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spikegifted.net - Archive Q1 2007



March 2007:
Home: Ok, this was turning into a bit of joke... On the last day of our stay in Cornwall, I managed to pick up a cold. Yep, a small change in the weather and I was off. I drove back to London feeling rather unpleasant. By the time we reached home, I was feeling particularly rotten. Luckily it was the weekend and that gave me a chance to rest before I went and spread my germs at work. 
Home: I didn't mention the food... How could I not mention the food?! The food was just amazing! Being in Cornwall, we took every opportunity to have seafood. The quality of the food was simply stunning. From the most simple to the most elaborate
of meals, the freshness of the ingredients just made them so much more enjoyable. For the Ruler_of_spike's birthday, we went to Harris's Restaurant and we had one of the best meals for a long time. Every establishment we went to, be it a restaurant, a café or a pub, we never failed to walk away fully satisfied by the food being offered.
Home: For the first few days of our trip, we stayed in a friendly "B&B" in Penzance. In the latter part, we stayed in a farm! The weather was very agreeable - not hot by any standard, but pleasant for the time of the year. We visited many places along the Cornish coast - the Lizard Point, Coverack, Mullion Cove, Saint Michael Mount, Mousehole, St Ives, St Just, Zennor, Land's End, Cape Cornwall, Sennen Cove, etc. We even managed to jump on the first ferry of the year to visit
the Isles of Scilly. All very nice places, with lots of picturesque sceneries. We just love the sea, the waves, the rocks and all the sounds! These were exactly what we needed to unwind from the pressure of living and working in London.
Home: It has been a while since the Ruler_of_spike and I went on vacation and it has been a long slog, particularly in the work place, since last August. Since we now had a car, we decided to take a vacation in west Cornwall. It was a mighty long drive - over seven hours on the road. It was snowing when we left London and it was raining intermittently nearly all the way to the southwest of England. Luckily, the weather cleared up by the time we to the southwest. The traffic was very heavy along the M25 and the early stages of the M4. However, thankfully, the traffic lightened after a while, with fewer trucks, vans and HGVs. There were also a lot road works along the way, both on the major motorways as well as smaller roads. It was a kind of relieve to finally get to Penzance.
Home: Around this kind of time last year, we came to see the house for the very first time. One of the things that really sold the house to us, and particularly to the Ruler_of_spike, was the magnolia tree in the front garden. When we first came to see the house, the flowers were in full bloom! What a beautiful sight! It was interesting to find out from our neighbors that the previous owner was considering chopping down the tree to 'help sell the house'. What a dreadful mistake that would have been. The tree is excellent in providing shade in the summer, but it is just magnificent when it is in bloom - like now. It is a valuable addition to any property. 
Home: Back in the second quarter of 2006, I passed my driving test at the first attempt but we didn’t invest in a car straight away. Since moving out to the suburb, however, it has been increasingly difficult to exist without a car. Ok, we commute to work by train everyday and, during weekends, we have been busy working on the house until nearly Christmas time. However, lately, we really wanted to get out and about a little during the weekends but found that we were tied to the performance of the London public transport - not great! So it was time to invest in a car. I've been eyeing up one particular model for a while and luckily a friend of a colleague has one for sale! Ok, it is not a sports car or an SUV, but a good and honest station wagon. I'll be the first to admit that I'm well pass the boy-racer age and both the Ruler_of_spike and I want something that will be comfortable for trips around the country as well as driving abroad. So this car is just ideal for us. I'm told that it is a strong and reliable model and vintage is not a problem. It all happened so quickly and before I knew it, I was writing out a check and holding the keys of the car. My first journey back home in the car was just the pure excitement of actually owning a car. We went out to lunch in the car immediately after... 
Home: It has been raining so much lately that it was beginning to cause us a minor problem. I might have mentioned this before, but I'll go through this again... Our front door was not in a good shape. When we first bought our house, we noticed that there were some cracks in the door and it was not an easy door to close. Later, around Christmas time, we discovered from our neighbors that the previous owner actually installed the door three and half years ago. However, for over three years, it was not painted and was exposed to the elements. He only painted the door the weekend he put the house on the market and he didn't do a good job of it. Given the rainy and humid weather the UK enjoys, that wooden door had probably all the opportunity to absorb all the water it needed to expand and to deform. It was raining a lot earlier this month, and one morning the Ruler_of_spike discovered that she couldn't close the door! Can you imagine the panic that caused? Good job that we knew where to find a replacement and a new door has now been order. We couldn't wait for the day the new door to arrive!
Work: This has been brewing for a while and it has finally come to a time to make a call. Back on the last quarter of 2006, one of my clients was in a spot of bother with some difficulties. My boss and I went to visit them and the senior folks in our department decided that it wasn't as bad as it appeared and allowed the business to go on. However, there was a condition that we withdraw from a piece of the business at the first opportunity. Now the 'opportunity' was upon us and we discovered that we could not withdraw from this piece of business without seriously damaging our standing with the client. Just like many things in the world - it's a process of give and take. In effect, the client was in a good position and was holding a gun to our head: support us and you'll see more business; if not, the business will go elsewhere. Well, we're in a business of making money and there weren't really anything that happened in the past few months that would cause us any further concerns. So, we managed to get the senior folks to agree to lift the conditions and we could get on with making money, well at least those on the business side anyway. It was great to see the client perform and it was even better to see that we managed to convince the senior folks not to kill a piece of perfectly good business. Sadly, it looked like the responsibility of covering this client would soon be passed on to another team. I've really enjoyed working with those folks who cover this client in our bank and I've enjoyed dealing with the client. It would be a rather sad day when I have to hand it over to someone else in another team.  
