Wednesday, December 22, 2004

upside down in the duke of norfolk

Its cold. I mean its not Lake Tahoe with no shirt, drunk on a bike cold, just kind of a bit sort of cold. So I'm standing outside the city hall with about 200 other people who have just stumbled out of Argos with seasonal chavware (its a bit like middleware, but gold), and we're all looking up at the roof waiting for French people to fall off.

This is abseil ballet. Scarabeus are a bunch of loons who hang off buildings dressed up like patients in insane asylums and kind of swing about to a background of Daft Punk-like ambience (which, in Daft Punk's case is actually enveloped very swankily, but in this case just sounds like the audio is coming through a huge cushion). Occasionally, everything swings at just the right time, but mostly you're just wondering what the hell is going on for about 30 minutes of your life. I think about taking a picture, but actually, I just can't be bothered. You know when you're about to take a snap that you'll look at later and say "well, I didn't think that was going to work". I think about other stuff, but my brain freezes over and I'm just gawping at office workers standing there in shirt sleeves and smoking tabs, ready to go out for the night and get off their face, like I used to 20 years ago before I chose the ten o'clock news and a pair of slippers instead.

And then I remember how cold it is. Sam is just kind of rocking like a Weeble and Madeleine's transfixed of course (it's theatrical), but her breath is freezing, Mr Freeze style, as it comes of her wide-open mouth. I'm ready to head for the Forum to stand under a heater for a while, so Sam and I head off past the ice rink, avoiding the goths peering through their own hair, to find a hot-air hand-drier. Of course, as we round the corner past the police cars parked across the road, they go and let the fireworks off as a grand finale. There is mild excitement as the 2 sky ballet artists hanging from the city hall clock collide in a mock embrace from a Gaultier ad 100 feet off the ground and then a few limp flashes later it's all over.

We head home to groom our colds and sure enough, by the next day, everybody's coughing over each other's fish fingers and leaving damp tissues in the sink. So that's nice.

Monday, October 25, 2004

you get that? from that?

ok, so I dropped into Stanford Shopping Center before leaving for the airport. I had a gap I'd previously left in my suitcase and I had to fill it. It didn't matter what with. Just stuff. I had an hour, so I figured Macys, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, ooh, Apple Store, Hair International (maybe not that one), and just see what appeals. Macys - nope. Nordstrom - how miserable are you? Crate & Barrel - nice bag, got one already though. Apple...

It's not a big Apple store. There's not really much to poke. At best, you get to finger some accessories and try and figure out where the base units are (they're under the base units), but that's about it. Half an hour later, I'm escorted out of the building by Dwight and Chan in their black polo necks, just for drooling onto a30" Cinema Display. They shouldn't make them so rampantly desirable. It's their fault.

Anyway, 10 minutes left and I've looked at all the blow-up pillows in Brookstone, so I'm just heading back to the Chevy Preferred Customer, when I pass the Bose shop. I'll never be able to afford anything in there. Move along. But hang on, what's that thing? That looks nice, must be a new one of those Wave Radio things. I'll take a look. Now, I don't own an iPod, much to my chagrin, but then I work from home and never go out in daylight, and then it's only down to the paper shop down the road, where I'm still allowed to go unattended, so, when I see this thing is a SoundDock Digital Music System for an iPod, I'm walking out. That is, until the lovely Mike, with his bluetooth headset and braces (teeth and trousers) starts showing it to a couple who actually look like they might have some money. "You just take your iPod", he oozes, "or iPod Mini, it works for that too, and you slip it in the dock (ooer) and then...", and then he left the most dramatic pause ever witnessed. I was looking at my watch when the sound started coming out. I thought someone had put the home cinema system on in the next room. The sound that came out of this 6.5"x12" waffle was just unbelievable. I can't begin to explain it here, but I'd just suggest you take your iPod along to your nearest Bose outlet and demand they give you a damn good docking, to hear for yourself. You'll not spend a quicker $299. Well, apart from that time in Union Square...

Friday, October 22, 2004

freaking out on the golden gate

So, at the end of the week, it's always nice to get out of town and take a ride. This was last friday, mind, but I mean, it takes a while to do this. Winding down from the terrible excitement of an ops review and an ecstatic all-afternoon discussion about layout frameworks and content layout assembler template managed things, and not forgetting the Jager incident, it was time to take a trip over Woodside and hit the coastal highway in the tasty Chevy Corporate. First stop, Bucks in Woodside. Now, that's some place. Chris tells me that all the deals go down there, so while I wait for him to make me a deal, we get something called a 2x2x2, which is pretty much the best breakfast you can get, except there's twice as much as you can eat. As usual. I could live in these hills. But I don't, so I wave Chris off on his bike and head over the 84 to the Pacific.

A bit twisty. The Jager's coming back. And those pancakes. And the sausages. Hurgh. Ah, there's the sea...

