Friday, 30 November 2007

Quadriga lags the valve badly

Slowly does nothing

I did see the demise of the thermionic valve-powered television, I am a child of the 60s, but this is worse. Having negotiated more menus than trying to order a 20-course wanton feast in Mandarin, I still have 3 coloured boxes on my screen and no picture.

This has been getting to me for quite a while, in these days of broadband and connectivity, I have found myself waiting for close on 10 minutes to flip channels on my hotel television.

Somebody has to tell me how Quadriga became a household name or gained a hotel hold on many hotel chains as the provider of digital multimedia services because it cannot be through expertise from what I have experienced of this rotten service.

The homepage of Quadriga reads like this - The number one provider of digital-IP based entertainment and internet services for the hotel industry – you have got to be kidding me, they even have 25 years experience in this stuff and are pioneers of the digital revolution – Who writes this kind of advertising schmaltz?

Quadriga - No good anywhere

I have seen this rotten performance in the Accor Hotel and Park Plaza Hotel chain in many countries and I wonder how they are still able to retain both contract and custom. Now, the wired Internet connection is just fine, at 10Mbps, but that could also be better, people run a 100 times that on home networks nowadays.

Without prejudice, this smacks of the whiff of deals made through hospitality that might becloud the decision-making processes of people who should know that their judgment can be impaired by not declaring a vested or pecuniary interest.

However, I do not intend to insinuate or suggest that something untoward has happened, but for another similar service I am sure, heads would have rolled a long time ago.

A quadriga generally is four-horse drawn chariot, but the wheels have surely come off this chariot and the rider by happenstance has been decapitated as a result of the accident as the wheel came off.

I do wonder if hotel guests have really considered complaining about this rotten piece of slow technology pretended to be state of the art, and after all this vituperation, I still have no picture.

Get me the bellows, the thermionic values need warming up from the flaming coals.

So Utterly Utterly Un-pretty

Seating for one

Sometimes I cannot understand as I notice that people who get on the trams, trains, metro or buses in Amsterdam always want to occupy the space meant for two persons.

Rarely, have I seen anyone put their bags on their laps, it is an automatic act of sitting down with your hand placing your bag immediately on the seat beside you – other passengers have to ask to be seated and many are not bold enough to obtain these seats from the menacing occupiers.

I have seen instances where the transport police have pulled people off the metro for acquiring more real-estate than their backsides require; I believe I wrote about backsides not long ago.

Builder’s crack

However, too many times I have been assaulted by the view of “builder’s crack” in public transport, in the supermarket, in restaurants and just walking down the streets – “ladies” if that description applies wearing trendy clothes showing off bits of the backside that should be under wraps.

This is not to talk of the additional exposure of flesh sagging out of the midriff protruding due to overly-tight tops and ill-fitting clothes – It is, O! So un-pretty.

In fact, a black-cab driver opined that when he was a young man you really had to be quite close to the lady in question, and close was like betrothed if not married to see that much flesh on a lady. Now, it is all for show and darn not appealing.

Unruly and rotten girls

Just as I got onto the tram the other evening, 5 girls with the sophistication of the cross between a tramp and a street-walker, speaking at the top of their voices with the decorum of a disturbed banshee could not find a way to sit in the seats properly – they had their knees and feet in the aisle that it was literally an obstacle course to get through.

Everyone had to brush past them and it all attracted a bit of rancour, you only had to look at them; hardly 15, with a waywardness that would make Jezebel of old look like a lovable, grinning piccaninny – then the piercings; through the tongue, the upper lip, the nose and forget the number through the ear lobes – they could as well be bridesmaids to the god of metal.

Looking nice yet so un-nice, looking chic but uncultured, looking at you and really looking so utterly, utterly unpretty – we were all glad when they all got off.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Don't name the teddy bear

Emotional religious agitation

This is sometimes a minefield in which a minesweeper would be blown to smithereens. The standards and rules that govern the interpretation of religious norms or in this case whims.

So suddenly in the last few years the sensibilities of certain old Middle-Eastern religions have been so easily bruised that our modern and civilised world is dragged back to the middle-ages of hysteria and histrionics fuelled by unscrupulous leaders of thought who test their influence by inflaming the mob.

This was evidenced in the cartoon riots of last year where I wrote a series of blogs starting with one which seeks a humorous God, a God that can laugh and sometimes laughs at the delusions of puny human-beings.

Flags in wrong places?

One nation belies a readiness for controversy and contempt by having symbols of God on its flag; they condone the trampling and burning of other nation’s flags and it would be unthinkable the outrage that would be mustered if the same action is meted out on their flag.

The mob was then gathered to protest the presence of the Saudi Arabian flag amongst all other world flags painted on footballs donated to Afghan kids. One would think the anger should have been directed at the Saudis for creating a situation where the symbols of faith might be denigrated in unintended and benign circumstances.

Naming a teddy

However, nowhere has this religiosity taken on a more bizarre twist than when a teddy bear named after a child in a class which by happenstance is the name of the prophet – the teacher of that class is now in danger of a fine, corporal punishment and jail.

The charge sheet reads like we have a terrorist on the loose; insulting religion – in the 21st Century? Showing contempt for religious beliefs – one wonders what is more contemptible the reaction or the lack of a global authority on the core elements of Islam apart from reading the biorhythms of the local imam who feels to excite his people to insurrection rather than exhort them to peaceful co-existence in a global village?

Obviously, we can ignore the sentiment that the said teacher had left the enlightenment of the West to help children in a war-torn region realise a place in our global village – but that is of no significance – enlightenment in an educational setting takes second-place to religious temperament which is never subject to logic, common-sense or reason – it is the supreme fount of discord.

Taking apologies for God

Whilst international condemnation has been made of this absurd tendency to be offended in general without being essentially committed to the real tenets of the faith, the idea that an apology can be made to assuage tension is interesting.

Someone somewhere seems to be able to take apologies for God or the prophet – it reminds me of one story in the Bible where the people took so much offence at the breaking down of the altar to their symbol of worship; reason seeped into the reckoning and the people were persuaded that if that god was so angered, the god might as well visit wrath on the offender - thereby people can still be at peace with each other and that very powerful god can show strength that would bring enemies to their knees in worship and obeisance.

It might be so easy to say that these mobs are technically taking on themselves personification of God or the prophet for the self-aggrandisement – it does nothing to promote their religion; rather it heaps opprobrium from possible adherents on their faith, beliefs, convictions, integrity and allows all to question their sanity.

The NOT dogma

What we have is a simplistic dogma codified in – see not, touch not, feel not, hear not, read not, think not, write not, draw not and speak not – obviously, this means no one gets offended and surely no progress in humanity and we recede to the stone age from whence we came – it does not augur well at all.

