Monday, December 31, 2012

Fizzling Out

After the few days away from home, we allowed 2012 to fizzle out in the comfort of our own home - whilst wondering if we will still be here at this time next year (the house still being on the market).

The Silver Vixen managed to catch up with her mother and sister during the day. Plans are afoot for us to visit soon.

For the Gorse Fox, much of the day was spent writing code. The aim is to be able to process a backup file created by Blogger of the Gorse Fox blog - and extract entries that are merged into his private blog on his own server. Because of the sheer size of GF blog, this has posed some interesting challenges, but each has been overcome. There is still one last phase of processing to handle, but that shouldn't take too long.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just Visiting

Christmas, being a time for family, saw a visit to the home of the Gorse Fox's little sister and her family. At first we had a few worries about whether the weather had left us with a passable route up to the heathen wastes of Berkshire, but we need not have been concerned. The journey was swift and trouble-free.

As usual, she put on a mighty spread that had the table groaning under the weight of  roasted meats and vegetables.

Lunch done, we settled down to see their photos of Barcelona and catch up on all the family news and gossip. It was a lovely day, and nice to see them all again (having realised it must be a couple of years since we had actually been to their house - usually meeting half way, instead).

Very quick run home, with the roads almost deserted.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Home

A leisurely start to the day, a couple of cups of tea and then a wander down to breakfast.

It was interesting observing the fellow guests and listening to the dozens of different accents and trying to guess where they all came from. It was also interesting watching the kids - how assured they all were - but by the same token how poor their manners were and what a lack of respect they showed for those around them.

Back in our room we had a farewell peer through the picture windows and then headed down to check-out and to head home. A splendid couple of days.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hard Luck, Hard Rock

The plan had been to go to the Hard Rock Cafe as it was was just round the corner from the hotel. Gorse Fox assumed that by visiting early it would be easy enough to get seated.

WRONG

We entered through what turned out to be the Fire Escape and went to ask the waiter about a table. He explained the we should return the way we had come in, and then go round to the front and join the queue.

We left the premises and wandered round to the front where it became clear that there was a long, long queue of would-be patrons. It was evidently time for Plan B (Not that GF had formulated a Plan B at that point).

 We strolled along passed the Japanese Embassy and looked at the menus of a couple of places we passed. Nothing captured the imagination.

Then we passed a sign to Shepherd's Market, which lies behind the Hilton, where we remembered the concierge commenting there were some nice restaurants.

Certainly the area was charming and despite the bustle of Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner, it was an oasis of calm and had a real "olde Worlde" feel (without the cut-purses, pickpockets, and squalor)!

In keeping with the old London charm we opted for a Turkish Restaurant where we were manoeuvred into a table for two in the packed restaurant. The waiters managed an elegant fandango as they weaved in and out of the tables and somehow managed to serve everyone without colliding with each other or the obstacle course of tables that filled the room.

Food and service was good and the price was sensible. Nice evening.

Fabric of the Universe

 Leaving Harrod's, we dropped into the Tube and headed for Oxford Circus. First stop was at Costa for a coffee, but were soon on our way to the centre of the fabric universe. (Not that the Gorse Fox would know, but was happy to tag along).
 The Tudor facade of Liberty's sets the theme for inside, where the building soars to a rook lantern above the octagonal central atrium.

All of the building is constructed with huge oak timbers, beautifully crafted to create the illusion of Tudor balconies and walkways. You could almost imagine Shakespeare setting one of his plays in the atrium and the audience cramming each of the five levels of galleries.

The Christmas theme was clear gold this year - and frankly it was a bit garish, and certainly lacked subtlety.
Whilst the Silver Vixen made here way round, the Gorse Fox peered down from the galleries looking to see how the main supports were constructed, and observing the craftsmanship that had gone in to the original construction and how well it has survived the huge throngs of visitors over the years.
Just to prove that there was more to the building than just its architecture, the Gorse Fox thought he'd better take a picture of some of the famed fabrics!

Food Emporium

Escort completed we arrived at Harrod's. For both the Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox it was the first visit that either remember. This iconic store is famous for the bedlam that is its "Sale", but GF must say that it was not too bad.
 What was striking was that famous food halls which evoked memories of how store used to sell their food stuffs before the advent of supermarkets.
The sights and smells were wonderful and the choice seemed almost limitless.

The Gorse Fox thinks that of all the things seen as we wandered the five or six floors - the food halls were the most impressive.


Entourage

So we left the hotel heading for Harrod's.  As we made our way down the Carriage Drive our entourage formed up to accompany us.

Polynesian Cuisine

One back at the hotel we opted to eat at Trader Vic's. This was one of the in-house restaurants, but clearly catered for visitors as well as guests. The food was described as Polynesian French, but was basically a fusion of Asian cooking styles. It was a lively place and the service was pretty good. Though a little pricey, it was a very nice meal.

Now let's see what today brings.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Landmark

Our hotel is somewhat of a London landmark. We are lucky enough to be on the 25th floor so have some fantastic views.

Well that's nice

It has been a super afternoon and evening with a pleasant wander through the German Christmas Market in Hyde Park.

The lights were dazzling, the rides were exciting (to watch) and the mulled wine made the early evening somewhat mellow.



In town

Checked in at London's Hilton on Park Lane. Had forgotten what excellent and personal treatment you get as a Diamond level member.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

A quiet day after yesterday's festivities.

Other than an interrupt to spend some time on the treadmill, GF spent most of the day writing code, or researching ways to process a huge file... job not yet complete, but at least he has a plan.

Late afternoon the TV was showing the Spurs game at Aston Villa - Gorse Fox could not resist so watched the game with a growing concern as the first half dominance achieved little - but fortunately 4 goals in the second half restored the natural order of things.

It was good in the evening to find that the second part of Lord of the Rings was on TV - it was the only this that held the remotest interest and was as good, this second time around, as the first time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas Day has been remarkably relaxed. Urban-cub had decided to cook and so all we really had to do is turn up, chill-out, and enjoy the feast.

Meanwhile, in background we were monitoring for Cousteau-cub to appear online so that we could have a chat with her, but despite watching Google Talk and Skype we didn't manage to catch up. Hopefully we will have better luck tomorrow.

Urban-cub, Pistol Pete and the kids then came back to our place and spent the evening with us playing games on their XBox/Konect.

Greetings

Christmas Greetings to each every one of you.

Christmas means different things to different people - but hopefully it is a time when we can all reflect on the positive things in our lives and give thanks for those we love and those we car about.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Last minute

Well a few last minute chores - like wrapping (done so beautifully by the Silver Vixen), trip to the Bank - done so expertly by the Gorse Fox, and roasting the ham - done by the oven!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The bug

The Gorse Fox should have known better. Anyone that knows him could have predicted it. But it just crept up on him. That innocent exercise in coding suddenly grabbed his imagination and now he is craving the buzz. Sneaking round the back to the study, he quickly looks up another routine, or writes a quick function, then returns to the family, innocently.

It's not easy having an addiction - particularly one like programming where the application of patches has nothing to do with breaking the dependency.

Doh!

And so the Gorse Fox finished writing his little program. This was designed to search through the 456 photos uploaded from the various phones and compare them with the 25,000 odd photos in the complex sets of folders and sub-folders of the photo library to identify any duplicates.

The Gorse Fox seeded one deliberate duplicate to ensure that there was a target for testing.

The program ran and completed the comparison in under 15 seconds.... the only duplicate found was the one deliberately created for the testing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Modern commandments

An ageing Church of England vicar has, apparently, produced a new version of the Ten Commandments and suggests they be hung in the BBC News rooms.
1) Though shalt take heed of the atheist prophet Richard Dawkins and not worship God at all.
2) Though shalt promote the images of celebrities which thou dost worship.
3) Though shalt take God's name in vain.
4) Remember the Sabbath day to shop until though dost drop.
5) Take no notice of thy mother nor thine absent father.
6) Though shalt kill the embryo in thy womb, for it would be an hindrance to thy lifestyle, in it?
7) It was said afore time 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' but I say unto thee that thou should'st put it about a bit, like.
8) 'Thou shalt not steal' being virus chapeau, thou mayest fiddle thine expenses.
9) Thou shalt grass up neighbours to the Thought Police if they utter such that be racist, sexist or discriminatory.
10) Thou shalt covet thy neighbour's wife and even his slag, his iPad, his Rolex and his Ferrari and everything that is thy neighbour's.

This seems somehow appropriate and certainly would explain the focus of TV programmes that seem to glorify and promote all that is seedy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Code

Some of the afternoon was spent writing code.

