Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why Pies are good for you

It is a major "first" as today I have managed to write a Journal entry every day for a full month. I'm not saying that any of it is worth reading but I have managed to do it.

On the work front much of today was spent poking and prodding the two piles of shite that IM passed to me yesterday. Neither of them make a huge amount of sense from a transformed, integrated solution perspective and I spent much of the day persuading IM and the Sales Executive that there is little of any value for us and that we should leave as much of this to other teams...

... fortunately they agreed and my brief is just to keep an eye on things and make sure no-one does anything really stupid.

Golfy and I had a good natter today and we managed to work out that drink and pies are actually vital if one wants to avoid death. The logic behind this is as follows ...

... for the past few weeks I have been trying to shed a few pounds with a modicum of success. The approach taken is to cut out G&Ts and wine and avoid things like biscuits, bacon and pies. The net result has been a slow but steady reduction in weight. Now if I extrapolate this over time I will be totally non-existent in a little over 3 years, ergo drink, pies and biscuits are vital to sustaining life.

Taking this further we then started planning a wake for me and decided to hold it early so I could come along in person rather than in an open coffin. We then realised that if we put Booze and Pies on the Wake Buffet we stood a good chance of reversing this tragic hypothetical situation* ...

... I am cured.
* I am now thinking about some experiments down in the lab and wondering whether embalming a dead mouse with rashers of streaky bacon would actually bring it back to life and, if it did, would it be a nice mouse or something a lot more "Stephen King"

Monday, 30 July 2012

Progress Report

Monday started with a call with the Idiot Manager where he imparted his mid year assessment of my performance. This was one of those unimaginative, stereotypical "What have you done well? What have you done not so well?" discussions and at the end of the call I was informed of the Management Teams current opinion...

... It is fair to say that I am quite happy with the assessment but, as they say, be careful what you wish for ...

... IM appears to like and trust me, and as a result, towards the end of the day he dumped two monumental piles of shit in my  in-box and asked me to support them on an ill defined basis. Both of these projects have incredibly short time frames and scopes that are as clear as mud. My job appears to be to take a look and work out what we can or can't do.

Away from work, I finished lifting the  Dining Room floor and started to consider our options for it's replacement. Chippy Ian is popping in later in the week to give us a professional opinion but our options appear to be to sort out the floor joists properly and lay a timber floor or pour in a concrete base and go with slate...

... A suspended timber floor is starting to look very expensive.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The trailer earns it's keep ... again

Sunday also started at a vile hour and five o'clock saw me shuffling around the kitchen in search of caffeine. 30% woke at a far more civilised nine o'clock and shortly thereafter we were called by the Seller of the two glazed bookcases we had won on eBay yesterday...

... 45 minutes later the trailer was hitched to the Land Rover and we were off down the M5 to Bath. The bookcases were an absolute steal and after a little light restoration will compliment the pair we already have.

We arrived home in time for a late lunch and, I have to be honest, after unloading the bookcases the lack of sleep took it's toll and I crashed on the sofa for a couple of hours.

I did very little for the rest of the day but over the weekend I did make a start on lifting the chipboard floor in the Dining Room...

... there are no bodies or anything nasty in sight just undersized, over spaced, floating joists. It was no wonder the floor had a bit of "bounce". It doesn't look too bad from my perspective but let's wait and see what Chippy Ian says when he calls in later on this week.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Catching Up with the O&Ls

Saturday started at early o'clock due to hypoglycaemia issues. I awoke at around four in the morning with very low blood sugar (2.7) and after taking remedial action and then tossing and turning for forty five minutes decided to get up. I used a bucket of fresh coffee as a stimulant and TV as a time filler and eventually met up with 30% a little before nine.

We "divided and conquered" this morning with T&M being walked early and 30% taking a trip in to the supermarket. By midday the house was looking reasonably respectable and we were ready to receive our guests...

... The Oranges & Lemons Tribe arrived a little before one and we spent a long and leisurely afternoon talking and eating or, in the cases of O&L jnrs, talking, eating, playing with the dogs and drawing. We had a lovely time catching up on each other's news and simply nattering.

At the mid pint of the afternoon 30% remembered that a couple of eBay auctions she had been watching were coming to a close and I acted as her proxy bidder. A couple of very late bids were entered and it looks like we have a trip to Bath in the near future to collect a couple of very fine book cases.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tidying Up

Friday started early as 30% was away for the day with her Dad driving trains on the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway to celebrate his 70th Birthday. Their early start gave me a huge amount of day to amuse myself in ...

... after a leisurely breakfast the sun was high enough to drive the dew from the lawn and the Porn Mower was coaxed in to life. After a couple of cuts I managed to restore order to the clippings strewn, ragged green chaos that had developed as a result of the recent wet weather.*

By the time I had finished lunch was only a little way off and, suitably replenished, I then dragged the Jet Washer from the garage and gave the Defender a good going over. As she sat dripping on the drive T&M got taken for a wander around the Three Miler.

Between these activities I also managed to find time to clean the multitudes of dead flies from my Helmet and Jacket after yesterday evening's run out on my bike.

30% returned home around six and we then drove over to Bad Man Senior's house for dinner. BMS and SMS have just returned from their holiday in Wales. This week away was a Wedding Anniversary / Birthday treat from us and they wanted to say thank you for the gift. Dinner was lovely and was accompanied by the mandatory trifle.

