Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Critics

It's been a strange day. The Gorse Fox had to attend several meetings and also had the opportunity to reveal parts of the presentation that he has been working on. Needless to say it received a mixed reception, but most thought it was extremely valuable.

The Gorse Fox has paused... he thinks he can hear a foaming glass of beer calling.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A new pepper

The Gorse Fox was waiting for his lunch. It had been ordered and was "in process". His mind was idling. He felt a waft of air... and could not find the source. Maybe the sandwich shop was haunted? No, maybe not. He concluded that the young girl behind the counter who was preparing his BLT with mayo and hot sauce had blinked and her false eyelashes had caused the atmospheric perturbation.

He smiled to himself, then paused. With all the mascara weighing them down... was that really pepper he saw on the salad?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Council

It is the 10th Anniversary of the founding of our Parish Council(*), and the Gorse Fox is suited and booted and preparing to be on his best behaviour for this evening's reception.

(*)Kingston Parish Council is one of the newest and smallest councils in the whole country.

Animation

The Gorse Fox has been spending time on the continued development of some slides regarding the programme. These are proving useful in clarifying a few things - particularly as he is trying to animate them to show the flows of activity and data.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Disconcerted

The Gorse Fox was looking back at some of the more bizarre moments of the last 24 hours... some of which were a little disconcerting:
  • As he waited to use the gentlemen's toilet (or Lords, as it was called), an the Amy Winehouse look-alike emerged from the gents as the door opened;
  • A trusted source assured him that in the corresponding Ladies, the seat was fitted with under seat warm air flow - a new experience for the source in question;
  • A young and earnest gentleman tried hard to communicate, but was so wasted that he was incoherent - GF just had to guess at the questions and reply accordingly;
  • The last time he saw so many kilts was at the Edinburgh Castle Tattoo.

Mullions

The Gorse Fox was rather pleased with this photo taken from the reception hall, where he was munching his way through a selection of cheeses, some baked potato, and some fresh bread.

The orange glow came from the external lights that illuminated the building, and hiding behind the radiator was a collection of candles provide up-light.
Posted by Picasa

The Bride

The Bride looked radiant... and whilst the Gorse Fox took lots of pictures (which you can see if you click here), he suspects that the official photographer "lily and frank" took many more - and with much better results.
Posted by Picasa

Twinkle toes

After the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen had met up with the happy couple and been introduced to several friends they retired for a cup of tea and a quick tour of the surroundings. Then everyone was summoned to the hall for the evening festivities... which, of course, started with the Bride and Groom performing the first dance.

Having known both the Mighty Atom and K8y for so long it was fun watching the sheer concentration on their faces as they went through the ritual. They had obviously been practising (or even taking lessons) and you could almost see them counting the steps and the moves as the endeavoured to get it just right.

It paid off - they did just fine.

Many receptions suffer from the problem that people are loathe to get up and fill the dance floor. Not so here. Bodies of all shapes and sizes started to manouevre and gyrate to the sounds of The Stones, Lynard Skynard, The Who, David Bowie, Billy Idol and so forth.

The happy couple started to circulate - they were clearly having a whale of a time. K8y said that "people say it is the happiest day of your life. Well it's been just perfect, and it is."
Posted by Picasa

Garage

As the Silver Vixen pointed out - Sir Larry & Vivien obviously needed somewhere to park their Roller.

It does seem a little small as far as garages go.
Posted by Picasa

Molecular Binding - A Wedding of Note

It had been a glorious day on the South Coast. Urban-cub had come round to sit in the garden and absorb the rays. The Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox, however, had a wedding reception to attend and therefore preparations to make.

This involved selecting the right outfits and ensuring they were suited to the auspicious company with which we would be mingling. The Silver Vixen was, as usual, in full control. The Gorse Fox, however, learned several things:
  1. When hanging up a suit bag, check that everything stays where it should be. In this case the trousers had slipped from the hanger and were crumpled up in the bottom of the bag. This mean that GF had to press his trousers before they could be worn.

  2. When trousers are left alone in a suit bag they shrink around the waist-band.

Anyway, eventually everything was sorted and we headed off to the wilds of Buckinghamshire.


The reception was held at Notley Abbey, a 13th Century building near Haddenham. It's history probably starts in 1162 when an order of Augustine monks was founded at Notley on land that was donated by Walter Giffard, 2nd Earl of Buckingham, and his wife Ermengard.

The abbey church and the majority of the original abbey buildings survive only as buried remains, although portions of the cloister range were retained within the house and outbuildings of a post-Dissolution farm - now Notley Abbey House. The house was adapted from the abbot's lodging and guesthouse. (The Medieval Life in Bernwood Forest)

Historical documents record 24 abbots of the Abbey up until 1533. After the Dissolution the Abbey and grounds were given to Christchurch College, Oxford.

Like most ancient buildings there are several legends - one featuring a 2 mile tunnel that is reputed to run from the abbey to nearby Thame.


