Thursday, July 28, 2005

Only 2 sleeps to go!

Well folks, it's been quite a week.

Sadly, my daytime blogging has been severely curtailed, but for good reason. After taking unpaid leave and spending an obscene amount of money on studying last year, I have finally been given the opportunity to work in a different section of our IT department. It's only temporary for the moment, while one of the lads is on leave for a month, but if I can pull it off then who knows what might happen in the future? In a nutshell, this job involves less brawn and more brain. Of course, the learning curve makes me feel like an ant embarking on a climb of Kilimanjaro but the stuff I learnt last year on my courses is coming back slowly but surely, and my boss seems quite happy to let me spend most of my day figuring stuff out, although I think I have been a little bit useful too.
And it is very cool to be thinking again, even though I was a little rusty at first!
On the down side I have moved into the desk beside my boss for the duration, so for the time being my blogging, emailing and internet surfing is being neglected.
Oh well, it's all about priorities...

Adding to my happy mood this week is the knowledge that in two days we're heading off to the Greek Islands for a week's holiday. Yippeeeeeeee!!!! So far only Crete and Santorini are the itinerary but we'll see what happens while we're there.

So at the moment even our wonderful Irish summer can't dampen my spirits - which is really saying something because today we were promised a high of 16 degrees ... yeah right!! It is cold and grey outside, the wind is howling at gale-force, and the rain hasn't stopped even for a minute the whole day.

Yep, this is what it looks like outside right now.

My shoe developed a leak on the way to work so I arrived with a soggy right foot and spent 5 minutes in the ladies' room with my sock billowing merrily under the hand dryer. Needless to say as soon as I put my sodding shoe back on the darn thing got wet again. Talk about a pointless exercise!

Oh well, look on the bright side - now I have a genuine excuse to buy a new pair of shoes :-)

Ah, there ya go, I just heard a weather report on the radio. "It's lashing with rain outside (no sh*t!) and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future (nice & specific, don't u think?) and it's 12 degrees." Twelve degrees! It's the middle of summer!!!!!
Haha, I don't care... two days from now I'll be in sunny Crete, woo hoo!!!

Speaking of which, now it's time for me to tear myself away from the computer (it's tough, but it has to be done!) so that I can give myself a pedicure. Gotta have pretty toes when visiting faraway sunny places ... to match the pretty shoes, understand?

I intend coming back with loads of photos to post on my blog, so then you can decide for yourselves if Santorini lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Watch this space...

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Bluebird of Happiness...

Our 'Bluebird of Happiness' - Honda cbr1100xx Super Blackbird

This weekend the Bluebird of Happiness came home to roost in our household.

If the people at NASA think they have something special with their rockets & space shuttles, all I can say is Ha! They should talk to the people at Honda!

On Saturday we drove up to a little town called Buncrana in County Donegal, in the Northernmost part of Ireland (next stop: North Pole!). The 250km drive took around 5 hours - about average for that distance in Ireland. Our mission: to take ownership of a Honda CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird motorcycle.
The Blackbird has been described in many ways, by many people over the years since it was first unleashed on the world. My favourite expression to date is "Nuclear Powered".

The thing is a beast. I'm not one for stats such as horsepower and kilowatts etc, but I can tell you it will get to 180mph (around 290kph) and then some... please don't ask me how I know this, just take my word for it ;-)
And it gets there really quickly too!
(Yes, it is insane... but have you tried it???!!!)

Oh dear, the secret is out: Terri is a speed junkie.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't pilot the bike myself - I much prefer to perch up behind my hubby and enjoy being a passenger.

But apart from the obvious thrill of riding on the Blackbird (or in this case, Bluebird is more appropriate - it's pretty, dontcha think?) there is also the status that goes with riding around on one of the fastest machines on the planet. It has the WOW factor. Everywhere we go, people stop and stare, and complete strangers come up to us and talk to us just so they can admire the sheer beauty of it.

