Must Try Harder!

Sunny days in the garden
Sunny days in the garden

Yeah, almost two years since the last post. Sorry about that. Been busy, or something.

So, what’s up at Casa Llama? Vic continues to do good work keeping me in order.

I left my job at Kcom after 7 years to do some contracting. I’ve been having a bit of time off, supported as ever by my wonderful wife. I do now cook breakfast before she goes to work though, so it’s not like I don’t do anything at all.

The cats are, as usual, fabulous, though Ford only has two teeth left (meaning that he often does an excellent impression of Elvis’ sneer) and Tilly has developed her bird-killing skills to a fine art.

Holidays? We went to Vietnam and Thailand in Nov 2012, Venice and Barcelona in Oct 2013 and Majorca in March. We also went down to Dorset for a few days last week before Vic started her latest contract.

Let's go to Dorset, she said. It'll be nice, she said.
Let’s go to Dorset, she said. It’ll be nice, she said.

So I’ve grown a beard, which takes a considerable amount of effort; don’t believe what people tell you. And I’ve finally sold some stuff on Ebay. And only had to refund one item so far!

I’ve an idea to archive this blog off and just make it a jumping off page for things like Facebook and Flickr where most of my updates get posted these days. Anyway, it’s sunny outside, enjoy!

Catch Up

I’ve been off blogging for a long time.

Facebook seems adequate for most things and we’ve not done much that has been worth sharing with the world rather than just with friends.

What have we done since Java in 2010? VMworld 2010 in San Francisco followed by a long weekend in Las Vegas, an holiday in Dahab in Egypt in 2011. Las Vegas again in 2011, and VMworld Europe 2011 in Copenhagen.

No camping at festivals since Big Chill 2010, a couple of disappointing one-day festivals, good times at a Fatboy Slim gig in Brighton and The Stone Roses reunion in Manchester.

We’ve got a couple of holidays booked, one long weekend in Portugal and a 3+ week extravaganza in November starting in Thailand with the intention at the moment to go on to Burma if things work out. Those might be worth sharing….

In the meantime, I’ve posted occasionally on my tech blog (http://tech.lazyllama.com ) should anyone fancy seeing that.

Java, Bali and Singapore – Pt.2

I’ve been incredibly slack and not posted this second part of the trip to Indonesia, even though it’s now over two years since we returned. As it’s been so long, I’ve forgotten most of the detail of what we did, so this is going to be brief and really just completion.

Borobudur
Buddah in alcove
Fantastic old Buddhist temple built on many levels surrounded by a plain.

We had our photo taken by a bunch of school kids who I think were from Malaysia. They found us very amusing though I suspect that was an “at us” rather than “with us” amusement.
Borobudur

Mount Bromo
Dawn at the Bromo caldera
This one was a bit of a mission. Had to get up in the dark to be driven along a winding road in a jeep, passing other vehicles which were slipping off the road due to landslides. Got to the top of a nearby mountain to see the sunrise over Bromo, a volcano situated in a huge lava plain. After the requisite photo opportunity we drove down to the plain and then walked up to the crater of the volcano.
The crater of Mount Bromo
Unlike many of the other slacker visitors we eschewed the pony ride to the foot of the volcano and walked all the way.
Horses at Bromo
Surabaya
Can’t remember that much about Surabaya apart from doing some shopping there, and not taking any photos.
Bali
We stayed at the Club Intercontinental in Jimbaran. We had to pay for an upgrade to get a decent room which was a bit of a rip-off to be honest.
Vic enjoys a drink at Club Intercontinental, Jimbaran

Java, Bali and Singapore – Pt.1

At the end of January we went to Indonesia on holiday. Here’s the first part of my write-up of the trip.

We flew to Singapore with Singapore Air, as good as ever, departing on Thursday, arriving on Friday morning.

On arrival at Singapore, we had to pass through immigration to change to the AirAsia flight to Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia. While we had a couple of hours in the airport, we found the LionAir desk and booked our flight out of Yogyakarta for the following Monday morning.

[flickr size=”small” float=”right”]4342211894[/flickr]The flight to Yogyakarta was relatively short and we arrived in the middle of the afternoon.

We were staying at The Phoenix Hotel, a lovely old colonial place which used to be a private residence before being converted into a hotel. Our room had a view over the hotel’s pool. Had a bit of a wander around and then set about tackling the jetlag with some sleep. The beds in Indonesia all seem to be enormous and very comfortable.

