Prague, Day 1

Prague is, without a doubt, the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. Every single building in the Old Town is like something from a fairytale. It’s also the cheapest place I’ve been to in Europe – we changed ร‚ยฃ100 at the airport and didn’t come close to spending it during the three days we were there. ๐Ÿ˜›

Public transport in Prague is perfect: clean, reliable and cheap/free. You buy tickets from vending machines at the stations. A 12 Crown ticket (about 25 pence) gets you 60 minutes of travel by metro, bus or tram – you can get on or off as many times as you like. We took the bus from Ruzhny airport to Djevica metro station, got on a tube to Mustec station and then changed to another tube to Andel, the district where we were staying.

Our cheapo accommodation, the three star Hotel Berlin, was supposedly “right next to” Andel metro station on a street called Staropramenna. We therefore didn’t buy a street map initially. As we wandered around, we kept seeing shops, restaurants and bars saying Staropramen on them so we figured we were in the right place. It took us a while to realise that Staropramen is the name of a Czech brewery which all the bars were advertising! When we stumbled upon the hotel after about 15 minutes, it was indeed right next door to the Staropramen brewery.

After checking in, we decided to have a potter around Andel on the first evening. We walked up to the riverside but, deciding not to cross over to the old town on the first night, opted to stay local instead. We called in a few bars (I was secretly trying to spot a place which would be showing the United game on Tuesday evening) and had a few pints of the famous Czech pilsners. After about an hour’s drinking, our bill came to 68 Crowns – about ร‚ยฃ1.30! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Getting a bit hungry, we checked out a few eateries and settled for a trendy-looking Mexican restaurant near the Metro station. It was very good, although with hindsight I wouldn’t have chosen the spicy Beef Carpaccio starter – not one of my brightest moves. The meal was excellent and the bill, including drinks, came to 550 Crowns – ร‚ยฃ11. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

With a busy day planned for tomorrow, we headed back to the Hotel via a couple of bars and turned in early.

Off to Prague

We’re off to Prague tomorrow for a short city break. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Another cheap-n-cheerful one. This time the flights cost just ร‚ยฃ4.40 + tax each, leaving from Manchester at sensible times too. I thought the ร‚ยฃ7 tickets from Liverpool to Nice a couple of years ago were a bargain, but we’ve come up trumps here.

I’ve been looking forward to this for months, as we haven’t had a proper holiday this year. Unfortunately I seem to have caught the cold that’s been going around at work this week and it’s absolutely floored me. I’m bunged up and exhausted. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

This always happens to me after working hard for months on end – as soon as I stop work, I get ill. It was the same last year when we went to Rhodes. At least I won’t be paying Hilton prices for my “medicine” this time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pictures to follow.

Manchester Pubcrawl IV

I took a day off work yesterday to go for a few drinks in Manchester with ex-colleagues, Paul and Dunk, something we do every 2-3 months. Adrian joined us this time too.

We usually meet at one of the bars in the Printworks, but this time we met just around the corner in the Hare & Hounds – a proper old-fashioned drinkers pub. A couple of pints of Joey Holts’ in there and then we were off to the Marble Arch Inn.

Although it doesn’t look much from the outside, this is a fantastic pub with it’s own 100% organic microbrewery which is open for viewing. It’s not really the kind of pint you could drink all day, but the wonderful Ginger Marble Ale went down very well indeed with a Bockwurst lunch. ๐Ÿ˜€

The weather was nice so the plan was to do a tour of the bars around Castlefield. We failed to flag down a taxi so ended up walking, with a few stop-offs along the way. Cask Boddingtons was on offer at The Old Wellington, next door to Sinclair’s Oyster Bar. I’m not a big fan of Boddies, but the Cask stuff isn’t bad at all. It’ll be a shame when they close down the Strangeways brewery.

From there to St Anne’s Square and a quick pint in dingy Corbiere’s , which is supposed to have the best jukebox in Manchester. Then through some dodgy alleyways to Deansgate and more Cask Boddies at a soul-less pub that I can’t remember. Edit: Apparently it was the Pig & Porcupine, cheers Dunk.

We sat on the upstairs terrace at the Knott Fringe drinking Mexican Honeyed Ale but the good weather was turning against us. After shivering by the lock outside Duke’s 92 with a pint of something called “Insomnia” we started making our way back into town.

A quick pint of Hobgoblin and a couple of games of table football in the sickly-green tiled Perveril of the Peak, then off to one of the strangest bars I’ve ever been in, the Temple of Convenience. Unfortunately it was standing room only, so we gave those Belgian beers a miss and went on to the Waterhouse for a pint of Pedigree.

Traditionally, we finish off the day with a pint or two of Timothy Taylor’s at Mr Thomas’s Chop House before getting the train home. I’m not sure how it came about but there was some kind of disagreement between Paul & Dunk. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ Edit: Happily this is now sorted.๐Ÿ™‚

We finished our drinks and rushed to Victoria station to catch trains home. Dunk had to run for the Metro and I dashed off to catch the last Oldham train. I’m not sure what Adrian did, it was all a bit of a rush at the end. When I got over to the platform Paul was still waiting for the train, which hadn’t turned up. After about 10 minutes we asked a guard when the next train was and he sent us to a different platform, telling us we’d now have to go via Rochdale.

