Thank f*ck for that

Listening to: whirring fan noises
Most played: c++ programming

Finally cracked a problem that's been bugging me for a couple of nights now. Working my way through Acclerated C++ still. Good book, hard going at times. Glad I'm doing the exercises though, as it's really helping me learn. Got majorly stuck on an exercise in Chapter 3. Finally spotted the solution (relatively easy when you've got it - natch). Now feeling suitably satisfied. Think I'm still on target to complete the book by April 16th. I want to be finished by then, for my meeting with J about Symbionics.

Work OK today. Glad that I have a project board for my project now. It makes me feel a lot better as it does actually feel like there are other people who are helping to run the project. Had my annual review today which went really well. Haven't been performing to my best recently and it shows. But think that I'm getting the thing back on track now. Got to keep it going though.

Liverpool lost in the UEFA cup tonight. Gutted. Played really well for 25 minutes, then it all went pear-shaped when Igor Biscan got sent off. What he was doing in the side rather than Henchoz I'll never know. Arse.

Oh yes, and I have now officially been offered my new flat. Yay! Somewhere to live when my contract runs out here. Phew. Now only got to sort out the million and one domestics. I think I'll be using the Royal Mail forwarding service!

Right, it's late. I'd better hit the hay.



Listening to: Underworld
Most played: c++ programming

Just a quickie tonight. Perhaps I need to get into the habit of shorter diary entries more frequently than longer one sporadically. Tough day at work today and, indeed, yesterday. Project has now reached enough of a political state for some commercial wrangling to kick-in. Upshot: my company won't make any money on this project (or very little). For me, that means managing a project to minimise the cost to my company. If the project makes any money at all, it will be a success and a feather in my cap. Still, I'm finding it quite stressful, because the numbers for the fixed price agreement, upon which my project is now based, were mine and not based on the ideal amount of work. Oh well, it should be interesting from here on in!

Managed to complete the exercises for chapeter 2 of Accelerated C++ today. I'm a couple of chapters behind where I want to be, but pleased to find that I'm prioritising getting on top of that above genearlly loafing around. I am going to complete this book by April 17th. That is my mission which I have chosen to accept.

A couple of fantastic days with H yesterday and Sunday. Things really do just get better and better with her. After my tough day yesterday I was just really pleased to see H and was like a hyperactive kid. It was great; I haven't had that energy or passion for life in ages. It was just such a laugh to cook for H and get drunk etc.

Knee still improving only very slowly. No ibuprofen tonight as I'm seeing the physio after work tomorrow. I wonder when / if I'll be able to start exercising again. Maybe I'll be able to do some cycling - not that my bike is in any fit state. A WD40 and old toothbrush mission I think.

Right, I'm off to phone H before bed.


Stick in the muddle

Listening to: Nightmares on Wax
Most played: House Hunting

It's been one of those funny weeks where not a lot really feels like it's happened. Maybe I lead a life that's too dull to report. Since my last post, work has centred almost exclusively on solving my issues with my current project. It has been productive. Although the project control is still very weak, I feel that I can still see a way forward. I think that I'm doing the right things to make sure that the project gets delivered successfully in the long-run. It will just be a painful few weeks whilst we get there.

Events at work do nothing to convince me that I'm in the right job. I need to look for a change of scenery and role.

My old dream of developing games as a hobby / sideline came back into the front of my mind recently. I realise that I can work with friends to create a successful enterprise and that I don't necessarily have to be a coding guru in order to achieve it. I have other skills that could be useful and there are many other ways that I could get involved.

Oooh - quick phone call from H. Well, it's nearly bed-time now, so I'll have to try to find another time to fill in the blanks from the last couple of weeks.