We then sat down to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony which, I think it is fair to say, we all found peculiar and generally incoherent. Parts of it were quite impressive, particularly the "forging of the Olympic rings" but overall it seemed to have an acid trip level of randomness and scenes such as the interweaving of the National Health Service piece with Children's Literature made about as much sense as roast beef with custard.

It just goes to show that if you make it big enough and add sparklers most people will clap anything.
* The recent lack of unleaded in the petrol can didn't help matters much either

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Day Off

New Jeans purchased                                        CHECK
New Spectacles collected                                CHECK
Plastering Debris taken to the Tip                   CHECK

How different today was from yesterday. The Sun is shining, there are no expectations of me and I have no expectations either. The net result is that the day is going to be take at our own pace; doing things if we want to and not if we don't.

The morning started with a quick trip in to Redditch to pick up new specs and a pair of Jeans. I have it my head that it must be great to wander in to a shop and buy some denims, take 'em home, rip off the labels and just put them on. I will never have this pleasure as, being  a short arse, I always  have that supplementary process of having them taken up* before I can wear them. I therefore had the supplementary task of dropping them off at the local Dry Cleaning and Alterations service.**

This morning 30% and I took T&M out for a walk around the farmland of a local Country Estate. It was a lovely walk taking in fields and woodland and ended with welcome refreshments at a convenient coffee shop.

After lunch we actually got busy, hitched the trailer up to the Land Rover and took a large amount of plaster debris over to the Tip.*** We then agreed that we had done plenty for the day and took time out to sit in the sun and take it easy.

As the sun started it's descent and the evening cooled a little I had an early supper and pulled the Ducati from the garage. The plan was to link up with Chippy Ian, Mick and Cheryl and follow our noses with a strong possibility of a Pub at some point too. Our route took us out on the back lanes from Evesham through Offenham to Bidford and then on to Stratford and Warwick. After Warwick we crossed back over the motorway on the A429 in the direction of Stow-on-the-Wold. After a while we turned off and settled in front of the Red Lion in Ilmington for refreshments. From Ilmington we headed home via Chipping Camden before dropping down from the escarpment taking in Honeybourne and Bretforton on the way back in to Evesham.

I arrived home around half past ten with a comprehensive collection of insects on my visor and a very numb bum.
*     Trust Me, with a 26.5" inside leg, turn ups are not a good look
** "They'll be back on Tuesday Love"
*** Andy & Steve's leftovers from a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Get me out of here!

Slides drafted for Review Call                  CHECK
In-box cleared                                             CHECK
Out of Office message updated and set    CHECK

Now what the hell am I going to do for the rest of the day as it is only half past nine...

... 30% and I have decided to take a couple of days  off and have a long weekend. This has dovetailed perfectly with work in that our Estimate needed to be submitted to to the client today too. This meant that all of my work had been completed and there was little point in assigning me anything until I was back in work next week. As a result I spent much of today sitting around kicking my heels.

Unfortunately there was no hope of knocking off early as there were Review and Client calls late in the afternoon and I was stuck in front of the laptop until just before six.* The Review call was fine and the Client call was the usual bollocks ... They have repeatedly been told we have developed a rough estimate and they continue to try to pick it apart and ask detailed questions about a non-existent solution. This is getting very frustrating now and Little Miss Inept is doing my head in. Much of today's call was spent interrogating the corporate intranet for ISO certifications and passing them to her via Instant Messenger so that she could give the answers the client wanted.

The 'phone, Instant Messenger and e-mail account were shut off with the electronic equivalent of a resounding slam as soon as my post-call actions had been completed.

The evening saw 30% and I take a trip over to Kidderminster to have a wander around the Auction Rooms as we are on the look out for a Dining Table. There was nothing of interest there and so it looks like a good chunk of tomorrow has been freed up.
* This might seem early but I am in front of the screen by seven thirty most days

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Lightweight & Ninja Butter

Over the past week and a half I have become suspicious about the abilities, or more accurately lack of abilities, of the Sales Exec I am currently assisting. The first inkling that there might be issues was when we first spoke and she advised that she had only recently joined the ranks of Daemons at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell ... at this point it might be useful to imagine a bell tolling across a misty, monochrome landscape to give a sense of atmosphere ... I cast doubts aside and thought that she would be fine and would have the appropriate support and mentoring in place to deal with any gaps in her procedural knowledge. I carelessly assumed that she would have basic skills.

The next strike of the bell was heard when she mentioned that she was not good with spreadsheets and was not certain of how to apply a profit margin to some cost figures I had provided. Hmmm, I'm was starting to get a little worried at that point... BONG. Today the final proof of her skill level was when she advised that she was unable to embed spreadsheet in to a document and was also unable to locate the "button" that would show comments inserted during a review ... BONG!

So far on this engagement I appear to have developed the outline costs and walked a team of Executives through them gaining their approval, I have documented our approach and this document has been miraculously become our Proposal, presumably using the MS Excel formula advice given on applying a markup to a cost figure. I have reviewed and commented against a set of contractual T&Cs, I also appear to be to repository of all knowledge especially when a tricky question comes up. At this point I am wondering what the fuck the Sales Exec has actually added to the mix?

The final e-mail of the day contained a PowerPoint presentation that needs to be polished. There is no way I am going anywhere near it.

