Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fish

What a splendid day. Betty and Barney Rubble came down to see us and the day followed a familiar pattern with the four standing in the kitchen drinking coffee until it was time to head off for lunch. Recent stories began to emerge, and family gossip was exchanged.

Lunch was fun affair, in this case at the Arun View, with some great fish (possibly the thickest skate wings the Gorse Fox has ever eaten).

Back home we lit the fire and sat an chatted well into the evening. The world was put to right, with discussions and solutions to:
  • Benefits culture
  • The horror of the events in Mumbai
  • The pure "Empire" response of the Maitre d' in the Mumbai hotel who demanded that the correct champagne flutes were used when the hostages were breaking open some bubbly.
  • The government demands that the banks lend money to get us out of the crises caused by the banks lending money.
  • The danger of the "cult of celebrity" where clebrity sponsorship is enough to convince the masses that black is white - and the damage this is doing... and how Prince Charles has been named the second most dangerous "celebrity" on the planet for his baseless position on numerous scientific topics.
Perfect. Time spent with friends is always valuable.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Patter

The door bell rang.

It was the man from the double-glazing company. Don't worry, he had been invited. It was time that the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen thought about what they should do about the porch.

The pitch was entirely predictable:
  • Open - get on good terms with the victim client. Try to be personable. Try not to bore them to death. Impress them with your importance and credentials (however inappropriate). Compliment them on their taste / location / coffee etc. Call the office to say what a good catch they would be and get permission to give them a good discount.
  • Determine the need - speak to the victim client about what it is they they they need, what they know about the company, and try to understand the competitive pressure. Try to ascertain the victim client's expectations on cost - this will be relevant in the next stage. (Look confused when the victim client says that cost is not the main determinant - ignore commenst regarding design as that is not within the abilities of your software). Take some notes as if this matters. Just as their eyes start to glaze over...
  • Propose - start trying to sell them whatever you came to sell (make it sound relevant to what they defined above, if necessary). Take lots of measurements. Suck on your teeth. Go and fetch some samples and give a totally inappropriate sales pitch considering they want a porch not double-glazed window units). Go and fetch the laptop to create some relevant designs. Huff and puff a bit as the software fails to draw anything more significant than a glass box and can't scale the door to the right size. Get out a calculator to start gathering some numbers (apparently the laptop's software isn't capable of managing costs). Treble the victim client's cost estimate and discount back to double the estimate. Test the water. Offer finance. Realise that you are losing... start to pack up. Make the all important (and expected) call back to HQ to say the sale is lost - this predicatably allows the manager to authorise a further discount to bring the price in at 1.5 times the victim client's original estimate.
  • Close - do a runner while there is still a chance that client may accept the offer once he has performed due diligence and got quotes from competitors.
And of course the client had already deflated his own estimate to start with, knowing exactly how the game works!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Earlier bird

The Gorse Fox still finds this hard to believe, but his first teleconference of the day (two and half hours-worth) started at 07:00. Once that was done it was back to the normal schedule and the ritual crunching of numbers.

A brief stop for lunch helped clear the head but was only temporary respite.

This evening promises a fine time with GF and the Silver Vixen booked for dinner at The Mulberry Grill - in the company of GF's sister and brother-in-law.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Home again

No. The Gorse Fox is not referring to some Australian soap opera. In order to participate in an "all managers" conference call from Starfleet he left Worcester early and managed to be home by late afternoon. The journey had been trouble-free despite the odd shower and he was able to settle down with a cup of tea in time to dial in.

The Silver Vixen was struggling with a choice of fabrics for her latest project. The Gorse Fox, ever eager to help, perused the selection and made several suggestions but was clearly way out of his depth. He left her to her ruminations and went off to make supper - deciding that was more helpful and well within his grasp.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mother Superior

This week is a big week. Mother Superior leaves the Agency. This is a great loss as she has been a great supporter of the Gorse Fox and Starfleet over the past 4 years and she had a certian way of thinking that gelled so closely with that of the Gorse Fox. She was a visionary and this rare skill will now be used to further other projects in the voluntary sector. This evening we say goodbye with a bit of a "do" at a local hostelry in Worcester.

Maths

The last few days of document reviews have been wearing... the Gorse Fox needs some mathematical stimulation. As a result he hit the spreadsheets worried that some recent estimates that he had seen were not based on sufficient science to convince him of their accuracy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monsoon

It has been a quiet day compared to many. Discussions on estimation techniques, reviews of documents, discussions over roles, discussions over degrees of parallelism.

At the end of the day the Gorse Fox checked in to the hotel, called the Silver Vixen, and then headed off to the Indian Restaurant to meet up with some colleagues.

Inspiring

A clear night sky greeted the Gorse Fox as he left home. A sliver of silver to the east showed a fine crescent moon trying to tear the fabric of the heavens. It was cold but the car soon warmed up.

