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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hobbit - Part 2

Um.....   No Admiral. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On A.. Wait, what day is this?

Wednesday? What the hell (you might ask) am I doing writing a blog entry - which of late have become the exclusive domain of the train - on a Wednesday ?

It's pretty simple really. As planned the heavy lifting was to be completed by Tuesday (mostly) and Wednesday would be kind of ticking boxes, crossing T's and dotting I's - or at least for me. Of course I could have sat around and waited for something to happen - but then I can do that at home - which lets be honest - is emminently more sensible than being in the office for the sake of being in the office.

Monday's hurdle was a pretty easy hop in the end. It lasted the full length of allotted time, but ultimately, those who had to say "Oh, go on then" said "Oh, go on then" and all was mostly well with the world. There were a couple of things that needed nailing, but the big issues are completely and utterly nothing to do with us - and are down to a different team who are also in the process of juggling cats... You get the picture I'm sure.

Anyway, Monday night still wound up being a late one, with the only food being some takeaway from Leon (which is always good) all in the name of preparation for Tuesdays hurdle. The long journey to Kensington High Street found me hoping off at Olympia for a change, with a short walk around the corner to the Hilton.

Tuesday's hurdle wasn't really one that needed me - of course I had an interest, but it was really for the hardcore mathematicians and pushers of pencils. It is still a valuable and important step, without which we could never get to our destination, but when all is said and done, it is pretty boring too. I got on with some of the "doing" that needed, well... err... Doing. With the formalities of the hurdle out of the way - and in the wrong order there really wasn't a great deal more to be done. I mean, there's the work of the pricers - which is a mysterious black art - and an opportunity for them to moan about the made up numbers. Some of them actually think they're real numbers that are a true and accurate representation of the cost of things - as opposed to being a reasonably well educated guess.

I rallied the troops for a slap up Mexican in "Cafe Pacifico" on Langley street round the corner from Covent Garden tube and it was Jolly nice. Even Mad H was on top form. Clearly a sense of relief at getting to this point was in the air.

In the morning, a fog had descended. Nothing to do with the work, or mexican food, but just the usual fog as caused by the weather. And it made the city an amazing place to see. No doubt this is what a pea-souper used to look like back in the 20's and 30's.... A fantastical place...


The obvious next step was to not be here. Combining that obvious step with a travel ban for most people, and going home was exactly what both the doctor, and my boss was ordering. Naturally if there was an actual need for me to be there, then I would have stayed - but there was just as much of a pressing need for me not to be there - not least the needs of both Mrs G and I to have some time together for a change.

And so, here I am - on the train home with a view to an evening with Mrs G and beers with the lads tomorrow.

Happy days - mostly.


Monday, December 09, 2013

In continuation..

You've got to laugh... Otherwise you'd go mad. My hopefully-quiet working-from-home and easing-off-a-bit Friday was actually a 14 hour day of hard work. Bugger.... Worse yet, Saturday was another 8 and Sunday a further 6. This is unsustainable.

The only relief in the weekend was a blissful couple of hours on Saturday afternoon trying to get the Christmas shopping started with Mrs G and a couple of beers on Saturday night, followed by another couple of hours on Sunday nipping to the post office and picking up train tickets for today.

Friday was just hellish. I spent the entire day trying to yet again unpick someone else's logic and understand how they'd arrived where they had, only to find that they'd started off from the wrong place originally. This meant going right back to the beginning and working out every change they'd made over the last two months. (Sarcasm on) Nice. (Sarcasm off) This continued late into the night.

Saturday afternoon - after a couple of calls and more maths work on Saturday morning, we had some time with Son via the wonders of Skype live and sleepy from Australia. He's moved on from Hong Kong and is now staying with some good friends of ours, an hour outside of Sydney. I can sense the relief in Mrs G who is clearly glad that her first born has made it to a known location with known people. He's clearly having a great time and is planning to hangout in Oz until the new year. Currently looking for bar work in the Sydney area to top up his coffers. Great to catch up with him. After this, Mrs G and I got on the old bikes for the only exercise I'm getting at the moment - although the distant hotel helps with a bit of walking obv.

This week, they've opened the new cinema in the Quays and those of you that know me will be aware that I'm a bit of a movie buff and so this has been eagerly awaited. Not so much by Mrs G who is less of a fan, but on this occasion actually suggested going to see something. We wandered into the brand spanking new 10 screen thing and tried to peruse the wares that would be available for our viewing pleasure... But not a bit of it. How is it, that in the foyer of a cinema there is nowhere to see what the hell is being shown. No list, no show times, no idea if it's full .. Nothing... What the hell? There's a girl with a desk and some machines to collect prepaid tickets and an escalator upstairs. Must all be happening up there thinks I. Up we go. A place to buy popcorn, a place to be ripped off with expensive sweet treats and buckets of coca cola... And yet still no sign of what's on... What is this madness? It makes no sense. Back down stairs and a word with the girl with the desk....

ME: "Umm, excuse me. Can you tell me what's on?".. GWTD: "Errm, well, um.. There's this screen" points to a big screen on the wall showing some trailers for films, and no indication of show times, or even if they're being shown in this cinema, or even released yet - some of which I know are not... GWTD: "..and I have a leaflet, and I can look it up on the internet using this tablet that they've given me"

The penny drops. They're not ready. They've opened before they've finished. Poor girl hasn't a clue what's going on and nor does anybody else. Clearly somebody at head office set a deadline for this place to be open, and as a result they're open... Just not ready to be open. Familiar story and one I'm getting sick of. (Old man rant on) What is wrong with people? Everything can be done properly if you plan it properly. FFS (Old man rant off)

We left none the wiser as to what's showing, and disappointed with a poor start to what will no doubt be a great venue - once it's finished. Cineworld management should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. :-)

Sunday had more maths, more phone calls and more maths. We did some more cycling - though not as much and stopped in Coffee#1 for a beverage, which while it's a chain, is a very nice chain compared to the limes of Starbucks and Costa - both of which are pretty terrible.

And so to Monday morning and back on the train as per...

While I'm in ranting mode, let's just consider the state of the so called "First Great Western" service. You may remember last year I had a bit of a moan about the lack of wifi service (to mention just one thing) on this busy commuter route. A service that every other train company can manage. You may also remember how I retracted my gripe somewhat on the basis that they had a press release stating that they would be rolling out a wifi service in the very near future. So where the feck is it? Yet again they fail to deliver. Their ticket prices continue to rise, while their service generally deteriorates. There's still no update on the "entertainment" system which has either been showing the same thing for a month or absolutely nothing at all because it only works half the time. And the power sockets sometimes work and sometimes don't. If you've got any sensitive electronics to charge, I'd give it a miss. Now I know these are first world problems, and there are more important issues to deal with in the world, but when you're paying more than the cost of a flight from Scotland to London to travel 120 miles in 2 hours (do the maths - that's 60mph - so no rush), you do expect the services that you're paying for to be working.. And possibly even enhanced given the exorbitant costs... I hate moaning and griping about every little service, but they drive you to it in the end. Still... You've got to laugh. :-(

And what of this weeks plan? Well with a major hurdle today, and another one tomorrow, the hardest of the heavy lifting should be done by Wednesday. I'm expecting two days of long hours and the going home early on Wednesday. This is my plan, and I am doing my best to stick to it. Of course there is no accounting for the sitters and talkers, but at least I have a target (which I suspect is more than they do).


Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Long Walk

Beer with the lads on Thursday? - Pa'h! Clearly - as it's gone 9pm and I'm still on a ruddy train, that's not going to happen. FML.

This particular job is one of the toughest I've ever done. Not because it's particularly complex, or technically challenging, but more that the management of the client has been horrendous and those responsible for it should be thoroughly ashamed. I suspect that we will still hit our deadline because two or three people (one of whom will no doubt e nd up being me) will stick in a monumental effort at personal sacrifice to get the damn thing over the line. This is not something I enjoy. History tells me that after the event it is something that I'll look back on with a sense of achievement, but I wonder if that's achievement for completing it, or achievement for surviving it. Who knows? and frankly who cares?