When we took it for a short spin just after we picked it up on Saturday, we drove until we reached the sea and couldn't go any further, and then we stopped at the edge of a little fishing pier to take the first photos of our new pet. A couple of minutes later four dodgy-looking lads pulled up in an even dodgier-looking Mitsubishi. They shuffled around the car for a short while, unloading their fishing tackle, and then two of them just couldn't contain themselves any longer and made their way over to us to admire the bike. One of them took a whole bunch of pictures with his phone - not just of the bike, but one of us and the bike, too. All he kept saying, over and over again, was, "That's a really pretty bike!" Tee hee!
They had really thick Northern accents - so thick that at times I wasn't sure if they were even speaking English, hehe - and turned out to be not so dodgy after all. Just awestruck.
Later on when we were mounting up again outside The Rusty Nail, a pub where we stopped for supper, the lads drove past having obviously finished their fishing (or smuggling?), and they hooted and waved like we were long lost friends.
But that's the way it is in these remote country spots in Ireland.

All in all it was a great weekend. We stayed over at a lovely B&B in Buncrana and then yesterday I drove the car back to Dublin, with hubby following me (sometimes behind, sometimes in front) on his new toy.

I see many fun, fast weekends in our future..!
I'm a very happy lady!

And I make a great bike ornament ;-)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Overheard, over-indulged and now over-hung...

"He looks like Yoda, man."
"Who's Yoda?"
"From Star Wars, man. Don't you know who Yoda is?"
"Yeah I saw Star Wars. Was he the one with the dark hair?"
"No, man! He was the little guy, kinda pixie ears."
"Oh, right."
"So, like, if I mentioned the Red Pill or the Blue Pill you'd know what I was talking about, right?"
"The wha'?"
"From The Matrix!!!... Are you sure you're in IT?"

I was sitting at the edge of this conversation when it took place and I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. Ok, maybe the four G&T's I'd had by that stage had something to do with it too.

Yep, this morning a large percentage of our IT department are hanging around the building with bloodshot eyes and slightly droopy demeanours. Productivity is a little low today. We were out last night having farewell drinks for a guy at work who's moving to London (rather him than me at the moment!)... a Kiwi, actually, who near then end of the night was leaning on me, muttering sadly about the fact that he had to depend on a Saffa to not fall over.
Hey, it was the least I could do for a representative of the country that so clinically and beautifully ripped apart Sir Clive Woodward's precious Lions recently..!

Still, it was a touching moment.
Of course, everything was a touching moment by that stage.
And I was undoubtedly the wittiest, most charming and eloquent person in the place.
Isn't it amazing what a couple of G&T's can do for a girl's self-image?!

Needless to say, today I feel (and possibly look, although I haven't had the courage to do a close inspection) much like my little friend in the picture.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


African SunsetI feel a little melancholy today and seem to running low on quick, witty comebacks.

Maybe it's because the sun is shining outside and I'm stuck inside an office (although I happen to know for a fact that even though it looks nice & warm outside, it is probably only around 16 degrees out there... Oh well, warm enough for just a t-shirt, anyway!).

Or maybe it's because I'm running low on caffeine (highly unlikely since I'm on my third cup and I've only been awake for 3 hours).

More likely, it is because I'm bored and homesick - a lethal combination that has me seriously wondering just what it would take to get a flight home today. I was listening to the song Africa (by Toto... ) on my headphones on the way to work this morning, and as always it made me think of home, almost as much as listening to my Juluka/Savuka* collection does.

They (those mysterious, anonymous, beings who seem to know everything... hm, maybe they're the ones who founded Google?!) say you don't appreciate properly what you have until you don't have it anymore. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"; "The grass isn't always greener on the other side", etc, etc. Well I have to agree.

Now, I know there are people who live in SA who would tell me how bad things are there - Crime is rampant; The cost of living is astronomical; There are no jobs out there; What is there to come back to? etc.
What they don't understand is just how much of a trade-off it is and what has to be sacrified in favour of a lower crime rate, better salaries and a bigger selection of jobs on offer.
From what I've seen, most South Africans can stand to be away for 3 1/2 years and then the need to go home becomes almost unbearable.

Why? I can only give you my own thoughts on that:

I miss the way the sky looks bigger there and I miss the startling blueness of it and the dazzling brightness; here the light always seem slightly muted.
I miss the spectacular multi-coloured sunsets; they make the soft pale pink-and-blue evening skies here seem so bland.
I miss the dusty, earthy smell of Africa; here it is all exhaust fumes, stagnant water, sewers and stale cigarette smoke.
I miss the rhythm of the place. If you don't know what I mean, listen to the music of Juluka/Savuka...or Toto's Africa :-)... Or maybe it is something you only realise is there once you've been away for a while.
I miss the wildness of the country - the pounding surf, craggy mountains and thick, thorny bushveld; the rolling green hills of Ireland just don't compare.
And I miss the people, not just my family and friends, but my people; people who grew up where I grew up, who think the same way as I do and understand me because of it and speak the same language. I miss being able to use words like "lekker" and "dof"** in everyday conversation.
Over here, we 'Saffas' have a reputation for not having a sense of humour - we're considered very serious people. Personally, I think we have a great sense of humour, but it is quite subtle and very localised, so 'non-Saffas' just don't get it most the time!

