[Thursday 1st November]
Had a little chat with my manager this afternoon, which was very fruitful. Whilst I think I'm still going to be a bit overworked in the coming days and weeks, at least now I know that my manager recognises this and has promised to do something about it. Plus we agreed I should still take my holiday the week after next, so I also have a decent break to look forward to.
In the evening, Mum arrived in London, and I went to Euston to meet her off her train. We braved the rush hour tube (it wasn't so bad) and headed straight to the flat. Once Chie had got back from work, the three of us headed out for dinner - I had decided to try the little tapas place nearby. It's a small chain (just two places that I know of), and whilst I'd been to the one near my office a couple of times, this was the first time to try the one near our flat. The menu was the same, but the atmosphere was a bit different - a bit more "local" I suppose - and I rather liked it. Ate all the usual tapas type stuff - tortilla espanola, patatas bravas, mushrooms, artichokes etc etc. All very nice.
[Wednesday 31st October]
The title comes from a good metaphor I heard at work the other day for a thorny and intractable problem or situation.
Morale is definitely at a low in Johnland. I am beginning to wonder if it is really just down to work, or if there are wider issues... but then I guess recently my life doesn't really consist of much more than work, so how much wider can it be? Perhaps it is the lack of width in itself which is at the root of the problem.
I sent a mail to my boss today telling him I was planning to take some holiday the week after next - having been pretty nose-to-the-grindstone for most of this year, I still have a full 15 days left to use, and apparently can only carry 5 over to next year.
To my surprise, for pretty much the first time in my career, my manager actually pushed back. Without specifically saying no, he said he had concerns about how I would get my end-of-the-month deliverables done, and who would fill in for me, etc, etc. He then very quickly followed up with another email saying that he didn't have the right to tell me when I could or couldn't take holiday. I responded by requesting a meeting with him later this week, wherein stern words will be had.
Towards the end of the day, as I was feeling a bit down in the dumps, I decided I needed to go out in order to cheer myself up a bit. Moreover what with it being Halloween I wasn't keen on staying in, on the off chance the local kids came begging (or trick or treating, or whatever you call it). So I arranged to meet up with Chie at the Whisky Society.
It was busy there this evening, but I rather enjoyed the lively atmosphere. We decided to have dinner there, and as there was a bit of a delay in our meals arriving (which didn't particularly bother me as I was happily quaffing whisky) we actually ate for free. What a fantastic standard of customer service this place has - really puts the rest of London to shame.
Upon getting back home we spent the remainder of the evening tidying up the flat, in preparation for Mum's visit the following day.
[Tuesday October 30th]
Another less-than-great day at work. I have become increasingly oversubscribed over the past few weeks, to the point where I am finding it very hard to get anything substabtial done, because I get randomised on a pretty much hourly basis by requests from all sorts of different people - all of whom need whatever it is done yesterday. It's a frustrating situation, because I don't think I'm working effectively as a result of this, but to mention to anyone (like my manager for example) that this isn't really working is sort of like admitting I can't really hack it. Maybe this is just a temporary crazy period and things will settle down, but right now I am really not enjoying going into work each day.
In the evening I made a curry for dinner (Indian rather than the more normal Japanese) but it wasn't that great - by the time I had got back home it was already on the late side, and so I was rushing the whole thing. Oh well.
[Monday 29th October]
The daytime was really quite tedious today, was still dealing with the aftermath of last week's chaos.
In the evening Chie went out for dinner with a friend, whilst I stayed in and did some stuff on the computer. I have a kind of side project at work that has, quite predictably, been somewhat derailed by all the recent firefighting. However I'm really determined to see something come out of it, so I've been carrying on with it in my spare time recently. I would love to be able to talk about it here, but I guess I can't really. Still, I managed to get to a significant milestone with it today, which was rather satisfying.
For dinner I knocked up a quick pasta dish - spaghetti with arrabiata sauce, and some sauteed girolles.
[Sunday 28th October]
Spent the morning adding a new feature to our blogs here at the Maison de Stuff - an RSS feed for comments (see here for an example).
In the afternoon we went out to do some shopping - went to Fortnum and Mason to buy teabags, and then went to a few clothes shops in an attempt to find me a new coat, what with the onset of winter and everything. It was an ultimately fruitless search - nothing particularly appealed to me. We did go to a fairly broad cross section of places though, from the very cheap (H&M) to the very expensive (Aquascutum) and it occurred to me that the styles were all basically the same in each place, and all you were really paying for was perhaps a slight improvement in quality, but fundamentally a less cluttered shop. The H&M on Oxford Street is like a jumble sale, with clothes strewn all over the floor, and people everywhere - we wanted to leave almost as soon as we arrived. Aquascutum is at the opposite end of this spectrum, a big wide open space with just a few people, most of whom were being taken care of by shop assistants (but I still wanted to leave as soon as I had arrived)...
