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Friday, 31 December 2010

Mid-term report

So we find ourselves at New Year's Eve, and I do wonder where the time went.  But then I remember that we had the outlaws over for Christmas, illness in the ranks, a visit to the theatre to see a pantomine (Aladdin, more of a song-and-dance show than an oh-no-you-didn't, with Lilly Savage, who held the show together), and to the cinema to see a film (latest Narnia pic, in 3D, and it was least good of the three, and I am starting to see Mark Kermode's point on 3D, coz it was just a film where now and then the 3D sort of looked good, but the price to pay was at other times it looked a bit odd.  And don't get me started on the Michael Cain glasses).  We also fitted in a visit up North to see Brad and Angelina, along with our other friends whose pseudonym I always forget, so let's call them David and Samantha.  Lovely evening, and I even stayed awake until nearly midnight.

New Year I have just been told that we are in fact going out tonight after all, to David and Samantha's, which is nice.  To be honest, this period is for me a couple of set pieces that do not quite live up to expectations, with a lot of lovely relaxed time in between, so I am setting my sights low, not because of any expectations of inadequacy, but more so that it is better than I expected, which is always the best way to be.

We are very much looking forward to 2011, which already has some good things to which we can look forward.  By Easter we should have our extension completed, for which we can barely wait.  We are visiting Taff and being visited by Bass-boy and Teacher, and after Easter we are off to Center Parcs with Brad and Angelina, where me and Maggot 1 hope to try out our little fishing kits, Christmas presents from GG.  We are also going to Glastonbury with Brad and Angelina in June.  Much discussion about what we are wearing, and how we will cope with what will be, frankly, hardships around basic living to which we don't generally expose ourselves.  I am very much looking forward to it, and can only hope that the weather does us a favour, and it only rains up North somewhere (I hear Manchester likes a lot of rain).

As for New Year's Resolutions, this year I have vowed not to have any, but rather remind myself of the Big Rules of Life, one's which I should live at any time of the year.  More on these another time.

Have a good New Year's Eve, and see you next year.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Charity begins with giving

Seeing the recent comment from Gorse Fox regarding charitable giving, I felt compelled to write a blog on the subject, because I think he makes a good point.
It is interesting how the US and UK differ in their approach to charity.  I know there are UK folks who do a lot and/or give a lot*, but the US really do seem to have a consistent approach to the "attitude of gratitude" whereby they make their money, then they structure their charitable giving accordingly.  There are the headline givers like Gates and those he has inspired, but it does seem that the famous and wealthy, or just the wealthy, do have a healthy sense of charity.  

Talking of Gates, I remember seeing an interesting documentary on Mr and Mrs Gates, and they talked about their charitable foundation, and that they planned to fund it with an initial thirty five billion dollars.  Now that is a bit more than a pocket full of loose change.

I had reason to ponder charity and the sacrifices some people people make to help others recently when I had a Friends Reunited note from a guy I used to go to school with in the eighties.  Let's call him Stan.  The main thing I remember about Stan is that he once did two thousand sit ups for a sponsored event.  Needless to say he was fit and strong, but that didn't stop him walking round bent double for half a week afterwards.  Anyway, I got a little note from Stan to say that he is now a Catholic priest working with the poor in the Philippines.  Yikes.  That reminds me of one of my favourite slights that Fraser used.  "In a University in Switzerland, there is a microscope so powerful that it can see the gap between two molecules, yet even that is not strong enough to see the interest I have in your story."  I imagine this would also not be enough to see my charitable work when compared against Stan's. 

So this got me to thinking about charity, and what I do and don't do, and the answer is not much.  I used to have a monthly direct debit for a charity, but I cancelled that during the "hard times", and I have to say that I was never entirely sure that that really hit the mark in terms of charitable giving.  I know it does give the money to the charity of my choice, but it is very sterile and it does feel a bit like "I gave £20 to Live Aid so I have done my bit for world hunger" or some such thing.

So then I got to thinking about selfishness, and concluded I was at least partly selfish.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, especially when it is so busy we don't know whether we are coming or going, and you dig your little trench so fervently that you cannot see over the top to get a sense of the world around you.  Would I be prepared to give up a lot of what I have, and go and work with the poor in the Philippines?  Unfortunately the answer is "no".

* I did read an article leading up th Christmas about some UK folks who were giving up to 30% of their salaries, which again is a very fine thing to do and I admire their dedication to doing what they see as the right thing.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Two more sleeps

This is the counting system of choice in the Scobi household.  It works well for most people under the age of ten, or over thirty five, but not for those who enjoy an afternoon nap, for whom the counting system seems to double the speed of time passing, a bit like dog years*. 

Another counting system of which I have become recently aware of is the PM.  This is the counting system used by City Bankers (sorry for the obscenity Mrs Trellis) to size their bonus.  The unit is the annual salary of the PM, around £150k, so a bonus of 5 PMs would equate to seven hundred and fifty thousand of our finest, tax-payer pound notes.  

This was learnt during an episode** of Panarama, which looked at City bonuses, whether banks had learnt anything from the crash and whether the regulations the present and previous governments have attempted to put in place to teach them a lesson, or rein them in, or something like that, actually made any difference.  The conclusion of the show** was that pretty much nothing had changed.  Some of the more sensitive souls didn't actually slap the reporter about the chops with a bundle of Ayrton Sennas***, but mostly the talk was of the taxes they pay, the money they make for the country and the great rate of return for the tax billions invested in their businesses.  With such selfless souls running our banking system we should all feel a little more comfortable in our beds tonight.  To be honest, the worst aspect of this was the acceptance that all things are cyclical, including stupidity and greed.  This recession is so deep that it will take a generation to get out of it, and those in the know know that the unit of recessionary cycle is the generation, in that it takes the next generation of chinless wonders to reach the upper echelons before we can be guaranteed that the same mistakes are made again.

Sorry for pinning my colours so firmly to the mast.  It could put a chap off his sherry.  Normal service will resume tomorrow****.

* Before Mrs Trellis writes in again, I do realise that dog years are seven times human years, not double, so in fact sleeps are nothing like dog years.
** Is that the right term?
*** tenners, as if you didn't know you closet cockney
**** i.e. vacuous, empty, void-ridden vacuums with not a trace of any interest or content. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Three more days to go

We find ourselves arriving at Wednesday, which gives me three more working days before breaking for Christmas.  The rest of the family are spending their days doing nothing, due to a combination of illness, bad weather and UTTER BONE IDLENESS.  I on the other had am slavishly applying myself to work matters to enable me to provide for myself, my family and my new shed.  To say that I would rather be doing most anything else is to inquire as to the ablution habits of bears etc etc but needs must, and maybe there is no point running up the rhododendron tree until the rats have fled, so onwards I march.

What I am trying to do, in case you were not sure, is to use up my 750 words and yet say absolutely nothing.  My mailbag is testament to that.  As Mrs Trellis of North Wales said just last week:

Dear Mr Humphries,

I was appalled on tuning in this morning to hear a torrent of blatant filth, with terms such as 'Big Bang', 'Large Firm Success', 'Satisfying Performance', and worst of all, 'Job Blows'. It was the most disgusting edition of the Today Programme's Business Report ever!

Yours faithfully,

Mrs. Trellis
Maybe if we both just agree it was about 750 words, we can call it quits now and get on with something more interesting

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Back to basics

Had I given it just a shred more thought, I could have come up with a better title, but hey ho, it does set the scene I guess.