More recently, it was the home of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh and had an intimate feel about it that would make it a superb residence for people needing some privacy, but easy access to London (*)

According to Vivien Leigh - the Notley Abbey Years:
"Vivien & Larry first saw the Abbey in 1943. It was overgrown and in desperate need of restoration. Larry instantly fell in love with it, especially since he found out that it had been endowed by Henry V. Vivien was skeptical and considered it hopeless. Much of the home could not be viewed from inside because ceilings were caving, floors rotting, and pipes were broken. Nevertheless, the Oliviers purchased it in February 1945 and immediately began work on it. Vivien, too, soon fell in love with the Abbey. They put all their savings into repairing the Abbey. They focused on the large hall, study, 3 reception rooms, and bedrooms. With the help of decorators Sybil Colfax and John Fowler, Vivien put her personal touch in each room of Notley. Regency stripes were used and large pieces of furniture and artwork were chosen."

They sold Notley Abbey in 1960 after their divorce. It then became the registered office of Amalgamated Broadcasting Company and studios were installed for Canadian millionaire Arnold Swanson who used to prepare recordings to be taken by speedboat to the pirate radio stations.


When the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen completed the 100 mile drive from the coast, it was soon after seven and the light was growing watery.

A long tree-lined avenue (72 Lime trees, planted by the Oliviers) linked the house to the nearby road, but the house remained hidden even from the car park, which meant that it was revealed at the last moment. It was easy to see the monastic heritage of the house - but this has been been carefully and tastefully updated inside with 21st Century fittings.
(*) Enough "Estate Agent"-speak
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Becoming a Molecule at Notley Abbey

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen will be heading off to join the Mighty Atom and K8y for their wedding evening later today. Whilst checking the location of the venue, GF found this link to the day they took the photographer to visit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beam me up, Scotty

Starfleet have changed the supplier for their communicators. With the change of supplier/carrier come a new communicator device which turned up this morning in its jiffy bag. They used the 21st century transporter room - i.e. a delivery van.

Gorse Fox likes gadgets and this is a nice new shiny gadget - but it isn't due to be activated for another two weeks. He'll miss his old communicator, which could also double as brick, and will no doubt feel lop-sided whilst getting used to the new, lighter, model.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Singapore

It was a pleasant evening. Having left "Spur 0" the troop moved on to the next door Chinese restaurant "Singapore". 12 sat down to eat, but 2 more soon arrived. Conversation roamed back and forth - but seemed to get wedged in CO2 for a while... there's always one who is taken in by the hype and refuses to listen to the conflicting evidence.

We had provided a disguise (wig, glasses, & false nose) for the colleague who was leaving - she may need them in her new job at a place that can't be mentioned, for government "department" where her husband works. Towards the end, her husband turned up to collect her - we asked how he found us, he tapped his nose and said "Remember where I work"... and blended into the crowd".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Farewell

One of the girls on the project is leaving. It's a shame as she is very talented, and not just leaving the project, but also Starfleet. Tonight we are meeting up to wish her farewell. GF is not sure of the plans, but it all starts in our usual meeting place!

Move along

Busy day working on some presentation material... nothing much to say at the moment - but glad that the Gorse Fox's Friday meeting can be done by teleconf, so he can go home Thursday after all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big Brother

This was interesting. did you know...
THE UK Home Secretary secretively signed a "special certificate" last year that gives foreign security agencies real-time access to traffic camera images and related data monitoring British motorists on highways throughout the UK.

Opposition politicians and civil liberties advocates yesterday accused Gordon Brown's government of attempting to hide from Parliament its covert plans to facilitate international surveillance of UK citizens in violation of privacy laws.

Under the authorisation signed last July 4 by Jacqui Smith, video feeds and still images captured from roadside TV cameras, along with personal data derived from them, can be transmitted out of the UK to countries such as the US, that are outside the European Economic Area.

Home Secretary Smith failed to mention the exception in a statement she made to Parliament less than two weeks later on July 17, 2007 outlining Metropolitan Police exemptions to the 1998 Data Protection Act.

Time to start wearing a balaclava in the car and buy those rotating number plates

Wireless, accountless

Gorse Fox just tried to log in through a hotspot only to find that his BT Broadband wireless account had expired. He was told by the help desk that he had to opt-in to BTFon... which he had already done. The problem is that BTFon has no agreement with T-Mobile, and GF is in a T-Mobile hotspot!

That was when he remembered he had another BT Openzone account, and it was still active.

So here he is reflecting on a very busy day that started (as usual for Tuesdays) with a dawn dash across the country to Worcester. Reflections will continue in the pub!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Slides

The Gorse Fox has spent most of the day working on a slide pack. It would appear that a number of people are (let us say) confused by what our current programme is setting out to do. The Gorse Fox is trying, once more, to illustrate the end game and the steps to get us there in a way that can be easily understood by all levels of audience.