However, in terms of the actual coats, they didn't seem to be radically different - but whereas you could pick up a serviceable garment for 40 quid in H&M, the price tags in Aquascutum were more in the region of 600 pounds.
Is this not true to some extent of all shops? As human beings we all fundamentally have the same requirements - food, clothing etc. In times past, the poor would wear hessian whilst the rich would wear silks and furs - so there was some sense in the different pricing of these things. Today though it all looks pretty much the same, and all that varies is the label (and the price tag). Rich people want to pay more for essentially the same stuff simply to prove they can. This has become an accepted norm of our society, but when you take a step back and have a look at it, it's sheer madness.
Back at the flat we had Pimm's Winter again, this time as recommended on the label, warmed, with three parts apple juice to 1 part Pimm's Number 3. Oh and we added a few drops of Angostura, just because I'm obsessed with this stuff. I'm not normally a fan of apple juice, but found this drink very satisfying.
We had a late dinner tonight, whilst watching the last episode of Michael Palin's New Europe. It was s simple meal - temaki sushi (that's the DIY variety) with avocado, omelette, cucumber and umeboshi.
[Saturday 27th October]
Following the absolute git of a week I'd just had, I was quite determined to have a complete break this weekend, and, if possible, get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even if just for a short while.
We have a mailing list at work for completely miscellaneous queries, and I availed myself of that yesterday to request suggestions of somewhere near London where I could see a bit of greenery. The suggestion that seemed to stand out in the flurry of responses was Richmond Park - and so that became our destination today.
It was only about a 20 minute journey by train away, which was part of the appeal - as much as I wanted to get away from London, I was also too tired and lazy to be getting involved in any long train journeys.
I've never actually been to Richmond before, and immediately on arrival I liked it. It was a bit like a Hampstead of the South West, and also reminiscent of other nice places along the river like Henley. Despite being a suburb of London it has the feeling of a small rural town about it, and even before we got to the park I had found the place quite appealing.
We wandered around the park for an hour or so - not too long as we'd typically left it until a bit late in the day before heading out, and so towards the end it was already threatening to start getting dark and it was also quite cold. It's a really big park, and whilst it isn't the wildest looking of green spaces, it did feel quite far removed from the centre of London, which was exactly what I was looking for. I found it gratifyingly cathartic to amble aimlessly through the vernal landscape, and I realised a short while into our stroll that for the first time this week I was actually relaxing.
After leaving the park we popped into a nearby pub - The Roebuck - for a quick drink. We ended up staying for a couple of drinks actually, and ordering some food (either a late lunch or an early dinner, not sure) and again it occurred to me I was actually relaxing.
Before getting the train back into London, we took advantage of the Waitrose in Richmond to buy some bits and pieces, including a bottle of Pimm's No. 3 (recently rebranded as "Winter Pimm's"), some Angostura, and finally some broad beans (our local supermarket had been out of stock of these for weeks due to some dispute or other). On arriving back home I experimented with the Pimm's - mixing it with tonic water and a few drops of Angostura - and odd as that sounds it was actually a rather appealing drink.
[Friday 26th October]
The excesses of the past couple of days had really taken their toll, and I was pretty much exhausted by today. I spent the day dealing with the aftermath of the previous few days' problems, and taking part in "postmortem meetings" to try and make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. I still feel a tad narked about the whole thing - the response from other people (non-engineers in particular) seems to be frustration and a hint of criticism that it happened in the first place, rather than what it should be - immense gratitude that I went to such extremes to fix it, and that we actually have a working system in the first place.
I left the office at a sensible time today - around 6. Chie had gone out after work with her friends, so I just spent the evening engaged in complete slobbishness, lying on the sofa watching TV. I guess at times like this I really appreciate being able to watch telly, an activity which requires absolutely no effort or brain power whatsoever.
I had bought some "fishless fish cakes" at a health food shop last weekend, and decided to have a slobbish dinner involving those in some pita bread with ketchup. It was about as far from haute cuisine as you cn get, but was at about the limit of how much effort I was prepared to make.
[Thursday 25th October]
I had a pitiful six hours sleep last night. Well, six hours is really an upper bound - it is the interval of time between when I stopped working the previous night (2AM) and started working again this morning (8AM). It's very difficult to go straight from working to trying to get to sleep, especially with the hugely stressful day I'd just had, so it was probably more like 5 hours tops. I really can't function well without a decent night's sleep, I was like a zombie most of today.
