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April 08, 2011

Feeling frustrated

It's been a difficult couple of months. I feel like all I'm doing is going round in circles and I can't see where the gap in the loop is for me to escape. We've been trying to find a house for what feels like forever, and I really just want us to get our own place now, somewhere completely private, where we can put our stamp on and actually make a home ready for married life. Not too much to ask! But perhaps it is us who ask too much of the housing market...we've not got a massive budget but we're after quite a lot - 3 bedrooms, a good sized kitchen (pref kitchen diner) and lounge, reasonable sized garden, garage, parking...it's a lot to ask, especially because we're ideally looking to live in Kenilworth! I think we could easily get more than our minimum requirements in Coventry, but we don't really want to stay in Cov, it's time for a change. Seeing a couple of potentials today though, so perhaps our luck will change! I really hope they're what we're looking for, it's hard work constantly looking, I certainly am glad that we're not having to sell a house as well as look for a new one!

Just for the record, I'm not moaning about this, I realise I'm in a really fortunate position to be able to afford a house at all, but I guess none of us want to settle for simply what we can get, it's always good to try and reach for what we want, pushing ourselfs that little bit further and hopefully being happy with the choice we make.

Of course in an ideal world I'd win the lottery and be able to buy a house like this:

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-31645130.html

mmm.


March 11, 2011

Never underestimate…

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598

...how destructive nature can be. As a huge earthquake and Tsunami hit and affect a large proportion of Japan I can only watch in horror as the news reports flood in and the casualties and devastation rage across the country. Only weeks after New Zealand suffered terrible loss and damage it really seems like nature is proving to us just how devastatingly powerful she can be.

It brings all those little niggling things that you hate about your life into perspective. I feel very fortunate to be safe right now.



March 07, 2011

I'm back!!!

Helloooooo!


After a very lengthy absence from blogging (due to password loss and general idiocy) I'm now able to log on and unleash my ramblings upon the blogging world again! Woo!


I find I have nothing interesting to say.


I'll get my coat.


February 07, 2009

April–June 2008 – about time to catch up!

I’m starting to write this entry on the way home from France, on a quick trip home for four days off before I actually start flying again. It’s just under two weeks since I moved over to live on the French/Swiss/German border and to be honest I’m ready for a few days break. [Edit – it’s now over a week later and I’m only just finishing it…!]

It’s been a busy 24 hours, because as I start to write this (29 January), this time yesterday I was in the FSC Flight Simulator Centre in Amsterdam, undergoing by 6-monthly recurrent check which all airline transport pilots have to do. To the vast majority of pilots it’s a non-event, it’s just something you have to do every six months and you just get on with it. Without getting too technical, it’s basically to check that if anything goes wrong during flight we know what to do, in the safe confines of the simulator! It’s actually good fun because you get to practice things and come across new scenarios that you shouldn’t – and virtually never – come across in the aircraft, and there are numerous aspects that the trainers have to check us on; for example, do we understand the aircraft’s systems correctly? The A320 is a pretty complex piece of machinery, and it takes masses of experience to know every little detail in intricate detail. Also, are our CRM (crew resource management) skills up to scratch – i.e. can we work together well as a crew? Do we share the workload properly? And, in the unlikely (but possible) event of something like an engine exploding on takeoff, are our manual handling skills up to scratch? Then there are specific scenarios we have to train for; for example, flying into specific airports that are known to be complicated and require specific training – Mykonos and Ajaccio, in this case – and do we know exactly what to do if our Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) starts shouting at us and we have to perform an evasive manouever? It’s not something you can really practice for in the aircraft, for obvious reasons, so we need to know what to do, instantly, from memory.

I was a little apprehensive beforehand because I’ve never done simulator training with an experienced captain before, only trainees of similar experience to me, so I was expecting the CRM aspect to be a little different. The captain doing his check with me was one of the most experienced in the company and an examiner himself, so it was pretty much the other end of the scale to what I’m used to, but the whole point of the training we undergo is so that we can work well as a crew whatever the experience levels, and it does work. I’m pretty glad that I’ve got 6 months to wait until my next one, but overall it was good fun and a good learning experience. From here, I start flying again on Monday (a nice short Basel-Amsterdam and return) and then have to go to Geneva for a few days of line training flights before being released to the line again!

Anyway, as it’s been so long since I wrote anything proper on here, there is a big gap which needs filling for much of what I’ve written above to make sense. After I finished the AQC course which I wrote about some time early last year – the part of my training programme which taught us the basics of moving up to a passenger jet from a light aircraft, before moving on to the aircraft-specific type rating – I then had about 7 weeks off before actually starting on the type rating course. For this, after going to the company induction day at Luton, it meant another trip down to Southampton for another few weeks at CTC, where the course would be conducted. Familiar territory! (Apart from the accommodation, which, due to the company’s normal residence being full, meant being put up in a posh country hotel for a few days.)