So far the presentation reviews the outcome from 7 separate perspectives. The knack that he is trying to achieve is to keep it simple enough for the uninitiated, but technical enough for the various experts. GF feels a bit like Blondin.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Care and Collections

The Silver Vixen's aunt was 85. So the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen went to collect her from the Care Home (Jimi's Place) and take her to the Silver Vixen's sister's for lunch. We arrived and as we approached the door, the Gorse Fox realised he was wearing all black...

"In these surroundings" he thought "they'll think I'm the Grim Reaper on a collection run", and so he backed off and waited in the car, not wanting to upset the residents.

Sparkle

What a sparkling morning after the grey and drizzle of yesterday. Wall to wall blue sky, and bright sunshine bathes the coast in early morning warmth. Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen are heading for Buckingham today, so it should be a pleasant drive.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Drizzle

It has been one of the days on the South Coast whereby what looks like a gentle drizzle is actually incessant and would soon soak you to the skin if you stepped out for long. The Gorse Fox had to step out to start the day and visit likely emporiums that specialise in automotive rubber goods - specifically tyres. He doesn't like driving around without a spare tyre (and comments regrading his walking around with one are not appreciated - even if they are uncomfortably true).

This proved to be an eye-opener as National offered the Gorse Fox a replacement at £190. He was falltered that they obviously thought he was a man of means. He politely declined, muttering he would have to "talk to his man" about this. He moved on to Kwik Fit who took a more reasonable stance and offered a replacement for £160. This, whilst painful, seemed slightly more acceptable and the Gorse Fox told them to go ahead.

The frustrating part of this tale is that GF had done some research on the web and found eTyres who would have sorted out the tyre for £115 - if GF could have waited until Monday or Tuesday - but with a trip to Buckingham planned for tomorrow, this was not viable without chancing the journey without a spare(*).

(*) GF has never been much of a gambler.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ahhh, Home

The Gorse Fox finally got home to Sussex. Though the journey started earlier than usual, the Friday factor, and the need to take a teleconference call during the journey, stretched the travelling time to over 4 hours. (It only takes 2 hours 20 minutes to get to Seville).

There's something about the last mile of the journey as the Gorse Fox heads towards the sea that allows the cares and frustrations of the wek and the journey to drop away.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Some days...

Some days the Gorse Fox worries that perhaps he should have stayed in bed. Today found him heading for a conference about 50 miles east of Worcester. Leaving, with a colleague, at 07:45 he headed up the hill and onto the M5. Merging slickly with the traffic he accelerated up and merged to lane 2. All was well.

Or so he thought!

With rush hour traffic filling all lanes and the traffic moving at speed he sat chatting to his colleague, when there was a bang, a huge puff of blue smoke, and a horrible smell as the car attempted to swerve across the carriageway. Winding the window down slightly (to handle the smell) and steering to the hard shoulder it was clear that his trusty steed had just suffered a blowout in a back hoof.

Retrieving the spare from the boot, and trying to work out the tools, Gorse Fox and his lanky colleague started to consider the task ahead.
  • Spare wheel - check.
  • Jack - check.
  • Tyre lever - check.
  • Lockable wheel nut tool - check.
  • Thingamy to release the wheel nut cover - ch... "How do you remove the wheel nut covers?". There was no obvious tool for this so GF phoned the garage (from memory) and woke up a very angry woman from Goring. He re-dialled and made her even more angry. He then looked up the number and got through to the garage. They explained where to find the "tool".
It was about this time that the Highways Agency patrol car arrived. Gorse Fox has rarely been happier to see these chaps. They put out safety cones and used their vehicle to provide the Gorse Fox cover whilst he completed the tyre change. Despite this there were still a couple of moments when he thought he'd be blown over by the wash of passing trucks.

Finally all was done, the Agency staff were thanked and the Gorse Fox and colleague completed their journey without further incident.

Checking in to the conference went smoothly and the Gorse Fox went to grab a coffee and find a quiet place to take a teleconference call. It was at this point that someone backed into him and knocked his coffee all over his hand and down his trousers.

Muttering to himself he went to take the call... to find that it had been cancelled.

Some days... eh!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Touch of Spain

The Gorse Fox sat in "Spur 0" where slowly the band of colleagues gathered. Andrea, who runs the place, asked where we planned to eat, and at that stage we had not decided.

"Why not go to the Tapas restaurant?" she asked

"What Tapas restuarant?" came the chorus of replies

And so it came to pass that we invaded "The Lounge"... and what a find it turned out to be. Excellent surroundings, young enthusiastic staff, excellent menu (if you like tapas) and excellent service.

Each chose a favourite dish, then we additionally ordered one of everything on the menu to share... brilliant! With wine and everything, it still only cost £22 per head. Gorse Fox suspects this will become a regualr haunt.

Asprin?