On a completely different set of tracks I noticed that we were short of bread and took a few minutes out of my working day to chuck the ingredients for a loaf in to the bread maker. Fairly early in the running order is a need to add 30g of butter to the bread tin. I wandered over to the fridge and checked the shelf ... no butter. I searched the other shelves ... still no butter.

At this point I did what any desperate person would do and tempted the wrath of 30% by 'phoning her at work. She advised that there was most definitely butter in the fridge and I advised that I had searched high and low and found no churned, milk fat products. 30% advised that it was definitely there but if I couldn't find it she would buy more. If I am totally honest here I think we were both a little terse by this point. After hanging up I wandered back to the fridge and carried out a forensic search. About four hours in to the search I noticed something lurking behind the Muller Lite Yoghurts ... it appears that 30% is now buying Ninja Butter that has the ability to blend in with it's surroundings making it almost invisible to the casual Butter Hunter.

It looks like I will be having toast for breakfast tomorrow after all.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Nothing to see here

After the trail blazing activities of last week Monday was very quiet. All I needed to do was document the estimate and fire it over to the Sales Exec for her to polish and add spin before chucking it at the prospective client.

I passed the draft across just after lunch and then took an hour out to wander around the Three Miler in the glorious sunshine that has replaced the sodden weather we have had for the past couple of months.

After the walk I was back to documenting the estimate ... this time I was throwing together a "How To" guide as the Idiot Manager "suggested" I should do this after bombarding me with business-speak including that well known phrase intellectual capital. Personally I think that I stand a good chance of patronising every reader as it is well known that I am a bear of little brain and all I can do is provide a map as my colleagues are perfectly able to walk already.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

It is going to be a long day

It was early on Sunday morning when I was dragged from my slumbers. In fact it was so early that many would class it as the middle of the night ... the 'phone was ringing ... I stumbled to the receiver and muttered a "hello" ... it was Trish; she had woken early and decided to get through the on-line flight check-in system and needed the expiry date of TP's passport. This necessitated a bare-arsed wander around the house locating spectacles and passport before advising the validity period of the aforementioned travel document.

I climbed back in to bed having noted that the clock said seven thirty. After tossing and turning for a few minutes I realised that I was wide awake and reluctantly got up again. This time I dressed and wandered down stairs for coffee ... It was going to be a long day.

The early start meant that I had a leisurely couple of hours before I took TP to rugby training. I then made a start on fitting the rear ladder to the Defender. This item has sat in a box in the Office for a couple of weeks and is an absolute must to get anything on to the roof rack that is now fitted. TP arrived back just in time to assist with fitting the bottom step to the rear bulkhead - his fingers are far more slender than mine.

After lunch it was time for a walk with T&M and a little down time before I picked up Trish, Abby and Nathan and returned to The Pile for an early dinner before we all hit the road for a Travelodge in the Heathrow area...

... Five hours and two hundred and twenty miles later I eventually walked back in the house ...

... sleep doesn't come easily to me after a 90 mph run along a dark motorway.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

I can see ... that pin down there.

This weekend is marked by a lack of significant activities as 30% has kindly volunteered me to run Trish, her family and TP down to Heathrow tomorrow evening for their trip out to Qatar. That sounds like a great way to finish off the weekend ... five hours in the car. On a more positive note; it is mostly all motorway and the Olympics haven't started yet so it shouldn't be too bad.

As a result Saturday involved nothing more than a trip in to Redditch to have my eyes tested.* The afternoon saw me attempt to gain control over the lawn and then wander around the Three Miler with T&M.

I then considered an extended kip on the sofa but Dave the Stripper called to advise that he would be dropping off the Dresser Base and Dining Chairs this evening so a garage clearing session was mandated. I have to report that they all look fantastic or at least will do after a little care and maintenance.
* one gained an O-level in maths, the other was found to be in excess of the drink drive limit

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Man from Del Monte, he say ".....

It is Friday and after this week I  would really like to make it "Poets Day".* Unfortunately I am working with Americans at the moment and had calls in my diary until half past six this evening. This was very annoying as the main activity today was a review call with a trio of Executives and a Senior Architect at ten o'clock. If all went well I would spend much of the day kicking my heels waiting to listen to Americans natter for a couple of hours before I could knock off...

... so how did it go?

First a couple of steps back in time ... When I was first asked to pick up this piece of work I was informed that it was a new approach to developing a rough estimate quickly and a move away from our normal estimating tool. That was it. There was no guidance, no suggestions... "Just get on with it badman and make shit up as you go along". As a result I have spent the past week throwing notes, pseudo-facts and bullshit in to a scruffy, many tabbed spreadsheet with version control and summary sheets in the vain hope that they make it look like I know what I am doing.

It was this spreadsheet that I used as the foundation for the Exec presentation this morning. I took them through the numbers identifying how each had been developed; some ranged from actual numbers, some were "wet fingers in the air" based on previous experience and some were complete fiction driven as a percentage of the other stuff.

Questions were asked, comments were made and a few revisions were suggested and then the summary decision was presented. They loved it! The Executive Lead summarised stating that it was exactly what he wanted and that there would be much more of this type of work in the future and I had set the bench mark ...

... so that's me with a big target painted on my arse then!