So to all of you back home, try to appreciate what you have, okay? And the next time you look up at a starry night sky, take a moment to think of me and see if you can spot the Southern Cross - 'cos I can't see it from here.

*Juluka and Savuka are South African bands formed by Johnny Clegg, a Brit who grew up in South Africa and as far as I'm concerned he is as South African as if he were born there.

** Meaning 'good' and 'dim' respectively, but really, some Afrikaans words lose a lot in translation.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Weathering the beach

Today I found myself lying on an Irish beach in just my bikini for the first time since we arrived on the Emerald Isle almost 4 years ago.

We had heard a rumour that today was going to be a scorcher (i.e. anything over 24 degrees, for those of you unaccustomed to Irish weather) so we woke up bright and early... okay, we woke up bright, since 9:45am doesn't really count as early... actually we just woke up - I'm never bright first thing in the morning... oh hell, where was I? Never mind; the point is we went to the beach.

When we first lay down on our towels in the sand it was still fairly cloudy, but we were prepared to wait for the sun. We weren't disappointed. As I was lying there on my stomach trying to blank out the voice of the most annoying man on the planet (no, not my hubby - some tosser who, although he was some distance away, had a voice that travelled the entire length of the fine, golden sand so that everyone in a 100m radius could hear how his diet is going - not well, by the way), I suddenly felt my skin becoming quite hot, and when I opened my eyes the sky was blue and the sun was blazing away. Woo hoo!

Portmarnock Beach

The reason I'm so pleased with this whole suntanning thing is that in a fortnight we're off to spend a week in the Greek Isles, and I'll be very pleased if I'm not translucently pale when we arrive, since I don't really want to blind the people who live there 'cos I believe they're actually quite nice.
To be honest, I'm also a little embarrassed to be seen in public in a bikini looking like I've spent the last 4 years of my life living underground with no exposure to sunlight. In other words, I look just like all those Northern Hemisphere people I used to make fun of when I lived in South Africa - those pale specimens who stand out like beacons on our beaches. I promise I will never make fun of them again!

Which is not to say that I won't bitch about the fact that the Irish have no beach etiquette, although, in fairness, I suppose this is to be expected when you live in a country where you only get a handful of days each year that could be considered "beach weather".

For example, there was the previously-mentioned tosser talking (and occasionally making an attempt to sing!) at the top of his voice. I mean, this dude was seriously loud!
Then came the gaggle of teenage girls, bounding past within inches of our heads in their slip-on shoes, causing miniature sandstorms to engulf us. The beach wasn't that crowded, there was enough room for them to have avoided us completely... but then, the Irish have no concept of personal space - probably stemming from the good ol' Irish-Catholic tradition of having large families and small houses.

Another phenomenon were the gangs of eastern European youngsters (there are a lot of Latvians and Russians in this country) sitting around in track-suit bottoms drinking beer. Oddly enough, they were less intrusive than most of the innocent-looking family types. Go figure!

And then, of course, there were the obligatory groups of Spanish students who invade Ireland every summer, all looking gorgeously tanned and blabbering so fast you wonder how they ever understand each other, and always at top volume.
I can't help wondering if they come over here to avoid all the Irish who go over to Spain in the summer, on their annual Sun holiday.

Aah, nothing like a peaceful day on the beach!

Ireland's Eye island just off the mainland near Howth

It wasn't all bad though - I saw some stuff that made me smile, too:

  • A young man who had probably just come from Church, walking hand in hand along the sand with his girlfriend - she's in shorts & flip-flops and he's in a suit, complete with shiny shoes and socks;
  • A father quietly supervising two pre-teen boys carrying a metal detector - they were really excited when they found their first 1c coin!
  • An ice-cream van came trundling along and was mobbed as soon as it stopped. I smiled at this 'cos it made me think of our own ice-cream sellers in SA, pushing their 3-wheeled ice-cream buggies in their blue overalls and ringing their bells, followed by gaggles of children as if they were the Pied Piper.
  • Also, when the sun shines, this country is really pretty. Not in the wild, majestic way that makes SA such a beautiful country, but in a picturesque kind of way. The sea is flat and calm and blue - along this stretch of coast you very seldom see waves in the Irish Sea, and the islands that can be seen from Portmarnock beach add a nice touch to the scenery.
  • And finally, did I mention it was warm and sunny?! This in itself was enough to put a smile on my face! It stayed that way for at least an hour & a half before we decided to head home for food.

