Friday, September 30, 2005

Conkering Ambivalence

Autumn is slowly working her magic, turning leaves black and when dusk hits, the street lights give everything that orange tint which camouflages the true colour of everything, making all cars look dark blue. I'm a summer person myself and if asked to choose between Spring and Autumn, I'm unsure what I'd prefer but I think I'll have to go with blustery October as opposed to April showers. I enjoy the feeling of wrapping up in a scarf and hat and kicking leaves and dodging puddles as opposed to not being sure what clothes to wear or if it might rain. Plus it's conker season. I'm proposing a conker championship in work as part of stepping up a range of social events. Who knows how it will go down with everyone. A large number will look on with ambivalence letting those slightly more enthusiastic to take control. I think so many are settled into a rut where generally nothing happens and they just clock in and clock out, regarding work as a part of the cog of life, only serving the purpose of turning the other cog that pays their wage so they can escape the confines of their desk for 2 days out of the week until they move on or retire.
I may be too hopeful that this newly established social committee will provide a kick up the arse and get people more involved with one another but it's better than being pessimistic. Our first event is 10 pin bowling on 21st October which is a good easy option to get everyone together - with any luck, people will be more keen to sign up to future events if this is successful. I do know that you can't please everyone so as long as a few other people enjoy it as much as those on the social committee then the job is done.
As for social events this weekend, I've set aside tonight to upgrade the PC so expect to read about that come Monday morning with an update of whatever mischief I get up to on Saturday. Have a great weekend and don't forget to look out for conkers!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'll Replace You With Machines

I got my new graphics card today for the new computer I ordered a few weeks ago. As you may know I ordered the wrong card for the motherboard and I've had to wait a little bit longer to assemble it. There are 3 games in particular I want to try out on it:

Fable: The Lost Chapters
- Sequel to Fable with increased game depth i.e. more of the same only better.

Age Of Empires 3 - Sequel to the games that have stolen so many hours from me on a Sunday afternoon.

Oblivion - Drool.

I'm also currently playing Dungeon Lords which is running slower than the Bournemouth Zimmer Frame Relay Race Team on my current machine which is slowly falling apart. I think it knows it's soon to be replaced and is refusing to work at full output. Ah well, after a fresh install it will be back up to full capacity and unaware of it's dubious past.

In other news, work is getting more and more hectic as the deadline for a project is continually put back and the stress piles up. I'll cover the full details when the project is up and running and I can begin to regrow my hair after it falling out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Banter Decanter

Café Vaudeville was quiet last night but we certainly weren't. A few hadn't been before and marvelled at the interior decoration. Someone mentioned that the chandeleers cost £2.5 million and who's to argue? The only thing I can't reason is why there's a ladies on every floor but the gents is on the 3rd. At least it's huge and there's no queue's.

The evening began as 12 of us were squeezed around a marble table and we all threw £10 in a kitty to get things moving. It's a great idea as everyone pays the same unless some munchkin orders a cocktail but beer was the order of the day so no squabbling.

After an hour or so, there were only 8 of us left and more money was thrown in and food was ordered. I had the goats cheese salad with a side of chips which was delicious. Yvonne ordered salted chilli squid which looked mouth-watering but there's no way I'm paying £7 for a starter that I'm not going to remember how it tasted. Then more Guinness please, thank-you.

By 9pm only the hardcore remained and we moved to comfier seats and the inane banter began. Then the killer topics began: paedophilia, Northern Irish politics and the bane of all conversations - work. After much chagrin I intervened and brought up my recent post of 3 movies not to watch giving a much relived group something besides heart-ache to discuss.
When drunk it is best to avoid conversation that creates tension as it only leads to misinterpretation and possible bitching. Speaking of which, there was plenty of that when work was discussed but I suppose it's a good way of letting off steam.

Nevertheless a good night was had and I look forward to more of the same.

Social Behaviour

This afternoon we had our first Social Committee Meeting in work. It was a good brain-storming session and we have theoretically laid the foundations for social outings into 2006. When the idea was first raised a few weeks ago there was less than an enthisiastic showing of support. Are people really that opposed to getting together once a month to forget about work and relax with their co-workers? I know there's always at least one person in the workplace that grinds your gears or gets the hair up on the back of your neck but for every person like that, there's always at least two people that you get along with and would enjoy having a drink with.

