Sunday, February 27, 2005

Lebanon Calling...

Obviously, probably like you, I spend a lot of my time surfing web sites in The Lebanon. Well OK - that might not be true. But it might be about to change, because our top mate Lisa who lives in Beruit has started to journal her extraordinary life here. You would be a fool not to track Lisa's wonderful world. Expect teething troubles to start off with, then expect erudite analyses of the world and an unhealthy regard for karaoke.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Excellent - still no Snowman - but a snowball fight

Ali and I got back from a Pub quiz tonight to find that both our cars were covered in snow. So we had a late night snowball fight. Wicked.

Obviously this picture is posed. Ali is really a dead shot with the snow ball. Ouch.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where's the Blizzard?

Last night the BBC promised that there would be loads of snow in the Midlands. Early this morning I had to drive from London to Lichfield which being just North of Birmingham couldn't be more Midlands if it tried. Cue Midlands joke:

A guy goes to a job interview in Birmingham wearing a flowery shirt, flared jeans and platform shoes.
"All you need now is a Kipper Tie", quips the prospective employer
"Ta very much mate, two sugars", responds our hapless hero.

Anyway, back to the snow. I like snow. In fact I love snow. It puts me in a happy Narnia kind of Christmas mood. As I drove up from London the radio informed me of the blizzard going on in the Midlands. As I got off the M1 onto the M6, the rain gradually turned into sleet. And then as I carried on oop North - it just stayed like that. I hate sleet. It puts me in a miserable cold kind of crap mood. No snowman for me :-(

Fortunately, the customer meeting I had was very enjoyable as I explained to the IT Director of a large manufacturing company why they should adopt Lotus Domino. He seemed to like my pitch and even started making a few quips about our main competitor himself which is always a good sign. So no snow but a good show.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Twisted Loyalties

It's a funny thing, if England is playing in a tournament like the World Cup and they crash out (as usual in the semi's) most English fans will start rooting for any of the other British team that are still in the competition. Be it Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland or Wales. However, when our British cousins see their team knocked out they seem to support whoever is playing against England.

What makes me ponder this? Well over the next two days four English Premiership sides are playing in the Champions League, Arsenal and Liverpool tonight and Man Utd and Chealski tomorrow evening. Having supported United for 30 years, I clearly demand that they win the Cup. And yet I'm currently watching Arsenal give Bayern Munich a run for their money and I can't help rooting for United's arch nemesis, even though they have just lost a second goal due to awful defending. But a combination of being the underdogs (now they are 2 goals down) and being Brits mean they get my support. Even when they didn't field a single Brit in the starting line up! And yet if Man Utd were to meet Arsenal later in the competition I would condemn them as the cheating filthy dogs that they are.

And I know I'm not on my own. Several of my mates who are Arsenal fans who normally refer, with boundless wit, to the Reds as 'Moan Utd' or 'Man Ure' have told me that if they cannot win the Premiership they would want Man Utd to win it rather than Chealski. How fickle we footy fans are. (By way of balance, I also know some fans of various teams who would rather cut of their head rather than wish any luck on Ferguson's hero's in any circumstances)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Lassie come home

I was distressed to discover that my good friend Woody had been burgled a couple of days ago and during the course of the dastardly event his lovely dog Izzy had gone missing. I won't go into the debate about what should be done to scum who burgle people houses, breaking their trust in the overwhelming goodness of most people and making folks feel uncomfortable in their own home. That is too big and serious a debate to be held by angry people and cooler heads must prevail. But as Woody himself wrote in his Web Log entry on the topic, material stuff can always be replaced, but members of the family (two legged or four pawed) cannot.

So it is with great joy that I heard today that Izzy has been found and that she is healthy and well. Welcome home girl.

Chimp and Pin

I was overjoyed today to discover that my local supermarket has now adopted Chip and Pin. This is the system whereby you type in a ATM style number to authenticate your card rather than signing your autograph. They have been doing this for years in the States so it is a bit of a surprise that it has taken so long for Blighty to catch up. And can you remember the last time you signed your signature and the assistant actually checked if it was the same as your card? I can't. This really suits me because my scrawled mark seems to be very different every time I write it, especially when they ask you to sign in a really small space (e.g. back of a credit card) or they give you a fat felt tip pen and expect your signature to be the same as using a Mont Blanc fine ink pen.

