Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Who remembers when

You browsed the web with Netscape, your mail client was Lotus Notes, and you didn't Google stuff, you asked Altavista?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

New World Order

When I'm supreme world leader, there will be a few changes. One of the first? The addition of spikes onto motorways and dual carriageways, on the chevron bits where the exit slip and main carriageway separate. Thus, the stupids who realise that "this isn't my exit" or "that is my exit", and swerve dangerously at the last minute, will be shredded by the spikes. For us lot what don't pull stupid tricks like that, it makes one less hazard. The stupids will quickly learn to stop their stupid trickery. Or not...

Yup, when I'm supreme world leader there'll be changes afoot. The stupids won't like it much.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fruity!

Tis a lovely early spring day here in the flatlands. After blitzing all of my pay rise yesterday at the garden centre, I'm planning a bit of grubbing in the mud.

Am the proud owner of two dwarf fruit trees!

Plum:



Cherry:

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Is it a blue moon?

Christ Paterson missed a kick today! Does he not know who he is?!

Friday, 18 March 2011

4 months and 16 days

That was how long I'd left it between posts. So here's to another comeback and another blog revival. I should run a book on how long I'll manage to keep this up ;)

Of course, I have many valid (to me) excuses. Principle blame has to lie with the iPhone (too easy to do online-y things without use of laptop). And that my Dell is getting old and slow.

Did you see my new tab? I intend to fill it with books. Ones that I like, of course.

Had my remuneration review meeting today. Pay rise! Nice. No change to job title. Frustrating.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hello?

Is anybody there?

Are you all hiding in a nuclear bunker?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Geography lesson

East Midlands Airport has been in the news over the weekend. Where is East Midlands Airport? Based on my sometimes fuzzy grasp of UK geography, I'd say somewhere vaguely between Nottingham and Leicester. I definitely know it's near Donnington Park circuit.

France 2 (France Télévision's, the French public broadcaster, "flagship" channel) news thinks East Midlands Airport is in.... London. Riiiiiight. Even the closest, and northern-most, "London" airport, Stansted, is about 100 miles further south.

The free weekly, 20 Minutes (think Metro) , situated the airport in "le centre" of England. That's close enough for me.

Conclusion:
- France 2 thinks its audience is too intellectually limited to cope with the concept of anywhere in England not being in London
- 20 Minutes credits its readership with a bit more nouse

Maybe you're the same as me

Maybe you too wonder what sidelights (the ones on your car) are for? What are sidelights actually for?

Last week on the drive home light levels were low, and even though the (timer-set) streetlights hadn't yet come on, most drivers were thinking like me and were on dipped headlights. Some utter numpties hadn't seen the need for any lighting at all. Maybe they liked to sneak around and stay invisible. Tactic was working cos you couldn't see them. Some other odd folks were on sidelights. Now I could understand the logic of "it is not fully dark, visibility allows good vision of the road, so sidelights are sufficient to ensure my vehicle is seen" if every motorist was on sidelights. But 80% of us were on dipped headlights. So the sidelight cars were just lost.

My take is that if you feel visibility conditions are poor enough to warrant lights, there is no halfway house. It's headlights all the way. Sidelights should be reserved for street parking manoeuvres, or just plain dumped altogether. They are most definitely not sufficient as driving lights in low visibility conditions. You might be able to see, but it doesn't mean everyone else can see you (that's based on the proviso they actually looked in the first place!).

Of course I do most of my driving in France. I seem to have inadvertently ended up with a car that has some sort of invisibility cloaking device. I know that sounds far-fetched, but it could explain why so many drivers and pedestrians just come out right in front of you with no warning. So I use my headlights to try to cancel out the cloaking device effect. I should be living in Sweden.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lis's handy guide to database managing

Or database management? Managing?

Hello everyone, my name is Dotty the Database Manager. I manage a database. I don't create any of the data content, other people do that (user group A, we'll call them). The data is created in language 1, and can be translated by users (with the appropriate profile, user group B for instance) into languages 2 through to 12.

The main data sets are created and translated accordingly to a timetable that is drawn up 6 months in advance, communicated widely, and updated regularly. This ensures all user groups can plan and manage their workload for this content.

When user group A creates content, I leave it up to each user to inform user group B that data is available for international adaptation. Group B needs to receive this information in a timely fashion, because the data must be ready for use in each country according to a strict seasonal calendar. Sometimes group A gives the wrong information about new data to group B. This causes confusion and can lead to errors. If I were in control of the information group A gives out this wouldn't happen.