Painting lipstick on the pig

Listening to: Achtung Baby
Most played: Work (RL)

This evening I jumped off the cliff. Metaphorically speaking of course. I have a disgustingly difficult project at work, which I am not managing terribly well. It is now going to be 3 months later than first expected. Ouch. I am not to blame for the delay, which is, at least, a relief. However, I am responsible for my customers' expectations and they are not being managed terribly well. I spent an hour composing an e-mail to them. It is quite possibly the most contrite missive I have ever seen. I still fully expect tomorrow to be a nightmare.

Aside from the pain of sending bad news to people that won't like it, this evening was also notable for the moment of clarity I experienced. As I sat at my desk re-reading and tweaking my e-mail, I considered waiting until tomorrow to send it. That way, I would be able to get it reviewed by somebody else. Then I realised, no amount of reviewing would change the fact that it contained bad news and that irrespective of my flowery and grovelling prose, the news was still bad. Shit with a ribbon on top is still shit. So I jumped.

At least I have the support of my senior managers. I rather naughtily looped my line manager and went straight to the next level before getting my bad messages out. No bad thing - all my line manager can do is say "yup - that's a nasty one." Except he wouldn't. I don't feel terribly well supported there, so that also explains why he has been looped.

I wouldn't mind if I had all of my project governance sorted out. Sadly, I can't think of one governance element that is in sparkling form. I'm over budget, working at risk, I don't have effective risk and issue management processes, I don't have a project board, I don't have signed-off requirements (I don't even have requirements yet). What a mess. In this case, identifying the problem is much less than half the solution. It will be weeks' worth of work to get all of this stuff in place. And I need to do it in less than a week. Part-time. With another project clammering for my attention in the background. Time to get on first name terms with the cleaners I think.

The patron saint of single men

Listening to: Achtung Baby
Most played: Work (RL)

No matter that I have a girlfriend whom I adore, tonight I am single. I am composing this entry as I eat marmite toast washed down with a stubby of beer. I arrived at work at 0745 and left at 2130 today. With an hour and a half for lunch (physio appointment) that makes a 12.25 hour day. Sweet.


All work and no play ...

Listening to: Siamese Dream
Most played: 
I think today's empty "Most Played" is an eloquent summary of where I'm at. All work and no play makes BB a dull boy.

My dictionary, poor excuse for a lexicon that it is, defines "stress" as:
1. emphasis
2. strain
3. impelling force
4. effort
5. tension
6. emphasize
7. accent
8. put mechanical stress on
There isn't much in my dictionary's definition that hints at the modern disease of psychological stress. I think the best definition of this that I can bring to mind is that stress is caused when a person's perceived workload exceeds the person's perceived capability / capacity to do that work. Now, based on that description, I can't be stressed, because I know that I can do the work ... assuming that I don't need to sleep, eat or generally have a life for the next fortnight.

So work is set to dominate another week. I really should have tackled two pressing emails and my to-do list tonight, but I couldn't really bring myself to do that. No matter, there is plenty of other stuff that is going to slip along the way. This time, however, I am determined to make it only be a week. If I can break the back of what is outstanding and get in control of my project, then I might stand a chance of returning my working life to something approaching normality. The weekend with H refocussed me and made me realise that a career of achieving in a large organisation isn't the ambition that floats my boat right now. I really want the personal accountability of working for myself or for a small company. So it's time to reinvest the time in looking at what options I have for setting up my own business. In order to achieve this, I will need to hold myself accountable for some personal goals. But I think the time to plan how I achieve that is another time. I have a 7:45am meeting tomorrow. Grrrr....


Don't say that I'm moping

Listening to: Groove Armada
Most played: Being grown-up on "mini-break" with beautiful girlfriend
So my problem is that I don't quite know what to type right now. I'm in the post-marvellous-weekend stage of moping and sitting in a room that is approximately a million times too hot for this time of year, but I know that if I turn the heating off, I'll freeze in the rest of the house.