I am off to the Chiropractor today, for my first back session through Starfleet's medical insurance cover to get some bones cracking in my back and neck.  I have friends who work in the NHS, with pride, so I tend to mention that in very hushed tones.  Me, I guess the softening of older years has moved me a bit to the right on the political spectrum, not in all things, but for the idea that being detached from the government is a good thing.  I like the idea that I depend on the government for very little these days.  Or course I need the NHS infrastructure, however I can declare a modicum of independence from that, and child benefit will soon be gone and I expect nothing on the pension front from the big team.  This I find I like.  Government is very fickle, and the idea that our contact points are few is to my liking.  Of course they have to deal with the little big stuff - they empty my bins, and they also sweep the streets and all that stuff.  The also deal with the big big stuff, such as banking, world peace and financial prudence and all that other stuff, although to be honest a chap would be forgiven for starting to lose a bit of faith in their abilities on that front.  Will the bluey-yellow team do better than the red team?  Only time will tell.  I do get the distinct impression that some of the red legacy is not to my liking.  There.  I nearly expressed a political opinion.  Enough before I go all gooey and say I love you or something.

On other fronts, the shed continues to dominate the garden.  It is a truly magnificent structure, and merely saying that out loud says a lot about me, and not so much about the shed.  Nuff said.

I am also looking to present a clean work-stack to the Christmas season, although a number of leader activities have taken me away from my day job, and that means there are a number of loose threads on which I really need to concentrate lest they get away from me.  Hopefully, like Bad Man, I will get a chance to wind down just a bit leading up to Friday.  I have to say this working up to the end of Christmas Eve is definitely not to my liking, and it does mean that Christmas Day is on top of me before I know it, but again, hey ho, that is life, I will just have to go double rations on the mince pies to get me in the mood.

I do have a chance to get into a bit of the spirit of things on Thursday evening as we have been invited to the yearly drinks evening at friends.  These friends have just had an extension completed so I am excited to see the work, and to discuss the finer details of three months of dust.  We will also get to meet a bunch of our other extended friend network over a few drinks, nibbles and chat.  That should start me off nicely.

Until we speak again.

Monday, 20 December 2010

What a wopper!

The shed has arrived, and it is quite big.

The home stretch

Ever since my days working at a construction company, which closed for two weeks of Christmas, the thought of working between Christmas and New Year has been an anathema for me, so I find myself in the final week before some well-deserved time off. 

To be honest, the construction company spoilt me, as the truth is that my three to four days of holiday usually get me much less than two weeks.  This year I get nine days off, which is really just a week off with a weekend each end, but let's not split the cracker before the turkey is basted.

This final week will be pretty busy, since it makes sense for everyone if I can close down as many actions as possible before the break, since a week off and as many mince pies as I can eat will rot even the most sturdy of brains down to something resembling mince pie filling.  The trick is of course to write down last thing Friday everything I will need to do for the first couple of days back at work.  If only I didn't also lose the power to read, they would come in very useful.

Other news in the Scobi household is that the weather is getting right on my wotsits.  I am meant to be having a new shed erected Tuesday, something I will chase today to see the likelihood of it actually happening.  I would also desperately like to be giving my new door frame an undercoat, and making good the render on the outside, but both activities really need to be done in temperatures ten degrees centigrade or higher, and the prospect of the thermometer reaching that heady number are about as likely as the trains running on time.

Finally, spare a thought for my relics.  They flew from Spain (twenty degrees, rained twice last month) to the UK (minus wotever, snowing constantly) last Tuesday, having had to re-arrange their flight from two weeks earlier, which was cancelled due to snow.  They were due to return on Saturday, so on Friday night they stayed at a Gatwick hotel ready for their 0620 flight Saturday morning.  They were on the Easyjet plane, but due to the cold, the rear doors could not be fully closed, and by the time the engineers had finished their full English and attended to said door, the snow was thickly falling and they were returned to the terminal.  They bought a flight from Monarch, and got to 1800 hours before being told the flight was going nowhere, to arrive back home at 2330 hours.  The next Easyjet flight is not until Christmas Eve, so they have gone Monarch whose prices have mysteriously doubled in the intervening day, for this coming Tuesday.  Let's hope the snow stays away and the airport schedule returns to something like normal so their low-priority flight can get off the ground.  Needless to say they may well not come back to the UK half way through their six months next year.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

It's snowing

As I sit here, with both maggots ill since the previous day, and the prospect of a very long day, I stare out on to a very white vista.  The snow is about 3 inches thick and falling fast, so I think we can expect to be stuck in all day.  I fear a severe bout of cabin fever.  We are invited to a party tonight, and the maggots were meant to be having a sleep-over at the outlaws, but with illness and snow thwarting our plans, the cabin fever may well extend long in to the evening.

Friday, 17 December 2010

And now, the time is near...

It is Friday afternoon, and I am "attending" a weekly review call that requires about 15% attention, thus leaving me with 85% to put to blog writing. 

My business life is full of TLAs (three letter abbreviations), and just a random selection from my current call:

  • SLA
  • GDF
  • MTD
  • RAG
There were others but, to be honest, I dozed off, so the only SLAs were ZZZ. 

Did you hear the one about....?

Gnome: Doctor, Doctor! I keep seeing pink and green spots in front of my eyes!
Doctor: Good gracious! Have you seen an optician?
Gnome: No... just pink and green spots!
Doctor: I mean, have you ever had your eyes checked?
Gnome: No. They've always been blue!

To be honest, it could have been worse.  Google returned 24.8 million hits for "Christmas Jokes" and, as a social experiment, I decided to go to the last page, and find the last joke on that page.  And here it is.
Not long ago and far away, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip...but there were problems everywhere.
Four of his elves were sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mom was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More Stress. Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys. So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he found the elves had hidden the liquor and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he dropped the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the he kitchen floor.

He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from.

Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said: "Where would you like to put this tree Santa?"

And that my friends, is how the little angel came to be on top of the Christmas tree.

What do you think?  Is that 24.8 million times worse than the first?  Answers via the comments, usual rules apply.   

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

It's all downhill from here

Since we are entering the season of televisual repeats, I fet it appropriate and easier to reuse a previous title for this blog.  But it does perfectly describe how Wednesday fits in to the working week; either the peak or the trough, depending on whether your glass is half full, half empty or you ordered it with a burger.  This does of course assume you are a five-day-a-week kind of chap (or chapess).  You may of course be a shift-worker, run a different on/off work routine (you know, the seven days on, three days off type of thing), or simply enjoy working at the weekends.  If you are any of these types of chaps (or chapesses), then please invent your own analogy for what Wednesday is in your routine.  Maybe send me a comment via the blog with your ideas.  Usual rules apply*.

Anyway, I am in the office four days this week, which means near enough four hour return trip, what with the weather and the traffic and all that.  This does wear me out slowly, but I do help make the journeys less boring with some interesting audio company.  Last week I was kept company by a number of podcasts on the old iWotsit, which included the Friday Night Comedy (Radio 4 I'm afraid), Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's film review (five stars) and also, as a one off (or five off to be precise) the short-listed stories in the BBC National Short Story Award.  I have to say I enjoyed two of them greatly.  The art is in the fact that you need to have characterisation and story in a very short format, and that does tend to separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls).  My two favourites were:
  • My Daughter the Racist by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Butcher's Perfume by Sarah Hall
I urge you to download all and make your own decisions.  Needless to say that the first and second prize went to two of the others, and on reflection, I quite liked both of those as well, but would have placed them below both of the above.