Recently I had the IT team develop a great new module where user group A can create new content entirely autonomously. It's fantastic because they no longer need to work to a restrictive calendar. They can create content as and when the fancy takes them. Once content is created, they can edit at will, with no fiddly un-publish/un-link/re-link/re-publish operations as with the main data sets. Even better, if content is already translated, they can still edit and even delete without any restrictions (unlike the main data set, where you cannot modify any content that has been translated, you have to create a new record). Sounds fab, doesn't it?

There is no timetable for the creation of content in the new module. Users in group A don't communicate when they create content (to me, Dotty, or to user group B). The new module does not include any type of automated alert to inform me or other users when content is created/updated.

If users in group B want to adapt the content in the new module for use locally, they have to check, one by one, close to 300 folders to find out whether content is present. If they have a vision in a dream informing them that changes have been made to already-adapted content, they have to check, one by one, close to 300 folders...

Sounds fab, doesn't it? Oh, no, hang on, sounds shit. That's because it bloody well is, Dotty!

As you'll have guessed, Dotty is a fictional character. But she is largely based on somebody in my company who has had a module added to her database, but no has no control over what is created and updated, or when, in the module. So she has no way of communicating this information to users who need it. When I stamped my feet and pointed out that this was not good enough, she suggested a query that could scan the data sets and look up changes. We could run it every 2 weeks for example. OK great, I'll take it. 3 weeks of development time before we can have our query. Eh?

Lessons to learn:
1. Don't create features that allow users to create/edit data with no controls whatsoever
2. Manage your user groups so they inform you, database manager, or at least impacted user groups, of new or updated content
3. Take responsibility for your scope

Harrumph.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

My mother-in-law the basket case

I don't often blog about my mother-in-law. These days I don't often blog full stop.

But I think I'll blog today, specifically about my mother-in-law (the basket case). I am such a lucky girl, I actually have two mothers-in-law. One of them is my step mother-in-law. She is a very sweet woman for whom I have a lot of affection. She makes up for my other mother-in-law, who is a wicked old cow.

Hubby, poor, put-upon Hubby, has never had an easy relationship with his mother. When he was a child, if he didn't finish his scrummy lunch of veal cheek or pig's trotters, his mother would shut him in the kitchen cupboard where he would remain in the dark for up to two hours. When she let him out, he would be presented with the now-cold veal cheek to finish. These days, social services would be sniffing around for much less I feel.

Later in life she continued this kind and loving style of mothering. For example when we first moved to the north of France, our new landlord wanted a guarantor for the rent, because at the time I didn't have a job. Fair enough. She refused to sign the guarantor papers because 1/ she actually genuinely thought we'd default on the rent (which was, incidentally, more than manageable on just Hubby's income), 2/ she didn't want to be liable for that. So she would have rather seen her son (her only child) homeless. Nice!

The coup de grâce came late in 2007, just a few days before Christmas. We'd been visiting in November and had used her wifi connection to go online. As you'll know, if you have a wireless broadband router, this requires use of a WEP key (security number), which gives you access to the internet connection of the router. It doesn't give you access to anything else. Such as the email account of the line subscriber. I mean, it might do, but I certainly wouldn't have the first clue on how to go about getting that.

However, mother-in-law decided that we had "hacked" into her emails (like either of us is sufficiently interested in her boring life to want to read her emails! Just cos she'd *love* to be able to see ours). So she went to the Orange shop and asked them to change her email address. And she told the man in the Orange shop that we had used her wireless broadband connection. And this was, apparently, hacking! "And so I went and porté plainte" (she said this, word for word, to Hubby). Porter plainte means to make a complaint, but not just to anyone. You make a plainte to the police.

So here we have mother-in-law telling Hubby that she had reported him to the police for hacking her wifi and email account. I'll let you imagine for a moment just how you would feel if your dear mother were to say to you that she'd reported you to the police for computer hacking. In the scenario, I'd ask you also to imagine that you're going through a very rocky patch with your employer (any excuse to dismiss you and they'd jump on it), and that your whole career to this point has been in data networks (and, specifically, network security). Are you building up a scene of utter disbelief/shock/massive panic? You're getting somewhere near how Hubby was feeling.

