Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tuesday's Child ...

... is obviously a lazy git who can't get his act together to write a Journal entry.

To be honest the past few days have been very busy and I have made a conscious effort to ensure that when I CAN get away from the Laptop I DO get away from the laptop. Well I have made a decision to avoid the optional two hour call this evening* and hence have a few minutes to bring the Journal up to date while TP and 30% catch up with Eastenders.

So lets get the weekend covered off ...

... Saturday started with an early walk with T&M. The soggy weather has meant that the lanes and paths are absolutely revolting at the moment and the dogs seem to have picked up a huge amount of filth in their coats. Consequently the dog bath was pulled out from alongside the garage and the two were given a thorough scrubbing on our return. The afternoon involved a trip over to Stratford for a few groceries. 30% and I were both pretty tired and if I am honest we both took the remainder of the day at a very leisurely pace.

Sunday was the usual Rugby fixture although this one was a midday kick off. The was a bit of a pain. The hours delay in the start had quite an impact and leaves just not enough time at either end of the day to do anything significant. Fortunately TP's team had an away win 12:0 but to be honest the game was scrappy and his team actually played better the previous week when they lost to a strong opposition.

As I said, the midday kick off meant that the game took the lion's share of the day and there was only just enough time for a walk with T&M in the late afternoon before the sun set.

Sunday evening saw me start the cure of the pork belly and cheeks. There is not a lot more to say on that subject. They'll be cured for 5 or 6 days and should be ready for smoking or eating by the end of the week. It is ages since I last smoked any meat and I am really tempted to have another go. It is just whether the work schedule will allow it.

Monday involved a trip in to the Office to link up with my colleague who is riding "shotgun" on the latest project. The day involved loads of calls and e-mail after e-mail clarifying requirements, stating assumptions and urging the monster forward. I was finally advised who will be "looking after the shop" while I am away on holiday in the middle of February and much of the evening was spent trying to revise the project plan to accommodate the monstrous review cycle and the limited availability of attendees who, like me, plan to take the half term off work.

Today has been much like Monday; a succession of calls and e-mails in an attempt to get sufficient understanding of the client's requirements to allow us to put some sensible costings together. It is a hard slog and I am starting to see the aggressive timescales in a positive way as it means that we will finish this sooner.

I'm too tired to rant about the more lacklustre members of the team and to be honest it had all been said before. I looked back at the Journal entry on Subject Matter Idiots and realised that the entry relates to one of my current team. It is fair to say that he hasn't really changed.

I can also report that my Idiot Manager has returned from his skiing holiday and was neither suffocated in an avalanche nor killed in a freak ski lift accident. This just goes to show that my streak of luck is probably running out. He is an absolute idiot as was proved when he stated that he couldn't see any point or benefit in combining two separate reviews where I would present exactly and I mean EXACTLY the same material. He also seemed to have a problem comprehending that they had been combined on a previous occasion.

Is it me?
* There is a repeat tomorrow morning

Friday, 27 January 2012

It has been a bit of a week

Friday has arrived and I suppose I had better set myself down and recount the week's activities. Now I normally aim to write  a Journal entry five or six days out of seven but this week I have failed miserably. I cannot claim that I didn't have time because that just wasn't true. It was more the case that after an extended day in front of a laptop the last thing I really wanted to do was re-live it and condense it at the same laptop for the purposes of The Journal. So, lets have a look at the week ...

Tuesday: You want WHAT, by WHEN?

Tuesday was panning out quite nicely. I spent nearly all of the day herding and corralling my team to make sure that their end of week deliverable would be completed and all seemed fine with the world. There was still no sign of the detailed client requirements so we were still fannying around with an exercise to estimate some costs based on the little we know and the huge amount we have guessed.

It was about half past five and my Instant Messenger "pinged". I'll repeat that, "it was about half past five". That's it HALF PAST FIVE, Five Thirty .... The time when everyone I work with is finishing for the day, stepping away from their laptops and preparing to spend time with their families...

... Where was I, yes, the Instant Messenger pinged. It was my Idiot Manager's Lackey who asked me if I could pull a complete technical solution together in 24 hours and have it approved and ready for pricing by first thing Thursday morning. I can tell you that I responded with plenty of smiley faces and the "rolling on the floor laughing" one too as I had arranged a full day workshop on my current project and didn't have the bandwidth for this. I seriously though that The Lackey was taking the piss*

A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions this was no joke and he was quite serious. I was required to go from a state of zero knowledge to having a reasonable understanding of a project brief, gather a small team and get plenty of ticks in boxes by close of business tomorrow. Now I will admit that the project was simple in scope and the most significant piece of work had already been developed** but this was still one hell of a task and apparently it was felt that "I was the man to do it".