After the call I made a few modifications to my estimates and passed them over to have them priced. It was then a slow day until the calls started in the late afternoon. The Sales Lead did her usual trick of dropping me in it and I crawled from the silence at the edges of the call and spent a few minutes trying to sound competent and took the client CEO through our principal assumptions made in the development of our estimate. We must have done something right as he had a complete attitude adjustment and was incredibly positive towards us, our approach and our numbers. I found out later that the Sales Lead had been bombarded with incredulous messages from our US colleagues about our achievements and performance.

It's been a long week but it is nice to end it on a high note.
* Poets Day: Acronym construct based on "Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday"

Thursday, 19 July 2012

It has felt like Thursday since Tuesday ...

... Christ, this has been a hard week!

It has been slow, frustrating and the days have been very long. In terms of actual effort it hasn't been too bad, as the bulk of my work was completed by Tuesday, however the constant analysis, questioning and peripheral activities has been very draining and I am really looking forward to getting to the end of the review tomorrow morning.

Today I seemed to be mostly keeping people happy. I managed to remove $300,000 from my annual estimates which delighted the Sales Execs and also managed to give then some Network numbers which surprised them too. I did get my own back though. They asked me to use some second hand hardware and I politely declined giving them three very good reasons why that would be a false economy. I am guessing that they were not so delighted with that lesson in practical estimating.*

I also had the Idiot Manager to deal with but it seems that I have developed some skills** in that area too and I soon had him chuckling and offering almost effusive thanks for the crib-sheet he needed to attempt to persuade his Boss that he knows what he is doing.

I finished the working day around seven in the evening with a review of Contractual T&Cs...

... is it Friday yet?
* You don't buy a second hand car unseen if you are planning to drive to Botswana
** You must have seen those snake handlers on TV with the tail in one hand, a stick in the other, a lot of hissing and everything held at arm's length  ... That's it, you're getting the picture.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Oh yes you can, oh no you can't ...

For Wednesday's work activities simply refer back to the previous Journal entry. Although I have clearly stated that one cannot polish a turd much of today has been filled with requests to do so, instead Tigger and me did what any forest creatures would do with a turd and poked it with a long stick for a while and then did our best to bury the thing away from sight.

Ludicrous requests to revise the "guesstimate" trickled in throughout the day and when these were not arriving additional costly requirements were stated that rapidly lead to "out of scope" statements being documented...

... I am very much looking forward to Friday. This is a very long week.

Away from work TP returned intact from his D of E expedition and reported that it went well and was easier than the trial run a few weeks back. He arrived back exhausted and had to be coaxed to wander up the road for his weekly guitar lesson this evening. As he breaks up from school tomorrow he'll be able to take it easy for a day or so before he flies out to Qatar.

I also remembered to remove the guanciale from the cure and that has now been soaked, wrapped and is hanging from a hook in the kitchen. It should be ready to eat in a week or two.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

You cannot polish a turd

TP was out of the door early this morning as he is away on his Duke of Edinburgh overnight hike. I am lead to believe that he is tramping around the Cotswolds and will be returning sometime tomorrow. I don't wish to appear cynical but his preparation seemed to be a little, shall we say, half arsed and I have an expectation of them succeeding but only by the skin of their teeth. It probably doesn't help that both 30% and I have a background in project management and hence natural parental interest rapidly becomes a critique of their plans. It is fair to say that we have to remind ourselves that he is a fifteen year old and therefore incapable of any real thought ... he is much like a barely house-trained cat ... comes and goes as he pleases, demands food noisily and spends much of his time curled up in a favourite spot.

I settled down at my desk and early in the day "walked" a couple of Sales Execs through the bullshit estimates I had been working on and, surprisingly, they were impressed.* The cynic in me thinks that they were delighted because a) they don't have to think, and b) they now have someone to blame when it all goes wrong. Taking full account of item "b" I requested some feedback while they were still happy and am pleased to say that I have been blind copied on a couple of glowing reports. I then spent the rest of the day polishing off the guesstimates and adding a long list of "cover my arse" type statements.

I think it is fair to say that I have almost enjoyed pulling this rough estimate together but I am now getting very frustrated by the Sales Team that seem to think that it has substance and can be scrutinised or tweaked. I now seem to be repeatedly reminding them that it is a "bucket of cost" and that they need specialists engaged to validate it or revise it.

As the title clearly states "you cannot polish a turd" but the Sales team seem to want to.
* To use yet another culinary analogy, I had presented them with a cake that had been cooked by someone wearing a blindfold and with one of their hands tied behind their back.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Let's just make shit up

Over the weekend my laptop had crashed and after booting it up this morning it smugly told me that some of it's files had become corrupted.* With this week's assignment due for completion by Wednesday I needed this like I needed a hole in the head.

I was pondering my assignment when Golfy, fully refreshed from his week away, pinged me. I did my best to dispel his post-vacation vigour by telling him tales of working woe, the shite assignment I need to complete and my hard disk issues. He then got his own back by insisting that I complete a CHKDSK with absolute urgency. Apparently if I failed to do this immediately the entire internet would dissolve or something like that.

I stupidly followed his instructions and learnt the following a) a CHKDSK takes the best part of ninety minutes on my laptop and I can do nothing while this is happening and b) a "percent" is a variable unit of measurement...

