Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Strange sign

A notice has been placed outside all the toilets in IBM's Staines offices. It reads, "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM CLEANING TRAINING SHOES IN THESE TOILETS". I guess the exclusive use of upper case letters implies that the person who put this up really thinks this is an important issue. Quite aside from anything else, I don't think I have ever cleaned a pair of trainers. Life is way too short. It's like ironing socks - pointless. I might replace them with one that says, "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM TRAINING CLEANERS IN THESE TOILETS" and see how long before anyone notices.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Can a geek last a week without touching a computer?

I used to work with a guy called Ben Rose in Lotus Customer Support a few years ago. He is a Geek. He also like Jaffa Cakes - but that isn't important. In trying to raise money for Cancer Research, he has agreed to give up all IT for a week - so no computer, email, sms and such. Non Geeks might scoff at this, thinking it is too easy. But let me assure you that for us propeller heads that is a significant sacrifice. He is trying to raise over £1500 and is doing pretty well. If you realize the pain he will suffer in going analogue for a week, or more seriously, if you want to help out with such a worthy charity, then make a donation here (or more accurately, visit his donation site).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Manchester Rules!

I had a 9am meeting in the IBM Manchester office this morning which meant I drove up last night in order to be on top form. I've done the getting up at 5am thing, driven for 4 hours and then presented for an hour and it isn't worth it. You just end up wired.

So I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Salford Quays. Quite a nice hotel and the view over Manchester at night from my 6th floor room was amazing. Not least because the Theatre of Dreams, Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium was directly outside my window. Quality. In the morning when it got light I was really impressed at the amount of regeneration that has gone on in the area. It really was quite classy.

As it happens, my hour long presentation over ran quite a lot. I ended up speaking for two and a half hours because the customers were asking so many questions. I love it when customers drive the briefing so they end up getting what they want to know rather than me delivering a bland marketing message. At the end, one of the customers said, "So now I get it, you don't have to chose between Domino and IBM Workplace, Domino IS Workplace and if you stick with Domino you are already part of Workplace anyway." Absolutely - I took that comment as a job well done. (And in the spirit of collaboration, it wasn't just me - I did the Domino bit and my frolleagues Andy Walter and Ed "Biggles" Cawthorne did the Workplace bit)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

His Dark Materials Part 2

So last week Ali and I went to see the first part of the National Theatre's adaptation of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy of books. Ali unfortunately could not make Part 2 because she was not very well. So I invited my best mate Matt to use the unfortunately spare ticket. Here he is enjoying a glass of wine outside on the balcony at the half time interval.

Don't tell Ali that we enjoyed it though, I lied and said that it was rubbish to make her feel better about missing it. But in truth I have never seen such a spectacular production. Apparently it cost nearly a million pounds to stage the play and it really showed. The stage itself was unbelievable - there were over 60 different sets and without exception they were perfect. From Oxford University through to the Land of The Dead, the South Pole through to the palace of Armoured Bears. Simply stunning. And don't think that this was all done with simple effects and "suspension of disbelief". The stage moved up and down to reveal other sets and then split in half to reveal a screen showing virtual settings. In fact I'm told that the staging is so complicated that this production will never be able to be performed in any theatre than the Olivier because of it's unique capabilities. Simply stunning. Everyone with a love of theatre must see this play.

Update: You may quite rightly be thinking, who cares about the stage - aren't plays about the actors? Well it is a tribute to the production that the amazing sets did not overshadow a magnificent company of actors. From the principals Lyra and Will, the major supporting parts Lord Azriel and Mrs Coulter through to the whole cast, they were exceptional. The principals had a difficult task in that anyone who has read the books will have their own ideas of what these characters should have looked and sounded like - but it was uncanny - they all seemed so right. Perhaps this had something to do with Phillip Pullman, the author of the novels being so closely involved in the production? But when you consider the challenge of portraying things like all the character's daemons you realise what a good job has been done in bringing this to the stage.

If you haven't read the books this probably won't mean that much to you, so I would implore you to read them. They are truly magnificent (think Harry Potter with a brain and some substance). But once you have read them, rush down to the Olivier Theatre and book tickets. You won't be disappointed (unless you can't get a ticket I suppose). Special praise must go to the two camp/gay angels - read the books and then see the play and you'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lost Travel Card

Ali lost her travel card today :-( To get a replacement, she needed some passport photos. Normally you have to go to a machine and feed it with loads of pound coins to get them, but by the time she had found out she had lost it, it was to late (i.e after the Pub Quiz). So I delved into Photoshop and created these photos. The image was take from a photo that is published elsewhere on this Web Log. I just resized it and painted the background white (as required). I wonder if they will pass the stringent checks? If so the Photo Booths could be a thing of the past and ink jet printing may be the future. Do you think they will pass as pukka passport photos?

