Monday, 21 November 2011

Have your cake and...... travel with it.....

While I am being a total under-achiever on the jewellery front I may as well entertain you with another story from my travels as an I.T. Manager.....

It all began during a site visit to evaluate and write a report for our Global IT team to be able to install networks and servers into our India office in Kolkata.

I have a policy when I am visiting a foreign country.... I only eat local food where ever possible i.e. if I am in the hotel I order only local food from the menu and when I am out I only eat in local restaurants, it adds coulour to my trip.
Having said that if I ate the wrong thing or an off thing it could add a bit more colour than I would have bargained for.

So to get back to the story......the week and a half I was there went by in a storm of various local dishes with a myriad of flavours smells and heats (curry breakfast , lunch and supper)
As a digression however, the hotel I was staying in seemed to be fixated with apples, on every floor outside the lifts were large bowls of apples (yes I stopped at lots of floors just to check on the apple situation), now these apples proved to be an excellent source of food for me when I was rambling round Kolkata on my time off, and also when being harrassed by the teeming hordes of beggars an apple or two staved off the grabbing hands temporarily.
Apples in the hotel

Anyway moving on ..... generated by my delight in the food at the hotel the chef now took to coming to my table each day to "assist" me with the choices of meal for the day and the dining room staff took delight in "assisting" me with the selected pudding of their choice for me to enjoy at the end of the meal.

So comes the end of my visit and at the last dinner I am duly presented with "pudding" - this time in the form of a small mousse cake, I was informed that I didn't need to try and finish it as I would be taking it with me (yeah right....) so to a circle of beaming faces I sampled a slice of the most awesome mousse cake I have ever eaten.

The first mousse cake

End of meal and "Pack up the cake" said I, "Oh No" said they.... "This isn't the cake you are taking, we have a whole cake packed and ready to go" all compliments of the hotel.

How the best cakes travel

So back to the room goes the cake and I; to pack and get some sleep prior to my leaving at 3AM in the morning
I am a tad worried: how the hell am I going to get the cake through multiple airport securities and finally customs in South Africa - its food stuff after all and customs dont like food stuff being brought in.
3am comes far to early, a quick shower and get ready to head out the door, and there stands ...... THE CAKE, now the first thought into my head is .... "abandon it in the room and pretend I have forgotten it".... second thought "No they will no I just abandoned it"..... so off we go, picture this... me/luggage/cake, out to the taxi and away.....

I have a brilliant idea "I will abandon it in the airport".... no go - too many airport security and military types wandering around and all I need is to get thrown into an Indian jail for trying to blow up the airport with ...... a cake, and anyway before I know it I am going through the xray systems with the cake.
The security staff give me plastic trays for cameras, laptop etc and a seperate one for the cake and et voila out it pops on the other side of the xray machine without a blink from the staff - in fact I had more hassles going through the body scanner as my belt set off the metal detector and I had to take it off and go through the detector a couple of time until they were happy WHILE THE DAMN CAKE SAT AND WATCHED ME FROM THE FAR SIDE.....

Any how moving along, I look for some more spots to dump the cake .... police/military/etc wandering around, and eventually we start boarding; I am stopped at the door of the plane and politely asked what I have in the box...
"Its a cake..." said I as if it was the most natural thing one would possibly carry onto an international flight, how could they be so stupid everyone carries cakes around while travelling. But I omit, it was given its own luggage tag when being checked.

"Give it to me and I'll put it in the fridge for you" says the air hostess  as if it was the most natural thing one would possibly carry onto an international flight, how silly of me to possibly think otherwise.

So we fly from Kolkata (India) to Dubai, and I am plotting the whole way as to how to get rid of the cake....... "Ahhhh abandon it in the fridge and pretend I have forgotten it"...... no damn ways, the air hostesses are efficient to a turn, as I am getting up to disembark; from behind me in the midst of the passengers there is the airhostess...
"Sir..." " Sir..... your cake" she says on the top of her voice.
DAMN DAMN DAMN blasted cake, it probably yelled out that It was being left behind.
Lets not even mention the strange looks the passengers gave me and the cake...... 
WHAT; dont they know that all the most seasoned of travelers fly with cakes now days?

So into Dubai airport and yes you guessed it.... I look for some more spots to dump the cake .... police/military/etc wandering around, through the xray machine goes the cake, backwards and forwards through the metal detector goes I while the cake sits and watches, i'm sure the cake got a bit irritated with me holding things up all the time, I mean for heavens sake I have a belt buckle, metal eyelits on my shoes metal frames on my glasses, I'm bound to set off the metal detector ... whats a cake got flour/water/sugar .... in a word foodstuff - no metal - FOODSTUFF ..... yes foodstuff to get through customs, got to dump this cake some where.

And the story starts again.... we start boarding, and I am stopped at the door of the plane and politely asked what I have in the box...
"Why its a cake" says I; dont these people know by now about international travellers and their cakes..... phffffff...... ignorant people.

