Friday, January 31, 2014

All done

The course is over. A bit of formal education is always fun - even if the education centre is almost totally devoid of modern communication technology. There is virtually no mobile phone signal at the location, and the broadband WiFi is useless - falling over every few minutes.

It's nice to get back to civilisation!

The forecast for the afternoon was pretty dire - with an expectation of further flooding and further storms. It was good to get home whilst it was still light - though even then it was clear many of the roads were flooding. The Gorse Fox feels dreadfully sorry for those poor people who have been affected by the floods.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Family History

What an interesting evening. The Gorse Fox sat between a chap who's wife is a rofessional genealogist and a Canadian colleagues wo, like the Gorse Fox, has genealogy as a hobby. He suspects that everyone else on the table may have felt a little left out... but it was, without doubt, an intriguing conversation.

On Course

Well another day at the Starfleet training centre and another day sitting in, as an observer, on a very interesting class. Strange place to be in this modern era, with almost no mobile phone signal at all. This stops the interrupts, but does make it difficult when you have to make business calls.

The Gorse Fox is off to the gala dinner in a few minutes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

7K+1

Today was a change from the norm. After an early-ish start the Gorse Fox headed across country to one of the Starfleet training venues on Hants/Berks borders. He will be sitting in on a class for the next few days with the aim of both learning from it and prepapring to run it in the future.

As the class has drawn to a close for the day, he must admit that he has been very impressed y the materialpreseneted so far... and as he is just an observer he doesn't have to get involved in the various exercises that are being run throughout the day.

The weather is both foul and cold. The Gorse Fox has had to park on the grass by the driveway to the venue. He hopes the car will not have sunk too far into the soft ground by the time he has to leave on Friday. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

7k

The Gorse Fox has noticed that this is his 7,000th blog post. For such an auspicious number it ought to be full of deep philosophy, humour, and insight. That, however, is not how the day went.

The banality of the day was only broken by discussions with the HR trolls regarding some disciplinary matters that the Gorse Fox is going to be investigating. Why can't people just be nice to one another, and why do people believe that they are entitled to exalted appraisal scores, when patently, they are no better than average?

GF did start to look through his computers for a paper he wrote back in about 1989/90 - he realised that it was likely to shed a bit of insight into his current background distraction of the Raspberry Pi. He suspects that this document may only exist on a CD somewhere as it is nowhere to be found online on his West Sussex data centre, nor in Starfleet (at least so far).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Impressed

The Gorse Fox has had a good day.

Work-wise it was spent reviewing and redrawing the document maps he had started a few weeks ago. The Surrey project had provided so additional insight, and highlighted some anomalies - these are now eliminated.

After work GF got the chance to play further with is Raspberry Pi (RPi). He still hasn't done anything of note - but now has it on the family network and it's accessible from the MAC, the PC, laptop, and indeed iPad.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

As easy as 3.14159

Well, that was fun.

The Gorse Fox now has his Raspberry Pi running and is remotely logged in to it from the MAC. It has several dinky little browsers and GF is using one of them (Midori) to write this blog post. He still needs to fiddle with the keyboard settings to adapt to the MAC and also the screen size - to make better use of the display size... but first impressions are good.

With a single power connection (micro-USB), and using a small USB WiFi dongle GF has it down to the bare minimum.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A slice of Pi

A full English breakfast was a treat. It is not often we have a cooked breakfast at home - but today we made an exception. Out came the George Foreman grill, and within minutes a whole pack of sausages was cooked and being kept warm whilst a pack of bacon was similarly treated. A few eggs, some bread, some sauces and mustard... perfect.

The Gorse Fox bought a Raspberry Pi a couple of years ago. He has not touched it since that original flourish of opening the box.