Turns out of course that no report was ever filed, she had made it up. But just exactly what sort of a person thinks it's OK to say that sort of thing to their child? Or anyone, for that matter. Somebody who doesn't ever think about the effect their words and actions have on others. Or somebody very spiteful indeed.

Which ever one it is, Hubby was pretty hurt and pretty cross. Who can blame him. So he more or less cut her off. This, coming after a lifetime of snide remarks, cruel comments, unkind actions... it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Hubby decided he'd rather not have a mother than have one who had the potential to make him feel shitty every time he spoke to her.

So for the last 2 and a half years, he has had near zero contact with her. I'd say "c'mon, you only have one mum, even if she is a nasty piece of work." But he'd reply "I'm waiting for an apology." (Hubby can be quite stubborn!) Yerrrssss, I can understand that. But to get to the point of an apology, the "wronger" has to first be aware that they have wronged the "wrongee". Most people can grasp that concept, but in mother-in-law's skewed reality, she cannot possibly the be cause of any one single negative emotion Hubby has ever experienced in his life.

[Thanks for sticking with me, I'm getting there]

Anyway, after all this time she has finally found a way to lure him to her witch's lair. She sent an email saying she was having a big chuck out and what did he want to do with his college notes/old toys/blah blah. I could see he was swithering because there are some items in his mother's flat that he would quite like to get back. So he plucked up all his courage and headed off to the West (hahah, not really, she lives south of us, but it makes us laugh).

The big event was yesterday morning. She asked him why we never came to visit any more. He pointed out to her that the things she had said in December 2007 had been just a wee bit unkind and hurtful, and that he had been just a wee bit upset about it all. And, much to everyone's surprise, she actually said "oh, sorry". I mean!!!! Hubby suspects it was more a diplomatic, tactical "ok, sorry then, can we be friends again now" than a genuine "gosh, I didn't mean to be unkind, I *am* sorry". This was possibly borne out by the ensuing change in tack: "ok we're friends again now, when are you next coming to visit?" Hubby delicately (or not) pointed out that "if I have a choice between putting up with the cruel things you say to me [and consequently feeling shit], or not having any contact with you, well, the not having any contact is working for me." Ouch.

He is quite pleased, because he got his grandfather's hunting rifle (left to him in the grandfather's will). Mother-in-law did raise some concerns that I might get my hands on it and drive down to her dragon's den and shoot her. Ha! Hmm, let me mull that one over.... Nah. I don't give enough of a shit. I suspect she watches too much telly and thinks she lives in a naff American soap opera (lots of them on French daytime TV) where these kinds of things happen. I know I've got a temper, but hey.

Last night the gang and I had a shot a some champagne-fuelled psychoanalysis. We couldn't decide whether she is a schizophrenic with persecutory delusions, or a sociopath (is it sociopaths who can have "apparently" functional relationships but don't feel empathy?). But then we ordered pizza and watched a DVD because it was more fun.

(Have just asked the all-knowing and cast-iron reliable Wikipedia: looks like it's the pyscopaths who can form "apparently" normal relationships. Must be a pyscopath then.)

I wonder where things go from here. When I have my magnanimous hat on, I think "well, he's thrown her a rope." In saying he'd rather have no contact with her than listen to her nastiness, she can deduct that, if she wants to see more of him, she needs to bite her forked tongue. But maybe he's only given her enough rope to hang herself with. Which, when I have my self-serving hat on, I quite relish. After all, let us not forget the row that was had in our house just after we moved in. She insisted she wanted to be here for the move (to stick her beak in). Not the best idea, with hindsight. I was irritable and short-tempered, she was itching for a fight. She shouted at me (in my own home). I shouted back. Later in the evening I decided I was partly to blame and went to apologise and make the peace. She said "get out of my sight, I don't want to look at you or hear your voice and I certainly don't want to listen to your apology." Riiiiight. Her visit ended there.

I would say I'm justified in saying if she's all alone and her son won't have anything to do with her, it's nobody's fault but her own. I can fully see Hubby's point of view when he says that even if he did let her back into his life, he could never trust her not to revert to type and come out with something cruel and spiteful at the first opportunity. But the tiny little bit of me that is kind and forgiving still thinks he should give her a go. On strict probationary terms, of course.

