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Monday, November 29, 2010

Cat Nappin


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter is Landing...


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 26, 2010

Home is where the heart is....

It's with mixed emotions and a heavy heart that a week has passed us by and we find ourselves boarding another aeroplane (probably the same one in point of fact) a week after the last one to head back to good old blighty.

It's a heavy heart because we've loved being in Tenerife for some end of year sunshine and deep relaxation. But it's mixed emotions because we really can't wait to get home and see daughter. It's almost a month since we've clapped eyes on each-other but it feels like forever.

Of course living with teenagers - I suppose I should say young adults now - isn't half as much fun as being one and enjoying the enormous lack of responsibility that exists for a few scant inbetweeners years for most, but it does have some highly entertaining moments for the rest of us. Most of these events are enhanced all the more when you compare your own memories of a given situation, when you were their age. Parenthood is fascinating and a wonderful experience for the most part. Don't ever believe any differently.

I have no doubt that we are blessed with kids who aren't 'problems' and are well mannered and generally liked by people. In fact, given a moments thought, I'm sure If you're a parent then you too are blessed with angelic kids. Part of being a parent is having a bias, but the trick is to know when it's needed.

Anywho... Now were almost home and my thoughts are turning to sledging. Honestly. I leave the country for a week and what have you done to the place!?

It's grinding to a halt because the mercury has fallen along with the snow! It wasn't like this, this morning.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ice cold beer...

Just in time for my 3pm call<del> snooze
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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

It's full of sand

You'd have thought the publishers would know how to spell the authors name. 



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sunset


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Space Invaders

2am found the alarm going off and me attempting to drag myself out of bed. It wasn't ghat difficult actually, after all I'm on holiday. By 2.30 W&J had arrived and Mrs G was up and almost raring to go.

It's always tough trying to get moving at this time of day, but with a good reason ahead of you it's eminently doable and now I'm 50,000 feet up in the air looking out over glorious sunshine above Northern Africa. Most definitely made getting up at 2am a worthwhile thing to do.

There was a large amount of cloud cover over France and much of Spain that made looking out of the window appear to be a vista over a snowscape of the Arctic circle. It just looks like an icy wasteland and yet it's the top of the cloud base. The odd break in the cloud reveals a gaping hole through which you can see a further 10,000 foot drop to the surface of the earth.

Looking up the blue gets darker and darker and its not hard to imagine that a few more thousand feet up from here is the total darkness of endless space. And beyond that nothing..... As far as we know.

As much as its spectacular, we're high enough. If I spend too long thinking about it, I'll convince myself I'm not supposed to be up here. Best not to dwell.

As if to remind me of the fact I shouldn't be here, I've noticed how the low budget airline have changed a few things since I last travelled with them. There's the baggage charge for a start. It seems you're expected not to take any belongings with you besides what you're carrying anymore. The thing is, the price of the flights haven't gone down to reflect the addition of this charge. Not only that but the 4 hour plus flight is just a permanent stream of retail opportunities. On no less than 4 separate occasions we were reminded that they happily accept sterling or euros as long as it's more than 50p or €0.5 and credit and debit cards over £5 or €5. To be fair, they do have a very helpful way about them even if they do still wear bright orange 15 years after it was original to do so. And at least they're not RyanAir.

From the sky's of Africa it's a right turn out over the Atlantic Ocean for a while until we espy the Canary Islands (no doubt named after the little yellow birds) poking out of the snow. A little further and there's still some broken cloud, but nothing to really speak of.

The Canaries are part of Spain, in a similar way to how the Falkland Islands are part of the United Kingdom. The trade winds being what they are obviously sent many a Spanish vessel in the direction of this small cluster of land masses off the coast of Africa, and no doubt after some pushing, shoving, jacket pulling and general invading they wound up belonging to the Spanish crown. No doubt I'll read all about it over the next week in between sleeping on the beach, in the sunshine and quaffing pina colada's or something similar.

Must dash. Have to get off the plane and do absolutely nothing.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Coffee & Aeroplanes


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, November 18, 2010

GSD and GIP.

I've been having a marathon session of "Get Stuff Done" (GSD) so far this week. Well it's only fair. I'm off on my hol's the least I can do is not leave too much work laying around for my colleagues to have to deal with in my absence. It's satisfying but also draining which in theory will make my week off all that more enjoyable.

I rarely use ToDo lists to do this stuff (all puns intended), preferring to have a list of projects with status which I constantly cycle and update. This means I have a living "whiteboard" of what I'm doing and often what I've done which means I can pinpoint a moment within a given project's life cycle very quickly.  It doesn't always work out that way. It's not a perfect system, but it's served me well for a very long time.

I'm starting to really wonder if I've made a sensible decision regarding departmental shuffles that I'll be doing after Christmas. A part of me thinks not, but while I'm sat here with my first cup of coffee of the day analysing the situation it has occurred to me that I may be feeling this way purely because I've been having a marathon session of 'Get Stuff Done'.

Having now got stuff done, my workload has faded away nicely and is reminiscent of how things used to be when I enjoyed what I do now. Hmmm. Interesting.

