More biscuits, vicar?

I bought some HobNobs yesterday. While it’s tempting to leave this post there, it was for a very good reason: a vicar was on the way to our house for a pre-wedding meeting.

I figured we’d need lots of tea and loads of biscuits. This was on the basis that all previous meetings I’d held with vicars involved tea and biscuits. The latter seemed of primary importance at these meetings (alright, there’s only been one) and were displayed with Michelin star precision. I wanted us to impress. Like we knew what we were doing when it came to biscuits and, obviously, God, and stuff. I’d needed to visit the shop for other items, but the biscuits were top of the list. They were that important.

Our lady vicar duly turned up and, after the usual pleasantries and tripping over of the dog, we settled down in the living room.

‘Tea?’ I asked.

‘Yes please. No sugar, just milk,’ she replied.

The first catastrophic holy hospitality failure happened when I couldn’t find a clean teaspoon. The only one which could be described as marginally clean was already in the dish washer, resting against the fork I’d used to prepare the dogs dinner and encrusted with beef, liver and all the chewy bits they extract from cows which are only fit for dogs.

I retrieved the spoon, checked she wasn’t watching (and offered a quick glance above to ensure He wasn’t, either) and wiped off the bits of intestine with the tea towel.

Then, I discovered we’d run out of sensible mugs. The only ones we had left were Sponge Bob Square Pants, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and one ‘proudly’ displaying a cheesy photo of Lindsey and myself on the London Eye. None were suitable for a priest. Thankfully, I managed to find a couple of normal ones but had to plump for the Pink Floyd one myself. It was least offensive, after all.

We didn’t know what to expect from the meeting. My best man had informed me that we would be made to sit through a video depicting the perfect marriage and how we should treat each other in years to come. You know, how we should not get divorced, ensure we go to church and definitely have two children called Jack and Sophia.

I had already devised a plan for this. Our DVD player, I would say, is fucked. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but I would make it quite clear that it would not do the job for which it is intended and that we have absolutely no other means of displaying said video. I even considered bashing the DVD player up a bit with a hammer to give my bare-faced lie some credibility but conceded He might be taking note.

Thankfully, the DVD did not appear. A CD fell out of her bag at one point and while its double sidedness gave me a sudden glimmer of hope that it might, in fact, be The Wall and therefore give us some common ground on which to muse (and provide material for her little talk at the wedding ceremony – you know: ‘I’ve been getting to know Mark and Lindsey over the last few weeks and was delighted to discover that Mark and I share a common love of Pink Floyd’s post-Barrett work’), I realised it was more likely a hymn collection. Or possibly a Michael Bolton double album, which is essentially the same thing.

I’m not sure why I was so anxious about the arrival of a priest at our house. We’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not against religion. I wasn’t alone in my unease, either. At the eleventh hour, Lindsey had suggested we need something resembling a cross in our living room and asked if I could ‘fashion something out of some wood from the garden’. The only wood we have in the garden is decking and the resulting cross would therefore be an exact scale replica of the very one Jesus was nailed to. That would look a little odd wedged in our living room.

Our dog, Eddie, didn’t appear to be quite so apprehensive. The first thing he did on her entering the room was fart and then, as we were halfway through discussing the order of service, decided to sit on the vicar’s notebook, his bum resting neatly on our choice of hymns.

After a while, she left. I headed back to the kitchen and stopped dead. My heart sank. There, on the top of the fridge were the biscuits. Unopened. Un-shared. Wasted.

Don’t shoot the vegetarian

“What can you do for vegetarians?” asked my fiancée.

“Vegetarians?” The chef, who would cook eighty meals for  our wedding guests in three months time, mulled over the question.

He’ll say soup, I thought. That’s the easy answer. Or some kind of salad. Pine nut, maybe.

“I’d have them all shot,” he said, folding his arms.

No pine nuts, then.

He hadn’t thought to check if either of us were vegetarians (we’re not) but then, he probably didn’t care. I wouldn’t have argued with him, either. He was built like an aircraft carrier and, had I been a vegetarian and taken offence to his suggestion that we should all be dead, would probably have punched me in the face immediately and without hesitation.

It was a minor hiccup during our menu tasting but I’ve noticed that our dealings with the reception venue have been littered with similar hiccups. Silly things. Things you probably think I’m a bit of an arse for highlighting. But I couldn’t care less. As someone who spends his entire working life ensuring every piece of communication, whether it be written or spoken, is the best it can be, such disregard for the most basic of requirements really makes me very cross indeed. So cross, that I’ve decided to write about it.

I’m not perfect. In fact, quite often, I get it wrong. Take the time I called a prospective customer Brian. That would have been fine, only his name was Bernard and he was quick to point out that, because I got it wrong, I was not allowed to continue breathing any more. Thankfully, this exchange happened over email, but I felt pretty bad about it, regardless.

It surprises me, therefore, that other people don’t take similar pride in their jobs and the firms they work for. Our chef friend, for example, should perhaps have thought before opening his mouth. Similarly, the events manager neglected to shake either of our hands after our meeting. As far as I’m concerned, that means the meeting is still very much taking place, only I’m writing this three days later and there’s no sign of her. Perhaps she’s gone to harvest the coffee beans for the drinks we weren’t offered.

There was one thing which really got my goat, though. A couple of weeks ago, we received some documentation from the venue stating that I was marrying Gemma Allen. I’m not sure who Gemma is, and I think she’d be equally surprised to find out she’s getting married to me in three month’s time – as would my fiancée, Lindsey. I politely pointed out the mistake and asked them to ensure such an error wouldn’t happen on the day, because that would resemble more a scene from Friends than our dream day. They apologised profusely. It wouldn’t happen again, we were told.

