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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Linguine, the Lensman, and the Knife

Some days your luck just seems unbounded.

It started with a decision that we would pop into Chichester (always worthy of a stroll round the town). We had some vouchers for a store, and they were approaching the point where they expire.

Now, a quick aside. Several weeks ago the Gorse Fox went into the opticians to have his glasses adjusted. The technician noticed a scratch on the lens and said he would order a replacement. Just before Christmas the Gorse Fox got a call to say the lens was ready and and he should come in to get it fitted. Now, back to the main storyline.

Parking up, we strolled into town and the Gorse Fox dropped in to the optician, and clutching his spare pair of old glasses he explained why he was there. Realising the old pair and new pair had identical frames it suddenly occurred to him to get the lenses fitted in the old pair. As the technician wasn't in, they agreed to this and GF left the old glasses with them. Result - he would end up with, effectively, a new pair of glasses.

We strolled on and spent our vouchers as planned. Then the GF remembered he had broken the spring on the scissors of his Swiss Army Knife, so strolling back he stopped at various shops to see if they were dealers. Eventually he found a super little shop that sold everything. The chap took the knife, opened his box of spares and within a couple of minutes the spring was replaced and all was well with the world; the GF had a fully functioning set of scissors on his knife, again. Result!

We were going to stop a Prezzo for lunch, but they were busy and there would be a 15 minute wait for a table. We decided to go next door and try the Cote Brasserie. Though busy, we managed to get a table immediately and were presented with a superb menu. We enjoyed our starters: a charcuterie board for the GF, and smoked salmon for the Silver Vixen. A superb start. Then we waited for the main course - a seafood linguine for the GF and a fish pie for the SV. And we waited. And we waited. The Maitre d' noticed we had been waiting and came to apologise having chased up the kitchen. The food duly arrived and was excellent. When we came to pay the bill, however, the Maitre d' had deducted the price of both main courses as a gesture for having kept us waiting. Result, again! What service.

Now, leaving the restaurant the GF had a thought - "had the original optician ordered two lenses or just the one replacement?". Rather than end up with a mixed pair - half old and half new, the Gorse Fox returned to the optician to check. The manager had noticed that there was only the one lens, and had gone ahead and ordered the second. This will mean the GF has effectively got a £650 pair of glasses for nothing.

With luck running like this, it is worth doing the lottery.

Monday, December 30, 2013


The forecast for today's weather is pretty dire. Gales and heavy rain is expected. The Gorse Fox feels sorry for those who have returned to work and have to contend with the disruption that will, no doubt, ensue on the roads and railways.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


The Gorse Fox started the day by preparing a load of files to share with his cousin. This took slightly longer than planned when the Gorse Fox realised there was a batch of paper files he had not yet digitised.

Two of the three scanners were pressed into action and all the relevant files were soon ready for further analysis, and for transmission.

With all of that done and it being a lovely bright (if cold) day, we decided to go along and see if there had been any progress in the last month on the house build.

It was difficult to see in the bright sunlight, but with a little bit of fiddling, and a very long zoom, the Gorse Fox got some shots of the house. It is clear they have now finished the walls and the roof trusses are in place. He would expect the roof to be tiled by the time he next visits. It's all rather exciting!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Do not disturb

A quiet day at home. There had been an initial intention to pop out for a while, but both the Silver Vixen and the Gorse Fox got bogged down into their tasks - and before we knew it it was getting dark.

The Gorse Fox had spent some time on the genealogical research - frustrated by the apparent absence of the Silver Vixen's g-grandfather and g-g-grandfather from census records where one could reasonably expect to find them. He was equally dismayed to realise that he had not filled in records for some recent additions to the family (this has now been addressed).

GF got a message from a cousin. She too has been researching her branch of the family tree and is eager to share research. GF will prepare a package in the morning and put it on a shared drive so that she can see what he has found.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lovely day

Well, the day with Gorse Fox's tiny sister and her her family was lovely. Despite the dire warnings, the journey was trouble-free and indeed the route selected turned out to be fairly quick and cut the distance down to 51 miles.

Blade and Mask were there, though Blade was upstairs in his command centre, finishing off a University project, for much of the time. Mask was generally helping out, but also keeping us up to date with his progress now that he is working/studying in London. He has a big exam looming, but seems pretty relaxed about it.

The Master of the Household (always most pleasurable company) was his usual hospitable self, and we discussed everything from politics to backup regimes, from mobile phones to stuffed rhinos.

Meanwhile the Gorse Fox's tiny sister and the Silver Vixen chatted about the Beloved Aunt, Cousteau-cub, sewing, health, Urban-cub, Starfleet, and the Nursery (I suppose, in the circumstances, and with her involvement, what you might call a miniscule) at which she works.

Overall it was an excellent day and we look forward to meeting up with them again in the New Year.


The Gorse Fox is polishing his spectacles as he and the Silver Vixen get ready to visit the Gorse Fox's little sister (once she becomes a grandmother, you could classify her as a masterpiece of nanotechnology).

