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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?