The hurdle for Monday was stumbled over. Not least because some key items are still not resolved. Admittedly we are at the behest of some external 3rd parties for part of this, but the sitting-around-and-talking brigade are at it again and they really need to pack that in and make some damn decisions. Ownership is lacking I fear. The result is a ton of work still to do, and slowly but surely it's getting there. The Robot has come along to help us, and we're drawing up a bridge - which is an excellent idea and will no doubt be used as a form of defence in the near future. Shame it's not an actual drawbridge, with a moat and boiling hot tar - but you can't have everything. Once again I left the office much as I had arrived, knackered and in darkness and headed of to High Street Kensington to my hotel for the week.

The thing about this one, is it's a good old walk from the tube to the hotel and to be honest that's part of the reason I'm staying there. No one else from our team is - claiming it's too far - which it really isn't if you're from the countryshire - and this is another reason to enjoy the peace and quiet of it. It's not that I'm unsociable (far far from it) it's just that it's nice to have a little bit of space to oneself. I got my freebie upgrade and am residing in a mahoosive room (almost a suite) which isn't half bad as it turns out.

Tuesday was more of the same and hardly worth a mention. An early start, a late-ish finish but I did manage to persuade a few of the gang to visit Wahacca for dinner (the street Mexican food place) in Wardour Street rather than on the South Bank, and jolly good it was too. The only downside was the receipt of an email from some very senior figures near midnight explaining what we would be doing over the next week to get things done. Finally some decisive action.... and the start of the heavy lifting..

Wednesday yet more work on the bridge. It never ceases to amaze me just how badly wrong some people can get things. The simplest of instructions become the most convoluted mess you could imagine and I worry for these peoples futures and lives in general. Unpicking someone else idea of logic is painful. In the evening - and just for a change, the late evening - the RC, ST, and my boss stopped by in Vapiano - an Italian place for a bite to eat. Interesting idea, you have a card which you swipe and order directly from the chefs in an open kind of kitchen. Trying to do away with table staff I suppose. Doesn't really work though and must be chaos when (if) it's busy. Food was perfectly edible, but I'm almost to tired to care.


Thursday is going home day. I've planned it and that's what's happening. I've checked out and try as anyone might, that position is not changing. Having sid that, my early escape that was planned around our second hurdle - which was to have taken place Thursday morning - has gone to ruin. As a result of the Tuesday email / decisive plan, the hurdle has been moved to Monday next - which is all well and good, but the final hurdle is on Tuesday, so there's little space for error of fixing. Next week is gonna hurt. And probably more than this week....

So the best thing about today - besides the fact I'm going home, was the sunrise on the way into the office. What a cracker...


I've had a beer in the little pub on the platform in Paddington - and tomorrow is Friday and I am working from home, which means I get to spend some time with Mrs G. I'm missing her terribly, and daughter too... A bit of a break is what's really required - soon, very soon. So how bad can it really be? We'll find out.


Until next time...


Monday, December 02, 2013

Merry Decemberment and all that...

Well who'd have thought it? I mean, you'll never guess, but I'm only sat on the ruddy train to London again... just for a change.

What with it being a Monday morning, why change the habit of fortnight or two? And so it is with heavy head, that I'm facing a four-dayer up that Laandan with a mahoosive bunch of hoops to jump through in a short space of time.

First one being today. Now while this isn't exactly a hoop, it's a point in the process where we have to unveil our workings out. Normally by now, most of the workings out would have been, well, worked out, but on this job we were still getting requirements on Friday, and try as I might to convince people these were unacceptable, we now find ourselves (to use the words of Mr Clooney - "O'Brother, Where art thou") "in a bit of a tight spot, yessir, a tight spot"

Who knows where this is going to lead - but I suspect some bloody hard work - not least when you take into account an actual serious hoop is waiting for us on Thursday. And experience tells me that this one is (to use the words of Mr Ball - "Merry Decemberment and all that...") "A Bit of a bugger"... Wish me luck.

On a lighter note, here's what happened at the weekend....


Yes - I know. Bloody rubbish isn't it. I did manage some very small victories against the never ending workload. Mrs G and I managed to cycle into town for an hour on Saturday, and grab a bite to eat and drink in the Portivo Lounge - which is always worth a visit.

I also purchased an iPhone 5S and hopped carrier from O2 to EE. Surprised myself there actually. I had no intention of doing this, but when I learned from daughter (who had just replaced her phone due to droppage, leading to brokenness) that 4G had arrived in Gloucester, I decided that was a good enough excuse for me. Plenty of haggling over numbers with a little boy (I must be getting old) in "Phones 4 You" and a satisfactory agreement was reached. I've worked hard for it, and it's Christmas - so that's my present to me. Happy Christmas me...

We got home and I did some more maths homework. Pah...

Sunday we had in-laws round for lunch with daughter and the little fella - no becoming a far more serious item as he's moving in with her. We tried to get in touch with son at a pre arranged time of 3pm - He's in Hong Kong now, but failed miserably. A couple of emails bounced about instead. Nipped over to daughters to put some shelves up for her - in need of additional storage now the little fella is moving in I guess. I finally sat down to yet more maths homework and some PC repair during strictly and giving me an opportunity to ignore x-factor and other such bunkum.

All this means that any quality time has been of limited availability. Happy I am not.

This week things will be different - I have to tell myself that. I'm coming home on Thursday and I'm going for a beer with the lads. More than long overdue.


Friday, November 29, 2013


Same old trudge to the city on Monday morning with the feeling that the weekend didn't even happen - and that's including the fact that I was home already on Friday! A tired Golfy is not a very happy Golfy.

Worse still, when I arrived I find the place mostly deserted. The RC is having his car serviced so "working from home" which leaves me, Mad H, Golden balls, ST, a little fella from Liverpool and an Architect who doesn't know his lintels from his cornices. While this appears troublesome, Golden balls, ST and the little fella are generally great company and the day sped by (driven by the mahoosive workload) and was mostly entertaining to boot.


At about 8.00 I finally escaped and went and caught up with the little fella and the Architect for a beer in Dogget's on Blackfriars bridge. We made it a relatively swift one, with a view to getting some food, and I suggested the iPad driven techno boozer that is "The Thirsty Bear" just around the corner. This place has iPads on the table that you use to order food and drink, and pumps to pour your own beer as well. Great fun when it works as intended. We wandered up there and found a table upstairs. All well and good, but I'd forgotten that for this place to work properly you have to "be seated" so that one of the very rare members of staff can get you logged in to the aforementioned iPad that's bolted to the table. This process is purely for billing purposes and to be fair, hardly our fault if there's no-one around to organise things.

Anyway, we ordered up some beers on the device and figuring that that enabled the pumps on the end of the table starting pouring them. 5 minutes later, a staff member appeared with 3 more beers to fulfil our iPad order. Errrr ooops. Turns out we were extending the previous parties tab (that had already been settled, but not disabled) and not only that, but the kitchen had just closed (9pm) so that was the end of all that. Very disappointing - their burgers are awesome.

The food required came in the form of relocating to "Thai Silk" nestled in the arches just behind Southwark station. Good stuff and sufficed. By the time I'd schlepped across town to Holland Park it was midnight. The Thai didn't leave me feeling too chipper - although I suspect that's more to do with the long day, and so sleep wasn't my friend either.

Tuesday morning at 5am I was wide awake and totally knackered having slept for about 3 hours in total. I made an early start on the central line. All the crap food and lack of excerise isn't doing the waste,June any good either. So much so that I found myself perusing the clothes racks of Next in my lunch break and investing in new, slightly larger than I desire, trousers. It's not that I've put on loads of weight, it's just having done so well at loosing it lately, I'm suddenly piling it back on. More reasons to be thoroughly pissed off with the circumstances I find myself in.

The evening didn't help either. This time a 10pm dinner in the "Mad Hatter" with the RC, Goldenballs and the Heavy Metal Pricer. Good food, but not healthy and leading to yet another restless night after a long day.