Are we on the path to true religion when we pander to such dark-age inquisitions masquerading as holy anger that simply is public insurrection by those too idle to do worthwhile things in their communities and for humanity at large?

Addendum

That Bible story (Judges 6:28-32) The Message version.

28 Early in the morning, the people in town were shocked to find Baal's altar torn down, the Asherah pole beside it chopped down, and the prime bull burning away on the altar that had been built.

29 They kept asking, "Who did this?"

Questions and more questions, and then the answer: "Gideon son of Joash did it."

30 The men of the town demanded of Joash: "Bring out your son! He must die! Why, he tore down the Baal altar and chopped down the Asherah tree!"

31 But Joash stood up to the crowd pressing in on him, "Are you going to fight Baal's battles for him? Are you going to save him? Anyone who takes Baal's side will be dead by morning. If Baal is a god in fact, let him fight his own battles and defend his own altar."

32 They nicknamed Gideon that day Jerub-Baal because after he had torn down the Baal altar, he had said, "Let Baal fight his own battles."

My reading of this is simple, someone caused great religious offence that the adherents were ready to go out and kill the offender - reason intervened – let that religious entity fight its own battles if it feels so offended.

Sometimes, we need to let God, Mohammed, Jesus or whoever else we dare to worship fight their own battles rather than allow ourselves to become instruments of riot, death and discord.

Monday, 26 November 2007

England's unfounded claims to football supremacy

Croatia – the new enemy

The selection of England and Croatia for the same qualifying group for the South African 2010 World Cup excites a need for a complete root and branch overhaul of English football.

Unfortunately, what we would have is a new enemy like we once had with Germany and Argentina where our inability to perform brilliantly and win crucial games is read back to us as those countries denying us our rightful progress – Bunkum!.

I would hate to see a situation we also have to go to war with Croatia as we have had with the other two nations, but you can expect our tabloids to whip up both a frenzy and a commotion oozing with xenophobic abandon about every historical issue concerning Croatia and no doubt some would have lots to say about Split.

The fact is English football has been in decline since the climax of the 1966 World Cup which we won against Germany when we were hosting the competition; we have achieved little glory in international football since then.

Get real – England

Where we got this bizarre and perverse idea that we are amongst the best in the world escapes me; we are not even has-beens; that fizzled out when we failed to defend the cup in 1970.

The sooner we moved on from this self-conceited hubris and confidence that delivers disappointment and shame, the earlier we can get to fixing English football.

The other missed opportunity is one that should have seen the scalps of every old fart in the Football Association involved in the appointment of Steve McLaren taken – I cannot believe they are having a second bite at the rotten cherry.

Let us put aside national jingoism, the unfounded claims to football supremacy, the unwarranted call to arms that dashes hopes like a shipwreck in turbulent seas, the unnecessary xenophobia that is supposed to fuel the excitement and support of the fans and face the cold and frosty wind of international football realism – it needs to be built from scratch, it needs to have devoted people who recognise the honour and privilege to play for England, it needs to matter more than any league or championship, it needs to be results-based and not rhetoric driven.

The duty or the death

Anyone who has anything to do with English football owes a duty to Queen and country to ensure that not only do we get to South Africa 2010, we should get there having performed well and not on a nail-biting encounter of sheer luck and circumstantial providence.

If they fail, send them to the tower and feed the crows their hearts, lame legs and fat arses. Almost the same can be said of Nigeria's performance too.

Child Benefit repercussions are decades away

A careless discus

In my third year in secondary school, I believe it was; there were frantic competition heats to determine the athletes who would carry the banners for the houses, in one situation we had one hot-headed, determined and stubborn senior who could not stand the thought of being beaten.

Someone had just thrown a school record with the discus when he took his turn, fuming, fulminating and furious to beat that thrown, the discus left his grip and impacted on a colleague’s forehead; he did not die, but he spent the best part of three weeks in hospital.

The greatest lamentation that came from the senior was when he thought he had killed the chap and probably one visit to the hospital and he moved on with his life, the young chap however, struggled with his schoolwork and it probably affected him rather very negatively.

The intention was to throw the discus to a particular target area, but this now not just a foul, it included an accident that had ramifications well beyond those contemporary events – the import of this recollection would be evident later in this blog.

Identity theft and usage

Over 20 years ago, I harboured the idea of joining the 18-month waiting list for an interview to get a British passport in Lagos but I had one missing piece of information, my long birth certificate.

I wrote a letter to my cousin in London with all the details she would require to get the long birth certificate and send it to me, unfortunately, that letter was intercepted by their lodger who for 3 years before I arrived in the UK was going about as me with my National Insurance number.

So, my NI number was already available for me to use by the time I had arrived, but the danger was if he was claiming unemployment benefit whilst I was working, I could have ended up in really deep shit.

In another case, someone in our close-knit extended family thought another cousin of mine who had academic problems would never escape Nigeria, so he took all his details and stealthily acquired my cousin’s passport.

The truth was exposed almost 10 years later when a visit to the consulate in Nigeria revealed documents that also stated his father had long been deceased when even today this esteemed mentor is a spritely septuagenarian. It got resolved but not without the schism and agonies that encompass such situations of the misuse of data and identity theft.

Not working together at all

However, back to the developing scandal of the Child Benefit data loss that affects 25 million individuals. It is mind-boggling that all that information can be so easily gathered and put on 2 CDs then sent by courier where the insurance value of the loss has not been properly assessed apart from the cost of the CDs.

The embarrassment that has already taken the scalp of the head of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and it appears this is not the first time discs have been lost in transit between critical government agencies.

The fact that they had all gotten comfortable with this abuse of the Data Protection Act belies the fact that individuals would have been roasted if they had been fast and loose with this kind of information.

In so-called broadband Britain, it beggars belief that there is no secure high-speed connection between critical government agencies as the HMRC and the National Audit Office (NAO) to transfer what is essentially 1.4 billion characters or 1.4 Gigabytes, the maximum data content of 2 regularly available CDs.

This puts the agencies almost 15 years behind the times and one cannot count the number of failed IT contracts and white elephant IT projects that have not addressed this fundamental IT issue and laws could have been enacted to ensure a number of procedures were in place to use those lines.

This episode is no doubt systemic in its nature and failure to safeguard data, the ramifications of which we have not begun to appreciate.

The possibilities are amazing

A few months ago, when I chatted to my credit-card company, a few personal questions were asked and I know that there are some answers that would never change like where I was born, my mother’s maiden name, my date of birth and they added a few other questions – these data sets are immutable for as long as the person is still living or is not registered dead.

