Month: November 2014

Christmas, adventure and bad fancy dress.

Walking in the Lake district

 Had a fab weekend away recently to celebrate Nikki’s birthday.

We stayed in Ambleside and although the weather could have been better, we got out on the hill, each day (including Friday, when we walked to Lords Seat).

I’ve been to the lakes about 4 times so far this year, and I’m really looking forward to New Year when were back there again.

Me dressed as Indiana Jones.

It was Children in Need last Friday.

A worthy cause, and loads of staff turned up in fancy dress. I decided to join them.

Can you guess who I am ?

When I asked one of the teams I was assisting at work, the consensus was a Fisherman !.

I really thought I looked like Indiana Jones. I was so disappointed at this setback, that my hat and bag spent the rest of the day in my draw.

The Moneypenny Playroom

Other developments at work. The canteen sell really nice salad (its not called a Canteen, its called a play room. Its an ideal place to relax, and my friend Sam who visited recently commented that it was amazing).

I was delighted to find I’ve lost 3 quarters of a stone in weight (and still going).

I’ve also found some of my Mancunian phrases can confuse people from Wales.

The other day, Debbie was working on a Saturday, and I asked if she wanted ” a lift”. Ollie, asked how this would be possible, since I dont have a car and catch the train to work.

I explained that a lift, is an offer of assistance. But for simplicity, I now just offer “help” to save any confusion.

Made me think of this list of things that British people say, and what they actually mean.

Safari pub crawl with IVC

Out on Friday evening to see the Imitation Game (I found out why its called that. It alludes to the Turing test).

Turing theorised that a machine would be intelligent, when it could convince a human that they were talking to another human. Each year, the Turing test is conducted, and people have typed conversations with a “Black box” and have to work out if its a human or a machine. Effectively, if its a machine it’s imitating a human, so that’s where the films name comes from.

Some of the technical stuff was simplified, but in every way it was a fantastic film, and I’d urge people to go out and watch it.

In a sentence. Its okay to be arrogant, so long as in the end you deliver.

Saturday morning, I got loads more stuff done in the house. The 21st is looming, and I’m working flat out, to get everything ready for the “relaunch of my house” and the TLC its badly needed since I bought it 9 years ago.

In the afternoon, I did some Christmas shopping and then met up with some friends from IVC.

Rhian (at the front on the left) had organised a Safari themed pub crawl. We visited all the pubs in the city, with any sort of Animal or Bird name.

One surprise, was when we went to Kookoo. Its a cocktail bar and the kind of place I think should be petrol bombed for its pretentiousness. However, having gone inside, it was really nice and relaxing, and I may go back again.

A nice waterfall

Bad news on Sunday morning.

I’d arranged to go out with the walking group, who were doing a trip to Rainow no less.

You may remember Rainow from when I walked the Gritstone trail with Tony a few years ago. My friend Lyndsay lived/lives there, so I’ve always had a fondness for it.

Unfortunately, so good a time was had the previous day that I was the worse for wear and had to cancel. And I’m the person who lectures others on never missing out on an opportunity.

Never mind, I got some stuff done in the house, and even made time to watch the finale of Dr Who, which I thought was the best one they’ve done in ages.

Idyllic Christmas
Idyllic Christmas

Well not long now until Christmas, and New Year along with it. I’m mad busy rushing to complete all the things on my mindmap (its honestly been an amazing year, but there’s still stuff to  do).

I’ve taken a few days off over Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to it. Christmas has a special significance for me now, after the one in 2009 when I thought I’d lose everything.

So I make the most of them from now on. I’ve taken off  Christmas eve, for some important “me time”.

The day will probably consist of Christmas buffet, Jack Daniels, my favourite DVD’s, and Call of Duty future warfare.

I’ll have my train set and raspberry pi setup, as well as my £3 tree from Wilkinsons, with lights and everything.

Obviously first thing in the morning, I’ll be playing Christmas songs. My mum used to always do this, and there’s nothing that gets you in the festive mood like Christmas music.

In the evening, 1 or 2 pints in my favourite pub to celebrate old times/absent friends, and probably finish off with a curry then back to my cosy warm house, with its new windows and condensing boiler :).