This seems to lead me towards the obvious conclusion that either:

A) I should consistently try to 'Get Stuff Done' or
B) I consistently have too much to do to be able, at any given point, get it all done.

Now I know that I always apply A anyway, so B must be where my pain is. Having heard a few stats of my colleagues and my performance of late, this does seem to hold up. We are all very very busy none of which is helped by the fact that it's quarter four (see yesterdays post). I wonder if those in charge try to keep it balanced at this point?  

In the mean time I've still got loads to do although from this evening it's not so much work as it is packing. Luckily a wise man of the road warrior tribe in a far off land, took me under his wing in my youth and apprenticed me in the ways of travelling light but taking everything you need.

I am an expert - ninja level 78th dan bag packer, also known as "Getting It Packed" (GIP). Don't try it at home or without the adequate training as you're most likely to arrive at your destination without something vital or worse yet, something trivial.

One week for two people = 1 hold bag. I'd have preferred to go with 1 carry on each (or better yet just 1 carry on) but Mrs G will insist on having a frivolous number of shoes when she travels. Her justification involves the words, "just in case". If 27 pairs of shoes would fit, just in the case, I wouldn't worry. However, as I know which side my bread is buttered, she is of course quite correct.  ;-)

In other news.... Daughter is very excited to be coming home. Can't wait to see her and hear all about the adventures she's had.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Q4 Targets

The power came back about an hour or so later. Not sure if it was the fault of the buffoonery of builders or not, but they did look pretty guilty.... and that was Tuesday. Which means two things:

1. Today is Wednesday so for most of you, you're just about half way through the week (well you will be by lunchtime). And....

2. I'm very very nearly on holiday.

This time of year, it's all about hitting your 4th Quarter targets. Well, it is if you work in sales (I should point out that I don't - but I do)...  I suppose nowadays, everybody does to some extent. We're all selling something. Anyway, my point is, there is always a list of things by the time the end of the year rolls around that simply have to be done.  So I'm told. But hang on....  There are things that have to be done - but they aren't necessarily anything to do with 4th quarter earnings, sales or profits or in fact any of that stuff that's held in such importance.

This is why, one of my Q4 Targets is to have a holiday. I suppose you might say I missed it in Q2/Q3 and it's overrun into Q4... but actually it's just worked out this way. Mrs G and I did have some time off in the summer but we haven't been away and I don't feel like I've had anything you could call a holiday at all as yet. It's been a tough old year all things considered. Between Mrs G changing jobs, daughters operation, my feelings on employment and various other trials and tribulations a holiday in the sun is exactly what's required.

November is especially late to be doing this, but I should draw your attention to the fact that it's actually Movember. If you don't know what that means, at the very least you should go here: http://uk.movember.com and make a donation of, lets say £5... just because you were uneducated. It's something that's become all the more important in our household because Mrs G's step father has been diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer.  They're still monitoring and he's decided not to have any treatment unless the position changes dramatically. Right now, that seems like it's the best thing to do.

Cancer. That's a serious thing. It's a big grown up scary word. Puts me in mind of the 'nuclear age' when governments advised their people to hide under the table should a nuclear war start.  I'm not belittling it for one second, but because it's such a big word, it has power. And it's a power that exists because it doesn't get talked about. So we should talk about it, and we should make light if it. Laughter is truly the best medicine no matter what the disease. I'm also in no doubt that W would tell you the same. You're here once - make the most of it. Next year I'm growing the full Nigel Mansell - or perhaps the Hitler - just for a giggle.

And so it's to this end that Mrs G, J, W & I are jetting off for a week of good times and laughs in the sunshine of the Canary Islands. To be honest, we didn't plan to do this because of W's diagnosis, but with that here, it seems all the more like the correct target to have for Quarter Four....  or indeed for any time...   These are the things that are genuinly important after all.  It's the little moments. It's the time we spend.


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If things get quiet around here - well, I can only appologise on the basis that it turns out I have a life to lead as well as write about.

Take Care.
G.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I was in this meeting.....

Dilbert.com

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Electrickery

Now this is a bit weird but one of the oddities of modern communications. I'm sat here in my rapidly cooling house in the dark... Well ok, there's daylight coming in the windows and actually it's a nice bright day, but the power is out.

What's really bizarre though is that without power I'm unable to function in my working role. But I hear you ask, you're still able to write your poxy blog!!

There's a very good reason for that though. Even though my work is carried out entirely online, it's all done over a broadband connection which is maintained by a router which is powered by electrickery. No leccy, no Internet.

However, blog entries can be written on my phone which is connected to the magical Interweb by a 3G connection. While the 3G masts no doubt need power, they appear to be unaffected by the current outage. In fact it appears to be localised to our street and I think I've figured out why.

There's a (what's the right word) group? Number? Ah, no. I have it. There's a buffoonery of builders standing around looking a bit gormless at a building site just off the roundabout. I suspect one of them has broken something they shouldn't have. I called the power company and went through the usual procedures....

A) Have you checked with your neighbours. (Yep- they're out too)
B) If you have a digital meter what does it say? (It's gone blank)
C) Can you reset your trip switches (Yep- OK, Power is still out)
D) Are all your rabbits accounted for? (I checked and they're all snuggled up in the warren, not out chewing power cables so that's not it)

If only I could perform the day job on a 3G connection. But sadly Starfleet don't have provision for such a facility unless I buy my own.

