Saturday, 26 March 2011

Weekly Wordzzle 148

Well, what else is there to do on a Saturday night?  Probably loads of things but, meh!

As usual, hie yourself over to Raven's Nest for more Wordzzles and next week's words.

The Mini (misery, saga, flat as a pancake, pearls, octagon)

Minette stared down in horror at the hundreds of little pearls that had just scattered over the floor in all directions, the broken string of the necklace dangling limply from her hand. The beautiful little orbs were rolling everywhere. Some were making a break for it under the sofa, some were heading purposefully for the octagon-shaped dining table, others were dashing for the doorway. As if she didn’t have enough misery in her life! Now her most treasured possession – her mother’s pearl necklace - was broken. It was that Bertrand Saga’s fault for making her so angry that she had yanked impatiently at the clasp instead of undoing it carefully. Call himself an opera critic? Jumped-up little hack! How dare he say that she, Minette LaCroix, veteran of La Scala and Glyndebourne, and famed soprano, sang as flat as a pancake!

The 10-Worder (sharp as a tack, paper towels, sage, boiling water, mystery, salivate, news worthy, try it on for size, pardon, ambulance)

New to Harold? The catch-up is here.

“Quickly! Paper towels and boiling water, for pity’s sake!” gasped Teatime, as he hurtled past an astonished Harold and on down the corridor. Harold closed Moon’s door as quietly as possible before setting off after the little monkey.

“What on earth happened to you?” he asked as he caught up, “and – what IS that awful smell?”

“That perishing Moon fellow decided he wanted a midnight snack, so I was forced to sequester myself at short notice in his kitchen rubbish bin – a most unpleasant and malodorous place of concealment, I can tell you.” replied Teatime. “It is a mystery to baffle even the wisest sage why humans, with a world of delicious natural foods to choose from, still insist on filling their bellies with such disgusting lifeless fare as comes in little film-wrapped plastic trays, which they then consume whilst in the mindless, slack-jawed thrall of the television. I ended up sitting in the semi-congealed remains of such a dish – an experience which could actually be improved by a long hot soak in a bath of industrial waste!”

Harold burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny!” Teatime cried, crossly. “I was in there for simply ages. The fellow just would not go back to bed.”

“Begging your pardon,” laughed Harold, “but it is rather hilarious – having to hide in a bin – you couldn’t make this stuff up.”

“No, you jolly well couldn’t!” agreed the little monkey huffily.

“What were you doing in the kitchen, anyway?” asked Harold.

“Oh, I decided to take the opportunity to rustle up a three course dinner, of course!” retorted Teatime, “ What do you THINK I was doing there? I was looking for the key to Moon’s briefcase, the wretched fellow had locked it so I wasn’t able to plant the tracker inside.”

“I see. But you did plant the tracker somewhere?”

“Yes, yes, I settled for slipping it into the lining of his jacket in the end – I just hope he continues to wear it.”

“Well, that’s better than nothing anyway,” said Harold, “I’m just glad we weren’t discovered.”

“Indeed,” agreed Teatime.

Outside the building, the street was fairly dark and quiet. In the distance an ambulance siren wailed. Harold walked down the street and round the corner to where Othello was waiting in the car.

“Mission accomplished,” he said, climbing in.

“What took you so long?” asked Othello. “I was about to come in after you.”

“It’s a long story,” laughed Harold. “But not terribly newsworthy.” He added, seeing Teatime’s scowl. Othello grunted and started up the car.

They soon arrived back at Mr Teeth’s, where only Mercury was still waiting up for them.

“Well, let’s hope Moon doesn’t find the tracker or any traces of our little visit,” he said, after hearing the night’s events, as related by a grinning Harold, “he’s as sharp as a tack, that one, and can probably put two and two together as well as anybody.” He stifled a huge yawn, “Well, I think I’ll turn in now, see you in the morning.” He wandered off in the direction of the bedrooms.

“You know,” said Harold, “all that talk of kitchens and food has made me realise we haven’t had any proper food for hours – those sugar cookies have completely worn off. Fancy sharing some sort of disgusting lifeless fare with me?”

“Very funny,” said Teatime.

They wandered into the kitchen where a quick rummage through Mr Teeth’s cupboards and refrigerator yielded various cold meats, a heap of salad, bread and butter and a pile of enough fresh fruit to make even Teatime salivate a little.

“Right,” declared Harold, “that looks about enough. Let’s try it on for size.”

They set to.

“I hope this tracker device thing works out,” said Teatime, after a while.

“Yeah, it’d be nice to finally make some real progress at last,” agreed Harold. “Just think, we might actually solve the case in a few days. I can’t wait!”

“Really?” asked Teatime, “I’d have thought you would have wanted it to last as long as possible.”