Here's the thing though. You come over here in mid October and it's 90 degrees and you sit in the office all day. You head over the hills to the beach and it's suddenly fricken freezing and total cloud cover. Hmph. I am going to Half Moon Bay and I am going to sit on the beach. Whatever. So, I do that for a while and there is nobody to see for miles, which is a bonus, but I'm getting all morose on the beach on my own, so back in the lovely Chevy Marketeer and up the coast a bit.

All the way up the coast in fact. I was only looking for somewhere to pull over to take my jacket off, but I ended up in Golden Gate Park with that "I'm a tourist" sign stuck on the roof. I swapped it out for the "I'm in a rental car" sign and burned down the middle lane, swerving violently about for the sake of it. After a near miss with a Dodge Enormous I settle down, and succumb to the fact that I'm going over the bridge whether I like it or not (Chris tells me later he's never done the bridge, so me being resigned to it is a bit lame. it's such a drag).

The bridge is looking bad. Mean and bad. I've done the vista point on the north side before, and it's been glorious, day and night. Lucky I guess. Right now, the clouds are at about 50 feet and the mist is just clinging on to the structure. Oh well, no majestic sweeping panoramas on the W1 today. I know. I'll walk across. I've never done that. Ooh, bad idea as it turns out...

So, I set out on foot to see how far I get. Quite ok. Dodging the day bikes and the mental Tour de Bridge carbon fibre brigade. Not many pedestrians. Carry on. The one thing I notice is it's so bloody loud. I mean, that traffic at 4pm on Friday is like a hurricance - six lanes steaming by at ear height. Carry on. The first moments of weirdness happen when you're 'off concrete' and 'on-bridge'. Take a few steps, look over the edge. Take a few more, look over the edge. Stop, look up, and then...look at the size of that thing. The first suspension tower is right in front of you, and that thing is huge, man. I mean, it's huge. When you take the route round the outside of the thing, which hangs out over the water, the sense of scale is overwhelming. So that's where I start freaking. Right then, I've taken a couple of classic wide shots with the SF skyline just about visible. Let's just take a quick one to get some idea of the size of this thing. Ok, there noone around, good. Hang on. There's really noone around. Anywhere. Look both ways and there's no bikes, no pedestrians, no CHP to check whether I'm hanging over the edge. Nobody. K. That's alright. Just a bit odd. Right, let take that shot. Point the camera w a y u p t h e r e to the top. Lean back. Back a bit. Looking straight up now, straight at the camera display...

All I can say really, is that being totally alone, on the most massive man-made structure around (megalophobic), high over the huge, sea-like SF bay (thalassophobic) and losing the horizon and any reference to my spatial positioning I was suddenly in cold panic. I pretended I wasn't though. I mean, somebody might have been looking. I took that shot and then pretty much ran all the way back to the vista point car park, where I set off the car alarm instead of unlocking the doors and hid in the toilet. Or I would have done, if the toilet wasn't being cleaned. I actually hid in the ladies toilet. There.

Anyway, I made myself better by doing a 'Taxi' down Van Ness and onto Market, whereupon I drove the car straight onto the pavement and left it there, like something out of The Deadpool and dashed into Macys, where a very nice man sold me some Puma underwear. They had Lycra and everything.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

edge of darkness

You know, there's nothing I like better after a hard days graft than to settle down in a nice cosy corner of a Cali cafe and just quietly discuss organizational structures with people who know as little as I do. But of course, this being the final date of the tour, mentalism was predetermined and hopelessly unavoidable.

I mean, you start the evening with a nice chat at the Blue Chalk and maybe even grab a sausage or two, but at the point where you're shouting at the dessert menu then really, it's time to pack up and leave by the back door, shedding a few solo artists on the way. Not this time though. There's this place, see. This place I was warned about. The place where the law enforcement gather at the bar to bear witness to the social outkasts as they linger around the 'DJ booth' and just kind of half-dance around on the sticky carpet. They're possessed, see? I mean, it's not right. How can people behave like that?

Well now I know. It's the 8th layer of hell. It's Jagermeister. It only took 12 of them and and I was just grunting around the edge of darkness like a 12 year old stuck on Avril Lavigne. I should know better, but they made me do it. Project managers. Can't live with them, can't make a fool of yourself and have really bad pictures end up on your own camera without them

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

either, either, or

You know I can't discuss it. I mean, I already know, but it'll take a couple of weeks before I can tell you, right? Anyway, Halloween jokes and all, it's great to get out and about. Tonight in Palo Alto we had good fun with the Italian sausage, but you know, I have to eat that now, so lets take a snap, quick. Oh, and another. Let's see, that's not getting posted. Chris and I will get the Jergens and the rubber gloves out later and see what comes of it.

Really, beyond the jetlag and thousand yard stares, these are great people. I mean, I get to sit round a table with them and shout at the TV and stuff and share those funny and touching program management moments and either, either, or the other stuff which makes the 5000 miles worthwhile. You see, I know what you're talking about, so lets work together on it and drag the collective understanding up out of the mind puddle of brain wrong. Never really thought schemas would be quite such an exciting prospect, but I mean, it all comes down to data models, right? Pass the spoons. That's my silverware.