As the latest storm tracks through - the journey does promise to be "interesting".

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

Boxing Day was planned as a quiet day, and so it has turned out. There was a flurry of phone calls and the Gorse Fox made sure Skype was active in case Cousteau-cub got time to make contact. (She was diving today - apparently that is one of the few times she is pain free).

We had a turkey crown and a gammon joint to cook, and the Gorse Fox was feeling adventurous. He spent some time looking at various recipes and idea online, and got stuck-in.

The gammon was simmered in Coca Cola and a peeled onion for a 90 minutes (it wasn't a big joint). Then, skin removed, left to rest. Once cooled down, it was scored and pinned with cloves, then drizzled in syrup before roasting for a further 30 minutes. So simple, really, and yet the results were excellent. This approach will now be the "standard". The ham was sweet and moist, and almost irresistible.

The turkey also got attention. Having rested a room temperature it was coated in a past made from garlic and hole-grain mustard. This was put into an hot (220C) oven for 20 minutes, and then the temperature was reduced to 120C for a couple of hours. Cooking it slowly on a low temperature kept the turkey incredibly moist. Once cooked, it was left to rest for a couple of hours before we carved it.


The Gorse Fox trusts that you all got the Christmas you wished for; that it was a time of joy, a time of giving, and a time to think of family and friends.

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen spent the day, as planned, with Urban-cub. Whilst there, we had a long Skype call with Cousteau-cub and the Coventry Hobbit - so despite geographical distance we all managed to get together. It was a shame Pistol Pete was on duty, otherwise he would have made the call perfect.

Quiet day at home is planned for today... though the nearby racecourse has its biggest meet of the year, so we may be regaled by the distant sound of their commentary floating on the wind.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's a Wrap

Well, we tried a recipe from Tom Kerridge last night. The problem was that we didn't quite get the cut right. It was meant to be a a smoky bacon joint (smoked pork belly) - but we only remembered the pork belly bit. However, the Gorse Fox extemporised, when he realised, and cooked the joint for an hour before introducing the honey with which it would be basted every 10 minutes for the following 40 minutes. Well, in essence (despite the wrong basic joint) it worked well - but GF had selected a very strong Greek honey which turned quite bitter. He is sure that with a normal honey it would have been perfect. Oh well, next time.

This morning everything is wrapped and ready. The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen are heading for Urban-cub's for Christmas Dinner. Pistol Pete is on duty, but should be home late afternoon - and we will settle down to eat on his arrival.

We have exchanged text messages with Cousteau-cub, and hope to Skype with her in a few minutes. Family may be scattered, but technology allows us to be close when we want.

Happy Christmas

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen wish you all a happy and Holy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winding Down

The country seems to be winding down for the Christmas break. The weather has not been cooperative. Thousands of people are stranded at airports, railway stations, and at sea. The Gorse Fox is relieved that he and the Silver Vixen did not have to venture out and feels very sorry for those who have had their plans disrupted. He also notes that many, including some of his own staff, are in areas that are without power. This must be frustrating in the run up to Christmas when you have a young family. GF notes one of his team is talking of using the barbecue as "Plan B".

Work has been very quiet today. This has allowed the GF to review some old documents, presentations, and files and extract useful pictures, text, and diagrams from them so that he doesn't have to go hunting around in the New Year. Talking of the New Year, the trip to Madrid seems solid - but the Gorse Fox cannot get confirmation of the travel arrangements or hotel yet. As a result he is yet to book, and will probably have to log on during the holiday to check for details.

Starfleet have also managed to sign a major contact with the client that Gorse Fox was working with until recently. This is huge bit of business and excellent end to the year for the team.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Stormy Monday

They call it Stormy Monday.... and watching the news reports it certainly has been. We have been fairly lucky, with blustery winds and squally showers throughout the day. However, it looks as if the worst is due between ten tonight and the early hours of tomorrow. They are forecasting 90mph wind on the coast - the Gorse Fox is glad to have moved from the old house in weather such as that.

In the expectation that GF will have to fly to Madrid early in the New Year, he started the approval process this morning. This can be troublesome generally, but doubly so when the Gorse Fox works in one division and the expenses have to fall to another division and the idiots who wrote the approvals tool made no allowance for such an obvious requirement. Nevertheless, GF persevered and, somewhat amazed, saw the approval hit his mailbox before the close of business.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


One of the features that comes built into the Mac is voice dictation. I have only just started to use this as an experiment. With Cousteau-cub having problems with her hands I thought this may provide some relief. Cousteau-cub has a new Macbook laptop and as this is a built-in feature in the Operating System - she should be able activate it.

Once enabled, anywhere you would normally have to type (like creating a blog post, or answering an email) can be fulfilled by dictation. This can be taken a stage further to control the compute also, but the Gorse Fox suspects that like all features, it is best to become acquainted with one at a time.

