Archive for June 2002
Here I am at home, with a pot of coffee, biscuits, and the TV on, about to watch the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil. It’s just starting, and the first letdown is that Scottish referee Hugh Dallas didn’t get the final, but has instead been relegated to the “fourth official” role. The fourth official’s other main roles are to keep the team management in line, decide how much injury time to add on, and deal with any other queries. If anything happens to Pierluigi Collina, Dallas will take his place. I have no problem with Collina, though, you don’t get to referee a World Cup Final without being extremely good and experienced, and your whole professional record undergoes intense scrutiny beforehand. Once you’ve seen Collina, you never forget him – totally bald, with aquiline features and bulging eyes. He reminds me of one of the Mekons from the original Star Trek, the ones that gave me nightmares as a 3-year old.15 minutes in, and the Germans are being given more space than they’re entitled to, I can see a goal coming if this keeps up…
Half-time, no score, but near the end of the half the Brazilians started punching holes in the German midfield and finding only the goalkeeper in their way. At least three chances have gone begging, but Oliver Kahn continues to exert the powerful presence he’s shown all tournament. He’s just saved the Germans again, possibly injuring his hand in the process… no he’s OK, we think. Real “end-to-end” stuff, both sides making real goal chances.
66th minute, and Ronaldo has scored for Brazil, after a mistake by Kahn, who couldn’t quite hang on to the greasy ball.
77th minute, and this time Ronaldo has created a brilliant goal of his own, Germany are not likely to come back from this without really digging in and creating their own luck. These goals also give Ronaldo the “Golden Boot” award for highest scorer of the tournament. Compared to the histrionics he displayed at the last World Cup, this time he just got on and did what was asked of him. This also brings him level with Pelé as Brazil’s top World Cup striker, with 12 goals.
No, while Germany came closer and closer in the last few minutes, Brazil have won their fifth World Cup, the game ending 2-0. Considering Germany weren’t seriously expected to get anywhere near the final, this is a great achievement for coach Rudi Voeller, a former player himself. They were accused of being boring a few weeks ago, but got more interesting the longer they stayed in the tournament.
A great game, one of the best World Cup finals in years. Here in Ireland, it’s been football madness, with Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, in particular, all over the media, once the Roy Keane fuss had died down. The people I work with are drawn from all across Europe, and all games were shown in our canteen, using a projector, so most lunchtimes were a little excitable. Even I’ve enjoyed a few games, especially interesting ones such as the final.
Still, thank goodness it’s all over, eh?
A week after seeing the doc, my ear seems to be a little better. It’s still internally gummed up, but the tinnitus has abated to the point where I can actually listen to music through headphones at a reasonable volume, and walk around without the earplug. It’s still annoying, I’m still half-deaf and acting like Dickens character. “Hah? Whazzat? Wait a minute, let me turn my good ear to point at you…”I effectively have a weekend off, the only obligation I have is to go and check out prices of ferry / train tickets. I can’t see how to book a combined ticket online, so it means venturing to the Dun Loaghaire Ferry Terminal, where I got a ticket 2 years ago.
Hot on the heels of the Worldcom scandal, there are also major concerns about Xerox, who are restating $2bn of earnings, but are being dogged by reports that the correct figure is more like $6bn. WTF?
I read the news today, oh boy… about John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who, who died yesterday, in Las Vegas. Here’s the report from BBC News. He died literally the day before The Who were to kick off a US tour, and John was also exhibiting his art in a gallery there. All that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have said so far is “The Ox has left the building – we’ve lost another great friend. Thanks for your support and love. Pete and Roger”.What to say about John Entwistle and his influence on my instrument of choice, the electric bass? I think it’s enough to say that a little part of him will be there every time I play; specifically, in the strings. I use roundwound strings, as do most electric bassists today, and John was directly responsible for their use in this context.
In the late 60′s, he pressed the James How company, makers of Rotosound strings, to make them available for the bass, in preference to the flatwounds in use at the time. Roundwounds were already in use on pianos and guitars, but there had been justifiable concern that they would lead to fret damage on basses. They were right, but the price is worth paying for the sound, and the frets themselves have since been hardened to compensate. This combination of elements forms the foundation of the modern electric bass sound.
They were soon adopted by other leading bassists of the time, including Chris Squire, Stanley Clarke, and Paul McCartney. You can hear the difference they made to McCartney’s sound if you compare some later Beatles songs such as Paperback Writer (using flatwounds) with Wings’ Silly Love Songs - he used his Rickenbacker on both songs, but roundwound strings on the latter. As for Squire, well, his upfront sound required such strings in the first place.
This is a real loss. It’s going to take me some time to get my head around this. I think I’ll be playing a bit more bass than usual this weekend: that’s the best way I can think of to say “Thank You” to The Ox.
