Friday, December 31, 2010
Mmm. Whilst being reflective he notes that, including today (with allowances made for vacation time and public holidays), there are 916 working days until retirement! Not that he's counting.
A Blue Screen of Death is not a good way for the work laptop to start the day. Gorse Fox will treat this is a one-off anomaly, and having restarted the system continue as if nothing had happened – though will be pressing the SAVE key far more frequently than usual!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
There is a strange tradition of “Bring your family to work” days or “Bring your daughter to work” days. The Gorse Fox has had to modify this time-honoured tradition and held a “work at home whilst parts of your family come to you” day.
The Gorse Fox’s miniature sister, her husband, the Mask and his girlfriend all arrived to celebrate the season… but GF was still working so had to multi-task between pure work and being a distracted host. It was nice to see them all, though it is important not to step on her by accident whilst moving round the kitchen.
After lunch, the miniature sister (nano-sis) and her husband headed off to see the Bishop in hospital,
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The Gorse Fox is back at work – at least in body and spirit, though practically he was working from home and seemed to be one of the few people at Starfleet today. This meant that he could get on with a number of things in peace and did not have to worry about interruptions, silly deadlines, or teleconferences.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Gorse Fox spent some time with the Silver Vixen in the Apple Store at Covent Garden and again at Westfield. The objective was really to look at the iPad and determine if it was a usable alternative to a netbook when travelling. The conclusion was “not yet”.
It seemed to do many things quite adequately – and in some cases very well. Browsing the web, showing photos, showing glossy magazines and newspapers… all excellent. No video-Skype, however. This means that one of the great tools for the traveller – video-phoning home is not available. Also, the only way to get photos directly from a camera to the iPad is via an extra adapter that has to be purchased and connected to the docking bay.
In contrast a 10 minute play with the Samsung Galaxy Tablet showed that it was able to achieve all of the missing functions.
GF will be postponing any tablet-gadget for now.
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen climbed into the car and headed up towards London. The SatNav directed us along a very direct route to Shepherds Bush and we arrived at our destination well inside two hours.
We parked up the car and headed for Covent Garden for a wander about and an opportunity to drink in the atmosphere. We watched the street performers as we munched on our pasties and drank fresh coffee.
From Covent Garden we made our way across to Hyde Park and visited the Winter Wonderland Christmas Fair.
This was an excellent event set up along the lines of German Christmas Fair. There were stalls selling all sorts of crafts, beers, mulled wines, sausages, candies and so forth. In addition there was a fairground with rides and a huge ferris wheel. It was quite magical as the light faded and the dark provided the perfect backdrop to the thousands of lights. Well worth the visit – a magical and perfect afternoon.
Early evening saw us enjoying a fine Thai meal at one of GF’s favourite restaurants. What a good day.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
And so it came to pass that another Christmas ran the gauntlet of time. It was a lovely day for the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen. We had a leisurely start and got the oven on ready for the ritual incineration of a a turkey.
Urban-cub arrived to finish her wrapping and then took over the cooking duties and just before we managed to chat with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit on Skype. Lunch was delicious without being over-indulgent and we soon had everything cleared away.
Urban-cub’s partner and his children turned up late afternoon and we had a fun time opening up presents and then playing Wii games whilst grazing on the amazing buffet laid on by the Silver Vixen.
The day whistled past, and looking back, GF admits that it was fun. As he dropped into bed he muttered God Bless you all, and peace to all men.
This morning was, again, very relaxed. GF spent some time on the inter-web-net thing booking a short stay in a London hotel for GF & SV to have a quiet wander around without having to rush back for the trains. All his recent time away has provided him with lots of loyalty points that will pay for the stay.
He’s also spent some time research Android tablets. Urban-cub received one for Christmas, but some of its features did not seem to be very stable so remedies were sought… rather unsuccessfully.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The ham cooked yesterday and the turkey was cooked this morning. Gorse Fox acted as commis chef to Urban-cub and everything was done in record time.
Managed to get a connection with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit on Skype – though the connection was a little flakey. They were on Phi Phi visiting friends and though it was mid evening, still waiting for their promised Christmas lunch. There is slight chance that the odd drop of alcohol may have passed their lips whilst they waited. It was certainly clear that they were having a good time.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Urban-cub is busy in the living room preparing one of her gifts. GF was summoned. “I’m cold, can we light the fire?” she asked.
Now the use of the first-person plural personal pronoun “we” is misleading in this case. “We” implies a joint effort by both parties to ignite the neatly cut remains of a tree in the log burner. What was actually meant was the second person singular personal pronoun “you”… and to be pedantic “will you” would have been more appropriate than “can we/you”.
Sequestered carbon is now being released up the chimney as the flames radiate warmth into the room, and reduce the once proud tree to a fine ash.