The weather tomorrow is forecast to be dreadful, and the Silver Vixen is out for the day with her coven, terrorising the poor folk of Ardingly. The Gorse Fox sees this as an opportunity to, finally, get the Rasberry Pi working and have a play. If all goes well he should have a sub-£30 computer working by the time he's finished and thanks to You Tube and some of the videos he has seen on there, should be able to control it from his existing screen and keyboard (though he does have a spare keyboard and mouse, if needed).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Runes

The Gorse Fox should have read the runes. It was all there, in plain sight. He even commented on it yesterday.

The day started well - good progress on the Surrey Project and plans in place for next week. Then the Gorse Fox had another appraisal scheduled. That is when everything went a bit pear-shaped. The individual was not happy with the appraisal and has decided to appeal. This has been followed by several email salvos.

This would be likely to escalate into a long-running saga - but for the fact GF only has 97 working days until retirement, and is busy completing his transfer to another division. Whilst sorry to be leaving colleagues to deal with this - he is glad that it won't remain his problem.

Oh well... the weekend starts here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beware - smooth running

The Gorse Fox is concerned.

Everything seems to be running remarkably smoothly. The appraisals are going pretty well (only 2 to go). Thursday's traffic was light. The Surrey project is not yet on a stable foundation, but the foundations are now defined, a sensible programme structure is agreed, the resources are defined, and the required artefacts are identified. The Gorse Fox even had time to go for a short walk at lunchtime.

His transfer is now public. His new Starfleet Business Unit Executive has announced the Gorse Fox's arrival: Gorse Fox - DCM Chief Architect - Gorse Fox is a Consulting Architect from elsewhere in Starfleet and is joining us for the first half of 2014.  He will help our efforts to enhance the DCM Method and asset portfolio.  In addition, he will be taking a broad review across all bids and inflight projects to ensure that we are adopting the DCM Method.

It is a little disconcerting. This is redolent of a calm that precedes a mighty storm.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I'm Surrey

Today saw the Gorse Fox nestled in the Starfleet offices in darkest Surrey. Several more appraisals were scattered throughout the day and because he couldn't find a quiet office from which to conduct the calls, ended up strolling in the town square in order to ensure some privacy.

Traffic in this part of the world is troublesome. 35 minutes after leaving the office, the Gorse Fox was still only 5 miles from his starting point, but once the traffic did start to open up, GF was able to do the last 35 miles in about 45 minutes. Never mind, the traffic ensures that he gets longer to listen to his books.

GF got off lightly. The Silver Vixen and her new playmate, round the corner, had a meeting with the regional sales rep for one of the big sewing-machine manufacturers. They ended up renting several of their machines for the workshop in the village... but at least there wasn't a pile of them waiting to be distributed round our house.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ring, ring....

The Gorse Fox has spent the whole day on the phone - only the shortest of gaps between calls has permitted comfort to be maintained.

  • There have been several annual appraisals.
  • There have been interviews.
  • There have been presentations on review findings.
  • There has been a resource assessment call.
  • There has been a project planning call (as if the Gorse Fox could contribute to that !)

Ears are now having a rest.

GF was thinking that one of the projects with which he is involved is truly international - a South African company for who Starfleet in the UK runs Data Centres in Germany using resources in Poland, Czech Republic and India, and the first part of the system we will move is for Latin America so that they can complete the merger of an Australian company.

While on the last call of the day, GF was able to dig into the Office of National Statistics website. Urban-cub had been trying to find out how many over 50s there were in the South East. She phoned the Gorse Fox (he assumes that as he is over 50, she thought he might know them all). It took a bit of digging around, but based on the latest published data there are 3,168,868 over 50s in the South East (which excludes London). That is out of a total population of just over 8,000,000; so quite a sizeable proportion.

Back on the road tomorrow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Write ups

The Gorse Fox has succeeded in finishing the write-ups for all his staff appraisals. Now he just has to deliver them. But as his staff a pretty fine bunch, he will be able to do this over the phone, throughout the week.