That's the problem with me and my book taste.  I like what I like and it tends to be a little bit lower brow than the stuff that really gets acclaim.  My sister is a librarian and an avid reader, and she often recommends books to me and, sadly, I rarely enjoy them as much as my own books.  And I know that on any absolute level (if such a thing exists), the books my sister recommends are "better" than those I enjoy, but then books are art, and art is subjective, so hey ho it's off to work we go.  At least that's what it says in the book I am reading right now**.

Also need to say thank you to Brad and Angelina.  We visited them at the weekend and had a lovely time.  It had meant to be a meet up with other friends also, whose aliases I have sadly forgotten, so let's call them Charles and Nigella, but C&N were both very ill, so it ended up being just the four of us, plus two maggots each.  The maggots disappeared upstairs, only to reappear for food, and to do their latest show, which, thanks to a CBBC show, was a magic show this time round.  The show followed the usual routine, with Brad and Angelina's maggot 1 compering the show, and generally acting as the glue to hold it all together, with various sets done by each of the children, except for the two youngest who, at the last minute, decide they don't want to do their slot after all.  I have to say, I really have no idea how they did it. 

I hope your week is going well.  Let's catch up before the weekend.

* No swearing, don't let the truth stand in the way of a good story, just because you can doesn't mean you should (I am talking to the Labrador in the pub on Sunday when I say this), and there are two S's in to$$er.

** Actually, I am reading a thriller right now, but, as we often say, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.  Have I said that already?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Pot holing

I do do some silly things.  For some things that end up being silly, the thinking on it started nano seconds before, and some have had hours of thinking time and months of planning, but still end up silly.

My pot-holing experience is definitely in the latter category.  Much research was done, interstitial moisture control, permeable membranes, thermal coefficients and getting my head round the building principles at the turn of the century have all had to be mastered in pursuit of my dream.  This dream involves insulating my downstairs floor.  It is stripped floor boards and, in my opinion, absolutely beautiful, however it does have one flaw.  The suspended floor includes air flow from the air bricks spaced around the building just above ground level, the purpose of which is, for those yet to Google such subjects, to ensure an airflow in the space below, which ensures that moisture does not linger on any of the wooden surfaces.  Further, the end of the beams rest on a small wall a few inches from the outside wall, and their ends also stop a few inches from the outside wall, just to ensure that it is not in contact with said wall, which may, especially in a solid wall building, present a certain level of moisture to the inside surface.  Ditto for the beam that runs parallel to the outside wall, it too is a few inches from the wall.

So, this is a well designed and simple system for maintaining structural integrity in the under floor space.  It also presents a cold draft to any crack or gap in the floor.

Any attempt to insulate must observe the basic laws on which the building was made, and this has meant some pretty specific design.  I have used lambswool insulation, which is all very eco, albeit that some people suggest that the existence of sheep is carbon negative, but I didn't go there.  The main characteristic of lambs wool is that it can absorb water and let water disperse without affecting its thermal efficiency.  Combine this with a permeable membrane and you have something that insulates and stops the drafts, but also allows moisture to move.  i.e. it won't act like a plastic bag and trap moisture, which is the devil for the wooden suspended floor.

I also need to ensure that the insulation does not bridge the gap between the outer wall and the beams.

So, that is the science.  The method of installation is where the blog title comes in.  There are a couple of ways of retro-fitting this stuff, either to lift all the boards and do it from above, or lift a couple, crawl down in to the space and do it from below.  I picked the latter option.  This meant crawling down under the floor in a space the height of the bottom of my kneecap, lying on my back to lift in insulation, then fix it in place with a sheet of permeable membrane.  Dust?  Never seen anything like it, and the whole downstairs was covered in a thin layer.

The space is basically split in to four quadrants.  There is a wall which would have supported the wall between the two rooms (long since knocked in to one), and there is also a wall that runs front to back that supports the beams half way across.  This is half way across the whole space, which includes the hallway, so appears to be off-centre for the room itself.  I did quadrant one on Friday night.  I started on quadrant two Saturday morning, but as I exposed and inspected the space, I noticed that the wall between the rooms stops at the doorway, which means that there is a hall-width space in the wall which enables me to get to quadrant three also.  This makes me happy and sad.  Happy because I can do two quadrants with one lift of boards, but sad because it really is a long way to crawl, probably five metres or so, and for a man who is very slightly claustrophobic, a bit daunting.  Nevertheless, I have finished quadrant two and three, and just need to do quadrant four, probably Friday evening.
I also need to revisit the other quadrants because I have made one mistake in my planning.  At the ends of the beam runs, I had imagined the insulation would have blocked the draft, but in fact it is still getting through, which means that the thermal efficiency is being severely impacted - moving air is not good for insulation.  So I am intending to experiment with a small square put on the end of each run, to effectively make the insulation and membrane installation an air-tight lump on the underside of the boards, but not touching the outside wall in any way.  Don't get me wrong, the room is much warming as a result of what I have done, but unfortunately the fact there is air movement will bug me for ever more, so assuming my plan works, I will need to retrofit it to the quadrants already done, since a couple of hours doing that saves years of "what if" nagging thoughts.

Other than that, I am off to the back man today, my first visit, to see if he can do anything about my various back issues.  He comes highly recommended by a friend who works at the hospital, and lots from the hospital use him, so that sounds like an endorsement to me.

Have a good weekend, and I promise not to mention insulation again.  Probably.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Resting my aching bones

I have a day off today.  I have spent the weekend "pot holing" under the floor boards of my house.  Really.  A story for another day.  Anyhow I am totally exhausted, and also suffering from a bit of a bad back as well, so all in all, a day off doing nothing but fun is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Today, I will get my haircut (rearranged from a previous Friday evening when we off 'vannin'), then lunch out with LO, and finally to watch the recording of I'm Sorry I Haven't a ClueIt is a subject of much debate as to how it fares now that the mighty Humphrey Lyttelton is making jazz in the sky, however I think that while he was irreplaceable, the show itself is bigger than any individual.  And that, my friends, is an oxymoron.  Just like the show.

In memory of the great Humph, here are a randomly selected bunch of quotes from the man:
  • Incidentally, you may be interested to know that Colin's musical influences are, in fact, Middle Eastern in origin. Yes, mainly Shiite. 
  • The pioneering feminist, Emmeline Pankhurst, was born in Manchester. Starting in 1910, Pankhurst campaigned noisily for women's rights outside Parliament every day from 4 o'clock in the afternoon. She would have got there earlier but she always had a stack of ironing to get through first.  
  • On with the show, and our teams tonight are undoubtedly the foremost available comedy talents in the country. [scoffs].  Something wrong there. Sorry, that should read, "The four most available comedy talents in the country". 
  • Incidentally, Colin's piano playing is widely believed by faith healers to hold miraculous powers. It once made a blind man deaf.  
  • Samantha nearly made it. She's been detained at the last minute in the city's Latin Quarter. An Italian gentleman friend has promised to take her out for an ice cream, and she likes nothing better than to spend the evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan. 
  • "Nietzsche said that life was a choice between suffering and boredom. He never said anything about having to put up with both at the same time."
Not bad for a trumpet player.  Gone but not totally forgotten.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

There's snow business...

If you could have seen some of the puns I rejected, you would have been a lot kinder to that title.

Anyhow, today's subject is snow.  It is occupying an awful lot of airtime and ground time, and certainly in my bit of the world, the sunny South, it is currently laying at least fifteen centimetres deep, which is six inches in old money.  The whole landscape has been bathed in a very thick duvet of snow, and it produces both a visual spectacle and an audio deadening, which makes it feel a very serene and peaceful environment.  From the warmth of my kitchen window.