This blog entry an example of dictated text. The text can be analysed locally on your computer or across the Internet by Apple's servers in California. I have chosen to help my text analysed locally.


Well things were looking iffy. There were two further power cuts in the evening - one in the middle of Strictly Come Dancing. The Gorse Fox suspects the people who run the power distribution network realised that the wrath of the Silver Vixen was about to descend upon them like a swarm of screaming harpies, and managed to restore power within about 30 seconds or so.

Power restored, followed quickly by household equanimity.

This morning has involved some household chores but the plan for the afternoon is to go to the local moving-picture palace. This to see the latest offering from Mr Jackson, depicting part of one of the books by Mr J.R.R Tolkein. Having been greatly entertained by theses books when young and when dragons still walked the earth, the Gorse Fox is looking forward to the show (or "movie" as he believes they call it in the Colonies).

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Momentary power cut caught us by surprise just now. Fortunately, the Silver Vixen had a candle alight in her study and the Gorse Fox had just picked up his mobile phone so we could still see to get about. There was no need to panic, however, 30 seconds later power was back on. Jasper the cat seemed a little confused though.

A good job

Well, it's a good job that it is the shortest day of the year - because it is absolutely foul outside. Blustery winds, squally showers and dark enough to require lights on in the house.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Unexpected pleasure

Schools having broken up and many people evidently not going into work meant that the Gorse Fox's trip to Midlands was a motoring pleasure. Cruise control set a 75 and hardly varied for 150 miles. During the journey the sky lightened and the sun came up bathing Oxfordshire (where he was by then) in lovely golden light.

Arriving at the Starfleet Base the Gorse Fox grabbed breakfast and met up with his new colleague, Commander Picard. A few minutes into the pleasantries a light bulb appeared above his head and realised the Gorse Fox was a resource he had not previously considered. So it was the the Gorse Fox became part of a two-man review team (with the Commander), who would have to visit Spain and Germany at the start of the New Year. A large multinational project needs some direction, and it looks like we will be providing it.

Separately we met with another multi-national team who need to move data-centres. It was decided that the Gorse Fox would be their advocate and mentor for one or two days each week.... assuming they can secure the funding for his time. It sounds like an interesting role and it will make a nice change to have a programme team that actually want to listen to the advice and guidance - rather than turn a deaf ear as the last project did.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Feet - keep still

The Gorse Fox is restraining himself from doing his little happy dance (imagine a walrus on a griddle). He is really enjoying this new job of his... it reminds him of the old days in Starfleet. Time to research, time to develop points of view, and a varied portfolio of things to attend to and projects to get involved with.

Today has been about stitching together a series of documents. not writing them, nor editing them, but identifying them and their interdependencies so that it is clear which ones are needed at what stage of a project. This is not a simple list as their are well over 100 documents and each has multiple interdependencies.

Tomorrow sees the Gorse Fox back on the road. He has to meet with Commander Picard up at the Starfleet base in the Midlands... and in so doing should get news of one of the projects for which he will provide oversite.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


When you have a large diagram to create in Visio, and it contains many hundreds of nodes, some limited automation is available and useful.

So it was that the Gorse Fox took the spreadsheet that he had been working on for a few days and connected it to the various pages of the diagram and created suitable data links. This allowed all of the nodes to be generated and populated with the correct information, at a stroke. Then GF just had to worry about layout (there is an automatic layout function - but GF wanted to determine this himself) and the connections between the nodes. This latter aspect would be great to automate but the very purpose of the exercise (in this case) was to work out and document the connections.

Definitely chuffed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Last Input

The Gorse Fox was back in town. Able to travel at a sensible time, however, this meant no parking available and so the Silver Vixen was kind enough to provide transport to the station.

An aside to today's trip was the intention for the Gorse Fox to pick up  free headset for the IP phone built into his laptop software. Needless to say he found the location closed when he went along. Starfleet seems incapable of recognising that mobile workers are rarely on Starships and when they are they need to make the most of it. He retured to his desk.

He needed to return his access badge to the administators at the previous project (or vortex of despair as it is descibed). He went to the stationary cupboard but there were no envelopes and was referred to the post room. The Gorse Fox went back to the basement and found that the Post Room  is closed between 11 and 1400, so again he returned to his desk.

The afternoon was the final chance for the Gorse Fox to input and influence the appraisals for his department. A couple of hours was spent looking for anomalies and debating who whould be moved between scores in order to fit the arbitrary distribution dreamt up by some accountant somewhere in the depths of Starfleet. Overall it was pretty successful - not many changes were needed, and those made were sustainable.

Monday, December 16, 2013


You would have thought it would all go smoothly. You would have thought that as 2013 draws to an end the technology its support is now up to scratch and all you have to do is plug devices in for them to work.

Perhaps the Gorse Fox shouldn't complain - this is, after all a first world problem. The A3 printer and scanner he ordered on Saturday and was destined for delivery on Wednesday, turned up at lunch time. He is not going to complain about a delivery two days early - particularly when it was shipped from Dunfermline.