Ahh well. Off to light the barbecue to boil a kettle and get the old wind up radio out to keep a track of the situation.

Fun times!



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Monday, November 15, 2010

Give This...

I can't let today go by without writing about a musical release.  I'm not known for going on about my musical tastes, probably because they are so wide and varied.  I've been known to find the tuneful delight in a ruler being twanged on the edge of a desk.  I've also been known to serve detention for enjoying such (and I quote) "Such a bleedin' racket!" but that's a whole other story from a galaxy far far away.

I'm sure those of you that have read any of my tweets around this time of year will also know that I'm practically forced at gunpoint to watch the x-factor because I live in a house with two women. Before I go any further, I have to set the record straight on that point.  They don't force me to watch it.  I could walk away. But it brings out the worst rubber-necking gene in many of us, myself included.  It's such a terrible car crash, that as you drive by from BBC2 to Channel 4 you really shouldn't look at it.  But the fascination has a pull over you that can't be denied.  I hate it for that very reason, that even my immense will power can't seem to stop it happening. Such is the way of things.

Over the last 15 years or so - or there abouts, I've been a Robbie Williams fan. There, I said it. Truth be told, I still am. Pretty sure I've got every album he's made - there are good ones and bad ones. I've consistently listened to the noise he's made which are completely packed to the brim with irony and I have no doubt, that that fact alone, plays a large part in my enjoyment of his catalog of work.

Anyone who's lived in the UK in that period of time will of heard of him, and of course of his erstwhile nemesis, Gary Barlow.  The two of them were in a boy band together back in the 90's. Gary wrote the songs, Robbie danced about at the back and acted like a bit of a twit. The problem was, Robbie had talent which Gary wasn't letting out. There were words, and a bust up. Around 1996, Robbie went solo and the boy band broke up. Mr Williams went on to become a household name around the world, while Mr Barlow's star faded. But not for too long.

In 2006 the boy band reformed without Robbie and this time they found great success. Robbie was starting his fade and the boot appears to have shifted foot. And so began a levelling of sorts. The two of them evened out somewhat....

Finaly, the two kids (for that is all they were when they started this journey) have grown up. They've met, talked, chatted, confessed and forgiven and we've arrived at an interesting point in their joint history to date.  Robbie has split with himself, citing musical similarities and has trotted off to join a boy band. Only now - they're not boys... now they're mates.

Robbie and Gary have given us this (albeit in Robbie's name) presumably as his final hurrah before he split himself up. The opening lyric is all telling: "Now there's three versions of this story, yours and mine and then the truth."  It all comes across a bit brokeback mountain, but there's those lumps of irony again. Not allowed to embed the video, so if you want to watch it, you'll have to go here: YouTube

I'm sure by now, you've figured out where I"m going. The clue is in the title after all, and if you even had a passing glance at the Simon Cowell show last night, then it's obvious.

The flip side to Robbie's offering is Take That.  I can't say I was a fan, but since they refomed in 2006 there's no denying they've had some cracking tunes. And now they've got Rob on board, clearly they're persuading me... to the point that I've bought the new album (released today) and I can honestly say; I am loving it. Poptastic.

Without further ado - here's a link to the first single (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-flood-single/id396323598) and here's the video (sorry about the advert)

And here's a link to the Album (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/progress/id401720283)

Of course, I can't just leave it there... oh no. The cynic in me has a few words to say on the subject. Robbie's carreer has been on the wane, what he needs is something popular to get him back on track... Do you think his management went... hmmm....  how about reforming Take That?....

Well, do you know what?  I couldn't care less and in my heart of hearts I sort of doubt that's case anyway. They're making good songs which in turn are making good money. With the X-Factor wanting to launch yet another boy band at us, the timing is just perfect, at least from my perspective. I don't want to see Mr Cowell force any more of his road kill on us.

So if you're stuck for a present at Christmas for your loved one, you could do far far worse than Give This.... or Take That.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

First proper frost of the year


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend? What weekend?

Oooow, it's Sunday again. And as we know being the day of rest this means it's out mission to do as little as possible. Well of course this is not the way of the world, but it's worth a try.

Yesterday we took a drive down to sunny Wiltshire to see A, L and A. As always they were in fine fettle and we went out for the evening to a local pub / restaurant which was most enjoyable. It's in the village of Bulkington and used to be called "The Tipsy Toad". Back then it was just a nice village pub with a warm and friendly atmosphere. However, it's recently been transformed with the addition of a large conservatory style extension and is really far more of a restaurant than a pub nowadays. Its new name is "The Well" and its clearly become very popular. It was packed and in point of fact, very nice and not bad value for money either. That's not to say I haven't had better food, but it's certainly a good effort for a pub trying to be a posh eatery.

Should you ever be in that neck of the woods, I'd say it's worth the visit. Take a look here: http://www.thewellatbulkington.co.uk/ for all the lowdown.