February 2007:
Work: Since the middle of the month, there has been a lot of tension at work... While I know exactly why such tension arose, it is not easy to explain in here why - this place being a web site that potentially read by anyone who cares. Specifically, it is not a good show to say things in a public place that I might come to regret later. Therefore, without disclosing the nature of the subject, I will only disclose that there are some unhappy people at work and some of these people are re-evaluating their options. 'Work' is a strange thing - we all need to do it and we are all free to make our choices. However, not all choices presented are easy ones to make. In weighing up our choices we need to make full consideration of what those choices mean, now and into the future. Shortsightedness may appear to deliver the immediate results now, but it will bite back sooner or later. I can only hope that the right choices will be made by all those who are asked to make them... Good luck.
Home: I hate being unwell!! For one reason or another, I have been having a cough, on and off, for nearly two years! Yeah... That's a long time by anyone's definition. However, that was the point that really upset me - the cough was getting better. No, the part that really upset me was that I managed to pick up a cold over the last weekend and I was feeling so unwell that I had to take time off work. Even worst, while the over-the-counter drugs fixed my cold symptoms, it brought along a chest infection! No doubt, this had something to do with the weakened state of my lungs, thanked to the prolonged cough I have been experiencing. No, this can't go on! If there is anything that can fix this, it has to a change of life-style.
Rant: This was the front page of my favorite London newspaper. It's winter and we've been visited by snow again, and like before, our transport system failed the test. It was intriguing to witness how much disruption a little snow (after all, we only had around 10cm of the white stuff) could cause much of the public transport system of one of Europe's major capital city to come to a standstill. Given that London aspires to be the leading financial center in the world and it has been awarded the honor to host the 2012 Olympics, this kind of breakdown was just inexcusable. Even if the city did not have this kind of aspiration, it was still unacceptable. We, the long-suffering traveling public, have been short-changed here: we are all paying a princely sum for a underperforming service. After years of excuses, we should not be asked to put up with an inferior public transport system. Traveling on the Underground in central London is already one of the most expensive in the world. We cannot be expected to continue to put up with high prices and poor services. We demand performance.
Work: There is no better place to see the level of activities in an investment bank than the credit risk area. Yeah, I would say that since I'm a credit risk professional. Like it or not, we're the people that will have the most complete picture of the activities of this money machine that is called 'an investment bank'. I did say 'money machine' rather than 'money-making machine', as not every investment bank makes money! Nearly every piece of new business has to get pass credit risk before it is approved and every time some limits are breached (usually owed to increased activities or broadening of the relationships), we get to see it first. Our management has been telling us how good a 2006 we've had and that we're on the road to become a healthier bank. Well, I would assume they'd know that we also know that the whole investment banking sector had a good 2006 and the fact that our bank also had a good year was probably owed more to the direction of market than the brilliance of the management. But we won't go into that... However, the beginning of the new year has been a slow one. For the first three weeks of January, I had a lot of time to tidy up my portfolio and help others out with their reviews. It was rather worrying - there was no new business coming through! Ouch!! Worry not, though - by the end of last month, things were beginning to warm up. And now, I've this lovely sight of a growing pile 'new business' folders on my desk. Now, the new year has really begun!
January 2007:
Home: Well, we knew that the warm winter couldn’t continue without a proper bit of cold weather! We’ve had plenty of warning of the coming cold though, as the forecasters had been mentioning it for nearly two weeks, such as the power of modern weather prediction technologies. The past few days have been the coldest this winter yet, and we are happy that the boiler is working without any problems. It is often difficult with these things after moving to a new property and it is particularly strange for me as I’ve been living in purpose-built apartment blocks (with centrally managed heating and hot water) for over 10 of past 11 years. This morning I woke up and found it unusually bright outside. A quick look out of the window, and very much to my amusement, there was a blanket of snow outside. Our usual surrounding has been transformed to ‘winter wonderland’ - everything looked clean and crisp and the whole scenery appeared tranquil and ‘innocent’. Snow has this effect of getting the child out of everyone - although it was early in the morning and I would dearly love to have spent more time in bed, there was a spring in my step. It was great to see the kids from next door were having a mini snowball fight. The trouble started as soon as I left the house though. As more people walked or drove over the snow, it began to melt and the ground turned quite slippery. Of course, being in the UK, a change in the weather and transport disruption goes hand-in-hand. This morning, it was a full array of signal failures. Nothing would bring you back down to earth quicker than a dose of morning commute in London. My earlier spring in the step was replaced by a suitably foul mood. 