So the first thing he notices is that it is huge. This should not come as a surprise - it has to handle A3 paper, after all. Problem is that there was no obvious space to put something of that size. A lot of head-scratching ensued. Finally a decision was made, and the printer nestles on the desk to the left of the Gorse Fox. (He uses the word nestle, loosely. It nestles the way a fully grown buffalo nestles in a window-box).

Then came the pleasure of installing it and getting it all working. Well, on the MAC he had already read that he should download fresh drivers. This was fairly painless and within a few minutes the printer was churning out a printed image.

Then the Gorse Fox moved on to Windows machine. To be fair the problems were not really directly related to the printer - more the fact that his disk was full and the installation ran out of space. This has triggered a major clean-up - 11GB of files deleted from the trash. 20GB of iTunes library moved to the Mac. Everything now on an even keel (though still have to check iTunes).

(No news from Cousteau-cub today - so not sure if she got her diagnosis, still)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Changes in Society

The problem with the changes that have occurred in society over the last 100 years is that it is so rare to get decent domestic staff (or indeed find somewhere to accommodate them). So it is that the Silver Vixen, with occasional help from the Gorse Fox, will have to provide her flourish and decorate the house for Christmas.


The weather is inclement.

Outside the sky hangs low with grey cloud, inside it is dark enough to require lights. The rain, at first just drizzle, is escalating to a heavy down pour.The Gorse Fox feels for his friends and colleagues who live North of London and must have to put up with such meteorological misery on a daily basis.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


We often chuckle when we hear from people concerned about a trip to Thailand - and what would happen if they are taken ill. We have learnt over the the years that the health provision in Thailand is fantastic.

Time and again Cousteau-cub has had to avail herself of medical and dental profession and each time they have done an exemplary job.

We received a message from her over night. She is in hospital in Trang, a medium sized town in the south of the country. She is having some tests to try an diagnose a problem she is having with her hands and joints. Speaking with her just now she explained the tests that were being performed and the interim diagnoses that they are trying to nail down. What was stunning about this was the description of the tests and how the results are returned within the hour. The Silver Vixen had similar tests here and had to wait ten days for the results.

You may have to pay for Thai medical treatment (but not much), but you certainly get an excellent service.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What, it's Friday?

Another really good day in the Gorse Fox's office. The deep dive into the supporting documentation for his new role has proved a very interesting read - and now he is starting to introduce some of his own practices into the wider discipline.

This has meant a lot of cross-referencing and a lot of thinking regarding the approach taken by the developers of the material. Bit by bit he is seeding new components and artefacts into the portfolio. As he does so it gives him a chance to view the problem from a new perspective more relevant to the new organisation, but elaborated by the experiences of the old.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Author, author!

The Gorse Fox having struggled from the kitchen to the study, got stuck-in to his work.

There is a "Lessons Learned" exercise to conduct in the New Year and it seemed a sensible exercise to try and get ahead of the game with a questionnaire for those involved, and the basic template for the report - infused with advice and guidance ready for the workshop. Very satisfied with the outcome.

This really is a most productive way to work, and long may it continue.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


No, not the town in Berkshire.

Reading, as in books and documents. That is where the Gorse Fox has been focussing his time today. There is so much collateral that needs to be absorbed in this new role. Today he was able to have a fairly uninterrupted run at it and in so doing has found a number of areas that need his attention. As good as this material is, the authors have missed some of the classic "gotchas". These will need to be addressed.

Also, the Gorse Fox has spent a significant chunk of time today reviewing the options regarding tooling to support this service area. It seems perverse to him that, given Starfleet builds tools to support this venture, its own people buy a tool from a third party - then have to do a load of development on it to make it do what we need. This will be stopped, particularly having spent time understanding what we have put together using the Starfleet tools and what the potential is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Random Acts of Irritation

The Gorse Fox knows that it is part of the Apple philosophy to irritate users through its arrogant "Apple knows best" policy - but for goodness sake. The Gorse Fox's nice Mac is connected to 2 separate NAS devices - which, by their very nature, are also connected to his other computers.

The Mac seem to, completely randomly, decide it can't see certain files, or when it adds new files to the device will sometime give the a meaningless 8.3 style address and other times successfully use a proper long name.

Consistent irritating behaviour is one thing... but the randomness of this is driving the Gorse Fox to distraction.

Monday, December 09, 2013


Today saw the event known as moderation. This is where, within Starfleet, the managers get together and review the ratings assigned to each of the professionals within their span of control and ensure that they have been rated fairly and objectively, relative to their peers. In previous years this has taken an extraordinary amount of time. Indeed, the Gorse Fox estimates that last year this process took 19 hours just to review the senior staff (the more junior staff were reviewed in parallel).