So, this rush to safeguard bank accounts is really a red-herring, the data thieves do not have to pilfer from these accounts, rather they can establish accounts and business transactions with the data and get you into serious trouble and they can do that with the children’s data 5, 15, 25 or 35 years down the line because the information on birth certificates would not change – they become clones of you using your data.

Some people would say biometric data should become the gold standard for identity, but that works for pennies; if your finger-print can open access to billions, your life begins to bear an unquantifiable risk depending on who wants access to that bullion.

Then what were these data-sets doing in the hands of an accountancy firm that says the data was erased from their systems? Because if they were auditing the data, a lot can be done with the derived information giving then a window on British society that many organisations might just kill for.

Precautions

I shred every piece of paper bearing my name and address and more so anything containing more personal information, but as I walked down the corridor of my office last week I saw a lady trying to piece together shreds from a strip-shredder and I have begun to think of getting a confetti shredder – I do worry.

Online information should be safeguarded with usernames and passwords; they should be different for each function just in case the revelation of one leads to a flood-gate of untrammelled access to other information.

Avoid storing those passwords on your computer by using intelligible sentences not clichés; interspersing the words with numbers or currency characters and periodically change those passwords.

Use different email addresses separating them into personal which you give friends and family, business for professional purposes and general for all other registration, loyalty or activities that do not fall into the first two categories – I have seven.

In the end, if someone is careless with your data where you do not have control over how it is used, just like the discus thrown some 30 years ago, there is not much you can do about getting hit in the head.

I think we have not heard the last of this – Brown and Darling are not having a romancing time with the British public lately.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thank you Mr. Steve McLaren

Like I said before

When I predicted on my blog of March the 26th 2007 that England would be looking forward to the European Championships having failed to qualify for Switzerland/Austria 2008, many would have thought I was a bit too cynical.

I took issue with the fact that Steve McLaren was appointed to a position beyond his capabilities with the less than complimentary remark that a drill sergeant had been appointed to the post of general.

What I did not know was that the whole of the British Isles, the five countries of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would not be represented at that competition.

Steve McLaren has been sent on his way with thanks but no gratitude for what he has done for the country with the record of being England manager with the shortest tenure.

He had a 50% win rate but he did not win the important matches though it puts him in the middle position of successes amongst the 11 England managers so far.

This sacking should not be too painful for Mr. McLaren since he will walk away with a cool GBP 2 million for the severance of his contract – now that is what I call good negotiation terms.

New man for a hard job

The quest for a manager that would take us to the World Cup begins in earnest and probably this is where Jose Mourinho might be the man of the moment – we do not need entertaining football, the fans would always come out for a winning country as opposed to a mechanical league team.

I am disappointed that the head of the football manager would roll and the people (Brian Barwick for instance) who made the dastardly decision would be sitting pretty making other atrocious decisions that might just consign the fatherland of football to the scrapheap of history.

Maybe there is a case of having more indigenous players in the English league, because I can recall from memory more foreign player names than I can the English, the strategy has to be subtle and grown from the grassroots.

I am fed-up of having to recall as a toddler when England last raised a cup of any dignified import, there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed – I want to be able to say – Come on, England and see the glory that should belong to English football rise like a phoenix.

Jinxed McLaren

One does wonder if the name McLaren is not jinxed, this qualifying session went down to the wire just as the Lewis Hamilton’s title race with the McLaren Formula 1 team, it makes me wonder if the English should not be waving goodbye to every similitude of McLaren in whatever sport.

Meanwhile thank you very much Mr. McLaren enjoy your 2 million smackers and spend it wisely.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Between Smith and Mugabe - no difference

The bastion of white rule

The death of Ian Smith the last minority rule white leader of Rhodesia that then became Zimbabwe is a milestone in the history of that country.

It so happens that it is the regime of Ian Smith that appears to give Robert Mugabe the perverse legitimacy that allows him to be revered as a freedom-fighter, a part of history that is invalidated but current events in Zimbabwe.

I would not go into the history of Rhodesian independence or the liberation struggle, which is well documented in other places.

We know that Ian Smith never believed in black majority rule, but the state of affairs in Zimbabwe today leaves us almost in acquiescence with that view.

White achievement and black squander

In his words, “We have never had such chaos and corruption in our country, what Zimbabweans are looking for is a bit of ordinary honesty and straightforwardness.” And that was in 2000.

Whilst many would see his time as one of the worst in racial oppression, he also said, “We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people than any other country on the African continent; that was what Rhodesians did. I wonder if we shouldn't be given credit for doing that.”

I do not see Robert Mugabe - The Grand Despot of Africa - being able to boast in that manner and really there are very few African leaders that have measured up to the quality of leadership, organisation and governance of the worst of the people they replaced.

In the end, the Zimbabwean state apparatus has nothing good to say about Ian Smith and we have the Information minister saying he was a man who brought untold suffering to millions of Zimbabweans and bidding him “Good riddance”. As if the situation is any different now.

Smith and Mugabe no different

I cannot see how this is not also a prophecy that would read as contemporaneous at the demise of Robert Mugabe, because death somehow has a way of getting at men who believe themselves immortal and so, I view this other statement as poignant - Zimbabwe will remember Smith (Mugabe) for his unrepentant racist attitude and the killing of thousands of innocent people – This came from the state television.

There probably are more similarities between Smith and Mugabe including their dislike of meddling Britain and their radical racist rhetoric; apart from the war that pitched them against each other for independence, they have both lead their country into isolation but I do wonder if life was not better for the blacks in one regime than the other.

No words said against Ian Smith today seem to sound any different from what we should all expect to be said of Robert Mugabe when he departs this mortal coil – they both destroyed their fatherland in the pursuit of a vision that was both evil and unsustainable.

I wait for the day when this chapter of developing history would be closed forever and the people of either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe shall be free to determine for themselves the real course of what should be a prosperous future.

Feeling good at 65 - My Mum

We spoke in English as we have always done even though I can hold a decent conversation in Yoruba and we were probably chatting about everything for the best part of 45 minutes – I later asked my sister, if she looked good at 65 – the answer was, she looks pretty good at 65.

That beauty, if you must know is my mother, she had been expecting my call all day and I was looking for some free time which would have been the evening after work to call and wish her the very best of the day.

No doubt it was she – who sat and watched my infant head – not only when I was small but many a time when I was in all sorts of trouble she was there for me.

I had nothing to fear – whilst sleeping in my cradle bed – and when many a time, I met with situations that took away my sleep and my peace, she had answers in prayer and arms for comfort.

I may not have understood it, the love – and tears of sweet affection shed – a rock sometimes struck twice, sometimes rejected but at the same time the cornerstone of many things that make me stand and make me proud.

On this day, I say, with love and affection, Happy Birthday – My Mother – a priceless pearl, a comforting voice, a prayerful soul and a joy to chat to.