As the Gorse Fox's journey carved a furrow across the country dawn broke and as the sun began its brief winter dominance the moon disappeared and a gold glow lit the eastern horizon.

It promises to be a nice day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reviewing

Having taken a day of vacation on Friday there was a daft backlog of emails for the Gorse Fox to handle this morning. Also the last few weeks of focus have left several documents in abeyance whilst they awaited his review. Finally they bubbled to the top of the stack.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rubbish

An icy blast of winter hit the country. Here we were spared the ice and snow but cold wind certainly made the day chilly. Chilly enough that for the first time in a couple of year the Gorse Fox lit the fire as he watched Spurs beat Blackburn and haul themselves out of the bottom three (they need to make space for Arsenal).

Much of the Gorse Fox's day was spent with MySQL and Joomla (a content management system) trying to build a template with which he was happy. This is for the Silver Vixen initially, but may actually be extended to the family tree website if it seems appropriate.

Managed to talk with Cousteau-cub until the signal broke down. She has been involved in another clean-up on Phi Phi and they managed to clear a further 270kgs of rubbish (though GF is not clear how much was from underwater and how much from the island itself.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Last Bastion

Cold winds were sweeping in from the north. Dark clouds were gathering as winter prepared an opening salvo. The Gose Fox and Silver Vixen popped up to Architectural Plants for a stroll around and to look for a new tree for the garden. We saw several trees that we liked, but decided to wait for now.

Despite the threat, the sun managed to highlight specimens that seemed to glow like fireworks exploding against the darkening sky.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Birthday

It is the Silver Vixen's birthday. An auspicious day that is, no doubt, marked in all of your calendars. Judging by the piles of cards and presents that have arrived she has a bigger following than the England football team.

The Gorse Fox had taken the day off to spend with SV... and Urban-cub also took the afternoon off. We headed for Brighton Marina where we saw the latest Bond film "Quantum of Solace" and then had a splendid meal before returning home.

The film was an excellent yarn and certainly shows the new Bond has been re-invented for the current era. More gritty, and in some ways (story-wise) more relevant. We all thoroughly enjoyed it... though were disappointed to see we had missed a call from Cousteau-cub whilst in the cinema.

Dinner was taken at "The Brasserie fish" in the Marina. Very nice surroundings, attentive (but not obtrusive) service, and magnificent fish. Sardines, prawns, skate wings and lobster - all were superb. Certainly worth a return visit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Long and winding

The highlight of the day in the office was the presentation to The Don. Crowds started to gather and the Gorse Fox believes that police in riot gear were standing by. Fine speeches were made, and a the farewell presentation concluded. It was a sad moment - the end of an era; but for the Don, the start of a new adventure - introducing himself to his family again, being home at night, eating home cooked food, and so on.

GF set off home a little later than planned. The journey seemed interminable - it being a dark autumn night plagued by idle roadworks and minor accidents that dragged the journey out far longer than usual. It was a huge relief to fianlly pull into the drive, open the door and take a deep breath of sea air laced with the faint odour of sea-weed


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bye

It is always sad when a valued colleague leaves. This week we see the
departure of The Don back to the wastes of East Anglia. It has been
great fun working with him, and tonight he will be "seen off" in some
style.

The evening is scheduled to start at a well known local purveyor of
Indian foodstuffs, followed by a gathering at several respectable
hostelries. The Gorse Fox will of course be keeping tabs on the
unfolding events from a respectful distance.

Now, must go; can hear a curry calling from the far end of town.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Problems

After a very long day, starting well before 5, the Gorse Fox finally
got back to the hotel. He checked in and waddled up to his room - bags
clutched under his arm. Opening the door he was presented with
devastation.

It was clear that the room had not been made-up. The Gorse Fox did a
fetching pirouette and headed back to reception.

The girl at reception was deeply embarrassed and most apologetic. The
Gorse Fox calmed her and said "The fact that there is a problem
doesn't matter; it's not your fault. What makes people come back is
how you deal with a problem"

The Gorse Fox was upgraded to a suite.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homework

The Gorse Fox had been worried that he may have to head for Worcester a day earlier than usual. Material for a Board meeting needed to be "just right"... hence the weekend effort. It did seem to provide a sound foundation and final polishing could be done over the phone.

With annual assessments coming up, briefings for the managers continue - as does the inexorable increase in workload. GF has a pretty good team, though and they have helped by getting their homework everything in on time.

iPod is loaded and ready for the trip tomorrow... just need to pack

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Atomic?

No this is not a picture of a mushroom cloud over a post-nuclear Isle of Wight. It is just a trick of the light... honest.
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Clearing the head

The Gorse Fox has been sat at the computer most of the day dealing with charts for his client, expenses for his bank manager, and assessments for his team. There comes a point when the head starts to throb and a break is required.