Those of us on the type rating course (10 or 12 in total, I can’t quite remember) had received the welcome pack in the post a few weeks earlier and I’d been completely unable to fathom what on earth it was on about. A full-motion flight simulator session on day 2? Before we’d even learned anything about the aircraft?! And two more on consecutive days afterwards?! Surely not! But it turned out a few of us had been assigned to a new-style type rating course the CAA were trialling, the so-called FORCE (Flight Operations Research Centre of Excellence, or something) course. Rather than take the traditional approach of two weeks’ classroom study of the aircraft followed by 12 or so simulator sessions, the new approach was to throw us into the simulator on day 1 and then do the ground school half way through the course. The intention, I believe, was to introduce the automation in a different way to normal. The Airbus is a very clever aeroplane and the automatics can do all sorts of wonderful things to make your life easier that older aircraft can’t do, but if you don’t understand them then you’ll find yourself digging yourself very quickly into a big hole. So the idea I believe was to build us up gradually from fully manual operation (including manual thrust, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t use in an entire six months on the line in summer) towards an intermediate level of automation to build up our understanding before finally letting us get the aircraft to look after certain things itself. It was hard work and those of us who’d done the AQC course on the A320 a couple of months earlier definitely felt like we had a bit of a head start over those (including some reasonably experienced guys) who’d never set foot in an Airbus before. It’s not really up to me to say whether I thought it was the right way to go about it, but suffice to say that the company only ran a few courses that way before dropping it a few months later and reverting to the traditional type!

The course I did consisted of six 4-hour flight simulator sessions, followed by 2 weeks’ ground school, followed a further six 4-hour sim sessions – these at Burgess Hill, just north of Brighton – of which two were devoted to the LST – Licence Skills Test, the bit you have to pass to have the A320 qualification printed in your licence. It’s pretty intense to get everything you have to do actually done in the time you have available; the course requires an intense amount of study to ensure that where there is a procedure for something, you have to know it off by heart and then be able to do it more or less first time in the simulator, before moving straight on to something else. There is a form about 4 pages long with all the different scenarios and exercises that must be covered before being put forward for the test and each one has to be signed off by an instructor to say it’s been covered. In the test itself, the examiner then has some specific things which must be tested and has a plethora of options to choose at random to throw at us. At this stage of the course you don’t want to have to be repeating stuff – it’s not like the early stages of basic training where if you messed up a few circuits you could just get back in a Cessna the next day and go and do them again; at this stage, you really need to be able to do everything first time (with training and guidance, obviously, otherwise there would be no point in actually training!) Fortunately I did pass everything first time, despite messing up quite a bit in the final session before the test and a few “errrrrrr…” moments during the test itself, but by the end of it I was pretty shattered! It was about six weeks long in total and I finished the test on 2nd May 2008. Despite finishing the test session at around midnight and not getting to bed until gone 1:30am, we’d been told to go back in the next morning (a Saturday) for another unrelated training session. By the time I got back from Burgess Hill on Saturday evening I was absolutely shattered, and just to temper the feeling of euphoria at passing a difficult test on something I first set out to do 18 months earlier, City went and lost 8-1 at Middlesbrough…!

It wasn’t over, however, because to actually fully qualify, six take-offs and landings are required in the real thing, so a day is spent on what’s called base training – where the airline will take an aircraft out of service and fly it round and round an airport all day training us newbies and check we know how to land properly; and before that, we had to spend two days back at Luton doing the airline’s safety and security courses. This is basically a much shortened, abridged version of the full cabin crew course which teaches us just what we as pilots need to know. One of the first things we did was the ‘wet drills’ where we learn how to use the lifejackets. Naturally, as this involves getting in a swimming pool with lots of lovely young trainee cabin crew, it’s a part that many of us looked forward to quite a lot! We also had got to practice jumping down the emergency slides (in a nice, calm, slow, health-and-safety conscious manner which doesn’t really reflect what having to use them for real would be like), put out fires using BCF extinguishers (well, replica ones containing water at the behest of the health and safety people), find people in a smoke-filled cabin, learn to operate the aircraft doors – all sorts of stuff really. Unfortunately the attempts of Skeelsy and myself to get chatting to some of the aforementioned cabin crew in the hotel bar were scuppered slightly by the fact they all had exams coming up, but it wasn’t for want of trying!