The Gorse Fox suspects there may be some sore heads in Worcester this morning. The Mighty Atom and K8y are soon to become a molecule, and last night was his "stag night". This meant a start at the Cardinal's Hat, then migrating to one of the fine Indian establishments that grace the Worcester area. The Gorse Fox participated to this point. However, leaving the Indian Restaurant, it was clear that there were further plans... which didn't involve going back to the hotel, so he parted company with the rest of the crew. I suspect - indeed it has been confirmed by an observer - that the wide selection of whiskies available at "The Swan with Two Nicks" has been seriously depleted.

A stitch in time

An email arrived from a software company offering to sell the Gorse Fox a copy of their wares.

One offering may have been of interest to the Silver Vixen as it was Embroidery software... (though the £1700 price tag ruled it out, practically). However, just because it was Embroidery software doesn't mean that one should not consider it the way other software is reviewed. So in the interest of passing on his skills, here is a checklist for you:
  • Would this software give me the needle?
  • How easy is it to cotton on to?
  • Is it reliable, or does it need patching?
  • Is it stable, or does the screen keep bobbin?
  • Is it multi-threaded?
  • Is it thread-safe?
  • Is it value for money, or are you being stitched up?
  • Is the upgrade process seamless?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Positive energy

And so dawn broke as the Gorse Fox swept onto the M3. He was listening to "The Sceptics Guide" on the iPod as they demolished a number of pet hates. The temperature soon dropped below zero, but the cloudless sky burnished gold by the rising sun made everything seem positive. He was charged and ready for the fray. Soon after 07:30 GF arrived in Worcester and was quickly back into the swing of things... with a review of the approach to be taken going forward, and a number of document reviews, briefings and updates.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Q

The Gorse Fox stood patiently in the queue. It was 18:15(*) and Halfords was not busy. Not busy, but there was a queue. In front was a young lady paying for here items, behind her two young men holding the box for a SatNav, and then the Gorse Fox clutching a ridiculously expensive 1 litre of 30W-5, or whatever.

The young lady moved off, purchases clutched tightly to her body.

The young men approach the till and show the SatNax box. "Is that box empty?" asked the assistant. The men nodded in the affirmative. "Do you want me to get you a full one?" came the follow-up.

The Gorse Fox considered the conversation and whether there really was an alternative:
  • Would they have queued for so long if all they wanted was an empty box?
  • £229 seems a lot for a cardboard box.
  • If it wasn't the box, was it the air inside they were willing to buy for £229?
  • If it was either of these then the Gorse Fox wonders how many such purchases are made at Halfords each day and whether there is market for small cardboard boxes.
  • Or just perhaps they really did want the SatNav, and the box was a clue for checkout person

(*) a bad year for some - well at least he assumes it was cos he's never met anyone from then, so they appear to have been wiped out.

EU Directive

The Gorse Fox has just been research some legislation regarding Data Protection and Data Retention. He notes (mischievously) that Under the terms of the EU Directive "data retained will be made available only to competent national authorities in specific cases and in accordance with national law".

Given the various mishaps that HMRC have been through with the accidental release of public data, it would seem that they are not competent and therefore should be excluded from such data.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Out of Darkness

The Gorse Fox has no allegiance to the Mancunians, but it was still a great result today to see them, once again, overcome the Forces of Darkness (2-1).

Bricking it

The Gorse Fox has always been aware that night storage heaters were heavy. Urban-cub needed one removed, so he helped dismantle it and revove the bricks one by one. His conclusion is that these heaters are not designed to be moved!

Anyway, once empty and each of the bricks ferried down to the truck, we managed to dispose of the whole unit.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The usual Sus-Mex

At the end of the day, the question was where should we eat?

The Silver Vixen and her sister had visited every shop in Worthing, Dom and Urban-cub had made great headway with the prep and plastering. (And the Gorse Fox had managed to get his code working to read both Calendars and Blogs from Google).

Liming - the Mexican-styled restaurant down near the Worthing sea-front seemed like the obvious choice. Informal, lively, and really good Mexican food. So, having booked, we trooped in and setled down to a very pleasant meal. Between us we demolished some Cajun Lamb (a very hearty sized lamb steak), fajitas, jambalaya, and two racks of ribs (each of which would have satisfied a small primary school).

Excellent evening

Plastered

Urban-cub has visitors.

The Silver Vixen's sister and her partner arrived early this morning. The girls were going to have a girly-day whilst Dom helped out U-c by plastering some of the walls of the flat that still needed doing. Having assisted by escorting Dom to the hardware store and paying for the materials, GF has absented himself from that activity on two counts:
  1. He is pretty useless at plastering
  2. He is allergic to the kitten
He has been sitting at home with his manuals open trying to work out some the intricacies of the Google API so that he can develop some additional feeds to his private "meta-blog". He has now achieved success with the Google Calendar, and is starting to look at Blogs themselves.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Searching Google

Someone has just searched using Google. the search phrase was "The best theoretical physics blog that the search engine can offer you, by a Czech conservative string theorist," which have to admit is strange thing to look for!