A couple of lunchtime calls saw the Gorse Fox talking with the Spanish project and the German members of the local project. Interesting in the latter case as the architect seems to think he can carry the whole design in his head - and doesn't have time to write it down. Then he complains he is stressed. The GF said he would help - but the first thing was to start a spreadsheet that recorded all the fleeting questions and ideas so that he didn't have to try and remember them. This seemed like an epiphany and had not previously occurred to him.

He notices that in his old job (where he is still thought of as the Service Area Team leader - with a rising headcount - now 170) that the level of utilisation expected of his people would have increased by 5%. When you calculate this using the old methods from last year this actually means that you would have to bill every working day of the year + 1 day of your vacation. He suspects Starfleet needs to adjust its sights as that is clearly unsustainable... unless the basis of the measurement has changed.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hants

The plan for the day is to meet up with Betty and Barney Rubble over in the bandit lands of Hampshire. First visit of the year and first visit since their trip to Finland for Christmas. Always good company, we are looking forward to it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Seeing clearly

The morning  was occupied by a few chores and a trip through the marvels of the interweb to look at designs for orangeries, and possible suppliers. There may be a number of months to go, but we need to start considering a design.

The afternoon meant a trip to Chichester. Firstly stopping at a supplier of orangeries and conservatories to see what ideas they had. Whilst they refer to it as a showroom - it only had 3 or 4 displays in all. A bit disappointing, but the quality was good.

The best part of the trip was picking up some new spectacles which were obtained free of charge - despite their usual price being £650. A scratch on the lens of the Gorse Fox's usual pair caused the optician to order replacement lenses under warranty and as GF had a spare set of frames he had the lenses fitted in there.

We finished off the trip with a raid on M&S to renew and extend the Gorse Fox's extensive collection of underwear and shirts. Most of the former being relatively antique by now, and most of the latter suffering wear and tear to the collars.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Maps

Most of today was spent reviewing and discussing the outcome of reviews. Firstly it was a review of an annual appraisal and the way in which a person's utilisation was measured. Though controversial, the Gorse Fox believes we have arrived at a fair position.

Next it was a project review, the output from which has to go to some Starfleet Execs. Then it was a tooling review to evaluate and discuss the current home-built tool that many of our projects are using. Sophisticated though it is, it is based on a competitor's product - and thus seems a perverse selection. The strategy going forward will be up to the Gorse Fox, it was decided. (Right answer).

In parallel with all of this Gorse Fox was drawing a series of document maps to illustrate the flow and precedence of information through the lifecycle of one of our migrations. Now having his own A3 printer, it was possible to print these out and look at them as a whole. What this has high-lighted is a few gaps in some areas, and some repetition in others.

All in all, a very good week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day of the Long Knives

The second day on this new project, over which the Gorse Fox has a watching and guiding brief. Responsible exec calls GF and the delivery reviewer into his office and requests a person-by-person analysis of the suitability to do the job.

The Gorse Fox suspects this is one jumbo jet that will have all its engines changed whilst in-flight.

He must say that the Starfleet offices are very pleasant compared with most - consequently he assumes they will soon be vacated and everyone moved into a tent on a nearby piece of waste ground. Also the traffic round Woking is dreadful at peak hours - it taking more than 20 minutes to travel the first mile this evening, but at least things picked up after that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Back to basics

The Gorse Fox turned up in Woking, parked and then had to find his way to the Starfleet office. You can get to a point where you over-rely on technology. He left the car park through the the shooping centre and called up Google Maps to find the directions to the office.

There was no signal.

He tried his other phone.

Again there was no signal.

He stood there for a moment trying to remember the map he had looked at before leaving home. Then he looked up to try and get his bearings.

Ten metres in front of him was the building he wanted. In front of it was a great big sign. If he hadn't been so focussed on his new technology he would have found it a lot more quickly.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Consolidation

Today has been spent in the Midlands with Jean-Luc Picard. Well, perhaps the Gorse Fox should refine that statement - with "after the three and three-quarter hour drive" to the Midlands...  Fortunately, he is in the middle of an audio book - so the journey was not too much of a hardship.