This week, we sat down to our menu tasting and were handed a form on which to make notes about the food. At the top, Lindsey’s surname was spelt ‘Allan’.

It’s spelt Allen.

“Oh, silly me. That’s obviously me typing too quickly!” Exclaimed our wedding coordinator. I would have been dying inside. She didn’t appear to be.

A cloudy day in PC world

WWDC 2011 - time for Apple to add a few more things they forgot at the outset

I got drunk a couple of years ago and signed up to MobileMe. It was a sixty day free trial so I figured there was little to lose.

Two months later, I got drunk again and forgot to cancel the subscription. Steve Jobs duly buried his hand into my trouser pocket and took £59. I couldn’t complain or ask for it back because I’d agreed to let him do so sixty days prior. I’d simply forgotten to cancel the trial and had chosen the expiry date to go out for a few beers. iWhoops.

He did the same thing a year later, although that time I was sober and had just resigned myself to the fact that he’d come along and relieve me of my hard earned every twelve months. Disclaimer: as much as I love Apple products, that is not a euphemism.

Then, a further year on, he didn’t bother. Instead, he took to a stage so large it could house three symphony orchestras to proclaim, quite simply, that MobileMe was in fact, utterly, totally, irreversibly shite.

And that was it. No ‘sorry’, or ‘here, have your £118 back’. Just a rare admission from the man who continues to reinvent everything (only to later add the important bits that were missing at the start via a series of updates) that one of their reinventions was ‘not our finest hour’.

I agree. It wasn’t even their finest fifteen minutes. MobileMe was, in principle, a good idea, if not a new one. It was expensive, though, and I am forever asking myself what I’m getting for £59. I have email, calendars and contacts synced between my various devices. I also have a 20GB iDisk which I occasionally put 40KB PDF files on. I used to have all that elsewhere and for free.

Still, MobileMe had cool graphics and the James Bond-like Find My iPhone which even featured a radar for the icon (that’s cool, right? Radars are definitely cool). Obviously, it wouldn’t find your iPhone – it would simply highlight a 20 mile radius in which it might be located. That’s not very useful. I could probably do the same thing myself just by thinking about it. But Find My iPhone had a green radar thing that swung around and beeped. So that made it all fine.

Anyway, I digress. Now we have iCloud which is free and a more rounded solution. But, as cool as it looks, that’s not what I want to talk about.

There was one word which seemed to permeate through the entire keynote address. It wasn’t preceded by an ‘i’, nor was it followed by the interminably irritating ‘it’s just beauuuutiful’ – a phrase Apple has even used to describe an email client’s reading pane.

The word was ‘PC’. Steve Jobs will occasionally point and laugh at this silly little acronym. In the past, he’s received a muffled guffaw from his adoring crowd as he highlights just how rubbish PCs are. How they have missed the point of personal computing entirely and continue to make each of our lives a living hell through their wrong approach to multi-tasking, wrong approach to security, poor hardware and for sleeping with our partners behind our backs.

Obviously, this is nonsense. PCs do work. They might not have the same pretty animations that Mac OS X has mastered so beauuuutifully, but they do a job and will continue to for the vast majority of home and business users on the planet Only, now, we’re being told that we can cut ourselves free of the PC. Snip through the digital umbilical cord, if you like. Apple even had a little icon for this.

Principally, they are referring to iOS 5 which includes the ability to wirelessly sync with iTunes and setup iOS devices without connecting them to a computer.

Of course, by ‘PC’ and the newly coined phrase ‘Post PC’, they are also referring to Macs (we’re not stupid, Steve) and it was encouraging to hear them ‘demote’ all devices – iPads, iPhones, laptops, desktops – to just that: devices. Bits of metal which can be setup independently and display all of the stuff we store on the cloud. Viewing panes into our remote, digital world. Nothing more. I like that.

I predict that, eventually, this will make complex operating systems a thing of the past. As Jobs noted, file systems are cumbersome and difficult for novices to get their heads around, yet they are the one thing we rely on almost every day. Why not let applications and web servers do the work? This premise is put to fantastic use in iOS.

I also predict, as I have noted to people in the past, that OS X will continue to turn into iOS. It’s happening already with Lion; full screen apps and Launchpad (iOS-esque app organisation) were present at yesterday’s demo. Those that need more functionality (and by that, I mean principally developers and bedroom tweakers [no laughing at the back]) will continue to have the tools they need to do their jobs via SDKs. But us, the everyday user? Cutting the link between ourselves, our devices and our desktop machines is just the start. I think the people at Apple gave us quite a significant glance into the future yesterday.

Thanks for the inspiration, Blatter

Struggling for postaweek2011 inspiration, I considered finally turning to the WordPress Post A Week blog to get the creative juices flowing.

Unfortunately, I picked a day when they suggested I write about my least favourite school teacher. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty to go on – but I could only recall one teacher worth writing about and the only story worth recalling was when, having been asked to draw my interpretation of God, I put a monutmental amount of effort into reproducing a pixel-perfect version of the Street Fighter II character, Dhalsim.

If you didn’t spend an inordinate amount of your childhood button-bashing the SNES classic, this is what Dhalsim looks like:

Dhalsim

Suffice to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed. Nor is that a very interesting story (although it has given me an excuse to post a picture of Dhalsim on this blog, which probably won’t happen again).

Thankfully, inspiration came this afternoon from my friend and top football journo, Jefferson Lake (@jeffersonlake). What’s more, the blog it has inspired requires very little effort from me, as just a few words and a picture upload will suffice.

So, here we go.

Go on, pick one.

If a more pointless amount of time by a more pointless collection of people in a more pointless room has ever been spent, I’d like to hear about it.