Monday, March 14, 2005

His Dark Materials Part 1

"His Dark Materials" by Phillip Pullman is an amazing set of novels (cheers to my best mate Matt for turning me on to it). My wife Ali got us tickets to see the play version for my Christmas present, but because it's so popular, we had to wait till now to go. There is no way you could condense the 3 novels into one play - so they have split it into two. It is at the National Theater (well the Olivier at the NT) and it is one of the most amazing theatrical experiences I have ever had. The novels are exceptional, but the stage play was awesome. We'll be going to see part two next Monday and then I'll give it a proper review - but based on the first half - go and see it! You won't be disappointed.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Red Nose Day

Can it really be 2 years since Comic Relief was on our telly? These days I find the program a bit of a car crash. But their hearts are in the right places and the cause is always worthy. So I'm off down the pub with my mate Matt, but not before ringing 08457 910 910 to make a donation.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Microsoft buys Groove Networks

Wow! Big news today is that the Redmond Behemoth has purchased Groove Networks and made Ray Ozzie, the inventor of the splendid Lotus Notes, their new Chief Technology Officer.

It will be interesting to see if MS can integrate Groove's products into it's collaboration offerings. At least now they have a guy at the top who understands what collaboration really is (hint: It's all about people working together effectively).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Doctor Who 2005

"Just get out of here Rose, leg it now"

"If you're an alien, how come you have a Northern accent". "Loads of planets have a North""

I have just watched the first episode of the new Dr. Who (I'm not at liberty to tell you how). And it was brilliant. As a long term Dr. Who fan, I'm so glad they have managed to modernize without losing the spirit of the original. And off course I always knew Dr. Who was a
Northerner - says Mr Ports from East Yorkshire :-)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Grand Day Out

So Marcus, Ellen, Ali and I decided that we would make a day of going to the Beautiful Losers gig. First stop was TGI Fridays in Leicester Square for a few cocktails. This is a nice shot of Mr Ports supping a Long Island Iced Tea.

And this is Marcus trying to pretend he isn't really holding a big girly drink (although it did have Jack Daniels in so I guess is has some vestige of maleness).

After plenty of cocktails it was off to China Town for Set Meal C for four at the fine Lee Ho Fook restaurant. Whilst the food was excellent, especially the crispy duck, we selected the restaurant for the comedy name.

For such a prestigious venue, The Boarderline has a surprisingly small stage. It's also nice to know that the owners haven't squandered their money on decoration :-(

Here is Lightning Tom appreciating the sonic magnificence of The Losers.

Perhaps the cocktails have now kicked in because after The Losers come of stage Marcus and I become very happy. At about midnight The Boarderline turns into a rather excellent night club mainly playing late eighties/early nineties Indie music.

We finally returned home at about 2am after a great time.

Ali sensibly went to bed whilst I stayed up to watch the Australian Grand Prix. In retrospect, Ali had it right because the race wasn't very interesting for a Jenson Button fan like me. Although it was good to see rhombus headed David Coulthard coming in 4th in the first race for Red Bull and better still for a certain Michael Shumacher not scoring a point.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Beautiful Losers play the Borderline 5th March

My top mates Al and Neil see their band the Beautiful Losers headline the prestigious Borderline club in London on the 5th. That's Saturday. The door is just 7 quid and if you are oop London way then it would be great to see you there.

For more details click

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oh the embarrassment

I had a great customer meeting today at IBM's Head Office in Portsmouth. I was helping the customer understand the IBM/Lotus strategy and why it made more sense than out competition. It was a open, sometimes funny and deeply rewarding meeting that reminded me why I love my job so much.

So I was feeling quite smug as I drove back along the M3 in my lovely BMW 320d listening to some fine music by the excellent Kasabian. A quick flick through the onboard computer informed me that I had about 60 miles to go and only 30 miles worth of fuel. "No Problem", I thought, sliding into the next service station and whacking the tank up to the brim with 55 litres of the finest unleaded.

2.1 miles out of the service station I was flying down the motorway at a serious speed (actual speed withheld due to it's police man baiting magnitude) when I felt a loss of power. Realizing there was something wrong I carefully proceeded to the inside lane. But still the power was going down. Eventually I was riding the hard shoulder at 10 miles per hour and still losing power when I had a gut wrenching memory. The d in 320d stands for Diesel and Unleaded is Petrol! I'd just filled my diesel car with petrol. Muppet!

Since it is a company car I rang the lease company and they said that since I was on the hard shoulder of a Motorway, which is dangerous, I was a priority so they would have a recovery truck with me in 25 minutes. So, two hours later the truck arrives. Hmmm - well I'm not going to complain, I've just filled my oil burner with petrol so I feel my moral high ground has been some what undermined.

I got home at 10:30PM when I expected to be back at 6pm and I still have a report to write for a customer tomorrow. Fortunately, I'm working from the IBM Barnes office tomorrow or I might have been seriously stuck. Because rather than the more conventional solution of draining the engine of Petrol and replacing it with Diesel, they just dumped me and the car back home. I think we both feel a bit broken :-(