The Gorse Fox has caught up with his work admin and cleared his emails. He can start afresh with an empty email system after Christmas.
The sun is shining on the south coast and though the temperature is still barely above zero, the sun makes everything seem better.
Old Father Time popped up on Skype during the morning. It was the first time his choir-boy-like visage had been seen for many years. Not pretty… but GF would guess that’s what happens when you live in Wales – though it was interesting to see that they did have electricity and, indeed, the internet. GF suspects the locals think he is some kind of magician, conjuring up light at the flick of a switch, or faces and voices on his “electric book thing” by pointing at their names.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The traditional seasonal failure of a major household appliance has come slightly earliy this Christmas. The advantage of this was that GF had time to call Mr Fixit. The failure of the dishwasher was almost as critical as the failure of the heating last year.
Mr Fixit arrived this morning and after a while all was done.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The Gorse Fox has not had a riveting day. In the post-loss hiatus he has found motivation to be a little scarce. What he has managed to do, however, is start to look at converting his gargantuan spreadsheet into a database design and framework for future projects.
Caught up on expenses.
Weather is still cool, but the snow that hit the Midlands left us well alone.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
On a cheery note, the Skype alert flashed up. Beloved Aunt was online. GF hit the video-call button and a couple of seconds later was chatting face to face with the family in Toronto. The connection wasn’t very good, but at least it was possible to chat and see each other.
The main project that has kept the Gorse Fox busy since May has just come to a sudden and unexpected conclusion. GF’s gut reaction of not trusting said client proved to be perspicacious. One expects a certain degree of ruthlessness in business – but GF doesn’t expect dissembling and dishonesty.
Gorse Fox would love to say more, but discretion forbids. Maybe this is one for the memoirs, once he retires.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Those who were at the shop were there to shop! The result was that the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen wandered round the store in almost total isolation. This became an (almost) pleasurable experience... topped out only by our arrival at the checkouts and discovering no queues ahead of us. The whole adventure took less than an hour.
The rest of the country may be snowed or iced in, but here on the coast the temperature has soared to a balmy 4C. We have had heavy rain during the afternoon, so that put a stop to any thoughts of breaking out the SPF 15 and basking in the garden.
GF found a small vial on the desk. Had a vague recollection of the Urban-cub leaving it – he started to examine it and managed to squirt himself in the face with some perfume or other. Good job he had his glasses on to keep the noxious liquid away from his eyes.
Excitement mounts as GF prepares to head out for the Christmas food shopping… assuming, of course, that the local supermarket has had anything delivered.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Gorse Fox had a strange up-bringing. This evening GF was reminded of this. He and the Silver Vixen watched a recent film…
It was back in the1960s. The Gorse Fox was away at school and the half term approached. The abbot asked for ideas for the holiday. GF suggested one of the St Trinians films – the Abbot, not knowing any better, quiesced. We all drove down to London and attended the moving picture show. It was not deemed suitable and the Gorse Fox was in trouble for weeks. That’s the problem when living in a monastery – one interpretation is that that film is about the life of a little known saint and nobody bothered to ask GF whether that is true.
Anyway the latest St Trinian’s film was a fun and silly romp. But it did remind GF of old times.
Very cold over night, but the snow that blighted the rest of the country ignored us… except for some slight dusting of icing sugar.
The day has come. Decorations exploded from their boxes and threw themselves all over the house. The fibre-optic Christmas tree was a bonus in that the usual hassle of sorting out the lights was unnecessary.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
It was well after nine before GF got home last night. By the time he had eaten he was too late to go to the Parish Christmas drinks. So the one thing he had nailed in the calendar got wiped out by Starfleet.
Hey, guess what! The client failed to make a decision again. Now it’s scheduled for Monday. GF thinks it’ll be delayed to the New Year as he doesn’t trust a word they say.
Saturday was leisurely – though time was spent moving the logs that had been delivered yesterday and stacking them in the greenhouse to keep them dry. Fortunately, Mellors had made a start on this when he was here yesterday so GF didn’t have too much to do,
A recent switch of the TV package meant that GF had lost several days of Silver Vixen’s recordings. Time had to be spent recovering the situation and fortunately all were still available on iPlayer and a download to her laptop allowed them to be played through the big TV…. phew!
The fire is now alight, the TV is on, the weather outside is “inclement”… time settle down for a quiet evening.
Friday, December 17, 2010
No. This is the day upon which Starfleet managers collaborate on staff appraisals to ensure that treatment is fair and equitable for all of their people. So, GF will have to discuss and defend the overall appraisal he has completed for each of his 10 staff. Given the total number of people in his division, this is likely to be a very long day. At least GF only has to attend the afternoon as all his people are very senior.
What that did mean, though, was the he could spend the morning reviewing each of the cases and ensuring he is armed and ready to go in to bat.