Went away with H for the weekend and had an absolutely brilliant time. We went up the Lake District. It's amazing really that there are things in life that from the ages of 10 to 21 you would rather knaw your own arm off than participate in. And yet, you get to the age of 22 and beyond and they start to make sense. I've lived in England for so long and only barely scratched the surface of what this amazing country contains. Fuck travelling the globe walking the now well-trodden back-tracking routes to touristy temples and over-crowded "peaceful paradises" - there's a million and one things to learn about home and about myself in the process.

So, anyway, the Lakes. A bloody marvellous weekend. Perhaps with the knee, a destination synonomous with walking was not a great idea. However, it was great (did I mention that?). The weather was marvellous. Clear, bright royal-blue skies, with the occasional fluffy cloud. Cold, especially at night, but beautiful. The kind of weather that makes me increasingly appreciate my home's temperate climate. Armed with a Good Pub Guide and a couple of maps, we toured the eastern side of the Lake District.
Based at Windermere, we drove around Ullswater on the Saturday. Leaving Winderemere, we went through Ambleside and up the Kirkstone Pass - a driving route that H really enjoyed! Ullswater is a truly tranquil lake with little in the way of human abuse on the countryside. Took a walk around the edge of the lake and felt the wind in our faces. Recovered by travelling to the first of several excellent pubs that we were to visit in the couple of days. Then we headed back down through Ambleside and on to Elterwater. There we visited the Brittania for a bite to eat and a beer. Driving back through the countryside we headed back to our B&B. For the night, we walked into Winderemere and found a nice pub, called the Lamplighters Bar, in which to eat. It was quite surprising - the clientele was almost exclusively "of a certain age". It didn't feel like a pub frequented by many walkers. In fact, Windermere in general didn't seem to be thronging with walkers out on the beers. Perhaps they stay in their chosen accommodation to rest for the day ahead. Perhaps they camp. Perhaps Windermere lacks the necessary rural charm. Who knows? However, this pub was fine. The food came in generous portions and was tasty. The service was friendly and welcoming (a classic pub reviewing cliche) and overall, I was glad we stayed there for several drinks.
On Sunday morning, H and I walked down to Bowness. That was a nice chilled way to ease into the day. Then we drove around to the western side of Lake Windermere. Parking the car, we followed a short trail. The nicest moment was reaching a clearing on a hillside. There we lay on our backs as the sun warmed us above the chilly air temperatures and we stared at the clouds. It could have been late May, rather than the last day of February. Then we walked down and picked up a bridleway to take us back to the lake shore. Settling back into the car, we drove through the countryside to get to The Drunken Duck Inn. Sadly, we missed the food-serving times by about 15 minutes, but it was actually nice to just sit and have a drink. To be honest, I don't think my appetite would have done the food justice - it really did look as enticing as the guides had promised. A drive back to and wander through Ambleside to gather food followed. And after eating, we set off for Nottingham again.

The weekend really was just filled with luck. Beautiful weather, good pubs and a nice B&B to stay in. All in - a brillaint weekend. And my time with H was fantastic - I really do adore her just a little bit more every time I meet her. I'm going to end up so sickeningly in love it's ridiculous!

So the obvious question following this weekend is what do I do with my relationship with H? It's fast approaching the point where the distance question will have to be at least properly discussed, rather than just joked about. I don't know how H feels, which is why I'm happy to roll with it for now. However, when faced with the prospect of not seeing her for 3 weekends in a row, my heart sank a little bit. I don't think I'd be able to manage that well at all. With H's shifts, at least we are able to see each other during the week. However, it is still a 2 hour drive for H to see me. I wish that popping around in the evening was an option. Actually, on re-reading this paragraph, it occurs to me that the question is not what I do with my relationship with H, because I'd be mad to do anything with it other than continue to enjoy it. The real question is what I'm going to do with my life. It's already acknowledged that I don't enjoy my job. And there really aren't any reasons that I should be tied to Nottingham - I'll make friends wherever I fall. Hmmmm - another time to consider this.