Wednesday gave me the opportunity for a lay in and I didn't leave the hotel until almost 8am, meaning I was in the office for 8.30. Yesterday had been a day with our manager keeping an eye on things and that, while today sees him in the annual kick about with the other managers playing games with peoples lives through the medium of "picking sides" and the ones that are left at the end "unpicked" get to enjoy a good kicking at their managers discretion. OK, so I'm exaggerating ... almost.

The upshot of that is you don't want to be disturbing them with really bad or troublesome news on a day like that. It could spell career disaster, and certainly isn't going to win you any friends. Well, me? I could give a rats. If there's things that need saying, get them said. Time will tell if that's done me any damage. We definitely got noticed, if nothing else.

On top of that I've become thoroughly fed up of the dawdling and the pandering and the not-getting-on-with-it, so I took it upon myself to push (not too much, I wouldn't want anyone to think I should be leading or anything dumb like that) but just enough to put us on the right track. I drew up a list, and told Mad H this is what we're doing, and there's no more changes to be had... Obviously he chose to ignore this, but that's a two way street, and I chose to ignore any play to not follow my instruction, right back. That goes for everyone. Time to move forward as there's no time left for sitting and talking.

I also decided not to stay in the office past 8pm (it's killing me) and so conspired with Goldenballs to bugger off early-ish and go and see "Gravity" at the cinema. We persuaded the RC to come too - under duress - but nevertheless he was glad he did in the end. Stupid size hotdogs and buckets of coke and twenty quid a ticket!! That's London prices for you - but it's an incredible film, and for me, the best thing I've seen for a year or two.. Or maybe three.

Thursday brought the management back who seem relieved that I'd been pushing, although I'm not convinced the RC feels the same way. I stuck to the "buggering off as early as possible" plan and this time dragged not only the RC and Goldenballs, but also the Heavy Metal Pricer and Princess Sarah too. One other point of note was the appearance of The Gorse Fox, who was in fine fettle, not least because he was escaping the clutches of the noisy (and apparently disorganised) individuals he's been working with.

Anyway, the group (less the GF who headed off into the night) trooped off to my favourite pub in all of London (still) and then to the Bleeding Heart Bistro for nosh. The majority wanted a nightcap and I suggested the Citie of York, while the RC decided he was too tired and went back to the hotel. This bothered me somewhat. If anyone needs a bit if a break and a blowout, it's him, but people will do what they believe is best for them, and who am I to argue really? A shame. He was missed. We enjoyed the ambiance of the place, and if you're ever Holborn way, I'd recommend it for its architecture if nothing else.

Friday finally arrived after I'd had much shenanigans over adding an extra nights stay to my trip. I didn't want to, but having moved some key dates around (which I think is some retaliation for the pushing) there's much to be done, so do it we must. I was supposed to be at a wedding do this evening. Brother-in-laws to be more exact, but that hasn't happened. Instead I find myself writing this and feeling dozy.

I've done well over my allotted time again this week, and I can't actually maintain this pace for much longer. Which is lucky because apparently I won't have to. Things come to a head in a fortnight.... Allegedly, although given the email I just read, that might move.




Monday, November 25, 2013

Xmas Market, Fancy Dress & Xmas Day #1

After the rush of Thursday and the forthcoming "working at home" to round the week off, I'd been expecting a slightly more relaxed if messy Friday. But alas, no.

I should know better with this deal. With the RC taking the day off and direction changing around as a result of the client meetings I found myself knee deep in it and kind of alone. Worse still, although I'm producing useful input to the sessions, the dumbass in charge can't even remember my name. Not that I care too much. To some people, I will always be Steve. Weirdos.

I made a very sharp exit at 5.30. No one was getting a minute more than they were paying for this week. I'd had my fill. Instead Mrs G and I had a lovely bit of home made pie and prepared for a trip down to Wiltshire.

Christmas is well and truly on the way, and while I'm nothing like prepared for it, we did have the beginnings of it to deal with. With all of the kerfuffle, there has been very little time to have anything like a relaxing weekend at home, which due to the current lunacy at work, is what is required. I fear for my sanity somewhat. But then, if there's five minutes entertainment to be had, you might as well have it. You never know who or what you might meet, and I learned a long time ago, that it's worth turning up to the opening of a paper bag for the chance of there being something interesting to see.

With this in mind, Mrs G and I made a relatively early start in Saturday morning. I managed to crowbar in a hair cut, although not a beard trim (it's Movember dontchyaknow) and then we took off on our trusty steeds down to the Christmas market at the quays. The Quays seems to be the posh name for the docks, and as it's getting posher by the minute, I suppose that's appropriate. The place was heaving with people, and hardly surprising. The range of delights available to sample was vast and truly very tasty. I was particularly enamoured with the Danish Pancake Balls, but they were really just the tip of the iceberg..


We ducked and dived amongst the stalls and bought very little at all in the end, but it was nice to have a wander round and it all felt pretty Christmassy really.

It's almost become tradition to have a pre-Christmas Christmas because sister ball lives up north and matriarchal ball was too old to really travel far. Of course, we lost her back in April and so this year sees the handing over of a generational baton. Instead of the Senior Balls hosting "our Aud", I now find myself and Mrs Ball hosting the Senior Balls. We'll also be having Mrs Ball Senior and her boyfriend, as well as daughter and her boyfriend - so a whole houseful.

Sister ball however, remains in her northerness for the actual day of Christmas, and so we took the opportunity on Sunday of having a pre-Christmas Christmas at the senior Balls with her instead. Worked out very well, because elder-cousin-ball formerly of Bradford-on-Avon was celebrating his semi-century with a fancy dress get up. Made perfect sense to attend his "do" on Saturday night and then have PCC on Sunday. As for proper Christmas and the houseful, at this current stage of our lives this is no onerous task and Mrs Ball and I are quite looking forward to it I think.

All good fun with Monday morning arriving far to soon and a cold station platform beckoning me back to that Laandan again. Same hotel as last week and apparently for a full week, although I'm only booked in until Thursday.

Here's hoping...


Friday, November 22, 2013

Jamie Oliver, Belgians & a lack of Maths...

Thursday night and a mad dash for the train.... all proceeded by:
Monday - which was more focusing of minds on mathematical problems. Having shaken off the "sit around and talk" brigade, there's much doing get done in the form of adding up and taking away and such. Of course there is a place for those that sit and talk and change the way things are written, and it is an important part of the entire process, but they always seem to me to not really have their goals figured out, be incapable of reusing any previous written capitol in any meaningful way, and spend so much time talking that they ru. Out of time to writ, and end up writing rubbish. I know, given a deadline that everything gets compressed and squished until the very last 5 minutes of available time - seems to be a natural human way of doing anything big and complex - but I always think of it as a dumb way to behave. If you know it's going to happen, why not plan for it appropriately so that it doesn't. I'm quite sure that all those involved would be far less stressed and enjoy much longer, productive and thus fruitful lives - instead of worrying themselves into an early grave. (Probably me included)....
The RC and I ventured out into the cold shopping center of Sheppards Bush that is Westfield to a "Jaime Oliver's Italian" restaurant. Not really anything to write home about, but perfectly edible all the same. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cooking some of Mr O's dishes from his myriad of books designed to keep him in scooters and holidays for the rest of his adult life, but I could just have easily been in any number of "Italian" restaurants that aren't really Italian. It was.... fine..... and bloody freezing on the walk back to the Hotel. Stupidly at 6am stood on the platform back home - I realised that I'd left my coat behind.... Brace Yourself... Winter is coming....
Tuesday - yet more Maths, interspersed with assisting managers who should know better in the ways of complex approvals which should be easier. Obviously given the complexity of some of this work, the right thing to do is to make it as difficult as possible to achieve the goals you've set.

