Tag: spain

The happy luddite

Pen in hand I pause, tongue creeping out over my bottom lip in concentration (a McLean trait), and try to remember what the hell it was that I was about to write down.

I’ve been doing that for the past week or so, transcribing lists from notepad to notepad, striking out completed items with slightly too much fervour, and replacing each one with another two things that need done, phone calls that returned and so on and so forth.

I spent 34 minutes on the phone to New Zealand the other day, an incoming call thankfully as I was at home. And then spent a further 10 minutes talking to two different people from the same place, convincing both of them that the matter was in hand and could they PLEASE stop calling ME and talk to EACH OTHER.

AHHH!!! I need to get the number for the company that replaced our fence last year.. that was it.

Some other items I forgot to note the other day, include my sister’s skydive on Saturday (for charidee), which I won’t be able to attend as I really need to get a haircut, take four boxes of crap to the dump, and another two to the charity shop, before I head into Glasgow to pick up some new shirts for work.

And it’s also dawning on me that I need to start considering what to pack to go to Spain (not clothes, BOOKS!) and there is the small matter of a trip to Hungary in May. It’ll be a relief to sit still for a while on Monday morning whilst visiting the dentist.

Anyway, this is all leading up to my main point. I think everyone is, or should be, aware that I’m a bit of a gadget freak, and whilst I have been trying to simplify things for a while, there is one thing that I don’t think I’ll ever manage to convert from the current lo-tech method.

Lists.

Without pad and pen I am utterly, utterly lost. The past fortnight has been manic and it’s telling that, whenever I’m under pressure I go back to basics and start scribbling. The immediacy of writing and maintaining a list by hand isn’t something you can replace on a computer or PDA.

I know this is all obvious stuff but suffice to say that I’ve now made my peace with it… although that isn’t without it’s problems.

After all, pad and pen are still ‘gadgets’, right?

Grand Plans

Speaking to my Mum on the phone earlier, we both discussed the need to have a “good clear out”, something we’ll be forced into next month as we are getting a new kitchen fitted. What better time to declutter one room and try and build some momentum to carry into others.

As we are getting the kitchen done then there is, of course, other things to be thought about. Tiles for the walls, flooring, heating (the kitchen is too small for a radiator), and assorted soft furnishings and final fittings. Today we visited a couple of tile shops and we’ve managed to agree on both tiles and flooring, it’s a miracle. Honestly, we have different tastes when it comes to these things and whilst we’d both kind of agreed roughly what we were looking for (a grey tile for the walls, and probably slate for the flooring… slate effect laminate that is) we are both equally fussy about the finer details of such things.

That said, if we can be careful with costs it is possible we might be able to get the bathroom done as well, even if it’s just replacing the mushroom coloured suite for a nice white one, and retiling the place. We’ll see.

It’s pretty much all go here at the moment, with a lot happening. Not only are we dealing with kitchen paperwork and considerations, we are still getting to grips with Ollie even though he’s made it very easy for us by being so laidback about things, we need to replace the fence in the back garden as it blew down in the high winds on Monday night (this time last year the other side was damaged!), we have our nephew’s 21st birthday next weekend, we are off to Spain early February and I’m down in London the week after that.

I’ve also been tasked with producing a long list of my ‘best’ photos, from which Louise will choose her favourite 12 to put up on the walls. We have the picture frames bought, having been inspired by Heather and Jon, so the onus is on me to get the next stage complete.

And finally, when the weather clears a little, we’ll need to paint the fence in the back garden and the porch needs re-varnished.

I really, REALLY, shouldn’t have bought a Wii…

Miaow

No, this is not a kitten post. We are not getting a kitten, there will be no cuteness here, well maybe a little for we are getting a cat in a week or so, more specifically we are getting a 1 year old, jet black cat called Ollie.

My nephew and his flatmate have to give up their flat and rather than have the cat go to the local cat rescue centre we thought we’d take him. We both work all day and decided that it wouldn’t be fair on a kitten, nor a puppy and so other than getting a goldfish we kinda thought we’d remain petless for a while.

However Ollie is a housecat, well trained and v.friendly, so it’s a great opportunity to get a little black ball of fun into the house. He’s getting all his jags and ‘stuff’ sorted out before we get him, and we’ve already got a cattery sorted out for when we go to Spain in February.