Much frivolity was had and we were joined by O and S which always means much buffoonery. Plenty of fluids well into the wee small hours of Sunday and a good time was had by all.

Sunday morning proper meant bacon sarnies which as we know saves us all from the agony that is a hangover and by 11am, Mrs G and I were on the road and off to Bristol. Its always great to spend time with A,L & T and we've discussed a plan involving horse racing in the new year. Its an outline for now, but we'll try and colour it in I'm sure.

We'd decided we'd take a brief look in IKEA having not visited that establishment for a good 9 months at least. Nothing much has changed. They had christmas decorations up for sale but that's about it. Did bump into J,A and B though which was a pleasant surprise. Evidently yesterdays Rugby match (Gloucester v Saracens) was a tremendous success, but you can't be everywhere at once and Wiltshire won the battle easily this time.

Home by two and time to start organising what will need to be packed for out forthcoming canary islands adventure. More about that later in the week though. For now there's the Abu Dabi Grand Prix, The Papers, X-Factor and baked potatoes for dinner all to get sorted out.

Another peacefully quiet Sunday.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

The Well at Bulkington


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This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 12, 2010

How not to cook...

On Monday we had a bit of a disaster. I'd put the oven on for it to warm up and after a coupe of minutes the circuit it's connected to tripped out and it went off.

OK, no big deal. Reset the breaker turn it back on and all is well.  Except it isn't.  It's a fan assisted oven and while the interior light was on and the fan was whirring away, the oven itself wasn't showing any signs of getting warm. Oh dear. That's not right.  So after a bit of basic elimnation it turns out that the problem is down to the heating element inside the oven, which it would appear has blown. D'oh.

So what to do....  Well I figure I have two choices.  1) Call a man out to come and fix it or 2) Fix it.  I'm not one to shy away from taking on such challenges and in fact I've fixed all manner of things in the past.  One of my more recent "fixes" and one that I'm actually really amazed by was the "Yellow Light Of Death" on a Playstation 3.  For the uninitiated amongst you this is when an expensive sony games console overheats and shuts down never to switch on ever again.

What's happened in this situation is the heatsink attached to the CPU has not done it's job and the chip has overheated and locked. The surprising fix for it, is to heat up the chip and the rest of the board to around 600 degrees centrigrade causing the solder to reflow momentarily and thus unlock the chip.  A dangerous process I'm sure you'd agree.  You;d expect the heating up of the such delicate equipment to be the death of it, but not if you figure out the correct way to do it.  I was out of warranty so I had nothing to loose and it really does work.  I was very pleased with the results. Effectivly it resulted in a brand new PS3. 

If I can do that, I can definetly replace the element in a cooker.  So this is how I progressed.  

Now for the tricky part.  The doing. First job - turn the power off.  Very important this, otherwise you could quite easily die. The cooker had to be removed from the built in units, disassembled to the point where I can get at the element and the correct part number identified.  A little bit of digging online, came up with a supplier of the part in Birmingham, with some in stock at a cost of £24.99. I ordered the part and it arrived the following day.

Next, I removed the back cover of the cooker and removed everything from inside the oven itself.This leaves the element exposed.  

There are 3 cables connected to the element on the rear of the oven and 2 5mm bolts holding it in place.  The cables are connected to the element using "spade" connectors that just pull off.

That scorched area around the cables is just where the heat of the element has browned the cooker insulation. It's NOT fire damage as you may have suspected.  So then it's just a case of removing the two bolts and extracting the element from the front of the oven. This is the sight that awaited me.

As you can see, very worrying.  Clearly the element has failed and in fact the rings have fused together in two places.  I think we were lucky that it tripped out and didn't catch fire, which while a rare occurrence in electrical elements, is a possibility.

Anyway, it's then a simple case of installing the new element in the same place and reconnecting the three cables.  Replace the back, refit the oven into the cupboard and reinstall all the other contents into the oven itself.  Finally, put the doors back on and switch on the power.  

Hey presto. Oven repaired and at least £100 saved.  I would say, if you're not 100% comfortable around electricty and the way that ovens work and the various issues and options around cooker elements, you maybe shouldn't do this yourself. But it's up to you. It's a free world afterall.  Well, actually if you call a man out, it's quite an expensive world.

One final point. You should "burn in" the new element.  Run it up to temperature without anything in the oven.  I've run it up and down three or four times and I'm now happy that all is well, and there shouldn't be any strange fumes or smells when cooking in it....  other than the smell of cooking food of course. Mrs G is happy. I got a gold star!

 

 

 



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, November 11, 2010

High Levels of Interest in Edumacation

The students are revolting. A lot of people claim to have known this already. Personally I didn't have the benefit of a university education so I can only look on in wonder and generally agree that they do appear to be pretty awful. Revolting might be going slightly over the top IMHO.


Photo via the BBC

Let's just play devils advocate here for a moment or two though....

The cuts mean that students could have up to a £38,000 pound debt. (medical students, significantly higher; but then it takes them significantly longer) If this sits uncomfortably with the student body, surely that leads us to believe that they personally do not value their education very highly.

If it costs £38,000 to earn a degree, does this not mean that an employer wishing to retain this so-called highly sought after level of education in it's staff would recognise that fact and gladly contribute towards that £38k debt?

