Sunday 25 February 2007

Minority Report style screens aren't as far away as you might think.

I was replying to a friend's email today and remembered an extraordinary video clip that I saw just over a month ago.

I sent it over to him but I thought I'd share it with the rest of the world too.

It's been quite a while since I've seen some gadgetry that makes my jaw drop, but this is something that definitely falls into that category.

The Google Earth stuff is kinda cool but when he starts playing with the photos and flinging them around the desktop is when it really starts to become a replacement for the real world.

If you can't picture what I'm talking about, check the video out and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday 24 February 2007

All work and no play...

There's not been much activity on the blogging front since I got back from skiing as I've been working my arse off in the sweat shop that the office has now become.

If you've not heard already, my employer had decided to engage a large, well-known consultancy company to manage and construct the new versions of our websites.

That company outsources its development to India.

Without getting into the details, the code sucks and we've had nothing but trouble since.

They use the Agile programming methodology which effectively means we've been thrown right into the middle of the development cycle - much to the detriment of the day-to-day support of the rest of the business.

Many late nights and little sleep have resulted in us having to mitigate the amount of load going through to the backend by caching the the site more than should have been necessary.

This has resulted in reasonable response times but it means the dynamics of the new site has suffered.

Oh well, maybe the business will engage IT when it comes to spec'ing these things in the future... ha!

Saturday 3 February 2007

Borovets ski break

A joint sojourn to Bulgaria with the Allens proved a big success as we got our first taste of downhill skiing.

Our original flight was cancelled and we got bumped to a later flight and we arrived at Borovets ski resort in the small hours of Sunday morning.

Hotel Olymp wasn't our first choice but as we booked late that's all that was available at the time.

Our first shock was the state of the room. I'm sure the last time these rooms received any TLC was back in the 80's - simply proved by the fact that not a single door in the place was hung straight.

The next morning, in the light of day, things weren't as bad as they first seemed and we promptly headed down to Hotel Rila to meet with the Balkan Holiday reps to pick up our ski passes, etc.

As we arrived late the previous night and we had to meet the reps early, we weren't in the mood for skiing straight away and needed a day to unwind. This wasn't met with great approval and we were reprimanded several times over the next two days. So much for it being OUR holiday!

Borovets turned out to be quite a nice little town with some colourful characters about the place trying to tempt us into their cosy restaurants. We resisted for a while but once lunch time approached it was all too much and we succumbed to the pressures of a large bloke called Danny.

Danny was to become our friend over the next few days and we sampled his traditional Bulgarian meals on more than a few occasions.

Day 2 was our first day of real skiing and we were introduced to our ski instructor, George.

George was a really nice guy and we quickly formed a good rapport with him.

After a lesson in the absolute basics we went for lunch. Over lunch George introduced us to the Ambrosia that is hot chocolate with brandy. This was to become my staple for the next week.

The afternoon saw us learning the rest of the basics and after a couple of tumbles it was time to call it quits.

The next morning was bright and sunny and the weather continued to melt much of the dwindling snow cover.

As the beginner slopes were getting too crowded to do any decent skiing, George took us up one of the smaller chair lifts to a blue run. When we got to the top and saw the gradient of the slope and the condition of the ice snow, our nerves wavered just a little. A few reassuring words from George was enough and we headed down.

Surprisingly, this was exactly what was needed and our skills quickly improved with each turn on the slope. After a couple of brandy hot chocolates for lunch, our courage was strengthened and we tackled the slopes with vigour before heading wearily back to the hotel.

Each of the next couple of days were greeted with bad news. No snow and the main gondola was shut due to high winds. It turns out that a ski resort isn't so much fun without the snow.

By Thursday evening we were going stir-crazy but luckily for us our prayers were answered and the heavens opened up and unleashed a dump of unparalleled proportions.

On Friday morning we were up and dressed and ready to jump on the gondola at 9am. We spent the rest of the day skiing back down to the gondola station from the top - an effort that took us about 5 hours. We encountered blue, red and even some black runs on the way down. Certainly a crash course, if ever I had one.

By the time we reached the bottom we were all sore and ready to go to bed, but at least on our final day we finally got some real skiing in.

On Saturday we found ourselves back at Sofia airport and boarding our flight home.

All-in-all a great week off from the stresses of work and a great introduction to skiing. Now we only need to save up for our next skiing trip!

You can find photos from the trip in the gallery.