Long life, good health and prosperity! Cheers! - Sometimes, I forget her name means - enjoy a life of wealth - Have a good one, mum.

PS: The Highlights are culled from the 3rd verse of My Mother by Ann Taylor (1782-1866)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Meeting Mr. Big Stuff

That Hotel is off limits

I know that I would not return to Catalonia Atenas Hotel or any hotel in the Catalonia group when next I visit Barcelona. I chose this hotel because it came near the top of the list of hotels that were recommended by the event organiser of the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum.

Obviously, I was deluded into thinking the 4* designation meant it had an element of service and professionalism but compared to the 4* Riu Hotel Maspalomas I stayed in for my September holidays in Gran Canaria, one would be comparing class with trash.

A reviewer on Trip Advisor sums it up, it was a youth hostel masquerading as a 4* hotel which is why they had no mini-bars but vending machines on the ground floor and the hotel card stated one could not invite guests – typical of a hostel, one would say.

My concept of a 4* hotel is that service, comfort and accommodation tries to make it home away from home – there was not character in this hotel, I was glad to be out of it as much as possible.

The housekeeping was atrocious, you would not believe that my “Do Not Disturb” card was removed again like last Sunday; the subtext of one stay at the hotel is “Do Not Return” even under the pain of death.

It might well be that other hotels in the Catalonia group of hotels are a lot better and live up their billing considering this is supposed to depict Catalan hospitality, this hotel was such let down and the only service I got was being moved from a cubicle to a fair-sized room at arrival – the notion that someone thought 8 nights in that hell-hole are best spent in Room 1009 with a view like from a prison cell leaves me speechless – those guys really do have to polish up their act – Big Time!

Lounging towards Zara

I could not wait to check out this morning and I had checked to see if there was a business lounge at Barcelona airport, I did not even have the mind of doing any sightseeing either though my flight was not till 17:05.

I tried to check-in around 13:00 and I was told I would have to wait till 15:00 because the Barcelona airport was too small to accommodate my 30kg luggage for 4 hours and also would not be able to gain access to the business lounge either.

But these ladies at the check-in desk think on their feet and in minutes had moved me to the 15:10 flight with a better seat, I made a beeline to the business lounge which was just functional, apart from the drinks and snacks, I found one had to pay for wireless connectivity – really, in a business class lounge – sometimes.

Then I thought I would treat myself to something new and bought a winter coat at Zara the flagship fashion chain of Spain – sadly, the attendants did not wise up to the option of opening another cashier till when the queue grew to 10 people deep. At least 2 people asked that this be done and the lady just looked and shrugged as at least 6 other workers in the store idled away rearranging clothes.

I quipped that people who have to rush to the boarding gates may not be able to wait and others seeing queues this long might be discouraged and consequently they would lose customers because of poor service. One would think working in an international airport space would mean service is not sedentary in delivery – the fool me.

Mr. Big Stuff

I finally boarded my flight but not before a yuppie-like Northern Caucasian - looking a lot more tanned than a Berber with more gel in his coifed locks to set alight a volcano that would make Krakatoa look like a candle-light - made his presence known.

To some people, he probably is Mr. Big Stuff; the unfortunate consequence is that such people make everyone else look stuffy when in fact we are just plain irritated.

Big phone, big voice, silly conversation, all looks, more money and zero social graces, I thought I had seen the last of him till when I tried to recline my seat and it was pushed back forcefully that I found myself apologising profusely.

Wait a minute, I am supposed to be in a business class seat, something must be wrong, so rather that engage the man in conversation about why I could not recline my seat, I asked the airhostess to check why my seat would not recline. I also asked her to find out if it was affecting the man behind me and he said no – so recline I did and fell asleep.

The cabin crew were then advised to take their seats and we had not even landed when the man had his phone on with flowing conversation to some lady – some people – in fact, he was obnoxious throughout the flight; complaining about the volume and price of the cheap duty-free perfume and asking for coffee twice after all the catering had been cleared.

Unfortunately, one cannot choose the company of people to fly with paying for any premium rate service does not confer social graces on the customer – breeding always has a way of being self-evident.

That was the week that was in Barcelona.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Techies have kids too

Without a bang!

One cannot say that Microsoft TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona ended with a bang, the last session stretched to 16:30, everyone collected their bags and many had checked out of their hotels in the morning and made their way to the airport for their flights back home.

There was no social after-party and it did not appear any had been arranged impromptu; I can understand that many companies having lost the physical presence of their techies for a week but kept them on leash through their Blackberrys, phones and ubiquitous laptops would not countenance the idea of a free weekend in the beautiful city of Barcelona, especially if they are paying.

Many were missing their young families already and that is if they did not have duties stacked up for them to do the moment they land back at home.

There were some that brought their families but they never had them for company except after the sessions which ended late everyday.

Techies have kids too

One sight that impressed and amused me was a session called Internet Safety for Kids delivered by Laura Chappell, usually when a session is full, the spillover is a monitor outside the door with probably 3 people observing the session, I even attending one like that.

This session had a large spillover, with people sitting on the floor outside, I would suppose this means a larger forum and place needs to be setup for such a seminar, next time. More importantly, if no one has ever noticed, techies, geeks and propeller-heads are flesh and blood, like you and me, they breathe, they feel and they are human-beings affected by everyday things.

Wait for it! Techies have kids, nieces or nephews and they are just as concerned about technological advancements at work as they are about the safety of children when they roam the Wild-West of the Internet.

Besides, many are engaged in other activities as de-facto consultants at home, to neighbours, to schools and other community services that require learned people pro-bono to ensure their systems are safe and the users are even safer.

Internet Safety for Kids is where you can find information, material and detail about this presentation.

Server Core Command Prompt

I have always said I cannot be a UNIX geek because I do not have long enough hair to grow a pony-tail if any at all – Windows Server 2008 is taking us back to the days of the command prompt with a lightweight but extensible base installation called Server Core.

Yes, you get a command prompt, you can use a Graphical User Interface if you elect to install a fuller version of Windows Server 2008, but this was geeky and we all need to dust off our command-line skills as a demonstration of edlin showed how long we had been in this line of work.

Anyway, it means respect has arrived at the door of Windows experts and now Linux town-criers who think the world revolves around their geekery might suddenly find themselves grudgingly admitting Microsoft buffs to the fold of nerds.

Advent of the management techie

If anything, all that I learnt at this forum was everything we do from this time on requires serious planning; point-and-click does not deliver solutions and technical people need to take on a management perspective of business needs and goals, and then tailor solutions to meet them.

Well, that has never been far from my mind and perspective, but there are many technical people who need to review how they see ones and zeroes and what makes a business gain competitive advantage through IT solutions.

