Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scoot-ays, Tiredness, and Cake...

14:26 Thursday: Eek, I'm tired.

Yep, another bumper week at college, where I've been able to have plenty of fun zooming around with computers and whatnot. More on this later.

In 20 minutes or so I have to zoom down to Pizza hut to have a little riding assessment, so that they can make sure I can be trusted to ride a scooter without mowing down hordes of people. Hopefully I'll be doing this little assessment thing on one of their two stroke scooters (that I'm used to) instead of their new spangly four-stroke ones (that I'm not).

Actually, I suppose I'd best get moving. I'm due down there at three!
More later!

21:53: Minor excuse making and teeny update...

Right, um, I'm back, and have been so for a while.
However, I'm absolutely incredibly tired, so I'm going to have an early night soon and I'll probably pick this up tomorrow :-).

16:59: Saturday...

Ahem. Well, a solid day's sleep, and a solid night's sleep later, and I don't actually feel any less tired.
So yeah, the ride.
I turned up at work to notice that the riding instructor was conspicuous by his absence. Half an hour later and I was in a severely bad mood. It seems that this place say they'll call me, don't call me, ask me to come down to meet someone, and then when I get there, there's no one there.

After a short time of being in a nasty mood though, in walks the riding instructor, having turned up on his rather lovely and shiny bike. A short chat and whatnot later, and off I go one one of the shiny new (<1000 miles) 2011 plate four-stroke scoots. Time to try something new I guess. Off for a couple of hours of riding.

And would you know, despite the scooter's miserable lack of power (artificially restricted to exactly 30mph, whether uphill or down), I had quite a nice time. The scooter's engine, while tiny, provided sufficient uh, [I don't want to say "grunt" or "power" because that implies that the engine has some amount of performance] uh, force to ride happily up hills in the bottom end of the rev range. The engine idled happily without threatening to cut out, like the two-stroke bikes do, and the automatic transmission had enough finesse to allow me to ride at much less than walking pace, without being jerked backwards or forwards. So yes, an absolutely puny 50cc engine, but quite a pleasant and relaxing ride, nevertheless.

Halfway through, we stopped at a local bike dealers, where I saw one bike I'd quite like to buy (£3,200), and one that, though weird-looking (or perhaps because it was weird looking), I'd really like to buy because it looks fun (£5,500). Of course, that sort of thing will have to wait a year or so.

A quick ride back, and I got all my paperwork signed. Out of 30 road-riding-competency criteria, I scored an A in 25, and a B in 5, so I guess I haven't forgotten too much in my time on two feet.


So what else has been going on? Well, not a lot. The financial tide of unstoppable brokeness is beginning to recede, and I'm no longer hugely overdrawn which is a big plus. My dad's on the mend from his rather worrying time in hospital, though we'll be keeping an eye on him for the duration just to be on the safe side. The dog continues to be cute and playful, and her behavior might actually be beginning to calm down. Time will tell as far as that's concerned I guess.

College is proceeding pretty much as expected, and I'm learning some fun stuff.

TECHY BIT (that's not really funny unless you're techy so I'll make it small so you don't have to read it if you're not interested)

At college, we're now using the systems there to create virtual servers and clients, so we can practice setting servers up and getting the two systems talking to each other. This week, as with last week, we've been focusing on DHCP servers, so we've been setting a DHCP server up (with a static IP), and using it to assign a dynamic IP address to the client.

Of course, when we set the virtual machines up, we have to configure them to "Host Only", so they don't attempt to interact with anything except other virtual machines.

Except, one guy didn't set his DHCP server to host only, he left it at the default setting, which allows the virtual machines to interact with physical machines across the network.

As a result, this guy's virtual DHCP server went onto the college network and started assigning dynamic IP addresses to any college PCs that asked for one, which produced a certain amount of mirth.
Oh well, I suppose you had to be there. Ahem...


That's about it really. I haven't been to Manchester for aaages, though apparently I am due to go with Nick soon, as there's some new (to us) big stuff operating there now.

And that's about it. Having spent a while playing F1 2010, I seem to have become into it enough to actually sit and watch it on the TV. An amusing side effect of playing is that as I watch the cars race round I can now go "ohh yeah, I know that track". The next one up is Monaco, which is a favourite of mine. Especially since I have a shiny souvenir from there, which my lovely brother and wife (his wife not mine) brought me back. I also have a rather loony looking Bull to go with it.

Other than that, I've been looking after the dog, looking after my ickle nephew, so he can play walking legs, castlevania, and watch his favourite show, and sitting around, hoping that we'll have a really hot summer.

So yeah :-). Here's a picture of my not-so-small puppy.
And another, to show you how lazy she can be :-).

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Money Money Money...


I don't have any. Money, that is.

Yep, those were the original lyrics until someone pointed out that they didn't rhyme. Either that, or it's my financial situation in a nutshell.

Argh, I suppose I should explain why I have been putting off writing this one for a while.

Over the past few months, my financial circumstances have gone from bad to worse. Predictably, it started when I left the Army. I lived on my savings for a while, and as these dwindled, I then went to claim unemployment benefit while I searched for a new job. During this time, the lovely people at the job center suggested that I go on a course or two to improve my employment prospects. So I did. New start and all that lot. Of course, when I told the guys at the job center that I was now on a course, their response (in summary) was "If you're on a course you can't be looking for a job (therefore you get no money, haha sucker, you fail etc)". And I've basically been bouncing about ever since looking for another job, trying to carry on with my courses, and trying to get on with life without having one of those "Arrgh sod it I'm pissed off!!!" moments.