... as I was frantically watching my laptop's hour and a half of introspection and self examination my mind was considering the huge amount of work I had to do and how removing two hours from my working day was really not helping move things along. It was during my vigil that I did what any Estimator would do and tried to determine the duration of the CHKDSK by gauging the duration of each percentage increment. This is when I noticed that the seventh percentage increment appeared to take 4 minutes and the ninth appeared to take 30 seconds.

Now I know from my maths O-Level that a percentage increment is a non variable so I just wondered what on earth my laptop is actually displaying because a cheerful "This is going to take forever" message would have far more value than some new form of maths where there are 100 percentage units but they are all different sizes.**

I finally took back ownership of my laptop a little before eleven o'clock and made a start on the task. Over the weekend I had mulled it over and had a few ideas about how to rough out some estimated costs. The bulk of the day was filled with this and St Golfy the Pale was my salvation by providing some much needed and very welcome assistance with summarising baselines and estimating virtual server environment costs.

By the end of the working day I was able to chuck a 60% complete estimate over to the Sales Team for them to ponder***.

After a day like that I don't tend to do much after work but the dogs did get walked and more paint did get removed from the woodwork in the Dining Room.
* I don't understand how this happened as I never browse porn on the work laptop.
** This suggests that Microsoft Programmers belong to the "I'll split this pie in half and I will have the big half" school of mathematics
*** imagine a very low wattage light bulb flickering as it's 4 volt power source dies.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Day of Rest ... allegedly

Sunday started a little before nine with me turning on the coffee machine and liberating a flock of disgruntled chickens from their coop. I had barely got back inside the house when the 'phone rang and it was David from Marden wanting to make arrangements to come and pick up his eBay bargains. Eleven o'clock was agreed and I then made contact with the first cup of coffee of the day.

Next item on the list was to rouse TP from his pit as he was off to Rugby training... I eventually cajoled him in to the car, delivered him to the Club House and then returned to deal with David from Marden. He was a nice enough chap and we soon had the stuff loaded in to his car and his wallet was suitably lightened. I then did the compulsory dog walk before lunch,

My plan for the afternoon was a kip on the sofa but, for unexplained reasons, sleep just didn't happen so T&M were rounded up and given a long overdue clip. They will be getting a professional cut before we go away on holiday so mine will suffice until then.

Trish and family called around for a coffee and a natter late in the afternoon and we finalised the arrangements for the Qatar trip. I appear to have volunteered myself to take them all down to Heathrow late in the evening of 22nd July.

With Dinner on the Horizon I finished my day stripping paint from the frame of the French Doors in the Dining Room.

I may have had a busy weekend but a weekend of work is far more attractive than the task that awaits me tomorrow.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

First List, Last Item

Saturday's first task was one of a semi-legal nature ... As TP is off to Qatar with family friends we thought it might be a good idea for him and them to travel with some form of documentation that confirmed that she was a trusted friend rather than a abductor or child slave trafficker. After a quick trawl through the internet I managed to find what I needed and, as TP was spending the day with his Mum, this morning was the ideal opportunity to get the thing signed in front of a witness.

That done, I then popped in to Redditch to pick up a few DIY sundries. All was going so well until I asked for a chimney cowl* and the chap in the Builders Merchant refused to sell one to me quoting vague "Regulations". The net result of this interaction with this Jobsworth idiot is that I then had to trawl around the Redditch Ring Road to a Supplier who knew what they were talking about and who were quite happy to relieve me of "£32 plus the VAT mate".

Back at home I made a start on the main objective of the day which was to repair the noses of two of the stairs. Over the past couple of hundred years foot traffic has taken it's toll and the rounded, protruding lip of some of the treads has deteriorated.  These need to be fixed before the carpet can be laid so I set to with jigsaw, chisels, router and oak and cut out the old and replaced with new.

That completed the rest of the day was free so it was a walk around the Three Miler with T&M and then a short snooze on the sofa before Dinner.

Normally the evening would be a routine, TV facing slump but our two eBay auctions were ending tonight and I can report that the best part of half a Monkey** will be making it's way in to my Paypal account shortly.
* One of the chimneys at The Pile needs a cowl to prevent rain ingress and 30% seems to have developed an irrational fear of Magpies and Squirrels and had insisted that we put one on the Log Burner chimney to stop them coming down and taking it apart ... or something like that. I just said "yes Dear"
** I'm not sure which half of the Monkey is the best part... maybe the top half ... I probably need to think about this some more.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Step Forward, Stand Down, Step Forward ...

... For Fucks Sake! I wish they would make their minds up.

The latest project is a piece of utter shit. It could actually be a quite interesting activity but the timescales are ludicrous and resources are minimal. I have been told that I am only allowed to give 50% of my time to it ...

... that is when I am actually allowed to work on it. As the title of today's entry suggests I have been told to get on with it, then told to stop and then told to get on with it again although the "word on the street" is that all of the Execs also think it is a piece of shit that isn't going anywhere. Right, that's me all fired up and keen to get on with it then.

Basically I have been asked to cook a half decent three course meal but am not allowed to use any chefs. The limit of my repertoire is toast and "boil-in-the-bag"* but the Sales Exec says that won't do and he really needs a good square meal steaming on the plate by next Wednesday. It is fair to say that whatever he gets on Wednesday there is a VERY strong chance that it will be "steaming". **

As a consequence much of my working day has been punctuated by the thought; "what the fuck am I going to do?"