“Why would I want that?” asked Harold, puzzled.

“Well, old biscuit,” explained the little monkey, “Once the case is finally over, these humans aren’t exactly going to let you hang about up here, are they? It’ll be back to the Basement for you before you can say Jack Robinson, won’t it?”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.” Said Harold.

He put down his knife and fork, his appetite had suddenly disappeared.

So, what do we know about Amber?

What we know is this:

Amber works in a shop.

She’s not happy at having to work Saturdays (6 in a row now, apparently). She hates having to cash up or be in charge of the keys as it means she has to arrive early and leave late.

She has a toothache, but cannot afford the dentist.

She has a friend called Nathan.

She’s going to buy 200 cigarettes today before the chancellor’s tax makes the price go up (this was on Budget day).

She likes to go through desk drawers at work when no-one’s around. She found a ten-pound note in one the other day, which she promptly pocketed to spend in the pub that lunchtime.

She’s going to order takeaway food tonight, but not from Oceana as she’s sick of that place and not from China Garden either, as that place is “minging”.

Remember, she can’t afford the dentist - even with an income augmented by desk-drawer windfalls, but she can afford ciggies and takeaway food.

She’s planning to meet up with friends tonight at “the Crez”.

She’s been late for work a few times lately because the bus didn’t come – even though she set out early.

She loves her mum.

How do we know this?

Amber is someone who likes to chat on her mobile whilst riding on the bus. Amber likes to chat AT EXTREMELY HIGH VOLUME on her mobile whilst riding on the bus.

Is it ear-wigging when a conversation is practically yelled into your ear-holes?

Friday, 25 March 2011

What Printer Error Messages Should Really Say

In our office, anyway..........

Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Lies Told by I.T. Support

This cartoon came about as a result of a joke conversation we had in the office today. 

It having been way too early this morning when I logged in, I had forgotten to put some files onto one of our web servers (a routine job we do every day).  The users spotted this and raised an enquiry about the missing files.  We quickly copied them over and told the users to look again (note the subtle psychological hint here that, somehow, the users were mistaken - it's a VERY important weapon in the IT Support arsenal).

Lo, and behold, the files were there, but the users then wanted to know WHY they had not been there before (our Jedi mind-tricks were not so potent after all it seemed). 

Now, seasoned IT professionals that we are, we did not want to admit to such a mundane thing as a case of numpty-itis, so we "forgot" to answer their email for a bit, hoping they'd get bored and drift away.

A bit later, one of the users, who clearly fancied himself as a bit of a techno whizz-kid, emailed in with this deathless theory: one of the files is bigger than the other two.  Is it possible that the big one blocked the other two from copying across?


Anyway, I tried to get my boss to email the guy back with the explanation being touted in the cartoon below.  Sadly, he refused, but we had a great laugh out of the idea.

Hope you did too!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Poetry Bus - Uiscebot's Odyssey

It's been a while....

Anyway, this week's Poetry Bus prompt comes from Uiscebot.  We were to go somewhere new, experience it and write about it.  There were some other bits as well - and a threat of death if rules were not followed.

I haven't been anywhere new lately (no time) so wrote about a place which was very new to me when I visited it in 2004 - China.  Everywhere we went, hordes of people would appear from nowhere with cries of Hello!  Hello! and try to sell us 'genuine' Rolexes, Chairman Mao watches and other gewgaws.  We nicknamed these folks the Hello People.

The Hello People

Here are the Hello People,
Crowding excitedly round us,
Hemming us in,
As we alight from bus, train or plane.

Here are the Hello People.
All black eyes, outstretched hands
And big false grins
You buy? Very cheap! You buy?

Here are the Hello People.
They hunt in unruly packs
Our fat western wallets
Are their quarry.

Here are the Hello People.
We should buy, shouldn’t we?
Help the struggling poor?
Make them like us.

Make them like us.

Weekly Wordzzle 147

I'm back, after what seems like an age of me promising myself (and others) that I'd play and then not getting chance to do it.

But, on with the motley.... for rules, this week's players and next week's words go to Raven's Nest.

The Mini (organism, energy, harmonica, calibration, spread your wings and fly)

The thin, reedy sound of a harmonica floats into the room from somewhere below in the street – Marcel, no doubt, busking for a few centimes to buy more of those foul cigarettes he so enjoys. Bars of sunlight stream through the gaps in the shutters, striping the wall above my head. I count the bars of yellow light in a kind of lazy mocking calibration of the shutters’ ability to keep the room dim and cool, the way I like it. JJ snoozes on next to me, unaware. JJ is an organism of two distinct polarities: asleep, he is a loose tangle of slack limbs and tousled black hair, awake, a lithe, taut bundle of restless energy and piercing black eyes. From where I’m lying, I can see his discarded T-shirt, a rumpled pool of cloth on the red-brown tiles. Spread Your Wings and Fly is just about legible amongst the folds. Good advice. Under the bed, my suitcase is already packed.