This year we amended the process, and Gorse Fox ran it. He set aside one day - today. Everyone said it was not enough and it could not be done in one day. Well, they were wrong - we processed the junior staff in the morning and the senior staff in the afternoon. The morning schedule overran by 10 minutes. The afternoon schedule by about 15 minutes. But we finished. The main difference was the realisation that for the vast majority of people, their position relative to their peers was irrelevant. It would make no difference to their rating, and no difference to their rewards. The only people who we needed to focus on, were those on the boundaries between ratings to make sure they were being fairly assessed.

At the end GF was thanked, and everyone was happy that the approach had been much more efficient, but most importantly absolutely fair.

On a slightly later train home, the Gorse Fox is satisfied with a very successful day.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Private Investigations

The Gorse Fox was puzzled. The census refers to Canonbury Avenue as the location of part of his family in 1891 and 1901. Canonbury Avenue doesn't appear on the present maps. There's Canonbury Road, Square, Gardens, Grove, Crescent, Place, Park North, and Park South... indeed there is a surfeit of Canonburys. But there is no avenue. Digging into his archive he extracted an Ordnance Survey map from the 1890s (you would be surprised what the Gorse Fox has tucked away) and started to review the area.

No Canonbury Avenue.

Google was not a significant help, either. However, it did point the Gorse Fox at the Charles Booth archive held by the LSE. There, deep in the recesses of his notebooks, the Gorse Fox found the clue he sought.

"the open space on the map north of Canonbury Square is now occupied by Canonbury Avenue - 2 rows of buildings next to the Board School. 4 Stories - working class; paved passage down the middle"
The Gorse Fox can now rest. The mystery is solved. He no knows where the McDonald side of his family lived in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


The Silver Vixen is dealing with the paperwork that is building up regarding the recent death of her mother. As she prepares a bundle for the solicitor, the Gorse Fox has spent time this afternoon scanning all of the relevant attachments, invoices, statements, and miscellaneous files.

Thought for the Day

"The meek shall inherit the earth"; if it's quite all right with you.

But who would act as Executor?
How much tax would there be to pay?
How long would it take to to sort out the phones, gas, electricity, water, bank accounts, investments, properties, and mail redirection?

On further analysis - don't bother.

Friday, December 06, 2013


The Gorse Fox couldn't let the day go by without a comments on the death of Nelson Mandela. During the GF's career he was asked on a number of occasions to visit South Africa - and steadfastly refused until the end of the Apartheid era.

Many obituaries and eulogies will speak in great details about his achievements, his struggles, and his charisma. The Gorse Fox never met the mana and can only comment on what he has heard and what he has learned over the years. For the Gorse Fox, his abiding greatness and his legacy to mankind was his ability to rise above the adversity of his imprisonment, and rise above the oppression of Apartheid, and then forgive his oppressors and try to reconcile all sides. A lesson for all was his approach of owning up to the facts of history and then moving on.


Friday has been fairly quiet. There was an early call from Deep Blue at the airport en route to Chicago. He had timed out on some of his admin. GF told him that it wasn't worth worrying about - after all GF is the one informed about the problem - and GF will ignore it, in the circumstances.

Next it was a matter of finishing off the review spreadsheets and sending to the people that will co-moderate the session on Monday to complete the full review. This freed the Gorse Fox up to dig further into his new role and the assets that are available in support of that. This occupied most of the rest of the day - with the exception of a cry for help from Urban-cub. She had a spreadsheet problem and needed to find a solution.

This was a challenge. The spreadsheet was quite huge and needed selective extraction of similar records. GF is sure there must have been plenty of ways of doing this and isn't really very satisfied with the solution he devised... but though it may be inelegant, it worked.

Random network issues have niggled throughout the day. Not sure if they are within the house, or triggered by external flakiness. Things seem a little more stable this afternoon.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Reviewing reviews

Very chilly overnight. Quite a hard frost this morning when the Gorse Fox emerged from bed. Even Jasper, the cat, was not particularly pleased at the thought of going outside.

Tea made, the Gorse Fox commuted to the study. No traffic problems involved.

Really today was more of the same - a split between the year end appraisals and the new job. The lion's share going to appraisals today.

Most of the gaps left from yesterday have now been filled - which took a bit of cajoling, but finally got sorted. Then Gorse Fox tried to come with and refine several algorithms that would allow the cross-checks to continue and would highlight anomalies. Bit by bit they came together and after a long afternoon teleconference with his boss - GF is pretty satisfied that he has come up with some objective means of verifying the results of the population.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Still appraising

The problem is simple - there is just too much to do in the run up to year-end. On top of the "too much" is the annual appraisal exercise. The Gorse Fox is trying to collate this and cross-check it, but there still exists huge gaps where colleagues have yet to provide their analyses.

The day was split between the appraisals and the new job. This has meant that much of the afternoon was spent reading and trying to assimilate some of the background thinking behind the underlying techniques. Interesting, but not always the way GF would have approached it.

As the walls of the study glowed red late in the afternoon, the Gorse Fox realised what a lovely sunset was painting the skies over Fontwell.