After that course I then had a week or so off before base training day. The day itself, when it arrived, involved a lot of travelling around as the departure point was Stansted. Annoyingly, at the time I was still officially based at Stansted so despite me not actually having started with the company, I wasn’t put up in a hotel so had to make do with a cheap-and-cheerful Travelodge type place while my colleagues were all enjoying the delights of the rather more flash Radisson SAS at Stansted. Anyway, I arrived late the evening before, having been stuck stationary on the M11 for an hour and a half and eventually resorting to putting my seat back and playing Champ Manager, while waiting for the remnants of someone’s crashed caravan (absolutely hate the damn things) to be removed from the road. I didn’t sleep too well but made it into the airport nice and early the next morning. As a new first officer, base training is the first time you get to wear your uniform and you do feel quite a sense of pride in doing so in public! After I’d met the other boys fresh from their posh Radisson full English breakfast with smoked salmon – a little more substantial than my apple and a cup of tea – we headed to the Stansted crew room and met the training captain running the day. We would be doing the circuits at East Midlands and I was to go in the second session, once we’d picked up a second training captain at East Midlands. There were six of us and we each had to do six take-offs and landings, so we were in for a long old day and were pleased to see the caterers had loaded us up with plenty of food! Most importantly we were shown how to work the brew-maker, probably the most used piece of equipment on the aeroplane all day.

I was number 4 out of the 6 to go, so the first in the ‘afternoon’ session. Sitting in the right hand seat of the real thing for the first time was a little bit daunting but the training captains were great – they took a lot of the pressure off. Once we’d started up and called for clearance we headed out for runway 09, and the first thing I noticed was that taxiing the aeroplane is a bit easier than doing it in the simulator! The sim is too responsive and sensitive to ground movements, and in trying to replicate cornering/braking forces and bumps can sometimes end up making you feel a bit sick if you have too long a taxi. The real thing is much smoother as long as you’re gentle with the nosewheel tiller! Anyway once we’d completed the before take-off procedures and checks, we were told to line up and cleared for take-off.

The circuits themselves passed fairly quickly, which was a shame as it was great fun! As it’s probably the only time in a pilot’s career that they get to do touch-and-goes in a jet aircraft, it’s really something you have to savour. It’s a little difficult to describe it fully without going into lots of technical detail but the A319 is a joy to fly and in the end, with a helpful and experienced instructor, it didn’t feel particularly difficult! Of course now, 9 months later on, any take-off feels just like any other really, but those first few were quite special – getting to fly a passenger jet, hands on, is what the entire course which I started 21 months earlier was training us for, so actually getting to do it for the first time really gets the adrenaline going. Likewise, any landing now is totally routine, but on that first day, as a newly-qualified novice, it was a good feeling getting off the aircraft later on, looking back up at the Airbus and thinking “wow, I just landed that!”

The next day we had to make our way back to Burgess Hill again, not for a simulator session this time but for a couple of days’ Line Training Ground School, i.e. classroom sessions on flying the aircraft ‘on the line’, in normal passenger service rather than in the set scenarios we’d become accustomed to in the simulator. During this time we were also supposed to get the Airbus rating added to our licences by the CAA but due to a series of admin balls-ups it wasn’t possible to do it that day, which meant spending an extra night down south and heading to the CAA building first thing the next morning. Fortunately my good friends living in Finsbury Park were more than accommodating but it still took about 2 hours to there from Gatwick (and an hour and half the following morning) and the drive across London, just like every time I visit, merely reinforced my opinion about how much I can’t stand the place and how I’m infinitely glad I’ve made my way into a career which doesn’t involve having to live there to go to work. By this point I’d already had confirmation that my transfer to East Midlands would be going ahead before I started my line training programme, so fortunately I could go back up north!

That’s probably quite enough for one entry, because it’s going to take forever to finish. I know all this probably doesn’t quite explain how I’ve ended up living in France and working abroad; that’ll come in a separate entry which I’ll start writing soon! There’s a lot to catch up on yet with all the flying I did out of East Midlands between June and November so what’s above is only really half of the story, but at least it’s a start having not written anything for so long.


January 25, 2009

It's been a long time…

For anybody who still checks this blog occasionally, which I suspect might be a grand total of 0 these days; as promised, it will reappear over the next few weeks, and I’ll try to update anybody interested on what I’ve been up to over the last year since I qualified. There’s quite a lot to tell.

My career took an unexpected turn in December and has taken me to Switzerland. It can get pretty quiet out here at times in the little French village where I live, therefore I forsee lots of blogging time.

I’m currently studying for my 6-monthly LPC/OPC (basically a 6-monthly check we have to pass to be allowed to keep flying). Once I’ve got that out of the way and I’ve briefly popped back to England next week, I’ll get on with it.


December 16, 2008

Eeek!

Internet Explorer security alert: Microsoft says all users at risk

Users of Internet Explorer, the world's most popular web browser, are at risk of having their computers hijacked because of a security flaw.