* The picture above, isn’t actually my house, nor is that my dog, I just thought it was a nice picture and captured the essence of Christmas.

People celebrating Christmas

On the party/social front, I feel quite privileged this year.

I’ve been invited to Nikiki’s parents for Christmas day (obviously Nikki’s coming as well).

There are official and unofficial Christmas party’s at work.

I’m off to Manchester to celebrate with my brother and a few friends and Lyndsay is home from Switzerland, so I may visit Macclesfield for a catch up.

The walking group are having a weekend away, and a Christmas curry as well (and just before I’ll be hosting a reception at my house).

I’m attending a black tie dinner with IVC

I may see Glenn (well I hope so, I’ve bought him a present).

* This is another phoney one, I dont know any of these people, but its a nice photo.


All sorts 2

Jon Lydon at Chester town hall

Haven’t updated for about 3 weeks.

Hopefully in the next few sections I’ll explain why, and encourage your forgiveness.

When I was 19, I met Lee Sawbridge through Fairbridge Drake.

We hit it off almost straight away, became firm friends and have been so ever since.

For a while, Lee lived at my house in Manchester. Then as now, we had many similar interests, and I remember reading a book by John Lydon (more commonly known as Jonny Rotten, of Sex Pistols fame). Lee and I discussed the stuff in the book many times.

Years later, just the other week, I recieved an email about Chester’s literary festival, and was startled to realise that John Lydon has a new book out, and that he would be coming to Chester to discuss it in person.

Jon Lydon on stage

I got in touch with Lee, who was equally keen and we went to see the great man speak in person.

It was also quite good for me, as I got to see the inside of Chester town hall for the first time.

He talked about his early growing up years, his family and obviously his time with the Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited.

He briefly touched on philosophy, ideas about freedom and stuff like that (I thought he was pretty open minded about this, considering he’d been arrested under terrorist legislation on a boat on the thames, while singing God Save the Queen).

A few questions from the audience, and then it was over, after only 45 minutes (I thought this was a bit short).

While there, I ran into Stuart and Andy, 2 friends from IVC and we had a cracking night visiting a few pubs around the town.

A brilliant experience overall, and a chance to get in touch with my youth (which I dont think I do enough).

One thing while JL was talking. He mentioned procrastination. The next day I saw this article on BBC news. Procrastination , what Tony Robbins calls the silent killer.

Microsoft Azure data centre

Mad busy at work at the moment (more about that bellow).

I’ve been learning loads of cools stuff about a new technology called Azure, Microsoft’s implementation of 3rd gen virtualisation

The put it into context, 1st gen was things like VMwmware. 2nd gen was stuff like putting your hypervisor enabled server off prem in a rack in a Manchester or London data centre.

This is different.

With infrastructure as a service (IAAS) you connect to the internet, say I want an exchange box and a SQL server (specifying how many processors, memory etc)  get out my credit card and its up.

As long as you have internet access and a secure connection you can use it and scale it up or down at will.

To show how serious this stuff is, take a look at the picture above. That’s 1 Azure facility. They have others in California, Hong Kong and Singapore (you can probably tell from the weather that this is the one in Dublin :).

Thing is, with IAAS, your connecting to pure cloud so you dont entirely know where your data is located.

And even if you do, if there’s an outage, it will be transferred (in the blink of an eye) to one of the others, based on an algorithm, so even Microsoft can’t tell you where it will end up (only that it will be available).

Its not perfect, Paul who I work with, made an observation. If we don’t know where it is and it hangs, how can we send someone to turn it off and back on again. I’m sure someone has thought of that, but its a point worth making.

Walking in Anglesey

As well as being amazingly fun, interesting to hang around with and hot, Nikki is also incredibly clever.

I can think of 10 anecdotes she’s said to me, that were really sound advice, and once applied delivered real rewards.

On a weekend away in Anglesey (which my friend Dave described as very Marjorie) we did a day walk.

Everyone else took cars to the start of the walk, we didn’t, so the 2 of us wandered back together (It was that moment that I realised how much I liked her, but I digress).