There is just one thing though, we both grew up with dogs (Golden Retrievers) so whilst we know the basics of looking after a cat, well any advice or tips would be welcomed. Particularly on making it at home and making sure it’s well entertained during the day.

Over to you, cat lovers, what can we do to make Ollie feel at home? Should we let him out? Any good websites for cat related information? We are both complete novices, other than having played with a few cats now and then, so any advice is welcomed.

Cold mornings ahead

A thin layer of white renders the land a frosty glitter. Warm breath floats into the black above. One by one the neighbours emerge from their warmth, and the ritual begins. Engines chug, fans blow, and slowly the ices drips away.

I love such mornings, with the crisp air pinching your cheeks, seeking out the gaps in your scarf, wheedling up coat sleeves. The morning commute made all the more glorious as you rise out of the town to the top of the valley, streetlights gone, the night sky sparkling under the moon glow.

Admittedly it can be a little dodgy on the way down the other side but that’s what traction control is for… yes?

And so we race towards Christmas.

I have two shops left to visit. I will need to do that on Friday afternoon/evening as although I’m off, we need four new tyres and they are getting fitted at 1.30pm.

Saturday and Sunday we are starting the “visits”, dropping off presents and so on. I’m off on Monday but will be finishing the wrapping and generally preparing for spending a couple of days at my parents.

Christmas Day we will see my Gran in the morning, maybe nip to my sister-in-laws to catch my brother-in-law there before heading to my parents for the afternoon, then back up to my sister-in-laws at night (in what is becoming tradition since my in-laws moved to Spain).

Boxing Day we’ll spend sometime with my parents and head home in the afternoon or evening.

27th we are going out with Susan and Ian, for a bite to eat, a little ten-pin bowling (presuming my knee can handle it) and a few shandies.

28th I have a night out with some ex-colleagues, and if past nights are anything to go by then we’ll finish up around 4am in a lake of tequila.

29th we are back through to Balloch to see my mates, Keith, Stuart & Alan, Ian, Bill and Fran, exchanging silly presents and seeing who can come up with the silliest cocktail.

30th is largely about getting home at some point and gathering our energies for…

Hogamanay! Back down to Susan and Ian, for they have the largest house (with a nice big pool table, fosball table and whatnot).

1st is usually a complete write-off, something to do with getting to bed at 6am or later (earlier?).

And no doubt on the 2nd day of 2008 we’ll be back through in Dumbarton to first foot our families.

After that I have five days to recover and do all the things I said I’d do over the festive period. And, to be frank, I’ll probably be looking forward to getting back to work for some sanity.

No doubt everyone else is the same, but it does perplex me why this time of year is so very busy. Why we feel the need to cram it all in to the few days holiday we have I’ll never know but, for all my moaning, I guess I do kind of enjoy reeling from one day to the next.

Let the festivities begin!

Ummmm but not until Friday…

We're taking the Costa Brava plane

Stepping out the front door, greeted by pinched skin and the glisten of frost on the car, I realise that summer is truly over. Just as well, I thought, that we’re off to Spain next week. Still mid-20s there which will do very nicely thankeweverymuch. But no, it’s not a last minute description.

As well as being thoroughly hacked, nay fucked, off about the non-running-ness brought about by my knee injury (you’ll note how I’m trying to stay away from the d- word) there has also been the small issue of Louise packing her job in. That’s not the whole story though, never is, is it.

She worked for a small local company, the type of place where job titles don’t matter that much as everyone just pitches in as and where needed. Her official title was Customer Sales Support… summat, but she was also the Office Manager and had various other admin responsibilities. It’s the kind of role that suits my wife down to the ground as she’s at her best at the centre of things (her nickname there was “the Hub”, I’m not entirely sure that was all that kind) and for a long time she liked things there. Unfortunately the company took a downturn and the CEO started to display some less than wonderful ‘management techniques’. I struggle to understand the motivation behind the ethos he was aiming for, having spent all my working life in IT where working hours are flexible, tea breaks are whenever you want them, and ultimately you are treated like an adult and allowed to get on with things.