For the Gorse Fox, this is one of the great pleasures in life, but one that he rarely gets to practise. In fact, this lack of practise became quite evident as the programme grew... and code that he would have written as fast as he could type, now required the occasional reference manual. It wasn't that the commands had been forgotten - it was some of the syntax of particular commands.

Anyway - basic logic for the programme is now built and tested - a few finishing touches tomorrow and it will be done.

What was it for? Well, the Gorse Fox has been merging all of the photos from all of the mobile phones and other devices and needs to check which ones need to be filed into his photo library and which ones are duplicates and can be removed. With nearly 500 photos to cross check against a library of over 25,000 photos - this is not an easy task to perform manually.

Last Day

Well being that the End of the World was being forecast for today by every nut under the sun that doesn't know the first thing about the Mayans, the Gorse Fox decided that today would be his last day at work. With either the apocalypse or Christmas coming, it seemed like a good time to book some vacation - and if the Apocalypse does come, then at least he hasn't used up precious vacation allowance.

What was good about the day was the fact that we could announce to one of the Gorse Fox's team that his promotion case had been accepted and he would start the new year in a new position. GF will no longer be his manager - but can think of no better way to lose team members.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Certain Inevitabilities

There are certain inevitabilities in life... the need for food, the caress of a fine wine, the beauty of nature, and putting on weight as you get older. This last example needs to be addressed, albeit with a degree of caution. The formula for weight loss is actually very simple -

  • Calories Burnt > Calories Consumed.

Now, one really doesn't wish to reduce the calories consumed, so it is to this end that the Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox decided to buy a joint Christmas present. During the day two nice men with a big delivery truck turned up and carried a huge cardboard box containing a treadmill into the west wing. As work finished for the day the Gorse Fox burnt a significant number of calories freeing the treadmill from the confines of the box and setting it up. This will allow vigorous gentle exercise to be taken in comfort of the home whilst drinking coffee and munching on biscuits.

The other inevitability was that GF would have the pleasure of setting up SV's new iPhone. The old one seemed ever less responsive, and very slow so GF ordered a new one. The phone was on a 2-4 week backlog according to the website. Despite this it turned up with 36 hours of placing the order. New phone now set up and working. Best part about it is that GF can sell the old phone and almost recoup the money spent fixing his phone yesterday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gravity

Isaac Newton has a lot to answer for. The Gorse Fox innocently crawled out of bed, first thing this morning and stumbled myopically down the stairs to let the cat out. As he bent to undo the cat-flap, his mobile phone dropped from his pyjama jacket.

At this point gravity was in full control - no parachutes or other devices were deployed. Accelerating at 32 feet per second per second is plunged onwards - the distance being what it was (a couple of feet) the Gorse Fox was not concerned about the friction of re-entry, however, he was concerned by the instantaneous deceleration when the ceramic tiled floor brought an sudden end to the descent. His concerns were not without foundation (and nor were the ceramic tiles). Mobile phone screen has cracked every which way. This could be an expensive repair!

The Gorse Fox conjectures that if he had done this before Isaac Newton, though he's not sure the Samsung Galaxy S3 was available then, then the phone would just have hung there in mid-air for him to grasp and replace in the pocket. Gravity certainly has its drawbacks.

Deisel

The Gorse Fox needs to fill up the car with diesel... but thinks he'll wait until Saturday. He would be extremely miffed if he filled up before then and the world went and ended on Friday. (Everything after Friday is just pencilled in the diary - no sense in committing until we're sure!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Indirection

The Gorse Fox had his day planned. There would be a call from the Scottish Project which would require some reviews and an afternoon teleconference. However, despite working at home, the Gorse Fox was thwarted by the East Coast Mainline whose service was seriously disrupted by problems with the overhead cables. Not the most obvious excuse for a delay to work in West Sussex! It turns out that the contact on the Scottish Project was stuck and unable to get to Edinburgh - throwing all other plans into chaos.

The Gorse Fox filled his time with more research into the workings of the government department he expects to be working with next year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Process Maps

Sometimes the Gorse Fox is surprised by the way other people approach solution design work. He has started to prepare to respond, on behalf of Starfleet, to a Government bid. The bid is for the replacement of some ageing software that supports a function that most would believe they have some visibility of, and therefore understand.

As Starfleet have been approached in the past, he decided to ask for some simple overview material from his colleagues. Whilst there were deep-dive component maps and data models - nobody could describe how this was used by the public, and where the staff within the department had to intervene.

Today, then, was spent creating some simple process maps that tried to describe the full context of the system that will be replaced. The Gorse Fox still has some work to do - but at least he is now beginning to comprehend how the Department works and how it impacts the public. Now he has some parameters that will educate his design; now he knows where changes will have positive or negative impacts on users.

Whenever GF gets involved in designing a major solution in a new industry, it is his objective to leave knowing as much about how the business works as the business itself... otherwise how can you design a solution properly and integrate it into the fabric of their business. He suspects that this is actually the missing link in so many designs - and why so many systems are so clunky.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Streaming

We had a chance to have a chat with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit over Skype. It was nice to see them and see that, at least externally, her accident has not left her marked or lopsided. Its also good to see that they seem to be their usual laid-back selves.

The Skype session (on the iPad) triggered the Silver Vixen to ask if there was any way to get it onto the existing TV so that we could see on a bigger screen. A few minutes thought and some time with Mr Google and the Gorse Fox headed out in the car to a purveyor of electronic gadgets. An hour or so later, there nestled an Apple-TV device, new network switch and an HDMI switch. Now anything can be streamed or mirrored from the iPad or iPhone to the TV.

Most successful.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Festive Signs

After several hours, the Christmas decorations are up, lights twinkle in the hallway, and lights twinkle in the kitchen. The living room is full of lights, and cheer. The first bottle of mulled wine has been consigned to oblivion, and Christmas music fills the air.

Just pulled away from the gate, to start taxiing towards Christmas. Please check your seat belts are fastened.

Evil - cntd

Thinking on his post last night, the Gorse Fox may be accused of focussing on the one aspect of American culture - gun ownership - as the sole cause of the tragedy.

That would be simplistic, and people more learned than the Gorse Fox will analyse the tragedy and spin their results one way or the other.

The Gorse Fox suspects that investigators will find that the perpetrator of these deeds was an addicted game player - spending much of his free time playing immersive "shoot-em-up" computer games. These, GF has no doubt, are corrosive and over time they blur the boundary between virtual reality and the real world. No doubt some psychologists somewhere have sold the souls to prove there is no causal link between violent computer games and actual violence. The Gorse Fox disputes this, and makes the following points:


  • If these games have no impact, why do people leave action movies feeling "pumped" and "buzzing"?
  • If these games have no impact, why do people waste billions on ad campaigns - do advertisements not work the same way?
  • If these games have no impact, why to kids get so stressed when told not to play them?
  • If these games have no impact, why do they have age restrictions?


If you spend hours on end in front of a big screen, fighting and killing everything you come across, with background sound effects and music re-inforcing the experience, then surely you become inured to the concepts of violence and death. Indeed, in a weak minded individual, with no moral compass - it may become what he perceives as the norm.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Evil

We have learnt this evening that, yet again, a young adult has lost his grip on reality and after killing his brother, drove 80 miles to Connecticut and opened fire at a preparatory school. The death toll includes some 20 children.

The rest of the world look towards America in confusion and contempt that they have not had the moral fibre to address the problem of gun ownership. The American gun lobby trots out trite sound bites "Guns don't kill people, people kill people", and they cling like moral mariners to the mast of a sinking ship to their Second Amendment to the Constitution.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Well this is clearly a very different definition to that used by the gun lobby. Here we see that people can bear arms as participants in a well regulated militia. That implies that if you are part of, say, the National Guard, then you have a right to bear arms. This also makes no mention of your right to keep those arms in your own home; as part of the Militia, they could be kept safely at a Militia headquarters.

So, given that most people bear arms under false pretences in the USA (i.e. not as part of a well regulated Militia) - what can be done? Well to start with you need to take the debate of party politics; this is a moral debate at the heart of American society: A gun is weapon designed to kill people; an assault weapon is designed to more kill people more efficiently. Why, in a civilised society, should any citizen need the means to kill somebody?

The self-defence, or deterrent response comes in at this point. In crime-ridden cities, there can be some sympathy for this argument - but even here in the UK, where only criminals have guns, there are only about 50 deaths per year - this in stark contrast to the 8,700 gun homicides and over 20,000 accidental gun deaths each year. If a terrorist organisation killed 20-30,000 Americans each year - there would be outcry, outrage, and a country-wide call for the Government to "do something". Yet, terrorists can sit back and watch this fine Nation do more damage to themselves than they could ever achieve. Oh, and by the way - before you tell us that the USA is much bigger than the UK - yes it is, in area, but is only four times the population.