What was stranger was that the seeker ended up here

Making History

It was 44 years ago this week that IBM introduced the S/360 Computer. Wikipedia tells part of the story... as does Beagle-ears and there's the official word from IBM.

Whichever way you look at the announcement it changed the face of computing. For the first time there was a computer that created a family of computers that would allow upgrades from one system to another without re-writing the software.

Over the early years of his career the Gorse Fox has worked with the following members and variations of this family:
S/360-50
S/360-65
S/370-135
S/370-145
S/370-148
S/370-158
S/370-168 (which was his favourite)
3032
and in the last 25 years has been a user of so many variations that he cannot recall them.
He only wishes he could remember which box holds his old S/360 POP (Principle of Operation).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tears

The trip home was pretty uneventful. There had obviously been a glitch in Starfleet's system as the Gorse Fox ended up travelling Business Class which made the journeys a lot more bearable.

He settled down in his seat, directly behind a colleague that he has known for 20+ years, a young lady came and took the seat next to the Gorse Fox and nodded a polite greeting and offered to swap seats so that GF could sit with the aforementioned colleague. GF refused, explaining that that, after all, would be a recipe for talking shop the whole way back.

We took off, and the various in-flight entertainment gadgets were switched on. The young lady turned to the Gorse Fox, tapped him on the shoulder and said: "I just want to warn you that I'm going to watch a film." GF wasn't overly concerned, but she continued "By the end of it I will be in floods of tears, and I want to warn you that there's nothing wrong, and you shouldn't be concerned".

Well, thought the Gorse Fox, there's no accounting for folk. So he asked the obvious question "If you know the film is going to upset you so much, then why watch it?" and in the irrefutable logic that only a woman understands (or even acknowledges) she replied "Because it's sad, and I love it".

The Gorse Fox wished her the best and returned to his books.

(Just an aside - and credit where it is due; the Gorse Fox must say that he was very impressed with the attention and service offered by the Delta flight-crew on all 4 of his recent flights - their ground operation may be a bit of a shambles, but in-flight, they were excellent).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Travelling

The conference is finished, and the Gorse Fox is sitting in the Delta Lounge at Orlando awaiting his flight. As much as he enjoys travelling (despite the trails and tribulations imposed by security, jobsworths, and delays) - he love this part best: the journey home.

Overall the conference has been superb, and the final speech from Starfleet's #2 was both informative and inspiring. There is no doubt about it, Starfleet is the most awesome organisation to work for... and whilst it has changed radically over the 34 years GF has worked with them, it is still brilliant - very different, but brilliant. Sitting with 4000 of the deepest technicians, fellows, inventors and researchers has certainly been educational and humbling.

All packed

The Gorse Fox is all packed up and ready for his trip home... but not before today's exciting agenda is complete.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Waking up

Waking up, after last night's event seemed hard. The coach was leaving for the Convention Center at 0630 again. Gorse Fox was not feeling bright and breezy!

After breakfast the keynote sessions started and then the electives. 4000 Starship technologists milled around like ants in an anthill as they went from session to session. So far, only one session has disappointed - the rest have been excellent.

There's another reception this evening, though it's here at the convention center so doesn't involve any extra coach journeys.

Invasion

The shock troops march into the Kingdom (which was closed to normal visitors).
Posted by Picasa

Safari so good

last night we had a reception at Disney Animal Kingdom. About 4000 of us turned up and marched into the Kingdom to be greeted by tables of beer and wine and directions to variouse areas of the park where food was provided. And Boy! was it provided. The Gorse Fox will probably write about this some more at a later opportunity, but it was a superb event.

He left at about 10:00 and strolled to the car park where 70 coaches were queued up waiting to ferry us back to our hotels.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Oranges

This is a part of the Orange County Convention Center, where the event is being held. The place is huge - like Heathrow T5 without the baggage.

GF has just got back to his room. It has been a superb day, with some excellent elective sessions.

There's a reception tonight so he has to sign-off now and go and get ready
Posted by Picasa

Acrobats

The 06:30 coach seemed harsh. Breakfast was fairly quiet despite the thousands of co-eaters... then the first session kicked-off with a bunch of acrobats from one of the Disney shows. A liitle energetic for 08:00. Then we had the various keynote sessions for the day before splitting off into one of the 367 electives.

Conferring

The Gorse Fox is in Orlando to attend a meeting of Starfleet's technicians. This evening was registration and reception. GF wasn't sure he was going to attend - sleep seemed such an enticement... but he succumbed.

The event is in a huge convention centre about 30 minutes from the hotel. Once registered he made his way to the main hall where he was greeted by a space about the size of Berkshire filled with a) geeks fellow technicians; b) buffet counters with an assortment of food; c) beer and wine rest stops; d) exhibits from labs and projects around the world...

Daunted at first (Gorse Fox is so painfully shy :¬) he set off to reconnoitre, stopping at tactical points to take on food or drink as the needs demanded, and reviewing each of the exhibits and talking to all and sundry (including some grizzly old specimens of his own or greater vintage).