The flaw allows criminal gangs to take control of people's computers and steal their personal information when they visit websites that have been corrupted by malicious hackers.

It is believed that as many 10,000 sites have been compromised since last week.

Microsoft said that it had detected attacks on machines using Internet Explorer 7, the most widely-used version of the browser, but that other versions are "potentially vulnerable".

"We are actively investigating the vulnerability that these attacks attempt to exploit," the firm, which also makes the Windows operating system, said in a security statement.

"We will continue to monitor the threat environment and update this advisory if this situation changes."

By last Saturday about 0.2 per cent of Internet Explorer users had already visited one of the websites designed to exploit the flaw, according a statement on the technology giant's Malware Protection blog. The flaw was first exploited last week but there has been a sharp increase in attacks in the last few days.

Given that three-quarters of people on the web use Internet Explorer, millions of people could already have been targeted.

Microsoft has published a list of technical changes that it say should protect against the threat until it can release a software update to close the loophole, although the instructions would be incomprehensible to most casual surfers.

It has also advised users to enable their firewalls and install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, but web security experts say the best guarantee of safety is to use an alternative browser such as Firefox, Safari or Opera, which can all be downloaded for free.

The websites corrupted by the hackers are mostly Chinese, and have been programmed to steal passwords for computer games which can be sold for money on the black market.

But the Internet Explorer security flaw could also be exploited by criminals seeking to steal people's bank details, private data and identities. "That's a big fear right now," said Paul Ferguson of Trend Micro security researcher, warning of "mayhem" if fraudsters succeed.

Graham Cluley, a virus expert at internet security firm Sophos, said that the “staggering” number of people could be affected by the attacks. While many of the compromised sites are pornographic, many are legitimate, mainstream web pages.

“Problems like this are found all the time but Microsoft always has a fix. What’s new about this situation is that there is no fix.

“This is a really critical and serious problem. People should make sure their anti-virus software up to date, and remember to install Microsoft’s security patch when it is released.”

But he added that switching browsers may be an over-reaction. “It’s certainly a fix and gets around this problem, but Firefox, Google Chrome and other browsers all have their own security issues.”



For me, only slightly annoying in the sense that at work I use Web based outlook and its performance in Firefox is rubbish - the screen is completely useless. With IE it's set up brilliantly, but I've no idea how to make it look like that in Firefox! Other than that I tend to use firefox for most things, but I guess whatever you use you're probably not 100% safe. Be careful kids!!


December 10, 2008

I think…

...Jon should blog about something. Do it now. I'm bored and so are you, you know this to be true.

Blooooooooooooog.

Love from me xx


November 09, 2008

untitled.

I went to Coventry Cathedral this morning to the Remembrance day service and on the way I stopped in to the corner shop to get my poppy. I was having a quick chat to the shopkeeper and he told me that a blind poppy seller in town had his collection tin stolen. I can't believe that someone would stoop so low as to steal something like that - at the most it would have had £20? Maybe a bit more, probably not. I felt really quite sad. The service itself was nice, it adds a certain significance to the whole meaning of why we remember, when you are stood in the ruins of the cathedral bombed in the Second World War.

The nice thing about going to town on your own on a Sunday is that you then get to go guilt free shopping. Not that I really bought much, but I have lots of Christmas ideas now! I did indulge in a plate of meatballs at ikea at lunchtime though - mmm meatballs. I've no idea what they make that sauce out of (nor do I particularly want to find out) but whatever they do to it, it's very tasty!

Just got back and crashed on the sofa in front of the TV for a bit. Why is it that they've changed the mascot for Mr Muscle? Wasn't the whole point of the last guy that even weedy geeks with no muscle could clean with ease thanks to Mr Muscle power spray? Now it's this weird animated Arnold Schwarzenegger character who all the housewives are drooling over...it's just wrong. Bring back the geek, that's what I say!!

Anyway. Yes. Product based rant over.


November 04, 2008

Well, that's odd.

So for a few weeks I've not been able to sign on here (am guessing the whole "WGA is free, woop!" thing maybe cocked up the system a bit) and so have not been able to rant/muse/ponder the various things that happen in my little world.

The first thing I was going to write about was thiswhich I was absolutely horrified by. Although I shouldn't be surprised that humans are capable of such cruelty, this kind of barbaric quest for blood is beyond my comprehension. It just makes me sick.

Then I thought I'd better say that after 2 long years I've finally passed my LPC so now have a postgraduate diploma in legal practice (yay!) but that I've no idea what I want to do with it (oops) so I should probably get my thinking cap on with that one...

Lots has happened since I last did a proper blog catch up, I've turned 26, become an auntie, done a few concerts, cried & laughed a hell of a lot...that's just for starters! All good stuff. I'll leave it there for now, may blog properly soon (now that I've got it back!)