Tonight we're having our first impromptu social gathering and heading to Café Vaudeville for a good old session. It's a shame that people don't have that "one for the road" drink now and again, especially those that take a bus so there's no drink-driving element to it. I always see these chances to get to know someone a little better. I call it the ice-berg effect. Once outside work, they open up and you find that there's more in common between you than first imagined and when back in the workplace they are more friendly towards you and it's a cumulative process.

So suggest to your co-workers about going for a drink someday after work. If they turn you down 3 times in a row, they're not worth the effort.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

3 Movies To Avoid

Unfortunately I've been to see some absolute tripe in the cinema lately so I thought instead of reviewing them, I would give a brief synopsis and warn you to avoid them at all costs.

Wolf Creek. Take 5% plot based on true events and make a shameless gore/flick mixed with unorginal plot for 90 minutes. Thank god I wasn't alone.

Transporter 2. Like cheese? Then how about some ham with that cheese? How about a buffet of action clichés washed down with a big bottle of OTT soda? A complete let down from the tongue-and-cheek original.

Land Of The Dead. This is probably the best of the lot here. George Romero coming back to what he created. Oh you've forgotten one thing that made the first film enjoyable: everything. The best acting on show is actually from the lead zombie. 'Nough said.


A Three Decade Celebration

It was the folks 30th Anniversary celebration over the weekend. We bought them some Beleek china including an elongated candle dish and 2 identical candle holders. I have to say that kind of thing doesn't do anything for me. Who wants an ornamental figure of a shephard playing a flute being followed by a flock of sheep? Not me. It must just happen when you reach a certain age and get to thinking about crap to fill your house with because you've forgotten about that good china set you've been hoarding in the back of the cupboard for years. And why do they call it "good"? Sure it'll fetch a pretty price for some other idiot to put in their cupboard for another decade before finding another sucker or passing it on to their children. It's all the same gold rimmed cyan ink inside with cerated edges which was perhaps fashionable before 1957 and they invented taste. I'm sure all parents have it and when is it ever used? Even if the Queen came around for high tea, it will have been hidden away for so long you'll forget it's there and serve her a big mug with a picture of a cow on the side. She'd probably prefer that anyway. I bet the Royal Family just passes their old crockery onto visiting dignaries and they pass it on to other Royal Families and by the time it gets around again there's a new King or Queen on the throne and it's their duty to keep passing it around because no-one wants it or remembers it belonged to their parents.

Anywho, we had dinner at Reno's on Bedford Street. We were made to wait in a seating area between a couple having dinner and the front door which kept being left open by 30-something blonde airheads giggling about make-up and shiny things. At one point the gentleman having dinner got so annoyed, he jumped up and kicked the door closed before returning fuming to his table to be consoled by his other half. I'm sure he left a decent tip.

What was the meal like you ask? Well, Lou and I ordered the lamb and my parents both ordered the steak. I was too far away to see what my aunt and uncle ordered but there wasn't any complaints from them. The steak looked gorgeous and my own lamb dish hit the spot. Keith however, being a vegetarian, ordered the Butternut Squash dish which arrived looking like an emptied can of rice mixed in with segments of mandarin orange. Strangely it tasted equally as bad. Ergo, if you're vegetarian, Reno's is not for you. The accompanying music provided by a piano player was good background noise which pleased both young and old. The price is also in the medium-high range with not much to choose from. The choice is also limited to a dish from fish, white meat, red meat, 2 vegetarian options and that's all folks. My verdict: There's plenty more restaurants in Belfast and I doubt I'll be back again soon. Vegetarians, avoid!

Afterwards we headed back to our flat for coffee and more wine. The conversation revolved around people we didn't know who are now dying, dead or have something you don't want to have. I myself was extremely tired and nearly nodded off at one point. After they left shortly after 11pm, we hit the hay and fell asleep as soon as our eyelids closed. Goodnight sweetheart.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Braised Trout With Mint, Parsley And Caper Sauce

I came accross this recipe in work last week. I was in Sainsbury's a

few weeks ago and saw Rainbow Trout on sale and thought it

would make a good meal. And lo, when one day I wandered into

the Finance office, I saw Rick Stein's Seafood Lovers' Guide with

the above recipe. Last night I recreated it and it went down a

storm. So, here's the recipe:

[Serves 4]


4 Rainbow Trout
50ml Dry White Wine
50ml Water
50g Butter
1/2 tbsp Mint Leaves
Bunch of Chives
1 1/2 tbsp parsley
1 1/2 tbsp capers
3 Anchovy Fillets
1 Garlic Clove
1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tabsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Plain Flour


Pre-heat oven to 200C. Season trout inside and out. Place in baking dish and pour over water and wine. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, slice and dice finely the mint, parsley. capers, anchovy fillets and garlic into a bowl with the mustard and lemon juice. Beat the remaining butter and mix it with the flour in another bowl. Remove trout from oven and pour off the liquid into a small pan with the flour paste. After thickened, stir in the herb mixture and serve!