As maggot 2 found out after only ten minutes of play before school, it is really very wet and very cold and not so nice when it gets down inside your wellies.  Some lessons need to be learnt the hard way, and we were half way to school before his gloves were, once again, caked in an inch of icy compacted snow.  Oh well, at least the school was warm, and open.

Talking of schools being opened, we had a bit of a thing during last year's snow.  Our school closed, along with all the other local schools, on day two or three of the snow.  One of our friends happens to work at the hospital, and happens to work with the wife of the Chief Exec of the council, and happened to mention the issue of school's closing. i.e. that that Health and Safety fears tend to panic schools in to closing, meanwhile all the working parents continue to get to their work, and therefore are suddenly presented with a childcare issue.  This was relayed back to the Chief Exec and it triggered a temporary change of policy, followed by discussions on the strategic approach.  No idea how far it went, but our school is open, so far.

So I find myself working at home unplanned for a second day.  I have to say it improves the commute, but it does rather cut one off from ones colleagues.  Sure we have all the tools to remain connected, but it is not the same as being in the same building as the team.  It is probably one of the few downsides of mobile working; while the rest of the country gives up trying to get to work, and stays at home watching Jeremy Kyle, us mobile workers are sitting at our laptops doing a day's work on the end of a wire as if nothing had happened.

I hope your day goes well, and you stay at home rather than attempting to get anywhere other than the kettle for another cup of tea.  I know how you like your tea.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Now I really think this may be the last word on sheds

At home today, snowed in and rather glad to be so.

I had to read my blog just to check that I have not already told you this.  To my surprise, I had not.  What was I thinking?

Just wanted to give you a quick update on the shed, coz I was very happy with the outcome.  £217 was the final price, bought by someone from a few miles away, and who was v. keen to come and get it on Tuesday, except I was working away on that day so had to put him off until Friday.  And then it snowed.

Hopefully it will clear by Friday, we will have a checkpoint Thursday evening, and if so, he and a friend will arrive to dismantle and take away a very good shed, and I will have some notes to go towards the base.


Only other quick mention is for I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here, which myself and LO are rather addicted to.  Sure it is full of calories and has no goodness, but hey, sometimes you have just gotta feed that addiction.  So Gillian has finally left to have a colon cleanse and a chat with her agent to see what Panto's are available, and some of the true colours of the inmates are now coming through.  There is the "funny guy who is a bit arrogant really" one, and the "butter wouldn't melt toppless totty who may have a bite after all" one, and the "big man who is a bit of a wus really" one, not forgetting the "seemed really stupid but is actually quite clever and is coming across better and better" one.  All I can say is, keep it coming.  It is TV that you can watch and read a magazine at the same time, so it is definitely not time wasted.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

What is in a word?

I have been reading a lot of other people's output just lately, and I have been rather appalled at the poor state of their writing.  I then started to ponder on the question "is sloppy writing a case of ignorance or apathy?"  I concluded that I didn't know and didn't care.

Boom boom.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A final word about sheds

I can see that my continued discussion about sheds is losing me readership, but you see it is a link in a chain of events that will get us to where we need to get.

Let me explain the chain, a story I think best told in bullets.
  • Today I will move the insulation from the garage to the 'van.
  • Then I will move the contents of the shed to the garage, maybe some of it to somewhere else.
  • As I am emptying the shed, I will reorganise all the junk I took from the side of the shed onto the concrete bit, so I don't kill the grass.  I will then clear out the maggots' play house to act as temporary storage for shed items that need to be a bit dry but are not so worried about bad weather.
  • Tomorrow I will have sold the shed*.
  • Sometime in the not too distant future, someone will arrive with a van and a screwdriver and together we will dismantle the little darling and the person will take it away.
  • I will finish the clearing round the back of the shed, so the whole area is clear.
  • I will ring the man who is laying the base, and within a couple of days he will arrive and do his work.
  • Once I have the date for the base lay, I will ring the shed place to arrange for them to come and install said shed.
  • Once the very very big shed is up, I can re-populate it with everything I took out, ensuring I adhere to the rule of thirds**.
  • The following weekend I will be bringing up a lot of the floorboards in the front room, and installing the lambs' wool and permeable membrane under-floor insulation.  The family may go out for the day.
  • On a weekend yet to be determined, but hopefully before Christmas, I will move all the furniture out of the room, some to our new very very big shed, so that I can sand and re-varnish it.  Last time I used oil-based varnish, which is not so tough but discolours in sunlight to develop a lovely patina.  Now I have the colour I like, I can use water-based varnish, which is tougher and does not discolour.
  • After Christmas, I will be moving a lot of the stuff in garage, study and utility room in to various locations, plenty of it to the new shed (did I mention how big it is?) and some to temporary locations around the house, including in the kitchen, piled up in the dining room etc.
  • We will now be spending 3 months in the house from hell.  Tempers will be short, things will be unfindable and I imagine dust will be everywhere.  We will all need the mantra.  "It will all be worth it when it is finished".
* Currently at one hundred and eight watchers, six bids and sixty-two notes top bid.
** The Rule of Thirds is utterly made up, but it is my mantra for tidying stuff, and the mantra is that in any situation of storage congestion, you can and very much should lose*** a third of it.
*** Lose equals, as Bob the Builder always says, reduce, reuse, recycle.  Lose for me equals reuse, recycle, freecycle or tip.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Something for the weekend sir?

Another successful week, I believe, albeit one that was not without its stresses and strains, but then that is the lot of the modern information worker.  Too much information, not enough meaning.  Sometimes too much talking, not enough information.  Even worse is too much posturing and not enough talking.  There, in three sentences, is Darwinian theory applied to the information worker. Am I talking too much???

This weekend I have some important tasks to do.  I put my old/current shed on eBay last Sunday, in a rash move to apply some pressure to get me to empty it, in preparation for the new shed's arrival.  

It is currently on eBay with 108 watchers, a record for anything I have ever sold.  History tells me that the majority of these may well be rubber-neckers, but I only need two or three to have a real interest - and judging by the questions and phone calls and, tonight, a visit - for the bidding to go quite nicely.  I am at sixty two notes right now, with two days to go, so by my reckoning there will be a bit of action over the weekend and thank you very much.  Doing a bit of research, there are lots of second hand sheds of similar or worse condition and construction to mine, that are in the one fifty to two hundred bracket with time on the clock, so I am actually quite hopeful that it will make a few bob, which will help to fund the laying of the base, which I am paying someone to do.  I have thus far always felt funny paying someone to do something I could do myself, but with life getting busier, I am starting to do that a bit.  In this situation I am only on the wobbly edge of my abilities to do it anyway, at least to do it properly, and by the time you have paid for sufficient materials to make a base four inches thick and ten feet by fourteen feet, I think the difference between doing and paying is not so great anyway.

I am also going to be insulating under the suspended floor of our ground floor, so have a garage full of lamb's wool insulation, so I need to move that temporarily to the 'van to give me room to migrate the shed stuff to the shed or the tip, so I can then take the shed down.  Actually, to be precise, I intend to leave the shed up until the eBay buyer has seen it, so they can help take it down and therefore understand how they will need to put it back together again, but it does need to be empty, hence my weekend challenge.

We are also having a dinner party for eight on Saturday, so I will need to reserve some energy to be my usual sparkling witty self, or more importantly to ensure I stay awake beyond nine o'clock.

I hope you have a good weekend, speak next week.

