Monday, 23 June 2008

Best Boobs on the Beach!

I speak, of course, as a sculptor and artist, you understand. We'd planned to visit my step-mother Liz, this past weekend, and after she died, realised a few extra days would probably be useful, so kept the booking. We stayed in the apartment we usually rent, as we prefer it to Liz's, and in any case, the latter apartment is more or less empty now. We spent some time cleaning it and much of the rest packing up fragile stuff to bring home.

It was lovely and hot, in the high 20s, and we had to be careful not to get burned by the rather fierce sun. We barbecued, swam in the sea, sat in a beachside café and ate boquerones fritos (fresh anchovies treated like whitebait) and drank beer. Lovely. Oh yes, and I judged the Best Boobs on the Beach competition, though only from afar, of course. There was a lot of flesh on display, much of it past its prime.

I made the obligatory pebblehead, but sadly the bottom of the pebble fell off, so he has no mouth. Still back in the sea, of course.

The jacarandas were in bloom and the scent of the pink and white oleanders was just gorgeous. Not been there when they were in flower before.

Saw a golden oriole, which was just spectacular. Brilliant canary yellow and black, about the size of a blackbird.

And we snorkelled in the clear water and saw more than we have done in the past, though still not much. Lots of sea urchins, lots of big maroon sea cucumbers, quite a few small fish of various sorts and not much else. Still lots of fun.

So quickly, before choir practice, I'll post a few photos. I'm planning to build a web page with details of Liz's flat on it, so there's just the view of the back of the block included in this post. Liz's apartment is the one middle bottom, with the column of purple bougainvillia on the left.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

A Wordless Post

Only in America!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Getting there

I've edited this since originally posting it, as it didn't give entirely the right impression.

I've been a computer programmer most of my working life, spending 12 years freelancing, and returning to permanent employment as a C programmer in 2002. I thought that was the dream job, only 20 minutes drive from home, and planned to stay there until I retired.

Sadly, the team I was in changed, my boss changed, the requirements changed, and I couldn't keep up. My C turned out to be less good than I'd thought; I needed to learn bioinformatics, which I found really hard; I was expected to do program design, which I'd never done before, and GUI programming, which was also new. Being an academic institution, they expected me to do all this without training. I had to find out for myself. I'm not good at that. To add extra spice, I had personal problems. These made it impossible to focus on sorting out work, while the work problems made it difficult to deal with the personal stuff.

The outcome was inevitable: I left in 2005, my confidence in my ability as a programmer completely destroyed. I thought myself lucky when I got my present job as a software tester, some months later. (I have to say here, it's a joy to work for my present boss, Gavin Johnson, who is a simply great manager . If the Broken Family Band ever goes professional, I'll consider it a personal tragedy!) I did talk about breaking back into programming, but never with any great conviction.

About 3 months ago I found an introductory C# book at work (that's the programming language they use), and decided to work through it in my spare time. I used my lunchbreaks and stayed after work reading the tutorials and going through the exercises. Edit: Which is why I've not been blogging as assiduously as previously. I was using blogging time to learn C#. Sorry. Eventually, though only half way through the book, I felt I needed a small project to help me consolidate what I'd learned. One of the development team suggested a small utility that would be necessary when the next major software release is made, so I made a start on that.

Today, that utility is functionally complete, and could be shipped as is. In reality, I need to package it up into the typical Windows installer package (ie setup.exe) that the end users can download from the company website, but essentially it's done.

I can't really describe how I feel about this. Overjoyed is the first word that comes to mind, but also immensely proud of myself. I know I still need to get a good year's solid coding behind me before I could apply for a job as a C# developer, but I've overcome the first major hurdle, which was my conviction that I was a useless programmer and there was no point even thinking about getting such a job.

And a huge thank you to the people around me for their unfailing support, but especially to those at work for letting me get involved, for helping me when it was difficult, and especially for encouraging me.

I've just re-read that, and it really does just make you want to vomit, doesn't it?

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Setting things up for a barbecue last night (asparagus, garlic mushrooms, loin of muntjac with juniper, rosemary and sour cherry jam marinade, in case you were wondering!) we heard a small commotion in a plum tree that grows in the corner of the garden, about 5 metres from where we were. A bit like a pigeon making a clumsy landing, the way they often do. We couldn't see what it was, but the next moment, something quite big flew around our side of the tree and disappeared directly away from us. It was carrying something sparrow-sized and squeaking in its talons. No question, it had to be a sparrowhawk, though the victim could have been any small songbird, as all I could see was the silhouette.

We've been spotting sparrowhawks around Royston for several years, but this was the first such close encounter. We were both delighted to have such a beautiful bird hunting in our garden, and appalled at the consequences. I don't think the victim was one of the blue tits nesting in the column of the patio, as it was a bit big for that. Hope not, as the young haven't fledged yet. But it could easily have been one of the friendly robins that join us when we're gardening. Or one of the great tits that fledged a couple of weeks ago.