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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Extension update

The floor is being laid today.  This means a tonne or two of concrete is being wheeled in to my lovely extension and unceremoniously dumped on the floor, to be patted about by the plasterer.  Such things are part of getting it finished, and actually once the floor is in, and dry, we can start painting, and electrician and plumber can get in for second and final fix.

As we are off at the weekend, it will be nice to leave a mess and come back to a mess, with some paint on, but a space ready to be occupied again.  On Friday I shall be mostly building cupboards.

I am clearly spending way too much time on my own working from home, coz I am sure I have told you that already.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Only three days to go*

On a call at the moment, but with two screens, I can listen with both ears, and watch screen 1, with the demonstration, with one eye and watch screen 2 with the other eye, typing this blog.

The demonstration is on a tool that is meant to represent the little machine that feeds me my next bit of work, tracks what work I am handling and will apparently provide statistical evidence of what a wonderful being I am.  This tool is something that we are stuck with, being dictated from on high, but that does not mean I have to like it. 

Now, the management will say that I need to work with the tool to make it work for our organisation. (i.e. being on the inside peeing out) rather than fighting against it (i.e. being on the outside peeing in).  Once again, just because they say that does not mean I have to like it either.  And to be honest, as positive and Tigger-like as I am, I cannot help but be struggling with this, because it really means that the management have lost the plot. 

I like the freedom and creativity of my role, even if sometimes the creativity is about finding a way over an immovable blockage, and this new process and its associated methodology, broadly around the Lean arena, is intent on stripping out the fun, the creativity and the art, replacing it instead with a whole bunch of science.  Once the process is pure science, then they can remove the human intelligence and replace it by a machine or an offshore resource.  I am not trying to give any offence to offshore resource, since they have an important role to play in the world's economics, but what I am saying is that I believe that my role is part art and part science, but the people who are implementing this new process believe that with enough control, it can become pure science**.  I feel this new process wants to put me in a little box, with an "in" slit on one side and an "out" slit on the other side, and I just process a unit of work and pass it on.  A bit like the film Brazil***.  Once that has been achieved, and I know I am repeating myself here, then you can simply swap me out (very expensive resource, albeit worth every penny) with something that costs a pint of diesel and a drop of oil to run.

Oh, nearly forgot, the title refers, in case you have not been paying attention****, to the working days left before I have a week off.  We are very much looking forward to going away.  It creates stress in the preparation, and the words "is it really worth it?" will be uttered more than once, but when we are finally sitting in the 'van eating our first fried egg bap, with the third cuppa of the day in front of us, it will be worth it.

Until we meet again...

* If you round up to the nearest evening
** Needless to say, I strongly disagree
*** Probably 
*** Shame on you if you have not

Monday, 23 May 2011


Apparently you can make phone calls with my new toy.  I say apparently because to date the little beauty has only been used as a gaming machine, and as a GPS positioning device.  The maggots were showing it off in the pub Sunday lunchtime to their Nanny (my mother-in-law) to a lot of oohing and plenty of ahhing.  She likes it a lot also, but wanting it on PAYG means a hefty up-front cost to buy the handset, the price of which at present she was not keen to meet.

As for using the phone, I did try adding up some numbers with it, and also use the compass to work out which way was North, very useful for when you are trying to avoid going South, something my work projects tend to do with monotonous regularity.

I now have a Tesco finder (invaluable for finding Tesco stores and, I am told, for finding an item inside the store also - can't wait to impress my friends with that), Firefox Home (synchs my bookmarks from the cloud, where my laptop browser puts them - v. v. good) and Angry Birds (v. v. v. good, not that I have had a look in yet).  I have also got myself the free Kindle app, and have downloaded my first free classic story (v. useful I am sure if I ever get caught short without a book but with a magnifying glass) and a bunch of other stuff that I cannot even find at the moment, but which I am sure is also v. useful for my health and well-being.

Overall, the device is a success, and I think a week in the caravan next week will be when it really comes in to its own, providing a little bit of connectivity in what is otherwise a blissfully unconnected environment.  I do not, you will be pleased to hear, have my work emails coming down on to the device, since that would be really sad, but I do have my calendar automatically synching which is "way cool" and ensures that there are two devices telling me which appointment or meeting I have just missed.

Friday, 20 May 2011

And . . . relax

If you are allergic to fruit, then you may want to look away now, but for the rest of you, just want to confirm that the iPhone has arrived. 

"Is it an iPhone 4?" asked Maggot 1.  "Yes", I replied.  "Cooooool" he replied.  A (small) man of few words, but they are all well chosen, because it truly is cool.  In the words of Golfy, "Everything just works", and as if to prove the point, Maggot 1 and Maggot 2 are already top scorers (on my phone at least) for some crazy bird catapult thing, and between us we have download two thirds of the Apple Store's back catalogue.  If anyone want to know the best wine to go with roasted goat, or the quickest way to get across Tokyo by tube, then I am your man.

On other news, there is no other news, except I am going to a Bollywood Ball tonight, so much veggie curry, a live Bangara band and the sort of "drunk uncle" dancing of which your average big fat gypsy wedding (no offense to the travelling community who tune in) can only aspire.  I fear some alcohol may also be consumed.