Suffice to say that she’d been looking to move for about 6 months, but a few ‘last straws’ had passed until, when she returned home crying for umpteenth time we decided she should tell him where to stick his job. Either that or I’d go up there and throttle him. Faced with a husband jailed for murder, Louise wrote her resignation later and handed it in a couple of weeks ago. We knew we’d be ok, money-wise, for a couple of months but it took us into the unknown.

I’m not very good with the unknown and I only realised at the weekend that my stress levels were through the roof, and that I needed to dial back a little less I head off down a road seldom travelled (blimey, it IS hard to obfuscate such things).

Knee-wise it’s still sore but feels a little better, and I’m going to use my time off running to build my upper body strength, tone up where I can, and improve my flexibility with some basic yoga stuff (whatever I can manage without stressing my knee of course).

Job-wise, Louise was offered, and accepted, a job yesterday! She went for the interview in the morning and they offered her the job that afternoon. She was positively beaming about the interview and the company, and is still a little stunned that they offered her the job so quickly. I keep telling her that she is more talented than she thinks (a long standing issue with my wife) but I think, now, she is starting to believe it!

Woo hooo, what a great day.

Where does this fit with flying to Spain? Well, we had already discussed that, presuming Louise got a job before November, that we would fly out and see her Dad before she started her new job, rather than try and get a week away as soon as she is in the door. As she starts on October the 7th, that left us with next week. It’s a hard life…

In other news, I neglected to wish my mate Keith a Happy Birthday yesterday but, as he was in hospital getting his appendix removed, I don’t think he’ll have noticed. Sorry mate.

A tale of woe

Bit old this but it’s been sitting unpublished and getting lonely…

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, it’s more a rant and a moan, than a story of distress.

The tale begins several weeks ago when I ordered my MacBook, with the hope that, by the time it was built and delivered, we would have been to Spain and back. I happily meandered along on that basis until a random check of the order status raised my hopes that it might appear the day before we flew out, and the Monday before we flew out I confirmed with TNT that it would be at their Linwood depot on the Thursday, the day before we headed off.

I had arranged for the delivery to be made to my office, to make sure there would be someone there to sign for it, and so having phoned the courier in the morning to confirm that it was on the van, I spent the Thursday dotting about doing last minute bits and bobs, with the plan being to swing past the office (which is on the far side of Glasgow from where I live) and pick up the MacBook before heading out for dinner with my mates.

Of course the courier, TNT, had other ideas.

Now the conversation I had with the Linwood depot was quite straightforward. On the advice of my wife, who deals with couriers every day (and who had high praise for TNT), I phoned them first thing on the Thursday morning to confirm that my ‘package’ was on a van to be delivered, and was told that yes it was and the lovely lady from the depot even confirmed the address “just to make sure”.

So I’m sure you can imagine that I was, and please let me pause to choose my words carefully… COMPLETELY FUCKED OFF when, having arrived in the office, all I received from our receptionists when I enquired to the whereabouts of my package, were quizzically blank looks.

Straight on the phone to the depot and I was told it would be delivered before 5.30pm and as it was only 5.10, it should be with me within the next 20 minutes. With a sigh, I grabbed a coffee and the paper, and sat down to wait. I gave them until 5.35pm before phoning back and after navigating through their call system I managed to get to speak to a real person, who quite happily confirmed that my package was right there in the deport, waiting for me to pick it up.

Yup, it was in the depot where it had been ALL FUCKING DAY!!! A depot which, due to the mass of roadworks on both the local roads and nearby section of the M8, would have been a damn sight easier to get to than my office and which I could have visited in the mid-afternoon, before the rush hour traffic kicked in.

And breeeaaatthhh.

Anyway, that’s in the past now and the main thing was, after all that hassle, that I would have the MacBook to take with me to Spain. And we did, and it was pretty damn good to sit on the plane and watch an episode of House, even if I did forget myself at one point and really did LOL..