Tuesday evening however, involved organising a few of the troops into a bit of proper food/entertainment, and pleasingly I even managed to persuade The RC - a man who would rather not expand his eating horizons too far... Yet. He's a good man though, and is remarkably good company given that he's in a bit of a tight spot with this particular job. I'm trying to help him out and keep his spirits up. As a result the Stoke chef and I dragged a few of the more willing members of our troupe over to Farringdon and up Jerusalem passage to a cracking little Belgian place called "The Dove Tail". The beer menu is much bigger than the food menu, and both of them are excellent. Highly recommended and a very reasonable price too.
Wednesday - Fewer mathematical problems, and an influx of issues driven by muddle managers and the like. Oh yes, the sit around and talk brigade have been sitting around and talking. Seems like some doing is needed, and why on earth would they want to do that when thes plenty more talking to be done. No doubt they feel the answer is to divert the people who are tring to get the Maths and approvals done... After all, they seem to be able to produce "stuff" from all this hot air....maybe they can write some stuff too instead of doing maths.
Thursday - We were supposed to be almost finished with the maths but instead we have whole ton of political types of problems that just seem to be pretty much a repetition of what's already been said. For my part I find this both frustrating, boring and pointless. Posturing for the sake of it. I understand why it happens, I just don't think of it as a very worthwhile enterprise. Either something's worth doing or it isn't - why make it any more complicated than that?
The result is that I found myself literally running up the platform at Paddington for the almost last train home, which was instantly delayed and left me standing around the platform much like at the beginning of the week - bleeding freezing....
The RC is off tomorrow and already trouble is brewing. We are about to crash headlong into a brick wall of stoppage brought about deliberately it would seem, by those who like to sit and talk and not really do. I've learned a couple of very useful things as a result.

A) "Factores sunt non project actoribus"
Thus... "Nil illegitimi carborundum" or possibly "descendite ne illegitimi"
And as Galileo once said....
B) "et adhuc movetur"... Although I suspect what he actually said was "eppure si muove" having agreed under pain of death and just to shut the talkers up, that the world is flat. He knew full well otherwise of course.
My only excuse for sharing this shizzle... I'm tired. Leave me alone and let me sleep.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend End, Weekstart Start

...and I find myself back at the Weekstart having a massive sense of Dejavu no least because I doing exactly the same thing this week as last week. Pah!  I wonder if I'll get to see Gravity this week?  If it's anything like last week, then no chance - however, I am more determined to this week, so maybe. Challenge partially accepted.

The weekend, short as it was, was also - as predicted - jammed full of stuff, which was mostly fun.

Friday night was just great. Daughter came round for the evening. We ate and drank and caught up - which was normal in a way that was perfect. Felt like the week in the city fell away and real life crept back in. The boyfriend situation is getting serious, with it looking like he's going to be moving in before long and even a joint bank account in the offing. All very sensible if you ask me - was never like that when I was a kid...  Oh dear, I must be getting old. He's a lovely fella though, and he's been warned, so time will tell.

Saturday I managed to legalise my driving, sample a new dining experience in the city, stop the apocalypse in 3D and buy a new set of saucepans. I know, incredible isn't it. I mean, I really know how to live...

First up the driving situation. Much to my annoyance, my photo driving licence has expired. This never happened in the old days either. Before photo driving licences your licence just carried on until you were 70 odd - or too old to drive. Nowadays you apparently have to have a new one every 10 years. So this was the first of my renewals. 25 quid for the privilege of having your photo taken in the post office and fired off to DVLA for them to issue a new one. And if you don't do it, there's £1000 fine waiting for you. So it's basically a form of legalised robbery. I'm starting to think driving is a mugs game - but then that'll spoil my Christmas treat - still in the planning phase, but coming together.

The new dining experience was ChimiChanga's in the docks at Gloucester. I know it's a chain, but it's a good one, and being such a fan of Mexican food I couldn't pass it up. Mrs G and I had cycled into town, so we felt like we'd earned the right to it and damn good it was too as you can see here:

Afterwards we took a wander into the Le Creuset store, and almost on impulse bought a new set of saucepans.  Hopefully the last set for quite a while too. These aren't just any saucepans, these last forever - kind of. I'm not one to get over excited about cookware, but these are feckin awesome saucepans - seriously.

On the way back through the docks it was pleasing to note that they'd finished the work on the clipper that had been in dry dock for the last six months, and had felt confident enough to let the water back in and see if it floats - which apparently it does.  If that was my project, getting it back in the water would scare the bejesus out of me...  but I suppose there are methods and tricks that I'm unaware of that make this a lot safer than it appears.

By mid afternoon we were back home, and while Mrs G nipped into Cheltenham for some other odds, I managed to catchup with Pacific Rim in 3D glory and mightily impressive it was too.  The thing is, I wasn't expecting much. I suppose this is because what comes of a glut of robot type movies that have been little more than OK. It still has the loud brash robotty fighty scenes, but it also has a bit of a plot to it, and some decent acting too. I really enjoyed it, and have come to the conclusion that 3D BluRay (when movies are released in 3D) is the correct format for my collection (for now) - not least because all 3D BRs include the 2D version by closing off one "eye" of the 3D version, so why would I not buy the 3D version and have the extra functionality. This week has also seen the release of "The Great Gatsby" and that lead me into Sundays discovery....

Sunday involved a trip to the station in preparation for today, a visit to the latest addition to our already overcrowded list of supermarkets, and the discovery of a bunch of blu ray bargains.

Once more I climbed aboard my trusty two wheeled steed and whizzed over the hill to the station to collect my ticket. As usual I took great pleasure in chaining my bike to the railings next to the sign that says "Do not chain bicycles to these railings" - my small piece of rebellion I suppose. On the way back, I decided I'd take a look for the Great Gatsby - with the following results - Sainsburys £16, Asda £17 and Morrison's....  We have a brand new massive Morrison's built on the railway triangle. So how much is GG in there?...  Ah, well... Turns out they haven't got it. In fact they're entire offering is poor at best. I mooches around the rest of the shop. In summary - it's rubbish.  I'm so fed up of supermarkets. They're all just pah...   Even Waitrose seem to be slacking of late. I'd rather go back to local shops that specialise...

So with that in mind, I decided to drop into Blockbusters - purveyors of all things, DVD, CD and BluRay shaped both for rental or purchase, only to find that they are in severe dire straits. So bad in fact is their financial situation that they're closing down and as such selling all their stock off with discounts of up to 40%. My lucky day!  However... No sign of the Great Gatsby. On the other hand I did pick up all 3 Lord of the Rings (classics if long), all 3 Predators (classic in places), Transformers (the start of the fighty robotty things), Ronin (which is of course just brilliant) and Anchorman (good ole Ron Burgundy). That's 9 pristine BluRays for the princely sum of 25 quid....  Now that is a bargain.....

...and so to Monday Morning and back on the bloody train to London.  This mornings journey has the added entertainment factor of being delayed due to "vandalism" in the Stroud and Kemble area. Something to do with the trackside equipment - probably someone trying to steel the copper cabling again - wouldn't be the first time. For my part, I get to watch another episode of Wallander, (might have to seek out the rest of these now) and I need to fill the time that I'm not writing with something.

And here comes Paddington again.  Until next time....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wallander and the way home

Never did get to go and see Gravity this week, but I might get another run at it next week, so perhaps that'll be fun.

I really do need to have some fun - a week in the city can be great when you've got time to enjoy it - but when you're working 60 or 70 hours a week - it doesn't really happen. In fact the exact opposite. It just becomes a dull depressing treadmill with the only respite being the journey home.

I spent the week in the Hilton Metropole which has been recently refurbished and while it's all very nice and that, it is still just a big hotel off Edgware road in the city of London with nothing particularly unique or inspiring about it - it does what it says on the tin.  It's all getting a bit much and I miss my real life and my real me. I'm becoming a bore and it makes me sad.