Being at home, the camera was at hand and a trip to the Silver Vixen's hobby room allowed a fairly uninterrupted view of the glowing clouds.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Mixed bag

There are two main areas requiring Gorse Fox's concentration - the first is the annual appraisals; the second is the new job.

The annual appraisals are more complex than usual as the Gorse Fox is not just limited to his immediate team. He is the lead manager for all of the technical staff in his service line. This means gathering and collating the appraisals from all of his manager-colleagues and trying to ensure that we are demonstrating fairness and objectivity across our 170-odd staff. Needless to say this is challenging enough without the added dimension of everyone working flat-out to close out the year successfully. This means GF is having to chase and cajole in order to get the material together ready for the next set of reviews. This is taking far more energy than it should.

As for the new job - the Gorse Fox's head is a bit like an engine that is waiting for the clutch to engage. It's spinning round thinking of loads of stuff that will need to be addressed, but the clutch hasn't settled yet and allowed GF to focus on one thing.

Monday, December 02, 2013

All Change

The new job meant an early start. The Gorse Fox had to be up at the Starfleet office in Warwick for a ten o'clock meeting. The traffic was kind and the journey trouble-free. The Gorse Fox arrived in time to stop for breakfast and bump into the Mighty Atom.

The rest of the day was spent acquainting himself with the new job and planning the next few months work. This looks as if it is going to be very enjoyable. Some research, some writing, some development, some reviews, and some teaching.... all the while being based at home.

Sounds like the perfect job.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


The celebration for the Silver Vixens birthday was almost flawless. We headed to town, hopped on the tube and arrived at Covent Garden with about 10 minutes to spare.  At the restaurant we waited at the bar until everything was ready - and couple by couple the various friends and family arrived. A few were, sort of, expected but several came as a complete surprise (if not shock).

At this point the Gorse Fox should pick up on the "almost flawless" comment. The Gorse Fox had invited Mrs Tiggywinkle and Badger. He was only half expecting them as they had a long way to come from Devon, but he had not heard from them. It was only afterwards that he checked and realised that he had the wrong email address and had been inviting a complete stranger. (Good job they didn't turn up... and deepest apologies to Mrs Tiggywinkle).

The meal had been pre-ordered and, frankly, everything went like clockwork. The service was excellent and the company was great fun. Everybody seemed to join in and all the food was good. We were meant to vacate the table within two hours - but they didn't push us and we were there for closer to three.

When we left we headed out into Covent Garden for a stroll around the stalls and displays. It was a lovely afternoon. Bit by bit, people dropped away to head home, and eventually we too headed back to Victoria and the train.

Up Town Girl

We are heading for London today. It was the Silver Vixen's birthday a few days ago, and we decided to meet up with Urban-cub and Pistol Pete and the kids for a meal in Covent Garden and then to have a wander about.

The fact of the birthday made the Silver Vixen eligible for a new Railcard, and this Railcard knocked one third off the price of the ticket. As long as we make a few trips in the year, this could work out as quite a saving.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bricks and Mortar

The Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox had an appointment with the builder's agent. They now had a show home decorated with the colour choices we had made and we had an opportunity to go and look.

This turned out to be be better than expected when we realised we could see our plot from the upstairs window.
Progress has been good in the last few weeks and the house is almost up to roof height.

There is also quite a view up to the South Downs from the emerging edifice, though some of this will be lost as the development grows.

The agent is now trying to bring the completion in to fit with their financial year-end which may bring us even further forward.

Only time will tell.

Friday, November 29, 2013


For a few days now, Vodafone seems to have been having problems in our area. The usual 5-bar signal seems to have dropped to 1 bar when there is any service at all. This is generally inconvenient for the Silver Vixen and, as the Gorse Fox's work phone is on the VF network, means that GF finds it difficult to work from home in such conditions.

It dawned on him, that this was what it used to be like at the old house. That is when he remembered he had a femto-cell which allows the first stages of the mobile phone call to be hauled over the internet. Finding the femto-cell was easy. Finding an ethernet cable was easy. Finding the right power adapter for it was much more challenging.

After digging through a load of crates and boxes, the right power supply was located and plugged in. Lights began to flash. A few minutes later there was a solid 5-bar signal again.


The Silver Vixen missed all of this excitement, having gone of to Chi to get her hair done and raid the shops.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

That's it

Positively, absolutely, that's it. Project is over for the Gorse Fox. Does the happy dance. Get strange looks from fellow train travellers.

New challenges from next week... but admin tomorrow

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last day

Today was the Gorse Fox's last dat at the offices of this particular client. He cannot express in words the relief at finishing there - one more day of reviews tomorrow and then hands can be metaphorically washed and a very unpleasant episode of his working life consigned to the annals of history.

He feels sorry for those he leaves behind - but will do what he can to send the messages back to the mother ship. Management by screaming and waving your arms in the air whilst running about a lot is not the best approach to a multi-million dollar project.

