This week I am in London to attend a conference (the Service Desk and IT Support show – also known as SITS14). We attended this event last year, and it was useful enough to consider coming back again, especially as it is free to attend.

We arrived last night, and checked into the Amsterdam hotel on Trebivor road. It is a small family run hotel, with charming wooden floors and very comfortable beds. On the downside, there is also a lift that struggles to take two people (but apparently will fit 3), and bathrooms that are both tiny and challenging to use. 

Following a quick drink in a local pub, dinner last night was at the Dragon Palace on Earls Court Road. We went there last year, and were looking forward to returning. The food was great, and we ended up staying there quite a while. We talked a fair bit about the direction we want our team and our services to go in the next year. It was a productive conversation, with lots of things to think about.

I generally sleep badly the first night in any new place. Last night was no exception, but I did at least grab a few hours. Breakfast was a very odd continental affair in a strange basement room with wobbly tables. I think we may eat elsewhere tomorrow, although at least the coffee was decent.

We attended 5 sessions today, and took something useful away from each one. I have taken so many notes and a few photographs, and feel like it was a largely worthwhile experience. Today’s sessions covered management, recruitment, BYOD, metrics and customer experience. Tomorrow we attend 5 sessions, which largely focus on social IT and using social media and live chat as part of IT support. Day 2 is more relevant to what we want to achive in the next year, but the programme in general is of sufficient interest to make it worthwhile attending both days.

Getting home during the tube strike is going to be challenging, but thinking about that can wait until tomorrow. Tonight’s challenge is to find somewhere to eat that is as good as the Dragon Palace.

A few (historical) thoughts about shoes

This is something I wrote ages ago for a couple of people I worked with at the time, but I was reminded about it  couple of times over the last few weeks during conversations about small talk and acceptable conversation topics.

This is not really about shoes. This is about things that other people find fascinating but that leave me somewhat cold. It is also about things that rock my world that other people just don’t get.

A fair few people I know are into shoes. They have hundreds of pairs of shoes, and take great delight in making sure they are wearing a pair of shoes that match their outfit. This at least I can relate to, in that I at least make an effort to make sure that the shoes I’m wearing match the weather. But fundamentally, I see shoes as something I wear to put a layer of insulation between my feet and the world, and I only really consider buying a new pair if the pair I’m wearing develop a hole (and thus are unsuitable for rainy days).

I have a feeling that when other people talk about shoes, I quickly develop a glazed expression which suggests I might not be listening too closely. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love learning about new things. I’m always on the lookout for new snippets of information and new subjects to study. But there are some things that I can’t relate to enough to be interested in, and shoes are one of those things.

Of course, there are lots of things I’m very interested in, like music and cinema. I remember a few times recently where I’ve mentioned a film I’ve recently seen, or a band I’m really into, and have been met with a look of incomprehension followed by a swift tangent into a more socially acceptable topic of conversation. This to me is not a problem, because I’m well aware that most of the things that rock my world are not to everyone’s taste. But at the same time I spend a great deal of time around people who seem to be able to effortlessly find mutual topics of conversation, and I sometimes wonder if there are whole aspects of reality that I’ve discounted as being irrelevant and which in fact could become fundamentally important in my world. Like romantic comedies. Or daytime television. Or shoes.

But then I think about all the things I am into, and how I don’t actually have time to do most of them any longer. With the advent of laptops and portable music players I can indulge in music and movies from almost anywhere, and we are now in an age where consuming large amounts of both can be done both legally and inexpensively. I don’t think I’ve got room for anything else, seeing as I don’t have enough time for proper computing, or reading, or football, or socialising, or doing little more than bounce between work, sleep and recreational media. And whilst I don’t think I have room for anything else, I think the world in general has room for all the above and more, and I think my life has been enriched by having so many people in it who don’t see the world in the same way I do.

So, you know the next time I start talking about obscure musicians you’ve never heard of, and try and play you abstract soundscapes that remind you of a kitten being tortured? And the next time I try and explain why films in a language I don’t understand can often do a better job of connection on an emotional level? And the next time I tell you that songs don’t need words and words are only relevant if they mean something? You know the way your mind drifts and itches to get back onto the sort of solid ground where you feel you have something to contribute? That’s how I feel when you talk about shoes.