I'll just reiterate that it was half past five when I was passed this poison chalice which means that I had absolutely no chance of making any useful contacts that evening so instead spent a fun couple of hours clearing say all the stuff that I should have been doing tomorrow and writing some blunt emails to obtain the key individuals I would need to pull this thing together.
* although I should have remembered that he is not one well known for a sense of humour.
** Try riding a bike with one wheel and no saddle to realise that sometimes you have to have the whole package

Wednesday: Put to the test

There is not much more I can say about Wednesday. It was the expected cycle of calls and conversations, persuasion and threats and smoke and mirrors. The great thing about Wednesday is that Golfy was recruited to, as he puts it so splendidly, "make up the numbers".

It was really refreshing to work together again, albeit briefly, as we get the job done but have a riot of a time in the process.  The chap I have working on my main project is a really nice guy and very competent but he just doesn't have the same pizzaz as Golfy so it is most definitely not Pooh & Tigger on the road again.

Anyway I digressed, back to Mission Impossible, five o'clock arrived and it was time for the final review call. I took the Main Man through the presentation and Tigger gave him the numbers. We finished and paused ...

... The Man from Del Monte' he say "Yes".

So I proved that it could be done and have now totally shot myself in the arse as the next time they need something done in no time at all it will be Muggins here who they ask. With the benefit of hindsight fucking it up and failing might have been a better plan.

As the working day came to a close I had little chance to bathe in the glory as a mail in my in-box indicated that the detailed project scope information had finally arrived for my main project and the timescales for response looked grim, VERY GRIM.

Wednesday Evening saw us wander down to the local pub to take part in The Burns Night Supper. I'm most definitely not a Scot and was pretty tired after the working day but I do love haggis and it is a community activity that, for some strange reason, I like to take part in.  It was a pleasant supper and we had out usual table with VI and his long suffering wife, Jules, TP, 30% and I.  We were all pretty tired and the little hand hadn't reached ten before we were home and thinking about bed.

Thursday: All over the place

To be honest yesterday's diversion totally threw me and I had real problems trying to get focussed on the principal project. There were occasional follow-on calls from the diversion and for most of the day I just flapped, totally daunted by the huge amount of information I was expected to absorb, simplify and disseminate to my team and the limited time we would have to pull this gargantuan beast together.

By the evening I had managed to re-gain my focus and had a first draft of a plan. Tomorrow would be spent getting the Juggernaut moving in the right direction.

Friday: Bad Parenting

After a week of Journal entries totally focussed on work this might seem like a strange change of tack but I will explain, albeit cryptically because you never know who might read this rubbish. Over the past few days  30% and I have been placed in a couple of situations where we have encountered some truly vile children. These are not children who come from underprivileged backgrounds or anything like that. These are children who just seem to have been brought up without guidance on what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. In one case it is because the parent doesn't have a clue and in the other it seems that it is because the parents don't give a damn.

In both cases it means that 30% and I have had exposure to these horrible children and are rapidly coming to the conclusion that bad parenting is probably a form of child abuse. I could go on but it is probably best that I do not. All I will say is that, after this morning's session with TP's head master he seems very keen to have a chat with the local Community Support Officer.

Back at work I started to get my Juggernaut moving and had surprisingly little resistance. I had the usual notes about planned absences but I expected these and was already escalating to get cover during the half term week when every man and his dog is on holiday. My old friend Michel in Luxembourg was his usual co-operative self and sent me an e-mail in broken English whining that there was no way he could do what needed to be done in the time allotted. Some things never change! I responded, carbon copying The Great and The Good, encouraging him to be positive and use his experience and skills to find a way forward blah, blah, blah. Basically there is no way I am putting up with that communist little shit and if he can't do the fucking job his Boss better find someone who can ... FAST.

All in all it has been a pretty good week, Thursday was a bit wobbly but I am back on track. I just have a terrible amount of reading to do this weekend.

Friday evening saw another change of tack as I put on my Butchers apron and spent some time packing a half pig that I had collected from Kathy H-R. I must admit I surprised myself with the boned, rolled shoulder that I created and I also have cheeks and a boned piece of belly for guanciale and pancetta.

Now where is my jar of cure?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Ticks in Boxes ...

... or probably more accurately "covering my arse".