Step 1: Private ownership of assault weapons is unnecessary - make it illegal and purchase the weapons back from private owners for use by the Military; give a 9 month amnesty, after that prosecute.

Step 2: Shotguns - treat as assault weapons

Step 3: Handguns - cannot be carried in public; limited magazine size (to force people to reload); must be licensed and license renewed annually.

Ok, the Gorse Fox has got that sorted... now just go and implement it.

To good to ignore

12 English Letters That Didn’t Make the Alphabet http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/156077

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bike Racks

The story goes that when designing one of the big power stations, the part that took the longest to get agreement on was the bike racks. Not because they are more complex or more risky than the rest of the plant, but because everyone had a clear idea what they were, how they should work, and where they should be placed.

Today we find that and internal codename for a project has been guessed by the competition and it needs to be changed. The Gorse Fox suggested an obscure new name in jest. This seems to have picked up a head of steam in its own right and he has more emails on this than all other subjects combined. Though it was meant as a joke - it looks as if it is danger of being adopted!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Colleagues

The Gorse Fox has had the chance to catch up with a highly respected colleague that he has chatted with for some time. An innocent remark on twitter triggered direct contact and the use of Starfleet's own messaging service.

It is interesting to get her perspective on life, the universe, and Starfleet. GF was concerned he was getting cynical and curmudgeonly in his advancing years... but it is clear that he is not alone in his analysis of Starfleet, nor alone in his views. This is not the place to expand on the subject - but we did agree that the current appraisal system (whilst as fair as possible within the wider constraints imposed by Starfleet) is really not fit for purpose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Department of Work and Pensions

In response to a comment left against the weekend's blog post regarding taxation... of the £231.59 of your £1000 of tax which goes to the DWP:
  • £106.08 goes to State Pensions
  • £32.85 goes to Housing Benefit
  • £26.10 goes to Disability Living Allowance + Attendance Allowance
  • £12.43 goes to Pension Credit
  • £11.82 goes to Income Support
  • £11.80 goes to Incapacity Benefit and Employment & Support Allowance
  • £8.91 goes to Other
  • £7.56 goes to Council Tax Benefit
  • £6.84 goes to Jobseeker's Allowance
  • £4.18 goes to Winter Fuel Payments
  • £3.03 goes to Statutory Maternity Pay
(All of these figures from "Government Spending 20010-11")

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nihilism

We had a disturbing call last night. Our dearest friends had become victims of the current youth nihilism. Their grand-daughter had asked a few friends to the house - this got out through some social media, and in the end the house was swamped and by the time the Police arrived it had been completely trashed and the family have had to move out.

It is unutterably sad that such total disregard for people and their property seems ingrained in so many of today's kids. The impact that it has on the victims is terrible - yet the kids seem to think its fun. Teenagers were never rational - but at least the strong discipline of school and the respect for authority used to keep things like this as very rare events. Now the publicity of the social media sites, the influence of narcotics, the glamour of corrosive computer games and the total disregard for other people are the dividend that we reap from the pathetic liberal attitudes of the "educationalists" that seem to have switched the progress of mankind into reverse.

Appraisals - encore

The moderation of the appraisals ran on until 19:00 last Friday. The Gorse Fox did not participate, because of the funeral. Despite the twelve hours of pre-moderation that Gorse Fox and a colleague had completed, the exercise was not completed. So it was that at the end of day, Gorse Fox had a three hour teleconference to polish off the last sixteen and sense check the whole list.
Gorse Fox is happy to say that all of his team were rated more or less where he had wanted them to be.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Reflections on Tax and Starbucks and the like

The Gorse Fox was one of many who boycotted Starbucks over their tax affairs. Some would say, unfairly. After all, they were no breaking any laws, and nobody pays tax voluntarily. As the debate raged on in the papers, this graphic was published:



The Gorse Fox thought this was an excellent exposition of where the tax revenue gets spent. Putting it in a perspective that may be more palatable - for every £1000 you pay in tax:

  • £231.59 goes to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • £152.68 goes to Department of Health (DH)
  • £84.35 goes to Department for Education
  • £66.19 goes to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • £63.47 goes to Debt interest payments
  • £57.05 goes to Ministry of Defence (MoD)
  • £54.70 goes to Communities and Local Government (CLG)
  • £50.42 goes to DEVOLVED SPENDING SCOTLAND
  • £34.76 goes to Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • £22.94 goes to DEVOLVED SPENDING WALES
  • £17.82 goes to Department for Transport (DfT)
  • £15.10 goes to Home Office (HO)
  • £13.68 goes to Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • £13.09 goes to DEVOLVED SPENDING NORTHERN IRELAND
  • £11.65 goes to Department of Energy and Climate Change
  • £11.12 goes to Department for International Development (DfID)
  • £10.15 goes to Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
  • £3.89 goes to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • £3.26 goes to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • £2.76 goes to Security and intelligence services
  • £2.43 goes to HM Treasury (exc financial stability)
  • £1.01 goes to Office of Gas and Electricity Markets/Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (OFGEM)
  • £0.89 goes to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • £0.82 goes to Cabinet Office (CO)
  • £0.44 goes to UK Statistics Authority
  • £0.33 goes to National School of Government (NSG)
  • £0.26 goes to Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
  • £0.26 goes to Health Protection Agency
  • £0.24 goes to House of Commons
  • £0.23 goes to National Savings and Investments
  • £0.18 goes to Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
  • £0.18 goes to Office of Communications (Ofcomm) from government funding (rest from license fees)
  • £0.12 goes to UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)
  • £0.11 goes to House of Lords
  • £0.10 goes to Food Standards Agency
  • £0.10 goes to National Audit Office
  • £0.08 goes to Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
  • £0.07 goes to Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO)
  • £0.06 goes to Northern Ireland Office (NIO)
  • £0.05 goes to Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
  • £0.04 goes to Charity Commission for England and Wales
  • £0.04 goes to Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)
  • £0.03 goes to Electoral Commission
  • £0.03 goes to Government Actuary's Department (GAD)
  • £0.03 goes to Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)
  • £0.01 goes to Postal Services Commission (Postcomm)
  • £0.01 goes to Scotland Office (SO)
  • £0.01 goes to Wales Office (WO)
  • £0.01 goes to Attorney General's Office (see also LSLO)
  • £0.00 goes to HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate
  • £0.00 goes to Office for Budget Responsibility
  • £0.00 goes to Northern Ireland / Human Rights Commission
So over half of your Tax goes to the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Health, Department for Education, and Revenue & Customs.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Dying to get there

Looking back at yesterday, the Gorse Fox forgot to mention one of the Silver Vixen's cousins. An Apple fan-boy. Leaving Loughton he headed for Harlow, following direction from the SatNav on his iPhone. This is journey of about 11 miles and should take about 30 minutes.

An hour or so later he had not arrived and was in danger of delaying the service. His brother phoned him. The "brilliant" iPhone had directed him the wrong way and he had ended up near Tilbury Docks. It would seem that Apple's mastery of maps and directions has a little way to go.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Endings

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen had to venture north and east into the wastelands of Essex. An Aunt had died recently and it was time to lay her to rest. She had had a hard life and a large rift had formed within that part of the family - but throughout, she had remained in contact with the Silver Vixen.

A bitter wind cut across the wastelands and blasted Harlow - somehow making it as welcoming as the Gorse Fox remembers it. It is almost 35 years sine we had moved from the area but, like PTSD, the memories linger!

The ceremony was intimate, with about a dozen people there to see her off... to a far warmer place, given the bitter nature of the weather. (On reflection, GF should explain that she was being cremated - no other interpretation of that last sentence was intended !)

After we went our separate ways we stopped at a nearby restaurant and had nice meal with Silver Vixens's sister and mother. It was strange - the restaurant was really very nice and not at all how the memory banks recall the typical local watering holes and eateries.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Packed

Starfleet's London office is so busy today that the only place to find somewhere to work is the canteen. Was nice to bump into a colleague (Neil) that left Starfleet many years ago, and Gorse Fox has not seen for at least 14 years. He is still working as a Business Partner though moved from South Glos. to Cardiff.

Glorious Handel by Candlelight

What an excellent evening we had last night. We me with Betty and Barney Rubble for a bite to eat and then made our way to the Anvil in Basingstoke. The stage was set with twenty on chairs on different levels and interspersed with candelabra.

The players came on in seventeenth century costume and periwigs, taking their places for the concert. There was a harpsichord, a bassoon, piccolos, strings, and ultimately trumpets and horns (those these latter instruments were not introduced until later). The concert was an eclectic selection of Handel's works from Operas to Oratorios and f course included some of the great set pieces.