Monday, 22 November 2010

What a great weekend

As the title suggests, nay shouts from the toilet block of every campsite in the land, we had a great weekend.  The weather could not quite be described as "warm and sunny", but it did at least fulfil the minimum requirements of "not wet" and at this time of year, who could ask for more.  I know Golfy is off in Tenerife watching golden sunsets as he sips on his fifth Pina Colada since tea, however in dear old Blighty, two dry days in a row, at the weekend, is about as much as a man could wish for.

This represents the good news.

The bad news is that the girls took a commanding lead over the boys at Canasta.  If you are not yet familiar with this fine game, then I would heartily recommend you get acquainted lest you and I fall out over social niceties.  The boys ended the weekend over two thousand points down.  It has to be said that me falling asleep into my cards did not enhance our play.

I also got to try out my new porch awning.  For those who are neither familiar or interested, feel free to skip this next paragraph.  The new awning was just what it needed to be, quick and simple to erect and with sufficient space for the wellies and a porta-fridge full of cold beer.  There was the usual scratching of head that accompanies the erection of any new item, and a couple of mild swear words may well have been uttered, but by jove the little darling did get up and give us "exactly what it says on the tin" in the way of porch service.

This week is going to be long.  I have a number of "projects" that are overdue or getting that way, and so this will be a week of tightly managed tasks in an attempt to close all, or as many as can be sorted in a week, so that I have a bit of spare capacity to take on my new leadership role.  That sounded grander than it really is, but I am to "step up" to leading my little team in an attempt to provide the management with a focal point.  Now I know this sounds like a "more work, more hassle, same length days" situation, and you may be right, but in the current climate I did not really have any meaningful way to refuse, and the up-side is that it will continue to mark me out as someone prepared to take on the tricky stuff at the time of the year when we are all being appraised, market-rated and team-based assessed as part of the overall motivational process at Starfleet. 

For now, I shall bid you adieu.  Let's catch up in the middle of the week.

Friday, 19 November 2010

And..... relax

I have decided to dispense with originality on Fridays, and instead re-hash the same title as used every Friday.  It is, after all, dress down day for many people, so why not take a more relaxed approach to originality of titles too.

This Friday finds me up early, getting a bit of early morning email clearing in, and planning the packing for our weekend away 'vannin'.  Having just read Golfy's blog, I realise a possible moist weekend down the New Forest does not, for many, have the same appeal as a week away in Tenerife, but let me tell you the atmosphere in the Scobi household is fairly buzzing.  Even the potential for a bit of precipitation cannot take the edge off things.  The wellies and waterproofs are packed, the Canasta cards are packed and a few clothes are packed.  Sometime later this afternoon, ofsky we will be.

On other news, our new front door will be fitted in 2 weeks.  I now have to get a move on to find appropriate locks before that fateful day, along with planning the insulation "laying" for our front room, which is another subject.

Actually, since I have nothing else to say, I may as well tell you about the insulation plan.  So this is how it is.  We have exposed floor board downstairs, which need a coat of varnish to bring them back to their best, but we really love them.  The only downside is that this is a suspended floor, as most turn-of-the-century houses are, and this means the floor can be cold, and the air can sometimes be felt coming through any cracks I have not managed to fill.
So I have been doing an awful lot of research on tinternet, trying to find out what options, if any, there are to insulate said floor.  My conclusions are that:
  • yes, floors can and are insulated
  • the suspended floor principle is about having moving air to disperse moisture
  • whatever I do, I need to ensure that I do not interfere with this principle
  • I therefore need an insulation method that does not trap moisture, that allows water vapour to move about the place, but keeps the drafts out.
This means that my chosen method of achieving the required insulation will be to use Black Mountain Sheep's Wool insulation, with a layer of permeable membrane on the underside of the beams, to hold the insulation in and also to keep the drafts out.
Sheep's wool is more expensive than that dodgy glass fibre stuff and other insulation options, however it is hydroscopic, which means it allows moisture to move, as does the permeable membrane.  So I achieve the goal of having insulation, stopping moving air, but allowing moisture to move about the place.  Which is pretty much how the whole of my 1900 house is designed.  Trying to stop moisture with moisture-proof stuff leads to trapped moisture and real problems.  This method, for the record, is basically what English Heritage suggest for an old house, so it should be good enough for us.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Another day working at home

It is something unheard of in current times.  I am working from home for a second day in the week.  This means my routine is: to fend off Maggot 2 from 5am (when he likes to wake up) until 6am (when I like to wake up), at which time we both descend to watch Bob the Builder, Watch with Jess and Postman Pat, to eat crumpets and drink apple juice, for Maggot 2, and to have a large cup of tea, for Scobi Wan Kenobi.  I then usually boot up the old laptop like some addict to get my fix of email and other early morning items, then I often write a blog if nothing much has come up, which is where you find me now.

You will be pleased to know that the vehicle with sleep problems did not end up ruining Bob's building project to install flood lights, that Jess did find her wotsitsname, and Pat has put his little corner of the world to rights once again.  I also have an email from one of my customers from overnight raising something that is likely to become a big issue with a project that, for me anyway, is still in the requirements gathering phase.  I fear today will involve me getting dragged in to delivery problems, and that can bring me out in a nasty rash.  At least I know what I will be doing today.

I hope your day proceeds with decorum and structure.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Christmas lights anyone?

Pretty cool stuff

Oh no, not more sheds

Just wanted to give you a quick update on my search for the perfect shed.  On the way out to somewhere more interesting, I managed to divert the finance manager and assistant accountants to the shed showroom, to show them the room in the garden on which I am setting my sights.

Needless to say that I got the whole board to approve the purchase, with 19mm lapboard and half workbench options.  We even measured out the space it would use in the garden, which, due to the fact that I put the original shed too far from the side and back fence and intend to have the new shed nearer to both, hardly takes any more room than the original.

So today I will be placing an order.  Part 1 of project build is properly under way.  

Once we have the shed, you see, we then have space to move stuff around, and during building a place to store all the stuff currently in the garage, study and utility room that we will need to clear out to make way for the big hairy builders and their four pound hammers.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Shed loads of shed research

You may or may not know that we are in the process of building an extension.  To be precise, we now have planning permission and are in to the detailed design phase.  As part of our master plan, we are moving my study in to what is currently a half garage, used as storage for all sorts of stuff, some of it junk, some of it useful stuff like top-boxes, sleeping bags, tools and other occasionally used items.  We therefore plan to install a larger shed in our garden to take all this stuff and give the space over to my new study, the logic being that a new shed is cheaper than our original plan to extend out front a bit to enable us to retain the half-garage along with our re-modelled utility room, downstairs shower room and study.

So the power of Google has opened me up to yet another strata of civilisation that I had thus far not really appreciated existed.  What I mean is, when I typed in "large sheds" in to Google, there were 28.5 million hits.  And that was just for the immediate area around my home town*.

I have now had a crash course in the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the cladding thickness, the roof felt material, the concrete base, the strengthened glass, the roof struts, the additional shelving and various, etc. etc. etc.  I could go on**, but I think you get the idea. 

Anyway, it is mighty confusing.  Confusing, that is, until I went in to a local showroom.  I had actually forgotten this particular establishment existed.  I was on the way to Halfords to pick up Maggot 1's Christmas present***, waiting in the queue at the traffic lights, when I glanced to the left, saw a shed showroom, and immediately turned right to visit said establishment.  And what a joy it was.  I was absolutely, completely and utterly and delightfully sold to.  Sometimes a salesman can be off-kilter, and therefore become quickly annoying, but this guy was fantastic.  He was the owner, was very knowledgeable, and for me, very good at selling his product.  He had exactly what I was looking for, his prices are comparable to the internet, and the price includes fitting, plus he hit all my "hot buttons" in terms of build quality (quality being my number one requirement) and features, and I am pretty sure, once I have received purchasing permission from the finance director, that I will shortly be placing an order.  I want to order soon, however I did smile when I was told of the worldwide timber shortage**** that is driving up prices, so he would be putting his up from 1 December.  I think he may nearly have himself a deal.