The review work has now been refined and categorised into findings, conclusions (categorised into a number topics), and recommendations. All of these are further divided into those areas of the project that most effected. J-LP will turn this into a presentation over the next couple of days.

With the results of last year's appraisals now "out there" - GF is getting lost of queries coming in from the dispossessed and disconsolate. This is the worst part of the process - having to justify the unjustifiable and explain to some people that because some accountant somewhere made an arbitrary decision over the spread of appraisal scores you have been deemed below par.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday - Easing into the week

Quiet start to the week with further consolidation of the notes from last week's review. This took all morning on the phone with Jean-Luc Picard. Then a telecon with the German arm of the programme to get their view and their problems.

Next few days on the road.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sound

The Gorse Fox received a message from John Lewis to say that the Sonos sound system he ordered yesterday had arrived and was ready for collection.

This was a wind up.

GF had, indeed, ordered a Sonos and expected it to be delivered today. However, when he turned up at the aforementioned store he was told he could NOT collect his parcel until 1100 because for Sunday Trading laws. He pointed out that a) they had contacted him to tell him to collect it and the note did not contain any restrictions, and b) the transaction actually took place yesterday when the order was fulfilled and the credit card debited.

Never mind the utter stupidity, this was JLP's opportunity to wind up the Gorse Fox. He waited until 1100 and duly picked up his package.

Back home, the Sonos Bridge was installed alongside the existing ADSL modem and paired with an App in the Silver Vixen's iPad. Next the small Sonos PLAY1 speaker was paired with the bridge and within a few seconds was streaming music into the kitchen. Next, the controller app was installed on the MAC and the iTunes library connected. Impressively simple. Finally the Sonos app was downloaded to all our other devices (iPads, iPhones, Android phones etc). Now we can control the streaming of music from any device. Will have to extend the system when we move to the new house, but for now, it serves its purpose.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Resurrection

The Gorse Fox notices the headline: "Man who wrote on Facebook that he had 'really hurt someone' is jailed for 20 years for brutally stabbing his 'gentle giant' neighbour to death 20 times for no reason"

Now this raises several questions:

  1. How stupid do you have to be to announce on Facebook that you had done someone damage?
  2. How many times do you have to kill someone?
  3. How did this gentle giant resurrect himself between each of his killings?
  4. Is the art of the sub-editor dying?

Where's the face?

The Gorse Fox has tried for the second or third time to move his photo library to the MAC. The movement of the photos (all 50GB) is moderately straightforward. The issue lies with the recovery of the albums, edits, and face tags that had been assigned on the PC.

It would appear that whilst the Picasa Backup and Restore will (with the help of a crowbar) restore the whole environment to the MAC, the face recognition information regarding the geometry of the face tags (i.e. where the identifying rectangle is on the photo) seems to become randomly screwed up. GF suspects it is a feature of whether the tag was assigned before or after the photo was straightened or cropped. It is, however, causing some strange results and is about to trigger a significant bit of work!

Now, in his innocence, he thinks this is a design flaw. All tags, edit decision lists, or identifying information that involve or reference the image geometry should use the original image as the origin and inherit relative references in any cascading edits.

What?

There are times when you begin to wonder if the gene pool has become too diluted.

The Gorse Fox reads today of a woman who is suing her solicitor for professional negligence. It appears that he did not explain to her that finalising her divorce would terminate her marriage.

Yes, they walk among us.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Notes

The Gorse Fox, after a very good night's sleep, worked at home.

He thought it would be a chance to catch up on some personnel management, but in the end most of the day was spent on the phone with Capt. Picard consolidating, synthesising, and summarising our notes from the past few days of reviews. One of the outcomes was a decision NOT to travel to Germany next week - but rather to deal with the German review by phone (as we already had a good summary from one of the team whilst in Madrid). As it happens this proved useful as it means he can get involved with another project for a couple of days next week.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Old days

It really was like the old days. The Gorse Fox and Capt. Picard commenced their reviews and then as it approached midday they were escorted out to a near by coffee shop for chuuros and coffee. Very agreeable.

