Sunday 30 August 2009

Going for a dander (a bit of a walk) with the Noterati of UKLUG

Greetings blog-0-philes!

A bit of a break in the blogwriting of late, mainly due to a bad case of too many projects and not enough time at "the coal face". I believe our far eastern colleagues call it "interesting" times. Well may it be interesting but it does make one rather knackered and not enthused to either Tweet or blog.

Anyhows ... Next week end the 4-6th September I am playing host to Matt White, Eileen Fitzgerald, Bill Buchan and Mark Myers on a part of what is regarded as one of the top 10 walks in Ireland.

The assembled Noterati will be bunking up in North Antrim town of Portballintrae a wee speck on the map where the River Bush (of Bushmills Whiskey fame) enters the Atlantic and in a foot note to the annals of world history also the place where I got married.

On Saturday we will do around half of the xTreme Causeway Marathon Course, which sounds awfully exciting, but it is not really that extreme when you walk it, running it on the other hand is very probably not only extreme but very very very silly!

We will take the bus to Ballintoy a 20 minute chug up the road from Bushmillsand from there we will head off down the windy single carriage road down to the Ballintoy harbour, past the very weird Bendhu house.
this rather idiosyncratic building was build by hand by Newton Penprase a Cornish "blow in" and he started it in 1936 and still had not quite finished it when he died in 1977.

From Ballintoy harbour we will head westwards on the coastal path. This will take us to White Park Bay
a rather beautiful and protected beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and a site of the very early human occuptation of Ireland after the ice sheet that covered Ireland retreated (7500BC)
From there if the tide is out we can get around the headland to the tiny Port Bradden, if not it is up the hill along the road and then back down hill again. Port Bradden has one of the smallest concecrated churchs, St. Gobban's

From Portbraden we will plod on around the costal path, past caves, thru sea arches as the cliffs change from limestone to black igneous rock that signifies the start of the lava flows that formed the Giants Causeway some miles westward. The next place of note is Dunseverick castle
There is not a lot left of this particular promintory fort, St.Patrick is meant to have visited this fort in 500AD and there are myths that place a fort on this site back even futher.. Legend has it that Conal Caernach a local who served the king that lived in this castle was serving as a roman solider and is believed to have wittnessed the crucfixion on Christ.
From Dunseverick we start to gradually rise as we enter the Giant's Causeway itself, gradually up and over Benbane head, past Port na Spaniagh where the Spanish Armada treasure ship "the girona" was wrecked

From there the ground starts to drop off.. until we come to the shepherds steps and down we go back the costal path
At the bottom of the steps it is only a quick dander to the famouse bit of the causeway, probably one of the most photographed landsacpe in Ireland.
The causeway itself is made up of 10's of thousands of 5 sided basalt columns like this

Having done the "ooo ahhh look at that" it is back up hill again to the Causway entrance... now there is a Pub at the gate called "the nook" which may or may not be used for some R'n'R and people watching.. Then back on the path again.. Around Runkerry Head, along Runkerry beach..
Across the River Bush, and we are back in Portballintrae.
All told about 12 miles, (yes we are trying to break Bill)
We may be asking you to dip your hands in your pockets for a bit of a donation towards the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. Surely anything that may well reduce Wild Bill to a size that will allow a kilt to be worn at UKLUG is worth a few pennies? :-)
Anyway more of that later...
If there are any Norn Iron Noterati free on the 5th Sept. We may well be in the Harbour Bar, rubbing our feet and drinking Guinness and you are more than welcome to come and join us and buy us drink ;-)
Watch this space and Twitter for details of how we do on our "wee dander"

Friday 14 August 2009

Ruminations about cyberlife (Quite NSFW)

Tis Friday again gentle reader, I have had a nice beer or two and the weekend beckons with it's all too few arces of non-work and I am am sat in my inner sanctum, the book lined computer powered shoebox that combines, library, studio and workspace I like to call it my "think-a-torium". Now those of you who visit from time to time will be used to the circularity of my writing style, those of you who happen upon this post by accident, well I apologise now.

Being a time served geek, all be it not a stereotypical one, I have in my time, BBS'ed, IRC'ed, AIM'ed, Yahoochatted and more recently Skyped my way through many 100's of megabites of bandwidth without a care in the world. For sure having had the advantages of a "norn iron" birth has helped in forming the occasionally foaming gobshite I have latterly become. This is in part the reason for this post the other part is the Pope, old white nighty Rapsinger himself, came out the other week in sort of favour of Social networking but with warnings that we the users of same should avoid obessing.

Obsess ? Us? Surely not? We geeks are all terribly grounded and scoff at such mundane character flaws. For us the simple act of obsession is only a precursor, a spot of adolescent fumbling foreplay before we get down to the main course of being complete and utter eejits. A state amplified because most of our "virtual" lives are free from the visual and auditory feedback loops that for countless millennia have helped us avoid (most of the time) the slaps, knees in the groin, black eyes and broken noses. Alcohol has the same effect as over exposure to the the virtual world, it depresses that bit of us that is careful and considerate of others and able to see the warning of that slight narrowing of the eyes that tells you to back down.You can see that every Saturday night in the eyes of Policemen seconds after you attempt to twist the inflated breathalyser bag it into the shape of a french poodle.