More immediately, I have several pressing issues to resolve in the next few weeks. Most pressing, is the issue of where I will live in the near future. I am moving out of my current (lovely) house at the end of March. I have 4 weeks to find somewhere else to live. The move is motivated solely by the fact that I want to spend less on rent. I currently pay £525, which isn't too bad for a 3 bedroom semi. But for a single person it's a little unnecessary. So I'm keen to find somewhere nearer £400. I will have to see what is out there.

Another issue that is important is to get my dreams of running my own company back on track. It's time to start learning to program so that I can contribute to the whole set-up. And if not through programming, I do need to find ways of helping to get the thing on the road. I need to get involved in running my own company - I really think it's a higher priority than my "day-job". And at the moment, I don't think I'm forcing myself to make that distinction clearly enough.

As always, much going on in my head. However it is reaching that time of the night when I need to start sorting myself out for the day ahead tomorrow. I need to get into work fairly early for a 9am meeting. I want to really hit work hard this week and make a signifcant difference to my to-do list. By the end of the week, I will be on top of my workload and able to spend less time reacting to the work that is coming up and more time looking for opportunities to actually add some value to my work. I'll even be able to look at ways that I can start getting some of my "personal governance" back on track: updating my CV, looking at my assignment objectives, searching out my next role, networking, building a bank of tools to help me work more effectively, developing new skills etc

I'm Swayze.


Where'd who go?

Listening to: Nada initially, but moving to Quantic
Most played: Vice City
Right then, back to monthly posting. Good form, glad to see it. Not.

Where did the last month go then? I'm not entirely sure. I might start with now and work backwards until it gets too late for me to want to continue.

Currently I have a sprained knee from Sunday's football match. It's easing now after a couple of days of stiff-legged limping. It's far, far from 100%, but I'm not nearly as sore. A few sessions of physio are planned and I hope that these mean I recover properly and more quickly. My body's important to me, I don't want to bugger it up for ever.

The house is a bit of a mess at the moment. Injured knee provides my notorious procrastination with all the excuse it needs to surface quite viciously. Ah well, serves me right.

As an aside, I notice that interesting blogs aren't written about the blogger but the people and events in the blogger's life. This also appears to be true about columnists - AA Gill, Jeremy Clarkson and, on a slightly different circulation, Belle du Jour are not interesting for what they write about themselves, but for how they write about their views on the world. Ah well, this blog is for me and one day I'll move towards writing something that is interesting for others.

I turned 26 on Monday. It doesn't feel any different and the birthday hasn't shocked me into action. To be honest, I've been using the mental threat that I'm 26 as a stick to beat myself with for months now. In fact, before Christmas, I had taken to describing myself as being 26 anyway. It's weird how people respond to and think about ages really. I figure that as you get nearer to a birthday, you might as well start describing yourself as being that age. It's all arbitrary anyway.

A Vice City addiction has held me for the last 2-3 weeks. J came up to visit and we ended up playing a serious session of Vice City with the "can we complete this in one sitting" mentality. No we couldn't and it depends on what you qualify as "complete". You can finish the story mode and get the "end game credits" fairly quickly - but scoring a 100% complete score is going to take time. I've currently got something like 56% complete. Although I have already got the end credits.

Computer game addiction - indeed addiction generally - affects me dreadfully. I don't understand why and I wish I did. I'd like to be able to harness that addictive energy that will keep me playing a computer game until 1 in the morning the night before work. If I could channel that productively, I'd stop beating myself up about all the schemes in my head. Addiction even affects my relationship with people I love, like H. I find myself thinking that I want to get back to playing so that I can solve the problem that I'm faced with. But really, I want to talk to H, but I can't because of some distraction caused by my addiction. Maybe it's a weak form of schizophrenia - I certainly feel like a different individual when addicted to something.

I'm not sure if I can pin down what else I've been up to over the last month. Valentines Day down in Bristol was fantastic. I love being with H - she is gorgeous. H cooked for me - it was magic. We had champagne and wine and got drunk. I like it. The weekend was too short though.

