Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Passat 110 - gone

With the near certainty of another car coming in the next week I decided to advertise my car in Autotrader. Within two hours I had the first call, and today, the second day, I have had loads of calls, and one visitor.

The one visitor had a good look round, bid me bad money, we talked, he bid me better money, and I agreed.

So the car that faithfully carried me home from work tonight left for Derry again, almost of its own accord. There are some cars that it's really good to see go, but this one has done us well, and was going well, it was almost a shame to let it go. I wish the best to the new owner.

Monday, July 23, 2007

g400 service menu

I really like my little camera, and while googling about it I came across this method to get into the service menu. The most exciting thing is really the info screen that appears part way through the process, currently showing 3032 pictures taken, and the first and last date/time etc...

From here:

Press and hold menu button (standard menu will appear in the display)

Press and hold shutter button
(at this point, both the menu button and shutter button are still held down)
Then (while continuing to hold the menu button and shutter button down throughout the sequence below):

- 2xTELE (press right zoom button twice)
- 1xWIDE (press left zoom button once)(a blue information screen appears here)
- 1xTRASH (press trashcan icon button once)
- 1xPLAY (press upper left button on back of camera)
- 2xTELE (press right zoom button twice)
- 1xWIDE (press left zoom button once)

The developer menu will appear (you can release the shutter button and menu button now).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Let the bizarreness continue

Even on our final holiday day it continues to get weirder.

With our mad travel experiences we ensured we were at the airport very early. We managed to skip the queues because we were travelling with "bambinos", and make it more quickly through security, where we then had to wait for longer. All ok so far.
Then the bus came, albeit a little late, to take us onto the tarmac where the plane waited. Loads of people piled on, we were taken to the plane, where we waited in the bus. And we waited. After an age the pilot came down to explain that they had received incorrect data and loaded the plane with 2 tonnes of extra fuel.

This would normally be ok, but being *Rome* Campino airport they have no facility for taking fuel off a plane. So they had to go for a fly to burn off some fuel. Oh, I forgot to tell you why we couldn't just fly. It seems that due to "runway problems", local mountains, high temperatures, a full flight and nearby mountains the plane wouldn't have enough speed to take off by the end of the short runway.

So they went for the flight, and came back for us about 2 hours later.

The take-off was interesting. Normally the plane follows the painted lines onto the runway, but we went right to the grass at the top, and didn't stop - we took a rolling start. As soon as we straightened up it was full power, and we went almost the full length of the runway before taking off. In the end we were up and away.
Oh, and another thing. Now we hadn't enough fuel to get to Belfast. So it was a detour to Nice. I have to say the flight was spectacular. We flew directly over the centre of Rome, and then over Corsica, followed by a great descent into Nice. I would say it was worth the detour just to see the views over the mountains, and the landing in Nice.

While we refueled in Nice I took the kids to talk to the pilot, which I think they really enjoyed.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, flight back to Belfast, landed, luggage, and home. Home for about 7 minutes, and then off to Benone where SWMBO had to play piano. Then home. It's always nice to get home.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back to Rome - Colosseum

We drove back to Rome, eventually found our way through the maze of roads to our "Pinewood hotel" which actually turned out to be a real hotel. It also turned out to be relatively close to the metro, and so with only a small amount of time I pressured my still sick wife into going to visit the Colosseum.
Upon emerging from the Colosso Metro station the first image that greets the eye is the vast Colosseum.
We walked around the exterior in the blistering mid-day heat, before deciding to go for it and join the semi-eternal queue.
After waiting in the queue for about 5 minutes we decided to take up the offer of skipping the queue by signing up for a 3.50 Euro tour. It was well worth it, and the tour was pretty interesting, although it was advertised as "English" I'm not entirely convinced that it was all English.

An amazing place, well worth a visit, although I did find it slightly disturbing to think of all the people killed for sport in that location.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Today I stopped down the lane from the villa to get a snap of the view over Orvietto.

We also took a drive tonight around some of the cool windy roads, and after some encouragement to just drive on we ended up in someones back yard. It was picture perfect, the traditional old Italian lady dressed in blue and sitting in a chair, and an amusing old man smiling at us - presumably this happens tourists from time to time. The old man ushered us to turn in his yard, smiling in amusement all the time. Great.