Away from work Andy & Steve have finished the plastering in the Dining Room. The next job in there will be to lift the chipboard flooring so that we can get a good look at the state of the floor joists. The plan is to lay an oak floor but we have no idea how good or, more likely, bad the joists are and they will obviously need to be in good shape before we think about flooring.

Having said that, I will actually be back on the stair case this weekend as a couple of the stair noses need to be replaced before the carpet fitters can come and do their stuff
* and managing a team of SMIs chefs
** Do I really have to explain this?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Impending Doom?

High point of today was a call from the Idiot Manager ... now anyone who has read my missives on "IM" will be picking themselves up from the floor after the use of the term "High Point" when describing any interaction with him. It appears that the powers that be have looked at my efforts over the past year and decided that a slight increase in Hunny rations is in order.* I thanked him and added that I looked forward to the hope of being able to afford meat once a month in the near future**.

Most of my day has been quite steady. I handed a piece of work back to a colleague who has returned from their hols and discussed a project that we are likely to be running together for the next few weeks. I then sat down and made a start on a significant quantity of on-line training that needs to be absorbed endured.***

All was going well until late in the day when I received a 'phone call from a Sales person I had never encountered before. She mentioned her name and then proceeded to spend 15 minutes rattling through a project that I needed to get on with as soon as possible. If I am honest I picked up less than 10% of what she said and I think it is fair to say it was as clear as mud. My feelings of despair were compounded by the fact that "IM" had mentioned a high likelihood of me being assigned to this so there was no way I could make a run for it. My name was definitely in the frame.

My feelings of gloom were further magnified at around seven in the evening when another work colleague rang to welcome me on board. His mutterings were slightly clearer and it appears they want a set of prices by the middle of next week with the aim of having final numbers at the end of the month. I carefully refrained from giving an opinion and advised that I would peruse the raft of e-mails that had suddenly appeared in my in-box. What I was actually thinking was "you have no fucking chance". I'm not being negative here. The voice of experience says that it takes a woman nine months to produce a baby. Nine women cannot do it in a month. The deliverables this chap has asked for cannot be produced in the timescales he has indicated especially when the requirements are vague and Subject Matter Idiots are very thin on the ground.

I therefore ended the conversation as quickly as possible as Bad Man Senior and Step Mum Sue are away on their holidays tomorrow and we had promised to pop over to deliver 60th Birthday cards for SMS and a hamper of goodies for them to take away with them.

On the Dining Room front Andy & Steve applied the finish coat of plaster to the ceiling and two of the walls  and will be back to finish tomorrow.

Overall today was a good day but the evening calls suggest a somewhat ominous future.
* I won't be getting much fatter as a result
**  and perhaps we shall look at a picture of a turkey at Christmas
*** I now know that I can only endure the American pronunciation of the word "lever" for two PowerPoint slides before I want to meet the speaker and shake him warmly by the throat.****
**** it rhymes with "weaver" not "never"

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

It's not Rocket Science ...

... probably more like Domestic Science

On the work front I finally buckled down, completed my preliminary analysis of the latest project and wrote a lengthy e-mail asking for a huge amount of pretty fundamental information. Basically my colleagues in India appear to have chucked some numbers together with minimal input from Europe. The next phase of the project will be to provide a price open to acceptance and we are going to need something a whole lot more concrete than a "best guess" if we are to actually make any money on this deal. Fundamentally I do not have a lot of faith in the lead team's ability to estimate European costings and I also have a raft of questions about how their solution will actually work ... and don't get me started on how they will manage to resource it.

It is probably time for an analogy. I like analogies.* It is as though the Indian have told the client that they can provide a banquet and have provided both the menu and the price. What they haven't done is checked the price and availability of most of the ingredients or the availability of specialist chefs to cook them. If that wasn't enough they haven't actually specified what my kitchen team are required to cook.

Away from work the Dining Room is now boarded out and the bonding coat has been applied. Andy & Steve will be back in tomorrow to start the finishing coat. We also had the chimney sweep in to deal with the three most frequently used chimneys in the house.

As part of our ongoing clear out of "stuff" we have taken to advertising some of the surplus goods on eBay and one of these is a new Towel Radiator that we acquired a good while back due to total cock up by a DIY Chain. This was advertised last Saturday in an attempt to regain garage space and someone has actually bid on it. This was a joint cause for celebration as a) I get some space back in the garage and b) it had a £200 starting price ... Result!

On the subject of matters pecuniary, I also took a call from a Government Department this evening that has a special place in my heart on my hit list. It appears that they have reviewed my recent communications, made their enquiries and done their sums... I should be getting some good news in the next couple of weeks.
* I have a strong suspicion that it is my brain's way of telling me that I have reached some sort of intellectual barrier.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Latest Projects

I found a modicum of motivation today and took a look at the next project I have been asked to run with. I think it is fair to say that there is nothing there to get particularly excited about. It looks like it will be an absolute pig to run with and even if we are successful there will be no glory in these parts ... in fact, if we do win it, it looks like it will be a nightmare to implement and deliver due to the way that it has been designed from a contractual perspective.

Oh well, at least it gives me something to get my teeth in to.

Away from work, Andy & Steve are here and preparing the Dining Room for plastering. All being well they will have the room boarded out by tomorrow and will be applying a skim on Thursday leaving Friday for finishing off and a couple of other minor jobs that need doing.