A few "Arrgh sod it I'm pissed off!!!" moments, lots of hassle, and plenty of help later, and I'm on the very verge of being able to support myself again. Yep folks, I seem to have finally succeeded in getting my old pizza scoot-ay riding job back. Hopefully this will be the last time I apply for a job there, as when I finish my courses, I may be qualified to apply for other jobs in other industries.
But hey, now I can concentrate on my courses now.


Yeah, courses plural. I remember a while ago talking about going on Cisco's CCNA course in a sort of weird abstract way, expecting it to be something that I could look forward to in the medium-term future. Well, apparently not. For some reason, the lads on the City and Guilds Level 2 course (the ones that signed up for it anyway), myself included, have now been started on the City and Guilds Level 3 course.
Now the guys at the college seem to be cramming as much as possible into the course, so while it's officially a City and Guilds course, the courses I am now on (including the other one) actually include:
  • Cisco CCNA (minus final exam which has to be taken at an official examination center) - four seperate certificates for each semester and a fifth for passing the exam, which results in an official CCNA qualification.
  • Windows Server 2008 (minus final exam also, same as above), which then leads to either MCP or MCITP qualification.
  • City and Guilds Level 2 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence
  • City and Guilds Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence
  • Cisco I.T. Essentials
  • Customer Care Level 3 (a vague name for a course, hey?!)
So that's a rather boggling six seperate certificates I'm studying for at the minute! If I get every certificate on offer, and there's no pressing reason why I wouldn't, I'd be at least vaguely qualified to start looking for jobs in the IT sector. In addition, [Our tutor tells us that] the IT Essentials course includes about 80% of the course material that is required study for the CompTIA+ exam, which is potentially an extra (and valuable) qualification I can get.

So I seem to be moving rather rapidly in a new direction.
As for my technical skills, they're coming on pretty well too. I can disassemble a PC down to its screws, and reassemble it in less time than it takes to watch an episode of star trek (about 45 minutes without adverts) and it always works afterwards.

In addition, and rather awesomely, my college tutor now seems to have gotten into the habit of bringing broken computers into class and saying "Hey andy, have a look at this" (not because he can't fix it himself (because otherwise he wouldn't be a tutor!), but because he has other stuff to do, and apparently I "can be trusted to do it properly" (!)).

Ahem, I've gone all red now.

But I'm pleased to have found something that I seem naturally good at. I make the odd mistake like everyone I guess, but by and large I'm enthusiastic and cheerful, I like to think I do a thorough, neat and tidy job, and everything I do is written up and put in shiny plastic wallets, to go in my portfolio, which is beginning to fill out nicely, considering that we have another 8 weeks to go on the course.

My only quirk is that I attach value to everything. "An old 2.8ghz pentium 4 processor? someone will want that!" Eager to clear out their stock of "worthless" stuff, the dudes at college have given me everything from old hard drives to unwanted LCDs, which has resulted in my new nickname "Magpie". Apparently magpies are unable to resist collecting shiny things. It makes everyone giggle, me included, so hey. And at the end of the day, selling stuff that was going to go in the bin has three advantages.
  • Someone who needs a working part gets one.
  • I could always do with the extra money.
  • It's a huge shame to bin something that still works - this way it gets diverted to a new user instead of the landfill.
And all that aside, College still benefit from the freed-up space. So hey :-).

I'm now at college three days a week, which is pretty cool, and when I actually start work (monday, I believe) I'll be working two/three days a week also, so my time gets divided pretty evenly between the two. As I've said before too, there's a lot of hands on "doing" stuff, as well as theory, which I think is awesome. We spent most of thursday morning installing Server 2008 and configuring our machines to act as DHCP Servers, and learning about default gateways and subnetting, so it's fun and educational at the same time which is pretty cool.

I grip my wooden (well, wobblywood (it's like monkey metal, it's a new word I've invented for wood of unknown provenance)) desk when I say, "things might be beginning to look up for me".


One thing about being incredibly broke is that I've had to find other ways of enjoying myself without spending money. Now this hasn't turned out to be as hard as it sounds, and I've been spending some time in town before/after college walking round the winter gardens/local galleries etc looking at cool things/interesting and weird plants. Also, I've been spending plenty of time with the family, especially my ickle nephew who seems to enjoy going to the park to take his remote control boat for a spin. I think I'm going to have to get one at some point as they look pretty cool, and they're certainly not as easy to damage as RC helicopters.

My ickle nephew continues to love playing Walking Legs (UT3), and seems to enjoy watching me play Silent Hunter 4 as well, so it's all good fun.

So yeah. Things were substantially crappy at one point, and while I'm still terminally short of cash at the moment, things might start to begin looking up in the near future.

here's hoping eh?


I never did say why it had been such a long time since my last Blog entry. Well, with all this various unpleasant financial stuff happening to me, I've been stressing about how I'm going to pay for things, how I'm going to pay bills etc etc, and just been having a generally unpleasant and stressy time of it all. I didn't want to dwell on it, as that would have made me more stressed and stuff. Now the crappy bit is (hopefully) on the wane, I can write about it in detail without getting hugely worried and depressed and whatnot :-).

Here are some shiny pictures. One is my ickle nephew's boat, the other is our secret clay mine. For good measure I'll throw in a nice picture of two doves that seem to enjoy staring through my window every summer.

Have fun!