October 12, 2008

Unconnected musings

It's interesting what goes through your mind at 23.37 on a Sunday night, when you know you should be in bed because you have to get up early in the morning for work, but you're just not in the work frame of mind because you've had one of those rare weekends where you haven't actually HAD to be anywhere or DO anything you didn't want (n.b. you still DO go places and realised actually you HAD to clean the house, but at least nobody expected it to be done.)

Having had one such weekend, and having been in a rather strange state of mind for most of it, this is exactly the sort of time that I start getting all reflective and often rather sad. I think about what has been, what could have been and what is. Randomly looking back at some old facebook pictures I discovered someone who I used to be friends with (and just for the record it was HIM who cut the ties, I was perfectly prepared to forgive and forget his actions up until recently) who obviously left facebook (for whatever reason) is now back on there, because he's tagged in the pictures and when I click on him he comes up still with 2 mutual friends. Now I know that people "facebook purge" all the time - I've done it myself when I realise there are people you know you have added but won't really ever talk to, so it's fine that he's removed me as a friend - he did it in real life so might as well do it online! I guess it was just the finality of the thing, to know he was still on there, but that he chose not to want anything to do with me when the whole reason for him alienating himself from everyone wasn't my fault. I would rather that he'd just disappeared from facebook entirely, than know he's still on there deliberately ignoring me.

Then again, why care so much? I don't know. Probably that reflective thing again. After all, we used to be quite good friends really. And so I'm a little sad now. But that was just one thing, other things have had me in quite the odd mood over the weekend. Luckily I have nice people like Stu around who do a marvellous job of cheering me up, and distracting me from big scary things (next weeks results mainly) by taking me to see happy rescue ponies at Redwings Horse Sanctuary and writing me poems :-)

My mind is so full of all the things I have to do, where I've got to be, what I am going to be faced with each and every minute that it's no wonder I'm looking and feeling a bit shattered. I find a racing mind very counterproductive to sleep. Probably why it's now 23.52 and I'm still not on the way to bed. I should go and at least give it a try...

Will try and write something a bit less dreary next time I get around to being on here. Promise.


October 01, 2008

Nationals

Writing about web page http://www.4barsrest.com/news/detail.asp?id=8651

After a long week of rehearsals and several curries later. We played at Harrogate.

After being drawn 19th, what we believed to be the worst possible place to be drawn, we played an absolute blinder.

And this got us placed 5th!!!

Yes 5th!!!

Coming 1 point behind a band that had practiced it since the piece was announced and only 5 points the winners. This is a great achievement!!!

Well done and congratulations to all who played and many thanks to who made it possible and came to support us!!!


September 17, 2008

Hamlet!!

I'm SEEING HAMLET TONIGHT!!!!!!! Yes, that's right, the one where David Tennant is Hamlet. Could I be any more excited? Not if you told me Gordon Brown had finally decided to retire! We've had the tickets for over a year and finally the day has arrived!! I can't actually believe I'm going to be in the same room as the Tennant. He's my dream man, all geeky and cute and that HAIR - oh yeah! Plus it's an awesome play and I'm looking forward to this adaption.

Big Smiles :-D :-D


September 04, 2008

Why not?

Writing about web page http://www.kpequestrian.com/index.php?page=398

Katie Price/Jordan whatever you choose to call her...you have to admit, whether you like her or not, she certainly knows how to promote herself. Her latest equestrian range is...well, pink to say the least. And as classy as it isn't, there's something fun and quite friendly about it. Pink has been increasingly creeping into the equestrian world - I have a very nice pink Tayberry cap and of course there is their welly range based on the original hunter welly design, to name but a few items. Silks and pink crops have always been available as far as I can remember.

wellies pink

(mum told me when I was picking out new wellies there was no way anyone from the countryside would take me seriously in these so I bought green ones but I wanted those spotty ones, I really did.)

So Katie's range includes such horsey looking tops as stripy cross country shirts, equestrian jackets and also pink headcollars, leadropes and rugs for your fashion concious equine friends too. I'm assuming she might branch out into pink Jodphurs at some point as well - perhaps with her logo printed on the Arse as is popular with such styles as Juicy Couture tracksuit bottoms (although I hope they won't be as expensive...)

I wonder what the equestrian world really thinks of the range - or for that matter, what their opinion on Katie Price is. Well, I think that we know what a certain proportion of the community think of the woman but perhaps they're not so snobbish about her merchandise. Then again... it is VERY pink.