So imagine my chagrin when I got to the check out of the next shop and realised that the till monkey in the supermarket had forgotten to give me my card back and that in my high tech revery, as I skipped back to my car, I had not noticed. I slid back into the supermarket in shame to recover my card. Interestingly, I got talking to the store manager and he said that since introducing chip and pin last week they were accidentally retaining an average of 30 cards per day! He showed me the pile that had accrued today and I was astonished to find that two more cards had been left since I left mine a mere 20 minutes before. So I'm not criticising chip and pin or even till monkeys who don't give you your card back. I'm simply observing that any change to the way we do things so often leads to some teething troubles, especially for a chimp like me with the attention span of a forgetful goldfish.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Off to Scotland

So I'm making a flying visit to Scotland tomorrow to remind a University why Lotus Notes is the collaborative solution of choice.

But unusually for me, I do have a critisism of Notes - or more specifically Scottish bank notes. To put it plainly, they are rubbish.

Whilst Scottish folks are perfectly happy to accept English notes in Scotland, you trying spending Scottish notes in England. More specifically in South West London. Last time I presented one in my local pub the landlord said he would normally not accept them because as far as he is concerned, "they may as well be Monopoly money". In fairness to him he did accept it due to my honest face and fine standing in the community (or more likely because he knew where I lived if it was forged). I'm saving trying to spend real Monopoly money there until I'm really desperate.

Anyway - the point is that now 12 European countries, with numerous languages and cultures, can share a single set of transferable bank notes with no problems. Yet we can't sort it out with our next door neighbour in what is officially the same country. Perhaps not such a United Kingdom?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

What a weekend!

So following the awesome Losers gig, I had an excellent day on Friday. I met with a business partner at IBM's South Bank office and we spend a good 3 hours setting the world to rights. Between us we had over 20 years of Lotus experience so we were very much on the same wavelength. And it is very nice when a business meeting begins with you being wished Happy Birthday.

That night I had a great Birthday bash. A dozen or so friends came round to our house and drank stupid amounts, listened to cheezy music and ate a wicked chilli that Ali had cooked. Perfect.

The next day my twin sister Ginny and my eldest sister Sue, brother in law Kev and nephew Jonny came round. Not a normal event because Sue, Kev and Jonny live in Leeds which is 230 miles away - but they had been down in London for the weekend. It was great to catch up with them even though I had forgotten to buy Ginny a present. I was made to look even more thoughtless when Ali came in with a present for Ginny. Doh!

The next night (Saturday) we went to the Hayseed Dixie gig I mentioned a couple of days ago. These cats are really funny. They played so many great covers including "The Ace of Spades", "Highway to Hell", "Dueling Banjo's", "Whole Lotta Rosie" and " Lunch is all you need" (not a miss type). Here are a few photo's from the night.

This is Hayseed Dixies on Stage at the Empire. They were brilliant. We were obviously quite far back - but that was cool because we were just next to the bar.

This is me and Ali enjoying the Dixie boys. Ali didn't want to wear a Stetson because she had just had her hair done.

This is Marcus and Tom . Marcus wasn't worried about his hair at all.

After a couple of beers Ali and Ellen had forgotten trying to keep their hair right and just wanted to be cowboys like the rest of us.

Four fifth's of Sideburner, the band I'm in, were at the gig. And here we are. Obviously, Mr Ports, then lead singer Al (also of the Beautiful Losers), behind him Marcus with the two pints. And no, he wasn't holding them for anyone. He was drinking two to our one. And when we got a kebab after the gig he got two. Really. Finally Lightning Tom.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me - ee
Happy Birthday to me

Since the witching hour has now passed, I am now 37 years old (I know, mother nature has been kind :-). That being said, I know that I was actually born about midday. How do I know this? Because my lovely mum was really aggrieved that she missed her Sunday lunch because me and my twin sister Ginny decided to arrive just as she was getting ready for her Beef and Yorkshire Puds. I should point out that even though me and my twin sister were notially born at the same time - I was first by 10 minutes. So twin or not - I'm the eldest (and any other twins out there will know that this distinction is really important)

And what an excellent night to welcome in my Birthday. The Beautiful Losers gig was magnificent. It was sold out and the atmosphere was amazing. They are playing the Borderline in March. Check them out - they will be Huge. And the band will be at my birthday party later today/tonight - so I'm expecting a few guitars to come out and a few neighbor's to be miffed ;-)

Oh - and Happy Birthday to my twin sister Ginny :-) I've mananged to forget it 3 times in the last 36 years and I don't think I'll ever get away with it again

Thursday, February 10, 2005

"I want that one"

I had a brilliant meeting today with a UK national newspaper company who are using Lotus Notes Release 5. This has been out for about 6 years so is beginning to show it's age and Lotus have done loads of work to it in later releases. So I was demonstrating the new features in the current Notes 6.5 release, Domino Web Access and Sametime integration. Every time I showed a new feature, the senior managers were looking over to the Domino Admin guy saying "I want that now". I started to feel a little sorry for the guy as I was creating him more and more work as I went on. Still, it was nice to see the look of relief on his face as I showed them what was coming in Notes/Domino 7 and when the managers predictably asked to have it now I told them that they would have to wait because it won't be released until summer.