A truly uplifting evening and recommended to any who love some of the great classical music performed well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Seasonal Weather

In parts of the country we have snow. Here on the coast we have a bit of frost, but the snow has closed Stanstead Airport. It is all set to get us in a festive mood. On that subject, the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen are off to a seasonal concert at The Anvil, later.
Work to do first though.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Update

Mid Afternoon the Gorse Fox received a text from Cousteau-cub. She was home. The procedure had been done under local and she was able to travel home after six hours. Unfortunately GF didn't see the text until early evening so it was too late to get back to her.

Wired for Sound

Cousteau-cub has suffered the last six weeks with her jaws wired together after the accident that broke her jaw and several of her teeth. Today she is back at the hospital to have the wires removed... and can hopefully embark on the next stages of getting her teeth fixed... and start to eat again.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hot ear

As the Gorse Fox has mentioned, Starfleet is moving into the appraisal season. This means that a lot of work needs to be do to ensure we have a clear view of the relative contribution made by our people. Last week we all made our submissions, and they have been collated over the weekend.

The task for this week is to try and apply the same objective lens across the whole population, not just our own staff. To that end, the Gorse Fox spent six hours on the phone this afternoon wading through our top performers with a colleague. We hav now ranked the top 30 of 85 people in this particular demographic.

It is always a painful process - but somehow satisfying to know the degree of rigour that is applied and the degree to which objective measures are used. This makes subsequent discussions with the team much easier... though to be fair GF has the highest performing team in the group so rarely has to have any difficult discussions.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Success

The Gorse Fox has obviously been successful. Since it was revealed that Starbucks were not paying sufficient UK tax, the Gorse Fox has boycotted them.

According to the Mail in http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2241759/Starbucks-set-pay-tax--Coffee-giant-bows-pressure-angry-consumers-MPs.html they are backing down. Quite right too.

Frenzy

We find ourselves in a media frenzy over the publication and response to the Leveson report. The report recommended a number of things including a legal backstop. In practice many of the items raised in the report already are covered by our laws - it was just a matter of the Police enforcing them.

Now we find the "bleeding heart celebrities" encouraging people to sign a petition to get the report accepted in full. Fortunately our Prime Minister is not that naive. The Press do need to act within the law, and they do need to clean up their act - but the imposition of specific legislation is a very dangerous precedent that whilst enacted in good will, could end up as a gag on stories of genuine import.
(Acknowledgements to the original author of this  image, whomsoever it may be)

The Gorse Fox notices that the celebrities that are encouraging the imposition of legislation are, in general (but not all), those who have been caught-out in the past. He also notices that Alastair Campbell is in favour of it - well given the "sexing up" of the dossier for the illegal Iraq war - you would expect nothing else. Remember that these recommendations also mean the end of "off the record" briefings, and the documentation of whistle-blowers. This would have stopped the revelations of the MP's expense fiddles, the fact that the Iraq War was deemed illegal by our own Government advisors, the fact that Alastair Campbell had "sexed up" the WMD dossier... and countless other scandals.

Now, there are some genuine victims of the Press and they have been harmed by the newspapers and should have some redress. This is already available using the existing laws of the land. Unfortunately, the police were slow to act and the legal profession charge such eye-watering fees that these remedies are rarely employed except by the very wealthy.

Worryingly, the Gorse Fox notices that Shami Chakrabati (the Human Rights advocate) is also against this and that means that the Gorse Fox finds himself in agreement with her. This is troubling precedent.

Shami Chakrabarti blasts Labour leader Ed Miliband’s ‘hasty and ill-considered’ endorsement of the report
Director of Liberty also rebuked pro-legislation pressure groups such as Hacked Off for 'ill-informed debate'

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Back pocket

The Gorse Fox has been struggling with the American banking / stock market system. He has decided to dip into his metaphorical back pocket and now has to see how long the various sales and transfers take.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Grinding on

It has been a good, a varied, and a productive day. Staff appraisal "summary sheets" - due two days ago - were completed in readiness for the bun fights next week. Most were straight forward, but one was difficulty as the team member hasn't really kept up with his admin and has made it difficult to create a balanced assessment. One day he'll learn!

There was also some reviewing to do for the Scottish Project. With the background of the staff moves, this has taken on an additional importance so GF tried to ensure he gave as much guidance as possible in his response.

Smoke is yet to emerge from the chimney regarding the new project - and that will probably mean GF will work from home at the beginning of next week. It didn't stop him preparing some of the templates that he will require once things get under way.

He has had to cede the driving seat on the work for the new consortium that he had been nurturing during the  late summer. They have finally burst into life - just at a time when GF is too busy to get involved. He spent some time during the afternoon briefing the guy that will now run with it. Shame really, GF really fancied that.

He noticed in a Starfleet publication today a big write up on the success of a project for a Government Agency. He's glad to see this - the whole idea for the system, the roadmap, the choice of tool, and the design sprung directly from GF's addled mind. Delivered in a number phases it has now become the backbone of all the Agency does... and was recently commended by the National Audit Office.

Crisp

Crisp hard frost covers the ground. The sky is blue and clear, except for a few con-trails. The sun is up and it looks like it will be a nice, though cold, day.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Continuum

As politics rattle the egos of those who who worry about such things, the Gorse Fox spent much of the day in a workshop which was designed to elicit the details of the first few weeks of work on the new project and confirm the organisational structure. The latter, you might have assumed would already be fixed, but no. The assumed structure was a mish-mash of roles put together into a structure that respected the divisional boundaries within Starfleet and their relative position within the contract. By the end of the workshop we had developed a structure that actually made sense and left us with an organisation that actually had a chance of working... and the Gorse Fox moving from the technical lead in one small area to the chief architect for the lot.

Talking of poison chalices, the personnel changes on the Scottish Project are now open knowledge. This has caused further ripples with one of the other long-term resources throwing his toys out of the pram and demanding to be moved (and come and work on GF's new project). As this is one of the largest single opportunities of the year, it has a magnetism for the high-flyers and he would certainly fit in well. We'll have to see how his management chain react.

Press

Good morning world.

Today the Leveson Report on the freedom of the Press is published. The Gorse Fox has no idea what it will say, but hopes sincerely that it does not end up with Government Regulation. That would be the slippery slope towards totalitarianism - as the press would (potentially) no longer be in the position to hold the Government Machine to account.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Appraisals

The early meeting was interesting and at first it was hard to understand why Starfleet would want to play in that particular playground. As the meeting went on it became clearer that Starfleet had some real skills and experience that could actually make a difference.

Back at the laptop the Gorse Fox had to complete the staff appraisal spreadsheet. This is by no means an easy job and is one that he worries about every year. Has he been fair? Has he done the best that he could for his team? Is he furthering their careers? Will he meet the deadlines?

It's all done now. He still has do some write-ups to provide context and collateral when defending their assessments during the annual moderation meetings. That will have to wait until tomorrow or Friday.

Up and Ready

Gorse Fox is up and ready for the early train. Expect a busy day lies ahead with a meeting about Government services to start with and then the next stage of the staff appraisals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another one down

That's another day done. It was a good day, but varied and could have been stressful. In practice Gorse Fox has successfully created the dynamic questionnaire that will be automatically generated for each of the applications that we will have to migrate in the programme. Then he had to deal with and issue with a Starship trooper who needs to be moved for his own sanity. He is suffering from a communications breakdown with those above him, and though it is not his fault he needs to be moved on.

Early start tomorrow as Gorse Fox has to be in a meeting in London first thing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Town

This week looks as if it will be spent commuting. At least it means Gorse Fox will have five hours a day to keep up with his reading.

Meanwhile, the client has (as expected) failed to make a decision, and so we wait another week to see if they can come to a sensible conclusion.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pork Belly

Well, the Gorse Fox doesn't usually answer to a name like that.

The plan had been to get some pork ribs, but GF was thwarted by the butcher's inability to conjure up a couple of racks from his cold store. Standing at the counter, GF had to extemporise. In the end a slab of pork belly was chosen, and currently sits marinating in soy sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, crushed garlic, and wholegrain mustard.

Not sure what the next step will be, but GF suspects he will slow roast it on a bed of root vegetables for about three hours. (Though he may change his mind - strip the skin for crackling, and simmer the belly and the vegetables in stock).

Sunday is not a day that lends itself to such momentous decisions.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Clumsiness

The Gorse Fox abhors clumsiness - and his own occasional clumsiness is one of the few things that will make him really angry. Having enjoyed this evening's curry, the Gorse Fox decided that a glass of lassis would be nice, and would ensure his digestive transit was at peace when he went to bed.