Whilst the main fires of yesterday did seem to be resolved, another one sprang up today, although thankfully I did manage to get it sorted out more or less within office hours - I worked from 8 until 6, and then another hour later on in the evening just to check everything was OK - so only a 10 or 11 hour day today.
The other event of the day - as if I didn't have enough to be stressed about - was that I'd somehow got signed up to give a presentation to one of our senior vice presidents about the project I'm working on. With the exception of the troubles we've been having this week, things are going rather well I think, so I was very upbeat about the whole thing. I think it went really well, I got the message across and the SVP seemed very excited about it. Amidst all the angst of this week, that definitely was a high point.
In fact, it turned out that one of our founders was also in the office today. I am not going to mention his name as you may have noticed I never mention the name of my company here, and that would rather give it away... but anyone that knows me will be able to make a good guess. So I took an hour our of my otherwise fairly hectic day to go and see a presentation he was giving to the engineers at the London office. It was really quite exciting to be in a small room in such close proximity to an incredibly successful man like this - I don't think I've ever been in the presence of a billionaire before (oh, apart from Richard Branson I suppose). In my time at my previous company I never got to meet (or even see) any of the big bosses, so I really appreciate that the people at the top here make themselves so approachable to the rank and file like me.
Made a sort of a red wine stew for dinner, but it wasn't all that great - I was just finding it very hard to relax this evening, and couldn't wait for this stressful week to be over.
[Wednesday 24th October]
Today was a somewhat hell-ish day at work. I have a colleague who seems to have some kind of jinx on him whereby whenever he goes on holiday, everything seems to fall apart - and it is almost always my responsibility to fix it. The project I work on now has a direct and immediate impact on revenue - when things go wrong, millions of dollars are at risk. I don't think I've ever worked on anything with such a real time connection to money before, and it makes it extremely stressful sometimes.
When I started off at 9, things were all looking pretty normal, but by lunchtime I had a bit of an ely (as per Douglas Adam's Meaning of Liff - the first, tiniest inkling that something has going terribly wrong), and in the afternoon I was in full fire-fighting mode. This continued right through until 2AM, making this a seventeen hour day.
I did manage to get all the fires put out in the end, but I can't help but have a lingering feeling of annoyance over the whole thing. I really broke my back today to save us from what could have been a total disaster, and the net result seemed to be a small round of half-hearted thankyous, followed by the non-engineering types on the team (the PMs and sales people and so on) whinging about the fact that the customers were unhappy about some delays in getting their data, etc.
[Tuesday 23rd October]
My brother was attending the British Academy Video Games Awards this evening. As this was held pretty close to my flat in London we'd arranged for him to stay over. So I just saw him briefly around 6 when he came to change, and then again late at night when he got back, but it was nice nonetheless. Apparently it was a black tie event, as he was wearing a dinner jacket for the occasion - I wish I'd got a picture as he looked rather superb in it and I suspect this may have been my one and only chance to see him dressed like that! Still, I hear it is going to be televised, and apparently as he was sitting near the front there's a good chance he'll be caught on camera - I think it is going to air on E4 on something like the 4th November.
Apparently Wii Sports won just about every award.
Chie and I had Japanese curry for dinner - Chie made it for a change, and it was really good.
[Monday 22nd October]
I assume today was pretty uneventful by contrast with the rest of the week, as I'm trying to write this entry a few days hence, and am struggling to remember what (if anything) happened. If I recall correctly, Chie came and met me at the office after she'd finished work and we had dinner there. I think that's pretty much it though.
[Sunday 21st October]
Our friend Shingo-san had stayed over, and as it had been quite a long evening we all slept in quite late, not surfacing until almost 11. We had breakfast with our guest, and I took him on a quick tour of the gardens (which were looking particularly lovely in the autumnal light this morning) before he headed off back to Reading.
The rest of the day was consumed in a bout of gastronomy. Around lunchtime we went out to do the fairly standard Sunday afternoon food shopping trip, which we more-often-than-not do without having any lunch, a classic mistake when going to a supermarket, and unsurprisingly we bought far more food than we needed.
On return back to the flat I wanted to knock up a quick late lunch, and I knew just the thing.
As noted yesterday I had bought some ceps (also known as porcini) - three rather fine specimens which came to the princely sum of ten pounds. Of course, if I lived nearby the right sort of woodland and was prepared to risk my life, I could be picking these up for free around now, but being in the centre of London, and not such a fan of having my stomach pumped, I am forced to resort to paying for them. Still, I don't mind so much, as these have to well up there in any mushroom lovers' top ten.