"Give it to me and I'll put it in the fridge for you" says the air hostess, Ahh of course she knows about international travellers and their cakes....., she marks my seat number on the luggage tag and off goes the cake to the fridge.
Thought pattern... again.... - "When we land get up quicker this time head for the door and abandon the cake"...... and so off to sleep.
10 or so hours later after a good sleep (yes I sleep like a log on planes - some of us are blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere - and yes I was traveling cattle economy class) We land in Johannesburg (by now the cake and I are We...) , keep my head down while we taxi in, doors open and I am up like a shot.... maybe that drew my attention to them.... NAH they are just too efficient ....
"Sir..." " Sir..... your cake" the Air hostess says on the top of her voice.....
DAMN DAMN DAMN blasted cake, it probably yelled out AGAIN that It was being left behind.
"Why thank you, I nearly forgot it, how sad that would have been" says I politely...
Off the plane we get, on to passport control, and finally collect my luggage.

Now the distance from Kolkata (India) via Dubai to Johannesburg and excluding the taxi ride and walking around the various terminals is approximately 9,728km, a fair distance for a small mousse cake to travel although for the most part relaxing in a fridge, so I decide there and then.... this cake is going to make the final hurdle... it wont be abandoned right at the finishing line.... and so to the strains of music from Chariots of Fire" (scene goes into slow motion) cake in one hand luggage in tow in the other hand a determined look in my eye I head for the green corridor..... past the large poster waffling about illegal products.... past the customs officers....... and out into the waiting throngs..... 


.... who says you can't have your cake and eat it.......
Pea Pod

Quite a while ago I tried my hand at forging silver, and so entered " Pea-Pod"

It is made from a flat piece of silver plate approx 0.8mm thick and about 50mm long, to make it I used a template similar to the example below, feel free to copy it and use it.
Sizes are really to personal taste and can be altered accordingly.
The metal is bent ever so slightly along the dotted line, the open triangles pulled together and soldered closed.
I then mounted a doming tool into the vice, put the to be pea-pod down over it and started hammering and hammering and hammering ...... you get the picture.... P.S. anneal the metal regularly otherwise it cracks, been there done that, started again.
Once I had achieved the body shape I wanted, I bent the ends over and forged it some more to give an appealing curve as a pod would have.
Doming tools

I then made up some wire and drilled a hole at either end of the pod, this was onto which the "pea's" would be threaded.
The "pea's" in this case are haematite balls which were threaded but not fixed onto the wire so they can turn freely. the ends of the wire were then threaded through the pod and very very carefully soldered into place - don't over heat or cool to quickly; the haematite explodes very nicely and spectacularly with possible injury to self.
I have since leant how to do cold joins so if I try another one a cold joint it will be.

To continue however.... I kept the one end of the wire long, and this I bent or wrapped round a Drill bit (read mandrel....) to make a vine simulation onto which it hangs from a thick cord ...  

Pea Pod

Been there done that.... getting back to work

Been back from Chile a while now, but to say I have been lazy is rather an understatement.
I have been back to class and am currently working on a 3 stoned Tiffany ring with basket enhancer settings; do I have a photo of the progress made so far..... Hell No.....if you remember correctly my opening statement was " I have been rather lazy".
So far I've made the main central setting and 3/4 of the first side setting (I've already made this setting three times, it is a 3mm diameter by 4 mm high cone setting), sooo no photos yet, and anyway if there were any they would have looked really uninteresting, once I get a bit further I will do an update on this this post and put in photos, maybe a drawing or maybe not a drawing, just photos. 
The body of the ring is going to be a hammered up shank with a split where it joins the settings, do I have a drawing.... of course not, I said " I have been rather lazy"

I did how ever get off my sorry lazy ass posterior and do an outstanding job - no I don't mean that the job was an outstanding piece of work I mean it was outstanding, hadn't been done, was late...... got to explain everything these days.....

So moving right along.....I had to solder charms onto a charm bracelet, this involved making wire - yes I make my own wire, my jewellery instructor has taught me the principal that I have to be able to make up almost everything that I will need, such as wire, plate and tube, because one day I may end up somewhere that I cannot purchase ready made items and then I am basically up the creek with out a paddle.

Charms onto a bracelet

So anyway back to said bracelet, I made wire, turned the wire into jump rings (by hand with a drill bit for a mandrel) then I attached each charm to a jump ring and onto the bracelet where upon each jump ring had to soldered closed - long slow very frustrating job, but it is done.

Until next time.......

                      Exit stage left .........

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Adventures in Chile

As I have said before; when I am in my real job I am an IT Manager, so let me start off by saying I have just been to Santiago in Chile.........

I attended our Global IT managers conference, to explain;  this is a gathering of my companies five IT Managers (Africa, UK/Europe, Australia, North America/Canada, South America) and their respective Network Engineers in one of the regions (same as above) for a week-long conference discussing what we are currently doing and going to be doing for the coming 2 years.

For us (from South Africa) the trip from Johannesburg with a stopover in Sao Paolo to change planes took approximately 16 hours so with check-ins and transfers we looked at approximately 22 hours of travel - a fair haul in anyone’s terms with our final arrival at our apartments at about 22:00 in the evening - Exhausted.