The train back to sanity is a joyous thing - no matter how rubbish it might actually be - and I've celebrated the journey by sitting in one of the coaches with the little tellies on the back of the seats. Turns out they run some free TV shows on them, and this week there's a couple of episodes of Wallander on them. I've not read the books, but I like a good police drama, and the moody Scandinavian ones are some of the best. Even if it is all in English. And with Kenneth Branagh in the lead role. It's still entertaining stuff. Best Only thing I've seen all week.

Finally the weekend is arriving and we're having the Lodger to stay for a couple of nights - which is ironic as I think that next week I'll be in a hotel round the corner from her house.

Of late, weekends are far too short - but I'm sure we'll manage to cram it full of stuff all the same.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting back in the saddle

Somewhat out of practice so getting back on the horse is proving slightly more challenging than it should be, but we all love a challenge - or so they say, so here I am.

Part of the problem with failing to write regularly has been a suitable available time slot given the way work has been treating me of late. This week, I find myself back on board the Last Great Western, or the First Terrible Western if you prefer - off to our capital city for a full week of shenanigans. To be honest, this is a blessed relief compared to the trudge of driving backwards and forwards to Heathrow which has been my routine for the past couple of months. Of course sitting on the train also gives my brain the ability to unplug and reflect instead of joining in with the saddos who seem to think its another office. It truly isn't, but I've rumbled on about that before.

As trains go, this one is remarkably empty this morning, and while being winter it's almost dark, and being England in the winter, of course wet, as daylight tries to push through the cloud cover another miserable Monday morning hoves into view through the window. Word of the moment: Dank. 

Empty-ish is probably more accurate, as it still has it's fair share of peculiar people. There's the doctor (discussing his patients on the phone - which is probably illegal in the nanny state), the drug addict (who is clearly trying to hide it behind his minor executive exterior but will insist on telling his girlfriend the details of getting high with her - as they obviously can't remember - it in what he believes to be a whisper on his phone) and the ones that read over your shoulder - and we all know where that leads. Eavesdropping and all that good stuff. Your not going to read anything good about yourself......

I think she got the message. 

In such depressing times what one needs is something to look forward to and while Christmas is coming (bah humbug - says at least one of my readers) it's still a way off as we're only in November. There's a couple of movie related events this week - Gatsby and Pacific Rim both arrive on BluRay in glorious 3D today, but of course I'm not there to enjoy them. I can however, see one very very good reason to try and spend an evening at the IMAX cinema in Central London during my trip.  Gravity.  I've heard nothing but good reviews - even though I've tried to stay say from them - and I've seen nothing but stunning visuals, so I may well try and grab a ticket for a show if it's at all possible. Time will tell.  Other than that, the only thing to look forward to is the weekend..

Daughter has recovered well, and now that she's only trying to hold down the one job, is likely to remain in a fitter condition. She was clearly overworking, which is admirable and stupid in equal measure. The fact that boyfriend is more and more part of the scene is also going to change her world somewhat. I'm enormously proud of the person she's become. 

Son is currently weathering the storm - quite literally - in Vietnam. On the current leg of his world tour he had planned to hire a motorcycle and ride from North to South as an interesting way to see the country (and shamelessly stealing the idea from a young obi wan ken obi). However, the impending storms have put paid to that so instead he's soaking up Hanoi and it's surrounds before heading off to Hong Kong. All in all he's having a whale of a time, and again has become a young man to be proud of. 

Mrs G and I are muddling along - slogging our guts out and yearning for the next holiday. I can assure you it won't be long.  All this working away is contributing towards an enormous pile of hotel points and stupid levels of overtime - which translates into posh holiday opportunities which is after all - the only reason to be doing this job. 

And so I suppose with that in mind, I'd best get in with it. Not quite at Paddington yet, but momentarily. 

Mind the Gap. Until next time.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Very Bad Things.. and a light at the end of the tunnel

The 29th of September was a very long time ago - given that we're now on the sixth day of November. It's almost as if October didn't exist!?  and for a large part of it, I kind of wish it didn't.

However - this particular job only has about 4 weeks worth of life left in it, and honestly - thank heavens for that for I fear if I continue in this vein my marbles won't just be lost, but rolled away down a fissure in the very crust of the earth never to be seen or heard of ever again.

To say that times have been tough would be to understate somewhat. I have lost a couple of close frolleagues to other (almost certainly less interesting) work, or better yet to retirement, where I have no doubt that even now, the devil will be making work for such idle hands. That in itself was traumatic enough - but the pile of sh..tuff that I've had to deal with since then has been some of the worst I've known.

One blinding light of good luck was a slipage in the timeline (on the clients side) which meant that my week in the sun (planned for the week after delivering our proposal) actually happened during the week when we were at our most insane - and I was fortunate enough to miss it.  This didn't stop me feeling the pain of those I left behind - and it was clearly painful. It seems no matter how much effort went in, "things" conspired against us. Still, at least they all got plenty of sleep.... afterwards.

So with 4 or 5 weeks left, that light at the end of the tunnel is what's keeping me interested. Along with the cash - which is afterall what jobs like this particular one are only about.  And that, is very sad.

In the meantime - lets see about shutting down Skype - that's easy enough....

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Factually Accurate

That's what's bothersome about this stuff....

Blessedly it's the weekend. A game of golf is on the cards which has been terribly badly organised by Shep - so will make for a most entertaining time, I have no doubt. 

The work is hard still - too much time spent away from home and this weeks only highlight being a new laptop. Still I trudge on with a dim light in the far distance as my guide through the tunnel that is "a job" in the conventional sense of the word. 

One tiny point of note. This weeks hotel room included a Samsung device to manage your stay, order services and generally have a bit of a play on. Ordering room service worked flawlessly with the only human interaction being the poor bloke delivering the tray. Very antisocial. The robots are coming!! Won't be long now. 

Four!!  Must Dash.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Strange times

I don't know - sometimes the world is a odd place, and it twists and turns when you least expect it.

First things first - I am now making a concerted effort to write again.  Sincere apologies to those that have been hanging on my every word, but I'm back, and scribbling furiously.

I've spent most of the last 12 months to-ing and fro-ing to London on a deal for the people I work for, which in the end amounted to nothing.  This situation is disheartening at best and generally depressing at worst, but it's also the nature of the job and so I shouldn't really be too surprised.

The things that have surprised me though have been more related to the wider levels of morale and the consequences of commitments made long ago and far beyond my control.  These decisions have trickled down and are now impacting more than a few of my friends and colleagues, some of whom have taken action to move on via one route or another. Sad days in relation to those that I've enjoyed working with.  In particular I have to mention the badman, who has been inspirational in his ability to push on through and "not letting the buggers get you down" - as I believe it says on the back of Asil Nadir's watch.  I will miss him (although efficient targeting will mean, I'm sure I'll get him next time round) ;-)

The result of this exodus seems to be an increase in workload for those that remain, and in the first instance I have no objection - just because I've been "filling" time somewhat since the loss of the last project I was working on.  My more considered response has been more along the lines of "Holy crud!!" given that I've had to do a couple of +50 hour weeks which are no fun for anyone.

That said, I have had the privilege of two holidays so far this year, so I shouldn't complain - and I do have a third on the horizon. I'm also making the most of the forthcoming bank holiday and turning it into the best part of 5 days combined with the opportunity to celebrate Mrs G's birthday.

Looks like a mountain goat to me - Rhodes.

A few other items of note that I should mention...

Son's trip to Ghana is proceeding well. He's having a whale of a time by all accounts and seems to have take to teaching with a certain amount of gusto. Perhaps it will be the slot he's been looking for, or perhaps he'll find something completely different again once he returns from his more global travels which are scheduled to start in about a month.  I'm only a little jealous.

Mrs G has successfully given up smoking (no pressure there), Daughter is loved up and Sister is getting married.

In tech news, I've procured a couple of new Kindle's on the basis that I've been hankering after one for a while and Mrs G's original one has finally given up the ghost. We're both avid readers, and as I'm sure you're aware, it's perfect for reading in the sunshine - which most every other device/tablet etc. isn't.  Just waiting for a nice shiny case to arrive to keep it in now.