Monday, October 11, 2004

toy legs

Have I got toy legs? How am I supposed to sit at this desk for the rest of today? Kenny doesn't sit at a desk, he kind of lies underneath it at an impossibly cool angle, with his fingers clawing up at the keyboard like some meticulous squirrel. I mean, it's literally 2 feet high this thing. I just met some of my remote co-workers for the first time and they must of thought I was some kind of oversized ape in this bizarre toy cupboard office. Not the kind of first impression I was intending to make. Anyway, we're out in Menlo Park tonight at some place which does good 'an proper British food, right? I mean, I was at some Vietnamese place for lunch and now this. What's it like over here? I'm gonna get a right fat one, I tell thee.

Monday, September 27, 2004

struck by lightning

to Nice this weekend then, which is nice. Sans children, not done for years. A couple of great friends getting married at Fayence, you see, at the beautiful 12th century Chapelle de Notre-Dame des Cyprès. We only had the local wine straight from the vineyard across the dusty road after service didn't we? On a tressle. Sweet. Mind you, the goings on the night before were right mental, mate, I tell yer...

Straight into Nice Côte d'Azur airport on Friday night, on that there easyJet. Only cost us 17p. After reclaim de baggage we headed straight for the Europcar rental desk to begin our perfect weekend. Cross the arrivals lounge and through the car park in the balmy French evening air and everything is nifty. All smiles. All signing. But what's that? Felt a touch of rain there. Ah, well, I just love getting caught in a warm summer shower. It's so Frrrench. 20 paces later. What the..? Bleedin heavens open right up don't they, and we're lashing across to the poxy tent affair they have set up outside the desk. So I head in to the desk and natch, there's about 20 other limp email printouts in front of me, tapping their Marlboro lights on the counter and threatening to lamp the guy behind the desk who's saying "but we 'ave non keeeys pour you".

Anyway, cut a long one short, we got free upgrade to a Passat and headed into Nice to locate the Novotel. Neil, our mate, he's got a booking at 'Le Cheapo' by the train station, so we have to drop him first. Simple right? Well. 2 hours later, we've been driving the wrong way round Nice in the maddest thunderstorm ever, aquaplaning across 3 lines of traffic on the autoroute, and we're not really getting any closer. We've got a multimap printout of 1 square kilometer, and we've never been on it. So, we're just pulling out from between a derelict garage and a block of flats right, when THWACK, the loudest, most intense cracking noise you've ever heard, comes from the roof, and I'm thinking breezeblock launched from the 17th floor. By a bazooka. We look up for the house-shaped dent, but nothing. Oh well. We crack on. We'll have a look in a minute. 30 seconds later, I'm driving the wrong way up some train tracks or something when I get a moment of clarity. "We just got struck by lightning". All quiet. Then freakouts in the Passat and we're swerving all over the Promenade des Anglais trying to jump out and stuff. Weirdness, I tell yer. We stopped after a bit and Neil pops out to take a shifty. "No dents mate, not a scratch. You know though, we've got a pretty big aerial".

So that was that. We got struck by lightning and my teeth went a bit funny. Of course, being in a Volkswagen Faraday Cage meant it was ok, but, you know, at the time...

The wedding itself was perfect, and the weather Saturday & Sunday was spot on. On the Sunday, we headed to the seafront, to see the Nice Triathlon. I tried very hard to spot some Sun sponsorship, but it was mostly French television and carbon fibre, with a few ladies in swimsuits, which was nice.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

earache

...so I said to him, I said 'I mean, good manners don't cost nothing do they?', and then he just went round the back to get his bike. Anyway, I was legging it pretty sharpish up them stairs, 'cause there was this bloke from the west end with some kind of 'proposition' like, you know. He's going off and going on about some new thing he's got going with a new pair of dimes or something and there's Dave from the bookies giving me earache about the 3:10 at Newmarket and anyway, I said to him, I said, 'listen Dave, do you think I got time to listen to your 'ere tales of woe, when I got him upstairs with his 'proposition' mate? I mean, good manners don't cost nothing, do they?'

So here I am up here with me mobile on one bar and me tea going cold and I'm trying to get these poxies sorted so that me old pc can watch this video and then blow me if the wife don't just walk in and she's saying 'ooh, look that's good. Who's that? Is that a video?' and it is a video and it's this bloke I was telling you about on a kind of telly on my pc, which is a bit weird, but he goes on and I just sit there listening, right? Anyway, he goes on about this 'new model' and he keeps saying stuff about utility belts or something, and I'm not the brightest spark in the box, you know, so I didn't understand a lot of that stuff, but I do know something about market traders, natch, so I got that bit and anyway, as it happens, even though I didn't get it all, I just sat there watching, thinking 'well, he knows what he's talking about, clearly' and it seemed to me that really, when you think it of, he's right, right?

When I spoke to Dave about it down the pub later he said it was plain as day, 'I mean', he said, 'it's like paying to see the footy properly, innit? I mean, I don't want to pay to get Man United, do I? I just want to pay for the Arsenal, right?'. So I guess it's alright then. I also got 14-1 on the winner at the 4:00 at Aintree, 'The Moderator'. Lovely