Before that? I can't quite remember - I think that was J's visit. That would just about fit with the period of gaming addiction. The weekend before that was Al's birthday. And then my last blog. Work in the intervening period has been hectic. I'm happy to work hard though as it stops me spending money on drinking. Plus, I feel like I'm achieving something at the moment. I still have a lot to achieve. I've relaxed a little in the last couple of weeks - which is more to do with me knowing that I need to avoid burnout. This weekend I am away with H and that should help me to relax further. It depends on whether I can avoid being frustrated by my knee. I was really looking forward to getting out and about and exploring the lakes. Now I think that I may have to see rather more through a car window than I'd thought. But, time with H will be the good thing.

Time, I think, to wrap H's presents. Will I go for another ice-pack? I'll see how I feel.



The sound of emptiness

Listening to: The Music
Most played: PES3 (surprise)
I am a freak. But then that much was always obvious. Left work at 9 tonight. It's a feeling I absolutely love - walking out into the car park to see my car in a sea of emptiness. Normally there are at least a 1000 cars in the car park. It's not so much a feeling of isolation, but more one of moving through the world in a different dimension. Everything that is normally so busy and populated can look so still and quiet during the night. At University, I used to enjoy walking home from the lab at 3am, because the world is just such a more enticing place at that time of night.

I suppose I don't feel too bad about working long hours today. I didn't get in until 9 and if I'm being honest, was I productive all day? Was I heck.

Now time to work out what to eat and then prepare for an exciting weekend of work. A lot of work on and I'm hoping to knock 2 or 3 projects on the head next week. It would be a refreshing change for me to actually finish something at last!


Poor excuses and procrastination

Listening to: 80's compilations
Most played: Football (real-life)
A surprisingly hectic week in hindsight. Some major events and stuff in whatever order seems appropriate ...

First win for ages with my 11-a-side team this morning. Finally got a decent squad and team out and it showed. 3-0 by half-time and then enough resilience to hold on in the second half for a 3-1 win. Classic Sunday morning football. The pitch was pretty good - considering the recent rains. Some ankle deep mud in places; I'm pleased that I'm not cleaning the kit this week. Had a strong wind in our faces in the second half, rain and hail at various points. But it's the three points that count!

Feeling exhausted right now. That probably has a lot to do with the alarm clock going off at 6am this morning. At least the early hour was due to waking up in Bristol, next to H. That makes things bearable! Had a great weekend down in Bristol. I really can't get over how comfortable I feel with H. It's just enjoyable and fun, rather than a test to get stressed about. And the fact that I fancy her like crazy helps an awful lot!

Monday I caught up with Timos from Uni. That was good and, unusually for me, slightly random. Managed to get out for my first run of the new year, then got a call from Timos to see if I wanted to meet up for a few games of pool as he was visiting from London. I think Timos will probably end up moving up to Notts, not least as he has started seeing a lass up here.

Very interesting after work beer on Wednesday with Adie. I've been moaning about my job for ages and not really do anything about it. Adie was of a similar mind and has done something about it - it looks like he'll be getting a placement on an account in Northampton for maybe up to a year, which is great. We talked about work and life in general and it was good to just take a step back and think, rather than run through life with my head down and eyes focused on the 10 feet of ground in front of me.

Work is actually going reasonably well for a change at the moment. I have a tonne of work, but some of it is actually starting to take shape at last. Two major projects on at the moment and it's really satisfying to see the team members starting to pull the ideas into sensible solutions. I just hope that I can keep on top of my workload and help them move forward as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that work has turned the corner. The starting point of projects is always the most exciting as you are designing a new solution. Delivery, and worse, pulling all the loose ends together at the end just do not motivate me at all. Maybe I need to learn. Well, there's no maybe, but all things considered, my gut feel is that I'm just doing the wrong thing I think.