Home: So, we've a new iron... Well, there are a lot of technologies packed into that space. Aside from the 'non-drip' feature, which I like, there is something called 'auto shutdown'. As the name suggests, it means that if it senses that you're not using the iron, it shuts itself down. Great! We like energy efficiency and all that "green stuff". There is one problem though, it produces a high pitch noise whenever the unit is plugged in. It is barely audible, but it's there. I won't say it's annoying, but I notice it.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Home: What was the matter with me? I really should consider adding a new middle name - “Kaboom” would be an appropriate choice! I was starting to work through my stack of ironing on Sunday when, for no real good reason, the iron stopped working. The darn thing was just over 2 years old (just passed the warranty period, of course). As I like have a freshly ironed shirt every morning, I just had to go and get a new one the next day. Choosing an iron was a very confusing experience. I was standing in front of a collection of nearly two dozen models, each with a list of ‘technologies’ that promised to make my ironing experience pain-free. I just wanted a steam iron that worked! Eventually, after spending over 10 minutes trying to figure out which one offered the best ‘value’, I settled for an updated model of my old one. It promises to do everything my old did (when it was actually functioning rather than broken) and more! To be completely honest, one range of ‘technologies’ is much the same as another, but there was one feature I particularly liked, if it turned out to be true: ‘non-drip’. Steam irons have this tendency to develop a drip after awhile and this has been a real annoyance - you effectively ended up ironing the garment three times as you have to go over the drips. So we’ll just have to see how this works out.
Home: While we’re on the subject of the house and the weather, the wind and rain has certainly brought the conditions of doors and windows in the house to our attention. The heart of the matter is that the exterior doors and windows are rather tired. There are problems with every one of the doors that opens to the outside and all the windows are single glazed. All in all, with weather conditions like it is at the moment, we’re experiencing occasional water leakages through the doors and seeing water being forced through window edges. To add to the list of ‘winter problems’, we believe that the insulations in the lofts also require looking into. These problems are some that we need to address in the coming year. Amongst other things, these need to be addressed during the warmer months of the year.
Home: I've been reading that 2006 was the warmest year since records began. That was not only for the UK, but also for many parts of the world. I guess that global warming thing people have been talking about is just a myth... Weather-wise, it has been a strange winter. There was a little cold snap back in late November and early December 2006 and then there was the fog problem around Christmas time. Otherwise, the weather has been very mild. However, it has been very windy. I don’t know whether it is the fact that we’re now living out in the suburbs, in a less built-up area, or that it has been windier this winter than recent past, but it feels like the house is taking battering. Having been living in apartments of one sort or another pretty much all my life, living in a house is certainly a different experience. Additionally, this being a house of older construction, essentially brick walls and timber interior, the house is not as rigid as, say, a 1930s apartment block, and it responds to the changing external environment. So with such windy conditions outside, the house is making some creaking noises, which I can’t say I’m totally familiar with and am learning something new about the house almost all the time. This is a whole new experience for me.
Home: Wasted a whole day at home waiting for the stupid courier to pick up my old monitor and to deliver the replacement. I was glad when he eventually showed up just past mid-day. However, there was no chance that I could get into work and only claim a half-day of holiday. Anyway, it's a very nice monitor (a VP2130b, so a small upgrade from a 20" unit to a 21" unit), but to my disappointment, I discovered that it has a single dead pixel in the middle of the screen, about a fifth down the screen. You must be wondering why did I only replace one unit... Well, ViewSonic could only find one replacement at that time. So I've to wait for a second to become available. That was just so not happening. 
Home: We got a nice surprise at the first weekend of the new year - a visit by one of my cousins. He works for a telecommunications company and was in town, so we invited him to come and visit our new house. He was the first person from either of the Ruler_of_spike's or my family to visit the place. It was great to catch up with him and he's such a nice guy. Sometimes, just sometimes, I just wish that I've more members of
family around... rather than being thousands of miles away.
Home: I'm slightly disappointed by my LCD monitor maker. Back in May 2005, I invested in a pair of ViewSonic VP201s 20" LCD monitors to replace my old 20" CRTs. However, by September 2006, one of the pair was already dead. It was replaced by a refurbished VP2030b, another 20" unit. It was fine, but I soon discovered that it suffered from an overheating problem - it will switch itself off typically after 2 to 3 hours of being on. That's just rubbish! Also the remaining original VP201s suffered from an occasional 'running' of colors. That was just unsatisfactory, so it has to be replaced also. Was I having bad luck or what? I was just shocked that in less than 2 years since acquiring the monitors, both needed to be replaced, and even the replacement model had to be returned. Good job that the units were all still under warranty. 
Home: Our New Year celebration was a quiet affair - just the two of us. We were thinking of going to have a meal in town, but with the transport problems and the weather, we decided to celebrate at home instead. The Ruler_of_spike made yet another fantastic meal and we were quietly waiting for the coming of the New Year. I guessed we were both pretty tired, for we must have had fallen asleep on the sofa before midnight. Then all out of sudden, there was this wall of noise which woken us up. It would appear that everyone in our neighborhood was setting off fireworks! Can you imagine the amount of noise? Just where do they get those fireworks from?
Happy New Year!!!