So there it ends, my story/rant about my mother-in-law (the wicked old cow one). It's been quite cathartic to write it all down in fact. Even if I could easily write twice as much again about all the ups and downs! I haven't ever really blogged about this stuff before, because one never knows exactly who reads one's blog. But I don't care!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

He goes his on way

I would be hurt if one described me as an aggressive driver, but sometimes I just have to stamp down my foot and say "oi, I'm driving on that bit of road, you can just wait". Of course, with such a strategy, it is important to know when discretion is the better part of valour (or rather, when to let the mentalist just go ahead and carve you up). This morning was not one of those times. The driver opposite could just jolly well wait until I had cleared the junction. It was my right of way, after all.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Fool in the Fiat

Hello poor, neglected blog. Don't know if there is anyone still out there? Still, shall carry on regardless. Am quite used to talking to myself.

As I am such a lax blogger, and find that Twitter is so much more convenient (read: short posts, minimum thought, quick and easy), I am trying a new source for blog content. I must admit to pinching the idea from Brennig (thanks Brennig). After a bit of fiddling with a hair elastic, I have managed to attach my iPod to the other side (the one I can't see) of my rearview mirror. This will enable me to record the weird and wonderful driving I am so lucky to observe on my daily commute. And share it with the world.

Naturally, I only thought of doing this last night, so missed the guy who charged onto a roundabout then promptly stopped half on and half off, having realised he maybe should've given way to my vehicle. And I missed the moron pedestrian who just stepped out into the road in front of me without even glancing to check for traffic. And today on the way home, I even missed the madman who shot through a red light, because earlier fiddling with iPod position had paused the recording.

Thus, all I have to offer is a quite poor snippet of ... "interesting" lane positioning.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Euro it makes sense... or not

The European single currency is having a slight crisis. Since the global credit crunch (what an over-used catch-all lazy moniker that is, plus it doesn't really mean anything) buggered up financial markets good and proper in 2007, some eurozone economies have been struggling in the resulting downturn and recession, saddled with massive budget deficits resulting from an all too voracious appetite for cheap credit (governments and individuals alike).

My point here isn't to go over just how the Greek economy got itself into such a mess, even though anachronisms such as a state retirement age of 53 (yes, fifty three) are worth a mention. My point here is that the euro itself is in very serious trouble. And how did it get to be in so much trouble? Because it was almost certainly doomed from the start.

Let's be clear, as a tourist, I love the euro. I think it's fabulous. We live close to the Belgian border and only this morning we were in Belgium shopping. I adore the fact that I don't have to do any mental arithmetic (good thing, cos I find sums hard without a pencil and paper), or rush to the nearest cash machine to get currency, whenever we travel to Belgium, Germany or elsewhere in the eurozone. How marvellous.

So, great for tourists and also, to an extent, for businesses. But bad for economies. Right from its beginnings, my big misgiving about the European single currency has been the "one size fits all" economic policy approach. It's a bit of a risky strategy, after all. Applying the same central bank interest rates and economic governance policies to economies as disparate as Germany's and Portugal's, Denmark's and Greece's, or Belgium's and Ireland's is never a wise move. How can you expect the same central bank baseline interest rate to suit an economy like Luxembourg's, growing at 5.4% (in 2005) with that of Portugal's, growing at 0.9%? Or control a 1.4% inflation rate in The Netherlands just as well as a 3.2% rate in Spain? Of course not. Central economic policies don't usually manage to suit all regions within just one country, never mind economies from 16 different countries.

On top of this not-ever-so-bright central banking approach, add the question of solidarity between nations. Observe the distinct displeasure amongst Germans about having to stump up 22bn euros to get the Greeks out of bother. It's understandable, after all. And that is why monetary union is such a difficult thing to get right. It's not just about minting some new coins and printing off some pretty new banknotes with forrin writing on. It needs for the taxpayers in all member states to be willing to shore up another country's economy. And that is somewhat complicated. If it was easy, the Greek crisis would never have reached the stage it has now.

Photo credit:

Monday, 3 May 2010

Marking my X

I just wrote a big long post about the looming UK General Elections. About how Labour are almost certainly on the way out, but Posh Boy and his Tories haven't got the keys to Downing Street just yet, and that "wee chancer" Nick Clegg from the Liberal Democrats could still be kingmaker. But it was all too convoluted. I confess that a long-dormant and somewhat geeky passion for the workings of government, the British constitution, electoral reform and UK politics in general that had been slumbering within me since I graduated with my BA (Hons) 2:1 more than 10 years previously, came bubbling back to life.