* Hopefully no need to say this is a little fib, adhering to the strategy of not letting reality get in the way of a good story.
** ... and usually do. Ed.
*** Say no more.
**** Apparently those pesky Chinese are consuming all the pine Scandinavia can produce, and are prepared to pay for it.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Silence, Part 2

I have now concluded my experiment on silence, by not blogging for several days, and I think you will agree it was an astounding success.  We obviously weren't able to influence the G20 with our meditative silence, and nor were we able to pull out the winner for Pompey on Tuesday night, but our well-being has been much improved by the silence. 

I have drawn this conclusion from Golfy, who emailed me to say that "not having to read your blog has improved my week".

So I find myself, with the sort of cyclic monotony that could drive a chap insane, at another Friday, or And Relax day as we now know it.  It is the end of week three on my new jaunt, and while the 3 hour round trip commute is bum-numbing, the actual challenge and environment is very much to my liking.  I believe I am experiencing the "a change is as good as a rest" phenomenon, and long may it continue.  It is also nice to have a whole bunch of new recruits, many eager to learn the ways of the Starfleet, who are hungry for information and advice, since by giving said advice it is making me see the good bits of Starfleet again.  Which is nice.

Other than that, Maggot 1 has a cub sleep over followed by Remembrance Sunday parade and we are off to a jazz evening followed by meal for two, but other than that we have nothing on and so I am very much looking forward to just being at home.

Monday, 8 November 2010


So, I thought I would garner your opinion on silence.  

There is not much of it about these days, but there has been quite a lot of it being discussed on TV.  What may or may not have been the catalyst for this is John Cage's Four Minutes Thirty Three Seconds, which is definitely generating some discussion, which if you actually think about the concept makes it self-defeating.  

I have often pondered the sound of one hand clapping, so I am well versed in the ways of silence, and I guess it is quite amusing to consider the confusion in hairdressers up and down the country as they tune in half way through the "song".  I am only saying that the last thing I need when tuning in a radio is silence.

I myself have dabbled in reducing a form down to its minimum impact, in fact you can find my novel in most stationery stores in the country, in the A4 pad section.

I have reproduced the first chapter of this novel below.  Why not take 4' 33" to enjoy it.
































Friday, 5 November 2010

I'm with you there, Brother Golfy

Having just read Golfy's blog of woe regarding his contact lenses, of which Major Major would be proud, I felt compelled to share my story.

My story revolves around a door, a front door to be precise.  We are planning, as part of our extension and remodelling project, to replace our double-glazed door with an "original" Victorian four-panel door with stained glass panels, as befitting a house made in 1900.  

Now I can tell you with some vigour that the planning of this door has been both long and complicated.  Should we go reclaimed or new?  LO's uncle is a carpenter and his advice was "go for new".  Well we put that one to bed pretty quickly, as all the new doors we found just looked new, so we were scouring the internet for local reclaim yards, visiting said yards and inspecting their stock.  

It is at this point that we experienced once again the fight or our naivety versus the world.  We imagined we were probably the only people in the country looking for a four-panel Victorian doors.  Perhaps getting over 100,000 hits from Google might have alerted us to the reality, however it did take a visit to several reclaim yards to realise that there might just be one or two others out there looking for the same, because there was not much "stock on the market".

We then found a place 40 minutes away that did have doors by the dozen, however he was a purveyor of quality period door, and had a price to match.  Premium product for premium notes.  As Arthur Daley often said "How much?".

Then we found a localish place that made new doors, but with stained glass done the "old fashioned way" with proper leading, and with glass made full or wrinkles and bubbles as old glass was, and it just looks the business, on the internet anyway.  So one lunchtime I take a trip down, and am blown away by them, they are just what we want; we can get new wood, well made, no filler, but with glass that looks of its time, and let's be honest, once you have painted a door, it is just a bit of painted wood, so we think it is the best of all worlds.  They also provide the surround, with window above, in one package.  We can have our house number made out in the top window in leaded glass also, so we are absolutely "made up".  A quick call to LO and a discussion about which glass pattern we want with the assistance of phone and the internet each end (...second one down on first page, number 121, yes, that's the one...) and an order is placed.  

He then asks if we have lined up a carpenter, and I say no.  He says he "has a man" that does his fitting, and can come and measure the hole, ensure the door is basically trimmed to fit in the workshop, and he can then turn up to remove the old and fit the new in one seamless activity.  That is definitely a result for us, since the coordination of door man and fitter man was a concern, but we are now being offered a one stop shop that will guarantee it all gets done, and done right.

At long last, I am getting to the point of the story.  The carpenter.  We arrange a visit Tuesday evening, and are promised a call early in the day to fine tune the arrival time.  No call, no visit.  This is repeated, and I am feeling rather embarrassed to say this out loud, no fewer than five time before he does finally turn up.  I open the door to a guy who manages to combine sheepishness, slight apology and utter weariness in a single look, but he is actually good and a nice bloke and we kind of manage to move on.  So the door hole is measured, various bits of the old door removed so we can see what surface is behind, to which we will be fixing the door, and overall I am happier now that we are on the way.  

Final comment from LO "He won't be cheap, he is a posh carpenter".  Now there is pith of which Scobi can only dream.*

Now all we need to do is get the door finished, delivered and fitted, and that may end up being a source of another story.  I wonder whether bloggers go looking for nonsense and trouble just to inspire them to write.  Probably not, but it is a theory I will investigate further, since it may well be NLP in action.

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

* You may have noticed some silliness around not splitting infinitives, which is what I think that is called.  i.e. in the words of Star Trek, "to boldly go" is technically wrong.  It should be "To go boldly", but of course the former is more punchy, so it stayed.  This is a regular topic on the Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode film review show, which is mostly why I am mentioning it.  Mark is a pedant about such things, and gets the micky right royally taken as a result.  As Winston Churchill is said to have uttered "Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put".  Now, I had to Google that to get it right, and should comment that there are a dozen or more variations of the quote, however that one gives the flavour, and that is good enough for me.  It is filed in the same drawer as "avoid cliches like the plague".

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Something in the air there is

Talking like Yoda I am.  Why no idea I have.  Annoying it most definitely is.  Short this blog will be.  Good new account is, challenges there are, but fun we are having.

A day that is good I hope you are having.  Tomorrow will resume the services normal.  Damn, slipped in to a bit of Poirot there.  Scobi most amused he is not.  Now I am talking about myself in the third person, just like Poirot.  Maybe Poirot is actually the reincarnation of Yoda.  Consider the evidence:

  • They are both short
  • the both walk with a cane
  • they both appear benign, however after extensive provocation, watch out.
That is all for now folks.  I hope you have a good day.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

It's all gone quiet over there

My new routine means I do not get any time to do "normal" things like blogging.  For my regular readers (and you are out there somewhere), you will know I am no longer working in London, but instead near Epsom.  This means I am back to driving to work, four days a week for the first few weeks.  The commute is around 1.5 hours each way, so a fair old drive, but I am catching up on all my podcasts, and have just finished a great story CD, so I am happy.  This routine is fairly short-term I think since firstly, as I get to understand my new customer, I won't have to be at their offices as much, and secondly because within the next 4-6 months, the account will be moving to a Starfleet office much nearer to my home.  Once that move happens, I will be in clover.