I also found half an hour to trim the cheeks from the pig's head and start the cure. It will take six or seven days to complete, needing a daily rub with the cure mixture. Early next week they will be washed and soaked for an hour and then hung for a further week before they are ready for consumption.

I am guessing that to many the idea of eating pig's cheeks may not seem that appetising but cured and diced they make fantastic lardons.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Free food

I forgot to mention that Kathy H-R called in yesterday morning to drop off a pigs head that was going spare after a recent kill. I had put the head in the cellar fridge without a glance and only late this afternoon found time to examine it ...

... The plan was to remove and cure the cheeks and roast the ears as a treat for T&M. As I started to review the two large bags I learnt two things; firstly the head was enormous and secondly it was still frozen and there was no way I would be making guanciale this evening. I also found that there was far more in the bag than the head and trotters. There were also a few ribs and a couple of other chunks of meat that also ended up in a roasting pan for the dogs. As for the head, that went back down to the cellar to thaw overnight and I set to grinding the spices for a batch of cure.

 It has been a slow day at work and Andy & Steve have been delayed by a day so they weren't around to distract me. The morning saw a trip in to school to have a chat with one of TP's teachers ... it was nothing major and can best be described as nipping something in the bud. Basically he had a good end of year report but a couple of comments indicated that he could do better with a little more focus and a little less chat.

As for work, that has been, shall we say, bemusing. I have recently been asked to provide some consultancy assistance to a pair of Sales Executives. In order to ensure cross-departmental funding they have to provide an activity code against which I book my time ... This they did and then, at the beginning of last week, they closed down the code and continued to ask questions and fill my time with the pondering of extremely vague, hypothetical, outsourcing scenarios. I have made a number of requests to reinstate the code to no avail and, as a consequence, seem to be having motivational issues.

The other reason for my bemusement is the activity they want me to perform. It appears that a fairly Senior Daemon in another Division of Dante's has made a commitment to the client that she will provide them with an indicative price for providing some services that are currently delivered from Germany ... so far so good ... the only slight problem is that She does not have the specifications for the infrastructure and, due to "political" reasons we are not able to approach the client for the necessary details.

Now a number of imps and gremlins have had a stab at guessing what the kit might look like but for all we know we are pricing a Bentley and the client has a Ford or vice versa.

Is it me?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Simply adorable

I crawled from bed a little before nine on Sunday and had a very gentle start to the day. 30% had planned a shopping trip in to Solihull and had agreed to drop a rather hung over TP off at Rugby Training leaving me with the morning to myself ...

... I reached for the hot air gun and finished stripping the door in to the Dining Room. I had just about finished by the time I needed to go and collect TP from the clubhouse. On our return there was still no sight of 30% so I made best use of the time and took T&M for a walk and arrived home to the smell of sausages cooking ... perfect timing.

After lunch 30% & TP disappeared for further shopping for his upcoming Qatar trip so the Dining Room door was removed from it's frame and taken outside to have the worst of the paint residue sanded. I had it back on it's hinges about fifteen minutes before TP & 30% returned.

The door will look great once it has been waxed but the interesting observation is the effect stripping it has had in the Hall. The Hall is the oldest part of the house and is peculiar in that it is South facing but manages to be quite a dark room. It's lack of light isn't helped by the fact that is is dominated by a number of cupboards and doors that have all been wood grained in a very dark, burnt umber colour. The door to the Dining Room was one of these and returning it to it's original pine really helps to lift the light levels in the Hall.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

All Over the Place

Saturday started with a clear out of the tools in the Dining Room in preparation for plastering. I then really had to take T&M out for a walk as yesterday's torrential rain meant that we had not had a constitutional. To be honest the weather did not look too promising today either and the heavens opened before we reached the midway point. We all returned home thoroughly soaked.

Back home  and dried off it was time for lunch and then 30% and I took a drive out...

Stop 1 was to see Dave the Stripper and get a progress report on the Dresser Base. It should be completed and returned to us some time next week and after a wander around his workshop it looks like it will be accompanied by a set of 6 dining chairs too*.

Stop 2 was at Sally The Upholsterer's house where we dropped off the curtain material for the Landing, had a good long natter and warmed her up to the idea of reupholstering six Dining Chairs. This went down well and I can see another eBay session to find another hide as each chair will take an estimated 24" square**of leather.

Stop 3 was to see Trish ... Trish is the mum of one of TP's friends and has become a very good friend of ours over the past 5 years. Her husband; Andy works out in the Middle East and has recently started a contract in Qatar. The reason for the visit was that TP will be joining Trish, Nathan and sister; Abby when they visit Qatar for three weeks this Summer and we needed to provide passport details and so forth in order that flights could be booked.

We eventually got home from this marathon shopping/socialising session around six in the evening and whilst 30% made a start on supper I broke out the hot air gun and shave hook for a brief spell of paint stripping.

The evening involved much vegetation on the sofa whilst crimes were committed elsewhere ...

... Tyson was found to have helped herself to the remains of the quiche and TP returned from a party and didn't seem as steady on his feet as he should have been.

* We also picked up a bed side cabinet but that came home in the car.
** I can also see a good few hours with furniture cleaner and wax polish as they are very grimy.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Ahead of the game

It doesn't require Rocket Scientist intellect to work out that I have had a number of tasks to complete this week, each of which being a "must do" before Andy & Steve arrive to plaster next Monday.