I've upgraded to iOS7 on my phone and tablet - the early beta's were somewhat flaky, but at the 6th iteration it now appears to be mostly solid - and what little pain I do feel seems to be related existing iOS6 based apps that will require a little tweaking to run smoothly. Battery life WAS greatly improved in beta 5, although that also seems to be taking something of a hit again in beta 6.  Still - only a month to go, and I'm sure the next version will have it back on track.

I'm also in line for a new device at work - which will be interesting for about 5 minutes and then will become my day-to-day work horse, largely forgotten when not in use.

Right, well - that'll do for now.  Much to do to get the first half of this week out of the way, so I'd best get on and do it.


It's been a while...

So I'm looking for motivation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Catching Up

Forgive me while I perform the equivalent of emergency surgery on my blog here.

As you can see from the history of it, the damn thing has nearly healed over completely, but like any real wound - it'll never get better if you pick it. Hence my reason for leaving it alone.  Of course that adage should also go on to say, it'll never get better if you don't actually write something either. So here it is - not getting any better - but at least it's here.

On my last visit I told you how I'd just returned from a week in the sunshine playing golf in Portugal - and jolly splendid it was too. In fact, the Sun and I got on so well, that it seems to have followed me home and hung around in the skies over England like a lost puppy, or a forgotten football in the park. Summer has most definitely arrived this year so there's little or no chance of hearing the naysayers in the winter uttering the immortal phrase "We didn't have a summer to speak of" or something similar.

Those of you keeping track of my relentless attempt to "vacation" or to "holiday" as we correctly put it, will be thrilled to know that my next adventure (this time with Mrs G) is a mere couple of weeks away and I'll be jetting off Easterly for some Mediterranean plate smashing type action.

Let's recap then and try and fill in a few gaps.

While I'm sat on the train travelling up that Laandan (more on that in a bit), daughter is sunning herself on one of the Canary Islands with a couple of her mates, while her cat is having a holiday of its own, staying with granny and Son is off painting schools (among other things) in Ghana, West Africa. She'll be suntanned and gorgeous when she returns (daughter, not the cat) because the warm weather really suits her - much like her mother in that respect - and son will be a bit more than suntanned I suspect. In fact Son is likely to become a grown up and that is something we can all be thankful for.

Granny with Will - the cat sitters - being a mahoosive tennis fan, spent the day with us on Sunday to watch the Wimbledon men's final, reclaimed by a Brit (well a Scot) in glorious 3D thanks to the BBC and Freesat. Will and I are not such fans, but the novelty of the 3D combined with the novelty of a Brit in the final and the overpowering heat outside meant that we joined granny in donning the 3D glasses. Mrs G on the other hand, sat in the garden and soaked up the sun - as Wimbledon week induces all sorts of memories of childhood cruelty and neglect from her youth.

The Beeb are missing a trick by suspending their 3D output entirely (after the Doctor Who anniversary special apparently) because honestly, to watch tennis in 3D is actually the only way to watch tennis at all. After the 3D experience, normal televised tennis is just ....  Well...  Flat, and you actually need "hawk eye" to watch it.

MTA and SEA have been busy too. Aud's will is all dealt with and probate completed. With the house now on the market, they can both sit back and relax a little. SEA in particular because she's had to have a bit of an "Op" on the back of her knee, nothing too serious, but she has also said that she will retire at the end of the year - which will result in her place of employ collapsing in her absence - at least that's what MTA and I would agree with. Mrs G has just been explaining to them how they can get their hands on some cricket tickets "for the school". One can only imagine who will have to go along with the kids to "watch the cricket" "look after them". Other than that, they're all good.

Sister Ball has a wedding coming up. Oddly for her, we still have no detail on that though - we'll have to wait and see.

Oh yes. On the subject of cricket... I'm off to watch some on Friday. My good friend Jugz is begrudgingly 50 years of age this year, and by way of a celebration (and believe me, there are plenty of celebrations for this one - any excuse, and this is a good excuse) he and another good friend of his (also 50 this year) have laid on some special "corporate entertainment" at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival.  Guaranteed to be a proper good day out - especially as the weather looks like it's going to hold out for it too.

As you know, Cheltenham loves a good festival - in fact, if you can think of anything even remotely culturally interesting, bung the world Festival on the end of it, and Cheltenham in front of it, and they'll sell tickets like its going out of fashion.  A few of us will be catching the bus to the event, as featured in the recent "Cheltenham Bus Festival" - £20 a ticket in advance.

Sadly the company that Jugz and a couple of the other lads work for have, in their infinite wisdom, decided to close down the part of the business that they work in. They've joined the company through acquisition and the Americans that have acquired it - as is so often the case nowadays - don't really understand what it is that they've acquired. The result is that instead of taking the time to understand it, they've gone to the bottom line numbers and made a decision to arbitrarily delete the business from their portfolio altogether. It's a shame, because the original company was a gem. I hope that all those that are now looking for work, do something great with their now available time and the Americans involved should all be thoroughly ashamed.

It maybe that they should diversify into something completely un-related like retail.... or better yet, fine dining and drinking.  That would be a true disaster. But brings me neatly to the opening of a couple of new venues in the Gloucester docks area that Mrs G and I recently visited.  There's Ed's Diner - which is an American style diner and looks great for those quality burger snack type things. And then there's the "Portivo" lounge bar, which was packed and served a very nice pint of Estrella and some half decent nosh as well.  Both recommended.

On the subject of work then.  Obviously I'm on the train back up to the city - otherwise how would this entry get written. It's just a quick day trip relating to the new job I've been allocated to.  And this isn't just any job.

Unfortunately, the last lot - which was the best part of a year of my life - decided that we weren't the people to provide the service they were looking for and have asked someone else to make up some numbers for them. In point of fact, I think this might have been a very close call for us because there have been other recent public announcements that make the achievement of the services they actually need - not far off of impossible. But mine is to reason why... And all that.

Work in general is all a bit up in the air at the moment.  Seems to be plenty of uncertainty, and plenty of people I've worked with for a while, walking out the door.  This is not a nice situation and not one that I'm enjoying a great deal.  Dumb decisions are being made by dumb people.  But then, that's just like, my opinion man....

One last very quick observation. I'm at opposite a Helen Mirren lookalike on the train this morning - so that's interestingish, but more importantly I'm sat next to a Nexus user. He's trying to compose an email - and it would appear that typing on a Nexus is hard work. I've written this on my iPad and to be honest it was as easy (if not easier) than writing it on a grown up keyboard.  Seems to me that the tablet space still belongs to Apple - and let's face it - the blade runners retired all of the Nexuses anyway.

Until next time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Break In The Weather

After what feels like an awful lot of work and not a lot of anything else, we find ourselves at a natural break in proceedings. Greatly helped with the knowledge that I've actually booked a week off to go and play golf with the lads in somewhere that the weather really has had a break and instead is mostly sunshine.... Portugal.

Never been before, so I was very much looking forward to finding out how it compares to the likes of Spain. And the verdict? What a pleasant surprise this gem of a country sewn in between the Atlantic Ocean and Mainland Spain. A special place I think and more than worthy of a second visit.

Saturday saw three of us make a very early departure to BHX and hop aboard an Airbus (A321 for the spotters among you) for the 2 and half hour journey. BHX was a speedy pleasure and the flight was comfortable and without incident. The other seven members of the group travelled over from BRS and had little or no fun at all battling weather en route TO the airport, followed by and overcrowded mass of holiday makes IN the airport. However, we all arrived safely and not an item of luggage got lost on the way.

Having had this years tour organised by our good friend Bwi, naturally we expected disaster upon disaster to be visited upon us, and for the most part he proved us wrong - but that's not to say he perfected the process, and in fact the first problem was "Where the hell is the Taxi driver Bwi?". Turns out he was a little way up the road and not holding up a little sign in the arrivals hall. 40 minutes of my life I'll never get back, but the excitement of being in a new country combined with the warm sun on your face helps to forgive all, as long as we have a nice comfortable place to sleep...