Now I am rather pleased with this next bit, since it also ties in to title, sort of.  I want to mention the fine establishment of Portsmouth Football club, since we have had the title song sung at us a few times, along with a few other choice medleys.  Over the last 4 years, we have experienced the highs (FA Cup Winners), and the lows.  The lowest of the lows was only twelve days ago when the administrator, in what is now interpreted as a game of chicken, or sh!t or bust as we call it down South, announced that the club was twenty four hours from going bust.  This piece of brinkmanship was done, so us commentators believe, to force one of our old owners to sign up to "the plan".  Within a day the said owner had indeed signalled his intention to sign said "plan", and the club is saved.  

Combine that good news with what we are achieving on the pitch, something that got a bit lost in the smoke for a while, then you have the best good news story a football fan could wish for.  We simply cannot stop winning, and our squad, thin as it is, does seem to be really doing something special in the teamwork and togetherness department.  

Now this may sound daft, but for me, I would like it to stay like this for a while.  By that I mean I wish we could stay in the Championship for a couple more years, get stable, enjoy some success, and then look to get back in to the Premiership.  However, money and ambition are kings, which means there is already talk of us getting in to the play-offs this year.  I almost cannot bear the thought of going for promotion, again.  This means us getting a larger squad, which means paying top dollar for better players so the squad is strengthened as well as enlarged, which means the wages will go up, which makes the stakes higher, then we get promoted, have to buy half a squad of Premiership players, wages go up, the stakes get even higher, we still only have a nineteen thousand capacity stadium, so our gate revenue remains that of a low Championship/high Div 1 club.  Then, sometime in the future, when we are on our second or third owner, and the money is drying up, we get caught up in the same kind of mess from which we have just got clear.  Now I am in the acceptance camp when it comes to the many cycles of life, but really, do I want to go through this again?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Something new there is

The observant of you may have noticed a Twitter feed to the right of this blog, and I wanted to tell you about it lest you are drawn to the wrong conclusions.

As things stand, I am not planning to become a tweet-bot.  I want to try a social experiment, one prompted by Golfy.  He maintains that all I need to do is open a Twitter account and, without even posting a twit, I will get followers.  And it is true, I opened the account and had 3 followings in 5 minutes.  One of them was obviously Golfy, but the other two are complete strangers.  In fairness, one of them has un-friended me, so I am down to two, but nevertheless, that is an infinite percentage increase on zero.

The trouble is, a bit like a painful blind spot or a scab, with which you also know you should not play, I find myself "just doing a couple of twits".  They are complete nonsense of course, but then I think that is the point.  As part of my extended thesis on the use of Twitter, I have just experimented with splitting a comment across two twits.  Of course, this means that you read the second first and the first second, so maybe not so good.  I also fear a backlash from the Twit police who may attempt a virtual citizen's arrest on me for violating the 140 character rule.
I thought I would Google the "best twits" just to get a sense of the psyche of my fellow twitters, and did have a chuckle at a few, which I have reproduced in case they tickle you:

  • My phone reception is so clear, I can hear my wife’s eyes rolling as I talk.
  • Full of peace and calm this morning. Googled my symptoms and found out I died in my sleep.
  • Open my favorite web forum…50 people arguing about a coffee grinder reviewer's motivations…close my favorite web forum.
  • Today is already shaping up to be a "Keyboard not found. Press any key to continue." kind of day.
  • Trapped in a 90-minute meeting next to a lady wearing way too much of that new perfume, Migraine by Calvin Klein.
 Keep having a good weekend.

Friday, 29 October 2010

And..... relax

Another week is nearly over, and this one is special since it is the end of my first week on my new account.  It has been an interesting experience, engaging with my new customer, my new colleagues and my new account team colleagues.  It is all very new for everyone, so as a new newbie, I am asking a lot of questions to which the answer is often "no idea", which is amusing, save for the fact that the said answer means I cannot move forward with the question.  

I told you the other day about one of the quirks of my new account, in that you need a valid badge holder to collect you from reception.  Well, they have  one other interesting quirks, and that is their car park policy.  When I do finally get a permanent pass, which takes 2-3 weeks (ouch. Ed.) I will have to nominate a "no drive day" which is, as the name suggests, a day when you cannot drive.  My day will be, as it is with most of the other Starfleeters, Friday.  Now isn't that a surprise.

My weekend will be fun.  Dinner tonight, Maggot 1 on a sleep-over, and a pasta evening (home-made) Saturday. 

I hope your weekend is as good as mine will be.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Stuck in reception

Day three of my new account, and things are going OK.  For the first couple of weeks, I intend to go to the customer site every day.  It is a 1.5 hour commute each way, so not to be taken on lightly, however it is good to be in amongst the team and my new colleagues as I get to learn the lay of the land.

They do have one strange rule.  I have to be collected from reception by a valid badge holder.  This means that sometimes I have to sit in reception until one of my colleagues who have been granted this esteemed badge either responds to their phone, or walks by.  In fact, I am writing this in reception, waiting for someone I have managed to contact via instant messaging.

And so my day has started.  If noone is available, I guess I will just have to setup camp in reception and work there for the day, a bit like that bloke who got stuck in the US airport.  You know the one, with Tom Hanks where he is stuck, visaless, between airside and the wider US.  Maybe I should grow a beard just in case.

Anyhow, work is going OK.  The account is very new, which means that a lot of my new colleagues have only recently transferred in to Starfleet, which is a disorientating experience that tends to leave people bemused, confused, slightly wary and very unsure what the hell is happening to them.  I do remember this, having transferred troops myself some years ago, however I can barely remember what I had for breakfast (two Wheatabix now I come to think of it), my memory is pretty faint as to how it felt.  Luckily, my new colleagues are displaying very visibly the signs, so I can re-remember via my interactions with them.

So, another day getting to know my new account team, the wider organisation, and also the technologies they have implemented as part of their electronic ecosystem.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Making up for lost time

I have not been posting quite as much as usual, mostly because I have been heads-down clearing the backlog, which could well be meaningless to some of you, and if so I am very happy for you coz it is pretty dull.  However, my BPW* has been pretty poor lately, so I thought I would do a double-entry for Friday.  There is probably a joke there, the boring one relating to book-keeping, and the other one related to... (no, don't go there. Ed.).

I have been doing a bit of reading up on technology, because I may be looking to invest in either Apple TV or Google TV, since I am wanting to get my new TV on the internet.  I have of course spoken with Golfy, who is "the man" when it comes to understanding what is possible.  I have wireless so I don't need to worry about cabling, so it really is just the device.  I like the idea of centralising my photos, music and video and accessing it from the TV, which I think both boxes can do, having my new iMac as the server, so I think I am going to wait and see how the market receives the Google TV box, and also the new Apple TV box that is out or nearly out.  

The other part of the equation is the furniture on which to house the TV.  We want it to have some storage, and also to house the above box, maybe a hard drive recorder, definitely home cinema.  We want it to be a "statement piece" and we have something in mind.  However, when I mentioned it to a designer friend of mine, he turned his nose up, since he is a man of refined and cutting-edge taste.  I therefore aim to ask him what he would recommend instead.  It might be eye-watering!

That's all for now folks.  Have a good weekend.  Speak next week.

* BPW equals blogs per week, of course.

And..... relax

I know I have used this heading before, but if you are going to plagiarise, the do it from the best (huh? Ed).  Or at least do it from the one least likely to sue.