The Gorse Fox took advantage of this requirement and headed to the beach where the watery winter sky cast a feeble glow across the outgoing tide. The slight breeze was enough to blow away the cobwebs and refresh the little grey cells sufficient for him to continue his work.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blinded

The Gorse Fox hates roller blinds.

Urban-cub has a red roller blind for her kichen window. It was awaiting affirmative action from the Gorse Fox to put it up. Thisa morning seemed like the perfect time. With Silver Vixen we arrived at Porpoise Place and GF set about the task in hand.
  • After some debate, the brackets did not require a baton, but were screwed to the frame.
  • The blind was unravelled and the core cut to length (distance between brackets minus 15 mm).
  • The fabrice was then cut to length (lenght of core minus 4mm)
  • The axle and ratchet were installed and the blind rolled up.
  • The blind was offered up and found to fit, but it was tight.
  • Too tight. The ratchet shed the beaded string.
  • Back at floor level the core was shortened by a futher few mm
  • The ratchet would not re-install
  • The few mm, were too many mm. The blind was now loose.
  • And the ratchet would neither take up its beaded string nor turn more 30 degrees.
GF has concluded he needs a replacement - but would guess that is not possible without an accompanying blind.

GF hates roller blinds.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Berks

As explained, the Gorse Fox found himself travelling to Reading... driving across West Sussex and east Hampshire to Basingstoke to shovel fistfulls of coins into the car park ticket machine so that he could leave the car and do the last 10 miles by train (avoiding the nightmarish traffic that is Reading). The journeys gave hime longer to catch up on further podcasts and now with the exception of a few back issues of "this Week in Photography" he's just about caught up.

At the office in Reading we spent the day "workshopping" that latest ideas about how land might be identified. The Gorse Fox always thought this was easy - if it's not wet, and you can't see through it - then it's land; apparently there's more to it than that, particularly if you keep animals on that land and they might move. The discussions ranged back and forth... but seemed to be quite productive.

GF also managed to get some time on the phone with the man from the Flying Horse. This proved very positive and should provide the input he needed for next week's Board.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Relief

The Gorse Fox heaves a huge sigh of relief as he sits down in the comfort of home. Three and a bit hours in the car listening to podcasts including
Skeptics Guide to the Universe
The Naked Scientist
Digital Planet
The News Quiz
News from Lake Wobegon
No more hotels until next week. Time to catch up with the Silver Vixen, and time to kick the virtual cat.

Unfortunately GF has to head back out first thing for a meeting in Reading that he really cannot afford the time to attend - but has to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Foiled

Why does the Gorse Fox still use "foils" - he hasn't used an acetate foil in years. The name sticks, however. Why don't we still refer to "slates"?

GF seems to have spent most of the day displaying, talking about, and changing slides. This has not been without its moments of both fun and frustration. But all in all he thinks progress has been made.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dark Lord

Introducing the Dark Lord.

The Dark Lord has not featured in this blog before now. He joined the project several months ago and has taken control of major aspects of what we do. Nobody is quite sure how he arrived on these shores but there are rumours that he landed at Whitby on an otherwise empty sailing barge.

There are several things you need to understand. He is charming. He seems to carry some cloak of invisibility, or supernatural power to just appear and disappear. He has the uncanny knack of appearing on your shoulder at moments when you are in deep thought. Nobody is sure whether he throws a shadow which could be why his appearance always seems so sudden. He has never been seen near any of the mirrors in the building and one may question whether he has a reflection.

Eh?

Yesterdau afternoon the Gorse Fox climbed into the taxi and announced his destination.
The taxi lurched into motion as he tried to buckle his seat belt. The driver switched on the intercom.
"I'll take Westminster and Horseferry Road. There's been a murder in the Strand. It's bloody and it's chaos".
The Gorse Fox took this all in as he made himself comfortable. There was pause.
"What happened on the Starnd then?" he asked - interested in the detailed gossip that only a taxi driver would know.
"Nuffin'" he replied "it's just weight of traffic".
The Gorse Fox sat back, confused, and re-parsed the conversation. This analysis showed up the initial flaw in his understanding... it wasn't "There's been a murder" it was "It's been murder". With this new interpretation it all made sense.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Adnams

A couple of beers with a mandarin saw a pleasant end to the working day. Then GF headed back to Victoria to pick up his train to the south coast.

Under water

The Gorse Fox had to leave the comfort of his own office to head up to Starfleet-on-Thames for some calls prior to visiting the seat of government late this afternoon. Considering the widespread signalling problems, GF's journey was relatively uneventful - though delayed.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Belkin along from PC World

The Gorse Fox woke up to a domestic disaster. It was evident at first... there were ablutions to perform, curtains to open, and tea to be made and taken to the Silver Vixen. He then went in to his study.

