waited … then we decided to walk. As it turned out not an unwise decision; we followed the road round, passed the Fish Markets and on to the hotel – tram stop to door in less than 15minutes!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Boring bunch of b***ers!!!!

I just wanted to thank everyone ever so much for all the comments, emails and text messages at this special time. I haven't got time to read them all now but will reply after the holidays :-)

Can you all sense the sarasm?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Christmas from 'Down Under'......

Happy Christmas to one and all. We're off now, updates resume next week.


Jungle Bells the Aussie Way

Dashing through the bush,
in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust,
esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side,
singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in
my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut !,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine's getting hot;
we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard,
he is welcome too.
All the family's there,
sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way,
by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut !,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon,
Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce,
are swimming in their clothes.
The time comes 'round to go,
we take the family snap,
Pack the car and all shoot through,
before the washing up.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut !,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.


TRANSLATION for the Brits

- Ute = Pickup Truck
- Kelpie = Dog
- Singlet = T-shirt (but think Bruce Willis in Die Hard!!)
- Thongs = Flip Flops
- Swaggie = Hitch Hiker
- Eskie = Cool Box

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Is Bill reading?

One quick posting...I'm able to gather certain statistics on the site. Nothing incriminating but I can see where people came from, where they went, what they read and some limited information about their PC. Anyway, guess who was looking at the site today!!!!!

Oh and before you ask, I do actually work while I'm here. :-)

Blog #50!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wooo Hooo

Abi has just sent me a blog update but I wanted to add a few words before I post her comments. This is going to be a long blog so grab a coffee first.....!! OK, are you ready, here goes.

I often browse the net at lunch time, looking for news and gossip. Today I came across a blog written by Scott Adams. For those of you who haven’t heard of him he’s the creator of Dilbert, a cartoon strip about offlce life. If you work in an office you’ll find it hilarious, if you don’t it’s still funny. Please have a read of his blog, it's funny but also thought provoking. With blogging in mind I’ve added a section on the right hand side called ‘My blogs of Note’. There are some great blogs out there and I feel it’s my duty to bring them to your attention. Keep looking as it will be updated regularly.

I also thought I’d share out plans for the holidays. One of my colleagues is leaving at the end of the year, another causality of outsourcing, so we are meeting for a few beers on Friday night. On Saturday we’re meeting Abi’s relatives for lunch then it’s off to the Opera house for ‘Christmas Carols at the House’. I thought it might get us in the right frame of mind for the holidays. Sunday we are out on the harbour subject to the weather. I want to have lunch in Manly and then head up to the northern beaches. Christmas day will be spent with a friend’s family experiencing a real Aussie Christmas. On Boxing Day we’ve booked a cruise on the harbour to watch the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart (Tasmania) race. I’m back at work on Wednesday but we plan to go to the cinema in the week courtesy of some friends (thanks for the Tickets Murray, Jules and Alex!!!). We’re also going to the park to watch a movie ‘under the stars’. Not sure what else we plan to do but we aim to make it a Christmas to remember. Oh, just forgot we are here for one of the best New Year celebrations on the planet. Sydney NYE!!!!. Anyway, it’s time to hand over to the Abster.

Well, getting ready to leave Perth, was going to spend an hour down the beach to try and get some sun, but really the sun needs to be out to allow you to catch some rays . so I thought I'd do a little update instead. Can't say I'm sorry to be leaving - not just because I'm looking forward to seeing Rob and breaking his peace & quiet or because we've got a few days off and it's going to be Christmas, but it's been a frustrating few days.

The trip has been good and bad - very frustrating with regards work and attitudes, we've had a few (not so diplomatic at times) words, but will have to wait and see how it is taken forward. Got a meeting with the MD of the new company & the Integration Manager again before I come back home, so am compiling a report of 'how it is' and 'how to move forward' and then I'll hand it over and all being well, will be able to walk away.

I can't believe Christmas is now just around the corner. I went out with the girls from the office for cocktails and dinner last night, which was really nice - but we were able to sit outside (a cool breeze came in about 8:30 - but Perth is known for what they call the 'doctor' . which is the cool air to take away the humidity) however, no Christmas lights in the town, they've got some lights in a tree opposite the hotel, but it would help if they turned them on so you could see them!!? I've had some pressies from the girlies here though, which was lovely - but it still feels odd.. I know your hearts are bleeding for me!

Rob tells me the sun is out in Sydney, so all being well it'll stay for a day! I'm under instruction to arrive quietly tonight as he'll be on a telecom with India when I'm due back to the apartment . it's gonna be a tough call, but I'm sure I'll manage!

Been getting reports of -2oC and frost from the UK, so hope you're all keeping warm and wrapped up . make lots of stews and snuggle under the duvet with a good movie x

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

‘There's a smell in here that will outlast religion’

Random thoughts from Rob……

Abi - Still in Perth but it’s her last day. She should land in Sydney around 8:30 tomorrow night. Peace and quite ends!!!

The Environment – Both Holden (GM) and Ford have reported increased sales of V8’s in Australia. Who the heck needs a 5.7 litre car in this traffic? Remember the environment and the ozone layer please.

Cabs – Plenty of reports in Sydney about cab drivers charging extra in the run up to the holidays. Seems that they were quoting $100 - $200 AUD premiums at last weekends Robbie Williams concert. One cabbie was quoted as saying ‘It’s market forces at work!! If they don’t like it they can walk!!!’. Charming!!

Mash Ups – Wikipedia defines this as ‘assembling new songs from elements of other tracks’. Not to be confused with remixing or recycling. To me this is mixing two tracks/videos together to create something very different. Apparently this goes back to 1950’s but can be traced back even further. However, digging even further it does sound more like remixing but anyway, have a look at these examples and tell me if it’s not a stroke of genius.

Nirvana and Destiny’s Child, TLC and Busted, Westlife, The Foo Fighters and Chirstina, Pussy Cat Dolls and Kool & the Gang (I have to say this is far, far better than the orginal)

Kenny – Proving that Australian Cinema is as oddball as it ever. This is a film about a guy who works for a port-a-loo company in Melbourne. Some fantastic insights into the world of portable dunnies. A good film, great actor, some light relief!!!! More please. I’ll leave you with some wonderful quotes.

