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Friday, 31 August 2012

And . . . . . relax

For those of an observant nature, you will be wondering why there are a couple of extra full stops in the title.  Weeeeeelllllllll, you know how it is, a four day week following a week off, and a chap can be forgiven for being a bit more chilled than usual.  I still have that faint glow of "there is a world out there" that time off gives you, and that means that this Friday has arrived with a lot less pain that some.

A couple of things have grabbed my attention of late.  The first is a Starfleet article about caring.  Not a thing you tend to hear much in the cut-and-thrust corporate world that I inhabit.  Nevertheless, it resonated with me, and I think in the round it matches my view of the world.  The article was written by a chap, let's call him Stan, who was starting out as a trainer in Starfleet, and had been assigned Fred as his mentor.  Stan recollects his first meeting with Fred:
When Fred and I first met, he said to me, "Stan, I want you to tell your students something from me. Would you do that? Tell them, 'How you handle people will determine how successful you will be.'" I said I would, and I have.
He went on to share that what he meant was that we must be authentic, we must be truth-tellers, and we must really care about others. Quite simply, he said, "It is all about the relationship."
I may have written about this before*, but I have a simple approach to life.  I have core values by which I live my life, both in and out of work, and I have layed out my stall as to how much of my life I will give to Starfleet.  This translates in to me having a limit as to what I will do for work.  That is not to say that I shirk or let my colleagues down, since teamwork and doing what I say I will do is one of my core values, but I will not work to stupid o'clock for no reason, I will not work weekends for no reason, and I will not take a job that I know will take me away from home regularly.

I know for sure that this stance is limiting my work possibilities.  Again, that is not to say that it is affecting my working role now, in which, if I say myself, I am doing pretty well at the moment, but I am finding it limiting when I am looking for other opportunities within Starfleet.  It is a massive organisation with massive potential, but so much of the work now is "assignment based" which means you do an assignment for a period of time, and you generally travel to wherever that assignment is based, be it just down the road or at the other end of the country.  Finding interesting new roles that are a bit different from my current role and that I am skilled to do is proving tricky.  I realised this fully when I happened to become connected to an old boss on LinkedIn, and realised that he has been gone 2 years and I had been having "what am I going to do next?" chats with him for the year before that.

The other thing that has grabbed my attention has, in the time it has taken to write the words above, ungrabbed me and done a runner.  I cannot remember what else I wanted to say, so I will say nothing.

On that note, have a good weekend and speak next week.

* but if we follow the music principle that "there has been nothing new in music since Bowie in '76", then there probably has not been anything new in the written word since I don't know when, and so plagiarism, even of yourself, is probably OK.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

New Car - Part 2 of an occasional series

I now have the email from a machine saying my car order is received, and also a couple of missed calls from BMW* Portsmouth which should hopefully be to validate the order.

This is what passes for excitement in Scobi Towers.

* dang, I only went and gave away the make of car

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New car

I Forgot to mention, the new car is ordered*.  I do know that I am very lucky to have such a privilege, and the weight of this privilege has been weighing heavily on me and Mrs Scobi.

You will be pleased to hear that we have met the challenge head on, done oodles of research and visited two, count them, garages to check our decision, and in the process LO has identified her perfect car, albeit one for when we are without kids and looking to tour Europe for a year or two, and perfection for LO starts with the cup-holder, and pretty much ends there if the cup-holder in question is a shiny chrome piece of modern art.

Our car ticks all the boxes on our list, and even a few that were not on our list, so we just need to wait until mid January for it to arrive.

* and by "ordered", I mean the first phase of a nineteen phase process has been completed.

I'm back

It is amazing how quickly holidays pass, and the one I have just had is no exception.

We have had a fantastic break.  It was lovely to spend some quality time with my family, and while "quality time" is very much over-used, it is totally apt in this case.

As you may or may not know, we have forgone our usual two week Summer holiday due to financial constraints, mostly caused by the completion activities on our extension.  This meant the twelve days off was mostly a staycation, however we did spend a long weekend away with David and Samantha in Lyme Regis, and we had a wonderful time walking, swimming (yes, really, in the sea and everything), BBQing on the beach and failing to catch any mackerel.

Other than that, we had days out to the cinema, to a country park and other free places, mixed up with plenty of mooching about.