One Movie a Day – part 5

17th April – Closer. I’ve seen this before, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me for some reason. This time I enjoyed it a lot more, and I think it covers a lot of themes that interest me right now. I would recommend this one to most people actually, and think it could provoke interesting thoughts and conversations.

28th April – Hannah and her Sisters. This one follows on thematically from Closer, although that was very much not intended as they were recommended to me by different people. It’s a Woody Allen film, and it is one of the good ones. I don’t think there is much more to say than that, apart from that I enjoyed it and will now be hunting out more Woody Allen films with a view to watching a few of them over a weekend at some point.

28th April (later) – Adaptation. This has been on my list a while, and was another recommendation (like most of what I have watched recently). I really enjoyed it, and found that it explored a fair few themes that I can relate to quite closely. It also makes me want to watch ‘Being John Malkovich’ again at some point soon, as I think the two movies have quite a lot in common.

29th April – Blue Velvet. Heading back to David Lynch, because I wanted comfort viewing, and apparently I find Kyle Machlachlan and Laura Dern comforting (maybe because I’ve seen them in so many David Lynch movies). I’ve seen this a few times, but it is still something I come back to every now and again and I always seem to see something new.

One Movie a Day – part 4

4th April – Cosmopolis. Adapted from a Don Delilo book by David Cronenberg, and scored by Metric. All people I respect greatly. It’s a well made movie, and one that I enjoyed (although I can also see why a lot of people might not have enjoyed it). I also intend to listen to the soundtrack on Spotify, because I think it really works on several levels.

11th April – Proof. Having seen a rather excellent performance of the play, I thought I should probably see the movie. It’s a good adaptation, that works well, and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the play (although didn’t enjoy some of the performances as much).

13th April – The Man Who Cried. A really beautiful movie that I had not even heard of until this weekend. It is well acted, well directed, and looks and sounds amazing; as well as having a story that will likely bring a tear to the eye. The soundtrack is also great, despite containing a lot of music that I would probably not listen to without it being associated with a movie I really enjoyed. Also it features Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Harry Dean Stanton. What’s not to like?

14th April – Shinobi. Something a little different than other things I’ve watched recently, but also something that is suitably dark, and touches on a lot of themes I’m quite interested in. I also think it is visually spectacular movie, with some great fight scenes, and was obviously made with a lot of love. Very highly recommended if you like action-orientated Japanese cinema, or anything with an equal mix of fighting and thinking.

Updating and installing software on Foresight Linux

I’ve just installed the latest version of Foresight on my spare laptop, so I thought I’d investigate the package manager, conary, which is something I’ve never used before, but which looks like it could be as useful as apt and urpmi.

It’s really quite simple. To update to the latest version of all installed packages, type:

$ sudo conary updateall

And to install a specific package, type:

$ sudo conary update packagename

I’ll write more when I’ve explored further.

Review : Window Sills by The Wind Whistles

I was going to wait to review this until Sunday, but as I’ve listened to it a fair few times over the last 24 hours I thought it was worth sharing.

Window Sills by The Wind Whistles – They think they sound like the Violent Femmes and the Lemonheads. Other people compare them with The Decemberists and the Moldy Peaches. I’d agree with all the above and add the White Stripes and the Fiery Furnaces to the mix.

The music has a traditional edge, but deals with modern (yet universal) subjects. Both singers can sing, and it sounds like they would be amazing in a live setting (anywhere from a concert hall to a camp fire).

I think I’ve just found my “walking to work” record for the next few days.

The plan

We have decided that trying to get to Birmingham airport for 4:30am from our house is non-viable, so we’re staying in a hotel near the airport tomorrow night.

We then fly to Italy in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and will be largely uncontactable until the evening of Wednesday 27th (or more reasonably some time on the Thursday).

I’m taking the EeePC, so blog updates might happen if we manage to find a wireless hotspot, but assume radio silence otherwise.

Thanks again to everyone who made Saturday great, and also to everyone who has posted and tagged photographs over the last couple of days. I think we’re up to about 200 photos, and there are at least three large sets I’ve not seen yet.