This is the start of the week in which we pull together the first deliverable for our American colleagues. We have been asked to develop some "guesstimates"  and send them over The Pond at the end of the week. To be honest we know very little about the  project scope so everything is highly assumptive and therefore, by definition, wrong ...

... so, why are we doing this? Well taking the positives first it is forcing my European team to think about the task ahead and to forge links with their opposite numbers in the US. It also gives them something to do while we wait for details of the scope and stops them wandering off to do something else*.

If I take off the Rose Tinted Spectacles I am concerned that it will just give my US chums a stick to beat me with at a later date**.

This is a very artificial exercise that will go nowhere near the client and, as a consequence, I am not overly excited about our current activities. The lack of clarity does however create some very interesting questions about the feasibility and in some cases the legitimacy of our approach. I have therefore spent some of my time drafting some carefully worded communications to the Global Lead ensuring that he understands our position and in some cases requesting confirmation that he has completed certain "compliance" activities of his own. It's not that I don't trust him ...

... actually, it is!
* They are like cats. They are difficult to herd and have a tendency to do what they like. As a consequence this is a dead mouse to keep them occupied until the hunt really starts ...
... Oh, and yes I reckon that some of them do spend their days licking their own bum holes.
** They have already developed their own estimate of my costs and I know that it will be way too low so when I come in with something developed locally they will moan like crazy.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Weekend Round Up

Have you ever had one of those days where you thought that a joint decision had been made to perform a certain activity but actually found out that this had been revised?

Well that accurately sums up Saturday...and yes, apparently  I was bloody informed of it at some vague point in the preceding ten days. Instead of making a serious attempt at finishing the stripping of the wallpaper and woodwork on the Stairs and Landing I found myself stood in freezing cattery for over an hour, talking absolute bollocks with some Nutter of a local who obviously hadn't had what she deemed a decent chat since Christmas. 30% had decided that we had to go out and inspect the aforementioned establishment to make sure that it was suitable to accommodate Noggin & Tog when we go away in February. It was fine as maximum security cat prisons go and they will have a miserable week there but will return pretty much as they arrived apart from hopefully being slightly more pleased to see us than usual. I had worked out that it was fine in about 5 minutes and 30% had arrived at the same decision in similar time frame so why the fuck did I have to stand there freezing my tits off listening to utter drivel for another 60 minutes.

This was followed by a trip over to Bad Man senior's house to collect Step Mum Sue's exercise bike*. There is no such thing as just "popping in" to my Dad's house for 5 minutes and this sortie took another hour and a half. By the time we got home it was most definitely a "late lunch" and we were well in to the afternoon before the dishwasher was stacked ...

... now I know that there was plenty of time to "make a start" on the decoration prep work but I didn't feel inclined to get started only to be forced to pack up a short while later and clear up a load of crap and dust. This is one of those jobs where you really want a full day at it, so I kicked my heels for the remainder of the afternoon sat in front of the 'Mac continuing with the DVD Library Project.

In Summary, Saturday did not live up to my expectations.

Sunday was filled by Rugby in the morning and Dog Clipping in the afternoon. These two activities may have been punctuated by a snooze on the sofa.

Down at the Rugby Club TP had a really good game against some strong opposition and, whilst his team did not win, they put on a very good show and came away with a creditable score. The afternoon saw me feeling absolutely knackered, hence the snooze, and to be honest the dog clipping was done simply to avoid accusations of slothfulness.

All in all this was not one of my most productive 48 hour period but I guess I can't expect every weekend to go according to plan.

* This contraption is most definitely not for my benefit as the Tree Miler does a reasonable job at slowing** the rate of bad man waist expansion
** note "slowing" rather than "reducing"

Friday, 20 January 2012

So here we are at Friday ...

It has been a few days since I last put virtual pen to virtual paper. The reason for this lack of diaristic output is that I have been expected to work for a living ...

... Bloody Cheek! To be honest it has been a while since I was last busy and by "a while" I mean the beginning of November last year. I lost most of November on "medical absence" due to my hand operation and the only piece of work I was given on my return probably took no more than a total of three or maybe four days effort to complete. So basically, apart from pulling my team together and doing a bit of background reading for the latest project, I have been coasting for a couple of months and it is only in the past week that I have been"back in the saddle".

How has it been? Well most of the cliche's that I would tend to use seem to be related to manual labour. "putting my shoulder to the wheel" and "laying foundations" are a couple. "Drawing lines in the sand" also seems to have been a frequent activity too...