I am now back to work, and it is the usual catch up on the email Inbox (nearly under control in record time) and picking up all the threads I put down before I left, and all those new threads that have appeared whilst I have been away.  Needless to say the world has managed to keep spinning on its access and my absence was felt about as much, in the words of an ex-colleague, "as a hand being removed from a bucket of water".

My parents are about to get some of this free insulation installed in the bit of their house from which it is currently missing and as part of the preparation, they have cleared out all their loft space.  As a result of this, I have taken ownership of a folder containing a sample, if not all, my school reports.  It also contains some airmail letters I wrote back from my time in Australia, and was pleasantly surprised at how well I wrote, even back then.  There was even an attempt at humour, but "... you had to be there to really appreciate it".

My school reports were goodish, sometimes excellent, but with comments like "prone to recklessness" and "lacks attention to detail" sprinkled through the report comments, which slightly surprised and disappointed, whereas comments like "proving to be a fine addition to the house football team up front" being rather pleasing.  I know, I am a fickle soul.

I had better get back to work as I have a hard hour call that I chair starting in three minutes.

Have a good week, and speak later.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

And . . . relax

For this week only, Thursday is the new Friday as I am off tomorrow and all next week.   Add in a Bank Holiday the following Monday and we are looking at 11 days off.  Bliss.  The Tuesday I am back will then, of course, be the new Monday.

The final step in the test drive was to take the new car to my local Starfleet office, about 45 minutes away and a relatively cross-country route.  This would test the suspension and the seat.  The former just because reports have the car's suspension as hard, and my option had the Sport's upgrade which made it harder.  All I can say is that it was hard, and probably the non-Sport option is for us.

The latter is, for me, the most important.  It is amazing to me that the best seat I have ever sat in, by a country mile, is the Saab.  Nothing else I have ever sat in comes close, and with my very specific back issues means that I would probably go for a tank with a good seat over a Ferrari with a bad seat.  I am totally sure it will not be to everyone's taste, but it was bang-on for me.  The new car's seats are more firm, and the model I am driving has sports seats which are, presumably, designed for twenty-three year old boy racers with snake hips, because they are too narrow for my larger frame.  Having said all that, they were comfy enough, and as I will be going for the non-sport seats which are not so narrow, all should be well.

So, it seems that we will be going for this car.  The final decision is around what colour interior and exterior.  Now, there are a lot of hard decisions one will need to make in their life, and this is not one of those, although you would not believe it if you could see the thinking and analysis I have been doing over the last week.

We are off to Lyme Regis for a long weekend, meeting David and Samantha down there, who are already ensconced in David's mum's van.  We will be staying and David's mum's friend's van.  There will be much talking, drinking of beer, game-playing, swimming and mackerel fishing.

I hope you have a great weekend.  Speak in a week or so, unless I blog from the iPhone.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Just a quickie

We have a new car on test drive, and so far so good.  Our criteria are many and varied, and include:

  • it needs to be heavy enough to tow a caravan
  • it needs to be the same as or cheaper than our current much-loved Saab (and this is a combination of list price and emissions for me)
  • the kids need to think it is cool
  • LO needs to think it is cool
  • I need to think it is cool, and while I did not think I am a badge snob, it turns out that I do suffer slightly from that particular allergy
  • it needs certain features that we all like - cup holders, heated seats and a bunch of other attributes that, were I actually to write them down, would sound rather silly.
Now, first and foremost, we really do know quite how lucky we are to have such a problem, but once we are over that guilt trip, a chap finds himself in a real dilemma.  What possible car could he possibly find that meets all these criteria?

"Now, was that a rhetorical question?" I pondered.

So, rather than get slightly embarrassed by mentioning the car we have on test, in case it is one that you think is rather naff, I am going to leave it dangling until I have come to terms with it myself.  If you think you know, then feel free to leave a comment, usual rules apply.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Well, wasn't that a rollercoaster of a games

It seems that everyone has had a say on the Olympics, so never one to follow the crowd, I would like to have my say also.

This has been a long journey.  It started 7 years ago when we won the bid, which was a marvellous day that was followed by a terrible day; seven-seven.