Gamespot #28

No Gamespot for a month makes Phil a dull boy. So here's 3 games to keep you enertained!

Atome - Combine the coloured elements so they don't repel each other. Trickier than it looks in later levels.

Grow Cube - What. The. Fuck.

Sky Glide - Guide the little fella around using uplifts of wind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Talk Like A Pirate Day - Update

Here are two photographs from Monday's Talk Like A Pirate Day. Following the success of that, a social committee has now been set up in work to arrange gatherings and happenings, most likely to consume alcoholic beverages the Friday following pay-day so no-one can welch out of it. I'll be arranging a Halloween party on Monday 31st October and hopefully something every month to add some cheer and goodwill in the workplace.

Richard & myself

Nicci, myself and Clare

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I only recieved the picture yesterday so here you have last Wednesdays dinner production of the award winning Pie: The Hunger Buster. You don't need me to review it's sumptuous qualities and mouth-watering gravy coat du jour! As you can see we had a bit of left over pastry which we used to spell out our favourite 3 letter word. Say it with me: P-I-E. Sweet sweet pie.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Man About Dog

I should be writing about a night on the town on Saturday but unfortunatly with continuing unrest, people cancelled at the last minute leaving us with a night in to watch a DVD. On Friday afternoon, the roads were unusually quiet as everybody got the hell out of Dodge. At around 3pm all work ceased and we assembled in Finance to work on our costumes. There was a lot of craic and beers were passed around to make the mood more jovial. Parrots, peg legs and pirate hats were created from old boxes and we got the lingo down for the main event.

Friday night was spent watching some trashy TV. I managed to catch Jonathon Ross who I haven't watched in ages and he had a bizarre assortment of guests on his show. First up was the actor Gerard Depardieu and he scathingly attacked the BBC in broken English so god knows what he was saying as half of it was beeped out. Those crazy Frenchmen! Next up was Kanye West and, as all rap stars do, had nothing to contribute except for talking himself up as the Next Big Thing. *yawn* As always, the idiot box was accompanied by some well desaerved vino. [Is it ever not deserved?] So, back to Saturday evening...

With everyone cancelling on us we decided to have a small gathering and forged ahead with inviting the few remaining people, namely Andrew and Colin. We caught up on past events and future outings such as New Years Eve at Achill Island. We were lucky to get the booking completed when we did as myself and Don made the last two rooms going. Will talk about that closer to the main event. So, we decided to watch a Northern Irish film called Man About Dog. I have to say, it was one of the funniest comedies I've seen in a long time and it's extremely refreshing to see a film from here that has nothing at all to do with politics or the "troubles", instead focusing on characters and hilarity. Although the characters are from Northern Ireland, most of the filming takes place accross the border as it is funded by the Irish Film Commission. No complaints here though. Some of the situations the characters get themselves into his far-fetched but so what? I imagine that some people outside of Ireland may not get the full extent of the comedy surrounding certain scenes but there's more than enough to keep you sides splitting including a rather amusing trip to a medical science facility to earn money leaving the hapless lads with extending members which are put to good use, or not in one case!

A great film to see emerging from here and worth checking out at the video library.

I would give this film 4 rabbits out of 5.


Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ye olde festivities arrrr kicking off at 11am t'is fine mornin'

Be sure to check back for the still pictures of fine lads and wenches makin' jiggery pokery of themselves.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pirates Ahoy!

Monday 19th September is International Talk Like A Pirate Day and I have been busy putting posters up around work. So far 10 people have come to me enquiring about it and 6 have left with an eye-patch and a pirate name!

I myself am Mad Tom Storm and I'll be Captain of the Ship come Monday morning. We'll be in full seven seas mode and playing pin the X on the treasure map for chocolate gold, which is the best type of gold next to pieces of 8.

Tomorrow since all the bosses are away we're setting aside the last hour to having a few beers and making hats, swords and parrots and other assorted booty. Bring on Monday!


