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.