[flickr size=”small” float=”left”]4342197410[/flickr]Up on Saturday and a cab to the Kraton, the local Sultan’s Palace. Lots of hawkers and taxi/becak touts outside. Becaks are the cycle rickshaws where the driver sits behind the two passengers. We paid out entry fee and joined out English-speaking guide, an Indonesian lady who has worked at the site for 30 years.

[flickr size=”small” float=”right”]4341127547[/flickr]The building was very ornately decorated and is still in use by the current Sultan of Yogyakarta, who is also a government minister. There were lots of items owned by previous Sultans, from binoculars to ceremonial outfits worn at circumcisions!

After visiting the Kraton we visited one of the streets which the guidebook recommended for places to eat and drink, Jalan Prawirotaman. We went to the ViaVia restaurant, part of a world-wide chain focussed on making the most of local talents and ingredients. Nearby is the Civet Cafe, which serves the famous Kopi Luwak, made from coffee beans that have been half-digested and then excreted by the Civet cat (or Luwak), a type of weasel. We decided to pop back to try the coffee the next day.

[flickr size=”small” float=”left”]4341923378[/flickr]An early start, about 7am, on Sunday for our trip to Borobudur by hotel car. The early start was to avoid the heat of the day, it soon reaches 32C. Borobudur was one of the things which initially attracted us to going to Java. It’s an 8th century Buddhist temple, the largest in the world, apparently. It lay abandoned for over 400 years until Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles brought them to the world’s attention while Lieutenant-Governor of Java following a British invasion in 1811.

Photo Album: Java, Bali and Singapore

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

It’s been an age since I wrote on my blog.

2009 has been a heck of a year.

We’ve bought a house, with all the upheaval that entails and even after 6 months there still a ton of stuff that needs doing. We were badly let down repeatedly by our builder, who topped it all off by taking money for a radiator and two cupboard doors and then refusing to respond to any further contact.

The only holiday we’ve had this year has been a few days at The Big Chill Festival in August where someone stole some of our stuff from our tent, including car keys, contact lenses etc. We really enjoyed the festival, but the theft put a bit of a downer on it, especially as it happened on the first night.

Vic and a crisp
Vic at The Big Chill 2009

As some of you will know, since moving we’ve had some more fairly major ups and downs which I won’t go into here, but suffice to say it’s been a very trying time.

But we’ve made it through to Christmas, the house is in a reasonable state and we’ve got a holiday booked for late January 2010, so we have a lot to be thankful for too.

Vic and I have both been looking forward to Christmas, our first in our new home. We both need a break from work which has been pretty full-on for us both.

I don’t know what I would have done without Vic this year, she’s been supportive in times of stress and I can only hope that I’ve been of some use to her too.

I’ll aim to update the blog more often, and for those who do this whole social media thing, I’m also on Facebook and Twitter (as lazyllamauk).

So have an excellent Christmas and I hope that the New Year brings good things to everyone reading.

Progress

Things are moving along. “Slowly but surely” seems to be the phrase we’re using most of the time.

The bathroom is looking good, still a few bits to finish in there but it’s all usable.

We’ve got a wardrobe installed in the main bedroom, which was a pretty huge effort due to the walls, floors and ceilings all being less than straight.

Work is now progressing on the kitchen, again with matters being complicated by the walls not being “true”.

I’ve set up a Flickr set of photos of the various renovations and will try to keep that up to date as things move along.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157617610109993″]

We moved….

Following my previous post back in March, we’ve now moved to the new house.

To say it hasn’t gone smoothly would be a bit of an understatement. Even now, almost 2 weeks later we have no shower, no storage or wardrobes and no discernible kitchen.

We’ve encountered dodgy plumbers who have cost us hundreds of pounds for their work and then even more on top to have their work undone and thrown away.

Lots still to do, the wardrobes won’t fit properly because the walls aren’t straight, the kitchen needs fitting, the downstairs shower room is derelict and everything is in piles of bags and boxes.

I’m sure it’ll be great when we finally get there but at the moment, it’s a little trying to put it lightly.

We’re moving!

If all goes well, we should exchange contracts on a house in the next day or so.

We’ve been trying to buy somewhere on and off for the past 3 years, so it’s been a long time coming, but I think this one will finally go through.

The house needs some work before we can move in so we’ll be staying in our rented flat for a couple of months while that work is done. There’s plenty to do, with a new kitchen, 2 new bathrooms and lots of redecoration required.