I mentioned that times were quite hard (as they are for practically everyone) and that I’d really like a pay rise. She offered to help.

Nikki asked me if Phonak did a pension scheme (they did, and it was a very generous one). She pointed out, that if I put say £1000 into that each year, that Phonak would put £1000 in too, and the whole thing would be complimented with some money from the government, as it was tax free.

I sighed as I realised it would cost me £1000, but she observed, that “the other £1000 per year is sat there waiting for you to take it or leave it” (I took it).

So what made me think of this story. Well, I saw this really good pension calculator the other day. Take a moment and try it out.

Galaxy s4 mini next to the Iphone 5s

For the past 3  years, I’ve thought Samsung Galaxy were the best smart-phones on the market .

But practical realities had to be dealt with. IPhone was provided by work, and didn’t cost anything (apart from out of hours cover, which came with the job).

When I started my new job recently, I realised I dont have to provide out of hours cover, they dont provide a phone, so I’d have to pay for it myself (but in conciliation, I’d never ever be disturbed while at home).

There was no question, if I was paying for it myself, it would be a Samsung Galaxy.

Except… I’d grown used to the size of an IPhone 5. Most of the time when I go out in the evening, I have a phone, some keys, some cash and a card and that’s about it.

The IPhone (although not the one I’d have preferred) fit perfectly in this way. So, problem is, Samsung Galaxy s4 & s5 are much bigger. Instead, I chose the s4 mini. Same size as the IPhone 5, but Android.

I’ve taken a few weeks to get organised, put my contacts, calendar and todo into the cloud and synch them with the phone, and its loaded with my favourite books, music and tv/film.

So, you can understand my surprise, when, after they’d led the way with smaller powerful phones, and despite myself, I’d bitten, that apple are now going with big or massive phones.

My conclusion. Apple haven’t brought out a genuinely new product in ages. Their phone is now the same size as the full size galaxy s5 (although not waterproof) and another one bigger than that.

In a sentence, Apple are now followers not leaders, whatever their share-price may say.

My new phone… I absolutely love it, and only my friends have the number…

Missing boiler

Christmas is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Every winter, since I bought this house 9 years ago, its been cold.

Its quite common in winter, for me to get home, and if I’m not doing anything, get in bed, with my books, laptop, and dvd player, and spend the evening there where I do all the things I like, and I dont have to spend masses of money on heating.

Thing is, a 100 + year old house looks really romantic at first, but its really cold and if it has a 30 year old boiler things get pretty drastic.

Time for change. I got an amazing guy to fit a new boiler, with a wireless remote control that works anywhere in the house.

Best of all, the Sunday ritual of putting the heating on, going for 2 pints in the Mill, then coming home an hour later for a bath, is no more.

A combi condensing boiler heats the water in real-time. A bath in 5 minutes.


But it doesn’t end there.

I’ve also arranged to have all my windows and doors replaced with the later state of the art stuff (so the supper efficient boiler, doesn’t heat stuff that floats out of the gap between the door and the frame !).

The works been completed now. Nikki and I are mad busy painting and doing various DIY to get the house into the 21st century.

I’ve included pictures of the job in progress.

If you want to see what it looks like, I’m hosting a small reception in December (complete with Train set, Rasperry Pi and finger buffet) so you can see what the finished item look like.

Moneypenny's managing director Glenn

Mad busy at work, as Moneypenny recently opened their first office in the US (our UK staff have been setting up the office, and set up a blog you can read here).

Loads going on at work, I’m enjoying it immensely and the staff (including me) are treated exceptionally well.

As Glenn (pictured above) our managing director said to BBC News:

If you look outside, you won’t see private car parking space for the directors, you’ll say named car parking spaces for staff of every level who’ve been here more than 10 years !.

This news article shows when we moved to our 2nd building (we now have 4).

The big building is next in the pipeline. At 100,000 + square feet, new build, its 3 times the size of the building move I previously worked on.

Rachel and her daughter with some cakes she'd made

Speaking of Moneypenny, I was invited to a special get together recently.

Everyone in the support services was invited to a night out at Rachel’s house.