Yoghurt was put into the glass, then milk, a banana and some honey. The hand held blender was lowered into the glass. It was at this point the Gorse Fox realised this could be messy. He removed the blender and poured the mixture into the blending jar which was much taller and less susceptible to ejecting its contents when the blender was switched.

That was a close run thing.

The Gorse Fox turned to grab the honey - in doing so he caught the blender, and tipped the jar over. The concoction went everywhere. A thick syrupy sludge dripped from the work surface. The phrase "Oh for goodness sake" (or something similar) burst from his lips and along with the Silver Vixen, the next ten minutes was spent clearing up.

Up North

Well, the Gorse Fox observes that it has been raining since he got up this morning. It is dark enough to have the lights on in the house. In a minute he will check the GPS position and ascertain that the house hasn't moved to North overnight. After all, this sort of weather is not meant to happen on the Sussex Coast... where we are meant to bask in the eternal sunshine of genteel living.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chichester

And so it came to pass that we met up with Betty and Barney Rubble.
We had looked for a suitable meeting place, and discovered that there was a Tapas restaurant mentioned in the travel guides, and it featured in the top few establishments in Chichester. "El Castizo" is in the cellars under an accounting firm on the way in to Chichester from the east. A little difficult to find, it was well worth the effort.

As well as the usual range of tapas, there was a "specials" board featuring a number of extra dishes. It was a lovely place, and the food was excellent - it would have been too easy to settle back with a bottle of wine and spend the whole afternoon enjoying the friendly service and the quirky ambience of the whole place.

Emerging from the cellar we made our way into the town centre and strolled through the afternoon shoppers to the Cathedral.

St Richard's Cathedral dominates the town, yet is actually quite small as Cathedrals go. The Gorse Fox remembers being told, as a cub, that it was the only Cathedral that could be seen from the sea, and was used as a landmark by sailors coming through the Channel. He has no idea whether this is true, but it seems feasible.

Embracing technology, the Silver Vixen noted that flat-screen TVs stood by each of the massive internal columns, relaying the service to those whose view was impaired by the structure, or the lady with the big hat in the next row. Perhaps some technology should have been applied with more exactitude when the Cathedral was built. It was quite clear that the two towers surrounding the west door we out of kilter. Neither was quite square with the Cathedral front, and from the inside it was clear to the naked eye that the towers twist slightly and are out of square.

Leaving the Cathedral, we strolled through the cloisters and out into South Street where we took a table at Maison Blanc for a cup of tea and some patisserie.

A nice day.

Blown out

The gales of last night seem to have blown themselves out. The rain has stopped. The Gorse Fox can feel a trip to Chichester coming on.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Slip-sliding Away

The evening's entertainment continued with excellent tickets for the Brighton Centre. The "Holiday on Ice" troupe were here for 3 days, performing their show "Speed".

This was a really good show with plenty of exciting skating, acrobatics, leaps, spins, even motorbikes filling the ice. In fact that, if anything was the only drawback - it filled the ice. The rink was really quite small (GF assumes it has to be to be able to break it down and transport it from venue to venue), and somehow you felt that with a bit more space it would have made it more spectacular.

Now, this doesn't diminish what we saw. It was really very good and very exciting, with pounding music keeping the tempo and skilled ice dancers showing just how easy it is to skate and to be graceful (when you have practised every day since you were 6 years old).

The show was split into two halves of about 50 minutes each, with a 20 minute intermission... giving the Zamboni time to resurface the rink.

The second half of the show was even more frenetic. It was the second half that saw the motor bikes pulling the skaters, the acrobatics, the jumps over and through various obstacles, and at one point the race between two of their troupe.

It certainly was "all action" and the Gorse Fox must admit to having thoroughly enjoyed it.

By the time we left the weather had deteriorated further, and the Brighton Centre insisted everyone left through the back of the building for their own safety. Fortunately this deposited us right by the car park, so we we away and heading home in no time.

Themed eating

As the weather collapsed during the afternoon, and gales swept the Channel, the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen headed across to Brighton. Leaving the car nestled in a cosy parking structure we fought our way against the winds to the sea-front.
Having picked up our tickets for the evening's entertainment, we carried on towards the pier, and stopped JB's American Diner. Somehow, being Thanksgiving, it seemed an appropriate choice of eatery.

As 1950s and early 60s rock and roll tunes played in the background, our theme was slightly blemished by our Ukrainian waitress. Charming, but slightly anachronistic.

The menu, as you would expect, was varied and met the expectations of steaks, burgers, hot dogs and goodness knows what else. The portions were predictably "hearty" and the coffee was excellent. A good start to the evening.

Moving

Lovely long chat with Beloved Aunt at lunchtime. It seems she too is planning on moving. Difference being she already has an agreement on a new place and will move as soon as he wants.

Bright

It is a bright, but windy start. The rain and gales hammering the west country are forecast to hit later, but for now it's not too bad.

We plan to head for Brighton later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celebrations

Today is Silver Vixen's birthday. It is a significant, but not too significant, number of years since she first graced this planet with her beauty, her wit, her charm, her warmth, and her addiction to tea. The world is a better place because of her. She is the Gorse Fox's inspiration, his muse, and his soul-mate.

Happy Birthday

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Workshop

The day went well. The Gorse Fox met with colleagues to discuss a bid for a Government Agency. Much of the day was spent trying to understand from our specialists how the Agency operated and what the intended "system" would do. It was also interesting to hear that this agency despite out-sourcing much of their back-office operation, still have an IT Department with 400 people in it. No wonder our taxes are so high. It makes you ask what that number is across the whole of Government.

Though the meeting had started mid-morning, it was well-gone six before we broke up, so GF wasn't home until nearly nine, but at least he is on vacation for the rest of the week.

The Big City

GF is up and ready for a day in the big city.... and then the rest of the week on vacation

Monday, November 19, 2012

Awkward

The week starts with some awkward conversations. GF is coaching a colleague who evidently is having a personality clash with his captain. Neither is perfect, but the captain insists on copying the She-Admiral on his complaints.

Suspect it will be a tense start to the day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nothing to see here

Move along now. Nothing to see here.

The day was spent with the Gorse Fox's nose buried deep into a database manual/ Occasionally he came up for air and to try out some technique on one of the computers in the West Sussex data centre... but soon descended back into the text.

In the next room, the Silver Vixen spent the day with her fabrics and her light box working on designs and templates for upcoming projects.

Sunshine superman

Another stunningly bright and clear day here on the south coast. No cloud has the temerity to sully the blue tablecloth that covers us from horizon to horizon. The sun soon drove away the early morning frost and now we have a super day.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Satisfying - to a point

Well that turned out to be a good day (up to a point, though the debacle at the Emirates will brook no further comment).
Firstly, Gf had to find a suitable present for Pistol Pete, that didn't involve him going to QPR to score the winning goal for Southampton. After consultation with Urban-cub, a suitable solution was found and GF delivered said birthday gift to the lad.
Meanwhile Southampton were playing their part in the day's celebration, and beat QPR 3-1.

With the Silver Vixen's birthday coming up mid-week, GF also had to finalise his plans for that. Significant research was applied to a number of options and items, but in the end GF thinks he has homed in on the perfect solution... however, more on that later in the week.

The rest of the day was spent reading a database manual and trying out various features. He hasn't yet got to the bit that he was really wanting to learn, deciding to read it from the beginning and that way may pick some hints and tips that he did not already know. He hasn't learnt too much so far, but has picked up a few new things. Hopefully a few hours tomorrow will move this on into the bits where he is really struggling to find the best way to achieve his planned outcome.

Birthdays

Pistol Pete's got a birthday this weekend. Best present for him would be Southampton beating QPR in the Premiership.
Fingers crossed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Runes

Despite the runes, today's commute was trouble-free.

Once at Starfleet GF had some last minute preparation for a review, and was also swamped in material related to a new project he is picking up, bidding to HMG. The review went as expected - and frankly, GF will be delighted when he can disconnect from this client/project. However, he must continue for now.

The new project looks quite interesting with the potential for some partnering with colleagues from the Netherlands, and a couple of independent vendors. What is clear is that there will have to be a priority call at some point if we win the other bid on which GF has been working. Both of these are effectively full-time commitments.

GF saw the Abbott wandering around Starfleet, but didn't get a chance to chat as he had a mobile phone attached to the side of his head.... no change there, then.