I grew up loving horses and desperately wanting one of my own. Katie obviously felt the same, and luckily for her she's now in a position to afford to own and look after them, something my poor old bank balance won't stretch to. Unfortunately it is quite an exclusive and snobby sport - historically only the rich could really afford to keep horses for pleasure, rather than for work, and games such as polo and sports such as hunting were therefore never really available to your average rider. This is probably largely still so, there is definitely an element of it being about your connections, rather than your riding ability. Katie might not be the right image for the sport, but her money is as good as anyone else's and what harm would it really have caused to have let her in to the match? I can't say I'm her number one fan, but you can't say that she hasn't worked for what she has achieved, whether you approve of her methods or not.

So would I buy her pink range? Probably not. I don't think there's anything particularly unique about it, If I want to wear a pink shirt riding I can probably pick one up in Matalan for half the price, the chances are that if I did buy something I'd get it covered in slobber and grass stains when (inevitably) I fall off at high speed. Perhaps if she had a range that was wipe-clean and padded I might be interested (or perhaps I should just stick to stroking horses over a fence or mucking them out - less distance to fall!) but still, Katie I salute you for bringing much pinkness to the Horsey world.


August 26, 2008

Scrab–tab–u–lousy–result.

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2008/08/scrabulous_users_stunned_bemus.html

Well it's not that much of a surprise that Scrabulous has now been removed by Mattel, but I have to say personally I'm a little bit gutted. Not that I think they had the right to continue, and despite certain arguments I never could see how scrabulous wasn't a pretty near carbon copy of Scrabble (c) so the outcome was fairly inevitable all along.

I would agree though that Scrabble (c) would have been wise to have made something equally good, either by utilising the skills of the scrabulous creators or simply copying them (tit for tat!) but from what I've read (admittedly I've not tried the official scrabble game application, I can't make myself add it because I know most of my friends won't bother and that's the main reason I played so that I could play against them, I don't want to play randoms!) the official version is nowhere near as good as scrabulous was. I think there's a time limit within which you have to make your move or the game is abandoned. This, to my mind is a bit naff. Not all of us have 24hr access to the internet, and I don't know about any other users, but if I'm on holiday for the week I'm hardly going to log in to make my move.

As per any game, you have people who are more involved than others. For some this will have been a genuine blow and real cause of distress, for others it's a loss but they'll find something else to play in their lunch hours and for the rest they'll probably not even notice it's disappeared from their pages. I'd say I fall into the middle category. I played it quite a lot, usually had 6 or more games on the go, and enjoyed looking up new words. I'd say it had increased my vocabulary and word regonition skills to some degree. I will miss more the interaction between friends who played it - I loved the banter you could have in the little message box to the side. Some very amusing conversations passed between us! Especially playing against people I don't get to see very often - an old school friend used to thrash me at the game, and then I beat him - the joy!!

I think I'd still go out and buy the board game, I never owned it or really played it before scrabulous so by rights I probably should have bought one at some point anyway, and I don't go with the whole boycotting of the Mattel group products (Barbie was a very important part of my childhood) because I don't think it will prove anything. I would probably argue that sales of scrabble (c) have probably risen as a result of scrabulous (I don't know if they have, I have no stats to say either way) or at least it hasn't done them any harm (their legal action may have though if some of the comments are anything to go by) but I think they were always going to keep selling the board game/offline version with or without scrabulous.

So there you have it. If anyone's interested I'm now playing Pathwords. It looks like the blockbuster board ("I'll have a P(eee) please Bob") but it's nothing like that. It's not as good as scrabulous and it never will be. Sigh.


August 15, 2008

Facts you would find hard to dispute.

These are things I have been thinking about today.


  • The Bus Lanes in Coventry really are a joke. Particularly the one on Tile Hill. Despite the signs, cars still use it as an escape route from those ridiculously out of sinc traffic lights around Blockbuster and KFC and then there's that one on Hearsall Lane...great idea to do the whole sensor-on-the-road-so-the-traffic-lights-automatically-turn-the-bus-lane-to-green...if it works. Which, as I saw today, clearly doesn't. The lights are broken. Naturally. Sigh.
  • Miss Potter is a sweet film with a propensity to make mildly hormonal females weep.
  • David Tennant is actually beautiful.
  • Earl Grey tea is yummy.

There were other things, but I've had a large Friday cocktail and I'm being distracted by Cassanova and I just can't remember what they are. Well, I suppose I'd add...

  • Friday night cocktails are yummy also. Yummier than Friday night Earl Greys.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

August 14, 2008

Appreciating the morning

So this morning I was awake at 6.30am and driving back from my Friends house to work at just gone 7am. The weather was glorious sunshine all the way back and the views were at times quite stunning. It made me realise the error of my lazy behaviour - if I only went to bed an hour or so earlier I'd be less tired in the morning and so able to get up and enjoy this lovely summer (ok, so less so on the rainy days, but perhaps I'd do something useful then instead) before the dark mornings start again.