Am I enjoying it? To be honest; "Yes" it is good to be back doing what I am supposed to be doing and seeing that I can actually add value. I have to admit that there are moments where I would like to have the ability to take certain individuals by the throat and squeeze until their lifeless form falls from my grasp to the dirt, but after a few deep breaths and a little lateral thinking I tend to go with a phone call or a carefully worded e-mail and seem to be getting the results that I want.

What have I learnt this week? A couple of things really; firstly, that people who claim to be experts may not know nearly as much as one would expect, and secondly, that when a resource seems to drop off the radar think the worst and escalate.

It is now wine time. The fire is lit and supper is only 30 or 40 minutes away, My in-box contains nothing critical and the weekend is here. The work laptop has been shut down and I'm looking forward to the weekend with a slightly smug feeling of having had quite a good week.

I'd better watch it. We all know that pride comes before a fall ...

... and this latest project has got a LONG way to go yet.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

And We're Off .... sort off

Today The Band and I were summoned to a virtual meeting where we were informed that
Dante's Nine Circles of Hell had definitely been selected as a possible Supplier of Musical Entertainment to a new Client. A few competitors and we would shortly* be receiving a set of requirements, against which we can design our Show...

... That was the Good News. The Bad News was that we would be given very little time to design and cost our extravaganza. We have therefore been asked to develop something "vanilla", while we wait, that we can then "build off" once the Client gets it's arse in to gear and decides what they really want. This is a bit like having the band get together in a chilly rehearsal room to put together a set and rehearse the numbers with a strong possibility of the client wanting a completely different set of tunes. For all I know we could be rehearsing classic rock and the Client actually wants US Middle of the Road.**

I therefore spent a good few hours trawling through some archived material trying to clarify the types of tunes our prospective client might like. Even at this early stage it is apparent that certain members of the Band don't like some of the selected tracks. It is also apparent that certain members of the Band are having difficulty reading sheet music and I am already being forced to tell them what the notes are when the lazy fuckers are quite capable of doing it themselves.

Some things never change!
* Before Christmas it was "it'll be with us by the end of December, 1st week of January at the latest". It is now "Could be the end of this week but more likely the end of the month". Is is just me that is seeing a pattern here?
** Hall & Oates here we come

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Quiet Start to the Week

The title of this entry sums it up.

A call has been scheduled for tomorrow lunchtime to get us all started on the latest project. The simple fact that the Client hasn't given us a brief doesn't seem to be an issue. Part of me can see that it is better to get some work done and tweak it once we have better information but another part can see that this could be an expensive and risky approach.

Away from work, Winter finally seems to have arrived, after a very mild December, and we have had a few frosts this week. These are nothing like the -20 degree Celsius frosts of last year but the ground is hard and white and the weather seems to  excite the dogs. I watched them charge around the lawn like lunatics; leaping, bounding and play fighting.

Imagine what they're like if they miss a walk
The slow day meant that the fire was lit early in the evening and the heat seems to have the exact opposite effect on the animals. Tyson, Marauder, Noggin and Tog are now sprawled over the sofas and rugs soaking in every bit of the warmth. The only non-participant is Eddy. For whatever reason he seems to insist on nipping in and out via the cat flap all evening...

... The only problem with this is that the cat flap is currently locked as N&T are not yet allowed out in the garden. This means that my evenings are interrupted by frequent trips to act as Doorman for Eddy*.
* "Thanks badman. I'm not sure when I'll be back but be a good chap and wait up for me. It's not as though you have anything important to do and I don't want to be waiting around by the door as it's quite chilly outside"

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Coach Incident near M42/M6 Junction

Sunday, like most Sundays during the Rugby season, started about an hour earlier than I would have liked. Actually it is not the start time it is more the fact that I cannot lounge around drinking coffee and get started at a time of my choice but have to abide by a schedule set by the team Coach.

Today we were due to be at a pitch to the North West of Birmingham at ten o'clock sharp. This meant de-icing and climbing in to a chilly car by nine at the latest. Take note of the term "de-icing" as this is important later on.  I also need to point out that I had had checked my iPhone e-mail just before we left to obtain the destination post code for the Sat Nav ...

... Imagine therefore our delight to drive thirty or more miles and sit in a Rugby Club car park for 25 minutes and see no familiar faces. After making enquiries it transpired that the match had been cancelled due to a frozen pitch and it was obvious that whatever means of communicating the cancellation was deployed neither text message, phone call or e-mail was thought necessary.

Taking a glass half full* view, at least we arrived home a couple of hours earlier than if the match had taken place.