So, thinking outside the box (to use the slightly dated parlance of our times)....

How about a minimum wage for graduates? Something like the national average annual income (currently circa £25k) plus 33% of the debt (£37k p.a. Total). During the first 3 years of employment this additional 33% is deducted at source and used to pay off the debt. After the three years this becomes part of the graduates normal salary. I'd say a 50% pay rise after 3 years is a pretty good incentive for the student and the employer has known fixed costs for a three year period as well as a highly educated resource.

Of course, if employers don't want to employ graduates, which they may feel are aren't good value for money, well that's their choice. If they'd rather have employees that don't know the difference between William Shakespeare and William Shatner*, or would rather educate their staff to fit their mould, they're perfectly entitled to do so. How about not going to university and getting a job three years ahead of the graduates? Bring back on the job training and apprenticeships.

I'm just shooting the breeze here. I'm sure there are holes the size of Spain in these ideas, but maybe they're a place to start coming up with a new approach or at least a method for fixing the problem.

In the meantime, I'm far from sympathetic to those involved in the scenes we witnessed yesterday, but that doesn't mean I'm not sympathetic to their cause. Education should be free. Sadly we have a generation of debt to deal with, so everyone has to pay. And that means everyone. No exceptions.

I'll leave you with video evidence (from Wednesday) of what happens if you don't educate your engineers in the basic pricinples of physics....

* Interestingly, even though I missed the university education I'm all too aware of the differences between Mr Shakespeare and Mr Shatner, although it's worth noting that Mr Shatner has an opinion on Mr Shakespeare.

Very eloquently put, but while we're here, I feel I must remind you if these two gems. I mean really??

Captain Kirk. We salute you. Those were some serious drugs in the 60's.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Quiet..... Too Quiet.

I am referring to the fact that Daughter isn't here and instead still sunning herself in Thailand, chasing elephants, white water rafting and avoiding the tigers and snakes. However, the line itself appears to have much older origins....

Most of us remember it (or more likely falsely remember it) from an old Cowboy film.  

It seems like the sort of thing John Wayne would say to one of his posse when they're entrenched in the bottom of a valley with the 'injuns on all sides of them and about to loose a scalp. They'll have been there for days with the wagons in a circle and the rations running low. John Turns to his sidekick (BillyBob or JohnBoy or something similar) and says...  "Well I don't like it. It's quiet. Jus' too damn quiet" probably.  Followed shortly by a whoopin' and a hollerin' as the attack starts, only to be sorted out by John (or Tex as he's most likely called) and everyone get's to fort thingamebob just in time for a slap up supper of beans with re-fried beans and a shot of whisky...

Wasn't that how it went??  Must have been around 1955 I should think.

But thats not it. Marcel Duchamp, the French surrealist artist, famous for making a toilet into art, is quoted as having used it in New York in January 1920 when he said "One doesn't drink here anymore and it's quiet, too quiet". He was of course talking about the Noble Experiment. This was a completely bonkers nuts idea where the United States government introduced the 18th amendment to their constitution which saw the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol banned in their country and is more commonly remembered as "Prohibition".

A lack of vino collapso would certainly make things quiet and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Would it work today? I suspect it would have a very similar effect as is did in the 1920's. The criminal underworld would make a lot of money and we'd see a rise in organised crime. This is ultimately what stopped prohibition in the first place. The st. Valentines day massacre in 1929 sickend the general populous and by 1933 the 21st amendment repealed the 18th.

But that's not it. In 1859 William Douglas' account of the Battle of Balavlava, the crimea which took place on October the 25th 1854 there is the following quote:

"The cavalry standing at their pickets, in front were the four redoubts occupied by the Turks on a range of low hills, crossing the plain from beneath the heights of the plateau to the opposite ridge near the village of Kamara. The Turks are lying lazily smoking around the guns, all so quiet - too quiet - it was only the lull before the storm, which speedily burst."

A fascinating place especially when you find out about it's secret underground submarine base, and strange hat wearing traditions. Ok, so I'm not being wholly honest. The hat wearing was a direct result of this battle. During their time stationed in the Crimea, British troops were sent knitted hats in the style that today we call a 'Balaklava'. Known and loved by bank robbers and terrorists all over the world this headgear was originally designed for warmth and not concealment.

With one of those on your head it most definitely is quiet..... Too quiet.....

Mostly because normal people don't talk to nutters in balaclavas. The could be up to anything under there.... Or perhaps just keeping warm, which is something daughter most definitely doesn't need to be doing.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Building the DBP

Apologies in advance for what might appear to be a bit of a rant. This is the sort of thing that explains why I need a change.

I've been a very busy boy of late, trying to get complicated and not so complicated things done at the office. My work isn't that difficult to explain but that is where any pretence of simplicity concerning it's function ends. It's tough because of the way we do it. I'll give you an example from a couple of weeks ago on a job that was supposed to be urgent and actually finished last week.

Here's how it goes. I ask a question of a group of people that most definitely know the answer. It's in relation to a special thing that this group of people (Let's call them 1, 2 and 3) have been (I can't say designing), perhaps bolting together on pieces of paper is more accurate. Something along the lines of....