It's less inspiring, I suppose, getting up when you aren't surrounded by nice countryside views (ah, those were the days) but still, even town can be OK when it's sunny! And the earlier I wake up, the more likely I will have time to walk in to work, which will make me feel all virtuous and happy. Win-win!



August 07, 2008

Random thoughts of the day…

Has anyone else noticed that of all the groups on facebook that people join, one of the most often seen recurring themes is "I've dropped my phone down the toilet, numbers please".

Now is it just me, or does that not seem like a rather ridiculously careless thing to do? "Oh no, I was playing a game of solitaire while texting my friend Dave and also talking to my mum all at the same time as using the little boy's room and it accidently fell out of my hand and into the toilet."

Just a thought.


August 04, 2008

mmm. Shoes.

There's something infinitely satisfying to me about buying shoes. So buying 4 new pairs on Saturday was rather exciting...made more so for the fact they cost me about £15 for the lot. OK so they will fall apart the 2nd or 3rd time I really wear them (the last pair of the same I bought fell apart when the glue got wet in the rain) but as long as I only wear them on sunny days or days where I don't have to walk too far I'll be fine.

What I didn't manage to get was a pair of new trainers. I'm not exactly known for my sporting prowess (although our doubles side won in a rather great game of Badminton yesterday) but even so I think that I need new trainers. My current pair I've had since I was 15 - in fact I bought them the first time I went to America which is almost 10 years to the day ago. The only reason I had to get them out there was because I went canoeing in a river and didn't dry my old ones out properly so they went mouldy in the heat... but I digress. So anyway, trainers have moved on a lot since then. I have no idea what trainers are good/bad or otherwise! However I don't want to spend a fortune on them but I would like a brand name like adidas, Nike or New Balance. I don't want ugly trainers either. Anyone got any suggestions?

In other news I finally got round to putting up some photos - or rather updating the frames I already had! Had a few of couples that aren't together anymore so I thought it was best that I changed those! I ordered prints from snapfish, which I then picked up from Jessops in town. They gave me 30 free 6x4" prints for joining the service and they are very good prints. Am very pleased!

Also went to see Wall-e on Friday night - the little guy is so cute! A very nice film, not as funny as Kung Fu Panda, but sweet and lovely and clever all the same. I'd definitely recommend it!


July 28, 2008

Down in a blaze of glory :–(

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/7528165.stm

I couldn't believe the news today - Weston-Super-Mare Pier burnt down! This is so sad. I spent many happy memories there as a child and I loved the pier in all its cheesy amusement arcade glory as well as the great fun it was walking up and down it. I hope they will be able to rebuild it.


July 24, 2008

Juicy recommends not…

...filling a large cage with music so that it's so heavy it loses all steering capabilities then attempting to steer said cage 300 yards in the boiling heat.

...wearing flip-flops and a skirt to attempt said task.


Feck! Seriously, why do I think these things are a good idea?


July 21, 2008

Sorry!

Well, it's been over a month since last I wrote. oops. I don't seem to feel the urge to write on here anymore. Perhaps I have become lazy or perhaps I just don't want to share everything anymore. I don't think it's because my life is so dull I can't think of anything to write about, but I guess neither is it so amazingly exciting I think anyone will actually WANT to read about it!

But just in case you do...

This week is likely to be quite interesting. Apparently I'm supposed to get my LPC results on Tuesday (although some sources say 22nd, others say 29th but noone seems to really know (the college included)) so at that point I'll know whether it's all been worth it or whether my Summer is ruined by resits! I very much hope not to ever have to go back to that place again, but you know when you get that sinking feeling...I very much have that. Still, I don't know anything yet. Fingers crossed I'll pass, and then... well then I have to decide what my next step is! Therein lies the challenge.

These last few days I've had quite a lot of time to myself, it's been nice in some ways and quite lonely in others. I've enjoyed watching lots of neighbours (I'm currently caught up to about the 7th July...) and playing loads of piano (my trill fingers hurt quite a lot typing this!) but I've not liked being in the house on my own at night, it's quite big for just me! You do get more done when on your own, but it's not quite as much fun and it's very quiet. Still, every once in a while doesn't hurt.

It's very quiet at work at the moment. Graduations over, there's just me in the office. Got plenty of bits and pieces to do but it's completely silent, something my office isn't very good at being during term! I'm thinking of making use of my lunch hours to learn the Sax. Always wanted to and why not? Everyone says it's easy if you're already a clarinet player so that's encouraging, and it's just a case of notebashing first and then working on tone, technique, style etc. It would be a good skill to have under my belt.