From that point onwards, right up to maybe a day before the games started, it was a case of business as usual for the British and their press, by which I mean that the negativity versus positivity was at a pretty standard 80:20 ratio.  There were a few gems in there; G4S provided some headlines, and even visited Parliament for a chat, and there were other general moans and groans about how much it was costing etc.

Then we had the opening ceremony.  Wow.  I am sure there were knockers, but I simply loved the magnificent, extravagant and bonkers nature of it, and felt it reflected the British character very well, as much in the little details as the big scenes.  That made a bit impact on the turning of the tide.

Then we had a few days of worrying about empty seats, and more than that, worrying about the fact that we had not won any medals yet.  And then the rowers got on the water, and Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won GB's first gold medals in The Coxless Pairs.  From that point on, we could not stop winning the medals.  There are so many golden moments for me, and on reflection, the most important bit was that from the moment GB first medalled*, all the negativity evaporated, and from that point onwards, we also became a happy nation of believers, and that atmosphere continued right until the final medal, the Modern Pentathlon, a most strange but magnificent sport.  It was also something of a delight to turn on the news and sometimes not seen any but stuff about the latest medal.

I will remember the GB gymnasts getting bronze, Tom Daley's smile, Jess, Mo and a bunch of other people that, actually, I cannot quite remember at the moment, but show me a picture and it will all come back to me.  I only hope that that rather dodgy word "legacy" really can linger and make a difference in normal life.

And on that fine note, I wish you a good week.

* I know, medal is a noun, and should never be verbed

Friday, 10 August 2012

And . . . relax

Not a lot of blogging this week, since I have been v. busy and all that.  Reverting to type would be Bad Man's conclusion.

It has been a busy week, mostly due to the effects of the holiday season taking so many people out, but also because there is a lot on at the moment.  We had our first joint meeting yesterday of another working party looking at another improvement initiative.  All this improvement should enable us as an organisation to achieve something that, to date, only footballers and reality show contestants have managed to achieve - the ability to give one hundred and ten percent.  Indeed, if every improvement programme introduced just one percent of improvement long term to our organisation, we would actually be operating somewhere around two hundred and fifty percent.  The fact that we are not should enable the reader to infer the effectiveness of improvement programmes.

Nevertheless, it can be good for appraisal time, so I for one am prepared to keep quiet in the name of high performance.

On other notes, we had a lovely BBQ last night with Mr and Mrs Scobi senior (a.k.a. my parents) all cooked by Maggot 1, with just a little help from yours truly.

This weekend we are looking forward to the sunny weather, and have a night out on Saturday at A&E's with the Maggots on a sleepover with my parents, which is a result for all concerned.  Other than that, not actually sure what we will be doing, which is usually the precursor to a great weekend.  I am sure we will catch a bit of the Olympics, which is continuing to grab the attention of the whole Scobi clan.  Glad to see all that taxi-queue fight training has put our women boxers and Taekwondo fighters in good shape to win Gold medals, and also rather amused at some of the ensuing discussions in such esteemed publications as the Daily Mail and others, about the appropriateness of "delicate ladies fighting".

May your weekend be full of sun and beer, and empty of fighting and work.  Speak next week.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Another week, another dollar

We had a lovely weekend.

We actually watched quite a lot of the Olympics, and call me an old romantic, or call me a cry-baby, I don't particularly mind, but I found some of it quite emotional.  The thing that resonated with me was one simple fact about Mo Farah's training routine.  Now, don't get me wrong, I know they all train like nutters, however it was the fact that Mo does underwater treadmill work to build leg strength.  For some reason, that for me took the nutter factor up a level.

The medals have really begun to roll in now, and this is making everyone happy.  It would be lovely to think we can carry over the feel-good factor in to real life, and get ourselves out of a triple-dip recession we are apparently in right now.  It has probably fulfilled the desire to "inspire a generation or two".  Even LO is thinking of upping her training schedule... to include exercise as well.  Boom boom.

This week will be a fairly normal week, albeit one over-shadowed by the lack of resources that the holiday season brings.  To be honest, my approach is to batten down the hatches and look to weather the storm as best I can, and once we are in calm waters again, assess the damage.  As metaphors go, that one is pretty damn near perfect in reflecting what needs to happen.  The only missing element is the nine-legged giant octopus arriving to sink the ship, that part being played by either my customer or my manager.