We got turned, exited, and while we were on a roll we turned in another lane following it for hundreds of metres to find that it brought us back out onto a real road. It was pretty cool, it took us past the vineyard we had intended to visit if SWMBO wasn't suffering from tonsillitis.

Since our roll was continuing, we decided to go on past our villa on our lane. We travelled the 1.1km to our villa and continued on past while the lane narrowed, and wound past several more homes. Finally with the grass growing in the middle we ended up in someone else's yard. We quickly turned before some guy came out with a shotgun, and made our way back down the lane. A pretty cool lane. Must have been about 2 miles long.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The second town we visited was Pitigliano. This is another mountain-top town, and fortunately we took a wrong turn on the way there, which afforded us some spectacular views. Once there we went for a random walk around, and then tried to find some food. After looking through all the sandwich shops, we stumbled upon a small pizza place, set downstairs off the street, and completely inset into the rock.

The outdoor area was completely roofed by a series of intertwined vines, complete with hanging grapes. We were thoroughly astonished with the setting as we waited for the meal, if you are ever anywhere near I would highly recommend a visit.
It turned out that the food was as good as the setting - everyone had a great meal.

On the way back home we spotted some more of the huge sunflower fields that seem to be common in Italy, so I snapped one.


Today although SWMBO continues to be unwell we decided to attempt a drive around a couple of local towns. The first was Bolsena, a gorgeous lakeside town with a nice harbour, and a not-so-nice beach.

Driving into the town there are excellently kept streets, and seemingly perfectly symmetrical patterned flower and tree arrangements. Truly worth a visit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

The caves

Reading the Italy rough guide book informed me that there is a large network of caves below Orvietto, so we enquired about visiting that today. We were just in time for a guided tour, and quickly joined up.

The tour was ok, not as spectacular as I had hoped, but interesting nevertheless. I suppose my expectations to see lots of the cave network could not ever have been realised, and the few we saw on the tour were interesting.

Apparently lots of the houses and shops have caves or networks of caves below them - how cool. I think if I was building again I would definitely specify at least one cave!


This morning we made a trip in the local picturesque town of Orvietto. There is a spectacular view of the hilltop town from about half way down the lane is super, and as you approach on the small roads, it just gets better.

Parking at the bottom of the town, we walked up through the narrow cobbled streets, with beautiful sandy coloured buildings towering above. The entire town has been kept original, no non-traditional development seems to have been allowed at all.

Walking through the streets towards the Piazza Duomo with the Duomo itself towering above the rooftops as it gets revealed, certainly overpowering. The facade is intricate and highly decorative, with a weird black and white brickwork around the rest of the building.

The heat as usual was mad. Absolutely roasting. Great.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday - a day of rest

After a hectic couple of days we decided that it would be a good idea to have a good quiet day here at the villa.

Well, I couldn't manage to spend a whole day in one place, so I headed out for a drive around the countryside, where there were some spectacular views. What a cool country.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How difficult can it be?

Today we continued in our theme of having trouble doing basic tasks. We successfully checked out of the hotel, and got the Metro back to Termini station.
From there it took us about two hours to find the car hire place, and stand in the semi-eternal queue to hire the car. But never fear, in the end we were driving through Rome, trying to find a motorway. Eventually we were heading North, towards Orvietto.

In the mid afternoon heat we arrived at the train station where we had arranged to meet the owner of the villa. From there we followed the car along a crazy series of roads finishing off in a lane over 1/2 mile long, and very steep up to a cool rustic villa on a hill.

Pleasantly set above a lake, with a lovely blue swimming pool it looked like a great villa. Now, lets find the air-con controls.....

St Peters Basilica

Today we decided to have an early start and visit the inside of the Basilica. It was truly spectacular, I think that perhaps First Dunboe has a lot to live up to. Perhaps a few statues would be in order?
We also did the spectacular climb to the top, to see the fantastic panoramic view, apparently unequalled, of Rome.
When we were walking back to the hotel it seemed like there were thousands of people in the street. It became clear that they were not just loitering, but were in fact in a queue for the Vatican Museum.

Friday, July 13, 2007

St Peters Square

After checking into our "hotel" we decided to go for a walk to see what is around locally. A short walk around the Vatican wall brought us spectacularly into St. Peters Square. I had been warned about this one - I was told I would not believe the sheer magnitude of it. Can you understand my disappointment when upon seeing it I clearly did believe it? Anyhow, it was still quite spectacular, and well worth seeing. We spent some time wandering around it, and viewing the various monuments and buildings.