So what have I been up to in the last month...well, I helped organise some pretty good concerts towards the end of term, I finally managed to visit home and had a brilliant time with pool matches, Winstons Ice Cream, a garage BBQ (was very rainy) plus garage badminton (played with tennis rackets) and Rod Stewart (was the only tape in the garage, played many many times...) and I've had some lovely evenings with friends at various housewarmings and birthday parties. Despite the rather cold/wet weather we've not let it spoil our fun and we had a great day out at Alton Towers and have been getting rather into tennis (Westwood courts are great!). Went to see Kung Fu Panda in Rugby which was great, and had a Pixar spree in the Play.com sale so have been enjoying watching those (Cars  - what a great film...loving Jeremy Clarkson as Harv!)

So...lots of things. Lots more to look forward to, keeping me happy :-)


June 24, 2008

SOAPBox v2.0 is no more…

Writing about web page http://www.alastairsmith.me.uk/

My blog is moving away from Warwick.  If you're interested in staying with me, you can find me at http://www.alastairsmith.me.uk/.  It may take a little bit of time for the DNS update to go through, so the link may not work for you just yet.  Be patient :)


June 18, 2008

Bring Back "old–style" Email Search!

I tried to find a mates warwick email address today.

Instead of getting the simple little email search page, I get the entire Warwick website search page with the ‘People’ tab selected. OK then, let’s see if it works…

I’m not sure if his “real name” is Nick or Nicholas (or any other spelling), so I search for “n surname”.

I then see that it’s not just searching for “People”, but also “Web”, “Blogs” and “Exam Papers”. Why on earth would I want to search for my mates email address in exam papers!?

Because the letter ‘n’ generated so many hits in exam papers, my browser cannot cope with the amount of data and promptly crashes.

I try again, using the “Refine Search” option. But can I find a link to email address or similar? No. Nothing remotely related to that.

Why have they changed something simple and useful to something complicated and useless?

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!


June 12, 2008

Nearly there…

I've just had a couple of weeks of exams - my last ones in fact, which signal the end of the 2 year LPC course I so ambitiously started out on back in September '06. It seems (and was) an absolute age ago. So many thoughts and hopes, so little knowledge of what was really in store for me!

I've not had an easy time of it, it's not been my most successful thing, and I'm by no means through it yet - got to wait until July 29th for results to find out if I've actually passed the last lot of exams. 5 more results and I'll know.

The last term has been really hard to be motivated in, which I guess reflected itself in how I felt I did in the exams. I really hope I did enough to pass but I just have this sinking gut feeling that perhaps I'll be unlucky this time round. I'm writing my last assignment at the moment, a licence for a venue...sounds easy enough but these things are right little buggers to do! I'd much rather write a letter of advice or do some research!! I'm annoyed with College because they won't let me email or fax it in, it either has to be posted or handed in personaly, which given that they're not open at weekends and I don't work in Birmingham is a bit of a pain in the arse really. Do I risk the post, get it done by recorded delivery and then try and call them on Monday to see if they've received it or do I have to take yet another half day off work to make sure it's handed in on time? I suppose if it's recorded they HAVE to deliver it by a certain time so I can probably rely on that.

I've got a lot out of college, they teach the course very well, although it's difficult to fit in the level of study expected when you've got a full time job as well as a house to look after! I've met some great people and gained confidence in myself, although I've had a fair few knocks and disappointments with some results on the way. I was ready to give it all up at the end of the first year but luckily did well in the resits and decided to carry on. I'm not normally a quitter! Also it was way too expensive to drop out!

So what next? No idea. My head tells me to start applying for training contracts but my heart isn't following my head at the moment. For a start I don't honestly think anyone will want to take me on, and I don't know if I want the disappointment of rejection letters at the moment! And yet I should do something legal... but I like my job at the moment! Perhaps I'll see what comes up. No harm in looking around, keeping the options open.

It will be nice to have my weekends back. I've already started planning my next big projects to fill them! I can't just sit still and relax... going to do the Grade VIII exam for definite - playing is coming on well at the moment (it's all the scales, they are finally paying off) and would quite like to learn one or more of the following: Double Bass, Saxaphone, Piano Accordian. Want to finish off my uber crossstich that I've not picked up in a year and I have a list of books as long as my arm to get through. I also want to make the most of the summer and visit lots of interesting places in Warwickshire and the general surrounding areas. That will definitely keep me going!

Back to the drafting...


June 05, 2008

Tea really does solve everything…

tea

I know it sounds really silly to say, but no matter how upset, hurt, stressed, tired, emotionally drained or angry I feel a cup of tea ALWAYS makes me feel better. Something about that hot brown liquid that just instantly makes me happy (and no, it's not the caffiene, I quite often drink red bush and that's naturally free of it)

I'm thinking of a million and one things that potentially create the above effects on me (especially stress at the moment) but I also have a gigantic mug of yummy tea on my desk with the sun shining through on it and somehow calm has been restored.

Cheers!