This meant that the dogs got walked before lunch and the afternoon was mine to continue the DVD Library project and finally connect up the Apple TV. I can report that this little contraption is a typical Apple device; a piece of cake to install and set up, works beautifully and is a delight to use. It was therefore quite ironic that the day of it's debut was the one day that the TV schedules contained programming that we quite fancied viewing ...

... there is always Monday ...

... and Tuesday, and Wednesday ...
* unusual for me, I know

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Busy Day

Saturday started with a culinary mission. 30% and I spent a few hours converting a couple of pork joints, via a mincer and food processor,  into a large batch of faggots and 6 lbs of Gloucester Sausages.

Whilst this was going on I could periodically hear my laptop beeping as Noggin decided to use the keyboard as a suitable place to sun himself. Sausage meat encrusted hands and a token nod in the direction of food prep hygiene meant that this was ignored and the beeping seemed to subside quite quickly as he either settled or moved on. The cooking came to a close and after tidying the kitchen we sat down to lunch and this is when I learnt two things....

1) always close your laptop lid when leaving it unattended, and
2) just how intricate the tiny, interconnected plastic and metal components are that sit beneath the [Del] and [Return] keys on a laptop keyboard...

... I then spent an infuriating 20 minutes with tweezers, supplementary illumination and a sketch of my findings beneath the [PgDn] key before I got the damned thing back together*.

30% thoughtfully pointed out that it might be a good idea to put the machine away in future. This "I told you so" received it's just deserts a few moments later when I heard her admonishing Tyson for helping herself to a couple of faggots left, in Tyson's and my opinion, way too close to the edge of the worktop.

The day continued with a walk around the Three Miler and a trip in to Worcester to pick up a couple of HDMI cables for the Apple TV. Whilst I was mooching around Maplins, 30% had wandered in to a nearby Home Furnishing store for a browse and I joined her once I had picked myself up off the floor after recovering from the the shock of the price of HDMI components ...

... and so we found ourselves wandering around aisles of cushions, glasses and mirrors and then we saw it nestling amongst a collection of rugs. It screamed "IMPULSE BUY" and now we are the owners of a Blue Wildebeest hide. Sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct and work out where it can go in the house at a later date. I think it fair to say that the hide most definitely falls in to this category but it looks fantastic and we have plenty of floor and wall space to fill in The Pile.

Having completed our shopping trip it was time to wend our way over to Trish's house for a splendid Dinner and then a return home at a civilised hour...

... Oh, and I nearly forgot; we had our first egg of the year today. One of the Minorcas has finally got with the programme.
* This Desk Side Support visit was accompanied by a constant stream of expletives and invective questioning Noggin's parentage and proposing an entirely suitable number of options for bringing his life to  an early and painful end.

Friday, 13 January 2012


The fragmentary and contradictory information coming from my US colleagues about the start, and more worryingly the end, date of my next project is becoming very frustrating.

Today I saw one e-mail saying we would have a clear steer on what we were to do towards the end of next week. Another said that it might be the back end of the month before the Client decides on the scope of our work. That second mail then went on to say that we would start work anyway without a clear idea of what we were doing*...

... I see a "fun" few weeks ahead of me and the deferred start date could mean that the work reaches its conclusion, or at least reaches a critical point  in the week that 30% and I have booked away in a cottage on the Gower Peninsula. To complicate matters further the colleague who is riding shotgun with me also has that week booked off. I see an interesting chat with the Idiot Manager ahead to wander around the edges of this resourcing issue without ever reaching a satisfactory conciliation or actually any conclusion at all.

Away from/during work the video library project continues and I now have more than 70 titles ripped to the 1TB drive. As I glance across at the shelves behind me there still seems to be an awful lot of titles still to be done. The plans for the weekend include a trip out to pick up a couple of HDMI cables and an HDMI switch unit and it will be time to explore the debris that has accumulated under the unit that houses the various satellite receivers and audio/video paraphernalia...

... I am expecting dust, at least one discarded dog chew and the odd tennis ball**. I am hoping that this is technology that requires only one expedition in to these dark and dusty realms.
* Nothing new there then.
** Before you adopt the look of intense distaste, are you sure that it is spotless and pristine behind your telly? If so, can you let me have your cleaner's 'phone number.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

School Report

On the work front I need to do little more than reference Tuesday's Journal Entry. Today was very much more of the same.