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Prisoner In Your Own Home

Not much to report on. As the previous post indicated, Belfast grinded to a standstill last night. Many people left early and businesses closed their shutters. Richard and I decided we were staying in the building until all women and children had left. Our walk home charted along Great Victoria Street and there was a tailback of traffic leading up to and beyond the Grosvenor roundabout. Passengers, stuck in traffic, disembarked and walked the rest of the way home. I wouldn't be surprised if some people abondoned their cars and did the same. A helicopter remained overhead throughout the day and long into the night. The reason? This.

Today seems much quieter. No reports of anything kicking off and hopefully this will pave the way to normalacy but unless the problems are addressed, next year will be the same. In lighter news, Lou, myself, Don and Colin have booked New Years Eve at Achill Island off County Mayo. Hopefully this will snowball into a few others going too but we'll have to play it by ear.

See you tomorrow!

Cycle Of Violence

It's hard at this point in time to defend the country you live in from foreign finger-pointing and derision. What can you say but the same old rhetoric, "it's only in certain parts with certain people, that's not who we are". I'm just glad it's happened at the tail end of tourist season. That's not to say I'm not chagrined by the whole mess, who wouldn't be?

Q & A - Orange Marches [Source BBC News]

Sunday, September 11, 2005

BBQ At Carryduff

After a pretty hectic Friday night consuming beer, Saturday was kicked off with a long lunch at Wetherspoons with Colin and Cheryl. Unfortunately I made the bad decision to try a house beer of Heather's Ale. It was the worst thing you could put in your mouth - even Miller and Fosters tastes better! Nevertheless, after much whining, I managed to finish it over a cheese-burger and chips.
We then walked around the corner to the Superbowl meeting Don and had 2 games of 10 pin. Everyone played well and I managed to win both games - W00t! In my second game I scored 185 which is my best score in years, finishing with 4 strikes and a half strike.

On our way back to the flat, there was a lot of police prescence on the Dublin Road, which was being closed off. Apparently there was a riot at the top of Sandy Row. An hour later it was clear and we were good to go to Carryduff for a BBQ at Colins folks. It was a great day for sitting outside and after unpacking and opening our first beer of the day, played a game of boules on the back lawn. After Lou and I were victorious we went inside where it was warm to play a few games of cards until we ventured back outside for the BBQ.

After stuffing ourselves with sweet meats and veggie burgers and getting an impromtu jet formation fly-over, we returned to the warmth of the conservatory and played poker.

Colin was winning, as usual(!), as we took a break and walked around the estate in pitch black.

The next few hours are a little blurry but the poker was abandoned to the whims of drunkeness and good cheer.

It was a great night and everyone had a good time. It's probably the last time this year for BBQ-ing but we couldn't have asked for a better finalé.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Busy As A Bee

Apologies for the non-updates these last few days, it's been pretty hectic in work because of short-staffing. Yesterday morning I was given work by 4 people in the space of 5 minutes. That's the nature of the beast in here though. We had an impromtu meeting this morning to assess workloads and as another member of staff goes on holiday next week it means even more work to be spread around. One staff member in particular has been off for 6 weeks on "stress" running her sick grandad back and forth to the hospital and word came in yesterday that she has another 2 weeks. Call me a hard-ass but I wouldn't count that as a legitimate reason to be off work for so long. I'm not saying it's not stressful but not to the point of a sick-line from the doctor which is what you need. That's 2 months salary paid for running to the hospital twice a day and I know she has a mother and father too so how about sharing the load between them considering it's one of their fathers?

Sooooo...I'll be compiling the Links section and Gamespot over the weekend so tune in on Monday for some action and unfortunately updates in spurts and dribbles.

Update: Her grandad died this morning and she has a further sick-line for 4 weeks. That's 3 months pay for your grandad dying. Let's hope her parents don't get sick or she'll be off for 2 years.

[NB This blog was written in annoyance and I'll simply state that I find it offensive to any other worker that someone can obtain a sick-line in the manner that this was given. Hatemail to the usual address.]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back Of The Net

Source: BBC Sport, 9 September 2005

Northern Ireland 1 - 0 England

It's surprised not only me, but also seemingly the BBC who couldn't bring themselves to state the 1-0 victory instead declaring "N Ireland stun England in Belfast". Who cares, what a result!

Even more so for my good friend Chris who placed a £5 bet on Healy to score in a 1-0 victory making him a sweet £950. It just goes to show that miracles can happen.