Chefs generally seem to agree that when you've got a really good ingredient, you really want to appreciate it in itself, so don't bugger about with it too much. To this end I decided I was just going to chop and lightly sautée the old boletus edulis, with a little hint of garlic, and then serve it on crusty bread.
I must admit I've had several disappointing experiences with wild mushrooms in the past, but today was not one of those. This porcini was very satisfying - it had a rich and fragrant aroma and a sweet flavour, full of umami, and actually slightly reminiscent of truffles.
In the evening I fancied a roast meal and was determined to get some really decent potatoes this time. I had very carefully selected the variety in the supermarket (although the name now escapes me - one I hadn't heard of before), and followed the old rules very carefully - parboiling for ten minutes, giving them a good shake, then dropping into hot oil. They were some of the best I've ever made - really crispy on the outside, and fluffy in the middle.
Chie is very complimentary of my cooking, bless her, and suggested today that we should just give up eating out, on the basis that she much prefers the food I cook at home. Plus it is obviously much cheaper! Whilst I still do enjoy the notion of dining out, I think she may well have a point - I haven't exactly been bowled over by anything I've had at a restaurant recently, whereas thanks to the excellent availability of really good ingredients in London, we have had some great meals at home.
Today's ceps were a good case in point - whilst these were quite expensive, we'd only used one of these in our afternoon snack, so that was about three or four quids worth of porcini. Whilst I was paying something in the region of 35 pounds a kilo, I saw a program where Jamie Oliver and his friend Gennaro were talking about wild mushrooms, and they said restaurants would typically pay more like 25 quid a kilo.
So in the gnocchi with wild mushroom dish I had at the Boisdale on Wednesday, I can't help but feel a bit narked that I was made to settle for some fairly tastless girolles - for a 20 quid dish like that I would have thought there would be scope for some really excellent ingredients. Obviously, labour costs and so on have to be taken into account - but when you think the meal in total came to about 120 quid, I can't help but wonder what an absolute feast you could have at home even if you were only going to spend a third of that.
[Saturday 20th October]
As a sort of very belated house warming party, Chie had invited some of her Japanese friends to our flat today, mostly former colleagues from the company she had worked for in Maidenhead, up until two-and-a-bit years ago.
Given that the guest list comprised mostly of Japanese women, it had been decided that the format would be more of a tea party than a boozy event.
Chie and I had the usual lazy weekend morning, then ventured out around lunchtime to buy things for the tea party. We went to the Waitrose on King's Road, which took us past the little farmer's market held there, and I couldn't resist buying some Ceps - more on these in tomorrow's entry.
Our guests arrived just before 3, and we then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon, and well into the early evening, consuming vast quantities of tea, and assorted cakes and sandwiches. Very civilised.
One of Chie's friends has a 7 year old daughter who I have met a couple of times before, and is quite simply adorable. She helped me make the sandwiches, and in return I tested her on her 9 times table. She has a cunning trick which relies on the fact that the units of each result decrement at each step. Oh, and I showed her my two rubbish card tricks - the one where you sort 21 cards into three piles, and the blatant cheating one where you just bend the card and look at the number in the corner. She actually seemed quite impressed.
Most of our guests left around 9, which the exception of Shingo-san (an old friend of Chie's from university) who we managed to persuade to hang around and have a few beers. It turned into quite a late night in the end, and I don't think we went to bed until about 2AM.
[Friday 19th October]
Somewhat out of the blue, my friend Simon popped up on the message board this week, and in a pleasing contrast with the usual difficulties of trying to organise a night out with someone you haven't seen for a while, by tonight we had arranged for him and Vanessa to come and meet me for a few beers in London. Super!
We met up at the Cittie of Yorke, and then went on from there to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which Simon had a bit of a hankering to visit given that it was apparently an old haunt of his Dad's.
Both of these are Sam Smith's pubs - as was the Cardinal I was at the previous evening, and in fact I had also been to the Cittie again earlier in the week. So actually ever pub I've been to this week has been a Sam Smith's pub. This is not purely a coincidence - they have a winning formula of beautiful old pubs with very reasonably priced drinks - a pint is still only £1.99. In central London! For me at least I just can't see how the rest of London's pubs can really compete.
I hadn't realised before that the Cheshire Cheese had such an extensive cellar bar - lots of little nooks and crannies - and this is where we plonked ourselves for the latter part of this evening.