On the home front TP had the first of his GCSE Science examinations today and came home reporting that all went well. He had also been given the results from his first Maths paper where he got an A and his recent English mock exam where an A* was awarded. We are all delighted, although 30% was somewhat miffed as this display of swottery means that he was excused the regular dressing down for his equally regular failure to empty the dishwasher and recycling bin.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

40 miles for 5 minutes

Wednesday saw yet another trip in to the nearest Circle of Hell. On this occasion I had been summoned by my second line manager for an update on the latest project. To be honest she is a pretty good Boss and was incredibly supportive on my last project, so it was no big deal to drive in to work and spend a few minutes giving her a heads up on where we were and what was likely to be in store. She made the trip doubly worth it when she said she would look in to a minor resourcing issue that had presented itself in the last 24 hours.

To be honest, today was pretty much a repeat of Monday with plenty of frolleagues in attendance and the consequential piss-taking that results...

... Amazing fact of the day is that Granddad Jack's wife has so much confidence in his ability to master the piano that she felt it necessary to give him only three lessons as his Christmas present, the unspoken assumption being that this is all that is necessary for him to achieve a professional level of competency. We all therefore expect him to be capable of a recital at some point around the beginning of February*.

Quote of the day came up in a chat with Jack about the appraisal system and whether one's rating should be viewed with optimism or pessimism, I decided that I am currently erring between "glass half full" and "drained poison chalice"!

I am still in a "holding pattern" and took the opportunity, presented by the ongoing delay in my project, to nip home shortly after lunch and walk T&M in the late afternoon rather than the dark.

I continue to digitise the family DVD library and am hoping that the ease of access presented by an Apple TV will actually encourage us to watch a few films rather than the tripe that the TV Schedulers seem to be offering at present. I am aware that easy access means that we will no longer need to stand bent at the waist with one's head tilted to an extreme angle to read the titles but am concerned that having me, 30% and TP offering suggestions for an evening's viewing will result in conflict rather than consensus...

... it is an old adage that a man can walk in to a DVD rental outlet** make a decision on a film and walk out in about 5 minutes. His wife can walk in and do the same, but if they both go in together and attempt to find a film that suits them both it takes and hour and they walk out with a film that neither of them want to see. They spend the rest of the evening blaming their partner for the shitty film and only an experienced marriage guidance councillor can actually save the relationship.

I'm starting to have second thoughts.
* I have never attempted to play the piano but understand that Mozart had it pretty much mastered by the age of 6 so I see no reason why Jack, who has at least 54 years on Wolfgang Amadeus, can't achieve Concert Pianist standard in the next few weeks.
** I originally typed "video shop" and then realised a) this was seriously outdated and b) none under the age of 20 would have clue what I meant. The sad thing is that I can remember the first Video shop opening in our local town when I was 17 or 18 years old.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Ripping Day

I think I may have mentioned that I am currently sat in a "holding pattern" waiting for my next project to kick-off. There is only so much "getting your ducks in a row" that a man can take before the Cliche Police burst in through the door and I "accidentally fall down the station steps get a damned good kicking".

I therefore spent a good chunk of today perambulating between my work laptop, where I checked for "significant e-mails", and the iMac. I am in the process of ripping a large number of DVDs to an MP4 format as another of my Christmas presents was an Apple TV and this is of little value without a media library to support it. The Mac was therefore doing an admirable job of turning the family DVD library in to a neat little directory of files on the external 1TB Drive.

Golfy had suggested a couple of applications to download to deliver a polished product and these are now ripping and embedding meta data like there is no tomorrow.

Monday, 9 January 2012

40 miles for 20 minutes

Today I had planned  a trip in to the nearest Circle of Hell for my appraisal meeting. Normally I would be on  the way in at around eight in the morning but I was not exactly busy and didn't want to spend all day in a sterile Office kicking my heels. My plan was to spend the morning at home and then wander in at some point in the afternoon. This seemed like a great idea apart from the fact that I was sharing the "home office" with 30% and T&M.

30% seemed to be spending a lot of time explaining processes   v-e-r-y   s-l-o-w-l-y  and in very precise English to colleagues in India and T&M had decided that today was a great day to practise their barking ...

... at a little after nine o'clock I discovered that Golfy was also in the Office and this was the clincher. I had a quick shave and bundled my laptop in to it's bag. I was soon on the road and heading in to work rather than endure the mayhem at home.

Dante's nearest Circle of Hell was actually quite good fun as I bumped in to many colleagues during the day and seemed to spend much of my time chatting and  "pressing the flesh".

The working day ended with a wander over to a nearby, and newly opened, hotel to try out it's bar before trundling back home ...

... oh, and the Appraisal Meeting ... Can't Complain.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Weekend Round Up

Saturday started at a very leisurely pace for 30% and me but not so for TP, whose failure to set an alarm only left him 40 minutes to get his arse out of bed and be at the bus stop to meet up with his friends for an outing to Worcester.