Back in th office we completed the review and were again escorted out to a street-side restaurant for lunch. An hour or two later, Capt Picard was getting twitchy as he had to get to the airport. We left one of our hosts to finish the next course of the meal and the other host drove us to the airport. This is how business used to be done. This was most convivial, and the Gorse Fox was pleased to say that the review team have been invited back.

Now he is sitting in the VIP Lounge at Madrid airport waiting for his plane, nibbling on some peanuts and enjoying a quiet G&T.

Sleep

Considering the Gorse Fox can normally sleep at will, that was the second night where he hasn't slept deeply. Will be good to be back in own bed tonight. But first he has a day of project technical reviews to conduct.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Supper

After a bit of a walk to try and find a restaurant that was open before 8pm, Capt Picard and the Gorse Fox found a nice Italian where we had paper thin pizza the size of a football pitch and nice bottle of wine.

Starfleet, Madrid

Nice day in Starfleet Madrid. Nice to be in decent building rather than the usual dilapidated old shack that we seem to think is appropriate in the UK. It had a lovely restaurant also where the Gorse Fox chose what he thought was pasta verdi with bacon - only it truned out to be big, chopped runner beans in garlic and bacon. Probably a mistake that he will not repeat.

Local project team were very hospitable, and not at all defensive (as teams often can be when being reviewed by an external party). The Gorse Fox is meeting up with Capt. Picard in a few minutes to review today's findings.

Had a call from Deep Blue. Currently under pressure to join the Gorse Fox's last project. Thought the the Gorse Fox should do the decent thing and warned him off the vortex of despair that it had become.

Early

The clocks are one hour ahead here inMadrid, so this seems like an early start - particularly as the Gorse Fox didn't have the best of nights. Never mind, the day looks as if it will be challenging and that is half the fun.

The Gorse Fox arrived last night at a decent hour, only being some 15 minutes from the airport. Having checked in to the hotel, phoned the Silver Vixen and unpacked he went down to the lounge to meet with Captain Picard. There followed an hour of planning as we discussed the strategy for today and then we went our separate ways. The Gorse Fox will be meeting him for breakfast in about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Lounging

The Gorse Fox has arrived at Gatwick - and was astounded by the speed at which he got through security. He would estimate that it was under a minute from entering the security hall to the point he was collecting his scanned stuff and putting it all away. Very impressive though he expects mid afternoon on a Tuesday is not a peak travel time.

He's now sitting in one of the airport lounges with a bit of fruit cake and G&T waiting for the gate to be called for the flight. Looking out of the window, there is clearly a great deal of development under way at Gatwick

Not spreading the News

It is clear that some of the news regarding the Gorse Fox's internal transfer within Starfleet has not been adequately disseminated. He has just received a slide deck showing the new European-wide organisation for his old service-line. He is shown as a team team leader for the new organisation, with a headcount of 156 staff.

Ooops.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Stoned

Plans change.

The onset of a kidney stone whilst a colleague was preparing to fly to the UK to meet with the Gorse Fox means that his plans have changed. Hotel in Slough has been cancelled, Tuesday will mean working from home during the morning, then flying to Madrid during the late afternoon.


Where's Noah?

It would appear that an Ark would be the best means of transport today. No trains are running from Barnham to Horsham because the Arun Valley is flooded. Fortunately, the Gorse Fox was not planning to use the railway today. He does expect that the roads may prove interesting, but will plot his route carefully before leaving.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Packing

Tomorrow sees the twelfth day of Christmas and so, today, the Silver Vixen took down the Christmas Decorations and packed them away knowing that next year they will dress different rooms in a different house. For now, GF has packed them back into the loft.