So I'm switching tack. There's an election on Thursday and I don't know which party to vote for. It so happens the constituency I vote in is, historically, a pretty safe Labour seat. As in, give my dog a red rosette and she'd probably be returned. Especially if you told voters she was a former miner. So probably my actual vote won't swing things either way. But still, I shall vote according to which candidate and which party best represents what I want to see from a government.

But I don't know who to vote for. Not voting Labour because of FO Tony, and they are just flailing around uselessly, and even if I respect Gordon Brown for some of his principles (notably Third World debt), he's not cut out for politicking. Am hard-wired not to be able to vote Tory. Voting Tory would only be an option if it were a strategic vote to block the BNP or UKIP (incidentally, UKIP standing in my constituency - will lose their deposit with any luck). So will never vote Tory. Certainly wouldn't ever vote for Droopy and his one-issue joke party. Would at one time have considered the Greens, but no more. Not since they leaped into bed with the Nats at Holyrood. They have sullied themselves. Other candidates standing in my constitution include someone from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (Commies?), an "Independent" (requires further investigation), and a Liberal Democrat. Until recently, that would have been pretty much a no-brainer. But last weekend chisel-chinned Nick Clegg declared, in the likely event of no outright majority for any party, his party would offer its support first to Posh Boy and his horrid Tories to form a government. Oh no!!!! What he actually said was don't count on the Lib Dems to prop up Labour if they come third in the popular vote. Which, if I stick to my electoral reform principles, is fair and right. But primitive instinct tells me is wrong. I mean, the Tories?

So I don't know which party to instruct my proxy to vote for on my behalf. I need to find out about this "Independent" chap. And fast.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Fed up to the back teeth

Of the disrespectful French. At some point this weekend, some retard did this to my poor wee car. And naturally, they didn't leave their insurance details. Because in this forsaken country, it is not the done thing to have the slightest consideration for anyone but oneself. Now, I know probably more than most car-owners that if you have a car, it will get damaged. Yes, that sounds very pessimistic, but it's the truth. People will open their car doors into yours, they'll scrape past with supermarket trolleys or pushchairs or bikes or whatever. If you're really unlucky, other motorists will drive into you. I have owned my car for 10 years now, and every 2 and a half years, on average, somebody has driven into me. It's had 3 new front bumpers, 2 new bonnets, one new rear light cluster...

This means that I, more than many others, know full well that having a car means it will get damaged. Put it doesn't make the pill any easier to swallow. I just cannot get my innocent little mind around the concept that a person has caused damage to another person's property, and they have simply driven off, without a second thought. I wasn't brought up to behave that way. But it would appear to be the national attitude in this cursed country.

Or maybe it's something about this town. Disrespect and conceited, condescending deceitfulness are, after all, practised with skill and finesse by our town council. Local residents have only recently, and quite accidentally discovered plans to build blocks of flats just behind an existing, very small, lotissement (subdivision/estate). Now, if you or I common mortals wished to build a small extension to the kitchen, for example, we would be made to jump through many administrative hoops. Building permit application, declaration to the town hall, public announcement (ie permit application displayed on town hall notices board) followed by 3-month holding period in case any local residents wanted to lodge an objection... And of course you must pay for the privilege. But when it's the town council and their cronies who want to build 90 apartments, they can just approve the programme. No building permit applications for them, no public consultation, no planning procedures. Had this deceit not been uncovered, the first most residents would've know about the whole shambles would've been the morning the bulldozers turned up.

So possibly, the fine example set to inhabitants by the mayor and his cohorts is what leads to the sort of "petty" crime that saw my car door severely bent and nobody to own up to their misdeeds. Or maybe this town just has a higher than usual population of arseholes?

I know, I know. France doesn't have a monopoly on arseholes. But it is indeed strange that I have so many friends and acquaintances in other countries whose cars are never driven into. And even if they did, I am quite sure they would be able to report the crime to their local polis on any day of the week. Whereas, in third world countries, one can only report crimes from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Eh? I wonder if I can ask to only pay my taxes for Monday to Friday, and deduct Saturday and Sunday.

And on top of all this, Doggy has a lump in her abdomen. Operation tomorrow to remove it and the vet has promised a biopsy if it looks remotely iffy. I know this has nothing to do with leaving in French France, but it's not helping maintain healthy, happy serotonin levels in my wee head.