We boarded and were having a good old chat when I suddenly realised that we were passing Smithy Bridge station – we had completely missed our stop and were on our way to Leeds! We got off at the next station, Littleborough, just as the last train back towards Rochdale was about to depart. Shouting for the guard to hold the train, we ran underground to reach the other platform and jumped on. The guard told us we’d struggle to get back from Rochdale to Oldham at this time of night, so Paul phoned Caroline and asked her to pick us up. We started walking up Oldham Road and got as far as Kingsway before Caroline met us.

I’m feeling a bit fragile this morning though. :sick:

Work stuff

All of last week’s problems have been ironed out, except the VLE Java VM issue. The supplier is being very quiet about a resolution for that one.

The print server problem turned out to be security-related: some print jobs were being sent by the computer account rather than the user, but the permissions on the printers were set to allow users only. The jobs were repeatedly failing and being resubmitted hundreds of times per second, which was taking up huge amounts of CPU time and causing the instability. Changed the permissions and everything is running like clockwork again. ๐Ÿ˜€

Our colleagues over at the Business Management School, who share our network, had a major issue with e-mail and other important services not working. They couldn’t even ping our mail servers from their segment of the network and we suspected something serious. It turned out that they had not linked all our group policies to their workstations. The one they omitted, crucially, contained the settings for the Windows XP firewall. Easily solved, once we had tracked it down. ๐Ÿ˜†

Had a minor disagreement today with someone who claimed to need more PCs in their department. We’re a couple of staff short at present, so I’m not keen on providing any extra equipment – 1200 PCs is a lot for just 5 people to look after. Out came the log analysis script, colourful usage chart produced in Excel, discussion over. We reclaimed two machines. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

The vacant posts will be advertised in this Thursday’s Oldham Chronicle, so things should be a little easier once we’re fully staffed.

Manchester United 2 – 1 Liverpool

Excellent atmosphere, great performance. Carroll replaced Howard in goal, Rio did well on his return to action. Brown looked good at right back. Keane was outstanding but O’Shea as a fifth midfielder didn’t really work. Ronaldo tore them apart all night – thank god we got him instead of Kewell, who was shite.

United dominated the first half, missing numerous chances before Mickey got his odd-shaped bonce on a Giggs free kick. Gerard went off with a suspected broken foot, shame that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comedy defending, ending with a John O’Shea own goal, allowed the Dippers to draw level against the run of play. A second header from Mickey after the break sealed the win.

A very encouraging display after a few bad games. Only 7 points behind now. ๐Ÿ™„

Return of the Monkey Man

Ian Brown’s new single, Keep What Ya Got, with backing by Noel Gallagher is superb. Here’s a link to the video, which is a lot better than their live performance on Jonathan Ross last week.

There are some fantastic tracks on the new album: Longsight M13, Time Is My Everything and Kiss Ya Lips (No ID) are all worthy of being released individually.

Listening to the album reminded me just how good the Stone Roses were. This programme could be interesting:

The BBC are currently putting together a documentary about the Stone Roses’ record label disputes. It will be part of a new series which is following on from the ‘Blood on the Carpets’ series which looked at boardroom battles and disputes.

Transmission dates for the new series, Blood on the Turntables, have been set. The Stone Roses episode will be aired on BBC 3 on Monday 27th September at 9 pm.

It will be a unique insight into the record label disputes experienced by the Roses and it promises to be something quite different from anything done on the Roses before.

Work Stuff

Considering that yesterday was the start of the new Academic year and over 3000 users have already hit the network, things are remarkably quiet at work. Too quiet, perhaps.

Current issues are:

  • There’s a post-SP2 problem with OWLS, the College’s Virtual Learning Environment, but that’s down to the removal of the Microsoft Java VM. The VLE functions, of a fashion, with the Sun VM, but one or two key aspects don’t work as they should. We await technical support from the vendor.
  • I’ve just been told that our rollout of Dreamweaver 2004 MX isn’t 100% perfect. A certain feature is no longer available but there’s an update/fix from Macromedia to reinstate it. I don’t expect this one to cause any difficulties, once we know exactly what we’re looking for, but we might need to repackage the .msi. How nice it would be if the lecturers would spend a few days testing new software packages before the new term commences.
  • The print server is a little poorly and we’re having to reboot it every few days. We plan to install a replacement server and migrate the 130+ printers (mainly JetDirects) over during the next few days. The only potential difficulty is that the printer billing software is tied to a specific NETBIOS name, so we’ll have to retire the old server and rename the new one before re-installing that. We’ll have to time this replacement carefully to avoid losing any of the month’s billing information, but the work itself is relatively straightforward.

But all in all it’s been surprisingly quiet week so far. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dodgeball

Tonight we watched Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story, starring Ben Stiller. What a shocking waste of 92 minutes of my life. How IMDB rated this film 6.7 out of 10 is beyond me. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

Bolton Wanderers 2 – 2 Manchester United

Oh dear. A good start for new signing Heinze, scoring on his debut, but Keystone Cops defending in the second half cost us the points yet again. Without Rio telling him what to do, Silvestre is an utter liability in central defence. Wes Brown and Ruud, returning from injury, lacked sharpness. And why start with Phil Neville rather than Spector?

Heinze and Smith aside, United showed no passion today. A flash of brilliance from substitute Ronaldo, but too little too late. We were lucky to scrape a last minute draw. Again.

Rooney is not going to be the answer. Replacements for Keane and Giggs are needed before next season. Kleberson and Bellion, amongst others, are simply not good enough to wear the shirt.

The stats speak for themselves. In the past 24 league fixtures we’ve picked up just 35 points. Sort it out Fergie. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

Edit: It looks like the site hosting the video clips has run out of bandwidth for the month.