(By the way - if you don't get the joke from the picture then check for a rather literal explanation of Andy and Lou)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Beautiful Losers

My top mates Neil and Al have a band called The Beautiful Losers and they are playing a gig at the Halfmoon in Putney, London on Thursday evening (10th Feb). They are very good. They even have an album out. It's called "High in the Tall Grass" and you can check it out here or you can get the details here. Doors open at 8:30pm and the Losers who are headlining are on at about 10pm. They are supported by bands called Society and KITT. So that is a pretty good night out for 4 quid. So if you are at a lose end it would be great to see you there.

Geeky Update: Added Atom and RSS support

Some folks choose to access Web Logs using a news reader or some such RSS/Atom reader. This is quite a good idea because it means you can see new Log entries appearing in the client much like receiving new email. This will prevent the gut wrenching disappointment of surfing to Ports Thoughts only to find there are no new entries :( To access the feed click on the icon on the left sidebar and all will be revealed. If you are looking out for a reader then is very good. If all of this sounds to you like it makes about as much sense as handbags for camels then just ignore it. It isn't important.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Milly visits!

This is our lovely 4 year old God daughter Milly sitting on the equally lovely Ali when she came over to visit last week with Si and Sally her mum and dad.

This is the same Milly dancing to Hayseed Dixie playing a Bluegrass version of Motorhead's the Ace of Spades (really :-) [if you do bother to click the link then you are going to have to wait - it is about 17MB - but it is worth the wait]. If you don't have broadband you might have to go and make a cup of coffee - it will take a while. But we (Marcus, Ellen, Al, Lynne, Tom, Laura, Ali and Me) are going to see them next weekend at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. It should be great.

Milly solves the worlds problems on a Thinkpad (She's certainly not just watching Pingu on DVD, oh no :-) And it certainly isn't the new Pingu Snowboarding video. Ahem. Well maybe...

Friday, February 04, 2005

I'd just like to thank ...

First of all, a big thanks from Ali and myself to all our lovely friends who have been in touch to share their thoughts about Ben passing away. It is really nice to know that so many folks loved and will miss the little fella. Also to my many colleagues who have expressed their sincere condolences. My friend and colleague Derek wrote "...Sorry to hear about your cat, people trivialize the loss of a pet, at least those that never had one do...". I know that it's really hard for folks who have never lived with a pet to understand that they really become a part of the family and their passing is a bereavement just like any other.

Mentioning Derek as a friend and colleague makes me worry. I read so many Web Logs that refer to "my friend and colleague" that I think perhaps it is a waste of bandwidth. So may I suggest that folks who you work with but are also friends should from now on be called Frolleagues. It just saves space.

Whilst I'm handing out the gongs, many thanks to the folks who have added links to "Ports Thoughts" from their sites. My frolleague Rob 'Choddo' Hayden used to be my boss but he seems to have recovered now. Aside from writing about his lust for the latest gadgets and gizmos, he has also written some brilliant guides to building a PC from bits and perhaps more importantly securing your wireless network. (If you have wireless you must read this unless you want your neighbor's reading your email).

Tony 'Woody' Cocks is one of the cleverest dudes I've ever worked with, and when he left my current employers to work for a competitor I really worried that he would turn to the Dark Side, but we bump into each other suprisingly often when he is walking his cute dog Izzy in Richmond Park and despite the efforts of Mr Gates, Tone is still the same open minded, wise and witty dude that he always was and his Web Log always reflects this.

Frolleague Ed Brill is quite rightly becoming a legend on the internet. His Web Log reflects his interests in Travel and Technology. But more so, it also reflects his desire to point out the realities of the messaging and collaboration market despite the lazy journalism that so often incorrectly implies that Microsoft is the only player in that space. But Lotus Notes and Domino is doing very well and Ed spares no blushes in telling this truth.