Otherwise, it will be a very normal week.  I hope your week has just the right amount of normalness with no octopuses* in sight.

* I so wanted the plural of octopus to be octopii, but Uncle Google informs me that it is not.

Friday, 3 August 2012

And . . . relax

Thank goodness it is Friday.

Nothing much to report today.  We have a relaxing weekend, and a lunch out on Gee Gee Sunday, and right now it does not get much better than that.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Nearly there

Yesterday was a long day.  I left the office at about 5.45pm, which is not so late for a little bunny of my stature, unless that little bunny had started at stupid o'clock, even if they did have a Duracell battery.

Anyway, by mid afternoon I was a slightly manic, dribbling mess, and very thankful that I was in a Starfleet office and not the office of my customer.  I was finding solution approvals hilarious and everything, so I was very happy to be back home.  Bizarrely, after a small power nap, I managed to watch all the "team GB" football and then went on to make love to my wife until the early hours*.  I think it is fair to say we all put it in the back of the net.

And on that rather smutty note**, I shall bid you farewell until tomorrow.

* complete lie of course, but we all know the story/truth theory well enough to know that this is completely above board
** only really included for Golfy and Badman.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Wednesday, it is all downhill from here

Wednesday finds me at my laptop at 0500 hours.  I am an early bird, but this is even a bit early for me.  The truth is, the two days out, plus the fact half my team are on holiday, and one of them has not been pulling his weight, means that I have a short-term pile up of commitments, one of which is directly with one of my customers.  So it was that, at 0415 hours, I glanced at my watch, considered all the things I have to do today (a day when I am in the office, so the chances of doing anything other than answer questions is very slim), and decided I might as well get up and get on with things.

So it is that I have nearly re-written the solution previously done by my less that popular team member.  Just need to get the polish out and send the resultant "pig with lipstick" to a couple of PMs who are managing the previous iteration of my current solution, so they can give their considered views on how I have done.

Anyway, enough of that, I need to tell you about my long weekend away.  We stayed at Riversidelakes, which was a chilled camp site which allowed open fires.  The website, which you can see if you click on the link, does have a slight tone of "we are very relaxed people, so if you are not, f##k off", i.e. it felt to me rather passive aggressive, but in fact I could not have been more wrong.  The owners of the site were absolutely lovely, friendly and could not do enough for us.

And so the tone was set for a wonderful 4 days.  We did a bit of fishing, we have open fires every evening on which the Maggots cooked* marshmallows and we had a long and chilled time.  The sun shone every day, and the Maggots were in seventh heaven, making friends with the two girls next door** and spending all their time on "Pie Island", "Diarrhea Island***" and other Swallows and Amazons type locations.  They also seemed to acquire a fairly large group of followers, or "little kids" as the called them.  We became friends with the whole family next door and spent every evening round the fire chatting and toasting.  In fact Elspeth, mum of said family, was very sad there was no-one with a guitar, as the web site had intimated.  I had not taken mine, and in truth she does not know how lucky she is.  In the evening, the staff came round on their golf buggy selling bags of firewood and also to hand out glow sticks to the children.  This latter element delighted the kids, and maybe harked back to the site's previous incarnation as a festival site, however it did not quite sit with the overall ecologically sound stance they had for the rest of the site - for example, at the back of the main field, they had a "composting toilet" which was described by the kids very succinctly; you do a poo and put sawdust on it.  Yeuch.

Since we have returned, Maggot 2 has talked of nothing but the site, and what they would be doing now if they were still on the site, and all the things they did, some of which he cannot divulge because adults wouldn't like it.

It was a fantastic site, with fantastic company (thanks to Brad and Angelina) and fantastic weather.  It was the perfect storm of holiday experience, the only thing letting it down being that it was for only 4 days.  Having said that, the Tuesday were were back (yesterday) was raining, so maybe even the departure day was perfect.

I shall leave you now to complete my solution, and will speak to you later in the week.

* incinerated may have been a better choice of word
** another great feature of the site is that they do not believe in cramming you in, so we had three times the space of a usual site, which themselves are always adequate, and so you needed a strong arm for them to be a stone's throw away
*** Don't ask, because we didn't