Big City

Gorse Fox is heading for the big city again today. He's not keen on Friday commutes as that is usually the day there are most delays on the trains - but needs must.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Appraisals

It is that time of year when Starfleet expect us to remember every Klingon we have dealt with and every planet we have saved. So it is that the Gorse Fox has spent the morning writing his annual self-appraisal. It is clear that it has been a varied year and GF had trouble fitting everything into the data entry fields on the tricorder.
Anyway, write-up is now complete. Phasers are reset to stun, and GF returns to the day job... until he starts his analysis of the self-appraisals of each of his team next week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Equanimity

The Gorse Fox is renowned for his patience and ability to maintain his equanimity. Today he was teetering on the edge. One of the internal Starfleet reviews was looking at one small part of the bid that we will submit next Monday. The reviewers were a bunch of stokers in the engine room - absolutely critical to the operation but set in their ways and limited in the views.

The task they were being asked to do was to stoke the metaphorical boilers with coal that we will deliver to them. However, we will deliver it to the right side of the boilers and they want it on the left. (Metaphorically). Where we deliver it is constrained by the supplier of the coal - we have no choice. They then proceeded to bleat on about how can they possibly estimate the effort involved when they have never shovelled coal from the right. It's too difficult. It can't be done.

By this point the Gorse Fox was teetering on the edge, and a red mist was rising. He interrupted the call
"Excuse me. Starfleet is the greatest technology company on the planet. You are using boilers that Starfleet designed, on Starfleet premises. You are stoking them with coal that Starfleet produced using the tools that Starfleet built for the job. Stop making excuses."
There was a brief silence, and one of them (probably the shop-steward) had the temerity to ask "On what do you base that assertion?"

"Forty-two years of experience working with and designing these boilers! Any more questions?"

It went very quiet... and normality was restored. The stokers decided they might be able to shovel the other way round, or even move the coal to where they wanted it.

There are times when the thought of retirement becomes overwhelming.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another one

It was another early start to get up to Starfleet's offices in London. These trips do give the Gorse Fox a chance to listen to his audio books, so they are not too bad (when not daily).

The reviews off our bid continued throughout the morning and into the early afternoon... but went well. The only issue raised was organisational - and we were already aware of the that, but constrained by internecine battles within the Starfleet hierarchy.

Once back in the home office GF took a call from the team in Edinburgh that seemed to rattle on, and cover a great deal of familiar ground, but is unlikely to get anywhere as long as the client admits that they should stick to their business and allow Starfleet to get on with theirs. They have, quite literally, hundreds of years of Starfleet experience working with them, but choose to believe they know best. It seems a bit like going to Wembley to watch football and finding the professional football team running the catering concessions, the car park stewards on the pitch playing the game, and the Archbishop of Canterbury acting as Referee.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Town

After an early start, Gorse Fox found himself in London. It was a full day review, and Gorse Fox had to attend and give his technical opinion on the bid he has been working on. It was good, but a long day.

Gorse Fox was cheesed off that the day had extended, but as it happens he would have got home no earlier even if he had got away at a sensible time. He arrived at Victoria to find it had only just reopened after a security alert. He strolled onto the concourse, through the gates, and straight onto one of the only 2 trains there. As he made himself comfy, the train moved off.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

DIY

The Gorse Fox attacked the packages brought back from the trip to IKEA yesterday. What he admires about their products is that in so many cases they are really cleverly designed. Also they are, in general, simple to construct and provoke no appreciable rise in blood pressure nor the sharing of invective. Within half an hour everything was ready and the packaging was all cleared away. Job done.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blue and Yellow

Sometimes you have to bite the bullet.

Rumour has it that IKEA are going to build a store nearby. Silver Vixen decided that we couldn't wait that long. There was a small mesh shelving stack that she wanted for the utility room - and IKEA had just the thing.

Along with half the population of Hampshire we began to shuffle through this museum of Scandinavian design (there was no audio commentary to explain the exhibits - nor provide historical background). As we progressed, we picked up various booty, and dodged the occasional trolls and goblins that hid amongst the various level and caves. It was like one of the old computer adventure games - without the eye-strain and carpal-tunnel syndrome.

With all of our booty finally collected we joined the famous IKEA queue and watched our remaining lives ebb away as we inched closer to a check-out. Finally, having parted with some coins of the realm, we managed to escape and head back to the relative calm of Sussex.

A new ASDA store has opened on the main road, near Ferring. We stopped there on the way back - a few observations:

  • its bright
  • prices seem keen
  • if you want to find actors to play trolls or zombies - just check any aisle
  • if you want to see why, geologically, the south coast is sinking - just check the average weight of the shoppers

Gorse Fox is sure it will settle once the novelty has worn off.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Give way

The grey and dismal start gave way to a lovely sunny day, as so often happens. Gorse Fox was not able to make the best of it as he juggled his duties as a career manager for a bunch of senior professionals, external consultant for a major financial institution in the North, and chief architect for a new piece of work for which we have been bidding since August.

With annual appraisal season upon us - several hours were occupied with teleconferences discussing the performance of staff on one contract. With the "Best and Final" offer due to be submitted for the bid work on Monday week, the review and polishing processes kicked in, and meanwhile GF had to review some material for "our friends in the North".

Silver Vixen was off with he coven in the evening. This gave GF an opportunity to watch the Cream concert filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. Though GF had seen it before, it was the first time he noticed Jimmy Page in the audience.

Fire and Forget

GF wonders why, when Starfleet allows us to see each other's calendars to seek free-time, so many colleagues just schedule meeting at random without checking whether you are already booked. Spent most of today struggling with multiple books.

Lazy and inconsiderate

Win

A fine win for Spurs in Europe last night. AT one point the Gorse Fox thought they were going to throw it away - but they braced themselves, changed up a gear and got a good result.

Grey and damp start to the morning.

Wall-to-wall conference calls almost all day today.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Shade of Grey

Not quite so bright on the coast this morning. A bank of cloud reduces yesterday's blue to a flat grey.

Talking of shades of grey, is their anything more depressing than the way accountants are driving big business, and their short-term focus is squandering the future. Innovation and invention needs space to breathe and the continual short term focus of big business is destined to smother its greatest assets. The Gorse Fox heard recently of a Japanese company that has a 5-year plan and 250-year strategy; this may be extreme - but it allows room for the company to adapt whilst maintaining a corporate vision.

The Gorse Fox believes accountants and lawyers are the primary forces driving economic decay.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bizarre

The Gorse Fox continues to consult for a major financial institution. GF has a senior architect "on the ground" and is providing guidance and advice. Just as you would not attempt to move or build a large office block without the control of a programme manager and the expertise of an architect... so it should be when dealing with the virtual world of IT. (A bank, after all is just an IT System with a banking license - despite what their execs might think).

Trying to re-establish the pivotal role of the architect in the programme is proving difficult. Indeed, yesterday, GF's man-on-the-ground chaired a meeting for the designers - but was told that he couldn't have a list of the designers working on the programme.

Bizarre behaviour.

Cardiac Soaring

It is another glorious start to the day on the south coast. It's enough to make the heart soar. Pale blue skies laced with pink con-trails from high altitude travellers on their way to exotic places.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Doh!

Most people would regard the Gorse Fox as relatively competent when dealing with technology (or at least computers). After all - he has been working with IT for 42 years now. Some skills should have evolved during that time.

Fiddling around yesterday morning GF noticed an option on his laptop that he had not tried before and being inquisitive, he selected the "Extend screen" option. (He had been thoughtful enough to plug a second monitor into the device first). Voila, his laptop screen-estate rolled out to incorporate the second screen. Brilliant, yes; but why has he only just discovered this!

Chill

The first frost of the season greeted us this morning. Fortunately, GF does not have to venture out - but it is a reminder that winter approaches.

Monday, November 05, 2012

More of the Same

First two teleconferences of the morning just postponed until Friday. Not sure why we bother to schedule things in advance.

Start the Week

The Gorse Fox starts the new week with the long commute from the kitchen to the study. Devoid of traffic, excepting the cat, it turned out to be a trouble-free start.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Lazy day

The cat forgot to walk all over us at six o'clock this morning so we actually had a lie in. First thing, the weather was dreadful but it soon brightened up (though remained cold).

Afternoon the pork belly was put in the oven for a very slow roast with a base of vegetables, garlic, and wine.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cross country

Today the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen are heading cross country to the wilder parts of Hampshire to visit Betty and Barney rubble.

The early morning rain has stopped and the sky is scrubbed clean. The sun is out and it looks like a nice day.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Schedules

It can be frustrating when plans are changed. So it was today. Gorse Fox had an 08:00 conference call that was postponed at 07:59. Reorganised for 10:00 the Gorse Fox dialled in and sat there listening to Muzak for quarter of an hour... He gave up. The 13:00 call was cancelled at 12:30 so Gorse Fox gained an hour.