'I don't know what all the fuss is about, it's 80% water and we've got chemicals to take care of the remaining 20’

‘Just watch it in there mate. That machine, once you press that flusher, that thing will probably suck your guts out through your bum’

Have fun. More surprises to come at the weekend

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Smoking Gun....

I've just found the Hecklerspray web site. For all those people that don't take life too seriously or those that want another slant on life.

Remember, tomorrow I'm going to be discussing blues and it's impact on modern music. In preparation for this I thought I would share my introduction to blues with you. I caught a video of Robert Cray singing Smoking Gun on MTV way back in 1988. I've followed Robert Cray ever since and managed to see him on several occasions. The most notable being at the New Orleans Aquarium in 2002. I was attending a conference and he was co hosting the evenings entertainment with Blues Traveler (another outstanding Blues Band). I stood at the foot of the stage and he even posed while I took a picture. You have to love Blues lyrics. Always singing about failed relationships.

Pop Quiz - a) What was the year and location of the blues festival shown in the video? b) The video is part of the ?????? ????????? Sessions. c) What club did he film in? Easy, just watch the video closely. First correct answers wins a prize. Remember I've just got back from the Hunter Valley so it could be worth taking the time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hunter Valley

We’ve just come back from a wonderful weekend in the Hunter Valley. Leaving Sydney at the crack of dawn on Saturday (yup! we really were up at 6:00 at the weekend!) we spent a couple of hours at the Australian Reptile Park. It’s an interesting place albeit a little small. I’m not really a fan of zoos, I’m sure the animals would rather be out in the wild than pacing some little cage. We arrived IN THE RAIN enough of a down pour to buy and wear attractive plastic 'capes' (as seen in photo) - fortunately it didn't last too long, but we had a couple of really heavy showers! Also, bare in mind it was a 'Reptile Park' ... there was a small snake 'walk through' (which Rob loved!) a couple of 'pits' with some lizard type things (most of the labels were unreadable, so my knowledge wasn't broadened ... this ignorance isn't solely my fault) - then there were birds, koals, wallabys and giant tortoises - not very reptilian. Oh! the spider section was good though and they were also collecting venum from a really rather big spider who looked a little hacked off with being poked with a tube - funnily enough. Sorry, I've missed out the alligator section (lots as they are obviously native Australian!!) and one croc (with 3 legs, as 4th bitten off by a suitor, he'd already killed a number though [he's not the most loving], so he deserved it by all accounts!)

From here we drove on to Pokolbin and had a fantastic lunch at a local vineyard. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the place and will have to wait for Abi to check the receipt - [oh fountain of knowlege here ... it was: Jeffs Grill] I sampled a few of the local wines while Abi stuck to water (she was driving :-(). Properly fed we decided to take in a couple of vineyards and do a little ‘wine tasting’. Rob wanted to go back to Rosemont Estate, where he'd had a fabulous lunch a couple of years ago, but the Rosemont we found looked like an old wooden School House, very pretty, but not really the big corporate image you'd expect. The vineyard Rob had gone to is no longer open to the public as it was a way off (an additional hour) and not many people made the journey ... On the way back to the hotel ‘eagle eyed’ Abi spotted a ‘mob’ of Kangaroo’s in a field. We then had to park up and walk back down the highway and take some photo’s... it was fab! there were atleast 30, some were playing (or fighting - hard to tell!!) some were standing and have a scratch, some were eating - every now and again one would 'boing' along :-) it was great, until some other car stopped and 2 of the people got out and walked into the field and scared them all off ... I wasn't happy!

That evening we sat on the veranda with glass of wine in hand and watched another group of kangaroo’s bounce out of next doors vineyard and hop across a field. It was a perfect evening.

On Sunday we had brunch at the hotel on what was turning out to be lovely day weather wise. The weather has been pretty bad so far. Quite cold and overcast but the sun finally appeared and it was time to get a tan. We spent what was left of the day wandering round the ‘Hunter Valley Gardens’, which were great actually - lots of water, birds & plants (everything you'd expect really!) but very well laid out and there was a 'story book corner' - you can see the photos of Rob & I sitting at the Alice in Wonderland table - it was great! We then took the scenic drive back home to Sydney.

Abi left for Perth this morning (getting up at 03:30 for a 06:00 flight!! AND Perth is 2 hours behind, so that was 01:30 their time ... brains must be missing!) and will be back on Thursday evening. I’m sure she’ll be updating the blog once she’s read my pathetic attempt (you're just hunting for compliments - it was a great resume, I just 'bulk'!!). I've uploaded a few photo's so please check out the links on the left hand side.

Speak soon.

Friday, December 15, 2006

a little update .... 14/12/06

Well I started a little resume last night, and then the laptop re-booted itself thanks to some updates being applied, so we’ll have to start again :-). In fairness this week has been pretty much work driven, so on an exciting ‘gossip’ front, there is nothing! BUT today is Friday - yeah!! and the weekend starts h-e-r-e!!

My company have been bought out – this all happened late last week and has been ‘in the wings’ for a few weeks now, it’s just a shame I missed the introductory meeting, but I understand that it’s pretty much ‘carry on as is’ for the time being. I’m sure changes will be introduced, but for the moment, nothing drastic. The company are a big American corporation, so I’m sure some of their ethics and structure will be brought in, but I can’t see anything negative – I do however reserve the right to change my mind! It's funny how differently companies do things, as Rob's company have just been through the same process I could compare, but in fairness, there is no comparison. He's had letters and emails and updates throughout the process, I didn't. When it all went through he got a letter & a welcome pack ... I got an email from the new MD saying, 'it's gone through, it's official - here's a weblink ...' how poor is that?!!

There is an arm of the company in Australia, so I went and met with them yesterday morning (the MD and the Logistics Manager) – they will be seeing how they can take the Australian Office further, so it’s all quite exciting. It was all fortuitous timing too as I had a 2nd meeting with the NSW Fire Brigade that afternoon and some of the work they want done – they might be able to assist with and if it all comes off it’ll be an order in excess of £24k (pounds nor Aussie Dollars) for the first stage, so fingers crossed.