1: Finished!. We now know exactly what bits we'll need.
Me: That's great news. Please let me know which part number and how many?

The question couldn't be more direct and to the point if it was a bolt of lightening striking the copper tip of the north pole. And the response?

1: XXX or YYY will work fine.
2: Yes I agree with 1
3: That's right unless you want to do something else we just thought of.
2: Hmmm. Good point. Maybe we should do that too.
3: Ok. So you'll also need ZZZ to make either XXX or YYY work in that way.
2: Oh yes. That's correct. Well done.
1: I don't really know, but 2 or 3 will.

Me: I don't want to sound like an old woman here, but can someone answer the damn question please!?

1, 2 & 3: ..... Silence .....

This special thing was already late. When someone knows what it's supposed to be I might be able to work out how much it could cost. I'm left to wonder if that day is ever likely to arrive?

They're good men (and thorough), but what we have here is something much like the duck billed platypus. A beast that's been put together by a non committal committee. Don't get me wrong, the finished special thing will be very very special indeed. It will be exactly what the customer wanted and more that they didn't want. It might be a bit pricer, but you get what you pay for.

I mean why settle for an Otter, when you can have an Otter with a duck's nose... unless we can think of something else to add....

3: ooo, wait. Eggs!!! Everyone loves eggs.... 
2: Oh yes, or what about webbed feet!?? They're always useful.... 
Me: Grrrr.....



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Sunday, November 07, 2010

English Roast for the Birthday Boy

There is something very special about a proper English sunday roast dinner that no other country in the world seems to be able to match in quite the same way and certainly no one else obsesses over it like we do. The incredible flavour of Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is unique and on cold wintery Sundays, obligatory.

This Sunday is no exception. I'm almost fully recovered from yesterday's golf and the evening entertainment that goes along with it. It's hard not to get in a drunken stupor on those occasions, not least because we have a kind of kangaroo court, which is really more of an excessive to "Thank" the organiser of the day by giving them plenty of drinks under the ruse of telling them they've done a rubbish job.

For example, there is a fixed rule that no mobile phones are to be used in the clubhouse. So when our organiser is checking his calculations of the costs for the day on his calculator, well that's a charge because he's using his phone. The punishment being 'two fingers of a pint' or about an inch and a half in old money. All seems perfectly reasonable, until you realise that the organiser seems to get an inordinate amount of charges and ends up drinking about 4 pints in the space of an hour.

Believe me, this is a much calmer situation that our court sessions used to be, when the bar was literally filled with shot glasses of all sorts of rubbish. Luckily we're all a little older, if not wiser now and pints are so much more mature than shots..... we tell ourselves.

Regardless of my condition this morning though, the correct English method for enjoying a swift and speedy cure to the hangover is the great British Sunday roast dinner and what better way to help Golfyball Sr celebrate his 405th (See Friday's post) than with a slap up meal at Mrs Miggin's Pie Shop or a Toby Carvery Sunday Roast. You really can't go wrong.

Sunday roast is the perfect traditional English food and is so ingrained into our national identity that the French even refer to us as les rosbifs. All across the country on a Sunday families sit down to re-enact the role of the 15th century bodyguards to king Henry VII. Not so much the beating up of the peasants or protecting the crown, more of the eating of the beef which led to them being called beefeaters.... Obviously.

Early Victorian London saw the establishment of cookshops and butchers' shops which just cemented our relationship with British Beef. Christmas wasn't Christmas without it even if you were working for Mr Scrooge. Turkey was good too, but you knew where you were with a joint of British Beef.

And then, the rumours started. There's something wrong with beef. The cows are going mad. The problem began, many believe, when feed containing infected sheep remains was fed to cattle as a protein supplement; farmers were supposed to dispose of the infected feed, but some of them undoubtedly used up their remaining stock.

In May 1990, John Selwyn Gummer, the Conservative government's Minister of Agriculture, attempted to demonstrate the safety of British beef by feeding a hamburger to his daughter. Six years later, on the morning of March 18, 1996, John Major, then Prime Minister of the UK, was presented with a memo from the Health and Agriculture Ministers confirming a link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. The British Beef market collapsed.

By the end of March, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, announced a worldwide ban on the export of British beef products . Britain was angered by the ban and threatened to retaliate by crippling EU business. Three years later, the strain on the EU was worsened by France's refusal to lift its ban even after the European Commission decided to rescind its sanctions on British beef. It was a bloody mess.

Laws have been established. Methods of farming modified and improved. Today, the picture of British Beef is safer than it ever has been before. And thank god for that. Of course CJD still exists and it's a terrible debilitating disease, but it's not in the British herd anymore so beefeaters of England rejoice and take your old man to the pub for Sunday Lunch with all the trimmings.

WoooHoooo!!



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The long lost infodeo* of the Gettysberg Address.

* Infodeo; MUW**; The result of mashing Infographics into Videos
** MUW; Made Up Word

Gettysburg Address from Adam Gault on Vimeo.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

More Golfy Golfing

Hard to believe that it's already been almost three months since our last Quarterly game of golf, but then it's only just over a month since our last competition, the Smithy Open. Sadly, that competition's namesake isn't playing with us today, but he's with us in spirit if not in body.