I can now report that these are all completed and A&S are welcome to come and hide my efforts beneath bonding and finish coats. I even managed to find time to hand strip one side of the door and, after sanding, it should look fantastic...

... All I need to do now is pick up my tools and give the room a sweep through.
Other stuff

I got creative with the bread maker today too. This is a fab machine, that gets used regularly here at The Pile, and the "best of both" wholemeal/white flour loaf is a favourite for toast and sandwiches. Today I noticed a jar of chilli flakes on the worktop and remembered seeing a jar of sun-dried tomatoes too...

... tomato and chilli bread. I'll let you know how it turns out tomorrow.

The roof ladder also finally arrived for the Defender today so I'll be out bolting that on once the weather improves. I then stand a chance of being able to reach the roof rack.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Marauder's Bumper Book of Crime. No. 11 in an occasional series.

Much of the Journal's content this week has been reporting the rewiring of the Dining Room. Today's entry is no different as I found myself atop a stepladder reconfiguring the ring main to connect the two sockets I re-sited yesterday. After an hour of making connections and checking and rechecking my work I went to the Switch Box and attempted to turn on the mains ...

... would it switch back on? Would it fuck! For some reason the trip switch would not allow power to be restored. Bollocks! After some head scratching and a lot of swearing I did the sensible thing and called 30%'s Dad. He is a retired electrician, amongst other things, and was quite happy to come over and give me a hand. While waiting for his arrival my annoyance turned to indignation and I started to recheck my work and then isolate each new circuit element in an attempt to find the problem. Within a few minutes I had discovered that the new spur was the problem and, once isolated, power was restored to the house ...

... just as 30%'s Dad arrived at the door.

He joined me in further analysis of the problem spur and noticed that a masonry nail securing the galvanised capping had nicked the cable insulation and was causing an earth leakage from the neutral wire. The location and absence of damage to the copper wire meant that some earth sheathing and insulation tape was an acceptable fix and rewiring the spur was unnecessary... phew.

Whilst this was going on Marauder had decided to find her own entertainment and, once the dust had settled, I wandered in to the lounge and noticed fragments of red plastic on the hearth rug. A quick search of the surrounding areas found the remnants of 30%'s watch ...

Can you fix it?
... oops.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

More Elastic Trickery

Work continues to be quiet which means that my rewiring of the Dining Room can continue. I need to have it all finished before next Monday and I am glad that I have been able to make a start before the weekend. Today I managed to install a couple of double sockets that will replace a botched mess* on the wall by the fireplace. These are not yet wired in to the ring main but that will only take an hour or so when I next turn off the supply.

My investigations of the single socket near the door to the garden revealed that I am going to have to mortar in a couple of half bricks before I even think about chasing in a double socket box and re-routing the cables.

I must admit that I quite enjoy this type of work.
* The ring main had been terminated in a junction box, that had been plastered over, half way down the wall. From that box a spur had been run to a "daisy chain" of two double sockets. The spur cabling had just been plastered over - no protective sheathing. The rectification involved relocating the sockets and restoring the ring main to one of them and establishing the other as a proper spur.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Elastic trickery

Tuesday was another quiet day and this lull gave me the time to nip in to B&Q to pick up a selection of electrical components. It also allowed me an early finish which meant that the switch and cabling for a picture light are now in place...

... and working.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Back at work for a rest ...

As I had hoped, today was quiet and I occupied myself tying up a few loose ends and crossing a few urgent items off a personal "to do" list.

30%'s parents paid a visit in the morning; carried out an electrical survey* of the Dining room and removed a box of eggs** in payment. I subsequently constructed a shopping list of electrical components and followed that up with a wander round the garage where I saved myself a fortune by tracking down 30 metres of 2.5mm cable and a couple of double socket boxes ... I still need to go to B&Q though***.

To be honest the day would have been better as a completely blank page in The Journal if it hadn't been for a wander around the Three Miler with T&M and a chance encounter with a mole near the Church. Firstly let me clarify that I am referring to the velvet furred, tunneling mammal rather than an Agent of espionage here...

... We were walking towards the church yard and I heard a scuffling noise. I looked down to see a mole quite happily rooting around in the leaf litter. He was quite oblivious to us and carried on for several minutes. As these little fellows are rarely seen above ground it was an interesting diversion to watch the mole equivalent of a fish out of water. Needless to say the soggy weather meant that I had left my camera at home.
* 30%'s Dad
** 30%'s Mum
*** Sad Face :-(

Sunday, 1 July 2012

My Shoulders Hurt

Sunday was taken at a slightly more relaxed pace. 30% took TP up to a rugby training session which involved a run in to the town centre to see the Olympic torch relay.* I loitered at home drinking coffee before taking T&M for a walk.

I then made a start on reviewing the state of the wiring in the Dining Room and can report that it is most definitely in need of updating and, in some cases, replacing. 30's Father was called upon to come and give a professional opinion and I will be giving him the guided tour tomorrow.

After lunch it was time for a run around the lawn with the Porn Mower and a short snooze on the sofa. I finished the day with a stripping session in the Dining Room.**
* I see that TP is about as engaged as I am when he opined that the police escort and entourage was interesting but the Jimmy Saville look-a-like with the big fag lighter was rubbish.
** I made a start on the pine cupboard that utilises the void over the doorway.