What's even funnier is the forums where dejected England fans are calling for Svens resignation. How about you just played badly on the night and were beaten by the better side? When the 110th best team in the world plays the 7th best, formation has little to do with it.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

The week seems to be rolling along at it's own pace like a slow moving river. The bridge is the working week and the work goes in one end and out the other like pooh sticks. Slowly but surely.
No winners in this game though but it puts the day in.

I've just been down to the computer room. They are giving away spare Pentium 3's. I've no use whatsoever for one, especially because I've just ordered a brand new one for myself:

Antec Sonata II Ultra Quiet Midi Tower
Asus A8N-SLI nForce 4 SLI
Sparkle GF 6600GT 128MB DDR 8x AGP
Corsair® 1024MB TwinX XMS 5400 DDR2 Memory Kit
AMD Athlon 64 3200+

It should arrive tomorrow and my geek chin is wet with drool.

I think I'll clean the old one up and sell it for £50 or something. Gift Horse meet Mouth, Mouth, meet Gift Horse.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

March Of The Penguins

Lou and I watched this amazing documentary called March of the Penguins. It follows the penguins of the South Pole as they march to their breeding ground and the hardships and tribulations that occurs on their journey. It also documents just how difficult it is to survive the march, keep the egg warm, and survive the trip back again.

Imagine walking for days to a breeding ground and having to find a mate. After delivering an egg, you must keep it warm as it cannot withstand more than a few seconds exposure without perishing in temperatures of minus 50 degrees and wind speeds up to 100mph. As the female, you must make the return journey with nearly half body weight and starving to dive for food amongst predators and return months later to raise and feed the baby penguin - if you and it survives. As the male, you must guard the egg and remain in one place keeping the egg warm and not eat for up to 4 months if and when your partner returns. The female then takes over as the male must make the same journey back and until his return must protect the egg against other mothers trying to take your egg who have lost their own.

The life of the penguin is certainly not enviable but each has steely determination and a will to survive against all odds.

I can't recommend this highly enough.

I would give this documentary 4.5 icebergs out of 5.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Dazed & Confused

It seems like I've been off for a month rather than a fortnight and returning to work is both surreal and difficult to comprehend. My desk looks familar but has the tell-tale signs that another person has been using it in my absence which makes me feel like I'm taking over someone elses work. My chair has been adjusted, my stapler has disappeared along with my selotape holder, black and blue pens and my calendar has been moved forward from August to September. I have a serious issue with people taking pens from my desk. It's a pet hate and there's no excuse for it. The worst culprit is the person that wanders in, asks to borrow a pen to write something down and then walks off with it. Someone out there is single handedly keeping Bic in business.

There's also been a few work changes since I've been away and I have a new boss and extended deadlines for extra work which should take me into November. She introduced herself this morning and seems like a good person to work for. Let's hope my instincts are correct.

I've also noticed a few other changes since I've sojourned including daylight hours. We now begin the slow decline into shorter hours and commuting between work in diminishing light. I'm certainly affected by this although I don't suffer from Seasonal Adjustment Disorder. It's interesting that the body produces the hibernation hormone, melatonin. Perhaps working days should therefore reflect this bodily function and hours be reduced in the office? I'm sure every whining liberal would agree. Perhaps I can write an essay and submit it to The Idler?

Anyways, lots to get caught up on. No rest for the wicked. See you same place tomorrow!

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Lou and I were down in Portaferry for a few days during the week taking advantage of the beautiful weather. Here's the view from the caravan:

We arrived on Wednesday and after unpacking took a walk along the beach. On a clear day like this you can see the Isle of Man.

Afterwards we had a BBQ before returing for DVDs and a few glasses of wine.

On Thursday we cycled what seemed like an easy 16 miles to Cloughy, a town that only exists because it has a Centra petrol station cum-garden centre.

It was a charming hazy afternoon and we ate ice-cream by the promenade with our legs dangingly over the wall watching yachts go by before the return journey.

That evening we had an excellent meal at the Portaferry Hotel and returned to sit outside for a few minutes and gaze at the blanket of stars on a cloudless sky.

On Friday we took a small picnic to the beach and Lou managed to get in a swim even though the sea was baltic. Ah, nothing like a refreshing September swim in Ireland!

Alas my two week holiday is up so the regular updates will begin tomorrow no doubt with something along the lines of the joys of returning to work.

Hope you all had a great fortnight!

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