At one point it didn't look like we'd be playing at all thanks to the non existent organisation skills of the group, especially given that we all have day jobs to do, which while they may not be as much fun as playing golf, they are what puts the bread on the table and keeps roofs over our respective heads.

Typically it runs like this: An early start where we all meet up at the selected golf course for coffee and bacon rolls and a bit of a catch up. Then the draw takes place to determine who's playing with who. Tee off. I think today it,s around 11am and then 18 holes of golf which will take us up to about 3 or 4 pm depending on how well things go. Then there's dinner at the clubhouse and prize giving (for those that won anything). Finally we all trot off home to freshen up ready for the court session and the evening on the town. It's great fun but you never feel too good about it afterwards... Hangover's mostly.

Weather isn't looking too good for it either. Mrs G was cycling into the city to get her hair done, but hairdressing and cycling aren't great bedfellows at the best of times let alone when it looks like it might rain. I think instead she'll be walking and I also think that secretly she's quite looking forward to having the house to herself for the day. She'll be missing us all really.

Son is off to deepest darkest Wales for the weekend with his mountain bike. He spent last night sorting out his music collection and burning a couple of half decent CD's because his friend he's going with is into "hard trance dance music". Son's tastes are far more indy rock/pop. Some of their generation have good taste at least. I'm sure he'll have a great time as long as he manages to stay on his bike rather than under it, as has been known in the past.

So a cold and damp day ahead in prospect. If the golf of late is anything to go by, it won't be a particularly enjoyable one either. This evening's entertainment will a whole other story, with the buffoonery dial turned right up to 11 no doubt.

I can only wish I was soaking up the Asian culture and heat with Daughter, but alas I will just have to try to survive without and look forward to a nice sedate Sunday lunch with Mr Ball Sr tomorrow.

FOUR!!!!



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is Golfyball senior's 405th birthday. Many happy returns Dad. Hard to believe that it was on this day in 1605, as my Nan was giving birth, a group of Catholics were trying to assassinate the King of England.  

That may not be entirely true....

My concious version of events as gleaned from conversations around bonfires while watching fireworks in my childhood is as follows:

"Guy Fawkes and his mates got caught under the houses of parliament in London trying to blow it up with some barrels of gunpowder.  He was burnt to death when they caught him."

That may also not be entirely true....

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot...

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in the city of York, some 200 miles North of London. On November the 5th 1605 he was found underneath the Houses of Parliament about to ignite a large quantity of gunpowder. He was aged 35.

Born a protestant, he converted after his father died and his mother remarried to a Catholic.

It's not hard to see what set Guy on his pathway. in 1586, at the age of 16 he must have been all to aware of the the public execution of Margaret Clitherow in York, who was found guilty of harbouring priests in her home. As a catholic himself, he must have been terrified and angered.  Youthful rebellion and religion have a lot to answer for.

When he was 21, he sold up everything he owned in York (he'd inherited several properties) and joined the Catholic Spanish Army. During his 10 years in the Army, he commanded a unit of soldiers and learned all about explosives, was known by the name "Guido" and he met up with his old school friend from York "Christopher 'Kit' Wright".

The Catholics of England had lost all faith in King James. Even though he was married to a Catholic, he had not endeared the catholic population to his heart and if fact, their treatment under him had worsened. Rebellion was in the air. It was this that drove Guy & Kit to join Robert Catesby's conspiracy back in England and develop the now infamous "Gunpowder Plot"

The plot had involved tunneling under the Houses of Parliment, although this proved unfruitful and eventually another of the plotters, Thomas Percy, hired a cellar under the building. The plotters used coal and wood to disguise the barrels of gunpowder which the smuggled into the cellar in preparation for the State opening of Parliament on the 5th of November.

However, something wasn't going to plan. A letter was anonymously sent to Lord Monteagle, which you can take a look at here: Letter to Lord Monteagle  There's been much debate of the source of this letter, and Francis Tresham (one of the plotters) was a possible suspect not least because his sister was married to Lord Monteagle. The letter warns him to stay away from the state opening as there will be trouble.

Monteagle shared the letter with the King and on the 5th was amongst the men who found Guy (Guido) hiding in the cellars ready to ignite the powder.  Guy claimed his name was John Johnson, but after the discovery of the 36 barrels of gunpowder he was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

Guy Fawkes was mercilessly tortured and gave up the names of the rest of the plotters, all of whom were hunted down and convicted of high treason, the punishment for which was death. In the end they were each Hung, Drawn and Quartered. Not a pretty sight.

In the UK, we "remember the 5th" every year by celebrating the capture of the man. We get together in large open spaces, build bonfires, make effigies of Mr Fawkes to burn on the bonfires, and set off thousands of pounds of gunpowder in the shape of fireworks. It's a great night out for all the family. Which brings me neatly back to my dad.