The second problem was where the hell are the bedrooms Bwi? It seems that our "organiser" is quite comfortable with the idea that a couple of breeze block walls thrown up in the corner of the basement parking garage, constitute a bedroom.... Hmmm... There's no doubt he hasn't heard the end of this. But for the time being - we're here and there's beer to be drunk and sunshine to soak up, and golf to play and sights to see, etc etc etc...

The hardest part of the whole trip is really the ability to drink until 4am have 4 hours sleep and the get up and play golf in the sweltering heat. It's a challenge and one that you really have to be in peak physical condition for - so you can imagine how well that works out for a bunch of middle aged buffoons such as we. Regardless, we battled on, facing the challenge and laughing it off at every turn. In fact laughing was the order of the week. I'm not sure how much laughing we did, but I know it was a lot, and often. Might even have been more than the drinking....

I managed to loose my voice by about the 4th day - no idea where it got to, but it was almost nowhere to be found. The birthday shenanigans were great fun and a crowd of mostly well dressed men took the town by storm - suits are remarkably unusual in such informal circumstances nowadays it seems. Kids have no taste, is the shorthand version.

It's fair to say we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves far too much and from my perspective it was just what the doctor ordered. I'd been feeling particularly crap in the week before the trip, so sunshine and giggles really proved to be the best medicine, for even though, sat here on the plane I'm tired to a level that I'm not sure I've experienced before, I'm also rejuvenated and happy to be in the world, no matter what it might throw at me. I've washed that job right out of my hair - so to speak.

Sadly, as a pessimistic realist (especially when I'm being such an optimistic fantasist) I know that none of this will last and I'll have to be back at work on Monday.

Ah well - let me bask in the glory of the whole damn trip for just a while longer....

Ta. Until next time.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sniffing and button pushing

Today is going to be a big day for Tech - both in the form of announcements - Apple, Microsoft and Sony all having things to show us, and in the fast developing Internet monitoring story sparked by the Guardian regarding both the the NSA and latterly GCHQ.

The NSA story isn't unexpected - although what is a little odd is that it's taken this long for the general public to realise just how vulnerable their posts (let's call it data) is when using a publicly available, government developed network such as the Internet.

Naivety apart, it never fails to amaze me how people think the Internet is a "safe" place. To plagiarise Star Trek Into Darkness "You think your world is safe - It is not - It is an illusion".

Privacy in such a connected space has never really existed. Admittedly for most people who mistakenly think the Internet is what they see in a web browser, they may have never been exposed to the soft, deeply technical underbelly of the way networks work, but to those who have had exposure to IT at an analysis/support level, they are likely all to aware of just what the network is capable of "sharing" with those who want to find out.

At it's simplest level a "packet sniffer" will sit on a network segment and capture enough detail about the traffic on the network to figure out what that networks users are up to. There are a host of commercially available tools for IT departments to effectively "spy" on their users to monitor and manage the network, block sites and report usage.  Let me be clear here - this is NOT NEW. Take a look at (sniffer global), (web monitor) or for a couple of examples.

Now imagine having government scale resources of departments like the NSA or GCHQ and running similar tools on the Internet and it's suddenly very obvious that this makes for a compelling tool for tracking suspects. And as long as that's what it's used for, and has the necessary legal hoops to jump through (which I believe are pretty much undefined at the moment) - then this shouldn't be a problem.
Given the lack of information on the way this "tool" is being used, it's understandable that the general public would get not just a little nervous.

It will be an interesting story to watch - and the reactions of those involved will no doubt be more than a little telling. Enough - onto to something else....

Big day for Apple - WWDC - meaning it's time for the Tech giant to announce it's next batch of fruitiness.  Since the death of Steve Jobs the Tech gint has been getting bad press and has (almost overnight) become un-innovative in some eyes.  This is smoke. In fact I'm quite sure they are still as innovative as they ever were - after all  Steve assembled a pretty awesome team of people, and they don't just stop thinking because their boss lost his fight with cancer.

This "bad press" combined with the lack of upgrades to the iOS platform and the following rise in popularity of the Android OS has left Apple looking a little weatherbeaten, so today's WWDC keynote speech is likely to be a turning point.

There has been (as is usual) a fever pitch level of guesswork going on in the tech news community - most of whom believe that Apple's chief designer (Sir Johnnie Ive) has come up with a flat looking interface to iOS.  Sure it needs an overhaul, but I don't think any of this guesswork is on the mark - in fact I think Mr Ive will surprise everyone - not least because Apple have publicly said that they would "double down on product secrecy" - so plenty of false stories then, and now we all know how touchscreens work (it's 6 years since the iPhone landed) - the button look can go....

....but we'll have to wait until this evening to be sure.

Sony will be announcing details about the PlayStation4 today as well. My observation - Microsoft have screwed up with the XBoxOne already by suggesting you'll have to pay to play used games and (related to the NSA story) it will sit in your living room and be "always on" - so for the paranoid among you, it will be busy logging your conversation in your living room.  They're trying to make the eggs-box more than just a gaming machine - they want it to be your "entertainment hub". MS have been pedalling this line for a very long time now - and while kinect seems to be getting them closer, they've still got one hell of a mission to pursuade the wider public.

I'm a Sony household as far as gaming is concerned, and barring anything stupid from Sony (which they haven't managed so far) I see no reason to change. Microsofts announcements today, are likely to be about the games for their new baby - while Sony will be focused on the Hardware - and demo's of the software.

Well, their you have it. I have much to do. Places to see, people to go and all that.  More importantly I have a holiday coming up. After the last couple of months, a week in the Sun is just what the doctor ordered - so in the meantime I have all sorts of stuff to sweep under the carpet.

Until next time....

I'll leave you with stunning attempt on goal (not that I know anything about football) - "Up the Eagles!"

Friday, June 07, 2013

Now heaven knows, anything goes....

I've been busy. busy to the point of not writing anything here, although I've still shared plenty of stuff on my favourite faux social network - Google+

So just a few words on PRISM and all the noise that its generating. If you don't know what it is by now, you almost certainly got nothing to worry about, or you don't work in IT. The short version is that PRISM is an alleged Top Secret project which the US government run, to monitor and record Internet traffic. It's said that all the Internet service big names are connected to it - Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo to name but 5, and that in short the FBI and the like have a tap directly into these services, to read (and presumably copy) whatever they want out of them. In summary they can read your stuff.... All of it.

It gets more complicated and I'll come onto that in a minute, but here's the thing that I find completely incredible....

Why is this a surprise to anyone?

From the early days of the Internet and the first time I saw a tool provided by "The Cult of the Dead Cow" in the 1990's even I could see that privacy online was dead. The tool enabled you to port scan a network segment, connect to a windows based machine and gain access to pretty much whatever you wanted from the system. Open shop.... Anything connected to the Internet is vulnerable and therefore not a safe place for any kind of conversation of a sensitive nature. Anyone who thinks otherwise (and right about now I guess we have almost an entire generation who do) is frankly naive.

It's this lack of experience which has lead to people putting things online that they later regret - be that an embarrassing Facebook update, or something more obscure, damning or even illegal. In the end, if you can't say it front of the world, don't say it online - and that goes for storing data on a connected system as well. Connected does not mean safe.

The ability to snoop all of our online data is a very obvious step for government agencies - especially those concerned with intelligence and in my opinion it's a valid and useful thing for them to pursue, albeit laced with pitfalls and problems - not the least of which is public education.

And this is where I start to have worries... Jurisdiction is for me the biggest reason NOT to allow a government to do this. Surely snooping on anyone other than your own citizens could be construed as an act of war or, at least in it's simplest form, it's spying - and the Cold War is testament to the situations that can arise as a result.

So when I hear President Obama say to the good people of the US "We're only using it on people that are non-US citizens" - I get very concerned. If a US request to monitor a British citizen was carried out via GCHQ, I wouldn't feel as worried, but the fact that the major companies involved are all American, means that most of their data lives on hardware in US and thus under US jurisdiction no matter where the people using them are.