I’ve had the sat-nav working over here – I fell out with it first day as I drove around for 20mins and then just made my way back to the hotel and started again!! … some of the roads are shut in the morning (ie giving access to the Bridge) but obviously this doesn’t register on sat-nav … I should’ve at least looked what direction I needed to have been heading in & I wouldn’t have been so frustrated – lesson learnt! On the whole though, the traffic, although heavy, does move and that’s more than can be said for London.

Yesterday was an absolute stunner weather wise, today it’s been grey and drizzly all day, so a good day to be stuck at the laptop. I think Rob’s mentioned we’re off to a wildlife park tomorrow morning, so the plan is to leave here at 07:30 [yup! you read that correctly!!] I thought we were going to a park where you can cuddle things, but by all accounts it's a reptile park (there is a cuddly one, but it's in the wrong direction ... but who needs to look at a map eh?! - me! obviously!! ... I think I'm just surprised Rob's up for going to a reptile one - if I get him to hold a snake, I'll be sure to take lots of piccies! There is a crocodile with 3 legs [so I've been told] and aligators) & then onto the Hunter Valley for a sedate lunch and some wine sampling – the weather’s destined to improve by Sunday... but then looking at the forecast it's still overcast with a chance of rain until end of next week. The weather for Perth is better, shame I’m going to be in the office – all being well the evenings will be nice and I’ll have chance to have a look round and do a little Christmas shopping for Rob’s stocking!!

We went for a walk tonight and I bought him some sandals (no laughing) but as he had to try them on, I can't really wrap them up and get away with that one ... but they are really great and yes, don't fret - I managed to find myself a pair too! (or should that be - two?!?). Right, pizza's done - so off to have some tea :-) more news after the weekend of exploring xx

Thursday, December 14, 2006

You aint never caught a rabbit..

I’ve had some feedback today….woooo hoooo!!!! My mum emailed me to say that my music ‘is way above her head’. So I thought I’d post something different to show that I appreciate music in general. I’ve attached a clip of Elvis Presley singing Hound Dog on the ‘The Milton Berle’ show, June 5th 1956. This was a ground breaking appearance which sparked controversy over Elvis’s gyrations. It led to an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in September 1956 which drew an estimated 82% of the US TV audience.

This actually links quite well with next week’s posting on the Blues. People think of Elvis as a ‘Rock & Roll’ artist performing cheesy songs in Vegas wearing very tight suits. That might be how he ended his career but it started in a very different way. Born in Mississippi he was influenced by Country, Gospel and Blues. Moving to Memphis, TN just after the war he spent his spare time on Beale Street (officially home of the blues, see picture on the left) which was lined with clubs showcasing the blues in its many forms. People such as BB King, Muddy Waters, Albert King and Louis Armstrong have performed there. His first recordings were at Sun Studio’s (pictured) just outside downtown Memphis. I’ve actually been in that recording studio (with Dad & Pam) and held the microphone he used. Standing there and hearing a recording of Elvis laugh and joke with Sam Phillips (the owner) and Jerry Lee Lewis was an experience I’ll never forget. The funniest thing was visiting Gracelands and Pammy saying 'it gave her goosebumps' just being there. Anyway, more on that next week. Enjoy.


I'm done, shoot your gun.....

Nothing much to report so far. I've just helped roll out some system changes across Western Australia. Everythings gone to plan and work is continuing as normal. No reports from the end users which is always a good thing. If its going to plan all you hear is silence, its when things go wrong that the phone starts ringing. Abi and I are off to the Hunter Valley this weekend. Leaving at the crack of dawn on Saturday!!! Abi then leaves for Perth Monday morning. I'll post some updates Sunday evening.

In the meantime I found this on You Tube. Sound quality isn't great but it gives you an idea. Isn't this great :-). Come on guys get with the program and join in.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Musical Update

While we are on a musical theme today I'd like to have one last word before I hit the sack. That word in PANDORA. I've mentioned this web site before and I can't stress how cool it is. An online radio station where you are the DJ.

I'm not just talking pop music, it's going to contain every recorded song and I mean every one. Each song has been analysed by an expert noting up to 400 specific attributes. That information is then used to tailor your station(s). It's free all you have to do is register. Check out the FAQ and About sections for more information. Have a go and you'll be hooked. If anything it's a fantastic way to find new music.

Finally a musical quote which had me in stitches 'Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn' ~Charlie Parker

Music Appreciation – Part One

I’m done, shoot your gun; I think it’s time to take it back to where we started from….’ The opening lyrics from James Morrisons ‘Stop the Police’, a classic in its own CD case.

Welcome to the first edition of my music appreciation blog. I’ve got a spare 30 minutes at lunchtime and thought I would share my love of music with everyone. This is a global edition, it seems people are reading this from all over, Australia, UK, Germany, Spain and even the US. Fantastic!!!.

Anyway, back to James Morrison. This guy has shot up the Album chart with a great CD, ‘Undiscovered’. Released in July 2006 it's not quite on par with some other classic first releases such as Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ and Macy Gray’s ‘Oh How Life Is’ but not bad first stab. A Rugby boy born into a troubled family his uncle introduced him to the blues when he was 13. From there he started to develop his own sound using his life as a canvas. Q Magazine says ‘Approach with Wonder’, I say sit back, listen, enjoy and don't take it too seriously.

Click here for further information and look at the download section. I recommend starting with ‘Wonderful World’, followed by ‘You Give Me Something’ and then ‘Call the Police’. Beg, borrow, shoplift or download this album, it's worth listening to.

Checking out the Guardian review of this CD they put forward some interesting facts. Over 40's now spend more on music than under 30's and women over 49 buy twice as much as those under 20. Hence all these awful middle of the road bands such as Il Divo. Whoever compiled this information probably forgot to take into account illegal downloading and file sharing. That must account for the contents of most under 30's iPods.

More next Wednesday when I'll cover and introduction to the Blues, the foundation of modern music.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dad....So What?