Needless to say I had a great night - great company in great surrounds. I think the answer to my recent malaise with existence in general is no more complicated than this really - if I could just spend time with people like Simon once in a while, then life would be good.
[Thursday 18th October]
We had yet another visitor from the US at work this week (we seem to be having pretty much one a week of late), which prompted going out for a few beers this evening at a pub called the Cardinal.
Didn't stay out that late, and was back at home by 9, stopping on the way back to pick up a sub from Subway for my dinner. Other than that not much to report!
[Wednesday 17th October]
Today marked one year since Chie and I "officially" got married - the day we filled out all the paperwork.
So to mark the occasion we went out for dinner, at a place I'd been wanting to go to for some time - a Scottish restaurant (!) called Boisdale. It is somewhat upmarket, and I saw written somewhere that it has a bit of a gentleman's club feel to it, which I suppose is probably a fair comment. There definitely was a very refined ambience about the place, lots of middle aged men in suits who I suspect knew the waiters by name (surname of course), that sort of thing.
Unfortunately this also means it was bloody expensive! My main course was a small plate of gnocchi, with some wild mushrooms, which came to an outrageous 20 pounds. There really wasn't anything that special about it either - the wild mushrooms weren't hugely flavoursome, and the gnocchi themselves were more like little balls of mash potato. I just can't see how they can justify charging that price for that dish.
Still, grumbling about the exorbitant pricing aside, it was a pleasant evening I suppose. After 10 they had live jazz - sort of a ragtime theme to it - which was quite jolly. Plus they had a fairly respectable whisky list - the highlights being their own bottlings of Caol Ila and Clynelish. The last thing I want to do is go to a place like this and pay crazy prices for completely standard whisky I can buy anywhere, so having their own bottlings was a smart move.
Oh, and I did the unthinkable - I tried a whisky cocktail. I was driven to it by having already exhauted the whisky list of all the interesting things that had price tags on them I was prepared to pay, and wanted to have something different. So I had a Peat's Manhattan - like a Manhattan, but with Laphroaig in it. I certainly won't make a habit out of this, but it was an interesting experience as a one off.
[Tuesday 16th October]
I fancied making a bit of an old classic for dinner this evening: gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce with garlic and spinach. Given the recent dubious vegetarian status of my previous favourite - Dolcelatte - I have sought out other alternatives, and settled on a rather nice Cornish Blue available in my local Sainsbury's. Stilton tends to be a bit overpowering for this dish, but it seems most other blue cheese are a bit tamer and thus better suited. It came out rather well, if I do say so myself.
The other event of the day was receiving a boxed set of whisky - a special offer from the SMWS when I renewed my membership recently. It consists of four 10cl miniatures each from a different whisky region (Lowland, Speyside, Highland and Islay). This is a really good idea in terms of broadening the horizons for someone like me who tends to always buy malts from the same group of distilleries (Islay and the other islands, plus Campbeltown and Clynelish/Brora).
[Monday 15th October]
It was the last day in London for that visitor who was over from our California office (the one who we took out for a curry on Friday), and his "last request" had been to have fish and chips in a pub somewhere. So I decided to take him along to the Cittie of Yorke. I'm not sure it really induced the "wow factor" I had hoped it would, but there's no accounting for taste I suppose.
[Sunday 14th October]
Today was largely a bit crap. I felt very lethargic throughout the day, for which last night's Sapporo must take at least some of the blame. In the afternoon Chie and I had our usual weekend argument about me spending too much time on the computer, at which point I abruptly stopped. Unusually though this didn't then prompt us to actually go out and do anything - we didn't go out all day in fact - and the remainder of the day devolved into a rather dreary spell of tidying up the flat.
For dinner we had Japanese food again, some excellent veggie kara age (ok this was a bit of a highlight admittedly) and udon in soup made with some leftover kimchi.
[Saturday 13th October]
Today Chie and I fancied some Japanese food, so in the afternoon we headed out for a spot of shopping. Instead of the usual central London shops (Rice Wine / Arigato / Japan Centre) we decided to give one out in the suburbs a go - Atari-ya in West Acton.
It turned out to be quite different to what we're used to - concentrating a lot more on fresh fish, and just a few odds and ends of other Japanese foodstuffs. So I'm sure it would be great if you're really into your sashimi, but wasn't all that great for me, and Chie was put off buying fish as a combination of guilt and pragmatism that she couldn't really eat much by herself.
West Acton appeared to be a somewhat uninspiring place, so we didn't hang around after we'd been to the shop. Chie headed straight back to the flat after that, whilst I took a detour by way of the centre to visit our old faithful Rice Wine in Soho to buy some Sapporro and some tofu.