Must say that the Gorse Fox looks like he's ready to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In town

The day started very early. The Gorse Fox had a touch of catarrh which interrupted his sleep and had hime wide awake at 0400. He managed to stay in bed for a further 90 minutes but then had to get going.

The trip was uneventful except for the general chitter chatter of the early commuters who now include the Gorse Fox in their little collective. It does make the journey go quicker and they are a nice bunch. Once at the office the Gorse Fox settled down to the backlog of project related emails. It seems incredible to him the utter inanity of some of the questions and requests he gets from the glory boys.

A couple of review meetings today in preparation for the release of the contract next week. Seemed to go well, though the big one is on Thursday.

SIgnalling problems seem to be disrupting train services this evening. Oh the joys of commuting.

The Silver Vixen has had a tea party this afternoon with some of her coven. Sounds as if she had a great time - but will have to get details when home.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On the up

It was a very pleasant day's work. The Gorse Fox was working from home and the day was dedicated to personnel evaluations and appraisals. As always, he is blessed by the exceptional nature of his team; that blessing however can cause problems as he tries to differentiate between people and decide how best to evaluate them fairly.

Back up to town tomorrow, but this is the downhill slope.

Genealogy 101, Part 2

And firstly Good Morning to Mrs Tiggywinkle.

Storing the Data

The data exists either in paper format, in digital format, or both (in fact I am hoping to have digital copies of all the paper documents, over time).
Paper Documents should be stored in the Archive box, in the folder for the associated family, and in the generation where it is relevant.
The digital data is stored in a number of places:

  • Doculib
  • Photolib
  • Family
  • Web site

Document Library

This library (stored in /Public/Doculib ) contains digital images of certificates, letters, and documents of all kinds related to the family.
To make some sort of sense and simplify the location of the documents, the following standards have been adopted for naming the images

YYYY-TT-MMM (ref) Name(s); comment

Table 1 below shows the definition of these components.

Table 1 Naming Format for Document Library
Is the year of the event or the document
Is the document type
Admon (Probate, Wills and Admons)
Census Entry
Press report
Passenger List
Letter or Invitation
Remembrance Card
Order of Service
Trade Directory or Telephone Directory
Is the month of the event
Is the official index reference for the document, if known
Is the name or names of the subject(s) or author
Any relevant explanatory comment

Figure 1, shows a clipping from the Doculib folder, and clearly demonstrates the use of the naming conventions. You can immediately see how it makes the location and retrieval of information very easy.

Figure 1 Example of the Doculib library and use of naming conventions


The basic document storage is backed up as follows
  • Public/Doculib (on the 1TB WD NAS MyBook) is backed up to /Public/Doculib_Backup (on the second 2TB NAS WDNAS2TB), and  
  • it is separately backed up to J:\Google Drive\Backups\Doculib which is uploaded to the Google Drive on the web.

Photo Library

The photos, discussed above, are stored in /Public/Photolib (on the 1TB WD NAS MyBook)
The Picasa controls and index are stored in c:\Users\Andy\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2


The basic photo storage is backed up as follows:
  • /Public/Photolib (on the 1TB WD NAS MyBook ) is periodically copied to
  • /Public/Photolib_Backup (on the second 2TB NAS WDNAS2TB) Individual folders in the Picasa library are replicated to Google+ albums on the web.

The Picasa control files are similarly copied to a second drive, and to the web storage in Google drive

Family Library

Other information is stored in the j:\family folder on the PC – most significantly this stores the database used by “Family Tree Maker” and which is, essentially, the master database for all of the genealogical information.
The folder also contains sub folder for each of the primary family groups:
Gorse Fox
And in turn these have sub-folders for the next generation of families.


The basic genealogy storage is backed up as follows
  • j:\family library (on the PC) is backed up up J:\Google Drive\Backups\family which is uploaded to the Google Drive on the web


Managing all of genealogical information requires the use of various tools. The primary tools used on the local machines are discussed below.

Family Tree Maker

This is a Windows program, so runs on the PC. This manages and maintains the genealogical database.


Discussed above, manages the digital photo library. Again this is on the PC, at the time of writing.


Is used to manage individual facts (factoids) gleaned from various documents. For example, the file currently contains over 900 entries and allows me to see:
  • What documents I have that refer to a particular individual,
  • What documents I have for a particular family,
  • Where people lived over time
and so forth. This has proved immensely useful when cross-checking facts. (And of course, every entry cites the source and in most cases links to the image in the Document library discussed above.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Genealogy 101

Over the years Gorse Fox tried a number of different approaches to gathering, recording, and storing genealogical information. Some of these have worked some have been less successful. This guide is his reference to his current view of best practices.

Types of Information

There is a wide spread of information sources, and many components come together to create the genealogical map that build up, fact by fact, over the years.

  • Family Stories
  • Family Papers
  • Photos
  • Press cuttings
  • School reports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates
  • Census entries
  • Entries from Parish Registers
  • Military Records
  • Employment Records
  • Will and Admons
  • Invitations
  • Change of Address cards
Each of these (and no doubt many other sources) can be a rich mine of family information.