Just uploaded some photo's to Flickr. Click here for our Aussie Christmas photo set. We'll be updating this as time goes by. I'd also like to add to Abi's posting yesterday. On Saturday we walked from our Hotel, ROUND the rocks, took a ferry to Neutral Bay and then walked back OVER the bridge. When we got back to Circular Quay Abi suggested we walk back to the hotel as the ferry wasn't leaving for 10 minutes!!!!! Fan-tas-tic!!! :-)

My Dad wanted some Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. I think I confused things with my earlier posting about Barcelona. I was refering to a style rather than the music itself. I couldn't find Miles and Dizzy together but below we have Miles Davis and John Coltrane performing 'So What' live on stage in 1958. I'm more of a Herbie Hancock fan myself. Enjoy, more Aussie exploits to come. (Dad, once this page has loaded click on the Play arrow in the middle of the video twice (slowly, not quickly!!!). Might take a while to load. I hope you enjoy it.).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Summer in Sydney...?

Well, here I sit looking out on a black sky, listening to the thunder rumble in the back ground and the odd flash of lightening catching the corner of my eye ... no rain to speak of yet, but it's not looking too much like a 'hot summer evening'!

We've had a good 30+ degrees today though, so this may well clear the air or just make way for the next 'wave'. Most mornings have been overcast and relatively dull since I arrived on Thursday, but from midday onwards the clouds clear and the sky is blue! There have been some great breezes too at the moment, so that's keeping things feeling cooler - although going down towards South Australia, they're really suffering with both the heat and the wind, pushing the forrest fires. Melbourne is covered with a grey fog, caused by the fires; they are reporting the temperatures being the highest they've been since 1980, it's been pushing 40degrees+ in Wagga (so Mum & Dad, not a good time to plan any trips to Shirley & Trevor!).

I had a good trip over, apart from sitting next to a guy who talked .... consistently .... now, I know I can talk with the best of them, but I'd also like to think that I'm quite good at picking up on body language.. should someone pretend to be a sleep whilst I'm talking, I do believe I would take the hint and STOP! The worst thing was his wife was sitting 3 rows back and I even tried the 'would you like me to swap seats with her so you can sit together', but no (and that was shouted by her!!). In fairness he was a nice guy, but I like to sleep my way through those hours. Just after we boarded again at Thailand (the flight was a lot emptier) he had a bit of a turn and they sat him with his wife anyway - she came over and said he'd got 'confused' and wasn't sure who all the passengers were or where he was, so I hope they got to NZealand ok.

We had a number of delays - even taking off from Heathrow, as we sat on the tarmac for over an hr, then in Thailand someone decided not to carry on to Sydney, so they had to find and off load his bags. I had thought that I could just arrive at the hotel in time to see Rob (fleetingly) prior to him having to go to work, but as it happens, we didn't even 'cut it fine', it wasn't cut at all! I unpacked (recalling fully the email I had saying that the apartment lacked some 'abi-mess'), made myself feel slightly human again (by way of shower) and went shopping (to stock the fridge) & to the post office for my mum! :-) I then sat in the square opposite the hotel with a coffee and a book and waited for Rob to come home. Later that evening we went for a walk around a bit of Darling Harbour which we've not been round before, they've just built a number of flats on a pier, I guess you'd call it - and then went for a yummy Thai.

The evenings are so much nicer now, last time we were here it was dark by 5 but now it's 8ish, which makes a huge difference. We've been for evening strolls, swimming, coffee ... it's just nice. Over the weekend we had a good walk around on Saturday and on Sunday I hired a car & we headed over to the Telstra Sadium, Sydney Olympic Park - it's where Chris & I had the exhibition back in October, but we didn't have time to look around. Rob & I got a tour around the stadium, which was really interesting - how they changed the seating after the Olympics and how they can actually move the stadium seating 15mtrs in and out (depending on what sport is being played) - 45ish feet .... very impressive. They also announced with considerable pride how they came in on budget and 6mths early ..... I get the feeling that we won't be boasting the same statistics! (although by all accounts they were able to work 24 / 7 & didn't have a day of rain ... further statistics we won't share!). On the way home we stopped and had a 'coastal walk' watching lots of doggies playing and springing in and out of the water - it was great!

I had an appointment today with Qantas Defence at a RAAF Base near Richmond, it was very interesting seeing some of the planes & how much of an overhaul they do, some take up to 18mths. Tomorrows appointments may be delayed, I'm still waiting on some calls back but Wednesday is fully booked. Rob's got some late nights coming up this week, there is a roll out & telecons to be had - but things appear to be going well (I don't want to speak too soon) - no new grey hairs have been spotted!!

Well, I think that's enough for you to be going on with! I hope all you sick people are feeling better, all your snuffles are going & legs improving xx

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Can a woman park...?

Couple of interesting articles on ‘The Times Online’ today (I usually logon to the Sun or Daily Star but got a little confused this morning). The first is about Valet Parking which doesn’t sound that exciting until you check out ‘Valet Girls’!!!! Great idea, interesting concept, do they franchise? See their website here.

I also found an article about about driving by Alistair Cook (English Batsman). He made an interesting comment on Australian driving ‘“They are such bad drivers. They can’t drive quickly — they dawdle at 30mph on a three-lane motorway, for goodness sake. And they have these really wide roads that they could be using so much more.” I'd like to make a couple of observations a) Some roads have a 50km limit, which is 30mph b) If he has ever driven in Sydney he would know that the roads are VERY narrow and c) is he expecting to make any friends while he's down here? I have to agree but then the Brits drive too fast. It should be noted that this comes from a guy who drives a bright orange Ford Focus and can’t see the little red balls the Aussie bowlers chuck at him. See the rest of the article here http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22750-2480512,00.html

Abi arrived in Sydney this morning, an hour and a half later than planned. It seems BA is as punctual as as Virgin. I had to leave for work before she arrived at the hotel but I’m looking forward to seeing her tonight.

Finally, a note to my readers. I know people are reading this blog, not as many as usual, but people are reading it. So let’s have some feedback. An artist suffers without feedback from his loyal readers. So for all technophobes (Herb & Dad!!!!) I’ve written some instructions. It’s simple.

1. Click on the comments link underneath the particular entry
2. Enter your comments
3. Click on ‘Other’ and enter your name or alias
4. Hit Publish.