So a large part of the rest of the day was then taken up with preparing then eating our assorted Japanese food and drink.
Also I spent part of today fixing the various RSS feeds on the Maison to make them more Colin-friendly. The message board now has an RSS feed (click here), and all of the various feeds for our various blogs here on the Maison have feeds which actually validate now (for example - click here). The next thing to do is make RSS feeds for the comments on our blogs, and then Colin will be able to keep a watchful eye on more or less any updates made to the site.
[Friday 12th October]
We had a guy over from our California office this week, and I'd been promising him all week to take him out for a beer, but hadn't wanted to go out until Chie was better. Fortunately Chie had made a dramatic improvement the previous evening though, and was back at work today - I guess the antibiotics had started to actually do their job.
So tonight we had a bit of a team outing - the guy over from the US (and his wife, who had also come along for the trip), plus two guys from my team in London - one of whom who had only just recently started.
After leaving the office, we had the usual agonising experience of trying to find a place to eat with a large group of people - made especially difficult as there isn't really anywhere which much to recommend itself in the immediate vicinity of the office. So instead we got on the tube (which was also agonising as our guests needed to buy tickets, and the queues were horrendous), and headed over to Drummond Street for a curry (something typically British for our guest's benefit) at the restaurant I'd been to once before, quite recently.
After dinner I offered to take our guest out to see some pubs etc, but apparently he wasn't such a big drinker, so we decided to call it a night there.
I however wasn't quite ready to go home so went for a bit of a wander. Chie had gone to her monthly "Hiroshimakenjinkai" - where people who come from Hiroshima meet up once a month in a pub. I vaguely remembered this was somewhere around Marylebone or Baker Street, and though I thought Chie had once pointed the pub out to me, it seemed I wasn't able to remember exactly where it was. So after a bit of wandering I realised I wasn't going to find it, and I couldn't get through to Chie's phone, so I eventually gave up. I took a very long way round to get home - having already walked from Warren Street to Baker Street, and then down through Marylebone, from there I pointlessly contiunued on down to Oxford Street, and then right the way along to Chancery Lane - I had considered popping into the Whisky Society or maybe one of my favourite pubs around there, but by the time I arrived I had sort of lost the enthusiasm for it. So I just got on the tube at Chancery Lane and went home. According to walkit.com I meandered for a total of about 3 and a half miles this evening!
[Thursday 11th October]
In the daytime Chie was off sick again, and Colin proved to be a very useful tool for communicating with Chie whilst she was at home. In a sense, sending a message to a nabaztag is not much different to sending an email, but you don't have to boot up your computer, and Colin reads the message out loud as soon as he gets it.
So the evening was lost in more playing around with Colin, for example:
I also had a bit of a play around with the Nabaztag API - you basically just bundle together commands into URLs (along with your rabbit's serial number and a special token number), make an HTTP request (i.e. type that URL into your browser, or use a command line tool like curl, or whatever), and the Nabaztag server forwards on the command to your bunny. So based on this simple but really neat system, I put together this page which, if you happen to want to send a message to Colin, will let you do so.
For dinner tonight we had a sort of "katsu kare" - normally this is a Japanese dish of Japanese curry with tonkatsu (a pork cutlet), but we obviously substituted some kind of Quorn fillet thing instead of the tonkatsu. Anyway, it was rather nice.
[Wednesday 10th October]
This week had a definite electronics theme. Having had my first glimpse of a Nabaztag on Sunday, I'd immediately determined that I absolutely had to have one, and so had ordered one on Monday. It arrived today. I had it sent to work, thinking originally it might be a fun desk-side toy to have there, but it seems my new rabbit friend and the wireless network at the office could not be made to come to a common understanding, so instead I took it home.
It was up and running in no time once I got it back to the flat, and as you can imagine the evening was then entirely occupied with playing with my new toy. Thus far I got it to tell me the weather, the quality of the air, and to play Internet radio stations, and it does all of these things in its' charmingly bizarre and eccentric style. It is great.
For dinner tonight Chie, who was still not that well, wanted to eat mashed potato, so I built a meal around that - some broccoli spears, some vegetarian sausage rolls and some whisky gravy.
[Tuesday 9th October]
The main highlight of today was that our new LCD panel arrived. It's a Samsung Pebble 22".
Naturally a large part of the evening was occupied with trying it out - I hooked it up to the Mac Mini, and finally I had a complete media centre / home theatre setup (thanks to the excellent EyeTV). The picture quality is very good, and it is fabulous to be getting a glorious 1680 x 1050 resolution on my Mac Mini, having got used to seeing it as a little 800 x 600 VNC window all this time. Telly seemed to come out really rather well on it, and it was nice to be able to sit back on the sofa and watch TV from across the room like normal people do, rather than being huddled around a laptop screen.