On an entirely orthogonal point - it's snowing.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The day started with a pleasant breakfast at the hotel and then a stroll in to work to prepare for the late-morning workshop session. It was positively balmy compared to recent weather with temperature soaring to 7C. Snow was forecast for later followed by a drop in temperature. Sure enough, it was snowing when GF left the office, but it still seemed relatively mild so he went for a walk. He ended up by finding an oriental restaurant that had a buffet. This seemed like an attractive proposition.
How wrong can you be. It was dreadful - and certainly an establishment that will be given a wide berth in the future. The food selection was adequate, rather than large, but it was (at best) lukewarm and frankly, not very good.
The client, we believe, has made a decision and is likely to bless us with the black or white smoke tomorrow. The Gorse Fox senses a wave of foreboding among the team as things come to a head. One suspects that a stitch up may be in play, but time will tell. Gorse Fox won't be at the client office to hear the news. He has been summoned to Starfleet offices to help moderate staff appraisals. An important job, but conveniently not due to finish until 1830 - so GF is likely to miss the one Xmas "do" that he has had in his calendar for a couple of months. He is not amused.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Meetings with the client went well... but still they seem no closer to a decision.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The day started quietly, but gradually built up. By late afternoon GF was reviewing CVs, checking project assumptions, and booking an hotel ready for the next couple of days.
Tomorrow he is back up in West London hoping to cajole the client into making some decisions.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Gorse Fox was lucky. The continuing prevarication of the client meant that it made little sense for GF to head up to West London so spent the day working from home. This gave him the opportunity to catch up on some admin for his team’s appraisals.
GF has been away often enough now that he has ascended to the gold tier of the hotel’s loyalty card – hopefully this will mean red carpets, champagne and caviar in the room, and a butler. Then, on the other hand…
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The Gorse Fox has avoided comment on the row over tuition fees. This is not because he is apathetic, but more a victim of time pressure. So what is to be done?
The problem sits at the nexus of several malignant factors: 1) the last Government left us with debts of 1Trillion; 2) the ridiculous assumption that tertiary education is a right for everyone; 3) the devaluing of tertiary education with the introduction of meaningless and valueless degrees; and 4) the idea that University education should be paid for by everyone else – not the recipient.
Let us examine these one by one.
Firstly the profligate Labour Government spent thirteen years or so breaking its own rules of prudence, lecturing us on the economy and reacting to the world wide financial crisis by incurring further debt. Just as a reminder, they had sold off the UK gold reserves at the bottom of the market, they had raided pension funds, and were still 650 Billion in debt before the financial crisis. According the Office of National Statistics, the Banking crisis cost the Exchequer 50 Billion, but the Government continued to spend like there was no tomorrow – and for them, there was. The Gorse Fox would also point out that they have admitted that if they had won the election, they too would have cut spending – but only by three-quarters what the current Government have decided upon.
Secondly, there is the ridiculous assumption that tertiary education is a right for everyone. The average IQ in the UK is probably about 110, and this means that whilst there may be many people with high IQs, there are similarly many who are not so blessed. It is neither sensible nor reasonable to assume that it is the right of all people, whatever their ability, to have a University education. The Gorse Fox does believe there is a universal human right to education, but this is provide people with the tools for living – reading, writing, basic mathematics, social awareness, some history, and some geography – maybe even a foreign language. This should all be provided in primary and secondary education.
There is a great value in University education, where it provides relevance and value to the community. Sciences secure our continued progress as a race, history understands how we have come to be who we are, geography (a degree in colouring in maps) helps understand the nature of our planet, its riches, and its peoples. These all contribute to the wealth of human knowledge – even Political Science (a degree in arguing, some would say) has some value. There are, however, many many degrees that have no value to society and have been developed purely to provide simple subjects for the intellectually challenged to pass a couple of years and to gain funds for the University.
Finally, there is the idea that we, the tax payer, should fund University education for everyone that wants it – and that they can pay it back (eventually). Again, there are several converging problems here. Firstly, value for money. If the Gorse Fox is going to invest in something he wishes to know that it is value for money. By this, he means that a) it has value to society – like the sciences, medicine, law etc. and b) it is delivered in a valuable way. Recent discussions with University student have made it clear that their 3-year courses are so spread out, and punctuated with so much holiday that they could very easily be reduced to two years, if not one. A by-product of this would be a saving in the overall cost of the University education.
In the USA and Canada, University is far more expensive – typically 50-100 thousand dollars. This is paid for by the student, the family, a philanthropic grant, the military, or some enlightened employer. This has a number of positive outcomes. The student needs to work to pay for the tuition, and this provides a steady stream of staff to allow Malls to remain open late into the evening, which in turn increases the circulation of money from people shopping after work, and the students themselves. They requirement to earn the money to pay for the education give the student a stake in their own success.