Job done, it’s simple. So sis, I know you were reading the blog at lunchtime yesterday, so leave a comment, don’t be lazy!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's over before it really began

Flight ABI 009 left a cold, damp UK bound for the warm shores of Australia at 22:30 last night. As I write this she’s somewhere over Eastern Europe. Probably above one of the former soviet states ending with ~stan. She gets into Bangkok about 10:00 UK time and finally reaches Sydney at 19:10 UK/06:10 Thursday local time. Unfortunately I have to work tomorrow and the shuttle bus will probably leave just as she’s pulling into the hotel. :-( B**GER!!!

I’ve been reading back through the blog and realised that Abi and I have yet to comment on our trip to Barcelona. Although looking forward to the weekend I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful place to wander around and the architecture is so varied. From modern hotels to gothic buildings to Gaudi’s masterpieces. We walked for hours and covered a lot of the city centre. The highlight was walking back form La Sagrada Familia (bit of a building site) to the hotel on the last day. It took a while but it was such a nice afternoon, perfect for walking. We found a great café in a residential area and had a wonderful lunch for a fraction of the cost they charge tourists downtown. Fantastic.

While on the subject of architecture I thought I would mention my favourite building. New York’s Chrysler Building, slightly ahead of the Rockefeller Center and my own humble abode. La Sagrada Familia is interesting but it won’t be finished in my time. ‘Walter P. Chrysler wanted a provocative building which would not merely scrape the sky but positively pierce it.’ I’d be interested to see what other people think. Please stagger your comments as I’m having difficulty coping with the volume :-)

Wonderful headline in the Telegraph today, ‘All is lost after foolish final day’. I would imagine the red tops are a lot less restrained. Looks like England’s Cricket team has lived up to expectations. Seriously though, not everyone can be a winner. At least they can relax and enjoy the sights. Hahahaha

Quote for the day. 'If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven't understood the seriousness of the situation' David Brent

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I've seen the future

Nearly bumped into a guy called Alan Border today, apparently he’s some sort of Aussie Cricket legend!!!! Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, is also staying in the hotel. Now he is someone I would have recognised. I have to say that cricket is not a sport that interests me although it’s good to see we're putting up a bit of a fight after the hammering we received in the first test. No, let me correct that last statement. I’ve just checked the BBC website and we’re 75-4. Not good!!!

I had an email from my dad this morning. He reminded me of the 3-0 bashing Spurs took off Arsenal last weekend. Thanks Dad!!! I blame the bloody players, someone ought to. This is a team that nearly (and I mean very nearly) took 4th place in the premiership last year. If it wasn't for some dodgy food in a second rate Marriott hotel they would be playing in the Champions League. Everyone looks to the manager. Take Glen Hoddle and Graeme Souness for example, they were both useless. Mind you anyone that wants to manage Newcastle must need their bumps reading. This is one of the biggest clubs in England that excels at under performing. I blame Alan Shearer. However, the players have a responsibility to perform as a team. How can they beat Chelsea one week get spanked by Reading the next!!!!!

News on the new Ipod phone is buzzing round the internet. No details yet but I found this mocked up picture on the web. It’s all very exciting. If it’s anything like their other devices expect it to look very sexy, have around 30 minutes talk time, 2 hours on standby, it will only accept video calls from other iPod phone, won’t be compatible with anything running windows mobile, the only outlet for these will the Apple Store website and you will need a subscription to iTunes before it works.
Who knows, but I’m the sort of mug that would buy one. The expression Form over Function comes to mind. I'm not intent on bashing Apple, I love their products, just a little sarcasm coming to the surface.

I'd like to apologise for the ever changing blog layout. I get bored easily and I'm using a beta version of Blogger than allows me to change the layout with one click. I like the one click approach - Something that Amazon and iTunes have perfected. It makes it easier to spend money.

And my final comment for the day 'Ab-dabs arrives in 40 HOURS and 55 MINUTES!!!!!! Woooo Hooo'

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One Step Beyond

I've arrived in Sydney and I’m just recovering from the jet lag. An uneventful, if delayed flight caused by congestion over Amsterdam. Why they couldn’t have gone over Kent and Denmark I’ve no idea. It’s a pretty big sky, plenty of space to move around, you’d think people would use their initiative for a change. Perhaps the pilots are all using the same version of Tom Tom navigator!?!?! I woke up of Uzbekistan, not a very interesting view so I went back to sleep. I spent most of the flight sitting next to a Virgin Blue stewardess who wouldn’t shut up. Thankfully I managed to move on the HKG – SYD leg and get some peace and quiet.

Sydney was baking when I arrived, 30+ degrees and humid, but it cooled down later that afternoon and this evening its quite cold. The weather here is a little odd. One minute I’m sitting outside in a t-shirt having a flat white (coffee for you brits) and then, within the space of 30 minutes the temperature drops 10 degree’s. It felt like someone had turned the air conditioning on.

Work is going well, although nothing to get excited about. Plenty to keep me out of trouble over the next six weeks, including working over the holidays!!! Bugger!!! I’m doing a little Christmas shopping over the weekend and some advance planning for Abi’s arrival. I need to come up with some things to do while she’s here. A visit to the Cinema and the Hunter Valley are on the cards but any suggestions would be welcomed. Just click on the link underneath this entry to leave a comment.

I downloaded some Madness tracks on to my iPod before I left home. We received a free Madness Live CD in last Sunday’s daily mail. So with 24 hours to kill I thought I’d listen to something different. It bought back so many memories, flashbacks to school discos, the drainpipe trousers, white towelling sports socks, black loafers. Who can forget the opening line….’Good morning miss, can I help you son, 16 today and up for fun….’ singing about a 16 year old trying to buy some condoms. I think I’ll dig out some more 80’s classics, The Smiths (not Murray’s favourite, I have no idea why!!!), The Cult, The Cure, Talking Heads, Level 42, OMD, Japan…I could go on but I won’t.

On another note I found this interesting video on the 'Where the Hell is Matt' blog (see my earlier posting). I know it's stupid but isn't 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. Check out the guy doing the Robot dance. I spilt my coffee!!!!