We drank coffee and watched as he scurried round. It is nice to know that he does actually have a sense of urgency but it is unfortunate that this rarely aligns itself with our scheduling! Having bade farewell to TP we had a leisurely breakfast and headed in to town for a traipse around the supermarket. I wouldn't normally document such a mundane activity* but on this trip to Sainsbury's I wandered down the "Reduced" aisle and a new keyboard and a 1TB External Disk Drive found their way in to the trolley. The former is for my work machine as I am not a fan of laptop keyboards, the latter was to be connected to the iMac and will provide the infrastructure for a video media library.

The afternoon involved the usual round of dog walking and domestic duties and I'll make no further mention as this tale of domestic tedium is reaching levels where those of a sensitive disposition may be at risk.

Sunday continued in a similar vein; a trip to the Rugby club for TP to train, an enjoyable but muddy walk around the woods and fields by the club and an afternoon spent working out how to convert an extensive library of DVDs to MP4 files on the aforementioned new external drive.

The narrative may suggest something to the contrary but it was a great weekend.
* actually, reading through some Journal entries, I believe I have noted far more boring things than this

Friday, 6 January 2012

Calm before the Storm

It is Friday and the end of the first week of the year. To be fair it has been far less frenetic than it could have been due to a delay in the start of my latest project but a call on Friday morning indicated that this was truly the calm before the storm.  As Fred Astaire put it so perfectly "There may be trouble ahead"!

As for Friday, I finished my input in to the spreadsheet from Hell and then send it on to the next unlucky recipient*.

I was pretty much finished by lunchtime and the afternoon involved nothing more arduous than a walk with T&M...

... oh, and a stroll out to the garage and log pile for kindling and err logs.

* Think pass the parcel with horrific forfeits and absolutely no chance of winning the prize

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Work 'n Play

I have spent all of my working day cutting, pasting, re-calculating and re-formatting data ...

... Kill me now!

By five o'clock I had lost the will to live so I shut down the laptop, lit the fire and warmed my bones for an hour. By the time 30% arrived home I had recovered a modicum of enthusiasm and set to slicing the bacon that I finished curing earlier in the week. This meant that I also had an excuse to play with the vacuum packer that was a Christmas gift from 30%'s Mum and Dad.

I just need a label printer now
This was the trial of the new cure recipe that contains star anise and needless to say a rasher got thrown in the pan for the necessary taste test. I can report that it works very well. The bacon has a sweet and spicy note to it's flavour and one of the four packs is most definitely not going to make it to the freezer.

The loin produced just under 3 lbs of bacon (about 36 rashers). I haven't the foggiest what it cost but would guess that it was in the region of £8 - £9. This give me cost of £3 per lb for the bacon which seems to compare very well with current supermarket prices.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What is the definition of futility?

After a very easy Tuesday I started on what was to become a very tedious Wednesday. Initially I thought that I was going to have another quiet day but things changed after a call with a couple of pen pushers ...

... I now have to spend the remainder of my week extracting data from a series of spreadsheets, reformat it and and then paste it in to another spreadsheet. A colleague and I were repeatedly advised that this was a mandated process and there was a considerable amount of name dropping* when the discussion reached the subject of completion dates blah, blah, blah, blah.

It will not take a rocket scientist/brain surgeon/chimp scratching it's arse to realise that this electronic equivalent of form filling is not my favourite job as it's purpose is not clearly defined and it's value is easily questioned...

... let me give you an analogy in an attempt to explain the non relevance of this stupid bloody task...

... Imagine an Explorer stood on the coast of a newly discovered land. He arrived there by the usual route; heard a fascinating story from a drunk in a pub, researched the roots of this tale, combined this with a desire to see native ladies, who are renowned for having bare bosoms,  and decided to seek funding for a voyage of exploration.

So now we find him stood on a white sand beach with a huge pile of boxes wondering a) where the matches are and, more importantly, b) where the native ladies are...

... we now leap many months forward in time. Our Explorer Chap has recruited porters, seen more bare breasts than you can shake a stick at, and has trudged hundreds of miles through almost impenetrable jungle. He has shot anything that came in to sight, has endured scorching heat and frightful diseases and, on more than one occasion, wondered whether it was actually necessary to bring a pianoforte on this journey.

All of this was in the spirit of exploration and our breast obsessed Explorer eventually returns home with a huge collection of exotic biological and ethnographic samples. He has sufficient tales to  dine out on for the rest of his days** and last but not least A MAP.