OK, I'm utterly exhausted. More to come in the future, but for now, it's time to complete my boring domestic chores and ready myself for the week ahead.


These sales are crap let's slash the seats

Listening to: Massive Attack
Most played: Wandering aimlessley through the town centre looking for non-existent bargains
Surprisingly enough, Nottingham was quiet today. I was expecting it to be packed and, therefore, incredibly annoying it to shop in. The weather was a little miserable, but hey it's January. A smattering of snow, but it wasn't so cold that a decent coat, scarf and gloves couldn't protect you.

Even with the town being quieter than expected, the sales were crap. There wasn't anything of any interest in any of the shops that I went in. Admittedly I was focusing my attention on Marks and Next as I had some vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. In the end, I didn't really get anything from the sales, but did get a couple of ties and a shirt for work and a few other odds and ends.

Also spent a bit of time browsing through Waterstones. Nothing really of note in there. I was looking for some O'Reilly books, but they didn't have much of a selection and certainly not at prices to match with Amazon. So I gave up on that too.

I did have to buy something unnecessary though, so I treated my self to some speakers to put in my study. I think that removes the last of my excuses for not getting on and brushing up on my c++ skills, so I'd better get down to it.

Disappointment of the day was Norwich not knocking Everton out of the cup. Ah well, bit of a shame, but I'll now have to keep my fingers crossed that Yeovil don't managed to do a number on Liverpool. That would surely be the last straw for Houllier - he really hasn't impressed me this season.

A quiet night in tonight. I might have a few games on Pro Evo before I hit the hay. Suits me fine as the bank balance is still slowly recovering after Christmas (yes, yes - I know that the speakers weren't strictly necessary). Hopefully, I'll be catching up with Stocky tomorrow for a spot of grub. I think a bit of mexican is on the cards. H is out tonight in London. Got a text from her sometime around 6 o'clock to say that they were hitting the champagne already. So with any luck I'll get some "pissed and horny" text messages for humorous teasing (and for making me feel quite warm and cuddly as well).

No sleep till ...

Listening to: The sound of my computer fan, because I'm too lazy to go downstairs to change the CD
Most played: PES3

My body's doing weird things to me these days. It's 1am and I'm wide awake. At least I don't have to haul myself out of bed tomorrow to go to work. I'm sure that New Year has played havoc with my body clock right now. Or it could be that I'm just an insomniac. H certainly seems to think that has something to do with it.

J & H have just provided me with much amusement in the form of a fairly drunken phone convo. Although, that said, the speech was still coherent rather than the slurred, disjointed speech that provides so much more entertainment when you're sober! Now I'm wishing I was a 135 miles further south so that I was keeping H warm in bed, but that'll have to be another time now.

Itinerary for tomorrow is basically sale shopping. This could go one of two ways, and it's probably going to be annoying, because there's no way I'll be in town before the masses arrive. And on the shopping list? Two work ties, a work shirt, some jeans and probably an upgrade to the underwear collection. Nothing if not excitement through and through in my life.

This article on BBC News caught my attention this lunchtime. I don't use the web for anything like as much information retrieval as I used to. Now I use it for tidbits of trivia and random ideas. In the past I used to actually gather new information from the web, but I've allowed myself to get into the habit of skim-reading rather than absorbing. It would be easy to claim information overload, but it's actually something more odd. I've allowed staring at the words on the screen without reading to become a pastime all in its own right. Strange.


Geek testing of new toys

I like to play with my new toys and generally tinker.
So, not content with my shiny new blog. It does appear that some comments would be in order.

Unresolved ambitions

A new year and another set of resolutions sitting just below my conscious thoughts. I know that I really want to keep a journal, and that I periodically attempt to start one. So here is this month's attempt. Perhaps transferring it to something that satisfies my geek tendencies will finally enable me to keep it a little more up to date. Or perhaps not. We shall wait and see.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this all pans out. And so much to write about - too much meandering minutiae and not enough of excitement, but that will come with practice.