For the following day I had planned it that we (my network engineer and I) would have a day off to do a bit of site seeing and shopping prior to the conference beginning.
Now I had been warned that Chile is a third world country…. blah blah blah - I come from South Africa;  so whatever!!!! ...... Well were we in for a shock .... third world my arse posterior….. It is FIRST WORLD at an epic level and I can say this with confidence having travelled extensively around the world; it is clean, organized, Beautiful, in a word; it WORKS!!!! OK OK OK for those of you who are not from Africa you may not understand; for me this was heaven, the streets were clean, the public transport existed and it worked (Tube trains that took us all over the place fast, efficiently and quickly……verrryyyy quickly), we could walk the streets day and night perfectly safely - we walked everywhere.

View from my Balcony
General street scene
The buildings are architectural works of art and this in a country known for its earthquakes and the statuary dotted around the streets were a pleasure to behold.


Most of our shopping was at local crafters markets,the people are incredibly friendly even if they cannot speak a word of English, makes for interesting times when trying buy things, lot of waving of hands and t.... a...l....k....i....n......g very slowly.

Crafters Market

Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobel
Followed by site-seeing of the city and then up a hill "Cerro San Cristobal" to see the Virgin Mary statue.
On coming down after the extremely hot work of site seeing we stopped at a little street pub called "Libido" to have a beer to wash the dust out of our throats before heading out to dinner.

Libido Bar in Bellavista
Libido Bar

The food was very good but for me a bit disappointing as I am not big on meat and when I say they are big into meat I mean BIG, so after a couple of meals I tried the fish, now that for me was awesome, lots and lots of Seabass later with a fair amount of salad I was, one could say very happy.

I am not going to go into a blow by blow breakdown of the conference – all very technical and for non – I.T. people very boring and not really conducive to a decent travelogue sooo ever onwards…….

On the last night of conference we headed out to a monstrously big restaurant called Los Buenos Muchachos  
Los Buenos Muchachos
for a brilliant floor show and Parrilas (barbeques or for us South African's a Braai) LOTS OF MEAT!!!!!

Then it was up and off to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar down on the coast for a bit of R&R for the delegates, this included a bus drive down with tour guide, a visit to the port city of Valparaiso ( a must for anyone traveling down that part of the world) the town was the original port for Chile of which it has been destroyed a couple of times by earthquakes  only to be resurrected again – an incredibly beautiful town that climbs up a hill from the sea and clings there precariously, we only had an hour to look around (enormously great pity) before heading off for lunch(but that just gives me more desire to visit again at my leisure and explore more thoroughly.

Pisco Sour
General Street Scene Santiago
And then it was onto Vina del Mar were we stayed for the night, but during the day we took a boat charter out into the bay with lots of food, beer, wine and the ubiquitous Pisco Sour, this is a cocktail drink that is famous in South America (we had one before meals)

Lunch at Club Union Arabe between Valparaiso & Vina del Mar

The Boat

 Prior to the boat trip two of us challenged each other to go for a swim, initially we were going to dive off the boat but a rather large potential fine from harbour authorities would have ensued so it was decided after the trip to return to the local beach and swim there, once we got there 2 other brave souls decided to join us in our impending stupidity, the water averages around 10C..... so into the water we stormed screamed like girls (it was blindingly cold), body surfed around for a couple of minutes then stormed out again, recovered and roared back in again and out, the whole episode of insanity took all of about 10 minutes followed by a bit of brain freeze headache.
So back to the hotel for hot showers and then out to dinner (notice there seemed to be a bit of a pervading theme of dinner here)

Promenade in Vina del Mar
Los Dominicos
The next day after a good walk down the promenade and then into town for more sightseeing and shopping we had to leave to return to Santiago, for a bit more shopping, this time at the Los Dominicos monastery and then - yes - you got it onto dinner.

Street Scene in Santiago
Market at Los Dominicos

Street Scene in Santiago

Street Scene in Santiago
"Green" Building in Santiago

We (my network Engineer and I) then saddled up at 3AM the next morning and left for the airport to head back home, another 26 hours plus of travelling, all was well and good when we arrived in Sao Paolo we now had a 6 hour layover ahead of us so not to be held back by a minor inconvenience such as this we proceeded through passport control and out into the city with a taxi and off to the nearest mall for lunch- sushi – damn nice, and it killed a bit of time and got us Brazil stamps in our passports (not sure if we should actually have been able to do this but we did) after lunch it was back into a taxi and peddled back to the airport, pay a port tax through passport control and then the wheels fell off….there was a technical problem with the plane that SAA was supposed to be carrying us back and we now had another 5 hours ahead of us – should have stayed at the mall DAMN!!!!

Sao Paolo from the air

Now let me at this point say I am not a big fan of SAA (South African Airlines) I call them Dung Beetle Airlines, the pilots are good don’t get me wrong most of them are ex-air force, but the air-crew are a surly unpleasant bunch who should rather stay at home and bitch and grumble than rather doing it in the air in a closed container……… I try never to fly with them but on the odd occasion I actually have to I am never surprised with their behavior – this is a subject that I could expound on at length but it will probably only make me mad again and result in a broken keyboard.

So now we are back on earth (in Africa) and into the long days of working and living before another interesting trip arises…….