The 10-Worder (wanderlust, wisdom, popcorn, hearts and flowers, melting snow, bank account, chapter, painting, politics, imagination)

New to Harold? Catch up here

Teatime crouched anxiously in Moon’s garbage bin, keeping as still as possible. This was not easy, as he seemed to be sitting in a disgusting-smelling plastic meal tray, complete with popcorn-sized lumps of a decidedly squishy substance adhering to it. As the sounds of Moon moving about in the kitchen came to him inside the malodorous receptacle (a bowl of cereal and a glass of water seemed to be in order), Teatime’s initial relief at having hidden himself so quickly disappeared like so much melting snow, to be replaced by an exasperated questioning in his mind of the wisdom of hiding in a place from which there was no possibility of escape if discovered.

For his part, Moon was a little puzzled: as he’d made his way across the living room with a view to fixing himself a little snack (the macaroni cheese ready-meal had been as unsatisfying as it had been unappetising), he’d been sure he’d heard a noise coming from the kitchen, but when he’d arrived and flipped on the light, all had been still and quiet - apart from one thing. The cutlery drawer had been slightly open. Now Moon was sure he’d left it properly closed. Nothing else was amiss though, so he dismissed the noise as a product of the imagination of a half-asleep brain.

As he dipped his spoon into the cereal and munched, he thought about the possible new chapter in his life that looked to be opening up. The message he’d received earlier that day had been most promising, but on no account was he going to get his hopes up too much – that way lay disappointment. Still, so long as his informant hadn’t been painting too rosy a picture of things, there was much to hope for.

Moon paused for a moment to give silent thanks for the wanderlust that had taken him on that trip to Europe. It had almost cleaned out his then meagre bank account, but it had been so worth it to have run purely by chance into his uncle in Switzerland. And what a momentous meeting it had turned out to be. They’d met on a climb and had hit it off almost immediately. It had taken them both some time to realise they were related, but by then they were fast friends anyway. Once back home, Moon had found a job in OGS more-or-less waiting for him. Everything had been going along very nicely after that - until Moon had got a call telling him his uncle had been injured in a climbing accident. As the last of the cereal disappeared, revealing a ridiculous hearts-and-flowers motif at the bottom of the bowl, Moon felt more hopeful than he had at any time since then. If things worked out, after tomorrow, everybody would have to sit up and take notice: not just OGS, with its internal politics and adherence to the old ways, but eventually the whole world.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A New Home in the Sky - Stand and Deliver

A new job drops into the Klueless Support inbox.

"User is reporting receipt of files containing unwanted data".

I do a little bit of digging around and, sure enough, a data feed we send out each day has some spurious data in it when there should have been none, and has been doing this for a couple of days now.

I check the code and notice a bug, which is quickly fixed.

Well, I think to myself, that’s an easy one.  Now, I’ll just email the users and tell them to discard the two files they received in error and the job’s a good ‘un, as we say.

“What are you working on at the moment,” asks the boss, wandering over.

“I’m just going to tell Sea-Mist that they can junk the files we sent them and that we’ve fixed the code so it won’t happen again.”

“Are you going to re-send the files?” he asks.

“No,” I reply, carefully, “I wasn’t actually planning to send them two completely empty text files as replacements, no.”

“I think you should send them the files.” He says.

“But they’ve got no data in them! It would be pointless!” I protest.

“Send them anyway,” he says. “That way, they’ll know we’ve delivered.”

If ever there was a word in the English language that has been abused, it’s the word ‘deliver’. Nothing is ever produced, only delivered. Nothing is sent, it’s delivered. The only thing that isn’t delivered, it seems, is my post of a morning (but that’s another story).

I sigh, fire up notepad, create 2 completely empty text files, name them appropriately and attach them to an email.

Having performed a Random Act of Management, the boss wanders off.

“I’ll send them,” I yell at his departing back, “But I’m sure as hell not encrypting them!”

"Whatever," he says, without even looking round.

Now I cannot let this pass.  Before long we'll be deluged with pointless and unfulfilling tasks - more pointless and unfulfilling tasks, I should say.

A bit later, I go over to his desk and plonk his mug down upon it.

“What’s this?” he says.

“Your tea.” I reply. He peers into the mug.

“But there’s nothing in it,”

I smile.

“Remember that cup of tea I made you the other day that you said you didn’t want…..?”

I haz a sarcasm.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Battling the void

This is more or less the text of a speech I'm going to give tonight.