Random thought of the day ‘If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?’ Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Watched this movie on the flight over. Thought provoking even if it was a aimed at an American audience. I recommend everyone should watch this. An Inconvenient Truth.

Updates to follow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On our way

We’ve been back from Barcelona for over a week now and I must apologise for neglecting our blog. It’s been a hectic 10 days getting ready to go down under for the holidays. Delivering presents, writing cards, sorting out the garden, cleaning the car and working out how someone my size packs for six weeks and keeps the luggage under the 32kg. I leave at the weekend and Abi follows me down 10 days later.

We’re both looking forward to spending time in Sydney although we will miss friends and family back home. We love the city and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of fun. Two invites to dinner on Christmas day and some idea of what to do on New Years Eve. Abi wants to watch the fireworks with 1.2 other people sitting on a blanket near the harbour. I want to watch it from my balcony sipping champagne and stuffing my face. Let’s see what we do.

Further updates will follow. For the moment here is a picture I found on the net of a typical Aussie xmas dinner.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jazz with Miles & Dizzy

Well the conference has finished and I’m all done – physically and emotionally. My brain is full to capacity and I need to take it easy this weekend. It was an enjoyable conference but probably aimed at someone far more technical than myself. Still, I attended some very interesting sessions on mobility and got the latest news on Microsoft products.

This weekend Abi and I are planning to explore the wonderful city of Barcelona. If you can get past the loud Americans and British Stag/Hen parties then it’s a great place to spend the weekend. Abi and I wandered around a little bit of the Gothic area last night, did a little window shopping & then sat outside a lovely restaurant drinking Rioja while watching the world go by. Perfect.

The hotel we’re staying at is awesome!!!!! The Cassa Camper. One of the best hotels we’ve EVER stayed at. Just off Las Ramblas near MOCBA (Museum of Contemporary Art). It’s on a quiet side street right in the middle of town. The location couldn’t be any better. It’s in a very old building yet has a modern feel to it. Only 25 rooms, so it’s not impersonal and every member of staff greets you as if you were a friend, but not in a ‘put on’ way. This is how hotels should be. Its a member of Design Hotels, a group of hotels 'united by progressive design'!!!

The Lobby is like a 50’s jazz club, with arty features, a map of Barcelona & then a seating area, where we can enjoy breakfast (made to order via a little ‘hatch’) in the 24hr self service area. This is equipped with snacks and drinks, salads, soups, pastries and in the morning cheeses & breads. The reception ‘desk’ is an informal (but organised) bar like area – so all in all, we are impressed and Rob will make me appreciate his hotel seeking skills for a while to come! (Rob’s just mentioned that
www.tripadvisor.com is the perfect place to start searching for hotels whenever you travel – so he’s not taking all the credit!)

Right, breakfast is about to arrive – so we’ll catch up later. More on the wonders of Barcelona to come.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Where the hell is Matt

Watch the video below (click on the picture) and ignoring the guys silly dance (it's quite funny really!!!) you'll be amazed at the places he got to. Interesting site, have a read too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tech-Ed update – Day 2 in Barcelona

Incoming brain overload!!!! There are way too many sessions, 7 sessions per day with around 10 presentations per session. I can’t go to all of them and I think my brain is going to explode. That’s not true really!!!!, it’s been very interesting and I’m looking forward to the last few days. I’ve focused on Architecture and Mobility, trying to figure out what the future may hold. Perhaps I should rephrase that and say ‘I’m looking at Microsoft’s vision of the future’

In response to Murrays comment, No, Mr Gates didn't grace us with his presence. I think he's somewhere saving the world or having lunch with Bono (what a muppet!!). A guy called Eric Rudder delivered the Key Note speach. He's senior VP (why do americans insist on calling executives VP's? LBJ, Gore, Ford and Nixon were VP's, these guys are directors). I didn't grace the session, this was partly due to BA's on time departure (there is some sarcasm here guys). As I was VERY late getting in to Barcelona I decided to have an extra hour in bed and miss the rush as registration.

What does the future hold for me in the wonderful world of outsourced development? Do I really want to be a paper pusher? Endless telephone conferences with people in remote places, awful hours and discussing the merits of left and right justification, font’s and sizes. The highlight of my year being the next release of Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. Noooooooo I’ve decided I’d like to work on developing myself into a solutions architect. Why I hear you ask. Well it seems an interesting career path to take. An ideas man, someone with a vision. I don’t want to regurgitate previous projects, I want to look to the future, innovate and stretch myself. I don’t want to work in the Strategy team; I’d rather do something that has some benefit to the business. I’d rather walk the walk than spend hours talking the talk. I want to come a recognised professional at what I do. Yeah!!!! I had an interesting discussion with a Microsoft Certified Architect yesterday (only 120 in the world). He’s given me some tips on how to develop my career. Further updates on this subject will appear shortly.

Oh and my blog has been published on the Conference Web Site (see picture). No idea why I submitted it, I just thought I would do it for a laugh. I don’t think any of the attendee’s will find it interesting but lets see if any leave some comments.

I’ve uploaded a few conference photos to our Flickr site. (Click on the Flicr link on the right hand side to see them). I’ve also started a Flickr map. Click here and have a play with it :-) I think it's a very cool way of looking at your photos.

More updates later!!! Have fun!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Return of Geek Boy

Well, here I am in cloudy Barcelona experiencing all that Microsoft has to offer. I’m attending Tech-Ed 2006, Microsoft’s conference for the top geeks in Europe.

Seriously though, it’s been interesting so far. A Key Note speech on the launch of Windows Vista & Office 2007, then a lecture on Application Architecture. This afternoon I’m attending lectures on Windows Mobile 2005 development and Business Process Modelling. If anyone wants to discuss this in detail please let me know.

More updates to follow….Keep watching this space and I'll share my innermost thoughts with you.

Be good...R


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Green and Pleasant Land

I'm back!!!!! My feet are on solid ground, I have a cup of tea in one hand and a marmite sarnie in the other (it's making it very difficult to type). No more rushing to the toilet, cleaning my hands every five minutes or worring if the bus next to us is going to run us off the road.

I've been asked if I've taken anything away with me. Thats something I need to think about for a while. At the moment I have no great desire to visit India again. It's not somewhere I would want to return to for pleasure or work.