Mooo.. scellaneous

Nature is a wonderous thing, offering us such beauty and inspiration that sometimes it boggles the mind. Be it a particular cloudscape, a shimmering lake or the steaming placenta lying next to a just-born calf…

OK, it wasn’t ideal to see such a sight first thing in the morning but it certainly woke me up. Thankfully I hadn’t had breakfast (I’m munching on my All Wheat Muesli as I type this). However as spring rolls on, it seems that new-borns are in the air, so let me pause here to congratulate my mate Bill and his lovely wife Fran on the birth of their son, Gregory. I’m sure that, with the many years of loving and careful nurturing that they’ll give him, he’ll soon be a rampant alcoholic likes his Dad. I’m kidding of course, it’s his Mum that’s the alcoholic…

~

Since returning from Spain we’ve done little of note. That makes for a dull blog, but of course I can always fall back on techy stuff. Which is just as well as the ‘human interest’ side of life is a little flat at the moment, unless you allow me to rant on about the various arseholes I deal with every day on my daily commute. Ohh go on… BMW drivers aren’t all that bad, van drivers can be the most maliciously dangerous wankers, and don’t even start me on private taxis!!

~

Of course I’ll have human interest overload come Saturday as it’s blogmeet time again. For anyone travelling through from Glasgow, aim to take the 12noon train (GNER to London Kings Cross). The train stops at Motherwell, where I’ll get on, and Edinburgh Waverley. Let’s meet on the last carriage (the back of the train).

If you are still interested in going but are unsure of directions and whatnot then drop me an email (gordon AT gordonmclean DOT co DOT uk).

~

Which reminds me, a couple of people have tried to contact me using the contact form on this site. Unfortunately, since moving hosts it’s not been working. I think I know why (I need to check if my host has PHP mail() installed) but until then, you can use the email address given above.

~

On my last day of work before my holiday a calamity occurred. I dropped and broke my mug! This week I’ve been using the bone china, company branded, mugs but they are too small in both handle size and coffee holding ability, so the hunt for a new mug has begun.

As I’m sure you’ll all know by now, I’m a right fussy bugger, so I need a mug with a decent sized handle, and a nice design. My last one was a good size, and a solid dark blue colour with white interior. I’m thinking of going for stripes this time, but have to admit that I’ve yet to find a mug (online) that really catches my eye.

Anyone else tried shopping for mugs online? Any pointers?

And no, I don’t want one of those insulated ones, can’t stand them as … and remember, I’m fussy … the lip of the mug is usually way too thick to be comfortable. Yeah, I know, I know. I’m a freak.

~

Right, I’m off to price a wireless card for my PC, a DVI to HDMI converter, and a tub of Vaseline. The latter is required after wearing a slightly coarse top under my running jacket on Wednesday night; 45 minutes of friction is sore on the nipples!

Whilst I remember…

Did I mention we are off to Spain on Friday morning?

Well, we are, and there are loads things still to do. Not all are related to going on holiday but the holiday has an impact on them all.

1. I’ve not even considered packing but then you do get rather blasé about it when you are returning to the same place, and will be frequenting the same haunts (for new readers; my father-in-law lives in Spain, and has done for a few years now). We don’t even bother with anything ‘smart’ as we eat out at the more local restaurants than anything fancy, and that’s when we eat out at all.

2. Then, of course, the iPod needs to be loaded, books need to be chosen, and I really MUST start using that alarm to make sure I get to bed on time as we need to be at the airport at 4 a.m. on Friday morning… which means leaving the house sometime around 3 a.m. which in turn means that I am seriously considering just staying up.

However, on Thursday, which we both have off, we are heading up to Perth for lunch with a family friend, nipping in to the butcher to buy some rib-eye steak for my father-in-law, and then I’m hooking up with friends in the evening for dinner and some diet cokes, whilst Louise will be acting like a teenager again and going all wobbly for some oik called Justin Timberloch, or something…

3. Of course there are somethings that need done on this site (search not working?), and that’s before I even bother my arse about thinking about email addresses and whatnot – I reckon I’ll stick with my ‘name’ domain for that, and leave the email address for this domain dormant for now.

And yes, I’m still looking into the whole “coloured name” for my mum (which for some reason is harder than it should be!).

4. Ohh my head, too much going on. I have a new guy starting today, and loads of stuff I really need to get done to give me a reasonably clean slate to come back to, although why we continue to do that is beyond me, what difference does going on holiday make, there is ALWAYS stuff to do.

5. I have a package that I’m quite keen to get my hands on which, currently, looks like it will arrive at my office on… ohhh go on, guess which day…

6. I’m also hoping to pre-publish a few posts to carrying things over whilst I’m away, one of which is quite intriguing, if I say so myself, so keep yer peepers peeled people!