He's glad he went, but now (21:15-ish) he needs sleep. (The coaches start running to the Centre from 0500 tomorrow - however, whilst eager, he doesn't want to seem too eager, so may choose to take a later bus - in fact he could guarantee it)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

HoB

Looking across the Lake towards the House of Blues.

When GF was working in Los Angeles he used to go along to the House of Blues there, and the B.B.King Blues Bar. It seems that you can always guarantee some fine music, and good food at this genre of restaurant.

Behind the bar.

The "cameo" ceiling in the restaurant.
All in all there are far worse places to be caught sheltering from monsoon-like rains.
Posted by Picasa

Birds and rain

The Gorse Fox saw this bird strutting her stuff... couldn't resist a photo - long slender legs, long neck... gorgeous! (Not sure he'd want a peck on the cheek, however).

GF took the transfer bus to Downtown Disney - which is an area on the edge of Lake Buena Vista dedicated to merchandise: toys, Disney branded gifts, candy, ice cream, pretzels, and more restaurants than you could shake an umbrella at.

Now GF should explain that this part of Florida seems to be a series of lakes that are incidentally separated by strips of land. This seems strange at first, then around lunchtime (as the Gorse Fox was passing The House of Blues, curiously) the heavens just opened and the wam 75-80C day suddenly became a very wet 75-80C day. This is where the shaking of the umbrella would be useful (had he brought one). GF ducked into the afore-mentioned HoB and had a beer and a salad and watched the rain fall. Then as it eased off he headed back towards the transfer bus and mused that when you see the rain fall as it had the phenomenon of the lakes is not so great... indeed the presence of the land becomes surprising.
Posted by Picasa

Civil Service - A Further Glossary

The Gorse Fox has just received a paper from "the office" which finishes off with some class ic definitions of Civil Service speak, (as first espoused by "Yes, Minister"):
  1. "A few thoughts..." meaning:
    "Thank you for showing me this. It is utter rubbish for the following reasons..."
  2. "You will wish to be aware" meaning
    "No you won't, it's really bad news."
  3. "Please deal with as you consider appropriate." meaning
    "Bin it, but don't blame me if you get found out."
  4. "Seeking your agreement." meaning
    "We've already started doing this. If you have any concerns, no-one wants to hear them."
  5. "You may wish to consider..." meaning
    "Just get on with it."
  6. "Hope this is helpful" meaning
    "I'm well aware it's not helpful at all. Please don't contact me again."
  7. "In due course." meaning
    "Probably never."
  8. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention." meaning
    "I hoped nobody was going to mention this."
No further comment is required

The Joy of Travel

Travel is such a joy!

The Gorse Fox was travelling for about 21 hours yesterday,
  • 0.75 was spent getting to Gatwick
  • 4.5 of which were spent at Gatwick undergoing the usual waits and delays imposed by security and late aircraft.
  • 9.5 hours were spent flying to Atlanta
  • 1 hour was spent waiting by a carousel for baggage that they had delivered to another carousel and failed to tell anyone.
  • 1 hour was spent waiting for them to shuffle people to get us on to the connection flight to Orlando
  • 1.5 hours was spent flying to Orlando in a 767 doing impressions of a tumble-dryer as it bucked and plunged through heavy thunder cloud
  • 1.5 hours was spent waiting for baggage at Orlando because the thunderstorm had closed the loading ramps for fear of lightning (which was pretty spectacular).
  • 0.5 was spent checking in to and waiting for the coach transfer
  • 0.5 hours was spent getting to the hotel
Gorse Fox was not feeling fresh as a daisy. He checked-in, went to his room and dumped his stuff and went straight back down to find something to eat... reviewing the queues to get in to all the restaurants in the hotel he went back to order room service. They vowed to get the food to his room in 45 minutes... he said "forget it", turned off the light and went to bed.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Green is the new Red

Excellent article by Nigel Lawson in The Mail on Global Warming... Best quote was (talking about the collapse of socialism):

"...green is the new red. And for those who wish to order us how to run our lives, faced with the uncomfortable evidence that economic prosperity is more likely to be achieved by less government intervention rather than more, naturally welcome the emergence of a new licence to intrude, to interfere, to tax, and to regulate: all in the great cause of saving the planet from the alleged horrors of global warming"

Read the whole article... It is a refreshing exposition of facts rather than the usual hype.

Early bird

They say that the early bird catches the worm.

This early bird arrived 20 minutes early for his 0600 check-in. The flight was overbooked and he was offered another flight... But refused. By six o'clock he's in the departure lounge only to find his flight is delayed by an hour, so now has four hours to kill.

So the bird is late and the worm is watching the world go by.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Westbound 767

The Gorse Fox will be boarding a westbound 767 early tomorrow morning, destined for a Conference in Florida... (it's a tough job, but someone has to do it). Blogging may again be sparse for a few days but he will retro-blog on his return if he fails to keep up whilst travelling.