The only call that did take place was one Gorse Fox had organised. This was set up to provide his team with a an insight into the the promotion process.

Missed anniversary

Gorse Fox missed an anniversary.

Last Saturday marked eight years that the Gorse Fox has been publishing this drivel. He hasn't missed a day in all of that time, and now there are over 6,300 blog posts in the blog.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Home at last

It was a full day. Braced by a hearty Scottish breakfast the Gorse Fox met up with some colleagues and headed for the client's offices. Overnight, through some type of magic, a series of emails had arrived on his computer. One from She-Admiral necessitated a careful response - this took a little crafting to get "just right", but a later reply indicated GF had got it spot on.

Most of the morning was spent in a workshop that began in a very fractious manner but soon settled and managed to get some sensible work concluded. It was due to continue after lunch, but GF made his apologies and ducked out - the level of detail they planned for the postprandial session was greater than that to which GF could contribute - being fairly new to this client. So GF spent the afternoon trying to guide his "on the ground chap" to complete the tasks for the week in a way that would satisfy the various stakeholders.  The chap, let's call him Jack Elam Jr., is frighteningly intelligent... and let's his intellect run away with him. It is clear that he will need a lot of managing.

Good trip back to the South, and within fifteen minutes of the wheels hitting the runway, the Gorse Fox was in his car driving out of the airport.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Caledonia

The journey to Edinburgh was relatively trouble free. Gorse Fox sat in a window seat but the plan was full so he had a chap sitting next him. From the moment he sat down Gorse Fox knew it was not going to be a pleasant flight. He started by opening his paper and trying to push Gorse Fox off of the arm rest. Gorse Fox put up with this for a while, then turned and confronted him explaining that he was already pressed against window and could move no further. The chap had the effrontery to say Gorse Fox was overlapping his seat. Patently stupid, Gorse Fox ignored him and sat his ground.

In the office Gorse Fox had several good meetings and is destined to attend a tense workshop in the morning.

Good restaurant this evening. Called the Living Room it was really good value for money and the food was delightful.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All change

Well the day started well and eventually morphed when talking to our friends in the north. Gorse Fox has had to change his plans and now has to head to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Moving Pictures

Those who know the Gorse Fox will realise that he is not particularly impressed by hype. In general the more something is hyped and advertised, the less likely he is to be interested or impressed.

Yesterday, he took a day off and with the Silver Vixen went along to Chichester to the moving picture house. Here, through the miracle of science, pictures were displayed on a screen at such a rate that they seemed to blur into a life-like movement. The chap with the organ that used to play along as the sub-titles went by seems to have been replaced with real sound and dialogue timed perfectly with the moving images. Very clever.

The object of this visit was the latest offering from the series of stories about an agent known as James Bond. This being 50 years since the first such story was shown there were a few moments of nostalgia. (Gorse Fox remembers seeing Dr No at the Regal Cinema in New Barnet with a friend called Adrian Bonner and a girl called Carol Welch).

Skyfall is superb. The hype is well-deserved. It is by far the best Bond film and we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. A bit darker, gritttier, and whilst still having some of the big set-pieces, somehow more believable.

Out shopping

Was amused to see a cat waiting outside a pet supplies store in Goring before it opened. Obviously it was waiting to do its shopping.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Expertise

The Gorse Fox, Pistol Pete, and Jake headed along the south coast to Southampton to watch the local team plays Spurs.

We parked in their traditional spot, we waited until the traditional time then walked the traditional route to the ground. Once there we walked to the the traditional stall where Pistol Pete and Jake had their traditional burgers, and Gorse Fox started a new tradition with a foot long sausage! We then returned to the entrance where we bought a Programme from the traditional seller and then approached the traditional turnstile.

Pistol Pete and Jake went through with no problem. Gorse Fox however was stopped and questioned over his camera. Apparently professional SLR cameras are not allowed. Gorse Fox explained his was not SLR and after a bit of consultation they let him in and told him not to take pictures during the game.

The game went well for Spurs but Gorse Fox had to bite his tongue as he was completely surrounded by the Soton fans (sitting in the Home end).

He was particularly amused by the expertise shown by the 30,000 fan-managers as they provided a running commentary on what the players should be doing and what tactics should be deployed. How the team can be struggling when the manager has so much expertise at his finger-tips is baffling.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

The Game

The Gorse Fox is about to head out with Pistol Pete to see the game. The game in question is Southampton paying host to Spurs... should be fun (though GF will have to hide his allegiance as he will be sitting in the Saints' part of the ground).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Re-Church le music

In 1969 the Gorse Fox returned from a year in America. He had been training to become one of a teaching order of monks. Eventually deciding this was not his destined path, he returned to the UK bringing a great deal of modern liturgical songs.

This was a time when "Folk Masses" were just being introduced in UK and the music GF brought was a bit avant garde and far mor "rock and pop" orientated. The church we used was always on the lkeading edge and GF sat with one of the Oblates to re-transcribe the music for the songs (GF ciouldn't write music, but was able to remember the tunes).
Eventually all of this came to fruition and the initial "Folk Mass" morphed into what became known as the "Group Mass" - this in turn spawned various charity events, a couple of religiously themed rock musicals, and eventually (though GF was long gone by then) the ChickenShed.

This evening was a reunion and for the first time since about 1972 GF was able to meet up and with some of those old friends and to enjoy (a much more professional) "Group Mass". What was interesting was that in these times of sneering intellectuals, and disrespect for relgion, the Church was full to the rafters and there was a genuine feeling of community and joy.

There are still some lovely people in the world.
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Scraping by

The Gorse Fox notes that Conrad Black is quoted as saying he could live on £80M. The Gorse Fox would like to point out, that he suspects he and the Silver Vixen could also scrape by.

In a Flap

The Gorse Fox wishes that he could convince the cat, Jasper, to use the cat-flap.

Friday, October 26, 2012

All Thai'd Up

An excellent day overall. Various work item came together nicely - though one went awry. GF was called by a colleague to complain that a huge amount of Starfleet's "intellectual property" had been divulged to a client by a naive programme manager. There wasn't really anything GF could do about it, other than listen to the rant and say "there, there" before referring him onwards to his divisional CTO.

Best part of the day was the brief interlude where GF managed to have an online chat with Cousteau-cub. This is probably the only practical way of communication with her as her jaw is wired shut and speaking takes a great deal of effort. She is still in a lot of pain, but trying to stay positive. She should return to the hospital at regular intervals, but with such a long drive (some 140km, with two ferry crossings) she will keep that to a minimum.

Gorse Fox is taking a day off on Monday - tickets are booked for a visit to the cinema to see the new Bond film "Skyfall".

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More learning

The day has been strange. Several items needed attention for the work being prepared for an insurance company and this took much of the day. A "Lunch and Learn" video-cast proved a welcome distraction. During this, some side comment or even visual cue triggered a wave of "what-ifs" in the mind of the Gorse Fox. This distraction meant that a chunk of the afternoon was spent research some of the subtleties of "big data" and the various filesystems and databases that support it.

Disappointing performance from Spurs in Europe tonight's 1-1 draw. Lot's of possession, but little ownership; lots of effort, but little end product; and a lot of defensive naivety.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And breathe

Last day of the course today. Most of the morning was taken up with role-play activities where we were placed in a particularly tricky simulated position and had to deal with the fall-out. The team in which the Gorse Fox played seemed to benefit from a particularly adept member who took the lead in the simulation and did a superb job. GF was very impressed.

The class finished mid-afternoon and GF was able to get home at a sensible time and then connect up to catch up with emails and so forth. Strange how opportunity seem to be cyclic. At one stage, every opportunity GF was presented with was in Public Sector, then the focus became Media, now it would seem that every opportunity is in Financial Services. As if to reinforce this, GF has just got off the phone with one of Commodores in Starfleet who was trying to get the GF to help with an opportunity at a large multi-national investment bank. GF has offered help where he can, but explained that he is already juggling two major clients.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good one

It has been another good day. The course was really quite informative and triggered a lot of thoughts not directly related to the syllabus.

Great to see that Cousteau-cub is back on Koh Lanta, even if she is wired up. Hopefully she is on the mend now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Course

The Gorse Fox is on a course. The 60 mile journey to the wilds of the Thames Valley took two and half hours which is frustrating given that a colleague from Cardiff made the journey in less than two hours.

The course has been pretty good so far, and the fellow attendees are really quite nice.

Had a difficult call from the Admiral mid afternoon, but managed to sort things out fairly quickly.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quiet, it's the weekend

Waking up late the Gorse Fox started a lazy day. Not much to report.