However, it really is how I always feel come Friday.  The week has been manic, living the life of a city boy when I really much prefer, if not the country, then a small place you can get your arms round.  London is full of busy people in suits who are smoking, drinking and generally, in their eyes, kicking the wotsit out of life.  The truth is, and maybe it is age, but when I am away I miss my family, so for me, London ain't all it's cracked up to be.  Just ask three of my colleagues who, on Tuesday, after our "little drink after work" decided to go to a late night drinking establishment and consequently got to bed at 2am.  Let's just say that they were in on Wednesday morning in body, if not soul, and definitely not mind, and even then the bodies were looking a little worse for wear.  The two older colleagues who have kids will now take two weeks to recover, whereas the younger, single colleague was "same time next week?".

Another thing that really gets my goat in London, and doubtless in many other places in the country, is that everyone is on their phones.  Give enough monkeys enough iPhones and eventually one will get the world's highest score in Doodle Jump.  Give enough monkeys enough typewriters and eventually one of them will write "wey hey we're the monkeys".  But that is another story.

Anyway, phones.  The day they put Google Maps, Grinder and social networking apps on phones was the day that people ceased communicating with anyone in their physical vicinity (except for Grinder of course. So I have heard. Ed.).  And when you are walking anywhere, and there is an annoying person in front of you going just a bit too slow (80% women, 18% men, 2% dog) you can be damn sure they are on their phones, updating their Facebook status to "doing exercise" or some other vacuous pursuit.  I understand that in and around the city, the number of A&E admissions for people with mobile phones stuck in one orifice or another has increased 250% over the last 3 years.

If you are detecting any wistful reviewing the last 4 months kind of vibe on this blog, then that would be for a very good reason.  Today seems to be my last day on my London assignment, and I am moving, as of Monday morning, to another assignment, one that I spent an emergency two weeks on about a month ago.  This new assignment will mean me returning to my car to get to the office, and it also means me not needed to spend nights away from my family, which I am very happy about.  Being in the car means I can catch up on all my podcasts that have been building up in to a sizable backlog, and it also means a welcome return to story CDs, which are the best way I have found of making you look forward to an hour drive home.

Have a great weekend one and all, and speak again next week.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Twenty three years ago

Twenty three years ago I left college, having spent the final year in a rented house with three friends.  Last night the four of us met up in London.  Our calculations have determined that it has been five years since we were all together, but that did not stand in the way of us having a great evening.

Everyone was just the same as they always were.  Perhaps a little thinner on top and a little wider at the belt (speaking for myself at least) but overall it was as if we had never been apart.

I have always described us as the tortoise and the hare, with the other three being the hares.  They have all made the way fast in the world; big jobs, second marriages, probably a fairly ordinary story of ambitious people in the smoke. 

I on the other hand am the tortoise.  I have made a slow and steady progress through life, away from the Capital, with every step a steady and measured one.  It works for me, and I am certainly happy with my lot.

They all seem happy too, and we didn't even spend too long reminiscing about the past.  Well, we did a bit, looking back fondly on those reckless and carefree days, bemoaning that "we didn't know how lucky we were". etc. etc. etc.  However, we are mostly happy with our lot and where we are in life, looking for the the good bits in every situation, and we should, I think, be creating a sense of pride in our college's career advisor.  If we had had one.

We went to a very trendy pizza restaurant in an old tea warehouse.  The interior decor retained the warehouse feel; steel and concrete abound.  The seats were long benches with circular seats on a swivel arm.  Just like the dining tables at the maggots' school.  So far, I can tell that I am not selling it to you.  It was very busy, and we had to "have a drink" waiting for the pager to vibrate.  Taff did do his usually blagging routine, saying he had booked the night before etc. etc., and maybe it worked coz we had a table in 15 minutes.  I still don't think I am selling it to you.  However, and here is the clincher, the food was absolutely amazing.  Quite simply the best pizza I have had in a long long time.  Not that large, thinnish base with a bulbous crust, but the flavours were amazing.  A very fresh and very tasty pizza.

Promises were made to meet up again, and we are hoping to plan a get-together.  The others were urging a lads' night away, but I really am not sure.  It sounds a bit soppy, but I don't really like doing things without my family, so I was urging them instead for a group get together.  My suggestion was camping, which was rather vigorously poo-poo'd, so it may be something else altogether.  Time will tell.

Friday, 15 October 2010

One small word, one big problem

Not been much to report this week, so I have been rather quiet.

As the weekend approaches, I have a lot of things to try and close this week, so things are busy, but manageable.

As for the title, the small word in question is "nit".  Maggot 1 has got them, and the little suckers are very hard to eradicate, as anyone who has experienced them will confirm.  We are now on a daily "wet comb" treatment for the whole family, which means using a nit comb through conditioned hair.  The fine-toothed comb gets most of the little suckers, and the conditioner makes the hair and scalp slippery so the little darlings cannot hold on with their evil claws which are on the end of each of their six evil legs. 

For those who like to know the details, the following passage describes all you would ever want to know about head lice and nits, and it may well be telling you too much.

Head lice are wingless insects. They are grey or brown, have six legs and are about 1 to 3mm in length when fully grown (the size of a sesame seed). Female head lice lay eggs that are smaller than a pinhead and these attach to your hair close to the scalp. The eggs hatch about seven to 10 days later. Young lice are called nymphs - it takes about 10 days for them to become adults and capable of laying new eggs.
When lice hatch they leave empty shells called nits attached to the hair. Nits are white and you may mistake them for flakes of dry skin. Unlike dandruff, nits stick to the hair and you won't be able to remove them with normal shampooing.

So, in summary, there is a new generation of lice every 10 days, and if you do not remove every single egg, they can stick around for much longer than is entirely healthy.

The hardest thing is that the mere mention of "nit" has the unfortunate effect of making you itch, all over, but particularly your head.  Now I have wet-combed myself and it seems I do not have any infection.  However, try telling that to my itch gland.

On that note, have a great weekend, which I hope is considerably less itchy than ours is likely to be.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It's all downhill from here

I refer to us being at the middle of the week of course, a phrase borrowed from someone, maybe Chris Evans, not sure.

The weekend was pretty successful.  Legoland was full of lego, and people.  We rode the big rollercoaster, at least it is the biggest there, as a family and Maggot 2 did have a couple of flutters during the ride, but by the end was talking about doing it again.  We even, for the first and probably last time in our lives, bought the photo taken during the ride, since it just captured our delight beautifully.

Sunday saw the UK-based family, my in-laws, visiting for Sunday lunch.  My mum was also over for a few days, but her knee pain kept her at home on Sunday, although she did come round for supper on Monday and it was great to see her.  Walking is not easy, but she is doing all her exercises, and the consultant (nearly a personal friend, don't you know) was very pleased with her rehabilitation.

I am now in London doing my Tuesday to Thursday stint.  We are in week 3 of our backlog clearing exercise, and are probably behind the curve with stuff closed, but with a large tidal wave of nearly finished stuff that may get us back on track by early next week.  It is hard work keeping it going, and our need to drive everyone in the chain to deliver means we are probably being viewed as a right royal bunch of wotsits, but needs must and the devil drives a Volvo.

We had a team meeting last night in a couple of pubs, the latter with the footy on, followed by a nice meal at an owner-run pizza place.  As for the footy, the least said the better.  We never really got out of third gear, and maybe can just about frame an excuse in that our opponents, Montenegro, have yet to lose a game.  In addition, Venus was in the ascendant, the tea leaves spoke of frustration and several commuters walking across Tower Bridge stepped on the cracks.