Preparing for Microsoft TechEd IT Forum 2008 already – over and out!

Friday, 16 November 2007

The Vista from my Windows

Melee with meals

The past 5 days, one can say life has revolved between the hotel and the daily conferences which could be exhausting to say the least.

Despite the issues I have with the hotel I ventured into the hotel restaurant last night for a meal because I could not be bothered trawling the whole of Barcelona for a restaurant and a table for one.

As I got there, there was no way of knowing that one room was meant for groups and the other for non-groups, waiter spoke no English and reeled out probably 20 sentences to me on Catalan and I just looked at him like I had just seen an alien.

Eventually, someone came round to show to be some nondescript room with no atmosphere and left me there as if I was in detention. I managed the entrée and touched the main course, refused the desert, which left them worried that I did not like the food nor the service - this time someone from reception came up to chat and find out what was wrong.

Well, what I hated was the fact that being a lone eater the room should have had a bit more atmosphere, a waiter about, probably some music and maybe more people - in the end, eating alone takes away from the pleasure of dining and definitely, in my case, the food would not go down.

It is amazing that one is in Barcelona, an international city that once hosted the Olympics and has quite a big tourist throughput but very few people in the hospitality industry speak any English.

I believe

I attended 4 sessions again and Microsoft might just have won a convert and that is what I said about these events. They are like evangelistic crusades with apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors preaching the gospel of Microsoft and performing miracles in the name of Microsoft.

The wonder, the excitement and hypnotism - you get carried along, carried away and voluntarily brainwashed as the mass hysteria consumes every opportunity to resist the urge to succumb - when I get back home, I would be installing Windows Vista.

I came here a sceptic and would be returning a believer; the cynicism has been cast out with evidence of glorious vistas of operation, performance and technical goodies you cannot ignore.

The jewel of the conference has to be Mark Russinovich; a super-geek that looks nothing like the geeks you know - the man knows the internals of Windows and how to look under the bonnet better than any Windows mechanic I have ever seen - he makes tools for every single thought or idea he might have had about extracting information from Windows about what is going on.

He leaves you wanting to go home and get your hands really dirty, solve problems by really finding out why the problem is there, break it down and then fix it up nicely, whatever session he has going, I think I would be lapping that up.

Blogging for whatever

I attended an afternoon session about blogging, and I have been thinking about how to do a bit of technical blogging and veer a bit away from the general stuff that I regularly write about.

I have not decided if I should host that on a separate blog and leave that in this setup; the panel views differed on that matter, but the most important advice was to keep your personality within what you do.

Obviously, people blog for all sorts of reasons, some are fully technical and others are light-hearted - there is a broad spectrum of opinions and views.

Quality and quantity really depends on what you are writing about and they are relative issues, it appeared my blogging frequency was a lot higher than those on the panel, but then I suppose if I had to write purely technical stuff, I might not be delivering stuff with this kind of regularity.

Someone asked about blogging trolls, people whose existence is exemplified by rotten commentary and rude inserts - we agreed that each person's blog space is purely theirs and people who do not respect that principle do not have to be acknowledged.

Whilst I accept anonymous comments I expect people who leave negative insulting comments to also present an identity, if not, I just delete the stuff. If you cannot stand by what you have to say, you are a non-person and non-entity - whilst I would know your IP address, it is a waste of time giving such people time.

If I do go technical with some of my blogging entries, I would suppose it would still revolve around my experiences with analogies, allegories and inferences - I suppose that is the best way to blog - your views and well-researched opinions about how you observe things or how things affect you.

TechEd IT Forum a must

On already with the last day of Microsoft TechEd IT Forum and I am already planning for next year - thankfully, I do not have to run the gauntlet of corporate inertia in arranging for these conferences, I would expect any technical mind that manages and builds infrastructure in the enterprise should be here.

If only CIOs and IT Managers realised that this is no freebie holiday jaunt but an essential element career development that their staff should enjoy. I mentioned this at work months ago, but it all fell through for them and many other projects do because of the lack of adequate exposure to how things are done implemented elsewhere.

References

Mark Russinovich

Policing Adedibu and Nigerian Crime

Every Nigerian a lawyer

Maybe, and maybe just, the culture of impunity is being visited by an atmosphere of intolerance, but before I pack my bags and head for the sunny tropical climes of Nigeria, I should read the subtext and understand the situation better.

Nigeria happens to be one place where lawyers would never be caught unemployed, there is always a point of law being cited by someone for something, that is if everyone does not think they have some legal insight into the workings of what I might be tempted to call black jurisprudence just from the fact that Nigeria is the most populous black country in the world.

Apparently, there is a “Security for Keeping the Peace for Good Behaviour”, in Section 88 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which reads, “Whenever a court or Justice of the Peace is informed that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or to disturb the public peace or to do any illegal act which may probably cause a breach of the peace or disturb the public peace, the court of Justice may issue a summons requiring that person to attend before a court to execute a bond with or without sureties for keeping the peace or refraining from illegal acts likely to disturb the public peace for any period not exceeding one year or to show cause why he should not execute such bond.”

Raking in the miscreants

It appears it is quite a nice piece of legislation if used with fairness and objectivity whilst it can be a dragnet to rake in certain politicians who have become a law unto themselves.

One such politician is Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the Grand Political Thug of Ibadan who has become a thorn in the side of peace and due political process in his sphere of influence which happens to unfortunately extend beyond the walls of his compound and affect the whole city of Ibadan and the political representation of Oyo State.

With his coterie of “brigands” and loyalists, he was in Abuja the Federal Capital and was invited for a chat to the Acting Inspector General of Police in what he thought was a courtesy visit which ended up with him being arraigned before a court and bound to keep the peace for a year based on the suspicion that he could cause trouble.

No man above the law

The President it appears had become fed-up of the situation where Chief Adedibu had constituted a state-within-a-state with an army of thugs whose payment by food morsels has fueled menace, illegality, thuggery, corruption and impunity – his wings needed clipping and this event is now being seen as the triumph of the rule of law in Nigeria.

It is a small step, but something in the right direction and before we get caught up in sympathy for the gerontocrat who clocked 80 a few weeks ago; maybe the that reality no man is untouchable is as sobering as it gets – Chief Adedibu has since been bailed.

100 days of shooting down

This is one type of suspect who has walked away, the selfsame acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, celebrated a 100 days of acting in his capacity as Nigeria’s police chief and I wonder he has not yet been given a substantive appointment.

He appeared at a press conference with 50 other policemen who apparently had been maintaining strict law and order in the North-Eastern Nigeria by exterminating 785 suspected armed robbers and thereby bringing down the crime rate in that region.