It’s a cloudy Sunday morning in June 2006, and I’m about to step off the roof of a 12-story building.

And why exactly WAS I about to do such a crazy thing?

Well, Mr Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests, I wanted to get into my attic.

I’ve lived in my house for more than 25 years and I’ve only ever managed to get up there twice.

I'm afraid of heights, you see.

Loads of people are afraid of heights - it's a perfectly rational thing to be afraid of. We are not birds, we're just monkeys with shoes on, and when we fall we don’t stop until we hit the ground.

It makes sense to be afraid of heights when a fall can turn you from a living, breathing human being with loves, hates, hopes and dreams into something that they have to wash away with a hose.


My own fear of heights does not make sense.

I can, for example, go up the spire of Coventry Cathedral and look down quite happily. I can lean out of our seventh floor window at work and look down quite happily. I’ve been to Surprise View in the Lake District, where you walk through some trees and all of a sudden, you’re on the edge of a cliff. There were no guard rails, there, but I could stand right on the edge and look down quite happily.

But I can't climb a simple eight-foot aluminium ladder into my own attic.

The problem is the hatch is above the landing, so when you climb up, there is a great yawning void just the other side of the banister.

Now, I say yawning, but it doesn't so much yawn as sit in the back of my mind whispering suggestively.

The void beyond the banister keeps urging me to slip off the ladder and fall, I can feel it pulling hungrily at me as I climb and trying to make my dizzy.

The void is insidious.
The void is seductive.
The void is a pain in the backside, frankly.

In 2006, I was getting so sick of it keeping me out of my own attic that I devised a cunning plan.

I figured if I picked a fight with the void’s much bigger brothers – and won, the void in my house would lose its power over me,

Clever, eh?

The void’s laughter was deafening the next day as I signed up for the Charity Abseil.

A few months passed and the big day finally dawned.

I turned up to the Axa building in Coventry city centre.

It was a building I’d walked past hundreds of times but I’d never really looked at properly.

I looked up at it now - all 170 terrifying feet of it

This was the moment when the void's big brother strolled into my head. If he had been a person, he would be a leather-jacketed thug with a dangling cigarette, tattoos, and a bad attitude.

I resolutely ignored him and went inside and up to the twelfth floor. There, some cheery folks helped me on with some canvas spaghetti which they said was a safety harness, and clapped a thin plastic helmet on my head. Thus, attired for battle, I went out onto the roof.

There, the organisers had erected a flimsy-looking platform of, planks and scaffolding on the edge.

Scaffold was the right word, too, because never did a condemned person ascend those three rickety steps with more trepidation than I did that day.

The void's big brother started his campaign of terror in my head and was now going around dropping cigarette ash and accidentally on purpose breaking things like some b-movie heavy. He offered to leave me alone if I would just see reason, give up this nonsense and go home.

No way! I’m not scared of you! I lied.

Up on the platform, there was another cheery fellow doing mysterious things with ropes and knots.

Don’t worry, he assured me, you could dangle baby elephants off these ropes. I smiled weakly back at him wondered how they knew.

Right, he said then, Go to the edge and turn you back to it.

Reluctantly, I unglued my feet and did as I was told.

The void's big brother was starting to get decidedly nasty now - he was doing all sorts of horrible things with my heart-rate and breathing.

Then the cheery man said, step off, lean back and walk down the wall.

Simple enough, surely. I’ve done stepping. I’ve done leaning. I’ve even done walking.

But never was a longer step taken by a human being. But I did it. Amazingly, I didn’t die! So I took another step, then another, and another.

This was going surprisingly well.

The void’s big brother glanced at his watch meaningfully, and gave me a nasty grin. Any minute now, he seemed to be saying.

Now I'm not very athletic at the best of times and I have a lousy body image, so even simply leaning back and walking down a wall proved too much and ,before long, I found myself slipping off, to dangle helplessly, twirling in mid-air like some kind of terrified plumb-bob.

Baby elephants, baby elephants, baby elephants, I chanted to myself, as I struggled to get everything back under control.

The void's big brother gave my heart-rate a vindictive tweak.

But, I managed to get back on the wall and continue - only to slip off again a bit further down.

I was really not good at this.

But I am nothing if not stubborn.

There were several more prayers to the infant pachyderms before I finally - joyfully - reached the blessed, beautiful, ground.

As soon as my feet touched, I was so jazzed that I simply collapsed in a wobbly heap like a great big adrenaline-flavoured jelly.

The void's big brother treated me to a final sneer, tossed his cigarette on to the floor, ground it out with his heel and strolled away laughing.

He'd won.

I’ve not been able to face the void since.

But I’ve got a cunning plan...

Does anybody know where I can sign up for parachute training?