Keeping Records

But what do you do with this information?
1.     Identify

  • Create a reference number that will uniquely identify the source, whether physical or digital. 
  • If the artefact comes from an official source (such as the GRO), then retain is call number as part of the reference.
2.     Mine

  • Mine the source for all relevant information. 
  • This goes way beyond the obvious data regarding the subject of the material. Don’t forget to look for addresses, witnesses, parents, siblings, occupations, and so forth.
3.     Record

  • Enter each separate fact gleaned from the document in the Genealogical Facts spreadsheet or database as a separate entry. (So a change of address card for a married couple would probably have two entries, one for each of them. 
  • Each entry would contain the data, the identity of the document, the person, and the address.
4.     Store - Store the source material.

  • Retaining the paper copy if it is available (that goes in the archive box in the folder pertinent to the subject family).
  • Scan the paper copy and save in /Public/Doculib on the NAS[1] using the reference id discussed above.
  • If the document was already a digital image, then store it in /Public/Doculib, renaming it with the reference defined above.

Having kept the raw information, it is now imperative that it is recorded in the master database. (For the Gorse Fox this is currently stored on the PC using Family Tree Maker). Start FTM and navigate to the person for whom you wish to provide additional information. Add the information then use the CTL-S key to create a reference to the source data. Whilst you are reviewing that individual – check the notes that you have on record. These may need updating or embellishing now that you have further facts.


Photos provide useful information and best of all they put faces to names. Photos are handled slightly differently from other sources.
The Gorse Fox's photo library is managed by Google’s Picasa. Photos are filed by date, with a folder for each year and within each year a folder for each date for which we have photos.

Paper Photographs

Traditional Photos can be easily damaged, mislaid, or fade over time. The first thing to do is to digitize them. Scan the photo at a minimum of 300dpi.
Name the photo. I have used a number of schemes for this. Sometimes the event, sometimes the name of the event, other times the names of the people featured. Whatever you choose, store the photo in the folder for the correct year in /Public/Photolib.

Digital Photographs

Digital photos are stored in a similar fashion within the Picasa library. At the time of writing we have over 27,000 photos filed.

Organisation of Photos

As explained above, photos are filed by date. However, there are further mechanisms in play to help with retrieval.


Picasa supports the concept of Albums. This means that any photo can be part of an album or multiple albums. For example if I have a photo of John, Paul and George, the photo is filed by the date it was taken, but also it can feature in an album for John, and album for George, and album for Paul, and an album for the Beatles. (Though there is just the one copy of the photo).

Face Tagging

Picasa has a feature whereby it can identify object in photos that it believes are faces. You can then assign a name to that face and it will remember it and if it detects the face elsewhere, in other photos, it will ask you to confirm it to be the same person.
The face tags are organized such that there is, effectively, and album for every person you have identified.


Modern cameras and smart phones are able to save a GPS tag in the EXIF data that accompanies photos. This means that the location at which the photo was taken can be accurately identified.
Picasa will show pins on a map to identify the locations of the photos – if known.

Older photos will not have the Geo-tagging data, but that does not mean they cannot be located. If you know where the photo was taken you can drop it onto a map and the appropriate geo-tag will be generated and stored with the photo.

[The Gorse Fox will continue this at a later date]

Location, location, location

The Gorse Fox has spent much of the day going back through his records and plotting the locations where family have lived over the the years. These have been plotted on Google Maps and linked so that you can trace the progress of a family from their earliest detected records, house by house, to where they live now.

It's been quite an interesting experience and - like most genealogical exploits - frustrated by a few dead ends.

Back to work tomorrow - with a day at home doing personnel work, then the last few days on the current project. The Gorse Fox is still interested to see how they get on with their approach to the programme. Simply explained they are going to build a car showroom but haven't yet worked out how or where they are going to build cars and what they will look like... but the important thing is having the showroom - even if they can't put anything in it.

But hey, what does the Gorse Fox know - he's only been doing this for 42 years.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Genealogy has long been a keen interest fro the Gorse Fox. He has traced back many generation in both his own and the Silver Vixen's family. Much of today was spent gathering more and analysing more of the data that has been discovered.

As usual, this meant coming to a number of dead-ends, but also produced some new discoveries - or at least some coincidences that seem too great to be anything other than cause and effect. For instance, the Gorse Fox's maternal family had farming interests in Essex.

 It now turns out that his Gt-gt-grandmother came from Essex, at a time when the family she married into were Londoners with now apparent link to the country.

Indeed, she hailed from the Parish adjoining the land that would become the family farm, within a generation. She lived, according to the census, on Mundon Road and at the south end of the road is Sharp's Farm - which was the family dwelling.

His research also showed up an error in the census transcription - where someone had misread  and transcribed a name erroneously. Fortunately the system allows corrections to be be requested so in the future this should not confuse researchers the way it did the Gorse Fox.