There was something wrong, but it wasn't immediately clear what.

He started the computers (they are all shut down over night). The room started to hum into life. But something was wrong.

He opened a browser and that's when it hit him. The lights were not on on the Broadband modem/router. He was bereft. No internet. No early morning news. No email. No blogging... and if he didn't get it sorted - no working from home.

He did some basic debugging - but the problem was terminal. A trip to PC World was required and so he whizzed across to Hove and sat there outside the shop, going Internet cold turkey, until they opened their doors and let him in to drool over the various choices available. Making his choice he rushed home and feverishly installed the magic box from Belkin.

The look of panic that had haunted him all morning disappeared. All was well. Normality had returned.

Remember

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In the neck

It is a quiet day in the Gorse Fox household. Silver Vixen is busy with some patterns, and GF has been busy trying to get to the bottom of an irritating fault in one of his blogs.

He did manage to talk briefly to Cousteau-cub before here battery died... and will call back tomorrow to catch up on the news. Apparently Phi Phi is in a meteorological high pressure area at present and whether that was the reason or not certainly the call quality was very good.

Also heard that an aunt was unwell and currently confined to bed in hospital. It is a great shame as she is the engine room behind her whole family - so we will keep a watching brief on proceedings to where we can help without hindering.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Assessments

Starfleet has started its annual round of assessments. The Gorse Fox has been invited to contribute commentary to the assessments of many odd characters this year and spent time on and off during the day scribbling the odd response to these requests. He tries to be objective - but cannot resist the odd item of whimsy... this year this included:
  • He is like a cool beer on a hot day...
  • A bowl of spaghetti is better organized... and with the advent of alphabetti spaghetti is probably better documented
(GF would add this latter comment was about a system that was being assessed, not the colleague himself)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Ringing in the Ears

It had been a pretty successful day - the paper being prepared for the next Board meeting now seems to have a consensus, so just needs tidying up and socialising with the various interested parties.

It seems strange. The Gorse Fox travels back and forth across the country week in an week out. With a few exceptions his only company is the radio or iPod... but then, once in a while, he is interrupted by a phone call.

Like London buses, however, the interrupt is rarely singular. So it was this evening with the first call coming in as the Gorse Fox slid down onto the M3 near Winchester, then each time he ended a call, the phone would ring again and so it was right though until he arrived on his driveway.

Urban-cub was there when I arrived - she had stopped by to join us for supper.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Age

The Gorse Fox pondered on the realities of aging. As walked from Spur
0 to Pizza Express he passed an Estate Agency. An elderley gentleman
dressed in brogues, twill trousers, a barbour jacket and neat hat
stood outside looking at the houses advertised in the window.

Through his white beard beard he chuckled as he read the descriptions
out loud and dropped into paroxysms of laughter every time he read the
price.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Who

A long discussion was held over dinner. Does the Abbott have a blog or doesn't he? If he does, what is it called and has anyone seen it?

Out came the Gorse Fox's internet-enabled phone. We searched and searched on every keyword and idea that we could come up with... but we were unable to find anything. GF is sure the hunt will continue.

Ooops

Good job the Gorse Fox left for the hotel early. Despite havib=ng his
reservations through until Christmas, the hotel had managed to lose
his bookings. Fortunately he was there early enough to still get a
room.

Dinner is planned for the local Tapas restaurant which is always good
value for money.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Monday, November 03, 2008

After a pleasant meal at Liming on Sunday evening the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen settled in for a quiet evening. Well, quite enough other than the Council papers that had dropped through the door and needed reviewing.

Monday was back at the coalface which had very little to do with mining anything other than ideas to help with some research for the upcoming board meeting. The scope of this, however, continues to grow so keeps the GF on his toes.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Inconvenient

We learn form the BBC of a case in the West Midlands where naughty pranksters left superglue smeared on the seat in a public convenience and subsequentlty a Man is found glued to toilet seat


Setting aside the poor chap's embarrassment (by the way, this seems to be a mobile-phone moment... what would have done without one?) imagine:

  • that first moment when he realised he was stuck.
  • the moment when he decided he had to call for help
  • the smart alec comments of the first rescuers to attend the scene
  • the morbid fear of toilet seats that will haunt the rest of his life

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Silver Vixen had arranged to meet with other members of her coven. The Gorse Fox was left to his own devices whilst, fresh from their Halloween jaunts, the coven met to compare the tricks or treats achieved last night. Certainly the ack-ack of fireworks here in KG was enough to keep the broomsticks well away from our airspace.

GF has busied himself with several domestic tasks and also spent some time playing with a speadsheet for the Urban-cub, and transcribing more from the old diaries.