Impressive as these figures seem, it does make one worry about a few things; I was not aware there was such a serious crime problem in that region of Nigeria, though one can say that South-Western Nigeria suffers most from violent crime though figures have not been provided to highlight the situation there.

Arrests and deaths

In the same time 1,600 have been arrested and charged whilst the police have suffered 62 fatalities in their run-ins with suspected armed robbers.

Whilst many might be concerned that suspected armed robbers have been killed rather than arrested to follow the due course of justice, I would not be surprised if the reason why some have been arrested as been due to the fact that they had run out of ammunition during battles with the police or had suffered serious injury as to be incapacitated.

Desperate and indiscriminate

Armed robbers in situations like that are desperate, merciless and indiscriminate, this shows in the almost 10% police loss of life for armed robbers killed. It is however more crucial not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time because certain of those suspected might not necessarily have been guilty of anything.

Meanwhile, 28 policemen have been dismissed from the force for acts of corruption, they might just join the ranks of armed robbers since might just know how the police operate when chasing down their quarry.

Now, this all sounds like a welcome development though I remember when some 10 years ago as I prepared to visit Nigeria, I received a DHL message from my mother – it was basically an order – whatever I did, I was not to visit Nigeria, I wonder what informed that decision.

References

Adedibu arrested and arraigned

Police arraign Adedibu

Hundreds of Nigerian robbers shot

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Four stars or four tries

Four starts at nothing but annoyance

As you approach the main entrance to my hotel you see a sign that appears to have 4 stars, well, do not be cajoled into thinking you are in a 4* star hotel because that sign could have easily fallen off a lorry or been acquired at a car-boot sale.

Seriously, I am now under no illusion about that as I returned from a long day at the conference, I was in the lift with one of the housekeeping staff at about 19:30; little did I know that she would bound out of the lift and make a bee-line to my room to clean it.

So, for 15 minutes I waited for the lady to do what she should have done before 14:00 whilst the reception commiserated but had no clue as to how a room vacated at 7:30 in the morning only saw the feather duster 12 hours later.

Four sessions of info-drowning

It was 4 sessions again out of 5, though many were caught out by a session that indicated something about infrastructure but was entirely about something else called Groove 2007, we should read the small print a lot more - I made my excuses and left to catch the tail-end of something more interesting.

The country parties sealed up the day and I went to the Netherlands drinks when with hindsight I should have considered alternatives not so much related to where I live but other parts of my heritage, like the UK party being English or the World party for counties that did not have critical mass - at least everything would have been in English.

I am getting embarrassed about being an Englishman abroad and I am not as responsive to hearing things said in Dutch, it would have to be more lessons or a new location.

Once again, I see solutions and new problems, it is all going to take a lot of thinking about before anything gets rolled out - play, I must, learn, I should and I must avoid the dangers of information overload.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Skirting the issue

Ladies and Gents

I once was in an office block where the gents and ladies alternated on each floor just in case one column of drainage went out of order, however, there was once a time when some playing a prank switched the signs between the ladies and the gents.

Being one to check the signs even though subconsciously one knows which is which, I ended up in the ladies that was the gents and wondered what that extra bin was about - it took a call to facilities management to sort it all out.

So imagine when the big sign outside shows gents and you find that there are no urinals and all the cubicles have those extra bins apart from the fact that each door to the cubical has the internationally known sign for the lady and definitely, it looks like one is really skirting the issue of gender representation.

Expect Windows Scenic

That is not all, we have Windows everywhere but looking out still, not one is keen on the vista at least not till it gets quite scenic and that would not be for a while. Every time a speaker asks if there are Windows Vista installations out there, nary a hand goes up.

Well. Everyone is wary of that thing, in fact, much as the trumpeting of the features and qualities are almost too deafening to hear anything else, I learnt at the beginning of my IT career that I do not want to belong to the group of those they call "Fools Rush In". Basically, when it comes to operating systems, the smart money is not to boldly go where no one has gone before, but to see from afar the ones that have fallen and then chart your course round their mistakes and experiences.

Let someone else find out if the world is flat before you get on your boat and fall off the edge, I would be rolling out Windows Scenic when it arrives as an update to Windows Vista - meanwhile, I would toy and play with it.

Tradeoffs with the Taliban

The day was quite eventful and I attended 4 sessions, I failed to get into a hands-on lab for a product I believe solves a lot of my problems but there are other things I want done that it does not cover. It is strange to witness the fanfare accompanying one product and then hear questions that make the product look almost half-baked, that is life.

In lieu of the hands-on lab I happened upon a security treats and trade-offs seminar and boy, that was engaging, entertaining and enlightening - who would have thought with the Security Taliban I grapple with at work, security could be so refreshing.

This morning, I am numero uno for the hands-on lab. Off I go.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Cosmetic surgery poses dangers

Death from surgery complications

Just over two years ago, I was in Antwerp when the newsflash arrived within tragedy of an air crash in Nigeria that the first-lady of Nigeria Mrs. Stella Obasanjo had died as a result of complications of surgery.

What I found a bit odd was that she died in Spain, which is not known for patient tourism of the sort that wealthy Nigerians undertake with regularity at the simplest sign of a sweat.

A quick Google search for “surgery Spain” indicated that it was a haven for cosmetic surgery and it was quite saddening that a lady of privilege who seemingly had everything had decided there was something lacking about her appearance that she when under the knife and suffered a death by misadventure.

So, it is with additional sadness again that I read now from Barcelona of the death on Saturday of Dr. Donda West (58), the mother of Kanye West, a successful contemporary music producer and artiste.

Now, I am not in anyway conversant with Kanye West’s music and I am not indicating that the case of Dr. West has any similarity to that of Mrs. Obasanjo apart from the coincidence of both of them dying from complications resulting from a “cosmetic procedure”.

Whatever might have prompted the need for this procedure, Dr. West was by all means a very successful academic who until 2004 when she retired to manage her son’s interests was a professor and the chair of the English Department of Chicago State University.

Cosmetic surgery is inherently dangerous

The subtext here is that cosmetic surgery or procedures are not benign activities like brushing your teeth but sometimes radical intrusive activities that carry the risk of complications that could so unfortunately lead to the loss of life.

It worries me when I channel-hop and land on an episode of Dr. 90210 where the flamboyance of cosmetic procedures have been given a bizarre Hollywood treatment like walking into a shop to get dress or a pair of shoes.

People who are naturally good-looking and beautiful have gotten it into their heads that their beauty is not perfected till they have been cut, spliced, tucked, sucked or lifted to look and feel better in a never-ending visit to these debauched vanity merchants who have taken the work surgery to another level of hedonistic excess that could in and of itself invite the spectre of Nemesis.