Rachel and her brother Ed threw their savings into a Wazniak & Jobs type dream of Moneypenny, 14 years ago.

Its not talked about, as they are quite modest people, but its logical that they are self made millionaires (yet charming with it, you could pass them in the street, and you’d never know).

We all went to Rachel’s house, and had food and some drinks. I’ve been to work “social” events before, where it’s meant to be friendly, but underneath the veneer, its quite formal.

For the first time I can remember, it wasn’t like that. I joked with the excellent staff from the canteen, about what they’d cooked for dinner.

They explained they’d had the afternoon off, and Rachel had cooked the food herself.

I had a smart time. I didn’t want to leave without capturing the moment, so above is a photo of the super photogenic John P, ace trouble shooter for client services, and on the right, Sally, one of the hot babes from marketing.

In the centre are Rachel, and her daughter, who were distributing cakes.

I’ve always worked hard, and contributed to many companies where I’ve been proud to be part of something. But, I cant remember one where the owner invited me into their home (well not unless I was there to fix a computer 🙂

Wepre woods

I’ve been out and about walking, every weekend I could.

We did a pretty cool 7 mile walk around Wepre woods. All the more impressive, when you look on an ordnance survey map and see that Wepre woods, is only a mile across (we did a stretch through the park, and then a perimeter walk outside, to make up the distance).

Once again, the excellent navigation training course I did with JK stood me in good stead. Several “paths” on the map simply didn’t exist any-more, and hadn’t done so for some years. I was able to spot this quickly, and re-route us around somewhere else. The newly built Palomino bar (a hilarious Western themed pub with pictures of cowboys on the walls, and a really nice restaurant) was right near a housing estate, so we popped in there.

We also did a pretty good walk last Sunday around worlds end, lead by Trigger (not his real name, he’s called something ordinary like Paul) anyway, walk across the moors was fantastic, and if you get a day off, and can’t decide what to do, head there.

Nikki and I are off to the lakes this weekend. Its her birthday, and well be on the hill, all 3 days, weather permitting.

Glenn around the arctic tundra of Warrington


So what’s been happening on the social scene recently.

Some nice meals at Harkers, the Architect, Pizza express and La Taska.

Pub crawl I organised in Wrexham with 3 people (I was 1 of the 3) and Christine’s Halloween party (I was forced to go in fancy dress, which I hated).

I was sent a link to this website, where you can buy all sorts of James Bond lifestyle things.

I dont know why, I but I decided it would be best themed, with a picture of Glenn.

Soldiers coming home

I can’t comment on the wisdom of the Afghan conflict. In 13 years, I’ve been through the revolving door of every kind of opinion about it.

I’m personally grateful for the sacrifice of the people on the ground, and think Afghanistan is safer today then when they went in.

If you doubt that, just think about this. They have democracy, people have been taught to read who couldn’t, girls are being educated, Their healthcare system is much more advanced and they now have ready access to internet and library’s.

On a practical level, I’m glad the soldiers are coming home. I hope they get chance to spend time with loved ones and relax (they’ll certainly get a pint of me, if I run into any of them in the pub).

Cumberbatch as Turing

We’re all really excited here at about the new film, The Imitation Game, which tells the story of Alan Matheson Turing and his attempts to crack the German Enigma code.

This webite was first put up in 2001 and has been dedicated to Turing ever since.

Finally, a story that tells the whole truth.

He wasn’t a particularly nice man, but the surgeon who put the stent in my chest and extended my life by 50 years wasn’t either (and it didn’t matter  🙂

If you go to Bletchley park, you’ll find out, that history is indeed written by the victors. The Nazis were sinking 60,000 tons of Naval shipping each month and we were on the verge of surrendering.

His work saved between 1 and 3 million lives and ended the war 3 years early. The main things I’m looking forward to about the film are:

1. He wasn’t popular, but won the respect of the people helping him (and too many stories focus on the individual, not the whole team).

2. The quote by the commander, apparently really happened. He said to Turing, the Germans are using a code that NO ONE can crack. To which Turing replied, well let me try, and then we’ll know for sure 🙂

More adventure stuff next time, for now, thanks for reading.