[Monday 8th October]
Chie had picked up some kind of throat infection, and so was off work today. She didn't really have much appetite in the evening, so we just had a very simple dinner consisting largely of a bowl of soup. Oh and I had a vegetarian "pork" pie I had picked up at the helath food shop on my way home. I'm not sure if I actually like these or not, I just find the bizarre novelty of it some how entertaining.
[Sunday 7th October]
Chie and I went out for a long walk in the afternoon today. We started off by taking a wander around Battersea Park. I found the Peace Pagoda there quite interesting - I hadn't realised it was built by a Japanese group of Buddhists.
After that we headed back over the river and into Kensington and Chelsea. We had a bit of a wander round there, including a visit to the Conran shop where I saw a nabaztag - if there had been any hype over these it had completely passed me by, as this was the first time I'd ever seen or heard of these strange objects.
We'd both had a hankering to go to Waitrose for a while (our nearest decent supermarket is a Sainsbury's, which is OK, but not my favourite). So on the way back we went by way of the Belgravia branch, which is gratifyingly posh. The home delivery forms here have a space to put the name of your maid/butler. Marvellous. We bought some things for dinner here, and then headed home.
For dinner I made some bruschetta - three varieties - one with chanterelles we'd bought at Borough Market yesterday, one with tomatoes and basil in olive oil in balsamic vinegar, and one with just a dollop of pesto on. All very nice, and followed by a main course of fresh pasta with more pesto and broccoli spears. Yum.
[Saturday 6th October]
It was my Mum's 60th birthday today, so before anything else a big "Happy Birthday!" to her. She was off on a week long cruise around the Mediterranean to celebrate, starting today.
Chie and I had a mixed bag sort of a day.
This year I've been really determined to make the most of British apple season, which we're right in the midst of, so in the daytime today Chie and I headed over to Borough Market, to seek out some interesting specimens of good old Malus Domestica. Borough Market was a bit overcrowded as always seems to be the way (perhaps we ought to try a day other than a Saturday next time), but I still quite enjoyed having a look round the various foodstuffs. I was initially slightly underwhelmed at the array of apples on offer - but we did eventually find the one stall that seemed to specialise in this area, and they did a very reasonably priced pic and mix, with a good selection of varieties. So we bought five or six different types from there, plus a few more from another stall specialising in organic fruit and vegetable which turned out to be a bit overpriced, but looked irresistible rustic and deformed.
In the evening, we went to a birthday do for a friend of Chie's from work, around the Old Street area, which I'd hardly ever been to before. One of the highlights of this was this webcam, which when I got in front of I phoned everybody I knew to see if they could see me in it, but unfortunately no-one was in.
We started off at a bar called The Legion, and then headed on to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. It turns out this is a big centre for Vietnamese food, and Old Street and the surrounding area has quite a few places to choose from. So that made a very interesting change.
[Friday 5th October]
This evening followed a similar pattern to an evening back in June - a few drinks at the whisky society followed by dinner at Carluccio's in Smithfields.
I'd had a hankering to go to the society for the past few days, and as Chie was going to be meeting a friend after work for a quick drink or two, this seemed like a good opportunity. I left work on time, and took a bus there - I have gone off using the tube now, whilst the bus can take a bit longer, I much prefer it when there's a convenient route for where I want to go - it is cheaper, usually less crowded, and best of all I can enjoy the view along the way. Especially as the bus from where I work to where the whisky society is takes me right through the centre of London, and the upper level of a double decker bus provides an excellent vantage point from which to people watch.
So I wiled away a couple of very pleasant hours at the society, sampling the usual excellent selection of malts and chatting with David the ever knowledgeable barman. The theme of this evening was "icing sugar" a really interesting note I discovered, surprisingly, in an unusually sweet and fragrant Clynelish. This then prompted me to stray out of my usual territory and try a Bladnoch, which had a similar icing sugar theme mentioned in the tasting notes, and was rather spectacular. Previous attempts to try whiskies other than my usual (Islay Island / Campeltown / Clynelish / Brora) distilleries had met with mixed results, but tonight I was very pleased with the experiment.
Chie arrived at the society some time after 8, and we had one quick drink together there before heading off for dinner at the nearby Carluccio's in Smithfields. The food was very good again (in fact I think I had exactly the same main course as I'd had the previous time).