It gets perverse and unhealthy when shows like Extreme Makeover (broadcast in 18 countries) capture the imagination of those who think their low self-esteem can be overturned by externalised amelioration which includes plastic surgery and a change of wardrobe rather than a substantive realignment of perspective through education and long-term mentoring.

Another spotlight from the past

The stories we never hear of are of those butchered into a repose and serenity from which they would never awake.

In 2004, the author of First Wives Club, Olivia Goldsmith (54), died from a heart attack whilst under anaesthetic for a procedure which would have involved removing excess skin under her chin – it highlighted with a bit of media feeding frenzy the inherent risks of elective cosmetic surgery.

This not to say that there no successes and sometimes lucky escapes or angelic moments to these procedures – many would say their procedure was worth every penny and boosted their self-confidence amongst all other positive outcomes – but where vanity rather than medical impetus drives and defines the need for surgery, if the consequences are dire, one becomes the more fool for it all and sadly so.

Remembering those who died

Beyond the foreboding and sharp intake of breath that should accompany every specific decision to go under the knife for a cosmetic procedure and the sense of satisfaction that one anticipates after the success of such an activity, we must with all the deepest sympathy remember those who never got that far.

It is with this heart that I express my sorrow for those who have lost loved ones and in this case Kanye West and pray that they receive strength, courage and fortitude to bear their loss and gain comfort from the joys of having known and fellowshipped with people whose memory and remembrance would never fade, though they be departed, they are never gone.

References

Giving news a picture – October 2005

Plastic Surgery 101: Obesity

Two women's plastic surgery success stories - The Denver Business Journal

Unpeeling Cosmetic Surgery's Glossy Surface

The Grand Old Duke of Pakistan

I love the English

The English can be so wicked; dressing up the most scathing criticism with the novelty of a nursery rhyme exemplifies that kind of pretend kindness that is equivalent of taking long knives in the back whilst seeing everyone smile at the event.

The debacle that Pakistan has settled into is not only puzzling but farcical; a tin-pot general who thinks his incumbency would be threatened by the judiciary imposes emergency rule and sacks the bench and puts his puppets on the bench.

Pulling all stops

He stops people from gathering to protest his megalomania as the constitution is caught between the limbo of being suspended and being the basis of the rule that is martial law in everything but name.

The election date became a moveable feast that moved from January to February and then back to January, but nobody is free to campaign for elections that would take place in less than 60 days if they do.

The khaki-thug who commands an air of grudging respectability from the West because of the perverseness of the war on terror might just find that his firstname Pervez is really a colloquial corruption of perverse as people get corralled into prison with impunity and house arrest orders get imposed and removed; the cordons and barricades swung in and out of place like a matador coaxing a bull – and I am in Spain – Pakistan might well run out of prison space as the brigands in police uniform mob the public with sticks and staves and slaps.

Drunk with intoxicating power

When he said imposing this rule which seems to have no focus apart from whims that seem to chart the course of a completely inebriated man on his way home in the witching hour was the hardest thing he had ever done – one can see how power-drunkenness that lead one to do foolish things.

However, enough of this and let us see how history would remember the Grand Old Duke of Pakistan and notice that history just has a way of repeating itself location not withstand – the similarities are left for you to note.

The nursery rhyme

O! The Grand old Duke of York

He had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up

And when they were down, they were down

And when they were only halfway up

They were neither up nor down.

This is as I remember it, we marched, stood up and sat down to the events depicted in the nursery rhyme none the wiser about the fact that we were making fun of an army general.

I would not pen the Pakistani version, there are literary proponents ad poets in that country better talented to give us a nursery rhyme that depicts the events in Pakistan today for posterity.

General Pervez Musharraf would be remembered well maybe not the way he would want to be remembered but that shows how much control we have of the present and none particularly of the future and history.

Preferences

Pakistan’s Political Crisis

Monday, 12 November 2007

Beating the hands in Barcelona

Into the groove

What an eventful day it has been, so much information and what one would do to absorb it all and be able to apply it to situations and circumstances one finds back in the wild jungle of work.

I arrived at the conference centre more or less better prepared for the journey and since the keynote address was in the afternoon, one did not have to run the gauntlet of rush-hour traffic or crowds.

I must say the issue of seating has really not been addressed, there were lots of people sitting on the floor and sometimes it was like a rush for seats, for a person like me who uses a cane, there are times one was tempted to put on a poor puppy face to create the compassion that allows others to yield their hard-earned comfort for my pleasure.

I saw some old work colleagues and even joined one for lunch which started quite early and in the middle of lunch a drummer team started a cacophony I initially did not appreciate.

Having lunch early was essential because the keynote speech was going to attract the largest audience of the conference and in our seats were these coloured "scroll-holders" which had me thinking we would be asked to look through one end and see the narrow perspective of our objectives - I found out a lot more, later.

Drums from Africa

The drummers then took the stage, I am always amused when African percussion is offered as entertainment in Europe without the accompaniment of dancers and I was quite impressed with the two Caucasians in the ensemble who gave quite a performance considering I have never thought my white brothers appreciated tribal or native rhythms - I must now disabuse that thought.

The drumbeats almost had me getting up to dance as I feared the gods might be angered at the absence of human frenzy and festive hysteria to what might have well been the call to animist worship, but with no Shamans, no witch-doctors around possible wrath loomed.

I recollect that the music playing before they arrived on stage had a Nigeria flavour to it, with some lines in Nigerian Pidgin English and other words in Yoruba giving that crude feeling of being at home but still far away in Barcelona.

The gods would have been pleased when those scroll things were inculcated in the entertainment as we held them in one hand and hit the other to a rhythm dictated (conducted) by one of the white drummers, then it began to make sense and rhythm too - there were six colours and of different lengths arranged along different columns of the auditorium creating a phonic atmosphere and the game began.

We could all have hit our hands sore in self-flagellation thorough the willingness to participate and it was great fun that came to a crescendo with an emphatic and loud YES at the end of it all.

Suddenly, you see that a lot of planning does go into these participatory things and the more fool for those who refused to join in the almost juvenile atmosphere.

Talk sweet talk hoarse

The keynote started off nicely with quite a number of demonstrations of the future as Microsoft presents it, then another session to detail how the implementation of the new server software would affect our infrastructure.

I felt sorry for the presenter of the session on Microsoft Forefront a security product which I strongly feel should be integrated in other robust security platforms, he must have had acute laryngitis, after many sips of water, it appears he just downed his cough syrup like I do; bottle-to-mouth and gulp till you have but a drop to spare. Well, not as much from what I could see.