Glad to hear that the inestimable Mr Vobes has managed to get his Bald Explorable video blogs onto TV

Even more glad to hear that Cousteau-cub is on the mend. Her jaw is all wired up and she'll be in hospital for another four days.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Impact

An early morning phone call is rarely good news. So it was this morning

Cousteau-cub called and asked the Gorse Fox to call back. She sounded a bit slurred. Gorse Fox was concerned and called back immediately.

Cousteau-cub was in a taxi on her way to the international hospital in Trang. It would appear that a puncture caused her to part company with her motorbike last night. The twin realities of momentum and gravity conspired to propel her into something unyielding. In so doing friction from the road surface gave her road rash and the impact broke and dislocated her jaw (for the third time).

We await further news!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Several shades of grey

The Gorse Fox was working at home. It was dull and grey outside and the rain beat down across the south coast. It was so dull that Gorse Fox had to leave his study lights on all day. This must be what it's like living up north ( like Hertfordshire).

Good day with the spreadsheets today though the Gorse Fox was nearly tricked by his own witchery. In the end it turned out that his was correct and the original master was wrong (containing a duplicate entry).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coincidence

It is rare that you see an old friend in an unexpected place. The Gorse Fox, on leaving Gatwick, saw his old Golf driving down the M23. No mistake - it had a very memorable registration late.

Nice to see it is still in good condition 5 years after he sold it.

Travelling

Gorse Fox is scheduled for an early flight, this is good. It means he is back at the airport in wait mode.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Workshop

And so it came to pass that the Gorse Fox ran a workshop in response to queries from two of our esteemed project managers.

Fortunately they both accepted the invitation to attend so everything was set for a good day. Unfortunately neither of them actually could be bothered to attend so we made significant progress that they will probably ignore and the train they are metaphorically riding will continue hurtling out of control to project Armageddon. Gorse Fox will say one thing for it. It will have more reports and management information purporting to to explain its progress than a space mission.

The Gorse Fox fully expects the report he will write tomorrow to be discarded.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Strip

Nice to see the Scots wearing what looks like an old Spurs strip.

Mixed

The day was originally destined to be a workshop. Various diary clashes intervened and the Gorse Fox had to postpone until Wednesday. As it turns out this was not a bad thing, it did give him a chance to set some ground rules with the programme manager and smooth some ruffled feathers amongst the techies.

Back in the hotel, expecting the England game, Gorse Fox finds that there is a problem with the weather in Poland and the game may be delayed or even postponed. This means he will probably have to watch the Scots play Belgium.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hurricane +25

It is the 25th anniversary of the hurricane/great storm that blasted across southern Britain. How clearly the Gorse Fox remembers that night.

The wind picked up in ferocity throughout the evening/early hours. The house vibrated as the gusts blasted against the brickwork... and GF became aware of the gate banging. He stumbled from bed and in PJs and slippers wandered round the side of the house only to see that not only was the gate banging, but the dustbin had gone.

The Gorse Fox, set out into the road - first wandering down the road where he found the bin. He returned it to the house and set off in search of the lid. It was at that point that the power went out. He was totally disorientated for a few moments - but there was enough ambient light that he managed to complete the search, retrieve the bin-lid, secure everything and return to bed... commenting that it was "breezy out there".

The following morning it became clear that the "breeze" had wrought devastation across the country and though the Gorse Fox was due to visit a client in Bristol he wasn't able to get out of the village. This was one of only two occasions in his career that he has missed an appointment. (The other was due to an 18 mile tail-back on the M6 where GF actually ended up attending the meeting by mobile phone from the motorway).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Domestic science

The Gorse Fox hand Silver Vixen have been concentrating on domestic science today. Despite the fabulous (if chilly) weather - there were chores that needed attention.

The Silver Vixen has spent much of the day on the floor switching the summer wardrobe to a winter wardrobe. Vacuum sealed bags are scattered all over the bedroom as choices are made, de-cluttering is achieved, and a new selection is prepared.

Meanwhile, with the Gorse Fox heading back up to Edinburgh tomorrow, there was a pressing need for some ironing (get it?) and other preparations to be made. Now, he's just ticking off a few last minutes before starting on supper which will comprise a leg of lamb, some cous cous, and probably some roasted vegetables.

Start

What a gorgeous start to an autumnal morning. Just the slightest of frosts bejewelled the car as the sun cast a spotlight across the West Sussex coast and a few streaks of cotton wool cloud slashed the almost perfect blue sky.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ruling

It would appear that the Courts have ruled against some of the changes imposed by Starfleet on the pension scheme of its employees. This is good news at it means that, being over 60, the Gorse Fox can now retire at any time he chooses, without any "actuarial penalty" being applied to his pension.

The 526 working day countdown clock needs to be changed to "526 days or less!"

Now - this doesn't mean that he will retire any earlier; just that he now has the choice and will not be penalised for electing to go.

Friday, October 12, 2012

First half

At the end of the first half, the Gorse Fox has to conclude that he would certainly have made the San Marino team, but actually would have had more verve and ambition than the England team.

Team

Ok, so the Gorse Fox didn't make the England team tonight. He was so engrossed in his spreadsheets that he left it too late to get to Wembley.

Big Day for U-c

It's a big day today for Urban-cub. She has her big interview board. She's well-prepared and well-supported - but she still has to do the business in front of the panel.

There's no public vote - just the judges.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Appearances

So what have we learned this week?

A great eccentric philanthropist - Jimmy Savile - turns out to have been and evil paedophile; and a great sportsman - Lance Armstrong - turns out to be a drugs cheat.

What next? The Kray twins turn out to have been set-up, were pillars of the community, gave everything to the poor, were friends of Mother Theresa and are actually in line for beatification?

It's a funny old world.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Scam again

They do try don't they!

Another outfit has been in touch to try and "sell" the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen's timeshare. This one sounded so much more legitimate than the previous one and offered to send explanatory emails and give the Gorse Fox time to do his "due diligence".

Time and effort had been put into the preparation of the emails and the supporting web sites... but it only took about 10 minutes to trace them all back to a known scam outfit that seems to keep resurrecting itself with new names.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

One Rule

And so it came to pass that on Friday the client to who Starfleet had been bidding asked for a re-pricing and promised an updated file of requirements on Monday morning. On Monday morning, it became lunchtime. By the end of the day the promise was Tuesday lunchtime.

It has not arrived... but the deadlines for re-pricing remain the same. It is evidently one rule for them, and another for Starfleet.

Talking of Starfleet, GF had a long online conversation with an Extinguished Engineer (a retired Distinguished Engineer). It was good to hear from him and get news of how his first year has gone, living in Devon. His only complaint seem to be the incessant rain... but GF would guess that is the same for many people this year. Having said that, he and the Silver Vixen have always noticed how much wetter it is in Devon and Cornwall than it is here in Sussex. Once tempted to move down that way, we tend to watch the weather reports for the West Country and observe the significant difference from home.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Failure to Learn

It is deeply frustrating, the Gorse Fox has concluded.

The project with which he is working has been running for over a year, and GF was involved when it was first being set up. At that time he worked with a colleague to define the basic process and information flow that would see the project from conception to completion. Part of this was a definition of the various documents that would be needed along the way - documents that described what was in place, was to be built, how things would be built, how things would be tested, how data would be moved, and so forth. The outcome of this work was that another colleague created a checklist of all of these documents and which parts of the project were responsible for each.

Starting his review, GF returned to this list. It soon became clear that it has essentially been ignored. Few, if any, of the documents have been written - and the project has forged its own path. This is a path that appears to be littered with management information, run rates, and statistics - and almost no design artefacts.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Do not disturb

A quiet day was planned and for a change the plans came to fruition. A few minor chores interrupted the morning, but nothing that took any significant time.

By afternoon, the the watery sun was out and it was warm enough to sit out in the garden and enjoy the peace - only broken by the gentle lap of waves against the pebble-beach.

The Spurs game was not being televised so the temptation to watch was not there, though we did watch "El Classico" later.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Shavings

The new door in the new porch had to come down. The recent wet weather has caused it to swell and it wasn't closing properly.

This is a heavy door, so the Gorse Fox spent quite a while trying to find things to wedge under it and take the weight once the hinges had been removed. Eventually some left over kitchen work top, a ceramic tile, two pieces of plaster board and an off-cut of 2x1 provided the stability required and the door was duly removed and carried to the garage wher it was placed on a workbench and a roller stand.

The power planer and belt sander were broken out, and soon wood shavings were flying.  A test fit showed that there was still some further work to do, but after attacking the door with the power tools once more, everything fitted.

The door now rests in the garage whilst the primer/undercoat dries on the freshly planed wood.