I hope your weekend starts with as much glitz, and speak again next week.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Going in to print

I read with great interest that Bad Man has taken all his blog journals, and via an online printing company, had it compiled in to a hardback book.  This I like.  We are often tutored on what innovation is within our little tribe of Starfleet troopers, and "combining stuff we already know in a different way to make something new"  broadly covers it, and I have to say that getting your journal published is exactly that, and much of this piece of innovation liking I am.  I may even do a little Googling myself just to see what is possible.  Having said that, LO has not always greeted comments about my blog and its contents with anything other than disdain, and I suspect she believes I am confusing her with someone who gives a ....

At the same time, she loves to read.  Maybe the antipathy is just the result of using the wrong medium.  Hmmm.

On other news, the plastering of walls and ceiling in the new extension is complete.  Now begins several days of drying out.  The existing kitchen is also half done, to cover, if you recall, the mess made by removing tiles and coving, the former to bring the kitchen up to date and in-keeping with the new extension, and actually the latter also for the same reason.  It is slightly frustrating that the kitchen has not been totally finished, but from the plasterer's perspective the kitchen, and Maggot 2's bedroom, were additions to scope, and we all know how frustrating scope creep can be. 

So now we have the final 2 days of plumbing work, to get rads and water services in, ready for the floor insulation being laid next Monday/Tuesday, ready for the final floor screed to be laid on Wednesday by the plasterer.  We then have a little sejourn to the Isle of Wight, and on our return we will be getting stuck in to white-washing the whole setup.

Once that is done, I can then start to build the cupboards for the utility room, which consists of a pretty traditional mini-kitchen bit one side, with wall and floor cupboards, sink, washing machine and dryer, and on the other side floor-to-ceiling cupboards and a space for the second fridge-freezer.  All cupboards will be white gloss, which are probably slightly passe in the fast moving world of kitchen design, and the fact that they are now available on the lowish end stuff in which we have invested probably confirms that.  However, they will look fine, will ensure maximum light and will, set against the multi-coloured chinese slate we are planning to lay on the floor, look pretty smart we think.

It is fair to say that this building work has totally consumed us, and the gradual emptying of bits affected in to our living space (latest addition all the flat-pack kitchen stuff) means that we definitely feel our house is slowly closing in on us.  Hence why getting the utility room storage built is priority number one, since having that storage means we can start to reverse the closing in and start to reclaim our house.

Then all we need to do is fight dust for, oh, maybe a month or so.

Okay, enough talking about the blinkin' extension, must get back to work

Monday, 16 May 2011


So, the question is, which way do you dress?  Are you an Apple or an Android? 

There are many reasons for choosing one over the other, including technical considerations, emotional attachment, hatred of one or other of the technology companies, what your mates will think or which one has that gay cruising application you so like (Grinder, in case you are wondering). 

Well, my decision was made partly with what options were actually available to me with the system I was using, since using it does give me some financial advantage, and so I can now reveal that I am going the Apple route.  I think it will have everything that I will ever need, and some, and I already have a bunch of friends and colleagues who are also fruit-shaped and so intend polling them for what apps they cannot live without.  I will give you an update on how I get on when I get my sweaty little mitts on the little darling.

So sorry for not writing

I have been very remiss in not writing.  My only excuse is that things are very busy right now.  The extension is continuing to roll, with the last bits of plastering inside being done this week.  Tail end of this week to finish off the plumbing which is going under the floor, then early the next week the insulation and floor screed will be laid, just before we go to the Isle of Wight in the 'van, a perfect time for everything to dry out, ready for painting when I get back.

We then need to lay the floor, something that has been the subject of much discussion, most of it at cross-purposes, with the builder.  We have now resolved our differences, are on the same page and are just doing a bit of shopping round for the right price for the inside stuff, a multi-coloured slate, which will match pretty well the corresponding external stuff, also multi-coloured slate, but twice the thickness (and from a different source) to withstand all that mother nature will throw at it during the year.

Finances have been stretched, and dreams of sofa and TV coming out the building budget are fading right now, but time will tell, since we still have the hope that we have over-estimated one or other of the remaining costs.

Other news sees Maggot 1 part of the Cub Box-Cart team that took first place at the recent district championships.  Now, this may not reach the front page of the national press, but I can say with some confidence that in these parts that is just about as good as it gets.  The main leader who drives this activity was actually on holiday, and when he is tracked down by The Sun will undoubtedly say that he is "Gutted not to be with the lads", but this is the third attempt to beat another pack who are, if not our arch enemies, at least the pack over which we like to gain the advantage, so not only did we achieve that, but we only also went and blinkin' well took the shield for first place as well.  Result.