Fingers crossed, this will be ours soon
Fingers crossed, this will be ours soon

If things go according to schedule, we should complete on the house before Easter, so we can start some of the work then.

We’re quite excited after having several disappointments when trying to buy properties previously, but I don’t think Vic or I will actually believe it until the deal is finally complete.

I forsee many trips to B&Q and IKEA in our future.

Update @12:34pm 31/3/09: We’ve exchanged!

Fatboy’s and Human Leagues

Been slacking again and not updating the blog. Bad me, no biscuit.

Went to see the Human League, Heaven 17 and ABC last week in a nostalgia-fest called The Steel City Tour at the Hammersmith Odeon (or Apollo or whatever they call it this week).

Heaven 17 and ABC were okay; you could hear the groan when Martin Fry announces that the next song is from the new album…

Human League were fantastic, great stage lighting with the entire stage made up of LEDs making it into one huge screen, and they sounded really good. I didn’t get any photos when the bands were on but here’s one of the stage.

Human League stage, Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo, Steel City Tour
Human League stage, Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo, Steel City Tour

They did most of their hits, including my favourite, “Love Action”. Vic and Cedric enjoyed it too, even though they weren’t particularly keen on the Human League beforehand.

On a completely different note, a few of the people at work have started visiting Trinity Buoy Wharf at lunchtime. There are a couple of places there to eat, one is the Driftwood Cafe, a white van doing paninis and a variety of wholesome foods and Fatboy’s Diner, an American-style diner.

Fatboy's Diner
Fatboy's Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf

The diner serves the usual fare of burgers, hot dogs etc, along with malts and shakes. It’s pretty good value for the location, and although the interior is a bit run down, it’s a pleasant change from our usual dining spots of The Steamship or Telehouse at East India.

Built in the late 50’s, the diner was originally the Georgetown Diner of Georgetown, Massachusetts. It is Worcester Lunch Car # 849, the next to last diner built by that company. It was stored in Ipswich, Mass, restored in New Hampshire and then shipped to London. It was previously situated in Spitalfields Market in London. The diner also appeared in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie “Sliding Doors”. www.fatboysdiner.co.uk

Last weekend, Vic and I went for a walk down to Greenwich. It was a chilly day but the walk was pleasant and we had a hot chocolate before turning around for the return journey at Greenwich.

Here’s a picture of me taken by Vic, all wrapped up in the cold:

Nigel by the river
Nigel at Island Gardens, Isle of Dogs

As ever, recent photos can be found at the Lazyllama Flickr Photostream.

Las Vegas and VMworld 2008

Last month we were lucky enough to go to Las Vegas. I went to attend the VMworld 2008 conference, the largest gathering of virtualization professionals in the world. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so Vic came along too.

Bally's, Paris and Planet Hollywood

We flew via Chicago, and had added a couple of extra days on at the start of the week so we could get some time to look around Vegas. We were staying at The Venetian hotel on the main strip in Vegas. Fantastic hotel, and our room was great with a lounge area and bedroom both with large TVs.

The Venetian is an experience in itself, having replicas of famous Venetian buildings outside, along with a canal complete with gondolas which continues inside alongside a shopping centre.

The Grand Canal at The Venetian

On the Saturday afternoon we went on a helicopter trip over the Hoover Dam and into the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been in a helicopter before so it was a new experience. There were 7 in the helicopter including the pilot and we had a commentary pointing out places of interest as we flew over the Hoover Dam and saw its new road bridge being constructed.

Landing in the Grand Canyon

We landed in the Canyon for half an hour for a glass of champagne and a small picnic before heading back to Vegas. We approached the city as the sun set, giving a great view of the Vegas Strip in the dark.

The conference started on the Monday and lasted until Friday afternoon. Each day saw an early start with the keynote speeches starting at 8am, and most days lasting until 5pm. I attended mostly technical sessions, along with a few about the future direction of VMware and their products. There were 14.000 attendees, the scale of the conference was quite astonishing. The lunchroom alone was the size of several aircraft hangers.

We also visited the Atomic Testing Museum, which was interesting and showed a different side to Nevada.

The Fountains at The Bellagio

We had a look at quite a few other hotels on the Strip and watched the famous fountains outside the Bellagio hotel. Vegas is a very strange place but we quite enjoyed the feeling of being in a city where almost everyone was a visitor. We had a look round some of the casinos, but didn’t gamble, we were too busy spending our money on food and shopping.

See more photos in my Las Vegas album on Flickr.

Lazy Llama (Nigel Hardy)