Meanwhile the Gorse Fox was preparing for a return to work - and in so doing packed a case ready for a week on the road (two days in Slough and two in Madrid). Whereas this used to be second nature, it took a little concentration and planning this time. Fortunately, tomorrow's meeting is dependent on the arrival of a colleague from the North and so the Gorse Fox can make a leisurely start.

He must say that the Christmas break has been wonderfully relaxing and he feels quite chilled. How long that will last, who knows!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Cup

The storms continued to blast the coastal regions. Again, the Gorse Fox was glad to be a little further inland than last year (and 20 metres or so higher, above sea level). Touch wood, we have not been affected, but must comment on the extent of the thunder we have heard over the past few nights and how load the hail was when it rattled through.

The new house is only a couple of metres above sea level, on the old alluvial plane between the Downs and the sea. However, the area is criss-crossed with drainage ditches, pumping stations, and a huge balancing pond. Recent weather has suggested that this should not be impacted in any way buy such pluvial excess, but the Gorse Fox would guess that it may affect the build schedule until the house is water-tight.

Pistol Pete and young Jake were heading for St Mary's to watch the Saints play Burnley in the Cup. The Urban-cub decided that she would rather spend the afternoon with us, than sitting in the windswept terraces. So it was that she arrived around mid-day and had a quiet afternoon as we chatted and settled down in front of a film.

Keeping an eye on the score, we saw it see-saw 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3 and realised what a tense last few minutes there must have been... but at least they  had seen lost of goals and Saints had won. Game over, Urban cub took over the kitchen a prepared a huge lasagne ready for their return.
This was an excuse to open out our kitchen table to its full size, for the first time. We were pleased to see that it would easily accommodate 6, though only 5 were present today.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Making the most

We made the most of the last day of vacation and chose to visit the local Cinema. It was the opening day of "Last Vegas" featuring Michael Douglass, Robert de Niro, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman. It was a gentle comedy about a weekend "bachelor party" in Las Vegas for the four septuagenarians... and it was great entertainment and a very enjoyable couple of hours.

After the cinema we strolled across the rain-swept courtyard to Nando's for a bite to eat. As usual, simple but satisfying.

Fin

Well last day of "vacation" today, obviously there is the weekend to come, but that doesn't really count. The Gorse Fox is enjoying, and getting used to this life of leisure and must now change gear again and get back into the swing of work, next week.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Margins

The Gorse Fox, though still on vacation, logged on to his Starfleet system. There was travel to arrange for next week - and so he used the Starfleet Online Travel Reservation system to arrange flights and hotels. This went without a hitch, and the trick he developed last year of pre-selecting seats in rows 1-5 means that he should still get speedy boarding.

Whilst there he checked his email and sees that the Division in which he has been working is reorganising again. What a relief that he is moving on. It is clear the the "Innovation Services" group of consultants and designers is being further marginalised as people are allocated to specific pan-European industry-focussed divisions. This is the usual woolly thinking from the centre... believing in industry specialisation. This is where innovation gets stifled as there is no longer the cross-fertilisation of ideas as people move from finance to insurance, and insurance to media, and public sector to aerospace and so forth. However, the Gorse Fox shouldn't be surprised - if this group of "leaders" had been that brilliant then Starfleet wouldn't have bought them for small-change ten years ago. (They did have some good technical people and some good consultants, but they too have really been marginalised).


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Good Start

Well that's an excellent start to the New Year - a quiet and relaxing day, a win for Spurs (against Man Utd at Old Trafford), and a new episode of Sherlock on TV.

Happy New Year

The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen would like to wish you all a very, very Happy New Year.

For us, it is likely to be a year of change with the impending retirement of the Gorse Fox (112 working days to go), and moving into our new house sometime in the middle of the year. No doubt lots of adjustments to accommodate!

Anyway we wish you health, we wish you peace, and we wish you happiness.