In summary, all of 800million Facebook users data is in the US, and so the US government (via PRISM) can help themselves to it whenever they feel like it. In fact, I don't actually believe its as simple as that for them to do (at the moment) but those days are not far away.

With the US holding all the cards here (in the form of the large Internet companies), the UK, Europe and Asia are somewhat behind the curve on tracking US or UK citizens and clearly have only been doing so via an agreement with the US agencies (The NSA, FBI etc). Interestingly, the companies involved are issuing denials around the levels of their involvement - so my vote here is for openness. After all, we're adults and can draw our own conclusions about the processes involved.

I understand why these agencies exist and that they really do protect their respective countries citizens. No doubt there are many stories we may never hear about, where major incidents have been avoided as a result of their work - and I'm both grateful and supportive of them. But there has to be a balance.

Right now, I think the balance is being tested to see just how far it can be tipped before there's a backlash.

My final thought for now - as an example - it's NOT ok for newspapers to tap phones and read emails without any formal permission, so should it be alright for governments to do so? There may be circumstances when it is......what do you think ?

PS - Nice to be back ;-)
Until next time....

Saturday, May 18, 2013


In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since - "Whenever you feel like criticising any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."


...I pretty sure Australian Director, Baz Luhrmann has had more advantages than I, but still it's worth remembering when considering the his new version of The Great Gatsby itself. I've enjoyed Baz's "Romeo+Juliet" (also featuring Leonardo DiCaprio) and Moulin Rouge was a cacophony of interesting tones and tunes - who can ever forget Ewan McGregor singing "Your Song" - but I digress...


Gatsby is beautiful to look at. Very "full" sets leaving you wondering where to look next and plenty of sweeping shots and pastiche views to convey the moment, that if you've seen Moulin Rouge, you'll be familiar with. 1920's New York is almost a character of its own, and it has a bright and hopeful feel to it, that matches what - in places - you get from the novel. That's not to say its a constant barrage of such devices.


In fact, it feels like he's calmed down somewhat. He's been mostly faithful to the original text - and if you haven't read it, you really should. The Great American Novel, is an evocative read and has helped me to understand New York, the East Coast, The New Money vs The Old Money, Long Island and just how "rip-roaring" the 1920's must have been. It's around if you look, Google is your friend, and publicbookshelf or might know something....


My only criticism - and in all fairness it's a small one - is the music. This is where he's linked the story back to the present day, and I couldn't help but feel like it may be an anachronism too far. Music from the Likes of Jay-Z (who incidentally is exec producer on the film) and Florence and the Machine, The XX, Beyonce and many others mostly fits, but there are a couple of occasions when I just wanted something less Hippity-Hop. It's far from bad choices - and in some cases it is inspired - I particularly enjoyed the "Back to Black" rendition and I suspect I will need to go round it again to fully appreciate what's good and what's bad in there. There's a lot less bad than there is good.


Mrs G felt it was "over long" though I hardly noticed, and I wonder if this is because I was already familiar with the plot. The 3D is well done, and barely distracting at all, which ultimately makes it - as usual - unnecessary.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'd recommend it, particularly if you have even a passing interest in the book. It's also made me want to hunt down the 1974 Robert Redford portrayal of J.G. just for a comparison of treatment of the storyline and its also what many consider to be THE cinematic version. 8/10


I'll leave you with my favourite quote from the Novel (which I didn't hear in the film - although I just may have missed it with so much going on)...


Nick Carraway: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925



Edit: This explanation of the music means I really need to watch it again.... Maybe I just didn't get it first time:





Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Bank Robbery

I'm sure you can tell from the lack of blogging of late, that things have been hotting up. Busy would a suitable word. Manic is also fitting. Crazy and Mental. Nuts. Loopy. Painful. Arduous and Insane-in-the-membrane to name but a few are all candidates too. I digress...


If there's one thing you don't mess with, it's a man's bank holiday. Unique to the Commonwealth - so sorry to our Atlantic cousins - these are officially the four days of the year outlined in the "Bank Holidays Act" of 1871. If you were employed by the Bank of England, you might well have damned that particular piece of legislation, because before it, there were 33 days (Saints Days and other religious goings on) which the bank treated as holidays. No such luck for the rest of us though - until Sir John Lubbock came along and formalised the whole thing.


Regardless - it's a free day off - much like "Presidents Day" (or similar) in the U.S. and as such is sacrosanct. The one thing you don't do (as an office style-ee employee) is work on a Bank Holiday. What you actually do is have a Bar-B-Q - usually in the rain, or spend the day recovering from a hangover you generated on the Sunday night - just because you could - referred to as "Super Sunday" in our neck of the woods.... Or you go shopping for DIY/Garden type stuff... You get the general idea.


This particular Bank Holiday didn't work out like that though. Instead of enjoying a Super Sunday - which I understand included tales of live music in a local hostelry or repute according to a few of the locals - I found myself having, what to all intents and purposes, was a regular day in the office. Off I trundled to my local-ish office and joined the team for yet more fun and games on the mahoosive document and irresponsibly required presentation that is our current mission.


The tall fella and the church seating took a run out to Sainsburys for lunchtime pre-packed sandwiches and the day passed relatively quickly. I got away early in the afternoon because I had to go and pack and catch the 7pm train down to London. 9am tomorrow sees us jumping through a hoop - so rather than a 4am alarm call, I elected to give up the remains of my Bank Holiday (it was already lost anyway) and spend an extra night in the city.


As you can imagine - Mrs G is not particularly impressed. And to be honest neither am I. However, I should point out that its not for the Love of the company and neither is it the promise of untold riches and gold (untold because they are non-existent). No, I choose to do this for my fellow employees. We are - as the saying goes - all in the same boat and as a result we each have an oar and we're all pulling together. We're on the last leg of it - at least that's the belief we have - and so we need to get the job done so we can return to some sort of normality.


Luckily, they're a good bunch that are in the boat and the banter is plentiful. If it wasn't, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do this job - so thank god for "Squirrel!", "Moving On", "The Dulinator", "Pushing the button" and of course, let us not forget "Mandy". None of that will mean much to the casual reader - but that is how it should be.


These things and the people involved in them are the only things that make the theft of my Bank Holiday bearable - not forgivable - but bearable.


Sadly, with so much to do (did I mention its a bank-feckin-holiday?) I need to be getting on with it, so with a heavy heart I bid you adieu, until next time, which I suspect will be around about Friday - but you never know.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bringing Google+ comments to Blogger

Cross-posted from the Google Official blog

Posted by +Yonatan Zunger, Principal Engineer

Reading and responding to comments can be one of the most rewarding aspects of blogging. Not only do they help you connect with your readers, they can also inspire later blog entries. The challenge, oftentimes, is following all the conversations around your content—on Google+, for instance, as well as on your website. So we're making things a lot simpler.

Starting today, you can bring Google+ Comments to your Blogger blog. Once you've enabled the feature through your Blogger Dashboard, you'll enjoy a number of important benefits:

View your blog and Google+ comments, all in one place

Now when you're browsing your blog's comment threads, you'll see activity from direct visitors, and from people talking about your content on Google+. For example, if there's a public Google+ discussion about one of your blog entries, those comments and replies will also appear on your Blogger blog. This way you can engage with more of your readers, all in one place.

Help readers comment and connect with their circles

Your blog readers will now have the option to comment publicly, or privately to their circles on Google+. And when they're browsing blog comments, they can view all of them, just the top ones, or only those from the people in their circles.

In all cases, you and your readers will only see the comments you have permission to see. Giving people these kinds of controls not only encourages more meaningful sharing—it can lead to more blog traffic.

To get started with Google+ Comments, just visit the Google+ tab of your Blogger Dashboard, and check “Use Google+ Comments.” (Older comments will continue to appear in the new widget.)

You can also visit any post on the Official Google Blog (like this one), or on Blogger Buzz (like this one), to see Google+ Comments in action.

Happy commenting!


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