Understatement

In the last day or two a severed head has been found on a beach near Arbroath in Scotland. Nearby, the hands were also found. When interviewed by the BBC yesterday, the Police refused to say the victim had been murdered, but did confess that it was suspicious.

The Gorse Fox sits in awe of such ridiculous pedantry.

Mmmm, what could the alternatives be?
  1. The victim died naturally and the body spontaneously fell apart.
  2. The victim died accidentally and they couldn't find a suitable coffin so dismembered it so it would fit into something smaller.
  3. It was suicide - and the victim dismembered herself in ritual act, scattering body parts across the beach as she went.
  4. The victim was born without a body.
GF gets really fed up with the ridiculous lengths people have to go to in order to ensure they are politically correct.

Planning

Now the Gorse Fox would like to just check that he has this straight.

The Government asserts that we need a new town in the South (not an unreasonable assertion given the population growth) and has listed 3 possible sites:
  1. Bordon
  2. Ford
  3. Micheldever

One of these will be selected as a new Eco-town. (Have you noticed that everything has to be prefixed with "Eco" nowadays - the Gorse Fox is concerned that we will exhaust the earth's resources of Es, Cs and Os as we seem to be consuming them at an alarming rate).

So let us examine the options:
  1. Bordon: an old garrison town between the A3 and A31, near to Winchester, Farnham, Basingstoke, Farnborough, Alton. Good transport links, nearby railway, plenty of nearby employment. The Garrison is about to move out and in doing so damage the local economy and make vast areas of "brownfield" sites available. A new development would be able to re-use the site and invigorate the economy.
  2. Ford: a disused airfield bounded by HMP Ford "Open Prison", no North-south routes, and the only east-west route is the single carriageway section of the A27. East-west railway line. No local opportunities for employment. Any inhabitant would have to travel for work... on infrastructure that does not exist.
  3. Micheldever: old village between the M3 and A303 on the main railway line through Hampshire. Close to Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke. Plenty of opportunity for employment, easy transport links.
So given that a new town must be built, which of these options has been ruled out? Well, Micheldever of course. Of the remaining 2, Ford is the most likely. Now Gorse Fox doesn't have an issue with this as such - people are entitled to have places to live. His complaint is the hypocrisy of selecting 3 candidate sites and then choosing the one with the highest potential ecological impact and trumpeting it as a new Eco-town.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Flexi

Urban-cub whizzed in - or at least she phoned and asked to be picked up and whizz in whilst her car was being MOT'd locally. She had the afternoon off as she is max'd out on her flexi-time allowance. She took the opportunity to catch up on the trip to Seville, and to tell us about all that had been going on for her.

Gorse Fox was able to listen from the safety of his study while retro-blogging the photos from Seville. Silver Vixen was unprotected as they had both settled in her sewing room.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Back home in the UK we unpacked, uploaded photos onto the computer and went to a local restaurant for dinner. Two vacuous blondes sat at the next table and spent 20 minutes discussing hair colour without pronouncing a single "t" and mangling every "th" into "ff".

It's good to be home.

Dinner in a Convent

Supper was the key item on the evening's agenda. How do you choose where to eat in a city that offers so much choice?

We decided to take advice from the guide book once more and selected three possible establishments in the same general area. The idea being that we could check the menu of the first and move on if not to our liking.

We started at Don Raimundo, which was tucked back off one of the side streets and occupied what had once been an old convent. We stood by the door and examined the extensive menu. It looked good. We had a hit with the first choice. The restaurant was very plush and welcoming and we were ushered to our table.

Dinner was excellent with personal service from Mario - well it would be difficult not to have personal service when we were the only guests. Mario chatted about his trip to Bournemouth, how Seville drops to 5-10C in winter and that they may have 25 days with rain each year. Now, he explained it won't rain again until September.

After dinner and the accompanying bottle of wine, we headed back into the city and strolled slowly through the streets and plazas back to the hotel. Though ten at night the streets were still teeming, and the omnipresent motor scooters whizzed their riders homewards, seemingly oblivious to traffic convention.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Night in Seville

After dinner we strolled back behind the Archbishop's Palace and back down towards the Cathedral. The floodlit tower (La Giralda), the buttresses, the domes, and crenelations threw an eerie vision against the backdrop of the night sky.

Some parts of the roof seemed to glow like a visiting craft from a distant galaxy.

The main gateway, dominated as it is by a huge statue, was a picture of symmetry.

Finally, the Plaza del Triunfo - and one of the tram stops.

Seville is just as picturesque at night as it is during the day.
Posted by Picasa

Don Raimundo

The guide says of Don Raimundo "This 17th Century convent has stone walls and awesome chandeliers. The speciality is langustinos... and the menu veers away from the usual Andalusian tradition..."

Well it was difficult to find. You'd certainly need to know where to look, but it was really rather sweet inside. We enjoyed the table d'hote which offered a good selection and a very agreeable price... and eat ourselves to a standstill.