Afterwards we went for a Coke to cool down in the blistering heat. The rest of the family then went for a rest, and I went for another walk. After the kids went to bed I went out again, to see St Peters in the dark, and at 9:30 in the evening the bus loads of tourists were still arriving. A pretty cool day.

In Rome you can park anywhere : it seems that if you run out of road to park along, a zebra crossing can be used too!

Friday - Belfast to Rome

Today has been a long day. We started at 3:45am getting up for a 6:30 flight from Belfast to Rome. There were some spectacular views of the Alps from the plane.

After landing in Rome we were quickly embroiled in the chaos which would characterise our holiday. Finding the bus from the airport to the train station was relatively simple, and the journey was great. We were clearly going through non-tourist parts of Rome with lots of graffiti, and run down housing.
Arriving at the "Termini" station, our confusion continued. We knew we needed to find the Metro to near the hotel. We knew what line, and what station we wanted to get to. What we didn't know was how to buy a ticket. So after attempting to find out, I eventually tried one of the automated ticket machines in the lobby. I selected my route, and pressed go. The machine promptly gave me a message to the effect that I had to join one of the mad queues to talk to a real person ticket agent, and so we did. We queued for about 30-40 minutes before the nice man told us that tickets were available at the Metro, at newsagents and tobacconists - basically anywhere.

After we got the tickets and found the platform we boarded and were very impressed. Air-conditioned carriages, in great condition, swish and fast. We were pleased to see we were going in the right direction too!

We managed to find our hotel by asking for directions, and in the end we got to the street and spotted the small brass nameplate on the wall for our "hotel". The hotel turned out to be only four rooms, on the 4th floor of an apartment building. But it did the job nicely for us. It was also suitably close to the Vatican.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cabin Fever [2002]

What an awful film. Truly awful. Most horror-genre films have some redeeming aspect, but this was just poor. imdb link

The only slightly positive element to this film was the filming locations. Having just been tripping around the US, I am truly unimpressed with the lack of character in Florida. I enjoyed NY, but I really quite like the idea of getting out of the modern US into the kind of place captured in this film (preferably without the flesh eating disease). With great country locations around North Carolina, I think that will be on my list to visit*.

* Avid readers may have noted that I spent some time in NC last visit, but 6 hours in an airport, and 5 hours in a hotel do not count as a visit.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

cron in cygwin

For all of the cool unix stuff that cygwin provides I have often wondered, but never tried cron. Today I did a google, and it turns out to be relatively trivial (from this link):

1. Need to set the mode of cygwin1.dll

$ chmod +x /bin/cygwin1.dll

2. Need to create another directory (I didnt need this step)

$ mkdir /etc/cron.d

Also make it accessible, by changing the permission.

3. Then, follow the standard guideline to start cron service, as

$ cygrunsrv --stop cron

$ cygrunsrv --remove cron

$ cygrunsrv --install cron -p /usr/sbin/cron -a -D

$ cygrunsrv --start cron

And all is well.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Central Park

The upside of all these travel delays including last nights is that I get to spend some time in New York.

Today we went back to the Manhattan area, and used the subway to go to Central Park. We only had a short time, so we walked around part of it, near the South end of the reservoir, and the great lawn.

Later I took a bus tour, which I was assured would take up my remaining two hours. The tour went around downtown Manhattan with a running commentary of all the various buildings of interes.

It was certainly interesting, until we got about 3/4 of the way around, and I discovered that I had about 30 minutes to get back to the train station. I was at a stop on 48th street, and the bus was about to go north. I had to make it back to the station on 32nd street, so I decided to get off the tour bus and walk/run to the station. I made it there in about 15 minutes! Actually a little too early as the platform hadn't been announced. So I got some water to quench my thirst, and waited for the train. After a few minutes I was on the train, managed to get a seat today, and soon I was back at the hotel.

The hotel bus took me directly to Terminal 3, where I used the automated checkin as I had no suitcase to check in. Now its just a waiting game to see if :
a) my plane goes on time
b) my plane goes at all!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Home, at last

Last night and today went substantially better than than my last two attempts to get home. We still left late, but I had a seat on the plane, but apparently the Jetstream is overactive at the minute, and we made the time up. We arrived on time in Belfast, although it seemed to take an age to get the luggage. Home safe and sound, and well relieved!