Lambay Island

Now the sky has clouded over again and a slight breeze has picked up, carrying the ever-present reminder that we are not so very far away from the Arctic Circle here, but I know I was lying in hot sunshine on the beach this morning, 'cos I've been watching my arms gradually turn to a deeper shade of lobster for the past hour, and I keep finding sand in odd places...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Reality Bites... today I bite back!

When I was a child I couldn't wait to be a grown-up. It would be so cool!

I'd have boobs and wear high-heeled shoes and beautiful dresses to my glamorous job.
And then one day I would meet a handsome prince who would whisk me away to live in his mansion happily ever after....

So where exactly did it all go wrong?
The boobs get in my way when I exercise (something I have spent many years perfecting the art of avoiding), the pretty shoes hurt my feet and wearing dresses to work is just not an option - I'm a Techie, so I spend at least half my days under desks sorting out various cabling and PC problems. Not so glamorous.
As for the handsome prince whisking me away... well, I did leave the safety (?!) of SA to move to Dublin with my hubby a few years back so I got the 'away' bit right I guess... but the 'mansion' is in reality a fully-furnished 2-bedroomed rental apartment.
So much for romantic fantasies.

But I digress. My main beef today is my job. Don't get me wrong - as much as I bitch about being in IT, it can be a lot of fun being part of The Great IT Conspiracy; plus, there's very little paperwork involved. I'm just wondering how, after all the time I've spent studying and learning about computers and software, at least 80% of the calls I get are a complete insult to the intelligence of anyone who, well, has any.
Take today, for example:

Problem: My monitor is not working
Solution: Plug in the power
Problem: My mouse is not working
Solution: Plug in a new mouse
Problem: My computer won't accept my password
Solution: Press the 'Num Lock' key

You get the picture.
How do these people survive at home?
Wife: The kettle won't boil.
Husband: (panic) Call the electrician!
Electrician: (Plugs it in / switches it on) That'll be €250 please.
Does this happen? I think not!

Thus, on behalf of Techies the world over, I'm taking it upon myself to spread the word to the uninformed, the technophobic and the just plain lazy:

1. Computers use the same kind of electricity as your other appliances. You don't require any special technical training to plug in their power cables.

2. Computers do not have minds of their own - therefore, they cannot arbitrarily decide to change your password while you are not looking, just for fun (Although, occasionally a bored and frustrated Techie might, hehe!)
3. Computers do not have personalities, therefore they cannot dislike you, therefore it is highly unlikely that they will take it upon themselves to delete that document you swear you saved. (Try the 'Search' button!)
4. Computers don't ask trick questions. When they ask, "Are you sure you want to delete this file?", that is exactly what they mean. (PS, when they ask you this particular question, spare a moment to think about it before clicking Yes. If you're not sure, say No. Especially if the file in question is named something like "Windows" or "Config".)
5. When an error message pops up on your screen, DON'T PANIC! First, try reading it. Most error messages will be in the same language as all the other stuff on your PC. You may even be able to understand what it says. And if you do feel the need to get some technical help, try writing down what the error message was. "I think it said something about the thingy" doesn't really give us much to go on.

OK, I think I'm done venting for now.

But really, don't be afraid to ask - we Techies love to help...

Monday, July 11, 2005

True Blue Monday...

We spend 1 seventh of our lives on Mondays. What a thought.
Actually I thought today would be quite a good one. After getting some sun yesterday (yep, Dublin's in the grip of a heatwave - the mercury has hit 25 for 2 days running!) I was a little tired so went to bed nice & early last night, happy in the knowledge that I only had to get out of bed at 7:30 cos I was only due in at work at 10 this morning.