7. The great Scottish Blogs cleanup continues and, whilst I’ve had over half the batches back now, I’ve yet to sit and go through the database and start whacking dead sites. It’ll be a long slow job that one, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time until I get back from my holiday. Ohh and the blogmeet is now organised, Edinburgh, 19th May at 2pm in the Jolly Judge. Be there!

8. Last but not least, I can’t for the life of me get some simple CSS floats to work. A sidebar on the right, main content on the left and the sidebar KEEPS DROPPING BELOW THE MAIN CONTENT!! It’s killing me, and no end nor combination of tweaking margins, padding, widths, nor clearing left, right or all, is making the blindest bit of difference. ARGH!

And breeeaaaaaaatthheeeeee…

Finally, before I dash off, some links/apps that I’ve found useful over the past few days.

1. If you are moving your WordPress installation, to a new domain, or just to a new directory, you must must MUST head over to this wonderful site. This is the page I used to move my WordPress domain, and it went without a hitch. All in it took me about an hour to do, tops.

2. That alarm thing I was asking about the other day, well Banshee Screamer Alarm seems to fit the bill. Ignore the fugly look, it meets all my criteria. It has a “start with windows” option (ok, everything has that via the Startup folder but hey, it’s worth mentioning), minimises to the system tray, needs set only once and will repeat on chosen days at the set time, can start an application or open a URL when the alarm time is reached, and can be used silently.

It’s currently running, and will launch a custom HTML page I knocked up which states, in large red (not yet blinking) letters GO TO BED.

Many thanks to B-Rad for suggesting it.

3. Thinking Rock is a GTD style application which I’ve been using for the past few weeks. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s getting a second mention because, frankly, the past couple of weeks have been frantic and without it I’d be lost. Whilst I have been busy over the past couple of weeks, knocking quite a few things off my to do list, the number of items and tasks that I needed to capture grew exponentially and Thinking Rock has helped me keep on top of all that.

Case in point is the site move, with multiple little things to remember, and new items being triggered as I stumbled across something else I hadn’t considered, the ability to quickly dump a one line ‘thought’ into Thinking Rock, processing it later on to add more detail and group it with other similar items, has been a life saver.

Even if you don’t ascribe to the GTD method, it’s worth a look. You WILL need to understand how the app works though as it’s maybe not immediately obvious, but the site has some good info on that front. Think of it as GTD-ish..

Right, that’s enough for now. Things to do, coffee to drink.

Routine

Louise is flying to Spain on Sunday to spend the week with her Dad, he’s a wee bit under the weather at the moment and is thoroughly looking forward to seeing his baby girl. His baby girl is equally excited, if not moreso.

What that means is that I have a week to myself, a week in which I will, no doubt, develop my own routine free from any need to be considerate. Whilst I will miss my darling wife whilst she is away, if I’m really honest I will enjoy a week of ‘freedom’. I’ve only ever lived on my own for a couple of months, but didn’t really appreciate it at the time (for a variety of “not good” reasons), so whenever I get the chance to live like a bachelor I tend take full advantage and get into my own routine.

So, from Sunday night it’ll be nothing but booze, burds and bingeing! WOOHOOOO!! I’ve already got the industrial cleaners booked, and they are getting a big fat bonus if they keep their traps shut and ignore anything untoward that is strewn about… drugs, half-naked women, goats…

OK. Not goats.

OHHH OK. Not drugs or half-naked women either.

Alas my middle-aged, middle-class life doesn’t contain such excitement these days. Although if I’m honest it never really contained that many goats in the first place.

Or drugs.

Or half-naked women come to think of it.

(hey, come on, my Mum reads this…)

No, instead I’ll be using this week to establish a new item into my routine. I can hardly wait.

You see, since starting my new job in January, I’ve been getting up around 6 am mainly to avoid the worst of the traffic on my new commute, and have long planned to use the extra time to try going for a run in the morning. I am not a morning person, but as there are showers at work, and the area surrounding the office is reasonably flat (as opposed to the large hill at the top of which I live), it’s an ideal opportunity to up my mileage (kilometreage?).

So yes, I’ll be getting up at 6am prompt and trying to fit in one, or maybe two, extra runs this coming week. That’s the plan at least.

Unless anyone has a goat I can borrow…