We have lived too long in a society that thinks everything should be theirs by right. Success should be an aspiration that is fulfilled by hard work, not by hand outs from those that do work hard.
As for the student protests of the past few week. The Gorse Fox supports the students who marched peacefully to make a democratic point – even though he disagrees with that point. He utterly denounce all who resorted to violence and intimidation. He hopes they are found, prosecuted and imprisoned for a long time.
In case anyone looks on this stance as hypocritical – the Gorse Fox is fortunate enough to have an exceptionally high IQ, he did NOT go to University, and he is fortunate enough to be paid very well for the hard work he has done for the last 38 years and will continue to do for the next 947 working days!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
There are some days when it may be safer to stay in bed. The Gorse Fox was up early and logged on to Starfleet. It was to be a busy day. Well, that was the plan. The first teleconference started and the WiFi link dropped. It came back. It dropped again, and so it went on. The Belkin router was not going to play ball.
GF finished the call and looked for a suitable replacement device. Fortunately there was a suitable Netgear device at Currys in Littlehampton. GF headed out, but Mellors had blocked the exit, he swung round to go out the other route, but that was blocked too. He reversed, careful not to catch the new car on the roses… and promptly caught the planters at the front of the house and managed to break the drain pipe from the kitchen as well as a wooden planter – which left white paint marks on the black paintwork.
This was not turning out to be a productive morning.
Duct Tape was pressed into use to sort out the drain pipe and then GF headed off to get the router. The “reserve and collect” didn’t work. Curry had not reserved it, but fortunately there was one left and GF returned home.
The new router then had to be configured and all of the various systems and devices configured. All but one is now done and working… only the mobile phone booster (Vodafone Sure Signal) is still playing up.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Today GF wandered past a desk where the professional was explaining "I don't think Lincolnshire is north of Newcastle".
GF's geography teachers must bust spinning in their graves.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
A degree of clarity is emerging in that it appears that there has been a down-selection, and Strafleet is still in the game. Christmas parties, breweries, and the inability to combine the two seems an appropriate train of thought.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
He has a meeting at Starfleet late afternoon, so will disappear towards central London in the next hour.
Monday, December 06, 2010
After hacking several feet of permafrost from the Silver Vixen's car, GF was chauffeured to the station for a mid-morning train. In retrospect he prefers the rush hour. By the time this train was up near London it was packed - and having stopped at Gatwick the aisles were full of suitcases, and having stopped at East Croydon was topped up with Chavs with their mobile phones, pushchairs and screaming children.
Once at Starfleet the preparation time for the afternoon's review was gobbled up by questions regarding the bid to the current client and as usual there were numerous interpretations of what they were asking. No doubt this will cause additional confusion.
The afternoon's review went well, and GF had it all written up and tucked away by late afternoon.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
News from the hospital sounds promising. The Bishop is out of ITU and in HDU. The family visited yesterday and are going again today. The Silver Vixen is taking Blodwyn in to visit tomorrow.
Had a long online chat with Cousteau-cub. She had seen the news about the Bishop and was worried and wanted to send her wishes. She’s been a bit under the weather, herself, but is working hard – though not diving at present. She’s being managerial and having to make-do with a Mac at present because her beloved Samsung is being fixed after a screen failure.
Back home, there was a backlog of photos on the Silver Vixen’s iPhone. GF said he’d help download them. This, he suspected, would just be a standard iTunes feature – but when he tried it he realised this was not the case. More prosaic applications would be required. In the end the classic Picasa3 provided the answer and all photos have been duly captured.
The iPhone also was in receipt of an update – 630MB worth of download that failed twice before it finally worked.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
The work was going well but an early evening phone call meant dropping everything to collect an aunt and take her to the hospital. The Bishop had been taken in to A&E during the day, and the prognosis seemed poor.
At times like this, work becomes an irrelevance.
We collected our charge and met up with the Gorse Fox’s cousins at the hospital. An operation was planned and we could only go home and wait for news.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Services between London and Brighton are suspended until further notice. East and West Coastway services are suspended until further notice. Arun Valley services are suspended until further notice.Gorse Fox has taken the precaution of booking an extra night in the hotel in case things don't improve during the day.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
The client meeting was delayed, but at least it was fairly short. By 19:15 GF was heading out into the cold for the walk back to the hotel. The question that was running through what passes for consciousness was "what should be done about dinner?"
Most of the restaurants were busy. Many had queues. Gorse Fox marched on. Opposite the hotel is an Indian restaurant. He peered through the window. It was empty. He entered and apologized that he hadn't booked. A table was provided and the meal ordered. A wheelbarrow full of chilies was tipped into the dish. Even for GF, it was hot.
As he left 30 minutes later the ice started to melt within a radius of about 7.5 metres. GF suspects this may be a dish that keeps on giving.