We are really starting to feel the pain of the building now.  We have a tarpaulin across the kitchen again, to keep out the nasty fine dust from the plastering, and in preparation for a skim coat where our kitchen tiles and coving used to be, we also have a couple of kitchen cupboards off the wall, and one floor cupboard unhitched from its fittings and pulled out for the final bit of stud work behind the breakfast bar.  This has lest our dining room table full of cereal, tea and sugar.  The sense that the house is slowly closing in on us is very acute right now.  I am not sure we can take much more of this, and the thought of returning from the Isle of Wight to start putting it all back again is, for me at least, something to which I am clinging with two hands and knuckles-a-white.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Well hello

Not much to say.  A project I was helping a new colleague work on has now landed in my lap, so I have had to rearrange things, to much consternation by all.  As part of that, I had finished the first draft of my proposal, and duly over-wrote it.  A quick download of a recovery tool, a 2 hour disk scan, a small prayer and a bit of luck and I got it back.  I now have 3 copies of it, and every hour save to a new copy.

Other than that, the plasterer started today, which is nice.  Now the screen to the kitchen is down a chap cannot sneak to the kettle without being seen by the workers, and he has seen his teabag collection decline considerably as a result.

And finally, I am short of reading material so am revisiting the John Peel autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, and I have to say that even second time round it is a cracking read.  You really can hear his voice in every written sentence, such is his style and way with words.  At least I now have something to rest my busy mind at 3am.

Friday, 6 May 2011

And . . . relax

We have finally arrived at Friday, and as the first 4 day week for a long time, I can honestly say that it has been a long week.  There are rumours on the web that the coalition government are trying to add another day to the working week next week, and we may be forced to do FIVE days next week.  I have had to have a little word at the club to see if someone can knock some sense in to them, because a five day working week is going to severely impact a chap's social life.

Other news is that the extension is proceeding well.  We have a bit of a scare with the rooflight, which looked absolutely fantastic, until it rained, when we realised that it had been installed with too little angle on it, and due to a very faint dip in the glass, we ended up with a feature fish pond.  Sadly noone's fault, but a real pain none the less.  The whole roof had been finished, it was looking great, the build phase was all but complete, and then this.  And the roof had been sealed with a glue sealent, so was stuck on the upstand like sh!t to a blanket.  Much consternation was experienced by all, but after some genius thinking, our builder went to the local glass merchant, and old drinking buddy of his, and he came and saved the day.  The roof light is off, the carpenter is booked (maybe for free if we are lucky), the roofer will come and do the new riser bit with roofing felt (maybe for free since he did set our roof on fire!) and then the glass merchant drinking buddy will come back and re-fit the rooflight, and also coat it with anti-smear stuff for good measure.

So, we are "tacking up" tomorrow, getting all the plasterboard fitted on ceiling and those walls that are stud.  We are getting the bi-fold doors fitted Sunday.  We are getting the plastering starting Monday, followed by second fix electrics and plumbing, followed by plasterer returning to finish the floor skim.  Then when he can make it with the plasterer will finish external rendering, including fixing two cracks that are leaking water.  He will then finish off by re-doing Maggot 1's room - two outside walls shot due to crack in external render, plus a light skim on the existing kitchen which has had coving removed, so it matches the new room, which will be covingless, and also smoothing where the tiles have been removed, a job we did because a) tiles are so yesterday, apparently, and b) because we want to change the work surfaces as soon as finances allow to bring the kitchen up to date with the new room and c) because the tile colour compromised the overall colour scheme of the new room, of which the existing kitchen is an integral part.

Now, as Bad Man has commented, I am allowed to be a bit peed off with the builders being in my house, being on week 11, and while we will actually miss them when they are gone (no bad moments, except for the rooflight which is now sorted), it is simply that them not being here means we have our room, if not finished, at least ours to do with what we want.

I hope you have a good weekend; catch up next week.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Alternative or not?

We are one day away from a vote on whether we want AV or not.  I think I am being fair when I say that it is a topic that has not really fired up the nation.  When a chap goes to his club, of all the conversations he overhears (stock market, strip-joints etc), not one of them is talking about whether or not AV is the answer to our voting ills.
I am split on this.  The arguments on both sides are over-blown and by so being I see them both as poor arguments.

The "no" campaign shot themselves in the foot for me with their latest ad campaign, that was snide and inaccurate.  That made me want to vote "yes".

Having said that, I am with the Gorse Fox in feeling that while I am up for a bit of change, I am not sure that this change is the one that is right for me, or for the nation. 

So, do I go for a bit of a change, even if that change is not precisely the one I would choose, or do I go "no" for the same reason. 

I am therefore going to see how I feel on the day.  I may check which one is my weakest, and then reallocate my original vote for that one to the second choice, and see what that throws up.  Or I may just pick my number one only.  Ah, the choice, the choice.

How are you going to vote?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

back to work

Back to work today after a combination of holidays and Bank Holidays means I have barely worked the month of April.

Back with a vengeance too, with trips to a Starfleet office today, customer site tomorrow and another Starfleet site Thursday, with Friday at home to catch up.

Gotta speak to the builder and sparky before I depart, and need to help the rest of the family to get up and get dressed in something like good time, so leaving later than usual.  Also have to pick up the doors for the utility room cabinets on the way home.  Busy at work, busy at home, just need to get my body and mind busy to match.