Finally, my great frolleague Darren 'Daz' Adams has one of the greatest sites on the Interweb. Quite aside from the fact that he very generously wrote an article welcoming 'Ports Thoughts' to the Web, his site is just stuffed with entertaining content. 'Daz Says' is packed full of common sense while 'Hall of Shame' is packed with grumpy moaning (normally justified) but so wittily written you almost ignore the bile. I could go on about what you can find at but you should go there and explore. You will not be disappointed. I should also point out that the design of the site is effortlessly beautiful. Working in the software industry I am really consciously aware how difficult it is to create something so clean and simple.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Goodbye Ben the cat

This is a very sad day for me and my wife Ali. Our beloved cat, Ben, passed away quietly in his sleep last night. He was nearly 18 years old so he was a bit of an old timer. We are pleased that he passed quickly and didn't suffer. In fact he was sitting on my lap last night purring as we watched United beat Arsenal together. He could be a bit of a grouch sometimes and he did like a good moan when we wouldn't let him share our Sunday roast, but overall he was a happy, funny and good natured little fella and we will miss him very much.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne and drank a toast to his memory. We then went through 18 years worth of photos finding all the pictures of Ben we had ever taken. It may seem like it would be a bit maudlin but in fact it was lovely to remember back to what a happy life he had led.

So here are a few pictures of Ben from over the years, from when he was a tiny little sprout to just a few weeks ago. A couple of them feature his twin brother Oliver who passed away about 9 years ago. If you ever met Ben I hope they will trigger a happy memory or two and that if you find a spare moment, you too will lift a glass in his memory. Cheers Ben.

Ben when he was just a couple of weeks old with his brothers and sister (he is second on the left and his brother Oliver is first on the left). The family who's litter it was invited me round to pick which two of the kittens I wanted. I immediately said I wanted to take Ben and Oliver because they both seemed to be adventurous and also to be friends with each other. I was then told that this was a good choice because the other two kittens had already been promised to other people. So I guess it was fate. I was just 19 at the time and I really didn't expect to still be mates with him 18 years later. I actually officially adopted them a little while later when they were 10 weeks old.

This is Ben when he was a kitten, about 4 months old. Whilst he slowed down a bit in later life as you would expect, his personality was pretty much the same then as it was yesterday.

This is Ben with his bother Oliver about the same 4 months mark. Obviously kittens don't know how to pose for photographs so I assume they are looking up to avoid having to look at the hideous carpet that I had in my first flat in Hull. Since my flat was on the bottom floor I was able to put in a cat flap to give them access to the garden. I chose a rather fine example with a transparent door so that they could see what was outside before going out. However what they did was play tennis with the door, one sitting inside and the other sitting outside, until the door smashed off. So after that I just had a cat hole.

Ben is about 12 years old here. By this stage his love of Whiskers and continuing begging for bits of our Sunday lunch had resulted in him being a bit of a fat lump. And don't think that Ali holding him is some sort of midget making him appear enormous. He really was that huge.

Finally, this is a picture of 18 year old Ben with a glass of wine. He had slimmed down and slowed down quite a bit and turned into an adorable lap cat. But then he was 90 in cat years so you would expect him to have mellowed a bit :-)

p.s. A special thanks to my family who all got in touch to offer their virtual hugs. Ta very much.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Gooners 2 - Man Utd 4

Ok - so I got it a bit wrong. Rooney didn't score and Lehmann wasn't in goal for the Arse (it was Manuel Almunia), though Rooney did hit the woodwork. But 2 goals for Ronaldo and one each for Giggs and O'Shea means that United opened a serious can of whoop ass on Arsenal. In fairness (not something you hear from Gooners very often) Arsenal were the better side in the first half, but in the second half United were rampant, despite losing Silvestre (quite correctly - headbutting is just not on) to go down to 10 men. Isn't it strange that teams that go down to 10 men so often beat 11? With teams of the quality of Arsenal and Man U, you would have thought that they would take the advantge of a man over, but so often it actually gives the reduced side a lift. Wierd.

Still, it was nice to see that no pizzas were thrown this time. It is good to return to sport and not spats.

And what did Marucs think? His text response to my cheeky SMS gloating was "3 goals at home in the second half? For F*cks Sake". We had a great time at the quiz (5th out of 12 teams if you must ask) but I would have loved to see his face after leading 2 - 1 at half time :-)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dilemmas Dilemmas

What's a boy to do? Two offers of entertainment tonight. Option 1: I could go to my friend Marcus' house and watch the epic Man Utd vs. Arsenal clash on his spiffing 50inch TV with much beer and the promise of his excellent Thai Green Curry. This would be especially sweet because all the other lads are Gooners and I would be the only United fan. And last time I watched an Arsenal/United match with them it was the FA Cup Semi Final and we whooped them. Still - quite a high risk strategy. Option 2: Go to my regular Tuesday night pub quiz in Mortlake with my friend Brendan who's celebrating his birthday. (Top trivia fact: The quiz is sometimes frequented by Olympic Gold Medal winning Oar botherer Tim Foster - and rather appropriately he drinks Fosters).

Well, I think loyalty to Brendan's birthday must prevail. I'll watch the game on the Pub TV between questions. But it would have been good to see Marcus' face as Rooney screams one past Lehmann.