I was on one of the chat clients the other nite, one I hadn't been on for some time and it has been overrun with female 'bots touting for click-thrus "Come to my site and see my sexy pics" it seems gone are the days of the cut and thrust of flame wars on IRC or the deep intellectual persuit of that perfect insult, the thrill of the well turned profanity trying oh so hard not to fall to Godwin's law in the alt.activism.death-penalty newgroup I wonder if that charisma bypassed dried up golum Dudley Sharp is still doing the rounds on there ... oh he was a characterless twonk, you would wind him up and watch him foam and froth for days :-) happy times.... I digress

This chat system was full of interesting names in every room ... 9andahalfinches4u, letmewigglemy48dd, stokeitharder56 (I think that may have been a spelling mistake unless there is a club for people who like to stoke boilers??) For once I felt my own handle of SlothfulGeekSocks was much more illuminating about me the real person than than 99% of my fellow chatters.

I was approached by one of the folk the chat went like this :

EvilStudMaster: Age/Sex/Location?

[I studiously did nothing my finger poised over the "ignore" button]

EvilStudMaster: I bet you never had a real man ... :-)
SlothfulGeekSocks: Yes I can honestly say that I have never had a real man ...

[Which is true, i was warned about that sort of thing at Sunday school]
EvilStudMaster: I'm Horny .. what sort of underwear are you wearing?
SlothfulGeekSocks: Marks and Spenser's value pack of 5 with reinforced gusset marvellous value for £5.00
EvilStudMaster: You are a Brit then? I like British women
SlothfulGeekSocks: I am so glad
EvilStudMaster: Wanna Fuck?

With that I clicked the ignore button and left the chat room, has the state of the world got so bad that this is representative of the state of seduction in the on-line world. Gone it seems are the days when a swain would compose lines such as this by Christopher Marlow

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should love, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
I would warrant that if EvilStudMaster tried that as an opening gambit he might meet with more success in his campaign to be wrapped in the virtual arms on an on-line Venus.

Perhaps old Bendy Dick Rapsinger is right, and it is not often I agree with the Pope, perhaps we do need a week or two AFK (Away From the Keyboard) a week or two when we can touch a flower, paddle in the sea, climb a mountain (or in my case a steep hill) and as Lewis Carroll would have it

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
of shoes--and ships-- and sealing wax--
of cabbages --and kings--
and why the sea is boiling hot--
and whether pigs have wings"

That's me I am done.. where is the beer?

Sunday 9 August 2009

A timely reminder about our attitudes !

I am a bit late to the game here.. but when I read Francie's post about the crap she has to put up with I got really really cross. Like Cuz Rob I am moving my post off Francie's or Kathy Brown's or Greyhawk's blog because I am still cross and I may trawl the epithets drawer more deeper than usual. You have been warned

My anger comes not only from the fact that I count Francie as a friend and colleague but that I have seen and heard exactly what Francie describes as

Turns out trying to minimize your gender in the way you look or act is a fairly standard thing, which I discovered after many conversations with other women in male dominated fields. And you might have guessed that this post isn't really about "just" me but rather about the effect those stereotype comments have and the lack of diversity that creates in turn.
How often do you have to watch what you say, how you act or look in order to not lose technical credibility?
FUCK! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I have been on the receiving end of a similar gender specific stereotyping. When I was nursing I was told by a senior nurse manager that ".. there is no place for men in this profession ... " When I mentioned my career to new colleagues for many there was an immediate reaction that was a look that said "...oh you are gay then..." This assumption was so prevalent and so strong that on two occasions I was approached by fellow nursing professionals who took it upon themselves to save me from the sin of "sodomy" during lunch. The assumption then and to a certain extent now is Male Nurse = Homosexual. Mostly I picked up that they considered this a bad thing, this was underlined by a "gentleman" in a bar one night, a husband of a colleague, came up to me and spat through clenched teeth "You fucking bender - can't you get a proper job?"before turning on his heel and walking off.

It was not being thought of as a homosexual that annoyed me, it was the assumption that that was in some way "bad" and I was somehow incapable of doing a proper job because of it. I still feel that folk who think like that can take a very long walk off a fucking short pier

Professional capability is NOT defined by what orrifice you prefer, the friends you have ,the clothes you wear, how big your tits are or how well turned your ankles are in a button boot or for that matter if you got more than an average thumping with the ugly stick..if you make assumptions based on any of the above you are a A+ Gold Plated petty, evil, small minded, fuck-witted TWONK!

Now Francie and Kathy do not need me to defend them , they are more than capable of doing that themselves and this post comes from me being mightly pissed off by the idea that every professional community I wander through seems to have it's share of arse holes who sit wrapped in a blanket of their own prejudices, pulling at the lace curtains of their cubicles and "tut tut"-ing


I was reminded the last couple of lines of a poem by Philip Larkin.