On another note click on the Flickr pictures on the right hand side to see some photo's of my trip. I've also uploaded some photo's of the completed garden. We still have a lot of planting to do but it's looking good.

Abi is now on her way home and I imagine she's approaching Darwin about now. :-)

Friday, October 20, 2006

White Water Whale Watching...

The weather's been pretty shocking since we've been here (overcast, grey and generally chilly) so when I awoke yesterday morning to blue sky, the occasional white fluffy cloud and a cool breeze, I thought 'what better day to go seeking whales'. On the walk over the Darling Harbour Bridge I wished I'd put on my shorts rather than my jeans, it was baking - I felt silly for carrying not only a cardigan, but a jacket too (just light) and was grateful for the suntan lotion I'd sprayed around everywhere!

We bought our tickets and boarded the boat, we sat right on the top deck (of 3) and set off for stop 2 at Circular Quay, waited for people to board there too and once we were all sandwiched in (pretty full trip) off we set. The minute we turned the corner form C/Quay round towards Rose Bay the wind picked up, enough for me to put my cardi on. Within about 30 seconds the sun had disappeared, the clouds turned from fluffy white to dark grey and the 'gentle breeze' turned into a full on gale (another 'waste of hair product, time & effort' day!) and I then put my coat on and buttoned it up (fully!) colar turned up and everything.

We headed in the direction of Manley and then cut out to the ocean, heading into the waves & into the wind it got a little choppy, but all was well. One of the deck hands climbed up the mast (there must be health & safety issues about this!) to search the waves for whales, but after about 1.5kms out there was no sight, so we turned right and headed down the coast towards Bondi, once we'd turned the wind dropped right off and as we were going with and not against the current, the roll evened out too, so it was relatively easy to walk around and assist ourselves in the search. Just as we were about to head a little further out, a sighting was made. A mother & baby were 'blowing' up ahead. Once they've blown they then have 'down time' which can be anything up to 30mins, but the infants can only do this for about 5mins, so we didn't have long to wait until they came up again, but they obviously don't come up in the same spot so the hunt was on! The boats are allowed to get within 100mtrs (Dad, that'll be circa 300 feet) of the adults, but when with calves it's 200mtrs. We followed them around for a while trying to ascertain which direction they were going in & at one point the calf popped up right by the side of the boat & then appeared to go underneath us. Now this is obviously closer than we're permitted, but all it means is the boat is not to move or attempt to follow them. Sadly we didn't get any breaching (full jump out of water), all we saw were the dorsal fins (as per the picture) and a couple of 'tail up dives' but not as pronounced as the picture here (due to the wave height probably!). Whilst we were all enthalled & trying to take pictures, the clouds were banking up behind us and then a weather report came through about the rain, so we headed further out to try to avoid it (it didn't work) - there was a mad dash for cover and it poured down, obviously the wind picked up too and that was me done .. I had to sit down and shut eyes (with the comfort of a little sick bag I'd taken off the crew - just incase!) fortunately all remained where is should, but we spotted no more whales either :-(

I would, without a doubt, do it again, but they are easier to spot in calmer waters (by all accounts!) and obviously it makes for a slightly more relaxing trip! The thing to see is the breach - I know it's all luck of the draw, but how amazing would that be to see 'in the flesh'...?

We came back to the apartment, had a quick shower & rearranged 'mad hair' and then we went to dinner with Rob's friends sister & husband and had a super Vietnamesse meal (my first time - quite yummy) I even tried a little bit of Emu (don't all faint) it was very dark meat (and in veg & sauce), quite strong taste but I couldn't say of what.... well, Emu probably!!

The weather so far today is still grotty (but dry) - Rob's now back home and I'll be off tomorrow :-) off to the Maritime Museum this afternoon as Chris wants to go on the submarine and then for a little retails therapy, although I've no room in my lugguage, so it'll be window shopping only for me.

Final trauma - all the leads we got for the Exhibition (400 dead) were on a scanner, which we then handed in to be downloaded, we were told we'd be able to access the information on a website as they'd provide us with a password and login - got all the info and had a quick look this morning, to be met by less than 200 details ... have shot off a bit of a frantic email to their technical department to find out what's going on and shall await their response. I will not be a happy girlie if it's not retrievable - but we shall wait and see..... This goes no way to convince me that there is anything better than a physical print out!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The final countdown

It's my last full day at work and I'm counting down the hours until I leave. It's 22 hours & 30 minutes before the plane takes off. Then another 10 hours and 40 minutes before I touch down at Heathrow.

Can't say this is an experience I want to repeat, lets just leave it at that.
Rob, live from Kolkata, for Blogging News at 9.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Crispy Ducks Revenge!!! :o(

Well it had to happen at some point!!!! I have the dreaded Dehli Belly!! Not something I enjoy experiencing when stuck in a cab in heavy traffic. A friend of mine once said that he measured the quality of his life in India by the distance he was from the nearest bathroom. I can understand that feeling.

I put this down to a Chinese I had on Friday night. It was the spiciest thing I've had since I've been here. How you can make a very spicy Chinese???? It's supposed to be tame. The crispy duck was awful and I should have finished at that point. Did I???? Noooooo!!!!!! I couldn't let the Piper family down. Nobody in Abi's family leaves a Chinese untouched. I had to finish it or I would have to return home hanging my head in shame. I felt rough on Sunday, stayed in the hotel on Monday but came into work Tuesday. Today (Wednesday) I awoke with stomach cramps and rushed to the bathroom. I'll spare you the details but let me just say it's an experience I don’t want to repeat.

I'm taking antibiotics and diarrhoea tablets in the hope it will clear up before I leave on Friday. I really should have started them on Sunday but fingers crossed it will be fine tomorrow. For the time being I'm going to stick to a diet of bread and lots of water (bottled of course!!!). I hope you aren’t reading this over breakfast :-(

Attached is a photo of my shirts after they returned from the hotel laundry. Check out the cardboard bow ties. Excellent idea!!!!

Have a great day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Abi's down under .....