Stangely, despite the size of Don Raimundo, we were the only patrons!!
Posted by Picasa

Real Alcazhar... Back on plan A.

An early start saw breakfast taken in peace again, then we set off for the Real Alcazhar. Though a similar time to Monday, the streets were busier. When we arrived at the Alcazhar it was clear that we were not the only early birds. A queue was beginning to snake back into the square.

The Real Alcazhar is spectacular. Though smaller than Alhambra, it is similarly breathtaking. The visitor is not guided through in the regimented ways of Alhambra and so we were able to wander about at will. The photos will tell much of the story of courtyards, salons and wonderful gardens.

It was the gardens that we headed for, once we had seen the palace. They were laid out in a series of small areas, many hidden from the next. As you ventured further from the palace they remained regimented and sculpted and the necessary shade on the visitor.

Dragging ourselves away from the palace, we headed into Juderia. This is the maze of streets and alleys that made up the old Jewish quarter, nestling against the walls of the palace. Here we visited the Hospital that was built to care for impoverished priests. It is now a private foundation that makes money giving organ recitals. The Gorse Fox would observe, based on today's example that they are likely to run out of money... The organ recital today was absolutely dreadful.

Tapas was the perfect lunch, sitting in the sun watching el mundo go by (did you see the effortless way in which GF slipped into the vernacular?)

We headed north and east to the Casa del Pilotos. This was not to allow the Silver Vixen to do her exercises but to see another monumental building. The exterior belied the beauty that lay within the walls. Exquisite courtyards and gardens providing colour, water, and shade to magnificent Romanesque rooms and ranges.

Leaving there we headed for Plaza Ste Martha, near our hotel, and sat and soaked up the warm afternoon sun.

Casa de los Pilatos - 3

We had the choice of visitng the upper level. This was controlled vistation with a guide taking us round to show and explain the various frescoes, pictures and furnishings. Before the tour started we gathered on the upper veranda and had a good view down to the Patio Princpal.

Once the tour began, the cameras were banned.
Posted by Picasa

Casa de los Pilatos - 2

Again passing through an arch, another courtyard opened up and another arch promised sights beyond.

Emerging into the light the gardens opened up again. Colourful planting filled the beds and surrounded the trees, again the magenta of a borgainvillea could be seen at the back.

The back wall of the garden was a cascade of blooms.

Posted by Picasa

Casa de los Pilatos -1

The next stop on our agenda was the Casa de los Pilatos. Entering the square the visitor is confronted by this huge bourgainvillea flowing across one whole side of the entrance square.

As magnificent as this was, it was just a hint of what what was to come.

The Casa has nothing really to do with Pilate. It is just a local nickname because of the Romanesque architecture within, and the fact that the Stations of Cross start outside the Casa with Pilate washing his hands.

Beyond the entrance courtyard is the Mudejar-styled Patio Principal

Beautiful Moorish arches are exquisitely carved and surround the Patio.

Crossing the boundary marked by and arch you can look back at the framed rooflines and shaded verandas standing out against the deep blue of the afternoon sky.
Posted by Picasa

Hospital de los Venerables

Emerging from the Real Alcazar we ducked down through the passage we found yesterday and emerged by the Juderia. We then zigged and zagged throhrough the street and alleys to the Plaza Dona Elvira, which was dominated on one side by the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes.

The building was constructed as a home for elderly and infirm priests, begun in 1675.

This is a really nice building, now run by a private foundation (FOCUS). The foundation claims to be an ecological foundation supported by donations from organ recitals!

The chapel was splendid. Superb frescoes brightened the interior with stunning pictures. It was strange how bright this was in comparison to the nearby Cathedral.

In the sacristry, this trompe d'oille dominated what was otherwise a very uninteresting room.

Back in the church the organ soared across the back wall. An organist sat at the keyboard apparently trying to drive visitors away. As his fingers danced across the keys, the sounds of tortured souls filled the church. The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen could only take so much of this (wondering if this had been tried in Guantanamo Bay?) and left.

We made our back into the streets and found a Tapas Bar where we sat and soaked up the sunshine, some tapas, and a jug of sangria.
Posted by Picasa

Gardens of the Alcazar - 3

The guide book failed to explain the purpose of this building - a potting shed, a summer house, a tea room?

The Gorse Fox suspects it was a summer house where, exhausted from walking a few hundred metres from the Palace, the royal personages could rest in the shade and quaff a shandy before heading back.

The gardens really were magnificent and clearly very well kept by a small army of gardeners (as opposed to an army of small gardeners).

Back at the Palace we checked out a grotto that GF had missed the first time round. He suspects that this is the old baths that are now covered by Patio del Crucero.

Even as we headed back out of the Palace, there was a further courtyard in which the visitor could hide from the sun. (You'll notice the top of La Giralda poking up above the roofline).
Posted by Picasa