Oh, bloody marvellous. I’ve just been reading about the WorldCom accounting scandal. It’s similar in concept to the Enron scandal, and the same accountants (Arthur Andersen) were involved, but the financial impact is six times the size of Enron’s. They’ve been mis-stating expenses, calling them investments – not exactly an obscure technicality, is it? BBC News has a sobering report on the impact of all this on the world market in general.
This would not be a good time to lose my job, but it appears as if our department is self-sizing itself anyway. On Friday, we’re losing the third person this year to date, while last calendar year we took on two and lost none. Factor in the critical function we perform in our regional support structure, and I don’t see much danger to my job. If something happens, it’ll be out of the blue, flying in the face of business logic.
In my quasi-hypochondriac torpor, I forgot to mention that I managed to find a TechAir Toronto case for the new Compaq notebook. Not their flashiest model, and I might have preferred their New York model, had I found one in the right colour, but they only had the gaudy silver model here. If I’m going to take this setup all around England next month, it had better be discreet and effective, I don’t fancy getting mugged in London. In any case, Toronto is one of my favourite cities, where I might end up living one day.
Saw this report from Reuters yesterday – according to calculations, Scotland has the highest number of UFO sightings per unit area. This is not very complimentary about the Scots, if the USA experience is anything to go by. Bill Hicks did a famous routine, which appears on Relentless, about “hillbilly aliens” landing in Fife, Alabama, and being welcomed by gun-toting hicks. Maybe that should read Fife, Scotland?
“Would you let the aliens land, please? They might be here to pick me up.”
Well, it appears to be an ear infection. The doc called it a “presumptive diagnosis”, meaning that’s what he’s presuming it is. If it doesn’t clear up under antibiotics, I’ve got to go back, meaning another €40 charge, which needs to be paid there and then. (Here in Ireland, doctors expect cash up front, or at least before you leave the building.) At least the guy admitted he didn’t know – I’d rather have that than the usual “we know exactly what the problem is” bullshit.So, I’ve had to explain to everyone I meet that I’m not wearing an earplug to shut them out, but because a) I can barely hear anything through that ear, and b) anything that does get through is painful.
I’m on Distaclor and Stemetil. I’m seeing the Stemetil (USA: Compazine) specs for the first time now, and it appears to be a tranquilliser that is used in treating chronic nervous and mental disorders, including schizophrenia, and also helps in cases of nausea and vertigo associated with ear problems, which is where I come in. So far the pills have had no effect on my ear – it’s getting worse, if anything, starting to become painful.
The list of Stemetil side effects is quite frightening. I was warned about avoiding alcohol or sunlight, but I wasn’t told that it could react with antihistamines. I should have been, since it’s hay fever season, and the doc asked whether I suffer from it. I do, but I’m not taking any medication for that, just living with it. It can also cause low blood pressure and dizziness. Between all the side effects, I could have conked out on the train on Saturday, as I was shopping for a case for my new notebook. So I’m not going to complete the course of those, but keep some aside for later. I have been known to get carsick (but not seasick or airsick), so they might help then.
Leaving work early to go to the doctor – there’s something very wrong with my right ear. It may be just wax, but if so, it’s getting bigger by the day, and is now pushing on my inner ear, causing tinnitus. We’ll see.
Today’s culinary cock-up: “chow mien“. A mien refers to someone’s bearing or attitude, perhaps as a reflection of inner turmoil. I’m not sure I want that in my lunch…
Here at our office in Dublin, we have a canteen where we can eat a subsidised lunch every weekday. Not bad quality food, but not up to the standard I saw when I visited Microsoft in Redmond in 1995.
The fun aspect is seeing what new mistakes can be made on the menu each day, since it appears that the catering industry here in Ireland doesn’t attract the brightest of people. They commonly use fancy words with no idea what they mean, and over-use terms such as “home-made”. The only way that most of what they serve could be “home-made” would be if some of the staff set up tents in the kitchen.
Today’s culinary cock-up: “pork escalope with a cheesy gratinated sauce”. “Gratinated” is a lazy bastardization of the French au gratin, meaning “with cheese”, so this was a cheesy sauce… with cheese.
I’ve booked 2 weeks off at the end of July, to go to England. The first week will be spent at Nottingham University, at the residential school for my OU Engineering course, which I’ve mentioned before. The middle weekend will see me at the Farnborough Air Show, then the second week is unstructured. I may head back up north, to see Marillion at one of the 2 gigs they’re playing, in Sheffield and Richmond (Yorkshire).