The welcoming reception was in the exhibition area as we walked past another group of this time, Spanish guitar players doing Catalan folk songs where my lesson in yo-yo manipulation still had this old dog unable to learn new tricks, the canapés and finger-food was quite nice and I think it is time to call it a day - tomorrow starts at 9:00 and it does not end will the sun is down.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Microsoft does micro-courtesy

Do Not Disturb!

If I ever have a tombstone, it would probably read – He always expected …

I expect that if I put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my hotel room door that is exactly what it means – the sign is even generous enough to announce that stated intention in Catalan, Castellano and it defaults to English, just in case the housekeeping staff forgot.

Having burnt my candle on three ends last night, the last thing I wanted was for some stranger to walk in on my sleep and wake me up for reasons other than if there was a fire that required evacuating the building.

It transpired that I was disturbed twice and just as I was about to remonstrate, I found that my “Do Not Disturb” sign had disappeared.

In fact, I spoke to at least 3 other guests on my floor that had these bizarre walk-ins upsetting their Sunday morning lie-ins, just because the signs they put on their doors had evaporated, self-destructed or for some other funny reason like a kid collecting door signs.

I would hate to think that the housekeepers took it upon themselves to become this villainous beside the fact that the lady tried that English trick on me too; speaking Catalan slowly with a very loud voice; I did not understand a word but she felt she was communicating loud and clear – she should try that trick in English.

Open for seating at least

Organising a conference for 5,200 delegates in a foreign city can be a logistical nightmare, and from tomorrow the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum for Europe kicks off in Barcelona and we were advised to visit the conference centre to register from 10:00AM on Sunday – smart idea.

However, I having arrived the day before, I was not that travel weary but finding the place was not as easy as it should have been, the organisers assumed everyone would approach the conference centre from one direction, I happened to come from another angle, so the signs to the registration area were not that evident.

So, I got my conference kit and wanted to look into all I had collected, I saw quite a few people sitting on the floor, which I felt was just not on. I then asked the registration desk if there was some place to sit down and I was told the conference was not yet open and they did not have full access to the building till tomorrow.

Tosh! You cannot invite people to a place to register, some of whom are on the tail-end of a long journey and not provide seating – it should not be a requirement per se, it is just a matter common courtesy. I am sure there is a breach of certain health and safety rules in that framework as there were some areas cordoned off for seating the speakers but none for the delegates.

You could see the organisers speaking into their walkie-talkies and scrambling to arrest an uncomfortable situation, in fact, I am surprised no one else had asked that this be done or considered.

I expected something to be done about it and then I was offered the “favour” of being allowed in the speakers corner; sometimes the most mundane things get overlooked when even in Jesus’ time, some cities risked the wrath of Sodom and Gomorrah just for not being good hosts.

When I left the centre, there were more people allowed into this “hallowed corner”, but for all Microsoft’s greatness, this aspect of micro-courtesy or the lack of it is a structural logistical error and leaves much to be desired – I hate to think of what might have happened had I the need of the lavatories.

I must be getting old-fashioned, I probably am too staid in those ways, but common courtesy costs nothing, generates goodwill and keeps people happy; when we begin to lose that from the big picture of all our activities, a whole chunk of humanity deserts us.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

De excitement La Catalunya

Packing the world

One might say, wonder why one would be visiting Barcelona for a week for a conference without taking in the weekend. Well, I decided to sandwich the busy week into two weekends so my trip to Barcelona today and returning next Sunday.

I finally packed my bag after having just about an hour’s conversation with my brother in Nigeria, I still have not mastered the art of travelling light; I take so much and almost always end up forgetting what I want and packing what I never use.

Just because I thought I might run late, I called a taxi which turned back 5 minutes into the journey because I had forgotten my phone – all my appointments and contacts are in that thing, so I was glad that I did not use public transport or else that situation would have been impossible to redeem.

The comfort of having a Flying Blue Silver card – need to travel more – and the trappings of business class meant one could jump queues for check-in and security.

Cane must hit head hard

All went well till one jobs-worthy customs oaf said I could not take my cane on the plane because I did not need it to walk with the metal detector – how much of a foolish talk is that?

I have been through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport about 30 times this year and each time I have take my cane apart into its 4 constituent parts and put it all in the check-in tray, no complains, but today they had a chiropractor loafing around checking people’s backs I suppose.

Here I was mouthing through every ailment I ever had along with the occasional back pain that compels me to use the cane as if I now have to carry around a doctor’s certification that allows me to take a cane through customs.

Anyway, after such vehement remonstration bordering on anger as one begins to recognise the atrocious constrictions of this stifling war on comfort named war on terror, I got my cane, put it together, did the revise strip-tease of putting my things back on and walked away with a huff – as one of the customs ladies who had a semblance of humanity in her sinews gave me a smile.

Then off to the KLM lounge where the ladies at the reception succoured me and told me the fact that they had to suffer these indignities twice a day as part of their working at the airport, I suddenly did not feel too sorry for myself.

It was night to be addressed by name as I was served on the plane, a bit of turbulence and the view over the Pyrenees was as magnificent as you could get of any view from the air and then 10 extra degrees of Celsius warmth, one would not want to be anywhere else but in Barcelona.

Hotel, not hell

When I arrived at the hotel which was fully-booked from the Microsoft contact site but available through a full package booking on lastminute.nl which is become a neat way to book holidays lately, I was informed I would have a top-floor room with amazing views of Barcelona, I suspected I was being sold crap, but I had to see the room first.

I could hardly get my luggage into the room and this was with the help of the bellboy, single-bed and window only a balcony I could not reach, views of Barcelona – my foot! There was no way I would spend 8 nights in this shack of a pretend-penthouse squeeze.

Meanwhile, the reception had called up for my passport which the bellboy took away for a photocopy to be made; I called reception and asked for a bigger room, first I was given the spiel about standard single rooms and I offered to pay the extra cost to be upgraded; I think the bellboy informed them that I had offered a generous tip so I got another room, probably triple the size with a balcony that I could access and even sit 2 other guests – at no extra charge.

As usual, if you do not ask, you might as well suffer in silence and be eaten up by the utter inconvenience.

Wireless helpless

I got online as reception feigned complete ignorance about the WiFi service which had me calling the Swisscom helpdesk where a competent lady called Barbara took my call from Portugal and we both did the troubleshooting that indicated there were problems with DNS which we resolved after about 20 minutes on the phone.

I decided to go for a walk and had reception give me an idea of my bearings, the metro station was just across the road and getting a ticket required a bank card which I swiftly retrieved from the hotel.

And the ticket machine swallowed my card – I consciously said to myself, this is not want I need in order not to say the clichéd “Just what I need”.

Thankfully, the transport security guys were there and they got to station supervisor to retrieve my card before my holiday went tunnelling into desperate despair.

The night had only begun, I should be out for dinner soon and one can only say Barcelona would be fun.