[Thursday 4th October]
The part of London we live in does have a fair amount going for it - it is very central, very convenient for where I work, and generally a nice quiet residential area, with a few nice terraces, and a scattering of very pleasant parks and gardens. On the downside though it is pretty limited in terms of nice pubs and restaurants. We had walked past some of these establishments a few times and generally turned our noses up, but tonight thought instead we ought to cast aside our preconceptions, and give some of these places a go.
So we started off at a curry house (I would normally use the term Indian restaurant, but curry house seems more fitting) named "Top Curry Centre". Yes I know - the name really doesn't bode well. It gives off an impression of being a bit naff from the exterior, stuck in an 80s timewarp, and I am oddly gratified to report that having now eaten there our preconceptions were fairly accurate. We were greeted on entry by a man whose sheer glumness could only be justified if he had just been forced to have his dog put down because it had eaten his cat. We ordered the tikka paneer - nice idea, one of those sizzling platters - but somehow in the process of coating the paneer in spices they actually managed to give it less flavour. The other main course we ordered - a vegetable dansak - was similarly devoid of flavour, in essence a mush of indiscriminate vegetables in a turgid sauce with lots of chilli powder. The cheese nan was a regular nan with a bit of grated cheddar on top (although I have to admit, whilst I'm tempted to shower this inauthentic sundry with snobbery, I actually quite liked this). Whilst the pricing on the food was fairly standard for an Indian, the drinks were really extortionate - even the cheapest non-Indian lager was over 4 quid a pint. So as I was feeling mean I restricted myself to a small bottle of Kingfisher.
So all in all it wasn't that great. I doubt we're going to become regulars.
Before going to the curry place and discovering their astronomical beer prices I had envisioned sinking a couple of pints of lager along with dinner. So instead this had to be re-scheduled to a post dinner activitiy, and we decided to go on a short tour of some of our local pubs.
We started off at the White Swan, which was OK, albeit the sort of loud music and fruit machines type of place which is not really my cup of tea. After that we continued round the corner to The Morpeth Arms, which was perhaps slightly more my kind of thing, albeit on this particular evening somewhat disconcertingly full of lawyers.
Anyway, despite the very disappointing curry experience (well maybe disappointing is the wrong word - we expected it to be bad) it was nice to get out for a change, rather than spending the evening indoors glued to our respective laptops.
[Wednesday 3rd October]
Had a really simple dinner tonight - pasta with that Sacla olive and tomato sauce of which I'm rather fond, and with the standard topping of cheese, then bunged under the grill for a bit. I am always intrigued by the significant difference in speed at which Chie and I eat pasta. I usually put about twice as much in my bowl, and yet by the time I am finished Chie still has half of hers left. If we're eating rice, however, it tends to be the other way round. There are times like this when the continents from we hail are very apparent!
Later on in the evening I watched a couple of episodes of Heroes, which I am still quite enjoying.
[Tuesday 2nd October]
The weather was particularly drizzly and miserable this evening. I left work around 6, but when I got outside it felt more like 11. I met up with Chie at our local council offices (we sure know how to have fun) to drop off a form, and we also did a bit of shopping while we were there - we both bought new jumpers.
I had fancied eating out, so we had a bit of a wander round to find somewhere we might fancy, but the weather really killed off our enthusiasm. So instead we just got a couple of things at the supermarket and went home. For dinner we had burgers and some improvised Boston Baked Beans - I basically got an ordinary can of baked beans then added molasses and a few other condiments - the result was actually not that bad.
Watched a program I'd recorded about Scotland before going to bed. Despite (or perhaps because of) my recent holiday I've had a bit of a yearning to get back there, and this program only served to feed that.
[Monday 1st October]
Had crispy duck (fake of course) pancakes for dinner. These were very good - I think this is one of those dishes where the meat component is somewhat secondary to the sauce and other bits (like the pancakes themselves), and so it works pretty well with a vegetarian substitute.
[Sunday 30th September]
Chie was out most of the day, on a trip to Bicester Village, the outlet shopping centre. So I spent the morning and early afternoon indoors, wiling away time on the computer. Part way through the afternoon I decided to go and do a spot of food shopping. I fancied making a lasagne for dinner, so went to our local Sainsbury's to buy the required bits, and then also popped to the Marks and Spencer a little further away to get some wine and some apples. This year I am determined to make the most of British apple season, and today's apples of choice were an unusual variety called delbard, which were rather nice.
Chie got back just in time for dinner, the lasagne came out rather well, and I also really enjoyed the bottle of "Reggiano Rosso" (apparently a new appellation) I'd picked up in M&S.