In the village that we grew up in, every year, he used to run the annual fireworks display throughout the 1980's.  He'd get people to bring their junk for burning to a field that he'd organised from one of the farmers. He'd manage fundraising to pay for the fireworks. He'd sort out food and drink for the villagers to enjoy for the evening, and he even went to the trouble of manufacturing wax and hessian flamming torches for the villages to use to light their way to the field. There's nothing better than warm wax dribbling through your fingers while you munch on a hot dog or hamburger and the heat of the fire turns your cheeks rosey red in the Autumn night.

I hold those events very dear to my heart and without my dad they never would have happened. I also completely understand why he gave it up. Health & Safety and the chattering classes could never enjoy such rebelliousness, even if the rest of us did. And of course, it was bloody hard work - especially on your birthday.

Thanks Dad, and a very happy birthday.

And on the subject of what to do tonight?  Get out there and see a firework display.  There's not a huge number of movies on the subject of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot, so nothing for me to recommend if you don't fancy watching grown men blow small things up.  That is, but for one notable exception.

I shall leave you with "V for Vendetta", the official site for which, is here: http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/

Take care.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A miserable week of blind stupidity.

Finally got to the bottom of this depression. The departure of daughter to warmer climes. It's enough to drive you to drink. She's gone off for an adventure to Thailand and left Mrs G and I here to man the fort. It's really not fair. And not having her around is going to be a sad couple of weeks.

Still, at least we know she arrived safe and sound. She was able to send an email and from the sound of it, she's having a great time already.  Off to floating markets and the infamous River Kwai to name but two things this week alone.  At the weekend they're off to Chang-Mai and later next week down to Phuket. 

What's really depressing though is that when she gets back we wont be here to share in her excitement. Mrs G & I are off to a Spanish island for a week, which to be honest is something we really need to do (and was organised long before Daughter had arranged her trip) but in a way I'd much rather we weren't. Still, that's what the Internet was invented for - staying in touch. I'm sure it'll all work out fine.

This all assumes that I'm going to survive long enough to actually get a holiday. The Starfleet situation is frustrating at best right now.  I'm at the peak opposite one of my roles troughs - hence the posting being a bit weak lately. In fact I'm making a special effort to write this post just to keep myself sane.  

Typically we have a cyclic process in my role, where we spend large portions of time planning and organising and waiting for other members of the team to deliver something for us to act upon.  This is all well and good until you have two or three things delivered at once with matching delivery dates.  Then all hell breaks lose often for weeks at a time that leave you dazed, confused, tired and unsatisfied by the time they're complete.

But this is the world we live in. Clearly it's not a Universe made for us (see previous post).

In point of fact, it's a universe made BY us that causes all the problems.  "Beaurocracy gone mad" as they say. Here's a good example of the nanny state casing more trouble than it's worth....  Contact Lenses.

I understand it's important to have regular check ups for the health of your eyesight, thats fine. But what really winds me up is the process involved.  I have my contact lenses delivered by post and paid for by direct debit. Every other month 30 disposable pairs (I don't wear them every day) arrive through the letterbox and all is well with the world. Until that is, the validity of my prescription runs out and the optician wishes to carry out a check up. What's supposed to happen, is the opticians are supposed to notify me of a forthcoming checkup requirement so that I can make an appointment. But if they don't (and they didn't) it all falls apart.

I was due new lenses in the post at the beginning of last month, and to my surprise none arrived. It wasn't really a problem at the time because as I said, I don't wear them every day, or even every other day. A couple of times a week probably - which means I usually have more than enough to see me through the two months between deliveries.

Anyway, last week I called the opticians to find out what was going on with my delivery (which incidentally I've already paid for by Direct Debit), only to be told I'm three months overdue a checkup and so they've stopped sending me lenses until I have one. Clearly the reminder had not been sent and I've now run out of lenses (which I'm paying for).

What's required is an appointment for a checkup.  This is how that works out...

Opticians: "The first available appointment is on Friday sir" (tomorrow).

Me: "That's fine, thankyou. Please book me in."

Opticians: "No problem sir, just wear your lenses to the checkup so that we can see they're fitting correctly"....  

Me: "Um..." (Thinks: What did she just say??  What lenses would that be then ??)
 
"I don't have any lenses....  you stopped sending them almost two months ago!!"

(Thinks: In fact you owe me lenses that I've PAID FOR ALREADY!!!!!)

"Have I got this right? What you're saying is that I can't have any lenses until I've had a checkup, but I have to have lenses to have a checkup.... "

(Thinks: And I'm paying for the privilege.... I think I might explode....)

Opticians: "Oh... oh, I see... umm, well yes. That's right. Silly isn't it?"

Me: Struck Dumb

Opticians: "We can give you a pair to wear"

Me: (Thinks: Good grief, I hope I don't go blind or die from wearing them without a checkup!!! FFS!!!) "Thankyou"

Opticians: "See you on Friday"

Me: "Thankyou." (Thinks: Assuming I'm not blind)

It's a legal requirement and a ridiculous system, made worse by the fact, that once it's all sorted out, I won't get a refund on the money they've taken. Instead, they send me extra lenses!!! Which puts us right back where we started, with enough lenses to last well beyond my next checkup and at this rate into my early 70's by which time the onset of glaucoma will have rendered the damn things useless anyway!!!!

God give me strength!!!


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

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This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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