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Emphasis mine.

A wander around the giants causeway

Today I took a wander alongt he full length of the Giant's Causeway (Clochán na bhFómharach in Irish) which was formed by
(a) The cooling of lava 50-60 million years ago
(b) Built by an Irish Giant Finn MacCool so he could go to scotland and beat up a Scottish Giant
(c) If you listen to the Causeway Creation Committee it was caused by Noah's flood 4500 years ago.

One of these is a myth, one a steaming heap of crap and the other probably the truth ... at this time I will leave you the reader to work out which is which.

However it got here it is on my doorstep (and the doorstep of The Bushmill's Distillery) and is a regular stomping ground for my weekend brisk walks. The summer is a bit worse that the rest of the year because it is (quite rightly) alive with tourists. I prefer it in the spring and autumn when there are less folk about and I can have the 5 miles of coastal strangeness to myself. If you are ever over this way you should have a look see, it really is rather spectacular :-) In the mean time here are some photos.


Friday 7 August 2009

Remembering ,.... the undiscovered worlds of Girls

I laid it all on the line for a lassie once.
Well, okay she wasn't exactly a woman.
I was fifteen and there was this girl in the same year as me but at the High School on the other side of town... Martina
God, she was beautiful.
I had the biggest dose of "Fancy Fever" on her. Of course, so did almost every other chap in my class. I knew I'd never have a chance with her but I went to The School Social with only one purpose in mind well maybe two purposes but I was only young and had very HIGH hopes. I digress my aim goal objective thingie was to get Martina to slow-dance with me. I figured if I could just dance with her once, even if it was just that one time, well... of such dreams are young male psyches made.

Anyway, I went, figuring I'd have to fight my way through a line of chaps just to get close to her. But when I got there... I couldn't believe it. Nobody was asking anybody to dance. The guys were all on one side of the hall, combing their hair and checking their watches and trying to look cool whilst MUD, KENNY and The GLITTER BAND did their 'thang on the turntables and trying so damn hard not to appear to be looking at the lassies. The girls were all on the other side of the hall, huddled in little groups, whispering to each other and pretending not to care if the guys were watching them or not. And there was Martina. She was sitting there listening to some friends of hers. She looked nervous and vulnerable, kind of lonely and just... irresistibly beautiful.

And that was when I realized, this was my chance. All the other guys who were looking at her the same way I was, were all too nervous to go near her. So I took a deep breath, walked right over to her and asked her to dance. And she said, "No."

Nothing else. Just no. I've never felt so many different things at one time. It was like a kick to the stomach, but also like a cold fist crushing my heart. I felt like I had a fever, like my skin was on fire, but at the same time I felt frozen inside. My heart was broken. My pride was shattered. And that was when I realized I was going to throw up... and that somehow I had to make it back to the anonymity of the darkness of the car park before that happened. So I turned and started walking away. God, I felt awful. I knew it would be impossible to ever feel worse than I did at that moment. And then I heard Martina .. laughing at me....

Hey ho.. many years have passed since then and is my understanding of women any better now? Is it F**K ;-)

Monday 3 August 2009

The first brush stroke is always the hardest

As part of the Xmas present giving this year one of my relatives bought me several canvases and I have yet to use any of them. They have been sitting under my desk calling to me, but one thing or another has been pushing me in other ways and away from the siren call of my artistic muses.

I unwrapped one of the canvases this evening , this is it.

It is one of the bigger ones (ooeerr matron!) 70x50cm and as I sit and look at I can see exactly what I want the finished work to be. I know what I want it to "say" to the viewer. I know the private bit of me that I want to expose in an act of creativity. I just have no idea where to start.

It has been said before many many times. That first brush stroke is the hardest, breaking the pristine whiteness of the raw canvas seems almost sacrilegious. Knowing that if you start you will have to see it through to the end, even if that end is a confusing mediocre mess that no-one likes. For that is the main reason to paint or draw or sculpt or write programs or market a product you want other people to see, to understand and to be challenged by the output of your imagination through the skills you have acquired in your life todate.

It is nice to have a painting, drawing, application or campaign that is a success and that is why I paint and why I write applications, if it were just something I "do" there would little to challenge me to learn more develop my skills try things a different way, I would just "do" it and the thrill mixed with fear of that first brush stroke would be lost.

That would not be a good thing. I am glad the canvas still scares me :-) Do your blank canvases still scare you?

Saturday 1 August 2009

Some new Sounds I have been listening too

Now this is The Freemasons Feat. Bailey Tzuke doing an Alanis Morissette song and I kinda like it...

Mainly cos I went to see her mother Judy Tzuke in the late 70's/80's, seems like a good voice runs in the family .. this is her mum in '85

Talking of famous mother + daughters here is Sophie Ellis Bextor "heartbreak make me a dancer" .. and she was the "bump" that caused her mother Janet Ellis a certain amount of blushing on Blue Peter.

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