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.