Been A While

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted something other than a release notice for one of my WordPress plugins, so here goes…

It’s been a busy few months. For a large part of November (and the first week of December) last year, I was on site at two customer sites in Scotland. It was a mixture of Aberdeen and Inverness, when the snows hit… thankfully I got out of Aberdeen just in time although my drive to Inverness was pretty scary. Heavy snow, lots of slush and snow on the roads. I lost it on a traffic island at one stage, thankfully I recovered. Thankfully I didn’t have to drive the whole way in it. It cleaned up and turned to rain about half way there, but still, driving in the middle of nowhere in the dark, freezing conditions. Fun Fun Fun… and the worst of it is, I’d do it again tomorrow if I could :-)

In Aberdeen, didn’t get too many chances to visit restaurants and stuff, busy busy busy, but I did manage to hit Rustico in the center of Aberdeen and Four Mile House on the outskirts. Both really nice food. Rustico is an Italian place and Four Mile House is more traditional fayre. At Rustico, I tried squid for the first time… people laugh when I describe it as fishy chicken, but thats the only way I can think of to describe it. Had a lovely seafood pasta… king prawns, kalamari, mussels and some big chunks of some nice meaty white fish. Really nice. The only negative point about Rustico was the number of staff… one to take your coat, one to take you to a table, one to take your order, one to bring your drinks, one to bring your food, one to smother your food in parmesan and yet another to grind your salt and pepper for you… I like to see one member of staff so you have a chance to build a bit of a rapport with them.. and you feel more inclined to leave a tip.

Four Mile House was nice too, but it is more traditional fayre, but if thats your cup of tea, I’d highly recommend it, in fact I’d highly recommend both places.

Onto Inverness and well… we (I was with a colleague) were staying just up the hill from the castle. A 5 minute walk away was The Castle Tavern. Real ale and nice food. ’nuff said. I tried so many beers while I was there. Also pushed the culinary boat out a little… tried venison, pheasant and haggis. They are all quite nice, but I don’t think I’d have pheasant again in a rush… especially as it had extra lead shot :-) Also had tapas for the first time (in a little Spanish restaurant on the opposite side of the road to the Castle Tavern)… really good.

And now, well, I was back in Aberdeen last week but right now, I’m sat in the Wellington Park Hotel in central Belfast. There are a few things I like about coming to Belfast.

  1. The Barking Dog – I love this place. The food is excellent. It has a nice atmosphere (even if you’re there on your own, which I normally am) and it serves my favourite local brew, Belfast Black, brewed by The Whitewater Brewery down the coast in Kilkeel.
  2. The Wellie Park’s Hot Chocolate – Yummy. Hot, milky, choclatey and normally accompanied by delicious marshmallows.
  3. Villa Italia – Just down the road from the Wellie Park, past Queens University Students Union is Villa Italia. No suprise, it’s an Italian restaurant. The food is fantastic. Was there last night, had squid stuffed with rice and prawns served with a tomato, garlic and sweet chilli sauce, followed by half a roast duck served with roast apple and accompanying vegetables. Every meal I’ve had there has been amazing.
  4. Daltons Sandwich Shop – In Lisburn town center you’ll find Daltons, nestled in the pedestrianised area just down from what I believe is the Linen musem. This place does a mean chicken ceasar sandwich, in fact they do a whole range of amazing sandwiches. But the chicken ceasar… possibly the best sandwich I’ve eaten.
  5. The Castle Gallery in Lisburn – I bought my first painting from here, and then I bought another. A couple of amazing Lorna Miller cockerels. I shouldn’t go in here, but I made the mistake today. No Lorna Miller’s that I really liked (don’t get me wrong, the figures Andy had in the gallery were good, but they don’t float my boat like her cockerels), but I did see a couple of paintings by Dennis Orme Shaw I really liked… maybe I’ll go and buy them tomorrow ;-)

There are a whole bunch of things I like about Belfast, particularly a lot of the restaurants just past the Uni. Apparently there is a good chinese place on the opposite corner to The Barking Dog, so maybe I’ll give it a try the next time I’m here.

Paintings… I never thought I’d be one for art gallery’s… normally I’d just shuffle past as I went about my business, but that first painting. I have no clue why it grabbed me, but it did. I regretted not going in there and asking about it as soon as I got on the plane to fly home and then I just kept thinking about it. Hoping it would still be there the next time I was out here. Thankfully it was and that as they say was that… I bought it. I’d actually bought a painting! And then another. And now, well, I like looking at them and having a mooch round other arty places. Suddenly I can appreciate them. I just wish I had more cash. I saw a really nice one on display in Aberdeen airport. Way out of my price range unfortunately, but I would have loved to have it hanging on my wall so I could enjoy it at any time.

I’ll probably be back to my usual release notices only soon. I decided late in 2009 that I’d had enough of not having B.Sc. after my name, so I signed up to do a B.Sc. in Computational and Mathematical sciences with the Open University. To my family, I think they thought this was a bit odd… the computing they could understand, but maths! I passed my GCSE maths with flying colours, but A-Level maths… I just didn’t get calculus and from that point all further studies in physics, maths and electronics were doomed. But, I decided I’d give it a serious try with the OU and I picked a level 2 computing course (M255 – Object oriented programming with Java) and a level 1 maths course (MST121 – The title of the course escapes me). I hated the computing course, absolutely hated it. Being told not to handle errors and such like was just so alien to me, I did it anyway and lost points, but despite my lack of interest I still managed a fairly respectable grade 2 pass (only 7 points short of a distinction courtesy of a poor exam result), but the maths… can’t get enough of the stuff. So much so, that I’ve actually switched to doing a straight maths degree.

So, this year I’m taking two maths courses. MS221 which is a continuation of MST121 and the OU’s pure maths course M208. As a result, I suspect my time for fun stuff will be limited until October again, but hey ho. I thoroughly enjoyed the maths and if I knuckle down I’m fairly confident I’ll be OK. I actually get a lot of what we’re doing now. It just kind of clicked.

And on that note, I’d better knuckle down and get this software tweak I’m working on finished so I can deliver it to the customer tomorrow morning. I had hoped to get ACFW Version 1.0.0 finished whilst I was out her, but work has overrun somewhat and I’ve just not had the chance. Still, there is the weekend… oops… no scratch that… LittleBigPlanet 2 is released tomorrow… bye bye weekend :-D Maybe I’ll write a little review if I can squeeze it in between Sackboy and erm… more Sackyboy :-D

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