Now imagine him returning to his Patron to be confronted by a couple of lackeys that have no interest in any of these discoveries and instead ask him to re-write and re-format his original exploration grant application.

Is it me?

I suppose I should point out that this analogy is not perfect but it is close enough. The truth of the matter is that I have been asked to present a set of costs as they were on the date of a particular review. This presentation takes no account of a series of major subsequent events that mean that this is no longer relevant...

... However, it is easier to tell my Dick of a Manager that I have been doing this rather than "playing with my iMac"
* The same names that depend on me doing my proper day job to a) justify their existence and, more importantly b) be successful at it so they actually get a salary
** although some of them will need to be cleaned up for mixed company

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A close inspection of the grindstone

It was a major relief to find that the first day back at work after the Christmas/New Year break was incredibly quiet. I am about to start a new project and had been forewarned that I might have to hit the ground running today.  It was therefore a complete delight to find my in-box filled with promotional e-mails from Amazon, eBay and many other Internet based retailers but nothing significant from my colleagues in The States...

... I therefore spent a few minutes filling my trash folder with the aforementioned "promotionals" and wondered what the hell I could do to fill the remainder of my day.

To kill some time I removed the flitch of back bacon from the fridge, washed off the dry cure and soaked it for an hour before wrapping it and hanging it in the kitchen. I had started this cure a couple of days after Christmas and am intrigued to see whether the star anise makes a difference to the flavour of the bacon. I suspect it will be sliced and taste tested before the week is out.

Back in front of the laptop I discovered that the only conference call of the day had been cancelled and hence my working day was to comprise nothing more than shuffling a few e-mails.

Away from work I took T&M for a VERY BLUSTERY walk. Over the past few days I have been using a whistle to attract their attention before giving them a command. The reason for this new approach is because they seem to be somewhat desensitised to verbal commands. This is probably down to the fact that we all prattle on to them like they are members of the family and hence they now ignore everything we say*. The whistle has caused a complete transformation. I have been using it in conjunction with edible rewards and the dogs now come charging back to me after a single blast. It is still early days and I have yet to use it to recall them from playing with another dog but it seems to have potential...

... watch this space.

I also managed to move my i-Tunes library from my work laptop to the iMac. After a bit of faffing the two devices talk to each other as nature intended and my laptop now has far less baggage cluttering up it's drives. I should probably point out that the "faffing" is down to my lack of familiarity with iTunes and Mac OS X rather than the machine.
* just like teenagers really

Who changed the rules?

Apparently it is no longer the "done thing" to have a G&T at eleven and a glass of wine with lunch.

It was "de rigeur" yesterday but today it is a key indicator of impending alcoholism!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Festivities draw to a close

New Years Day started a little before 9 o'clock with 30% presenting me with a cup of coffee in bed. This is a most unusual occurrence as she is not, by nature, an early riser*. After that splendid start to the day it was time to get a wriggle on as we had guests for lunch. I thoughtfully left 30% to the kitchen type stuff and got T&M out on their leads for a traipse around the Three Miler.

Now this might seem a little selfish but there was concurrence on this approach. By walking T&M early they would be a) tired and therefore far less boisterous on the arrival of our guests and b) it meant that neither of us would need to stir after munching our way through a splendid Sunday/New Years Day roast lunch to walk the little sods.

Lunch was lovely. We were joined by Trish and Andy who are the parents of one of TP's school friends; Nathan. It was Trish and Nathan who we accompanied to Twickenham back in November to see Australia destroy the Barbarians.  Andy is more often to be seen project managing air-conditioning installations in Dubai but was home for Christmas and it was great to see him after nearly two years.

Nathan had joined us here at The Pile for New Years Eve which meant that TP had company and 30% and I could slump on the sofa and do little more than occasionally provide the boys with food and soft drinks.

Having read this entry I agree that it is a complete and utter temporal mess but I cannot be arsed to re-write it. Basically Nathan came for a sleep over yesterday and Trish and Andy joined us today for lunch. If it's not clear now it never will be.

If I mention the stuff about Trish borrowing the car for an airport run because hers is too small it just gets even more complicated so I'm not even going to mention that ...

Oh Shit I did, Hmmm, I'll just gloss over that and hope nobody notices that...

... needless to say we had a lovely start to the new year with proper friends. We ate good food and the company could not be bettered. I only hope the year continues in the same vein.
* as understatements go this is one of monumental proportions; think along the lines of thousands of slaves dragging huge stone blocks up ramps in a desert to get some idea of the scale of this understatement**
**then multiply by 6.34