With all the hassle last time, and the threat of further strikes by air traffic controllers etc. over summer, I’m going to take the ferry instead, to Holyhead, and then the train to Nottingham. I’ve done it before, and it works OK, as long as you bring something to read, because neither the ferry or the connecting train are particularly quick. I just need a new case, something medium size with wheels. I already have a large one, too big for a stay of this length where I’ll be able to wash clothes along the way. I’d better start planning now…
This is what surrounds me today:
- a pile of ripped-off cartoons from last year’s Dilbert calendar
- some Post-Its
- CD catalogue from RS
- IBM Gigabit Interface Connector (GBIC), long-wave (too expensive to leave lying around, stupid person)
- one dead 9V Duracell
- Zio USB CompactFlash Reader with a couple of cards
- to go with my old HP Jornada 545 in its cradle (OK MP3 player)
- box of Twinings Selection Herbal Infusions (tea bags)
- keyboard, Compaq, old & heavy with great keys
- gel wrist rest
- a disposable pen stamped with the Microsoft Windows XP logo
- roll of generic sticky tape
- “office” PC (Compaq Deskpro SFF) running Microsoft Windows 2000 and far too many applications
- Scholl Odour Control Foot Spray
- odd-shaped plastic pen holder (empty)
- laptop mains cable, with no PSU attached (it’s at home with the laptop)
- Fisherman’s Friends original extra strong (nearly empty)
- various Euro coins, and a few obsolete Irish ones too
- monitor, DEC, 21-inch
- more Post-Its
- tea coaster from “online classics”
- multi-line phone which thankfully almost never rings, and if it does, the caller sometimes lives to regret the error;
- Scottish flag, made by a USA company, in China, a souvenir of my Glasgow visit
- sugar sachets (in case spoon doesn’t stand up straight in coffee)
- Scout keyboard/video/mouse (kvm) switchbox
- empty 1 litre glass juice bottle, used for tea
- empty Coke can
- postcard from aya sushi
- binder with various storage training bits
- huge coffee mug with “Fred” cartoon
- empty box that my bike helmet came in
- paper towels, in case of spillage
- ancient “lab” PC (pentium 133), gently running Red Hat Linux 7.3
- 2-hole punch
- Wrigley’s Orbit Ice White chewing gum
- “RTFM” in 480-point type on Landscape A4
- yet more Post-Its
- shoulder bag holding wallet, keys, and various bits
- American Scream
- The Dilbert Principle
- Dutch in Three Months
- Dublin Street Atlas
- Netware for Dummies (Quick Reference)
- VBScript Programmer’s Reference
- Unix Fundamentals training material
- Visions of Technology, edited by Richard Rhodes
Off to the pub next for a semi-obligatory drink – we have two fairly senior people leaving, both to go back home to Denmark, to work for the same company. Coincidence? Or something more sinister?I’m not really an exciting person, but some people think I’m interesting to be around, since I’m interested in many things, knowledgeable about a few, and can (hopefully) make a start on getting a handle on them. I’m also known as a cynical git who acts like he’s seen it all. Well, I haven’t seen it all, but I have seen a lot, between South Africa, the UK, and now Ireland.
Where I work, a few (dull) people think I’m like Anne of Green Gables, the fictional character who took delight in most things, seeing connections and possibilities all around her. In a similar way, the Web and its “hypertext” structure are tailor-made for our type, since it can also open up new and unexpected vistas after each click. I don’t know if I’m a ‘Net junkie, since I manage just fine (I think) when away from a computer, but that would explain a few things.
This self-explanatory spiel is an excuse to include an appropriate quote: from a new movie review by Roger Ebert, whom I sometimes find myself agreeing with. The film is 13 Conversations About The Same Thing, and it’s all about happiness, and how rudely it can be interrupted, assuming we can find it at all. Ebert notes the film’s effect on him, and how it relates to an injury he suffered recently (a fall). He ends the review like this:
And yet, even so, there is a way to find happiness. That is to be curious about all of the interlocking events that add up to our lives. To notice connections. To be amused or perhaps frightened by the ways things work out. If the universe is indifferent, what a consolation that we are not.
Still no laptop. The store says “this week”, and they had better mean it.The training course I gave is over, without major incident. The main problem is that I was seeing things on the slides that
- I wasn’t aware of, or
- I don’t agree with.
A typical example is the order in which you start up a SAN system. Since the Switches may be used for other SAN functions, like disk storage on critical servers, you don’t go switching them on and off willy-nilly. It’s fair to say that they are the SAN, or at least its backbone. One of the slides advocated taking them down as part of the process of starting up the backup systems. Well, if you deliberately crash a critical server by disconnecting it from its storage, you should keep a backup copy of your CV or resumé at home. On paper, since you can’t be trusted to operate a computer.