Knowing this, and fearful of The Yak (a.k.a. me before I've had my first dose of morning caffeine), my hubby left very quietly for work while I was still asleep. Very thoughtful of him. I woke up when I heard the news jingle quietly playing on the radio - at 8am. Aw crap! I have my morning routine timed to the second and I was running half an hour late already. Doing my best to rush to get ready, I managed to overcook my egg so it tasted like rubber - and there is NO WAY I leave the house without being fed in the mornings - don't want to be unleashing The Yak on the unsuspecting public!
I missed my regular train, and as I rounded the corner to the station I broke into a sprint (well, as close to a sprint as one can get in strappy sandals) because I could see the next train was already there. It was still at the platform when I stumbled onto it, breathless. But the doors were closed and the mean, nasty train driver actually leaned out of the window and looked at me as I put my hand onto the button in the vain hope of re-opening the doors, before pulling gently away.
So I flopped onto a bench and waited another 40 minutes for the next train, taking the time to de-tangle my still-wet hair and do up the button that had popped loose on my blouse during my athletics stint.

It was a gorgeous morning though, bright and hot and sunny, so my mood picked up pretty quickly. The next train arrived & I got a window seat facing the sun. Good music on my MP3 player - the day was improving!

Three stops later, the carriage was invaded by about thirty 5-year-olds on a day trip. I don't have any children of my own. This is a conscious choice, and this morning just reinforced that I have made the right decision. I turned up the volume on my MP3 player until it was loud enough to make me deaf... but still not loud enough to drown out the cacophany of kindergarten around me. One blue toe and three kicks on the shin later, I removed myself to the furthest corner of the carriage, in doing so probably saving one of the little treasures from having its block knocked off.

Nonetheless, I made it to work in one piece, nobody noticed I was a tad late, and after only a couple of 'challenging' calls, e.g.
User: My PC crashed and now it won't start up.
Me: Have you checked all the cables are plugged in?
User: Yes.
Me: OK I'll come downstairs and take a look.
(Walk down 2 flights of stairs)
Me: Hm, where does this power cable go to... ah, there we are... (click)
User: Oh, sorry, I didn't see that one.
(Sound of computer starting up)
Me: No problem (fake smile)

the day ended and it was time to head home.

Only, when I got to the station it was chaos because a train had broken down somewhere so all the other trains were running about half an hour late.

Well folks, there's no other choice - just gotta plug in those earphones, pump up the volume and accept the fact that it's Monday, it's public transport, and there's nothing that can be done about it.

There are another six whole days before the next one hits!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Great Day for Music

Elton John had a busy day yesterday. First he performed a couple of songs at the Live 8 concert in London, then he hopped on a plane and flew over to Dublin to perform at the RDS arena. When I mentioned to some of my colleagues that I was going to see his concert I got a mixed response... but the word 'cool' wasn't mentioned once. I got the impression they were impressed that I admitted I wanted to go. Strange. I mean, you gotta admire the man - he's been around for as long as I can remember and his music is still great. The crowd was really enthusiastic, and Sir Elton sounded fantastic - not many artists have the ability to sound as good live as they do on a CD. And he's really handy with a piano, too (which he demonstrated in the longest, most drawn-out version of "Rocket Man" I've ever heard..!)
Of course, being summer in Ireland, we had a few showers, but there's something really special about doing the Crocodile Rock in the rain with a few thousand other folks all singing & dancing like loonies.
The audience was a real mix of people. Plenty of Golden Oldies came along to enjoy the, er, golden oldies; there were also loads of youngsters who seemed to be enjoying the ageing rocker more than I would have expected (ecstasy, anyone?!). And then there was the small group of women in the stands wearing fake antlers on their heads, which was very confusing at first but then we saw they had a banner with them saying 'Elton John Stag Night'. Still a bit confusing cos I thought stag nights were a guy thing but we'll just let that one go, will we?

Anyway, that wasn't the only musical thing happening yesterday. You'd have to be deaf, blind or living alone on an iceberg in Antarctica to have missed the Live 8 concerts across the globe. We watched it on TV before & after the Elton John concert. Wasn't it just great?! Seriously, it's not often you'll get to see so many of the great singers & bands of our time play in one concert.
Hopefully those at the G8 thingy will take notice & realise that the people are trying to tell them something. A lot of people are really cynical about this but I think it was a great way to bring attention to the issue.

But enough soap-boxing from me.
I'd love to post some stunning photos from the concert we went to, but I was having a bit of a blonde day so forgot the camera at home. The best I can do is show you what we took with hubby's camera phone.
If you look very carefully you should be able to see a splotch in the middle that was the stage. Elton John was on it, I swear!