Well, I thought I'd add a line or two too, seeing as this has built up a bit of an audience :-) I'm currently sitting in a darkened hotel room in Sydney with the wind howling through the balcony door and the rain pouring down .... yes, it is true - where ever I go, I always seem to attract the poor weather. Yesterday was a stunning 37degrees, blue sky and brilliant sunshine (landing at 05:00), but last night as we sat on the terrace overlooking Cockle Bay Wharf (the bay end of Darling Harbour) the wind picked up enough to blow the unoccupied chairs across the floor and ruin my hair!! We managed to battle on and did eat our scrummy Thai dinner outside, but I was glad of the cardi I'd taken 'just incase'.

It was then onto the Toohey's bar on the corner for a couple more drinks before heading back to the hotel. For those of you who don't know, I'm away with Chris (boss) and we'd met up with a guy from another company who Rob & I met for dinner a few weeks back, as he's looking to open an Australian 'arm' of a UK Company and wanted to pick my brains with regards sales areas / markets and opportunities as they work predominently in the construction industry too. I've already assisted him with the likes of relevant legislation and some leads, but told him I wasn't interested in using him in any sales role, whilst he set up his own business, but he thought that he'd ask Chris anyway - it felt kind of good when he was told that no, it was I who had the say with regards to Australia, and whatever I'd told him, was where Scafftag stood :-)

Jet lag kicked in and I called it a night about 1am, but the guys went to another couple of bars and Chris got in gone 3am. I set the alarm this morning for 9.30, read for a bit and then went back to sleep, eventually crawling out about 1pm and we went out through Sydney, under the bridge, through the Rocks, down to Circular Quay where we had some dinner & then had to go & purchase umbrellas to escape the rain :-) We went up to the 17th floor of the hotel to look at the view & have a martini (shan't be partaking in another - it was supposed to be on 'crushed baby apples' but was like pure vodka with an un-pitted olive!). Then the Scottish Footie started & it was off to the Sports Bar downstairs .... his side is winning though, so unlike Rags, he's happy (so far)!

Tomorrow we have to set up for the exhibition, but I hope the weather will improve. It's about an hour on the ferry to the Olympic Park and it's the first time I've been there, so I'm looking forward to seeing it - it shouldn't take more than 1/2 a day to set up the stand, all being well everything will have arrived & be waiting there for us just to assemble, we're then off to the Botanical Gardens for a wander & a view of the fruit bats.

As Rob'll know ever since we've been coming to Sydney, I've wanted to do a whale-watching cruise, but we've never done it. Then on my last trip it was out of season, so tonight I went via the boat trip place & found that viewings are guaranteeed until November, so I'm going on Friday - keep your fingers crossed for me!

Well, that's about my lot for now my bed is calling, so I trust all is well in the rest of the world & I'll update again soon xx
Editors Note: Whale watching, I'm so glad I'm not going, I'd spend most of my time with my head in a bucket :-) Just finished watching Bolton beat Newcastle and I'm off to bed. Another fun filled day in Kolkata awaits. What joy.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pot and Kettle

I’ve had some interesting comments over the past few days. Please keep them coming, it’s good to know people are reading this and I appreciate the feedback. One person in particular made a comment regarding attitudes to different cultures and poverty in general. I appreciate that there are many differences between the UK and India or what I refer to as the Western culture and the ‘third world’. It’s been pointed out to me that this ‘difference’ is religious & material.

Looking at the India I’ve seen I would say that, like us, status is also sometimes judged by material wealth. We don’t have a caste system, but a class system. No so much based upon who your family is but what you earn and the way you present yourself to society. The differences are difficult for me to understand. How people can live and work surrounded by poverty. How you can sit in a 5 star hotel while people stave outside. I appreciate that things MAY be better in the ‘next live’ but don’t most people live for today or at the very least ‘this life’. Everyone has their own idea of what a comfortable life would be. Some may want to win the lottery, others may want to retire to a nice part of the country and some want a change in job or a full stomach every day. This is determined by the environment you live in and the people you interact with. Who am I to say what is right or wrong?!?!?

So ‘pot stirrer’ keep those comments coming. I’m interested to see what you say next. Will you reveal your identity?

I’m off to explore the city tomorrow. I’m not feeling too well today. A bit of a spicy Chinese meal last night and a very hot curry the night before. I think it’s time to rest and recover. ONLY 5 MORE DAYS AND I’M BACK….Praise the lord!!!!!!!

More to come tomorrow – be good :-)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Kolkata Morning News

Its 9am on Friday morning, Abi is halfway to Singapore and it’s another hot and steamy day in Kolkata. In a couple of hours I might just catch a glimpse of Abi’s plane as she flies overhead. It seems strange to think that yesterday she was 4 ½ hours behind me and tomorrow she will be 4 ½ hours ahead of me.

I’ve been here a week and I’m starting to get over the culture shock I experienced on arrival. India is difficult to get to grips with when you come from an organised Western society. The traffic seems chaotic, most buildings would be condemned in the UK and the poverty is appalling. Just this morning I saw four guys riding on a small motorcycle and another guy washing himself in a puddle at the side of the road. We refer to our hotel as the ‘Oasis’. It’s like a small, tranquil haven in the middle of the cesspool they call Kolkata. Sorry to sound a little harsh but that’s how I feel.

I don’t think I’m working this weekend so my colleague and I are trying to see what we can do this weekend. Apparently a tour of the city, stopping off at the major sights, will take a couple of hours. There isn’t a great deal to see, have a look at Wikipedia’s entry on Kolkata for the highlights. Other than that I plan to spend some time by the pool reading and then preparing for next week. I might just head down to the bar at some point and have a few cold Kingfishers!!!!

I’d like to thank everyone who contacted me about my blog. Long may it continue!!!! Right, I must get on, more UK jobs to outsource and lots of eager Indians to train.

Be well :-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I MAY be back

After several comments regarding the blog I MAY bring it back. Watch this space for updates :-) In the meantime here's a photo of a cab (exciting eh!!!) and a video (click here) of Kolkata for anyone who wants to see what it's like. The commentary is boring but the video gives you a resonable idea of what the area is like. Makes for interesting viewing, especially as they've used Footloose for the soundtrack. I mean, can you see Kevin Bacon coming here!!!